The Grace – Gloucester Road

6 Jul

I never really bothered with the Robin Hood Retreat in the past, it always looked too gastro-pubby for our liking and also didn’t allow smoking in the garden. Very quietly one day the doors closed, the sign came down and builders moved in leaving us wondering what was going on. Eventually through some twitter searching I was delighted to find out that the pub had been taken over by Zazu’s Kitchen I am assuming off the back of their successful opening of The Green Bank over in Easton.


With St Paul’s carnival happening down the road (I can’t bare it, too many people crammed into a tiny space) I thought it the perfect weekend to pop down with a few friends and sample what The Grace had to offer. First impressions were friendly, attentive bar staff, the interior hadn’t changed too much but they had changed the colour scheme giving the space a much lighter feel than the previous reds and greens. They had a good range of beers on tap, we both had a Hank by Tiny Rebel and got change from £8 which in this day and age is quite the feat! I noted they had a good range of ciders, served Freedom Lager (organic if you care about that sort of thing) and have Arbour Triple Hop too. They stoked my absolute favourites Wiper and True bottles in the fridge which in itself means I will be back! We retreated to the garden and were really impressed with update. Plenty of seating, lovely apple trees and flowers around the borders and a real suntrap. I also loved that there was seating for larger groups, something you sometimes have to compromise on if a few of you are heading out for the day.


Eventually hunger striked as is the way when you have been sat in the sun for a few hours we decided to order a few bits from their new “small plates” menu. One of the party had pork scratchings ordered which were made fresh specially (they had run out but it wasn’t too much trouble). We then picked the roasted potatoes which came with a garlic aioli and a lovely chutney, the beetroot salad which was lovely and fresh, the chicken and lemon skewers which were served with a spicy harrissa yogurt and tried some mini pizza’s too. We went for salami and fennel, ham and walnut and the goats curd all of which were served promptly by lovely staff. Everything tasted really fresh and was the perfect sitting out accompaniment. Here is the menu that they tweeted for a better idea



The only issues we had were that the beers kept coming on and off (I ordered an Arbour which wasn’t right but was swapped with no fuss at all) though I would expect teething issues with a pub that has only been open 3 days today. The waitresses were also left wondering around with plates of food a lot as there was no system until later in the evening to show them who had ordered what outside. Eventually we were given a rather charming old Oxo tin which did the job.

I highly recommend heading down before everyone realises how nice the garden is!

Find The Grace here on twitter

Upside down, pineapple “your grandmother made this” cake

22 Jun

Yesterday I bought a pineapple to take to a barbecue. Last year i discovered that putting pineapple on the grill after you cooked up some pork belly was bloody delicious and was looking forward to repeat performance. However, by the time i got around to it the coals were cold and i wasn’t that hungry anyway so back home it came. Sat with a hangover i knew i wouldn’t use the pineapple for anything, i don’t like it in sweet and sour dishes, i wouldn’t use it on pizza and my life is too short to be making smoothies.

Of course the only option left was an upside down cake, something i could attempt to do in a hungover state (though if you are worried that you shouldn’t be drunk in charge of a knife use tinned fruit). A splash of rum will sort out your hair of the dog requirements.

You may want to practice at making the pineapple lovely and neat, i however have no flare for presentation as the pictures will tell. I joke that friends would enjoy my food even more if i blindfolded them.

You will need

butter (for greasing)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 a ripe pineabpple, sliced into rings and cored or 6 slices canned pineapple in juice (plus 3 tablespoons of the juice)
11 glace cherries (approx. 75g total weight)
100 grams plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
100 grams soft butter
100 grams caster sugar
2 large eggs
Splash of dark rum if wanted

- Preheat the oven to 200°C. Butter and flour a tin (go for a pie dish or similar)
– Slice the pineapple (or fish out the rings) and put into a pain with 1-2 tablespoons of sugar. Cook and caramelise the rings and add a splash of rum if you want to.
– Once browned, place the rings in the bottom of the tin and fill the rings with the glace cherries and then pop them in the spaces in between.
– Put the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, butter, caster sugar and eggs into a food processor and run the motor until the batter is smooth or pop it all in a bowl and mix (i never bother with creaming the butter and sugar first etc, as far as i can tell it makes no difference and the eggs are less likely to curdle).
– Bake for 30 minutes, then ease a spatula around the edge of the tin, place a plate on top and turn it

