“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ― Julia Child

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

More Rabbit About Sainsbury's

Actually, I don't believe I've ever written anything about Sainsbury's, but it's not easy to think up witty titles for blog posts, you know. I have had to resort to a blatant allusion to the famed Chas & Dave song "Rabbit" that contains the line you've got more rabbit than Sainsbury's. I apologise profusely.

We had to go shopping for some stuff. It happens to us all. Groceries are a necessity, however one does tend to grow tired of the same old same old. So we headed over to Ashford to look at the new improved rebuilt remodeled Sainsbury's. It's huge, and has one of those lovely 'travelators'. What's a travelator?It's a moving walkway that goes up at an angle to the next floor, and you can stand on it with your shopping cart and ride in style. (Actually, you stand there looking kinda dorky, but you get the idea).  However we are not here to talk about Sainsbury's groceries. We are here to talk about the cafe in the new improved etc. Sainsbury's. Usually food places in big-ass supermarkets are pretty dire, but this one is fab. Light, airy, clean, spacious...

As well as the typical teas and coffees you have the menu of hot freshly made food, the cakes and scones in front and to the side there is a chilled cabinet containing drinks and ready-made sandwiches. However, comparing these to the menu behind the counter I found myself scratching my head and asking an age-old question: Why on earth would anyone pay £3 for a sarnie when you can get a fresh baked potato with salad for £2.50? Actually I don't believe that is an age-old question, but the question of 'why buy packaged food that is more expensive than freshly cooked grub when you are in a cafe with tables so presumably you're going to sit down anyway?' crossed my mind.

It was settled. Hot food was the way to go. So after perusing the menu board, Sis and I both went for the fabulous-sounding Mega Brunch... only £4.95.

2 sausage,  2 bacon, 2 eggs, beans, chips and mushrooms (in the centre under the egg white). Yum.
Laura meanwhile had chosen the Lasagne, for £4.59 (I think - the old memory is going).

The service was prompt and efficient, the place was clean, the prices were reasonable and there was a half-decent view out of the window...

So it's a car park, but if you click to enlarge you'll notice it is a sunny day and there are some green hills beyond.
So even though I am basically not into giant corporate structures such as this, it's pretty good in terms of value and ambience. A definite 4 out of 5.

Kooshti sante!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Complaint Dept.

One of our favourite places to go is Tenterden Garden Centre.They have a huge shop, lots of cool stuff to look at and plants to buy, and a lovely cafe called Planters. We've been there several times and I've written about it on this here blog more than once because usually it's just that good.

We went there the other day and as usual we perused the specials board. I went for the Smoked Trout Salad, Sis had the Steak and Ale Pie, and Laura had the Roasted Vegetable Quiche. Two of us were happy, and one of us was a bit disappointed. See if you can spot which one was less than impressed with their selection.

Now, Sis and Laura did get to share a big bowl of veg, but Laura was of the mind that she could have knocked up a quiche better than that, and this is a woman who does NOT pride herself on her cooking ability. I am inclined to agree. All of our meals were around the £8 mark. Mine was massive, and delicious. Sis's was pretty huge too, with a lovely deep-filled pie. But Laura's quiche was seriously lacking. I've always enjoyed Planters, but this time was a bit of a downer. Let's hope this trend does not continue.

Tea At The Oast

Mother's Day 2012. What to do, what to do...? Take Mum out to lunch. But where? Tea At The Oast, that's where. Tea At The Oast is the brainchild of a young and talented chef named Jess. She's managed to create the atmosphere and ambiance of a 1940's tearoom, from the decor to the music to the vintage crockery to the warm and friendly welcome and superior service.

Seriously, I have never known a waitress to smile as much as this young lady did. So from the start I was in hog heaven. But let's talk about the food, shall we?

Sunday lunch at Tea At The Oast is a traditional affair. You have a choice of two meats (it could be chicken, lamb, beef or pork - you don't know ahead of time), with all the trimmings a Sunday Roast should have - roast potatoes, carrots, peas, cabbage and Yorkshire Pudding, followed by a choice of two desserts, all for £17 a head. This day being Mother's Day though, Jess added some petit fours and coffee. Oh, and it's advisable to book - it's only a small place and fills up fast.

The menu looked like this:

What's Hokey Pokey, you ask? We'll get to that.

I started with the lamb.

Whoo boy.
Charlotte who was sitting next to me had the pork.

Look at that Yorkie - proper food, no messing about.
For dessert, Sis had the hot chocolate fondant tart - it was kind of like molten chocolate on the inside!

Everyone else had the pavlova which was - well, like we'd died and gone to heaven. Light and creamy and fluffy and fruity without being too sweet, and that Hokey Pokey, which is basically cinder toffee, like the honeycomb from a Crunchie bar, was a delight.

Coffee and petits fours followed. The coffee and tea was of course served in vintage cups and teapots.

The petits fours consisted of the following:

Blueberry jellies in little shot glasses, with blueberries actually IN the jelly, and little squares of clotted cream fudge.

Freshly made chocolate truffles.
The young lady kept coming and refilling my coffee cup, and I wasn't about to stop her. In the USA it's taken for granted that you will get refills on your coffee in most eateries, but it's a rarity here in the UK. It was such a lovely experience to sit and eat and soak up the atmosphere that I really didn't want to leave. However, leave we did, but not before congratulating Jess on such a sumptuous and scrummy lunch. We will definitely be going back. And if you can't get down to see Jess and co., maybe you will see them on June 3rd...

