A North East Food, Men's Lifestyle and Entertainment Blog

Monday, 24 July 2017

Tapas at home Inspired by La Casa Delicatessen


Let me tell you abut a little place I have fallen in love with. La Casa Delicatessen in the Grainger Market in Newcastle is somewhere I didn't know existed until a couple of months ago. Already it is my favourite place to pick up any Spanish food I'm in the mood for. The guy who works there is great (I should really ask his name next time I'm there), he is so friendly and really passionate about the produce they sell and that sort of service really stands out for me. The first time we went we tried a selection of Manchego that had been cured in various ways. One with beer, one with chilli and one with brandy. All were delicious and we left with a little wedge of the brandy cured Manchego and a small pack of sliced chorizo. We promised ourselves the next time we have tapas night at home (which we do every few months) we would go back and stock up on supplies.

A couple of weeks ago it was time for our next Tapas night, I did make a couple of dishes from scratch just with store cupboard ingredients. I made some quick garlic bread, which is just toasted bread drizzled in olive oil and sprinkled with garlic granules (so easy but really tasty). I also made Patatas Bravas by cutting a couple of potatoes into cubes and frying them in olive oil with some rosemary sprigs. The Bravas sauce I make uses passata heated with some chopped garlic, paprika, chilli powder, salt and pepper. Put the potatoes into a bowl and spoon over the sauce and finish with a few teaspoonfuls of Garlic mayo dotted on top. Now onto the produce we got from La Casa.

Serrano Ham


Charcuterie is a big favourite in our house and for me cured ham is King. The Charcuterie selection at La Casa is vast and there is everything from Lomo Ham, Cecina Smoked Beef and Iberico Ham. We went for the Serrano Ham and weren't disappointed, the meaty slices were perfect, just enough fat to enhance the flavour and very moreish (why do we always buy too little?)

Chorizo


As I said Charcuterie is a big deal to us and Mrs. Cool's preference is Chorizo. There are numerous options available from slices of Chorizo to whole sausages. We went for these little links which I fried in olive oil. The Chorizo was to die for and the oil was great for dipping the garlic bread into.

Manchego Cured in Brandy


The Cheese, My God! The Cheese. Where do I begin with this cheese? This cheese is what brought us back to La Casa and it will be brining us back again. I can honestly say this is the best cheese I have EVER had. Not only is the flavour on the Manchego great but the subtle brandy taste really elevates it to something exquisite. This stuff is like crack, once you have a taste you want more and more and more. I really need to have some more right now. I'm having withdrawls.

Wine


You can't have Meat and Cheese without having Wine, It's the Law! The wine selection is huge and we went for this lovely Rioja. I'm not usually a fan of Rioja but as it was a Spanish tapas night we couldn't really have a Sancerre or a Merlot. It was outstanding and really went perfectly with all our dishes.

It amazes me that this little nook in the Grainger Market is so packed full of amazing produce, I can't sing the praises of La Casa highly enough, I really love this place and hope you will to. If you would like to find out more you can visit their website here and you can follow them on Twitter here.

Well, that's all for now

S

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Thursday, 20 July 2017

How one DIY job turned into a room makeover

I like to think I'm pretty good at DIY, nothing too adventurous but if there is a little job to be done I'm all over it. A while ago our toilet was damaged and we needed a new one, I decided replacing the toilet was too much for me so hired someone else to do it. However, after the new toilet was in it left a gap in the flooring around the toilet as the new one was a different shape to the old one. EASY! I thought, it's only lino. I can pick up a little bit of lino that matches and patch it up. But this one small job turned into a much bigger job, which then turned into several jobs, which then snowballed into a makeover of the whole room.


When I got to the local DIY Superstore there was a lino that matched ours, Huzzah! I thought this will be a doddle, however I had brought Mrs. Cool with me (that was my first mistake) and she noticed another lino with a wood design that she liked better than ours. If i'm honest I didn't like our old lino, it was already down when we moved in and had probably been there for years so I agreed that instead of patching up the old lino I would rip out a the old one and lay down the nice new one.


