Saturday, September 14, 2013

M is for Mid-Autumn Festival

Between the 18-20 September this year (but only this year as the festival moves in the calendar as with all other Chinese festivals), Hong Kong will celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival.

My least favourite part of the festival was moon cakes until Haagen Dazs and Starbucks got in on the act and produced ones that weren't stuffed with lotus bean paste.

But my favourite bit of the festival has always been the lanterns to commemorate the moon.  Some involve riddles, and there's always the obligatory cooing over the ones made by friends' children, but they are always just really bright and fun.

And given the food is plentiful (think of it as a Chinese Harvest Festival) and you can always get hold of a lantern or two, it is not difficult for you to hold your own version of the Chinese celebration at home. AND it's an excuse to dig out some of those decorations only otherwise used once a year for Chinese New Year.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

P is for Panko Breadcrumbs

I made a pork katsu curry tonight.  Very simple, very easy, but so so much better if you breadcrumb your pork in Panko breadcrumbs.  Available at most large supermarkets (or if not, you can get them on Amazon), they are so much better than any other type as they are lovely and crisp from the packet...and are not bright orange as most seem to be!

  • 2 pork tenderloin steaks (trimmed, halved and flattened to 5 mm thick between cling film sheets)
  • 250 gms Panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 100 gms plain flour
  • S&P
  • Oil for frying the pork
  • 1 teaspn cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspn fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspn coriander seeds
  • 1 tblspn mild curry powder
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 heaped tblspn cornflour
  • 4 tblspn honey
  • 100 mls water
  • Dash of soy sauce
  1. Put your egg, flour (seasoned) and breadcrumbs separately in three shallow dishes 
  2. Using one hand (so one remains clean to do other things/move dishes), dip each piece of pork in the flour, then the egg and then press into the breadcrumbs, shaking off the excess each time but making sure all the pork is coated
  3. Set aside on a plate and wash your hands
  4. Heat up a pan of oil / turn on your deep-fat-fryer to cook the pork
  5. Toast off the spices in a dry frying pan
  6. Tip into a pestle and mortar and grind into fine powder
  7. Start to sweat your onion on a low heat with a little of the oil
  8. Once the oil in your saucepan/fryer is hot, put in two pieces of pork and cook for two minutes on each side until golden
  9. Drain on kitchen paper and repeat with the last two pieces of pork
  10. Stir the ground spices and flour into the onion and add the soy and honey
  11. Cook for a couple of mins and stir in the water; if the sauce is too thick, add more water until you have a thick but runny sauce
  12. Cut the pork into thick slivers then place on a bed of rice with the sauce draped over or served on the side
Feeds two.  You can replace the pork with chicken but use thighs otherwise the meat will be too dry.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

S is for Sweet Chilli Sauce

In posting my satay sauce recipe, I use the one picture I had. This included a splattered jug of sweet chilli sauce.  I realized it made sense to post the recipe for that too as the bought version is nothing like home-made.

Sweet chilli sauce (left), satay sauce (middle) and simple Greek yoghurt (right) to accompany a BBQ
  • ½ red bell pepper, deseeded and the flesh cubed
  • 2 large clove garlic, crushed
  • 7 tblspns rice vinegar
  • 3½ tblspns sugar
  • 4 tblspns water
  • 2 dried chillies (deseeded for a milder version)
  • 1¼ teaspns cornflour mixed with 1½ teaspns water

  1. Put the pepper flesh, garlic, vinegar, sugar, water, and chillies in a food processor and whizz until smooth
  2. Decant the contents into a small saucepan and cook over a low heat for 10 mins
  3. Skim the surface until you've removed the red foam
  4. Whisk in the cornflour mix and then cook for another couple of mins
  5. Allow to cool before serving
As per the satay, this recipe can be multiplied easily to make a bigger batch and then freeze meal-sized portions until you need them.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A is for App

In today's busy world, I love a good app, but get cheesed off when an app is just a mobile version of the website.  It needs to do more than that to command space on my screen.

Here are my top ten apps for entertaining guests which do more than their websites (with one exception).

1. Time to Roast
All you need to do is select your meat (every roast I've had) and enter the weight.  It beeps at you when you need to change the temp (after searing a roast) and when it's time to check whether your joint is cooked.  And if it's not, you can simply let the app know and it'll beep again after some more time has elapsed.

