Saturday, 30 October 2010

Vamping up Halloween

I love Halloween - any excuse to get dressed up in fancy dress is a good one, but unfortunately I'm to busy with uni work to get all dressed up this year.  However there is a SilverLining... tonight I have achieved something I've always wanted to do - carve my very first Halloween pumpkin.

I'm also a huge vampire fan(g), so here is my pumpkin unlit:

And in all its glory...

And from a slightly different angle.

Please let me know what you think.

Cheers, KangaRue

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Masterful Offerings

I love Masterchef, but most especially I love Masterchef Australia - not only because I long to see my hometown in the background.  I enjoy cooking and eating good food, so luckily I married BoyWonder who is an imaginative and skilled cook.

The past weekend we were watching the latest season of Masterchef Australia, which is currently screening in the UK.  Inspired by Matt Moran of Aria Restaurant, BoyWonder made the Gnocchi in Burnt Butter from part of the celebrity chef challenge recipe.  He'll have to make it again, as I completely forgot to take any photos, but it was mighty delicious!

He followed it up with a blueberry meringue pie with blueberries from our own bushes.  There's also a rhubarb and apple lattice tart, again with rhubarb from our garden.  Photos were taken with my phone, so apologies for the quality.

So no one was more surprised than me when I arrived home quite late this weekday evening, thinking I was going to have a quick thrown together dinner, only to be banished from the kitchen.

And this is what arrived on my plate...

OMG, it was the Eggnet with Pork, Prawn, Beansprouts & Cucumber Relish from Martin Boetz of Longrain Restaurant's celebrity chef challenge in Season 1!  A slight amendment to the recipe as we had scallops in the fridge rather than prawns (shucks!), and he also added shaved waterchestnuts and bamboo shoots.  Absolutely delicious layers of flavour with lots of umami, freshness and utter, utter yumminess.

I'm typing this as we're watching another episode, and Alvin's Drunken Chicken with Bruised Salad is getting accolades, so I'll keep my fingers crossed and keep you posted!

Cheers, KangaRue

PS.  We keep debating which is the not-to-miss restaurant in Sydney... Aria, Longrain, Rockpool, Red Lantern... the list goes on.  Which would you pick, or do you have another suggestion?

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Neighbourly Nuptials

Boy Wonder and I were lucky enough to be invited by our neighbours (Mr & Mrs N) to their son's wedding last weekend.  As our first Indian wedding, we were excited to look forward to a traditional Sikh ceremony.  But unlike Western weddings, this wasn't going to just be an event over in one day, but it lasts about a week!  We were invited to party with them on both Thursday and Friday nights before the big day on Saturday.

The thing that struck me the most was how colourful the clothes of the women were - bright jewel colours adorned the room.  There is a lot of singing and drumming.  This is Mrs N on the drum to kick start the celebrations on Thursday night.

Thursday night was Mendhi night.  These are the henna decorations that are worn on hands and/or feet to unite in the celebrations for the bride and groom.  I'd never seen mendhi applied before, and the two girls that came to do it worked so quickly.  I chose to have the designs drawn on both my hands.  The henna comes out very dark and is initially raised on the skin while it dries; as it does so, it stains the skin in a reddish brown.  The girls spritzed glitter onto the designs to match each persons outfit which was a really nice touch.  Here's mine...

The hospitality was incredible.  Everyone kept trying to feed me!  The homemade food was delicious.  The aubergine curry Mrs N made on the night was my favourite.  Though most guests were vegetarian, they also made a chicken dish just for me, which was incredibly thoughtful.  I'm glad to have tried it as it was melt in the mouth delicious. 

There was a chickpea curry on the Friday night that was also gorgeous!  Everything was home made on these days - even the chapatis.  And there was a gorgeous sweet, which I later found out was Gulab Jamun, made with milk powder and sweetened with a sugar syrup and a hint of rosewater - not only was this served on both nights, but Mrs N insisted I take a box full home with me - yum!

The singing and dancing continued.  While the songs were sung in Punjabi by the older women, I was told they were rather raunchy... and a further elaboration of this made me view the arm gestures and banging of a large stick in a whole different light!

