Saturday, 6 December 2008

Sautéed Prawns and Scallops in Garlic Butter

Sautéed Scallops and Prawns

Awhile ago I mentioned that Stuart's mother was coming up for Sunday lunch, which I was admittedly a little worried about. However, it went off without a hitch and I do hope the food was up to scratch :) There was quite alot of food but I always think there should be a bit too much than to have too little. Of all the food we had that day, which included Malaysian beef rendang, Thai red chicken curry, long bean omelette; I only took this one photo - the starter of sautéed prawns and scallops in garlic butter served with a mix green salad with a soy and ginger dressing. Ohh so simple and very good, if I may say so :)

Prawns and Scallops in Garlic Butter served with a mix green salad with a soy and ginger dressing

Fresh scallops - about 3 per person
Fresh prawns - about 3 per person
Garlic - finely chopped
Butter - a very generous knob
Oil - just a touch
  • Put a shallow pan on a medium-high heat until it's very hot. Add a touch of oil into the pan - just to lightly coat it.
  • Lay the scallops in a circle around the pan, flat side down. Cook for about 1 1/2 minutes or until lightly caramelised on one side.
  • Turn the scallops over, starting from the first scallop added to the pan until all the scallops in the circle have been turned
  • Add the prawns into the middle of the pan, along with the garlic. Cook for about a minute before tossing to cook the prawns on the other side.
  • Put in a generous knob of butter and season. Toss the prawns, scallops and garlic together. Cook for no more than a minute longer - you don't want rubbery seafood.
  • Place on a plate and add the tossed green salad to the side.
A bag of mixed salad leaves - or whatever salad leaves you fancy
4 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp Japanese rice vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
A few drops of roasted sesame oil
1/2 inch ginger - grated
1/2 clove garlic - grated
  • Wash the salad leaves
  • Put all the other ingredients into an old jam jar (or any other jar) with a tight screw top
  • Shake the jar vigorously to mix the dressing. If it's left to stand, the dressing ingredients will separate - so another shake before pouring over the leaves is advisable.
  • Toss the salad with the dressing in a large bowl - but do not do this until the prawns and scallops are ready to be plated.


I have very recently found out that my photographs and blog contents have been copied off my Flickr account and from this blog to be featured on another blog - WITHOUT my permission or knowledge. Needless to say I was very angry when I found really is just plain theft. I did visit the site (which I'm not going to promote by giving out the address) but apart from it being written in what I believe is Burmese, there is absolutely no contact information on the blog. After my initial anger had died down, I was going to pen a very polite message to this person asking for the removal of all copied material - a heck of lot more courtesy than this person ever showed me! But with no means of contacting this person, I seem to have hit a bit of a dead end.

However, an interesting view did come out of all this. On the day I found out my material had been copied, I was letting my frustration flow out to Stuart (alright - having a bit of a rant and rave) and he said I should be flattered that someone wanted to copy my work. Interesting viewpoint but I still rather sticky hands be kept away. I take the photos and write my blog purely out of enjoyment and love for the subject matter. I don't particularly go out of my way to advertise my blog but if others do come upon it, I hope they enjoy it as much as I do. I have, however, decided to mark the photographs that I post through my Flickr account. I never thought I would have to, but hopefully it will act as a slight deterrent to those terribly syrupy sticky (honey or golden syrup?) fingers from flinching any more of my stuff.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Pancake Sunday

Fluffy American Pancakes with Crispy Bacon and Maple Syrup. Topped with a Slice of Black Pudding

Thanks to Betty Crocker, we had a really nice but very late lunch last Sunday. Late because I slept well past noon ... it was Sunday, so it can be overlooked ;)

I've had a box of Betty Crocker's Bisquick All Purpose Baking Mix sitting in my pantry for a few weeks now, just waiting for the right Sunday to cook up a batch of American style fluffy pancakes. It's just one of those things I've been dying to try and I finally bought a box - it even had a great picture of American pancakes on the box, oozing over with syrup. Just add milk and an egg .... cook over a pan on a medium heat. Brilliant! According to the instructions, half a packet makes about 16 smallish pancakes. I managed about 10 pancakes of various sizes :)

Serves doused in maple syrup with a small mountain of crispy streaky bacon and ... black pudding. Stuart went out to buy milk and bacon but also brought back a tube of black pudding - just to try. Haha he's such a food wuss sometimes. He seemed to enjoy the meal. I think he sometimes misses the big American breakfasts he used to get when he lived in Vancouver - he wolfed down 7 pancakes :D

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Spanish Inspired Chicken Stew

Spanish Inspired Chicken Stew

Keeping with the theme of comforting winter food, I made a Spanish inspired chicken stew over the weekend. I had a whole chicken to use up and a roast (again!) just wasn't calling out to me. The stew was really quite lovely, lots of flavour and a good amount of sauce to be soaked up with crusty bread, buttery mash or good old steamed rice.

