Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Smoked Salmon Salad with Parsley Vinaigrette Dressing

Yesterday I've friends over at mine for a nice evening meal. I've prepared a menu that consist of 4 courses that it's nice, healthy and delicious.

Here's what I've prepared:
  1. Smoked Salmon Salad with Parsley Vinaigrette dressing served with farmhouse bread

  2. Leek and potato soup, side of seared scallops

  3. Roast Duck with cranberry and sloe gin sauce served with winter vegetables

  4. Fruity yogurt with slice of pineapple

Let me share with you smoked salmon salad with parsley vinaigrette dressing. This is a light meal to begin with. It tasted light, fresh and an elegant starter, goes well with a glass of rose or red wine. Really easy to make and my guests gave thumbs up ............ and one of my little guests requested ..... " Can I have more smoke salmon please? "

Smoked Salmon Salad with Parsley Vinaigrette Sauce

Ingredients (served 4)

  • 300 gm Scottish Lochmuir oak smoked salmon slices

  • 100 gm of crispy salad green


  • 1 bunch of flat leaf parsley (take the leaf only, discard the stem)

  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard

  • 1-2 tsp honey

  • 1 tsp sea salt

  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar

  • 1 tbsp of lemon juice
  • 3 pickled little onion/ 1 shallot

  • 4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil

  • freshly milled black pepper

  1. Use a pestle and mortar to pound and crush parsley, shallot/pickled onion, salt into puree. Then add in Dijon mustard, honey, vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil and pepper and blend well.

  2. Divide the salmon and salad into 4 portions. Assembled the smoked salmon and salad onto plate. Drizzle with some olive oil and garnish with the dressing (1).

    Enjoy the healthy salad.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Wishing all Merry Christmas

Wishing all a joyous Christmas and hope you all will enjoy the time with family and friends.

Tidings of peace, joy and love for Christmas...........

I was enjoying scone with adult drink [ noted: homemade damson gin ] on Christmas eve with friends. My friend made really lovely scone, I will try to make some next.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Winter Warming Drink- Apple Juice with Calvados

As Christmas is approaching and weather forecast saying the starting of second freeze going to begin tomorrow in Britain, with northerly Arctic wind blowing in. I hope that this year will have a white Christmas...... been waiting for a white Christmas during the last 4 winters. Yes it's going to be cold, haven't I said going to be very COLD.
To forget the cold outside, one can find comfort in winter warming drinks like a big mug of hot chocolate or Christmas mulled wine. Well, I have a nice bottle of Calvados given to me for my birthday present, my intention: to use it for making lovely apple tart, but hey, it' so cold outside, a warming apple juice with Calvados will take priority over tarts. This is a lovely drink which I intend to serve during Christmas as an alternative to mulled wine. Calvados is apple brandy and only being produced in region of Normandy in France.

Apple Juice with Calvados
  • 1 litre apple juice
  • 100 ml Calvados
  • 3-4 cinnamon stick
  1. In a pot, pour the apple juice in and add cinnamon and cook on low heat until boiling. This may take about 15 minutes. Off the heat.
  2. Then add in the Calvados and stir.
  3. Served on glass and decorate with cinnamon stick.
Enjoy the warming drink...... maybe with mince pies :-)

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Leek and Potato Soup

Winter has begun in it's full force. Two weeks ago, I came back to Artic condition here. The maximum temperature hardly rose above 0deg C. This is cold, very cold. However, I still continue to cycle to work even in this cold.
After cycling back from the cold condition outside, it's always inviting to have winter warming soup, which I call comfort soup. My diet these days are incline towards soup and broth as it's easy to prepare and can be kept for a week in the fridge. I'll introduce you to leek and potato soup being the seasonal ingredients readily available now.

Leek and potato soup
Ingredients (serves 4)
  • 2 large leeks - chopped
  • 2 large potatoes (about 300 gm)- cubed
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock/chicken stock
  • 1 large white onion-chopped
  • 150 ml double cream
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat oil in a pot, add onion, leeks and potatoes and let it sweat for around 5 minutes. Stir continuosly.
  2. Then pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat to low and continue to simmer until the vegetables become tender.
  3. Using a hand blender, blend until smooth. Then stir in the cream, off the heat.
  4. Served hot.
Trust me, this is really easy, comforting for a cold winter's supper and tasty. I find that the soup taste even better the next day. This soup can be easily kept up to a week in the fridge.

