Thursday, December 5, 2013

hong kong bumps into moscow

In a city I'd never made it to before a couple of weeks ago, Moscow; there are some utterly brilliant people, the most amazing sights and some of the most wonderful magical ingredients still to be properly discovered outside the region. Among the fantastically shaped bottles, jars and sachets which I'm now lucky to have at home, is a great big bottle of tkemali. 

Tkemali is the name of the wild sour plum which gives the sauce its name, and I'm to believe is Georgian in origin. It's a ketchup like condiment, and has everything going on from pungently tangy to tart, sweet and sour, but above all else, its insanely addictive now I've opened my bottle.

Fried rice pops up at home an awful lot, and every time it comes out just that little bit differently, I guess the nature of what's at home and kicking about in the fridge will always dictate as such. This time of the year it has to be glutinous rice though, makes the whole thing more sticky and warming, perfect as winter begins to take shape (21°c and blue skies here today)

fried rice, bbq pork, tkemali

For the glutinous fried rice

Serves 4

500g glutinous rice, soaked overnight
50g dried shrimps, soaked and cleaned
50g shredded dried cuttlefish, cleaned
3 Chinese dried sausages, sliced
8 large mushrooms cut into cubes
1 bunch of spring onions, chopped
4 tblsp garlic oil
2 egg omelette, shredded
25g fried peanuts

1tbsp dark soya sauce
1tbsp oyster sauce
2tsp salt

Clean and drain the soaked glutinous rice and steam for about 35-45 minutes. Sprinkle water into the steamed rice every 15 mins and continue steaming. Fluff up the rice after 25 minutes and continue sprinkling water till the rice is soft. You can pinch some rice and try if it's soft enough, if not, just continue to steam.

Remove from steamer and set aside. In a wok, pour in the garlic oil, then put in the dried shrimps and dried cuttlefish and fry them till aromatic, add the mushrooms, Chinese sausages and sauté for several minutes on a medium heat.

Now add in the steamed glutinous rice and seasonings and keep frying till everything is well mixed with the seasonings.

Taste and add more salt if necessary. Toss in the chopped spring onions, shredded omelette and fried peanuts to finish.

Serve with the barbecued pork, and a heavy handed hit of tkemali and your work for the night is now complete.

Friday, November 1, 2013

top rumps

The perfect steak
The small matter of cooking the perfect steak
This is something that sits conveniently alongside being able to dig a good hole in the ground, fixing a proper martini and making a decent fire
We’ve kind of got 5 categories to look after here; The meat, the preparation, cooking with fire, allowing some rest time and serving it up.
Easier said than done, but as basics go, finding you a great bit of meat is the only way to begin this journey. Whichever cut you have a fancy for, and I’m a top rump kind of person make sure you look for a really nice marbling of fat throughout the meat.
The fat really is all important to enjoying a good steak. The flavour, basting and juice all comes from the fat. Something that’s ideally been hung for at least a couple of weeks is a bonus too, and if this steak thing is a once every now and again treat, then the time taken here is well worth it. Dark red meat and yellowing fat is the guide here and anything close to that will help with the end results no end.
I was always taught not to season too early, and more and more recently I hear of the desire to season after cooking is the way to go. I like to season it, and season it well and early. Massage your meat with good olive oil and then season with plenty of flaky salt and very coarsely ground black pepper.
Get a good heavy frying pan really hot and sear any fatty edge first until a bit of a crust has formed. Now that the pan is hot, but not so hot the red meat will burn rather than sear, get the steak into the hot oil and give it a good seeing to. Anything a couple of centimetres thick can be left for two to three minutes before needing a turn, and only turn at this point. Fiddling about at this stage will only drop the pan temperature and lead to excessive juices making their way out and a boiled steak which isn’t cool.
Another three minutes or so on the B side and good overall golden brown caramelisation and the pan work is complete.
The most important thing, and almost always overlooked, is the resting period. When the steak looks ready, smells ready and you think its ready; you’re almost always ten minutes ahead of yourself.
Leave your meat in a warm place for that nail biting 10 minute stretch and allow all that insane heat which has tightened up all the fibres in the steak settle down and relax. This time spent also allows the juices to start eeking out, the meat to continue cooking ever so gently and the evenness of cooking ripple all the way through the meat. If fancy is needed, dress it up a little. If not, the least you deserve are a few chips.
Top rumps
Serves 2
2 x 200g top rump steaks
Olive oil
for the house made mustard
Makes about 230g
90g mustard seeds
110g mustard powder
45ml vinegar (cider, white wine or sherry)
100ml white wine
2 tsp salt
Grind the whole mustard seeds for a few seconds in a spice or coffee grinder, or by hand with a mortar and pestle. You want them mostly whole because you are using mustard powder, too.
Pour the semi-ground seeds into a bowl and add the salt and mustard powder. If using, add one of the optional ingredients, too. Pour in the vinegar and wine, then stir well. When everything is incorporated, pour into a glass jar and store in the fridge. Wait at least 12 hours before using. Mustard made this way will last several months in the fridge.
Rub your steak all over with olive oil, not too much; just enough to give it a good gloss, then the salt and grind a little black pepper over both sides. Get the grill pan hot, then slap on the steak and press it down onto the ridges with a metal spatula. Let it cook for two to three full minutes. Do not move it.
Now turn it over (long metal tongs are useful here), press it down again, and let it cook for a further two to three minutes. The best way to tell if your steak is done is to press it with your finger.
Timing is a hopelessly inaccurate measure because so much depends on how your meat has been hung and butchered. The best—by which I mean the juiciest—results will come from a steak where your finger has left a slight indentation. Until you get to know the “feel” of your steaks you may have to make a small cut into them, but you will lose juice this way. If you want a well-done steak, with no blood in it, then I can’t help you. Well, I could but I won’t.
Incidentally, I sometimes pour a little wine onto the grill pan after removing the steak and let it bubble, then pour the meagre, intensely beefy juices over my steak. Serve with chips, creamed spinach, onion rings and the mustard

