Saturday, 29 October 2011

La Marina

It was my birthday on Sunday and I celebrated it with a couple of friends on Saturday in this nice seafood restaurant by the sea in Cardiff.

La Marina, located in Penarth Marina is part of the beautiful 'The Old Custom House'. El Peurto restaurant is located on the lower floor of the building while La Marina can be found on the second floor.

Offering stunning view overlooking Cardiff Bay, La Marina is the perfect place to have dinner and relax with friends and family, away from the huzzle and buzzle of the city.

La Marina is a seafood restaurant with a fresh seafood counter displaying fish freshly caught and hand picked!

To start......

Live Oysters

We had the very fresh live oysters on ice. With a spoonful of red onions vinaigrette, the ice cold oyster was very tasty and not a hint of fishiness to it! This shows that the oysters were very fresh and the chefs had treated it very well. A very delightful starter indeed!

Sea Scallops

We also had the sea scallops for starters. The scallops were beautifully seared with a nice browning to the surface but was not over-cooked at all! The flesh was just nicely cooked and tender. With a generous squeeze of lemon to intensify the flavours, the well seasoned scallops bathed in lovely home-made sauce was absolutely delicious!

To Follow.......

Lobster in Thermidor Sauce

All three of us had the day's special - Lobster in Thermidor sauce with asparagus.

The very fresh lobster meat was nicely cooked, sweet and soft. The thermidor sauce was wonderfully buttery with a slight hint of mustard (we did not like the very strong mustard taste to a different sauce when we had our lobsters here last time).

Simply delicious! I'll eat a lobster anytime!

However, I thought the asparagus was slightly over-cooked as it had become a bit tough and stringy.

The Desserts......

Traditional French recipe Crème Brulee

The lovely traditional French recipe Crème Brulee was perfectly made!

It had a super smooth texture that melts in your mouth and the flavour was so subtle and original as it had a slight egg taste to it with a very small hint of vanilla.

Definitely a very enjoyable pot of dessert!

Triple Chocolate Torte

I do not normally have a chocolate based dessert as it is usually very rich.

However, this chocolate torte was absolutely divine!

The Triple Chocolate Torte was surprisingly not too sweet considering that it had three different chocolates in it! It had a very rich, smooth, and slightly bitter dark chocolate taste to it.

The cake was so smooth that it was almost like a chocolate mousse and the very thin layer of chocolate sponge at the bottom just added another lovely texture to the torte.

It also had a nice touch of chocolate flakes on top to add crunch to the whole dessert.


Strawberry Roulade

Perhaps the strawberry roulade is not a dish to celebrate much about as the sponge was a tad too dry.

Not a very easy dessert to make, as I learnt from watching The Great British Bakeoff 2011, hence a very good effort by the restaurant.

But nonetheless, the strawberries were very refreshing and went really well with the cream inside the roulade.

Overall, a very wonderful dinner with good food, enjoyed with wonderful friends!

We will most definitely visit this restaurant again!

Friday, 28 October 2011

Lemon Chicken with Croutons

All wonderfully home-made and very easy to cook!

I have been watching a new TV show called 'Barefoot Contessa' presented by Ina Garten.

A very entertaining cooking show where Ina cook her meals and shows you how to decorate and set up tables in her beautiful home.

Ina was cooking this lemon chicken with croutons on one episode, the roasted chicken looked so shiningly delicious that I decided to cook it today!


Minimal ingredients for heart-warming, belly-filling cooked dinner!

For a large whole chicken you would need two lemons, but if you are using a small chicken like I did, as I later found out, all you need is just ONE lemon. Other ingredients included 1 onion, olive oil, butter, salt and pepper for seasoning. The loaf of sliced bread is used to make home-made croutons but if you can find a nice whole loaf of sour dough bread or baguette, the texture would be much better!