We also had a little damage to the bath panel so as we were looking around we decided to get a new bath panel. Oh! well, while I'm on I might as well re-do the sealant around the bath as it was a bit discoloured (what am I doing giving myself more work). On the way home Mrs Cool chirps up saying the towels, bath mat and shower curtain we have won't match the new floor. Great! more expenditure, We headed to another couple of shops to look at accessories. As well as the already agreed upon towels and bath mat etc we also ended up getting new storage baskets, a mirror, a candle, bin, toilet brush and a bath tidy! It was at this point that I realised Mrs. Cool was actually Carole Smillie and I had wandered into an episode of Changing Rooms.

Luckily (or unluckily however you want to look at it) our bathroom is quite small so the lino was surprisingly easy to change over, the old one came up really easily and I was able to use that as a rough template to cut the new one to size. I laid the new one down and used a stanley knife to cut it to fit around the fixtures. The bath panel was the hardest part, this as due to the shape of the bathroom I needed to cut a small section off the panel so that it would fit. But this was an excuse to get a new hack saw (all boys love using a saw right?).


Using white spirit I was able to remove the old sealant, I may have used too much white spirit as the fumes were a bit strong, I would suggest keeping the door and window open if you're planning on doing this to avoid getting lightheaded. Putting the new sealant down was a bit messy but I had the foresight to wear disposable rubber gloves so my hands didn't get covered.


That was all the big jobs done and all that was left was to put the accessories in place. The whole job only took a few hours (not including the time spent shopping for all the stuff, that took longer) and it only cost around £300 (including getting the new toilet fitted) which I think was bit of a bargain. I'm very happy with the finished room and more importantly Mrs. Cool was really pleased with how this project worked out.


Mrs. Cool did a little video tour of the new bathroom and you can see it here.



The problem I now have is that the bathroom is now putting the rest of our house to shame. We have plans to redesign our living room and we've already bought some a new coffee table and TV stand as well as some new art but we have more to do in the next few months.

Well, that's all for now.

S

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Monday, 10 July 2017

Game of Thrones: Top 10* Episodes (*actually 11 episodes)


The TV Phenomenon of recent years has been Game of Thrones. The HBO series based on the Song of Ice and Fire books by George R. R. Martin has had viewers on the edge of their seats and critics running out of superlatives to describe how good it is. Even if you're not a fan of the fantasy genre you’ll still get drawn into the intrigue and betrayal that occurs in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. But, who am I kidding, everyone is a fan of Game of Thrones, right? I’ve been watching since it started and after a few seasons I managed to get Mrs Cool to watch too (which was a great excuse to watch the whole thing again). Here are my top 11 episodes (I couldn't narrow it down to just 10) from the 1st 6 seasons if you haven’t seen these yet do not continue as what follows contains a LOT of spoilers!

11 - Dance of Dragons - Season 5 Episode 9

There are two reasons why this makes it into the top 11, two unforgettable scenes. The 1st is a scene where Stannis Baratheon sacrifices his only child to the Lord of Light. This is one of the most shocking scenes in all of Game of Thrones and it gets uncomfortable to watch as the child Princess is dragged from her room and tied to a stake and then the Red Woman, Melisandre, lights the flames. The Princess Shireen’s screams as her father watches on are truly horrific. The 2nd scene is the final scene where Daenerys Targaryen has opened an arena to host bloody death matches when a revolution breaks out with masked assassins all over the arena killing as many people as they can and while Daario Naharis, Jorah Mormont, Grey Worm and even Tyrion Lannister try to save the Queen (Mrs. Cool mentioned that the thing she likes about Tyrion is that he is ready to fight when he has to). All looks doomed as they are trapped and surrounded on the arena floor when a screech echoes above the arena as, Drogon, one of Daenerys’ dragons returns to save the day and the Mother of Dragons leaves in impressive fashion on the back of Drogon.

10 - Two Sword - Season 4 Episode 1

This episode introduces one of my favourite characters, Oberyn Martell, he has come to Kings Landing for Joffrey’s wedding (but is really seeking revenge for the murder of his sister and niece and nephew). However the main reason why I like this episode is it’s when Arya Stark shows how much of a badass she is. Arya is with ‘The Hound’ Sandor Clegane and they find an Inn where some Lannister soldiers (one of which Arya recognises as Polliver the man who killed her friend and took her sword). They go into the inn and all starts well as they have a drink but then when The Hound insults the King all hell breaks loose. The Hound kills several of the soldiers but its is Arya who incapacitates Polliver before coldly reciting what he said when he killed her friend before taking her sword back and stabbing him through the throat. 

