Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sharrow Bay Country House Hotel, Cumbria

Spring has sprung and we were off for a weekend break at Lake District. Just before we left, I checked the weather forecast, and surprise surprise, it was forecasted to rain ALL weekend. What luck! Anyway I was determined not to let the weather dampen our mood or spoil our little break.

Luckily for us, on our last and final day at Lake District, it stayed dry and sunny (mostly). Glorious weather. Let me rewind just a little. Before we embarked on our trip, Hubby proposed a Michelin meal one last time before I came back to no-Michelin-land (ie Malaysia). There are three 1 Michelin-starred restaurants in Cumbria and they all looked equally good so it was difficult to choose. After much deliberation , I chose Sharrow Bay Country House Hotel located in Lake Ullswater.

The hour long drive from Lake District to Ullswater was a very enjoyable drive as we drove through the narrow roads of the countryside. Now and then, we would stop by the side of the road to take pictures of the wonderful view surrounding us.

When we arrived at the hotel cum restaurant, I was struck with awe. I have to say I made a really good choice and deserve a pat on my back (literally). The view here at Sharrow Bay is breathtaking. It overlooks Lake Ullswater and under the sunlight, the water sparkled like a million diamonds. Lush grenery, quaint cottages and blooming daffodils greeted us, it was indeed a glorious sight.

Nestled in the grounds of the country house hotel, is a beautifully landscapped garden. 12 acres of private grounds with half a mile of lake frontage.

We were led to the drawing room (ie waiting lounge) while waiting to be seated in the restaurant. Smack right in the middle of the room is a picture window with a stunning view of the lake.

We were served our amuse bouche in the drawing room, a terrine of guinea fowl, pistachio nuts and sultanas with a beetroot chutney. It was tasty; a perfect start to our luncheon. Terrine has a nice, country feel to it and so, well suited to the atmosphere today.

Not long after we finished our amuse bouche, we were led to the restaurant. On Sundays, a 5- course traditional luncheon is served here. The decor in the restaurant is luxurious and eclectic, a mix of of porcelain, antique furnitures and a cosy fireplace.

The kitchen at Sharrow Bay is helmed by Colin Akrigg, who joined the hotel in 1968 as an ambitious 13 year old kitchen porter, and who from a young age knew that he wanted to be a head chef at Sharrow Bay one day. He achieved this in 1997 and achieved a Michelin star the following year and has remarkably held the star for 11 consecutive years.
This restaurant serves by far the best bread rolls I've ever had! The smell of freshly baked bread wafted around the room. The bread rolls were warm, soft and tasted so good that we had about 5 each! Well, we had to leave room for the impending luncheon.

For starter, I had the Roast Breast of Quail with Truffle Fettuccini, Pancetta and Wild Mushroom Sauce. The quail had a delicate texture with a subtle gaminess whereas the truffle fettuccini was deliciously smooth and went really well with the mushroom sauce.

Hubby had the Sauteed Scallops with Smoked Salmon Risotto, Pancetta and Lemon Grass Sauce. The juicy scallops were beautifully cooked and the smoked salmon risotto was delightful to eat.

For our next course, we both had the Fillet of Plaice with Braised Fennel. The plaice had been poached in milk, cooked just right so that the flesh was nice and flaky.

Just before our main courses arrived, we were served a refreshing Sharrow Fruit Sorbet.

I had the Fillet of Halibut with Shrimp Risotto, buttered Spinach, Scallop and Crab Tortellini and Lemon Grass Sauce. In hindsight, I should have given much more thought to my selection, two courses of fish in a row is overkill. However, the dish is not to be faulted - it was visually pleasing, and every component on the plate was delicious.

Hubby made a great choice for his main course and ordered the Breast of Gressingham Duckling with creamed savoury cabbage, black pudding, glazed apple and apple & sage sauce. The meat was seared to perfection; the meat was still pink in the middle with brown and crispy skin. Delectable!

For dessert, it was no-brainer. Sharrow Bay is the original creator of the Sticky Toffee Pudding. We both picked the Sharrow Bay Hot Specialty Pudding, which is the Francis Coulson's Famous and Original Icky Sticky Toffee Sponge served with cream. On the side, a fresh carnation, which I thought was quite a nice touch. The sticky toffee pudding was warm and delicious, the only criticism I have is that I feel it would have been the perfect dessert if served with vanilla ice-cream instead of cream. The Sharrow Bay sticky toffee pudding is available for sale through the online shop or via national retail outlets such as Harvey Nichols and Lakeland.

