Thursday, 9 July 2020

Braised Pork on Rice - Lu Rou Fan (卤肉饭)

It may not be a National Dish but this is the ultimate comfort food and distinctly Taiwanese.  I first ate this in Taipei in a restaurant that cooked it up in big vats that were simmering away all day.  People queue out of the door where they are handed a little slip of paper and pencil to tick which sides they want with their steaming bowl of savoury pork.  It is traditionally cooked and served with whole boiled eggs but a gentleman next to me in the queue convinced me that a runny fried egg was the way to go.  The mix of salty belly pork, rice and silky egg yolk is just incredible and so my Lu Rou Fan is not cooked with boiled eggs.  You can boil and peel some eggs and add them at stage 7 if you wish. 

You really can't substitute belly pork for a leaner cut and you definitely can't swap out Shiitake Mushrooms for any other kind of mushroom.  In Chinese, Shiitake mushroom directly translates as "Fragrant Mushroom" and is where the main scent of the dish comes from.

Ingredients: (Serves 2-3)

The Bulk
1 Onion (diced)
500g Belly Pork
1 Pack of Shiitake Mushrooms (usually around 125g)
3 Cloves of Garlic (bashed)
3 Slices of fresh Ginger
1 Egg per person
Handful of fresh Chive

The Sauce
4 tbs Shaoxing Wine
3 tbs Dark Soy Sauce
2 tbs Light Soy Sauce
3 tsp Brown Sugar
2 Cups of Water

The Spices
2 tsp Sichuan Peppercorns
0.5 tsp Black Peppercorns
3 Star Anise
2 Sticks of Cinnamon
6 Cloves
3 Bay Leaves

Oil for frying

Method:


1) When using belly pork the Chinese always like to blanch the meat in boiling water to "remove impurities".  I don't know if this actually does anything but I tend to follow suit - it makes the dicing much easier either way.  Boil the meat for a few minutes and then dice into cm lardons.

2) Add a tablespoon of oil to a heavy bottom pan and fry the Sichuan Peppercorns, Black Peppercorns and Cloves.  Once fragrant, remove these spices from the oil and tie up in a cheese cloth - I find that my tea leaf infuser ball does the trick.  Ultimately these are the spices that nobody really wants to bite into, but are essential to flavour the dish.  Set this aside for later.

3) Add the rest of the spice ingredients to the oil and fry until fragrant once more.  Add the diced onion and fry for a few minutes.

4) Dice your Shiitake mushrooms and add to the pot.  Once everything has had time to fry for a few minutes add the diced pork belly.

5) De-glaze the pan with the Shaoxing wine before adding the two soy sauces and the sugar.  Simmer for a few minutes and then add the water.

6) Reintroduce the spices you fished out earlier in the cheese cloth and cover.  Simmer on low for 2 hours stirring occasionally. 

7) Remove the lid and crank the heat up to thicken the sauce (if needed!) to a consistency that will both sit on top of the rice and also slowly sink through it - In other words, you don't want a watery sauce!

8) Serve over plain boiled rice.  Fry an egg and place it on top.  Drizzle some sauce from the pan over the egg and then sprinkle generously with freshly chopped chives.

Any simple steamed green will go on the side quite easily.  Bok Choi is probably the vegetable of choice but broccoli or french beans work just as well.

Sunday, 7 June 2020

Ras Malai Ice Cream (Cardamom Ice Cream)

At the risk of sounding completely up myself, my favourite ice cream is the one that I make.  It is a recipe that I came up completely by myself and after a few trials, it tastes exactly how I intended - like the Indian dessert called Ras Malai.

Now it's no secret, Indians don't do dessert very well.  Starters, mains, sundries - All incredible.  Dessert - Not so much, how is it possible that every single dessert in a country's cuisine tastes exactly the same as each other?!  That said, there is one hidden gem in there that doesn't instantly give you cavities.  Ras Malai consists of a kind of curdled cheese bathing in the most floral, fragrant, sweet milk you have ever tasted.  I know what you're thinking - Curdled cheese in a dessert?!  I'm thinking that too, but it was not the cheese that I had in mind when I set out to make this ice cream recipe, it was the incredible, sweet, cardamom milk.  Get ready for your new favourite flavour of ice cream.