Putting it all together:

A whole medium chicken - cut into 8 pieces with the bones and skin left on
Chorizo (spicy) - cut into a small dice
1 medium white onion
3-4 large cloves of garlic - peeled and crushed
A good glug of red wine
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
A large pinch of sugar
Olives - green or black
Finely chopped parsley from about 5-6 stalks
  • Heat a little oil in a deep pan on medium-high heat. Lay the chicken pieces into the pan, skin side down. Cook the chicken in batches to ensure the pan is not over-crowded. Turn the pieces over once the skin has turned golden brown. Lift the chicken out once they are golden brown and set aside.
  • Turning the heat down to a medium-low and add a little more oil. Cook the onion and garlic until the onions turn slightly translucent. Add the tomato paste and wine. Let the alcohol cook off before stirring in the tin of tomatoes and the sugar.
  • Return the chicken to pan. Stir to coat the chicken with the sauce. If it looks a little dry, add about half a tomato tin full of water. Stir and cover. Let the chicken simmer for about half an hour.
  • Stir in the olives and season. Cover and bubble for another 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the chopped parsley. This does seem like quite a lot of parsley but I've used it as flavouring rather than garnish.
  • Serve with crusty bread, potatoes or rice.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Warming Beef Stew

Beef Stew and Rice

A nice stew to keep me warm and fuzzy inside as the winter winds howl outside. This was actually me trying to copy the zegni, a spiced beef stew, I had the Eritrean restaurant Asmara in Brixton a few weeks back. It ended up tasting wildly different but still good. There must be a secret ingredient that went into the zegni that made it terribly delicious :)

Beef Stew

800g braising or stewing beef
3 - 4 large white onions
5 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups of water
2 tsp chili powder - hot or mild
  • Cut the beef into a very small dice, into about half centimeter cubes. Set aside.
  • Mince the onions into a pulp (or just diced). Separate the solids and the liquid. Save both and set aside.
  • Heat about 2 tbsp a pot on a medium high heat.
  • Add the onions and cook until they are lightly translucent. Add the beef, tomato paste, chili powder and seasoning to the pot, mixing to combine with the onions. Cook the mixture until the tomato paste starts to stick slightly to the bottom of the pot.
  • Add the water and reserved onion liquid. Stir and cover the pot. Leave it to bubble away happily for about 2 hours or until the beef is very tender and the sauce is rich and thick.*
  • Served with hot steamed rice or mash potato.
*Or cheat as I did - use a pressure cooker to cut down the cooking time to about 40 minutes. Alternatively, use a slow cooker - putting it on in the morning and having a nice dinner waiting when you get home.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

In the Mood for Muffins

I've been having bitten by the cupcake bug and they are all I can think about lately, food wise that is. I trawled the web for recipes, discovering new blogs along the way:)And I found myself going back to the yummy CupcakeBlog by Chockylit. All those delicious cupcakes... where on earth should I start? A classic chocolate? Oh yes, but let's jazz it up by adding matcha (green tea) icing! Using the Adzuki Bean Paste Filled Chocolate Cupcakes with Matcha Green Tea Frosting recipe, I omitted the adzuki bean (red bean) paste. I couldn't stand the stuff as a child and I still dislike it now.

Chocolate Muffins with Matcha Icing

I really liked the cupcakes and I loved the green matcha contrast against the dark chocolate. I haven't made icing in years and I think I added a little too much matcha but otherwise it was yummy .. and different. However, my cupcake excitement was severely dampened when I offered the little cakes around at work. I think the expressions I encountered most was .. "disgusting". Disgusting colour, disgusting flavour. I must admit I was rather taken aback. In the past the chocolate cake, chocolate cookies, banana cake ... have always gone down well. Ok, I admit matcha is an unusual flavour ... but still ... the comments were rather harsh and perhaps even uncalled for.

Toffee Apple Muffins

However, it seems I still have a bit of a cupcake fever left. I made toffee apple muffins using a Gordon Ramsey recipe, which I found on Times Online. So totally easy to make and pretty darn delicious. As much as I find Gordon Ramsey's TV shows entertaining, I've always balked at attempting one of his recipes. I'm a huge Nigel Slater fan... which probably says something about what I think of the Ramsey cooking style. Don't get me wrong ... I would love to go to one of his restaurants but my cooking style is a tad bit different. I did love these cupcakes though. They were so light.

Toffee Apple Muffins
Adapted from a Gordon Ramsey recipe found on Times Online, published on 3 November 2007

Recipe makes 10 large muffins

350g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
100g caster sugar
140g soft dark brown sugar
2 large cooking apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
3 large eggs, beaten
120ml vegetable oil
100ml milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g soft toffees, chopped into small pieces
  • Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4 and line a 6-hole muffin tray with paper cases. Sift the flour, baking powder and cinnamon into a large bowl and stir in the sugar. Make a well in the dry ingredients.
  • Add the chopped apples, eggs, oil, vanilla extract and milk in the middle of the well, and fold the mixture together with a large metal spoon, using as few strokes as possible. Don’t worry if the mixture is lumpy, the trick behind the lightest muffins is not to overwork the batter.
  • Half-fill the paper cases with the mixture, then sprinkle over the chopped toffee pieces. Cover the toffee with the remaining batter, then bake for 25-30 minutes or until the muffins are well risen and golden.

    Toffee Apple Muffin

    As usual I changed bits of the recipe - the above is what I changed it to. For example, the original recipe actually called for all spice but I only had cinnamon; dessert apples but I bought cooking apples by mistake, which I found lends a refreshing tang to the muffins; golden caster sugar but I used normal white and slightly more than half soft dark brown sugar - mainly because I prefer the stronger caramel tones of dark brown sugar. I think the recipe is a keeper and I definitely won't be sharing any of these at work tomorrow! Ha... what can I say? I'm still feeling sore :)

Friday, 21 November 2008

Princi - Soho, London

It's been one very long week. And I'm just glad it's the weekend. Really glad, actually :)

There were a few good meals and a few bad ones this week. One of the highlights was the discovery of Princi, an Italian bakery on Wardour Street, which I read about at World Foodie Guide. I don't usually venture into Soho for food - mainly because there's just too much choice and my mind goes numb with having to make decisions. The few times I have eaten eaten in Soho have been pretty bad experiences. Example - Meze on Wardour Street. I went there a few years ago and experienced some terrible service. When I had the audacity to send back a dish where the bacon was still raw (not pink, raw!), I was treated with contempt by the staff who very nicely made sure the bacon was burnt when they brought the dish back. Ahh yes, it wasn't even replaced.