Recipe taken from Food Network website:

Ready for roasting

For the chicken:
1. Slice the onion then toss with a little olive oil in a roasting pan.
2. Sprinkle the inside cavity of the chicken with salt and pepper.
3. Place the lemon inside the chicken.
4. Pat the outside of the chicken dry with kitchen towels.
5. Brush it with melted butter then sprinkle salt and pepper.
6. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wings underneath the body.
7. Place the chicken on the onion then roast for 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes.
8. Wrap the chicken in foil and rest for 15 minutes.

Lemon Chicken

For the croutons:
1. Dice the bread into cubes.
2. Heat a large saute pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil until very hot.
3. Turn the heat to medium-low and saute the bread cubes, tossing frequently until nicely brown.
4. Add more olive oil if needed, season with salt and pepper.

Finally, put the croutons on a large plate then place the cut-up chicken pieces on top then serve.

Croutons and Brocolli

I decided to add some greens to the meal, therefore boiled some brocolli and seasoned with salt.

Chicken pieces on croutons

The chicken looked beautiful with nicely browned skin and gave out nice lemon fragrance.

However, the chicken meat was unfortunately too dry as I mis-read the cooking time as 1 hour 45 minutes (at least!). A big mistake my part, as I should have even reduced the cooking time more as I used a small chicken rather than a large one!

The chicken could have done with a tiny bit more seasoning after resting (sprinkle more salt!). However, the lemon taste was wonderfully refreshing and the croutons soaked up all the nice juices of the roast, which made it a bit too soft. I prefer croutons to be more crisp, perhaps I did not fry it long enough...hhhmmm....

Then the brocolli was too soft as I boiled them a tad too long.......

Even though it is a very easy recipe to follow, it does need some attention to details and more care with cooking.

I will try and cook this dish again another time, when I feel like having a nice hot roast dinner!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Home-made Scones (Take 2)

Remember this?

Home-made Scones

My very first attempt at making scones did not turn out as I hoped that it would. Not only did they not look the way they should have, they did not have the texture of a normal scone!

Although they tasted nice, they were rock hard on the outside and the inside were not loose enough. One of the reason was because I used plain flour instead of self-raising flour (and to see other reasons for the failed attempt, see here).

Seeing that I have lots and lots of self-raising flour left in the cupboard, I decided to make another attempt in baking some scones!

This time, I used Jamie Oliver's recipe from his cookbook 'Jamie's Ministry of Food', which sounded much more logical and giving much more chance of making beautiful scones. Also, remembering NOT to do everything that I done wrong the last time.

After 12-15 minutes of waiting with anticipation, the scones were finally ready to be taken out of the oven......


Hooray! They had all risen well and looked everything like how a proper scone should look!

With the tops browning beautifully and the middle had risen until you can see that they want to separate into halves. Perfect~!

More scones

Now, all I had to do was cut them into halves, add a dollop of strawberry jam then add another dollop of clotted cream - simply irresistible!

Strawberry jam and Clotted cream

Add a few fresh strawberries, get the tea ready and I have a nice afternoon tea, a proper English tea!

With some fresh strawberries 

The scones had browned properly and they had a very nice firm texture that breaks easily with each bite. Needless to say, the sweet strawberry jam and rich clotted cream was just fantastic with the lovely scones.

NB I used Hartley's strawberry jam as they make delicious jams and had strawberry pieces in the jar.

A simple English teacake made with three key simple ingredients ie flour, milk and egg. Delicious!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

The Savoy Grill (The Sequel)

We enjoyed dining in The Savoy Grill so much on our last visit that we decided to especially make a detour to London from Cotswolds just to dine there again!

Also, we were in such a rush last time to finish dinner before going to the theatre that we could not properly enjoy the good food (and we did not even get to try the desserts!).

NB: Photos are not that great this time as the lightings were really dim.

Basket of breads

Lovely basket of homemade olive breads with cold butter that went really well with my lobster bisque.

To start......

I ordered the lobster bisque again as I enjoyed it so much last time, it sounds so delicious that even two of my friends ordered it as well!

Lobster Bisque with brandy butter

The bisque was beautifully rich with seafood flavour and the wonderful fragrance of brandy butter making it a very complete dish. The lobster pieces were really fresh and nicely cooked.

