San Carlo Cicchetti

Third year of university is so much harder than I imagined, I don’t know whether this is because I went away and worked for a year, or whether second year was just easy (probably the latter), but I have never been so stressed! Unfortunately, due to this stress I haven’t had time to do any blog posts, but on Saturday I handed in my dissertation, the pain and sorrow is gone, and now I have 1 assignment and some exams to focus on. The end is nigh!

As a celebration for handing in my dissertation, Rory and I decided to head out into Manchester and see where the night took us. After much deliberation, we booked in for 9pm at San Carlo Ciccheti, very continental indeed (the late dinner that is).

We have both heard good things about this restaurant, an Italian, placed opposite to the main San Carlo, but offering tapas style Italian food. What a great idea, I love tapas, and I adore Italian food. We went in with high expectations and by this time, very hungry bellies.

After having a drink at the bar, we were seated by a lovely Italian man who showed us the menu and explained that you order 2 or 3 each (obviously going to be 3). Ordering bread to start we scoured the menu. A great range of choices including pizzas, flatbreads, pasta, meats and fish.

San_Carlo_Drinks

Having quite a big appetite we filled up on the bread quickly and ordered our 6 dishes. The ambience of the restaurant is lovely, soft music in the background, great tables and full of laughter. There is a large mirror at the back of the room, don’t be conned, it’s not actually as big as you first think.

I feel I’ve hyped this place up but sadly I am going to have to dash them. I try not to right bad reviews as I always think a bad night for me is a great night for another. But we were just so thoroughly disappointed with multiple dishes that I felt it needed to be said. However, there were some lovely dishes so maybe the chef was having a bad night.

The Gamberoni Piccante was the best meal without a doubt (of course I would say that!), Sicilian prawns with chilli, lemon and garlic. The sauce for these were incredible, even Rory, who doesn’t usually love prawns said they were up there at the top. Not a huge portion but it is tapas and fish so wasn’t expecting mountains.

San_Carlo_Prawns
Gamberoni Piccante – £8.15
The other dish which we really enjoyed was the Beef Tagliata, grilled fillet steak marinated in chilli and garlic topped with rocket and parmesan. A classic Rory choice, but perfectly cooked, great quality steak. Perfectly paired with thick shavings of parmesan was delicious!

San_Carlo_Beef
Beef Tagliata – £10.95
Disappointingly this was the end to the delicious food, although the pizza base was very nice, it really was just a pizza, nothing that made me go wow. Another dish which was really overrated was the flatbread, this really was just like a panini, too much tomato, not enough mozzarella and too much bread. Bland, tasteless and way too costly for what it was.

San_Carlo_Pizza
Pizza Pollo Parmi – £6.65
San_Carlo_Flatbread
Piadina Mozzarella – £5.50
The most upsetting was the Burrata. Now I was really looking forward to this as I adore mozzarella and parma ham and after having such a wonderful experience at Don Marco a few weeks ago (read about it here), I was very excited to see San Carlo’s take on it. Regrettably the burrata was so oily it lacked any creaminess and just tasted like oil, and the marinated black truffle really wasn’t my cup of tea (but maybe that’s just my taste buds), the parma ham was nice enough but nothing to rave over. Very simple dish but executed poorly.

San_Carlo_Parma_Ham_Mozzarella
Burrata – £7.95
After finishing all the food served, we realised that the Tagliatelle Bolognese hadn’t come out. We asked after it and they assured us it would be 2 minutes, after waiting about 15 minutes we asked to cancel it and get the bill. Disappointed with the food for the price you pay, all of that (5 dishes and a bottle of house wine) came to £70.

Overall, we were very disappointed with this restaurant, a wonderful idea with such great potential but sadly expensive food that was not good enough to be. They should either drop their prices, or increase their portions. Hopefully next week I will have a much cheerier review to blog about. Hope you enjoyed my post even if a little rantier than normal!

Round 2: Don Marco

Round two at Don Marco (have a look at the restaurant here). You may remember a while ago we had plans to go to the acclaimed Don Marco, but after arriving and no recollection of our table, we decided it wasn’t worth the wait. But, we decided to give it another go.