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

typically, yet another pumpkin soup recipe

We might be a month or two late on this in some parts of the world, but where I am, we're only just sleeping at night without the air con blasting and instead enjoying open windows and a cooling breeze to fall asleep with. The last of the summer's corn and green beans meet the first of the autumn squashes and pumpkins here. If I am a little late in the day, save this thought for about 10 months form now, otherwise, all year round supermarkets are great places these days. This particular soup is in kind inspired by the delightful Chilean dish porotos granados, but a pumpkin soup is a pumpkin soup at the end of the day isn't it?
Pumpkin, sweetcorn and bean soup
Serves 4 with the windows open, 6 it they're shut

2 tblsp rapeseed or olive oil
1 onion, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp sweet, smoked paprika
2 tblsp chopped oregano (or marjoram)
100g small dried beans (pinto or cannellini), soaked overnight, or a 400g tin of beans, drained and rinsed
1 litre vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
750g squash or pumpkin, peeled, deseeded and cut into 2cm chunks
200g green beans, trimmed and cut into 2cm pieces
Kernels cut from 2 corn cobs
Sea salt and ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and sauté for 10 minutes. Add the paprika and a tablespoon of the oregano. Cook for a minute more.
The dried beans version
Drain the beans and add to the pan with the stock and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 45 minutes, or until the beans are completely tender (cooking times for dried beans vary; this may take over an hour). Add the squash, stir and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the squash is just tender, add the green beans and corn kernels, and simmer for five minutes more.
The tinned beans version
Add the drained, rinsed beans, stock and bay leaf at the same time as the squash, and simmer until the squash is just tender, around 10-15 minutes. Add the green beans and corn, and simmer for a few minutes more.
To finish both versions, season generously, stir in the remaining oregano, leave to settle for a couple of minutes and serve.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

dragon fruit; no

How to ruin a perfectly good fruit salad
Step 1; Cut up some wonderful seasonal fruit
Step 2; Add dragon fruit
Hey Bingo; You’re done

Words cannot do justice to how deeply I mistrust the dragon fruit. I will give this a go, but do bear in mind every time I even have to type 'dragon fruit' a little bit of me dies inside, and I need to go have a lie down.

A more pointless waste of space on the fruit laden tables of the market I've yet to witness. Give me the heady aromas of a durian over this piece of scentless nonsense and you'll see how desperate a situation we have found ourselves in here. I'll even take a slice of almost equally pointless star fruit before engaging in a lump of this nonsense.

I've taken to a declaration of me being highly allergic to the fruit now, to the point where, if challenged, I will claim to carry a little medical pack not unlike an insulin survival kit. Only my syringe and small penfill vial is charged with orange juice or coconut water or just anything far more palatable for that matter.

