Monday, 2 March 2015

Banh xeo pork belly pancakes

This week at work there has been a lot of chat about unassuming and totally pointless interview questions. As we are constantly recruiting, the interview process does tend to get a little dull, and we were thinking of idiotic questions that would keep us amused and see how interviewees reacted. A couple food for thought questions such as 'Why don't we eat turkey eggs or drink pig's milk' are totally pretentious, but you would get to see a reaction and their ways of thinking to try and respond...(FYI, we don't ask these questions and if we did, we wouldn't want the correct answers we would just want the most creative ones. We're not all wankers in the ad industry, promise). Our whole office is consumed by this 'white and gold/black and blue' dress question (STILL)- if you haven't seen it already, you're obviously not at one with the INTERNET as everyone is talking about it.
I ask myself the same, infuriating question this time every year. We get all in a hubbub about Pancake day, everyone loves it and happy smiley faces stuffed with lemon and sugar, nutella, condensed milk and peanut butter (anyone? it's damn delicious) are all around. As I'm tucking into my umpteenth pancake, I always always always say...'Why don't we eat pancakes more often? They're so goddamn tasty'. It's not just about the inefficiency and low return on investment on my beautiful copper pancake pan for its annual outing, its the fact that every farmer's market, brunch menu or street food stall throughout the year I just seem to forego the pancake option and eat something else. BUT WHYYY??? We should have a bi-monthly Pancake day - raising awareness for pancake craved bellies. Maybe I could be one of those charity muggers on the street, but encouraging people to save the Pancake and its meagre one day of fame a year. As I write this I realise I've officially gone mad and this is way too into my odd train of thought for anyone reading this to care about. So I'll just stop there and talk about one of my favourite savoury pancakes from Vietnam.

Banh xeo. A 'sizzling crepe' of sorts, which is normally filled with thin slices of pork, prawns and beansprouts and is a staple on the little stalls and markets in Vietnam. Beautifully coloured to a warming yellow sunshine from a touch of turmeric, this pancake is made with rice flour, water and coconut milk. This should be as thin as a crepe, crispy on one side and light - and shared out between friends and eaten in a little hand roll of a lettuce leaf, mint and nuoc cham dipping sauce. Sensational. For this recipe, I decided to forego the beansprouts - I feel they are a little necessary for this dish (apologies for my lack of respect for the original...)  and had some caremelised pork belly to go in its place. Quick and easy. Lemon squeezy.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Hot dang! Northern China lamb & aubergine skewers with spiced buttermilk dressing



Just because its been snowing outside and your bones are shivering to an ill planned tap dance mess, doesn't mean we should say no to all the things that remind you of summer. There is nothing better than toasting yourself under a giant rug with a tub of ice cream (thank god we're over January and all the promise of healthy eating) when its freezing outside, or, when I'm out in HK, cooling down with a sweet condensed milk hot tea. Barbecues and grilling also works to this rule - it shouldn't just be synonymous with summer BBQ's and rooftop parties (ha, like I actually go to rooftop parties). 

Northern China's cuisine is amazing. Full of flavour and spice, it sometimes borders on the spice palates of middle eastern dishes and aromas. These lamb skewers are perfect for a winter salad or with a shovel sized portion of saucy noodles. For now, I've put this dish with a buttermilk ranch to give it a smack of cooling freshness to the spice of the lamb. I've been trying to cut down on carbs recently (a phase, I'm sure) so actually the skewers were alternated with aubergine to give a bit more variety and so you can actually just eat these as is and without a bowl of rice (a phase, let me repeat). 

The secret to this is in the marinating and the cut of meat you choose. The longer the marinate time, the better. The fattier the meat, the better. In some restaurants, skewers of lamb are alternated with chunks of fat that melt in your mouth. As much as that appeals, it sort of cancels out being any kind of good with the no carbs thing... but if you use lamb shoulder, it's a nice in between. In Hong Kong, lamb is a real treat - it's not used much in cooking as its not readily available, unless you're willing to fork out for some New Zealand expensive exports. So, something a little different out the normal HK diner repertoire for you all.
This week I've been out in Morzine skiing - wonderful snow and my one week of heavenly cheese and big dinners wonderfully cooked by chalet hosts Dot and Chris from Mountain Spaces. Their skill in cooking for 15 idiots a hot breakkie, afternoon cake and then a 4 course meal every day was astounding. I'm still salivating over the thought of the chocolate cake, confit de canard and the mountain of dauphinoise the group inhaled (not to mention unlimited wines). One night there were Asian chicken skewers...and I had to admit, I was a little doubtful I'd put my judgemental Asian food blogger hat on..but it was amazing. And it made me remember I had never written this bad boy recipe up for lamb skewers. It must be done!

