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.