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Home cooking

Ever since my shitty main course at Bread Street Kitchen (to be fair: it was soft opening), I have been slowly shifting my home-chef loyalties from Ramsay to Jamie.  The way I’m starting to see it:  Jamie teaches you how to use leftover meat, and is a sweetheart to chickens, whilst Ramsay tells you that your gourmet meat is raw and throws it in the bin.  Now that’s just wasteful.

So I came across a recipe for panzanella by Jamie here:

http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/bread-recipes/panzanella-tuscan-tomato-bread-salad

Panzanella is a Tuscan salad that uses tomatoes and leftover bread.  Not much, you say, but the dressing of vinegar, anchovies, and good extra virgin olive oil, gives this loaf something to get soaked about.  Wikipedia references the 16th-century artist and poet Bronzino, who actually calls the salad “another pleasure of this life” (“altro piacer di questa vita”) and I’m not one to disagree.

The red onions Jamie recommends in his recipe, are macerated till heavenly sweet and soft by the red wine vinegar.  This, combined with the strong saltiness of the anchovies, is something the poor Caprese would cry home to his mama about, basil leaves tucked between his mozzarella balls.

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I served this salad with a whole roasted chicken – crispy, but still moist because of a whole forked lemon that I stuff inside its cavity like no tomorrow.  You might’ve noticed the Aquarius in the corner of that photo – my go-to drink when I’m hungover.  If I can make a dinner like this when I’m hungover, there is no way anyone could screw this up.  Stale bread, tomatoes, and dressing – get it done!

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God love vinegar soaked carbs.

Following from the crepe post, I give you more crepe.  Didn’t see that coming did you?  My friend Alison Cheng, who has written for Dear HK, has taken some lovely photos for bánh xèo that she’s let me use today.  Watch out for more of the Ms. Cheng’s contributions on the HK numb, or feel free to contact her on alisonc.cheng@gmail.com if you like what you see.

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Heavily influenced by French cuisine, Vietnamese food is full of French-inspired gems like the increasingly popular banh mi, and bo kho (similar to a French beef stew, even served with a chunk off a baguette!).

Banh xeo is another a favourite of mine.  This Vietnamese version of a savoury crepe is too darn delicious, especially when the shrimp is freshly caught and the beansprouts are only just-cooked, still maintaining that delicate crunch with the rest of the sizzling cake.  I felt so high on life the first time I had a banh xeo in Vietnam – I think I was in Hue – that I ended up getting inked like an idiot straight after.  Might have had something to do with the red wine too…

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ingredients

  • 1.5lb flank steak, or any fillet on hand
  • Romaine lettuce, washed and cut ready (or you can opt for a mixed pack with Romaine)
  • 2 ripe avocados, sliced into chunks
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, washed and ready
  • 90g of reduced fat Feta cheese (or Cojita if available), crumbled
  • Olive oil, salt and pepper to season steak

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My boyfriend’s parents celebrated their 35th anniversary last week.  So, in true filially pious foodie son and daughter fashion, the kids and their significant others planned a dinner worthy of a Michelin-starred table.  Not incredibly romantic when one of the SO’s is caught chewing on the lamb bone in the kitchen (I swear this was not me), but I think this amazing couple had an excellent time.

Having visited Lardo’s and fallen in love with their preemo lamb and beef, A and I went over to TCDeli, their flagship retail outlet – also in Hang Hau Village – to pick up 3kgs of the highest quality Australian lamb.  A special discount for purchases over $500 made this massive Tasmanian grain-fed beauty quite reasonably priced ($470~), and was more than enough for 7 people – contrary to the guy-behind-the-counter’s skepticism.  We opted to keep the bone in for the flavour, but if you’d rather stuff the lamb instead then they also offer butterflied portions.  If one cannot be assed to trek to Hang Hau, then the Meat Market is another option for these kinds of cuts, and more importantly: offers home delivery.  Lazy Hongkies, I know you all too well.