2. Escoffier Cook's Companion
This handy app includes a measurement converter, a kitchen timer, an ingredients list (so you'll never again have to ask what adzuki beans are), an equipment list and a glossary of cooking terms.

Import all your favourite web based recipes into one (h)appy location, photo and all.  You can also manually add your own recipes too.  But the best thing about this app is that if you want to half or multiply the recipe, it'll re-proportion all the ingredients at the touch of a button.

This app helps you grow your own fruit or veggies whatever space you have.  But the best thing is the location-specific alerts for drought or frost to help you ensure that your plants stay healthy.  All the more homegrown food to serve to guests...

This free app features 180 recipes (and appropriate advice) from 12 of the country's best chefs.  Luscious!

6. Canadian Living (Magazine)
Yes it's a Canadian app but we have quite a lot in common with our Canadian cousins (after all we share a queen), and this magazine provides some of the most comprehensive advice without making you pay for every sentence.

This app delivers new recipes to your phone weekly, as well as a host of tricks and tips to get your barbecued food cooked to perfection.  And you can combine your recipe shopping lists into one for your trawl around the supermarket.

8. Houzz
So you've planned your feast but realise that your dining room decor will let the side down.  Use this app and choose from over two million ideas by room, location or style.

Now not many of us need to plan guests lists by excel sheet every week, but for the odd occasion you do, this is a great app.  It also helps you plot out seating plans, keeps track of budgets and timelines, and even lets you delegate tasks.   

This is my exception to the real estate rule, but since it's now much easier to link my phone snaps to my boards, it's made the cut.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

S is for Satay

The weather forecast is promising a lovely weekend and so I'm getting ahead and brewing up some satay sauce to go with barbecued chicken skewers on the weekend.

This recipe involves an enormous list of ingredients, but it really is a very simple sauce so don't be put off!

  • 2 bird's eye chillies (red or green)
  • 1 tblspn ginger, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tblspn lemongrass, chopped
  • 2 tblspn groundnut/peanut oil
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspn turmeric
  • 1 teaspn ground coriander
  • 1 teaspn paprika
  • ½ teaspn cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspn black pepper
  • 1 tblspn ground cumin
  • 300 mls of coconut milk
  • 180 mls water
  • 85 grms peanuts, finely ground
  • 40 grms peanuts, roughly chopped
  • 1½ tblspn lime juice
  • 1 tblspn dark soy sauce
  • ½ tblspn light brown sugar
  • Dash of rice vinegar

  1. In a food processor, chuck in the chillies (seeds and stalk removed), the garlic, ginger, lemon grass and pour in a little of the coconut milk to loosen the mix
  2. Pulse until it resembles a slightly lumpy paste
  3. In a pan large enough to take all the ingredients, fry off the onion gently in the oil for 5 mins before adding in the paste
  4. Fry off everything gently for another 5 mins before adding in the turmeric, coriander, pepper, paprika, cayenne and cumin; cook off until the mix no longer smells raw
  5. If the mix starts to stick during this process, add in a little bit of the water
  6. Stir in the rest of the coconut milk and water and start to reduce slightly (simmering very gently)
  7. Stir in the peanuts and the lime juice
  8. Cook for a further 5 mins
  9. Add in the soy and the sugar and cook for another minute; add in the vinegar
  10. Adjust the seasoning adding in more paprika/cayenne/cumin and salt is wanted
  11. Serve warm
It can keep in the fridge up to four-five days if left to cool and reheated gently before serving.  This sauce can be frozen for up to six months and so I tend to quadruple the recipe and batch it up to last the summer.

Pictured here (in the middle) with sweet chilli sauce (left; amazing with sausages) and Greek yoghurt (right)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Z is for Zest

When I started this blog, I didn't really think through that there aren't many words beginning with 'z' let alone words connected with entertaining guests and food.  But zest is fortunately one of them.

Zest has to be fresh.  If you zest your (citrus) fruit too far in advance then the flavour disappears.  I use two tools for this: a microplane and a zester depending on how large I want my zest strips.

And I use zest in lots of things such as my BBQ butterflied lamb recipe (when I use the zester), and also when I cook spinach (when I use a microplane).

