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Archive for the ‘Yummy food’ Category

Snail’s pace

Yesterday I went to Chinatown restaurant with my friends Yeeman, Denis and Aleona. It was my first time experiencing real Chinese food, not the Western versions and with Yeeman to help us choose, we got the best selection of dim sum. We ate dumplings with prawn and chives, beancurd and prawns, sticky rice with pork and two noodle dishes; one with seafood and the other with pork and green beans. The flavours were fantastic. Unlike takeaway food, these dishes were light and fresh – steamed and grilled to perfection.

Denis recently worked in Japan for six months and having sampled some of the most daring sushi (pig brain and monkey brain amongst them – apparently yummy) he was keen to try some more unusual dishes. So Yeeman also ordered satay snails and chickens feet. I was surprised by the feet – they tasted like chicken wings, less meaty but full of flavour. I would be lying if I said I was not a little nervous about eating the snails, I think the image of one moving along the ground can be off-putting. But I gave it a go. I had expected it to have a texture like mussels – but I found it similar to octopus – though slightly more chewy. The sauce was great and I was surprised that I enjoyed the taste.

Throughout the meal we drank tea in little cups. Yeeman was in charge of re-filling our cups and added more tea after nearly every sip. This means our cup is never half-full; a nice sentiment and a constant feeling of being looked after. Yeeman showed us the traditional way of thanking the server; set three fingers on the table and tap the middle finger. This comes from a traditional tale of a King who served tea to his guards – the guards couldn’t bow to the King, so they tapped their fingers instead. The middle finger is bowing to the server. It’s a gesture that stops a constant “thank you” being said. (Please feel free to correct me if I’ve got this custom wrong – I’m still learning!)

I always enjoy meeting up with this crowd. Denis and Aleona come from Russia, and enjoy travelling, so they always have great stories, often involving food – my favourite subject. Yeeman is visiting Hong Kong soon, so I look forward to hearing her culinary adventures. And whilst I’m on the subject of world cuisine, my friend Claire recently moved to Bankok for a six month stay (missing you Claire!) and I have made it clear I want plenty of photos of her stay, especially the food…..

It was a relaxing lunch after a tiring week. There has been plenty of drama and stresses this month, with some sad family news. But along with the sad, there have been happy moments; so I’ve been taking my time, plodding along slowly. Life is good when you are with friends, being reminded that life is full of beautiful gestures.

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pacman

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Whilst the rain battered down on Glasgow, I spent Friday afternoon baking. I’ve had a low month so it was comforting to have a small goal to work towards. The task was a random cake commission for a 40th birthday – a pair of old-skool classics: Pacman and Ghostie. I used the classic sponge recipe and made a lemon cake for the Pacman and a chocolate cake for the Ghostie.

Cake mix

Cream 6oz of butter with 6oz of castor sugar. Blend in 6oz self raising flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 3 beaten eggs. Spoon mixture between two 8inch cake tins.

Lemon cake – add grated rind of 1 lemon and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.

Chocolate cake – add 1 tablespoon cocoa powder and 1 tablespoon warm water.

Bake at gas mark 3 for 25 minutes. It’s ready when springy.

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House artist Lee helped me to carve and ice the cakes. I used lemon butter icing (yum!) for the inside of the Pacman cake: beat together 8oz icing sugar, 4oz butter and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. I sandwiched the two cakes together with the lemon butter icing and a layer of jam. To the butter icing I added some yellow food colouring and blended well. (Had to make extra icing to cover the cake) Lee cut the Pacman mouth and iced the cake. A chocolate button was used for his cheeky eye.

For the Ghostie cake, I made chocolate butter icing: blend together 8oz icing sugar, 4oz butter and 1 tablespoon cocoa powder. Add some warm water if the mix is too stiff. This icing sandwiched the cakes together along with a thin layer of jam. Lee carefully cut the Ghostie shape. He iced the top with plain butter icing with added blue food colouring. I love Ghostie’s eyes – marshmallows and chocolate buttons give him a cool look.

I am rather proud of these guys. They were fun to make and reminded me of those wet afternoons stuck indoors playing the ZX Spectrum or an Atari. I wonder if today I’d have the patience to sit and wait for a game to load while the screen flickers and the sound ‘bing bongs’?

I once read an interesting pop-psychology piece that examined the use of retro in adult culture. It suggested our love of retro comes from a need to find a piece of stability in an ever-changing, seemingly violent world. Retro objects and art gives us a reminder of the past – a safe, happy time, free from modern pressures. I’m sure that every generation feels that fear of the world – that mankind is on the edge of meltdown between wars and moral chaos. It’s been felt as far back as the Romans. Once in a uni class we read excerpts from diaries where Romans bemoan the decline of moral order amidst violence and littering. 

Retro has been around for longer than the 1980s. During the 18th and 19th century, ancient Greek and Roman culture became an inspiration for art, architecture, fashion and literature. OK, it’s vague to compare 1980s retro and 1890s classical antiquity, but it shows looking to the past gives us imagery to influence our current styles. Retro reminds us how far we’ve come; from playing Pong in our bedrooms where we dreamed of a future with limitless technology, to a world in which these dreams are coming true. I love retro – the past is full of design classics that deserve a place in the future.

