Saturday, September 24, 2005

improvisation

they are so many foreigners who come to china and complain and complain and complain....i guess you get the message, actually i am sometimes in this group. if you have ever been to a jingkelong you will know what i mean...or in barbados as we say if you dont have a horse ride an ass... well i have been thinking about juicy stuffed eggplants for awhile, and i wanted something different to all the chicken we normally consume...BEEF...juicy BEEF...and in jingkelong you cant just go to the butcher and ask for 2 pounds of your best minced rump....you never know what you will get...ha ha....so i got the next best thing 500g of fuhua fei niu A ji (grade A fatty beef from fuhua)...this is the type of beef that goes in Chinese hot pot...and we always go to fuhua and i am never disappointed with their beef, always juicy.....
this was the improvisation in my recipe.
I made stuffed eggplants with garlicy cheese puffs on the side (really good for mopping up the juice)
stuffed eggplants
2 medium sized eggplants (cut in half horizontally, with insides removed (sounds gross huh..) and chopped as small as possible...)
500g of beef (minced or thinly sliced fei niu)
1 medium onion (chopped as finely as possible)
garlic, chilli, salt, soy sauce, to taste
Place eggplant cups in salted water until ready to use.
Mixed spices, chopped insides and meat and marinade for at least 45 minutes....for me it was until the meat had completely defrosted.
before stuffing eggplant shells, add a little olive oil to the inside of each shell, they should look like this.
Wrap with foil and place in the oven, in my oven they need at least 30 min to make sure the meat is thoroughly cooked.
When you unwrap them there will be plenty of juice, pour this back on to each eggplant before serving.
garlicy cheese puffs
4 cloves roasted garlic (smashed once once)
savory pastry mix
cheddar or another sharp cheese chopped
mix all ingredients
break off pieces of cherry sized pieces of dough and use your thumb to press the center,
Place on baking sheet in oven and cook until brown and crispy.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

farm girl fare

for those of who who dont know i was raised on a farm, we still have this farm and my dad and my brother raise chickens, pigs, sheep...grow vegetables...and we have a menagerie...at one point in time 13 cats..and as many dogs...2 geese..a guinea bird...a monkey..2 goats....a terrapin you name it we have raised it!
i love my chicken...actually i love all meat...i am a proper carnivore...last night i made roasted chicken drumettes and yogurt potatoes for my guy...proper belly warming food especially with the weather going down hill.....hmmm i miss summer....

roasted chicken drummettes (for 2)
12 chicken drumettes (the mini drumsticks that come from the wing)
seasoning mix of your choice (i used chilli flakes, salt, soya sauce)
mix chicken and spices well and let marinade for at least 45 minutes.
place uncovered in the oven until chicken juices run clear after you stick with a toothpick, turn at least once.

Yogurt Potatoes (for 2)
2 large potaoes (peeled, halved and sliced as thin as possible)
1 pot of natural yogurt (no sugar, no taste, cooking yogurt, because in Beijing sugar free yogurt is still sweet)
1 small onion sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
seasoning (salt and black pepper)
optional 2 rashers of bacon chopped

mix all ingredients
place in a deep foil pan or oven dish and cover tightly.
cook until potatoes are tender approximatley 40 minutes.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

the first and the last

we had our first picnic on saturday in conjunction with the beijing pop festival...if i knew that the picnic was so much fun we should have done it sooner...the weather was perfect on saturday (perfect for beijing) blue skies, lots of sunshine and clean air.
The girls and i organised the picnic 2 days in advance with everyone promising to bring a tasty nibble and some potent booze...we lived up to our promises...and by 7pm after 5 hours of lying and laughing in the sun we were on a booze induced high:) The music was just ok but the company was terrific and i would have another picnic in a flash if we could get another month of sunshine...
on the menu
spicy tuna in pita pockets & rose wine (compliments anoushka)
roast chicken and yogurt dressing sandwiches & red bull vodka (compliments sophie)
veggies and dip & red and white wine (compliments emanuelle)
spicy noodles & vodka orange (compliments Franz)
Chips & rum and coke (compliments Erin)
mini cheese melts, bacon pockets & rum punch (compliments me)

I can only give you recipes for what i prepared but i would love to have the recipes for the other food because it was really delicious.

