Kantouni Village Sausage and Tzatziki

In this edition of the Food blog, I’m taking you on a journey to beautiful Parga in Greece – with an authentic Greek recipe and a rendition of a simple but tasty dish.

Charming and radiating a warm welcome, Parga is one of my favourite holiday destinations.  A small town on the mainland of north western Greece, the beaches and olive groves are idyllic and unforgettable.

Kantouni is a taverna in the centre of Parga’s small, winding streets.  The visitor is sat in a small square, tourists and locals milling around – it’s a wonderful location to put your feet up and watch the world go by.

The menu at Kantouni is varied and authentic, with lots of  traditional Greek food available.  My family and I have visited many times and it’s always delivered excellent food and service, in a unique setting.

Here I’m going to sow you how to recreate a basic taverna meal in the style in which it was served.  Kantouni offer many dishes that are more complex than this, but this is easy to replicate with the right ingredients – and attitude.

Kantouni Village Sausage

Ingredients:

  • Village sausage (available from Lidl in Greek week)
  • Pitta bread
  • Onion (1)
  • Tomato (beef tomato works best) (1)
  • Oven chips (French fry style)
  • Tzatziki (see below)
  1. The first step is make sure you know when Lidl are doing Greek week.  Get down there and buy a pack of the village sausage from their chiller section.
  2. Cook your village sausage in the oven for around 12 minutes.  Next, cut the sausage lengthwise (ie butterflying) and place in a frying pan to finish off for about 10 minutes.  This gives it a more char grilled flavour.
  3. Cook your oven chips in the oven as normal.
  4. Wash your tomato and cut into slices, then slice your onion.
  5. Pop the pitta bread in the toaster and toast till warm.

Yes, this is a very simple meal, but it’s all about recreating a basic dish in the authentic manner.  Serve the prepared ingredients on a plate as shown in the picture, together with mustard (American style is best) and tzatziki (we’ll discuss how to make this next).  You can eat the meal however you choose, but I recommend combining the ingredients in a pitta to make a sort of sausage gyros.

Don’t forget a glass of retsina or Mythos beer, and ensure you have some Greek music playing in the background.  I have an extensive library on Greek vinyl, all of which I’ve bought for pennies from charity shops.  So, no excuse.

And now, the really important part: a recipe for authentic Greek tzatziki…

Tztaziki (serves 2)

This is an authentic Greek recipe that was passed on to us from a Parga local.  You will need:

  • Full fat Greek yoghurt (half tub)
  • Cucumber (1/2)
  • Fresh garlic (2 cloves)
  • Fresh mint
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Lemon juice
  1. First of all, peel and grate the cucumber.  Put this in a sieve over a bowl.  Then put a clean tea towel on the cucumber in the sieve – placing a heavy weight on top to draw out the liquid.  Leave for 15 minutes.
  2. Scoop the cucumber up into the tea towel, then ring it out to remove as much liquid as possible.
  3. In another bowl, put the Greek yoghurt – half a tub should do the job.  You need the full fat version, low fat doesn’t work as you need the creaminess.  Add to this the cucumber, chopped fresh mint (as much as you like), and chopped garlic.  Then add 1 dessert spoon full of olive oil, a splash of lemon juice and salt.  Mix this all together.
  4. This is best made the night before, or at least on the morning that you’re going to serve it.  Adjust quantities to suit number of people.

There you go – an easy Greek style meal to make.  If you take care to add to the ambience with music and drinks, this can be delicious and bring back holiday memories.  Pretend you’re in Greece – a little comfort as travelling is so unlikely at the moment!

Thanks to Vanessa for doing all the work, and to Christos from Irini Studios for the tzatziki recipe!

Fabulous Fish Dogs

Tell me: do you like hot dogs?  Do you like fish finger butties?  If you do, then get ready for the taste sensation that’s sweeping the nation…

FISH DOGS

I want to share this amazing new culinary marvel with my valued readers of the Virtual Hot Tub here and now, so you don’t miss out.

All you need is a packet of frozen fish fingers – and an appropriate number of bread finger rolls.  Simply cook up your fish fingers as normal, and serve within the bread roll.

Garnish the fish dog with whatever sauce you prefer.  Try mayonnaise, salad cream, tartare sauce – even tomato ketchup if you’re a bit freaky.  Let your imagination run riot and add whatever you like.

