Thursday, 22 December 2011

may the spirit of those joyful Christmas to be touched upon you.

I can remember.
I remember that cold winter, tired faces, hopeless hopes and a little drop of tears.
Looking back though, it does kind of explain everything itself. It's just that I never really wanted to see the truth as quite how it was.

My mum and dad were always hard at working.
My mum who comes from relatively wealthy and educated background, married to my dad who had nothing to show but his strong work ethic. My mum's side of family never quite accepted my dad for who he was at the beginning and this had brought a chip on his shoulder that made him feel slightly resented.
Although my mum's family had never outspoken what they thought of my dad, I think, my dad always knew he had something to prove.
Maybe that was the problem.
He never gave himself a time off. He'd work quite happily seven days a week if there was any extra work to be done. 
My mum supported my dad believing that one day they will be in very different position. And thankfully it didn't take long for them to become comfortable.

But the thing that really bothered me all the time was, they were just so realists.
My parents never really bought into the ideas of Christmas.
As much as Christmas wasn't such a big deal back home in Korea, I really loved the idea of giving presents (or perhaps more to do with the idea of receiving), spending quality time together and having a big family feast. 
My parents on the other hands, never really thought much of it. My mum was just happy she's got a day off and I think, quite frankly, my dad was in fact a bit annoyed that he couldn't work, which was just beyond my comprehension.

So one Christmas, I decided, I could change all this nonsense.
There I went to find some cardboards, tapes, ribbons and etc. I was on the mission to make my own Christmas tree. 
I had my sister cutting some shapes, my brother colouring them in and I put them all together with ribbons and there it was, standing right before our eyes, our first ever handmade Christmas tree!
We were so excited and pleased with what we've achieved. Then I remembered the story I heard and I insisted we hang some socks in hope of some presents. I had been really good all year looking after my little sister and brother, I thought, I'll most definitely have a visit from the Santa. And in all honesty, I truly believed there was a Santa who came to reward you if you were good.
I drifted off to sleep with a smile on my face thinking to myself I'd better stay awake so I can catch him to say hello'. Or some other times I was worried that he might miss our house because there was no chimney for him to get in.

You know, I can honestly say, I really hoped for that magical Christmas to come to our house for once. And for once, I really wanted to my mum and dad to just enjoy and have fun with us like in those films I saw. I did not have much clues of what it would have meant for my parents, to fulfil my hope of us opening all those boxes of desperately wished presents. But the thing which I desperately wished for was in fact, just the spirit of those joyful Christmas to be touched upon my mum and dad who always was tired and exhausted from all that reality. I just wanted that one day of romance to happen to our household where those weird and wonderful chemistry didn't unwrap that often.

To no ones' surprise, nothing ever happened the next morning.
I still woke up to the same cold winter morning, tired faces, hopeless hopes and three very sad looking empty soaks. And to top it up, my dad kind of laughed off and shouted, ''There is no such a thing!''

Do you know, maybe there was no such a thing, but those weird and wonderful chemistry of romantic winter wonders will always be with me in this festive season.
I will always believe in that magical Christmas!
And I hope you do too...

May the spirit of those joyful Christmas to be touched upon you.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

we are still at it

Four months ago it was, when I was thinking to myself that I'll be depending on all things green and leafy, that I will be working my arse off and sure I will be able to get into those pair of jeans that I hadn't been able to tackle for the last five or six years. Miraculously with the capital 'M'!

So lets have a little reality check to make sure that I am on track and to help you to understand what this random pledge was all about.

Well, this is my problem.
I absolutely fell in love with this little maisonette that had nothing but issues written all over it.
Floors were infested by woodworms, all windows and architraves were smothered in full gloss paints to make die of its beauty, every inch of internal doors were covered with vanish it might as well just disappear. The entire walls in the house was suffocated by layers and layers of wall coverings that took me all the way back to the beginning of the year, 1905; the full circle of fashion.

I convinced and persuaded Toby that this will be our absolute dream home that we had to go for it. And as any loving man will do, he did.