Ingredients:

20g Peeled Pistachios

20g Cashew nuts

30g Almonds

10 cardamom pods

400ml Full-Fat Milk

300ml Double Cream

200ml Sweetened Condensed Milk

3 Egg Yolks

3 tbs White Sugar

0.25 tsp Salt

15g Butter

5 Threads of Saffron (optional)

Method: 


1) Roughly chop the nuts and toast them in a dry pan for a couple of minutes.

2) Peel the 10 cardamom pods and collect the seeds.  Grind the seeds to a powder in a pestle and mortar.

3) Add the butter and ground cardamom to the pan with the toasted nuts.

4) Cook on low for a few minutes before adding the milk, cream and condensed milk. 

5) Simmer and stir for 15 minutes.  Do not allow to boil.

6) Put the 3 egg yolks in a bowl with the sugar and whisk to a paste.

7) Pour the milk mixture through a sieve and set aside to cool down a little.

8) Pick out about half the nuts from the sieve and set aside.  Now I choose to peel the nuts at this point but it is probably unnecessary and takes forever.

9) Slowly add the warm milk mixture to the egg yolk bowl and whisk continuously.  Transfer to a pan and bring back to the heat.  Stir continuously until the mixture coats the back of a spoon.  Add the peeled nuts.

10) Transfer the mixture to your ice cream container and put in the fridge.

11) Once cool, put the mixture into your ice cream maker and follow the usual instructions.

12) Enjoy now and thank me later. 

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Hotel RRR Biryani


Hotel RRR - Mysore

I never realised the delicacy of a proper Biryani until my trip to India.  Firstly, I learnt that it is not a side dish! I think that I had only ever eaten it as a fancy add on instead of rice, but truth be told I don't think it ever really was proper biryani. At Hotel RRR in Mysore they served nothing but biryani and a few side dishes, alternating chicken and lamb each day.  It was carried in giant bags on the waiter's shoulders and poured directly onto your table (lined with banana leaves) for you all to tuck in.  

It is not simply rice and curry mixed together. It is a lengthy process that takes dedication and a good spice rack.  For this reason, most restaurants in England will make it completely incorrectly to save time, which results in a dish nowhere near as satisfying.  Like microwaving a jacket potato instead of baking it slowly; it makes ALL the difference.  Each individual grain of rice should be oozing with the most amazing fragrance made up from all the whole spices that have helped steam them.

Choose your cooking vessel carefully. It needs to be big enough to fit everything in and be able to go in the oven.  It also needs a tight fitting lid so the perfumed steam doesn't escape and so cooks the rice.  Some people use chapatti dough to seal the lid properly but foil works too.  I find that my cast iron casserole dish works perfectly.  It can be made on the stove but I have learnt the hard way that this method has a greater chance of burning the bottom before the rice on top is cooked.  So here are your 10 steps in making the perfect biryani. 


Ingredients: (Serves 6)


1Kg of lamb shoulder or chicken pieces (Keep the bone on and avoid breast meat)
6 Onions (sliced)
1-5 green finger chillies halved (you decide the heat)
4 Star Anise
2 big sticks of Cinnamon
8 Cloves
2 Teaspoons of Cumin seeds
5 Black Cardamom Pods
8 Green Cardamom Pods
10 Whole Black Peppercorns
5 Whole Dried Kashmiri Chillies
5 large Bay Leaves
2 tsp Curry Leaves
2 tsp ginger paste
2 tsp garlic paste
3 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 cup plain yogurt
3 cups rice
1 cup chopped fresh coriander
1/4 cup butter (or ghee)
Salt to taste
Plenty of oil

Optional:

1 large potato quartered and parboiled
4 boiled and peeled eggs (common with chicken biryani) 
1/2 cup Cashew nuts
Couple pinches of Saffron (or cheat with a couple of drops of red food colouring mixed with 2 tablespoons of water.)


Method:


1. Dry rub the meat with the ground cumin, coriander, turmeric and some salt.  Wash and leave the rice to soak in water.  Set both aside for an hour. 

2. Start frying four of the sliced onions in a separate pan with a bit of salt to help caramelise them.  These dark caramelised onions will be sprinkled on top of the biryani and will take a long time to get to the colour they need.  So start now and hopefully they will be done when you are ready for them. Once they are almost done, add the cashew nuts to brown slightly. 

