Tuesday, 26 April 2011

So long!

It's been emotional.
It has been pretty amazing really. 
We shared some special times together and we will most definitely miss it a lot.
Quite a lot.

Toby and I decided, it is about time we say our good-byes.
Farewell to our beautiful little garden!

Our little but perfectly formed garden has been the super star of this flat.
Over the years, we spent a lot of time and effort making it into the little urban oasis we love to be in. We wrote our history with the collections of odd objects we'd come across in places.
An old bath tin from Toby's nan (my dear nannie Dubery who always looks after us from high above the sky), vintage apple boxes we bought to find a home for my fat belly Buddha, a little white bench that provides wonderful spot for the afternoon nap, all cracked but still going strong chiminea kept us warm outside all the way through the cold month, selections of bottles with joyful memories... and so on.
Moreover, the garden itself has nurtured us and helped us to be calm. 
It taught us to be the souls that respects of just being.


We wanted to make the most of it and that is just what we did.
Toby stirred up the most refreshing Moscow Mule while making sure of the barbe.
I was in charge of the BBQ for two that turned out to be more like a banquet for two. A good one it was, very good way to start the holiday.
Such a lovely weather carried on and we enjoyed doing normal everyday things. A bit of tidying up, putting the washings out and just pottering about doing nothing much really.
And then the heaven opened.
There was a thunder and some heavy rain that came from nowhere. For hours and hours it carried on. 
The tiger was getting married perhaps. My mum used to say this a lot when we have a shower with the sun still smiling at you in the sky. Funny, isn't it?

Blackened pork belly with salty maple glaze

500g pork belly
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 red chilli, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 inch ginger, grated
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1 lime juice
some black pepper

for salty maple glaze
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp maple syrup
10 tbsp water
1/2 tsp ginger powder
3 tbsp sake
1 tsp sugar
mixture of peppercorns

Start by marinading pork belly. Make sure to score the meat to ensure the marinade to penetrate and to create good crackling.
Mix all marinading ingredients and rub them in and around the meat. I do this with my hands so I can push those lovely flavours into my meat. Don't worry about wet skin. I promise you, you will get a good crackling as you finish it off the barbe.
You can leave the meat for anything between 1hour to overnight.

When ready, fill your baking dish with some water half way up to the meat while making sure not to touch the crackling part of the meat. Cover them with foil tightly.
This will be cooked in the oven (175º) for around 2 hours.

To make the salty maple glaze, add all ingredients together into the small sauce pan apart from maple syrup. Bring them up to boil and simmer until the mixture thickens and become syrupy. Take it off the heat and stir in the maple syrup.

Now get you barbe ready (or you can do this under the grill if you like), and cook your pork belly skin side down first to crisp them up. It will take no time. And don't panic if your crackling looks dark. It is the soy giving the belly a little more colour.
Once you are happy with the result, put them on the board and brush them with generous helping of maple glaze.
I prefer to glaze them at the end. However, if you like the belly more sticky, you can glaze them while they are on the BBQ (or under the grill) as well.

I had them wrapped in round lettuce and some chilli dipping sauce, Korean way.
Hope you enjoy.

So this was our farewell.
The weather was on our side, stunningly warm and glorious. The time was also on our hands, giving us all the opportunities to plan and proceed. And more importantly, our friends were here to take part, engraving the most wonderful memories of all time in this garden for us.

I opened Tokaji.
It has been waiting for long to be celebrated sitting quietly in our booze corner and it seemed like a perfect moment.
The first ever garden that made me have fun connecting with the all things green and those flies.
The first chapter of our life together and the first place that made us strong.
And I wish not to, forget...

Monday, 18 April 2011

in your company

The Ram, Strada, Waggon and Horses and back to The Ram.
Add the April sunshine, your favourite tipple and the gatherings of wonderful friends.
Lots of hugs and kisses, good crack of old jokes and make sure to laugh out loud with joy.
Possible teardrops can be added to support the waves of emotion if required and leaving the night in high, is must.
The night shall be celebrated.

This was our weekend.
Toby's dad, I and his step mum, P were visiting.

It is always so nice to see them with their old crowd.
They are happy people through good times and bad times, you know.
B&T traveled miles just so they can share the real good squeeze of hugs for I and P.
G was there like many other good old days with a big smile on her face and smashing new hair cut.
So many familiar faces welcomed I and P with love.
Those wonderful friends of I and P's have never had changes of their hearts.
'The Waggon' has changed over the years but people there has never changed.

One day, I hope we will be in our own Waggon... with much loved old faces and stories.
In good company...

Slow cooked OX cheeks
serves 4

2 OX cheeks
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
1 celery stick, chopped
2-3 mixtures of peppers, sliced
3tbsp tomato puree
2 bay leaves
1/2tsp fennel seed, toasted and ground
1/2tsp smoked paprika
pinch of cinnamon
250ml dry white wine
handful of fresh thyme
some plain flour for coating the meat
little butter
salt and pepper
olive oil
some water or your choice of stock
good handful of parsley, chopped
1 fresh lemon juice to taste

First of all, season and coat your meat lightly in flour. Brown the meat for few minutes on each side over medium to high heat in little butter and olive oil. Butter gives nice colour and flavour while oil stops them from burning.
When ready, put them aside.

Using the same pan, saute onion, celery and garlic with little salt over low heat for good 10mins. Add mixed peppers, fennel seeds, thyme and bay leaves to the pan.
When peppers are softened a little, stir in paprika, tomato puree and cinnamon alongside with browned meat with a good crack of black pepper followed by wine.
Let them bubble away then add plenty of water/stock to the pan enough to cover the meat.
Stick it in the oven (165º-170º) for 3-4 hours with the lid on.
Check your meat and give it a good stir every now and then, just to make sure they are not drying out.
Plenty of liquid is the key to keep them lovely and moist.