Once the leaves have just wilted in hot water, I drain, grind over lots of black pepper and add the zest of a lemon to serve.  I do this as I find this gives the veggie the flavour it needs without leaving a splodge of unappetising stodge when the juice breaks down the structure of the leaves too much.  If you have a pool of liquid in your spinach dish...this is why.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

L is for Lamb à la Rick Stein

The weather's turned warmer and we're having a BBQ.  But since this is a Sunday and usually devoted to roasts, we already have a leg of lamb in the fridge waiting to be cooked.  And I love lamb.  So we've decided to BBQ it à la Rick Stein.

  • One leg of lamb (with the bone in if you can butterfly it yourself, or ask your butcher to do this)
  • 1 lemon (unwaxed)
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 3 sprigs of rosemary
  • 3 chillies (deseeded)
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Olive oil
  • S&P
  1. Snip off any excess fat or sinew from your lamb and make sure that it lies flat
  2. Zest the lemon and squeeze half of the lemon for its juice
  3. Strip the herb leaves from the stalks and snip in a cup with the ends of a pair of scissors
  4. Snip the bay leaf into thin strips
  5. Chop up the chilli and spread over the lamb with the garlic, lemon and chopped herbs
  6. Season the meat to taste and put the lamb in a large freezer bag
  7. Slug in a good glug of olive oil and massage the ingredients into the lamb through the plastic (keeping hands clean)
  8. Set aside and allow to marinade for at least an hour before putting it on the BBQ to cook
  9. Serve with lightly-toasted pitta bread and salad
And if you wanted, through the wonder of (stolen) technology, you can see how Rick does it himself!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

B is for Bastille Day

Next Sunday is Bastille Day and the day that the French celebrate all things linked to Liberté, Égalité et Fraternité (brotherhood).  The day commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789, the freeing of many political figures, the start of the French revolution and the beginning of the road to becoming a republic.

And in planning my own celebrations for the weekend, I came across a post on one of my favourite blogs, Creature Comforts, for a French style picnic (or pique-nique) featuring a savoury and sweet clafoutis.

The pictures (as usual) are beautiful and the post also links to some very cute printables courtesy of the publishers (Chronicle) of The Little Paris Kitchen, the recipe book published by Rachel Khoo to accompany the eponymous BBC series.

Now the picnic with the weather we're expecting is a little optimistic, but I do love a good savoury clafoutis and so thought this was the perfect occasion to dig out my Marie Claire Ideés recipe for a favourite cherry tomato/goat cheese version.

  • 4 large eggs
  • 300 mls of whipping cream
  • 250 mls of whole milk
  • 4 heaped soup spoons of corn flour
  • 150 grams fresh goats cheese
  • 350 grams of ripe cherry tomatoes
  • 1 bag of basil
  • 20 grams of butter
  • S&P

  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC
  2. Beat the eggs and then incorporate in the corn flour spoon by spoon, before adding in the cream and milk
  3. Cut up the basil into strips, reserving a floret for decoration at the end
  4. Add to the creamy mix and season to taste
  5. Butter an oven proof ceramic dish that is big enough to take all the liquid
  6. Arrange the tomatoes in a single layer and tear the goats cheese into lumps and arrange evenly
  7. Pour over the creamy mix and put the dish in the oven until it's cooked (approx. 40 mins) but still has a slight wobble
  8. Serve warm or cold with the garnish of basil (set aside earlier), some crusty bread (baguette works best) and a salad

You can also add pitted, chopped black olives to this, meat (lardons work well) or replace the goats cheese with another soft one.

For more Bastille day ideas, check out my Pinterest board on the celebration.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

F is for Fika

This lovely Swedish word is a noun and a verb and communicates laid back snacking in a way that no other word in any language manages.

It really is nothing more than a drink (usually coffee or tea) and a snack (more often than not baked but almost always on a doily) and is enjoyed between neighbours, friends, colleagues and acquaintances, and at any time of the day (or night).

And now I've discovered it's a cookbook..and has been for a while now...

...with the most beautiful layout inside, with each recipe spanning four pages, with ingredients first...

...and instructions second...

Now I just need to work out where I can get my mitts on a copy.