Food & Adventures

Monday 30 January 2017

La Yuan Newcastle

You may have recently read my Top 5 Restaurants in Newcastle, well I may have found a new contender. Just around the corner from St. James Park on Gallowgate is La Yuan a Sichuan restaurant that I'm sure will become a favourite once you visit. 

The decor is perfect for a modern Chinese restaurant and our hostess Rachel was very friendly in welcoming us. We had a look through the menu and made our choices. It was very hard to choose what to have as there were so many good dishes (we'll just have to make another visit to try the others).

For starters we had a Trio of Appetisers which were Pickled Radish, Mixed Greens and Duck Liver. I loved all of these but Mrs Cool wasn't too keen on the liver (she's not a fan of offal).

Next we had Sichuan Steamed Oysters and honestly these were probably the best oysters I've ever had. Usually I'll have Oysters raw with just a little tabasco or vinegar but these were incredible with a chilli marinade.

As a main Mrs Cool chose the Hung Shiao Belly Pork. Which is slow cooked until it's succulent and the flavours are fantastic.

For my main I had the Shuei Ju Beef which if you like a dish with a but of heat will be right up your street. The sauce it comes in was so good that I almost had to drink it straight from the bowl. Next time I order this I think I'll have to get some rice as well to soak up some of the sauce.

As a side we also had Steamed King Scallops with Garlic and Rice Noodles which again were fantastic. The subtle flavour of the scallop wasn't over powered by the garlic and having the steam was a nice alternative to them being pan fried with black pudding a peas puree as a lot of places serve them.

I can't recommend La Yuan highly enough. It was such a refreshing change from the sweet and sour chicken or curry and chips you get from a lot of Chinese restaurants in town.

After our meal we headed off into the Newcastle night time to enjoy a few drinks as we were child free for the evening.

You can find La Yuan's website here if you would like to have a look at the menu.

Well, that's all for now.



Monday 23 January 2017

Monday Munchies: Haggis, Neeps and Tatties

"Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, 
Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye worthy o' a grace
As lang's my arm..."

Burns Night is just aroond the corner an' for this weeks dish what better way tae celebrate than wi' Haggis, Neeps and tatties. Noo ave deviated a wee bit by replacing the auld mashed tatties with crispy roast tatties. Aal ye need tae mak this is a Haggis, some potatoes an' a turnip (swede).

Wrap the Haggis in tin foil an' put in a roasting tin wi' some water, roast for aroond 75 mins at 190ºc. Peel the tatties and cut them intae quarters. Boil for 10 mins until the edges go soft, coat in oil an' roast wi' the haggis fae the last 45 mins. Also peel the turnip and chop intae aboot 2cm chunks and boil for 20 mins until soft. Mash the cooked neeps an' add butter, salt an' pepper. Tak the tatties and haggis oot the oven an' cut the haggis open.

Wi' the left o'er haggis al be making a smaller dish on Burns Night (an' maybe a wee dram of whiskey) so look out for that on Instagram on the 25th.

Well, tha's aal fae noo



Monday 16 January 2017

Chinese Chicken and Rice One Pot

I was searching for some inspiration for something to make for our dinner that would be relatively easy for me to make after I'd finished work this Sunday. I stumbled upon Supergolden Bakes while scrolling through Twitter and Instagram so decided I would give their recipe for Chinese Chicken and Rice One Pot a try. I haven't stuck to their recipe 100% (you can find the original recipe here) but here is my version. This recipe will serve 4 and you will need:

8 Chicken thighs
1 1/2 peppers (diced)
1 onion (diced)
200g rice
Frozen peas
500ml chicken stock
Soy sauce
Runny honey
2 garlic gloves (sliced thinly)
Chilli flakes
Ground ginger.

The Method

Mix the soy sauce, honey, garlic, chilli and ginger in a bowl to make a marinade. Coat the chicken in the marinade and lave to infuse with the flavours for as long as possible (but at least a couple of hours). next heat some oil in a casserole dish on a medium heat and fry the chicken for a few minutes on each side until it starts to brown and then remove the chicken and set aside for later. In the same pan add the diced onion and cook for a few mins until it starts to colour and then add the peppers and cook for another few mins.

Add the remaining marinade to the pan along with the rice and once the rice is coated in the all the sauce add the chicken stock and the frozen peas. Bring the pan to simmer and then add the chicken back to the pan. Now cover the dish and bang it in a pre-heated oven at 180ºc. Cook for 30 mins and then remove the lid and cook for a further 15 mins so that the chicken skin goes crispy (Tip: if the dish looks like its starting to go a bit dry a little water at this stage).

Well, that's all for now.



