Your Last Mouthful

Cardiff based food blog

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Mint and Mustard- The new Chakara Menu!

There are plenty of Indian Restaurants in Cardiff but few who could really come out on top in the Cardiff restaurant scene. Mint and Mustard is one of the few that I consider to be in the running.

I have eaten in the Mint and Mustard before but I have to admit, not since chef Anand George left to set up the Purple Poppadom. I was worried that it wouldn’t be the same and I didn’t want to be disappointed. After being invited to sample the new Chakara Fish menu, I am confident that Mint and Mustard still has plenty to offer.

With lots of Indian restaurants on Whitchurch Road, Mint and Mustard has a fair bit of competition but it has done well to set itself apart as a more ‘upmarket’ Indian restaurant and not your average curry house and is usually full and lively.

We were seated in the back of the restaurant with a party of food bloggers and other food lovers. As we chatted and munched on poppadoms, we were talked through the menu by the very proud Executive Chef Pramod Nair who has racked up quite a career in India including cooking for the queen when she visited Kerala. He designed the new menu which is to be served in Cardiff and a Taunton restaurant which has recently opened.

There is a Chakara Tasting menu available for £37.50 per person as well as an A la carte. We were treated to a tasting menu but it wasn’t the one available to customers. It was a selection of the chef’s best dishes.

We kicked off with a selection of starters. Each one was presented beautifully although as a tasting menu I’m not sure that they really worked together. We dived into scallops cooked in a saffron and coconut sauce, a spicy salmon mousse, a soft shelled crab and a saucy king prawn. The soft shelled crab was delicious and I could have happily eaten several of these. The prawn had some fantastic flavours but it was a little bit messy and I really enjoyed the mousse. However, the scallops were a little over cooked for my liking.

After a successful (and large) starter, we moved onto a King Fish Steak Vattichathu which was a served with shallots and tomato on a potato cake. The fish was lovely, I really like meaty fish and it worked well with the flavoursome sauce as it wasn’t a delicate fish and the potoato cake added an extra and welcome texture. Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of this dish as I got over excited and forgot to take one.

Following this, was another selection of dishes that would usually be served as mains. The Queen’s Silver Pomfret was named so as this was the dish Pramod cooked for the queen. This came with a dressed crab in a masala sauce, fish cooked in a banana leaf and a serving of seafood rice. The Pomfret was a soft delicately flavoured fish. It didn’t need any bells and whistles because it was well cooked and beautifully flavoured. I really enjoyed the fish in the banana leaf which was lovely and tender but I wasn’t so impressed with the crab. I think a meat as delicate as crab was over powered by the masala sauce.

Quite full at this point, we moved onto yet another course. Each table was served a Konju Mango Curry (tiger prawns cooked in fennel, coconut and mango) and a Mixed Seafood Pachadi (cod, monkfish, shrimps, squid and mussels cooked in a pineapple, butternut squash and coconut sauce).

On holiday in India, I really enjoyed the fruity curries but I had never experienced anything quite like the pineapple one we tried here. Milky pineapple and fish might sound like a bizarre combination but believe it or not, it does work! I think it would be a great flavour for a chicken curry too. However, for me, the mango curry was the best. Mango is a favourite of mine and this was fabulous!

Stuffed beyond belief, it was time for dessert. After such a huge meal, we were relieved that the dessert was a light ice cream and for me a dish to remember. We were treated to a trio of jack fruit, rose and a mint and mustard ice cream. Jack fruit is one of my favourite fruits and reminds me of times in Asia so I loved this one. It had an unusual texture and the jack fruit flavours came through clearly (although a few of my fellow diners didn’t agree). The rose ice cream was similarly lovely and then there was the mint and mustard…

I can see what Pramod was trying to do with the Mint and Mustard ice cream and I think it was a novel idea but it wasn’t well received by everyone. In fact, I was the only person on my table to finish it. Even when I had eaten it all, I wasn’t sure whether I liked it or whether I had eaten it out of morbid fascination. The initial taste was like a Murray Mint but the aftertaste was of strong mustard and I’m not sure that the flavours really worked together. Pramod clearly enjoys experimenting though and I’m sure he will carry on with this to try and perfect it as it is still a work in progress.

Overall, I enjoyed the new Chakara menu. I think it has the potential to be really great. There are a few tweaks that could be made to improve it and I’m sure that with time, they will be made.

