Opus at Cornwall Street, Birmingham

I visited Opus at Cornwall Street to celebrate the end of final year exams. I had heard lots of great things about the place and so wanted to check it out for myself. With it being a 2 AA Rosette restaurant with some of the finest, seasonal ingredients it is a top end restaurant with prices to match, but we were celebrating so decided to take the plunge.

 

We were greeted by a gentleman who took our coats set the standard for the service to come. Not only are you paying for the food here but a seamless and professional service. We were offered two menus: the Market Menu and A La Carte. The Market Menu consists of 2-3 dishes per course for a reduced rate that changes everyday. The A La Carte had considerably more choice with 6-7 dishes to choose from. Both menus are tweaked daily to make the most of seasonal produce which I love. After much consideration we decided to go for the A La Carte because after all we were celebrating and several things jumped out at us.

 

We began with a few oysters each. Served with shallot vinegar and fresh horseradish, they were delicious. Wonderful and fresh, they slipped down without a second thought. The dish they were served in (pictured below) meant the table remained clutter free. We had some bread at the same time, which was served warm. The butter was perfectly soft and easily spreadable. A touch I really appreciated; I hate spreading butter fresh out of the fridge onto bread because it doesn’t spread!

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For starters, Danny and I went for the same, pan-fried breasts of quail, confit leg, fresh peas and watercress salad. It was wonderfully juicy and tender. I love the combination with the apple which gave it a really light and fresh taste. My favourite part of the dish was the centrepiece of the dish (see picture below)which was nice and crisp on the outside yet still juicy on the inside. A wonderfully light dish which set the path for the star of the show.

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Now the main… the main was delicious, John Dory, scallops, crushed salad blue potatoes, spiced cauliflower fritters and a spiced cauliflower purée. The John Dory was perfectly cooked and the skin was beautifully crispy. The scallops were huge and meaty and lightly browned on the outside and the curried parsnip purée and fritters were sensational. Finally, the potatoes, were lovely and soft and more BLUE (how exciting!). This dish really was delicious and I will be dreaming of it for weeks to come; an ideal dish as summer draws closer.

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Overall, I really enjoyed this extravagant evening (for a student). I would love to head back soon but fear for my bank balance. Nonetheless, this is not to say it is overpriced, you pay for what you get and that is brilliant service, delicious food and an upmarket but relaxed atmosphere. I would really recommend Opus and would love to go back to try something from the Market Menu.

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Dill and Chilli Sea Bass with Asparagus and Sautéed Potatoes

Dill and Chilli Sea Bass with Asparagus and Sautéed Potatoes

On a recent trip to the Underground Cookery School in London I learnt to make this wonderful dish. Take the potatoes away and you have yourself a hearty starter, with the potatoes, a summery main. This was such a great dish, it must be shared!

Ingredients (serves 2):
2 whole, gutted sea bass (or 4 sea bass fillets)
1 bunch of asparagus
500g of new potatoes
Dill
Olive oil
Chilli
Mustard
Lemon juice
Lime juice

1. Begin by boiling the new potatoes until they have softened (around 10 mins) but not so much that they fall apart.
2. Meanwhile trim the asparagus stalks (about an inch off) so that the woody bit is removed. Using a potato peeler peel the skin off the ends of the stalks so it becomes light in colour (as pictured).
3. If you have bought whole sea bass then fillet. If they are ready filleted then score the skin lightly.
4. Prepare the dressing by roughly chopping a handful of dill (removing stalks). Add to olive oil, lemon juice, lime juice, thinly chopped chilli and a teaspoon of mustard. Add in small quantities and keep tasting!
5. Heat a pan of oil and begin frying off the potatoes until they are crispy. When they are nearly done, boil the asparagus for 5 minutes.
6. Cook the sea bass by heating olive oil in a non-stick pan. Pop them in the pan, skin side down. Watch the fish and you will see white gradually rising as it cooks. Once the white has nearly risen to the opposite side of the skin, flip then over for a final minute.
7. Hopefully it’s all come together at the same time. Serve as pictured and drizzle with the prepared dressing!!

I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. A truly wonderful summer dish which is sure to wow everyone.

The Underground Cookery School, London

I’ve been popping down to London quite a bit recently, but my trip to the Underground Cookery School has to be, by far, the best out of them all. Me, and nine other fellow bloggers headed down to the minimalistic, quirky venue, tucked away amongst the vibrant City Road. As we descended underground, we left the hustle and bustle of London and rolled up our sleeves.