Thursday 12 January 2017

Ranking the Star Trek Movies

I am a self confessed geek and one of my favourite realms (is realms the right word, who knows) of geekdom is Star Trek. I've enjoyed all of the Star Trek TV shows since I was a kid but my favourite entries into the Star Trek timeline has always been the movies. This past September marked the 50th anniversary of the Star Trek Franchise and to celebrate the TV channel SyFy had a Star Trek Season where the showed all of the film so I decided to have a binge and watch them all and after watching them I have decided to share with you my preferences from least favourite to absolute best.

13. Star Trek: The Motion Picture

To start the list we must go back to the beginning. Star trek had been off TV for a while, a few attempts had been made to resurrect it but never came about. Then another star based franchise arrived and the bosses at Paramount saw dollar signs and rushed a movie out. My problem with this film is that is doesn't feel like a Star Trek film. I've heard the script was originally not for a Star Trek project and was adapted by the studio to shoe horn in Kirk, Spock et al. The plot I quite like, a probe heading to earth leaving destruction in it's wake turns out to be on ancient earth probe (ancient as in from the 20th century) that was lost in a black hole is found by a race of living machines on the other side of the galaxy, given an upgrade and sent back home.

12. Star Trek : Nemesis

Of all the TV shows The Next Generation is my favourite but the films involving the TNG crew were largely disappointing. This was the most disappointing, The premise centres on a coup d'etat of the Romulan Empire by a clone of Captain Picard. The Romulans were always my favourite baddies and I think they have been underutilized in the films (with the exception of the 2009 reboot). The film is a bit of a mess and never really makes sense and even a starring role from a young Tom Hardy can't save this one.

11. Star Trek: Insurrection

This one feels more like an episode of the TV show, they story is good enough but just doesn't have the grandeur of a film. The Federation top brass is involved in a secret plot with some aliens to move another group of aliens from their home and steal the planets regenerative resources for their own diablolical ends.

10. Star Trek Into Darkness

Although it's not last on the list, this film disappoints me most. It is a good film, but it could've been so much better.  Bringing back the character of Khan Noonien Singh and having him played by Benedict Cumberbatch could have been sooo good but was just a bit flat. I appreciate that the rebooted films have to have a different take of things due to the alternate timeline but Khan would never have worked for Admiral Marcus in his nefarious war plans.

9. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

This film centres on the theological questions, Is God out there in the universe? and if so, Can we find God. Spock's half brother Sybock has started his own cult in search of God after he had a vision telling him where to look. Sybock hijacks the newly commissioned Enterprise, brainwashing the crew on the way. It turns out God isn't there but instead a malevolent, quasi-omnipotant entity (probably a member of the Q continuum for any fellow über geeks who are reading) who has been trapped at the edges of the universe and wants to be free.

8. Star Trek: Generations

This is the film all trekkers were waiting for. Captain Kirk teams up with Captain Picard to stop a madman from destroying planets in an attempt to return to a mysterious energy wave that gives anyone who enters immortality in their very own paradise. The film is great but just doesn't quite hit the heights of the other films.

7. Star Trek III: The Search For Spock

Spock is dead, there is s newly formed planet called Genesis and the Klingons are knocking about looking to get their hands on the ultimate WMD, the Genesis Device. This is a great story to show Kirk getting out of a no win situation and getting one over on the old enemy by blowing up the enterprise and nicking the Klingons ship (bird of prey). The actual search for Spock part is a bit convoluted with Spock's dead body being re-animated and regenerated as a side effect of the way the Planet Genesis was created and his mind being trapped in the head of Dr. McCoy.

6. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Of all the Star Trek films I think I've seen this one the most. Whenever there was a Star Trek film on TV when I was a kid it always seemed to be this one. A probe is heading to earth leaving destruction in it's wake (hang on, that sounds familiar). This time there is no communication from the probe and Earth is almost devastated. Spock deduces that the probe is trying to communicate with Humpback Whales but unfortunately they are extinct in the 23rd century. Kirk decides to try time travel, coz that seems like and easy thing to do in a stolen Klingon Bird of Prey, head back 1980's Earth and pick up a couple of Humpbacks.

5. Star Trek Beyond

When I saw the trailers for the most recent Star Trek I wasn't that blown away and was expecting to be disappointed. I could not have been more wrong. I really enjoyed this film ( I wrote a full review of it here) it was a fairly original story and as the future of the Star Trek franchise hadn't been fully sorted upon release the danger faced by the crew was genuinely threatening and you didn't know who was going to survive.

4. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Kirk and McCoy are accused of assassinating the Klingon Chancellor and are sent to prison on an inescapable prison planet. They soon escape (obviously) and uncover there is plot by both some Klingons and high ranking members of Star Fleet to prevent peace between the Federation and the Klingons. This film is great as Kirk has to overcome his own prejudices about Klingons in order to preserve peace in the galaxy, it also has Christopher Plummer as Klingon General Chang quoting Shakespeare as he tries to defeat Kirk.

3. Star Trek

By 2009 the Star Trek franchise was faltering. There were no Star Trek shows on TV any more and the films had been pretty stale. Something drastic was needed and what we got was the J.J. Abrams reboot which reset the whole Star Trek universe by establishing a new time line. The Romulans finally get a good outing as Nero (played by Eric Bana) comes back in time to seek revenge on the federation after his home planet is destroyed by an catastrophic accident and in doing so changes everything.

2. Star Trek: First Contact

For me The Next Generation series was all about the threat from the Borg. So it's no surprise that the best of the TNG films would also feature the Borg. The seemingly unstoppable collective of living machines (I wonder if they are the ones who found the probe in the original movie?) have been trying to wipe out all forms of life and add their biological and technological distinctiveness to their own. After a heavy defeat the Borg head back in time and stop humans from ever achieving warp drive technology and thus prevent the inception of the United Federation of Planets and can then take over the galaxy. But Picard and the Crew are hot on their trails to show that resistance in NOT futile.

1. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

There are some good films in the list but head and shoulders above them all is The Wrath of Khan. Khan Noonien Singh was a genetically engineered Human who first locked horns with Kirk during The Original Series. After Kirk bested Khan he was banished to a planet with his remaining followers and has been planning his revenge ever since. Ricardo Moltanban plays Khan brilliantly, hell bent on vengeance and quoting Captain Ahab from Moby Dick in his pursuit of Kirk. I love everything about this film and would go as far to say this is one of my favourite films of all time.

Live long and prosper.



Monday 9 January 2017

Top 5 restaurants in Newcastle

In recent years there has been an explosion of restaurants in Newcastle making my home town a veritable foodie-topia. But with so much choice how do you decide where to go for a good meal? Well, I've decided to list my top five restaurants in Newcastle to help you out.

5. Ko Sai
Located in Fenwick's Food Hall this Thai restaurant has a real street food feel to it. The dishes are delicious and not too filling so it's great for a lunch date. You can get everything from salads to dumplings, they also have a great range of freshly squeezed juices and asian cocktails. My favourite dish is Seafood Curry.

4. Turtle Bay
I love the vibe of Turtle Bay. The mix of reggae music, Caribbean cuisine and incredible cocktails is just my sort of thing. They have an extensive drinks menu and its great to just visit the bar here especially if you're making a night of it as it's right next to The Gate with it's selection of bars. But you have to try the food, there are so many great dishes to choose from. The Jerk chicken wings are amazing but my favourite is the Curry Goat one pot. 

3. The Broad Chare
If you're looking for classic British dishes then you have to try The Broad Chare on the Quayside. The entire menu at the Broad Chare is great, I really liked the bar snacks (Scotch egg anyone?). However, the Sunday Lunch is something else, one of the best I've ever had and reasonably priced for the quality you get. Also they have a great selection of ales, which is always a plus.

2. House of Tides
The only Michellin Starred restaurant in Newcastle had feature on this list. They have a seasonal set menu and as you would expect everything it top quality. My favourite course was the Hogget Shoulder and Fillet Tartare with Crispy Onions and Nasturtiums. I've had a lot of meals at high end restaurants and having one as good as this in Newcastle makes me so proud of my home town.

1. Fat Hippo Underground
It was always going to take something special to make it to the top of this list and Fat Hippo underground is very special. Hidden away behind an unassuming doorway on Shakespere Street, you make your way to the basement with it's raw decor. But it's not all style over substance as they have THE BEST burgers I have ever had and they have a great selection to choose from. The burgers are served pink which I really like, my favourite is the Stinky Pete. I also recommend trying it for lunch as it's an amazing deal at £5 for a burger and fries.

What are your favourite restaurants in Newcastle? Have you been to any on my list?

Well, that's all for now.



Thursday 5 January 2017

Project Bond: On Her Majesty's Secret Service

"This never happened to the other fella"

Sean Connery is out and a new Bond is in. On Her Majesty's Secret Service was the last Bond film of the Sixties, released on 1969 OHMSS stars George Lazenby in his only outing as 007. It also stars Diana Rigg as Contessa Teresa (Tracy) Di Vicenzo and Telly Savalas as Blofeld.