Mini cheese melts
savoury pastry of your choice (i added extra herbs to mine)
cream cheese
hard cheese (sharp cheddar etc. chopped into small cubes)
4 cloves garlic (roasted in oven)
1.roll the dough as thin as possible and use a shot glass to get small disks
2. mix the cream cheese, hard cheese and garlic until you have a relatively smooth paste
3. use a teaspoon to place a small amount in the center of each disk.
4. place in oven and bake until crispy, slightly brown on edges and cheese is melted and bubbly.
5. cool and store in air-tight container
Bacon Pockets
savoury pastry of your choice (i added extra herbs to mine)
4 rashers of streaky bacon (chopped)
1 small onion
red chilli
cream cheese
1. saute or grill bacon and onion and chilli (i found the bacon salty enough so i didnt use salt), drain well, keep liquid
2. allow to cool and mix with cream cheese, mix well and place in fridge.
3. roll pastry thinly and cut into squares
4. place a small amount of filling in each square and seal edges
5. before putting in the oven brush well with the reserved liquid.
6. bake until brown (10 minutes)
7. cool and store in air-tight container.

Rum punch my way (makes 2 liters)
watermelon seeded and blended (i used 1/4 of a medium melon) with rum (as much as you wish...he he he), place in freezer for at least 1 hour
orange juice (i bought a 2 liter bottle and poured off 1/4 of it)
1. mix all ingredients well, if you are consuming this at home, return to freezer, shaking occasionally so it does not freeze completely.
2. serve icy cold.


a night of debauchery....or rather a whole afternoon of it!!!



Friday, September 16, 2005

goobye summer...

its getting cold outside...autumn is definitely in the air....then that means winter is just around the corner:( and as i said before i am a sun-goddess...
Last night i tried making bread and it was not sucessful so that sucks but i think bread making is a challenge for everyone, and it needs time and practice so i will just continue. On a sucessful note i made two really nice dishes for autumn: a soup and a salad.
Autumn pear salad.
In Beijing, pears are really good in the autumn and winter because they are great at combating the dryness, which is always present.

I got these really nice pears from the market, i dont know their english name but the vendor called them su li (no idea which su). They are soft, sweet, slightly acid and not at all crunchy. I used 1 pear (cut as chunky as you wish), 1 carrot (also cut as you wish, it can be circles, sticks or a mixture of both).
Blue cheese vinigarette
blue cheese, this amount is variable i used very strong danish blue so i only used approx 1 teaspoon
apple vinegar...a splash (not very accurate, but it was not alot so i guess thats the best way to descibe it)
olive oil salt and pepper to taste (if available use freshly ground back peppercorns nicer taste) Mix well and pourover mixed carrots and pears.


Creamy healthy Pumpkin soup
is it an oxymoron creamy healthy? well the soup i made from my tang shan xiao nan gua (little pumpkin from tang shan). since i have no stove i roasted the pumpkin in the oven, it was great cuz all the juices which are lost by boiling were preserved in the foil and of course the pumpkin.

1 small pumpkin (cut the pumpkin into quarters).
seasonings
1 clove garlic
1 small piece ginger
cinnamon either stick or powder (to your liking)
salt and pepper
250ml of soymilk
I placed the clove of garlic with a piece of pumpkin and wrapped well in foil and did likewise with the ginger and cinnamon.
The pumkin needs approx 25min in the oven (should be soft to the touch).
Once cooled scoop insides out into a large bowl, set ginger, garlic and stick cinnamon aside.
squeeze ginger and garlic into pumpkin flesh.
use a fork to mash pumpkin flesh. slowly add soy milk mixing and mashing until you have a smooth paste.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Return to heat just to warm.
Serve with crackers or toasted bread