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Low carb courgette noodle ginger pow




From a buttery, guilt ridden deeelish dish last week to a simple, humble and healthy one today. Oh I just love the ridiculous expectations I set myself each year. Which now lends itself to eating out less (sob sob) to save for a wedding, and training my body not to be so dependent on rice and noodles (no one wants a tubby bride...sob sob). To be able to do a diet and save money without giving in to expensive diet plans, fancy juice cleanse fads and lowcalorie this and that is an arse. All you need is a bit of forward planning, a Pinterest board for good healthy recipes to inspire you and you're on your way. 
Noodles are my life line. A week doesn't go by without me eating them and the variety of different ones from around Asian cuisines is limitless. Udon, soba, ramen, egg noodle, prawn shell noodles...the scene in Charlie and the Chocolate factory where Willy Wonka opens the gates to a field of sweets and a chocolate waterfall doesn't do it for me. Replace the chocolate waterfall with a 16 hour ramen broth and the grass as noodles of every variety... Now that's the dream. 
But alas, low carbs means finding a substitute and by golly does this one fill the gap. I was given a fancy shredder type veggie peeler, which you normally use for spring onions so it made making courgette/zucchini noodles a simple task. If you don't have this, then a simple peeler will do (make ribbons and cut them to smaller pieces) or even a box grater works also. None of this spiralizer malarkey, but take the care in making these look like noodles and you might even trick yourself into believing it. 

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Singapore squids in: Cereal butter style



Cereal butter squid madness

It's been ages since a post! As much as I hate starting the post with an apology...it is because I've been away in Hong Kong fattening myself up and eating out for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And post dinner. And post dinner dinner snacks. And all the goddamn day street hawker snacks. Actually, I think the whole time I was there, I was never starving...but a constant 'I could eat' mentality. Half way up a mountain? 'I could eat'. Winning at the night time horse races at Happy Valley? 'I could eat'. 
There were a million and one dishes I wanted to take back to London and recreate. It's definitely my place of inspiration and I can't wait to go back. Another reason why I've been so rubbish lately is because I had some wonderful news in the form of a deserted beach on an island, my boyfriend, sunset and a proposal. (complete with a full stomach). I'm absolutely over the moon and couldn't be happier. These are the first non food related pics, but I just wanted to share them with you all.
The spectacular and romantic Turtle Bay in Lamma Island

Lamma Island sunset

Great stuff, now that's out the way let's get to the food. Because, let's face it, we could all eat. We went to Singapore for a few days to see the sights and we met up with some friends. We were treated to a brilliant local eatery (the best places in Asia are anything with pictures of the food, plastic chairs, maximum three walls by a busy road, and beer girls making they're rounds). We ordered another traditional dish called cereal prawn. Cereal?! Like cornflake cereal with prawns? OH YES. This was glorious - a dish which is buttery, fragrant, crunchy and sweet all at the same time. It is made from a cereal called Nestum, which is a light wheat cereal brand Malaysians and Singaporeans adore. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any in the UK, and so I've used oats instead. Slightly heavier than Nestum, I switched a few ingredients to make a new variation to better suit this instead.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Little Lo beef short rib pot sticker dumperring

T minus 4 days till the food feast and gorge of our Hong Kong and Singapore trip. The boyfriend has never been, and it's a funny mix of wanting to just see family and do local things as well as do the tourist attractions I've not done in years. But one thing is for certain, the food. I've mapped out all the places I am dying to try. Following a load of Instagrammers from Hong Kong is agony - seeing a beautiful bowl of noodles and then realising you're thousands of miles away till you could taste it...painful. But, a google map of all the best looking local caf├ęs, dim sum, asian fusion is my main goal to work around as many as possible in two weeks. If anyone had any more places to add, feel free to comment below! 