The younger girls danced around, a few of them dressed up as men, turning their scarves into turbans, while one of the aunts was the demure bride.  The dancing continued.  And it's still only the Thursday night!

Friday night rocked around.  Tonight was the N family's chance to celebrate the groom. 

There was more ceremony with the sisters dressed in white and Mrs N arriving with ceremonial vessels on their heads topped with candles.  These vessels were then passed between family and friends.  I'm not sure of the symbolism, but it was obvious that everyone was taking part in congratulating the groom on his forthcoming nuptials.

The groom was in great spirits - he barely left the dance-floor!

Saturday came around far too quickly!  With the ceremonies starting at 9am, it was an early start to the day after two late nights out.  We headed to the temple, where the families met outside to exchange gifts of sweets as part of an engagement ceremony.  We then moved inside for tea and refreshments of samosas and pakoras, which was a different start for breakfast than I was used to but tasty.

I'd chosen to get a traditional salwar kameez for the day, which I really enjoyed wearing, and I think was appreciated.  This is a long top, with trousers and a scarf that can be used to cover the head in temple.

Shoes off and we headed into the actual temple.  The traditional bridal colour for Indian weddings is red.  So the groom and male family members were in red turbans or head coverings.  Both men and women are require to have their heads covered in the temple. 

There were various Gurus who lead the ceremony at different points.  The holy book was kept under a covered canopy with a Guru sweeping a feathered fan across it regularly.

The bride arrived, accompanied by her brothers and cousins.  Her dress was incredibly elaborate, and looked like it could weigh a tonne!  Apparently it can weigh 10-20 kilos, which must be exhausting. 

Both the bride and groom looked a little nervous, which is unsurprising given that they were being watched by about 400 of their nearest and dearest.  

The bride is led around the canopied area by her family, and on the fourth time the couple are married. 

Time to head to the ceremony, where the numbers grew to between 700 and 800 people.  And it got even more glamorous, with the suite lit in pink and chandelier-style centerpieces.  The bride and groom arrived looking much more relaxed.  They fed each other cake and the families fed them cake too, which was surprisingly touching (though not the most photogenic, so I've left those shots out!).

They shared their first dance, then the dancing started, interspersed with dinner... and more dancing!

What a sensational experience, shared with lovely people.

Cheers, KangaRue

Monday, 9 August 2010

My Eclectic Cycle to Work

About a month ago I started cycling to work in an effort to get fit, from Woolwich to Canary Wharf.  The added benefit of it being a great form of relaxation is only heightened by those days I have to contend with public transport and the masses that push, shove and often stink amongst it!

Some days are a struggle, but some times when I have awoken early enough, it's lovely to take a gentle cycle and admire the views - ranging from the mundane to the architecturally stunning and the just plain bizarre.

Early on my cycle takes me through Royal Arsenal Riverside, with it's beautiful old buildings and the canons...

And then I go past this art installation.  To be honest I'm not really sure what it's about, or even that it's called, but it's an intriguing piece we've lovingly named The Zombies...  this would be the bizarre part!

So off I go to catch the Woolwich Free Ferry which transports cars, trucks, a growing number of cyclists and a few pedestrians directly across the Thames.  I pass the Thames Barrier along the way which is an impressive site - even more so when the sun shines and it glints silver.  That's my destination, Canary Wharf, in the background on the right.

There is a beautiful old pub that has been closed down.  I love the tower with it's cosmic depictions.  Hopefully it will be reopened and restored one day soon.

I keep going past a few factories and at the start of the bike path come across the Brick Lane Music Hall.  In an old church.  Which is not on Brick Lane.  But it's a beautiful building and the mural on the side is lovely.  My goal is to go and see a production here this year - it's crying out for a visit to a panto at Christmas don't you think?

 Along the bike path, dodging oblivious pedestrians, I go past a beautiful garden that leads to the Thames Barrier.  There's a great cafe in the park next to the garden too.  This was just a bare plot a few years ago, so I love what they've done with it.

Amongst the residential blocks, are the Tate & Lyle warehouses and factories.  I love the giant Golden Syrup jar on the side of one of their buildings...