The thing was though, as much as I was confident that I could see it through and we will get to it before we know it, I couldn't deny the fact that this was all down to me. Absolutely everything. 
From having to live in the house full of dust with no kitchen, no heating, no proper walls and no complete floors, to giving up cultural infills of telly nights and sociable weekends in an attempt to get some works done, was and is all because of me. 
And honestly, the pressure is on.

Lying in or chill out weekends were written out from our dictionary fairly earlier on.
Every evenings were fight. Trying to make one thing better, we had to make ten things worse. Then there was the senseless arguments on why we were doing what we were doing at that time of the night, when most of the others would be sipping a lovely glass of wine, sitting comfortably in front of telly, unwinding. 
We did in fact, of course had glasses of wine. Only difference was that we were hopelessly crashed on the shaky floorboards with our glass full of tired sighs, high degrees of frustrations and the dangers of potential anger. 
Such a simple tasks attacked us with resilience. Every job was our enemies putting us in test, the world of 'Battle DIY'.

We feel more home in building site. Stress and problems are the air we breathe to feel alive. Barking mad at each other brings some much needed familiar passion back to our lives. Boxes of mess comforts us that we are still standing. 
I file my nails in sand paper grit 80 with a huge success rate whilst sanding skirting boards. Toby cracks up the joke about possible electrocution while handling lights and switches and there it comes my bonus, he swears heavily with some extra injected emotion. 
Microwave has never been so useful feeding exhausted hungry souls. Hoover becomes none existence as dust becomes our lovers. Camping has never been so close to our hearts as we learn to live with all things basic that comes with great difficulties.
And going back to the beginning of my pledge, my intention of being super healthy eating all things green, in aid to naturally shift that extra few pounds through this hard working building exercise experience has no chance to shine, as I make up those extra calories with what I would call, well deserved bottle of wine.

So as you can guess, we are not anywhere near reaching the finishing line and I have no desire to get into that old pair of jeans. 
It's relentless and it is tiring.
But the realisations of compassionate loving is something we learn as we plod along through this long rocky road. As long as we share that momentary laughter in togetherness every now and then to cheer each other up, I think, I will be alright. 

Hot and sour soba noodle salad with prawns 

soba noodles, cooked as instructed
some king prawns, cooked and peeled
1/2 cucumber, seed scooped out and sliced
1/2 carrot, sliced like matchsticks
2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1inch root ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
couple of shallots or 1/2 white onion, finely sliced
some spring onions, chopped
some hot red chillies
1 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp cider vinegar for pickling and 1tbsp for dressing
1/2 tbsp palm sugar
3 tbsp tamarind water
1/2 tbsp fish sauce
1tbsp soy sauce
lime juice
pinch of salt
white pepper
some rice bran oil

This is very simple delicious dish that can be made with very little effort. All ingredients give lots of different layers of texture that make dish more filling and interesting.

Start by pickling carrot and cucumber slices in caster sugar and vinegar mixture. Add 1tbsp warm water and a pinch of salt. Cover it and leave them for at least 30mins or longer the better. Make sure to squeeze the moisture out thoroughly when you're ready to use them. 

In the mean time, heat shallow frying pan with some rice bran oil (you can use vegetable oil if you prefer but not olive oil). Add shallots, garlic and ginger into the pan and carefully fry them until golden.

Make the dressing by placing palm sugar, vinegar, tamarind water, fish sauce, chopped chilli and soy in a jam jar, or salad dressing shaker if you have one. Add pinch of salt and some freshly cracked white pepper with lots and lots of lime juice and stir, mix or shake vigorously. You want to be able to taste the kick from the chilli with some fruity sweetness and the salty fish sauce getting you again at the back of your throat. Fresh lime juice will make it all zingy and lively. 
Adjust it to your taste with more lime or sugar or fish sauce. You can add a little warm water to loosen the dressing if you want it milder.

In a large mixing bowl, put noodles, prawns, pickled carrots and cucumber, fried onions, garlic and ginger. Stir well to coat all ingredients with prepared dressing.
Sprinkle them with some more fresh chilli and spring onions for some added kick.

We will get through it. 

