Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Aubergine with garlic and dark soya sauce

As summer month progressing, I've seen a lot of vegetables gradually make their appearance either in the supermarket or local farmer's market. I always try to get what the season has to offer, as seasonal vegetables will be in abundance, taste better and cost less too.
How could I resist, when Tesco offering globe aubergine for 39 pence each last week. Let just put it as, I bought loads of aubergine. They're so versatile-you can grill, roast, deep fried with batter, stir fry, cook with curry etc etc. The thing is that aubergine really soak out flavor very well.
I know many of you tend to think that cooking aubergine is a hassle-from salting to get rid of it's bitter taste(this will only apply if it's rather old) and require tonnes of cooking oil. Worry not as I introducing you a healthier way of cooking aubergine and yet still tasted as good. A little effort of steaming before frying would actually reduce the consumption of oil during cooking. This recipes is good for vegetarian as well, with a touch of Oriental influence.

Aubergine with garlic and dark soya sauce
Ingredients (good for 2 persons)
  • 1 large globe aubergines about 400gm (cut lengthwise about 2cm thick)
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 tbsp dark soya sauce
  • 2 tbsp light soya sauce
  • 2 tbsp of water
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp of fried garlic bits in oil
  1. Steam the aubergine in steamer for around 30-40minutes, you should feel it is soft now.
  2. Heat cooking oil in a pan/wok. Once hot, add in the steamed aubergines and let it soak up the oil. [Typically if we're not steaming, we could easily used up to 5tbsp of oil. ]
  3. Slowly add a tbsp of water at a time, let it simmer on low heat.
  4. Then add in light soya sauce, dark soya sauce and sugar and stir to mix. Let it simmer for additional 3minutes.
  5. Off heat and dish out. Garnish with garlic bits in oil. Serve with rice.
Here's my harvest of strawberry from my garden, one colander full every 3 days, really bountiful harvest this year :-). I turned them into jars of lovely jam.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Buttermilk Scones

I love June because .......

Simply summer is here.

English summer afternoon should be enjoyed with tea and scones or better known as cream tea. As my English friend puts it, "The proper cream tea set should consist of 2 scones, served with strawberry jam, Cornish/Devon clotted cream and a pot of tea". And yes I totally agrees with him. Of course if you visit any tea room here in Cambridge, you're normally given only one tiny scone, a small jar of jam and whipped cream plus a pot of tea. Having one scone with whipped cream is not authentic enough, it got to be Cornish/Devon clotted cream. Moreover, I prefer to have freshly baked scones right from the oven with homemade strawberry jam [quote: strawberry home grown too] and a dollop of pure authentic Cornish/Devon clotted cream. So I decided to enjoy one summer afternoon tea with homemade scones. Summer afternoon indulgence at the luxury expense of waistline..... hehehehehehehe.

Here's my recipes for buttermilk scones.... and yes it's so easy to make.

Buttermilk scones (make 8 scones)

  • 280 gm self raising flour+ some for dusting
  • 90 gm butter
  • 4 tbsp buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 40 gm caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C.
  2. Use rubbing method to mix butter and flour till it resembles breadcrumb. Then add in sugar and salt mix well. Slowly pour in buttermilk and mix using a knife. Don't overwork the dough. If it's too dry, add the milk.
  3. Then pour the dough onto a dusted floor work surface. Pat lightly to form about an inch thick dough. Use a 2inch cookie cutter to cut the dough. If you wanted your scone to have the rise edges, the secret is: when you cut the dough with the cookie cutter, make sure use some muscle power. Plunge the cookie cutter fast and strong onto the dough and make a clean cut, never twist your cutter while in the dough. Continue until you're done with the dough.
  4. Place the scones on a baking paper and bake for 10-12mins. You can glazed the scones with buttermilk or egg yolk.
  5. Served with jam, clotted cream and tea.
Enjoy the afternoon..........................