Not much further to go now, and the view changes to the O2 (originally known as the Millenium Dome)... which I'm pretty sure falls under the bizarre category.  It's a striking building though and it's difficult to understand quite how huge it is until you're standing in it's cavernous space.

Obviously the reverse views on the way home.  Impressive and diverse views that I hope I never get jaded looking at.

So what do you think about the views on my commute to work?

Please vote for my photos on Mesomo.

Cheers, KangaRue

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Great Rivington Lobster Massacre

Having chatted to a number of foodies on Twitter for a while, we decided on catching up for a twEATup... this is a get-together over food.  A last minute change of venues, we decided on heading to the Rivington Bar and Grill in Greenwich one evening after work.

I know Aussie Foodie through friends in Australia, and while we only met earlier this year, we've been having a blast ever since, and she's an absolute sweetie (just don't tell her I said so!!).  Aussie Foodie met Cook Sister a month or so previously at a blogger event, but I'd only "met" her via Twitter so far... and Cathy257 was a Twitter-only entity.  Now, this is likely to freak some people out - what if any of them were completely painful?!  But I was just looking forward to a girlie catch up over good food with people who will likely gush (or critique) as much as I will.

Arriving at the restaurant with Aussie Foodie, we found Cathy257 ordering a glass of wine, I did the same, Aussie Foodie opted for a cocktail and we headed outside to the patio area for a brief wait for Cook Sister who joined us for a pre-dinner drink.

Courteous service from the start, we were shown to our table, one of my only criticism for the evening being that the tables are just a little close together for my liking.  Perusing the menu, there were no discussion about calorie consumption or diets, these were girls cut from the same cloth.  We'd already been discovering each others likes and experiences and having a good laugh.

Beautiful hot home-made bread was bought to our table, we ordered some wine and contemplated the menu.  The menu looked delicious, but when we heard there was lobster on the menu eyebrows were raised.  We'd booked through a TopTable offer, and with 50% off a whole lobster and chips came to £13.50 each.  No guesses what all four of us ordered!

To start, some Maldon Oysters and Heritage Tomatoes were ordered, but I couldn't go past the Chilled Beetroot and Horseradish Soup.  It was absolute perfection in a bowl.  Delicious and refreshing, with a great kick, which I absolutely love.  I'm going to try to recreate this at home soon, but not sure that Boy Wonder will love it as he's not a fan of Gazpacho, but you never know...

And then the lobster arrived.  Now normally half a lobster would satisfy me... but I was determined to do this lobster justice.  I decided not to fill up on the carb-loaded chips, but that decision went out the window as soon as I tasted them... these were some of the best chips I'd tasted in a long time, golden and crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside with the most delicious home-made mayonnaise, exactly as it should be.

But back to the not so humble lobster.  It was fantastic, chargrilled sweet meat.  The four of us went quiet for quite some time... and believe me that is saying something!  The hollondaise it was served with was a lovely accompianment, not necessary but a lovely addition.  Not much else I can say other than the staff were very accommodating as we piled the discarded shells higher and higher... hence the well named Great Rivington Lobster Massacre!

Pretty much says it all really!
We adjourned to the sofas for dessert.  I had been having a yearning for chocolate, so spotting Chocolate Mousse on the menu my mind was made up.  I was to be sorely disappointed though, my biggest let-down of the evening.  It wasn't the cocoa rich concoction I had imagined but a sugar laden dessert with a lower grade chocolate than expected.  I barely ate a third of it, and had been expecting to lick the bowl clean.

Now it wasn't a perfect evening.  Service was a little patchy at times - we had to follow up a couple of requests - the tables were a little close for my liking, and the chocolate mousse was far from perfect.  But boy did I have a fantastic night.  The company made it one of my best nights out in a while, and I'm already looking forward to the next time!

Cheers, KangaRue

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Fish Food

Still a foodie review, this will be slightly different from my usual posts, since I am going to be the food!  Yes, I was heading to Aqua Sheko for a fish pedicure.  I've heard of this treatment from friends who had visited Asia, so I was thrilled when I saw the offer on Wahanda.  I could sit back on a padded leather seat, submerge my feet in warm water while silvery Garra Rufa fish sucked off the dead cells on my feet.  Usually £30 to have your feet washed and 25 minutes with the fish (there is an upgraded service that includes - a glorious looking - 15 minute massage with Neals Yard products), the Wahanda deal at £12 was a bargain.