Thursday, 1 September 2011

every bit of last summer

Every summer I used to make this ice coffee.
A bowl full of crushed ice and strong coffee with lots of sugar. 
For my mum this was...

Summer was kind of funny months for me. I'd broken up from school and was probably quite excited but perhaps all for the different reasons.

I grew up in the family who worked very hard for what they achieved. My parents had very strong work ethics and were aspired to better themselves all the time.
Trouble was, they perhaps worked little too hard. 
I hardly saw my parents during the months of summer holidays. Although they, particularly my dad, made real efforts to plan short little trips to rural countrysides for some very much needed family time as often as he could every weekends, most of days of my summer months, in my memory, I was left alone in charge of looking after my little sister and brother pretty much every day until late into the evenings.

It may be that I was the responsible eldest that was trust worthy of child care or maybe it was just very usual thing that happened to most households back then at home in Korea.
I must easily would have been about twelve or thirteen and how difficult would it be to be in charge of two tear away kids aged eight and six?
Looking back, thinking of what could possible happened had I not been sensible, does terrify me a bit. Nevertheless, fortunately enough, we are still all in one piece as good siblings, with perhaps, partial memories of few punches and bites and they both turned out to be every inch of respectable adults.

I think I liked being in charge. 
It was the months of being pretend grown up with all the powers of telling and dictating what must be done to those poor siblings of mine. It came with a great authority to enjoy the limitless freedom of doing everything just the way how I like it. And yes, of course, without my parents knowing if I was clever enough.
Then the clever part was done every 5 o'clock or so in the early evenings of hot summer day.
I'd make strong coffee, in with lots of sugar. A bowl full of ice all crushed up together to beat that heat of humid August sunshine, I didn't even use proper milk with it back then. Not because we were so poor couldn't afford fresh milk, I just always saw my mother having hers with coffeemate, and that was the only way I ever knew about how to take coffee.
I loved the smell of strong coffee. Its colour was beautifully rich and earthy. 
Although I never tried it properly, I could always tell by the depth of shade, that it was just how my mum would like it.
I always used to spilt quite a bit while transferring them to the freezer to make sure it was icy cold. But that was also part of fun. Every time I would give myself a little whisper of challenge not to spill a thing but the truth was I was perhaps a little too eager and a little too short.

It was like every bit of naughty things being washed away. 
Now I have done this one good thing, it was all cool. Even if I had not done any home works, and maybe bunked off piano lessons a few times, it was all just fine.

My mum loved it. And I loved it that she did.
She would always drink it from the big bowl, all at once and then, gave me a big smile that made me so happy that I did something good for my mother.
I can't seem to be able to do that often these days sadly.

Iced espresso

1shot of strong espresso
1tsp granulated sugar
pinch of cinnamon
lightly frothed up cold milk
lots of crushed up ice

The original version consists of instant coffee and coffeemate as I mentioned. However I have made some alterations since I have learnt how to take coffee for my liking over the years.
Strong and short espresso is the key to ensure the success of this recipe. 
Make sure to melt the sugar in your coffee before you cool them down slightly. Add cinnamon if you fancy.
Once sugar is completely dissolved, pour them into the glass filled with lots of ice cubes and stir vigorously to make the coffee mixture extra cold.

Now, have your nicest glass out ready for this little beauty. Fill it with lots of crushed ice. Pour the ice cold coffee mixture and top it up with lightly frothed milk.

Take a pick of your favourite seat by the window, have a sip and take a deep breath to soak up the last bit of sunshine wherever you are.

She rang me the other day. But I could not make her smile.
I wish my mum every bit of these memories of so many summers that we shared a loving laughter together.
Hope she gets better.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

such a simple thing comes as joy

Fleecy cloud high up and above the sky is a dandelion that travels the endless fields of an angel's garden.
A soft touch of breeze and gentle tickles from the wind is a kiss that welcomes you into the land of nature. 
Whispers of river is the story that you want to share with your friends, 
and there you are, waken up by the rays of blissful sunshine hearing the songs of love from your singing birds.

