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.