The ambience of the restaurant is wonderful, most of the seating is in an almost greenhouse style area, with heaters and greenery, and the other area is inside. We sat near the exit on a cosy table for two, a lovely Italian man seated us and gave us the menus. The service was excellent, the server gave advice on the menu, was quick to serve and very polite.

For me, Italian is all about the starters, I love all the bread, cheese and deli meat and feel this is usually the best part of the meal. For me, this was true in Don Marco’s case. Starting with the Bruschetta al Pomodoro. A typical Italian dish, with vine ripe tomatoes, red onion and garlic.

Bruschetta al Pomodoro
Bruschetta al Pomodoro – £4.50
We shared this with an antipasti starter, Prosciutto e Burrata; which was slices of parma ham on creamy burrata and sun-blushed tomatoes. I have never eaten burrata cheese before but I definitely will again, so creamy and light it was a delicious accompaniment. Although I did enjoy each starter alone, I preferred them mixed together. As the Italians say ‘delizioso’.

Proscuitto e Burrata
Proscuitto e Burrata – £7.95
The mains for me were a little disappointing, I do blame myself for this. I ummed and ahhed over a chicken and asparagus risotto or the king prawn tagliatelle, and I went safe with the prawns. Although the dish was lovely, it was a pretty simple dish that I could have cooked at home.

Tagliatelle con Gamberoni
Tagliatelle con Gamberoni – £10.95
Rory however went off the special board and ordered a beef rib with saffron risotto. From the speed he ate it, I think he enjoyed it. Afterwards telling me the beef was a nice cut, which was well cooked, and went beautifully with the risotto. I managed to sneak a quick forkful and will say the risotto was intensely creamy, perfectly cooked and delicious. This is when I realised my error…

Beef ribs with saffron risotto
Beef ribs with saffron risotto – £16.50
After the mains, I didn’t feel fully satisfied so we decided to order desserts, Rory has the eager face of a child as he immediately agrees and with one glance of the menu had chosen the double chocolate cake (tort). Me, on the other hand, pondered over the menu until focussing in on profiteroles filled with Chantilly cream, little drops of heaven (if heaven were choux pastry filled with cream dipped in chocolate – I like to think it would be!).

Profiteroles with chantilly cream
Profiteroles with chantilly cream – £4.95
Profiteroles were lovely, very traditional choux pastry and heaps of chocolate on top. The double chocolate cake (tort) however for me was too rich but Rory really enjoyed it (it’s chocolate, he always does).

Torta al Cioccolato
Torta al Cioccolato – £4.95
Overall a great range of choices, at a reasonable price. Great service the second time around, and I would go again. But next time, I will be ordering risotto and many, many starters.

Hope you enjoyed this week’s blog post. If you have had an experience of Don Marco, or have a restaurant I should try out, let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading.

NB. The lighting was very orange in Don Marco due to the heaters, my photography skills could not compete entirely with this light

4 simple steps to tapas heaven!

Lemon chicken skewers, sticky chicken skewers and patatas bravas

Tapas is one of my favourite cuisines. It allows you to try a great variety of tastes and flavours all washed down with a glass (or four) of wine. The difference between cooking a meal and cooking tapas is timing; timing really is everything, and a lot of the food needs to be cooked at the same time or within minutes of each other. This is where the difficulty lies, each recipe alone is somewhat simple, but then added together, preparation is the key to success. As a friend always says, prior preparation prevents poor performance.

Rory’s parents were up for the weekend and we decided on the Saturday evening to cook tapas for them, and hopefully showcase some of my culinary skills. Rory was mostly on the entertaining (drinking) side, although he did help with a lot of the preparation. I have been experimenting with a few of these dishes for a while now, others were first or second attempts.

I must have got my quantities wrong, I cooked enough food for 8 people, rather than 4, but it is delicious re heated the next day, and the day after. On the menu, I included two types of chicken skewers, first off I made a sticky chicken and pepper skewer (recipe here), and then I made a lemongrass chicken skewer (recipe here). These are delicious, I love skewers, so simple and easy to cook, marinated for at least an evening before and only ten minutes under the grill make these a simple go to dish.

