Thursday, 15 February 2018

Aberdeen Restaurant Week | Where we ate

Aberdeen plays host to a surprising number of festivals throughout the year. My personal favourite has always been the light festival, but there's a new one arrived to steal Spectra's crown - say hello to Aberdeen Restaurant Week! Running from 1st - 8th February, the inaugural ARW went down a storm with local foodies and who can blame us? At just £10 for a two course lunch or £20.18 for a three course dinner, it was the perfect excuse to try out some different eateries for the first time.
So, where did we eat?

Moonfish Café

Moonfish has been on my radar for a while now (ever since head chef Brian McLeish was a Masterchef professionals finalist in 2014!) but I've never had an excuse to splash out on dining here. Considering 3 courses would usually cost £36, the Restaurant Week menu was a steal. There was the option to add wine pairings too but I indulged in a Harris G&T instead.

I was slightly worried about the portion sizes for Gordon so we added on the snacks - Beef Tendon, Mackerel, Potato and Pork Cheek Salsa Verde, Manchego £2.50 each - which turned out to be our favourite dishes of the evening! The citrus cured haddock starter was a delight too.

The main course - Skate, Celeriac, Apple, Horseradish - was tasty but I did find the fish bones a bit off putting. That's just me being fussy though! We ordered a side of crispy polenta roast potatoes which I absolutely adored. Dessert was my favourite of the three courses - a unique take on pecan pie with sweet potato and foie gras shavings!

I'd definitely go back to Moonfish but I'd save it for a special occasion and probably choose meat dishes rather than fish. All in all, good value for money and a great night out!

Café Andaluz

I would have liked to check out some of the lunch menus throughout the week but as I don't live or work in the city it just wasn't possible. We managed to squeeze in another dinner though, and combined our visit with the opening night of Spectra. There were over 30 restaurants involved in Aberdeen Restaurant Week so it was tough to pick, but something about Café Andaluz' tapas menu hooked me in. Maybe it's the fact we're planning a roadtrip round Andalucia soon?!

A set starter of Spanish olives and a basket full of the softest bread, dipped in olive oil with balsamic vinegar, was followed by a main course of three tapas dishes each. It didn't sound like much but a mountain of food arrived swiftly at our table, along with a big glass of sangria! When in Spain...

He chose the honey and mustard chicken fillets, black pudding with an apple and onion chutney and calamari served with a paprika mayonnaise. Pork and beef meatballs in tomato sauce, patatas bravas and paella tapa were my picks. I'd say choose one or the other of the last two as they were both quite carby and filling, and delicious! We shared of course but even between the two of us we couldn't finish everything.

Gordon's praline and salted caramel cheesecake was delicious, but a little too sweet for me. However, my crema catalana was perfect with a lovely, thick caramel glaze to smash through to the dreamy custard. Dessert was a struggle but we battled through!

We got a lot of food for £20.18 at Café Andaluz. You could argue it was better value for money than Moonfish but that would be unfair. The two restaurants have completely different dining styles and that's what I like about the ARW concept - there's something to suit all tastebuds and appetites!

Did you try anywhere new during Aberdeen Restaurant Week? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, 12 February 2018

Recipe | Pandan Pancake Rolls

I've had these on my mind ever since I first tasted pandan in crepes at a street market on our first night in Chiang Mai!

Pandan is a type of leaf used in Asian cooking. It has a coconut-y vanilla taste so it's used mainly as flavouring in sweets and desserts and gives everything this unusual bright green colour. In Thailand it's fairly common to see cakes and treats this colour - if it's not pandan, it's probably matcha green tea flavour!

Sipping iced green tea in Bangkok

After that first taste at the market, I jumped at the chance to eat anything green! Imagine how chuffed I was when the kind folk at Flight of the Gibbon brought out a bright green pandan birthday cake for Gordon!

We've been scouring the Asian supermarket for pandan treats since we got home so I'm now well stocked up with instant green custard! I picked up a little bottle of pandan extract last time which I've used to recreate these pandan filled pancakes at home.

Just in time for pancake day!

This is basically an adaptation of a general pancake mix, filled with pandan custard. You could also use it to make Malaysian Kuih Dadar, which is the same idea but with a sugary, coconut filling instead. For the pandan extract and custard you'll probably need to visit an Asian food store - I got both in Matthews Foods, next to the Manchurian in Aberdeen.

250g flour
350ml coconut milk
4 eggs
1 tsp pandan extract
1 packet instant pandan custard
  • Mix the flour, coconut milk, eggs and pandan extract together in one big bowl until you get a smooth (green!) batter. If you have an electric mixer, use it!
  • Spoon a ladleful of the mixture into a hot frying pan, spread it thinly and allow to cook on one side. I didn't bother flipping to the other side as they seemed to lose some flexibility and you need to be able to roll them up.
  • Allow the pancakes to cool, and make up the pandan custard according to the packet instructions. (It's easy!)
  • Add a spoonful of the custard to the middle of each pancake, roll them up like a burrito and enjoy!

What will you be eating this pancake day?
Send me some pictures if you make these Pandan Pancake Rolls!

Pin it for later!

Monday, 5 February 2018

Thailand | Where to Eat & Play on Koh Lanta

Koh Lanta - the island of happiness. The only island that we stayed on during our time in Thailand! If I could pick just one place to return to, this would be it. We spent four amazing days exploring the island, with Oasis Yoga Bungalows as our base. I really wanted to do Koh Lanta justice and capture just how special our time here was, but I'm not sure I can. Maybe that's a good thing - maybe we should keep it secret to stop Lanta becoming over run with tourists! I just can't keep it to myself though...