3. Add half a cup of oil in the pot that you plan to make your biryani in.  Throw in 2 star anise, 1 cinnamon stick, 4 cloves, all the cumin seeds, 3 black cardamom, 4 green cardamom, 5 peppercorns, 3 chillies and 3 bay leaves.  

4. Fry until fragrant and then add the two remaining sliced onions and the split green chillies. There should be enough oil in the pan to fry everything properly rather than steam/boil them.

5. Fry the meat in a separate pan until brown and transfer to the main cooking pot.


6. Add the ginger and garlic pastes.  Give it 5 minutes and then add the yogurt (put the parboiled potatoes and/or eggs in at this point too).  Cook it through until the oil separates and the meat is soft.  We shouldn't have too much liquid so cook down until the sauce is thick.


7. In another pot add the remaining whole spices plus the curry leaves.  Fill with water and bring to the boil.  Add salt (or a chicken stock cube!) and add the rice. Only half cook the rice so it is still a little hard before draining.  Keep a cup and half of this drained fragrant rice water for later.  


8. Now it is time to construct!  Remove half of the meat mix from the biryani dish.  Layer half of the rice over the remaining meat in the pot.  Sprinkle with a few leaves of saffron (or your food colouring!) and add the rest of the meat mix layering it evenly. Top with the rest of the rice and sprinkle over the remaining saffron. 

9. Top it all off with the caramelised fried onions(and cashews) and the chopped fresh coriander.  Place cubes of butter on top and pour in a cup and a half of the saved rice water.

10. Finally bake for 40-50 minutes on gas mark 4. Test a few grains of rice; if still a little raw, add half a cup of water and put it back in the oven.  Rice on the edge of the pot may be crunchy but that's fine - it all adds to the overall texture of the dish! 

And that's it!  Your whole house smells like an indian restaurant and your hair is greasy with a fried onion stench but it will all be worth it.  It is a lot of work and so only really worth it when making a lot of it! In hotel RRR a biryani is served with a basic vegetable sambar or onion Raita with sides of salty pickles, deep fried crispy chillies, a couple of lime wedges and raw sliced onions.  Don't make the mistake of serving a heavy curry with it; the biryani is the star of the show and doesn't share the limelight well. Enjoy!

Thursday, 9 April 2020

ChongQing Noodles (重庆面)

Having lived in Beijing for 5 years I have learnt what Chinese food is really supposed to taste like.  It's not fluorescent sweet and sour chicken balls or boiled ribs drenched in BBQ sauce.  Not once did I see any of that!  A lot of my favourite dishes come from the Sichuan Province and this dish was our go to at least once a week.

You will struggle to cook real Chinese food without a trip to your local Chinese supermarket.  My cupboard is always stocked with the Chinese staples of Sesame Oil, Dark Soy Sauce, Chinese ChinKiang Vinegar, ShaoXing Wine and Chinese Dried Chillies.  They last a long time and essential for all Chinese cooking.  The Chinese Chilli is mild and flavoursome and you could easily find 20+ chillies in a standard Sichuan dish.

Another essential is MSG which for absolutely no reason has a bad rep.  There are hundreds of scientific articles on how bad salt is for you and literally zero on MSG, but we all happily still use salt.  If you want to make good Chinese food, you will need MSG.

Ingredients: (Serves 2)

200 grams Dan Dan Noodles.  It has taken a few trials to work out the correct noodles.  Look for the chinese characters 担担面.

10 dried Chinese chillies (these and only these!)
2 tsp Sichuan Peppercorns
0.5 tsp Black Peppercorns
1 tbs ShaoXing Wine
4 tbs ground pork (I know, who buys pork mince in such small portions?! I have found that the meat from sausages also works brilliantly and they come perfectly pre-portioned! One sausage each.)
2 tsp Sesame Seeds
4 spring onions
0.5 cup chopped fresh Coriander
4 tbs cooked Soya Beans (optional)
Salt
Oil

Per bowl:
1 tsp Sesame Oil
1 tsp Dark Soy Sauce
1 tsp Light Soy Sauce
1 tbs Chinese Vinegar
1 tbs ShaoXing Wine
1 tsp MSG
0.25 tsp crushed raw garlic
0.5 tsp Sichuan "Toban" paste
0.5 tsp Chinese Chilli Oil.

