Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Swanky Sweden!

Finally managed to get hold of the photos taken from my Stockholm holiday. Thanks to K's Canon SLR, photos (especially the food ones) showed significant improvement in quality! Hope my compromise on getting a Panasonic Lumix TZ2 recently provides an adequate compensation in terms of quality, trading off on it's weight/bulkiness .

Stockholm is a beautiful city by the sea, boasting hundreds of beautiful islands on the archipelago. We spend 5 days in Sweden, with one in Sandhamn, a quaint island just a short ferry ride away from the city. It's my favorite day in Sweden, just because the island is really small and there's not much to do except wine and dine and slacking around, which fits my criteria of a retirement plan :P

There are 3 main accommodation on site, 2 restaurants, a cafe and some grocery stores. That's a tiny island yea? But there are plenty of yachts around that day, as there's a competition going on. We arrived at noon and were instantly mesmerized by the crisp and fresh air, clear blue sky and crystal clear water

Lunch was at Seglar hotel's bistro, the largest hotel at the island (there are only 2 anyway) ...

I had Truffle risotto with grilled vegetables and pesto. It was a large serving, but it was really good that I manage to clean the plate :) The risotto was creamy and fluffy, yet maintained it's bite and not overcooked. The pesto sauce was freshly made, a good match with the lightly salted grilled peppers and even the truffle risotto.

G had beef for starters. Somehow I can't recall what it's called, but it was a roast beef dish served with some grilled vegetables and sausages, in a spicy tomato sauce, if not mistaken. Ain't it pretty?

M had fish for main course, also beautiful presented below. Poached lemon pike in a cream sauce served with vegetables. I really like the way to line up the carrot, beetroot and radish, not chopped up and on top of each other, making something so common and plain special.

And after lunch, all of us just retreated in our IKEA-like furnished hotel and slept for the afternoon... Now that's a real holiday :P

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Chinese Snacks

Cravings, cravings, what has it done to me? :P

I realized how much I missed this Chinese snack upon spotting the road side stall miles away, through my nose :)

Even in London, it's common to find Chinese crullers/you tiao/yau char kuey, sold by Chinese bakeries and the dim sum restaurants. It's a popular breakfast (yes, really) item in Hong Kong, served with warm congee (rice porridge). In Malaysia, it's commonly dipped in soya bean milk and also Bah Kut Teh (literal translation: Pork Bone Tea) soups.

Yet, there are many variations to this and this is my favorite one called Ma Keok (Horse's Foot). self explanatory as it looks like the horses' hoof. It's sprinkled with LOADS of sesame seeds and has some spice-y (no I don't mean hot) flavor to it. I think it's 5 spice powder or something. It's best crisp and fresh out of the hot boiling oil, cooled for a few minutes or so to allow all the oil to drip dry.

Another variation is called Ham Chim Peng. In this category, there is 3 types: salty, with glutinous rice, or with tau sar (red bean paste). You can call it a "Chinese donut", it can definitely rival the Krispy Kreme I must say. It's made out of flour, some 5 spice powder, ammonia powder and water. This is the tau sar version below.

Sinful stuff, I know. But what's life without some of them occasionally?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Bah Zhang (Savoury Dumplings) Round 2

This is the revenge of the Bah Zhang that I'd promised since the first attempt in May that went awry. Good and accurate control of the water level is key, turns out perfect after the porridge-y version episode :)! However, this time I was less ambitious and reduced my 'guinea pigs' by 33% (from 3 to 2) :P

Same recipe as before (check out the May 07 archive for details), here are some photos of my attempt. This is the lap cheong (chinese sausages), sliced and dry fried. The more observant ones will notice that there's a small piece of the fat casing that fell off the top layer of the sausage on the table.

This is the wok in action, a picture of stir fried pork loin pieces (I used this instead of chicken this time), dried prawns, and Chinese mushrooms with seasonings.