9 - Baelor - Season 1 Episode 9

Ned Stark is in jail accused of treachery and his son Robb Stark is heading south with an army of Northmen to depose the King. Robb needs to make a strategic crossing of the Trident River and in doing so sets in motion events that will eventually lead to the Red Wedding (see the Rains of Castamere below). Now before Game of Thrones started all the promotional hype and build up was around Sean Bean playing Ned Stark but here before the first season has even finished one of the main characters (and arguably the star of the show) is beheaded. This sets the tone for the entire series that no one is safe.

8 - The Laws of Gods and Men - Season 4 Episode 6

Tyrion Lannister is one of my favourite characters and this is a great Tyrion episode. He is on trial for the assassination of King Joffrey. Everyone is trying to stitch him up from his sister Cersei to Maester Pycell. Tyrions brother Jamie is the only one looking out for him and makes a deal with their father to spare Tyrions life but realises too late that this whole trial is a plot by Tywin to get Jamie to resume his role as Heir to the Lannister fortune. However when Tyrion is betrayed by the woman he loved, Shae, he gives a brilliant enraged speech to the court and demands a trial by combat, denying his father a victory in the process.

7 - The Mountain and the Viper - Season 4 Episode 8

A lot happens in this episode but the reason why it features on this list is down to the last 10 minutes. As the culmination of Tyrions trial ends with the trial by combat between ‘The Mountain’ Gregor Clagane and ‘The Viper’ Oberyn Martell. This is probably the best one on one fight in all of Game of Thrones and it leads to without a doubt the most gruesome death in the whole series.

6 - The Lion and The Rose - Season 4 Episode 2

For the most part Game of Thrones seems to be series of horrific events where the worst people imaginable get their own way, but every now and then you get an episode like this. For all of seasons 1, 2 and 3 Joffrey Baratheon has been an evil,  sadistic, nasty piece of shit and at his wedding to Margaery Tyrell he finally gets his comeuppance. Drinking poisoned wine he suffers a slow agonising death.

5 - Blackwater - Season 2 Episode 9 

This is another great episode for Tyrion Lannister, Kings Landing is under siege, Stannis Baratheon’s fleet is approaching, but Tyrion has a plan. He sends a single ship loaded with Wildfire into the heart of Stannis’ fleet and sets off a spectacular explosion that decimates the fleet. Stannis' forces still attack the city and as Joffrey retreats to his chambers it is down to a rousing speech from Tyrion to motivate the soldiers. In the end his victory is stolen by his father who brings the Tyrell army to repel the last of Stannis’ troops.

4 - Hardhome - Season 5 Episode 8

There is a lot going on, Tyrion is trying to persuade Daenerys not to kill him, Arya is still training with Jaqen H’ghar and Cersei is in jail. But this episode is all about Jon Snow, north of the wall trying to form an alliance with the wildlings at Hardhome. Then they are attacked by the White Walkers and an army of the dead. The battle that ensues shows just how powerful the White Walkers are and especially their leader the Night King.

3 - The Watchers on the Wall - Season 4 Episode 9

This is just about the most epic piece of television ever made. Mance Rayder's Wildling army attack Castle Black from north and south of The Wall and the Nights Watch must defend it. Jon Snow steps up to lead the Nights Watch when no one else seems capable, He is reunited with his true love Ygritte only for her to die in his arms after being shot with an arrow. The scale of this episode easily rivals most blockbuster movies and the action is incredible. This is as close to TV perfection as you can get.

2 - The Winds of Winter - Season 6 Episode 10

The good guys seem to be getting what they want in the episode. Arya Stark gets revenge on Walder Frey, Tyrion Lannister is named hand of the Queen, Daenerys Targaryen and her army sets sail with her dragons headed for Westeros and Jon Snow's true lineage is revealed and he is named King in the North. But Cersei is the real winner, she arranges the murders of Grand Maester Pycell and Lancel Lanniser. She misses her trial and blows up the Great Sept of Baelor so she can get rid of Margaery Tyrell, The High Sparrow and anyone who wanted to see her fall. Her only remaining child (the King Tommen does kill himself however, but Cersei is unltimately named Queen. It plays out like the final act of The Godfather when Michael Corleone kills all of his enemies and becomes Godfather.