As we were invited along to this tasting and it we didn’t experience the menu as a paying diner would do or have the taster menu on offer to customers, it isn’t easy to comment on price and service. Therefore,  I’m not going to give my usual spoon ratings but I would love to visit again on a normal night and chose from the a La Carte menu and I have a sneaky suspicion this would achieve a green spoon!

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Baking Bread With The One Mile Bakery

After my recent delivery from the One Mile Bakery (see my review for more details) I was excited to be invited to the first ever bread making class run at Elisabeth’s house in Pontcanna. After the success of the deliveries and having met Elisabeth, I was certain the classes were going to be great and I wasn’t disappointed.

I arrived to some familiar faces which made the day extra fun as I was baking with fab food bloggers Nicki (Cardiffbites), Bev (Eats for Wales) and Mark (Corpulent Capers). Elisabeth welcomed us and showed her into her kitchen where she quickly busied herself making us tea.

Four bloggers ready to start baking

The day was jam-packed with lunch included and although we made a lot of different bread, it was still relaxed and we managed to get time to chat and gossip. Elisabeth is an excellent teacher and her passion for bread shone through with plenty of sniffing, prodding and an unrivaled knowledge.

The class we attended An Introduction to Baking Bread and was designed to show us the key stages of baking and to allow us to understand the different types of bread as well as the key techniques involved. We made four loaves in the time we were there. Elisabeth started off by talking us through different flours. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never paid a great deal of attention to what type of flour I use which is probably why in the past my bread has been nothing to shout about but from now on, this will be a consideration.

Elisabeth explained the benefits of spelt flour for people who have problems digesting bread (i.e. me) so when we got to choose the flour for our first loaf, I naturally went for spelt. We all used different flour but followed the same process. It was much quicker and much easier than I expected and I felt that I really learnt a lot.

We learnt how to make a well in our flour in order to add the yeast and the water and how it should look when it has been left the rest.

After 15 minutes came the kneading before resting it. Elisabeth gave us lots of tips on how we know when the dough had been kneaded enough and timings. My loaf turned out much better than I had expected and I will definitely make this easy little number again at home.

While making the first loaf, waiting for the yeast to do its magic, we had a taste test to compare some well-known supermarket bread to Elisabeth’s loaf.There was obviously no contest but having looked at the ingredients in the shop bought bread, no wonder I can’t eat bread without getting ill! Vinegar? Not to mention the E numbers.

With the first loaf ‘resting’ it was time for some of Elisabeth’s apricot bread. Even without butter this was lovely (although of course I added lashings of butter!).

The second loaf was a simple rye variety. This one was even easier as it didn’t need kneading. Rye is apparently easier to digest than a wheat loaf as it has different gluten structures. It also has a stronger flavour so works well with spices. I chose to add some cumin and ground coriander which gave it a very unusual flavour but delicious!

The star of the show for me was the ridiculously yummy bacon, red onion and balsamic bread. I was dying to try this when it came out of the oven and as soon as I got home, this was the one I broke into. It was delicious, even if I do say so myself!

Last of all we made a round Pain de Campagne. This was a winner in my house and looked very professional thanks to Elisabeth’s floured circular bowls and some serious slashing! This was one of my favourites and I was amazed that we could make something that looked so professional in an Introduction to Baking Bread.

The class was so much fun and the setting was lovely. I felt so relaxed baking in Elisabeth’s kitchen. It felt like we were learning from a friend rather than from a teacher. For a nosy person like me, baking in the home is the best place for something like this. Not only does it make it more personal and informal but I got to have a peek at someone elses house! What a beautiful house it is too!

I highly recommend this class and would love to try out some of the other classes on offer. There are a list of classes on the One Mile Bakery website and for the amount of time and the amount of bread I went home with, not to mention Elisabeth’s excellent teaching, I think it is value for money and a great day out.

The Kings Arms in Pentyrch – The Otley Brewery’s got Brains…

The Kings Arms has just opened in Pentyrch. The Brains owned newly restored grade II listed building is being run by The Otley Brewery Company and is serving up some good food and their own award winning beers. We were invited along for the launch to try some of the beers on offer and for a BBQ as the start of the weekend’s Beer Festival.

 

Photo by Golley Slater


The cosy welcoming pub is very attractive from the outside and this continues as you enter. With many original features, a roaring fire and simple but stylish furniture, the 1700 pub has been brought up to date and looks the part. The menu looks great and where possible the ingredients are sourced locally. The Kings Arms is very much along the same lines as Nick Otley’s thriving pub, The Bunch of Grapes in Pontypridd.

