Monday, 28 February 2011


Nice lying in, 2 capsules of Nespresso with milk, slice of toast, Sunday Times, 'Something for the weekend' and a glass of something cold.
I am a creature of habit.

I make another cup of... tea, this time. I know what too much caffeine does to my body, so I stick to guilt free green tea.
'' So, what shall we have for dinner tonight?''

I find a great joy talking about what to eat, especially for Sunday. 
The day opens up with tens of ideas of what we could possibly have. We travel from London, France, Thailand and to the very further corners of far east. 

But I only have one answer today...

It was such a gorgeous day.
It was a kind of Sunday I wished if I was in my favourite pub, comfortably settled in rather handsome chesterfield, relaxed with good glass of velvety red wine, looking over those ticklish raindrops and a plate, full of home.
Instead, I hovered around my kitchen, merrily chilled with a refreshing mint Daiquiri and cooked this little beauty.

Meat carefully collected from oxtails and cooked in deep rich red wine. It mingles with amazingly flavoured bite sized vegetables in cheesy gravy. 
Breaking into this crunch layers of deliciously baked golden puff pastry pie, oh hell yes! 
It was the pub brought to my home with all the trimmings.

Oxtail pie in rich red wine gravy

180g cooked oxtail meat, from about 3 bones (see here to see how)
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 celery stick, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 garlic cloves
handful of dried mushrooms soaked in water (wild or mixtures of different sorts)
70g Gruyere cheese, grated
handful of thyme
kalamata olives, sliced
2 ground juniper berries
4 ground all spice
2 tsp cranberry sauce
350ml red wine
1 block of all butter puff pastry
1 egg, lightly beaten
olive oil
nob of butter
1tbsp plain flour
salt and pepper

In a large sauce pan, saute onion, carrots, celery stick and garlic with little oil and salt for good  5-10mins over low heat. Add butter and flour. Stir and cook them for another 5mins.
Place chopped tomatoes (don't worry about its skins. I don't bother too much with the skin.), thyme, juniper berries and all spices with little pepper to the pan and cook them for further 5mins with the lid on. 
At this point you want to add olives, oxtail meat, rehydrated mushrooms, cranberry sauce and red wine to the pan. Pour in the liquid you soaked the mushrooms (roughly about 300ml).
Increase the heat to cook off the alcohol. Once brought up to the boiling point, let them simmer for 35mins until the sauce thickens up and them cool the mixture.

Preheat the oven on 190º. Place pie mixture into the baking dish, spread grated cheese on top and cover them nicely with rolled pastry sheet. Give the pastry a good egg wash with lightly beaten egg. 
Bake the pie for 40mins or so until the pastry top is golden.

Serve them with fresh greens and mash.

It certainly was indeed my well wished plate, full of home.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

in the mood for

Apparently, in London, today has been the warmest day yet this winter.
It wasn't the most bright day, but it was cheerfully finding its way to the blue sky nonetheless.

What I like about this time of the year, is that you really notice changes.
You know, usually I am not very aware of my surroundings. Toby will tell you with pleasure.
It is not that I don't pay attention to what's around me, I'm just very good at daydreaming while only focusing on the object alone.
But as one season slowly drifts away to welcome the other, I am delighted to be able to be part of this wonderful world of changes.

The day stays a little lighter for a little longer.
Things start to turn more green and colourful.
I shed my thick dark wooly coats and find the comfort in something a shade lighter.

As I continuously, and metaphorically swimming through the puddle of lightness, I decided, spring might just have to come and fill me.
Quite literally.

Watercress soup with pear
serves 2 as main and 4 as starter

1 onion, chopped
1 celery stick, chopped
1 potato, roughly cubed
1 pear, roughly chopped
1 garlic, crushed
1 bag of watercress
700ml vegetable stock
olive oil
salt and pepper

for garnish
6 thin pancetta rashers, cooked under the grill or pan fried and crumbled
double cream or creme fraiche

First of all in a medium sauce pan, saute onion, celery and garlic with little olive oil, salt and pepper over medium to low heat for 5-10mins. 
Add potato, pear and stock to the pan and bring to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 25mins.

Take it off the heat and start blending until smooth. 
Now at this point, you add watercress so it keeps its freshness rather than being boiled down to its last life. 
Blend the watercress into your soup and put them back on the low heat for couple of mins to warm it up a little.

Once ready, garnish them with pancetta crumbs and a drizzle of cream or creme fraiche. And if you're like me, good drizzle of olive oil.

Serve it with nice rustic sourdough bread slices.

Spring, brought to you and I.
A mouthful closer.

Monday, 21 February 2011

the plan was...