Next on the menu was meatballs and sauce, this is the second time making these so I have not done a recipe, a few tweaks needed but a great deal of flavour. Then I made Spanish omelette, I tried a new twist on my usual recipe and it tasted delicious! You can’t have a tapas evening without patatas bravas, it shouldn’t be done (recipe here). This simple dish can be prepared ahead and re-heated the next day or evening.

Other dishes on the table included, halloumi, a mozzarella, tomato and spinach salad with balsamic glaze, mozzarella wrapped in parma ham on a stick with a piece of fresh mango, my first attempt at Arancini, although these ended up flat, so I referred to them as flarancini. Several appetisers lay about the table including olives, hummus and flat bread, oiled peppers and various nibbles. I had planned to flash-fry king prawns with chilli and garlic but once I saw how much food was on the table, I made the executive decision to quit while I was ahead.
Tapas-meal
Tapas is so much fun to make and even better to eat, a little stressful but totally worth it when you see the sheer glory of all the food in front of you. A wonderful evening with great company, delicious food and lots of wine.

Hope you enjoy the three recipes I have included below, very easy to make but so much flavour and delicious to eat! Like, share, comment and subscribe.

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Sticky chicken skewers

Marinated sticky chicken and pepper skewers

Overnight marinated sticky chicken and pepper, skewered and grilled for a delcious starter


Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp. dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. runny honey
  • 2cm knob of ginger peeled and grated
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper cubed (2.5cm2)
  • 500g skinless chicken breast cubed (2.5cm2)

Directions

  1. Prepare all ingredients and place in a glass bowl. Combine until mixed well, then cover and leave in fridge overnight (the longer the better). If possible, mix a couple of times throughout to make sure all is combined.
  2. On the day of serving, skewer the chicken and peppers, around 5 chicken to 3 peppers on each.
  3. This should make about 6 skewers, more if you use less chicken on each one.
  4. Place on grill pan, drizzle extra sauce on top and grill for 10 minutes, baste and turn halfway.

Lemongrass chicken skewers

Lemongrass chicken skewers

Marinated overnight, lemongrass chicken skewers, delicious as a starter


Ingredients

  • 2 lemongrass stalks finely chopped
  • 2 lemongrass stalks (cut into 2.5 cm sticks)
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. dark soy sauce
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 500g skinless chicken breast cubed (2.5cm2)

Directions

  1. Prepare all ingredients (except lemongrass sticks) and place in a glass bowl. Combine until mixed well, then cover and leave in fridge overnight (the longer the better). If possible, mix a couple of times throughout to make sure all is combined.
  2. On the day of serving, chop up the lemongrass stalks into small sticks (about 6 little sticks in total), then thread chicken onto a wooden/metal skewer, with 1 piece of lemongrass in the middle.
  3. This should make about 6 skewers, more if you use less chicken on each one
  4. Place on grill pan, and grill for 10 minutes, turning halfway.

Patatas bravas

Patatas bravas

Spicy patatas bravas, the perfect accompaniment for any tapas dish


Ingredients

    Equipment:
  • Hand-held blender
  • Large saucepan
  • Saucepan with lid
  • Roasting tray

  • Ingredients:
  • 1 kg potatoes, chopped into 1.5cm cubes
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil plus extra for roasting
  • 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 large garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 60 ml (4 tbsp.) white wine
  • 2 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • ½ tsp. crushed chillies
  • 1 ½ tsp. smoky paprika
  • ½ tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180oc. Roughly chop potatoes and par boil in cold water, bringing to the boil and boiling for 3 minutes, drain, pat dry with kitchen roll and transfer to baking tray, coat in oil and sprinkle salt, place in oven for 40 minutes, shaking every so often.
  2. Finely chop onion and garlic, fry onion in olive oil for 5 mins until soft, add garlic and fry for a further minute. Add the white wine and let this simmer for 2 minutes.
  3. Add all the other ingredients (tomatoes and spices etc.), and leave to simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Using a hand blender, blend sauce until smooth and return to pan. Once potatoes have finished cooking, add them to the sauce and serve.

