Monday, 21 July 2014

Restaurant La Plaza, Canillas de Albaida, Malaga (Review)

Review - Restaurant La Plaza, Canillas de Albaida, Malaga

Over a long period of time (more years than I care to remember in fact) I have eaten in every restaurant in the mountain villages of Competa, Canillas de Albaida, Arches and Sayalonga.

Many no longer exist, many have changed management, new ones open up regularly and of course there are also those that simply should not be there at all!!!

Then of course there are those where the management remains but a new chef is bought in.  This could be due to various reasons, perhaps the chef moves on, perhaps the chef is replaced.  Whatever the reason, a new chef can often revive a restaurant that may have become tired.  Equally, a new chef can also kill a previously popular restaurant too.

Restaurant La Plaza has seen several new chefs over the years.  It’s always been popular and sits in a beautiful position too.  It is part of Posada La Plaza Hotel, which is located directly opposite the restaurant within the square (La Plaza).

I have eaten there on many occasions myself.  Not for a long period though for which there have been some valid reasons.  One being that we were unsure whether or not it was still trading!

However, recent advertising announcing a new chef and a new menu too inspired us to go back.

With my brother and sister-in-law visiting for a few days, it seemed the perfect opportunity for a re-visit, especially as this is one restaurant they had actually never been to on previous visits.

Unfortunately, there was a cold breeze that evening (despite now being summer).  However we had no choice but to sit outside due to me   currently being unable to the tackle stairs up to the dining area inside.

For my starter course, I chose the Indonesian spare ribs with bean sprout salad.

Indonesian Rack of Ribs with Bean Sprout Salad

A reasonable size rack of ribs, marinated and cooked until almost falling off the bone.  Succulent, tender and flavoursome.  Albeit, a little dry at either end, due to re-heating I suspect!  The bean sprout salad was a perfect accompaniment.  Mixed with onion and peppers and served with a tasty dressing.  Personally, I would have preferred a thicker, sweeter sauce, which would also have been perfect for mopping up with the ribs too.

Despite this, it was a good choice and I would order it again.

For the main meal, I opted for Duck Confit.  A dish rarely found in restaurants in Spain, so I was looking forward to this.

Duck Confit

I was not disappointed either, a perfect choice.  Perfectly cooked confit duck leg, positioned on top of a carrot and potato mash, well seasoned and quite smooth.  All accompanied with fresh and crunchy broccoli and cauliflower florets, carrot slices and roast potatoes.  The thick gravy completed the dish, which had a slight sweetness to it and a perfect flavour balance, but not quite enough of it!  I did request extra a short while later and was expecting it to be bought to the table separately.  However, I was a little taken aback when the Waitress whisked away my plate and returned it now swimming in far too much gravy.  This time however, it had not been reduced to provide the same previous consistency, nor was there the sweetness either.  Very runny and a little too salty too which rather spoiled what was originally a perfect dish.

That said, I’ll know another time to request the gravy be served separately upon placing the order and plenty of it too!  My only other request would be not to have the sliced carrots.  The other vegetables were plenty, rendering the additional carrots unnecessary.

Fast forward…………………………….

That delicious meal was almost 3 weeks ago.  I was unable to publish this earlier due to receiving many guests/visitors from family and friends and therefore had little time to prepare it for posting.

In the meantime, I, together with my husband, in-laws and several friends have visited La Plaza again.

This time, it was a beautiful summer evening, without the cold wind as before.  The owner, Gustavo was also waiting every table the whole evening.  He was on holiday during our last visit, so it was nice to see him this time as it’s been a few years.

Wanting to try a different dish, this visit I chose the Beef Fillet with Mushroom Sauce for the main my course.

Beef Fillet

Beef Fillet

I order steak with caution most of the time.  It’s rarely perfectly cooked to my liking, resulting in disappointment and sending it back!  There is normally only one particular restaurant where I always order steak and nothing else (review of that to follow another time).  So to order steak here was a risk for me.  But don’t tell Gustavo please!!!!!

