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!

Pandan Leaf, Prestatyn

Pandan Leaf Restaurant, Prestatyn

I just wanted to add a brief post about an amazing restaurant I visited not long ago; because if you’re in the area, I highly recommend it!

A while ago I stayed with the family in Talacre, North Wales.  For a meal one evening, we headed into Prestatyn town centre – not far away – where I’d been advised of an excellent restaurant.

Although not too far away from home, we were twenty minutes away and didn’t have any idea on local places to eat.  Luckily, a colleague of mine lives local and was able to advise.

Pandan Leaf is on the high street in Prestatyn, and really easy to find.  Not least because it’s quite exotically – and beautifully – decorated.  They specialise in authentic Asian food, with a great variety to choose from.

On my visit, I shared the Malaysian banquet for two people.  Starters consisted of Penang pork rolls; vegetable spring rolls; Malaysian chicken satay and dry spare ribs.  There was plenty to eat, and it was delicious – including the best spring rolls I’ve ever had!

Large portions were also served up for the main courses.  There were three dishes: Malaysian Sambal chilli prawn; beef rendang and chicken curry – with fantastic coconut rice.  Beautiful dishes, I couldn’t pick a favourite – they were all superb.

With some decent drinks and really friendly, expert service, our family trip to Pandan Leaf was a total success.  Everyone in our party – including ages from seven to seventy – loved it.

A return trip is definitely on the cards.  Despite the distance, it’s something we’d all love to do.  If you’re ever in the area, don’t miss your chance to sample this wonderful food for yourself.

Pandan Leaf, 96 High Street, Prestatyn LL19 9BE

01745 798042

The Pandan Leaf website is here.

The Facebook page is here.

Thanks Laura for the recommendation!

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: 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 – 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.

Food Quest: Hickory’s Chester

Hickory’s Smokehouse, Chester

Is everyone back eating normal food again, after the January diets?  Good, then it’s about time for another Food Quest.

Hickory’s Smokehouse offers authentic USA style barbecue food, and plenty of it.  This is real Man vs Food style cooking, with plenty of smoked ribs, pulled pork and burgers to fill up even the heartiest of appetites.

The Chester premises are located right by the River Dee, in an idyllic location just a short walk from the main centre.  It’s a vibrant scene, especially lit up at night.  Inside is a welcoming venue with walls decorated with appropriate items (guitars, American football paraphernalia, you name it). hickorys

There’s a large drinks menu, but I like to opt for a big old pint of Brooklyn lager, a particular favourite of mine.  Although you can pick this up in bottled form from supermarkets now, an actual draft pint isn’t easy to come by.  Mrs Platinum Al opted for a Jack and Coke, and we enjoyed some complimentary popcorn while we ordered.

On previous visits we have tried some starters, including a freshly baked giant pretzel served with hummus that was delicious.  There’s plenty of choice, but on this occasion we abandoned the appetisers as we had something major in mind for the main course.

We decided to order the Smokehouse Platter, a massive combination of signature dishes for us both to share.  Good job we were hungry.  The platter consists of:

  • Memphis style baby back ribs, hot links, jumbo beef rib, Kansas style ribs, beef brisket, BBQ pulled pork, fries and slaw

It was a massive amount of very tasty food, but we gave it our best shot.  The ribs were amazing and I couldn’t pick a favourite between the varieties on offer.  In particular I enjoyed the BBQ pulled pork – the meat was super tender and served with beans, a top notch dish if ever there was one.  The hot links were also popular, I’ve never had them before – they’re basically small sausages and they are so, so good…

Unfortunately, we couldn’t quite finish all the food – but what we had was delightful!

Mrs Platinum Al and myself have made a few trips to Hickory’s, and I’m sure we’ll go again.  With first rate food, great beer and even quality tunes (plenty of proper Blues – I remember hearing Howlin’ Wolf – one of my faves) – you can’t go wrong.

Highly recommended!

Food Quest Test

  • Food: A huge choice of exciting food to try; I’ve tried plenty and it’s all great!
  • Drink: Again a huge choice and with Brooklyn Lager on tap you can’t go wrong
  • Service: Excellent (shout out to our waitress – Sena?)
  • Environment: Cool USA inspired decor that’s like being on a TV set; brilliant music!
  • Cost: Good value for large portions

Hickory’s Smokehouse, The Groves, Souters Lane, Chester CH1 1SH

01244 404000

The Hickory’s website is here.

The Hickory’s Facebook page is here.