5 articles Tag beef

Strada – A Date Night Gem

It’s not often that Husband and I go out for dinner, just the two of us…in fact, I’m struggling to think of a single time it’s happened since Sausage was born, so when Strada asked if the two of us would like to come along for dinner, I got very excited! Our nearest Strada is at Lakeside Shopping Centre in Thurrock and it’s right next to the lake, so it was the perfect setting for a relaxed evening meal.

We were given the choice of where to sit and although it was the hottest day of the year so far, we chose to sit inside – the outside area was already filling up when we arrived a few minutes before 6pm and by the time we left it was absolutely heaving, whilst inside was almost empty, so we definitely chose well. We got situated and were brought our drinks plus a jug of water for the table, which was much appreciated in the heat.

I wasn’t drinking alcohol because a) I was driving and b) I’m on strong antibiotics for the hideous tooth situation so I opted for a San Pellegrino Limonata, which is basically the most refreshing thing on the planet. Husband had a glass of Primitivo, a full-bodied red (which I said smelled like Christmas in a glass!) and although it was on the pricey side, Husband was impressed enough to be looking it up on the internet on the way home to see where he could get a full bottle for me to try when I’m able again.

So, onto the food!

Because Strada is Italian, I wanted to go for things which I felt were quintessentially Italian, so for starter I opted for the bresaola while Husband went for the antipasti, both of which were incredible. The beef carpacchio part of my bresaola was so, so tender and flavourful and the combination of parmesan, rocket and balsamic reduction were to die for. Husband’s antipasti (which I may have sampled…!) was just perfect; little nibbles of different flavour and textures, cured meats combined with the freshest pesto and mozzarella – I almost wish I’d opted for the same.

Strada - Starters

For our mains, we both decided that we were in the mood for seafood after such a meat-based starter so Husband had the sea bass while I had the seafood risotto. I’m going to make a confession here; I’ve never actually tried sea bass before…until now. The fish was served with thyme roasted fennel and herby potatoes and was a perfect choice for a hot evening as it was light and summery but full of flavour. The bass was served ‘canoed’, which meant that it’s gutted but left on the head, so there were still a lot of bones in it, which made it a little bit of a faff to eat, but Husband didn’t mind; it’s just worth bearing in mind if you aren’t a fan of bones.

Strada - Mains

Seafood risotto is one of my favourite dishes and it’s not something I’ve ever been brave enough to cook myself so it’s always a treat when I have it in a restaurant, but it does mean I’m quite fussy about it. Strada’s seafood risotto was really top notch. The risotto itself was creamy and absolutely packed with tiger prawns, mussels and squid and had the slightest kick from a hint of chilli, a very welcome element to cut through the creaminess a little. The seafood was all very well cooked (I’m often a bit wary of squid as it can be rubbery, but this wasn’t rubbery in the slightest) and the fresh parmesan which was grated over the top at the table added a lovely edge to the overall flavour.

Strada - Dessert

Dessert was an absolute delight. I opted for the tiramisu because I’m a bit of a fan of anything coffee flavoured while Husband opted for the golden polenta cake. My tiramisu was exactly as you’d expect it to be; sweet and soft with a strong coffee flavour, the perfect end to the meal for me. Husband’s polenta cake was probably the exact opposite of my dessert in many ways; grainy and textured rather than soft and creamy, zesty and spiced opposite my rich and velvety, however we both agreed that it was one of the nicest desserts we’ve ever tasted, and promptly came home to find a recipe so that we can try making it at home!

In terms of the bill, by my calculations it would have come to £67.60, which included three courses each, Husband’s large glass of wine, my two soft drinks and a bowl of marinated olives for the table, which I really don’t think is too bad at all. There is also a “Classics” menu which offers 2 courses for £10.95 or three courses for £13.95 every single day between 12pm and 7pm, which means that you could effectively have a three course meal for two for under £30.

The thing I liked about Strada is that their menu isn’t ridiculously massive, but each dish they do, they seem to do VERY well. I also like the fact that they have dishes which are very traditionally Italian, but they also do dishes like burgers and plainer pizzas, so dining with a fussy eater needn’t be a worry. The one and only area where I would mark them down SLIGHTLY was the cost of drinks – Husband’s glass of wine was £8.15, which is a little steep in my opinion, but we often find the alcohol to be higher priced in chain restaurants, so I guess it’s to be expected. Other than this minor thing, we had a really lovely evening; the staff were incredibly polite and friendly, stopping by to offer their suggestions while we were perusing the menu, the setting was really pleasant and the food was enough to make Husband say “we’re definitely coming back here again!”.

Thanks to Strada for having us – we’ll be back soon!

Slow Cooker Sesame Beef and Brocolli

Okay, so you may have noticed that my 7-day slow cooker challenge didn’t exactly go to plan, in that I only managed to last for four days and my last three planned meals never quite made it onto my site. I think this happened for a couple of reasons – slow cooking, for me, is something I do to make my life more convenient, and forcing myself to use my slow cooker to a schedule just didn’t work. Also, one of the meals I planned was lasagne, and I’m not going to lie, I was really apprehensive about it. We LOVE lasagne in this house, but I always bake it the normal way, and attempting to slow cook it seemed a bit like fixing something which isn’t broken.

