Sunday, 31 August 2014

Lentil Shepherd's Pie

Dear Readers, it may come as a surprise, but other than cooking, checking recipes, exploring restaurants, watching cookery videos and reading food-related articles, I've got other hobbies too.  I like sudokus, jigsaw puzzles, bananagrams, Rubik's cubes and things to do with psychology.  But now I've got a new interest - metal detecting. 
Let me take you to the night where I made this Shepherd's Pie.

My dear friend, Nina, invited me over to her house for dinner with her friend, her husband and her son.  Ok, not related, but look at how cute her son is?  That's Miles with his finger dipped in chia seeds.  He's going to be a strong healthy boy.  Forget crackers and peanut butter jelly sandwiches, this kid has chia seed puddings as his snacks.  Cute little Miles.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Breakfast Lentil Porridge with Apples and Lime

So about every two months I go vegan for one to two weeks.  It's like my inner guilty Italian catholic forces regular lent upon me.  Some people think it's to lose weight, but really, I just sort of overload on carbs most of the time.  When we're at a pub and people order cheesy nachos and burgers, what can I eat?  Chips.  Crisps.  Maybe a burger bun.  It's not too healthy really.  It really is more of a discipline thing as usually I just devour anything in front of me, now I only devour it if it's vegan.  I've been eating a lot of plain bread and rice.
I like to eat eggs and porridge for breakfast, and as I cannot have the former, ran out of the latter and have a bag of red split lentils to use up before I leave Edinburgh next week -- lentils for breakfast seemed logical.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Zingy Butternut Squash

I've missed eating homecooked meals.  I hadn't in a long time as I had been working two jobs in Edinburgh.  I was hostessing at restaurant A and I was waitressing at restaurant B, both jobs were making me slightly miserable (perhaps A more so than B), but they were both just to get some money and last Saturday I was fired from both.  So now I have all the time in the world to cook for myself.   Look at how beautiful this butternut squash dish is.  It's got all these wonderful things like spring onions and lime and ginger and just look at the colors.  I really can only describe it as full of "zing". It's like a more summery/springy take on this winter root veg.
*Sigh*.  Ok, here's how I actually got fired from both jobs because it's quite entertaining.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

How to Make Your Greens Taste Good

One should always be cautious with school cafeteria foods.  I can still see the horrid scene of steaming piles of mush in metal trays and thinking that I should just eat the side vegetables, the vegetables should be fine.  See, it's easy to screw up a moussaka or pasta (oh the sight of the pasta was heartbreaking -- flaccid pieces of penne stuck together and drowning in a pool of "cheese sauce"),  so, I thought, okay, let's stick to the vegetables, and I got a plate of broccoli and peas and I had no idea you could screw up simple vegetables. They were of that lifeless dark green, tossed in some cheap butter, unsalted and just..cooked to a soft mush. Urgh, I've used the word "mush" twice already and it's never good to describe food as "mush".  But it was.  And I was there, struggling to finish this bland mush, thinking to myself, how the f*ck do you screw up vegetables?

How the f*ck do you expect your country to eat their 5-a-days if people are only exposed to such ways of eating vegetables?  I had always found it mind-boggling why people kept advertising these smoothie recipes with "hidden" greens because you wouldn't taste them.  What the f*ck?  I love spinach, why would I want it somewhere where it can't be tasted?   And then it all made sense to me as I stared at my pile of mush - I wouldn't like my greens either if people cooked the life out of them and didn't season them. Broccoli, spinach, kale, green beans, brussels sprouts, chard can all be delicious and now I will teach you how not to screw them up (you are welcome, NHS).

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Table for one, please.