1 - The Rains of Castamere - Season 3 Episode 9


The Red Wedding - what more can I say. When you watch this episode for the first time it's like a punch to the gut. Robb Stark tries to make piece for breaking his oath to Walder Frey but is betrayed and slaughtered along with his men, his mother, his wife and unborn child during a bloodbath that seems to go on forever. When I first watched this episode I sat in silence for a few minutes after it finished so I could process what I had just seen. The most shocking episode in the entire series.

There's not long until the new season starts and I can hardly wait. Do you agree with my list? Are there any episodes you would've included in the top 11?

Valar Morghulis

S




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Monday, 3 July 2017

Little Turtle Smoothie


A few weeks ago we went to Turtle Bay, which is a Caribbean restaurant in Newcastle. We have been a few times and you can read Mrs. Cool's review here (including their new children's menu). The food here is incredible (I highly recommend the Bajan Beef Cheek Curry). When we went this time Harry noticed on the kid's menu there was a recipe for a smoothie that he wanted to try at home so I thought I'd share it with you.


Ingredients:

1 medium sized banana
2 pineapple rings
100ml of pineapple or apple juice
5 ice cubes
1 tsp honey

Method:

These ingredients will make 1 smoothie and it is so easy to make. Just chop the banana and pineapple rings into chunks. put all of the ingredients into a blender and blitz for around 45 seconds until smooth.


My kids loved making this themselves, although, if you have younger kids you should maybe chop the fruit yourselves. We made enough for everyone and everyone loved it.


If you're looking to make a more grown up drink all you need to do is add a likl tickle of Rum when you blitz it up.

Well, that's all for now.

S

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Monday, 26 June 2017

Monday Munchies: Sushi Arancini


A few weeks ago I posted about using Sushi ingredients to give your BBQ Japanese Zing. Well I had some ingredients left over so decided to try and come up with something to use them. I had plenty rice and panko breadcrumbs as well as loads of sauces so decided to make Sushi Arancini with Teriyaki and Soy dipping sauces.

How to make Sushi Arancini

Ingredients:

Sushi rice
Enough Panko breadcrumbs to coat however many rice balls make
1 beaten Egg
Plain flour
Vegetable oil
Rice vinegar
Sugar
Salt
soy sauce

(You will also need a deep fat fryer)

Method:

1 - Wash the rice 3 or 4 times in cold water. drain the rice in a sieve and then add to a saucepan with 330 ml of water and bring to the boil, simmer for 10 mins with a lid on and the turn the heat off and leave for 30 mins.

2 - Once the rice has cooled mix the rice vinegar, sugar and salt and the fold this into the rice. The rice should be sticky by now but I still found it hard to form into balls so in the end I used a Nigiri mould. 

3 - Fill the fryer with vegetable oil and turn on the the required temp, leave it to heat up (but don't leave it unattended).
 In separate bowls put the flour, a beaten egg and the Panko breadcrumbs.

4 - Coat the rice first in the flour, then the egg and finally the breadcrumbs. Once the oil is hot enough put 2 or 3 rice balls in the oil and fry for a few minutes (occasionally turning them) until the  bread crumbs are golden. Remove from the oil and leave for a few mins on some kitchen roll.


How to make Sushi Arancini

I made far too much rice so I also knocked up some Maki rolls (as I also had some Nori sheets in my cupboard). I just marinaded some chicken mini fillets in Teriyaki sauce and then fried them. Spread some rice on the Nori sheet, add the chicken on top and roll up the sheet. Cut into 2cm segments. The dipping sauces I had were Teriyaki sauce and Soy sauce.


Find out how to make sushi at home with the kids here and don't forget to follow Big Stevie Cool on Instagram for lots of foodie pics. 


Follow Big Stevie Cool on Instagram here



Well, that's all for now.

S


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Thursday, 22 June 2017

Rockliffe Hall: A Spa day from a man's perspective

I like to think that I'm a pretty chilled out dude. But every now and then even I need time to relax and recently Mrs. Cool told me we were having a day at Rockliffe Hall, a five star luxury hotel, spa and golf course in Darlington, County Durham. Spa days are not what most blokes think of when looking for something to do to relax but I love them. Having three kids aged 10 and under there times when I just need some quiet time and a spa day if perfect for that.


