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. 

Monday, 23 June 2014

For the Langoust-ine day of the year: Cantonese langoustines with noodles

I cooked up these suckers on summer solstice this weekend, and what's great was there was still a lot of light to photograph these before they were immediately devoured. I don't know how, but the sweet langoustine always seems to be the shy wallflower of the crustaceans. Constantly overshadowed and out-trendied by it's siblings like lobster (beefy royalty of the sea), crayfish (punchy vibrant minions) and crabs (even those soft shell suckers have more prominence than little lango). Perhaps it has been forgotten and cast aside due to our malpractice of dousing them in batter and calling it scampi. This breaded ill fate has meant we've actually forgotten that langoustines, served as they are (i.e. not battered and deep fried to a crisp), are deliciously plump, sweet, delicate and succulent. There seems to be a large gap between the top restaurants cooking langoustine for a delectable (and most probably expensive) dish and the keen amateur chef or dinner party menu appearance...when in fact these cute little guys are so simple to cook. To eat, if their shells are on, can be seen as rather daunting (and with about a 25% yield of pure meat it's hard to overcome), however once you's so simple. Twist the head, turn the tail on its side and press down till you hear a crunch. From there, it'll be easy to pull away the meat and peel the shell off.

This recipe normally calls for shelled jumbo prawns, but the sweet little langoes were calling for me - and it's the type of dish where you sort of have to give in to the mess and accept the glorious, sweet and spicy sauce drape over your fingers. If this isn't finger licking good, I don't know what is. You can, of course, take these out their shell before serving for a more "polite" way of eating, but I like the fun of just getting stuck in in a sort of animalistic way. Egg noodles are a great accompaniment to this - it laps up and takes the sauce wonderfully. Langoustines are a truly British produce, but we associate it with holidays in Spain and France. Having recently been to Salcome and experienced some sea-side delights, it's time that we embrace langoustines with open arms (and mouths). The best of a lobster and a prawn put together - who could say no to that? 

Monday, 9 June 2014

Scallywag scallion pancake

Sorry it's been so long since a post. The bank holiday and the stream of hen do's seem to be taking its toll on me and for some reason I've not been strict enough on getting something tasty up on the blog. Naughty.  What's ironic is, I've been wanting to share this recipe for so long, and had done the photos for this - but wasn't inspired to write. The hunger for this dish was there, but the mind...alas, was not. I'm finally sitting down to this for the 3rd 4th attempt to share with you a recipe that is a simple and addictive appetiser/snack. CARBS CARBS CARBS. I'm not going to Marbella this summer, but I am soon heading off to Barcelona I feel the 'no carbs before marbs' rule,  shouldn't apply.
These spring onion pancakes are found in many breakfast shops and for dim sum. I prefer the breakfast route, and dunking this into a bowl of congee (rice porridge) is akin to a British man's eggs and soldiers. Little flecks of maldon salt and spring onions in layers of a simple dough is so easy to pop on the pan to heat up. Keep a stack of these in the freezer and toast up if you're in a rush for an Asian breakkie hit. Those who fear making bread needn't worry - this is a quick, beginners guide to kneading and proofing.

Spring onions (or scallions for the more 'international' reader) are synonymous with Chinese cooking - it makes up a lot of flavour foundations. Chopped fine enough, with a plain dough, it just gives this flatbread of sorts a ping of flavour - and the texture on top of this completes this feeling of satisfaction.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Coconut crispy pork "gua bao"

Yum bun. Bao. Flesh and buns. Momofuku. Thank you glorious chefs for bringing these sweet buns to everyone's lives. These sweet Asian pillowy sandwiches are a revolution to my life.. Well, maybe just to my diet. When I made these Asian lion's head meatballs last year, it was to satisfy my boyfriend's obsession  love of sandwiches. These certainly tick the box too. The traditional "gua bao" from Taiwan  is the godfather of bao: signature pickled greens, coriander, crushed peanut powder as the holy trinity of accoutrements... Lest we forget the sweet and sticky pork belly slices. I am a total pork belly fanatic and devotee. How I've managed to have so little pork belly on the blog so far is atrocious. This recipe draws inspiration from the original, but just some personal tweaks suited to my taste. 