Look at it in all its pineapply glory

Look at it in all its pineapply glory

Bringing 70's realness

Bringing 70’s realness

Mini mezze for two

19 May

The sun has got his hat on, those of you with gardens are in them (inaudible grumbling) and those of us without want food that can be packed up and taken alfresco to the park and hope we don’t accidentally sit in sex litter (looking at you Castle Park). Allow mezze to fill that picnic hole and depending on what you fancy making you can be ready to go in an hour or so.

Here are a few dishes I whipped up on a Monday night, there are plenty of other recipe ideas out there, BBC food is a good start for something simple. Everything i used can be picked up at your local shop too.


You will need:

1 tin of chickpeas, drained
3 tablespoons of tahini (its a sesame paste, large corner shops should have it and the supermarkets will do, if you cant fine it use seasame oil, or at a proper pinch smooth peanut butter is almost there).
Juice of half a lemon
1 – 2 cloves of garlic either chopped fine or grated
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 tablespoons of warm water

Dump everything into a blender, blend until about smooth. Beauty of hummus is you can mix whatever you like in there, I like to drizzle mine with sweet chilli sauce but you can mix in some roasted garlic and peppers or fresh herbs, go mad, never bother buying it from the supermarket again.

Baba Ganoush

Aubergines get a hard wrap…and quite frankly they are a bit gross, slimy insiders, rubber skin and hilarious to look at but very good for you and very tasty. Here is a simple, filling dip that also makes a lovely pasta sauce or sammich filling too.

You will need:

3 aubergines
Juice from half a lemon
1 tsp cumin
1 tbls tahini (optional)
1 – 2 garlic cloves
Fresh parsley

Turn up the grill and pop in your aubergines. Prick the skin a few times and then wait for the skin to get crispy and the insides really soft, it will take about 20 mins with the aubergines being rotated a few times though if its taking too long i find slicing them in half and popping them back under the grill for a few minutes to soften.

Whip them out and use a spoon to scrape the flesh into a blender with the rest of the ingredients, whip till almost smooth and dive in there.

Quick, cheating lamb tagine.

This is not authentic but it can be whipped up in about an hour and is a nice meaty addition to your picnic/garden meal that is pretty nice cold (if you ask me). Otherwise chuck it in for a few hours or in a slow cooker to get those flavours going.

About 500g of diced lamb (see your local butcher if you have one for something cheap and cheerful like neck)
Either a tin of tomatos or a few, diced fresh ones
A chopped onion
1 table spoon of tomato paste
1 – 2 cloves garlic either chopped or grated
1 tsp cumin
1/2 inch grated ginger
1 stick of cinnamon
Fresh parsley
Fresh coriander
Juice of half a lemon
1 or 2 chillies depending on how much of a wuss you are

Fry off the lamb in a pan (i use my cast iron tagine but i appreciate not everyone has such generous ex boyfriends), once sealed throw in the onions and cook them down until soft and sexy. Add in the tomato paste and cook until distributed.

Add the chilli, garlic, ginger cumin and lemon juice and cook fora few minutes, add the tomatoes and cook on a high heat until bubbling. Turn the heat down, add half the fresh herbs, seasoning and cover. Simmer for about an hour or until the lamb is tender. Add the rest of the fresh herbs before serving.


I cheated and bought flat bread because it was Monday and i don’t have time for that.


Chicken Katsu – Storecupboard edition.

7 Apr

I adore chicken katsu, not the curry, i have never liked the chip shop style curry sauce that you often find served under the guise of katsu curry but love the sweet, tangy oil slick like sauce soaked up by crispy crumb, succulent meat and well cooked rice that you get with a good, plain katsu.

When i discovered that i could make this at home in less than half an hour i couldn’t believe it, especially when i also realised i didn’t have to put a bra on and leave the house, anything that requires me to not have to go out alway gets a thumbs up from me. Of course the downside is there is a a bit of washing up to do after, as there always is when you apply crumb to meat…but you didn’t have to put a bra on, remember? You’re still winning.