Crispy pig's head croquettes with gribiche sauce

When my housemate ordered the crispy pig's head to start, we all joked that she might be served with a big pig's head with an apple in it's mouth on a plate!

What a relieve when she received these delicious looking croquettes on a bed of leafy salad with gribiche sauce!

The pig's head actually had a texture like any other parts of the pig. The croquettes were beautifully deep-fried in breadcrumbs that turned into a healthy golden brown.


To follow......

Chateaubriand (for two) 20oz

With the many different cuts of steak on the grill to choose from, I ordered the 20oz Chateaubriand (for two) to share with another friend as the waiter highly recommended it as a very sweet and tender steak.

The medium-cooked steak was indeed very tender and the meat very sweet. The half-bulb of garlic on the side was really fragrant and the rich, buttery Bearnaise sauce was absolutely amazing and filled with flavours from different herbs.

Roasted Goosnargh duck breast with sautéed foie gras, braised endive and smoked bacon

And the third duck dish for my housemate in three evenings!

Another nicely cooked duck breast, which was a bit pink and not over-cooked at all. Juicy and succulent duck meat with very tasty braised endive and smoked bacon.

A very fine dish with fine ingredients - thumbs up!

But if you ask me, I would say this duck dish was the best amongst all three duck dishes in terms of flavours. But this one from last night won in terms of presentation.

Braised Steak with truffle topping on curly kale

The 'special' of the day was this braised steak on curly kale with a topping of truffle shavings!

The beef was slowly cooked and it absorbed all the flavours from the sauce. The meat was superbly tender that it melts in your mouth.

The truffle shavings, needless to say, enhanced the taste of the entire dish!

Rib-eye steak

One of my friends ordered the rib-eye steak, medium-rare.

It looks absolutely delicious and the respond I had off my friend was:"It's ok".

So....going to the highlight of the evening - desserts!

We must have ordered four of the most difficult desserts to make on the menu as we waited at least half an hour for them. But the restaurant did kindly served us with a complimentary watermelon granita for the wait, and the granita was absolutely refreshing and delicious!

Passion fruit and lime baked Alaska flambé 

The passion fruit and lime baked Alaska flambé was a sight when the waiter lighted it up on the table. It was so beautiful with the blue-coloured flame dancing around the ice cream and the colourful fruit pieces on the plate.

The meringue on top of the ice-cream was wonderfully light and creamy and the passion fruit and lime ice-cream beneath was so refreshing and tasty.

Pistachio soufflé with vanilla ice-cream

The beautifully risen pistachio soufflé, we later found out, was the 'culprit' in us having to wait so long for our desserts.

We were informed that the kitchen had made several failed attempts to make the perfect soufflé as they did not raise properly.

However, the wait was well worth it as the soufflé we had has wonderfully puffed up and had a very light texture. The pistachio was amazingly fragrant and gave a very nice flavour to the 'egg-y' soufflé. Delicious!

Opera cake with milk and honey ice cream

I particularly liked the opera cake with milk and honey ice cream.

Layers of almond sponge cake soaked in coffee syrup, ganache and coffee buttercream is what make French patisserie and cakes so famous.

Each layer was bursting with flavours yet complimented each other well. You can taste the slightly bitter coffee used and was very fragrant and the light ganache cuts through the richness of the coffee buttercream. Fabulous!

Apple Charlotte with calvados crème fraiche 

Another pretty dessert - apple charlotte, served warm.

A very beautifully constructed dessert, the sponge was nice and light with apple flavours coming through each bite. The lightly flavoured Calvados creme fraiche was perfect with this spongy dessert.

A very enjoyable dinner with a perfect end to the evening, and I thoroughly enjoyed the company of wonderful friends!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The English Country - Cotswolds

On our second day in the beautiful Cotswolds, we visited several towns and villages and decided to have English cream tea in one of the many tea shops in Stow on the Wold.

St Edwards Hall, Stow on the Wold

After a big English breakfast at the hotel, we decided to have a light lunch. So we went to one of the many tearooms/coffee-shops in the village to have a proper English tea.