Dusting of first snow of this winter season

Thursday, 2 December 2010

I love San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

San Francisco is a great city, I would call it golden gateway to a fun fill holiday. There are so much to experience in this city and it surrounding area. We were there just for the weekend. Having a limited time at hand, one can only try to squeeze in as much "let's go, do this, do that" (one can only hope weather will be on our side). So here's our "To Do List" in San Francisco:

1. Arrive on Friday morning , take the cable car ride down to Pier39, then walked to Pier 33 for short ferry ride to Alcatraz Island.

For almost three decades, this island served as the most well known prison in the States. The ideal location with it's surrounding very cold, strong and hazardous undersea current make escape almost impossible. For obvious reason, this prison became the choice to place most serious offenders in those times. Of course the upkeep of the prison became very expensive, as all neccesary items has to be shipped in from San Francisco. The prison was closed down after 1963. We were on self audio guide tour, which were really well explained, I highly recommended it if you were visiting San Francisco.

Alcatraz Prison

2. San Francisco is also well known for it's unpredictable weather, it could be raining heavily one moment, could be sunny next, could be shrouded in thick fog etc. As weather is a bit cloudy and cold, we thought of heading down to "Slanted Door", a contemporary Vietnamese restaurant for an early dinner. However, we were turned away as we were too early and no advance booking allowed. Trust me this place is buzzing every evening. Instead of loitering around the place without any purpose and with an empty stomach, we forego this restaurant and decided to try out the famous San Francisco Clam Chowder at Boudin which is located near Pier 39/41. As we're there early, we're in for the Happy Hour menu deal, awesome. So we ordered clam chowder in sourdough bread bowl, it was absolutely a comfort food for a cold and chilly evening. Very tasty I must say. The only regret, my DSLR camera run out of power, so instead my friend offer to take picture of the clam chowder with his phone.

Clam Chowder in Sourdough Bread Bowl-Boudin

After dinner, we went back to Westin hotel and decided to go for a quick look around Macy's and The North Face flagship store just a few blocks away. I really like The North Face outdoor jacket, they look so versatile and of quality make (I bought some good deal jackets and ski gloves from The North Face outlet in Berkeley instead-love them)

3. Next day, it was pouring down hard early morning, we're about Pier 39 at around 8am deciding whether we should do the whole day cycle ride across Golden Gate to Sausalito and end at Tiburon which covers about 35km. So while waiting for the rain to stop, we decided to take our breakfast at Boudin again, which served really nice pastry with a grande hot chocolate top with whipped cream....... sinful but nice.

After our breakfast, the rain too had stopped, we decided we had to do the cycle ride.... but we had to decide whether we would like to go on tandem or individual bikes. After a try out on tandem, we decided we had much fun if we could go on individual bikes instead, absolutely the right choice. First we cycled to Pier 39 to see the residence seals. They're always there irregardless. It has become the iconic "to do" thing while in San Francisco beside the cable car ride. So we cycled through a bit of hilly terrain to reach Golden Gate. Along the way, weather turned out well, there are lots of photo opportunity, we just can't resist to snap on.

A wonderful day for cycling

The wind from the Pacific is quite strong and chilly as we stood on the bridge, absolutely lovely view of the ocean and the hilly terrain that encased the Bay Area. The cycle ride took us through coastal ride to Sausalito. A nice feel to this place, further ride north reveals a lot of houseboats near the marshlands. After that we decided to side track to Mill Valley to see the redwood forest. If you're nature lover, you'll probably spend the whole day trekking in this park.

Very nice post box near Mill Valley, in the redwood forest

After that we decided to take a short lunch break at Pearl's Phat Burger, noted the best burger place in this side of Bay Area. We deserved the fulfilling burger after burning quite a bit of calories cycling on the coastal and hilly terrain.

Pearl's Phat Burger-Yummy

Soon after, we left Mill Valley around 215pm and headed to Tiburon which will need around an hour of pedaling. The rides took us through scenic coastal route with San Francisco city at the backdrop. We reached Tiburon around 315pm which left us with ample of time to stroll around before catching the last ferry back to San Francisco at 430pm. Around this time the weather had turned a bit of the wild side, with high winds and rough sea, we wondered whether we'll be stranded on Tiburon. Finally the ferry arrived around 5pm, it has started to rain again. We were soaking wet when we returned to our bike rental area. Wet, cold but the whole experience is totally worth it. We enjoyed it very much. Returned back to hotel to freshen up and decided to give another try at Slanted Door, this time around the whole place was filled up to the brim, even the bar and waiting area people were savoring food, the atmosphere quite buzzing and exciting. Anyway....
In San Francisco there are no lack of good restaurant, so we decided to go back to Union Square and by chance we spotted this lovely Italian restaurant, Kuleto's. This place has very nice feel about it, I totally enchanted by the nice decor and ambience. It was already 930pm, so we decided not to eat too much but go easy on antipasti instead. We ordered fried calamari, insalate, carpaccio with shrimp to go with Italian red wine. The portion is huge to share between us. Elegant and gorgeous meal, with excellent service. I highly recommend this restaurant. By the time we finished our meal it has way past midnight, luckily our hotel just a block away. The only setback, my camera run out of power again.