Papaya and avocado salad

Vinaigrette for 12 salads
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup water
Large pinch salt
2 tsp red pepper flakes
½ cup lemon juice
½ cup rapeseed oil

Mix sugar, water and salt for five minutes. Add pepper flakes and lemon juice.  Add oil, and check for taste, it may need more lemon juice and salt

For each salad
large avocado cut into large chunks or slices
¾ cup ripe papaya chunks or slices
2 tblsp shredded basil
2 tblsp shredded mint
1 cup greens, tatsoi and mizuna
Little salt and pepper

Toss the greens with a little salt and pepper and a good splash of vinaigrette.  Place on a plate. Toss the avocado, papaya, both herbs with the rest of the vinaigrette. Scatter the fruit on top of the greens.

If the fruits are too ripe do not dress them but place them on top of the dressed greens and drizzle vinaigrette on them.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

shaukeiwan market and some fu yung

Living a stone's throw from Bowrington Road market, I'm quite spoiled really when it comes to my local food shopping. Jam-packed with the full collection fish, meat, bbq, fruit and vegetables; there's little need to venture any further for what's best on offer in my neighbourhood.
Though I can find pretty much anything you’re looking for here, with the main attraction being the seafood, I do love a trip east to Shaukeiwan for a different look and feel.
Not quite on the way home in the evening (Bowrington Road is the place to pick up a cheeky late evening char siu fan) but easily worth the trek if nothing else but to top up the fruit bowl and vegetable drawer.
Absolutely essential for a dose of the real Hong Kong; Skip the supermarket and hit up the wet market. You'll save a ton of money on food while getting the best quality meat and produce the city has to offer.
Fu yung with market vegetables
Serves 2
As I understand it, Fu Yung means 'pretty face' in Chinese; it is a sort of scrambled egg omelette. You can also add cooked meats or prawns or toasted nuts to this dish, but don't be greedy and add too much or there won't be enough egg to bind with the other ingredients.
2 tsp olive oil

1 spring onion, finely sliced
50g carrots, cut into 2.5 cm strips
125g fresh beansprouts
50g Chinese flowering chives, cut into 2.5cm lengths
pinch of coarse sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 eggs, lightly beaten
Heat the oil in a nonstick pan over a high heat, until piping hot, swirling the oil around the pan. Add the spring onion and carrots and stir-fry for a few seconds.
Toss in the beansprouts, Chinese chives, salt and pepper and stir. Pour in the eggs and scramble them with the vegetables over a medium to high heat.
As the eggs start to set, fold the fu yung over in the middle, move it back into the centre of the pan and continue cooking over a medium to high heat for two minutes. Serve immediately.

Monday, September 23, 2013

crispy chicken strips, what's not to love

The best thing ever when it comes to fried chicken is its crispy crust and the countless additions you can add to this in order to achieve ultimate savoury variety. The other bit is the fat, and how we normally crank up a pan of vegetable oil for a job like this. Instead, try the oil butter combination as follows for that extra lift of flavour, well worth doing. Seasoning at the end is crucial too, salt being the essential norm, but a quick flash of lemon juice immediately before devouring adds a little something special.
Zaatar crusted chicken strips
Serves 4

400g chicken strips
seasoned flour (with a good pinch each of zaatar, celery salt, cayenne pepper, paprika and white pepper)
2 small eggs, beaten
100g butter
50ml pure olive oil
Roll the chicken in the flour and shake off any excess. Coat thoroughly with the egg and lay on a cooling rack for a minute or so. Dip again into the flour and once more into the beaten egg. Return to the rack and finally dip into the flour. Set aside on the rack until ready to cook. This seemingly excessive dipping and flouring will provide a really good crust, however messy it sounds.
Using a shallow pan, melt together the butter and olive oil on a medium heat until the fat starts to crackle and fizzle - drop in a small piece of bread, and if it sizzles and browns nicely, the temperature should be about fine.
Slide the chicken into the pan and gently shallow-fry (the depth should be no more than 2-3cm) for 3-5 minutes, turning halfway through, until golden brown and crusted all over. Remove from the pan and lay on a double fold of kitchen paper. Sprinkle with salt and a squeeze of lemon and serve without delay.
So long as the temperature of the frying oil and butter mixture doesn't get to the point where it burns, you might like to strain the fat into a small bowl and keep in the fridge for further finger licking frying moments.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

more prawns, in a warming sukiyaki kind of a way

Sukiyaki, traditionally being a Japanese winter time soup like stew served hot pot style, gets a Hong Kong Typhoon Sunday makeover with the fast approaching Severe Typhoon Usagi well on her way. Again, mucking around with a bit of tradition, we'd normally expect to see thinly sliced beef slowly cooked or simmered at the table, with the vegetables in a rich mixture of soy sauce, sugar, and mirin. But prawns are all the rage this week, and adaptation is just the thing right now.