 

photo by Golley Slater


I’ll confess I’m not a beer drinker but I did enjoy some of the beers we sampled. I found the Otley’s Thai-Bo, made with the same spices you would find in a Thai green curry a very interesting concept and very enjoyable. There were also some beers from Brains to sample including one named All at Sea from their new craft brewery. On the food side, the BBQ was excellent with a choice of lamb stuffed with black pudding and rosemary, pork, poussin, steak, red snapper, mackerel to name just a few.

I think that a partnership between Brains and Otley can only be a good thing and I wish them every success on their venture. I am looking forward to visiting again and sampling some food from the menu.

The True Taste Awards with little me as a judge!

I love writing about food and I of course love eating it too but something that I never expected when I started out was the opportunities that would come my way as a result. This year I have been involved in judging some excellent baking competitions and it is something that I thoroughly enjoy so when I was asked to judge the True Taste Awards 2012, I was over the moon!

The True Taste Awards celebrate the best Welsh food and drink that Wales has to offer with its annual award ceremony. It aims to raise awareness of Welsh food and drink among consumers and increase the consumption of Welsh food by the hospitality industry and the public sector in Wales.

The amount of food I had to eat over my two days of judging was daunting to say the least but I met some fantastic people and it was great to have fellow bloggers Gomezadams and Cardiffbites to chat to in-between munching our way through hundreds of products.

With over 700 products to judge over two days we had our work cut out but we were put into groups and assigned categories so that we could really get to know the products we were tasting. Over the two days, I had the speciality foods category which included ‘free-from’ items and cheese from large producers category. I have to say I was grateful for my categories as they allowed me to true such a wide range. The speciality food category had everything from meat to cakes to curries. I tried some truly amazing products and some truly terrible ones!

Judging was out of 100 with points deducted for flaws in a number of categories. I can’t go into detail about the products I tasted but I will say this. Wales has some fantastic products on offer with some scoring 100 out of 100. I was so impressed by some of the products and I am so excited about the Awards Ceremony in October so that I can find out who made them. Judging is blind so we have no idea who made each product.

However, it wasn’t all high scores and high class and some products just didn’t hit the mark. It was tough competition though and a lot of work went into creating the food that we spent two days eating. I just hope that I get this experience again because it was so fantastic to be involved and to have the honour of judging such excellent food.

Beyond Vegetarian Week- The Best Veggie Dishes!

Having just celebrated vegetarian Week, I thought it would be fitting to share with you some excellent vegetarian dishes that are available on the menus of some of our Green Spoon Businesses.

Vegetarian week certainly introduced me to some excellent dishes this year and it’s good to know that there are quality vegetarian dishes available all year round.

ffresh

Ffresh have two starters that they would recommend and they are made with local produce. Both are available on ffresh’s bar menu.

Roasted Mushroom and Basil Pate with Spelt Bread

The pate is produced by Wales the True Taste winning supplier Capital Cuisine and is accompanied by another Wales the True Taste winning product Jones Organic Spelt Bread.

Roasted Mushroom and Basil Pate with Spelt Bread

Perl Lâs Blue Cheese and Elderberry Port Mousse with Pea Shoots and Candied Walnuts

The cheese is supplied by Wales the True Taste winning supplier Caws Cenarth and is made from organic cow’s milk in Carmarthenshire.  The port is supplied by Wales the True Taste winning Celteg.

Hodge’s Restaurant- Mercure, Holland House

Spring Vegetable and Pearl Barley Risotto

Spring Vegetable and Pearl Barley Risotto

Joseph Procak, Executive Chef at Mercure Holland House Hotel & Spa has a vegetarian risotto on the menu currently.

It is a risotto with a difference made with pearl barley and seasonal ingredients. The Spring Vegetable and Pearl Barley Risotto is served with sautéed seasonal greens, torn basil and soured cream.

I have actually been lucky enough to try this one and can confirm that it is very good indeed.

Laguna Kitchen and Bar- Park Plaza

Laguna Kitchen and Bar at Park Plaza recommend a dessert as part of a vegetarian option and they have even included a recipe for you.

