The Nut Tree Inn, Murcott

This Bank holiday weekend I was fortunate enough to have the time to visit the Nut Tree Inn, in Murcott, Oxfordshire. after a sucessful morning in Bicester shopping village we went for a search for Murcott and the Nut Tree Inn. Murcott is only 8 miles from Bicester, just the otherside of the M40 on the way to Oxford.

This pub had been on my ‘to go to’ list for a while and this weekend there was no excuse not to pop in.

On arrival, we came to the painted white thatched pub, which had a few spaces at the front, just off the village main street. Around the back of the pub you’ll find a large car park with plenty of room for any vehical.

The Nut Tree is a pub with a Michelin Star, so I had expected to pop in for a drink in the sun and a nose at the menu for another time. The patio and garden is situated at the back of the pub, in a perfect afternoon sun spot, when we arrived the flowers were out too, thanks to the recent warm weather we had in Oxfordshire, making the garden look well cared for as well as a sun trap.

We went into the pub to order our drinks, at which point I asked to have a look at the bar menu, to see if I could be tempted by a nibble, I suspected we would cave and share something. Our drinks were brought out to our table in the sun, along with a bowl of spiced popcorn, this went down a treat.

While we soaked in the peacefulness of the countryside around us, we browsed the bar food menu. The menu offered plenty of meat fish and vegetarian options, there were starters, sandwiches, soups and various boards. We made our individual choices and ordered our mini lunch back inside at the bar, however I’m sure if we had waited someone would have come to us.

What was ordered?
Sausage and onion sandwich, on granary.
Biscuits with cheese.

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When the food arrived we were amazed at the quanity of our meals. 3 sausages halved in a sandwich per sausage, with a pile of salad and a cheese board with plenty of biscuits, which seems to be a rare treat. Next time I have my eye on their salmon.

Was it expensive?
Our lunch bill was £28, this included a glass of white wine, a pint of Pride, and two meals that left us full for the afternoon. The area was tranquil and the setting was a world away from the craze of Bicester Shopping Village, yet only an 8mile drive down the road. So I would say it was a great price for a great afternoon out.

To find the Nut Tree Inn here’s a link to their site

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Cod Cakes in tomato sauce

I saw this fishcake alternative in Yotam Ottolenghis’ Jerusalem book. To me it looked like a the sort of dish that you would expect to be served to a large family. It sounded both healthy and hearty and suitable for a weekend dinner, which I made in April.
This dish would be a good one to try on a bank holiday weekend, if you have friends round and no BBQ.
You should be able to make 8 cakes, I managed 7, it will feed 4 adults and leave them full, but no room for pudding.
Alternatively you could serve this to 6 people and add some greens and a pudding.
The best thing about this method is that you can freeze the remaining cakes and sauce, leaving you a nice treat for an easy midweek meal.

Cod Cakes
White bread, crusts removed 3 slices
Cod (sustainably sourced), or pollock fillet, skinless and boneless 600g
Medium onion 1, finely chopped
Garlic cloves 4, crushed
Flat-leaf parsley 30g, finely chopped
Coriander 30g, finely chopped
Ground cumin 1 tbsp
Salt 1 tsp
Large free-range eggs 2, beaten
Olive oil 4 tbsp

I missed out the parsley and coriander in the cod cakes step, which might be why my cakes seemed paler than the books beautiful photo. Either that or my oil needed to be hotter, which I suspect was the case!

Tomato sauce
Olive oil 2 tbsp
Ground cumin 1 tsp
Sweet paprika ½ tsp
Ground coriander 1 tsp
Medium onion 1, chopped
White wine 125ml
Chopped tomatoes 400g tin
Red chilli 1, deseeded and finely chopped
Garlic clove 1, crushed
Caster sugar 2 tsp
Mint leaves 2 tbsp, roughly chopped
Salt and black pepper

First make the tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil in a very large frying pan for which you have a lid, and add the spices and onion. Cook for 8-10 minutes, until the onion is completely soft. Add the wine and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, chilli, garlic, sugar, ½ tsp of salt and some black pepper. Simmer for about 15 minutes, until quite thick, taste to adjust the seasoning and set aside.

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While the sauce is cooking make the fish cakes. Place the bread in a food processor and blitz to form breadcrumbs. Chop up the fish very finely and place in a bowl with the bread and everything else, apart from the olive oil. Mix well and then, using your hands, shape the mixture into compact cakes, about 2cm thick and 8cm wide. I had some ring moulds which I used here, it achieved very neat cakes but perhaps handmade would be more rustic. The mixture should make 8 cakes. If they are very soft, refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm up.

