Monday, 29 August 2011

Live to Eat....

Andrew is sitting next to me with a blanket and a bucket nursing a massive hangover! It is the biggest one yet he said. It is August Bank holiday and although it is almost over but thank god for today for I don't think he will make it to work. We invited a few of our  friends to come over for Sunday lunch. We spent Saturday shopping for the right ingredients. Great opportunity to go shopping for goodies. I have to say 80% of what we bought has nothing to do with the lunch. 

First stop, Farrington's Farmshop I have been there once and always liked the way the farmshop is laid out and its white and black branding. I didn't know what I want but in my shopping basket was tiramisu (for me of course, my favourite dessert), mutton chops, lamb sweetbreads, celeriac, potatoes and raspberry wine! I can't really make a meal out of what we bought, it is more like I really like that, I really like this, in it goes into the basket! Buy buy buy dahliiiing....

Next stop, Banthon Oriental Supermarket in Weston. Normally I get my ingredients from Wai Yee Hong in Bristol but I didn't want to go too far. I needed some dried cuttlefish for my steamed pork balls but they didn't have it but I didn't manage to walk out of there empty handed! We bought something totally non related to the lunch! Andrew suggested we tried the Oriental shop in town at the bottom of Thai Balcony. Andrew dropped me off near Kitchen Shop as we needed some bin bags! He then parked up (totally not the plan) as he spotted a food market in Queens Sq. We had half an hour, no harm in checking out the market! Well portion of paella, an ice coffee and £20 worth of French charcuterie (I went back for more today!) we thought we better go home before we bankrupt ourselves! 

See..they are distracting aren't they?! Coming back to the lunch, I finally got all the ingredients together and I made the following for Sunday lunch. 

Steam pork balls with homemade chilli and ginger sauce
Deep fried 'belacan' chicken wings
Laksa Lemak
Flourless chocolate cake

We started our lunch at 3pm, I must point out there were only 5 of us! 6 bottles of bubbly, 4 bottles of wine, countless mojitos, espresso martinis and midori sours later, Andrew fell down the stairs with a loud thud that we decided that we should stop drinking and go to bed. We also came to a startling conclusion that we do not eat to live, we work to live and we live to eat! 

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Comfort Food

I am absolutely pathetic when I get ill!! I had an infection early last week and only just gotten over it this week. The day I didn't go to work I spent the whole day in bed and felt so sorry for myself. I only want 2 things when I am ill, FOOD and MUMMY. Yes I am 30 and I still ask for my mum. The problem is she is 6,000 miles away so the only comfort for me is food.

But not any food, my comfort food is congee. Congee is a dish which base is rice, cooked with lots of water or stock so that it breaks down. You can add meat and vegetables in congee, much like the Italian risotto. It can be a meal on its own or plain congee with different dishes to go with it. I like Teochew Congee. The congee is plain and a little more watery than usual congees and my favourite dishes that go with it can include salted duck egg, omelette with preserved vegetables, deep fried black pomfret with thick soya sauce, stir fry pork with chillies and preserved vegetables and black bean fried dace. All these dishes are strong tasting to complement the plain congee. You get the sweetness from the preserved vegetables, crispiness from the fried pomfret, saltiness from the eggs, black beans and soya sauce and chillies to tingle your tastebuds! Apart from taste you get different textures. My mom always make congee when someone in our family is ill. To me it doesn't just taste like heaven but always remind me of home and brings me closer to my mum. At home whenever someone is ill, the most important is not medication, it is yes you guess it, food! I truly believe food makes someone feels better and the comfort of something familiar, something you crave is crucial to recovery! 

The picture above is unfortunately not mine as you can see. I found it from another blog to show you what congee is! I didn't manage to cook that great a congee and remember to take pictures in my pathetic state but I hope this gives you an idea.

 I want to ask you this...what is your comfort food?

Monday, 15 August 2011

A night to remember atCatharines...

Having been unceremoniously jolted back into the real world of work today, it seems an appropriate moment to revisit our fabulous dinner atCatharines on Saturday. More so over a glass of excellent Pinot Noir courtesy of Bernard and Vanessa.