Anyway, I had a little slow cooker break after failing but I’m back to using it again today and it’s a super simple, super tasty beef and broccoli recipe that I’m making today:slow cooker beef and broccoli

Slow Cooker Sesame Beef and Brocolli

Slow Cooker Sesame Beef and Broccoli
 
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A slow cooked beef recipe with a simple Asian-inspired sauce.
Author:
Recipe type: Slow Cooker
Cuisine: Asian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 240ml/1 cup beef stock
  • 120ml/ ½ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup erythritol (substitute with brown sugar if you don't need a low sugar recipe)
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 900g/2lb stewing beef
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • 4 Tbsp corn starch
  • 4 Tbsp water
  • Sesame seeds
Instructions
  1. Place the stock, soy sauce, erytritol/brown sugar, chopped garlic and sesame oil into the slow cooker pot and mix well
  2. Add the beef into the pot and mix well to coat
  3. Cook on LOW for 4 hours
  4. After 4 hours, mix the corn starch and water together and add to the pot, stirring well to thicken
  5. Add the chopped broccoli and stir
  6. Cook for a further 30 minutes on HIGH, or until broccoli is soft
  7. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with rice or noodles, or a side of your choice.

This was such a simple recipe but has turned out to be a real crowd-pleaser with the family. It’s exactly the kind of ‘chuck it all in’ recipe which makes me love slow cooking, and offered so much flavour for such an easy-to-make dish. The sauce was salty and savoury, and thickened to almost a gravy consistency once the cornstarch was added, and cooking the broccoli in the sauce added an amazing layer of flavour. The best part of this meal is that, when you factor in a portion of rice, it came in at just 453 calories per portion, which is amazingly low!

Beef is probably my favourite meat for slow cooking as you can buy the really cheap cuts but end up with a tender, flavourful dish which is low calorie, high protein and doesn’t cost the earth – basically the Holy Grail of cooking for a family! Let me know if you make this yourself, I’d love to know if you were as pleased with the results as we were.

Slow Cooker Challenge – Pulled Beef Chilli

Pulled Beef ChilliChilli is one of those dishes which is a bit of an issue in our house. My mother-in-law is from one of the Southern states in America and therefore makes literally the best chilli I’ve ever tasted. She’s shared her recipe with me, but it NEVER tastes as good as when she makes it, so I rarely bother any more as mine is just a pale imitation! However, I’ve been desperate for some sort of chilli dish, which is where this version came from. “Pulled” dishes are a huge hit here, with pulled pork being one of our faves, and it seems to make meat go really far, so a pulled beef chilli seemed like a perfect thing for my experiments this week. Here’s how I made it:

Pulled Beef Chilli

Slow Cooker Challenge - Pulled Beef Chilli
 
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A smoky chilli made with brisket, which is slow cooked before being pulled.
Author:
Recipe type: Slow Cooker
Cuisine: TexMex
Serves: 12 portions
Ingredients
  • 1.4kg beef brisket (about 3lb)
  • 2 400g cans of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 400g carton of passata
  • 4-5 slices of pickled jalapenos, chopped
  • 2tbsp chipotle chilli paste
  • 2 chopped onions
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 500ml beef stock (about a pint)
  • 1 400g can of kidney beans (drained)
  • 2 Tbsp chilli powder
  • 8 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp coriander (powdered)
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • Splash of olive oil
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and brown the brisket on all sides.
  2. Place the brisket into the slow cooker
  3. Cook the pepper, onion and garlic in the same pan until the onions just start to brown
  4. One everything is cooked, throw the chipotle paste and chopped jalapenos into the pan and stir through
  5. Put the contents of the pan into the slow cooker, followed by the kidney beans, chopped tomatoes and passata. Stir to combine everything and coat the brisket.
  6. Add the spices and the stock
  7. Stir again and cook on low for 6-8 hours
  8. Remove the cooked brisket from the slow cooker and shred with two forks
  9. Place the shredded meat back into the sauce and stir well to combine
  10. Serve with warm tortillas, guacamole and sour cream

I must admit, along with the dish I have planned for the final meal of this challenge, this was the meal I was MOST looking forward to trying and I’m not gonna lie…I think this was probably the BEST thing I’ve ever cooked in my slow cooker! The meat was melt-in-the-mouth tender and the combination of the sweet tomato and the smoky, spicy chipotle and jalapeños was TO DIE FOR. The flavour was so intense and the amount of spice was still  the right side of pleasurable. I was conscious of making it a dish that the girls could still tolerate and while they’re by NO means a pair of chilli wusses, Husband and I could have stood to have it a smidge spicier, but as it stood, it was still delicious with a bit of a kick.

I must warn you, when paired with tortillas, guacamole and sour cream this is definitely not an elegant dish; only eat this with people you love, who don’t mind seeing you with sauce running down your chin! However, the mess was well worth is and the whole family declared it a success!