A Well Kept Secret

 On the Rye Road in Sandhurst, Kent, one will see this sign...

As you can well imagine, these prices will pique my curiosity, as I am an inveterate skinflint. We pull in to the Harrier Cafe, previously a pub known as The Harrier, and also as The Missing Link.

The small room with only four or five tables that we enter has an air of olde worlde charm about it. It's like stepping back a few decades into an old, small saloon bar, except there's no bar. There are a lot of books - in stacks on the corners of the tables and on shelves dotted around. Almost incongruously there is a rotating rack of greeting cards for sale in the corner too. And of course there are blackboards with the menus in different areas of the room.

At the spot where I sit there is a bell.

I do as instructed and ring the bell and the waitress comes out and takes our order. It's been years since I've had whitebait so I go for that.

Sis goes for the cheeseburger.

It may not necessarily be completely homemade, but it's pretty great for £3.50. And you won't find whitebait that good for that price anywhere else, I guarantee it. Most places that serve whitebait at all serve it as a pricey starter, without salad or chips. I'm definitely going back, and I'm having the Date, Apple and Coconut Cake.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Giant Return of Name This Food!

Well folks, I'm sorry it's been so long but I've been a bit busy recently what with one thing and another (excuses, excuses) and since no-one seemed to put up any hootin' and hollerin', I just kinda forgot. But it's back! Back back back!

Last time, if you can remember that far back, I asked what the name of this dish was:

Well, ponder no more, friends. It is of course

Spaghetti Vongole!

Do what? you say. Spaghetti who?

Spaghetti Vongole is a classic Italian dish, involving clams. Yes, clams.

Clams were, and still are, available in Venice in huge quantities, thus, they were considered a kind of 'peasant' food. Recipes for the dish vary from region to region and even from restaurant to restaurant. Some will add chillies to the dish and some will omit the tomatoes. The clams used vary too and can be quite expensive. Always try to use smaller ones that cook quickly and stay tender. Here's a recipe from the lovely Nigella Lawson.


500g/1lb very small fresh clams, or a small jar of clams in brine
3 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp anchovy paste
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
400g/14oz canned chopped tomatoes
salt and freshly ground black pepper
450g/1lb dried spaghetti

Preparation method

Scrub the clams, discarding any that stay open when tapped sharply.
Place the clams into a pan over a high heat. Add two tablespoons of water, cover with a lid and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until all the shells have opened. Discard any clams which have not opened after five minutes.
Remove the clam flesh from the shells and dip them quickly into their cooking water to rinse off any sand. Strain the clam juices from the pan through a sieve lined with muslin or kitchen paper and save the liquid.
Heat the olive oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add the garlic and fry until the garlic begins to colour, then add the anchovy paste and parsley and stir-fry for about 30 seconds.
Add the chopped tomatoes and the strained clam juices (if you are using a jar of clams, use the brine from the jar). Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes.
Cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions and drain.
When ready to serve, add the clam flesh to the tomato sauce and stir well.
Mix the sauce into the cooked spaghetti.
To serve, spoon the sauce and spaghetti into bowls.

Sounds like a plan, Nigella!

Anyway, on to the next one... Name This Food!

Lunchin' At The Lion

The White Lion in Tenterden is one of my favourite places for lunch, chiefly because despite their patchy service (sometimes it's great, but oftentimes it's slower than snail snot) their food is consistently good, at least in my experience. It's also not too pricey, which, to a cheapskate like myself, is a key factor.

Today Laura and I stopped in for a wee bite as we were both feeling a bit wafty, and in need of sustenance.

I wasn't going to need a huge amount but I did want something satisfying. That's why I went for the Homemade Fish Finger sandwich. That does not mean that it was a homemade sandwich with regular fish fingers in, oh no no no. These are homemade fish fingers, more like goujons really, in a big ol' doorstep-style sarnie.

Seriously thick sammie.

Interior shot. Homemade fish fingers. Mmmm. And that bread was nice and soft, and really fresh too.
Laura's choice was the Wiltshire Ham and Chutney sandwich.

Again, a serious doorstep of a sandwich. Nice big thick slices of ham, and a good dollop of chutney.
We also opted for a side order of the wickedest onion rings I've had in a long long time.

This is an example of onion rings that actually tasted as good as they looked. Crispy and hot and tasty, and they held together when you bit them, unlike some I've had where the onion just slides out of the batter and leaves a droopy shell.
Coupled with a pint of Marston's Pedigree, a damn good lunch.

Let's give it five yums out of five!

Kooshti sante!

Monday, March 5, 2012


Saturday night we had occasion to eat at the Mouchak Indian/Bangladeshi Restaurant in St. Michaels, as it was my Sis' birthday (well, technically, it was the day after her birthday, but I was working the night before so..). As usual I had my camera at the ready.

Condiments for the pappadums. Mango chutney, lime pickle , the sliced onion thingy, the red thingy  and the stuff in the middle which is similar in taste to a home-made ranch dressing, but a little sweeter.

Kingfisher beer. Lovely stuff, perfect with Indian food.

My favourite, aloo gobi, which I could eat all day. Cauliflower and spuds.

Cucumber raita. Salted yogurt with julienned cucumber.

Laura's favourite, Special Chicken Biryani.

Stuffed naan. Has some shredded veggies inside it.

Biryani sauce.

Salad and naan.

Sis's Lamb Tikka.

Channa masala (chickpeas in a spicy sauce) and sag paneer (cheese and spinach in a creamy sauce)

Bombay Aloo. (Potatoes)


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