The thing is, noodles do on the odd occasion play a part in a sukiyaki, much to my relief, but the tendency to dunk the ingredients in raw beaten egg is there for the traditionalists, your call on that one really.

Prawn sukiyaki

Serves 4

1 litre fresh chicken stock
2 tblsp hoisin sauce
2 tblsp oyster sauce
1 tblsp fish sauce
1 x 10g sachet instant miso soup
2" ginger, peeled and finely sliced
200g rice noodles
100g enoki mushrooms
1 green chilli de-seeded and finely chopped
300g peeled, raw king prawns
200g asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2" pieces
100g mange tout or snap peas, shredded
200g beansprouts

For the garnish
1 tsp sesame oil
4 spring onions, shredded
Small bunch coriander
1 lime, cut into 4 wedges

Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a large pan along with the hoisin, oyster, fish sauce, miso and ginger. Simmer uncovered for 5 minutes.

Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions.

Add the mushrooms and chilli to the broth and continue to simmer for 3 minutes, add the prawns, asparagus and mange tout and simmer for a further 3 minutes. Finally heat through the beansprouts for 1 minute before serving.

Divide the noodles between four large deep bowls and spoon over the soup (making sure that everybody gets an equal amount prawns and vegetables).

Divide the sesame oil between the bowls, scatter over the spring onions and coriander leaves and serve with a wedge of lime.

Friday, September 20, 2013

fried rice in prawns, no egg no pork shocker

Go to, dead easy, pick up the ingredients on the way home from the market for next to nothing, delicious and pretty healthy to boot. This fried rice recipe is an easy knock up at home version of ubiquitous staple, always a very popular dish. This one doesn't include eggs or pork on purpose; instead its all about the prawns and vegetables.

Prawn fried rice

Serves 4 with plenty other dishes. Or on its own. You do what you want.

1 tblsp olive oil
500g fresh prawns, peeled and de-veined
50g shiitake or button mushrooms, halved
1 courgette, thinly sliced
1 small carrot, thinly sliced
50g green beans, cut into 2.5cm pieces

a handful of corn kernels
500g hot steamed rice
2 tsp shoyu sauce
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 spring onion, thinly sliced, to serve

Heat the oil in a wok or a big non stick sauté pan and stir-fry the prawns for barely a minute over a high heat.

Remove and set aside. Add the mushrooms, courgette, carrot, green beans and corn and stir-fry for a couple of minutes. Stir in the hot rice and shoyu sauce, season with pepper and mix thoroughly.

Return the prawns to the pan and stir-fry the rice mixture for a couple of minutes. Serve sprinkled with the spring onions.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

the home style chicken curry

You can't really go wrong cooking this curry unless you leave the pot on the stove and go on off to Sri Lanka on holiday expecting to be ticking away nicely upon return. I've found this always best with pieces of thigh meat, still on the bone; if it has to be boneless, again thigh meat will yield better results. Adding the ginger toward the end is a sweet and unique step that does nothing less than to enhance the flavour. I have cooked variations of this this recipe a thousand times - and it just keeps getting better. I brought back some incredible garam masala from my latest visit to the Indian Ocean, with 22 different spices, and most of them still whole. This mixture crushed just before use releases the most incredible headspace of aromas and flavours; something similar is well worth seeking out where possible.
Home style chicken curry

Serves 4
3 tsp vegetable oil
1 bay leaf
4 green cardamom, 2.5cm cinnamon stick, 10-12 black peppercorns, 1 tsp cumin seeds and 2 cloves all pounded together with a pestle and mortar
250g onions, finely sliced
½ tsp garlic, minced to a paste
½ tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp coriander powder
½ tsp turmeric powder
salt to taste
100g tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 tsp tomato paste
600g chicken, cut into 2.5cm chunks
½ tsp garam masala
2 tsp coriander leaves, chopped
1 tsp ginger, finely chopped
Heat the oil in a pan, add the bay leaf and pounded spices, and stir until the spices crackle and they change colour. Add the onions and sauté until golden brown, then add the garlic paste. Stir continuously and keep scraping the bottom of the pan to avoid the mix getting burnt.
Add the powdered spices, but not the garam masala. Mix quickly without letting the spices get burnt at the bottom.
Add salt, the tomatoes and the paste and cook on slow heat, stirring slowly. As the tomatoes melt to form a sauce, add the chicken and cook on a slow heat for 20-25 minutes until the chicken is almost cooked.
Sprinkle on the garam masala and simmer to finish cooking. Add coriander and sprinkle over ginger.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