Gardener hard at work and yearning for a cuppa

My strawberry showing sign of ripening

My favorite Princess of Wales rose. Another reason why I love June......month of the roses

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Back from holiday (Part 3)

Area near Eyjafyallajokull-still covered in thick volacnic ash, can get quite hazy

This will be the last part of our adventures in Iceland. We were contemplating where to go next after the extensive Golden Circle excursion. We still have 1 full day to explore, wondering what nature has to offer us in Iceland. We were offered half day whale watching/puffin tour + nearby Videy Island or a full 9 hours excursion to the south [ with the possibility of going through the volcano eruption area]. Of course the latter sounds more interesting, to be in the spot where we could witness what big trouble this Eyjafyallajokull has caused. We decided there and then South Shore Adventures it would be, for our next day excursion.
We woke up early to have our huge breakfast before starting our tour at around 9am departing from Reykjavik. The drive to South Shore took almost 3.5 hours to a little coastal hamlet of Vik. Along the way we passed through the area near the erupted volcano. We were literally passing through the area which still has lots of volcanic ash lying around. On a dry and windy day, the whole area will be very hazy, with poor visibility. We did stop to get our hands on the ash from Eyjafyallajokull, took some as a little sovenirs from Iceland. We then proceed to Vik. It is the southern most tip of Iceland, from here to Antartic, there are no land in between. The main attraction in Vik, is it almost black sandy beach.

The black sandy beach of Vik

The waves here is really strong, you could feel the power of the waves even you're looking from afar. It is also famous for Reynisdrangar pillars that rise from the sea just off the shore. It reminded me of the eleven apostles on The Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia.

Reynisdrangar pillars

South Iceland is a lowland region of lush farmland (but due to the recent eruption), many crops has been destroyed. Even the white glacier Myrdalsjokull is covered with ash and is quite mucky. But the experience of seeing grey glacier will have your body and mind transported to the moon for a second. We also had the opportunity to walk on the ash covered glacier. Cool.....
Myrdalsjokull glacier-look like a place on the moon

After that, we stopped at Skogar Village. There we went up the Skogar Waterfall, one of the highest in Iceland. Looks frantically frightful up there as the fall plunges about 100 metres downward.
Skogar Waterfall-looks scary as it plunges 100 meters down

Afterwards a visit of the Skogar Folk Museum; a local folk museum which gives an excellent insight into Iceland’s history. The caretakers of the museum are full of enthusiasm explaining the early history of Icelandic people. A small museum but has very cosy feeling about it, with Holt houses dotted around it. We spent 45 minutes at this stop.

Holt House

The last stop before heading back to Reykjavik would be the lovely Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, a small but extremely picturesque waterfall, special not only for its beauty but also because it is actually possible to walk behind it. If the sun ray is in front of the fall, the mist from the fall form a lovely rainbow......awesome spectacular sight. A wonderful waterfall indeed.

Seljandsfoss-you can walk behind the plummeting fall-the lovely rainbow

With all the nature has to offer, this excursion totally turn out to be ideal for nature lovers of all kinds. Totally love it.
We head back to Reykjavik with our mind filled with all the beautiful things nature had offered. Truly Nature, Wild and Free............. go to Iceland. We definitely be back in Iceland in the near future.

Soon I'll be posting cooking recipes again......... from lovely Cambridge. Stay tuned.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Back from holiday (Part 2)

The Reykjavik Excursion tour company

So we decided to join Reykjavik Excursion for full day excursion that lasted 8 hours. Having very poor meal last nite, we decided to have huge breakfast at the hotel. We have chosen "The Golden Circle"excursion. The name "Golden Circle" might be a tourist-industry tag, but it's also apt, as this broad circuit east from Reykjavik covers many Iceland's best known features and touches on the root of much of its history. The whole round trip is about 300km.
We started by visiting Hellisheidi geothermal power plant, a high temperature geothermal area just 30 minutes drive from Reykjavik. This stop at the power station is very educational as we learnt that most heatings and hot water to all building in Iceland is supplied by geothermal plants. A further 1.5hours drive through the vast space of soutwest from Reykjavik brought us to the beautiful waterfall Gullfoss (Golden Fall), where we can walk so close to the edge that we felt the mist of the glacial water on our faces. This water fall plunges in 2 stage before dissapearing into huge gorge. Amazing really to see the volume of glacier waters being released into the gorge. One of the most beautiful waterfall I've seen.