Fabulously British weekend away in Cambridge

Weekends away really are lovely, just a few days in a new city seeing some friends is for me, the perfect way to spend it.

On Saturday morning Rory and I travelled down to Cambridge to visit some friends for the weekend. I have never been to Cambridge (I think I went as a child but my memory is somewhat lacking), so I wanted to experience everything I could in the short time I was there. And what a beautiful place to go! Pedestrian friendly, minimal use of cars, cyclists everywhere and lovely fresh air, what could be better?!

Top of my to do list was to go punting on the River Cam with two so called experienced punters we began our trip down the river. A rocky start involving several near misses, and some extremely dodgy manoeuvres, but slowly the boys seemed to get the hang of it. I decided I couldn’t go on the boat and not have a go myself. But wow is it tough, just holding the punt itself was strenuous, attempting to make it reach the floor took it out of me and we had barely moved. I quickly learnt where I should be, with the prosecco…prosecco popped, I sat back down and relaxed on the slow route down the river, occasionally over hearing the guided tours for some insight into the history of the surroundings.
Cambridge-punting
You can’t go to Cambridge without visiting the colleges and looking around all the grounds. The beautiful architectural buildings and impressive estates were wonderful to see and experience. Next on the list was a Cambridge wine bar, because at 2pm on a Saturday what else should you be doing? A great little wine bar which sold tons of wine, gin, rum and so much more. Shelves and shelves of alcohol all at a reasonable price. My kind of heaven.
Cambridge wine bar
For dinner, we booked a table at Wildwood and went back home to have some more drinks and get ready for the evening to come. Arriving perfectly on time we were seated straight down in a lovely booth and given menus. After ordering wine for the table we all began choosing our meals.

In any good Italian, a caramelised onion pizza bread should be ordered. This is such a simple dish but so tasty. We shared between the four of us with the addition of a mediterranean platter including italian ham, salami Napoli, salami Milano, buffalo mozzarella, pesto, olives and warm flatbread. Through the first bottle of wine, we quickly ordered another before the mains came out.

Caramelised onion pizza bread
Mozzarella and garlic, caramelised onion pizza bread – £5.55
Mediterranean platter
Mediterranean platter to share – £11.50
The menu offered a great range of choices, pizza, pastas, salads, and meats; difficult to choose! I was struggling between a duck pizza and a meat calzone, so Rory and I had half and half (such a great decision). The meat calzone was delicious, although not as magnificent looking as the calzone in Stratford (read about it here). It had a nice garlic glaze, a delicious tomato sauce, and an unexpected bit of chilli which just gave it a great kick. Now the duck pizza was a little strange, I don’t think duck really goes on a pizza, it just made me want some pancakes and hoisin sauce (not quite the Italian cuisine).

Meat calzone
Spicy meat calzone (chicken, blognese, meatballs) – £11.25
Hoison duck pizza
Hoi Sin duck pizza – £10.35
Steph ordered a baked chicken and mushroom penne pasta with melted cheese on top, and Jon ordered a peri-peri chicken pizza which both seemed to go down well. Very simple but tasty Italian food, and a great ambiance in the restaurant with candles and friendly waiters.

Baked chicken and mushroom penne pasta
Baked chicken and mushroom penne pasta – £10.85
Peri-peri chicken pizza
Peri-peri chicken pizza – £9.85
Filling up on the mains we decided to skip dessert and have some chocolate back at the house (melting Dairy Milk over Daim ice cream is an awesome idea FYI). Many drinks consumed, and a great deal of chocolate and ice cream finished, we all went to bed.

