Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Matcha, Ginger & Sesame Granola

So many green recipes lately - and it's all right after St Patrick's Day.  Oh well, I'll remind everyone of these next year.  I woke up early this morning to make these so that I could take a photo them while there was still natural light.  That's what I've been having to do in the winter and in the deep dark days of January it meant that I could only take photos in my lunch break #lifeinBritain.  However,  to my surprise, I got home at 7pm today and it was still bright out.  Okay, "bright" is a strong word but there was still light.  It's still cold, and it was windy as f*ch today BUT all is looking up because it's brighter. 

Monday, 30 March 2015

Stir-Fried Okra with Oyster & Fish Sauce

You know what oyster sauce actually is? "True" oyster sauce is made by boiling oysters in water and then reducing that liquid down to pretty much a caramel -- nothing else is added.  But most of the oyster sauce you find is probably just made with oyster extract, cornstarch, salt and caramel.  You probably already know about fish sauce - simply fish and salt left to ferment under the sun for months and months until the fish rots and breaks down creating a liquid that is then filtered and seasoned.  Yum. 

Vietnamese fish sauce has long been a staple in my cupboard but I only bought my first bottle of oyster sauce a few weeks ago - I know, and I'm Chinese.  I was looking for gochujang at my local Asian supermarket and you know when you go grocery shopping with a specific dish in mind?  I wanted to use gochujang to roast some squash and then top it up with lots of fresh herbs and toasted pumpkin seeds.  To my disappointment, however,  the supermarket wasn't very well stocked in Korean products.  I lingered at the sauces aisle for a good ten minutes, trying to figure out what else I could use to roast my vegetables until I was suddenly interrupted by the store manager. "Do you need help?"  I must've looked so confused, looking like a poor foreigner in the midst of all these Asian products and words.  "Oh no, no, thank you, I was just looking for my favorite..oyster sauce and here it is." I wanted to be proud and Asian and that's how I ended up with my first bottle of oyster sauce.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Tofu with Porcini Mushroom Jus

"A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life."

These are the wise words from Coco Chanel and on Sunday morning I just had the urge to cut my hair.  I had had long hair for the past 7 years but new look, new attitude, new life.  I found a hairdresser that took walk-in appointments and in thirty minutes I came out as a changed woman. And I felt better.  Changes, no matter how insignificant, from a haircut to a piercing to a tattoo -- somehow signify something so much bigger. 

And since I felt better, I came home and I cooked.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Matcha & Dark Chocolate Chocolate Granola Bars

Mail makes me happy.  It doesn't have to be from friends, as long as it's addressed to me, those letters in the post will put a smile on my face.  That's why I subscribe to so many things and that's why I like ordering things online too just so I can have them delivered. 

A few weeks ago though I received the loveliest little surprise -- a tin of matcha powder and a tin of Himalayan salt with truffles.  It was one of those preciously rare occasions where I get mail from my friends and I could not have wished for better things to discover at my door step.  Thank you, Grace <3
Speaking of mail, I just ordered yet another set of earphones on Amazon (love Prime, free next day deliveries are life-changing).  I've gone through 5 sets of earphones since September because they keep on breaking or disappearing and for the past week I've been walking around with those big massive headphones like an obnoxious teenager because that's all I have.  They act as earmuffs too though which is quite nice.  

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Mattar Tofu

I'm so envious of people who can just wing it when it comes to spices.  With spices, especially in Indian cooking, I need to follow the recipe like a robot. I'm scared of making adjustments, because I'd mess up the harmonious balance of flavors.  Indian cooking's difficult and I'd argue that it's one of the most difficult cuisines to cook.  Using 7 different spices in a dish and creating the perfect symphony of flavors where all of them sing individually and together is a skill I yearn to have.  I have a very well stocked cupboard with all the lovely spices but I'm just lazy to cook Indian food because I hate following recipes so strictly.  Well, we all have to start somewhere.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Mushroom and Ricotta Toast

I love bread.  Bruschettas, crostinis, sandwiches -- just anything involving things on bread I love.