 

We were greeted with prosecco and canapés, my ideal greeting. The canapés were delicious, freshly made by the chefs – something we didn’t have to worry about preparing. Taylah and I were a little early as we were so excited to get started but the chefs and Annaliese were all so friendly and got talking to us. They even put us to work with preparing some asparagus.

 

Once everyone arrived, we got aproned up and had a quick team talk. This, we were informed, was an opportunity to learn some key skills in terms of prepping fish and lamb. So despite the fact that we didn’t cook anything ourselves, we marvelled at our work when tucking into a perfectly(?!) filleted sea bass.

 

We were split into two groups. First thing for our group, the chocolate torte. The chef, Matt Kemp talked us through each step and got each of us to complete one of the stages. I was trusted with melting the chocolate and butter together, a very technical job and I am pleased to say, I think I excelled myself. Matt was really consciencous to make sure we were all able to keep up with what was going on whilst completing our own stages and taught us some fab techniques. The one I particularly liked (and will attempt to use in the future) was the folding in of the egg whites. He flicked his wrist quickly, instead of doing big, labour-some folds like I usually do.  The finish product, accompanied with clotted cream with raspberry ripples running through it looked like this:

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It was absolutely delicious. A wonderful dessert that took hardly anytime to make – even if though there was 5 of us making this single cake, do not fear, a solitude cook can still make this gooey, warm chocolately heaven.

 

Next up, we moved on to prep the main. We were presented with a rump of lamb. Initial thoughts: help, what, really, me? But Matt talked us through it, then showed us, explaining which bits to feel for and how to use the knife. There were also a few other chefs including watching to make sure we didn’t ruin a good rump in seconds. We trimmed it down, removed the fat and voila, ready for cooking.

ImageOf course, as required, prosecco was at hand throughout the entire preparation of the lamb. The chefs beautifully put the lamb with potatoes, a jus and some long stem broccoli.

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Finally we prepped the sea bass, our starter. Of course, after having watch the chef fillet one side of the sea bass I set to work and immediately thought, HELP I’ve forgotten everything you just showed me. The small group meant that he was able to come round and talk us through it again, checking for bones to make sure choking was off the agenda. We then had a quick taste test of the lemon, lime, olive oil, dill and paprika dressing. “Hmmm yes some more lemon I think ahh yes that’s perfect” I thought. “Bloody hell more oil” said the chef so it appears my palette requires a bit more refinement.

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Served with British asparagus, the dressing and some chilli, the skin was lovely and crisp. I have even bought some sea bass ready for filleting, house mates WATCH OUT.

Overall, I had a really enjoyable evening and learnt some valuable skills. The opportunity to meet other bloggers was also really nice, fuelled with a constant supply of wine and nibbles. Brimming with exciting goodies and full tummies we left happy with our experience, and of course, hoping to come back soon.

 

Moules Marinère

As usual, the sun starts shining and beckoning me out to the garden as I set up a small revision den in the dining room. This year, however, I have forbidden myself from convincing myself that it is possible to revise in the garden, because, put simply, it never works. Usually, I end up closing my eyes, placing my book somewhere near my head (in the hope that the words will seep into my mind) and before I know it, afternoon over, a day wasted. What makes it worse is that it’s never really hot enough to get any form of tan, so what was the point in the first place?!

 

Anyway, I’ve gone off point slightly. My confinement to the dining room meant that I have been making up for hours staring at my laptop with some summery, tasty food. Mussels!! I found this recipe in ‘the Little Paris Kitchen’ by Rachel Khoo which features a selection of wonderful French dishes. The mussels were so quick and easy to make – the hardest part was giving them a scrub before cooking them! So, as instructed…

 

  1. Melt 1 tbsp of better in a pan on a medium heat. Add ½ chopped onion with 1 pinch of dried thyme and 1 bay leaf. Cook off the onions until they go clear ensuring the pan is not too hot (we don’t want them brown).

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  1. Add 160ml of dry white wine. I used pinot grigio and they tasted like the real, French deal. Turn the heat up!

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  1. Add the mussels (I used a 1kg bag – a few had to be discarded as they were cracked or opened – and this served two of us for a starter perfectly). Pop the lid on the pan and allow to steam for 3-4 minutes.