I am the invited passenger of its towpath learning to lie down low. 
Walking through the meadow, I hear the sense of being, just Being. 
I've never felt so close, 
I have never come this far to reach beyond of what is seen.

Raindrops on my skin is a honeydew that feeds my soul, 
cleansed with the morning's dewed grass, I shall carry on searching for the sense of calm.
My bare foot isn't a bare soul touching the ground, 
the Earth is the grounds that I walk with the pride. 

Insignificance of my self has never been so worthy of attention,
and the patience of my will shall come as reward.

Such, is a power that comes as joy.

Lamb skewers

some lamb rump steak, cut in chunks
pinch of cumin, dry roasted and ground
pinch of salt and pepper
1 dried red chilli, crushed
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
some rosemary, stalks used as skewers and handful of leaves, chopped finely for marinade
good handful of fresh mint, finely chopped
olive oil
1/2 lemon juice

Prepare the lamb by massaging them with all ingredients. 
Make sure you do this by hands not with spoon. Good hand job will really help to penetrate those wonderful flavours into the meat.
Once the meat is well coated start putting them together in the skewers and leave them for good few hours at least (longer the better really). 
Of course, if you like, you can just cook these as little individual bite size pieces or as individual steaks.

As you can see, I cooked mine on the BBQ which gave the meat another depth of smokiness. But you can always opt to grill them or pan fry them if weather isn't permitting.

Hope you enjoy.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

we go wild

Hello, and how are you all?

I know, It's been a long time. 
Don't you worry though, my dear friends, I am still here, alive. Or should I say, 'Just about...!'.

It has been pretty hectic here in a little world of mine. 
Toby and I have moved finally, and we are settling in slowly but surely. 
Covered in layers of dust and baffled with countless loads of debris of once would-have-been fashionable wallpapers, momentary hesitance and disapproval is fast becoming main acts of this, what I would like to describe as painful but somewhat joyful process.

We have heated conversations that appears more like arguments most of times. Our friends and family raise their eyebrows with concern more often than ever, and we laugh at ourselves in an attempt to conclude that we were indeed reading from the same page. 
While my hopelessly optimistic attitude provides us some aesthetically pleasing design ideas for thoughts, Toby's realistically pessimistic approach to the project tightens the practical functions over its beauty.
This huge puddle of renovation is a tough dish to tackle. We're being challenged left, right and centre. 
Amount of researches I'm having to deal with, my MacBook is now my new boyfriend and google is his brain that I peck at. I caress it every day with an exceptional love and care for some answers and wait patiently for some actions.
In the unknown field of DIY, Toby is my handy man with the mean hot paint stripping gun. Geared up with goggles and masks, we roll deep into the wildness of mess of what we hope to make it as our beautiful home one day.

Decision making has never been so difficult at times and sure we will be facing more troubled issues to get over with but so far, fortunately, everything is in one piece and we are pleased that we are where we are.

Wild Asparagus
I came across these lovely fellas about a month ago for the first time.
It is little more delicate in taste and texture than usual asparagus. As it was my first time, I wanted to have them really simple. 

some wild asparagus, trimmed
nob of unsalted butter
pinch of malden salt
pinch of black pepper
some fresh lemon juice

Steam or boil them for couple of minutes and drain if you boil them. 
Dress them with little butter, pinch of salt and pepper. Finish them off with good squeeze of lemon.
I'd like to try them with tarragon butter next time for added flavour.

I'd like to say big thank-you to all of you readers for being so supportive. 
'babaganuj' is now on BBC Food Blog's 'currently reading' list.
Thank you.

Friday, 24 June 2011

off we go.

We are packing. 
And packing and packing then some more, packing.

Covered in dirt and breathing in and through our collections of past eight years of dust, it is not that fun. Wrapping up plates and glasses with my precious Sunday Times, I am observing every inch of their past articles through my body making my subscription worthwhile, quite literally. The reminiscence of our historic items of clutter hits us hard on the head, which makes us realise we, perhaps, were totally deluded thinking we were junk free.
Who knows why I kept the pair of trainers that had its backs almost disintegrated. Who knows why those endless piles of magazines were dominating underneath of our coffee table.