Have you made anything in the slow cooker this week? If so, don’t forget to blog about it and link up below!

LINKY REMOVED

7 Day Slow Cooker Challenge – Beef and Guiness Stew

Beef and Guiness StewToday is the first day of my slow cooker challenge, and it was one of those awkward days where I had to be at an appointment in the mid afternoon. This meant that I needed to choose a dish for the day which could be put on around lunchtime and left for at least 6 hours, so I opted for the Beef and Guinness stew. It’s rubbish weather here (we’ve actually had the heating on today!) so coming home to something warm and tasty, bubbling away, was incredibly welcome.

If I’m honest, I don’t know the difference between a casserole and a stew, so this could be either, but I opted for a recipe without veg so that we could choose what to have with it – I’ve served it with red cabbage and mash, but you could choose anything you fancy (or have in the freezer).

Here’s the recipe:

Beef and Guiness Stew
 
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A tender, slow-cooked beef stew with Guiness and bacon.
Author:
Recipe type: Slow Cooker
Cuisine: Irish
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 900g diced beef
  • 150g streaky bacon
  • 1 onion
  • 3 tbs plain flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • Bouquet Garni
  • 500ml beef stock
  • 1 bottle of Guiness (or other stout)
  • Olive oil for cooking
Instructions
  1. Finely chop the onions and fry in a little oil until translucent
  2. Slice the bacon and add to the onions. Fry for 2-3 minutes
  3. Place the onions and bacon the the slow cooker
  4. In a bowl, season the flour with salt and pepper
  5. Toss the diced beef in the seasoned flour
  6. Fry the beef in a little oil in the same pan that you cooked the bacon and onions in until browned
  7. Once browned, add the beef to the slow cookers
  8. Add the stock, Guiness and bouquet garni to the slow cooker
  9. Cook on low for 6-8 hours
  10. Serve with potatoes and veg of your choice

Often I shy away from dishes which require any sort of prep or pre-cooking because I feel like slow cooking should basically just be “chuck it all in”, but I can honestly say that the extra effort was well worth it here. The beef was super tender because it had cooked for so long, but the flavour was incredible because of the initial browning in seasoned flour and the salty morsels of bacon added bursts of savoury flavour to the dish. The stock, herbs, ale and juices from the meat and onions combined to make the most delicious gravy…I had to resist the urge to dip bread in the remaining sauce in the pot!

I also think this dish would freeze really well, so I’d be tempted to make a double portion and freeze half next time I made it. All in all, I’m really pleased with today’s recipe and I’m really glad I kicked off with this as it was just perfect for today!

Don’t forget to blog about what’s in your slow cooker and link up with the linky below.

LINKY REMOVED

Slow Cooker Mongolian Beef

The beauty of slow cooking is that it’s often cheaper cuts of meat which respond really well to “low and slow”, which means that we can enjoy healthy, protein-rich meals without having to spend a fortune. I’m still using the slow cooker, on average, about 2-3 times a week so as well as saving on the actual meals, the cost of cooking is lower too as it’s much cheaper to run a slow cooker, even for 8 hours, than a conventional cooker.

Today’s experiment is Mongolian Beef; I’ve seen a few different recipes for this around the internet and they all call for brown sugar (a whole cup of it, no less…), which is something that Husband and I are trying to avoid at the moment, so as with the Pulled Pork, I replaced the sugar with erythritol to get the sweetness without adding sugar, although you can also use a little agave nectar. Find the best ones at Monica’s Health Mag.

Slow Cooker Mongolian Beef

Here’s how I made it:

Slow Cooker Mongolian Beef
 
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A slow cooked beef dish with ginger, garlic and carrots.
Author:
Recipe type: Slow Cooker
Cuisine: Asian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 800g diced beef
  • 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil
  • ¾ cup soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 cup erythritol
  • ¼ cup corn flour
  • 2 grated carrots
  • 3 spring onions, chopped
Instructions
  1. Place the beef into a ziplock bag with the corn flour and shake to completely coat the meat
  2. Place the meat in the slow cooker with the oil, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, chilli flakes, water and sweetener
  3. Cook on low for 6 hours
  4. Add the grated carrots half an hour before serving
  5. Serve with egg noodles or a side of your choice and garnish with the chopped spring onions

This is exactly my kind of slow cooker recipe – aside from a minimal amount of prep, it really is a kind of “chuck it all in and wait” dish, which makes it perfect for busy days. It’s really cold here today so getting through the door after a chilly school run and smelling our beef cooking away was truly dreamy!

I’ve never tried it with the brown sugar instead of the sweetener, so I can’t compare, but I have to say it was absolutely delicious, even without the sugar and I certainly wouldn’t ever bother making it the original way. The meat was incredibly tender after being cooked for so long and the depth of flavour was really impressive for such a simple recipe. The girls and Husband really loved it and overall, it was pretty cheap to make, if you’ve got a few basics in the store cupboard. This will definitely be one that we add to our regular dinners.

Have you tried Mongolian Beef? Let me know what you think!