It’s been over two months since we got back from our honeymoon now, but I wanted to complete my series of honeymoon posts before I forget all about it – in this post I’ll be talking about the Cameron Highlands.
The drive from the Perhentain Islands seemed to take an eternity, but was well worth it for the stunning views of the famous strawberry farms and tea plantations. It was also a relief to get out of the scorching heat for a while as were both nursing some pretty painful sunburn!
After our accommodation problems on the Perhentians, it was a relief to find a nice little guest house just outside the main town of Tanah Rata. Bala’s chalet was originally an old school built during the pre-war era for European expats, and the hotel still has that old-fashioned charm to it. On arrival we instantly felt the ‘Britishness’ of the place - I certainly didn’t expect to be eating scones and drinking tea but that’s exactly what happened! I certainly wasn’t complaining though – as a Yorkshireman drinking tea is one of the things I do best, so the more the merrier!
There were two things that I found hilarious about Bala’s:
1. It is the first hotel I have ever seen to advertise a whole menu but only have one main available (the Indian set meal)
2. The strawberry jam served at breakfast was made by Heinz and imported from Australia – got to ask questions about that haven’t you when there must be 10 strawberry farms within a few miles of the hotel! How can it be cheaper to import jam from Australia?
We both love walking so we decided we would do one of the jungle treks…. in the middle of the midday heat. As you’ll see from the photo – I got a bit sweaty!!!
On our last day we visited a huge butterfly farm that gave me a chance to play with my new Macro lens! I got some pretty good shots, but noticed that there were literally hundreds of these butterflies dead – I think quite a few got caught in the netting at the top of the enclosure which was a real shame – I couldn’t help but think that they should be free to fly where they pleased. Anyway, here is some of my handywork!
And that was pretty much. Apart from Susie spraining her ankle 2 hours before our return flight in KL - she had to get wheelchaired onto the flight….. finally on a plane first! Anyway, hope you’ve enjoyed reading about such a special holiday, and I hope to be adding more recipes really soon.
Lunchtime Tuna Pasta – Serves 2
Every now and again the cost of living in London really hits me. It’s never my extortionate rent, nor is it the price of my annual travel in London - instead it’s usually the small things like buying a glass of wine at the local pub or the cost of a sandwich at lunchtime…. yesterday it was paying £4.50 for pasta at the local market - so I’ve decided to fight back!
When I think about it I usually spend around £5 a day on food at work. The mathematician inside me worked out that spending this sort of amount each day would cost me well over £1000 per year – on LUNCH. I was soon thinking up ways to cut back my spending although inevitably I was also thinking up ways of spending the money that I plan to save!
Still, I figured that making my own lunches would be much cheaper, healthier, more than likely tastier AND I get to buy myself a new computer game at the end of the month. Wii n - wii n situation!
This is one of those dishes that whilst not that imaginative I never seem to get bored eating it – hot or cold. I’m sure over the coming weeks I’ll be adding a few ‘more elaborate’ dishes, but for now I hope you enjoy simplicity at it’s best – Spicy Tuna Pasta.
- 140g pasta
- 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 red chilli, finely chopped
- 1 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
- Grated parmesan to serve
- 1 bunch of basil, stalks chopped, leaves picked
- 2 tbsp olive oil
Heat the oil in a pan and on a low heat fry the onion, chilli, garlic, basil stalks & cinnamon for around 4 minutes until softened.
Add the chopped tomatoes and tuna to the pan, some mixed herbs and then season to taste – then simmer for around 20 minutes until the sauce has thickened up a bit.
Cook your pasta in some salted water until al dente - it is important that you don’t over cook the pasta (particularly if you are taking your pasta to work in a container) as the pasta will tend to cook a little more in the tub overnight. Once cooked, mix the sauce and pasta together, sprinkle over some grated parmesan, a few basil leaves on top and seasoning to taste.
Butternut Squash Risotto - Serves 2
I simply love autumn – the ingredients that are available in the shops and markets in London at this time of year are by far the most exciting to cook with. The diamond amongst these ingredients is surely the squash variety – it feels like I’m discovering a new colour, size or shape of squash each year!
I tried a recipe for this last year and the results were far from spectacular – the risotto didn’t really have much taste to it and I have to admit I was pretty disappointed. I challenged myself to have another go this year and I reverted back to my Jamie Oliver ‘base recipe’ which seems to have made the difference. By poaching some cubed squash in the vegetable stock that you are ladelling into the risotto really gives a fantastic flavour and superb orange colour too.
I was so happy with the results that I decided (well was coerced to) cook this for one of mates engagement parties on Saturday night. I was a little nervous as everyone else brought cold food and I was well aware that if I went to all that effort and messed it up I’d never live it down! Thankfully it was a real success – I even got told that it was a really authentic tasting risotto from an Italian girl, so I was pretty chuffed with that! Only down side to the dish is the amounts of butter and cheese…. but hey, winter is nearing so we all need to fatten up a bit!