I am not going to lie and say this is in anyway authentic but its hot, sweet, spicy, comforting and makes enough for lunch the next day if you can manage to not snaffle the lot in one sitting. I always make enough rice for one more as the leftovers are worth it.

You will need:

For the meat;

Chicken thigh (deboned), breast/ pork loin – 1 per person
Garlic powder (if you have it)
2 beaten eggs
Panko crumbs (if you have them) or regular breadcrumbs*

For the sauce;

80ml (1/3 cup) ketchup (any cheap stuff will do)
60ml (1/4 cup) Soy sauce
50g (1/4 cup) sugar
2 teaspoons worcester sauce
1/4 teaspoon white pepper (if you have it, cracked black is fine)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or a chopped chilli


Rice (1/2 cup per person plus extra for lunch)
Spring onion


Put your rice in the saucepan, add boiling water from the kettle to just above the rice, bring to ht boil on the hob, pop on the lid then turn the heat off when the water is on a rolling boil. DON’T TOUCH THE RICE.

Put your meat into a freezer back and bash with a rolling pin until flat, get your frying pan warmed up with a little oil on a medium heat and dup your meat into the flour, then egg, then breadcrumb.

Lay flat in the frying pan and keep an eye on it else you crumb will burn and your meat won’t cook. Once one side is nice and cripsy and golden brown (texture like sun) flip it over. Whilst the second side is cooking, add all your sauce ingredients together and cook on a medium heat making it sure it doesn’t burn at the bottom.

Once your chicken is cooked pop it out of the frying pan and cut into strips on a chopping board. Now you may take the lid off the rice, add some garden peas and chopped spring onions if you have any, give it a good stir through until the peas have defrosted.

I usually serve the rice first, chicken on top and then a light coating of the sauce, a little goes a long way and remember you can always add more sauce but you can’t take it away.


I at my dinner before i got around to taking a photo so here is tomorrows lunch instead!

Also I DID A VINE!!!


Its pretty terrible but i enjoyed the process

*DO NOT THROW OUT STALE BREAD AND BUY BREADCRUMBS – It makes me cross! Chuck it in a freezer bag and freeze it until you have need then you just just need to either grate it or whizz it up in a processor if you have one for free coating.

Veg boxes, vitamins to your door!

25 Mar

I bleat on a lot about getting to your local greengrocers for cheaper, higher quality fruit and veg than your supermarket can offer you but i am also no stranger to living somewhere that hasn’t got a local place to go. That coupled with working or studying full time and not wanting to spend your weekends battling with the crowds on the high street, getting fruit and veg into the kitchen and onto your plate can seem like a real chore.

Lucky for me that i stumbled across a veg delivery business that runs entirely on Facebook! I was getting my boxes from Riverford but was disappointed with the constant sales calls and the lack of bang for your buck some weeks. I had tried other, local boxes too but you needed to go and pick those up from drop points and laziness wins out every time where i am concerned. The Bristol Veg Box run by Lee and his partner Hannah offers great variety at incredibly reasonable prices directly to your door.

I have found a small veg box keeps a household of 2 – 3 running quite happily for a week or so and it always comes with your seasonal staples as well as a ton of extras should you require them. Personally i always get a dozen eggs (beautifully fresh and free range) and this week went for 500g of cheese, cheaper than Tesco at only £4.00 per 500g (£8 per kg / Tesco price £14.29 per Kg) and it wonderfully mature and made on a North Somerset Farm. They also have offers on each week and are happy to pick up extra bits if you need them (i have asked them in the past for bags of onions, peppers and chillies for my chutneys and more recently rhubarb for some jam i made).

Personally, i have found this service a Godsend and, as sad as it sounds, there is always an element of excitement on a Wednesday night when i get home to find my veg box outside and seeing what i have this week! Prices start at £5.00 for a Single person/OAP Veg Box which includes potatoes, 3 types of Veg, 3 types of Salad and 2 types of Fruit. (enough for 1 person) which i think you will agree is AMAZING value for money.

Large box

Definitely worth buying a box from them to see what i mean! Mention this blog if you read and decide to book a box!