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  1. After 3 minutes, check the majority are open. If so, turn the heat down and add 2 tbsp of crème fraiche. Stir in and sprinkle fresh parsley.  Once the wine and crème fraiche have formed a delicious sauce, serve with bread and a wedge of lemon. Slurp away.

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Oriental Salmon & Broccoli Bake with Spinach Noodles

Oriental Salmon & Broccoli Bake with Spinach Noodles

Want a quick and easy meal packed full of flavour, with a bit of a kick? Well, fear not, I have it right here. This salmon and broccoli bake is so easy you will be surprised it tastes so good. Only taking 20 minutes to make, there’s no need to toil over the oven but pop it in, relax, eat. It might look like a lot of ingredients but it’s the salmon and noodle dressing so it takes no time at all to throw it all together.

Ingredients (serves 2):
2 salmon fillets (skin on)
1/2 a head of broccoli (chopped and washed)
1/2 a lemon of juice, 1/2 a lemon cut into wedges
4 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp chopped red chillis (or chilli sauce)
1 tbsp groundnut oil (and a bit extra for the salmon)
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp fish sauce
1 garlic clove (crushed)
125g spinach noodles

Method:

Start by putting together the salmon and broccoli bake. Place the salmon in a roasting tray, a little distance a part. Surround the salmon in the freshly washed broccoli. Then squeeze the juice of half a lemon over into the tray. With the remaining half of the lemon, cut it into wedges and dot them amongst the salmon and broccoli. Drizzle the bake with groundnut oil (or olive oil or sesame oil if you don’t have it) and pop it in the oven for 10 minutes at 180C.

Whilst that’s cooking, put together the sauce for the salmon. 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tsp of sesame seeds and 1 tbsp chopped chilli (or the chilli sauce) and combined. Drizzle it over the salmon after it’s cooked for the ten minutes and return to the oven to cook for a further 4 minutes.

Next up, the noodles. Get your multi-tasking skills out and do this whilst the salmon and broccoli bake is cooking away. Boil the spinach noodles as instructed on the packaging (usually around 3 mins). Whilst they’re cooking, throw together the dressing. 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sesame seeds, 1 tbsp chilli (or sauce), 1 crushed clove of garlic, a splash of fish sauce, 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar and 1 tbsp groundnut oil (again, swap the oil if necessary). Mix it all up ready for when the noodles are finished. Once the noodles are boiled and ready to go, drain and put them back in the pan, add the dressing and put back on the heat. Keep stirring it for a few minutes to heat through.

Of course, everything is ready at the same time as you have timed it to perfection so pop it on a plate. Enjoy.

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Dijon Mustard Topped Salmon with Long Stem Broccoli and Brown Rice

Dijon Mustard Topped Salmon with Long Stem Broccoli and Brown Rice

A delicious meal with lots of flavour, light yet wholesome. I love mustard and I was worried it might overpower the salmon but my fears did not become a reality.

Recipe: (serves 2)
1. 1 boneless salmon fillets, skin on
2. 2 tbsp dijon mustard
3. 1 white onion, finely sliced
4. 1 clove of garlic, crushed
5. 6 pieces of long stem broccoli, boiled
6. 120g cooked brown rice
7. A few sprays of FryLight

Preheat the oven at 180’c.
Put the rice on first as brown rice can take a while to cook. Then, begin my topping the salmon with 1 teaspoon of dijon mustard per salmon fillet. If you have small fillets, may be use a little less mustard, just ensure that there is a thin layer on the top. Spray the frying pan with a little FryLight and then, skin side down put the salmon fillets in the pan. Top the salmon with some of the onion and garlic, just enough so it is scattered on top. Allow the salmon to cook in the frying pan for about 7 minutes, add a tiny drizzle of oil if you think the skin is catching. Transfer the salmon into the oven for another 10-15 minutes, depending on how rare you like it.

The broccoli should take around 6 minutes to cook so factor this in too! Whilst the broccoli and rice is cooking, fry off the remaining garlic and onion in FryLight and put to one side until the rice is finished. As soon as it is finished, drain the rice and add to the frying pan to bring the all these bits and bobs together. If you use the same pan that was used for the salmon there should be enough FryLight/oil to prevent the rice from sticking but keep stirring it or add some more FryLight if you feel it’s catching.

I loved this meal, just the right amount of comfort in the rice. I love long stem broccoli because the stems are so much sweeter than normal broccoli and it works really well with the strong dijon mustard flavour!