When my dish arrived I was so pleased to see the fresh Cauliflower and Broccoli Florets again, alongside the Carrot and Potato mash.  The beautiful looking Beef fillet was placed on top of the mushroom sauce.  However, I was also hoping for those delicious roast potatoes again, but no.  In there place I received Patatas a lo Pobre (poor mans potatoes).  A simple side of sliced potatoes, cooked in olive oil with seasoning, sliced onions and peppers.  A nice dish but not, in my opinion, restaurant quality fare.  Tapas yes or served in the home, but not in many restaurants and definitely not alongside fillet steak!

Before tucking in, my first task was to check out the cooking of the beef.  I cut straight through the middle as this is the only way to check if it is cooked to my liking (medium).  Perfectly cooked beef fillet, one happy diner as I hate having to return food with complaints!!

The mushroom sauce was delicious too and certainly helped me to quickly forget I was still missing those beautiful roast potatoes!

My Husband ordered the Salmon, as recommended by Gustavo.  He was pleased with his choice too and was relieved it was served with new potatoes (with butter for dipping in) and a salad.  He will not touch “trees” as he calls them.  In other words, real vegetables!


I was too full to enjoy a dessert on our previous visit so was keen not to miss out again!!!!

No dessert menu as such was offered to peruse.  Instead, Gustavo explained what was available.  The choices were, Crema Catalana, Crème Brulee, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Tiramasu or Chocolate Mousse.

The first two instantly struck me as strange choice to offer both as an option.  One is Spanish, One French but basically the same dessert!  The only difference being the cooking method of each.  That aside, some delicious choices were offered.

Like many, I do enjoy a good Sticky Toffee Pudding.  However despite not being adverse to dates, I do prefer a pudding without them.  Purists will naturally be frowning at that comment!  But, I find they spoil it by making the pudding too heavy and bring nothing to the texture or flavour.  I love a moist, light sponge with a lot of toffee sauce!

Before ordering, I questioned the ingredients in the sponge and was delighted when Gustavo assured me there were no dates.  Despite being a little sceptical, as I have been told this in other restaurants, only to find it is in fact packed with dates, I went ahead and ordered it.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Excellent, the best Sticky Toffee Pudding I have ever been served in a restaurant!  Upon its arrival, I was disappointed to see such a small portion.  Despite this, I was however unable to finish it!!!!!!  A little fresh cream was swirled into the toffee sauce which made for a nice presentation.  So too was the addition of Walnuts.


TASTEOMETER’S RATING:-

I most definitely recommend this Restaurant.

The Hotel Posada La Plaza, opposite the restaurant in La Plaza (the square) also has much to offer (click link at start of post to view website).  The square is for pedestrian access only.  However motorbikes occasionally ride through.  Cars are unable to enter the Plaza.  But, for those with walking difficulties you can enter by car upon prior arrangement with the management when booking (applies to both Hotel and Restaurant only bookings).  This is necessary for the security post to be released upon your arrival.  No facilities for disabled are available within the restaurant nor Hotel.

Inside (upstairs) and roof terrace dining available.  Outside dining, within the Plaza.

Friendly service and nothing is too much trouble.

Food -            9/10   Very good
Service -        8/10   Good
Location        5/10   Pretty setting, but not suitable for disabled or infirm
Patrons
Pricing           9/10   Fair
Food choice 8/10   Good – Vegetarian Main Meals offered, but no
Starters available!


Sunday, 22 June 2014

Halloumi and Strawberry Salad





It's been 4 weeks now since my chemo session.  I was due to have 3 months of treatment, every other Tuesday.


What time I have left I intend to be spending as quality time having fun with my family and friends.  That includes enjoying as many foodie delights as possible.

I've always had a great love for the saltiness and sqweak of a good quality Halloumi Cheese.  Paired with sweet Strawberries and you encounter the most delicious partnership. 

Having already been through several periods of illness over the past 4/half years, the medical team were unsure that I would be strong enough to accept another session of chemo, especially as this was a lot stronger dose than the treatment previously received

It transpires that my body clearly can't cope.  The first session has just about rendered me pretty much useless.  All further sessions have been cancelled under the circumstances.  This a great relief, what's the point in spending 3 months plus in a zombie like state?