I've got to admit before you read any further I'm a total cheater here. Those buns...aren't mine. There are some great recipes out there, but you need time and patience. And faith that you've not wasted four hours for nothing. When I first started out recipes for buns for supper clubs, there were so many variations: different rising times, gluten levels, fat content, flour brands, kneading's endless torture if you aren't a pro at bread. Now, I have a stock pile in my freezer that I can always whip out should the craving call for me. However, in comes convenient frozen buns from Asian food stores. Since these buns have become more famous, they're readily available in most places which is fabbo. 

What goes in it is up to you. I believe pork fillet to be an underused, value for money, secret weapon for bite sized glory. It's protected in cornflour when fried, so stays crispy on the outside and full of juicy goodness on the inside. Tucked into a soft bread bun, sliced carrots and a sweet coconut cashew crumb it's a perfect "sandwich" to put a smile on your face. You can use this pork recipe for noodles, rice or a side dish with vegetables...don't just limit yourself to buns, just enjoy how you want. The sweet sugar combo will surprise you. I took the idea from a pork belly dish we have in Hong Kong - where the belly is cooked and served cold, to dip into a choice of a spicy mustard kick, or caster sugar for a contrasting flavour. 

Monday, 28 April 2014

A Matcha made in heaven: Matcha and white chocolate puds with sticky pecan brittle and berries

Glimmers of sunshine peaking through the dark clouds every now and then can only be good signs that better weather is on the way. My office has floor to ceiling windows, overlooking glorious Regent's Park, and can really have an effect on the office mood and how the day whizzes (or crawls) past. Since booking my summer holiday, it's been the kick up the ass to get back to a relatively less noodle, rice and chocolate shaped body. And what better way to do it than fully take advantage of the park and go on a run round the park to clear my mind and burn a few calories as opposed to attempting to work and eat "al desko." 

A slight snag along the that I'm so proud I've gone on my run, I think my metabolism is invincible for about an hour later and really go to town on treating myself, or should I say fooling myself into food I don't really need. Dangerous, given that in my old job a tricky weekly client meeting was almost always rewarded by an Eat matcha chiller- (ie a green tea creamy frapuccino) - and this mental conditioning of warmer weather and treating myself at work has slightly spiralled into a matcha / green tea obsession. 
I love anything with green tea matcha powder - ice cream, frapuccino, cookies, name it, I'd probably eat it. Matcha powder can be pricey, but a little goes a long way, and a lot of Asian grocery stores sell smaller pouches of the fine powder, perfect for this recipe! Another easy make ahead dessert, hugely satisfying and the flavours balance each other perfectly. Smooth mellow matcha pudding, sweetened with soy milk and white chocolate which is cut through with a slight zing from mixed berried and a brittle pecan crunch for texture. You obviously don't have to make all the elements of this dessert, but it's a well rounded pud if you're making the effort. Give yourself about 20 to 30 minutes to prepare this, and you'll be glad you made the effort. A beautiful spring green and bright red colour, it's sure to brighten your day. 

Monday, 21 April 2014

Nobu: the black cod-father

This is a warning. You need two days for this recipe. There is nothing I hate more than getting all your ingredients in and proceeding with the first few steps to find you haven't read through the recipe. That sneaky "leave to marinate overnight" or "set aside to rise for four hours"... bastard, wily instructions.
As prestigious as Nobu's dish is (and as glorious as black cod is), please don't find the price tag, reputation and the amount of time it takes to make, intimidating. It's surprisingly simple and it really only takes a few steps to actually prepare. It just needs two days to marinate the beautiful sweet miso, mirin and sake into the fish.
Now I definitely can't take any credit for the recipe of this dish. Black cod with miso is synonymous with Nobu Matsuhisa and no doubt you should order it if you see it on a Japanese menu. But this isn't to say you shouldn't try it at home, and impress your guests. I hadn't actually planned on making this, until I was enamoured with the new Whole Foods in Fulham. I could walk up and down the aisles for a whole day, and it was one of the first places I saw where they sold black cod. Also known as sablefish or butterfish, this fish is so silky and buttery - it's quite difficult to overcook as it's fat keeps everything soft and moist, even that of a novice cook.
This became the perfect experiment for bank holiday weekend. Two extra days to find the ingredients (thank you Whole Foods), marinate the fish and treat yourself on Monday for a last Soeing hoorah. It's perfect to make in advance for friends, as cooking on the day barely takes fifteen minutes.
I've tried this with a similarly flaky and fatty fish as a test (should I mysteriously be unable to get myself to Whole Foods...pah!) and seabass works a treat. However, you'll need to adjust the cooking times slightly - in terms of price, there isn't much difference between the two, so do try black cod if you can.