3 articles Tag Italian

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 Lamb Shank (Agnello Brasato)

About three years ago, before BB was even a person, Husband, Sausage and I went to Strada for dinner after a shopping trip. Strada is a chain of restaurants which serves modern Italian cuisine and on this particular trip, I had something called Agnello Brasato, which was basically a lamb shank which had been slow cooked in a tomato and red wine sauce and served with creamy mash and broccoli. For ages, I’ve been craving the meal again, so I decided to try to recreate it myself, with lovely results (although, as usual, my food presentation and photography leaves a lot to be desired!).

Slow Cooker Lamb Shank in Red Wine and Tomato Sauce (Agnello Brasato)

Here’s how I made Slow Cooker Lamb Shank in Red Wine and Tomato Sauce (Agnello Brasato):

Slow Cooker Lamb Shank in Red Wine and Tomato Sauce (Agnello Brasato)
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Slow cooked lamb shank, stewed slowly in tomatoes, red wine and herbs.
Author:
Recipe type: Slow Cooker
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 4 lamb shanks
  • 4 (400g) tins chopped tomatoes
  • 2 glass red wine
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4 medium onions, chopped
  • A pinch salt and pepper, for seasoning
  • pinch dried thyme
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • About 1 or 2 tablespoons olive oil, for frying
  • 2 tablespoon tomato puree
  • 150ml chicken stock
Instructions
  1. Brown each of your lamb shanks before placing in your slow cooker (this step is optional)
  2. In a pan, add the onions and garlic and fry until translucent
  3. Add the red wine, rosemary, thyme and stock and bring to the boil
  4. Add the salt and pepper and allow to simmer for 2 minutes and then pour over the lamb shanks in the slow cooker
  5. Cook on low for 6 hours or until lamb is falling off of the bone
  6. Serve with mashed potatoes and greens of your choice (we went for broccoli, but asparagus would also work well) and a few spoonfuls of the tomato stew

 

I can honestly say that this was just as nice (if not nicer!) than the one that I had a Strada all those years ago and definitely satisfied my cravings. The lamb came out so incredibly tender and the sauce was wonderfully rich and flavoursome. There was a load of sauce left in the pot after cooking and I froze it to use at a later date as a ragu to have with pasta. Let me know if you give this a go, I’d love to hear how yours turns out.

Zizzi Ristorante Review #ZizziBambini

zizzi-roundelLast week we were invited along to our local Zizzi, a restaurant which serves a selection of traditional and contemporary Italian food and we decided to take my mother-in-law along too, so that we could see what 3 generations of Crammond thought of the food. We actually chose to visit the branch at Bluewater Shopping Centre, which is slightly farther afield for us, but we love Bluewater and combined it with a trip to the Lego shop so that Sausage could spend all of our money her birthday money.

The restaurant is located in The Village, a section of the mall filled with eateries which backs onto the lake, giving a gorgeous view whilst dining and we were seated right by the huge patio doors. The decor of the place was fresh and eclectic and I spent an inordinate amount of time lusting after their furnishings and fixtures. As soon as we were seated we were given our menus and had our drinks order taken, and we were given plenty of time to decide what we were eating (which was probably longer than usual as we’re 3 indecisive adults – Sausage put us to shame by knowing what she wanted right away!).

Zizzi Decor

For starters, Husband and I shared a plate of antipasti, which consisted of garlic breadsticks, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella, olives and a selection of meats, all of which tasted fresh and delicious – so much so that we went to the supermarket the next day and attempted to recreate the dish ourselves. My mother-in-law went for the garlic bread, which was a huge flat-bread style dish and tasted wonderful. The kids meal offered a selection of crudités and breadsticks which Sausage enjoyed in between colouring in her menu with the crayons she was supplied with.

For our mains, I went for the Cicchetti platter, a dish which can be eaten as a sharing plate for a starter or for one as a main and consisted of risotto balls (which literally melted in the mouth and were packed full of tender rice and melted cheese), chicken and pepper skewers, oven baked king prawn skewers, mini calzone with spicy n’duja sausage and a tomato and bufala mozzarella salad with a chunky peperonata dip. I’m a lady with a big appetite, but even I had to admit defeat as there was just SO much food on the plate.

Husband had the seafood risotto, which he felt was a little hit and miss – the risotto was cooked perfectly with just the right amount of bite, the seafood tasted fresh and even reinvigorated his enjoyment of squid (something he’s had bad experiences with in the past due to it being overcooked) but the flavour was a little overwhelmed by the amount of heat. He’s by no means a chilli-wuss, and can eat far hotter food than I, but he felt that the delicateness of the seafood was drowned out by the over-spicing of the dish. However, he did enjoy it and was complimentary overall.

Mother in Law went for the Pollo Prosciutto, or chicken and ham to you and I, and really enjoyed it. The chicken and prosciutto were perfectly cooked (chicken breast has the tendency to be slightly dry but this was juicy and tender) and the potatoes and green beans were a perfect accompaniment along with the white wine sauce.

Sausage’s main was obviously the show-stopper of the day, as she was able to actually construct her own pizza from the Zizzi Bambini menu. Presented with a cooked cheese and tomato pizza, she was able to use ham, tomatoes and olives to make the pizza to her  own specifications, and I have to say, it was both beautiful and delicious!

Zizzi Food

By this point, Husband was well and truly beaten, but us girls ploughed on with dessert, with Sausage going for the Zizzi Bambini Cones, a super-cute dish consisting of two scoops of ice cream, topped with mini cones and chocolate sprinkles. MIL had a simple bowl of vanilla ice-cream, and despite being beaten by my mains, I was a naughty girl and had a chocolate and banana calzone, an interesting invention which is new and exclusive to Zizzi and consisted of sweet dough wrapped around sweetly caramelised bananas and melted chocolate. I’m not sure I have enough superlatives in my vocabulary to explain you you just how delicious it was, but be assured, I was very impressed.

All in all, we were blown away by the quality of both food and service at Zizzi. The staff were very accommodating of us with our buggy, gave us just the right amount of attention, serving us quickly and chatting politely without making us feel like we were being hovered over or rushed and the food really exceeded our expectations. We’ll definitely be returning to Zizzi in the future as it’s the perfect place to take a family for a special lunch or dinner and we felt totally relaxed in our surroundings.

Thanks so much to Zizzi for hosting us…we’ll be back!