Saturday, 26 July 2014

Garden Update: Summer Sowing

Apologies that I haven't been writing much on this blog lately - things were a bit crazy with finishing my Masters degree and then starting a new full-time job (well, technically, it's a traineeship). I also had not done that much with the garden for a while, partly because of the above, and partly because much of what I did sow, got absolutely demolished by slugs. This disheartened me a bit and I lost my gardening mojo for a while.

Having said all that, we did get a very good crop of broad beans, and a fair few peas as well, although on the whole I felt that the broad beans gave a bigger pay-off. We never really got enough peas to make a decent-sized amount for dinner. Both vegetables were delicious, and I really enjoyed growing and eating them.

Broad beans have very pretty flowers

Peeeeas!

 One of my pea and broad bean harvests
I was able to make some lovely dishes with my harvests including some yummy bowls of Kusksu (Maltese Spring Soup):
Kusksu (Maltese Soup)
My broad beans and peas had been quite early as I had grown them both over Winter, so they'd come to the end of their life recently.

I have got some other things which are still growing as well, though. 
Tomatoes


French marigolds

Parnsips

Nasturtiums in the border

More nasturtiums trying to take over the path


Strawberry plant in a hanging basket.
I also set about sowing some more seeds in my raised beds today, which I am hoping will provide me with some tasty vegetables in the Autumn and maybe even into Winter. Seeds sown today were: carrots, coriander, spring onions, rocket, parsley, fennel, swiss chard and kale. Here's hoping the slugs don't eat them all this time!

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Restaurant review: Ye Olde Saracen's Head, Balsall Common

I was recently invited to do a review of Ye Olde Saracen's Head in Balsall Common. My husband had dined there once before and raved about it, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to see if he was right!

The pub has a large amount of seating for diners and has a warm and rustic atmosphere, with a lovely open fireplace. The pub has both a charcoal oven and a woodfired pizza oven, making for some delicious-sounding meals.

To drink we had a quite a sharp-tasting shiraz, which mellowed when mingled with the flavours of our food. Wines start from about £16 a bottle and go up to about £60(!), so there is a wide range to choose from.

To start, I opted for the Charcoal Oven Roasted Marinated duck skewers (£7.50). I was particularly impressed by how well the duck was cooked - so often with these types of meals you get over-cooked, dry duck; the duck in this dish was perfectly cooked - still pink inside and perfectly moist, and the accompanying sauce was sweet and sticky and delicious.


My husband chose the bread and olives (£3.50) for starters. It was presented very well, it tasted good, and was pretty sizeable - it would make a good sharer!

For my main, I had the Hot Josper smoked salmon 'Caesar Salad' (£11.95). This was on the whole a nice dish, but in some ways a little disappointing. The smokiness of the salmon didn't really come through very well - I think it got lost a little amongst the lettuce and the creamy salad dressing. I liked the anchovy croutons, though - they added good texture and flavour, and I like the addition of the poached egg on top.

My husband had the Fillet Charcoal Oven Steak (£25.95) - I tried a bit and it was heavenly. Perfectly browned on the outside and pink and juicy in the middle. The chips were nicely cooked too.
My husband had eaten some of his salad by this point...

On to my favourite course: dessert (all desserts are £5.95). I couldn't resist going for the lemon meringue pie, and I think it was a wise choice. The meringue was beautifully light and the lemon the right mixture of tart and sweet. The fruit was perhaps a little unnecessary, though.

My husband went for the chocolate brownie with ice cream and chocolate sauce. He assures me that it was delicious, but sadly I didn't get to taste any.

Overall, then, we had a lovely time at Ye Olde Saracen's Head. Good food and a warm atmosphere. The service was also good, with the staff being attentive and polite. I am looking forward to a return visit to see how good their pizza oven is!

Disclaimer: This meal was complimentary for review purposes. I was not required to write a positive review, and all views are of course my own.