Princi - Soho, London

I know there are some really good places to eat in Soho and I think I'm going on a mission to find out for myself. First stop, Princi. I was really impressed when we arrived. The floor to ceiling glass exterior showcased the stone and granite interior - very chic, very modern. But the real beauties lay on the long counters. Trays upon trays and bountiful baskets of pastries, breads, salads and further along, the hot food counter. Ooo where to start? What to order? To eat in or to take out? I had originally planned to grab lunch from Pinci one day, so this trip was really to see what they had on offer. And the worst decision of the evening was to buy a few pastries and move on somewhere else for dinner. As we were still clueless on where to head to, with so many restaurants with queues during the dinner peak, we walked into Amalfi. Such a bad, bad move. The meal was atrocious. Unsatisfied and disgruntled (the meal wasn't cheap!) we headed back to Princi for dessert.

Princi Interior - Soho, London

At 7PM, Princi was bustling with some who come in for dinner, some who had stopped by for an after work drink. At 9PM, it was even more crowded - mainly with those who were having leisurely drinks, a bit of a chinwag and were none too keen on vacating their seats. Tactics came into play here. One person keeps a lookout (preferably from one of the 'perching' granite tables, no seats just standing - just in case a seat does not avail itself) and another goes to the food. When a table does become available, well... you know what to do.. grab it! Yes, a little extreme but I guess I can't help it. Years of training in hot, crowded coffeeshops in Malaysia will teach anyone to bag a table.

Rustici - Princi in Soho, London

First up, a savoury order of rustici (£1.20 for 3). Little puff pastry bites filled with either spinach and cheese or ham and cheese. They were both dissapointing but the spinach ones did fare slightly better than the ham bites, which were overly salty and not much else. They had been lying around for some time and had gone cold.

Passion Fruit Cheesecake - Princi in Soho, London

The passion fruit cheesecake (£3.50) on the other hand was really quite divine. The fragrance and the tartness of the passion fruit filled the mouth with every bite. The cheese filling was light as air (I had actually forgotten it was supposed to be a cheesecake - there I kept thinking it was a passion fruit mousse!).

Chocolate Pear Crostata- Princi in Soho, London

We had originally bought the pear and chocolate tart (£3.00) to go earlier in the evening. It did go and it come back again :) The pear still had a bite to it and the chocolate it was set in reminded me of a brownie, a slightly nutty brownie - made with ground hazelnut. The nuttiness was only ever so slight. It was a good tart but definitely took second place to the passion fruit cheesecake.

I also bought myself a pain au chocolat for breakfast the next day, which I heated up on to of the toaster at work. Ohh sooo good! Crisp and flaky with oozy chocolate. Emm!

Will I be going back? Hell ya! Haha... I'm already planning what I'll be ordering and a slice of courgette pizza will probably be one of the items. It did look awfully good!

135 Wardour Street, London, W1F 0UT

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Grilled Crispy Skinned Teriyaki Salmon Belly

I'm freaking out! Stuart's mother is coming to lunch in less than 24 hours and I haven't a clue what to cook. This is her first proper visit up to the flat (let's not count the time she had to bring Stuart back from hospital after knee surgery, shall we?) and my first time cooking for her. Hmmmm should I cook to impress? Seafood? Or maybe stick to something Malaysian? Asian? Arghhh!!!

Grilled Teriyaki Salmon Belly

Anyway, whilst my brain is in overdrive thinking up recipes and wondering which corner of the flat I haven't touched in the last two years, I'll share something I made a few nights ago. Grilled teriyaki salmon. Ok... that doesn't sound particularly special but I got really excited when I found a mound of fatty salmon belly for only £3 from Japan Centre in Piccadilly. I had gone to pick up some cheap sushi for lunch and found the salmon from the sashimi counter at the front of the shop. Very likely all the meaty bits had gone into making the sushi, leaving them with the belly. I marinated the pieces of fish (all 8 pieces - the 5 smaller pieces shown in the photo) in Kikoman teriyaki marinade for about an hour and grilled them under a very hot pre-heated grill. The skin crisped up beautifully, helped by the thin layer of fat underneath it. As the skin crisped, the fat melted into the flesh ensuring wonderfully succulent pink meat. I also managed to cook it just right this time - cooked through and taken out of the grill just at the right time. Drizzled with it's own juices and served with boiled white rice.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

A Dinner of Spam Sandwiches

Yes, SPAM!!! Despite the mockery I face (how silly I was to tell any English person I eat the stuff!), I dearly love the wobbly, pink tinned meat. Maybe it's an Asian thing ... Spam definitely played a great role in my childhood diet - fried rice, sandwiches, noodle soup. Oh no, I would never eat it "raw"... now that would just be wrong! Haha. Actually back then it wasn't Spam, it was Ma Ling. A brand from China (that tastes exactly like Spam I later found out!) that came in a square tin with rounded edges and a little turn key that was stuck at the top with cellophane. Later Ma Ling would branch out and sell its luncheon meat in a round tin (same taste but easier to open) but the stuff in the square tin and rounded edges will always have a place in my heart ... and diet.