After I got over my fits of giggles at the tickling feeling of the fish, it was actually very relaxing.  In the end it felt more like spa bubbles massaging my feet.  Swirling my feet gently around or opening my toes attracted more fish.  BoyWonder sat at the next chair, and enjoyed it even more - surprisingly, as he is generally more ticklish than me - and we chatted over the green tea that was offered to us.  And fear not, it doesn't hurt the fish - little can survive in the temperatures of their natural waters, so we're providing mutally-benefial service; and after hours, if they're still hungry, they feast on cucumber.

Afterwards, my feet were lovely and soft, and since the fish only remove one layer of skin at a time, ideally a series of treatments should be undertaken to get feet in tip-top condition.  We both really enjoyed it, and look forward to going again.

Cheers, KangaRue

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Beyond Brunch

You've got to love the irony.  BoyWonder had a friend coming over from the US, on the 4th of July... so we just had to take him and his friend to Hawksmoor for a traditional English brunch.  We've been a couple of times before, yet I've never made it past the brunch items.  This time I was determined to hit the Sunday Roast.  But before I get to that, I had to try the remaining Bloody Mary on the menu (there are three, but I've also been lucky enough to try the award winning special produced for the Ketel One promotion).  The Bloody Mary No. 16 is made with beef broth instead of tomato juice, and is served warm - I would have preferred it a bit more spicy, as I like my Bloody Mary's with a real kick, but it was really lovely.

Now, I'm not sure how he snuck it past me, but BoyWonder ordered a Zombie.  Last time he had one of these, he went missing on the train home, and lost a couple of hours.  But he did only have the one drink this time, which made a difference.  These things are lethal; with three rums, Falernum aand Absinthe (as well as grapefruit & lime juices, Bitters, Grenadine and spiced syrup), it's not surprisingly that only one is allowed per person.  A work friend of  BoyWonder's had his first Zombie, and lost his post-lunch afternoon!

The brunch selections for the rest of the table, were a huge success yet again - the HkMuffin and the Hawksmoor Breakfast didn't disappoint (you can read my previous blog on these here).  Oh, and I reverted to my favourite Bottomless Bloody Mary (No. 7) which is based on a 1921 recipe made with gin rather than vodka with fresh horseradish and a dash of Meantime Stout to the classic tomato juice, Worcestershire Sauce and Tabasco (extra for me please!).

"Traditionally, large joints of meat were roasted on a spit over an open fire.  To achieve a similar flavour we start ours on real charcoal and finish them in the oven"... then they add potatoes roasted in dripping, a Yorkshire Pudding, carrots, spinach, whole roasted shallots, and lashings of bone marrow and onion gravy.  Now my Mum makes the best roast.  Well, so I thought.  Sorry Mum!  This was absolutely kick-ass amazing.  The beef was so flavoursome - the quality is obvious - but it was also cooked perfectly, I couldn't have asked for any better.  The potatoes were fluffy on the inside, but nicely crisp and crunchy on the outside, and the Yorkshire Pudding was perfect with enough crunch at the top, but enough density and chewiness on the bottom... and the gravy is brilliant!

I desperately wanted to try the salt-caramel icecream... I really wanted to have it with the chocolate brownie, but I just didn't have the room for it.  But then there was the cornflake icecream too (this is to die for, and is something that must be experienced - I successfully convinced a couple of others at our table to try it and they weren't sorry they did).  In the end I decided on a scoop of each of the ice-creams.  BoyWonder had the cheese plate and from the slithers he allowed me, the quality of the rest of our meal was maintained.

So I'll just have to go back again to try the desserts.  I think I'll have to go and just try the desserts!  And perhaps the champagne cocktails that are the remaining "breakfast cocktails" I've yet to try.  Oh the tortures I endure to bring a thorough review!

Cheers, KangaRue