Lanta is a big island, and much quieter, in comparison to a lot of the popular tourist spots. Hiring a scooter was vital for us to be able to get around easily. We drove the length of the island, from Khlong Dao beach near the Salidan Pier in the north west, across to Lanta Old Town & the sea gypsy villages in the East, all the way down to Koh Lanta National Park at the very Southern tip. These are just some of the places we stopped...

Where to Eat & Drink in Koh Lanta

Easy Bar, Khlong Dao Beach - The very first place we ate. We arrived on the island around 8pm and took a short stroll on the beach in the dark to find it. We'd been told it's owned by a lady called Mama who made amazing food. The cocktails went down a treat, the chicken satay was delicious and the pad Thai was some of the best I've ever eaten! From the restaurant in the sand we could watch the entertainment going on next door at the Indian Bar too.

The Indian Bar, Khlong Dao Beach - This is where we really fell in love with Lanta's laidback vibe. Here we met Pas (the Indian) who was honestly one of the nicest, most down to earth people I've had the pleasure of meeting. Everyone was made welcome here - Pas would pull up a chair, rearrange tables and fetch you a cold Chang right away. He'd remember your name and where you come from, even days later when he spots you at the restaurant next door & pops over to ask about your day! And he makes a mean daiquiri. 

Every night Pas & some young locals put on a show, wow-ing the crowds with their fire spinning and tricks! One evening we made pals with a bunch of travellers - one by one curiosity got the better of them & our game of Dobble got more & more competitive. (Best game ever, look it up!) It ended up with the Germans demanding "Sambuca!" for the loser and the men bromancing over whisky at the bar. It was the same faces every evening, including one English guy who Pas would let keep his belongings behind the bar so he could camp on the beach at night. We came to the Indian Bar for the fire shows, and stayed for the people.

Viewpoint Café - You can't drive across Koh Lanta without stopping at one of the many road side cafes - for the views if not for the food. Although, the food at the Viewpoint was actually really good! He had a delicious green curry while I tucked into yet another chicken satay served with garlic bread. We stopped at another couple of cafes down the east coast - the views are breath taking and the iced smoothies were much needed! 

Remember to take your shoes off before entering shops & restaurants!

Lanta Smile, Khlong Dao Beach - On the other side of the Indian Bar (we didn't venture far in the evenings!) you'll find Lanta Smile. Here we had some epic crispy spring rolls, a sweet and sour chicken dish and a more unusual duck curry which Gordon wolfed down! 

Pure Koh Lanta - A cute little health food café on the junction by Klong Nin beach. They serve raw, vegan cakes and smoothie bowls, and other nutritious snacks. After a day on the beach, an iced mocha or banana and mango smoothie are exactly what you need! If you fancy something a little different from the usual Thai food, this is the place.

Time for Lime, Klong Dao Beach - Without a doubt, the best meal we had on Lanta! The menu changes daily, serving only tapas style dishes & all profits go to the local animal shelter to help stray cats and dogs. They do cooking classes too which looked like a lot of fun! I have a whole lot more to say on this one so look out for a full review soon.

What To Do on Koh Lanta

Visit Lanta Old Town - Drive across the island to the East coast and head South and you can't miss it. The Old Town is exactly what it says on the tin - an authentic, old school Thai village packed with lovely little souvenir shops and waterfront restaurants. You'll find the perfect Instagram spots here - a few of the restaurants have picturesque swings at the end of their piers! Heading further south from here, you'll find the Sea Gypsy Villages, but please bare in mind these are people's homes and not a tourist attraction.

Watch the Sunset - Koh Lanta is famed for it's magical sunsets. Any of the west coast beaches will give you awesome views - we particularly liked sipping margaritas with our feet in the sand, watching the sun go down and the world go by.

Explore Lanta National Park - For a 200THB entry fee you can explore this haven of Thai nature. Soft sandy beaches and clear blue sea, perfect for swimming, surrounded by greenery - and monkeys! Please don't feed the monkeys, it only encourages them to steal from people. We saw one poor family's picnic rudely interrupted by a hungry thief of a monkey!

We have no idea why this monkey is purple...

The National Park is where you'll find that rope swing, and Lanta's best hiking trails. I would have loved to climb up to the viewpoint or the lighthouse but my blistered feet got the better of me that day. A little warning if you're riding a scooter down to the park - the road is bumpy and seriously steep at some points. Gordon had to chuck me off the back to get back up the hill out of the park! I won't take it personally though, we saw a few others having to lighten the load too. Just drive safely, and make sure your helmet is fitted securely!

Volunteer at Lanta Animal Welfare - This was my favourite thing to do in Koh Lanta! Stray cats and dogs are rife in Thailand and LAW is working to change this by treating sick or injured animals and rehoming as many as possible. You can visit the sanctuary for tours, help out by walking the dogs (just turn up before 11am, or after 3pm!), or even volunteer for 1-3 months on a working holiday. We walked a little pup called Ron and fell in love with him and three legged Deng Mia - who FYI is still looking for her forever home

I really can't put into words how special Koh Lanta was to us. There's just something about it - the people, the views, the food, the laidback vibe - it really was the Island of Happiness!
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