Adding the glutinous rice that were soaked overnight, there's loads of tossing and stirring to be done...
Adding some light and dark soy sauce (I'm not really an Oyster sauce person somehow) for color and taste ...
Yan kindly brought a special extra ingredient of chestnuts to add the authenticity of the dish. And to think that I even forgot about that! You can see them in the final result below :D

Another dish improved, thankfully :) Taste wise you'd better consult Yan and/or P about it for a more objective opinion, as it's the norm to love eating what you cook :P

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Delightful D'Arry's

What better place to bring your family and friends for a meal in Cambridge?

I know, I know, I'm raving about d'Arry's again! Cause it's simply the place to impress, whether it's to show off British cuisine in a non conventional way, or that Cambridge is just not another nerdy town with pub grub and kebab stalls only :P

Graduation lunch here with my family and Yan provided the avenue for us (mainly me) to provide a more objective review of their main courses. All of us went for their main instead of lunch menu which only consist of lighter meals like sandwiches and wraps. My oh my, their menu didn't disappoint.

Ready to feast with your hungry eyes, mind and soul??

I chose Fish Pie (£10.80) which is a combination of salmon, smoked haddock and prawns on a bed of spinach, baked in a fresh and creamy white wine butter sauce with Parmesan herb crusted top, served with beautifully roasted baby new potatoes and seasonal vegetables. Yes, everything about it sounds evil with cream and dairy overdosage, ah well, it's graduation :P I'd have preferred a crustier top though, and given their extensive menu, I'd say that there are better options out there. However, their roast potatoes are to die for ...

K ordered Fish of the Day, which was Grilled Sea Bream on a bed of roasted seasonal greens. Look at the picture. Never have I seen such a beautiful masterpiece. Not only beautiful by sight, it was also grilled to perfection, with it's succulent texture and crispy skin lightly seasoned with salt.

I'd love to be able to do this dish in the future since seafood is my favorite thing. Something simple yet with such powerful impact if done perfectly ...

M had the Bacon and Barbecue Chicken (£ 8.95), which was reviewed in my previous post on d'Arry's. This is a safe bet with chicken breast grilled with a bacon rasher (to prevent dryness), BBQ sauce and melted Cheddar cheese, served with chunky chips and seasonal vegetables. The sauce was still good with a gooey consistency, something like sweet and sour sauce with extra cheesiness :) I absolutely love the chunky chips, their presentation makes big fries trendy again!

G had the 12 oz Scotch Rib-eye Steak (£ 13.95), grilled on demand with chunky chips, roast tomato, onion rings, seasonal vegetables with peppercorn sauce. Needless to comment on how it tasted like as the dish was finished pretty quickly, a big complement coming from a rather picky eater! However, I can't believe he didn't touch the onion rings! I'm not much of a fan as well I must say, but look at those irresistible onion rings and how can you not at least try them?! Boys ... :P

D had the special Dish of the Day, written on the blackboard. I don't exactly remember the name, but all I recalled was that he ordered Pan fried Shark Meat, how cool is that! It was served with some sort of sauce and vegetable dressing, with a purple potato timbales beautifully decorated on the side.

Ok, I might have just said a confusing and incomprehensible sentence. Let me explain ...

The Purple potatoes itself are uniquely of Peruvian origin. They are a smaller oval-shaped potato with a purplish black outer skin and vivid purple, dense inner 'meat'. I so love it when you have 'odd' colored food which add a special dimension to a dish! However, I learn that they are less flavorful as other potato varieties and tend to get mushy if overcooked. On the other hand, timbales is a cylindrical metal drum which are played with 2 sticks, seems to be common in European/Latin American culture, if I'm not mistaken. Hence the purple potato is shaped like a timbales in the picture below. Now you know what it means if you see the word timbales (pronounced teem-bah-les) in the menu of a fancy restaurant :) This dish received a thumbs up from D.