To complete our dining experience, we were served coffee/tea and petit fours in the drawing room.

Overall, Sharrow Bay has been one of my favorite Michelin experiences, they delivered in terms of food with the most picturesque settings for a Michelin restaurant.

For a full list of Michelin starred restaurants in England, click here.

Service: Excellent.
Price: £43 for 5 -courses.

Location: Sharrow Bay, Lake Ullswater, Penrith, Cumbria, CA10 2LZ, United Kingdom. (Tel: +44(0) 1768 486301)

Monday, December 21, 2009

How to Make Your Own Korean Kimchi

When talking about Korean food, the first thing that springs to mind is kimchi. There are a huge variety of dishes that use kimchi e.g. kimchi chigae (stew) and kimchi bokumbap (fried rice). Koreans have kimchi as a side dish for up to 3 meals a day, be it with rice or noodles.

There are various versions of kimchi, the most common being the spicy cabbage variety. Being a big fan of Korean food, I decided to try my hand at making my own kimchi. It is relatively easy to make kimchi but the only drawback is that it is time consuming. When made correctly, homemade kimchi always tastes much better than the ones you get from supermarkets.

A step-by-step guide on how to make Korean kimchi
Preparation time: 30 minutes (+5 hours waiting time)
Cooking time: 10 minutes

2 medium to large sized chinese leaf /napa cabbages
1 cup gochugaru (Korean red chilli pepper powder)
3 - 4 cloves garlic, minced
2 onions, minced
1/2 cup of starch/flour
1 cup of fish sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
Plenty of salt

radish, sliced
spring onions

Part 1: Cabbage preparation:
1. Cut the cabbage into half, vertically. If the halves are too big, cut them into quarters.

2. Wash the cabbages by rinsing them in water a few times.
3. Apply generous amounts of salt and rub on all the leaves. As a rule of thumb, more salt should be applied in between the leaves where the stem is. It takes about half a cup of salt for a medium sized cabbage.

4. Set the cabbage aside for about 2 hours. After that, flip the cabbage over and set it aside for another 2 hours. By then the cabbage should be softer and have sort of shrivelled up!

5. Next, wash the cabbages with running water 3-4 times. Wring it dry like you would when you want to dry a piece of cloth.

Part 2: Kimchi paste preparation:
1. Prepare starch water, about 3 cups of water to half a cup of starch/flour. If you want more sauce feel free to add more water and starch.
2. Bring the starch mixture to a boil, while constantly stirring the mixture. This is to avoid the starch clumping up when the water heats up. Once the starch water boils a little, add half a cup of sugar (more if you like it sweet), then turn the stove off.

3. Place the garlic and onions in a large bowl/pot and pour in the paste mixture. (Optional: you can add on many other ingredients such as pears, radish, oysters, spring onions. I decided to add only radish as I did not have the other ingredients and I am not a big fan of oysters.)

4. Add in the gochugaru (red pepper powder) according to taste. Finally add in the fish sauce. Mix the paste well.

Part 3: Getting down and dirty with the kimchi!:1. Spread the paste evenly in between the leaves. Koreans usually use gloves as protection for their hands during this process, as they make quite a large amount of kimchi at once and the spicy chilli paste can have quite the numbing effect on your hands.

This is how we do it

2. Place the seasoned cabbages into a clean and dry (preferably airtight) container. From here on you can choose to put them into the fridge and leave them to ferment outside for a couple of days.

Kimchi as a side dish

As a side dish, kimchi is best eaten fresh, while for kimchi chigae and kimchi fried rice, matured kimchi is better as the sourish taste gives a bit of 'body' to the food.

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Best roast duck in Seremban!

I have a confession to make. I wasn't a big duck fan when I was little. I always thought that duck was really fatty. I never knew what I was missing when I shunned it all those years.

A few years abroad taught me how to appreciate roasted duck. So, whenever back in Seremban, we always come to Kedai Nasi Ayam-Itik Wah Heng, located inside the Restaurant New Haup Huat for some roasted duck. This stall serves inarguably the best roasted duck in Seremban.

The coffee
shop where the stall is located

The stall front

The ducks are marinated overnight and then slow roasted in a huge stainless steel pot over charcoal fire. What you get is tender and succulent duck meat with a crispy skin.

We always order RM10 worth of duck breast meat, so everything is deboned and can be easily eaten.