First of all we would love to say a massive thank you to the 13 most wonderful dinner guests who all took a leap of faith and came to experience atCatharines on Saturday night. Just before our guests arrived we were shitting ourselves but as it turns out it was entirely unnecessary. From the moment we opened our door to our very first guests till the moment we closed it behind the last, there was a never ending  stream of laughter and chit chat so much so that it was hard to tear ourselves away. 

We started the evening with a glass of chilli dark and stormy (we manage to share it with everybody else...just) accompanied by some yummy canapes. We would like to thank Wiltshire Chilli Farm as they provided all the chillies used on this menu. Simply the best chillies we'd say! We even use it on our table decor, we love them that much!

 Menu for the night was as follows:

Salmon millefeuille 
Marinated cucumbers with chilli
Ginger chicken bites
Lettuce wrapped spicy pork
Malaysian chicken 'kari kapitan', steamed coconut rice, roti pratha
 Vodka and gin infused watermelon granita
Vanilla terrine, raspberry coulis, fresh berries and raspberry shards
Coffee and Kransakaka

We would be lying if we said that it was all smooth sailing. We had a couple of minor issues, luckily crisis was averted when we whipped away the plates having realized we had accidentally put prawn crackers on the plates of our two guests with shellfish allergies. No ambulances needed - result!

So there we have it, as we were putting out 13 empty wine bottles yesterday morning, we can only hope everyone made it home in one piece, it was a pleasure to meet everybody and we hope we sent them all home with full tummies and having had an enjoyable evening. We had a blast and cannot wait to host the next dinner atCatharines.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Chillies glorious chillies....

It has been a great start to the week. The weather has been glorious not too hot and I have the week off. I am gearing towards the event this coming Saturday 13th Aug, very excited indeed and I do hope my diners can take a bit of spicing up. Earlier last week, Wiltshire Chilli Farm contacted us and said they admire what we are doing so they would like to donate some of their produce for our event. The timing could not have been more perfect! I was absolutely overjoyed as I adored chillies. How much I hear you say? Hmmm what is the best way to describe it? I mean I am not crazy like rubbing chillies in my eyes which I once saw on Gordon Ramsay far east travels a few months ago! I mean that is just suicide. I'd rather enjoy them in my food. I would use chillies at least 3- 5 meals a week either as an ingredient or condiment. So when Wiltshire Chilli Farm said they will donate some of their produce, I was jumping for joy! So emails got exchanged and the owner said she will drop some by either tomorrow or Thursday! She was laughing at how excited I was and said and I quote 'LOL..Its just chillies'.

There are the 3 holy trinity of ingredients I have to have at home, garlic, ginger and chilli. With these three ingredients, you can always turn anything bland into something fragrant and interesting. I made this dish last night.

Mini Spicy Pork Patties, green mango and papaya salad & crushed honey peanuts

Pork patties
350 g minced pork
1 tablespoon of fish sauce (nam pla)
A dash of soya sauce
1 teaspoon of finely chopped chillies
1/2 teaspoon of palm sugar or sugar
1 tablespoon corn flour
Note: Marinate for at least half hour, overnight is best

1/2 green mango julienne or shredded (must be very firm)
1/2 papaya julienne or shredded (must be very firm)
1/2 carrot julienne or shredded
Mix together
Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon of palm sugar or normal sugar
1 teaspoon chopped red chillies ( you can use bird's eye if you like it very hot)
Pour the dressing onto the salad. Set aside. Do this nearer the time about 15 mins before the pork is cooked
Handful of peanuts, crushed

1. Form the patties into circular shape about 5cm in diameter (you can have it bigger, just cook them longer)
2. Heat oil in pan, fry on medium heat
3. Give about 1 minute on each side to brown and then about 5 mins to cook through. Try by cutting the patties in half to check if unsure
4. Set cooked pork aside. This dish doesn't need to be served piping hot.
5. Assemble pork with some salad and top with crushed nuts

Another dish is dead simple which involves sexing up the humble fried egg (sunny side up). This recipe is so easy it can be done in under 5 minutes. You will need:

2 Eggs (Increase the quantity if you have more people)
1 spring onion and 1/2 red chilli (Finely chopped)
Dash of kecap manis ( you can find this in most supermarket)

1. Fry the eggs until they are still runny in the middle but crispy on the edges. Set aside
2. Fry the chopped spring onions and chillies until they are soft (about 2-3 minutes)
3. Sprinkle them onto the eggs. Then dash the kecap manis all over the eggs. Serve with plain boil rice!