We arrived at around 10am and I was immediately impressed by the grounds, we headed to reception and checked in. We were taken to the dining area as brunch was served before we went to the spa. I was expecting the brunch to be a buffet or continental style but boy was I wrong. The menu is extensive, with sausage or bacon sandwiches, full english and various egg dishes as well as a selection of pastries. I went for the Eggs Benedict (my favourite) and Mrs Cool had a Bacon Sandwich and we shared some Croissant and Pain aux Raisin and all were delicious.


When we were finished our Brunch we headed to the locker rooms to get changed. You enter the Spa from the locker room into the Pool. The Pool is a decent size and has several loungers around the edge, you can have complimentary water (and flavoured water, the choice on the day were were there was ginger and honey) there is also a bar here where you can buy other drinks.


I swam a few lengths of the pool while Mrs. Cool perused the latest copy of Cosmopolitan and then we decided to take advantage of the Garden as it was an unexpectedly sunny day. We sipped our water and I had a leaf through GQ (and obviously wanted to buy everything that was out of my price range) and then we had a dip in the hot tub.


Adjacent to the Pool is a hydro pool which has several massage stations and water jets, there was also a foot spa here where you can alternate soaking your feet in hot and cold water. Mrs. Cool enjoyed the Tepidarium which was a hot room with heated tile beds for you to lie on. Next was my favourite part of the day, at either side of the foot spa is the Igloo and the Sauna. The idea is to alternate between the two, we went into the Igloo first and it was as cold as you would expect, there is an ice fountain where you rub ice all over your body and then you head over to the sauna for 10 minutes and then repeat the process 2 more times. Alternating between hot and cold was very invigorating, Mrs. Cool doesn't really like the cold but I loved this part of the day. Next up was a steam room called the Caldarium and then we went back to the sauna one for time before it was time to leave.

After getting changed and collecting my things I was amazed by a handy little gadget in the locker room for drying your trunks. I just popped my wet trunks in the machine held down the lid and minute later my trunks were dry and ready to go straight in my bag. I love a little bit of tech.

Well, That's all for now.

S

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Thursday, 8 June 2017

Wonder Woman: A Review


I have long been a defender of the DC Cinematic Universe. I argued here that Batman Vs Superman was both the 3rd best Batman movie and the 3rd best Superman movie. I also stated here that although Suicide Squad wasn't going to win any awards, it was still the type of fun, stupid movie that you need every now and then. But it looked like I was alone in my praise for the DC franchise. That was until a raven haired Amazon from the Island of Themyscira stepped onto the scene in Wonder Woman. It's been a hit at the box office and critics and fans have agreed this film is a real winner (which DC have needed after the negative response to the last two films).


Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is Diana, Princess of Themyscira, The film starts with Diana as a young girl living a blissful life on Thmyscira but dreaming of being a warrior like her mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and aunt Antiope (Robin Wright). Her mother doesn't want her to train to be a warrior but her aunt secretly trains her anyway, eventually becoming the greatest warrior of all. But she's never faced a real enemy before so how can she really be a warrior? Well that all changes when a plane crashes into the sea. She rescues the pilot, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), he is followed by German bad guys who proceed to storm the beach of Themyscira but are eventually defeated by Diana and the Amazons. Steve then explains (while being interrogated with a magic lasso thing) that he is a spy and that the whole world is at war so Diana decides to go back with him as she believes that Ares, The god of war, has returned and it is the Amazons sole purpose to defeat Ares.

Steve has nicked notebook of secret naughty shit from more German bad guys and needs to get it back to London. The main antagonists are Dr. Maru (with the supervillain nickname Dr. Poison) and General Ludendorff a German Officer who is working with Dr. Poison. If I'm honest the baddies are a bit of a let down in the film. They are pretty generic (although Dr. Poison does have a gnarly disfigured face/mask thing going on) their plan is to release a new type of mustard gas, like I said pretty generic.