Method:


Put all the "bowl" ingredients into the individual bowls that you will be serving the meal in.  Give it a good mix and set them aside.

Grind the 10 chillies, Sichuan Peppercorns and Black Peppercorns into a course powder.

In a tablespoon of oil, fry the pork for a minute and then add the ground spices.  Continue to fry until pork and spices are thoroughly cooked and almost crispy.  Add the sesame seeds to the pan, stir and deglaze with a splash of ShaoXing wine.  Turn off the heat.

Boil the noodles as instructed on the packet.  Place half in each bowl plus half a cup of the noodle water.  This noodle water is vital!

Top with the fried pork.  Sprinkle with a healthy amount of chopped spring onions and coriander.  Put 2 tablespoons of soya beans on the side.

Serve with the instruction to mix it all together before eating.


Sunday, 15 March 2020

Nana's 6 onion Chicken Pathia

My Nana was born in Mangalore in India, got married young and moved to Kenya, leaving everything that she knew behind.  She had 6 children and a husband who's ambition was to get his family to the "Promised Lands" of the United Kingdom.  She has always been a brilliant cook but with over 60 years away from India her recipes have evolved and now at the ripe age of 85 there are just a few tried and tested recipes that remain.  I spent a day cooking one of her favourites with her a few weeks back and after a few attempts to remake it this is her  extra special Chicken Curry.  It follows no recipe that I know, but, tastes like the most incredible chicken Pathia you have ever eaten.  Like that classic hot, sweet, and sour you get from a British Indian restaurant's Chicken Pathia but homemade with a fraction of the sugar and oil used.

Ingredients:

The bulk
6 Onions
2 Peppers
1-5 Green Chillies (Depending how hot you like it - this dish is meant to pack a punch)
6 Chicken thighs (I prefer on the bone but fillets work just as well)
5 Garlic Cloves
1 inch piece of Ginger
1/4 cup of cooking oil (maybe more - I never actually measured)

The Sauce
2 tbs Tomato Puree
1 tbs Tamarind Paste
2 tbs Brown Sugar (or Jaggery if you have it!)
Chicken stock cube
Juice of one lime

The Spices
3 tsp Curry Powder (I use Madras hot curry powder)
1-2 tsp Kashmiri Chilli Powder (Kashimiri is for colour and flavour. Not heat)
1 tsp Turmeric Powder
1 tsp Coriander Powder
2 tsp Cumin Powder
1 Cinnamon Stick
1/2 tsp ground Black Pepper
Salt to taste.

Method:


1. Find someone to peel and dice the 6 onions for you.  Blend one of them with the ginger and garlic and set aside.  Dice the peppers, chunky chop the chillies - big enough for somebody to pick them out if they choose to.

2. Mix all the sauce ingredients and set aside.

3.  In your biggest pot, add the oil and fry the cinnamon stick for a minute.  Add the chopped onions. It will take time to fry this many onions properly but make sure that the onions are caramelising.  Add half a teaspoon of salt to help.

4. Add all the spices.  At this point you might need to add more oil if the pan gets dry.  Spices need to fry in oil so don't be afraid of it.  You are never going to add as much as your local takeaway does.  Fry for 5 minutes.

5. Add the diced peppers and fry.  Add the blended onion/ginger/garlic mix and fry thoroughly.  The main sweetness of this dish comes from this fried onion.  Steamed onion does not taste the same.  You should have a nice shine to the gravy.

6. Add the sauce mix and simmer for a few minutes.  Add the raw chicken and cook on a low simmer for 30 minutes.  Keep covered for the first 15 minutes.  If the sauce is looking thin then remove the lid to allow it to thicken.  If it is drying out just add water.




