Monday, 23 January 2012

Year of the Dragon - Chinese New Year 2012

We welcome the year of the dragon with the news that there might be a baby boom this year. A lot of people want a Dragon baby as they believe babies born this year will be far more superior than any other babies born in a different year. Dragon symbolises the Emperor therefore the superiority. With the recession this year and this belief, many people will get busy!

I was born in the year of the Rooster and most compatible with Dragon so I am happy. I hope to god this year is going to be a good one. However being a mum might be quite away yet. I decided to welcome the year of the Dragon with a good party. We have one every year and this year is no different. We get a few friends together and invite them to join in the festivities. We treated our friends to deep fried ginger chicken wings, roasted Dragon meat (Chinese roast pork), festive salad with raw salmon, Bulgogi ribs, pork and mushroom dumplings and prawn crackers. We also have red packets that we give to our friends. We put scratch cards in every one and Louisa won £10 this year. I miss my family most during this time of the year so it was lovely to have close friends around and celebrate life with them.

If you would like to celebrate any occasion with your nearest and dearest, the recipe below is fit for an emperor.

Roast Dragon Meat (Chinese Roast Pork) 

1.5 kg boneless pork belly
For the dry rub
2 tablespoons coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon ground roasted Szechuan peppercorns
2 teaspoons five spice powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons sugar

Note: The pork is prepared the day before

1) Pierce the skin with sharp knife or fork until the skin is covered with fine holes
2) Boil some hot water in a large pan. Hover the meat over the boiling water with a meat hook or large fork. Use a ladle and pour hot water on the skin several times. Set pork aside
3) Heat the wok and stir fry the ingredients for the dry rub for 3 minutes until well incorporated. Set aside to cool
4) Rub it all over the meat side of the pork
5) Put the meat on a wire rack and dry in the fridge overnight or at least for 8 hours
6) Preheat the oven to 200 C. Put the pork in the pre heated oven on a rack over a roasting tin of water. Roast for 15 minutes then reduce the temperature to 180 C and then continue for 2 hours. 
7) Turn up to 230 C for the final 15 minutes of cooking.

Note: I serve it by cutting it into bite size and chilli sauce. This makes good canapĂ© or snack over a glass of wine or ice cold beer. This is a very popular bar snack in Asia. To make a meal out of the roast pork, you can serve it with plain boil rice. 

Happy Cooking!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Credit Crunch Gifts

Christmas and New Year are finally over. All the frantic buying and wrapping has come to an expected end and normally I look forward to a bit of normality after the festive season but I was not looking forward to 2012. As thousand of pounds of fireworks graced the skies across Europe, we also heard the messages that continuously aired on the news regarding a recession looming upon us.

And if you are like me that has friends and families whose birthdays are in January (how inconsiderate!!), some creativity is needed when buying them gifts while being on a tight budget. Even though times are hard, a present however small is always appreciated. I thought long and hard about what present to get them which represents the appreciation I have for them and at the same time budget conscious. I tried looking at the shops and it is then I decided to make my own. I do what I do best. I'll make something delicious. I decided on Homemade Lemon Curd. I went out and bought 2 350 ml glass jars for 59p each (you can buy smaller jars and it stretch further), 4 lemons at 30p each, 4 eggs at 20p each. I have sugar, cornflour and butter in the larder. Everything costs under £5.00. You can argue that you can buy from the shops for less but nothing compares to a little thought and effort.

This is a recipe which I have tried and tested from Delia's Complete Illustrated Cookery Course and it is delicious. I use it on toast and also on tartlets to make individual meringue pies.

Makes 2 350 ml jar + little extra

 grated zest and juice 4 large juicy lemons
 4 large eggs
 12 oz (350 g) golden caster sugar
 8 oz (225 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small lumps
 1 level dessertspoon cornflour
You will also need two 1 lb (350 ml capacity) jars, sterilised


Begin by lightly whisking the eggs in a medium-sized saucepan, then add the rest of the ingredients and place the saucepan over a medium heat. Now whisk continuously using a balloon whisk until the mixture thickens – about 7-8 minutes. Next, lower the heat to its minimum setting and let the curd gently simmer for a further minute, continuing to whisk. After that, remove it from the heat. Now pour the lemon curd into the hot, sterilised jars, filling them as full as possible, cover straightaway with waxed discs, seal while it is still hot and label when it is cold. It will keep for several weeks, but it must be stored in a cool place.

More on credit crunch gifts next time...Happy Cooking