I wonder of all things past and look around.
Packing our belongs for new home, I am unpacking our past. History of our seven and a half years of time together in this little flat that we called home, sweet home.
I wonder...

Would this place be just as good home to the next person in charge?

Tangy Lemon Tart

Apologies to dear readers. I concentrated on packing so much I have packed my recipe book.
Sorry everyone. I'll update it with the recipe soon as I unpack.

Almost, all set.

Friday, 10 June 2011

'Kimchee is a Korean with no Seoul.'

'Kimchee is a let-down if you are familiar with Korean cuisine.' said Marina O'Loughlin in Metro last month.

Waiting to be seen at my local GP, I picked up the newspaper and flicked through until my eyes caught that head line.

You know, being away from home-home for so long, for me, it is always exciting when I see any descriptions of Korea or Seoul. It brings little butterflies in my tummy and makes me wonder what it is all about. 
Some ends up as a joy of proudness and others, unfortunately digs up a pond of sadness. 
But it is however, always comforting knowing we are here; staying guests of this culturally celebrated land of London, participating and contributing towards ever so growing multi-cultural society. 

The exciting part of the article was that it was quite clearly a restaurant review about this hoping-to-be up-and-coming Korean restaurant, Kimchee.
The unfortunate part of it was, sadly it is not doing it how it should be. It is not super chic kick ass cool Korea.

I must say, it is probably quite hard to make Korean food appeal to everyone. 
Shortages of interests and the lack of gastronomic cultural education about the cuisine, people who are doing this Korean food business probably starts thinking they have to diffuse the original contents and become a fusion fare in order to attract the punters which ultimately results a confusion in what this bloody food is all about. 
An utter shame.

Of course, some alterations must be made to fit the target markets and to compete with this ever so growing food industry. But this does not require of losing its identity or its authenticity, surely. 

There's no doubt it is a great start that Korean food is being recognised and gathering more audiences to its tables. 
I just hope that they do it how it should be. No charges to the side dishes, and well informed staffs to guide us on how it is done to enjoy great Korean table. 
Visit to the Korean restaurant should be a high octane fun filled journey of its culture that makes you want to go back for more and some more.

Before I read the review, I heard of Kimchee and thought of trying them with couple of friends. But I might just give it a miss and have my friends over at mine instead for some good old home cooked kimchi hot pot/stew, whatever you want to call it.

Mum's kimchi Jjigae

some freshly prepared kimchi ( you can source this from most of oriental/asian supermarket)
1 onion, sliced
1 garlic clove, chopped
150-200g pork shoulder stakes, sliced (substitute with tuna, shellfish or some mushrooms, if you preper)
some tofu, cubed
spring onions, sliced
1tbsp fish sauce
500-750ml water or your choice of stock
1/2 tsp sugar
1tsp corse chilli powder
2tbsp rice bran oil or vegetable oil

The most important part of this dish is the kimchi/kimchee.
If you want, you can make this of course which I am hoping to share with you one day on how to following my memories of my family's recipe. 
However, in this occasion like many other times when I'm up for a little short cut that still provides great quality, I am using shop bought kimchi. Make a trip to a oriental or asian food store and source freshly prepared Korean kimchi. They come as roughly chopped or quartered.
It is best use the ones that had been sitting in your fridge for a little while. The riper they are, the better the dish becomes. It gives more matured depth of flavour in my opinion.
Please do make sure to save all the juices/liquid it comes with as well.
They are packed full of goodnesses you want; garlic, ginger, fish sauce, shrimp paste and etc, you name it. All mingled together for subtle but all mighty flavours.

Start the dish by frying some onions over medium heat in oil. Once softened, add garlic, kimchi, sugar and chilli powder. After about 10mins or so, add pork slices in with the fish sauce and the juices from the kimchi. Keep stirring for couple of minutes and add water or choice of your stock. Bring them up to boil and then simmer for 45mins over low heat. You might want to give it a good stir every now and then but you can pretty much leave it to do its own thing.
About 10mins before it is due, add the tofu cubes. Once ready, garnish it with some spring onions and serve with freshly cooked white steamed rice.

