Monday, 28 February 2011

Masala Bites, Cheltenham

Place: Masala Bites, Cheltenham
Booking Tel: 01242 530531
Price per person for a 3 course meal and 1/2 a bottle of wine: £25 incl. tip
Good for: Meeting with friends / students
Dress code: Casual

Pros: good Indian food for very reasonable price and in a warm vibrant setting. A great place for eating with friends on a Friday night!

Cons: limited dessert menu, however this is a planned improvement area, we did wait quite a while for our food – we were the last table to leave the restaurant and did not massively linger over dinner!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read on for full review...

For lovers of Indian food there is an exciting new experience in Cheltenham in the form of Masala Bites - a Thali and Tiffin restaurant that opened at the end of last year. Masala Bites is the first dedicated Thali restaurant in Cheltenham and after sampling and enjoying Thali for the first time at a festival last summer; I was very keen to repeat the experience!Thali is a healthy balanced meal consisting of a selection of Indian dishes. Masala Bites offers a wide range of Thali main dish choices, such as king prawns in goan red sauce and serves all of them with rice, dhal, vegetables, salads and yoghurt raitas. Thali dishes start from £7.95, which is incredibly good value for money.
Masala Bites also offers a daily lunchtime Tiffin service with a simple menu of chicken, lamb or vegetable Tiffin’s cooked fresh every day. Tiffin boxes are a kind of Western equivalent of lunch boxes and are widely used in India for the collecting of freshly cooked lunch meals from the homes of office workers; delivering the food to them in their offices and then taking the box back home afterwards. Masala Bites delivers Tiffins in disposable boxes and they contain street bites (e.g. pakoras and spring rolls), dry curry, rice, chappathi, salad and yoghurt. The cost for a Tiffin box is £4.95, which is again excellent value for money. I only wished I worked in Cheltenham so I could take more advantage of these!
Masala Bites also offers a small selection of wraps and noodle dishes along with the usual side dishes expected from an Indian restaurant.

I visited Masala Bites on a Friday evening with a group of friends - there were six of us for dinner and we had booked a table for 8.30pm. When we arrived at the restaurant the evening dinner service was in full swing. The restaurant is open plan; however there is a rear section which has the feel of being a little more separate to the rest of the main room (a good space for a large party). The interior is suffused with warm orangey tones, soft lighting and chunky dark tables and chairs.
We were immediately shown to our table, which was in the front part of the dining room and surrounded by people in high spirits with a great buzzing atmosphere. In fact nearly every table was filled, which boded well. We ordered drinks and a selection of popadoms (spicy and plain). The spicy popadoms were crisper and thinner than the plain ones and were delicately spiced – I am definitely a convert!
One of the owners, Ubad, was quick to introduce himself and needed little encouragement to tell us anything we wanted to know about his new business venture! You could see that Ubad was very passionate about the restaurant and he has lots of plans on new ideas that he wants to try out very soon - a new cocktail menu and a wider range of desserts are a couple of the ideas on the table!
We ordered a selection of dishes ranging from tuna kebabs and vegetable spring roll light bites to shrimps with spinach leaf, panir jalfrezi and house recommended chicken with coriander and ginger Thali’s. The light bites were brought out first and the tuna kebabs were especially good, if not what we were expecting! The kebabs were more like grilled patties and consisted of a tuna and vegetable mix served on a bed of salad. The tuna kebab was really nicely flavoured and a made good starter / accompaniment to the meal. We all had different Thali main courses and the roasted chicken with coriander and ginger was very good, being delicately spiced and not too overpowered with heat or flavours. The jalfrezi paneer was a good vegetarian option and went really well with the other dishes on the Thali plate. The side dishes consisted of a lovely fragrant vegetable curried dish, rice, raita and a selection of Nan breads and chapattis. 
The dessert menu was limited in choices, being either a selection of ice creams or kulfi. We tried all of them – the ice cream was not local and not memorable, which was a shame as there are some lovely local ice creams in the West Country to choose from and the kulfi was the same. This is definitely an area that has room for improvement, however could be forgiven on this occasion for the good choice of Thali offerings.

I am already planning on returning to Masala Bites very soon and really hope that as its growing reputation continues to spread Masala Bites stays true to its roots of providing good quality Indian food, using local ingredients where possible and served with genuine enthusiasm!

T :-))

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Ceviche a la Chris!!

I am very lucky to have a creative husband in the kitchen :-)) This is a dish Chris made at the end of last summer and I have just come across this picture whilst having a sort out.