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Heat up half the oil in a frying pan and sear the cakes for 3 minutes on each side, so they colour well.
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Add the remaining oil as you fry the cakes. Place the seared cakes gently, side by side, in the tomato sauce. Add enough water to partially cover the cakes, about 200ml. Cover the pan with the lid and simmer on a very low heat for 15-20 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the cakes to settle, uncovered, for at least 10 minutes before serving warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with mint.
Serve with bulgar, rice, couscous or bread, alongside sautéed spinach or Swiss chard.

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I will certainly be trying this dish again, with all of the ingredients next time.

Chicken with caramelized onion and cardamom rice

This dish is definitely for those of you wanting to serve up a comforting dish to your friends and family, especially as it’s been so unusually cold and now, although now it is perhaps warmer, we appear to be stuck with our friend the rain!
This one pot dish can be had on its own or served with spinach or other greens that you might fancy. You could add chilli flakes if you wanted to spice things up. It’s quite a simple dish which can be suited to your taste. Take a read through and find the ingredient list at the end!

Caramelising your onions:
Heat half the oil in a large pan, with a lid, add the onion and cook over a medium heat for 10-15mins, until the onions are deep golden brown, not burnt. Transfer the onions into a bowl and set aside, wipe your pan clean.

The Chicken:
Place the chicken in a large mixing bowl and season with 1&1/2 teaspoons of salt and black pepper. Add the remaining olive oil, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon and mix with your hands to mix well.
Heat your large pan and place the chicken and spices inside. Sear the chicken for 5 mins on each side and remove from the pan, don’t worry that the spices stay in the pan. (This will have part-cooked the chicken so don’t try to jump over this step.) Remove most of the remaining oil, leaving about a millimetre.

Add the rice, caramelized onion, 1tsp of salt and plenty of black pepper. Add in your currants. Stir well and the add the seared chicken, push it into the rice, don’t just pop it on the top.

Pour the boiling water over the rice and chicken, cover the pan and cook on a very low heat for 30 mins. Take the pan off the heat, remove the lid and quickly place a tea towel over the pan, then seal the pan with the lid. Now leave the dish for 10mins.

Before you serve, add your herbs, and stir in while fluffing up the rice. Taste and add more salt and pepper if you wish.

Ingredients.
40g sugar
25g currants
4tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, finely sliced
1 whole chicken, divided into quarters or 1kg chicken thighs
10 cardamom pods
1/3 tsp whole cloves
2 long cinnamon sticks
300g basmati rice
550ml boiling water
5g parsley
5g dill
5g coriander
100g Greek yoghurt
1 tea towel (although I’m not sure what this does.)

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Aside

I would like to say a big thank you to Tony Brett who supplied this guest blog to me at the start of the month. It’s been a manic month but this might give some of you an inspiration for an Easter dessert.
Over to Tony:

This is a classic French dessert and one of my favourites.   This recipe comes from a cookbook that my cousin owns and I’m describing it here including the changes I made.

For poaching the meringues:
1.25 litres of full fat milk
2 vanilla pods, split lengthways
For the meringues:8 medium egg whites
275g caster sugar

For the vanilla custard:8 medium egg yolks
75g caster sugar
milk from the meringue poaching For the caramel:
50ml water
150g caster sugar

I started by putting the milk in a large 30cm skillet and scraping in the seeds from the vanilla pods and well as chucking in the split pods themselves.  I heated this to a gentle simmer and left it simmering while I prepared the meringues.

For the meringues I separated the eggs, saving the yolks for the custard, and whisking the whites with the sugar until stiff (this took a good ten minutes using an electric mixer).  Firm peaks on the egg whites are the traditional sign that you’re done.  The next bit was the messy bit for me.  You need to take large-ish chunks of the meringue with a large metal spoon and gently float them in the hot milk and vanilla infusion.  Beware not to make them too big or put too many in the pan at once as they grow when poached and can go everywhere!  The meringues need poaching for five minutes and then turning over carefully and having another five minutes of poaching.  Once the meringues are done they are a bit like marshmallows but rather wetter.  I found it useful to put them on greaseproof paper on a baking tray in a warm 50C oven to dry them out a bit, and then take them out and let them cool. You are not looking for baked meringues though!   I had to do two batches of meringue poaching as there was so much of it!