Spam on Crusty White with a Fried Egg

I don't actually eat Spam all that often. The tin I used in this meal had sat in my cupboard a good few weeks before I cranked it open last weekend for dinner. Finally I decided it was time for my all time favourite sandwich (much, much better than a ham salad), Spam and cucumber on white with lots of ketchup. Ohhhhhhhh soooooooooooooo good! Slices of Spam fried until it's moderately browned and slightly crisp on the edges layered on fresh white bread (it can also be lightly toasted white bread) with freshly sliced cucumber. Served with the ketchup bottle next to it for easy access for additional squeezes during chow time. The photo of the sandwich above is Stuart's. He's probably one of the few who didn't screw their faces up when I mentioned Spam. I fried an extra egg for him sunny side up. We both had side salads with roasted homegrown tomatoes and a grilled field mushroom each.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Cheesy Sunday

Two cheesy meals today. It wasn't planned - I usually make sure I don't have too much dairy in one day (or my tummy gets a little upset) but what the heck, the soybeans can wait until tomorrow :)

Grilled Cheese and Ham on Toast

I made grilled ham and cheese toasts for lunch with a side salad; should always have greens my mother said. I used up the smoked cheddar that I bought to make pizzas. A hint of smokiness came through on the toasts that I couldn't taste on the pizzas. Overshadowed by the other ingredients. For the toasts, I cut the crusty white loaf up quite thickly - really just greediness on my part but great sustenance on a cold wintry day. Stuart had his toasts with ketchup and mayonnaise but I really didn't think it was necessary.


We bought a huge ready-made lasagna when we went out today from M&S (yup, another one of their deals), which we had with more salad. I seriously did think we would have enough leftovers for lunch tomorrow but no such luck. It all went into our bellies tonight and it was seriously large lasagna but it was yummy. Oddly though I just found out today that lasagna is one of Stuart's favourite foods.. haha ... after all these years and I never picked up on it. I really should pay more attention :)

Raspberry Sherry Triffle

Dessert. Yes, we had dessert even after all that pasta. Little individual pots of raspberry sherry triffle. I haven't had triffle in years!

Raspberry Sherry Triffle

Layers of sherry soaked sponge, raspberry compote, vanilla bean custard, whipped cream and a sprinkling of sugared almond kernels. Definitely heavy on the dairy but it was pretty darn good. I remember when I was at university, some friends and I would buy large ready-made fruit triffles from M&S (they have the best ready-made meals!) and just dig in. Oh so good!

Braised Chicken with Flavoured Rice

I found these giant king oyster mushrooms from South Korea at the newly relocated Oriental City Supermarket in Bayswater a little awhile ago and just had to get a packet. A packet of 5 mushrooms were priced at £3.99, not exactly cheap, but they were large and everything seems to be expensive these days anyway.

King Oyster Mushrooms

I was going to fry them up with garlic, spring onion, a splash of white wine and a pat of butter but there were some boneless (and skinless) chicken things sitting in the fridge waiting to be used. So chicken stew it was. I cut the chicken into thick slices and fried them up in a little oil until they were lightly browned. In went some chopped garlic to sizzle for a few seconds. The mushrooms and carrots were next in, both cut into large chunks. I stirred in oyster sauce and soy sauce for flavour. Water went in last, another quick stir and on went the lid for 20 minutes. The chicken should be cooked through, the carrots soft and the mushrooms should have imparted flavour to the stew, as well have soaked up some flavours from the sauce. In a separate bowl, stir a few drops of water to a teaspoon or two of cornstarch. Add the mixture to the stew and let it cook for a few seconds to thicken the sauce.

Braised Chicken with Mushrooms and Carrots

I could have served it with boiled rice but that would just be plain boring ;) I shredded some kaffir lime leaves (yes, a fine shred - there's no use for large bits of leaves in this rice dish), finely chopped lemongrass and garlic before adding it to a pot on medium heat with a little oil. I fried them until lightly fragrant (not burnt! or even browned) and sprinkled in a touch of salt. In went some basmati rice. Continue frying until the rice is slightly translucent. Add water to the rice and cover to cook until the rice is done.

Braised Chicken with Mushrooms and Carrots on Flavoured Rice

Yummy if I may say so. The home Chinese meets Southeast Asia really worked quite well. Another dimension of flavour. It would have been ever so slightly boring with plain white rice. As usual soy sauce and oyster sauce never fails to disappoint :) The mushrooms were rather good. It maintained it's mushroom-y body rather well and did not flop over with the extended cooking time. I liked it well enough as oyster mushrooms go (my passion for edible fungi never extended itself to include oyster mushroom).

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Fried Mai Fun with Beef and Kai Lan

A dinner of fried noodles with beef and kai lan(Chinese broccoli). I haven't made it in awhile and the last time it was with dried noodles. This time I used mai fun (rice vermicelli) and instead of soaking the noodles first, I put the noodles straight into the wok after frying up the beef and kai lan with lots of garlic and ginger (yes, a little unconventional). I made lots of extra sauce (mixture of soy sauce, oyster sauce, white pepper, shaoshing rice wine, sesame oil and water) to ensure the noodles had enough liquid to soak up and still have a reasonable of sauce left.

Fried Mai Fun with Beef and Kai Lan

Monday, 3 November 2008

Cupcakes, Cupcakes

I paid another visit to the Hummingbird Cafe last weekend as we were in Notting Hill. I would have happily gorged myself on cake but Stuart insisted "something a bit more substantial first". We had a very late lunch at Luna Rossa, where the food wasn't too bad but the service was awful. No photos as I was too busy shovelling the food into my mouth.