Egg and Watercress Sandwich

The egg and watercress sandwich I had was delightfully light and tasty. The egg was well boiled, seasoned and creamy with mayonnaise.

Scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam

The fruit scones were nicely baked, risen well and warm with sweet fruits dotted through them. A big slab of clotted cream and a big slab of strawberry jam on the scones was just simply delicious! That's what I like about English afternoon tea.

Stow on the Wold

Then we went visiting a fairy-tale like, pretty village called Lower Slaughter, which is part of The Slaughters in Cotswolds. We also visited Bourton on the Water, which is next to The Slaughters. Another beautiful town with lots to see like the Birdsland, a perfumery museum and a motor museum.

Then it was time to feed ourselves again and we went to this very nice country pub restaurant in Chipping Norton.

The Masons Arms

The Masons Arms (recommended by The Good Food Guide) looked everything like an average pub, but it also offers a very beautiful room for fine dining next to the bar.

A very warm and inviting place with a nice ambience.

To start......

Basil Gnocchi, Roasted cherry tomatoes and Truffle soup

The truffle soup was thick, creamy and well seasoned. It had a really rich, acidic flavour of tomatoes running through it and the fragrance of truffle peaking through.

The basil gnocchi in the soup was very fragrant and beautiful with the strong notes of spice from the basil.

A very nice starter to increase one's appetite for the next course!

Poached loin of rabbit, carrot and orange soup, carrot rappee

The poached loin of rabbit was well executed with a very good combination of flavours from the sweet and acidic carrot and orange soup.

The rabbit meat was nice,soft and tender and the carrot rappee gave a nice crunch to the dish.

To follow......

Pan roasted breast of Gressingham duck, fondant potatoes, honey glazed baby onions, red cabbage

My housemate's second duck dish in two days!

The duck this evening was well cooked (not as pink as the day before's) and not too tough, the meat retained its juiciness and was well seasoned.

The potato fondant was rich and buttery but tasted a little bit bland and could have been better if the edges were browned a little bit more.

The red cabbage was well cooked (much better than the day before's) and complimented the duck dish really well.

Pan roasted fillet of venison with mustard crust, spiced pear & blueberry vinaigrette, roast new potatoes

The venison dish was beautifully presented.

The spiced pear was sweet, soft and had the wonderful flavours of spice. The blueberry vinaigrette was thick and rich with its acidity cutting through the strong taste of venison meat.

I loved every bit of this dish but the main ingredient of this dish was a bit disappointing. Although the venison was medium cooked, I found it rather tough and dry.

To finish......

Vanilla creme brulee and raspberry sorbet

The vanilla creme brulee was amazingly delicious. It was light and creamy with a very well balanced vanilla flavour to it and the raspberry sorbet was wonderfully sour.

A very nice dessert to end the meal after a heavy main course.

Lime Posset with cherry compote

The lime posset was wonderfully citrussy and had set very well. It was thick and creamy, a dash of that sweet cherry compote with each mouthful of the refreshing lime posset was just perfect!

I was pleasantly surprised with such fine food being served in pubs dotted around the beautiful country of the Cotswolds!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

The English Country - Kingham, Cotswolds

Cotswolds is "one of the most 'quintessentially English' and unspoiled regions of England, UK." 

It is also "the country's largest officially designated 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty'".

Cotswolds is not only an area of outstanding natural beauty, it also provides outstanding food with sources from many farms in the area!

On our first evening in Cotswolds, we drove 17 miles to a lovely old pub that offers fine dining - The Kingham Plough. This pub is one of the '16 things not to miss' according to The Rough Guide to The Cotswolds!

Inside the pub

A lovely village pub with simple and contemporary but warm ambience. Warmth emitting from a beautiful fireplace with real logs burning that gives out a very nice wood smell.


Complimentary bread and butter

After we placed our order, we were served a complimentary bread with butter served on a wooden chopping board which makes it look very rustic.

The bread was warm with a crispy crunch to the outside and surprisingly soft and stringy inside where the gluten had perfectly worked in a well made dough. A spread of cold, rich and smooth butter on the bread is just perfect!