The next job is to strain the infused milk into a saucepan ready to make the custard.  You may need to add some extra milk if you have lost much in the poaching – like I did!  For the custard the first step is to whisk the egg yolks with the caster sugar in a large bowl and then gradually whisk in the milk.  This all then goes back in a saucepan and needs gentle cooking for about 5 minutes over a moderate heat until it starts to thicken.  You need to stir it continually while this happens so it doesn’t go lumpy, and check for thickness by lifting the spoon.  Once it’s one strain it into a large bowl and keep stirring for a couple of minutes so that the custard doesn’t scramble.  If it does then a blender is your friend!  You can then cool then chill the custard in the ‘fridge.
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Next it’s time for the caramel.  This is easier but needs careful watching and stopping.  You’ll need a washing up bowl of cold water at the ready – do this first!  Put the water for the caramel in a small heavy-based saucepan and spread the sugar over it evenly.  Let the water soak into the sugar then heat the pan moderately and without stirring the caramel until all the sugar has dissolved and you have a syrupy liquid.  Now simmer this until it becomes a golden brown caramel.  Keep watching because IMMEDIATELY that happens you need to take the pan off the heat and put the bottom of the saucepan in the cold water to stop the caramelisation going further otherwise it will burn.

You can serve this dessert either in individual dishes or in one big one.  Either way, put the custard in the dish(es) first and then float the poached meringues on top.  Then you need to pour a small amount of caramel onto each meringue and then leave them to cool or even chill if you prefer.  You need to add the caramel topping while it is still quite hot otherwise it won’t pour.

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Yeti, Nepalese Restaurant, Oxford

It’s been a while since I’ve done a review, so here goes…

Recently we headed out with friends to the Yeti on Cowley road, a Nepalese restaurant, which despite being a stones throw away from my house, this was my first visit.
I had heard though a friend at work that she had taken her parents to the Yeti recently, so I figured I was missing a trick by not trying this restaurant. Little did I know that people were raving about this place on Trip Advisor.

From the outside the Yeti looks clean, and new, however it has been around for a while. It’s set back slightly from Cowley road so it’s hard to get a good look in from the road, the only option is to walk straight up to the front door and go in.

On entry the staff were friendly and welcoming and although it wasn’t full on the Wednesday, our waiter still bothered to ask who we were, when we said we’d booked. The service was attentive and to a good time, we were left to read the menu for long enough to have decided what we wanted but not too long to starve.

To drink we had a traditional beer, Gurkha, which is apparently the UKs number 1 selling Nepalese beer. It was tasty, fairly light and it was enjoyed by us all.

We ordered 2 rice and 2 naan between 4 of us, warning the Chilli & Garlic Naan is not for the faint hearted, but it is something different!
Our main course choices, were eventually chosen, there is a lot to choose from: Meat, Fish and Vegetarian. Traditional or Speciality:
Katahar Masu Chicken cooked with jack fruit..
Katahar Masu Lamb cooked with jack fruit..
Mitho Bhansa Chef’s cocktail mix with sheek kebab, chicken chokta & lamb chokta..
Jhane Ko King Prawn King-Prawn tempered with Nepali Jowano (Carum seed) & garlic, cooked with coconut..

I was being indecisive so also picked a side of Quati Dall Mix beans cooked in traditional Nepalese herbs & spices.

yeti

It’s safe to say that the food quantities are generous. One naan order would have been fine to share between 4, my lesson has been learnt.
There were plenty of prawns in my dish, something that needs to be celebrated! This is certainly more than the standard 4 that I often experience when I opt for a prawn dish, which is slightly irritating as it’s usually an £11 dish.

By the end of our meal our plates were polished, with only the sides remaining, we were offered a doggy bag, it’s great to see that they don’t let food go to waste. The Yeti had filled up four adults, on a cold damp evening, which only cost £20 per head, I thought it was great value. I will definitely go back and suggest you give it a try.

Next time you wander past in search of food, pop in and give it a try. The warm atmosphere and great food should make for an enjoyable evening, any day of the week.
Visit the Website to see what it’s all about.

I do love a curry… Sea Bream

So Valentines night… What did you do this year? If the V word hadn’t already irritated you by Thursday night then I’ll let you into a casual secret meal that we made for Thursday 14th Feb 2013.
A takeaway was tempting, but I had received a great cook book at Christmas from my boyfriend, so it was a good night to try it out for the first time! The book in question was:
‘The Cinnamon Club Seafood Cookbook’ Viveck Singh.

After flicking through many mouthwatering pages and refraining from temptation and expense for a midweek meal we plummeted for: ‘Spice crusted sea bream wrapped in banana leaf with green mango and coconut chutney.’ Our meal was made without banana leaf and without any coconut, but it was still tasty!

