Monday, 20 October 2014

Crispy chilli pork 'takeaway'

Shorter daylight hours coupled with my new addiction to Orange is the New Black (yes, I'm so late to the game) meant I rushed this post to catch the last bit of sunlight. So much so, that I was up on the roof shooting this just before sundown - so apologies for a rather shoddy photo as it doesnt do this meal justice. This is one of my favourite meals to do - I just wish I knew if this dish had a name. Pork fillet is an underused cut, and I'm not really sure why - it's so easy to use and pretty cheap too. Lean and quick to cook, this was a great excuse to whip up at 5:30 with the sunlight quickly fading. It's a go to dish for me when I've got friends over - a balance of sweet and salt with a hum of chilli lightly tingling your lips. It's slightly reminiscent to a sweet and sour pork shoddy takeaway, but way way better and less sticky and sweet. Cornflour seems to be the chinese cook's best friend - its great to use as a coating for a crispy finish but also a marinade and helps keep meat protected when frying at a high heat. Flexible enough that it's easy to make for one, and just as easy to make for a large group you can change the quantities how you wish. Keep this to flash frying, as its technically cooked twice over - the quicker and hotter your wok, the crispier you can keep the pork for the best texture.

As much as I love takeaways, Chinese takeaways seems to be quite low on my list - it's so hard to find a good one which doesn't obliterate any traditional cooking methods or flavours (lest we not forget the copious amounts of MSG a lot of places use). Just as Americans have admitted to having 'American Chinese' take out as a category of its own, the British are see Chinese takeaways as a bit of a guilty pleasure gorge, with a limited range of what constitutes as good takeaway here. Don't get me wrong, there are the few which go against this (I personally love the Good earth and Dragon palace in earls court), but when I was in my local Sainsbury's I saw a hideous jar of 'Chinese shop chip sauce' which made me feel more than queasy to say the least. This recipe is super quick and super tasty. Time to get your wok on.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Chilli fish balls and dirty noodle heaven: wok to table in my new Tefal range

Gruelling work at the gym and feeble attempts to do a press up call for reward. Probably, no, definitely not the most logical choice in terms of health but it's hard gym sessions like I've had this week which warrant a little comfort food. (Come the colder weather I'll be inserting this as the latest excuse.)
I'm currently preparing for a supper club next week - which always means a little trip to Queensway or Chinatown (in this case both) to get the best ingredients. And as much as I want to resist, the first fridge always seems to have an array of fishballs. It comes before the vegetable section, so I can only assume it's a staple that I must buy...even when it's not on the menu for next week. Another justification I think is if there is an emoji available, then it must be eaten on a regular meal. I recently read of one fanatic who ate for a week only emoji food icons...dedication. 
My recent trip to Hong Kong definitely did not reach the dumpling and fishball quota, much to my dismay. The street hawkers have the best ones, with the lure of the spicy curry sauce smells that they're slathered in. Dirty and wicked in the best way. 
If you've never had these little bouncy balls of wonder, you really need to change that situation immediately and order some. Be it fried, chopped up, boiled or barbecued - you just have to get them into the belly as soon as possible. 
 
This post is the inauguration of my new Tefal ingenio range I've been kindly given from Tefal. A perfect little kitchen set, this stacks a wok, sauté pan, two saucepans and two frying pans neatly in the space of a cluttered cupboard. How? Detachable handles, which make it easy to pop into the dishwasher, from hob to oven and even then to the table. Having recently fallen amateur cooking idiot recently by heating a ceramic oven dish on the hob (and consequently leading to the dish smashing across the kitchen alongside scraps of Moroccan lamb making an escape for the door), I'm definitely a big fan of hob to oven cookware, which is definitely tricky to come by when you have an electric (and temperamental) hob. 
Perfect for stir frying, the pan heated up in no time, a common gripe with electric hobs and asian cooking which needs a hot pan quick. 
Had I not eaten the wok full of noodles in five seconds flat, the range also has Tupperware lids for the pans- so another handy quick win for leftovers. 
A nifty way to keep your cupboards uncluttered, I would highly recommend this set if you need some new cookware thrills.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Sweetheart tart - Hong Kong Milk Tarts



