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... :)