The Otter, Kegworth, December 2016

The Otter in Kegworth is now my team’s traditional team Xmas dinner venue. Every year I take my team out for Xmas lunch, a small token of appreciation for another year of hard work. I think it’s now 5 out of 7 years that we’ve been here. We tried a couple of other places, and they were nowhere near as good. If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it, as The Fresh Prince wisely advised us.

The Otter in Kegworth is always warm and inviting, perfect for cold December days. Although, just like last year, this was not one of those. It was about 12C outside, which is welcome but still feels wrong. The canal-side location is great in summer but also looks nice on a sunny day like this.

It’s still a Vintage Inn and not much has changed in the last 12 months. They still have an excellent online booking system which makes sorting out your reservation a doddle.

So let’s get on to today’s lunch. Pretty much the usual selection of ales. I did want the Purity IPA but it was off so it was Sharp’s Atlantic again, a good pale ale that is much better coming from a pump than a bottle.

A good selection of starters to choose from as usual, between us we had spiced roast carrot soup, pork & fig terrine, prawn & lobster cocktail and my choice was oven-baked button and portobello mushrooms in a garlic & mature cheddar sauce with a parsley & chestnut crust. It was very tasty.

If you think it looks familiar, that’s because it does. This was last year’s:-

Next up, the main course. Five things to choose from this year, but no-one went for the nut roast (lazy vegetarian cop out) or the sea bass (which looked tempting). We had the traditional turkey, with some of the trimmings, a sirloin steak , and a couple of slow-cooked short ribs of beef, with mash and a spiced vegetable fritter.

The beef was lovely and tender, falling off the bone and crisp and caramelised on the outside. Delicious. The spiced vegetable fritter was a good addition, although a little sneaky as it contained a slice of sprout. It was hidden by the spices but you could tell that evil was lurking.

Once again, if you think it looks familiar, that’s because I had pretty much the same thing last year. It was really tasty, which is why I had it again.

So finally, to dessert. Christmas pudding was of course available, as was a spiced plum and rhubarb crumble pie/tart. It has to be chocolate for me, chocolate orange torte with chocolate sauce, cream and strawberry. Full of chocolate and orange goodness, a dense texture although slightly crunchy/crispy.

Are you ready for last year’s? Yes, chocolate torte it was. Sometimes different is good, sometimes the same is what you want.

We all had a great time as usual and enjoyed the food. A great pub for your festive dining, and a great pub all year round!

Beef casserole with savoury scones

It’s another recipe post. I love a casserole. It’s something that has a bit of a bad reputation to shake off, as it’s a dish that is often associated with cheaper cuts of meat. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If they are treated properly, they are often the tastiest. Look at the rise of pulled pork, and to a lesser extent, beef brisket. The shoulder of pork and the breast of beef are cheaper cuts, but when subjected to long and slow cooking, they turn into some of the nicest. If you rush them, they can be tough as old boots.

There are loads of recipes for beef casserole out there so do we really need another one? Well, why not? This is my version. What you serve it with can vary a lot too. We like  savoury scones, so they are included here too. Casserole first. This should serve 4 people, I usually make 6 or more portions and freeze them. It heats up in minutes to give a quick and easy meal at a later date. You can substitute your favourite veg in here, squashes, swedes, or whatever else.

500g beef – stewing beef, casserole beef, brisket, shin, featherblade, whatever your choice of cheaper cut
4 carrots, chopped into thumb sized chunks
4 parsnips, chopped into thumb sized chunks
Small (around 200g) jar of cocktail onions, drained and rinsed under cold water
1 tablespoon of olive oil (or any cooking oil)
2 tablespoons of tomato puree
2 tablespoons of plain flour
500ml of liquid – water, beer, wine, or any combination of these
Your choice of seasoning

Method

Heat the oil in a pan and fry the beef over a high heat until it starts to brown. If you add all of the beef to the pan, then it will probably release a bit of water. If you don’t like this then you can fry it in batches, but I just don’t have time for that. Once the beef is brown enough for your liking, add the carrots and parsnips and fry them until they have taken on a little colour. Something like:-

Now add the onions and cook for a minute or two. Add the flour and cook for a few minutes until it has coated everything. Now add your liquid. A quick note on this.