Perry Jelly and Summer Fruits with Elderflower Ice Cream

Ingredients

For the elderflower ice cream

300ml/½ pint whole milk,

6 medium free-range egg yolks

100g/4oz caster sugar

300ml/ clotted cream,

200ml/7fl oz elderflower cordial

For the Perry jelly and summer fruits

4 gelatine leaves

500ml/18fl oz Perry (sparkling pear cider)

75g/2¾oz caster sugar

125g/5oz mixed berries, such as blueberries, raspberries and wild strawberries

Preparation method

1.For the elderflower ice cream, bring the milk to the boil in a heavy-based saucepan, then remove from the heat. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl, pour in the milk and whisk well. Return to the pan and cook over a low heat for about five minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk. Do not boil. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cream and elderflower cordial. Leave to cool, then churn in an ice cream machine (according to manufacturer’s instructions) until thickened. Decant into a clean container and place in the freezer.

2.For the perry jelly and summer fruits, immerse the gelatine leaves one at a time in a shallow bowl of cold water and leave for a minute or so until soft. Bring 100ml/3½fl oz of the perry to the boil in a medium saucepan, add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Drain and squeeze the gelatine leaves, then add to the hot perry and stir until melted. Remove from the heat, add the rest of the perry and stir well. Put the pan of jelly somewhere cool, but do not let it set.

3.Divide half the berries among four individual jelly moulds, or use one large mould. Pour in half of the cooled jelly. Chill for an hour or so to set, then top up with the rest of the berries and unset jelly. (This ensures the berries stay suspended and don’t float to the top.) Return to the fridge to chill until set.

4.To serve, turn the jellies out onto plates and place a scoop of the elderflower ice cream in the middle of each one

There will be more vegetarian posts this week including a review of a vegetarian 3 course meal.

For more reviews, competitions and events, please see my website- www.yourlastmouthful.com

The Great Cardiff Cake Off! Get baking for a good cause!

Calling all budding bakers, cupcake creators and scone scoffers!

On 19th May, Cardiff will be hosting it’s very own Cake Off in honour of children’s charity Ty Hafan. The competition is open to anybody and everybody with seven categories to choose from and even a professional category and a children’s category.

Get your aprons on and enter now!

If you are more into eating than baking, it promises to be a fun-filled day with cupcake decorating classes, music, tea parties and children’s activities. You can buy your ticket here.

I am especially looking forward to this event as I am a judge so make my day and bring me some cake!

See you there!

The Welsh Curry House Awards 2012

Ever since I was a child, I have been fascinated by India and since visiting a few years ago, my interest has grown further and I cannot wait to go back. My love for India combined with my love of good food means that I am a big curry fan and so the prospect of attending the Welsh Curry House Awards was very exciting to me.

We arrived to a drinks reception and some rather unusual ice cream from Cadwaladers. Starting with a spicy curry flavoured version, we followed it with a cucumber riata flavour. Innovative and not as unpleasant as it sounds.

The evening ceremony followed with the First Minister for Wales, Carwyn Jones AM announcing the name of the Welsh Curry House of the Year 2012 during a delicious taster menu and traditional dancing by India Dance Wales. It was great to have the dancing in between courses and along with the sweet and spicy smells coming from the kitchen area, it made me quite nostalgic, reminiscing my times in India.

The food was excellent. We started off with a series of starters including a Chicken Malai kebab which was cardamom and mace spice flavoured chicken cooked in a clay oven which was my favourite. When chatting to people later, there was talk of some wonderful lamb chops but unfortunately, we didn’t get any on our table and there was so much to share around we didn’t even realise!

Moving onto the mains we had four curries and a selection of nans. My favourite was the ‘Fill The Pot winner 2008’, a winning entry from a competition run by the Spice Route and was a delicious blend of Indian spices with mutton and Welsh potatoes. The mutton was cooked perfectly and I polished off my than my fair share.

For dessert we were presented with a selection of Indian sweets and some ice cream from Cadwaladers. I very much enjoyed the sweets and they were a nice way to finish the meal.

As well as sampling the delicious food, it was of course exciting to see the award of Welsh Curry House of the Year 2012 presented to the wonderful Purple Poppadom. As one of my favourite restaurants in Cardiff, I felt it was very well deserved and was an amazing achievement at such an early stage in their business.

