Not so long ago I had a highly inappropriate crush on the 23-year-old actor Luke Pasqualino (Freddie from second-gen Skins). So, for friends reading this post who are aware of this minor and probably fleeting attachment (which I’m pretty much totally recovered from-ish) I just want to make it clear that for the most part, I won’t be writing about Luke today.Today I’m writing about a recent trip to a restaurant and this is my review of Pasqualinos Newcastle, which I was invited to visit in order to give my opinion on their great value set menu. Here, two courses come in at £8.95 and three at £10.95 respectively.

Myself and my dining partner, the lovely Katherine Weir, headed along mid-evening on a Thursday when the restaurant was pleasantly busy. As you can see from the menu  here, we had a lot to mull over before making our choices. I’m a great lover of pizza (love of pizza=>Freddie from Skins) and so it was very hard to pass over the enticing combos on the list, which featured an impressive quota of vegetarian choices, much to the joy of Ms Weir. However, as i’ve been following Slimming World recently, pass by the pizza I must.

Skimming the menu for slimming-friendly starter options the soups immediately caught my eye and I chose the soup of the day – butternut squash and caramelised onion – while Weir whetted her appetite with some minestrone. I must say, the squash soup turned out to be the star of the show. As soon as I came home post-meal I started scouring the internet for recipes for this combo.  It wasn’t one that I’d tried before but it really did hit the spot and was one of the best soups I’ve had in a while. Velvety and deliciously sweet – it was just the ticket for someone who has been going cold turkey on cake and I’m pretty sure a syn-free version is on the horizon soon.

When it came to the main courses Katherine found it fairly hard to choose as there were far more than the token one or two options for vegetarians. After my meat-free month last March I really appreciate a menu that recognises meat doesn’t need to dominate. In the end Weir settled on the ‘Joel’ a sprouting brocolli, toasted pinenut and chilli topped pizza.

For those who haven’t been to Pasqualinos before – it’s attached to the Theatre Royal and owned  by the same people as Paradiso, Popolo, Alvinos and Secco among others. I must confess at this point that Paradiso is one of my favourite spots for a value bite in the Toon and Alvinos is always on my top cocktail drinking lists, so it had a lot to live up to. This was also my second visit to Pasqualinos – which has a very informal atmosphere compounded by the friendly staff, Italian-American deco and views into the kitchen. On a previous visit in August I was impressed by the meaty sauce on the rigatoni ragu but a little disappointed with how much pasta came in the portion, so on this visit I wondered how my main plate would compare.

I opted for the seafood risotto special, which is available for a small upgrade on the two course deal, which is perhaps why the portion I received time was a little larger. There was certainly a good helping of seafood in the midst of the arborio rice and a strong citrus flavour – which I always love. When I’m dining at invitation as a blogger (and without paying, on this particular occasion) I usually look around to spy on everyone else’s portions, but being in a booth made this a little trickier. That said, Katherine’s pizza seemed very much representative of the pizza all around. Although Alvinos remains her top pick for value pizza, she was impressed with the flavour combination and glad that the pizza wasn’t overwhelmed with cheese.

I really liked the contemporary decor and busy atmosphere at Pasqualinos (which cleared out later as we spent so long eating). In appearance it reminded me a little of my Leeds favourite, Salvos (you can read about Salvos here) though the food wasn’t quite to the same standard or price bracket, the relaxed atmosphere was definitely there and I’m eager to test the bar at Pasqualinos at some point too. They currently have 20% off cocktails at the bar after 9.30pm and the offer of a free glass of Prosecco with every two course meal from the a la carte menu, which finishes November 30th. These offers seem to change regularly so it’s worth peeping at their special offers page.

As i’d had a glass of vino with my meal and was slightly weary of increasing my calorie intake further I ducked out of dessert, but Katherine indulged in some cookies & cream ice cream, which came in a cute Pasqualino’s pot.