The next day we had a great breakfast cooked by Jon and Steph, and then once all dressed and ready, we headed out for a lovely walk down to Grantchester Orchard. About an hour walk through fields and some track to the Grantchester Orchard Tea Garden; definitely worth the walk. Once we arrived at the orchard we ordered a large fruit scone with jam and clotted cream with a cup of tea. It being quite a mild day we sat outside and enjoyed the fresh air. This was the perfect end to a wonderful weekend; I will definitely be going back to Cambridge and I am sure there is much more to discover.
Cambridge - Grantchester scones
If you think I missed something about Cambridge which you love, let me know in the comments below. Hope you enjoyed this blog post, like, comment, share and subscribe if you did.
Cambridge - Cheers Wine

Rory’s mars bar and marshmallow, toffee crispies


As a child, we always used to make little crispy cakes, but I had never really experimented with all the different ingredients you could add to make these simple cakes even more incredible. Rory however had! This was great news for me as he showed me how by adding toffee and marshmallows, it turned a simple crispy cake into something even better. Then we decided to experiment a little bit with quantities and added mars bars for the extra kick, and found the perfect recipe for a deliciously gooey, yet chocolaty toffee crispy.

This recipe is crazy easy; anyone can make it and it’s even great to get kids involved! The actual process takes less than 30 minutes, but it does require 1-2 hours setting time. This is a perfect recipe to display at any party, or to take into work, or even just as a treat at home. Rory and I demolish these way too easily.

Only a few ingredients needed and all but mars bars can be own brand (Aldi is perfect for this), the whole recipe costing just £4.79 from Aldi, and you get plenty of butter and crispies left over so win win! The recipe makes about 25 squares (or more if you cut them smaller).
rice-crispy-cakes
Equipment:

– 20x20cm greaseproof tin

– 1 large microwaveable bowl

– 1 small microwaveable bowl

– 1 soft spatula

– Kitchen scales

– Greaseproof paper

– Scissors

– Pen
Ingredients:

– 100g unsalted butter

– 200g mini marshmallows

– 200g dairy toffees

– 175g Rice Krispies (referred to as crispy rice throughout)

– 4 small mars bars (or 2 medium)

1. Line the tin (and sides) with greaseproof paper, an easy method to do this can be found here.

2. Weigh the butter add to a large microwaveable bowl with the pack of toffees, melt on a medium heat in the microwave for 1 minute 30 seconds.
rice-crispy-cakes
3. Meanwhile, break mars bars into bitesize chunks and put in a small microwaveable bowl.
rice-crispy-cakes
4. Once microwave has pinged, mix this up and add the marshmallows and mix again, place back in microwave for another 1 minute 30 seconds on a medium heat.
rice-crispy-cakes
5. Then take this out of the microwave and replace with the mars bar bowl for 1 minute 15 seconds on medium.

6. While the mars bars melt, mix the marshmallows, toffee and butter together, this should all combine and melt as you mix, if after mixing for a minute it hasn’t fully melted, place back in microwave for 20 seconds once the mars bar bowl has finished.
rice-crispy-cakes
7. Take the mars bar bowl out and mix until all is melted, and then add to the large bowl and combine with marshmallow mix. Weigh and add the crispy rice, combine until you have a gooey mixture.
rice-crispy-cakes
8. Break the chocolate into the mars bar bowl (or a clean bowl if preferred) and place in microwave on medium heat for 1 minute and 30 seconds.
rice-crispy-cakes
9. Transfer the crispy rice mix onto the pre-lined tin. Now you need to flatten this mixture, use the back of the spatula to press the mix down into the tin. It should reduce by about a ¼.
10. When the microwave pings, stop flattening and mix the chocolate, then place back in microwave for 20 seconds burst, mixing each time until it has melted fully (carry on flattening if required).

11. Finally, pour the chocolate on top of the flattened crispy rice mix and smooth over until all is covered. Place in fridge and leave to set for 1-2 hours.
rice-crispy-cakes
12. Take out of the tray (shimmy it out from each side, it can get a bit stuck) and chop into squares or whatever shape and sizes you wish! Most of all, enjoy them!
rice-crispy-cakes
Such a simple, delicious recipe! You can find a printable, easy to read version below. Hope you enjoy the recipe and get baking!