4. On Sunday morning we went out really early again to see Lombard Street, well known for it's one way only steep, tight hairpin turn, if it's not's the most winding street in the whole world. It was interesting to see line of cars traveling down the street.

Lombard Street
After we headed up Coit Tower to get a bird eyeview of the bay area. It was pretty steep climb up the hilly road, now I started to see why the San Francisco residents are way much fitter. After the climb down, we decided to go for an early brunch at a well known Dim Sum Restaurant-Yank Sing. Apparently it get quite a good reputation on travel books, so we thought why not give it a try. I was so happy, finally I get to try dim sum.
Yank Sing Dim Sum, dissapointing

We ordered the usual dim sum items, apparently we felt that the waitress with the dim sum carts seem to push the food items quite easily onto our table before we even have chance to say we don't want it. The dim sum was nothing to rave about, my friend even commented the shiu mai tasted like processed meat, for me the Har Gow skin was totally thick, nothing special really. After we've done with the meal it took ages for the waiter to come back with an official receipt. The service was appalling . Would we go back there again.....the answer is NO. So we checked out from hotel and headed to Berkeley for outlet shopping before heading to San Jose.

Bay Bridge by nite

If I would go back to San Francisco, I would definitely take more time to explore the Napa Valley and perhaps to trek in Yosemite National Park.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Missing In Action Again

For the past 2 months, I had been traveling quite a bit, first to Ireland, then to the far east and recently I just got back from the States. Traveling bit was fun but I must say that my natural body clock all gone haywire due to different time zones. After catching up the much needed sleep or sleeps here I am. To my readers out there, apology for the rather "silenzio" moment in my blog for the last 1 month or so.

It was rather a good opportunity to return to US before my visa runs out. I was attending a conference in Dallas for a week. We didn't get to see Dallas very much as the conference programs were rather compacted from early morning to evening. Only on one evening, we went out to Galleria Dallas for shopping. Most of Christmas lighting is up. Apart of that we don't get to experience any cultural event. From food point of view, there are no lack of choices of good to very good restaurants along Belt Line Road close to where our hotel is. We even won over by an authentic Japanese Sushi Bar, known as Mr. Sushi, we went back twice to dine there, so oishi!

After Dallas trip, we flew to San Francisco, stay tuned for more exciting stories of San Francisco..........

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

To Far East and back again

I was away for 2 weeks in the Far East, wished I was scuba diving or scaling peaks in Asia. But this trip has brought me to Taiwan on a business trip. I've been to Taiwan several times and one can't resist the temptation of over indulging in "varieties of good food". Taiwan is well known for it's delicious street food, spicy hot pot which is uniquely Taiwanese, modern Japanese cuisines, in short so much choices that you are likely to overeat ( ahem! time for strict diet after returning to UK :-) )

I'm still experiencing jet lag and potentially down with cold at the moment, therefore this is going to be a short post I promise. Hope you enjoy some lovely food pictures.

This Japanese restaurant-Shinbashi earned it's reputation to create modern fusion Japanese food.One of the recommended dish is deep fried soft shell crab in golden pumkin sauce-absolutely delicious. Their sashimi plate tasted so fresh. If you're fan of good Japanese food and happen to be in Hsinchu, check this restaurant out.

I went to another city, Chung Li to visit some friends. They brought me to try out the authentic Taiwanese Spicy hot pot. If you're fan of spicy food (I mean seriously SPICY), you'll love it. One of the special item in hot pot is the congealed duck blood cubes. It tasted alright, with tofu like textures. The trick to tone down the spiciness is to dip your items in bowl of white vinegar.

This restaurant we discovered accidentally in Hsinchu which served good quality Shanghainese cuisines. The Xiaolongbao here tasted very good. Good Dongbo pork (however a bit disappointed with their bun to wrap the pork).

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Roast Figs with Honey, Cinnamon and Thyme

Figs in season right now. Before I came over here, honestly I don't know how fresh figs look like and taste like. All I know figs are dried, sweet with thousands of seeds that make the textures so unique, you either hate or love it.

Few years ago, I did try fresh figs but I'm not bowed over, I thought dried figs tasted better or perhaps I didn't choose the "Finest" fresh range. So this season, I thought I will give it a try by roasting them instead, so just to start with, I only bought 2 figs.....
So I found this simple recipes and thought would give it a go.....