I know you are not used to all this but please, try.
And I, I promise you, you will be delighted with a mouth watering, tongue twisting and nose sweating deliciousness. Sweet, sour and kindly spicy; a delectable, mouth full of surprises.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

beautiful within.

What struck me when I saw Y, was that she was very comfortable. Incredibly comfortable in herself, in her own skin, completely in tune with her illness that she didn't want anything but just to be. 
Her eyes looked little tired but her skin still had good complexion. She has put on some weight from the cocktails of prescribed medicines that made her feel battered but her face still smiled.

I knew she had lost her hair.
I knew it was her decision to just shave it all off before it starts to shed.
What was really hard for me to comprehend, was how this person could be so strong and calm. How one can be so acceptable of what can only be described as an awful disaster, I don't know.

For her though, it seems as it's just something she has got to deal with.
She is going with it, going with the flow. 
She is taking it, taking it all in as it comes. Making one step at the time and finding a room to breathe when she can.
What's very clear, is that she is not going to let this nightmare to win.
She is not going to let people to feel sorry for her nor let them make her feel down.

'' I just want to be as normal as I can be. I am still that Y with the same sense of humour.''
Then she, just like other times, smiles... beautiful within.

We all had a good laugh... just like the other day.

Almost full English breakfast

some good chorizo style sausages
rather lush sweet smoked streaky bacons
generous helpings of red ripe tomatoes in vine
deliciously woody chestnut mushrooms
beautifully crisp around the edges fried eggs
olive oil
clove of garlic
salt and pepper

I am sure most of you won't need 'how to' on making this dish.
It is pretty straight forward. Roast sausages in the oven and about 10mins before it is ready chuck tomatoes in. Grill bacon rashers. Saute the mushrooms with little butter, olive oil, garlic, thyme and good seasoning. Fry the eggs in good olive oil.
And don't forget the tabasco nor the brown sauce!

I think there is a reason for her to be on the boat more often these days.
Going up and down the river, she is learning to be a tempo slower so she can appreciate what's around. Breathtaking surroundings of the river, blissful rays of warmth that the mother nature brings, soft whispers of love from V and the cheers from bright faces, friends...

Monday, 23 May 2011

It goes like this

When we bought the Emile Henry Tagine for Toby's mum for one of the occasions that requires a gift, I absolutely adored it. 
It was gorgeously coloured in deep rich aubergine and rather handsomely crafted. Beautiful silhouettes of its top was sexy enough to seduce you to touch its lines and appreciate one's hard craftsmanship.
I was quite tempted. Not that I needed any other pots and pans to aid better cooking as such, but it had a great potential; enough to influence the way of cooking, I thought. 
The problem was though, it wasn't a necessity.
It was more of a desire. That lust of wanting made it a bit of naughty thing and I couldn't justify to dig deep enough into my purse.

That is the thing about gifts.
I think it has to be something that you cannot possibly justify buying it whatever the reasons that may be. It could be that the object concerned is just a bit of laughing matter or simply a lavishing corker.
And going back to the beginning, for H, it was a corker.
She loved it. 
Loved it so much when she redecorated her kitchen, she used the aubergine purple as an accent colour scheme. She even bought another one for J, Toby's brother, in burned red.

I could see its well deserved benefits. People seemed to enjoy its durability. The multi purpose hard wearing casserole-like dish that is perfectly presentable with its showy-like character, this is the winning type for any dinner party.
I really wanted it.
And the morning of my birthday, my dream came true.
A gift. The object matter that I longed to own for so long, that I couldn't wait to get my hands on. I now had the Emile Henry Tagine in dusty charcoal black.

You know, I really wanted to share a tagine recipe with you last night... until for some reason that I could not explain why, it decided not to participate, cracked on my little electric hob. Right there. 
And there was my excitement, shattered with the dream.