You can dish up with fries (curly recommended), or whatever else gets your taste buds bursting with anticipation.

There’s no point me writing out a detailed list of ingredients or preparation instructions, the FISH DOG really is very simple.  You’re basically replacing the sausage in a hot dog with a fish finger.  That’s it.  Simple – but oh, so clever.

Once you try this spectacular creation, you’re sure to be entranced by its immense taste.  You’ll wonder why you’ve never tried FISH DOGS before.  You’ll wonder why it’s taken so long for this obvious, yet deliciously original meal to come to your attention.

Don’t delay – treat yourself and your family to FISH DOGS today!

Hanky Panky in Chester

Hanky Panky Pancakes, Chester 

Not that type of hanky panky, you bunch of deviants.  I’m talking about a great new pancake emporium in the city of Chester.  It’s a laid back, homely place with literally tons of tasty grub – all featuring pancakes in some form or other.

The Platinum family visited Hanky Panky pancakes recently whilst on a day trip to Chester.  If you know the town centre at all, you’ll know Commonhall Street.  For the uninitiated, it’s tucked away off Upper Bridge Street, but very easy to find.

We popped in for a mid afternoon break, and were happy to find a novel and delicious base for a spot of nourishment.

Basically, at Hanky Panky anything you can think of related to pancakes will be found.  Different types of pancakes, served either savoury or sweet – your choice.

On this visit, it was mid afternoon so I opted for something sweet: the amazing Rocky Road.  This consisted of pancakes adorned with chocolate chips, marshmallows, rocky road ice cream and chocolate sauce.  As an irredeemable choc fiend, this was pure ecstasy!

I enjoyed a Fentimans Cherry Tree cola with my treat, which was very good.

The rest of the family also enjoyed sweet pancake joy, though I can’t remember what they ordered.  Mine was the best, anyway.

Our trip to Hanky Panky was really appreciated by all of us.  We hope to make another trip soon – maybe next time I’ll go earlier and opt for a savoury choice.  The “El Matador” (chorizo and sun dried tomatoes) sounds incredible.

All in all, recommended for a different family treat food-wise in Chester, that you’ll want to visit again.

Hanky Panky Pancakes, 20 Commonhall Street, Chester CH1 2BJ.

01244 319225

The Hanky Panky website is here.

Food Quest: Piccolino, Chester

Piccolino, Chester

It was a hard slog of a shopping trip, but luckily there was a safe haven awaiting us.  Despite the crowds outside, a warm welcome would be found at Piccolino; a chance to recharge and enjoy some great food.

I’ve been to Piccolino before, but not for a while, so this lunchtime treat was very satisfying.  The staff were very helpful and we immediately felt relaxed.  All four of our party – including a six year old with fussy tastes – were looked after very well.

Here’s a brief over view of the food I enjoyed.

As it was lunchtime, we didn’t bother with starters as such, but ordered some garlic bread to share.  This Pane All’Aglio was served with tomato and basil – essentially a tomato sauce – and was delicious.  Especially popular with our youngest member.

For my lunch proper, I ordered Fusilli Puttanesca Con Pollo – a pasta dish, with chicken, tomato, olives, chilli, anchovies and capers.  I was looking forward to this dish, and I wasn’t disappointed – it was superb.  Not just any old thrown together pasta meal, this was exquisite.  I was very impressed, even better than expected.

Mrs Platinum Al ordered a pasta dish also – Farfalle Al Salmone (probably just because it had my name in it).  Joking aside, this was also very good – I had a sneaky try to confirm.  I would happily order this meal myself on my next visit, if not for the fact that my Fusilli Puttanesca Con Pollo was so damn fine.

The little ‘un had a cheese and tomato pizza – that’s a Margherita to us professionals – and she destroyed it.  The pizza proved very popular indeed.

I’d had a cheeky beer (Moretti La Rossa – excellent), and decided to splash out on a dessert.  This was not a mistake, no sir.

