Itsu Oxford review

The new itsu store in Oxford

The new itsu store in Oxford

Having passed a few itsus in London I was vaguely aware it was somewhere to eat, but hadn’t actually been in one until the new one in Oxford opened. Now I know I’ll be grabbing lunch there as often as possible! Paul and I took Erica, who is now 1 year old, hopeful that she’d eat something on offer. Feeling ravenous, we went for the hot veggie options – the noodles for me with veggie dumplings and the rice for Paul with 7 veg. For Erica we got the rice with chicken (so I could try some too!), and a fruit fix frogo pot with frozen yoghurt on the top for dessert.

All of the food we had was excellent, everything was very fresh and the flavours were brilliant. I particularly liked the pickled seaweed (kombu) on the chicken and rice dish, and the ithai sauce on the rice dishes was delicious. The downside is this sauce is not vegetarian – we appreciate that fish sauce doth maketh the dish, but if you were a strict veggie (Paul makes an exception for fish sauce in thai food), you would be missing out on a taste sensation. It seems a shame that there is only one alternative “broth”, (assuming that it is the one I had on the noodles) rather than something resembling the ithai sauce. The broth on the noodles was lovely too, but not the lovely spicy coconut kick of the ithai. We were amazed to find that Erica too liked the ithai sauce, nom nom. She also relished eating my udon noodles.

I can’t fault the food we ate, but I think it is fair to say that itsu is not targeted at veggies, with very few veggie options available. Rather it is targeted at those preferring a high protein, low carb diet. A few more veggie options (meals, not just the small go-go pots), would be brilliant to see – and give us more reasons to go back again and again.

As for the place itself – clean, nice staff, and plenty of yummy condiments on the tables. Being able to help yourself to water was a bonus too. For those with little ones, don’t be put off by the pedestal stools – I am assured highchairs are on the way.

I imagine some of the other eateries / takeaways in Oxford are going to have to pull their socks up or lose quite a bit of business to itsu, not only because of the quality of the food, but the prices too – it seemed such good value compared with more mundane sandwich type options, or the more expensive places offering similar dishes like Wagamamas. Not only was it good value at full price – they reduce remaining stock to half price before the end of the day to try and avoid food waste – brilliant.

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Quorn shepherd’s pie

My mum used to make shepherd’s pie on a regular basis before I became vegetarian and I missed the comfort food that is a massive helping of shepherd’s pie. Here’s our recipe that gives a bit of a different kick to the filling but is still utterly delicious.

This feeds 4 hungry people or 6 regular people.


  • One tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • One large or two medium white onions
  • One or two cloves of garlic
  • 350g Quorn or soya mince
  • A large carrot, peeled and grated
  • One tin (440g) of chopped tomatoes
  • One tablespoon of tomato paste
  • One teaspoon of ground ginger
  • One teaspoon of ground cumin
  • One teaspoon of ground coriander
  • One teaspoon of marmite (or stock powder, or miso paste)
  • Juice of a lemon
  • 1 kg of potatoes suitable for mashing (we use King Edwards)
  • 25g butter (or more if you like your mash creamy)
  • 50ml milk (ditto)
  • 100g cheddar cheese (more is OK if you want)
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C (fan) or 200C (normal).
  2. Peel and finely chop the onion and garlic. Fry in the oil on a medium heat for a couple of minutes, then add the quorn or soya mince. Mix it well with the onion.
  3. Once the mince is cooked through, add the spices, lemon and carrot and stir for another minute.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes and tomato puree, mix well in and leave to simmer (covered) for 15-20 mins. Top up with some boiling water if it goes dry.
  5. Meanwhile, peel and roughly chop the potatoes. Boil in salted water for 10-15 mins until they’re ready for mashing. Mash with the butter and milk until they’re as smooth as you like them. Season well with salt and pepper.
  6. Grab your favourite oven dish. Spoon in the quorn mince mix, then cover with the mashed potatoes. Use a fork to create a pleasing pattern on the surface of the mash.
  7. Finally, grate the cheese over the top and put in the oven for 15-20mins until the top is nicely browned.
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Madeira photos

Erica’s first trip abroad, aged 3.5 months, to the lovely island of Madeira. 17-24 December 2012, and mostly warm and sunny!

Full set on Flickr

Strelizia heading eastAt MonteView north from the Levada do Norte

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Beetroot, quinoa and feta salad with cumin and yoghurt dressing

Invented this after getting inspiration from a variety of recipes on the net, as we have lots of beetroot at the moment. The cumin and yoghurt go beautifully with the feta and walnut.

Serves two as a main or four as a starter.

Salad ingredients

  • 100g quinoa
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 4 smallish Beetroot, cooked and peeled (or precooked pack)
  • 100g feta
  • 100g baby plum or cherry tomatoes
  • 50g walnut pieces

Dressing ingredients

  • 200ml natural yoghurt
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Juice of a lemon
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Simmer the quinoa in the stock for 15 mins, then rinse in cold water and drain.

Toast or dry fry the walnut pieces until crunchy.

Cut the beetroot into small wedges, the feta into chunks and the tomatoes in half.

Make the dressing: toast the cumin seeds for a minute, then crush with a pestle and mortar. Blend with the rest of the dressing ingredients and season to taste.

Mix the quinoa and the rest of the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle over the dressing.

Serve with a green salad.

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California 2012

Back from California with an SD card or three. Enjoy the pics, and here’s the route we took

The full set of photos is on Flickr.

Breaching juvenile gray whale Becs and Jan at Fort Point
Pelican on the turn California poppy and beeBadlands on the Golden Canyon / Zabriskie Point walk Turkey vulture

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Heron in flight

Birds in flight are tricky to capture, although herons are a bit slower and more predictable, and on a sunny day (with a 500mm zoom) you can get shots like this…

Heron in flight

(taken on the Thames downstream from Clifton Hampden)

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Winter 2012

Although it seems far from over, here’s a couple of photos from this winter…

Winter hareFrosty postBullfinchCrepuscular light

The full Winter set is on Flickr.

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Best of the Brothers photos

Photos from our diving trip to the Red Sea. Liveboard from Hurghada out to The Brothers Islands and back via Safaga.

View the full Best of Brothers set on Flickr.

Flathead scorpionfish Sweetlips in a line

Spanish dancer Speckled sandperch

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Garden update

Lots has been happening in the garden, too much to blog about unfortunately.

Our new raised beds are finished and we’ve already planted them up with toms, cucumbers, leeks, carrots, spring onions, salsify, chard, beets and squashes! The greenhouse toms and peppers are also going strong.

Also sowed five varieties of pansies for autumn / winter flowering, and Becs sowed some beans for a late autumn crop.

New raised beds
Leeks in the new raised bed
Greenhouse toms and peppers

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Brew #6 – Old Yella

UPDATE 24/06/2011: first couple of bottles we’ve tried taste rather nice, and it was interesting to compare it to a pint of the real thing (Badger First Gold) whilst in Poole the other weekend – tastes very similar!

Having had two problem brews (#4 and #5), my confidence was knocked so it took a little while to summon up the energy for this brew, despite having had the ingredients for a few months.

It’s based upon the Barley Bottom Old Yella recipe, but I replaced Fuggles with Goldings as I had no Fuggles around… and it comes in at much weaker 1.032 OG as I use more liquid in the sparge.

Hand sparging Brew#6 - Old Yella

Hand sparging Brew#6 - Old Yella

OG Brew#6 - Old Yella

OG Brew#6 - Old Yella

Here’s the brew notes for Brew #6 – Old Yella

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