The film starts with the title sequence that show shots from the previous films to show that although there is a new actor, this is still the same man. We get a few quick glimpses of the new Bond as he heads to a beach where he watches Tracy through a telescopic lens. She is heading into the sea (for some reason) so Bond runs after her and rescues her and introduces himself in the classic Bond way. He is then jumped by some thugs but soon fights them off. Lazenby seems like a legit tough guy, he is bigger and more muscular than Connery and holds his own in the action scenes.

Next Bond is back at the Baccarat table in the Hotel he is staying at where he meets Tracy again and after some more fisticuffs with an intruder in Tracy's room, they end up back at Bond's room. When Tracy won't answer why people are after her, Bond slaps her around a bit (still 60's Bond then) and obviously beds her. We later find out the people who keep showing up are being sent by Tracy's Dad who wants Bond to make an honest woman of her as she's going off the rails a bit.

The central plot is that Bond is still looking for Blofeld but the trail has gone cold, M takes Bond off the case so 007 spits his dummy out and resigns from MI6. Luckily, Moneypenny changes Bonds letter of resignation to a request for 2 weeks leave. So Bond uses his leave to spend time with Tracy and possibly falling in love. He also continues looking for Blofeld and after getting a lead from Tracy's Dad, he find Blofeld is posing as a possible heir to a Counthood and trying to claim the title. 007 tracks his nemesis to a scientific institute in the Swiss Alps where he is conducting experiments into allergies.

Bond goes undercover posing as a Genealogist trying to verify Blofeld's claim to the title. Bond is soon rumbled though when he sneaks into a few of the female patient's rooms for evening liasons. I like this portrayal of Blofeld - he seems more aggressive, more powerful and more 'Hands on' than the previous incarnation He reminds me of Kingpin in the Daredevil Netflix series. However he hasn't learned from previous encounters with Bond and Blofeld proceeds to tell his entire plan (which is something ridiculous about making plants and animals infertile and demanding the UN give him a pardon for past crimes and give him the Counthood he wants. Bond escapes and there is a thrilling ski chase.

Bond is rescued by Tracy and they escape and Bond asks her to marry him. But they are tracked down by Blofeld and his goons who cause an avalanche and kidnap Tracy. Bond is told the UN will give Blofeld what he wants and that he will get no help from MI6 in rescuing Tracy so he enlists Tracy's Dad and his men for help and they attack Blofeld's base but Blofeld escapes on a Toboggan (they are in the alps after all).

Tracy is rescued, Blofeld is defeated (and seemingly killed), Bond is triumphant and marries Tracy. However, when they are on their way to their honeymoon, Blofeld shows up again with his Cronie Irma Bunt and they shoot at the Bonds' car. James is ok and realises that it's Blofeld but Tracy is shot dead and the film ends with Bond cradling Tracy in his arms with Louie Armstrong's 'We have all the time in the world' playing in the background.

This film is not as bad as it's reputation. George Lazenby is not the best actor and is a bit wooden at times but he's ok, the rest of the cast are brilliant and the story is pretty good too. Apparently Lazenby was a nightmare to work with and a bit of a dick during promotion so this along with the fact that it was the least successful Bond film to date means that it's no surprise he wasn't asked to reprise the role. My only real problem with this film was there were a lot of scenes that seemed to have been put in just to remind you that this was the same James Bond as in previous films.

Project Bond will return with Diamonds are Forever.

Well, that's all for now.



Monday 2 January 2017

Monday Munchies: Christmas Leftover Pie

What do you do with all the left overs from Christmas Dinner. Make turkey sandwiches for a month? Make soup or a curry? My favourite is to bung it all in a pie, it's the easiest dish to make and lets Christmas last a little bit longer. For my pie I had turkey, stuffing, pigs in blankets, cranberry sauce and gravy but really you can put in any left overs you have. I think the only core ingredients need to be the turkey and cranberry sauce.

I make my own pastry but you can buy some really good pre made pastries in the shops. The first step to making shortcrust pastry is to mix 350g of plain flour with 100g of unsalted butter (chilled and cut into cubes) and a pinch of salt. Rub this together with your fingers for a few minutes until you have a breadcrumb like texture. then add a few (usually 4-5) table spoons of water until it forms a ball of dough. Chill the ball of dough in the fridge until you're ready to roll.

In your pie dish start wth a small layer of gravy and then just add whatever ingredients your putting in and keep adding a bit more gravy with each layer. Save the cranberry sauce for the very top. Add some egg wash to the rim of the pie dish so the pastry stays in place and brush the top of the pie with more egg wash and bake for 25-30 minutes.

 Serve with some roast potatoes and lashings of gravy.

Well, that's all for now.


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