Rushing around like headless chicken, not being able to even sit down to finish off my, by now rather cold, cup of coffee, this is me... on my weekdays.
Most of Saturdays, I am busier than ever, often don't even get a chance to eat. 
Yes, not even a staled sandwich that has been sitting in the corner and being ever so talented at staring and teasing my starved eyes and tummy.
Very annoying, let's just say.

But that is just the way it is sometimes, you know.
If making sacrifice of my lunch break brings me another client and a few more quid into my wages, I will do it. 
It is not ideal in one sense but totally make sense in the other.

So I am a little obsessed with my lazy Saturdays when I get a chance to take advantages of.
I love having sociable breakfast over ever so lazily poured cups of teas and coffees. 
Gazing at some birds on top of the fence and admiring the beautifully manicured garden, we discuss what we should be doing to fill our lovely day together.

My favourite lazy afternoon scones
adapted from Dough: simple contemporary bread by Richard Bertinet

75g salted butter
300g plain flour
75g vanilla caster sugar
20g baking powder
75g raisins (original recipe uses sultanas and a lot more quantities of it)
95g double cream
95g milk
1 egg, lightly beaten for an egg wash

Preheat the oven to 220º.

Rub butter into the flour and add sugar, baking powder and raisins. Mix well until they are evenly distributed.
Add milk and cream. Bind all ingredients together.

Work the dough onto the lightly dusted surface and cover it with tea towel. 
Rest it for 15mins.
Lightly flour the work surface and roll the dough out to 2-3cm thick. Cut them into 12 squares.

Lay them on baking tray making sure they are not too close together.
Glaze the scones with egg wash for couple of times. Turn down the oven to 200º and bake them for 20mins until they are golden.

Serve them with clotted cream, your choice of jam and fresh strawberries.

Then I think to myself, let's just be...

I close my eyes intoxicated by the dreams of fleecy clouds.
I am blinded by the rays of sunshine and infatuated with touch of raindrops.

Oh, lets just be...

Let's just stay here till the next heart beat wakes us up...

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

with you, I carry on

I thought I'll tell you what is going on with my life at the moment.
I've started this whole new world of blogging thing a month ago by my dear other half, Toby prodding me I should.
In the mean time, life does not stop regardless what you may feel, expect or hope to be. I, as a person who like most of you cannot afford to give up my day job, I have been juggling.
I am not sure if I have been juggling well, but I have been.

Funny thing is though, I told myself when I first started all this that it would only ever be for our own record and a journal for ourselves and for our future child or two.
Everyday I wrote, I was truthful and honest so it is an accurate recordings of our living and being.

But suddenly I find myself looking at others and comparing myself to these all mighty amazing food bloggers.
They all look fantastic unlike my 'oh, this is a new learning curve' kind of way photographs.
I look at their ratings and followers and it all looks fabulous. I read their comments and everybody adores these bloggers. I read their stories and it all makes sense or at least falls into the right places...

I have to be honest here. Honestly, it really knocks me down.
I feel kind of sad thinking maybe I am just a bit rubbish.
Although my intention was only ever to be for my own record, I can feel that I actually care a little more and wishing a little more for it to be.

I suppose I just want to do well.
I just want to share my recipes that I believe in and adore.
I just would like to hear from people if it works for them. If not what could I do to make it better.
I just would like to know if there is someone out there who genuinely enjoys what I've got to say.

Oh dear, perhaps I had a little too many glasses of wine.
I'm sounding very whiny, aren't I?

Well, here.
A little pleasure of sweet, spicy and tangy ginger and lime caramel perfumed with a delicate touch of thyme, dancing in harmony with creamy baked pears and the crunch buttery ending of puff pastry.

Ginger and lime Tarte Tatin

2 limes, zested
3tbsp lime juice
175g golden caster sugar
70g grated ginger
75g butter
2-3 conference pears
all butter puff pastry
a little thyme, leaves picked

In a small sauce pan, put lime zest, juice and sugar and cook them over medium heat without stirring too much until the sugar has dissolved and rich golden brown in colour.
Take the pan off the heat and add ginger and butter to the same pan. Take the pan back on the heat and let them bubble for a bit. When it becomes glossy and syrupy in consistency, it is ready.
Keep half of the caramel sauce on the side to use it later.

Sprinkle some thyme leaves at the bottom of your chosen baking dish and assemble the pears nicely. Pears can be chopped into chunks, sliced or quarter. I like to half the pear and slice thinly length ways whist making sure the top of the pear is still intact together. And flatten them once I put them in my dish. It looks a bit prettier.
Now pour the caramel sauce over the pears and cover it with nicely rolled puff pastry making sure all the ends/edges are well tucked under. Bake them in the oven for 30-40mins (200º)

When it is lovely and golden on top, take it out of the oven and tip it upside down.
You can do this by placing the plate on top of the the tarte tatin.