Pasqualinos ice cream

I needn’t have worried about the weight loss as I actually had best weight loss to date that week. Proof that you can eat out as long as you make considered choices. I’m planning on doing meat-free March again this year, so may well dip in to Pasqualinos when I do.

If you’re interested in taking a part in meat-free March or a meat-free recipe swap, sending vegetarian products for review, or offering sponsorship/prizes for this year’s competition please leave a comment below or email fay@foodfables.co.uk.

 

Today is officially meat day, after 31 days of loving lentils, chomping far too much cheese and even learning to embrace the bean, I have achieved my goal of going meat free for an entire month. I’ll be doing a mini round up of what I have learnt over the next few days but now I need to get on to something very important – My Meat-free recipe report.

I’m ashamed to say I’m a day late with posting this as I’ve been galavanting in my old haunt Leeds for the Bank Holiday but I did actually cook up my  swap Korma on Friday. If you’ve not been following my non-meaty March exploits, myself and fellow Chorizo appreciator Bitsandbobsbecs decided to set up the recipe swap to introduce us to new meat-free meals for us to cook an we invited a whole heap of fellow bloggers to join us. You can read about the setup here. We’ll also be posting links to all of the fantastic blog posts the other recipe swappers have penned so you can salivate over everyone’s efforts. There have been some great posts so far, which is going to make choosing a winner tricky (the best post will receive a prize of veggie goodies from Abel and Cole and a veggie meal at GBK)

I was paired up with the lovely Kate over at Cake Poppins, Kate is not only a professional cake maker (warning: her blog will make you drool onto your keyboard), she’s also a vegetarian and I was put in touch with her via Twitter after doing a shout out for recommendations for local veggie/vegan restaurants. As well as being a fellow North Easterner, it would same Kate and I both share a love of curry as we ended up swapping veggie Indian Recipes. I sent her my failsafe, easy-peasy, full of taste gobi aloo recipe and some of the core spices for the recipe along with some of Maunika Gowhardan’s delicious sweet date chutney.  Here’s what it looked like:

meat-free march recipe swap goodies

Gobi Aloo goodies

Carried in the opposite direction by the good geordie post people was not one but three curry recipes – vegetable korma curry, green peas with coconut and coriander and tomato and cashew chutney. Kate said she usually cooks these in combination to serve up to a crowd, but as I was dining with my boyfriend only (who is veggie and enjoyed the novelty of me not eating dead things in front of him) I decided to cook just one of the curries this time round. Kate also thoughtfully included a nut roast recipe, which I’m sure he will be grateful of one Sunday to come. The tomato and cashew chutney is apparently a tiptop pasta sauce too, so expect a post on that and over-excitement about using my pasta maker coming up soon!

I called the curry “korma chameleon’ as it contained so many colours and the sauce changed beyond all recognition and each stage. It was quick and easy to make and the smell of it cooking lured my meat-loving dad into the kitchen to beg for a taste.  Here is how the preparation went:

 

vegetable korma curry recipe

Serves 3/4 (depending if you are serving alongside other dishes)

75g cashew nuts

75g dessicated coconut

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp indian five spice (my addition)

6 tbsp vegetable oil

1 onion, finely chopped

5 fresh green chillies, finely chopped,

1 inch root ginger, finely chopped

10 curry leaves

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp chilli powder

1 green pepper

1 red pepper

100g carrots – cubed

100g potato – cubed

50g green peas

2 tsp salt

 

Method

The first step was to blend the coconut and cashew into a paste – I did this with a hand blender and the aid of 100ml of water, though if you have a proper blender you probably won’t have to test your Popeye strength!

korma base paste

Coconut cashew paste: It's all white at this stage

Next, the oil went in the pan, and the seeds were put in to crackle, followed by the chillis, seeds, onion, curry leaves and giner. Ater five minutes the powders were added and cooked through on a low heat.

Spicy onion mix

Spicy onion mix: It's getting colourful

The next stage was making my korma sauce more of a combo, which involved stirring in the coconut paste and adding water.