We first tasted ceviche on our honeymoon to Costa Rica last year and were really keen to try it out for ourselves when back in the UK. I definitely recommend having a go if you get the chance. Google has tons of recipes, however this particular one was in the Guardian last year and was submitted by Tom Parker Bowles (Tom Parker Bowles is a food writer and journalist). The link to the Guardian website, which includes a number of Summer seafood recipes is below, however I have also included an extract from the Guardian website for the ceviche recipe as seen in the picture above.
The ceviche recipe is about 3/4 of the way down the page.

Serves four
  • 1 medium-large sea bream (around 1kg), filleted, skinned and pin-boned (ask the fishmonger to do this, if need be)
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1 handful fresh coriander leaves, chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes, skinned, seeded and diced
  • 3 chopped jalapeƱo chillies (the proper ones, not those impotent Dutch monstrosities)
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 tbsp Morecambe Bay shrimps, peeled
  • Crisp tortilla, to serve
Slice the bream fillets into 0.5cm strips, then dice. Place in a large, shallow bowl or plate, then pour or scatter over the lime juice, coriander, tomatoes and chillies. Add a good pinch of sea salt and a good grinding of black pepper, and refrigerate for no more than 30 minutes. Remove from the fridge, stir in the shrimps and serve on a crisp tortilla. 


T :-))

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Cheesy crumpets

Out of all of the days of the week Sundays are possibly my favourite! On these days I love lingering over breakfast with a pot of tea and the morning papers; however in my case it is typically the Saturday Guardian, as I never get around to reading it all on one day!

This morning Chris and I treated ourselves to cheesy crumpets using up some of the left over Christmas brie (leftovers are one of the great throwbacks from the Christmas season)! This is actually a breakfast treat that friends of mine from Bristol re-introduced me to during the course of last year. Their version included the addition of marmite before adding the cheese, which for marmite lovers out there is really very good and definitely one to put on your list!

I am sure everyone has their own method for making these; however my technique is as follows…

• Toast the crumpet under the grill on both sides.
• Add sliced brie to the top of the crumpet and place back under the grill until the cheese is starting to bubble.
• Remove the crumpet and spread the cheese as evenly as possible over the crumpet.

[now for the naughty bit] …

• Spread a small amount of butter over the top of the cheese, this will melt into the cheese and make the crumpet go all gooey.
• Season with a little salt and pepper then eat whilst still hot…

Yum… I hope your Sunday mornings are all special in your own ways!

T :-)

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Indulgent (if a little lazy) roast duck with potatoes and green salad!

Firstly, Happy New Year to you all! I hope everyone had a great Christmas break and that you are all feeling nice and refreshed for the new year ahead!

As a very special treat (and one that my husband and I had been trying to enjoy since our 1st wedding anniversary on 19th December 2010!), we shared a roast duck supper on the final evening of our Christmas break. I had been really keen to try this recipe since seeing it on Nigella’s Kitchen show before Christmas, however due to difficulties tracking down duck legs over the Christmas period and then social commitments we were unable to try this out until the final day of our holiday. Having now tried this dish I can honestly say that it is one of the easiest meals that I have ever made and also one of the tastiest!

The recipe follows and includes a great Italian proverb for preparing the salad dressing, which I recommend trying as it can be used for any salad. We enjoyed this dish (and not just because it had taken no time at all to prepare) with a bottle of Marks & Spencer Pinot Noir from the Mediterranean region of France. A lovely medium bodied wine with a good level of acidity that offset the richness of the duck very well indeed!

NB. The following recipe is adapted from a Nigella Lawson one.

Serves 2 people
Preparation time: 5 mins for the duck and potatoes, 5 mins for the salad
Cooking time: 1hr 30mins


For the duck and potatoes
  • 2 Duck legs
  • 2 Baking potatoes
  • A few sprigs of thyme
  • Salt
  • Pepper

For the salad
  • 1 bag green salad (we used watercress)
  • Olive oil
  • Vinegar (red wine is best, however a white wine or balsamic vinegar would work just as well)
  • Salt


For the duck:

1. Preheat a fan assisted oven to 180 oC.
2. Seal the duck legs on each side in an oven proof pan (I used a frying pan that can be put straight into the oven).

NB. You do not need to add any oil to the pan, as the duck legs contain plenty and will start to release this during the sealing process.

3. Chop the potatoes into thick slices and then into quarters.
4. Take the pan off the heat and place the potatoes around the duck.
5. Baste the potatoes in the oil released from the duck.
6. Place a few sprigs of thyme into the pan.
7. Season the duck with salt and pepper.
8. Place the pan into the oven for approximately 1hr 30mins.