My last little post before I head to HK is in anticipation of a great little place that's popular in Central called Little Bao. Worth the wait and so hard to choose which bao to chow down on. But, the appetisers were so inventive on Asian fusion and everything I love cooking having a mix of British and Chinese culture in my upbringing. 
They do these great short rib beef dumplings. I definitely can't contend with theirs, but I adore short ribs - and the cut works so well for asian flavours, it's a main element in a lot of my supper clubs. 
It's a meat which isn't sold widely enough in supermarkets, but you should always go to the butcher for this sort if thing, as you'll get a beautiful marbling of fat and meat to slow cook to beefy heaven. I get mine from Turner and George, who deliver and you can order from online. It's worth the 4am-7am pre work order time slot I promise. 

Last week I had to defrost the freezer as a new one was being delivered. Playing "eat the fridge and freezer" contents all week led to some interesting combinations. (Onion bhaji and fish cakes?!).  I realised that I have FOUR different types of dumplings in the freezer, and it was almost an intervention in itself of my dumpling/potsticker obsession. So, as a form of therapy...I cooked one last batch ahead of the exciting trip to Hong Kong. This is actually two recipes, the first is beautiful as it stands.  

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Catch a matcha eclair

As it gets colder, my butter and carb intake gets bigger. It's a direct and unfortunate relationship, and very hard when you're trying to save money for a food fest trip to HK and media-ville lends itself well to Christmas lunches and drink in the next few months. It's got so bad, the little paunch has got a name. As I write this, I've just stuffed a cupcake down me, and so my guilt and sugar high drives me to carry on typing in vain. Sunday blues with an icy wind just mean more baking and more slow cooking. So as the short ribs slowly braise in the cooker, I decided to make a little choux classic. My idiotic plan to make these mini just meant I ate more of the suckers - a perfect 2 bites of sugar, cream and chocolate. The matcha powder is a simple mellow hum to the very sweet white choc (I used Green and Blacks) and a really good pop of colour to lure you in. Fancy sugar work on the top is completely unnecessary, but a good way to waste time if you're impatiently waiting for the pastry to cool and the chocolate to set. Eclairs are one last blast of summer - they're lighty and pretty to eat - so go make a batch now. I was testing out some recipes for a moustache Movember bake sale I'm doing at work and thought these would be an ingenious way to get some 'tache-clairs. Follow me on Twitter to see if I can actually pull these off!
The ones below can also be made as profiteroles. Now if only it were able to be so versatile as to include it as one of my five a day.


Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Fujian seafood fried rice

A luxury twist on comfort food. Without being a total stereotype, I used to live off fried rice. It honestly was my bread and butter, especially whenever I went over to Grandma's house. No 'ma-ma chow fan' (Grandma's fried rice...boy was it a special fried rice) = unhappy, spoilt child. Especially if my Grandma would make my brother's favourite tomato beef. Yes yes, he's the prodigal son...but Grandma, I would still like your fried rice. We would dollop a load of ketchup in the rice (blasphemous) and although it looked odd, it was glorious. Little gems of vegetables, char siu pork and prawns - every little grain cooked to perfection and with the perfect aroma of ginger, spring onion and garlic wafting through from her tiny alley kitchen. If I had one last dish with my Grandma, it would be this one for sure. Will definitely put a post in for her exact recipe once I get it from her, but in the meantime, this is a brilliant (and slightly more exotic) version of fried rice.

The first time I had this was in a restaurant in London. I think it was one of those family clan gatherings and my Uncle shouted out for some Fookin rice. Ahem, what's that Uncle? No need to swear...but it's memorable Chinese name (Fukien..pronounced fookin...originally from Fujian province) all came handy when I wanted to recreate my version at home. The base is a simple egg fried rice, however it has a 'wet' gravy sort of seafood topping made from prawns, scallops and vegetables. No need for my tommy K to dollop in then I suppose. Substitue whatever veggies you want from there - and if you don't have dried scallops patiently waiting in the freezer for these kinds of moments...no worries - you can add fresh scallops or just increase your prawn quantities. There are so many variations of this dish I found, but for me I just worked with what I had available lurking in the cupboards and the Co-op round the corner. A complete meal in one, no need for any other dishes to accompany it if you don't want to.