Culinary Causerie

with Lesley Williams

La Dolce Vita

Bay TemplateRegular readers will know of my love of Italian food. I would even go so far as to say that it is possibly my favourite cuisine. We are fortunate to have several good Italian restaurants in the area, some of which we have reviewed in TheBAY in the past few months. I was delighted to hear of a new one that had opened in Mumbles and hot footed down there last month to see if it cut the mustard.

La Dolce Vita is situated right on the seafront on Mumbles Road and has a distinctive Italian scooter motif on the exterior wall. The interior has a traditional trattoria feel – dark wood, ceramic tiles and a well stocked bar.

Chef Giuseppe hails from Sorrento on the beautiful Amalfi coast, in the south west of Italy, so it’s not unexpected to find some good local fish on the menu. We started off with a platter of fritto misto or mixed fried fish. Whitebait, calamari and huge tiger prawns – this is the ultimate in finger food – and necessitates the need for lots of finger licking. The contorni or side order of a basket of bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar came into its own as the perfect vehicle to mop up the juices. Fortunately there were plenty of good quality finger wipes on hand for a quick freshen up before the mains arrived.

“I’ll have the lack of ram please” – quick as a flash the waiter replied “yes we have a lack of ram but we do have a rack of lamb”. The Reverend Spooner had struck again. This lamb lacked nothing – little tender pink chops in a savoury rosemary sauce – these too came into the category of finger food. Who can resist nibbling around the toasty edges of a chop? If that’s all a bit too carnivorous for you, then don’t worry as La Dolce Vita caters for vegetarians and pescatarians too.

The tagliatelle carbonara also passed the taste test – salty lardons of bacon in an unctuously eggy sauce, topped with Parmesan cheese. An Italian classic.

La Dolce Vita is open for lunch and dinner with a special lunchtime deal of two courses for £12 and three courses for £14.50

698 Mumbles Road, Mumbles, SA3 4EH Tel: 01792 361648 Ladolcevitamumbles.co.uk

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AS OUR REGULAR CONTRIBUTOR TATIANA IS UNAVAILABLE THIS MONTH IT WAS UP TO BAY EDITOR LESLEY TO STEP INTO THE BREACH

Fresh Tuna Niçoise

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This recipe calls for the freshest tuna that you can find. I heartily recommend that you go to the market and call at one of the fresh fish counters and ask for sushi quality tuna. Get them to cut the steaks good and thick – at least an inch and a half or 4 centimetres thick as you want to be able to keep the middle slightly pink. The quantities in the ingredients list are variable depending on how many people you’re feeding.

Ingredients

One tuna steak per person

Little gem lettuce

Baby tomatoes

French beans

New potatoes

Anchovy fillets – the sort from the delicatessen counter not the salty ones in tins.

Eggs

Black olives

Olive oil

Lemon juice

Salt and pepper

Method

Cook the potatoes and beans until tender.

Oil the tuna steaks.

Heat a frying pan or skillet until very hot and add the tuna.

Sear the tuna on one side and then flip over to cook the other side. You will be able to see how well the steak is cooking by checking the sides. Remove from the heat and set aside.

While the tuna is cooking poach the eggs until the whites are cooked and the yolks are still soft.

Put 3 tbs olive oil in a small screw top jar and add 1 tbs lemon juice and a little salt and pepper. Tighten the lid and give a good shake. You can increase the amount of dressing by using the 3 to 1 ratio of oil to lemon juice. Alternatively use a wine vinegar in place of lemon juice. You can add a teaspoon of grain mustard at this stage too if you like.

Arrange the lettuce and other salad ingredients on the plate, add the tuna steak and top with a poached egg.

This makes a perfect spring lunch.

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This month we welcome guest restaurant reviewer Dr RUPA DAVE to our contributor table. When we heard that there was to be an Indian pop-up restaurant in Fairyhill, we knew that Rupa would be well qualified to go along and give her feedback.

I had an email from BAY Editor Lesley Williams

Fairyhill is hosting an Indian pop-up night and the food is being served by Babita’s Spice Deli. Are you going? Only if you are, can you do a write up for us?

I was not planning on going, but this was too good an opportunity to miss.

This is how my husband and I came to be at Fairyhill Restaurant on a Thursday evening in late February (my first visit to this lovely place, I must confess). We arrived and were met at the door by Andrew Hetherington, the co-owner. Being the only Welsh-Indian guests on the list, he greeted us by name which made us feel very welcome and special.

The roaring log fire in the entrance hall and a cold glass of bubbly set the atmosphere for the rest of the evening.

I had looked at the menu beforehand, and had nearly starved myself for the whole day so I was ready to eat some good food.

71 Culinary Causerie pic 3We were seated in the conservatory and I was impressed to see that all the tables were filled. The canapés were spiced potato thins with dips – they were delicious and just the right amount to tantalise our taste buds for the main meal.

The vegetarian starters were a trio of papri chat (a street food savoury served with yogurt, chutney and garnished with pomegranate seeds), a samosa and aubergine pakoras. They were superb.

The main meal consisted of a bhatura (a fried Indian bread) which was a welcome alternative to the ubiquitous naan bread, rice with caramelised onions and three curries. The paneer curry was served on the plate whilst the kofta curry and the dal makhani were set before us in generous portions for us to serve ourselves. The non vegetarian options in the starter consisted of chicken tikka (the only reference to an anglicised dish) and lamb curry for the main course.

As someone who comes from the Indian subcontinent, the taste and the aroma were totally authentic – just as if it had been made in India.