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Caesar salad

Apologies for the terribly long delay in posting this blog, especially after my fellow bloggers kept up to date. I’ve forgotten the exact time-line, so have just written a rough account of the day.

Wake up and wonder where I am. This is a recurring theme. I am always at home, but wake up confused regardless…

Head off to the hairdressers with Lee and read gossip magazines and listen to the Glasgae banter while we wait. I love the hairdressers. It is friendly and has no pretensions. Lee gets his haircut and I listen to the girl next to me have a conversation on her mobile phone.

*Please note the phrase “I wis like ‘at” means “I was like that”. It is a nonsensical West coast phrase which I love. It means I was shocked. The speaker usually pulls a shocked face. Conversation goes thus:

“An’ I saw her comment on Bebo and I wis like ‘at, WHIT! Who are you? Whit ye dain? And she was looking aw smug an’ that. An’ I sent her a message, I tellt her, I made it clear no? I am telling ye, I wis like ‘at. Pure cunt. I tell ye. So you goin oot the night? That Anne-Marie is coming and she is pure crazy. She never gets oot so she will be pure mad. Hyper. Does ma tits in. But she’s a guid laugh no? Last time I saw her on a nigt oot, I wis like ‘at.”

Sometimes I have no tolerance for overhearing a person’s phone conversation, but this one was full of gossip. I hope I don’t come across as being a snob, it seriously doesn’t bother me how a person speaks. I hate the common arrogance that people have towards others – terming anyone with a strong accent a ned or a chav. It’s social snobbery. But off my soapbox, that is off-topic. The point I’m making – I don’t mind Scottish slang and I love the odd little idiosyncrasies people let slip when they talk. I like to absorb other people’s catchphrases.

Go to bakers and share a wee pie and duck wrap.

Head home. Tidy up while Lee has a shower.

Lee makes salsa and bakes garlic croutons.

Go for an afternoon nap.

Wake up to the phone ringing and the alarm clock going off at exactly the same time. It’s Lee’s Dad calling from Seattle and they have a chat.

Get changed and go drive with Lee to our friend Keir’s house. The motorway is busy with cars from the football traffic.

We arrive to Keir rushing about the kitchen. I ask what he’s got to do and he pauses to rattle off a list that he’s clearly sticking to. Good organisation. Lee helps chop herbs and chillies, I wash mushrooms and pimentos. The yummy smells are driving me crazy with hunger pangs.

People start arriving an hour later. We all have a few drinks, then a HUGE feast of food, though I forgot to take a photograph. The photo above is of the homemade Caesar salad with garlic croutons. We ate – pasta, prawns, salads, pimentos, chicken and mushroom bake, pesto and much, much more. YUM!

And that was my day. We crash at Keir’s. All in all, a fun, food-filled day – perfect!

UPDATE: Passing the next day onto Marceline.

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pancake 2It’s so dark and wet here. And there is nothing worse than dieting in the dullness of winter. It is far harder to enjoy light, fresh foods when the days are damp. I want to stuff myself with crumbles and casseroles, hot toffee sauces and mashed potatoes (not all at once). Instead, I am on the homemade smoothies for breakfast (fruit only), homemade soup for lunch and starving by dinner diet. I am eating a ‘normal’ dinner and snacking only if I really must. And snack, I must. I made pancakes for supper last night, not realising that today is Pancake Day. I followed my favourite Delia Smith recipe because it always works without fail. I’ve adapted it slightly for ease.

Pancakes

Sieve 5oz plain flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and a pinch of salt into a large bowl.

Make a well in the centre and gradually whisk in 5 fl oz milk and 2 fl oz water. Add 3 large, beaten eggs and whisk until the batter is smooth.

Heat a small frying pan over a medium heat and add 2 teaspoons of fat. Let the fat melt. Add two or three spoonfuls of batter to the pan and swirl until the mixture covers the pan. (Adjust the amount of batter you add depending on the size of the pan you are using, or how thick you like your pancakes.)
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When the pancake turns golden brown, flip it over.

Serve with maple syrup, golden syrup or jam. I ate mine with some golden syrup and a dash of lemon.
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This time of year is perhaps my least favourite. The shiny, tacky fun of Christmas is gone and the summer seems so distant. When I’m having a bad day, I find baking can sooth my soul. Pancakes are satisfying to make; I love the glossiness of the batter and the silliness of flipping them over. In the most basic sense, I’m trying to turn things around.  

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Pear, nut and choclate cake

I had a late night urge to bake. Some pears on the verge of turning had to be used, so I set to work adapting a recipe from Good Food magazine. The recipe called for hazelnuts but I substituted these with Brazil nuts and walnuts. It’s a fast, easy recipe put together in the food processor.

Preheat oven to 140c/Gas mark 3.

Grind 100g/4oz Brazil nuts and walnuts in a food processor until fine.

Add 140g/5oz self-raising flour and pulse briefly.

Add 175g/6oz butter and mix until it forms crumbs.

Put in 140g/5oz caster sugar and two large eggs and pulse again.

Peel, core and chop two pears and stir into the mixture. Roughly chop 50g/2oz dark chocolate and stir through.

Spoon the cake mixture into a 20cm round cake tin (make sure you line with baking parchment).

Peel, core and thinly slice two pears. Place these on top of the cake mixure and press down.

Bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes.

Just perfect for a cold, wet Scottish night. Enjoy!

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