Saturday, 14 December 2013

Lion's head meatball sub

ROAR, it's a lion's head meatball sub with chilli jam

I’m actually amazed by the English and their sense of pride when it comes to the sandwich. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve all tuned in and loved watching a Great British bake-off where they make the best picnic sandwich bread and filling, but I’m talking about the simplicity of a bread-butter-meat-bread sort of sandwich. Lined up in the aisles, they just appear slightly sorry looking and unfulfilling. I need more substance to keep me going than a sandwich and a packet of crisps.  It just doesn’t do it for me. I suppose I never really grew up with the humble sandwich in my lunchbox. I did however come across a brilliant blog called ‘300 sandwiches – where this girl’s boyfriend loves sandwiches so much he said she was ‘300 sandwiches away from an engagement ring’. And so started a wonderful, beautifully written blog of creative recipes and stories. I highly recommend it.

Soft sub roll, fresh chinese leaf and chilli jam: the perfect accompaniments

Friday, 6 December 2013

Yuzu sweet to me, honey-pie

Yuzu and honey meringue pie

So, this week was my first (hopefully of many) supper club hosted in the little lounge located adjacent to the little kitchen. Although I’ll start supper clubs up more regularly come 2014, this was a bit of a run through with some hungry guinea pigs friends. And thank goodness there was a run through. My oven, for some incomprehensible reason, always manages to cunningly detect pressure of a dinner party ahead, and this time it blew its fuse three times on me during the evening. 

Other than that hiccup, the evening seemed to pass by well. However, the morning of the supper club, I did have the most absurd ‘first world problem’ that sent me into a bit of a fluster in Waitrose. I was picking up some groceries – one of which was a tin of lychees to make the cocktails (the mere mention of Waitrose, fluster, lychees and cocktails is already screaming of a first world problem, I admit). I went back and forth in different sections trying to locate the damn thing. Was it in world cuisine section, Oriental or canned fruit and vegetables aisle – who knew? Doing a trolley slalom between the grannies aimlessly loitering over what tea and biscuit selection to choose from, I soon gave up, looking miserably at a can of mandarin slices I thought could substitute. I couldn’t get too upset over the lychees, but it had left me in a somewhat deflated state. Until I saw the ‘cooks essential ingredients’ section, where a little bottle of yuzu juice sat waiting for me. What sort of supermarket sells yuzu as an ‘essential ingredient’, but fails to offer lychees? The latter almost seems like a pauper of fruits compared to yuzu, but there was no time to waste, it was time to get people drunk on special cocktails.

The silver lining of this fluster was that I now know where to get yuzu. It’s a beautiful citrus fruit originating from China, however widely used in Japanese cuisine. The taste is a sharp zing like you get in grapefruit, but with an ending warm overtone of mandarin and oranges. It’s one of those tastes which you’ve never had before, yet there's a familiarity about it that leaves you intrigued. If you see this, or ponzu sauce/dressing, in a Japanese dish – try it out. It’s great for salad dressings, however I was left with half a bottle after the evening and felt inspired to put my own spin on things.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Coco-nuts for those buns

Coconut "cocktail" bun

The French. They are invincible in the pastry realm, no one can contend – no other country, let alone a lowly blogger such as myself. As much as I love this classic recipe, it’s an honest, humble and simple bun. My disclaimer for this is that it isn’t French pastry couture, but it is, for me, a true representative of Hong Kong bakeries. The iced bun’s Chinese cousin let’s call it. The cocktail bun is synonymous with the 1950’s, when it was first created as a ‘cocktail’ mixture out of day old, ground up buns with coconut and sugar in order to not waste food which was still perfectly edible.
The sweet and pillowy white bread base is filled with a butter and coconut soft centre – even if you aren’t a coconut enthusiast, it’s only a very delicate and subtle taste and definitely worth a try. Bakeries in Hong Kong are filled with a lot of sweet breads and pastries like this – it’s a far cry from the ones we’re used to in London.
Normally, I’m not a fan of Chinatown, with the exception of the groceries stores and two restaurants off the main strip. However, if I’m near, it’s almost obligatory to stock up on a cocktail bun from ‘Kowloon’ bakery and cafĂ©. Bonus if you catch the buns as they come out the oven.
I first made this as a challenge to myself, hungover as hell one Sunday afternoon. Determined not to waste the day, I wanted to do something productive (where I could *ahem* reap the rewards afterwards). From adapting a few recipes here and there, this is what came of it. Make sure to block out a whole chunk of time for this – as although it’s not difficult, you do need to keep an eye on it.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Wham, bam, it's MY chilli jam