Upside down foraged mushroom tart, Hereford snails and parsley foam

When the starters arrived, we were greeted with two very beautiful and nicely presented plates of food made from fresh, locally sourced ingredients!

The upside down foraged mushroom tart looked like mushrooms on a bed of grass with some leaves on the ground. The parsley foam was technically well-executed and flavoured the snails really well.

The foraged mushroom tart was very well seasoned and stuffed with different kinds of mushrooms which gave it different textures and flavours.

Confit duck leg partridge terrine, local quince cheese on toast, pickled quince

The confit of duck leg partridge terrine looked amazingly appetizing too. The terrine was very well seasoned and full of flavours.

The sweetness of duck meat complimented with the fruit-like sweetness of the pickled quince was very delicious.

The toast was also very unique. The toast was perfectly toasted with a nice crunch to it and the quince cheese sandwiched in between was nicely sweet and thick (imagine the jam in Jammie Dodgers biscuits). Mouth-watering delicious!

Slow cooked belly and cheek of Tamworth pork with shallot custard and black cabbage

This duo of pork dish was delicious beyond description! First mouthful of that slow cooked pork belly with the wonderfully reduced sauce was just heavenly!

The belly was very tender that it almost melted instantly in my mouth and the sauce was so tasty and rich in flavours.

The pork cheek was perfectly cooked (not overcooked that it breaks into pieces and not undercooked that it becomes tough) and the sweet and fragrant shallot custard with slightly sour black cabbage was just so delightful.

The pork crackling was of course wonderfully crunchy. Even the curly kale was well seasoned and nicely cooked.

The chef's attention to tiny details of the whole dish was just amazing!

Breast and leg of mallard and celeriac fondant with braised red cabbage

Mallard, as I learnt from a TV show, is a wild duck.

Starting with the vegetable, the broccoli was very fresh, sweet and had a really nice crunch to it.

The mallard breast was pink, a bit too pink for my friend's liking though, but very nicely seasoned and well complimented with the celeriac fondant.

The braised red cabbage was a bit like the Eastern Europe's sauerkraut, good flavours despite my housemate finding it a bit too soft. A little of crunch would have given another dimension of texture to it.

Overall, a well executed dish with very good flavours!

Divine chocolate and salted caramel millionaires shortbread

Finally, to end the meal was the pub's own chocolate creation to collaborate with chocolate week.

Diving chocolate and salted caramel millionaires shortbread was indeed divine, dark, smooth and rich!

The dark chocolate ice-cream was very nicely bitter and sweet with some crunchy crushed biscuits at the bottom, creating a very good combination of textures and tastes.

The ball of chocolate resting on top of the shortbread had a surprise of white chocolate mousse on the inside which was sweet but not sickeningly sweet.

A very sweet and rich dessert perfect for anyone with a very sweet tooth!

This is what I call pub grub with a difference!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Dark, Rich, Moist and Smooth......

None other than the Flourless Chocolate Almond Cake!

I wanted to make a cake for my colleagues at work and they all voted for a chocolate based cake!

Pondering which chocolate cake recipe to follow, I came across this one that was highly praised on a blog that I regularly visit. The author loves the cake so much that she made and blogged about it several times!

The Ingredients

As you might have guessed from the name of the cake that this cake will be very rich and heavy as it was baked without using any flour at all.

However, folding in well beaten egg white did lighten up the cake and gave it a lift.

Cake Mixture

Just out of the oven!

The cracks formed on top of the cake simply make it look so invitingly delicious as you can know for sure that the cake will give a slightly crusty texture and you can see the very moist and rich cake beneath the cracks!

Resting and Cooling

Icing sugar dusted

The very moist cake!

Icing sugar dusted, and I am ready for a piece (a very small piece) of that indulgent cake!, moist, intensity of dark cocoa enhanced by almond flavour, with a hint of rum...the cake is so wonderfully delicious!

So rich that it will go very nicely with a nice cup of hot, dark coffee!

Perfect on a cloudy, rainy autumn afternoon.