I was tempted by some ice cream, and made a radical choice.  Despite not being much of a fan of coffee, I chose the Affogato – Amaretto, espresso and vanilla ice cream.  This was presented more like a cocktail than a pudding, with the ice cream covered in Amaretto and a shot of espresso to pour over the top.  This was an amazing dessert – I still have dreams about it now! img_20161008_143441512

A fabulous time was had by all of our party at Piccolino.  The food was divine and service perfect.  To top it all, our little girl had a great experience and we’d happily return for more family fun.

Food Quest Test

  • Food: Enormous choice and delicious
  • Drink: Plenty to choose from, need to try more next time!
  • Service: Professional, friendly, hard working
  • Cost: Very good value for quality food

Piccolino, 33 Pepper Row, Pepper Street, Chester CH1 1EA

01244 312123

Check out he Piccolino menu here.

Food Quest: Chiquito, Broughton Park

chiquitoChiquito Restaurant Bar & Mexican Grill, Broughton Park

Regular readers will already know how much I love Mexican food.  It’s fair to say that I’m pretty obsessed with grub from south of the border, be it tacos, enchiladas, burritos or whatever.  Just wrap it up in a tortilla and I’m one happy hombre.

Of course, I have been to a Chiquito restaurant before, there’s one at ChOaks (that’s Cheshire Oaks, amigo).  However I was anxious to try the newer establishment at nearby Broughton Park, if only because – well, it’s nearer.

I got my chance on a lunch time visit with work colleagues.  I saddled up my pony and rode over the border home into Wales for some refreshment at the Chiquito cantina.  Even though the website says Broughton Park is in Chester (England), which it’s not.  Minus points for racism, Chiquito. nachos

As we only had an hour before the banditos would be back on our trail, starters were skipped.  Which is a shame, as there were plenty of tantalising items on offer.  Likewise, I didn’t opt for an alcoholic beverage with my meal, though I could have chosen from an array of suitable beers.

Instead I had a coke, but the good news was that there were free refills!  Just ask your courteous waiting on staff.  I like that.

So on to the meal.  After some deliberation, I opted for a chimichanga – a dish I love and have enjoyed before at other establishments.  Now for those of you who are unschooled in the ways of Mexican food, a chimihcanga is essentially a fried burrito.  Still none the wiser?  Take a tortilla, add the filling of your choice (in my case pulled pork) and throw in some rice, refried beans and sauce.  Roll it up and cook/fry.

el-taco-grande

El Taco Grande enjoying his meal

The chimichanga was accompanied by fries and the usual suspects – salsa, sour cream and guacamole dips.

This was all very tasty, and I really enjoyed the food.  It had a home cooked feel to it, not mass produced and thrown together at all.

The only thing that confused me was the serving style – the food was presented in a little deep frying metal container.  This looked very cool, but wasn’t the easiest way to eat.  Unless you’re supposed to pick the chimichanga up and eat with your hands – surely not?  I must be wrong.

All in all, my experience was very good – with a couple of minor criticisms.  Firstly, although the style and decor of Chiquito was really groovy, the music was a bit hit and miss.  It seemed like every other song was Enrique Iglesias, mixed alternately with some more authentic Latin sounds.  Enrique may be OK for the ladies who lunch crowd, but I expect more genuine Mariachi music.

My delicious chimichanga. Half eaten, sorry.

My delicious chimichanga. Half eaten, sorry.

But then Chiquito is Tex Mex, rather than just Mex.  They even have a steak and fish menu, as well as burgers.  This may be far too normal for my tastes, but I suppose that it may entice some Brits in – they may even, one day, try something a little more exotic than chips and egg.

I have no real problems with Chiquito – the food and service were both great.  I really enjoyed my meal and was impressed by the large amount of choice on the menu.  Go give Chiquito a try – but please, try the Mexican food!

Food Quest Test

  • Food: large amount to choose from.  Great Mexican dishes, with some more traditional choices for anyone with a less adventurous palate.
  • Drink: I was on soft drinks, but they have free refills – yes!  Tons of alcoholic choices too.
  • Service: Very good, friendly staff.
  • Cost: Acceptable for a lunch time treat!

Chiquito, Unit 19 Broughton Chopping Park, Broughton CH4 0DE

01244 530564

The Chiquito website is here.

Food Quest: Chez Jules, Chester

Chez Jules, Chester

OK, so I have to admit: French food is not really my thing.  I love France, having travelled there many times, but other than the fabled Croque Monsieur I could take or leave the grub.  Or most Northern European food, for that matter.  Typically, I much prefer more exotic fare.