Serve it immediately with a little dollop of creme fraiche and a re heated caramel sauce you kept back.

The truth of matter is, I am doing what I have always been doing.
I'll carry on.
Because I enjoy my new found food adventure. And hopefully some of you out there might already be enjoying this journey with me.

Thank you to you all.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

I'm plodding

Have you ever listened to the tunes that took you straight back to the certain time and places?
The time and places that always make you go 'arrrrh'... if you know what I mean.

I have those moments with food and drinks.
Certain ingredients, dish or just the way it is done... all bring me those joyous moments of the past and somehow manage to stick a big smile on my face. Even the disastrous ones!
Just for the sheer fact of being really bad makes it somehow quite funny. Because it is done, I guess.
'Looking back' kind of makes it all easy, doesn't it?

I often cook something particularly for this reason, almost to compensate the things I can't do or places I can't be.
I might fry some flat fish and serve it with okra in tomato marsala wishing if I was back in the beach by the lighthouse in Kerala. Or I could be rustling up rather big portions of paella missing the wonderful moment of romantic evening of Barcelona... and so on.

I supposed you can tell me I am mildly obsessed with this world of edible things.

French onion soup always does it for me.
When it is freezing cold outside and you feel desperately blue, it grabs me and hugs me and cheers me up.
It is an ultimate comfort food.

Beautifully caramelised onion gives you the first kiss of sweetness, supported by gooey and velvety melting in your mouth cheese. Then you have this crunchy croutons giving you the satisfaction of the bite. Wash it down with another mouthful of deep rich meaty juice that are packed with punch from the generous drop of brandy and white wine.
You've got to be warm by now.
I'm definitely knocked out from the amount of brandy I put in usually!

French Onion soup

400g mixed onions, sliced (I use half red and half white for different textures and sweetness.)
1 garlic clove, chopped
1tsp brown sugar
Handful of sage, chopped
1-2 bay leaves
50ml brandy or whisky
125ml white wine
500ml good beef stock
60g gruyere cheese
Few slices of day old baguette
knob of butter
olive oil
salt and pepper

Start by melting some butter with little olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Gently saute onion, garlic, sage, bay leaves with a little pinch of salt and generous amount of black pepper for 5mins.
Add good heaped teaspoonful of sugar into the pan and cook for further 10mins without stirring them too much. You want them to stick to the bottom of the pan a little to caramelise.

If you start to see sticky bottom of your pan, it is now time to add brandy and white wine. Crank up the heat and let it bubble up for few minutes.
Pour the stock in and bring them up to boil then reduce the heat and simmer with the lid ajar for 40mins.

Meanwhile, rub a little oil onto your sliced baguette and make croutons by baking them in the oven (190º) for 10mins.

When soup is ready, divide them into 2 bowls (4 if served as starter)  and place the croutons while making sure they rise on top of the liquid. Cover them with grated cheese and cook them under the grill until the cheese has melted.

It was the most perfect way to lift up my tiresome winter.
I can plod along now... dreaming for the sunnier summer days.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

34 days late and a year older

Don't get me wrong.
Of course I'd like things to be easy and simple.
There're always plenty of things to juggle about and never enough time on hands. Anything to do with easier life, so I can have more fun?! 
Oh yes, I'm well up for it!

But there are things that you just need to take time. 
Let it take its course. 
Let it do its own thing.

My mum used to say it about cooking rice.
She said it was important to wash the rice thoroughly in fresh running water and let it stand for a while. 
She would often preserve the water from the rice to use it as a base of soups and broths. She told me it gave depth of flavour to the stock.
Rice was cooked on high heat to start with the lid on, then a medium heat with the lid slightly ajar for a bit and then a low heat with the lid shut fully.
It was like a ritual for her.
It was such a simple thing that was beautifully choreographed. 
It was very soothing to watch.

She cared. 
She cared for a humble yet, very important staple ingredient of our living.
She looked after us by looking after what she put on the table.

This was the backbone of my family.

I remember the days where all my family sat around the table preparing mountains of food to celebrate a new year.

In Korea, you get year older every new year.
Depending on individual family, you can celebrate 'the new new year' which follows western calendar or 'the old new year' which follows the moon calendar.

On new year's day, there will be a ceremony to your ancestors with a sumptuous breakfast table and the food will be shared with your relatives and family.
You will bow to the elders. 
They'll give you a word of wisdom and maybe some pocket money. It will be presented to the individuals in a prestine white envelope and inside of it, will be crisp new notes.
Little sum of money means that the wealth is wished upon you for your year ahead.