Back in London Steve and Diana head to British Intelligence to drop of the notebook and they meet Sir Patrick Morgan (David Thewlis) who comes across as a pacifist and is trying to broker an armistice. They also meet up with Steve's secretary Etta (who I only just realised is played by Lucy Davis while I write this), Etta provides some comic relief as she tries to get Diana to fit in with the London dress code. They soon recruit some more help with Charlie (Ewan Bremner) who is a sharpshooter, The Chief (Eugene Brave Rock) is a smuggler and Sameer (Said Taghmaoui) is a conman/actor who also provides some lighter moments. The group head into German occupied Belgium to stop the baddies.

Diana is convinced that Ludendorff is Ares and is determined to confront him. While Steve wants to stop Dr. Poison and destroy the gas. The final act does lose it's way a bit and there is a twist that I saw coming a mile away but Mrs. Cool and the kids weren't expecting. The final battle is impressive and Wonder Woman will obviously play a pivotal role in Justice League.


As a Dad of a little girl I'm so happy that there are starting to be some female role models in film for her to look up to and feel empowered by, but it's not just for girls me and the boys both really enjoyed the film too, I'm looking forward to the future of DC. With more superheroines like Captain Marvel, The Wasp and Batgirl appearing as main characters or in their own movies over the next few years female characters are set to get a strong push for the first time ever and this is what we've needed for a long time.

Well, that's all for now.

S



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Wednesday, 31 May 2017

The Greatest Car of 80's TV and Film

There were loads of iconic cars in 80's TV and Film - I had a little trip down back to the future with a little graphic that Vertu Lease Cars have put together. Some were cool like The DeLorean from Back to the Future and The General Lee from Dukes of Hazzard.  Some were comedy gold like Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters or The Reliant Regal Supervan from Only fools and Horses.

A while ago I posted about my favourite TV shows from when I was a kid in the 80's (you can read here). In that list was a show that happened to revolve around a car that for me is the greatest of all. I am of course talking about the Knight Industries Two Thousand or KITT for short from the eternal classic, Knight Rider.


The modified jet black Pontiac Trans Am is not only the coolest looking car of all time but is chock full of all manor of upgrades and gadgets. It was near indestructable, often surviving gunfire, explosions and high-speed chases. KITT also had a AI mind of it's own and the freaking thing could talk (nothing is as cool as a talking car). Not forgetting the front mounted scanner that made an often imitated (at least by me as a child) vwoom-vwoom sound.


On top of all that KITT was a crime fighter who helped Michael Knight (played by the coolest man of the 80's, David Hasselhoff) fight all manner of bad guys. There was no situation that Michael Knight and KITT couldn't sort out.

If this wasn't enough Knight Rider also had the coolest theme tune EVER!



Were you a fan of Knight Rider? Are there any Cars from 80's TV or film that you think are better than KITT?


Well, thats all for now.

S


This is a collaborative post.
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Friday, 26 May 2017

Give your BBQ a Japanese Zing

*this is a collaborative post



Summer is nearly here and that means it's time to get out the BBQ. You may have seen we recently got a new BBQ this week and when I was asked by Yutaka to try these recipes it gave our first BBQ a Japanese twist. I love Sushi and BBQ's so this seemed like a genius idea.

Panko Burgers (makes 6)

Ingredients:

For the burger.

2 small red onions (finely chopped)
2 crushed garlic cloves
500g lean minced beef
2 tbsp Yutaka panko breadcrumbs
1 tbsp Yutaka miso sauce
1 tbsp Yutaka Yakiniku sauce
salt & pepper

For the BBQ sauce.

4 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp Yutaka Japanese Rice Vinegar
2 tbsp Yutaka Tamari Soy Sauce
1/4 tsp Yutaka Wasabi Paste
1 crushed garlic clove
2 tsp soft brown sugar
dash of Tabasco
pinch of salt

Method:

Combine the burger ingredients in a food processor and mix together and form into 6 patties, cover and chill. Mix the sauce together and brush the patties with the sauce just before putting on the BBQ along with any toppings you want (I like mushrooms and onions). Once cooked assemble the burger, mix some wasabi paste and mayonnaise together and spread this on the bottom half of your bun and place some salad leaves and add the burger and toppings.



Sushi Kebabs (makes 4)

Ingredients:

for the skewers.