NB. The Nigella recipe says cook for two hours at 200 oC, however as I was using a fan assisted oven I dropped the temperature by 20 oC and found that the duck was ready after about 1hr 30mins.

For the salad:

1. Place the washed green salad into a bowl.
2. Add salt, vinegar and oil to taste and stir.

NB. Nigella used an Italian proverb to prepare the salad dressing, which I absolutely love and will be using for most salads from here on!

Italian Dressing Proverb

Four people are needed:

A wise person for the salt
A generous person for the olive oil
A stingy person for the red wine vinegar
A patient person to toss until every leaf is evenly coated (cc. 35 times)

Additionally a fifth person can be added:

A wealthy person to add a small drizzle of balsamic vinegar

Enjoy!! T :-)))

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Sunday dinner with friends in the Slad Valley

Okay this is not the most recent Sunday, however I was browsing through my phone piccies and found the one below taken at an amazing Sunday dinner in October chez Lucy, and thought I would write a few words of thanks!

Lucy lives in the Slad Valley in a typically rustic farmhouse, which is one of my personal favourite areas of Gloucestershire and a perfect setting for a very substantial roast beef dinner! Lucy had managed to procure a humongous rib joint of beef from a butcher friend and cooked a full Sunday roast with all of the trimmings. My favourite dish was the red cabbage, which reminds me of Christmas - my most favourite time of year! Also post dinner there was one of my all time favourite desserts, a homemade apple crumble, made with fresh apples picked by Lucy's fair hands from the trees outside the kitchen the same morning!

Just to the right of the picture is my lovely husband Chris who is in conversation with my equally lovely friend Julia, only you will have to imagine she is there as I have not got her in shot! Our generous hostess Lucy is next to Chris and the rest of the table is a mixture of joint friends of ours and friends of Lucy's. A great bunch of people and I think everyone will agree a great evening!

Anyway thank you Lucy for cooking one of the best roast dinners I have had all year. Especially big thanks for the apple crumble, Julia and I had first dibs and it went down far too easily!! Seconds were pretty much a given and it was probably just as well we had to head off fairly early! Looking forward to returning the favour soon.

T :-)

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Monday looms and brings with it the first full week in my new job!

So... this coming week will be the first full week in my new corporate worldy job! I have just finished eight interesting (at times) and fun filled years as an energy risk analyst with British Energy and am now starting my new role as an internal auditor with EDF Energy. Slightly daunting, however I am a big girl now and just have to suck it up and get on with it! When I think about it most ladies my age have full time jobs, households and kids to manage so what am I really worried about? A husband and adorable kitty are my only ties, so I can really embrace the opportunity and enjoy myself! I have no idea what to expect yet, well... that's not completely true (!) I do have an idea of what the new role will entail, however this is the first time in my career to date that I will be working with new people in a new environment... A little daunting at the moment, however I am sure in a months time I will be completely settled in (fingers crossed...)!

One of the great parts of my new role is the opportunity to travel and with that the chance to try lots of exciting new foods, wines and to meet new people. Already I have a two day trip to Scotland scheduled for this month, a trip to Paris in November and weekly visits to London. I have had lots of advice from colleagues already doing the weekly commute, most of whom knowingly tell me that I will soon have to get used to eating on the go and all the badness that comes with that (!), however I am absolutely determined to make sure I fit in healthy and interesting foodie experiences! Time will tell I am sure, however for the moment I am almost far too excited to eat!

T :-))

Baked Camembert...

I have always wondered what baked Camembert is like and this Friday I finally got around to trying it!

I used the following simple recipe...

Preparation time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 10-15 mins

Ingredients: 1 Camembert, 2 sliced garlic cloves, a few sprigs of fresh thyme, salt, pepper and olive oil
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
  2. Take the Camembert out of its wrapper and place back into the wood (sometimes with a cardboard base) box.
  3. Place the Camembert on a sheet of baking paper on a baking tray.
  4. Pierce the top of the Camembert and insert pieces of sliced garlic and fresh thyme. NB. I like to use lots of garlic (i.e. 2 cloves), however you can adjust for your own personal taste.
  5. Sprinkle with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and a generous drizzle of olive oil.
  6. Place in the oven for 10-15 mins, or until the cheese is melted.
  7. Serve with warmed french loaf and a glass of full bodied red wine!

Chris and I shared one between us with a small french baguette and it was a perfect portion size for two. I loved the softened garlic slices in with the cheese and the thyme gives a subtle infusion of flavour. I will definitely be making this again soon... such a simple dish to make and really, really tasty!

T :-))