Saturday, 21 February 2015

Dinner Time 101 - The Basic Cheese Board

My nearest and dearest, you know that I'm a huge cheese board fiend. I'd have one every night if I could and have eaten myself into sleepless nights with cheese. It won't stop me stop me doing it again. In work I often make cheeseboards in First class and it's motivated me to embark on a personal quest to perfect my cheeseboard making skills. After some initial research I've picked up three rules for the basic cheese board; The 3 Rules of Three:

Three types of crackers/breads to accompany the cheese is a nice start. The different textures give the diner something to explore and different ingredients bring out different tastes of each cheese. On this occasion I opted for Rosemary Biscuits, Black Olive Flatbreads and Wholewheat thins just because I already had the Wholewheat thins and I was impulsive with the rest in M&S.  

Three cheese options are all that is required. To provide a nice selection the popular rule on the blogs I visited was to choose a hard, a soft and a blue. I chose a smoked cheddar (because people who aren't "into" cheese generally like cheddar), french brie and blue stilton.

Three additional accompaniments are ample to fulfil variety. In all honesty, when it comes to chutney my preference is always Quince paste. I love it's firm consistency and sweet taste. To accommodate more tastes than mine, and in line with this rule, I incorporated a spicy christmas chutney(that I had lying around) and grapes. Nb. the best quince paste - in my opinion - is from Waitrose and comes in a block so you can cut it into nice little squares.

The finished product looked and tasted great, I assure you! The 3 "Rules of three" worked really well. I got the idea of laying out the components on a large wooden chopping board from a blog about cheese and I really like the finished aesthetic! I am really pleased that I bought a bag of mixed seedless grapes too because the purple and green inject some colour into the board. Basic Cheeseboard Mission: Accomplished!

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Dinner Time 101 - Smoked Mackerel Pâté

In my recent 10-day stint off work (due to my heavy flying hours) I've taken to the kitchen to work on my culinary skills. Yeah, I'm no Delia or Nigella but I've started taking such comfort in knowing I have made something that I love to eat by myself, from scratch, no out-of-the-packet effort. Even better, I've been practicing some Scottish dishes because I've had a few people over for dinner recently.

Not only a great dinner-time starter but one of my favourite morning toast toppers is Smoked Mackerel Pâté. I found a few different recipes and got to work. 

1 whole fillet of peppered Smoked Mackerel
2 tbsp Creme Fraiche
2 tsp Dijon Mustard
100g unsalted Butter
1/2 small lemon (juice only)
1 tbsp chopped Spring Onions
Salt & Pepper to taste

The instructions are simple; blend everything in a blender and serve with toasted Ciabatta slices. 
I don't have a blender so I chose to use a fork to flake the Smoked Mackerel then blend in the butter. I added lemon juice, stirred it in, and finally mixed in the Dijon mustard and creme fraiche. Pop in the fridge to chill and Voilà!

Monday, 16 February 2015

The Getty Villa & The Griffith Observatory By Night

The first time I visited LA, I met Margaux. I had taken my friend Rebecca as my tour guide and we met her friends Margaux and Iain for some late night munchies one night. That was back in May 2014. On my most recent trip (potentially my last to LAX) I met the pair again for some morning coffee in Hollywood with some of their friends. Afterwards, Margaux and I hopped in my rented car of the week and set sights on Malibu. I had never been and was curious about Paradise Cove, a lovely little sun trap on the beach. We soon learned that to gain access to the cove you pay $40 for parking or spend $30 in the seafront restaurant - quite a steep price to pay for the sake of a peek! Unless the weather is glorious and you're going to spend the whole day there, don't bother. On the drive back through Malibu we spot signage for The Getty Villa and after about 20 minutes of searching for the entrance we managed to get the guard to waiver the pre-booking requirement and stopped off. It was a worthwhile stop. The Getty Villa is home to some of the art and historical artefacts of Mr Getty and it's perfectly situated on the hill facing the Malibu shore.

SNAP SNAP. The Villa Hall.
Ceiling Details

Gee, this place is beautiful! Margaux agrees.
Here, Margaux models this stylish feature.

The Getty Villa was built to WOW its visitors. Roman influence screams from every inch of the building and although a relatively contemporary build there's something old about its energy. After our snoop around we head to Silverlake to look in one of Margaux's favourite crystal shops. Our final tourist stop was the Griffith Observatory to watch over LA and the beautiful full moon that joined us. The air was still and it was a lovely night to look over the LA skyline. I've never felt so at peace.

The twinkling road straight up the middle of our view was the road of traffic we had been stuck in for over an hour.
Mr Moon.

Calm and collected, we met the others for some Thai food at one of Margaux's favourite restaurants. The perfect Cashew Chicken to accompany a perfect day in California.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Joshua Tree National Park & Palm Springs Aerial View

Another week, another road trip in California. This time we were out for the day and head in the direction of Joshua Tree National Park where we expected to see acres of Joshua Trees.
As we drove into Joshua Tree we couldn't escape talking about the desert conditions and sparse housing. The movie "The Hills Have Eyes" became a huge topic for conversation from the moment we entered the city until the moment we left. One of the girls was pretty freaked out by some of the landscape similarities, convinced some deformed creatures would be preying on us. En route to the entrance we passed a collection of abandoned huts that looked like scenery props but were once homes as evidenced by the similar huts across the road (one from which we could hear a female voice spookily humming). This really was like a scene from a movie.
Taking a break from working the land, duh!

We approached the entrance and paid the fee ($15) to enter in our car. I'm sure we all would agree that it was the best $15 we've ever spent. The desert views were breathtaking from the get-go. I felt like I had been transported to some Jurassic Era, in the land before time. We took the basic look and stopped by at some of the recommended exibit spots. There are an abundance of hiking trails and places to camp here too. The fog sat mystically on the rocks for a while before the sky opened and glorious sunshine beamed on the park.
Motor home hut
Skull Rock
At the time we decided that Scull Rock didn't specifically resemble a skull, however, I suppose it looks  little more convincing in the above picture. The Joshua Tree National Park is place of wonder. I later found out that it's a popular spot for musicians and actors to go and get high, exploring the limits of their creativity. There were a few instances when we came across some spiritual scenes. I'm sure I spotted the burning bush, as featured in the bible, at one point so I can understand how some people may experience heightened creativity in these spiritual surroundings. We finished the scenic loop and set our sights on Palm Springs for some Mexican food.

As the sun fell into the mountains we rushed to the Aerial View Tramway to catch sunset from one of the highest points in Palm Springs and swung by the 'Palm Springs' sign on the way.
Aerial view parking lot
Cable car ride
A view of Palm Springs
Up in the mountains you can take nature walks in the snowy valley and spot lots of animals.
Even as the sun set you could see for miles!
Aerial View Bar
The view after sunset