Sunday, 26 January 2014

Oh-Bun Sesame! Black sesame rolls with condensed milk

Black sesame and condensed milk buns - beautiful textures and tastes
As January starts to wind down, my demon calories slowly wind up...and I've come up with quite the theory why it can't be helped for my British/Chinese background. Think back to early December, and we have a whole month of parties, canap├ęs, alcohol and decadent food to consume... All with a certain "grace" period and less judgement that you will put on a few pounds. 25th December comes and you've mentally and physically prepared for your Christmas Everest. From mid January, I feel the grace period returns, without proper acknowledgement, as we prepare for Chinese New Year feasting. So really, this recipe and the copious amounts of flour I've used this week in cooking should be considered more of a saviour to my own future health. In between English and Chinese traditions, I've combined two treats to create something I was very proud to test out on a few friends last Friday. It's almost a guiltless pleasure- every doughy-soft, sweet and nutty bite was unequivocally justified I didn't feel sorry for my waistline in the slightest, it tasted that good. So, sorry that I'm not sorry.
Black sesame filling is rich, sophisticated and moreish

The recipe is inspired from cinnamon rolls. However about half way in, the sugar quantities get to you and the cinnamon,sugar, butter crunch becomes too much... and that sneaky guilt kicks in that it should be finished but your stomach can't take any more. Black sesame is something I love and definitely overcomes this anguish. It has a long lasting rich and toasty nuttiness, that's not too sweet or overpowering that really fills the mouth and whets the appetite to have another bite over and over.
There is most certainly a lot less butter and sugar here than most cinnamon rolls, but the glaze on top is a drizzle of condensed milk - something that's practically in our veins in Hong Kong. We put this in our tea, like how Vietnamese sweeten their coffee, spread it on toast for breakfast and decorate our cakes with it. It's our sweet elixir of choice for sure, and I like how everyone can individually add how sweet they want to make their bun (now with a handy squeezey bottle it comes in). Creamy, sweet and a satisfying thick texture- it's the final layer that really finished these buns.
Lashings of condensed milk? This one definitely needs a little more...yes please.

Be patient with the proofing and knead properly-it will all be worth it when you see the buns merge and bind to their neighbours to uniformly and obediently rise in the oven.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Chinese savoury pancakes and shakshuka

Pancakes with Chinese sausage, prawns and carrots...and oozy poached egg
Enough with the healthy stuff. It’s time to get back to a more carby reality . Well, it didn’t take long to break my health kick, which, I had forewarned you would be shattered (I’m still drinking the healthy tea… that totally counts). And what better way to shatter it with a weekend to the country for what can only be described as the ‘weekend of gout and gorge’. Tartiflette, slow cooked ox cheeks, dauphinoise, cheeseboards, bacon and pancakes…and it was the last bugger which got me thinking. Butter, carbs, sugar and meat. How to combine them all into one rebellious ‘up yours, health January’ recipe? Pancakes.
I’m an avid believer of brunch, even though the Chinese haven’t quite hooked on to it. Early dim sum doesn’t quite fit brunch requirements, however on scouring through Mama Lo’s old and weathered Chinese cook books I saw a savoury Chinese pancake recipe. A little dated and too afraid of some of the preserved ingredients in there, I’ve taken inspiration from a few places to create a rich, Asian pancake. The only ingredient you may not have come across is Lap Cheong. It is a pork sausage which is marinated and preserved – a near relative to chorizo. It’s sweet and salty, in the same way many of us have taken to dousing bacon in maple syrup for pancakes. Now that’s a sweet meat.
Little jewels of Lap Cheong and prawns
The mix of little diced sausage, spring onion, carrot and prawns makes a rich pancake that yearns for a wingman. I just picked up Ottolenghi’s great book ‘Plenty’ (I know I’m late to the game on this one) and a great shakshuka recipe stood out to me. Could it complement my jam packed uber Asian pancakes? Fantasising about this all week, it was put to the test. Sunday mornings is one of the most precious times you can ask for. Snoozy Sunday cuddles in bed, reaching out for the cold side of the pillow for another snooze and then plod down to the kitchen for fresh juice and a relaxing recipe to gear you up for the day. Sorted.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Fat man, poor man hot and sour soup

