Sunday, November 4, 2012

Watts & Co Review

Well it's been a while since I've posted so as a slight departure I thought I'd try a restaurant review.

Watts & Co opened last year and I've been a few times but a rare opportunity presented itself for Mrs B and I to get out without the kids.Trying to fit as much as possible into our date night we booked early as we planned on a trip to the cinema afterwards.

We arrived and were seated in the bar area where we were presented with our menus and wine list. The menu which turned out to be the earlybird had a good choice of starters and mains, however nothing that really made me go WOW. Before I could start to feel disappointed the waiter arrived with the weekend dinner menu and this time I did go WOW!, there was less of a choice but I could quite easily have ordered any of the dishes.

The menu was impressive and littered with seasonal ingredients, venison tartar, roasted wood pigeon, salt baked celeriac, seared scallops and pork belly amongst the choice of starters. The mains were every bit as appetising loin of lamb,cod, brill, pheasant and a selection of steaks gave us both too much choice.

Eventually I settled on the seared scallops served on a white chocolate & parmesan risotto with truffle oil and Mrs B went for the chargrilled & salt baked celeriac with pickled raisins and smoked apple purée. For mains Mrs B had a craving for steak and decided on a fillet and for the season that's in it I chose the roast pheasant with pearl barley and game jus. Since we we were having meat and game as mains we decided on a reasonably priced Australian Shiraz.

Sitting waiting to be seated in the main restaurant having a glass of wine we saw one of the young waiters, obviously just back from his break, coming in with a takeaway pizza. Not a great impression if the waiting staff have to eat takeaway!

After being moved into the dining room by the pizza eating waiter we were seated at a spacious table, nothing worse than a small table. The tables were spaced well so you don't end up sitting on the next tables knee or overhearing their conversations.

Starters were served and they looked every bit as good as they had sounded on the menu, the presentation was spectacular and the portions were perfect.

The scallops were amazing, the flavour of the white chocolate combined with parmesan and the truffle oil provided the perfect accompaniment to the succulent scallops. Mrs B's smokey celeriac along with the sweetness of the apple purée was something i wouldnt have ordered myself but a really interesting flavour combination.
Staff were very attentive and the modern decor provided the perfect setting for a very relaxing evening without children. The one complaint i would have is the doorbell, every time a course is ready the bells ring out for the waiting staff to come into the kitchen. On the plus side you know when your food is coming on the negative side it's loud and reminds me too much of a cheesey chinese takeaway.

Main courses arrived and again the presentation was great, Mrs B's steak was cooked perfectly and acompanied with crispy skin on fries, pepper sauce and a side of seasonal veg from white oaks organic farm. The steak was melt in your mouth and the veg was a real highlight with honey roasted swede, carrots and parsnips. Mrs B's only complaint was that her peppered sauce was too watery although it didn't lack any flavour.

The pheasant was presented on a bed of pearl barley with a game jus, the richness of the sauce along with the pheasant was again a perfect comination. Garnished with greens and what i think was deep fried parsnip roots, each mouthful was an autumnal pleasure.
We hadn't planned on a full three courses more a quick bite and i'm not much of a dessert person but Mrs B 'had a look' and i ended up ordering a buttermilk panacotta which was just my sort of dessert not too heavy. Mrs B ordered the ginger parkin, a sort of oat cake with a huge smack of ginger and golden syrup served with a butterscotch sauce and vanilla ice cream it was very moreish.
It had been a while since we had been out but we'll definitely be getting back to Watts & Co before very long, a fantastic meal it really was our pleasure to enjoy such fantastic food. As for the young waiter ordering in pizza he doesnt know what he's missing!

Watts & Co
164 Spencer Rd
Tel: 02871 346040

Monday, January 23, 2012

Kale & Seaweed Pizza

Inspired by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall i decided to try being vegetarian for a while, not for any health or moral reasons but just to see if i could do it. So far so good and not as difficult as i thought it would be, turns out i cooked more veg than i thought but it does help that there are loads of great vegetarian toppings for pizzas.

My favourite christmas present this year was River Cottage Veg although i have to say i havent made that many dishes i did like the look of the Kale & Onion pizza. The kale is fried until a bit like the crispy seaweed you get in Chinese restaurants so i thought id give it a go but with some real seaweed too.

Start by making the dough, I normally make mine the day before but it can be kept in the fridge for up to three days before using. For enough dough to make four pizzas you will need the following ingredients

500g 00 Flour (or strong bread flour)
7g Packet Dried Yeast
250ml Lukewarm Water
2 Tablespoon Rapeseed Oil
2 Teaspoons Salt
2 Teaspoons Caster Sugar

Dissolve the yeast in the water with the caster sugar. Put the flour & salt on a flat surface or board and make a well in the middle, slowly add the water yeast mixture & rapeseed oil and bring it together with your hands and then knead for about ten minutes until the dough is elastic & smooth. Atternatively if your food mixer has a dough hook put everything in there and blitz it for a few minutes until the dough forms a smooth ball, if the dough is too moist and sticky simply add more flour. Shape the dough into a ball then cut into four even sections, form each section into a smaller ball by forcing the outside edge into itself until it is a smooth ball with no seams. If you intend using the dough that day cover with a damp tea towel and leave it in a warm draft free place to double in size. A little tip which i use every time i make dough is to place each ball into a food bag and tie securely, these bags can then be easily torn open and the dough taken out when it has doubled in size.

Believe it or not the Italian Ministry of Agricultural Politics regulates what goes into Neapolitan pizza and how the dough must be kneaded by hand and shaped without using rolling pins. I'm not sure La Pizza Polizia are going to come round my house and arrest me but i do try to shape the pizzas by hand without my rolling pin were possible, using a rolling pin knocks all the air out of the dough.

Put your dough ball on a floured surface then gently flatten into a circular shape with the heel of your hand. Place one hand in the center of the dough then stretch the dough outwards with the other hand being careful not to tear it. Continue stretching the dough by turning the dough around like the hands on a clock repeating the process until you have a perfectly round pizza. Even if your first few pizzas are not perfectly round, they will taste much better than any pizzas you can buy.

For the topping you will need:

a bunch of Curly Kale
a handful of Seaweed 
a Red Onion
a clove of Garlic
some Mozzerella
Course Seasalt
Rapeseed Oil

Luckily i have loads of edible seaweeds growing on my back doorstep so i had collected some Dulse (sometimes called Dillisk) a reddish coloured seaweed which hangs from the rocks and Nori a black slimey looking seaweed which grows on flat rocks and a Japanese staple used for making sushi sheets. Rinse the seaweed thoroughly and leave it to soak for a while then pat dry on some kitchen paper.

Sweat the sliced red onion in some butter for about five minutes until softened, then set to one side. Finely slice the garlic and cut the seaweed and kale into thin ribbons then gently fry in some rapeseed oil for three or four minutes until the kale turns a dark green colour and has slightly wilted. Dont over cook the kale because it could end up too crispy when cooked again on the pizza.

Spread the kale, seaweed and red onion over the pizza base and drizzle with oil, sprinkle with seasalt and dot with a few pieces of mozzerella. Then its into the oven, normally about 2 or 3 minutes in the wood fired oven but if you're making it at home put it on a pizza stone in a pre heated oven as hot as you can get it then bake for about ten minutes until the base is crisp and the cheese has melted.