I was to be pleasantly surprised by Chez Jules, however.

The restaurant has been offering French meals for many years, though I have never visited before.  I was tagging along in a family party.  Chez Jules was immediately impressive with its continental style and warm welcome.

We were visiting on a Tuesday evening, when Chez Jules offers a pretty unbeatable offer: two courses and a bottle of wine for just £17.50 each.  That’s a whole bottle of wine, to myself.  With two courses of food.  Absolutely crazy.

The menu changes regularly, but appears to offer a wide variety of temptations.  For my entrees, I opted for pork rillettes, served with caramalised onion chutney and toasted French bread.  That didn’t mean much to me, but I can tell you I was reminded of pate in style.  As always with pate, I ran short of toast – however the excellent staff had provided bread for the table, so I hoovered that up as well.  Fantastic start.cj1

For the main, or “plats de resistance”, I ordered a pork, apricot and sage roulade, with potato puree and red wine jus.  Think along the lines of a little dome of pulled pork.  This was an exceptionally tasty centre for my meal.  “Jus” turns out to be like gravy, which was a bit of a relief as I was slurping the (very good!) red wine too easily.  I think I was worried that Chez Jules would realise their offer was ridiculous and would want their wine back.

The main courses were accompanied by vegetables (potatoes, broccoli, carrots etc) – plenty to be shared amongst us.  This was the only part of the meal that left me under whelmed – I’ve never been a fan of vegetables of this type.  No fun at all.

However such is the standard of French (and English) food, so to be scathing here would be like complaining in a Mexican restaurant that they don’t do fish’n’chips.  Plus the dauphinoise potatoes were pretty fine.

To finish my meal off, I couldn’t resist a dessert.  I had a chocolate and raspberry confection – it was like a mousse – served with creme fraiche.  This was new to the menu, me being the guinea pig.  And I could have pigged  out all day on this, it was wonderful!

My visit to Chez Jules left me very happy and somewhat surprised.  The food, though not my personal choice, turned out to be extremely good.  The Tuesday night deal was unbelievable value and the staff were professional, yet friendly and down to earth.  I would definitely visit again.

Food Quest Test

  • Food: Confusing menu choices but you can’t go wrong – very tasty.  Even the vegetables!
  • Drink: I drank red wine.  No complaints what so ever.  Bargain.
  • Service: Professional and friendly.
  • Cost: Go on a Tuesday.  Surely the best value ever?!

Chez Jules, 71 Northgate Street, Chester CH1 2HQ

01244 400014

The Chez Jules website is here.

Food Quest: To Koutouki, Chester

To Koutouki, Chester

Well Mrs Platinum Al and I deserved a night out, so we packed off the little ‘un to Grandma and Grandpa and headed off to Chester.  A table was booked at a new restaurant in town called To Koutouki, and we were both very excited to try it out.

After years of proclaiming that Chester really needed a Greek restaurant, I was delighted to see, whilst on a recent shopping trip, that the miracle had happened.  Sat at the end of Foregate Street, out of the blue, was To Koutouki – obviously a Greek Taverna, the blue chairs resting outside gave it away. IMG_20160507_194109736

On entering, we were shown to our table upstairs, where the Greek style decor added a real holiday ambience.  Think blue chairs, Greek music and photos of the islands and you’re on you’re way…

We were given some very nice mixed olives and some iced water to begin with.  Drinks were a fairly easy choice for us – the ever reliable Kourtaki retsina and a bottle of Mythos for me!

Service was friendly and very quick, it wasn’t long before our starters arrived.  My good lady ordered saganaki – a fried cheese.  I had a try and it was exquisite!  My own starter was white bait, or maridaki, which was also excellent – a real Mediterranean style dish that reminded me of warmer climes!  Though small, I chickened out of eating the whole of the fish at first – leaving the heads on the plate.  The waiter advised me to gulp the lot down – which I did!  No problem at all, give it a go!

The main courses were very soon with us, and we were in for a treat.  My lovely companion had chosen kotopoulo kokkinisto, a delicious chicken caserole which was served with rice.  I was allowed to have a try, and it was very, very good indeed.  I’ve never had this meal before, and would definitely order it on a return visit.