6 mini peppers (deseeded and cut into quarters)
2 courgettes (sliced in 5mm rounds)
12 small button mushrooms
marinaded chicken (enough for 12 chunks)

for the rice.

250g sushi rice
330ml water
3tbsp Yutaka Japanese rice vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt

for the marinade.

2 tbsp Yutaka Yakiniku sauce
1 tbsp Yutaka Miso sauce
2 tbsp Yutaka Tamari Soy sauce
2 crushed garlic cloves
1 tbsp chopped Yutaka Sushi Ginger
1 tbsp Yutaka Mirin
2 tbsp Yutaka Shaoxing rice wine

(you will also needs some Nori sheets and a bamboo roller)

Method:

Combine the marinade ingredients and cover the chicken in the mix and chill in the fridge for at least 12 hours. To make the sushi rice, wash the rice 3 or 4 times in cold water. drain the rice in a sieve and then add to a saucepan with 330 ml of water and bring to the boil, simmer for 10 mins with a lid on and the turn the heat off and leave for 30 mins. Once the rice has cooled mix the rice vinegar, sugar and salt and the fold this into the rice. Assemble the kebabs (TIP: soak the skewer stick in water for around 4 hours to stop them burning on the BBQ) cook the kebabs on the BBQ turning them several times. Place a Nori sheet on the bamboo roller and spread some of the rice on the sheet add the cooked kebab and roll in the Nori sheet. Remove the skewer and cut into sushi pieces serve with salad leaves and the BBQ sauce.


With BBQ season just around the corner this is a great alternative to the normal BBQ fare. You can also rope your kids into helping with the prep. Mine loved assembling the kebabs and we all had fun at attempting to roll the sushi up.


Well, That's all for now.

S


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Friday, 12 May 2017

A day in Havana

If you follow me on social media it will come as no surprise that Mrs Cool and I recently travelled to Cuba on Holiday. It was amazing, it was definitely the best holiday I have been on and my favourite part was the day we spent in the Capital City, Havana.


We had booked a private tour rather than going on the bus tour you can book through Thomas Cook and were really excited to be driven to Havana in one of the famous classic cars which are so synonymous with Cuba. Our guide Jorge and our driver for the day Yusiel picked us up from our hotel early in the morning in a 1956 Chevrolet. The Jet black Sedan was in incredible condition considering it was over 60 years old (Mrs Cool joked that it was in better condition than our car). On the drive to Havana we talked with Jorge about what we wanted to do in in Havana and what we knew about Cuba. He told us about the work that goes into keeping the car running, telling us you need to have a good mango tree at home to use as shade as there are many hours spent on repairs.

The drive took around 2 1/2 hours, we drove through Varadero (the resort we we're staying at) and Matanzas a city on the way to Havana. Jorge asked if it was ok if we stopped at the post office as he had a letter he needed to post (we soon found out that our guide had a few more errands to run throughout the day but we didn't mind and found it funny). We stopped off at the Bacunayagua Bridge about halfway through our journey to stretch our legs. Bacunayagua Bridge is the highest bridge in Cuba at 110 meters  high. The views are stunning and there is a little bar and market at one end. The bar was great with a traditional Cuban band playing and Piná Coladas for sale where you can add the rum yourself and make it as strong as you want.


When we arrived in Havana we headed first to Revolution Square. Revolution Square is the political centre of Cuba, Jorge told us how Fidel Castro wanted to make Revolution Square as Iconic as Red Square in Moscow and how he addressed over 1 million people during the Cuban Revolution. Other Heroes of the Cuban revolution are celebrated here too as the faces of Camilio Cienfuegos and Che Guevara adorn the two main government buildings overlooking the square. There were a lot of people here milling around - some tourists, some locals, a few taxi drivers waiting for their pick ups by their classic cars. There was some police here too and people making preparations for the May Day Celebrations that would be taking place soon, Jorge told us how the square would be packed with people come May Day but this may be as attendance at the celebrations were mandatory for government employees.


When we were finished taking our photos at Revolution Square we headed along The Malecon which is the road along the coast and arrived at the Hotel Nacional De Cuba, probably the most famous hotel in Cuba. You can feel the history of the building as you walk through the doors. The lobby still has all it's original fixtures so it really feels like you're stepping back in time. Through the lobby is the Terrace which is incredible and you can certainly see why the hotel has hosted Celebrities and Presidents in the past. Jorge also told us the hotel was the site of the infamous 'Havana Conference' held by the heads of the most powerful Mafia Families in 1946 where they discussed many aspects of their criminal empire. The conference is famously recreated in the Francis Ford Coppola's classic movie The Godfather Part II.