I recall a Delia recipe from the 1980s called “beef in designer beer”. It was a take on boeuf en flammande, the classic Belgian beef stew. Her advice in the recipe was:-

"Not sure which one to use? Do what I do and go for the prettiest label!"

Don’t do that. You need to choose something that’s going to work with the beef. A really hoppy IPA, pale ale or a light lager are just not going to do the job. You need a darker ale, a malty bitter or stout or porter. If the end result tastes too “beery” you won’t win any friends. If you’re worried about the beer flavour being too strong, just add a little bit and make up the difference with water. Water on its own is just fine too, a lot of flavour comes from the beef as it slowly cooks.

Now your liquid is in, stir everything around and then add the tomato puree, stir a bit more, stick a lid on it and put it on the hob on a low heat or in the oven at around 160 degrees C for at least 2 hours, preferably 3.

Now let’s get on to the savoury scones. This should make around 6 scones.

230g self-raising flour
60g butter, cut into cubes
half a teaspoon of salt
150ml milk, and a little extra to brush over the tops
1 teaspoon of grain mustard
1 teaspoon of your choice of dried herbs

Method

Put the flour, butter and salt into a food processor, and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Then slowly add the milk and continue to pulse until combined. Now add the mustard and herbs and give it a final pulse to mix in.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface, to around 3cm thick. Cut into rounds using a pastry cutter (6-8cm in diameter). Place on a lightly oiled baking tray, brush the tops with the remaining milk and then bake for 15-20 minutes in the oven at 200 degrees C.

When you’ve finished, the casserole should look a little something like this:-

You’ll spot some peas there, I tend to cook these separately and then add them in at the last minute. If you mix them into the casserole they tend to go grey and don’t look very appetising on reheating.

If you prefer something a little spicier, stirring a spoonful of chilli jam into your bowl brings a gentle warmth to proceedings.

The scones will look a little something like this:-

A tasty casserole dish, easy to make and very rewarding for little effort.

The Needle & Pin, Loughborough, April 2016 #2

I wrote about The Needle & Pin a couple of weeks ago, so go and visit that post to learn more about Loughborough’s newest pub, and its history. I predicted more visits and more reviews. I was right.

First up today, The Needle & Pin Brew #3 by Pheasantry Brewery. Yes, that’s right The Needle & Pin have commissioned their own beers to be served in the pub. Brew #3 is a golden dry hopped version of Pheasantry Brewery’s Dancing Dragonfly, and is hoppy, dark golden ale, very drinkable for 5% – good stuff.

A quick snack is required, a tasty beef brisket roll from The Hog Stop across the road:-

And another drink, a Cavendish Bridge by Shardlow Brewing Company, this was a fairly standard bitter with slight hints of biscuit:-

The Needle & Pin is definitely my new favourite pub 🙂

The Hog Stop, April 2016 #2

Another quick Hog Stop post. Just a couple of weeks on from the last one, and it’s time for another sandwich. Last time I was espousing about their porky goodness, and I mentioned that they also do beef brisket.

As you’ve probably worked out by now, I love pulled pork. What probably hasn’t come across yet, is that I also love beef brisket. It is my regular Sunday roast joint, usually braised in red wine for several hours. Always tasty and tender, particularly from Ben & Tori, two of our great local farmers who are at the Loughborough Farmers’ Market each month.

So, as The Hog Stop also have some brisket on the go, I had to have it:-

Tender and delicious, with nice peppery rocket and a red cabbage and horseradish slaw. I would like more horseradish in it, but that’s because I love lots of warmth with my beef, with English mustard as the preffered accompaniment. I also have mustard with my roast chicken, which is my dad’s fault, as he didn’t eat chicken or turkey at Christmas, so there was always beef as well, which meant that mustard was on the table. Yes please!

Anyway, enough digressing, this was a very nice sandwich, and proof that the Hog Stop aren’t just about great pork, but great beef too.