I was lucky enough to go back to Hong Kong for a week last week. Sadly, for a funeral - however the silver lining being able to see family and friends who mean the world to me. An emotional visit to say the least, however I'm so glad I went. Hong Kong to me is sometimes so strange - a homeland, but never technically a home I've permanently lived in and there are elements of great nostalgia, but always new things to discover and admire. Home is wherever your family is, and mine happens to be split between London, Leeds and Hong Kong...not the most convenient, but it makes family time when we all see each other all the more special.

The smells, hustle and noises from central Hong Kong are still astounding, and I can't wait to go back for 2 weeks in December. One of the senses which always gets me is passing chains upon chains of bakeries within the MTR transport stations. You wouldn't dream of picking up a cake for a dinner party from the Underground stations in London, but in Hong Kong no one would bat an eyelid, they're all that good (and clean!). Cakes and tarts always have a special place in my heart, and in the midst of GBBO frenzy and fever, I decided I hadn't done a sweet in a while. A haze of jetlag, I got to baking - however I state my disclaimer now, that the pastry I had made was from an old cook book, and did not make for an easy and thin casing...(and unassumingly large quantities of it were made) so we can probably skip that part of the recipe and would advise anyone to use a normal sweet shortcrust pastry dough. BBC's recipe is an easy win here. I'm pretty sure Mr.Hollywood would not be impressed with my pastry skills this time round. Substitute about 25g of the flour in the recipe for some sieved milk powder for a little more of a milky finish to the pastry if you can. 

The milk tart seems to hide away in the darkest corner of most Hong Kong bakeries. It's like the little sister of the custard tart...a little less known, a little less ambitious but a lot easier to make (mind my pastry...). The filling is a flan like texture, with a silky white finish which slips down so easily you may forget you're tucking into your third consecutive tart without knowing it. The contrast with the buttery and crumbling pastry is just heaven - and all delicately finished with a glimmer of ginger flavours for an unexpected zing.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Accidental tofu, blueberry and chia super smoothie

This most certainly wasn't a planned post. I had a great tofu recipe in mind, however in my post wedding (a friend's, not mine) hangover state I bought the wrong tofu. Put it simply, a scrambled and poor decision making ability from what was left of the weekend. However, I wasn't going to let that mean no post for this week. Onwards, I thought. 
I'd been going through my predictable phase of feeling "the guilt" about eating out, not exercising and general unhealthy habits. With a gusto force of "just do it" I've been picking myself up with going to the gym more and eating healthier. One such habit is making sure I eat breakfast. I normally crash at work around 11, and struggle to stay focused till lunch. But having a protein focused breakfast is a great way to stay full (eggs work a treat but I'm pretty lazy to be getting up any minute earlier than I need to in the mornings). 

My mistake of buying Silken tofu was not in vain... if you've never tried this before, you should - the texture is so creamy and soft, a perfect substitute for yoghurt on smoothies and has added health benefits such as being a great source of all eight amino acids. *google and insert nutritional value should you wish here*. 

Bulk up the tofu based smoothie with some super foods, chia seeds and minimal honey and it's a great post work out treat or quick and healthy breakfast. 

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Crab and pork dumplings...a dedication

We're sticking to traditional (well, as close to) Chinese food this time. There isn't always a need to mess with something to try and make it better. And dim sum is a clear example of that. I'm incredibly picky when it comes to dim sum... I rarely go outside three different places in London for the lunch time Sunday rush of trolley dashing...dim sum trolley dashing that is. 
Every Sunday we would join two other families for dim sum in Bayswater. No roasties, Yorkshire puds or apple pie for me...just noodles, har gau and custard buns. What a drag. 
There's something about those Sunday rituals which makes dim sum so special. Even when my brother and I were really young we were allowed in the restaurant (stuffing noodles in our mouths and playing with our toys under the table wasn't just restricted to our house apparently), and I think that really was the start of my education and passion for restaurants and social eating. 