Rory’s mars bar and marshmallow, toffee crispies

  • Servings: 25
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

    Equipment:
  • 20x20cm greaseproof tin
  • 1 large microwaveable bowl
  • 1 small microwaveable bowl
  • 1 soft spatula
  • Kitchen scales
  • Greaseproof paper
  • Scissors
  • Pen

  • Ingredients:
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 200g mini marshmallows
  • 200g dairy toffees
  • 175g Rice Krispies (referred to as crispy rice throughout)
  • 4 small mars bars (or 2 medium)

Directions

  1. Line the tin (and sides) with greaseproof paper, an easy method to do this can be found here.
  2. Weigh the butter add to a large microwaveable bowl with the pack of toffees, melt on a medium heat in the microwave for 1 minute 30 seconds.
  3. Meanwhile, break mars bars into bitesize chunks and put in a small microwaveable bowl.
  4. Once microwave has pinged, mix this up and add the marshmallows, place back in microwave for another 1 minute 30 seconds on a medium heat.
  5. Then take this out of the microwave and replace with the mars bar bowl for 1 minute 15 seconds on medium.
  6. While the mars bars melt, mix the marshmallows, toffee and butter together, this should all combine and melt as you mix, if after mixing for a minute it hasn’t fully melted, place back in microwave for 20 seconds once the mars bar bowl has finished.
  7. Take the mars bar bowl out and mix until all is melted, and then add to the large bowl and combine with marshmallow mix. Weigh and add the crispy rice, combine until you have a gooey mixture.
  8. Break the chocolate into the mars bar bowl (or a clean bowl if preferred) and place in microwave on medium heat for 1 minute and 30 seconds.
  9. Transfer the crispy rice mix onto the pre-lined tin. Now you need to flatten this mixture, use the back of the spatula to press the mix down into the tin. It should reduce by about a ¼.
  10. When the microwave pings, stop flattening and mix the chocolate, then place back in microwave for 20 seconds burst, mixing each time until it has melted fully (carry on flattening if required).
  11. Finally, pour the chocolate on top of the flattened crispy rice mix and smooth over until all is covered. Place in fridge and leave to set for 1-2 hours.
  12. Take out of the tray (shimmy it out from each side, it can get a bit stuck) and chop into squares or whatever shape and sizes you wish! Most of all, enjoy them!

Roasted butternut squash, pepper and pea risotto


Butternut squash is a vegetable I rarely ate until I met Rory. It always reminded me of pumpkins which I distinctly remember not enjoying. Then one night several weeks ago, Rory said he really liked squash, so I decided to try it. Cooking a fairly simple risotto from BBC good food, it was nice enough and the flavours were there, but after cooking it a few times I started to adjust the flavours and what went in my risotto until we created this recipe.

This risotto is still pretty simple, and I believe it is delicious, full of flavour and lots of different vegetables. I think it makes a really nice starter serving 4, or as a main meal serving 2. You could also replace the squash with chicken, and the recipe would still work well.

Hope you enjoy the recipe, let me know what you think

Roasted butternut squash, pepper and pea risotto

1 medium white onion finely chopped
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
1 bay leaf (fresh of dried)
1 butternut squash peeled and chopped into chunks
1 medium bell pepper (red or yellow) cut into thick slices
150 g frozen garden peas
140 g Arborio rice
1 tbsp. Crème fraîche
2 vegetable stock cubes (can use chicken if prefer)
1 cal. spray

Peel and chop butternut squash into large chunks. The best method Rory and I use is to peel the squash, and then to chop the base off and scoop out the middle, chop into thick slices and then into lumps. Place a piece of foil in the roasting tin; add the squash and spray with low cal. spray. Place in middle of pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes, you want the squash to soften not crisp too much.
butternut-squash
Prep the other veg (peppers, onion, and garlic). Tip: For the garlic, chop the end off, and then press down the side of the knife to crush the garlic, this will make it easier to peel. Also, chop the pepper up nice and thick so it does not disintegrate while cooking.