- 1 butternut squash, cut into 2cm cubes
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 140g risotto rice
- 1 glass of white wine
- 1.5 pints vegetable stock
- 1 bay leaf
- 45g butter, cubed
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 sprig thyme, picked
- 50g parmesan cheese, grated
Heat the oven to 200C, then prepare the butternut squash by peeling the squash and chopping it into 2cm cubes, then set aside. Make sure you don’t throw away the seeds – they make a delicious snack when fried with a little chilli and salt. Place half of the cubed squash into a roasting tray, mix with a glug of olive oil, some mixed herbs (I used herb de Provence) and seasoning before placing into the oven for around 20 minutes.
Bring your stock to boiling point then turn down to a simmer and add the other half of the cubed squash into the stock with a bay leaf and allow it to slowly poach while you cook the risotto.
Sweat the onions and garlic in a pan on a low heat for around ten minutes until they are soft (they should also not be coloured). Add in the rice and stir for around 1 minute until the rice becomes translucent (almost see through), then add the wine and simmer until almost completely reduced.
Now you need to add in your stock, so turn down the heat on the rice and add one ladle at a time, keeping the temperature at a simmer. Wait until the liquid has mainly evaporated, then add in another ladle – make sure that you continue to stir the rice, as this helps the rice absorb the flavour of the stock, and gives it that lovely sticky texture. Continue to add in ladles of hot stock for around 15 -20 minutes, until the rice is cooked.
Once the rice is cooked, mash up the poached squash (drain any remaining stock if required) then stir into the risotto – this gives the risotto such a fantastic colour! Scatter the butter and cheese on top of the risotto and then leave covered for 3 – 4 minutes. Take the lid off, give the rice a good stir and season if necessary.
Add the roasted squash to the top of the risotto with a few sprigs of thyme, grated parmesan cheese and some cracked black pepper.
Morning Detox – makes 2 glasses
Sometimes you just need a pick me up, and after a weekend in my hometown Leeds me and Susie both felt under the weather (for two entirely different reasons). Susie has somehow managed to catch a cold / sore throat, where as I had a couple too many drinks on Saturday night and was still feeling the after effects today!
Since I got my juicer as a wedding gift, I have been pretty unadventurous – so far I’ve made fresh OJ, pineapple juice and pressed apple juice which certainly isn’t setting the world alight! Today I wanted something to give me a real kick in the backside, so found a great little recipe from the Innocent smoothie recipe book. I have to say that it is the first recipe book that made me laugh out loud at some of the narrative – very funny indeed. Anyway, this recipe is for those that like drinks ‘sharp’ – feel free to put in slightly less lemon & lime juice if you prefer.
- 1 lemon
- 1 lime
- 1 grapefruit
- 2-3 oranges
No method required – just stick them all in a juicer and give it a good mix. Serve with ice and a slice of orange.
After 10 days of luxury, we decided that the reminder of our trip was to be spent “posh backpacking” in an attempt to save our bank balance!
We started our budget travelling in style – a 5am mini bus that was packed with people, had ‘questionable’ air conditioning and NO suspension whatsoever… it was certainly an experience though! After 7 hours we finally arrived at Kuala Besut – the gateway to the Perhentian Islands.
We had so many recommendations on places to stay from friends back in the UK, we decided we would just turn up and choose a place once we arrived on the island. As we pulled into the shore on our taxi boat, the beach couldn’t of looked more perfect; stunning golden sand, turquoise sea and charming wooden huts. Susie got the blanket out and waited with the bags while I set off down the beach to find some accommodation.
I tried the first place recommended to us but there was no room – must be popular I thought. Undeterred I moved on to the 2nd place, then the third, fourth and fifth – all full. This was soon starting to turn into a bit of a nightmare! In fact, on the whole island there were only two places that had any accommodation available at all, and although it looked nice from the outside, it wasn’t exactly up to the standard we had been hoping; no hot water, dark & dingy and a horrible bed – not exactly honeymoon material
The islands themselves were absolutely stunning - the water was gorgeous and looked so inviting. I think our one regret was that we didn’t do any diving or snorkelling as a few people we met were lucky enough to have swum with turtles!
I think in the end though a few days on the island was probably enough for us – not being able to find any decent accommodation was really getting us down and I tend to get bored just lying on a beach! The food was good, but there was nowhere near the variety that there was on the mainland (I mean how can anywhere follow Penang?), although the banana and pineapple shakes were out of this world!
Despite the setbacks we still really enjoyed ourselves, but perhaps left a bit disappointed that we didn’t make more of such an amazing island. Still, we were excited about our next step of the journey; the Cameron highlands!
Griddled Turkey Steaks on a Bed of Chorizo & Cannellini Beans - Serves 4
This recipe came about by accident if I’m honest! The original plan was to cook this dish with chicken, but I was so shocked by the price of free range chicken at Waitrose (nearly £8 for two tiny chicken breasts!!!) that I decided to use turkey instead.
I’d seen a recipe for the bean stew on Something for the weekend but I wanted to make a few changes to the recipe to make it a bit lighter (and dare I say it, healthier?). I didn’t feel it needed so much goat’s cheese so reduced the amounts - but then I am trying to get into shape. I’m sure if your going on taste, then the more goats cheese the better!