Yan's choice was also from the blackboard, this was her Shepherd's Pie served with lightly roasted asparagus and root vegetables (carrots, parsnips and purple radish). Highly suspect that purple may be a trendy food color or something :P Anyway, I liked the brown colored sauce dressing. The pie was really good and the vegetables nicely balanced out the gamey taste of the pie.

It was a good lunch fare for a special occasion. Definitely a day to remember ...

Lunch was beautiful :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Copper Kettle

The Copper Kettle restaurant at the heart of Cambridge (Kings Parade, just opposite the touristy King's College) serves a pretty good fare from breakfast to dinner. It's a good place to pop by for tea as well, sipping a cuppa with their beautiful array of desserts, cakes and snacks :) I brought my parents and Yan here on their visit to Cam for a try on their Mediterranean food.

Mom had grilled swordfish and aubergine with salad. This was all I could manage to take given the direct sun shine still at 7pm that day.

I on the other hand, was feeling slightly carnivorous that day and craving something meaty and more substantial. This gigantic braised lamb shank was the answer to my prayers :P

I also ordered hummus and pita bread as starters, as my parents have not tried them out before. Despite their curious looks and lack of adventurous spirit, they finally tried it out thanks to our persuasion :) I guess it's difficult to imagine eating mashed chickpeas with tahini sauce and pita bread for the first time!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Granchester Meadows

The pre graduation mania is worth a post.

It's ironic to think that one should be more carefree and less stressed after final exams. Yet, it's simply just a different sort of stress with more administrative stuff to do, e.g. shifting, transport, accommodation search (for myself and parents), packing up etc etc. This was interspersed with more fun stuff like May balls, garden parties and simply catching up with friends, making the post exam 'holiday' of 3 weeks before graduation equally tiring.

I took the opportunity to walk out and about a day before my parents arrived, given that there was not much to do as most people had left, or busy with their parents, and moreover, the weather was more like summer for once. I went to Granchester Meadows to check out the B&B place that I booked for my parents to make sure it was okay. The place was pretty and the lady kindly recommended that I take a stroll to Granchester. Since I have not been there (& absolutely can't leave Cambridge without visiting it), that seemed like a brilliant option to fill up my time. :)

It was a nice, quiet stroll on a sunny yet cooling day... having some 'me' time musing over the past 3 years of Cambridge. Halfway there after 20 minutes or so the weather started to be... let's just say a bit unpredictable. Being neither here nor there, I had no choice but to pray that it doesn't rain and I don't get drenched.

This is what unpredictable British weather really means ...

The day started off like this ...

And when it was this I thought I was doomed to be drenched ...

But it progressed to this, without a single drop of rain after all, phew!

Finally making my way to the Orchard, I was keen to check out their famous tea garden for some tea and scones! They have a huge array of food, ranging from light stuff like scones and cakes to main meals like pasta and sandwiches.

I chose this gigantic fruit scone with jam for only 2 pounds, with a cuppa Earl Grey tea. Must say that I've never really been a big fan of scones, but this was pretty good and super filling! It's best eaten toasted I feel :)

Here are some pics of the beautiful tea garden and it's tranquil surroundings ...

Glad I finally made a visit there to take a long slow stroll by the river Cam before I leave... Gonna miss Cambridge a lot! T_T

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Pub Grub at Slug

Hey people! I'm finally back home in Malaysia for a short 3 week holiday! Expect a huge surge of posts frenzy as soon as I get over the jet lag :)

Here's another of my favorite British food, especially on a cold winter's day - Lamb Shank in onion gravy with peas and mashed potatoes. The perfect comfort food, hehe

But I still had this at Slug and Lettuce on the third week of June, maybe because it doesn't feel like a typical summer anyway this year with the strong wind and rain!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Be Right Back!

Dear all,
Graduation has come and passed, and now I'll be away for a week of holiday in Sweden! Have way too many backlog posts, will be right back soon by next week to update on Swedish food :)