Category Archives: My chef friends

Dinner party at G’s

The best kind of dinner parties are the ones where you’re at home in another house; being, talking, sharing, laughing 🙂 All over delicious fare! Thanks G & C for the wonderful meal – complete with homemade dips, beef roulade, apple croissant pudding … mmm …

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Eggplant and pork vermicelli

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Ingredients:
Vermicelli – soaked for 1-2 hours
Minced pork
Chinese mushrooms – soaked for 1-2 hours, then sliced
Eggplants – sliced diagonally
Garlic, minced
Ginger, minced
Coriander – handful of leaves
Spring onion – thinly sliced
Fish sauce
Chilli sauce
Dark soy sauce
White pepper

Thanks, Dad!

:-)

Mid-Autumn in Spring

The moon’s an arrant thief,
And her pale fire she snatches from the sun.
~ William Shakespeare

Spring is whizzing by in a blur of tulips, work and windy sunshine… and I nearly forgot all about Mid-Autumn / Mooncake Festival! Luckily, Jeremy didn’t – and him and Char prepared a delicious celebratory feast for us lucky folk last weekend :-)

It was a blustery blustery busy busy Saturday for me, so walking through the doors to see and smell ALL THIS was especially amazing!

Tofu with a sweet chilli marinade, deftly stacked into an inviting tower…

Mussels with melting cheese and bacon bits… mmmm!

Prawns, corn and greens tossed in a pretty stir-fry:

Jeremy’s version of san choy bau (生菜包) – traditionally made with chicken / pork mince and water chestnuts, with the cooked mince rolled up in fresh lettuce leaves immediately before consumption. Classy finger food :-) This (addictive!) version incorporated lamb mince, bamboo shoots, tinned baby corn, carrots, oyster sauce, and a host of other ingredients.

Roast duck – bought, but made to look homemade ;-)

Of course – the necessary mooncake. I’ve heard that each one carries approximately 1,000 calories, but the truth is I am clueless about calories so I eat them even though 1,000 sounds like a lot. Growing up, I tried mooncakes with all sorts of crusts and fillings – yam, red bean, lotus paste, snow skin… they are different in each region of Asia and even now the sight of mooncakes makes me smile and intrigued to know what is inside.

This one hid within itself pandan and salted egg yolks. Pandan is a happy scent for me, don’t often get to inhale it now – and I loved this!

Mooncake on its own would have been sufficient for dessert, but out popped a second surprise – mango pudding, made from scratch! Creamy, rich and so mangoey, for lack of a better adjective! I asked Char for the recipe she used, which she kindly sent to me – see below :-)

    Ingredients:
    3 cups Alphonso mango pulp
    3 tbsp plain gelatin
    2/3 cup cold water plus 2/3 cup boiling water
    1 cup evaporated milk
    1 cup superfine sugar
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    Method:
    Place the gelatin into a bowl and stir in the cold water. Add in the boiling water and stir until the gelatin is thoroughly dissolved. Set aside to cool a few minutes.
    In a bowl, add sugar to the evaporated milk and stir until sugar is completely dissolved.
    Place the mango pulp into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the gelatin mixture, then add the sweetened evaporated milk and vanilla extract. Give everything a good stir, then pour into 8-9 custard cups or bowls (we used plastic cups, as shown in the picture above).
    Chill for at least 3 hours, or until set. Serve with a garnish of fresh fruit and evaporated milk poured gently over the top.
    Yields 8-9 servings.

Thank you Jeremy and Char, and happy Mid-Autumn Festival, everyone :-)

P.S. Somehow I’ve missed eight rounds of Sweet New Zealand! Grazie mille Alessandra for reminding me (incidentally, she is also the gracious host of this month’s Sweet NZ!). Don’t forget to send in your entry if you are a NZ food blogger and haven’t already…

Beautiful food

A thing of beauty is a joy forever.
~ John Keats

Beautiful food by a beautiful friend – Lizzie! A spread of delight – fish tacos, homemade coleslaw, chicken-yummy (I am sure it had a proper name, but this is what it was in my head), pumpkin with basil, cheese and crackers on a board and more. You can always taste a bit of someone’s heart along with their talent in their food… thus this food tasted golden indeed. Us all were very blessed.