Sunday, 19 January 2020

Real Goan Pork Vindaloo

Like most curries in a British Indian Restaurant, the Vindaloo has lost pretty much all resemblance to it's original, traditional form and has become the generic "extra hot" dish with it's 3 chilly symbols.  It is correct that a Vindaloo is jam packed with chillies, but somewhere lost in translation was the fact that the chillies specifically used in a Vindaloo are the much milder kashmiri chilly that packs little heat but a ton of flavour and colour.  The overriding taste of a good Vindaloo should most definitely be chilly but that does not equate to overbearing heat.  After chilly, the second most important flavour must be vinegar; this brings the spices together providing a fragrant that instantly takes me back to Goa.  When I say that this dish tastes better the next day, I really mean that this dish should only ever be eaten the day after it has been prepared.  Allowing time for that vinegar to slightly pickle the meat is key to this Vindaloo and you will see for yourself that the difference in flavour is staggering!  If you don't like pork or fatty meat; move on, this dish is not for you.  There is no real substitute for what the belly fat brings to the dish.  If you really want you could substitute half the pork belly for pork shoulder.  I have used chicken thigh before and it is still tasty, just not a spot on how good the pork version is.  I have Goan roots and still have family living in Goa which makes me very proud to share with you my Goan Vindaloo.

Ingredients:  (Serves 5-6)

1 Kg of pork belly (rind removed and cut in chunky cubes)
15 whole dried Kashmiri Chillies
3 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 tsp whole peppercorns
7 black cloves
3 black cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp tumeric
80ml apple cider vinegar
3 onions
6 cloves of garlic
1 inch of ginger
4 tsp tamarind pulp (tamarind pastes come in different concentrations so be careful with this - add it to taste at the end if you need to)
2 tsp brown sugar
Salt to taste
Oil

Method:


Toast the chillies, cumin seeds, peppercorns and cloves in a dry pan until fragrant and then grind into a coarse powder either using a spice grinder or a pestle and mortar.

Blend the garlic and ginger into a paste.

Combine half the vinegar with half the ginger/garlic paste and half the freshly ground spices.

Marinade the pork with this mix (overnight is best but a couple of hours will do).

Dice 2 onions and blend the other 1.

In a hot pan add enough oil to cover the base and put in the cinnamon stick and the black cardamom.  Fry until fragrant.

Add the diced onion and fry until soft.  Then add the remaining freshly ground spices.  Add more oil if the spices have made the pan dry - a fair amount of oil is needed to properly fry all ingredients.

Add remaining ginger/garlic paste and blended onion.  Fry thoroughly until oil bubbles through holes in the sauce.  Stir often to stop it from burning.

Add sugar, tamarind pulp and remaining vinegar.

In a separate pan brown the marinaded pork and then transfer into main curry pan.

Simmer for 1 hour allowing the curry to thicken.  The picture on the left was taken as soon as the meat was added.  A slow simmer with the lid off brought it to the consistency shown in the picture at the top of this post.  I prefer using my cast iron pot and putting it in the oven.

Once the curry has cooled down put it in the fridge ready to enjoy the next day.  Trust me, it is worth the wait!






Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Barbados - Autumn 2019

Sun, Sea, Sand and Straight Rum
Sunday, 3 November


This is my first post as a married man! A lot has happened since ChengDu and none of it has involved any kind of travelling.  In the last 4 months we have upped and moved our life in China back to the UK; started new jobs; got married and bought a house (almost!).  My travels haven't halted, but, I'm sure may have slowed down somewhat.  So here I am in Barbados... on my honeymoon!!

I can't think of a better reception to a country than the one we got in Barbados.  The second we got off the plane we were each handed a rum punch!  We hadn't even collected our bags yet and we were sampling our first Caribbean rum.  Our second rum punch was an hour later by our hotel pool overlooking the stunning aqua waters of Barbados.


Our hotel is on the South Coast in a place called "The Saint Laurence Gap" which seems to be the bar and restaurant scene of Barbados.  A popular tourist spot and where young Bajans go to party, but, not necessarily the best place to find cheap, local food.  Our first meal was at a restaurant near our hotel and set us back a good £60.  We're no longer rich international teachers anymore so a £60 dinner hurt a little! Our first full day was mostly spent lying down either on the beach by the sea or on a sun lounger by the pool (which is also by the sea) as we let our first term teaching back in England stresses thaw out under the Caribbean sun.  We had a great lunch at a much more local feeling part of the South coast called Sand Dollar where beers cost £1.50 and a chicken curry roti with a side of macaroni pie for not much more.  This is more like it!  We liked it so much that after happy hour cocktails back at our hotel we headed straight back there for dinner.  We ate fried dolphin (not flipper - as is written on all the menus!) which I now know is just what the Bajans call Mahi-Mahi.  It's a delicious meaty fish that can be eaten guilt free knowing that it is not an actual dolphin.  We finished our evening around the back of Sand Dollar cafe where the locals were gathered singing some real old-school karaoke, playing dominoes and drinking straight rum out of plastic cups.  A perfect first day on the island.




