Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The Foodpug Strikes...on Chinese Takeaways!

I really dislike Chinese takeaway. I'm sorry but I do. It is always sticky and too sweet. I just do not like it. The Boyfriend insisted on Chinese takeaway last night. I was feeling brave so decided to give it a go. I had some "classic Chinese starters," including prawn toast, won tons, spring rolls and satay chicken. To me it all tasted the same -- greasy. For main I had Kung Pao Chicken and boiled rice. First of all I am glad I went for the boiled rice, since the egg fried variety smelled very fishy and dubious (do not ask me why the egg fried rice smelled fishy to me). The Kung Pao Chicken was not like any Kung Pao Chicken I had ever had before.  I remember having a very nice version of the dish at a Chinese restaurant called Dong Bei Hu in Helsinki. I guess it was because they were specialised in the Szechuan style cuisine and not Cantonese. I will not name the takeaway establishment where we got our food from last night. It would not be fair to them, since I would not like any Chinese food. It was slightly worrying when the food came in a giant cardboard box. For our defense I have to say that there were four of us eating. And don't get me started with MSG...

The Boyfriend struggles with the big box of food.

We received free prawn crackers and chicken wings with an order over a certain amount. 

The Imperial Hors D'Ouvres was a mix of takeaway classics.

I am a big fan of Indian and Nepalese takeaway food. Especially Nepalese. I would say 80% of the takeaway food we get comes from Gurkha Kitchen on George Street in Aberdeen. They never fail with the taste, quality and price of their food. I have always been a big fan of Nepalese food and often visit our local Nepalese restaurant Swagatam in Helsinki. During lunch you get very affordable food -- affordable on the Helsinki level that is. Back to Gurkha Kitchen. Do not go for the Indian style dishes when ordering at Gurkha Kitchen, but the ones that are traditional Nepalese dishes. Most of the time I get the Everest Lamb. It is pretty much takeaway perfection to me. Gurkha Kitchen also does amazing dinner sets which lasts you for two days.

Why I was originally so frustrated with the Chinese food last night was the fact that I was dying for some sushi. Aberdeen really isn't much of a place for sushi lovers and that is why I usually end up going to the Japanese style conveyor belt chain restaurant called Yo! Sushi. I do enjoy a good Yo! Sushi, but quite often I fancy something slightly more authentic. I have visited the lovely Japanese-Korean restaurant Yorokobi once during my time in Aberdeen and the food and atmosphere were brilliant. The portions were really quite filling and we ended up ordering too much sushi and tonkatsu. One might say though that there is never too much sushi and tonkatsu. Last night I was really keen on trying Oryza Sushi on Huntly Street which delivers your takeaway. I have walked past the tiny wee place a few times and it reminds me of the thousands of small restaurants down tiny alley ways in Japan -- in the middle of Aberdeen! Oryza Sushi was not open last night, but I will definitely chase then down another night for some sushi delivery.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Food Happenings Earlier During the Summer

I wanted to share a restaurant experience I had earlier this summer. Me and the Boyfriend had a very ambitious plan of camping and hiking for this summer. Things changed though. The Scottish weather happened and we had to move flats. The brand new tent and sleeping bags are still in wrappers. We only went hiking twice. I only tried one new Scottish countryside bistro. Epic fail? Wouldn't say so. We still have time. At least we moved our life from one flat to another. That is quite a hike I would say.

We had been waiting for the perfect weather to arrive - I guess that does not happen in Scotland. Despite the weather forecast looking poor, we decided to go for a day trip. Our destination was St. Cyrus Beach close to Montrose and a lovely wee bistro in Muchalls. The beach was lovely and luckily we were there right on time for a bit of sunshine, just before a rainstorm.

The Muchalls Bistro was a very pleasant surprise. Located in the tiny village of Muchalls, just outside of Aberdeen, it is not your typical local eatery. We ate the Bistro Fishcakes and Pork Schnitzel seasoned with horseradish from the lunch menu. Both dishes were freshly made and tasty - without being too heavy on your wallet with around £10 per main. The dinner menu looked equally lovely - I am dying to go back for the Fresh Crab Bisque and Panfried Wood Pigeon Breasts. Someone has to drive though! Outdoorsy activities are always more pleasant with good food.

They seemed to have some Italian and Caribbean nights going on too, which I would love to try. These sort of local places do not exist in Finland. I am always happy to travel a bit further to support local businesses. Most times you get incredibly fresh food too. In Finland outside of the cities we get pizza-kebab establishments. So much for delicious Scandinavian food!

What always strikes me how keen people are to dine in the franchise restaurants, when the country is filled with gorgeous local produce. I guess all the mussels, scallops and venison are still slightly exotic to me. Which reminds me of failing to visit the Aberdeen Farmers' Market even once this summer! This needs to change. The Aberdeen Farmers' Market happens every last Saturday of the month on Belmont Street. The seafood and venison is ah-may-zing! You will also find local bacon and veal, cheese, bread, all the good stuff! It has been my food dream to cook my own langoustines served with sriracha and lime mayonnaise. Maybe next month...