Make up the stock (800 ml) about 20 minutes after the squash goes in the oven. Next, heat up the frying pan on a medium to high heat, spray with low cal. spray and add the onions to soften. Fry for about 2 minutes, spraying more 1 cal. spray if needed. Turn down to medium heat and add peppers and garlic, fry for a further minute, and then add the risotto rice and fry for about 3 minutes.

* After 30 minutes take ¾ of the squash out of the oven and mash into a bowl and cover and leave on side. Turn oven down to about 140°c, place the rest back in the oven to crisp up. *

Turn the heat down to 3 and add the bay leaf. Slowly incorporate the stock, making sure after every addition to stir and let the rice absorb the stock. Make sure to do this section slowly to allow the rice to fully absorb all the stock; this will help with a thick delicious flavour.
butternut-squash-risotto
Once all the stock is incorporated, taste the rice and check its cooked through, then add the mashed butternut squash, and the frozen garden peas. Let this heat through and then add the Crème fraîche and then add to bowls (leave out the bay leaf). Place the roasted squash from the oven on the top of the risotto to serve. Enjoy!
Simple! Such a great meal, very tasty and full of healthy vegetables. Find the print friendly version below.

Roasted butternut squash, pepper and pea risotto

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

    Equipment:
  • Large saucepan
  • Roasting tray
  • Spatula
  • Measuring jug
  • Kitchen foil
  • Grater

  • Ingredients:
  • 1 medium white onion finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf (fresh of dried)
  • 1 butternut squash peeled and chopped into chunks
  • 1 medium bell pepper (red or yellow) cut into thick slices
  • 150 g frozen garden peas
  • 140 g Arborio rice
  • 1 tbsp. Crème fraîche
  • 2 vegetable stock cubes (can use chicken if prefer)
  • 1 cal. spray
  • Parmesan (optional)

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180°C.
  2. Peel and chop butternut squash into large chunks.
  3. Line the roasting tin with foil; add the squash and spray with low cal. spray.
  4. Place in middle of pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes
  5. Prep the other veg (peppers, onion, and garlic).
  6. Boil kettle and make up 800ml stock 20 minutes after the squash went in.
  7. Heat up the frying pan on a medium to high heat, spray with low cal. spray and add the onions to soften. Fry for about 2 minutes, spraying more 1 cal. spray if needed.
  8. Turn down to medium heat and add peppers and garlic, fry for a further minute, and then add the risotto rice and fry for about 3 minutes.
  9. * After 30 minutes, take ¾ of the squash out of the oven and mash into a bowl, cover and leave on side. Turn oven down to about 140°c, place the rest back in the oven to crisp up. *
  10. Turn the hob heat down to 3 and add the bay leaf.
  11. Slowly incorporate the stock, making sure the stock is absorbed by the rice each time.
  12. Once all stock is incorporated, it should be a little runny but cooked.
  13. Then add the mashed butternut squash, and the frozen garden peas.
  14. Let this heat through and then add the crème fraiche
  15. Serve this in bowls with the leftover roasted squash on top (don’t eat the bay leaf)

Sakana Pan Asian, Manchester

Rory and I have been officially ‘boyfriend’ and ‘girlfriend’ for a year, mental! How he put up with me over this year is beyond me but he has, and to celebrate we tried out Sakana in Manchester (check it out here). It is crazy the amount of incredible deals you can get in January, definitely the worst time to be on a health kick! I highly recommend eating out in January, we were spoilt for choice, but decided to take Sakana up on the offer of 51% of all food from the A La Carte menu (which was a lot!).

On Friday evening we dolled up, sacked off the diet and drank a bottle of prosecco before heading out to Sakana. Located a short walk from St Peter’s Square tram stop (although we got an Uber because they also have a deal on!), just next to the infamous Albert’s Schloss (you can see where the nights going…).

As you walk into the restaurant you instantly get a great vibe, the front room is a lovely bar serving elegant looking cocktails, with music that is upbeat and friendly. Going through into the restaurant is wonderful; they have the kitchen on show in the back of room, and beautiful décor all around. There is a large tree with red lanterns on which looks really funky and on the way to the toilet they have painted glow in the UV paint in a floral cherry blossom tree, which is so vibrant as you walk through it is beautiful!