I was pretty happy with the result – in fact this is the first recipe in ages that Susie has eaten two nights on the trot! It also means that I get to eat a few more pulses…. something that is seriously lacking in my diet at the moment!
The only thing that was missing was a lack of crusty bread to soak up all the amazing juices – it was on my shopping list, but I fogot! (That’s why I usually dont do the shopping!)
- 2 turkey steaks
- 400g can of butter beans, drained
- 50g of goats cheese
- 3 inch piece of chorizo sausage, coursely chopped
- 150ml chicken stock
- 1 large handful of spinach, roughly chopped
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Herbs de Provence (or mixed herbs)
- Salt & Pepper
Use a meat hammer (or a rolling pin) to tenderise the turkey by giving it a good bash – this will make sure that your meat stays tender and doesn’t dry when you fry it. Sprinkle the lemon zest and Herbs de Provence over the turkey on both sides and and massage it into the meat, then set aside. Heat and lightly oil a griddle pan to a really high heat while you start on your beans.
(NB: Everything is done so quickly you really need to work simultaniously with step 2 and 3).
Heat the chorizo and beans in a pan for a minute or two with 1 tbsp of the stock (you should see the stock and beans turn a redish colour from the chorizo), then add in the rest of the stock and simmer. After a couple of minutes simmering, add in the goats cheese and spinach and cook for a further minute, or longer if you are waiting for your turkey steaks to cook. .
Fry the turkey steaks (making sure the pan is lightly oiled so the steaks doin’t stick). They will probably only need 2 minutes on each side so keep an eye on them, as over cooking them will dry them out. If the steaks are done and the beans still need a few minutes, then just add the steaks to the beans so they don’t dry out. Everything is done so quickly you kind of need to work simultaniously with step 2 and 3.
You could easily change the meat for a fillet of fish, or perhaps omit the meat / fish altogther and give it a blitz the beans up in a blender to make a chunky soup.
Firstly I need to apologies for such an overdue post – unfortunately I lost the notes I wrote on my honeymoon so I had to start from scratch again. (In fact, who am I kidding, my new wife ‘tidied up’ and it somehow magically ended up in the bin!) Oh well, water under the bridge….!
After such an amazing time the week before, Penang was always going to struggle to match Thailand in terms of luxury accommodation and service – but that wasn’t the attraction for me. I’m massively into geography and history, and was really excited to discover the cultural history of Penang; both from it’s more local influences to European influences from the British & Portuguese. I think it almost goes without saying that I was excited about the food, but there were two things in particular I was looking to discover.
1) Sample as much hawker food as I could get my hands on (and my stomach could take)!
2) Find (and I’ll come back to this point later!) and try the famous ‘Penang curry’ that I always seem to come across in just about ANY Malaysian / Thai restaurant in the UK
Before I got straight into trying some local food, I was keen to get out onto the streets of Georgetown sightseeing…. although it ended up being quite different to what you would expect! When we arrived at our hotel we were told that we could have a free trishaw ride around Georgetown, showcasing the local sites and culture history. Now this all sounds great – what the hotel didn’t tell us was that it was only a trishaw for 1 person (either that or we had both eaten far too much curry!). You could practically hear the driver groan as we both squeezed onto this thing! Despite it being a bit of a squash, it was an excellent experience and it was great to really learn something about where we were staying.
There is only so much sightseeing a man can do…. so next on our to do list was to eat. We were so tired that we literally went to the nearest place we could find, a little soup shack (is that the right word?) just around the corner from our hotel – I wish we could get soups this easily in the UK!
That evening we thought we would visit Gurney Drive as we’d been told by numerous people (both in Penang & elsewhere in Malaysia and Thailand) that it is the best place to sample local food…. and we weren’t disappointed! The thing that surprised me most about the stalls was the variety of food available – I think I (rather niavely) assumed there would only be variations of soup, rice and noodles…. what an idiot!
One of the best things I ate all holiday was some chicken served on pandanus leaves, although I was really suprised by the variety of the snacks, and they were pretty damn tasty too! I wasn’t surprised when I heard that many Malaysians actually travel to Penang just for the wonderful street food! As far as I was concerned – task 1 complete.
Task 2 was much harder to accomplish – by the last night I still hadn’t found the famous Penang curry that I was so desperate to try. So the search began… and I really did search everywhere! I asked locals, taxi drivers and hotel staff – they all suggested that we tried little India! We jumped in a taxi and looked at a few menu’s and none of them seemed to have the curry I was looking for, although coming from Bradford I can tell a good curry when I see one, and they were good! After over 30 minutes of searching we went for a fantastic curry – but couldn’t help leaving slightly disapointed.
Susie did rather smuggly make the point that a Penang curry in Penang would probably just be called a ‘curry’ but I wasn’t convinced. It was only when I got home and I searched on Google that I realised that the curry I was looking for was the ‘Panang curry’ – a favourite from Thailand! No I’ve had a look on the internet and can’t establish whether or not this Thai curry originates from Penang or not? I’d really appreciate it if any of you reading could shed some light on this?
Anyway, that’s all for now – in the next post I’ll be blogging about our time in the Perhentian Islands and ‘drinking tea’ in the Cameron Highlands.