Saturday, 27 February 2016

Leon, Birmingham - a review

Leon fast food restaurant Birmingham
Although I'd heard of Leon as a brand, I'd never visited one of their restaurants before, so I was quite excited to be offered the chance to experience their take on 'naturally fast food' at their new branch at Birmingham New Street Station.

The Leon restaurant chain was designed to offer something a bit different to other fast food establishments...good, healthy food with Mediterranean flavour.
"...we asked ourselves: why can't fast food be good food? We opened Leon because we wanted to prove that it was possible to serve food that both tastes good and does you good. We want to make it easy for people to eat well on the high street. When we looked around for inspiration, we were drawn to the richness, flavours and natural healthiness of Mediterranean cooking. We base our food around the Mediterranean diet, meaning our menu focuses on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, seeds and unrefined cereals." 
sweet potato falafel hot box
Although they only offer a few vegetarian options (including a couple of vegan choices), they all appealed to me. I was particularly pleased to see that they also offer a healthy vegetarian kids' meal, which is a rare occurrence in fast food restaurants. I went for the sweet potato falafel hot box and Miss K opted for the halloumi wrap.

Within a few minutes of ordering, our food was ready. Mine was presented in an attractive box and Miss K's was wrapped in foil. My falafel were topped with grilled red peppers, served on a bed of rice and accompanied by a fresh, herby salad. Miss K's wrap was packed full of grilled halloumi and tasty salad with aioli dressing. We also tried some baked lattice 'fries' and had a bottle of zingy, still lemonade to drink.
Service was polite, friendly and efficient and the restaurant was very bright and clean. The only negative was that the door was left propped open the whole time we were there, which made it quite chilly on a cold, wet day in February!

Leon menu
Of course, using healthy and fresh ingredients costs more than 'junk food' but our two meals with a side and soft drink each, still came in at under £20, which I feel was reasonable for the quality and portion sizes of the food. Our overall experience was very positive. For fast food, our meals looked and tasted really good and both Miss K and I said we would certainly eat there again.

Integrity Statement
I was offered two free meals at Leon, in consideration for a review . All views expressed are genuine.

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Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Gemista; Greek-Style Stuffed Peppers with Potatoes

Gemista, YemistaGemista (pronounced yemista) is one of my favourite Greek vegetarian dishes. It normally consists of a large tomato and a pepper stuffed with a herby rice mixture and baked in the oven. However, it sometimes contains minced beef or pork, so be sure to check before ordering this dish in Greece!

My version is vegan, but it is traditionally served sprinkled with grated cheese.

Serves 4-8 depending on appetite. 

For the peppers
  • 8 small-medium bell peppers
  • 1 cup risotto rice
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • ½ cup water/stock (plus more to top up)
  • ½ cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp each of dried oregano and dill
  • 2 tbsp each of chopped fresh parsley and mint
  • a good pinch of cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp olive oil 
  • Salt and pepper to season
For the potatoes
  • 10-12 small-medium potatoes, peeled and cut into haves or quarters, depending on size
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped or crushed
  • 1 lemon, cut into quarters
  • ½ cup chopped tomatoes
  • ½ cup water/stock
  • ½ cup Kalamata or Halkidiki olives
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/170C Fan/350F/Gas 4

First prepare the peppers, by slicing the tops off (reserve these) and de-seeding.
Place in a large, deep, heat-proof dish.
Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in pan.
Sweat off the onions and garlic for a few minutes on a low heat.
Add the rice and cook for a further 2 minutes.
Add all of the remaining ingredients and stir well.
Simmer with the lid on for around 7-10 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is half cooked. 
Spoon the rice into the raw peppers (they should be about ½-¾ full).
Fill each pepper to just below the top with boiling water or vegetable stock and pop the 'lids' back on the peppers.

Prepare the potatoes and scatter randomly amongst the peppers.
Top the potatoes with the chopped tomatoes and other ingredients.  
Drizzle the peppers and potatoes with the remaining 3 tbsp of olive oil.

Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour. 
Check after an hour to see how tender the potatoes are; turn the potatoes carefully and if not tender, recover and bake for a further 15-20 minutes.
When the potatoes are soft, uncover and cook for a further 15-20 minutes, to colour up.

 Cooking with HerbsServe with a seasonal salad.

Top tip: This recipe is easy to scale up  to serve a large crowd and can be prepared in advance and cooked when needed.

Not suitable for freezing.

I'm linking this post to Karen's latest Cooking with Herbs linky at Lavender & Lovage. 

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