With the restful day out of the way we had at least one activity organised for each day thereafter.  Monday was food tour day in Bridgetown.  We caught a "Reggae bus" into town which was an experience in itself but super easy and cheap.  These are bashed and dented mini vans that do not look official at all, blasting out rap music and pulling over at no noticeable bus stops.  We thought it would be difficult to flag it down but they essentially stopped in the middle of the road, shouted "Bridgetown!?" to us and then told us to hurry up and get in.  I'm not going to lie, the potential of getting kidnapped did cross my mind!  Lickrish Food Tours is different to your standard city food tour as this has a whole lot of history thrown in too.  In fact, I would call it a historical walking tour of the city with local food stops, which is great if you know that that is what you are getting.  We skipped breakfast and the first food stop was a good 45 minutes into the tour after some fascinating history about our meeting point - Independence Square - and even then it was a very small bowl of soup!  I sound like I am complaining, and I am a little bit, but the talks throughout the tour were actually very interesting and an important part of the tour.  I was just hungry for the majority of the tour and whenever food was there it was more of a gesture of food than something you can really chow down on.  Part of the issue here was the fact that the food was so incredibly tasty and moreish that 3 mouthfuls was just not enough!  My favourite dish was the BBQ pig tails which sounds and looks disgusting (it looks like a turd!!) but my god did they taste good!  Sweet, sticky and fatty it was served with a bit of sweet potato and I could have eaten 5.  This was at a very local feeling diner called Tim's Restaurant where everything on the menu looked deliciously comforting.  We would not have found this restaurant by ourselves and so a big reason why it is always worth doing a local food tour.  Another restaurant called Mustor's ticked the same boxes and is where we ate half a child's portion of beef stew and experienced a horribly bitter, but weirdly addictive drink called Mauby; a very old traditional drink made out of the bark of a Mauby tree.

The National Dish of Barbados is in a bit of a crisis at the moment in that the main ingredient, the usually massively abundant flying fish, have swum away! They are all in Trinidadian waters at the moment and the Bajan's are not allowed to fish there.  The one time I come to Barbados they have run out of their National Dish!?  Luckily, our food tour guide told us that though it is true the fisherman have not been landing any flying fish, some hotels still have reserves in the freezer.  Our hotel just happened to be one of them and so I successfully managed to tick off "Cou Cou and Flying Fish" for dinner that evening.  Not fresh out the sea Flying Fish but a tick nonetheless.  Flying Fish is like a milder mackerel and Cou Cou is your standard African cornmeal mush like pap.  I have had this mush under a number of different names (one of which is actually called "mush"!) in a number of different countries.  If you want a word that describes it best then that word is sustenance.  That single word describes everything about it - its flavour, its texture and its smell.  Sustenance.


Tuesday was our surfing day with Barry's surf school.  This is my third attempt at learning to surf after a brief try in Cornwall and a 2 day course in Lombok.  Has it got any easier? No! It's the single most knackering activity I have ever done.  The disappointment of failing to stand up after spending what feels like the very last of your fat reserves to paddle into the starting position still hurts.  Successfully standing up and then falling onto a pile of rocks also hurts.  We had a lot of fun and definitely stood up way more than last time but we made zero use of the "free full day surf board rental for every 2 hour lesson" deal. With bruised ribs we gave the boards back with a smile and had some chill time back at the hotel before grabbing a Reggae bus to The Boardwalk in Hastings.  We hit the boardwalk just in time for sunset and had a few slightly overpriced cocktails.  It is a stunning walk at sunset, but, more importantly is walking distance from "Just Grillin" where they make the most amazing grilled island ribs.



