Mint & Mustard opens in Chepstow

 

Last night I went to a wake and a christening. All at the same time and at the same place.

Sadly, after many years, the Mughal Spice Indian restaurant in Chepstow is no more. The wholesome food and bonhomie of the brothers is a thing of the past. However, in its place is born an additional iteration to the very successful Mint & Mustard. The south-west based Indian food explosion has finally cracked the holy grail of the “Indian”, to offer distinctive, regional, genuine menu’s with a dash of great service and in cool surroundings. Although the new Chepstow outlet is pretty much just a lick of paint and a refresh for the old Mughal upstairs rooms at the moment, they have great ideas for the downstairs lounge. Anyone who has been to their other restaurants, particularly Penarth, will know that the decor style of this quickly expanding group is definitely upmarket and trendy with nods to all of the interior design trends and tricks of the new wave of uber-cool bars and restaurants.

Classy decoration in the upstairs dining room
Classy decoration in the upstairs dining room

As most now know, many of our beloved “Indians” have in the past been run by Bangladeshi folk. Nothing wrong in that, but since the days of the Raj, Asian food has been adapted and adopted by the British palate as only we seem to do with any world cuisine. Partly because of this restaurant menus became the anonymous high streets of the restaurant business. Homologous lists of dishes you could get from anywhere – with often differing resemblances to the stated contents.

Mint & Mustard is changing that. The reason for their success so far is simple? Of course the great levels of service are important but it’s the food. Genuine south Indian, predominantly Keralan, dishes all served up with lashings of style and presentation. Finally! An Indian restaurant that gets it all right.

Evoke Pictures Bristol Food Photographers

Kerala, known as the “Land of Spices” because of its history as a spice trading centre to the world, sits on the Arabian Sea on the tropical Malabar Coast. No wonder then that fish is one of the staple elements of the Keralan diet. But it’s also famous for its meat and vegan dishes (Hindus in the Brahmin community are vegan). Coconuts abound in Kerala and, in all its forms, it’s a significant feature of the local cuisine.

Evoke Pictures Bristol Food Photographers

Our starters of Scallop Thengapal served in their shells with an unctuous soft lemon and coconut milk sauce and the theatrical Keralan tiger prawns, deep fried in chilli and turmeric paste – delightful. A selection of mains followed which included expertly spiced chicken Kori Gassi, King Prawn Peera, chicken Dhaba Murgh with chilli, garlic and ginger and a Master Chef Mixed Grill Platter with an assortment of meat and fish tikka dishes. Accompanying sides of dals – Olan (butternut squash and cow peas) and of course Tarka dal.

Evoke Pictures Bristol Food Photographers

Tarka dal is such a domestic staple of Asian cuisine from Nepal to the southern tip of the continent that it’s a litmus for the quality of any Asian restaurant. If a restaurant can’t get this right, the thing they have been cooking at home and eating for years, then it doesn’t bode well. If the tarka dal is good, you can have confidence that everything is going to be just fine.   M&M’s tarka dal is great. Just the right amount of sauce, spice and texture in the lentils – a real treat.

Add to that a full house and lots of early evening atmos – and that’ll be another winner for Mint & Mustard!

 

Turkey

 

Well it’s that time of year again and all thoughts are slowly turning toward the festivities (and a much needed break for some). It’s time to plan your parties and your menus and over indulge, just for a while, until you throw yourself headlong into your New Year resolutions for half a day or so. That’s right, let’s face it those few extra pounds from the Christmas feast are never going to go away!

Some of our favourite suppliers have great offers for the holiday period. Particularly at this time of year when we treat ourselves and spoil ourselves a little there’s no better time to BUY LOCAL and BUY QUALITY. Even those of us on a tight budget are thinking of a blow out so why not spend some (or all of that) money locally. It’ll help the local economy, it’ll help our great local producers and most of all the products and service is GREAT.

Let’s start with that great “British” tradition of turkey. There are lots of great alternatives but this is the time of year when we all go mad for the big bird! Home for Christmas is not something that is guaranteed. But when I’m home there is nothing I like more than my own traditional ritual. I’m a sucker for a turkey lunch at Christmas. I love preparing it, cooking it, and eating it….for days. I love the cold cuts for Boxing Day brunch, love the thinly sliced breast meat for turkey sandwiches, love the turkey curry and the finale Christmas lunch soup!!

The prelude is calling in at Taurus Crafts Christmas Market (first two weekends in December) to choose a tree, which always gets me in the mood. Although there is always lots of lovely food and drink to enjoy, it’s normally choosing the tree and the singers Taurus find that really kick-starts those Christmassy feelings.

The actual ritual starts mid-morning on Christmas Eve with a visit to Brian Baker at Close Turf Farm (on the back road from St Briavels to Lydney 01594 530277 to order).  Here I pick up the big bird ready for the following day. Brian raises his turkeys at the farm from hatchlings until they are ready for market and like all of the produce from Close Turf – absolutely top quality.

I love the feeling of pulling into the farmyard and chatting to the whole Baker family who by Christmas Eve have already been working like mad! But they are still cheerful and ready for that one last push. All their birds are plump and have that desperately fresh aroma.  Fresh and complete with their pluck, the big bird comes home to begin preparations.