Eggs royale

couple of nice multi seeded muffins, sliced and toasted
couple of slices of beautifully smoked salmon (mine was smoked with Lapsang Souchong Tea)
perfectly poached egg or two
garnishes of chopped chives and some flowers
good crack of salt and pepper
not to forget a generous helpings of hollandaise sauce

for hollandaise sauce (inspired by Masterchef goes Large)
2tbsp sake
2tbsp vinegar
some white peppercorns
1 egg york
100g unsalted melted butter
salt and some lemon juice to season

Make reductions of sake, vinegar and peppercorns by boiling them. When you get about table spoonful, take them off the heat and cool.
Place a bowl over a barely simmering water in your sauce pan, start whisking york with the vinegar reduction until they appear pale and double in volume.
Take them off the heat, and add melted butter little at a time. Whisk them well to incorporate the butter before you add more to it to make sure it doesn't separate.
You should be able to achieve good pourable consistency and pale-ish in colour. 
Season it with salt and some lemon juice to taste.

So you get this instead. My lazy Sunday breakfast.
Nothing to do with Emile Henry Tagine or my favourite tagine recipe and I cannot tell you how brilliant it was to finally own one of those because so far, it is pretty shit.
I'll get over it and luckily Mr. 'John Lewis' will rescue me with the replacement.
I just need a strong G&T to get over with.
Any excuse, hey?

I couldn't tell you how to make a good Gin and Tonic.
It's kind of personal thing really. Needless to say, mine was more heavy on Gin.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

my fair lady

I share a birthday with someone very special. 
Only a day apart.

I still remember the first time I met her.
She welcomed me with a big smile, warm soft hug and a gentle kiss on the cheek. 
What was really nice about her on that particular day was, she really made me feel WELCOMED. We chatted the night away over a few glasses of wine. I felt connected with this woman who was sitting in front of me, this person who could easily be my mother. I felt the sense of comfort; sort of thing you get from your own home, family.

She is ever so pretty. 
She dresses very well with good fashion sense. She takes a good care of her home. 
She is generous and kind; so kind she will probably give you her last penny providing a decent valid reason. 
She is strong, strong enough to hold the waves of emotions to protect the others around her.
She is just quite lovely. 
And whatever the weather her beautiful personality shines through.
Gifted woman of her own kind, this is H, Toby's mum.

She has turned 60 last Sunday.
It has not been all plain sailing for her. 
Along the way, there was a boat that she had to work hard to cross the river, there was a ship that gave her a break of swimming in the ocean and then there was a raft that made her fight through the storm. 
Last couple of years of her life has been somewhat of a tough journey. But like many other times, she composes herself and stands courageously. 
She brings everyone together and tries her hardest to care for her beloved FAMILY.

English strawberry pavlova with vanilla cream

for meringue (basic meringue from Cook with Jamie by Jamie Oliver)
6 egg whites, large organic
300g caster sugar
pinch of salt

for filling
350ml double cream, whipped
1 vanilla pod, seed scraped (vanilla essence is fine too)
strawberries, quartered
1 lemon zest, 1/2 juice
fresh mint leaves, finely sliced

When making meringue, always ensure your bowl is completely grease free.
Put egg whites in the bowl with a little pinch of salt. Whisk the mixture whilst gradually adding sugar. Whisk them until it becomes stiff and glossy.
Line the baking tray with a greasy proof paper and pour the mixture to create a meringue nest. 
Bake them in the oven (150ยบ) for around an hour.
I made individual ones for this occasion and baked them for 40mins top.

Prepare strawberries in the bowl with lemon juice.
Whip some double cream with vanilla to add some flavour.
When ready to assemble, mix in the mint leaves to strawberries.

Cover the meringue with vanilla cream, top with strawberries and finish them off with zest of lemon.
If you like your creams to be sweet, just add some icing sugar when whipping the cream. You can also substitute strawberries with any other seasonal fruit of your choice.

She says she is very lucky.
I think, the luck just has found its way to one of the most deserved person.
Hope it carries her through the warm ocean so she can enjoy this wonderful life for little easier.

It is not that difficult to have a heart of gratitude for someone like H.
A mother, wife, nanny, sister and a friend, very very special friend.