Hot and Sour soup

January sees a flurry of new diet fads, resolutions and fitness promises. We all get overwhelmingly inspired to try that new juice diet till we pass out (or break by eating a whole block of cheese), torment ourselves by buying a clothes size too small in the sales as ‘thinspiration’ and sign up to the platinum-deluxe-premium-ICantAffordThis package you’ll kid yourself over for a few months. It’s expected that we all put a few pounds on over the holidays, but we forget that our wallets suffer too – and that everyone is doing dry January only as an excuse to be a little better to your wallet.
We’re coming round to ‘the most depressing day of the year’ apparently, and nothing beats a satisfying soup, especially a take on a classic hot and sour. My bank account rinsed and my stomach overhanging with mince pies, I wanted another healthy option (don’t worry…they won’t all be so saintly, Lolo’s Kitchen is currently harbouring a fair amount of cheese, potatoes and bacon that needs to be eaten). My fat man, poor man soup started off as an ode to a friend who has turned vegetarian for January. I love vegetarian food, and I’m lucky enough to live in a place where there are so many options available. However, I do get a slight panic of what to do if I have a vegetarian friend coming round to dinner. It’s not all about filling them with tofu, Chinese/Asian cuisine I think has a lot more to offer than that.

Chinese normally drink soup before a full meal to actually whet our appetite – anything to make us eat more and exploit our fast metabolisms sounds good to me. However, this soup is great as a light lunch as you can almost drink it by the gallons and not feel guilty. I recommend making your own stock, but it’s easier to skip this part and just use ready-made if you don’t have the time. 

Friday, 3 January 2014

Sockeye salmon poached in Chinese tea and glass noodles with cucumber chilli dressing

Salmon poached in Lapsang Souchong tea with glass noodles and cucumber chilli dressing
Happy New Year everyone! Sorry for the mouthful of a post title, I couldn’t really find a way to sex it up (well, shorten it at least). Maybe it’s my two week Christmas break and the fact that I have gravy and meat practically running in my veins that has led to an inept ability to stir up any sort of a witty sentence? Anyway, I’ve been itching to get back to Lolo’s Little Kitchen as I’ve been up in Leeds with my family. Mama and Papa Lo arrived from the motherland, and we’ve had a gout inducing couple of weeks eating. It doesn’t help when your brother has a metabolism of a racehorse and your parents want to eat ‘traditional’ Western food like fish and chips, scotch eggs and full English breakfasts every day. That blueberry and pomegranate muesli will have to wait.
In a rather depressing come down of fatty Christmas food and sweets last week I was determined to try a few tricks for a bit of a cleanse to my system. In traditional Chinese medicine, there isn’t anything that you can take to ‘detox’, as it is too much of a shock to your body, but a more gentle and long standing ‘cleanse’ is recommended. An easy place to start would be to swap my copious cups of Yorkshire teas with Chinese tea. Oolong tea is great for January, as it is full of antioxidants to help fight high blood pressure, diabetes and liver damage. But more exciting than that, it promotes weight loss by increasing your metabolism if you drink it regularly. 
Sockeye Alaskan salmon complemented by a smoky Chinese tea

In this recipe, all the ingredients have great health benefits - salmon for its Omega-3 and vermicelli/glass noodles are made from the starch of mung beans and are a healthier, lighter and gluten free alternative to wheat noodles. Eating chilli helps lower cholesterol, improve circulation and lowers blood sugar levels, and gives the vermicelli a punchy ‘POW’ in flavour with the ginger and cucumber. I’ve tried this recipe with Oolong, and it works with green tea also, however recently good old Heston did a Lapsang Souchong infused smoked salmon over the holidays for Waitrose. It has a very distinctive smoky strong flavour (as well as many benefits of black tea) as pine wood is used to smoke the leaves, and so has just enough of a festive aroma to remind you of Xmas. I thought it was almost too smoky for an already smoked salmon, but poaching a salmon fillet in tea works wonderfully. This recipe barely needs any real cooking, it’s really simple (despite the overworked title description).