Turkey chicks on the farm
Turkey chicks on the farm

Nothing fancy on the big day either, just traditionally and liberally covered with butter and good streaky bacon, with two halves of orange and some bay leaves inside and sitting on a bed of stock vegetables. Traditional veg too of course, roasted potatoes, carrots and parsnip and of course the famous Brussel sprout. I love them and cook them the way Yvette Farrell at Harts Barn Cookery School suggests (leave out the lardons if you need to). Then it’s in the oven during Bucks Fizz at the stables Christmas morning get together before home for lunch!!

Our family table is often a mix of poultry lovers, poultry hater’s and vegetarians. Which sounds complicated – but it’s not. All the veg is prepped and cooked to suit everyone (with the exception of 2-way Brussel sprouts) and the main components are cooked individually and to order. Simples!

 

 

Beurre blanc recipe

 

Ross on Wye really is a lovely town to wander around isn’t it? Historic buildings, the River Wye and river life as well as a very traditional and thriving High Street. What better then after a nice Herefordshire market town stroll, than a nice spot of lunch!

Wilton Court Hotel, Ross on Wye.
Wilton House Hotel, Ross on Wye.

We choose the Wilton Court Hotel overlooking the Wye, where Helen & Richard run a very popular and extremely nice traditional hotel and restaurant. Starters looked great very appetising. A Gin cured salmon Gravlax on pickled beetroot and an Italian meat plate (see The DeanWye reminds me of Tuscany). We really enjoyed the simple classic dish from the lunch time menu of fried Sea bass on greens with boiled potatoes and a beurre blanc sauce. These classic dishes, with fresh ingredients and simplicity at their heart, to let the subtle flavours of each element come through, always work so well if, as we always say, they are done properly!

Wilton Court Hotel, Ross on Wye.
Wilton Court Hotel, Ross on Wye.

Buerre Blanc works perfectly with white fish, scallops, other shellfish and vegetable dishes

Finely chop 2 shallots, combine with 150ml white wine and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice in a hot pan and reduce until it’s down to a couple of tablespoons in volume. Add a tablespoon of cream and when it bubbles reduce the heat to low. Cube 250g of butter and add a couple of cubes whilst on the heat and whisk. Turn the heat off and whisk in the rest a cube at a time. Season to taste and serve.

Jamie, the Essex boy, came up with a great method to save your whisking arm. Warm a thermos flask with hot water, empty the water and throw in the shallot reduction (sieve if you want – we don’t) into the hot flask, throw in the butter and put the top on. Shake to emulsify and season. You can keep the sauce warm in the flask while you get on with the other elements of the dish and little shake just before serving. We are thinking picnic BBQ fish now……

 

Hillside Brewery goes from ABV to ABV

 

We were lucky enough to be invited to the launch of several new Hillside Brewery products last night! And what a very nice evening it was. Paul Williamson introduced three new products from his ever popular and ever growing brewery on the hill at Longhope, Gloucestershire.

Proof that Paul has Hillside Brewery written right through him.

Firstly we had the new HCL craft lager – that’s right lager – (4.3% ABV), served only slightly chilled so that all of the fabulous fruit aromas could come through. Next up, The Forest Falcon (4.6% ABV), a lovely golden ale with hints of spice and cherries. And, finally we had the introduction of Hillsides first foray into cider making with the HR8 & GL17  (6.4% ABV), a traditional cloudy farmhouse cider with a tangy, dry sharpness made from 100% apples – a real treat and one to watch for sure.

As Paul gave a presentation on the new products and chatted informally about them, family and staff from the brewery made sure that everyone’s glasses were charged to accompany the tasting notes. Here then, was a masterclass for the assembled beer aficionado’s in the production of craft ales (and now cider) from the beer geniuses up on the hill.

Paul Williamson launches new beers launch at Hillside Brewery.
Tasting and nibbles in the run up to presentations.

Also on hand to add even more interest to this very educational event was Mark Andrews from Charles Faram, hop factors, growers and merchants. Mark followed a short presentation with a lively Q&A session particularly on the new world beating experimental hops in development at the Herefordshire Farm. The Forest Falcon is the very first beer to use these hops in a commercial product!!

Paul Williamson launches new beers launch at Hillside Brewery.
Lively and informal Q&A session.

Paul Williamson finished the presentations with a quick recap of the last year at the Gloucestershire brewery (Hillside recently turned 1) before teasing the audience with the plans for the next 12 months. Plans, which included a home brewing completion where the winner will get to brew their winning recipe at Hillside! Paul and his team have already been tipped as one of the country’s top 4 new breweries to watch by a leading beer writer and this evening did nothing to dent our confidence that this is a craft producer going places.

But enough with education; Paul finished with the, all important and oft neglected, health benefits of beer drinking (in moderation) before the bread and cheese and a few more beer and cider tastings. All in all, not a bad way to spend a Tuesday evening.

Paul Williamson launches new beers launch at Hillside Brewery.
Relaxed atmosphere in the barn.

If you, or anyone you know, have been affected by reading this article and being missed off the invitation list for this launch event, make sure that you follow Paul and his endeavours via the web and their social media and I’m sure in return, you’ll get invited to the next one…..

 https://www.facebook.com/hillsidebrewery?fref=ts

https://twitter.com/Hillsidebrewery

#deanwye #craftale #craftcider