For my own main, I chose one of my favourite dishes- pastitsio.  This is a baked pasta dish, with beef mincemeat and bechamel sauce, served like a slice of lasagne, but less sloppy.  I’ve had pastitsio in Greece, and the To Koutouki version was simply excellent.  Cooked perfectly, I was very impressed as pastitsio isn’t always readily available when we visit our favourite tavernas in Parga, let alone Chester!

Finally, to finish off we chose some desserts.  Mrs Platinum Al had portokalopita – a yoghurt cake with orange syrup (had a cheeky try, very nice).  I ordered the classic baklava, with a little ice cream, which was fantastic.  We both had a Metaxa brandy to bring things to a close.

To Koutouki was a great experience, excellent food and great service made a memorable meal and we can’t wait to visit again.  This little taverna has managed to create an authentic Greek feel and welcome, with delicious food that demands a return visit.  Highly recommended!

Food Quest Test 

  • Food: Extensive menu of traditional Greek favourites, expertly created and delicious too!
  • Drink: All the classics are on offer
  • Service: Excellent and friendly
  • Cost: Very reasonable for Chester City Centre!

Greek Taverna “To Koutouki”, 112 Foregate Street, Chester CH1 1HB

01244 951725

The To Koutouki website is here.

The To Koutouki Facebook page is here.

Kash Taprooms

k1

A friend introduced me to Kash bar in Chester a while ago, as friends do.  Since then it’s become a favourite haunt.  The beer is exceptional and although I’m not in Chester that often, I often pop in before a gig in The Live Rooms.  I’ve introduced a few others to the wonders of this place too, as a way to “pay it forward”.

On previous visits to Kash, I’d been distracted by the food, which looked excellent.  Eventually I couldn’t resist any longer, so Mrs Platinum Al and I went on a mission to Chester to enjoy the full eating experience at this venue.

Kash is on Brook Street, so not in the main town centre.  It’s not too far out of the way though and well worth the effort.  On entering, the visitor finds an elaborately decorated venue with a chilled vibe and some cool tunes.  Not to mention, of course, the myriad beverages available, many of which are brewed on site.

To kick things off, I went for a pint of Gold Digger, from the home Blueball brewery.  It’s a very tasty golden pale ale, not too strong but full of flavour.  My companion went for the ever reliable Brooklyn Lager, one of our favourites.

The food arrived without much of a wait, starting with some tortilla chips and dip to share.  Excellent choice – simple but effective.  The dip itself was a really good, tangy sauce.  We had a couple more beers – I went for a Brooklyn lager too, this time.  It’s getting easier to find bottles of Brooklyn these days, but it’s great to have on draught.

We both opted for burgers for the main event, although the choice was difficult.  So much to sample…  Mrs Platinum Al opted for The Pioneer, which was a burger on a bun with Swiss cheese, caramelised onions, mushrooms, bacon and garlic mayo.  It looked damn fine, but mushrooms are my green kryptonite so I didn’t venture a try. IMG_20151114_193250466

No matter – my own burger was awesome enough for me.  I chose The Bomb, a burger topped with bacon, cheese and Kash’s Blueball ale chilli.  The chilli was rich and full of flavour, I loved every mouthful.  Both burgers were served with chips that were like wedges shaved into fries.  I’m no fan of the big chubby chips, so these fries were perfect.

All in all, the food was fantastic.  Great quality comfort food with loads of flavour, prepared with obvious pride and care.  There’s so much to choose from that Kash demands another visit (next time it’s Mexican for me!).

Plus you’ve got a massive choice of excellent beers on offer – so much that there’s surely something for everyone.  With a warm welcome, attentive staff and relaxed atmosphere, Kash is now the premier bar in Chester.  Think you can beat this?  Good luck.

Kash Taprooms Bar & Grill, 121 Brook Street, Chester

01244 401777

Kash is also on Facebook and Twitter: @Kash_Chester

Food Quest – Greek Night at The Gallery Coffee Shop

The Gallery Coffee Shop, Hawarden

There is a small piece of the Mediterranean, like a little Greek island, to be found in North Wales.  I’ll take you there in this edition of Food Quest.