Thursday, September 15, 2005

to-MAH-to or to-MAY-to

welcome to the confusing world of cooking....depending on which side of the ocean you live on you will use grams, ounces, cups, tablespoons, sticks, jin, liang etc etc...
I came across a recipe yesterday very simple....for peanut brittle from the bakingsheet it looks so deceptively easy....three problems 1) i am not overly fond of peanuts...and 2) how much of this stuff will fit in my tiny oven, cuz this will be a sample....which leads to the biggest problem of all 3) how to convert cups and sticks so i know how much to reduce the recipe by....
solutions
1) easy just change to some other nuts:) i used chestnuts, they were on special in the supermarket, they were chewy and crunchy at the same time really nice
2) reduce the measurement by 1/2
3) check online and find a useful reference
My tasters recipe for nut brittle
Original recipe (mine in brackets)
1 cup of butter, softened (115g or 1/2 cup)
1 cup white sugar (1/2 cup brown sugar)
2 cups flour (1 cup flour or 16 tablespoons)
1 cup peanuts coarsely chopped and divided (chestnuts approx 10 medium sized shelled ones, cooked, i bought a pack already cooked and shelled)
I followed the instructions given in the original recipe, and had a really nice smelling dough.
Method as follows:
Cream together butter and sugar, slowly add flour mixing until fully incorporated. they said stir in half the nuts and leave the rest for later well i used all the nuts instead, after all where's my spontaneous streak if i didnt?
turn dough onto ungreased jelly-roll pan, this is basically a flat pan, similar to mine (but mine is half the size) and use fingers (floured) to press into a thin layer.
Place in oven and bake for up to 25 minutes, since my oven is so small i only needed 15 mins which was enough for the dough to brown all over.

I turned it over into a plate and it the smell was heavenly i am sure the neighbors were happy too!
Note! I thought that this recipe was really sweet so i think next time i will tinker with it...until i get the right mix:) I took some to work and my colleagues liked it...its always nice to make other people happy too:)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

SPONTANEITY...

I am by nature a spontaneous person....or at least when it comes to cooking i am...i am so bad at measurments, i just add until i get the right texture or taste....
yesterday was the last day of my diet and i wanted something to celebrate...nothing too heavy but something different so i started thinking about this since 2pm...why not??
then i thought something with corn and chicken...so that was my inspiration....
I went to the market after work (the supermarket that is, not the wet market).
I bought some chicken breasts and asked if they could mince them for me...
no no to much mafan (trouble)!
why did i even think they would do it anyway??!!
Close to the meat they have the grains so i saw the corn flour and thought
"thats what i will do chicken and corn rolls!"
then i saw some really nice mushrooms and came up with.....(drum roll please).....herbed mushroom rolls.
I bought everything and was very excited when i got home, my other half was also at home first question, "what are you cooking love?"
me, "it's a surprise!"
him, "a long surprise?" (understandable especially after the eggplant rolls)
me, "i dont think so, you just watch some tv by the time batman is finish i should be done"
so for dinner that night we had chicken and corn rolls and herbed mushroom rolls
I am going to have to apologise in advance all measurements are very approximate
chicken and corn rolls
chicken filling
500 g chicken breast chopped as fine as possible or better yet minced in you can persuade the butcher!!
1 or 2 chillis roasted in the oven then also chopped as finely as possible
1 medium onion slightly sauteed or grilled in oven with chillis, chop finely as well
salt to taste
Mix all ingredients and set aside to marinate
corn pastry
1 tin of sweet corn, creamed (creamed corn is blending corn until it is like a thick paste, to do this drain corn, set aside water, place in blender and add approx. 2 tablespoons of water from corn and blend, if there is difficulty add a little more water....it should not be like juice...should be kinda like baby food....i dunno if this is a good comparison)
1 cup corn flour
0.5 cup white flour
0.3 cup of corn oil or olive oil
salt to taste
extra flour for dusting
Preparation
In a large bowl place creamed corn, add oil, salt, corn flour. mix well, it will be sticky...start adding the white flour slowly...if you add too much the dough will not be soft enough. You can tell when the dough is finished if you can mix it and none or very little sticks to your fingers.
Use the extra flour and dust your working surface, divide the dough into half. take the first half and either use a rolling pin or your fingers in make the dough as thin as possible, you will need the extra flour to stop the dough from sticking. the dough does not have to be too thin....but you dont want it too thick either. you will have to do this for both pieces
Assembling
place half the chicken mixture on the first piece of dough, make sure you cover as much surface as possible. to get the roll shape, start rolling the dough towards you (think swiss roll, or a paper roll), make sure as you roll you press the chicken into the pastry (not too hard we dont want holes). your roll should look like this
Wrap the roll in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes, 45 would be ideal. This is done so it is easier to cut the roll. My other half was pretty hungry...so i think i left it in the freezer for only 15 mins...way too short, from my pictures you will see what i mean.
Herbed Mushroom rolls
300g mushrooms (i used the flat black ones shiitake), thinly sliced
olive oil, balck pepper& salt to taste
herbed pastry
1 cup of flour
1 to 2 tablespoons of assorted herbs
0.3 cup of olive oil
extra flour for dusting
optional: i had some left over grilled eggplant so i put that in the pastry gave it a different taste.
Preparation
As with above place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well, if not enough flour add, so that you have a pastry to above i.e. doesnt stick to your fingers. roll partry as mentioned above and spread the mushroom over entire surface. roll, place in plastic wrap and place in freezer to set.
baking rolls
remove from freezer and plastic wrap on a floured surface slice roll and place little circles on a greased baking sheet. bake until brown, approximatley 15 minutes. serve chicken and corn rolls and herbed mushroom ones hot with your favorite chilli dip.
NOTE: i did not leave in the frezer for 30 min or even 45 min cuz we were too hungry so my rolls are not exactly round. Alo they were difficult to cut cuz they were too soft, but the end result was great. my other half loved them...and asked where did the recipe come from? my answer.... it was just a whim...my love and gave him a wicked smile....and we went back to nibbling on the delicious rolls
the second picture is how your rolls will look if you cut them aftey have spent some time in the freezer...drumroll please....