Korma meets onion mix

Korma meets onion mix: Turning turmericy

The recipe called for half a pint of water to be added, along with the vegetables, to be followed by ten minutes of cooking. However, my notoriously rustic (lazy) chopping skills meant I had to cook the mix for a little while longer and added closwer to three quarters of a pint of water, to create a lovely thick sauce.

vegetable korma with cashews

Korma chameleon is now multi-coloured

The eagle-eyed among you will notice I used red chillies. I have a huge supply of these as we froze a mega-batch from my Dad’s allotment last summer. I served up the korma into bowls and scooped it up with a garlic and coriander naan and I’m happy to say it really hit the spot. I usually avoid kormas because restaurant versions so often come laden with cream, but this vegan version was far friendlier to my tummy and so cheap to make too. I had all of the ingredients in my lader aside from the spices, which Kate kindly sent. It’s so quick to make that it’s a top takeaway alternative, though my dad did lament that he thought it might taste even nicer with some chieken tikka slipped in. Personally, I’ll be keeping it meat-free next time I make it, though I may pop in some Paneer – inspired by my recent visit to one of Maunika Gowhardan’s curry-making classes.

i’m really pleased with how the recipe swap went and extra happy that going without sausage for 31 days has put me in touch with some talented bloggers with lots of tips to share!

During my recent  #heartswap parcel exchange I decided that waggly tailed dogs deserve as much love on Valentines Day as the rest of us. I knew that my  #heartswap partner Em had a little puppy flash and I didn’t want him to feel left out when she received her parcel of foodie treats, so I made some treats for him too. To make the treats I looked around at a few different recipes and then tweaked them according to the ingredients I had in the cupboard. These biscuits are entirely dairy free (as a lot of my recipes are) and are perfectly OK for us humans to munch too. In fact, they are vegan so perfect for Meatfree March, however, they aren’t very sweet – my dad tried one and said they were a little like a not-sugary peanut digestive! Although nuts aren’t good for doggies in large amounts, the advice seems to be that they are ok for them in moderation and oh, do they love these biscuits!

Doggy biscuit dough
(Makes enough to fuel many waggly-tailed adventures for bounding wooflers)

  • Two medium bananas (mashed)
  • 120g crunchy peanut butter
  • 300g wholemeal flour
  • Four tablespoons of carob powder (I used some I received in a recent foodie penpals parcel)
  • Almond milk (a little glug to form a smooth pastry dough, dogs aren’t meant to have too much of this)
    All the ingredients for peanut butter puppy treats

    Puppy treat ingredients, ready for mixing

    I weighed out all the ingredients and poured into the food mixer, adding a good glug of almond  milk until I achieved the consistency below:

    Peanut and carob puppy treat mix

    Peanut and carob puppy treat mix, ready for rolling

    Next, I rolled the mixture out  fairly thinly on a floured surface and cut using different size heart cutters, you can see the lovely texture from the crunchy peanut butter.

    Peanut and carob dog biscuits

    Peanut and carob puppy treats

    I baked these at 160c for about 12 mins on a fan assisted oven and tested with my finger to make sure they were baked through. My biscuits were fairly small and thin though so baking time will vary and you really out to aim for crunchy rather than soggy – it will give the dogs something to sink their teeth into and keep longer. My biscuits happily kept in an airtight container for a few weeks until they ran out.

    peanut puppy treat package

    Peanut and carob puppy treats packaged to go

    I packaged up the treats for Flash in the same confectionary wrapper/ribbon combo I wrapped the lavender shortbread in the same parcel and I thought they looked really pretty. Overall, I found these treats really quick and easy to make and fairly cheap considering I already had the ingredients in the cupboard. They aren’t something I’d make my already very pampered pooches all of the time but they are definitely something I’d consider including in Christmas/special occasion hampers from now and they certainly bought lots of extra affection from our miniature Jack Russell and Border Terrier!