Another thing worth ordering here is the Roasted Pork Belly (Siew Yuk), which is excellent too. Flavoursome layers of meat with a crunchy top. Really wonderful to eat. You will also be served a bowl of complimentary soup made from "old cucumber" and chicken bones.

If you don't like duck, there is always roasted chicken, char siew or lap cheong.

To demonstrate how good the duck here is, Hubby can eat RM10 worth of duck and RM10 worth of siew yuk in one go. That is really a lot of meat, but hey, he loves the food here!

Also operating in this coffee shop is an excellent noodle shop, serving wantan mee, Ipoh Sa hor fan, or curry mee. The wantan mee here is really good, springy noodles topped with sweet char siew. The dumplings are also worth a try (prawn wantan and 'sui gau')

Closed on Mondays.

Price: Duck rice (RM4.00), chicken rice (RM3.50), char siew rice (RM3.80), siew yuk rice (RM3.80), whole duck (RM42.00), whole chicken (RM30.00)

Location: Kedai Nasi Ayam - Itik Wah Heng, Restoran Haup Huat, Jalan Tuanku Munawir, 70000 Seremban, Negeri Sembilan. (a few lanes away from Pasar Besar Seremban)

GPS coordinates: 2.728625, 101.936367

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Little Vietnam @ Mid Valley Megamall

There are not many restaurants in The Gardens / Mid Valley Megamall, where you can have an affordable and decent lunch. After a little research online, I finally chose Little Vietnam, a restaurant which I felt would suit everyone's tastebuds.

I have to admit, I do not venture to the third floor of MV much. So I have never noticed Little Vietnam being there before. The decor is simple; brown lacquered tables and stools with some Vietnamese ornaments on display and floral motifs on the walls.

Right opposite Tropicana Life

Ordering here is very easy, as the dishes are all illustrated in the menu. I ordered the set meal for GP (RM20 and extra RM2 for the special drink), which included an appetizer, main course and drink.

For appetizer, I chose the fresh prawn rice paper roll (RM8.80). The bright colours of this dish was visually pleasing. I was not disappointed either when I took my first bite; the rice paper roll was fresh and light. Vermicelli, julienned carrots, cucumber, lettuce and king prawns were wrapped inside the rice paper roll and rested on a bed of alfafa sprouts. A sweet chilli sauce for dipping accompanied this dish.

We also ordered the Deep Fried Vietnamese Spring Roll (RM5.80). Do not be put off by the size of the spring rolls, as the filling is very flavourful. Again, a sweet chilli sauce for dipping accompanied this dish.

Pho is a must for me when dining at a Vietnamese joint. I last had pho in Munich and that bowl of pho turned out to be quite "memorable". Even though the pho was delicious, we realised soon after that they had been TOO generous with the MSG in their cooking. We were literally dying of thirst for the next couple hours. The pho here is quite a different story, the soup was clear and you can tell that they do not add much artificial flavouring.

The memorable Munich pho

There is a variety of pho to choose from here; beef balls, beef slices or the Special All Beef Mix. GP had the Pho with beef balls and beef slices (RM12.90) . On a separate dish are some raw beansprouts, lime and Thai basil for you to add into the soup before you start eating. The basil makes the soup much more aromatic. Squeeze in some lime to add a sourish kick to the soup. And putting in the beansprouts on your own meant that the beansprouts were still nice and crunchy.

Throw it all in and voila!

I, on the other hand, had the Pho with the beef slices (RM11.00). From past experiences, I find beef balls a bit too chewy for me. A perfect choice for me as the beef slices were tender.

And to finish off our meal, I couldn't resist but order the Three Colours Shaved Ice with Fresh Coconut Milk (RM7.80). The vibrant colours (yellow, green, red) in the menu enticed me. This is similar to ais kacang, except that it doesn't have any gula melaka or the red syrup stuff. Served in a tall glass, with layers of corn, cendol and red beans.

Overall, a very quick and healthy lunch.

Later on, we headed over to The Gardens. Beautifully lit up trees in the foyer for the Christmas mood.

You get a "loyalty card", for every RM10 you spend here, you will receive 1 stamp. 12 stamps later, you can order a main course of your choice for free.

Click here for the menu. However prices are not current.

Service: Food service is very prompt. Friendly staff.

Price: Good value for money. Affordable. RM20 for set meal.

Location: Little Vietnam, Lot T0-27, Level 3. Mid Valley Megamall, 59200 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: 03-2938 8899
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