Photo by The Festivals Company

There were five awards all in all and the winners were:

  • Purple Poppadom, 185 Cowbridge Road East, Cardiff. CF11 9AJ (NATIONAL  WINNER)
  • The Suhail, 12 Bastion Road, Prestatyn. LL19 7ES (NORTH WALES WINNER)
  • Bengal Spices, Ashfield House, Llanymynech. SY22 6ER (MID WALES WINNER)
  • Purple Poppadom, 185 Cowbridge Road East, Cardiff. CF11 9AJ (SOUTH WALES WINNER)
  • Bombay Blue, 27a Cardiff Road, Caerphilly. CF15 7SS (BEST DESIGN)

A very enjoyable evening all in all with some excellent food and interesting entertainment. I’ll look forward to the next one in 2013!

Cake for all at Made in Spring!

Following the success of the The Great Roath Bake Off where I was on the judging panel, I was thrilled to be asked back by the wonderful Wayne Courtney to judge the Spring Cake Off as part of the Made in Spring Festival in Roath.

Running from Friday to Tuesday last week, the Made in Spring Festival included music and film events, arts exhibitions and arts and crafts stalls with the Spring Cake Off taking place on the Sunday as part of the Roath Village Fiesta.

The Cake Off took place in the quirky Milkwood Gallery and there were 15 entries in total. Along with fellow judges Sarah and Marie-Clare from the delicious Cakehouse, Christian from the fabulous I loves the Diff, Tim Crowston and Allan Blair Beaton I got to work munching through the cakes.

We judged on taste, presentation and originality. There was a real mix in terms of quality including one bright spark who entered a Marks and Spencers cake! I didn’t come close to the top three which shows that home-baked is by far the best option!

Photo by The Cakehouse

After much deliberation, the top three cakes were revealed.

3rd Place: Gareth’s albino hedgehog cake

2nd place: Daniel’s lemon drizzle cake

1st place: Ann’s Easter Celebration Cake!

After the event everyone was free to tuck into the cakes and give suggestions to who they thought should win.

It was a fab event and I absolutely loved being a judge. Thank you so much Wayne for asking me to be involved again!

Earth Hour- A family affair

If you read my previous post you will be aware that Mr V and I planned to participate in Earth Hour this year and we invited my parents down for the evening to join us in a candlelit dinner to mark the occasion.

Earth Hour is an initiative run by the WWF to encourage people to turn off their lights for just one hour on 31st March between 8.30pm and 9.30pm in order to conserve energy and to make us think about the well-being of the planet. The plan is to bring people together during this one hour and encourage as many people as possible to turn off their lights.

We kicked off the evening with a slight panic at 8.10 when we realised we didn’t have any matches to light the candles! A quick trip to the shop by my dad soon sorted that out and while I rushed to make sure the food was ready in time, Mr V and my Mum prepared the table and the almighty array of candles in honour of the occasion.

We managed to have everything ready my 8.30pm and as the lights went out dinner was served. Eating by candle light was a very nice experience and we kept the lights out long after the hour was up.

I would like to participate in this next year and if you’d like to find out more, you can see the earth hour facebook page.

Here’s a run down of what we had:

Starter- Pea, Mint and Pancetta Soup

Main- Lamb, Date, Pistachio and Almond Tagine with buttery cous cous and salad

Dessert- Cardamom and White Chocolate Mousse

If you’d like any of the recipes we used, please get in touch.

A True Taste of Wales!

Last week I was invited along to a spring showcase of Welsh food at ffresh in Wales Millennium Centre. The evening promised to showcase some of the Centre’s new food suppliers from Wales who are recent winners of a Wales the True Taste Awards.

ffresh are committed to sourcing and serving the best produce from Wales and have become the first restaurant to form a True Taste Partnership with the Welsh Government. Some 80% of the food on ffresh’s new menu is sourced from Wales and nearly a third of those suppliers have won a True Taste Award.

I have reviewed ffresh fairly recently and I have always been impressed with the quality of the food on offer. It is really great to see a restaurant championing the great food and drink available in Wales so I was very pleased to be invited along to this event to meet some of the suppliers and sample of their produce.

After some welcome drinks and speeches we got the opportunity to visit the producers at stands set up around the restaurant. We had time to chat about their products and sample some as well as sampling some of the dishes cooked by the ffresh team using these products.

It was great to meet people so passionate about their food and proud of their products and to sample some of the best that Wales has to offer. Amongst the producers was Green Spoon business Gornos Speciality Foods with their wonderful award winning sausages.

If you haven’t been to ffresh yet, with a new menu coming out, there couldn’t be a better time.

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