Our Sea bream was bought at Oxford’s covered market, Hayman’s fisheries, a fantastic gem within Oxford city, in my opinion. My favourite grocers within the covered market is Bonners, where the staff are always friendly, the quality and prices beat any ‘supermarket’, supplied all the veg necessary for our meal, as always!

One thing I couldn’t get was curry leaves, but Cowley road saved the day and with its mystery shops selling many various food items from all over the world, I got more curry leaves than I actually know what to do with! (Ideas welcome!)

So the about the meal itself:

You’ll need a bream per person, get this filleted from your fishmonger if you can. Or DIY it!

Sprinkle the fillets with:
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp salt
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 tbsp veg oil
Set this to marinade for half an hour. I did this when I got in from work. So 17.40.

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When you’re ready, or once you’ve had a glass of vino and catch up move to the next step:

Spice crust
5 shallots
4 garlic cloves
20 black peppercorns
1tsp red chilli powder
20 curry leaves
2 tbsp veg oil
1&1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp white wine vinegar

Pound the shallots, garlic and peppercorns to a coarse paste in a pestle and mortar, if you want a work out! Or you could electric mix it in your food processor, so much easier! Then add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Cover the bream fillets on both sides and set aside.

If you have a spare pair of hands, friend or other half get them to make the chutney:

Mango chutney
We didn’t use the coconut, but it still worked well.
3 mangoes peeled pitted and diced.
1 shallot
1 garlic
2 tsp red chilli powder
1 tbsp veg oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
3 tbsp water
(80g coconut if you like it)

For the chutney add everything into the food processor and blend to a smooth paste.

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Once you are ready you can cook your fish in a heavy based frying pan. Add 1tbsp oil to your pan once it sizzles add your Sea Bream. Cook for 3-5 mins on each side.

We served this with naan, pilau rice and the home made mango chutney! It was delicious and although not a dry curry it wasn’t doused in sauce either. Worth it for an occasion, or a regular Saturday night!

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Seafood broth

Seafood broths and Thai soups are delicious, if you love fish and spicy things then you will enjoy broths. They are lighter than a curry but I find they satisfy the spice need. The off-putting thing when making a broth is the amount of ingredients involved and the bother of clarifying the soup. I find that if you prep all of your ingredients first this cuts out a lot of ‘faff’. I didn’t clarify this broth either, only because I wasn’t entertaining.

Serves 4
1 inch fresh root ginger, peeled and sliced thinly
2 limes, juiced and reserve a strip of lime
3 pints of fish stock
1 lemongrass stalk, use the outer leaves for the stock.
1 red birdseye chilli, cut in half or chopped
1 tbsp thai fish sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
8 headless raw prawns, save the shells for the broth
1 dressed crab, you’ll only need the white meat for this dish and the shell
15g rice noodles
100g cod fillet, thinley sliced
2 spring onions, chopped and finley sliced.
25 bok choi, cut into chunks
25g beansprouts
To garnish:
1tbsp each of coriander and mint leaves
2 birdseye chillies
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
You’ll need 3 pans, 2 medium and 1 small.

Peel the ginger, save the peel and cut the ginger into thin slices
Remove a strip of zest from one lime, this piece is for the stock. Juice both limes and discard the limes. (save the strip!)

Pour the fish stock into a large pan, add 3/4 of the sliced ginger, the ginger peel, the strip of lime zest, lime juice, outer leaves of the lemongrass, birdseye chilli, fish sauce and soy sauce. Gradually bring this to the boil.

While this is coming up to the boil. Decapitate your raw prawns and remove the shells, add the shells and heads to your stock pot. Take your dressed crab and scoop out the white meat, and set aside for later. Scoop out the brown meat, and put it in a bowl and refrigerate for a pate on another day. You’ll be left with the shell which should also go into the stock pot. Cover and simmer for 20mins*.

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Now sieve the stock into another medium pan, discard the items left in your sieve. This stock is now ready to use.

In the smaller pan you need to bring lightly salted water to the boil. once at boiling point add the noodles and remove the pan from the heat, leave to soak for 2 mins. Drain and set aside.

Finely chop your ginger that you sliced earlier. Chop the lemongrass in half. Bring the stock to a gentle simmer and add the prawns, cod, ginger and lemongrass. Cook for 1 min.

Add the noodles, white crab meat, spring onions, bok choi, and beansprouts. Simmer for 30 seconds and remove from the heat.

To serve mix your mint and coriander in one bowl, mix your chillies and rice wine vinegar in another bowl.

Divide your broth into suitable bowls with a ladle and garnish to your taste.

*After the 20mins you can clarify the stock if you wish.

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