We got back on “The Rock” (The Isle of Man) three weeks ago (mid April) and will stay here now until mid-August. We’ve been lucky so far, since the weather has been kind and we’ve enjoyed regular walks along the sea front, around Peel castle and onto the harbour to watch the seals steal the fish off the lines of the fishermen!
We enjoyed the company of M-D’s grandchildren (Clémence and Eléonore) for ten days and later M-D’s daughter (Muriel) came over for a few days and then took them back to France. Naturally, we did all the tourist stuff with them (Steam Train etc) but we also took them to one of our favourite local restaurants, The Royal India Restaurant. In fact, we took the girls twice (by unanimous demand!)
It might sound a bit strange to choose a small (about 30 covers) Indian restaurant for a holiday treat but the food is so good and tasty that it’s difficult to resist. In fact, I just got back from there about two hours ago after another visit with just Marie-Danielle and myself (Dingri Methi for me and Cafrial for M-D… yummmm!). Our French guests loved the food because, while there are many arabic restaurants in France, there are very few true Indian restaurants so, for them, it was a voyage of discovery and having really first class Indian cuisine so easily available (it’s only about 250 metres from where we live) is an added bonus. Eléonore (aged 10) voted the Chicken Biryani her favourite, giving it 21 out of 20! I had a fiery Madras curry that should have carried a government health warning (or at least been served with an optional fire extinguisher)!
We also visited Jade Harbour, a Chinese restaurant that has always been most pleasant. Sadly, our regular waiter and waitress weren’t there and the service was not up to standard. Whilst the food was good, the slow and erratic service somewhat spoiled the evening.
However, one place that never fails to please is Station Hotel in Port Erin. Yes, it’s just a pub, but their food is hot and fresh and served with a big smile. It’s mighty convenient if you arrive in Port Erin by train since it is just across the road from the little railway station (often described as the most beautiful building in the village) where the famous Manx Steam Train terminates.
There’s nothing wrong with pub grub as long as it’s good pub grub! If it’s plentiful, freshly cooked, tasty, hot and served by people who appear to be happy that you are there, then a meal in a pub with a nice glass of beer can be one of the great pleasures of life, just as much as an intimate evening in a top class restaurant.
As we were out walking the other day, we met one of the local “characters” – a lady by the name of Pauline who, it turns out, is involved in the monitoring of Basking Sharks, which are often found in the plankton-rich waters around the Isle of Man. The Basking Shark is the second biggest fish in the world (second only to the Whale Shark) but it is truly an endangered species. It is a slow moving filter feeder that has a greatly enlarged mouth and highly developed gill rakers. These enormous fish have been measured up to 12.27 metres (40.3 ft), and weighing an estimated 19 tonnes, yet these gentle giants are not aggressive and are harmless to people.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, Pauline encouraged us to go see a film that was being shown yesterday evening at the local “Centenary Centre” which revolved around the Basking Shark, but also covered lots of other wildlife on this curious island. Why do I say curious? Because, amongst other things, we discovered that The Isle of Man has the largest Wallaby poulation outside of Australia! Since they have no natural preditors here and do no damage to crops or hedges, the wallabies thrive in the hills yet it seems that very few people even know they are there (including me until last night!).
I started off writing this post with the intention of mentioning a stir fry that we often do (and did while the grandchildren were here)… but I seem to have sidetracked myself! So – Jumbo Prawn Stir Fry… this is a recipe that is very, very simple and doesn’t take much looking after. I know that, traditionally, stir-fries are cooked quickly over a very high heat but this one is much slower over a low heat! It’s a mixture of vegetables and King Prawn, with a good splash of Vegetarian Stir-Fry Sauce. You can mix-and-match the vegetables to suit yourself but I personally use two onions, a very small cabbage (or half of a larger one), two carrots, a handful of fresh peas, a handful of mushrooms, a tin of beansprouts and a tin of bamboo shoots. But the recipe is very versatile because you can add small pieces of broccoli, water chestnuts, miniature sweetcorns, sliced bell peppers, spring onions, mange tout (snow peas)… almost anything you fancy, in fact!
Peel and slice the onions, chuck them in the wok with a tablespoon of goose fat and cook them very gently to soften. Meanwhile, cut the thick stems out of the cabbage, leaving just the leaves, roughly tear these and add them to the work. It may seem that you have a lot but they shrink and reduce quite drastically. Peel the carrots and Julienne them (cut into long thin strips, similar to matchsticks) then toss those into the wok. Add a good splash (4-5 tablespoons) of Vegetarian Stir-Fry Sauce (I use one called Lee Kum Kee, but it can be any stir-fry sauce that takes your fancy). I often add a splash of light Soy Sauce as well – but that’s just a personal preference. Cook this mixture, stirring frequently, over a low heat for about 15 minutes to soften the vegetables.
Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. Thinly slice the mushrooms and add to the mix. Drain the beansprouts and bamboo shoots and add these to the wok, along with the peas. Stir and cook for a further five minutes. Now add your Jumbo King Pawns and increase the heat. Turn the mixture regularly and watch as the prawns change colour from translucent grey to whitish-pink. These should be cooked for about 4-5 minutes (no more), then serve your stir-fry and enjoy! It’s a recipe that’s simple and VERY tasty and it has the advantage that you can choose your own preferred vegetables and even your own preferred seafood (we’ve done this recipe using Queen Scallops before now, and very tasty it is too!). Serve with a nice, crisp white or rosé wine and you’ll think you’re in heaven!