Halloumi & Strawberry Salad (Serves 1 – easily doubles)


4 Strawberries, hulled and cut in half or quartered
½  tbsp Balsamic vinegar
Squirt of Lemon juice
½ tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3  x ½" thick slices Halloumi cheese (cut from a block, or more if starving)
1 tbsp Olive oil
Small handful of mint leaves (finely chopped)
2 small Cos lettuce leaves, finely chopped (or a handful of mixed leaves)

Prepare the Strawberries & dressing:-

Place strawberries into a small bowl, add the balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil,. lemon juice and season with sea salt and black pepper.  Stir well to combine and leave to one side.

Prepare the Halloumi:-

Heat olive oil in a frying pan and pan fry the Halloumi slices on both sides until golden brown (about 1-2 minutes per side).










Recipe adapted from scandifoodie

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Craving Matcha Ice Cream (Be careful what you wish for)

'Be careful what you wish for'.  A saying I'm sure you've all heard before.  But do you understand it's meaning and relevance?

It seems to have come a regular phrase within my vocabulary, in addition to 'follow your dreams, life is too short to have regrets for the things you never did'.  That one is self explanatory!


Photo courtesy of Daily Cooking Quest

Despite being a trained typist from school days.  This post is taking some time to type due to one of the side affects of  Chemo, causing pins/needles to finger tips in addition to pain.

Back in January 2010 I was diagnosed with Colon Cancer.  A larger tumour was discovered and I was operated on immediately.

After receiving a mild does of Chemo via a portal implanted in my neck, I also received the maximum treatment of Radiotherapy.  The Radiotherapy caused a lot of damage and since 2010 I have spent several long periods in hospital, plus 3 more operations.

Despite being given the all clear just over 12 months ago in 2013.  I was informed last week the Cancer has returned and spread.  This time it is terminal and I was informed on the same day that 19 year old Stephen Sutton died of the same disease and also of Colon Cancer.

Please feel free to read on or skip to Matcha Ice Cream (here) if I'm boring you too much.

'Be careful what you wish for'

Before my original diagnoses, I wished for a flat stomach and a little weight loss , just like many of us do! Well that wish came true from the tragedy of being diagnosed with Colon Cancer and the affects of damage via the radiotherapy!  Important note - However, please do not be afraid of receiving Radiotherapy if you ever face Cancer yourself.  My situation happens to an incredibly low percentage of Cancer patients, it is rare and I just got unlucky.

Last year Mr. Grumps and I decided we would move back to UK.  There were several reasons for this decision and I particularly have been looking forward to it.  One of those reasons was finances and the move would have solved that problem.  Mr. Grumps wished we could remain in Spain, but this was never going to happen unfortunately (or so we thought!).  Due to many factors, his wish has been granted.  Both of us just wished we did not have to do so mainly due to finances.  That wish has also now come true due to the fact I am now terminal........................

Upon arriving in Spain permanently, we decided it was important to arrange Private Health Insurance, write new Wills, have Life Insurance Policies and become Spanish Residents.  The most wise moves and lucky we did!!!!

If you too have already moved to Spain, or plan to, please find yourself a good Ascesoria (Solicitor) and look into the aforementioned and shy, you may be shocked at what you don't know about the Spanish system.

Having taken out Life Insurances Policies has solved any financial stress.  The Policy we chose pays out half the insured amount upon diagnoses of any Terminal illness with balance upon death.  Now we will have no financial stress for the time I have left and Mr. Grumps will be financially secure upon my death.  He will be in a position to do whatever he decides.  So there's another wish come true due to tragic circumstances!!!!!


'Be careful what you wish for'


 'follow your dreams, life is too short to have regrets for the things you never did'.


My Dad died at the young age of 52 due to a massive heart attack.  Mum died at the young age of 62 due to lung cancer.  Neither of them carried out their dreams.  These plans were put on hold for retirement!!!!!!



Matcha Ice Cream and my Craving


Last week on the morning of May 14th I came across and commented on a recipe for a Matcha Ice Cream Recipe, posted by Daily Cooking Quest (here)


That weekend I was supposed to be discharged from hospital and was so looking forward to making this simple recipe as I was craving it so much.  Alas, it was not meant to be.

