Friday, 1 November 2013

lemon and thyme madeleines

Kitchen time has dwindled to a null. I'm really not sure what I've been so busy waffling away my time with. Procrastination has become a habit it seems.

But I haven't been completely idle. Today and tomorrow would see me undertaking my greatest canape provision to date and I have been spending many a thoughtful hour poring over the budget and the recipes. Also Comic Con (London) was held last weekend.

Activities involving such abundance of people tend to be trying experiences for me, and this was no exception. I am a little particular when it comes to personal space. While ideally, I like keeping unknown persons a waving armlength away, this definitely wasn't the case at Comic Con where we were jostled and herded together like good beef.

Furthermore, it is not just physical proximity that is an issue. Another vastly important consideration is the distressing reality of 'bodily profusions.' Basically, the point at which the separation between myself and another being is within the detectable radius of that being's bodily whiffs, is the point beyond toleration. I am sure most people share these sentiments. Normally, this is when we all start edging away from the sphere of smell. However at Comic Con, not only was I well and truly deep within that choking bubble, I was actually being mashed against the source itself. Icks.

But, the bounty justified the traumas. My main sources of joy are: a beautiful artbook (Niea_7) at a bargain price, and also two Japanese Cell-ga: original animation sketches complete with annotations and colour codes.

Another cause for happiness, but on a completely different note, is that this very day I embark my eighth year in the lovely company of my boyfriend. I thank the Lord for each and every precious moment past and to come.

I would like this say I made these madeleines for my special boy, but no. Yesterday was not wasted on solitary pursuits, even if for the other, but was spent together, idling about the British Museum, sipping a delightful tea and nibbling (gorging would be the more appropriate verb) all manner of edibles. Rather, I made these a while back. The madeliene recipe we learnt at LCB uses the melted butter method. So, I infused the melted butter with a few sprigs of thyme, and low and behold, produced my lemon and thyme madeleines. Don't be too enthusiastic with the thyme- it can be overpowering and a sprig or two would more than suffice.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

seaweed salad

Seaweed salad? Quite a bizarre addition given the sugary trend of this blog (last post's buta no kakuni was another exception). However, the savouries may really make an appearance now that I'm to concoct some canapes for an event. But for now, here is a recipe for seaweed salad.

I say recipe but really, like all salad dressing, it is all about personal preference. This suits me as a nice dressing base but twist it how you like- add chilli flakes, a little wasabi and so forth. Unlike leafy salads, seaweed salads quite like being dressed ahead of time so they can marinate a little. I used two different seaweeds here: wakame and shredded kelp or kombu.

For the people who have long been searching for the elusive seaweed forming the main component of the chuka salad, this is it: shredded kombu stems. I found this in the frozen section of the oriental supermarket in Kingston. As the pack instructs, it really needs a good long soak and rinse to get rid of the saltiness. Following that is the painstaking task of tearing the stems along the fibre to get them into strand.

The next addition to my salad is white fungus, (tremella fuciformis). At home, we call it, pronunciation wise, "shi yi" or what would be the equivalent of "snow ears" in English. My Cantonese is poor and that really isn't how the correct pinyin is, but that is how it sounds to my ear. It has a lovely crunch (if you take care not to boil it too long, in which case it would dissintegrate into gloop, or if you have it 'raw' as I have) and a nutty-woody taste.

Anyway, it works well here and is beautifully white addition to the salad before it gets dunked in the dressing. Before using it, it need to be hydrated into an awesome spongey ruffle, and make sure it is washed well of the specks of dirt wedged between its fronds. The Japanese call it shiro kikurage. Lastly, I added julienne carrots for sweetness, more crunch and colour. I would have used agar agar in it too, but didn't have any at hand.

(serves about 10)
For the salad:
400g kombu stems8g wakame
30g white fungus1 large carrot         

For the dressing:
7tbsp soy sauce2 tbsp water
2tbsp rice wine vinegar
45g sugar
2tsp sesame oil            
1g salt

  • Soak the seaweeds and fungus in water until fully hydrated.
  • Clean the white fungus.
  • Shred the white fungus and kombu stems.
  • Drain the seaweeds and fungus.
  • Julienne the carrot.
  • Mix together the dressing and toss with salad.
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Friday, 27 September 2013

buta no kakuni

Summer with its heavy heat is finally tiding over and I am looking forward to the crisp days ahead. My blog has suffered abysmal neglect, initially due to my having to procure an early stage report on my (lack of) progress in my PhD, then there was the Global Fellows summer school over at MIT, followed by the arrival of a research group from KAUST. Summer for me has always been anxious and this repeated association has pounded into me a chronic dread of the onset of warmer days.

But no cloud, not even a summer one, is without its silver lining. I met some awesome peoples and had the chance to potter about the MIT labs. Here you see the rather cell like accommodation (Simmons hall) we were briefly installed into and the view thereoff, and also a quick snap of the Niagara falls. Sadly the brief exposure of my camera to the elements aboard the Lady of the Mist tasked it beyond its little circuits and rendered it needful of repair. This, I maintain, explains the lack of kitchen and blog activity. As it has since returned to me, the blogging must resume.

Before starting on what is clearly the subject of interest (the oozy hunk of meat), I have a little annoyance to wail. Not so long ago, as I was plodding around London, I rounded a corner just in time to have a cigarette end flicked out onto pavement where it glowed its crusty life out inches from my sandalled foot.

Obviously the punter reclining in the dank alcove where he was smoking couldn't see around to the oncoming pedestrians he was thoughtlessly casting burning brands at. But still, would it be so very difficult to first snub out the butt before disposing of the litter in its only appropriate destination: the bin?