In my opinion, chilli jam is the true child of the food blogging world. Before the explosion of blogging, I’d never really known about it, seen it in restaurants nor wanted to eat it. Now, I can’t get enough of it, and I’m constantly trying to find excuses to dollop lashings of this sticky sweet condiment onto, well, anything. Reading about all these different kinds of wondrous combinations from some of my favourite blogs and sites such as boozy bacon jam, chilli and red onion jam and even a very aptly named smutty sweet chilli tomato jam (let’s face it, chilli jam is the smuttiest and most sinful of all jams) inspired me. Adding my Asian chilli jam to the line-up of jars in the fridge, I seemed to have accumulated a Benetton ad-worthy array of different ethnic chilli jams. They all pass my scrupulous test of what makes a good chilli jam, which is…

“Does it work on a cheese toastie?”

You may laugh, but I promise it’s the best standard of measure I’ve come up with. Sure, the beauty of chilli jam means it’s versatile enough to eat with things like fishcakes, calamari, steak sauce, salad dressing…I even use mine as a marinade for meats and fish. But I swear, the true verification of a chilli jam CHEESE ON TOAST.

The reason why it’s called what it’s called is there is something about everyone’s own recipes which turns them into a possessive Gollum-esque toddler. It’s hard to part with your secret recipe or one that has been passed down. One of my friends Mary is case in point. When her Aunt wouldn’t give her the recipe for her chilli jam, Mary would really ration out and make her jar last until her next visit. She hid the jam on the highest shelf, and could tell, by the gram, if anyone had the audacity to sneak a spoonful. This ultimately made the jam more desirable and fun to pinch (sorry Mary). 

It’s peculiar that there are some recipes you wouldn’t dream of giving away, and can only be passed down through generations, as a cherished heirloom. The power of food and the protection of a perfect formula is incredible. Not to say mine isn’t a secret worth keeping, but I hope you make it and treasure the wonders of what this jam is all about. 

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Cantonese Beef and Tomato

Ok, let’s start easy. The title doesn’t sound too exotic or punchy, especially for a first post. In fact if you just looked at the ingredients, it sounds like I’ve made a quasi bolognese of sorts, but I promise this a Hong Kong classic. What’s great about a lot of HK food is that, due to its history, it has a lot of British and Portuguese influence, and so many recipes and favourites lend itself brilliantly to a European palette, much as the produce itself.  It’s often served at Western style cafes in Hong Kong, and so really represents a beautiful balance of East and West. Beef, tomatoes, onion and rice? Simplicity works – I’m not here to overcomplicate a great thing. The universal love for these ingredients means a quick win recipe wise for anyone’s bellies.
My first memory of this was whenever I went back to my Grandma’s flat in North Point, Hong Kong. If there was ever an original Lolo’s Little Kitchen, this would be it without a doubt. In this pokey little galley, where it was only big enough to fit one person in there without it being a sardine tin squash, Grandma would make us our favourite dishes. Food was the vehicle which she showed her love, and we reciprocated with open arms (and very open mouths). Given my brother and I never grew up in Hong Kong, language is sometimes a frustrating barrier, but we know that Grandma’s thought, love and care was always there, as this was the dish she'd want to prepare for our return. It’s the first dish I think my brother and I knew how to say in Cantonese, as we loved it that much. It’s a dish that immediately sends me back to a time and a place. Those are the best, as they are rooted in your memories and thoughts of those around you.