Review – Small Bar, Bristol

18 Mar

Well as i eat out at least once a week i thought i would throw my hat into the ring and do the odd review as well as the crafting and cooking. Lets face it, who can actually be bothered to cook EVERY night?

Last night myself and my partner headed around to Small Bar on Kings Street in Bristol to sample the delights of their new, permanent kitchen fixture. Small Bar have had a good few pop up eateries through the doors since they opened but have decided to stick with something a bit more long term and have headed down the BBQ root. I was particularly intrigued firstly because i sort of know the chef and had been chatting with him on a boozy night out about the menu and secondly because everyone is doing BBQ, some better than others (worth looking up how Gas and Co on Whiteladies Road are fairing, which is pretty badly!).


I have to say i was not disappointed, all sandwiches are £6.50 each with the choice of a Turkey Club, Pulled shoulder of pork with chipotle, a veal french dipped beef number and a veggie haggis burger.

We both went for the pork shoulder and went for two sides, the handcut fries and the fried chillies and pickles in an IPA batter.

I will say the portions are ENORMOUS and having two sides to share was actually greedy! Te pork was beautifully cooked, generously put with a lovely, creamy coleslaw and lashings of BBQ sauce betwixt two pieces of multigrain Hobbs House bread. The fries were beautifully seasoned and the pickles were to die for, light batter, not greasy with a few hot ones to get the blood pumping.


My only criticism would be that the pork didn’t have much of a chilli kick but that is more than catered for with the choice of three chilli sauces that come with your condiments. I was only brave enough to try the milder of the three and the death chilli one came with a warning from the server. I would suggest try before you use, don’t ruin your meal!


Definitely worth a visit, the meal cost us £18 between us plus drinks (Small Bar being well famed for its incredible selection of craft beers).

BBV’s homemade bacon

16 Mar

Eating frugally can sometimes be a struggle if you haven’t the luxury of a freezer. Before i moved out of my bedsit i had an ice box above my fridge which would, at a push, hold a box of chicken dippers and a bag of peas. This lead to many an expensive week having to buy fresh and the tedium of eating the same thing for three or four meals because it won’t keep in the fridge. Luckily, with the human being the forward thinking species it is, we cracked preserving meat a very long time ago and from this we have the internets favourite, bacon.


Now bacon for me is a weekend treat, but i have never been blown away by it. Yes it tastes nice, carries the taste of sauce well, seasons as well as improves many a dish but really, if i’m being honest, i actually prefer a sausage. However my interest in the Sunday morning staple was piqued when i was handed the cooking book Pig by Johnnie Mountain . Inside there is a recipie for curing your own bacon just using your fridge and a cooling rack. It uses pork belly which you can still pick up pretty cheaply from the supermarket, sea salt, sugar and maple syrup. The cost of the ingredients seems a lot but i got at least three or four weekends worth of bacon and plenty of lardons for other meals. Far more than you would get from a £3 packet of water pumped, dyed bacon from your local shop.

Lardons and bacon

This recipie uses maple syrup which i happened to have but is expensive, either nick someone else’s or leave it out if you can’t afford it. Sunday is a good day to kick off the bacon process as you should, in theory have bacon ready to go for the following Sunday.


You will need:

1KG of pork belly, skin still on
150g of course sea salt
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp maple syrup

Put the pork belly on a chopping board and pat it dry with kitchen paper. Mix together the salt, sugar and maple syrup and rub this all over the pork making sure you get into all the crevices (imagine you are giving it a salty bed bath). Transfer the meat into a resealable freezer bag and tip in any remaining salt on the chopping board. Squeeze out as much air as you can and seal it tightly.

But the bag in a non metallic dish or on a plate and pop it at the bottom of the fridge and leave for five days. You must turn it over once a day.

After the five days rinse the bacon (i forgot and it was SO SALTY!), dry with kitchen towel and place on a rack covered with a clean tea towel in a cool, dry area. I put mine on top of the chest freezer by a window and leave for 24 hours at least, longer if you prefer.

Once dried, slice the bacon with a very sharp knife.

Ketchup, ketchup always ketchup

Adapted from the fabulous Pig from Johnnie Mountain


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