daal in the lanka

Every time I attempt to make this incredibly simple and fragrant Sri Lankan dish, I make it ever so slightly differently. Not because I'm in the pursuit of fancy, it just happens like that. Every time Nalaka makes it, it's exactly the same, which is brilliant. Sometimes I put ground chilli in, sometimes green and red chillies. Occasionally some crispy fried garlic shavings, maybe some mint and coriander too. Great with rice, great as a replacement to rice, great on its own, better the way he does it.

Daal, the way Nalaka makes it, I think

Serves 2

200g yellow split peas
1 small onion
6 garlic cloves
2 small, hot green chillies
2 tsp cinnamon bits
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp curry powder
salt and black pepper
12 curry leaves
1 rampa leaf (pandan)
200ml thin coconut milk
200ml thick coconut milk
Rinse the split peas in cold water. Peel and finely slice the onion. Peel and cut the garlic in half, chop the chillies into little strips.

Put the peas, onion, chilli, garlic, cinnamon, turmeric, curry powder, leaves, salt and black pepper in with the peas and cover with the thin coconut milk. Bring to the boil, cover with a lid then simmer for 15-20 minutes until the pulses are softening.
To finish, add the thicker coconut milk and bring back to a faster simmer with the lid off, cooking until all the milk has absorbed.
You can always peel and finely slice more garlic, cook till golden and lightly crisp in a shallow pan with oil, then stir into the daal with a handful of chopped coriander leaves. Nalaka doesn't, so there we have it.

Monday, August 26, 2013

kottu roti, or is it kothu, or koththu?

There's this quite particular Sri Lankan roti called Godhamba roti and it's this all chopped up and griddled off on a flat top with vegetables, egg, plenty spices and the option of bony meat or not that has to be the thing of the moment this week.
Found in roadside glass fronted shops the island wide, and something that really only kicks in after about 5.30 in the evening, it really is the simplest things that give the most pleasure.
The clanging of metal choppers against each other on the heated plate each evening as the kottu are being chopped and heated together is quickly becoming the dinner gong of the moment. Love it here.

Monday, August 12, 2013

mackerel season and the oily fish right thing to do

What's not to love about doing a spot of fishing for the likes of seabass? Of course its a top fish we all want, a prize catch if ever there was. Undoubtedly though, if bass is the target, the likelihood of hitting a run of mackerel at this time of the year scores pretty high, so being prepared for it will always come in quite handy. The way things are going out there on the high seas also brings to mind the fact that little oily wonders in the shape of mackerel should really be in our baskets, on our plates and in our bellies when they're coming out the water in relative abundance. Dead healthy, really quick to prepare, even quicker to cook. What's not to love about a fresh mackerel indeed?
Seared mackerel fillet with red onion marmalade
Serves 4

4 mackerel fillets, about 100g each
Olive oil, for brushing the fish
1 lime
Small bunch of chives, to garnish
For the onion marmalade
50g salted butter
Splash of olive oil
4 red onions, finely sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
150ml sherry vinegar
25g dark soft brown sugar
50g pomegranate seeds
To make the onion marmalade, melt the butter with the olive oil in a saucepan and add the onions together with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Cook over a medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until well softened, being careful not to allow the onions to burn or colour too much.
Add the vinegar, sugar, and pomegranate, bring to the boil, reduce the heat and then simmer gently for about 30 minutes, uncovered, or until the marmalade comes together as a mass. Turn out into a dish and keep warm at the side of the hob.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. Heat an ovenproof frying pan to very hot, brush the mackerel fillets on both sides with a little olive oil and lay in the pan, skin-side down. After 3 minutes, sprinkle the flesh side of the fillets with a little salt and pepper and transfer the pan to the oven for 2–3 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, until cooked through.
Cut the lime in half and then cut four thin slices from the middle. Make a slit in each slice from the centre to the outside edge and give each a half twist. Finely pare the zest from the remaining lime.
Place one mackerel fillet onto each serving plate, squeeze the lime juice over and sprinkle with a little of the zest. Place a spoonful of the onion marmalade alongside and garnish with 2 or 3 chives and a twist of lime