Cappuccino Cupcake - Hummingbird Cafe

Finally, cupcakes! Yes, I had pasta coming out of my ears but wasn't going to stop me from a little bit of cake heaven. Alas, we were too late for the beautiful Red Velvet so I went for the day's special - Cappuccino. Coffee flavoured buttercream frosting on yellow vanilla sponge. There were even little specks of chocolate folded through the frosting. Really quite yummy (not as yummy as the Red Velvet though....sigh) and I really like how light the cake itself is. Perhaps a tad too sweet but I needed the sugar to cleanse my palate after all the garlic I had consumed earlier.

Chocolate Cupcake - Hummingbird Cafe

Stuart decided to go for a chocolate cupcake with chocolate buttercream covered in chocolate rice. Chocolate on chocolate on chocolate. Maybe slightly over the top? Delicious nontheless!

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Asian Inspired Coleslaw

Asian Inspired Coleslaw

I made this last week as something a little different from the usual green salad that I make. Stuart's very fond of coleslaw but I'm not too big on the heavy mayonnaise so I came up with this version - Asian inspired, like most things I cook - where would I be without my ever reliable bottles of soy and oyster sauces?

I will always remember my mother saying that we should eat as many different coloured vegetables as we can, not just the green. I'm not sure what nutritional significance this may have but I think she would be very happy to dig into this - red (looks more purple to me) cabbage and orange carrots. Ahh if only the colour of carrots were not modified by the Dutch, this would have been a purple on purple dish (I remember reading about purple carrots awhile back and even saw some sold in Fortnum and Mason a few years back but I guess its comeback didn't quite takeoff. Read about it here)

Putting it together:
1/2 shredded red cabbage
2 shredded medium carrots
1 1/2 inches grated young ginger
1 large garlic clove grated
juice of 1/2 an orange (I didn't have any oranges so I used the juice of 1 satsuma)
2 tbsp Japanese rice vinegar
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1tsp sesame oil
1tsp mirin
2 tsp black sesame seeds
  • Put the shredded vegetables in a large bowl.
  • For the dressing, put the rest of the ingredients, except the seeds, in a clean jar/bottle with a lid. Close the jar/bottle and shake well to mix.
  • Pour over the vegetables and toss well. Sprinkle the sesame seeds over and give the salad another quick mix.
A very light version compared to the coleslaws available commercially. It's easy enough to put together especially if you have Japanese mandolin but I shredded the vegetables by hand, which is quite fun if the knife is very sharp but terribly time consuming (I wasn't quite prepared to lose the top of a finger!). The flavours are safe (tried and tested) and clean but perhaps the juice of a satsuma is not the best thing to use, as it was a little too bland.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Saturday Night Pizzas

I've been lacking inspiration in the kitchen recently and today was no better. Soaked from top to toe when I ventured out earlier - it's been drip, drip, bloody drip the whole day - with a leaking umbrella (it cost me all of 50p from Shanghai!), I had a guy stop me on the street to laughingly tell me how I should invest in a "proper" umbrella. Grrr... seriously, I know!

As much as I dislike the idea of sandwiches for dinner, it was a serious contender tonight until I remembered how easy it is to make homemade pizzas using tortillas as the base. A few spoonfuls of tomato sauce from a jar, slices of salami, sliced tomato, cheese and viola ... dinner! I picked up some smoked cheddar, which very disappointingly lacked any smoky flavour.

Homemade Pizza - Salami, Sweetcorn and Smoked Cheddar with BBQ Sauce

For a little variety, I made two different pizzas. One had BBQ sauce spread over the base, topped with salami, sweetcorn and the smoked cheddar.

Homemade Pizza - Salami, Baby Tomatoes and Smoked Cheddar with Tomato Sauce

The second pizza had the usual tomato sauce base, which was topped with salami, sliced baby tomatoes and more of the smoked cheddar.

Homemade Pizza

Placed under a hot grill for 3-4 minutes, it couldn't have been any easier. Served with a salad (undressed - I was feeling that lazy!), tortilla chips and dips. I was happy - it took me all of 10 minutes to put dinner together and Stuart was happy -his one night off from noodle soup, salad and brown rice :) Both of us preferred the BBQ pizza, just a little more interesting than the usual tomato base. Perhaps the sauce made up for the cheese? The salami was a little fattier than usual ... it left mini lakes on both our plates. Ohh ... we only have this once in awhile... :)

Friday, 31 October 2008

Sweet and Spicy Tofu and Beans

Deep Fried Beancurd and Green Beans in a Sweet and Spicy Sauce

I fell in love with this dish after an Indonesian ex-flatmate made it for me. She actually first made this dish with tinned sardines (yes.. and just as delicious!) and it's so utterly simple! Alright, not as simple as making Maggi instant noodles in a cup ... but you get the idea :) However......unlike the sardine version, making this dish with tofu does have an extra step...deep frying the tofu. Or if you can just buy ready fried tofu from the supermarket. As the only deep fried tofu I can readily get my hands on would set me back more than 2 quid for a disgustingly small amount, I slaved over the stove a little longer.

Putting it all together:
Tofu, cut into small pieces
Green beans, topped, tailed and cut in half
Tomatoes, cut into small chunks
Chili - lots or as much as you can handle (my flatmate used to use a small handful of bird's eye chillies - ouch!)
Garlic - lots or as much you like
ABC kecap manis - a thick sweet Indonesian soy sauce (Chinese thick soy sauce might be an alternative)
Oil for deep frying
  • Heat the oil in a pot. Fry the tofu pieces in batches. Fish them out of the oil as they turn golden brown and drain on paper towels. The tofu will get darker as they continue to cook a while longer out of the oil.
  • Once all the tofu is cooked, heat a touch of oil in a pan on a medium-high heat. Add the garlic and chillies to the oil, letting it sizzle and colour but be careful not to let it burn.
  • Add the tomatoes and let it soften slightly. Put in the beans and toss with the other ingredients to mix. Let it cook for about a minute or two before turning the heat down.
  • Pour in the kecap manis. Use as much or little as you like. If your chillies are a little too hot, add a bit more kecap - it will soften the blow from the chillies. If you don't like your food too sweet, add less. Simple.
  • Add the tofu to the pan and coat with the sauce. Cook for another five minutes or so. This is to allow the beans to soften and the tofu to soak up some flavour from the sauce.
  • Served with hot steamed rice. Rather good with brown rice as the nuttiness really complements the dish.

