Had a gathering with mm and her mum at her place. Cheese and dried sausages with a nice gewurztraminer. I made warm grilled vegetable salad (peppers, courgettes, butternut squash, cherry tomatoes, rocket). Also tried making a french apple tart, and mm requested apple crumble.
The apple tart recipe is from Michel Roux Jr, I saw him make it on Food & Drink and it looked straightforward.
Roll out 180g puff pastry into a 25cm round, chill in fridge. Spread over apple compote (an apple stewed with a bit of water and sugar) and lay over sliced apples. Eggwash the pastry edges, sprinkle 2tbsp sugar and dots of butter, glaze. Bake at 200°C for 30mins until golden brown.
Except it wasn’t straightforward. The pastry didn’t rise properly and the tart ended up with what Paul Hollywood would call soggy bottom. I have no idea why. May be the pastry wasn’t cold enough, may be the compote and apple slices weren’t cold enough, may be the compote was too wet, may be the oven wasn’t hot enough. I can bake fairly competently and have no problems with crumbles and choux pastry. I’m just not very good at regular pastry.
I pan-fried a slice in a regular frying pan and the bottom was crispy. Overall, the flavours were fine so it’s a matter of mastering the puff pastry.
One of the tasks on the trip was to get whisky at DXB duty free. It helped that I saw the large selection last time, and on the layover to Copenhagen I was able to browse even more. I’d promised a GCLS friend I’d bring a bottle of VAT 69 to Dallas, so I got that. Big bargain, less than $20.
I could get another bottle, which would be for myself. I’d finished an Edradour (mostly making whisky honey & lemon when I was sick in Feb) so I wanted a Speyside or HIghland. In any case, not peated as the Ardbeg is still open. This ruled out a very tempting Laphroaig PX or an even more tempting Caol Ila 12. Sigh. I briefly thought about a Jura 16.
Original intention was Dalmore 12, seeing how popular it is. But I didn’t want to commit to a whole bottle of a standard expression without having tried it first. That was what I did with BNJ and the aforesaid Edradour, and I would have preferred Highland Park 12 over either one.
My eye was drawn to a Glengoyne Burnfoot. No age expression, travel retail only. Named in honour of the original name of the distillery. But the difference was, I had tried it before, sometime last year when RM and I were doing the distillery rounds. I have a bottle already at home. I remember it being smooth and sweet. And at a price of AED143, or £30 for 1 litre, is good value for money.
It’s as sweet as I remembered. Needed a drop of water and to sit a while for the flavour to develop and the kick to dissipate. Reviews say apple, I get sticky heaviness and lots of citrus to finish. Definitely a more than worthy successor to the rather sharp Edradour. Next time, Dalwhinnie or Old Pulteney or back to my favourite HP12.
Met up with Sis to catch up. We’d originally arranged to meet at this bar/restaurant called the Globe but when I got there it was busy and the wait staff was unfriendly. Directed me to the bar where someone had already set up their laptop and some sort of credit card application form, probably someone on the staff. Didn’t like the noise level so I headed off elsewhere. Ended up at an old standby, Jaspas.
Pretty nice dinner, and the waitress was super nice and super friendly. We both had surf and turf and a glass of wine. Then walked over to the FCC for dessert, I had summer pudding. Sis had coffee and I tried the Dalmore 12. The FCC like all foreign correspondents clubs all over the world, a little British, a little old school, full of hard drinking journalists. I almost bought a Dalmore 12 in the duty free on the way back, but at the end opted for a Glengoyne Burnfoot instead. Having tried the Dalmore, I’m glad I decided against it. It’s not bad, just not exciting.
I got sick on the first day of our holiday, the first day in Copenhagen. Could have been on the plane, layover at Dubai, the train from the airport, or when walking around in the city. I knew when my throat felt so dry when I woke up after the first night. It wasn’t a sore throat, just an extremely uncomfortable dryness. I tried drinking throughout the day, and had a supply of ricola and chewing gum at hand.
By the time we got on the cruise I knew I was going to be sick. The worst day was Kiel, when my throat felt like it was on fire the whole day. Apart from that, I didn’t feel any worse than normal, no tiredness, no cough (yet) so I tried to continue with the holiday as normal.
The fiery throat abated somewhat over the next 2 days when we reached the fjords but the coughing started. Mum asked if I wanted to go to the medical centre, but I didn’t want to. By the time we reached Bergen, I had begun to run out of ricola but luckily we found a 7-eleven and bought some strepsils. Or as they call it, repsils. Big help, especially the double action ones.
What also helped was the availability of honey and lemon in the cafeteria. I took enough pots of honey at breakfast to last the whole day and there’s always sliced lemon at the tea/coffee station. Drinking 3-4 large glasses a day must have helped soothe the scratchiness in my throat. And the coughing too. If I were at home I would have added whisky (of course) but just the honey and lemon was good enough.