Saturday morning the Oncologist visited me in Hospital and informed me the Chemo would start on Monday. Three months of treatment, via the portal with a bottle every 2 weeks for 2 days treatment being feed in over the 48 hours.  However, being a strong treatment and not sure how I would react, the first one was to be given whilst in hospital.

I was also informed of side affects.  One of many was not to take cold food/drink from the fridge/freezer.  I must only consume room temperature  items throughout the whole 3 months.  No ice cream for me then for a while.




Sunday, 13 April 2014

Chengdu Chicken

Chengdu Chicken, so named after the city of Chengdu, the capital of Szechuan province.  A deliciously spiced Szechuan recipe.

A dish regularly seen at our dining table.  Mr. Grump eats very little in the way of vegetables, particularly if green.  Spinach, however is one of the healthier vegetables he actually loves.  So any dishes that contain this beautiful green vegetable, gives me the perfect excuse to get it on the table.



Serves 3- 4 as a main dish, or 4 - 6 as part of a multi-course meal.

Ingredients:-
2 large skinless chicken breast (finely sliced)
1 spring onion (finely chopped)
1 garlic clove (peeled and crushed)
2 slices ginger (peeled)
2-3 large handfuls fresh spinach (washed)
Sea salt to season spinach
1 tbsp hot bean paste
½ tsp sesame oil, or to taste
1 tsp freshly ground Szechuan pepper
5 tbsp vegetable oil (divided 1 + 4)

Marinade:-
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp shaoxing rice wine or sherry
Pinch of ground white pepper
¼ tsp sesame oil
3 tsp cornstarch

Sauce:-
1 tbsp shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp rice vinegar (red rice vinegar if possible)
1 tsp sugar
1 ½ tsp cornstarch mixed in 2 tablespoons water

Place marinade ingredients into a bowl, stir well and add the chicken slices.  Stir well to coat in marinade.  Set aside for at least 20 minutes (longer if possible).

In the meantime, combine the rice wine or dry sherry, soy sauce, vinegar and sugar. In a separate small bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix cornstarch with the water. Set aside.

Heat a wok and when hot, add 1 tbsp of the oil. Add the spinach and sprinkle a bit of salt of top. As soon as the spinach wilts (a few seconds), remove it and set aside.

Clean out the wok and heat 4 tablespoons oil. Add the chicken, stir-frying continually to keep them from sticking. When the chicken changes colour and is nearly 80 percent cooked, remove from the wok and set aside. Leave 2 tablespoons oil in the wok.

Add the garlic, ginger and hot bean paste. Stir-fry briefly until fragrant (about 30 seconds).

Add the sauce mixture to the wok. Stir fry for 1 minute, re-stir the cornstarch slurry mixture and stir into the sauce until thickened.  Stir in the spinach, green onion and sesame oil. Sprinkle over the freshly ground Szechuan pepper.

Transfer to serving dish immediately.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Char Siu Pork (Chinese BBQ Pork)


Char Siu has to be one of my favourite ways to enjoy a pork dish. I'm not a big fan of pork in general, for me it needs lots of added flavour and has to be cooked to perfection.

Char Siu is a popular BBQ pork dish is Chinese restaurants and over the years I've tasted this is many restaurants. Some good and some should simply not be on the menu.

Just look around the internet and you'll find varying recipes in addition to varying cooking methods.

The method I insist on provides you with a delicious, moist and perfectly cooked Char Siu.

Don't just take my word for it. Try this recipe and follow the cooking method exactly and you won't be disappointed.




Char Siu Pork (Chinese BBQ Pork)

Approx 750g pork tenderloin

3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp shaoxing rice wine, sake or dry sherry
4 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp runny honey
1 tsp Chinese five spice powder
1 tsp ginger powder
1 tsp garlic powder
dash red food colouring (optional, but gives an authentic & beautiful colour

Combine all marinade ingredients and put into a plastic freezer type bag

Clean pork tenderloin by removing sinews etc, prick all over with a metal skewer and add pork to marinade in bag. Tie knot in top and massage marinade well into pork.

Leave in fridge overnight, massaging occasionally

Preheat oven to 200c (conventional). Half fill a deep roasting tin with water and place a wire rack on top.

