Sunday, 3 February 2013

Breakfast in America - American Banana Granola Pancakes

At last it's February so January austerity can do one, and indulgent weekend breakfasts are back on the menu again. Last September we spent a couple of weeks travelling through Arizona, Nevada and California and if there's one thing Americans do well it's breakfast.

In San Francisco there was a lovely little place in North Beach, just round the corner from our hotel called Pat's Cafe where the eponymous, colourful Pat serves hearty breakfasts, brunches and lunches.

When we went I had the Banana Granola Pancakes, an order which was rewarded with an approving "Good choice ma'am". They were delicious served with real maple syrup and this is my attempt at recreating them. This is a great brunch recipe and is handy for using up fruit that is too ripe for eating, in fact overripe is best!

Banana Granola Pancakes
Giant American Breakfast Pancakes - in SF an
order would be 2 of these plus fruit salad!
Banana Granola Pancakes (makes 4 small or 2 large pancakes)
  • Plain flour - 135g
  • Butter - 25g, melted over a gentle heat before you start plus a little extra for greasing and serving
  • Egg - 1 large
  • Milk - 130ml
  • Caster suger - 1 tablespoon
  • Baking powder - 1 teaspoon
  • Sea salt - large pinch teaspoon
  • Banana - 1, very ripe bananas are best
  • Granola - 2 handfuls
  • Maple syrup
Pancake batter
Pancake batter
  1. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl, mix the wet ingredients in a jug then combine, mixing until smooth. The batter benefits from resting, 20 minutes at least but you could make it the night before and leave covered in the fridge until needed.
  2. Heat a heavy based pan over a medium heat.
  3. Slice the banana thinly and add to the batter along with the granola
  4. Butter the pan lightly and evenly and once hot add spoonfuls of the mixture to the size of pancake you want.
  5. The pancake is ready to turn when you see lots of bubbles on the uncooked surface
  6. Flip the pancake and cook for a couple of minutes on the other side. You may need a little more butter.
  7. To serve, let a small knob of butter melt on the hot surface and pour over some maple syrup. The Americans would add icing sugar too!

Friday, 1 February 2013

Amor Amor - Bar 44 Penarth launches

Since confessing my love for sherry on this blog last year, this Cardiff food blogger was thrilled when a number of kindred spirits who have contacted me on Twitter. If you are one of those people, or if you just like good food and great drinks, then the second Bar 44 which opened it's doors in December will be of interest.
Classic Tio Pepe and Soberano brandy adverts
Classic Tio Pepe and Soberano brandy adverts

Owned and run by brothers Tom and Owen Morgan, Bar 44 Cowbridge was already a well regarded fixture on the food scene in South Wales, when the announcement came last year, that a second bar would be opening, this time in Penarth.
Bar 44 Penarth
Tom (Owner) and Tommy (Head Chef)
at the tapas bar Bar 44 Penarth

This has been a carefully managed expansion. Having built the business from the ground up, and defying expectations over the last 10 years, the brothers are working to ensure that the new offering maintains standards.

The new place bears the marks of their experience, and has a style distinct from the Cowbridge offering. Customers can take a seat at one of the tables or at the bar which runs alongside the open kitchen.

Their recent recruitment drive, adding to an experienced front of house team, resulted in the addition of 3 chefs, all of whom bring experience of fine dining and Michelin level cooking to the table. Only one of these chefs (Rita) had previous experience of Spanish food at this level. Tommy Heaney, the new Head Chef across both sites, has been able to add to an already extensive CV, by way of some time in London with Jose Pizarro. The famous chef just appeared in the bar one day 2 years ago (to Owen's utter amazement!) and has provided valuable advice along the way. The third chef, yet another Tom, is Head Chef for Penarth following 5 years as sous chef at J Sheeky and Scotts.

I was fortunate to be invited along to their launch party last Thursday, co-hosted with Gonzalez Byass and attended by the likes of James Sommerin and Stephen Terry. We had the opportunity to sample some of the tapas as canapés including some amazing jamon croquetas (I have managed to extract a promise of a lesson in croquetas which I intend holding them to!)