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Breaking the Paella Rules

I missed out on the paella while in Spain, but I was lucky since Aldi was selling paella rice, so I decided to give it ago. I must confess I have not made paella before and even though I finally embarked on it, I decided to go for a more of a short cut approach. Real Valencians would probably through a fit at this recipe, since traditional Valencian paella has rabbit and land snails in it. But all classic rice recipes - paella, jambalaya, risotto, etc - are perfect for seasonal produce, leftovers or whatever you fancy.

I made my paella with red onion, green pepper, chorizo slices and frozen king prawns. I used Spanish extra virgin olive oil, which I brought with me. It really gives a nice taste to the rice and will be available from most bigger supermarkets. I also added some red wine vinegar, which is probably against the rules. The tangyness of the vinegar was just perfect with the sweet tasting rice. To make this worse I served it with aïoli or garlic mayonnaise as we know it in the UK. Finally, I didn't use saffron either. Hey, I'm a student - that should say it all. The recipe really is what you make of it. Add leftover roast chicken and frozen peas. Splash some white wine in it. Make it veggie by adding a red pepper and a courgette to the mix. Whatever takes your fancy! I would suggest to enjoy it with a glass of Tempranillo or a cold San Miguel...


1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
50 g chorizo, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 chili powder
1 tbsp tomato paste
200 g paella rice
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 chicken stock cube
100 g king prawns
salt and black pepper to taste
lemon wedges to serve

Chop the ingredients. Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large saucepan (preferably with a lid). Add the onions, green pepper, garlic and chorizo. Fry until onion is soft. Add the spices and tomato paste. Saute for 1 minute. Add the paella rice and saute until coated in olive oil and spices. Add the chicken stock cube and water to cover the rice and simmer. Add more water until paella rice is cooked and the water has been absorbed (I know very vague -  some like paella rice softer, some more al dente). Once the paella rice is almost cooked add the king prawns (if frozen they will defrost in the steam, but will not get too chewy). Add salt and black pepper to taste. Serve with lemon wedges (and aïoli if you fancy it like I do).

Returning after a long break

After a very long break I am. Due to study and work commitments I have been terribly busy over the past year. It is time to start again with a new home and a new academic year lurking around the corner. I have found inspiration in the new home. The kitchen is tiny, but has a door opening to the back garden - which is perfect for al fresco dining! You can guess that I have been mainly cooking BBQ food and salads.

Recently I travelled back to Nueva Andalucia where we visited over a year ago. The holiday was very different this time round. First, the sun was shining much stronger and warmer. Hence the peeling back that is probably freaking out my colleagues at the office. Second, it was a hen holiday! A first for me and such an hilarious experience. "What happens in Marbs, stays in Marbs..." But I shall reveal that there was a lot of sunbathing, lying in the pool, tinto de verano, delicious food and some racy entertainment.

Spanish food seduces me again and again. The tangy anchoa olives, vinegary boquerones, salty chorizo and creamy ensaladilla rusa. All of this flushed down with a cold glass of tinto de verano. La Casera was a revelation to many of my travel companions and goes perfectly with pretty much anything - red wine, vodka, gin or on its own! Speaking of the creaminess of ensaladilla rusa, I have been making it a lot lately and I mean A LOT. It has become a staple BBQ dish and a favourite of the Boyfriend and his family. I had the chance to get the recipe out again in Spain, when I was cooking a simple BBQ feast for fourteen people, yes FOURTEEN. It went down a treat, although the Spanish potatoes were nothing compared to the local Scottish spuds. I did catch a few people having it for breakfast too.

Back to the new home. It is a lovely ground floor maisonette with two bedrooms. The sudden increase in space has been a real surprise for me. I can say that not all my clothes lie on the floor in Ikea bags anymore. The kitchen is very compact, but as long as it is just one person cooking at a time it is very functional. Me kicking the Boyfriend out of the kitchen has never been a problem for him anyways.

I am trying to think of food revelations I have had in the past eight months. There are not many I can think of, so it is fair to say we have probably been eating quite modestly. The winter months passed by with stews and casseroles in the oven. To the list of stews and casseroles I have recently added Chicken Cacciatore, which is the perfect dish for the week before pay day. Chicken drumsticks are cheap and tasty and it is easy to make a big portion of "the hunter's chicken." Lovely with rice, pasta, potatoes or with some crusty bread. Recipe will follow.

During the spring and summer months I started all the grilling. Chicken drumsticks have been a favourite on the BBQ menu too, with various different rubs. Another favourite has been pork ribs, bought unmarinated and rubbed or marinated with pretty much anything that can be found in the cupboards.

In a few weeks we are hosting a BBQ party to celebrate moving into our new home and the Boyfriend's birthday. This means a lot of food will be needed! I am thinking experimental salsas and huge bowls of salad. Update will follow. Wish me luck!

A new start on the recipe organisation front too. I have bought myself a lovely Moleskine Recipe Journal, which has proved to be very useful and I really enjoy filling it in. I wish there was more space for main course recipes though. I think it is going to be full in no time!