    Deep Fried Beancurd and Green Beans in a Sweet and Spicy Sauce

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Midnight Cravings

Warm Chocolate Chip Cake with Strawberry Yogurt Ice Cream

Wanting something sweet last night, we managed to rush to Tesco's down the road before it closed for the night. With £4 between us in loose change, we picked up a little chocolate chip cake and a tub of strawberry yogurt ice cream.

The cake went into the microwave for 30 seconds, which made the cake all warm and goey inside. Served with the strawberry yogurt ice cream on the side. Sweetly satisfying..

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Roast Lamb Dinner with All the Trimmings

Roast Lamb Dinner with All the Trimmings

Sometimes I do make an traditional English dinner to keep Stuart happy. On the menu, roast leg of lamb, roast potatoes, steamed veg - cabbage, baby corn and broccoli, Yorkshire pudding, gravy and mint sauce. Keeping it traditional, the lamb went into the oven went into the oven with the barest sprinkle of salt and pepper ;) It come out cooked well done (just the way Stuart and I like our lamb cooked). The veg was slightly overcooked and the Yorkshire pudding was little too dense. The spuds and gravy were good though :)

Friday, 24 October 2008

Glorious Pudding

Sticky Toffee Pudding with Crème Fraîche

Sticky toffee pudding - rich, sweet and deliciously satisfying. Served with a dollop of crème fraîche for a balance with its slightly tangy creaminess. Certainly not coming anywhere close to a good homemade version - Delia Smith's recipe (with a few home kitchen improvements, of course) is hard to compete with but it's pretty darn yummy when you're craving a sugar rush mid-week.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

A Black Cloud

It's been a pretty horrible week. Redundancies were announced at work first thing on Monday morning. My department has so far remain intact but some of the other departments have been pretty badly hit. A particularly good friend from another team was asked to leave and it's just been awful. I know everyone's relieved that it wasn't them but who knows what will happen in the coming weeks, months? I know I've walked around with forced cheerfulness for a good part of the week until today rolled round. I'm tired, I'm fed up and it feels like my head is going to explode. I feel like I've been looking over my shoulder wondering if it's me who is going to be called up next. A few months ago picking up my bag and walking out of the main doors would have been easy. But now ... an endless stream of worries.

So this is what adulthood feels like?

*A food blog gone slightly melodramatic...

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

A Meal to Last The Whole Weekend ... For One

Autumn is definitely not my favourite time of the year. Actually, I hate it! I have spent the last 8 years despising it's arrival and hating the months of October and November. September's not too bad...with the odd English weather, it usually turns out to be the nicest month of the year :) Last weekend Stuart headed up north for a conference. Holed up in a nice hotel can't be all that bad :) as I was in London tucked up on the sofa, under the duvet trying to meet a Sunday night deadline. Yes, a Sunday night deadline! 3AM counts as Sunday night, right???

Oven Roasted Vegetables and Sausages over Sweet Potato Vermicelli

With no Stuart to turn his nose up, I bought some cauliflower. I'm not a huge fan of this vegetable myself, unless I have it roasted. Yum! Cut up into florets, tossed with oil and into a hot oven until lightly caramalised on both sides. I added broccoli to the roasting tin, which was a huge mistake ;) Live and learn I guess. The broccoli was a little too burnt and the cauliflower a little too waterlogged for my liking. Oh well! Also added some tomatoes sliced fresh tomatoes at the end, which had a nicely intensified tomato flavour. I also roasted sweet potatoes, cut into small chunks, with some pork sausages in another tray. I served this with sweet potato vermicelli (picked up from Chinatown), a dressing made from oil, soy sauce, Japanese vinegar and grated ginger, and a sprinkling of black sesame seeds.

Not the best meal I've cooked, not bad though. Cooked enough for a small army = roughly about 2 meals for me :D

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Birthday Meatballs

Stuart asked for Beef Wellington for his birthday meal but as his birthday fell on a weekday, I suggested that the beef be served on the weekend instead. Maybe that wasn't such a great idea as I spent a great deal more time trying to come up with something to cook than it took to actually cook it. Also, not great when your boss suddenly turns around at 5PM asking you to work late! After a firm "no, I'm really sorry.... I would any other evening....." sort of conversation with my team, which left me feeling guilty for the rest of the day, I headed home in a foul mood to cook this meal. Breath........calm down.........! :)

I ended up making meatballs in tomato sauce - Stuart suggested burgers but I thought it wasn't 'birthday -y" enough ...... and meatballs are?? Haha. I managed to pick up some Aberdeen Angus beef mince, as well as some veal mince. Veal is making a rather slow comeback to this country but better than never :) Ages ago I was trying out a meatball recipe that called for veal and since I couldn't get my hand on any I ended up using a mixture of beef and pork. This time there was no set recipe. I mixed 500g of beef with 500g of veal, added whatever dried herbs I had in the cupboard - mint, basil, oregano, herbes de Provence - as well as a sprinkle of dry English mustard, a large beaten egg, some parmigiano reggiano and breadcrumbs made from 2 slices of bread (wholemeal as that's all I had on hand). This mixture probably made about 20 medium sized meatballs (enough for the both of us for dinner that night, lunch the next day and a few more neatly wrapped up and sitting snug in the freezer:)

Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

As I was frying the meatballs to about 3/4 way done, I fried some bacon lardons, garlic and chopped up onion for the tomato sauce. When it was nicely caramelized, I added a tin of chopped tomatoes and a jar of passata. Letting it simmer (and the flavours infuse) before I added the meatballs to cook until done - another 20 minutes on a low simmer. I dished it up, topped it with some pesto I made a few days earlier using a mixture of mint, basil and coriander. I also substituted the usual pine nuts with sunflower seeds. On top of the pesto, I added grated cheddar before I popped it under a hot grill for a few minutes. Served with a salad and warmed baguette.