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

even better than cooking!!


you guessed it eating...and in Beijing there are no shortage of places...
the deity of meals...must be the buffet....in beijing from 38rmb (5 usd) up to 350rmb (50usd)
you can eat all you want...yeasterday i had a fish craving...my first thoughts...japanese food....i can get a large slab of fish to nibble on....cuz they should be no cheap lunch buffets on sundays..generally speaking this is true.

yesterday we arrived at Matsuko (great deal for money 68rmb all you can eat lunch buffet), there were at least 12 people in front of us waiting for a table...on a sunday....hard to believe!!

I still had my heart set on my slab of fish....but alas when we finally got our table 30 mins later...my girlfriend told me there are at least five types of fish on the buffet....and you know me...variety is the spice of life....after two plates..the first full of all the fish that was on the buffet even the tempura shrimp which i undressed before consuming...i should have stopped then cuz i was full...but noooooo....i needed some veggies so plate no.2 was full of veggies (really tasty kim-chi yum)...
my stomach by this time was screaming, "stop stop no more..."
if i was not on the diet my eyes would have replied "you are always complaining....just take a deep breath there's more coming....like the yummy japanese rice desserts... "
I was very good....i stopped and watched my lunch companions continue to gorge themselves, my stomach feeling relived and happy, while my eyes longingly lusting after the roasted chicken wings and spicy tuna rolls...
I think maybe another visit is needed on another day when i have more room in my stomach and am not restricting my eating.
As i said there are so many good buffets in beijing...matsuko is one of the nicer japanese ones.
the st. regis the nicest (and also most expensive) overall
and i would say maybe indian kichen for the nicest (and cheapest) indian spread
this is a picture of the kempinski hotel spread, if you have 350rmb, 2.5 hours on a sunday and a very empty stomach...oh and a tolerance for screaming kids this maybe the place for you...they have evrything from breakfast right through to new york cheese cake.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

some like it hot!


i think in a former life i must have been a tropical sun goddess....yes a goddess:)
i love hot stuff...
hot weather (which is slowly going away...it will soon be winter in Beijing)
hot foot (as in spicy, believe it or not this is a newly acquired taste...i woke up one morning and thought i could eat something really spicy today)
hot water (which i am currently wthout boo hoo hoo....what will i do when it gets really cold??!!!)

Enough of my hot rantings...today is friday...and i was told by my other half we have a HOT pot dinner appointment tonight....this is not good news I am on a diet...but no fear...i have reshuffled saturday and friday night's dinner, so instead of fruit salad and yogurt tonight it will be un gros steak avec les legumes a big steak with veggies or in this particular case...hot pot: lots of finely sliced beef with veggies in a spicy broth.
Today is day 11 of my 14 day diet...yesterday day 10, for dinner i could have 2 eggs, ham and salade....sounds boring...well thats what i thought too...and did i mention i had a craving for something spicy...and we have to satisfy those cravings!!!

I made spicy roll-ups they were exactly what i wanted and used the below ingredients..perfect but the only drawback was the preparation time (for recipes they normally have this written and it says 15 min 30 min etc) well for this recipe i think we just have to write LONG!
Spicy roll-ups
These are the ingredients i used...
2 large round eggplants
2 red chillis
2 eggs
smoked ham (cut into halves )
toothpicks (soak in warm water before using to avoid burning)
seasoning to taste.