Remove pork from marinate (reserve marinate and set aside for later) and place on wire rack over the water.

Roast for 15 minutes, remove and baste with marinate. Lower oven temperature to 180c then roast a further 10 minutes.

Remove and baste with honey/water mixture. Roast a further 10 minutes

Let it rest and slice thinly

Meanwhile, pour marinade into a small heavy saucepan and bring to a boil, simmer 2 minutes and taste.  I usually add honey or sugar.  One adjusted to your liking serve with pork

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Homemade Peking Duck and Duck Sauce Recipe

LUVA DUCK?

Two days prep and cooking, but damn it's worth the effort and wait.


A Chinese restaurant favorite and rightly so.  I could eat this for breakfast, lunch and dinner, could you?

Don't forget, this coming weekend is Chinese New Year.  There's no better way to kick off your Chinese feast than with Peking Duck.


For the Peking Duck:-
1.4kg (approx) Oven ready duck
Sea salt flakes
4 tsps Chinese five spice powder (click for recipe) or store bought
4 Whole star anise
2 Cinnamon sticks (halved)
2 tbls Runny honey

For the Duck Sauce:-
3 tbls Hoisin sauce
1 tbls Granulated sugar
3 tbls Water


Prepare the duck – Remove the back bone and flatten the duck.  Cut in half to provide 2 x separate duck halves.

Using a chef’s torch, burn off any stray hairs.  Or remove them with tweezers.

Pour boiling water over each portion and leave to cool.  Pat dry with kitchen paper to remove any excess moisture.

Place both portions (skin side up) onto a rack over a tray.  Place uncovered in the fridge overnight to dry out the duck skin.  Or if space, hang over a tray in a cook place.

Cooking the duck – Preheat oven to 150c.  Meanwhile.  Pierce the skin in several places (do not cut through the flesh) Rub plenty of sea salt and half of the Chinese spice five seasoning all over the skin sides.  Message well and push well into the skin.

Place the duck halves skin side down onto the rack over a roasting try.  Rub the remaining Chinese five spice onto the insides of the duck halves.  Lay on the Star Anise and Cinnamon sticks.

Place in the oven for 2 hours.  Draining off excess fat in try occasionally.

After 2 hours turn over and place skin side up and ½ hour or until meat is tender.

Remove from the oven and turn on the grill to highest setting.  Pour approx 1 tablespoon runny honey over each of the portions and brush all over to evenly distribute.

Place under grill until skin is crisped but not burnt.

Remove and leave to cool slightly before shredding with two forks.

Whilst Duck is cooling make the Sauce – Place all ingredients into a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Taste and add more sugar if necessary.  If too thick add a little more water.  Remove from heat and pour into a small serving bowl.

Serve with sliced cucumber, sliced spring onions and duck pancakes with the sauce.

TIP: This can all be made ahead and simply warmed through before serving.  The duck and sauce freeze well too.


 Happy feasting.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Chinese Five Spice Powder Recipe

You won't want to be without this
essential ingredient
for Chinese Cookery

Like all spice mixes they can vary enormously depending on brand.  Chinese Five Spice is no different. You would expect that with 5 spices they would all carry the same flavour.  Well no in a word.  The quantities of each spice added can vary and in some cases so do the actual spices.  There are variations using more than just 5 spices!!!!



Store bought spice powders lose flavour quickly and doesn't guarantee quality ingredients have been used. Not to mention that you can often be paying for more than you need and they get lost at the back of the larder.


To ensure your spices powders/mixes are of the highest quality and fresh as can be.  Toast and grind your own, can't get better than homemade anyway can we?



Chinese Five Spice Powder


2 Whole star anise
2 tsps Szechuan peppercorns
1 tsp Cloves
1 tsp Fennel seeds
1 Cinnamon stick (broken into pieces)

In a dry pan over medium heat, toast all the ingredients above. Shake the pan occasionally to prevent burning.
Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Once cooled transfer to an electric spice grinder and grind to a fine powder. Or you could make the effort to grind in a pestle & mortar!!!!
Store in an airtight container..
NOTE: Recipe makes approx 1/4 cup.  Simply make more when required to ensure freshness.