I had a dream.  I dreamed of opening up a crostini bar --  an aperitif bar where people can order sweet and savory crostinis with a drink.  It would have an excellent wine list and a series of different crostinis and simple bar snacks like spiced nuts and crackers made in house.  I would have the best bread and cheese suppliers to create tasty and imaginative toast and toppings.  I think that dream died somewhere along with my friend last month.  He was the best foodie who knew all the ins and outs and the whos and whats of the London food scene.  He was going to be my consultant, my guinea pig and my supporter.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Double Chocolate and Ginger Scones

Sunday morning, while the rest of London was hungover and asleep, I baked scones.  I first woke up at 6:20, and through my skylight it was just a lifeless gray so I hid back under the covers, shut my eyes and waited for the time to pass and the sun to come out.  Twenty minutes later, I woke up to the rain splattering against the window.  Mid-March and it's still winter here in the UK but despite the depressing climate, I love this place.  And as I stared out my skylight and thought about all the wonderful British things, I decided to get up and make some scones.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

The Queensbury Kitchen (London)

Located all the way out in Willesden Green, the Queensbury Kitchen claims to bring something different to the local area.  Perhaps.  It's a straightforward bar and grill serving the expected ribs, burgers and fried chicken, but I rarely venture out to Willesden Green, I wouldn't know.  That said, it does what it does well.

It's friendly and social as it's one of those food-sharing restaurants.  Not the ones serving dainty little small plates but ones with large platters and wooden planks of meat and sliders placed in the middle of long communal tables.  It's what you want for that kind of food, where you're not afraid to reach over the table and eat with your hands and shamelessly lick your fingers.  For rich fatty ribs - which are actually worth the trip to Willesden Green - it came big and bold in two racks, and were sweet and smokey and falling apart at the touch of your fork; for the fried chicken wings - spicy, juicy, crispy and so good that you're there picking off the remaining fried crumbs scattered at the bottom; for the sliders - both meat and vegetarian, served in cute traditional American burger buns.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Ethos (London)

It's hard to get vegetarian restaurants right and it's hard to get buffets right.  It's difficult to develop a vegetarian concept that can also draw in the carnivores and it's incredibly limiting in terms of the food you can prepare as they need to be served on a warming plate for 30 minutes before people eat it.  However, Ethos, a vegetarian buffet restaurant, has made a good effort.

It's not the standard falafels and roasted potatoes (though you get that too), but rather dozens of dishes ranging from rainbow salads to aloo scotch eggs to vegan Shepherd's pie to seitan ribs.  You grab a plate, take what you want, and then you pay at the counter by the weight.  Simple.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Salmon & Beetroot on Toast

There are those lessons you should've learned as a child.  You know, those annoying little things that your parents repeatedly told you - don't talk to strangers, look both ways when you cross the road, tie your shoe laces - things that should've been engrained in you, especially the last one.  So here's a fun little anecdote completely irrelevant to this recipe:  I was walking about in Camden Town and I saw from afar that the traffic light was about to turn red at the zebra crossing ahead of me.  I therefore picked up my pace and planned on sprinting to the end.  That was the plan.  However, just as I started running, just after a couple of steps, I trip on my shoe laces and fall right in the middle of the pavement.  In public.  In a rather busy Camden Town.  It all happened very quick, I fell and the first reaction was to pick myself back up and resume to normal activities, pretend nothing has happened, avoid the embarrassment, just pretend nothing has happened.  Only when you're up and walking does the pain kick in.  It was a Sunday morning and I had to walk in the city with my head held high, with ripped tights and bleeding kneecaps for a good twenty minutes before I finally managed to find a Boots that was open.  Yea but the embarrassment was the main thing.  I tried but I couldn't pull it off as a fashion statement.  If you don't know me, just know that ripped tights aren't my thing.  Especially not ripped tights and blood. 
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