I was so impressed that I ended up back there on Saturday, skipping my usual pre-theatre dinner in the Bay in favour of tapas y copas (tapas and drinks) in the bar. We worked our way through a tortilla, some prawn and chorizo croquetas, braised ox cheeks in oloroso with olive oil mash and a goats cheese and it was all excellent.

bar 44 Tapas del dia
Tapas del dia - croquetas essential!
Classic tortilla
Classic tortilla, the mainstay of any tapas bar
Balanchares Cordoba
Balanchares Cordoba - goats cheese with a green plum jelly

So what next for the Bar 44 team? For now making a success of the new venture, maintaining quality at Cowbridge, feeding and watering us well is the priority and long may it continue! ¡Salud!

Bar 44 Tapas Penarth on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

I'm Free - Ham Hock Soup Recipe

Now that we have finally made it to the end of the indulgent, rich Christmas foods, this bloggers thoughts have been turning towards hearty, frugal cooking. The butchers closest to me in Cardiff, Rees Family Butchers, sometimes have ham hocks available for the grand old price of £2.50 (they also do fantastic pies and often have duck eggs).

I regularly take advantage of these budget cuts and have a few recipes in the toolbag that make the most of this tasty meat, normally stretching the cut to 4 portions, but this super simple, hearty soup feeds 6 or so depending how greedy you are feeling.

Ham hock soup
Ham hock pasta soup
To serve, a little grated Parmesan on top is an excellent garnish. In fact if you have a parmesan rind available throw that in at step 3 with the rest of the ingredients. I like to serve with a chunk of crusty bread and a wedge of cheddar cheese.

Hearty ham hock soup (6 greedy portions)
  • Ham hock - 1
  • Carrots - 4 or 5 depending on size
  • Onions - 2 medium
  • Celery - 4 sticks
  • Bay leaves - 2
  • Star anise
  • White wine (optional) - 1 glass
  • Tin of tomatoes
  • Small shape pasta - A couple of handfuls (orzo works best as it stays firm but spaghetti snapped into pieces or macaroni would do)
  • Chicken stock - 500ml
  • Whole peppercorns
  • Butter
  1. Rinse the ham hock thoroughly or stand in water overnight to reduce the saltiness. Place the meat in a large pan, cover with water. Halve one of the onions, cut 2 of the carrots and 2 of the celery sticks into large pieces and add to the pan with the bay leaves, star anise and a few whole peppercorns. Bring to a gentle simmer, cover and leave simmering for a couple of hours. Skim off any scum that rises to the top of the water.
  2. Once cooked drain the meat retaining the cooking water for the soup. Once cool enough, I like to remove the skin and hack into the meat helping it to cool a little quicker so that I can get on with the soup. Once the joint is cool enough to handle, retrieve all the meat, cutting into smallish pieces.
  3. Finely chop the remaining veggies and cook in a little butter until soft, about 10 minutes should do it. Return the meat to the pan, add the wine first, letting it cook off  little, then add the tomatoes, chicken stock and a couple of ladles of the ham stock.
  4. Leave to simmer for about 10 minutes then check your seasoning.
  5. When you are happy add your pasta. Note that Orzo has a longer cooking time so adjust accordingly.
    • If you are eating straightaway, leave to simmer until the pasta is just cooked.
    • If like me, you are cooking up a batch for the week or the freezer, just bring back to the boil then turn off the heat and let the whole batch cool.
  6. You may find that the soup has thickened up a little too much at this point, just add some water or more of the ham stock taking care that you don't end up over-seasoning the food.
  7. Shredded ham hock and the soup base
    Shredded ham hock and the soup base

Sunday, 13 January 2013

I Feel Fine - Terry M restaurant review

What does the term 'fine dining' mean to you? Is it ambience, formal service, table cloths and a dress code?

Terry M at The Celtic Manor wears its fine dining credentials proudly on its sleeve, and this is 'classic' fine dining. Crisp white linens? Yep. Private dining room? Of course. Encyclopaedic wine list? Naturellement.

The restaurant boast 3 AA rosettes (more than any restaurant in Cardiff) and was last year taken back in-house by the hotel following a stint under the management of the Crown group of restaurants (succeeding where other hotels failed).
Terry M at The Celtic Manor
Terry M at The Celtic Manor
The dining room is exactly what you might expect, a subtle swish of cream and dark wood, twinkly crystal chandeliers, polished place settings and sparkling white crockery.