Plus, this time I didn’t try to run a half marathon in the middle of a flu, just slow 30mins on the treadmill in the gym, so I didn’t get more sick. Still coughing a little, just as well I still have a supply of honey.
Back home in the afternoon. First thing was to shower — I hate going over 24hrs without a shower and we were out all day in Dubai, then off to the airport straightaway. Luckily the flight was only 6 and a bit hours which made it bearable. I have 1,650 pics and 10 videos to go through so it’ll be a project to sort and write up the trip. But there are highlights that have stuck in my mind.
- quiet morning at Rosenborg Castle and grounds — we had time before boarding and the beautiful King’s Garden was the perfect place to rest after a couple of days of walking in Copenhagen
- finding a huge flea market at Kiel that turned a potentially boring Sunday when nothing was open to a more interesting day
- breath-taking fjords: the rainy, foggy morning at Geiranger that turned into a beautiful blue sky evening cruise down the fjord; descending Stalheim’s hairpin bends in a coach; the too-numerous-to-count waterfalls and topped off with a ride on the steep Flamsbahn
- catching a mini avalanche at Geirangerfjord and even better, it was right across our balcony
- sampling caviar from a tube, whale meat and black cheese at the fish market at Bergen harbour, walking along the UNESCO listed Bryggen area
- sailing down another beautiful fjord to Oslo — this was when I had this thought that life is unfair, why can’t I have been born in Norway and able to live in this wonderful country. (Oh wait, I’m an EU/EEA citizen, I can.) Anyway, who wouldn’t want to have their own house on their own island like this one
- crossing the Dubai Creek in a watertaxi called abra, only AED1 for a 10min ride from one side of the creek to the other, a bit like the traghettos in Venice
- souks were interesting, I finally get to see the “mountains” of spices that I didn’t get to see in Tunisia
Food on the trip was a game of two halves. The food on the cruise was exactly like the last one. So now we know, all MSC cruises have the same menu: same broken fatty bacon, same baked apple for breakfast, same pizza in the cafeteria, same overdone beef in the restaurant, same soggy vegetables, same no sugar added ice cream, same wines, same baked alaska for gala night. The few highlights were grilled prawns and chocolate tart in the restaurant, pan-fried calamari and rocket in the cafeteria and pots of honey so I could make endless honey & lemon for my flu.
Food at the stops was better. Hot dogs in Copenhagen brought back memories from last time I visited, over 10 years ago with mm. We were poor students and hot dogs from street carts were one of the few things we could afford, we didn’t complain because they tasted great. This time, the cart at the side of the station near our hotel was our favourite, so much so that we visited it twice.
Other food? Bratwurst, strudel and beer at Kiel, delicious salmon at Voss as part of our excursion, grilled king crab claw at Bergen fish market, prawns direct from the fisherman on his boat at Oslo harbour, lamb shawarma with three types of rice in a Dubai food court, Cheesecake Factory next to an indoor ski slope in the middle of the desert. We all must have gained weight, although hopefully not too much because we also did massive amounts of walking.
We went for an oyster opening short course in the evening. 6 oysters and they say 2 glasses of wine that turned out to be total one glass in volume. No matter, it was fun.
We each got an oyster opening knife which we can take home. The instructor was pretty good, demonstrating the technique first then helping whenever anyone needed help. Things we learned from him: soak the oysters in salted ice water for 15mins to get rid of scum and bugs — salted ice water not because it’s like seawater but because salt reduces the temperature of the ice and will numb any bugs embedded in the shells so they fall off. The skirt of the oyster inside can be brown or black depending on the temperature when they were harvested. Squirt some lemon juice or gently touch the skirt once opened to check if the oyster is still alive, the skirt will shrink if it is.
Place the oyster around a wet cloth folded over, hold it down with your palm, insert the knife through the lip. Firmly push it up and down a few times, and make sure it’s touching the roof of the shell and stuck inside. Then lever gently and it will open. Clean off bits of shell and detach. I got my first one opened within a few seconds and I even managed a couple of more difficult ones.
The oysters were extremely fresh, and full of seawater. Lovely, lovely taste. No need even for lemon or any condiments. Our favourite was the fine de claire which had a little mineral taste and excellent texture. There were also rock oysters from Ireland, ones from Holland and another French one.
Finished packing over the weekend already. Got the final stuff like toiletries and chewing gum. Our second cruise of the year, Mum had been doing lots of research into our destination — the Norwegian fjords. We’ll be staying additionally in Copenhagen and Dubai, so the challenge is to pack 2 weeks’ worth of clothes for both hot and cold weather.
