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. 

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Coconut - raspberry ice pops

Whenever my brother comes to visit from Leeds, it's a physical stomach preparation to keep up. Call it sibling rivalry, call it plain stupidity, I have the insane need to eat spoonful for spoonful against my brother. Because, even if his calorie intake allows it, I feel it it unjust for him to eat more than me. And boy, can he eat a lot. 
We had a wonderful dinner at one of my favourite restaurants, the 10 cases - Covent Garden bistro and brilliant wines done to the best standard, all with a wonderful, friendly and relaxed atmosphere. It takes a lot for my brother to step out of his familiar SW london setting, and he was blown away. Little friendly starters of crispy squid, grilled octopus, jamón iberico...followed by a juicy pork belly main course. All at sensible sizes in anticipation for the most immense and best chocolate mousse I've had...maybe ever. May we hope it is the only constant on the menu for the rest of time. 
 
Desserts aren't HK's strong point, however, when it comes to stealing surrounding cultures' sweet treats, they do a great job! We all know it's been crazy hot up in London and the humidity is anything but pleasant. What better way to come home to a creamy, fruity home made ice pop. Inspired by Magnum's anniversary DIY ice cream bar, this is as sophisticated ice lolly you can't wait to come home to. And it's so simple it's almost embarrassing to write this one up as a recipe. In fact, it's more of an assembly. So, have fun! 

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Check out those mussels...

The past week has been a daze, mainly due to my post holiday buzz and general happiness that the next holiday is only a week away. Last week I was in sunny Spain, in a little place called Tamariu, or should I say the Beverley Hills of España. We stayed in a beautiful villa, up in the hills overlooking the sea and ten minutes away from a beautiful town called Begur. It felt like the Cannes you had always hoped for...full of beautiful artisan shops, restaurants and people, and none of the pretentious and expensive malarkey that taints your memory. If you are ever out there, there is an incredible little beach called Aiguablava with an even more incredible seafood restaurant called Toc al Mar. GO.THERE. 


One thing which always makes me feel like I'm well into the holiday is how your view of food changes. As there were ten of us, (and a beautiful kitchen I could practically live in), we cooked most nights - fresh fish, mountains of Spanish tortilla, salads, jamón, wine...and more wine. We even attempted a cake without any scales (buttery deliciousness for your information). You have the time to cook for enjoyment, as opposed to scrapping a meal of sorts after work, and your whole body seems to reset and relax. It's wonderful. That is, until you leave things out on the table and go poolside...and a wiley gang of cats come in and steal your food. Bastards.

The summer hunger you get after swimming can only be relinquished with seafood and shellfish...and mussels hits the spot for me. I wanted to make some of these sweet suckers with a little punchy zing of spring onions. The bright and contrasting colours are inviting and you can pop these mussels in your mouth again and again, like munching on a packet of crisps. The sauce is a take on what the Chinese normally eat with poached chicken. But, I've realised it's just as tasty on rice, noodles and now as a dipping sauce for this dish. Try it out, mussels are economical and most definitely a crowd pleaser. Serve with egg noodles or even just some steamed mantou buns that you can find in asian grocery shops to soak up that delicious sauce.