The two most expensive tours we booked were the "Sunset Boat trip" and the "Mount Gay evening tasting".  We booked our catamaran through Cool Runnings on recommendation from our hotel and we enjoyed two snorkelling trips, a decent buffet and an open rum bar!  Our first snorkel was with a well placed turtle which I am sure most animal lovers would hate.  I felt a little sad for it but it did seem happy to follow our guide around to be fed and it is always awesome to swim alongside a turtle!  The Mount Gay Rum experience was sadly nowhere near the actual distillery but this did not dampen our mood.  With the amount of rum we drank, nothing was going to dampen the mood!  I don't think I have ever sipped or downed a straight shot of rum even in my uni days and I was very surprised how warming and satisfying it felt.  Like a good scotch, some rums are best drunk uncontaminated.  After tasting a lot of rum we were given a cocktail making challenge where we were given all the rums that we had tasted along with a whole load of ingredients that would have kept even the keenest mixologist happy.  We made a jerk inspired cocktail with muddled sweet pepper, scotch bonnet and thyme which went down surprisingly well!  Both tours were pricey and if we didn't have the excuse of "It's our honeymoon!" we probably would not have done them and missed out on some pretty unique, fun experiences.

We hired a car for the last couple of days and this gave us the freedom to see much more of the island.  Driving felt safe and easy as we headed to the very north to visit "Animal Flower Cave" which was closed for the day due to the enormous Atlantic Ocean waves.  This did not disappoint us as just sitting on the cliff's edge watching these immense waves was exhilarating enough and worth the trip in itself!  From here we drove to Farley National Park which is possibly the smallest National Park that I have ever visited.  That would not have been worth the trip on its own but combining it with a mini tour of the North made it OK.  There is a view which is alright as far as views go and there is a very run down building which has a cool dystopian feel to it but is completely fenced off.  Continuing our mini tour we drove down to Bathsheba for lunch to marvel at the unique rock formations on the beach before heading back to the hotel.



For our final full day in Barbados, having done our little north of the island driving tour, we did the middle of the island driving tour.  It's a small island, you really could do it all in one day but it's nice to take our time.  First stop, a food shack that has been recommended to us on 3 separate occasions as a place that sells the best "fish cutter" on the island - Cuz's Fish Stand.  A cutter is anything served in a salt bread bun which itself is uniquely Bajan.  Fry some fresh fish on the beach with a few spices and salad and put it in a freshly baked that day salt bread bun is never not going to taste great.  I love a food place that only sells one thing and this is one of those gems!  After our breakfast on the beach we drove up to Harrison's Cave for a tram tour of possibly the biggest cave I have ever been in.  The second gem of the day, however, was Celestine's restaurant which was walking distance from Harrison's Cave car park.  If you want real home cooked food prepared by an old Bajan grandma then this is the place to eat it.  Nothing fancy, just solid comforting Bajan food served by the most beautifully welcoming owner.  We both enjoyed our meals very much and washed them down with very tasty fresh juices.  It deserves to be much more popular than it is so if you are going to Hunt's garden or Harrison's cave then you most definitely need to visit.  We had a nice little nature walk along Welchman Hall Gully before driving to a beautiful, secret, slightly hidden away tiny beach called sharks hole.  It's not that secret.  Google it and you'll find it!  There was a local couple having a romantic time until we completely ruined it for them... but then they left and we had it all to ourselves.  It's our honeymoon!



Our final evening in Barbados ends at Oistin's Friday Fish Fry where half of Barbados go to socialise and eat fresh grilled seafood and other fantastic BBQ affair.  Some more grilled pig tails caught my eye but after a full plate of grilled snapper and island sides I just couldn't bring myself to queue for a pig tail on a full stomach.  We arrived early and so managed to be seated pretty quickly at "Chillin and Grillin" but it got pretty crowded pretty quickly.  We watched some break dancing kids on stage, browsed through the many craft markets and bought a bag of "Legendary Hot Fish Cakes" for the ride home.  

Barbados was the ideal honeymoon for us as it had the perfect balance of romance, chill and activity to fill out a week.  Every tourist we met were there for their second or third time - it was one guys 16th time - which shows what kind of of place Barbados is.  Somewhere you instantly feel welcomed when you arrive and instantly feel missed when you leave.  Friday night Oistin's Fish Fry was the perfect end to our time in Barbados and I am sure I'll be back soon!