It’s another MSC cruise, this time on the Musica. I expect the staterooms and most things to be similar. I think we have balconies also this time, and that will be great when sailing into the fjords. There are a couple of excursions we may join, because it’s not as easy to do ourselves — the railway at Flam and possibly an excursion at Geiranger. The rest, like the stops at Kiel, Bergen and Oslo, we’ll explore the cities by ourselves.
I went out walking in the afternoon, to get out of the flat. Walked to the library to return a book, then wandered around. Bought wine, coke zero, some toiletries. Total eventually was over 2hrs, wow. And then I did some weights. Gentle exercising, together with lots of vegetables, a healthy sort of day. Oh, well, I had ice cream too.
Met up with mm, she came to pick me up in her car and I directed her to a new area she’s never been to. Just simple lunch of rib-eye and vegetables. Went to the library, window shopped at estate agents and went to a small store. Went over to the church so she can get a spare copy of her baptism certificate. I wanted to get my confirmation certificate filled out too, but apparently I have to return to the church I was baptised in, not the one I was confirmed. Strange.
Met with family at a pub near Sis’ place so we can have a family dinner for early celebration of Mum’s birthday. Nice pub, not too crowded and it was okay for my niece. I had smoked duck breast with mash and a big floret of broccoli. A couple of glasses of Hoegaarten too.
Sis dragged me to thai boxing class. I’m not very keen on classes, I’ve tried yoga, aerobics and dancing and didn’t really enjoy them. This thai boxing was quite okay, long warm up with stretching, squats, crunches and the like then it was punching, jabbing and kicking against the punching bag or the trainer. It was good, I wasn’t all that winded. But I don’t think I’ll go again.
Did some work on her book, then it was mad rush to take my niece to enopi class then taikwondo class. Grilled some fish back at Sis’ home for dinner. Quite a full day.
Lunch with mm at a Japanese restaurant near the office, no reason, just felt like it. She had grilled hamachi head and I had the sashimi set. I then went to the market to get some stuff for the cruise, went home then went out again, we were going to Ikea to take advantage of their 40x point shopping days. She bought wine racks and I bought a replacement kitchen scale. Back to her place to put the wine racks together. Not really dinner, my dinner was a hot dog and meatballs at Ikea. She did give me some soup though.
Spa day. Was shopping with mm a few weeks ago and she stopped at one of those aromatherapy places. They had a trial promotion for massages, so we booked for a trial at < a href=”http://www.alqvimia.com” title=”alqvimia”>alqvimia. I’m more used to standard massages that are more muscle manipulation (ie more painful) than these oil-slathering type of massage. First, the therapist checked for which type of oil would suit my type, then she put on soothing music and I got 60mins of a nice relaxing massage. It was okay, I felt no different afterwards. I probably won’t go again, too expensive.
I went over to Sis’ to help her work on her book, a parent-family guide. Reading and sorting and typing. We worked for a while in the morning, had sushi lunch, picked up my niece from school then worked pretty solidly for 3hrs in the afternoon. By the time I looked at the clock it was almost 5pm. Made a dent in the pile of material in her large plastic container. Steak dinner, and a glass of wine. A good day.
The newest tasting, Adelphi whisky. Not quite my usual, something from an independent bottler. The name is taken from an old distillery that closed in 1907.
Tasted the cheaper blended one, which was quite okay and the price was good for daily drinking. The one that got me excited was a cask from Caol Ila that says it’s 25yr. I’m not sure I’m convinced about independent bottlers, or blends. Withholding judgement yet.
Went with Mum to Sai Kung, a bit out in the countryside. Still quite crowded. There’s a pier, a walk to a small sandy beach and traditional shopping streets. Saw a guy flying a kite made up of more than 100 small paper pieces.
There was a normal covered wet market, but alongside the pier fishing boats come right up to sell their catch direct to customers — fish, lobster, crab, prawn, clams, whelks, all sorts. Most of the restaurants offer seafood. We had a set dinner for 2: lobster with noodles, steamed small prawns, steamed fish, steamed abalone. All in all a good meal and a good day.
So randomly, I decided to go home to see my parents. Seems Mum’s yahoo mail is causing her problems, and she can’t describe it to me over the phone. The login page for her mail, and the mail page itself aren’t loading properly, with absolutely no css, no wonder she was freaked out. Having identified the problem, I couldn’t find an answer no matter how much I googled. Finally, I installed noscript, converted her account to classic and it worked somewhat. Still didn’t solve all the issues but at least she can read emails now.
Yay! And to celebrate, here’s a candy crush cake I saw on facebook. Everyone, and I mean everyone, seems to be playing candy crush. My niece and I played this game on the train, to spot the people playing it on their smartphones.