And the 'rice cake soup', signature dish to welcome the new year.
Beautifully textured rice cakes made with a new crop, cooked in slowly braised oxtail broth, garnished with dressed oxtail meat, separately fried egg squares, spring onions and some grilled seaweed.
It is honest food. 
It is feel good food worth and deserves every minute of your time.
And my time... for sure.

Rice cakes in Oxtail broth

for stock
6 oxtails
5 white peppercorn
5 black peppercorn
1 star anise
2 celery stick
1 onion and 2 spring onions
6 garlic cloves
1inch ginger
bunch of thymes
salt and pepper

for meat dressing
1 garlic, chopped
1 spring onion, finely chopped (minced)
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp mirin
pinch of white pepper
pinch of sugar
pinch of sesame seed

for garnish
2 egg white, lightly whisked
2 egg york, lightly whisked
grilled seaweed, cut into strips
spring onions, chopped
some oil for frying

2 handful of rice cake slices for soup ( You can source this from good Korean supermarkets. If you can't, substitute with some rice noodles)
fish sauce
black pepper

First of all, making stock.
Put all of ingredients for the stock into the large saucepan and fill it with water. Bring them to boil and simmer for about 3hours or until meat falls off the bone.
It might be necessary to refill the saucepan with water every now and then to get enough stock depends on the size of the pan.
Once ready, take the oxtails out, collect the meat into separate bowl and put the bones back into the pot for another hour.

Meanwhile, keep back and freeze half of the meat you collected. This should weigh roughly about 180g. I'll use this meat to make amazing oxtail pie another day.
Dress the other half of the meat with all ingredients for the meat dressing I listed above and set aside.

While the stock is bubbling away, make your egg garnish.
Fry the separated eggs in little oil as if you're make pancakes and cut them in small squares.
Cook your rice cake slices for 3-4mins in a separate saucepan, like you'd do with fresh pasta then strain.

Once all compartments are ready to go, it is time for you to put everything together.
Stock should be strained through the sieve and reheat them.
Add cooked rice cake to the clear stock to warm up. Season the stock with little fish sauce.

Now, get your bowls ready.
Divide rice cakes into 2 bowls and garnish them with dressed meat, eggs, seaweed and spring onions. Pour the hot broth over until everything is almost covered with liquid.
Serve it with Kimchi ( spicy pickled cabbage).

030211, 34 days late and a year older...

Happy new year to you all.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

my grenade

'It was a beautiful morning.
That blissful sunshine coming through the windows forcing its way between the curtains I drew the night before to hide form the darkness of the sky above, bringing me tears of joy of waking up another morning without this fear that I suffered from.

I’ve never been a very good sleeper.
I didn’t like the dark much.
The night sky always looked deep and far that I could not bear to look up.
I am frightened of its unknown.
Perhaps it will swallow any existence of mankind who seems lost in this world.
Perhaps it will take you to that place you never wanted to touch upon.
Solitude was the thing the night sky brought to me and death to me was always so lonely.
I feared, I fear but maybe, I won’t suffer any more...'

I realise it is okay to revisit from time to time.
It may be the place of my youth where uncomfortable thoughts and memories of chaos were only ever existed.
It may be the place of my youth where everything was dressed seductively in ignorance and naiveness.

Either way, feeling strangely subdued..., I guess I am quite okay.

Breaking into this little pots of innocently blushed jelly, I almost felt a bit guilty.
Like those times when my mum used to told me off for spending all my pocket money on sweets from the stalls outside of my school.
Looking back, what appealed as an amazing wonderland of 'Charlie's chocolate factory' to me as a child, was in fact only a giant jumble sale of 'E' numbers.
But did I ever care? 
Probably not. 
I had fun with doing the forbidden. 
That's what kids do, isn't it? That's what we all do.

Once the initial move was made, second mouthful was much easier.
Lightly sweet spicy ginger beer bubbles with rather refreshing lime juice and a good kick of vodka hitting back of your throat, every mouthful was a journey back to my childhood.

Moscow mule jelly

100ml Vodka
50ml fresh lime juice
500ml ginger beer
few drops of Angostura Bitters
3tbsp agar flakes (You can use ordinary gelatin sheets)

In a small sauce pan, put all ingredients together and bring it to boil without stirring. 
Once it starts to boil reduce the heat. 
After couple of minutes, agar flakes should have dissolved well into the mixture. Give it a good stir and simmer for few more minutes until thicken slightly.
Divide the mixture into between 6-8 pots and chill in the fridge to set.

I put some grapes into my pots and decorate it with some mint leaves.
You can also top up the jelly pots with little more ginger beer to give them a bit more bubbles but just make sure to stir them before you chill them to set.
If you're using ordinary gelatin sheets, you'll have to follow the instructions on how much to use.

It was cleansing.