Chillis
The first thing you have to do it roast the chillis it gives them a really nice taste and brings out the flavors, this is very easy.
1.Cut chillis in half remove seeds (alternatively you could leave them whole but i find them easier to handle if i cut in half)
2. Place face down or skin side up on foil on the oven rack, the chillis will be done when their skins are burned not completely black but puffy and crispy, similar to the picture above, they will also have this wonderful spicy smell.
3. remove skin, and finely chop soft flesh. set aside
Eggplants
in order to roll the eggplants you need to first grill them or slightly fry them to get them soft, since i have nothing to fry on i grilled mine in my small oven two at a time (this is what took the bulk of the time!!!).
1. slice eggplants in rounds, not too thin or when they are grilled they will fall apart, so maybe about 1 to 1.5 cm thick.
2. Place in salty water it draws some of the bitterness from the eggplants and keeps them white
3. Place as many as your oven will hold on foil (if you wish you can brush with oil, i didnt and they were fine)
4. eggplants should brown a little and start getting soft, you will need to turn at least once. each set of eggplants should take about 10 minutes (this is what i mean about the long preparation) it would be a good time to start a dvd if you plan on making many of these!!!
5. Once eggplants are done place on a covered plate (i used a bowl to cover the plate it works womderfully cuz the steam stays in)
Eggs
the eggs are going to be slight scrambled so they are moist. this can be done in the oven in little foil ramekins or on the stove top, season to taste, once finished add the chopped chilli and remove from the heat. You should have wet and creamy scrambled eggs.

Assembling your spicy roll-ups
1. Place a slice of egglant on your work surface
2. Place ham, a scoop of the scrambled egg mixture, roll those together but fold the eggplant in half and secure with toothpick.
3. After each roll is assembled placed in baking container folded side up (toothpicks showing).
4. Sprikle with dry herbs and oilve oil
5. Place in oven for another 7 to 10 min until eggplants and contents are sizzling
6. Remove and place on serving plate.

we had this for dinner with cold sliced cucmbers, because as i had imagined it was quite spicy, but my boyfriend wolfed them down, so i knew they were good:)

notes
i guess cheese would be nice sprinkled on top
and maybe using creme in the eggs (but i am on a diet)....

Friday, September 09, 2005

New additions...

My sister gave birth to a 5lb 2oz daughter at 3:15am September 7th (barbados time).
I bought regtangular foil pans.
We both have new additions! Although it's not really fair to compare.

And i guess i also forgot to mention i am on a diet (hence the healthy and light stuff) because i will be heading off to the caribbean in 2 weeks time and i need enough space to eat all of that delicious food yummy yummy....and don't worry i will keep up the postings from there too!

In celebration of my new foil pans I tried making soup. For those of you you don't know my kitchen is sparsely equipped emphasize on SPARSE!!!
Yesterday I made what I hoped would be a cold tomato soup: a garzpacho...but once I got these foil pans I thought why not give warm soup a try...did I mention I also have no gas and no pots but I do have me a terrific mini toaster oven...As you can see it is quite used!!
those are the tomatoes grilling inside.




Warm tomato and tuna soup
2 tomatoes
1 clove of garlic
1/2 cup of tuna
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 pinches of chilli powder
seasoning to taste
Cut 1 tomato in half and place in oven cut side up until soft and skin is sizzling, this should take 10 to 15 minutes, mash to a pulp (the skin can be removed).
Combine 1 tomato, olive oil & garlic in a food processor.
Mix all ingredients with tuna flakes and re-warm either in oven (in my new foil pan) like I did or on stove top in suitable pot for approx. 10 mins (in oven) or on stovetop until starts smelling yummy (maybe 3 or 4 min).
Serve with croutons (cubed bread baked crispy in the oven, I think it is better to use a hard bread for this, I used ordinary bread and they were still a little too soft on the inside).

finished product...warm soup with croutons on the side.
One other note some may find the soup a little sour; unless you have really sweet tomatoes, if you don't like the sharp sour taste (i love this...), you can add a little sugar or cinamon.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

the beginning of something good


I am starting this because hopefully in a few days time i'll be finish writing my thesis.....yippee! and will have some time on my hands....also because i love cooking and have a very limited amount of equipment with which to do so! so i thought it would be interesting to share with everyone what a few good pieces of machinery can do.
I have been reading so many food blogs, some terrific and others just so so....i hope i can put enough effort into this one so it will be one of the ones that people will love to look at:)