I dedicate this post to my Grandmother, who sadly passed away this week. She was a strong woman who looked after her family with much love. My mum is extremely lucky to have been raised by her. I would only see grandma every few years or so, but the one thing I remember most about her and my grandfather was that we would always go visit her in the same restaurant in Shatin. I remember it for two reasons...the way the staff treated my grandparents like they were their own family (right down to knowing what to order for them) and also the fact we had to pass the Snoopy park every time...amazing. It was probably the most frequented restaurant I ever went to in Hong Kong. Not the best food, but what the restaurant stood for was much more significant. I've been extremely lucky to have known all my grandparents for a long time. It's amazing how a simple lunch ritual can hold such meaning and so many memories.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Hoisin-tahini pork noodles: Chop, cook and chow down


Today was a day for a quick, make it up on the go, sort of recipe. I had some minced pork and cabbage to eat- but no real clue what to put it with until I started cooking. Starving from a run, this was a quick off the cuff meal which is perfect to make with the things lurking in your fridge. 
Noodles seem to be engrained into my weekly staple repertoire - at least twice a week I need to fulfil my noodle crazy craving (much to my boyfriend's dismay).  One of my earliest memories of food is with my brother, secretly sitting under the kitchen table stuffing our mouths with as many noodles as possible. Ultimately, our giggles and mouths jammed packed with noodles led to a mess on the floor...but it did mean my relationship with noodles started off pretty positive afrom what I can remember. 
 

When my friend Jen told me she's working in a noodle/ramen cafe out in LA I COULDNT CONTAIN MYSELF. Jealousy swept over, an unlimited presence of noodles four times a week? Heaven. And although this recipe most probably isn't on any level of noodle greatness..it's an easy one to chop, cook and chow down. Hoisin and tahini is a great sweet and nutty combination, with a nice crunch of cabbage and edamame (I managed to dig out from the freezer). It barely takes ten minutes to cook, so you just got to try this one! 

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Turbo turbo(t) - speedy black bean steamed turbot

As I planned for a post this week, I was finding an excuse to go back to the wonderful Moxons Fishmongers on Bute Street, South Kensington. Great service, great fish and there's just that satisfying thing about trying to go against the supermarket grain and do your big shop in all the farmers' markets, butchers, bakers, local grocery stores etc. Especially when all the supermarkets are within a 2 minute walk from your house, and they scream convenience. It's good to slow down in London sometimes and make a morning out of it, planning, walking, chatting to shopkeepers. Very un-London. However, my British politeness got in the way this time, and I was so quietly angry with myself once I had left the shop. Having to settle for some turbot as opposed to another fish I was hoping for, the guy takes care, time and attention to skin, fillet and deconstruct this whopping turbot. What he said was I could get two fillets out of it, but it was a generous four servings...three more than I really needed for a blog post in fairness. And when it came round to paying, I just had to suck up £25 and pray I wouldn't ruin the fish when I got home. Even my portioning for black cod hasn't been that bad! Leaving the fishmongers slightly cheated and out of pocket, I still find it annoying that I was so British about the whole thing and just coughed up the money...

But boy, did that turbot deliver. Soft, silky and delicate... I was glad that I steamed the fillets to maintain it's juicy goodness. 
We are all familiar with black bean sauce, but so many of us turn to the jar. Actually, in most Asian grocery stores the beans are stocked right there. To make your own black bean sauce couldn't be simpler. Turbo speed for a mid-week dinner - it only takes 7 minutes to steam. Quick cook on your rice cooker, steam some asparagus in the last few minutes in the cooker as well and you're good to go.