We were booked in for Sunday lunch at £28.50 for 3 courses.

A deliciously sweet and surprisingly light, beer and onion bread was delivered and to start I had the Guinea Fowl Rillettes, Parsley Coulis, Pickled Vegetables. The guinea fowl had a distinctive yet subtle game flavour, was very moist, the pickles efficiently dispersing the coating of fattiness left by the meat.

Guinea Fowl Rillettes
Guinea Fowl Rillettes

For the main we both had the Cefn Mawr Farm Beef from the Carving Trolley with Traditional Accompaniments. The cut was sirloin and was delivered with a marvellous bit of restaurant theatricality  reminiscent of the scene in Hello Dolly when all the characters descend on Harmonia Gardens.

Carving the beef at the table
Carving the beef at the table
 Everything on this plate was spot on. The beef medium rare, vegetables beautifully turned and cooked perfectly, the parsnip so sweet it almost tasted of coconut and some super-charged horseradish which brought a tear to my eye.

Roast sirloin of Cefn Mawr Beef
Roast sirloin of Cefn Mawr Beef
 We decided in the face of such good cooking, that it would be foolish not to press ahead to the dessert and so I tested the kitchen with the bête noire of Masterchef contestants, Chocolate Fondant with Coconut Ice Cream and I wasn't disappointed. Ultra rich with the thinnest layer of firm pudding holding back a flood of gooey chocolate, this was decadent and satisfying.

Chocolate fondant with coconut ice cream
Chocolate fondant with coconut ice cream
Finishing off with espresso and petits fours, I hit the only duff note of the meal with the honey madeleine which were a touch dry, but a surprisingly intense apricot jelly did manage to convince me that not all jelly should be restricted to children's birthday parties.

Petits fours
Petits fours 
We enjoyed our lunch at Terry M very much. To be sure, the set menu Sunday lunch is unlikely to deliver anything particularly challenging, but if we didn't get to see the best of the kitchen in terms if creativity, we certainly got to experience some very accurate and accomplished cooking. I came away feeling that I had been very well fed indeed.

Disclosure: I was invited by The Celtic Manor to try the new Sunday menu and the meal was complimentary

Terry M at The Celtic Manor
01633 410 262

Terry M, on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Children of the Revolution - 2013

I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas and New Year. Like many of you, after eating and drinking myself close to Type 2 Diabetes, I am taking a fresh look forward to the next 12 months and considering what changes to make for 2013.

Christmas cake
Christmas cake
My own approach to resolutions are less to do with denial and more to do with learning something new. Last year was largely about bread.
Sourdough loaves
Sourdough bread - 2012's technical challenge!
Over the course of the year, I learned to bake my own bread, starting  in January with a baking course at Angela Gray's Cookery School and ending in December with a more advanced sourdough course at The One Mile Bakery. Since June I think I've only bought bread three times and genuinely feel like I've learned a skill for life.

I've been pondering what to do this year and I think it is time to face my own personal food Everest, the food that I have until now largely avoided. In the words of Masterchef, this will be my 'toughest challenge yet'.


I have to confess that I am more than a little daunted by the prospect of handling, preparing and cooking fish. My experience of fish growing up, was limited to battered, breaded or boil in the bag cod. Maybe a prawn cocktail at Christmas but that was about it.

I now eat salmon, tuna, mussels, lobster and crab and recently had my first dover sole at the excellent Fish at 85 and loved it. This would have been unthinkable a few years ago.

So for 2013 my goals are:

  1. To try a new fish every month
  2. To eat fish for my main meal twice a week

The health benefits of eating fish are well covered elsewhere, but I suspect more of a challenge will be finding places to buy fresh and interesting fish in Cardiff. Aside from Fish at 85, there is the long established Ashtons in Cardiff market. There may well be other outlets that I am not aware of (suggestions left in the Comments section gratefully received).

So there it is, my goal for 2013. Eat more fish.

It may sound simple, even ridiculous to some of you, to me this is a big whoop. There will tears, tantrums and disasters along the way but I swear on my Henckels chef knife, that by the end of the 2013 I will be able to fillet a fish!
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