Yes, I'm that person that goes to restaurants by herself.  It's a treat for me.  I'm also that person that goes to one coffee/lunch/dinner/drinks date after another, trying to fit in as many social functions into my diary as possible, with a smile glued on my face, ready to be engaged, ask questions, listen and chat away and all the mean time keeping up with social media, replying to texts and Facebook and Whatsapp messages and...yea.  I actually love being alone sometimes where it's just me and my thoughts.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Cucumber & Avocado Salad

I'm not a fan of those standard green salads with lettuce, spinach, watercress, rocket and other raw leaves.  My friend Aiden sometimes buys a bag of washed salad and just eats it like that. Unseasoned, cold, bland leaves.  What kind of a snack is that? That's no way of getting your five-a-day.  I prefer cooked vegetables.  I love steamed green beans, sauteed spinach, baked broccoli, braised kale and that is how I get my greens in.   I don't like raw leafy salads.
I remember when I went on my raw challenge and I just ate stupid leaves for three days.  It was a bad experience, I ended up hating everyone and everything.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Vegetables in Desserts

Before you grimace in disgust, think - you've got carrot cake, you've got courgette cake, you've got beet cake (at least these are all quite common to me).  Now open up more doors, there are no boundaries.  Why should some ingredients remain in savory dishes?  Why must we be so close-minded?  After a thorough brainstorm and online research, I present to you a couple of ingredients that feature themselves in a perhaps rather odd context.  These recipes are not tested, I merely chose them for you as inspiration and if you would like to try them out, be my guest, but if they turn out to be disastrous, I am not responsible for your waste of time and ingredients. 

There is no controversy, we all know that it is actually a fruit and it's time to just treat it as what it is.  My Chinese mother used to make this sweet snack for me --- she chopped up those big beef tomatoes and tossed them with sugar and it was the most refreshing dessert for a hot summer day.  See, you can kind of see how it'd work right?  It's naturally sweet and so obviously there's a place for it in desserts.

Tomato Tarte Tatin from In Sweet Treatment
Tomato, Olive oil and Cinnamon cake from Love Food Eat

Friday, 8 August 2014

Favorite Basil Recipes

I always associate basil with summer.  I grew up in China but every summer my family would go back to Italy, and so I link all Italian produce like basil and cheese and san marzano tomatoes to those summers.  Back then you couldn't get anything remotely "Western" in China.  Forget basil, forget cheese, any kind of cheese.  Maybe you could get a hold of Philidelphia cream cheese if you managed to find some "gourmet" imported goods deli in the embassy area.  Even now, it's funny, it's still bad, so bad that you get these cheese delis where they have Philidelphia cream cheese there next to the parmesan.  Bless the Chinese. 

But I digress and should focus on the basil.  Shredded on a plate of bright red spaghetti, scattered on top of pizzas or pounded with parmesan, pine nuts and olive oil to make a luscious sauce -- basil has a strong role in Italian classics.  But I want you to open your mind and think about basil in another context.   Here are some more.. adventurous recipes.

Instead of chopped chives in your bold potato salad, why not try basil, like in this recipe from The Kitchin. 

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Cauliflower and Caraway Soup

Today I had a sandwich with rye and caraway seed bread and my god, unexpectedly, I rekindled my relationship with caraway seeds.
Surprisingly, caraway seeds were perfect with the egg salad filling.  Let's be honest, egg salad can be a bit boring without some herbs or spices. I had always just paired it with chopped chives, but caraway seeds are waay better than chives as a match for the humble and plain egg salad.

So I spent most of the day thinking about what I should make with caraway seeds.  And as I'm currently in Scotland, a place that never quite understands what "summer" entails, a warming soup was what I was craving for. 

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Sea Bass en Papillote with Fennel

Fish en papillote is simply done by enclosing the fish in a parchment paper packet and baking it in the oven so essentially the fish steams in its own wonderfulness.  I was looking for its recipes and I noted that most say to cut the parchment paper into a heart shape and putting the fish on one half of the heart and the other half goes over it.  I just thought that was brilliant -- best date dish ever.  Next time you want to show your significant other that you care -- forget about chocolates, champagne and other cliched aphrodisiacs -- it's time for fish en papillote. Set the scene: soft instrumental music, dim lighting, table set up, your stunning woman/man sitting opposite you sipping wine and nibbling on the delicious antipasti you put out.  Then she/he opens up this parcel to reveal the heart with a beautiful piece of fish in the middle.  Oh my god, you can even enclose a ring in it!  That's the best way to propose.  Putting it in cakes/drinks risks choking to death.  Have it right there on top of the fish in the middle of the parchment paper heart.  Although it'd probably smell quite fish and you risk scalding their finger.
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