Lucy’s on a Plate, December 2015

It’s only been 368 days since our last visit, quite a bit has happened in that time (#understatement). Quite a lot more than has been written about in around 200 blog posts. But one thing is for sure, when we come back to Ambleside for a New Year trip, it will always start with dinner at Lucy’s on a Plate, one of our favourites, and one of the very best restaurants in this fine county (which is very much still open for business despite the terrible floods earlier this month).

First up, a little refreshment. Mrs MOFAD usually likes to have a Kir Royale, whilst I’ll go for a bottle of local ale. A new one for me this year, Coniston Blacksmiths Ale, a bottle of malty goodness with slight festive notes.

The menu is always on the move, so you can be pretty certain that there will be something new on the menu for you to try, alongside some of the old favourites.

Tonight, it was all about the new for me. Deep fried crispy chilli beef (like you’ve probably had from your local Chinese restaurant, but more refined), on a bed of noodles with pea shoots. This was delicious, lovely beef and a touch of chilli to complement it.

And now on to the main event. And what a surprising event. As acknowledged on the menu, Lucy has always been against putting a burger on the menu. But many years on, and she has relented, and it is easy to see why. This was a very tasty burger indeed, but there are a few points to note.

The most important of these (and you’ll know what’s coming if you’ve seen the photo), is the use of a roof tile to serve dinner on. Please don’t succumb to this hipster nonsense. We love you, but we want plates!

Luckily (as you’ll see below) Mrs MOFAD had a plate, on which her 2 bowls of dinner were rather precariously perched, so we did a bit of swapping in order to subvert this hipster trend. So I got my plate, which made it much easier to interact with my dinner.

The portion was enormous. The bucket of chips was massive (another issue with using buckets as a measure for chips), the onion rings were juicy and crispy, and the relish was a good accompaniment to the burger (a bit more would have been perfect). Not one for health freaks, not a leaf of salad in sight 🙂

Mrs MOFAD had a Lucy’s classic which is always on the menu, the bobbing bobotie (pronounced bohbooty) an Indonesian dish which is now associated with South Africa, thanks to the Dutch colonists who took it there. A kind of a cross between lasagne and tagine, and very nice indeed.

And finally to pudding. You can’t come to Lucy’s without having a pudding, and the Eton mess is something we’ve had before, nearly falling asleep into it a few years ago (10th June 2008 to be precise, after conquering the Fairfield horseshoe – hurrah for keeping a diary of Wainwrights climbed). Delicious stuff, really sharp fruits and perfect for cooling down by the fire. Mrs MOFAD opted for the same apple crumble/tart mash up that we had last year.

Another lovely dinner at Lucy’s, a quick chat with Lucy herself (who came over to turn the fire down as we were melting next to it) and of course MOFAD approval once again. Because they didn’t exist on out last visit, a MOFAD card was left. See you next year 🙂

The White Rabbit, Lyndhurst

The chain pub. You generally know what you’re getting. If it’s only been re-opened for 32 hours after refurbishment work, you’d be forgiven for being a bit less certain. Current TripAdvisor reviews are rather a mixed bag, so what’s it like after a bit of a refit?

Fairly standard chain pub stuff, but with everything not being quite ready. Pumps lacking beer, bottled beers advertised that are not yet available. Sunday roasts that don’t yet have their own menu, so you have to guess. 

A chain Sunday roast is a bit of a gamble. It will usually be quick, but quality is not always utmost. This one was quick and very average. Topside of beef was available (poultry roasts had already run out somehow), but no mustard or horseradish was offered. Luckily, when it was requested, some excellent English mustard arrived, the highlight of the meal as it brought out the limited flavours of the beef. Average roast spuds, a solitary piece of parsnip, a few bits of carrot, four or five broccoli florets and some non-descript “greens”. And a Yorkshire pudding of sorts. Mine are far superior, and I’m from a long way outside of Yorkshire. 

  
This was accompanied by a pint of Ringwood Best, overly cooled as much C&B ale appears to be. 

  
On this showing, the White Rabbit is not approved, perhaps when they’ve been open for a bit longer…