Sakana
Sakana
Sakana
The staff were really friendly and helpful, although they had some licensing issue, that meant all drinks were in hard plastic cups/wine glasses, and any bottles of wine were kept at the bar. They were very hot on topping up our glasses so no complaints from us, just a little strange. The menu was huge, so much choice and most of it included in the 51% off deal, the waitress explained clearly what we could and couldn’t have and then gave us time to decide.

Rory and I have big appetites, and we decided we were going all out. SO MUCH FOOD! It was heaven. Instead of getting a traditional starter and main we decided to order 7 different dishes and some rice and pick at it tapas style. While we waited for the food we ordered some thai prawn crackers, controversial to many peoples opinions but I like these more than normal ones, they are crunchier and have so much more flavour, and the sweet chilli dip blew my mouth off!

Sakana - thai prawn crackers
Thai prawn crackers and sweet chilli dip – £3
Before we had even finished nibbling on these the first of 6 dishes arrived. Kataifi King Prawns, these are King prawns wrapped in a soft string pastry (reminded me of rice noodles) and served with a creamy chilli sauce. This was my favourite of all 6. The prawns were perfectly cooked, fat and juicy. The weird pastry string complimented the crunch beautifully and the sauce was delicious with the right level of kick.

King prawns
Kataifi King Prawns – £7
Next up, we had a ¼ aromatic crispy duck, classic order and a delicious one at that. I love duck pancakes, the spring onion and cucumber, the pancakes, hoisin sauce and duck just go together so wonderfully, I wish I could eat this everyday! Really lovely dish, and a staple choice! The duck was shredded at our table in a very quick and easy fashion, and a great amount of quality meat on the table.

Crispy duck pancakes
¼ aromatic crispy duck pancakes – £12
While eating our duck one of Rory’s orders came to the table. I was a little bit taken back by this when he suggested it, but decided to jump in and try it. This was Taiwanese buns with Chicken Karaage; steamed fluffy buns with Japanese fried chicken and sweet and sour sauce. Rory hadn’t realised that it came separate and bit into a plain bun, realising his error he quickly filled it up. I was pleasantly surprised by these; the plain bun acted like the bread of a burger, taking away some of the spice but keeping all the delicious flavour of the chicken. They weren’t my favourite but I would definitely have them again.

Taiwenese buns with chicken karaage
Taiwenese buns with chicken karaage – £9
Next up are two different beef dishes we ordered, a beef Galbi; Korean marinated beef, served with kimchi, sesame seeds, spring onions and chilli with Galbi sauce. The second beef dish; Chinese black bean beef skewers, tender beef marinated in a black bean sauce, these were both a little overdone meaning the beef was chewier than I like, but Rory loved them and ate anything I didn’t want.

Beef galbi
Beef galbi- £11
Chinese black bean beef skewers
Chinese black bean beef skewers – £9
Then arrived the Thai Grilled Chicken (Kai Yang). These were chicken thighs marinated in lemongrass, coriander and turmeric, with a spicy tamarind dip. They were delicious; juicy and flavoursome, and the tamarind sauce complimented the chicken very well.

Thai grilled chicken kai yang
Thai Grilled Chicken (Kai Yang) – £8.50
Lastly we were disappointed with the duck spring rolls. It was a rushed decision as they had ran out of the vegetable golden money bags (which sounded incredible), I’m not sure what the problem with these were, they just lacked flavour and I think a little overdone. Throughout this meal we also had a bowl of jasmine rice which we used to eat some of the sauces; probably an unnecessary order but nice all the same.

Duck spring rolls
Duck spring rolls – £8
So there we have it, a crazy delicious menu, with a huge array of choice, flavours and cooked beautifully, a couple of things could have been done better but I was really impressed, and will definitely be back. With the discount, and a bottle of prosecco all of this was only £30 each plus a tip, pretty good deal if you ask me! Sadly our evening didn’t stay cheap, after leaving we went to Albert Schloss (it would have been rude not to) and ended up buying many shots. But you only live once and it was a wonderful way to spend our anniversary.