In the village of Hawarden in Flintshire, right there on the Highway, you will find the Gallery Coffee Shop.  It’s open daily offering refreshments exactly as you would expect – tea and coffee, breakfasts and lunches in a cosy environment.  Once a month, however, the Gallery transforms into a Greek taverna, with all the food and vibrant atmosphere that entails.

I have been to the Greek night at the Gallery on a few occasions.  Each time has provided excellent Greek cuisine with the right summer holiday vibe, helped by the music and dancing!Greek flag

The premises are not licensed, so you will need to take along your alcohol if you wish.  That wasn’t a problem for me, as I could easily pick up a few bottles of Mythos from Tesco.  Hunt around and you’ll find retsina – Tesco no longer stock it so Lidl is your best bet.

Greek music welcomed us in to the Gallery, and we were soon seated.  There wasn’t long to wait before the hors d’oeuvres were served.  This began in traditional style with some pitta bread, olives and various dips such as tzatziki and garlic.  These were shared enthusiastically amongst our group.

Next up were several meze dishes.  On my last visit, this included dolmades (stuffed vine leaves); feta sagnaki, Greek salad and calamari.  I’m no fan of squid – on other visits a different option had been offered.  However the food was both well prepared and delicious.

The main course has also varied on different visits, with usually a couple of options to choose from.  On this last visit I chose chicken with ouzo and cream; this was served with potatoes and vegetables.  Again the meal was excellent; combined with the atmosphere I could have been in a Greek taverna enjoying a pleasant holiday evening.

After the food, the fun really gets under way – with table balancing from owner Spiros and plenty of music to dance to!  The Gallery really manage to capture the fun of a night in Greece and everyone was happy to let their hair down.

The Gallery Coffee Shop manages to create an enjoyable and authentic Greek night that will liven up anyone’s weekend.

Please be aware though that they are very busy and often booked up months in advance – book your Greek night soon!

Yiammas!

Food Quest Test

  • Food: No menu as such, but no need to worry as food is both delicious and authentic
  • Drink: Not licensed, so take your own
  • Service: Excellent
  • Environment: You will be magically transported to your own Greek island
  • Cost: Very reasonable – no bar bill, plus a full evening’s entertainment

The Gallery Coffee Shop, 10 The Highway, Hawarden CH5 3DH

01244 533446

I can’t find a website for The Gallery, there is a listing on Facebook if you search.

Barburrito Lunch

My constant search for fine Mexican food has found many treats for my craving belly.  One such emporium is Barburrito, which offers fine street food of the Mex variety.  Although there are several Barburritos across the land, the Liverpool branch is the one I’ve visited on a few occasions.  On my trips to the city I have occasionally treated myself to some food from this excellent establishment.

The menu offers various tortilla filled delights, which the hungry hombre (or chica) can enjoy.  Basically, you make your choice and build your meal to your own tastes.  A bit like in Subway, where you add the fillings as you please.  Only here, it’s Mexican themed all the way. 5

On this trip, I opted for a burrito, filled with spicy shredded beef.  To this I asked the helpful serving staff to add rice, spicy beans, lettuce and cheese.  I selected the chipotle salsa, which was the hot option.  There were plenty of other ingredients to choose to individualise your meal exactly how you want it.  A great many British people stress out, thinking Mexican food will be too spicy – this is simply not the case.  Certainly not at Barburrito, where the food can be ordered just how you like it.

As per other restaurants, the meal can be augmented with extras; in this case items such as nachos and drinks.  A great thing about Barburrito is they sell beer, so I chose a bottle of Negra Modelo – a favourite Mexican beer of mine. barburrito

There’s no such thing, in my book, as bad Mexican food.  There is lazy, below par Mexican food though.  Happily, Barburrito is good quality Mexican food – prepared quickly but with skill.  It’s tasty, filling and extremely enjoyable.

My burrito was a bit on the spicy side, but not too much.  I made a good choice and really enjoyed my lunch time treat.  Great beer, too – though this combination wasn’t the cheapest option.

Food at Barburrito is well prepared and tastes great.  It’s also a lot of fun to eat there.  I’ve never been to Mexico (boo!) so can’t comment on authenticity, but Barburrito is a relaxed alternative option to the obvious high street choices.  Highly recommended.

The Barburrito website is here.