We noticed that there was a discernible silence in the room as everyone tucked into their meals. The food was nicely spicy but not overbearing at all. Each curry tasted different and it was evident that Babita had painstakingly cooked each dish, with spices that brought the best out of its core ingredient. It was very rewarding for me to see that almost all plates went back empty. In a rare role reversal, I polished off my plate whilst my husband saved some room for the dessert.

Dessert was a mango and cardamom mousse. It arrived in a generous portion in a glass tumbler – the mousse was light, not too sweet and a beautiful golden yellow colour. This would be the final test for the evening, as Indian sweets tend not to be very popular. How wrong was I? Each and every glass tumbler was polished off in a matter of minutes. On our way out, we heard diners mention to the staff-‘please give our compliments to the chef – the food was lip smackingly delicious’. This was a compliment straight from the heart.

We often get asked, where in Swansea would you go for authentic Indian food? In the unlikely setting of a very British restaurant, we found the answer – go where Babita’s Spice Deli has a pop-up restaurant. It is how Indian food should be – delicious, fragrantly spiced, not oily and cooked with fresh ingredients. It is a testament to the British palate that food from all over the world is eaten here but in the process I know that Indian food has been anglicised.

However, thanks to Fairyhill and Babita, there is now the possibility of eating real Indian food on a very enjoyable night out.

To find out where and when Babita is having her pop-up nights go to her Facebook page Babita’s Spice Deli.

5 star food hygiene rating

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Not one but two recipes from Lesley this month 

Salmon with sumac

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A couple of years ago my sister and I went on a Moroccan adventure to Marrakech where we fell in love with the cuisine. Since then my culinary repertoire has expanded to include a whole host of new – to me – herbs and spices. My chicken casseroles have been upgraded to tagines with the addition of pickled lemons, saffron and olives and I have discovered zaa’tar, sumac and been educated to treat rose petals as food and not just pot pourri.

Last month over the Easter holiday I rootled around in my freezer looking for inspiration for an impromptu dinner for four, and discovered a filleted side of salmon left over from Christmas. Not wanting to simply bake it in my usual fashion with herbs and lemon, I sought inspiration from my store cupboard and found an unopened jar of sumac. The resulting meal was such a success I felt I had to share it.

To serve 4 – 6

Half a whole salmon, skinned and filleted

3 tbs olive oil

2 tsp sumac

2 lemons –

zest and juice

1 tbs rose petals finely ground

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground cumin

Salt & Pepper

Recipe

First make sure that your salmon fillet has been de-scaled and pin boned.

Mix the rose petals, sumac, cinnamon, cumin and lemon zest with the olive oil to make a marinade.

Rub the marinade into the salmon and put into the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight.

Heat the oven to 200/180 Fan/Gas 6.

Line a roasting tin with non-stick baking parchment and place the salmon on the tray pour over the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper before putting into the oven.

Bake for about 15 minutes but check after 12 minutes. Cooking time will depend on the thickness of the fish. The flesh should be just opaque – don’t overcook or it will be dry.

I served this with Rachel’s tabbouleh and flat breads and tzaziki.

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GIN FESTIVAL.COM BRINGS MOTHER’S RUIN TO SWANSEA

Expect great gin, brilliant music and a lot of fun

Bay TemplateGin Festival.com, the UK’s original, biggest and best gin festival, is coming to the Brangwyn Hall, Swansea and we would like to personally invite you to come along and enjoy a few G&Ts! Gin Festival.com will be welcoming everyone, from gin novices to connoisseurs, to sample over a 100 different varieties of gin. Attendees can also learn about the history of Britain’s favourite spirit, meet industry experts and enjoy fantastic live music!

Gin Festival  

Gin Festival Swansea will be held on Friday 22nd – Saturday 23rd April 2016. Tickets are available from ginfestival.com at £7.50 per adult and include one of Gin Festival.com’s iconic copa glasses, free to take home. Food will be available from local vendors. The festival will run over 3 sessions as follows:

Friday 22nd April 2016:

Evening Session 6.30pm – 11pm

Saturday 23rd April 2016:

Afternoon Session 12.30pm – 5pm

Saturday 23rd April 2016:

Evening Session 6.30pm – 11pm

Gin Festival.com is the baby of husband and wife team Jym and Marie Harris. It began in 2012 when they realised there was no festival out there that reflected their own deep love for gin, so they started one themselves. From humble beginnings (the first event had only 150 people) Gin Festival.com has grown massively alongside the UK gin market and now hosts events for 4000 people over two days.

Gin Festival.com founder Jym Harris added:

“We absolutely love gin, so we started these events because we thought other people would want the same as us. We’ve been overwhelmed by the positive reception and it’s been fantastic to see so many people rediscover this amazing drink.”

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MOSAIC Undercover Market

No not a market for spies and sleuths, but an indoor craft and food held at Mosaic in St Helen’s Road n the 1st Sunday of each month from 10.30 to 15.30. It’s billed as ‘everything you’d expect and more’ and includes all sorts of foodie goodies as well as pre-loved clothing and jewellery. Make a note of the dates in your diary now.

1 May, 5 June, 3 July, 7 August www.mosaicswansea.com

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THE BIG Swansea Food & Drink Festival

Following the success of last year’s festival JR Events & Catering returns to the Brangwyn Hall on Sunday 21 August with the biggest food event in the area. It’s a must for all food lovers as there will be lots of products to sample along with a huge range of food suppliers, crafts, live kitchen demonstrations, on-stage entertainment, music and street food.

 

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