Meatballs in Tomato Sauce - Innards

For dessert we had individual vanilla and chocolate cheesecake pots from . I love their desserts and I haven't had one that has let me down yet. Emmm yummm!

Chocolate and Vanilla Cheesecake

A biscuit base topped with creamy vanilla cream cheese and finished with a 53% cocoa Belgian chocolate ganache. Quite decadent. Thank heavens it was only a little pot ;)

Chocolate and Vanilla Cheesecake

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Dine in for a Tenner from M&S

I love this deal from Marks and Spencer! Stuart and I walked into M&S in Covent Garden purely by chance on Sunday and found that far from offering some really cheap bit and pieces, there were some good stuff that were part of the offer. So good I decided to get a £20 deal :)

Marks and Spencer's 'Dine in for a Tenner'

Main course? Whole uncooked chickens. I thought it was slightly odd that they had both medium and large chickens as part of the deal. Of course I was going to get the large ones! They would have cost me about £8.50 each without the offer. Score! :)
Sides? Ultimate Posh Mash and Red Cabbage
Dessert? Apple and Blackberry sponge pudding and Sticky Toffee Pudding (Did hope to get the Hot Chocolate Fudge Pudding but they had sold out -drat!)
Wine? Vino Frizzante Chardonnay Rose and Pheasant Gully Cabernet Merlot (both of which have become cooking wines)

Not bad I thought. I was most excited about the chickens to be honest. One of which went into the oven last night sprinkled with salt and black pepper in a 180 °C oven for about 2 hours (it's a big chicken!). It came out nice and juicy. Putting the bird aside to rest, I made gravy using the chicken juices, the fizzy rose (if you were a wine snob ... it was probably a terrible wine.. haha) and some flour. Whilst that was simmering on the hob, I heated the mash and cabbage in the microwave. And......ding! Dinner was served. Brilliant! Minimal effort from me :)

The chicken was lovely - nice and juicy. Really liked the fact that it looked like a more fully grown bird with it's bones bigger and not like a 2 day old chick on hormones. The mash was loaded with butter but a bit "processed" (according to Stuart) but I was quite happy eating it. Red cabbage was cooked with apples and was nicely sweet. No dessert - we were stuffed with mash and chicken. And there's still half a chicken left, plenty for lots of chicken salads and sandwiches.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Sunday Eating - Croissants and Burgers

We've had beautiful weather today, with sunshine and temperatures that have outdone most the summer days past. I dragged Stuart out of bed early-ish, fed him and shoved him out of the front door (nearly) for a day out.

Ham and Cheese Croissants

Breakfast was mini ham and cheese croissants. I would love to say that those croissants were homemade :) but they came from the shop in a pack of 12. I stuffed a few with some cheese and ham and put them into a medium hot oven for about 10 minutes to melt the cheese and crisp up the exterior. This is one of those breakfasts that can't really fail. Ham, cheese and buttery croissants.... all good and yummy. Even yummier put together and warmed up. Served with milky, sugary tea for a hearty (and artery clogging :) breakfast.

Squirrel - Lincoln's Fields

Squirrel - Lincoln's Fields

But fear not, we headed for a nice long gym session in the afternoon to make sure we redeemed ourselves (and our poor tummies) somewhat. Killing some time between our gym session and dinner, we chilled out at Lincoln's Inn Fields where we met this little guy. The squirrels here seemed so incredibly tame, more so than at other London parks. He came bounding up to us hoping for a little handout (of which we had none) but still happily struck a few poses for me ;) He hurried away as soon he caught scent of a Weimaraner, in full hunting mode.

Squirrel - Lincoln's Fields

When the squirrels retired for the day, we went on to Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) for a few juicy burgers. We our hearts set on fish and chips from The Rock and Sole Plaice right after the gym session but after walking round and round looking for a cash point, we were a little too lazy to retrace our steps. So off we went to GBK at The Brunswick Centre, off Russell Square. I remember going to The Brunswick Centre for lunch when I was still a student in the area and it was one of the most depressing, run down of places. The only good thing about it then was the cheap noodle bar - the Hare and Tortoise (which is still there). A few years on and it's really cleaned up with lots of new shops, restaurants and a slick coat of paint.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen - Brunswick Centre, Russell Sq

GBK burgers are probably the best amongst the chain-restaurant offerings. And it doesn't break the bank. This was my third visit to a GBK restaurant and found that this branch was probably the most pleasant. The staff were more friendly and probably because it was a little early for the dinner crowd, the atmosphere was more relaxed. In tune with their informal chain-restaurant vibe, the GBK system works on staff greeting and showing you to a table with menus, cutlery, your table number and an explanation of how you have to order at the counter. After you've made your selection from the menu, up you go to counter to order and pay. Back to your table again and your food is brought to the table. Bit of a pain bit it's all generally cool - hopefully the savings they're making on the number of waiting staff shows in the price of my food :)

Avocado and Bacon Beef Burger - GBK

Innards - Avocado and Bacon Beef Burger - GBK

As usual I went for the Avocado and Bacon beef burger (£7.95). It's described on the menu as "100% Aberdeen-Angus Scotch beef, avocado, streaky bacon, salad, mayonnaise & relish" and yes, it was every bit as good as it sounds. The avocado was mashed up and oozed beautifully out of the burger. The thick cut streaky bacon had been cooked over the grill and had a lovely charred flavour, espacially where the fat had met the fire. The patty was meaty and cooked to 'medium' - as are all their beef burgers, unless otherwise specified.