After we had taken a stroll around the grounds of the Hotel Nacional de Cuba we headed to Old Havana. This was my favourite part of Havana, walking through the streets the funk of cigar smoke and diesel fumes hanging in the air as the sounds of cuban music seemed to come from every doorway and alley, I really felt like I could stay here forever. Eventually we made our way to Floridita the famous bar and restaurant that was a favourite of the author Ernest Hemmingway. Stepping through the door was a complete contrast to outside as the heat and bright sunshine of the street were replaced by a cool air conditioned bar that provided much needed respite. There was a live band playing as soon as you walk through the door and place was packed, everyone had a Daiquiri and there was a statue of Hemmingway sat at the bar.


When we were ready to brave the heat again we headed to through more streets past incredible architecture to the impressive Plaza de la Catedral where the Cathedral of The Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception stands. Jorge told us how prior to the Cuban War of Independence when Cuba was a Spanish territory the Cathedral used to hold the remains of Christopher Columbus but when Spain ceded the Island in 1898 the remains were returned to Spain (along with all of the statues which is why the there are some empty crevices on the front of the Cathedral).


We were getting a little thirsty at this point and as we were walking down an alley Jorge pulled us to one side and in a little doorway they were selling coconut water straight from the coconut. Jorge left us here while he ran one of his other errands (lol) and we had a little chat about what we had been enjoying throughout the day. We both agreed that this little stall is definitely something that we would have missed had we went for the bus tour.


When Jorge returned we headed along The Malecon to the ferry terminal to cross the bay (as the main tunnel was closed for repairs). This was definitely not on the tourist route, We were literally the only tourists on the ferry as the the rest of the passengers were all Cubans just going about their day. We arrived at Casa Blanca train (tram?) station where Jorge told us was the only electric train in Cuba. Our driver Yusiel had to take the long way round and met us there and it was a short drive to where we would have lunch. Again we both agreed that this restaurant would not have been possible if we had taken the bus tour. From the outside it just looked like a normal Cuban house but when your go through to the garden there is an amazing courtyard that has been converted to a restaurant and bar. Jorge had suggested we try a dish (whose name I can't remember) which was a seafood pasta but when we arrive our waitress persuaded us to try the surf and turf sharing platter and were weren't disappointed. We had grilled chicken and pork along with pan fried Shrimp and fish and barbecued lobster. I've never been a massive fan of lobster but this was the best I've had. We also had side of rice, black beans and salad which you will get with most Cuban meals. The bar was great as well and I had the best Mojito of my whole holiday here.


After lunch we headed back to the car and went to Morro Castle the ruins of the fortress that used to guard the entrance to Havana Bay. I love a castle and living in Northumberland I have plenty on my doorstep. Morro Castle was certainly impressive and I could imagine seeing it in it's hay day in the 18th century.


Our last stop was a visit the Statue of Christ, the 20 meter high statue of Jesus sits on a hill over looking the city and can be seen from many points around Havana. Jorge told us how former Cuban Dictator Fulgencio Batista had chosen the site as the statue could be seen directly from the Presidential Palace so his wife could see it each morning when she opened the bedroom window. However only a few days after the statue was unveiled Batista and his wife fled Havana as his government was over thrown by the Cuban Revolution so his wife didn't get many chances to see it.



After taking in the last of the sights from Havana it was time we headed back to our resort. Late in the afternoon we were getting tired and dozed in the car on the way back. We stopped off on the way for another of Jorge's errands before we arrived back at the hotel.

I really enjoyed speaking with Jorge about the Cuban way of life and also the politics of his country. Politically I consider myself a Socialist and recently have read a few books on Communism so to visit a country with Marxist-Leninist ideology was very interesting. We will be back and plan to spend more time in Havana on our next visit as we didn't get the chance to sample the nightlife which is also supposed to be very good. My lasting memories of Havana will definitely be walking through the streets and watching the endless parade of classic cars.



Viva La Revolućion

S

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