A chicken deboned

Learning is not a spectator sport.
~ Chickering and Gamson

Tonight, Gudrun taught me how to debone a chicken*.

Blood**, bones and vegetarian thoughts aside, there were moments during which I thought: how wonderful it is to be a woman, to cook from scratch, to laugh and be horrified while learning something new. All feelings I’ve experienced several times before, and never tire of experiencing…

Thoughts on the chicken front: I never understood why people bothered deboning ducks and chickens, but when it emerged from the oven and slicing was so slick and easy – I know I will do it again. Also, I need more practice.

And yes, we had a very fun evening indeed (thank you, Craig and Gudrun)! Dinner was: leek and spinach with mustard and cream, pillow-like mashed potatoes and baked-then-grilled chicken with lemon and garlic. Mmmmm, I wish I could feed you some through your screen now!

Have a beautiful Sunday :-)

* There are useful videos like this which can serve as a guide, but I’d say go with your instincts – feel your way around and aim to get the bones out while trying to keep the chicken in one piece. Also, I found using a small sharp knife easier (but figure out what works best for you).

** I suspect the chicken was more bloody than it should have been because we had to defrost it.

P.S. Don’t forget…

Tiny teddies and the magical words of Dr. Seuss

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?
~ Dr. Seuss, Oh, the places you’ll go!

Here are members of Fran’s teddy army mounted on yummy cupcakes. They gave me a case of the giggles!

Right now, the house is drenched in the cosy scent of vanilla, chocolate and a happy oven. It’s the sort of smell which makes you think… you don’t care about the darked windows, the unmarked streets. The sort of smell which gives you courage to say to yourself, go on – how much can you win?

Oh, the places you’ll go!

We had this meal three weeks ago, and I can still taste it

Some people have a sixth sense, and some are duds at it. I believe I must have it, because the moment I stepped into the house I felt a trembling along my skin, a traveling current that moved up my spine, down my arms, pulsing out from my fingertips. I was practically radiating. The body knows things a long time before the mind catches up to it. I was wondering what my body knew that I didn’t.
~ Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees

It was like paprika occupied the wind and blew itself into my face, and dark chocolate took the shape of a willowy man and stood up to hug me. The limes were as sweet spring showers, the tortillas like warm fluffy blankets fresh from the dryer. It was smoky and mysterious, and I easily imagined the sound of foreign chants; of a mortar and pestle in use; of singing. Each bite further led my mind’s eye towards a secret chamber, towards the charred base of a solid black pot, towards a flickering flame…

The memory of this meal has been hovering on the brink of my consciousness for about three weeks now, ever since we ate it. Jian came back for a visit from the good US of A and cooked chicken mole for his family and I, you see, that was a treat to eat. Delicious food and amazing company – what’s not to like?! We sat at a table adorned with platters of chicken, mole paste, warm tortillas, fluffy rice, beans, salsa, cilantro, lime wedges – and had fun assembling our own mole parcels. I loved it, and was especially struck by how elusive the mole paste tasted, and by how beautiful and different everything tasted when they were combined. It was difficult to think about what I was eating in words. Suffice to say, the food was very delicious, tickled my imagination and made me smile :-)

After we had our fill of mole, Jian brought out a very pretty pastel de tres leches (or “three milk cake”) and we hastily commanded our stomachs to make room for dessert…

It looked to me like a sunny island in the middle of a white lake, and tasted like a cross between cheesecake and bread and butter pudding. Sweet, soft and decadent… mmmm!

Jian gave me some mole base and a few Mexican chocolate pellets which smell very exciting (gracias Jian!) and I certainly look forward to experimenting with them soon* :-)

* Though a little part of me would rather just eat Jian’s cooking, he is very talented in the kitchen.