Roast Figs with Honey, Cinnamon and Thyme
  • 3 tbsp clear honey
  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp brandy
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 12 figs
  • few sprigs of thyme
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C (fan assisted oven).
  2. Pour the honey butter, brandy and cinnamon in small saucepan. On low heat, continue stirring until a liquid formed.
  3. Using a sharp knife , make a cross cut from top to almost at the base.
  4. Place them on roasting tin, add thyme and drizlle with the liquid from(2)
  5. Roast for 15minutes and leave them in oven for additional 5inutes or so.
  6. Serve with yoghurt, ice cream, cream or even on it's own with the tasty roasting juice.
It's a nice and simple desserts..... healthy as well.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Autumn Elixir-Rose Hip

As evening are drawing in, temperature has gradually dropping, autumn has sets in. There are things to enjoy in autumn-I mean simple things that just make the day. Me and Alge went rose hip picking near our work place. Rose hip are the berry-like fruits of the rose bush left behind after the bloom has died. They are typically red or orange, but may also be dark purple to black in some species. Although nearly all rose bushes produce rose hips, the tastiest for eating purposes come from the Rugusa Rose. Rose hips have a tangy, fruity flavor similar to that of cranberries. Each hip comprises an outer fleshy layer which may contain up to 150 seeds embedded in a matrix of fine hairs. The irritating hairs should be removed before using the rose hips in a recipe.

The red hips are in abundance at the moment, what a joy. I decided to use it for making rose hip syrup, a remedy to ward off cold/flu as it's high in Vitamin C. Homemade elixir, full of goodness. Two years ago, Alge made the syrup and gave me a bottle. So this year I decided to make and gave Alge a bottle too. I used the recipes from here.

Rose hip has excellent natural source of vitamin C, rose hips have been used for centuries as a medicinal herbal remedy in teas, syrups and tinctures. During World War II, under instruction from the Ministry of Health, British school children were given the job of collecting rose hips from hedgerows to make into a vitamin C-rich rose hip syrup, and replace the imported oranges that were no longer able to land in the United Kingdom.

Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is a vitamin absolutely necessary for the body to remain in good health as it not only acts as an antioxidant and protects the body against free radicals, it protects against infection, helps with wound repair and promotes healthy cell development. However, since ascorbic acid is a water soluble vitamin it is not manufactured by the body and therefore has to be ingested.
Rose hips are thought to be richer in vitamin C than many citrus fruits hence their traditional use in teas and syrups. However, vitamin C is not the only vitamin that rose hips contain and it is certainly not the most important one in Rose Hip Oil. Vitamin C is largely found in the shell of the rose hip and it is the shell that is used in teas, jams and syrups. The seed of the rose hip contains a host of other essential vitamins, antioxidants and fatty acids which make Rose Hip Oil an altogether amazing natural ingredient.

Crysanthemum in my garden has started to bloom nicely, indicating autumn is here.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Connemara Photo Opportunity

This is a must do thing while you're passing through Galway. Driving in the Connemara, this area of West Ireland is all about outdoor, open space with a touch of wild factor to it. A real therapeutic experience away from the life on the fast lane.

Scenic shot at Screeb

Starting in Galway City head west towards Spiddal along the scenic coastal route. I've been warned that road signs will all be in Gaeltacht(traditional Irish language) once I'm in Connemara. I don't really mind, somehow I deemed it as a challenge and fun drive trying to comprehend what the road sign says.

Gaeltacht Road Sign

Once at Rossaveal drive northward and suddenly the distant Maum Turk and Twelve Bens mountain ranges appear on the horizon. I continue to dry till I reached Maam Cross and decided to take northwest toward Clifden. It was an easy drive through wild landscape, sparsely populated area, scenic mountains, grassland, lakes etc. Decided to take a break at Clifden for lunch. A little Irish town with nice feel to it. Quite a few seafood restaurant offering lunch menu. Went to a nice cosy restaurant for sandwich and seafood chowder.Wow, the seafood chowder tasted so fresh and fulfilling. One of the best chowder I ever tasted.

Best seafood chowder with chunky chicken and melted cheese sandwich

After lunch decided to drive eastward towards Connemara National Park. Since the weather is still fair, I decided to hike up Diamond Hill, a trek of 6km to the top. The main landscape here is of bog, grassland and heathland.

Diamond Hill at the background, Connemara National Park

Path leading up to Diamond Hill

Hike up and you'll enjoy nice view of rolling hills and coastal plain of Atlantic ocean. I enjoyed my time at the National Park embracing the great outdoor.

I stopped at several places along the drive for photo opportunity. Connemara is truly magnificent place to drive around, I enjoyed it very much. I hope the pictures will do the talking for me. Enjoy.....