Garlic Mayo Beef Burger

After a little grumble about there being no cheese and bacon burgers on the menu, Stuart settled for the Garlic Mayo beef burger (£6.90) - 100% Aberdeen-Angus Scotch beef, fresh garlic mayo, salad, mayonnaise & relish. Extra streaky bacon - with extra bacon (£1.60). Yup, a double dose of mayo! He could of course just ordered a plain Cheese burger and added the bacon :) His burger does look a bit smaller than mine - because he squashed it and took a large bit from one end before I could stop him. I didn't try his burger but I did get a little swipe of the garlic mayo that had dripped out and it was good - they certainly ensure you get all the garlic you paid for!

GBK Skinny Fries

We had a portion of GBK skinny fries (£2.75), freshly out of the fryer. The oil still sizzling off the golden brown spuds. They were not bad fries, they were just not great.

GBK Homeslaw 'the Antipodean way'

We also had the GBK Homeslaw 'the Antipodean way' (£2.35) with cabbage, spring onions, carrot, celeriac and vinaigrette. Very nice it was too. Unlike the usual coleslaws, this was not bogged down by heavy mayo although it was slightly oily. The vinaigrette was citrus-y (think orange rather than lemon or lime) and despite my dislike for celeriac, I found myself happily digging in until there was no more.

Tired and full we headed back for an evening of silly TV shows and mind numbing games on the X-box :D GBK-wise, I'm no burger connoisseur but I think the stuff from GBK is pretty good. I've read reviews where the burgers have been compared to the stuff in the States, but having never tried a Stateside burger, I'm quite happy in my oblivion. Hopefully the next time I'll be able to tear myself away from the Avocado and Bacon burger... and maybe the next time I won't be so greedy ... I was disgustingly full after all that food!

Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK)
44/46 The Brunswick Centre, London WC1N 1AE

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Breakfast Tagine with Couscous

Breakfast Tagine - Serving it Up

Traditionalists would probably laugh, cry or at worst, curse but it doesn't stop this version from being terribly heart warming on a cool English evening, when the days are fast becoming shorter and thoughts of a salad for dinner is almost laughable.

I first came across this recipe over at Tamarind and Thyme and I loved the addition of pork sausages to the dish. A great mid-week dinner that can be practically thrown together in a large pot, browned and simmered. In my attempts to keep it 'healthier', I used leaner sausages (minced lamb always being slightly fattier) and threw in a carrot or two (diced and cooked to a soft consistency to keep it off Stuart's anti-carrot radar - I actually had a huge bag sitting in the fridge which I was desperately trying to use up).

Putting it all together:
6 pork sausages
500g minced lamb
4 eggs
Peppers, roughly chopped (I used one yellow and one green - I only like green peppers in stews)
1 large carrot, diced
1 tin of tomatoes
1/2 tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed to removed excess salt
Large handful of spinach leaves
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon of turmeric
1/2 teaspoon of ginger powder
1/2 teaspoon of coriander powder
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Large pinch of chili powder
Fresh coriander
*Since I had forgotten to stock up on onions and garlic AND was too lazy to go back down to the shops to pick some up, the dish had to without.
**The couscous was mixture of pre-cooked lemon-coriander flavour (hence the green specks in the couscous) and plain - just add boiling water and stir.
  • Heat a large, deep pan (or pot) on medium-high heat. Add enough oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Put in the minced lamb, breaking it up as it starts to cook. Let the lamb brown lightly and the fat ooze out. Drain the fat, keeping the meat in the pan.
  • Add the sausages and let it colour along with the mince. Once coloured on both sides, drain off any excess fat.
  • Add the carrots and peppers to the pan. Let them soften for a few minutes.

Breakfast Tagine - Frying The Ingredients

  • Add the cinnamon stock, ginger powder, coriander powder, cumin, chili powder and tomato paste to the pot. Stir well and cook off the rawness in the spices for about a minute.
  • Pour in the tinned tomatoes and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let leave to simmer. At this point I cut each sausage into four smaller parts. I could have cut them before cooking but I like how the sausages maintain its meaty juices whilst still linked, which is then released into the sauce rather than cooked off earlier on.
  • Let it simmer for about 20-30 minutes with a lid partially covering the pot. My indication that it's done is when the carrots are nicely soft, the sauce has reduced slightly and is nicely thickened.
  • Add the spinach and let it wilt. Season.
  • Make 4 small indentations into the surface of the bubbling mixture. Break an egg into each. Cover the pan to allow the eggs to cook for 3 minutes. I like to leave my egg yolks runny as they enrich the sauce as they are broken at the table.
  • Garnish with coriander. Serve with couscous (cooked to the directions on the packet).
Breakfast Tagine - Poach the Eggs, Done!

This is a great no hassle mid-week meat feast. Sausage and eggs give it the 'breakfast feel'. The lamb and spices lends a more exotic flavour. It's hearty, warming and great with the couscous, which soaks up that lovely sauce.

Breakfast Tagine - Serving it Up