I very nearly flung the offending article back at the fellow but was dragging with me a number of hefty bags at that time. Any sudden changes to my center of gravity could see me teetering. Also, in all honesty, my outer-self had not the courage and balked at such outward displays of disapproval. So I glared at him as contemptibly as I could and scurried away seething. And now you read the repercussions. But surely I'm not the only one who gets a little miffed at such wanton filthying of the streets?

500g pork belly1/2 cup mirin
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 stalks spring onion
25g ginger, sliced

  • Cut the pork into large 4-5 cm square chunks and arrange in an appropriately size pot so that you have a single layer of pork.
  • Add 1 cup of water and cover with a sheet of aluminum foil with a steam vent poked into it as a sort of 'drop lid.'
  • Gently simmer the pork for at least an hour (the longer you simmer it the better). Top up with water if you need.
  • In the last two hours of simmering, add the mirin, spring onions and ginger. Turn the pork pieces every now and then. The sauce should reduce to a lovely sticky brown.
  • In the last hour of simmering, add the soy sauce. Again, turn the pieces every now and then and top up with water as needed.

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Friday, 10 May 2013

banoffee brownie

Happiness is to be tucked in bed by an open window and to have a rain-scented breeze rustling in. I have been sniffing those little wave of coolness quite frequently these past days having been overcome by an evil cold that has stolen my voice and left in its stead a chesty (and painful) cough. But my sense of smell remains and happiness does prevail, especially as I am equipped with my Kindle.

Thomas Hardy is the author I have currently attached myself to. His writings, set in a society where honor and conduct are keenly regarded subjects, query the institution of marriage and class and follow the lives of sometimes tortured subjects flailing against it, not necessarily by choice but by situation. It is a revealing comparison against complacent 'modern day' views now adopted.

The novel that really did give me a kick on the was 'Jude the Obscure.' The mental grief of each weary character, and their paths of reasoning- I understand! Yet personally cannot agree concerning marriage. The question of marriage is not about its effect on society, whether good or bad. For me, it is because it is written in the Bible that I shall abide. It is odd that in Hardy's many books, and despite the numerous biblical quotes therein, that this was not a consideration explored.

Just because I always have an eye perked for food (drink) related subjects, Hardy also provides a suggestion for aspiring cider brewers looking for a good blend. According to Hardy in 'The Trumpet Major,' a fine cider can be made from a judicious mix of "Horner and Cleeves apple for the body, a few Tom-Putts for colour, and just a dash of Old Five-corners for sparkle- a selection originally made to please the palate of a well-known temperate earl who was a regular cider-drinker, and lived to be eighty-eight." Though, of those varieties, only the Tom-Putts cultivar seems to exist still.

Finally, in light of one of my successful recipe tweaks, I present to you my banoffee brownie. I mentioned in my earlier post on brownie types that Nigel Slater's cakey brownies, with their intense chocolate flavor flavor and muddy texture, brought me great joy indeed. However, fudgey is a desirable quality to have, and I determined to give a little fudgey leaning to those brownies. Thus I added banana puree to the batter for squidge.

It also happened that I had made a quantity of dulce de leche, and who doesn't love banoffe pie? So I tipped that in too. For some reason, my blobs of dulce de leche dissipated during the baking and I never discovered any gooey cavities of the stuff. Possibly my blobs weren't big enough. What I did find to have staying power was dulce de leche not made by the schoolday method of boiling tins but by zapping it in the microwave. Its resulting texture was slightly different: less smooth and liable to harden into a crusty lump of (mostly) sugar. But this way, I had my golden nuggets of sweet.

As I had some extra dulce de leche on hand, I served the brownies with a squeeze of loose dulce de leche cream to pare off some richness (you know things are getting intense when cream is used to lighten the pud).

(makes one 30 by 30cm tray)
300g castor sugar250g dark chocolate
250g unsalted butter, softened
60g flour   
60g cocoa powder
2g salt

100g egg30g egg yolk
200g ripe bananas5g baking powder
75g whole milk250g double cream
794g condensed milk (2 tins)

  • Line a 30cm by 30cm tray with aluminium foil (I used a griddle pan as I didn’t have a tray, but just adjust quantities to suit the volume of the trays you have and watch cooking times).
  • Make the dulce de leche from the condensed milk by popping into the microwave for 1 min intervals at around 700W, and whisking between until it reaches the coloration you want. Set aside 100g of the dulce de leche.
  • Microwave the bananas until split and steaming, blend to a puree (or not depending on the consistency you like) and set aside to cool.
  • Melt the chocolate and set aside to cool so it (or the bananas) won't melt the creamed butter.
  • Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder.
  • Cream together the sugar and softened butter.
  • Gradually beat in the eggs and yolks with a whisk so as not to curdle it.
  • Beat in melted and cooled chocolate, and the banana puree.
  • Fold in the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder mixture over 3 incorporations.
  • Pour half of the batter into the tray and smooth. Drop dollops of dulce de leche all over the batter. Use around half of your dulce de leche (omitting the 100g earlier set apart).
  • Pour the remaining batter into tray and smoothen its surface.
  • Drop smaller dollops of dulce de leche over the surface and use a knife to create a marbled effect.
  • Bake for 40min (start checking at 30 min as you do not want to overbake it and make it all dry). Brownies are down when, after inserting a toothpick/knife, there are still bits of moist crumbs clinging to it. If it comes out completely clean (as is the norm for most cakes), the brownies are overdone. The brownies will also continue to cook a little after their removal from the oven.
  • Whisk together the remaining 100g of dulce de leche with the milk until it has dissolved.
  • Add the double cream to the dulce de leche flavoured milk and whisk to soft peaks.
  • Pipe cream over cooled and portioned brownies.

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