As a simple condiment sliced either red chillies or birds eye chillies, dash enough soya sauce to cover. Let it infuse for 2 minutes and it is a great condiment to any rice or noodles dish!

As far as my collection of chilli sauces or stuff are concern here are some of my favourites. They all have their various uses and I don't want to bore you with details. If you do want to know send me a message :)

From back left: Thai sweet chilli sauce, Fussels Chilli oil, SriRancha chilli sauce, Maggi chilli sauce, Tean's crispy prawn chilli and Way On shrimps infused chilli oil

As I was just finishing this blog, my friend called and said that the riots that were terrorising London has spread to Bath. I told her not to worry as I have a hammer next to me and lots of chillies. God help them if they try to come anywhere near me! I might never rub chillies in my eyes but I will not hesitate even for a split second to rub it on those bloody good for nothing trouble makers!!!

Monday, 1 August 2011

True Provenance!

While I am writing this I am sitting in my kitchen frying some Malaysian curry paste for my dish tomorrow and I have a pink shower cap on with bow at the front! I mean I look ridiculous but hey I got my hair done today and I didn't want to smell like a walking bulb of garlic. The paste also contains you get the point...not good!

It has been a good weekend and Monday is always an anti climax! I go on and on about hating Sundays and yet Sundays are just the best especially these past few weeks! I was invited to friends over the past few Sundays and my have I been fed well! We were invited for a BBQ yesterday and we ended up sitting in their amazing garden for hours having wine, tapenade with goat's cheese, feeding on BBQ prawns, homemade cumin and Emmental bread (if you follow me on Twitter you will know my husband made it) and then came the spread of delightful assortment of home grown delights. Provenance is so IN at the moment. People love knowing where their food come from (whether they truly  give a shit, I am not sure) but when I made my way to their green house to pick on their Thai basil to put on the salad, I felt a twinge of jealousy but at the same time felt extremely lucky as my friends share the same passion as I do! still jealous as not only do they have a greenhouse that fills with tomatoes, assortment of herbs, they also have fruit trees, lettuces and lots of vegetables!

Homemade Cumin and Emmental Bread (Recipe is in Dough by Richard Bertinet pg 58). Andrew substitute it with Emmental cause we didn't have Gruyere.

Lovely salad with assorted herbs - fennel, parsley, Thai basil, all homegrown!

Jealous jealous jealous....;-)

Well I would have been stupid if I didn't utilise my friend's amazing array of goodies so I asked if I was able to pick the courgette flowers and attempt to make this dish which I tried in Rome so many moons ago! It is such an incredible feeling just picking on fresh produce. I was beside myself with excitement today as I attempted this dish. I so wanted to create the taste and texture of the ones I tried in Rome! If you are ever in Rome, head to the deli right opposite the Vatican Museum. I can't remember what it is called but it is an amazing deli and you can find this there. I have modified it slightly and this is my own adaptation.

Fresh from the garden!

 Recipe for my deep fried courgette flowers:

Courgette flowers (I had 9, from small to medium)
1 x ball of mozzarella
4 - 5 strips of anchovies
100 g self raising flour
Sparkling water
Note: Consistency of double cream
1 x tin tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoon tomato puree
oil for frying

1) Wash them thoroughly to get rid of bugs
2)Cut mozzarella into small chunks and half the strips of anchovies
3)Stuff carefully inside the cavity of the flowers. Note: Dont worry that the petals are with holes, the batter will cover the holes and the cheese will stay within.
4)Where possible, twist the petals slightly to shut the flowers
5) Heat oil. I used a small frying pan with about 150ml of vegetable oil. As a utensil to move them about, the best is chopsticks (Use only if you are a master of chopsticks, if not tongs will do but be gentle)
6)When oil is hot enough, try with a bit of batter, dip the flowers with your hands and gently put into the oil. Fry until golden
7) Lift them up when ready, sprinkle with sea salt.

1) Chop garlic,  Fry with little oil
2) Pour the tin of tomatoes into the garlic
3) Add tomato puree
4) Blitz and then return to the hob, simmer for about 20 minutes until flavour intensified

Thank you Giles and Corinne for an amazing lunch and let me run riot in your garden! X