The Amazing Gulfoss

Next we head up to a nearby geothermal field where the famed Great Geyser is located. However the Great Geyser no longer gushed out hot water fountain but the nearby Strokkur is, with spectacular bubbling hot water fountain display, 30 metres high, in an interval of between e 3-4 minutes. It's the wonder of nature in display first to see geyser in action, amazing really.
Hot bubbling Strokkur geysir

After lunch we headed up to Pingvellir National Park. The region is scarred by one of the world's great geological boundaries, a rift valley marking where the North American and Eurasian continental plates are physically tearing apart by 2-4cm each year. As our tour guide explained jokingly, we need passport to cross the continent as we enter from Eurasian plate into North American plate. Over here the landscape is of vast moor land, volcanoes and lake Pingvallavatn. Þingvellir is geologically remarkable and the tectonic plate boundaries form a breathtaking scenery. Over here you'll also be able to see the Icelandic parliament Alþingi was founded in the year 930 AD. One of the world first parliament.
To the left-North American plate, to the right Eurasian plate

We headed back to Reykjavik after an interesting tour of Golden Circle. Again, I truly enjoy Iceland wonder of nature.

Langjokull Glacier in the distance (white color)

Friday, 4 June 2010

Back from holiday

I've just returned from a nice short break. Many wonder where did I go. Oh well, I went to Iceland. To me, Iceland never ceases to amaze- with it's massive lava field, rugged terrain, hot springs, volcanoes, glaciers, geyser, amazing waterfalls ...............all things nature.
Iceland environment is so clean and unpolluted-the two main ingredients of longevity - air and water is totally fresh.
Some of our friends think we're crazy to go to Iceland when the famed Eyjafyallajokull ( still not able to pronounce the name properly) is still having some activities, plus to leave the nice warm summer Cambridge to cold "Ice-land", etc etc....
How wrong they were : Few days before we travel, Icelandic met office has issue a statement that the volcano has stop erupting. After we arrived, we realized that summer weather in Iceland is as nice as one could expect, a cool 17deg C and we're gifted with almost sunny weather throughout our stay. And not forgetting the midnight sun-almost 22 hours of daylight, even then the sky didn't really turn pitch dark. Amazing really to experience the almost "Midnight Sun"
I will share with you all on our trip to Iceland over the next few days.
We arrived Reyjkavik on Friday night and were transfered to Hotel Klopp. This will be our accomodation for the next 5 days. Being located right in the city centre and on a Friday nite, you might be better off joining pub crawl with Icelandic party revellers than having a disturbed sleep due to the noise from nite clubbing crowds. But then nightlife in Reykjavik isn't known for it's subtleties, well much on the wild side.
We decided to go a bit slow on Saturday for the itenary, so we picked Blue Lagoon, a mere 45 minutes drive from Reyjavik. Along the way to Blue Lagoon, one is confronted with view of lava field miles after miles. This place is well known globally as "the must visit" outdoor bathing spot if you're in Reykjavik. The colour of the water is milky blue, it contains silica and algae deem good for skin disorder. Having said that, we plastered our face and body with the healing mud. Really fantastic. I even bought a tube of silica mud mask, too good to be missed.

Icelandic practice religiously clean hygiene when going into pools all around the country. One has to shower naked before putting on bathing suit. It's inconsiderate if one didn't clean yourself before proceeding to the pool as water in Iceland is so pure and no traces of chlorine treatment at all in the pool.
Truth to be told, Blue Lagoon is actually artificial, set in the middle of a flat expense of black lava rocks and filled by water outflow from the nearby Svartsengi geothermal power station. What is geothermal? We spent almost half a day soaking in the nicely heated outdoor lagoon. Everyone got out totally relaxed.
As the sun never really sets, we proceeded to explore Reykjavik at our own slow pace. View of Reykjavik from Perlan is fantastic on a clear day. We anticipated a full 2 days excursion out of Reykjavik.

After that we headed to the harbour to try out the famous seafood buffet. I've researched on internet and it gives good review about this little establishment. As seafood-particularly fish is the main export of Iceland. Fish produce are deem cheaper than meat for example. So we have high expectation of this place and expected to pay around GBP20 per person. Only to find ourself totally disappointed with the food here as the taste doesn't totally agree with us. After dinner we went to checkout another establishment deem to be "the must visit" seafood joint by many travel guides. One expect to pay GBP10 for a stick of grilled seafood. Over-priced!
Having said that, we decided to explore the best burger joint in Reykjavik for tommorow's dinner as prices is affordable [ still slightly more expensive than what you get at home ]. I guessed I have to lower down my expectation of the food vs price. If I anted to go to a real good restaurant expect to pay at least GBP40 per person/meal. Therefore nothing to really rave about food in Reykjavik. After all I'm here for the nature stuff :-) .
We went to sleep when the sun is just about to go beyond the horizon only to realize it will appear again 2 hours after..... land of the Midnight Sun ...... lovely.