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Been a while – finally back in Hong Kong for summer, after a pretty grueling year in London.  But you don’t want to hear about this.  I come bearing pictures of food, and hope you will forgive me for my absence.

My mama went to Tai Po market (I, admittedly, was still jetlagged and slept in till 3) and picked up some glorious seafood.  Had some razorclams, mussels, prawns and squid.  In Tagalog, you call squid ‘pusit’, which my boyfriend prefers because it sounds naughty, and it makes him giggle when I ask him if he likes pusit.  Yes, we are children.

Despite the lame anecdotes, this post will hopefully be a little more informational than usual, as I feel I’ve learned a thing or two about preparing and cooking seafood that could be useful to you too.  Definitely no ‘master’, but I do feel a little more experienced with my seafood skills.

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Being back in London, I felt like this blog was no longer necessary (not that I posted much anyway…).  Most obviously, because I am no longer in Hong Kong, and with that: I am no longer being exposed to such delicious food – food that makes my mouth water and my thighs go weak with a yearning sense of decadent demolishment; food that I sometimes – at first – don’t even want to touch because it sits on the plate looking so pretty and perfect, like a saintly projection tempting me with its velvety, glistening goodness or rugged, handsomely charred edges, bringing me closer with that familiar, fond, faint aroma or overwhelming, steaming pungency.  Food, glorious food.

However, what I am doing in London is cooking.  I was also cooking in Hong Kong, but in London it is more out of necessity, because as an impoverished student of Humanities I am not able to afford the overpriced harvest of London’s dining scene.  Unfortunately, it is quite difficult to get good, cheap fresh seafood here so the dishes I make in London are consequently very different to my Hong Kong choices.  I also cannot afford meat everyday so vegetarian dishes have become quite regular on the menu.

So, I get nostalgic.  And at present, I’m looking at some old pictures of my DIY food porn from Hong Kong.  I know this sounds so housewifely of me but I do love making dinners, especially for my “Sweet Sweet Boyfriend” who loves food as much as I do, if not more…  I sometimes worry he likes my company more for my cooking more than for anything else.  I’ve yet to disprove this, but if he’s full and happy, I guess I’m happy too.

On one of my last days in Hong Kong, we had yumcha at Lei Gardens but decided to go a bit crazy for dinner too.  I took him to the Tai Po food market and we decked out on fat prawns, razorclams, two red snappers and some Thai spices.  I don’t know how we managed to demolish everything you see below, but we did.  I’m not sure if I’m ashamed or proud.

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I’ve been dying to play with Chu Hou sauce (柱侯醬) since I got back from London.  Used in Hong Kong cuisine for the legendary stewed beef brisket noodles, ngow lam mien, and apparently made from soybeans, garlic, sesame seeds and ginger, this marinade is the perfect braising sauce for those cheap cuts of meat that love their wet-heat cooking.  So I bought some beef brisket with all the ew tendon bits.

The thing about beef is knowing the cut, or more specifically: where the cut is on the body of the cow and from there, you’re set.  All too often people go for ‘cuts-of-comfort’ and end up paying more than they need to for a good dinner.  Yes, you can grill, pan-fry, roast some sirloin or ribs. but there’s a whole other world to to this fiiiiiine domesticated mammal of gastronomic goodness; namely, udder its belly, and it just needs a different kind of love.

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Seeing as this is a new blog and your love could go either way, I hope to win the reader’s favour by posting some of my dinner the other week.  Cheap trick, I know, but I’m all for whoring around my food – especially with my Nikon DSLR and amateur photography skills, bow chica wow wow.   I’ve only recently started changing the aperture for my photos so that the food looks a little more professional with the selective focus.  Not that it really matters as I only ever post on Facebook so I have easy access to the album when I need my fix.

The Tai Po Hui Market and Cooked Food Center is banging.  You can get some really fresh fish on the first level for cheaps – this particular fish was HK$60, serving at least 4.  (I apologise, I’ll be more specific about which fish next time; to be honest I was just really desperate to make a Chinese-style steamed fish with this steamer I found in the depths of our kitchen.)

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