A Little Plug- Aqua 8

Aqua 8– small but swanky mid price restaurant in central Ipswich offering ‘Creative Pan Asian’ cuisine and currently the top of my ‘Must Revisit’ list.

aq8I discovered them on recommendation for a half decent Chinese before a theatre outing in Suffolk’s county town, in doing so discovering the high point of an otherwise disappointing weekend. But enough of that.

It’s a small but oh so shiny venue, tucked away on Lion Street in the town centre. The decor is certainly swish, heavy on mirrored surfaces and strategic coloured lighting that leaves it just a breath away from being unpleasantly flashy. The menu is extensive and mouthwatering to consider, offering your standard staples of sweet and sours, thai curries and dim sum backed up with some serious gastronomical fodder in the way of soft shell crab, wasabi steaks and a very good selection of fish. Gluten free menus are available and they also offer more tofu options than you could shake a vegan at.

We went for their early bird set dinner, being pressed for time and the ability to make decisions on such a wide menu, and we weren’t disappointed. We started with a fantastic sharer including a knock out chicken satay and perfectly executed salt and chilli squid. This was followed up by a simple but beautifully presented meat and seafood main course with a fat pot of sticky rice on the side. I could say king prawns, sweet and sour, beef in black bean. I actually mean wonderfully fragrant prawns in an intricate golden funnel; thin sirloin strips in a dark and oozy flavour packed sauce served in a woven rice noodle basket and cantonese style sweet & sour pork that, well, I could eat. Sweet & Sour for me is up there with lasagna, scampi and squid in my top never ordered restaurant options quite simply because if they aren’t perfect, they are out and out vile and will ruin my day as much as my meal.

A wide range of funny teas were available for the boy and tinpot by the glass left me a happily hydrated camper also. We didn’t get to dessert.

This isn’t a budget option but I didn’t feel a need to call the wallet police either, our above adventure came out at sixty quid and some small change though those less fond of a kiwi sauvignon than myself could save on that total. The service is fantastic and friendly without invasion and the surroundings just jazzy enough to make it feel like a special occasion- even if you are flying in at half five on a Saturday afternoon in a rush to get fed before curtain up.

It was a very good meal, the best of it’s kind I have had and I am actively seeking reasons to go back and try out the menu proper, though I suspect we may return for the ‘chef’s choice’ where you specify your preference for meat or fish or both and see what the kitchen thinks is best that day. Maybe we can add a chapter to the 3rd shortest book in the world as declared by my Father ‘Great Nights Out In Ipswich’.

No, I’m not telling you what the first two are, I would be banned from the internet.

menu, directions and full site here http://aquaeight.com/ 


Adventures In Slow Cooking- Medieval Stewed Heart

As promised from the last VIFC review, full instructions for the slow cooked stew I cobbled together using commonly heralded ingredients from the era, rather than an actual recipe. Because I couldn’t find one.

I must give due respect to the fellow foodies for all piling in for this without so much of a squeam at the idea of eating heart, unlike my dear other half who had steadfastly resisted my suggestions at giving it a go for both the sense of adventure and fiscal advantages as a decent sized tub of Ox Heart will get you change from £2 at your local Morrisons at the moment.* And it is very tasty, tender meat indeed though like many cheaper beef cuts it takes a lot of cooking. It’s also relatively low fat for those of us who care about such things.

I have to say this was one of my prouder slow cooker moments and has re iterated the previous lessons that you have to slow cook for a very long time and be heavy handed on the herbs and spices. My soggy bread fear was also promptly quieted as infact the addition of a crusty roll into the mix gives a great thickness to the stew, making it another winner amidst some past slow cooker disappointments.

*please check all their produce origins before buying as although much of the meat on sale is British farmed their fruit and veg is highly imported.

Medieval Stewed Heart

All times & quantities assume a 4.5L slow cooker


You will need:

700g Ox/beef heart, diced
Flour for dusting
Oil to fry
1 large white onion
1 bunch parsley
4 cloves
10 cardamom pods, lightly bruised
1tsp mace
2tsp cinnamon
2tsp ground black pepper
Good pinch saffron
1 crusty bread roll

Mix a couple of tablespoons of flour with salt and pepper then dredge over the meat and toss gently to ensure a thorough dusting. Fry in a light flavored oil or butter to seal then set aside.

DSC_0355Another glug of oil into your slowcooker then add the roughly chopped onion and parlsey, herbs and meat. Cover (only just!) with water then give it a stir, set on high and go away for 45 minutes and have a nice sit down. After this well deserved rest, roughly chop up your bread roll (at least a day old one if you can) and add that to the mix.YOU MUST USE A CRUSTY ROLL FOR HEAVENS SAKE! Cheap, soft, white bread will give you a gluey and grim final dish. Crusty roll from a bakery, no exceptions. Now go away for at least 4 hours and do something a little more constructive than having a sit down, don’t worry you have time. After this point feel free to try a little bit and tinker with seasoning as you wish, give it a stir if the bread isn’t breaking up. As always keep an eye on your pot, try not to take the lid off too often and add liquid if it looks like it’s drying up.

This will be a 5-6 hour cook and is ready when the meat is tender and the bread has completely broken down to give a thick sauce.

This is quite a fragrant dish and should serve at least 3 hearty (ha!) appetites or more as a buffet or side dish, perfect for a chilly evening after a long day in fields! To keep in with the middle ages theme you could served with more bread and a big glass of beer or modernise somewhat with some rice or a baked potato and something red. Enjoy.

variations- you could use any cut of stewing meat, shin would work equally well. Swap your spices as desired, if the sweet-savoury mix doesn’t appeal you can drop the mace, cinnamon and/or cardamom and use a beef stock or beer or red wine instead of water to give the sauce some kick.