When the meat starts to fall apart effortlessly, get the meats out and shredded them with two forks. This will allow you to get rid of greasy fatty parts and collect only tasty juicy meats.
Put the shredded meat back in the pot and dress them with good helpings of parsley and lemon juice to taste.
If you like it a little sweeter, you can always stir in a spoonful of runny honey.

Serve them casually with a good bunch of people you enjoy sharing a glass of wine with.

''I didn't come here for bags of shopping. I came for bags of people.'' P said.
And sure, it was very well said.

It was so lovely to see you, Scott's. 
(And it would have been lovely to see you, boys left in France; Rudy, Buster, Dylan, the lodger that we cannot remember the name and finally Bob, who's gone missing since last October.)

Monday, 11 April 2011

otherwise engaged.

How are you all?

I thought I'll share with you about how I am today.
I don't know if any of you remember me mentioning about this moving business. 
Yes, the MOVING.
It is apparently one of the most stressful thing and sure we have been put to the test.

Toby and I have been dreaming of more grown up place.
A beautiful dining area where we can entertain our guests.
An extra space where we can throw the bed for them to rest their heads peacefully at the end of the night.
A place where we can feel confident in making the next natural progress, of us being family.

I wonder if that had been the reason why it took so long for us to find the one... that home sweet home.
It was so important for us to get it right.
We wanted it to be just right.

So, tackling the first stage of finding one, now we face the harder task of making it our own.
It is exciting though.
Okay, it maybe quite some time yet until we actually complete and exchange but I cannot help myself getting over excited. 
Ideas and designs flood in to serve and express our needs and styles. Those scraps of papers I have been collecting over the years finally find its own place in my little black book. 
I talk and talk, about the plans of building works and possible materials we can use. 
And Toby wonders, if I would ever... shut up. In a very nice way.

Sweet potato cupcakes with Green Tea cream cheese frosting

for cup cakes
1 medium sized sweet potato, grated
125g self raising flour, shifted
50g ground almonds
25g dark brown sugar
75g caster sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
175g butter
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 vanilla pod
2 eggs, yorks and whites separated
1 orange zest and 1/2 juice
1 lime zest

for green tea frosting
120g icing sugar
20g butter
60g cream cheese
2tsp Matcha powder

Start by whisking the butter and sugar together until pale. Add the rest of ingredients and egg yorks into the creamed butter and sugar mixture.
Whisk egg whites until it hold itself and fold it into the cake mixture gently.
Spoon them into your cupcake moulds or as whole. Bake them in the oven (180º) for 20-25mins or until golden on top.

For frosting, beat butter and icing sugar first to bring them together.
Add cream cheese and Matcha powder. Whisk them until smooth but make sure not to over work them.

When ready, decorate as you wish and serve them with nice cup of tea.

I confess.
It has over taken my heart temporarily. 
But so right so, it would do.
(... wouldn't it?)

Sunday, 3 April 2011

how are you doing baby?

Changing season delivers a lot of surprises, mostly expected of course.
And then, occasionally, you might taste the little glimpse of unexpected. 
Some good. Some bad...

Things are turning pretty hectic now. 
Just like that.
Couple of images from the latest collection I put together for my salon, have gone through to the regional final of industry's prestigious competition. 
Toby's new found moving image adventures have finally taken off the ground safely. 
So many birthday wishes to be fulfilled with different people and places. 
And in the middle of all this, we've got this MOVING business to deal with. 
Every weekends are completely booked up for the catching ups with friends and family.
This weekend, we ticked off V and Y off the list.

Funny thing about life is the irony of its ability to bring people together.

V had already gone through this serious illness three times. 
Through that battle, he also had gone through few relationships, discoveries of friendships, highs of hopes and lows of realities, loss of job, loss of home and the brutal truth of surviving.

Y's been trying to get rid off that bitter taste in her mouth. 
Going through such a hell of being let down and having to fight against this monster, she is trying to spit it all out.

She has never met someone so kind, she says.
He says he has finally found his soul mate and he doesn't mind, doesn't mind at all.

For change, V is looking after Y.
He knows what she is going through. 
He knows the one thing and the only thing she needs right now is a shelter.
I hope it passes. 
I hope for the bright future of these beautiful people at the other end of this gloomy tunnel.

Just because...
And if there is anyone..., they deserve little unexpected deliveries of happiness of this changing season.

''How are you doing, baby?''
''I am okay. I'm good.''

Grilled clams with miso 

1kg clams
1 1/2tbsp white miso
2tbsp soy
1/2tsp sugar
4tbsp sake
1tbsp sesame oil
8tbsp water
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp ginger, grated
2 spring onions, chopped
1 red chilli, slices
some pepper

to garnish
few thyme leaves, picked
few handful of China radish sprouts

This is very simple and easy dish that is so effective if you are a shellfish lover. Its Miso marinade can be used for all sort of shellfish, so don't be limited to clams. Obviously, cooking time will have to be altered depending on what you are cooking.
All you need to do is to mix all ingredients with the clams in a large baking tray or dish. If you can leave them for anything between 10-30mins, great!
Preheat the grill on high and cook them under the grill for 10 mins max.
I tend to put them not too close to the grill. Just because it could burn the shells if the tray is placed too close to the grill.

When the clams start to open and sizzle, it is time for you to enjoy them. 
Maybe with some rice noodles or on its own with nice cold glass of white.

We often forget that someone is actually fighting for the matter of life and death.
We often forget how lucky we are to be able to take it for granted.

Love to you both, V and Y.