Wednesday, 12 December 2012

where I belong.

Lately, I tend to run out of time.

Each and everyday I'll scribble down the list of jobs that I consider as important or urgent matter. I'll probably spend good 10mins or so thinking about the most effective and logical working orders of the job required. Although I am not the sort of person who works with strict time schedule and allocates rather tight time limits to everything, I, more than often, considered myself as a grafter who would simply get on with the tasks once I put my mind to it.

But lately, I can't seem to be able to get down with the business. 

I mean, come on, sorting out stuff, picking up the pieces, taking care of all the nitty gritty used to be my forte, given the fact that my job title is a 'manager'. 
I thought, as long as I am organised and have the ability to successfully produce a super tight - by I mean good - job lists, everything would be a peanut. 
Bish bash bosh, job done, and the mission accomplished!

You see, I planed to update the blog the other Wednesday. But after spending hours wrestling with a grubby old toothbrush, trying to clean the bloody mould and stained hair dye on my bathroom tile grout, I lost all my will to even attempt to babble. The simplicity of repetitive hand movements had caused me some serious muscular pain and the only thing I could ever think of lifting is very well deserved glass of wine to celebrate those intense moments of me and now-very-worn good old toothbrush.

The thing is, I have been trying to cram everything into what was already a very little spare time of mine.

I had a full time job to care for, a blog to look after, a magazine article to submit every month, an-almost-there but never ending home renovation, and to top it up - or to tip it all upside down - a wedding to organise.
My stress level was reaching high, and my tolerance was wearing thinner and thinner each day. I could, if I tried hard enough, start to see myself turning into the short tempered, always tired looking, greasy messy haired, fag puffing, miserable cow.

And, that's when I decided enough was enough.

As much as it was wonderful to be given an opportunity to write for CookAnd, I couldn't help myself feeling upset that I have left my love in neglect. Every given time off was spared for the magazine and my blog was being pushed on a side, at the bottom of my lists. And, it was about time, that I put things in right order.

The day I submitted my last article, I wrote to my editor explaining that the time has become an issue, and unfortunately Toby and I will have to call it a day.
She wrote back to thank me, and told me that one of our images were on the front cover to celebrate my final article.

And the day I made this gnocchi, I giggled and told Toby how happy I was. I think it may have well been the first time I smiled in a long while.

Beetroot Gnocchi with Green Pesto
serves 2

for the gnocchi
300g floury potatoes
250g beetroot, peeled and roughly chopped
some plain flour
pinch of salt and pepper
some oil and butter for frying

for the green pesto sauce
1 garlic cloves, crushed
handful of pine nuts, toasted (put some on the side for garnish)
handful of basil
handful of parsley
25g parmesan cheese, grated (+some extra for garnish)
1/2-1 lemon juice
some extra virgin olive oil
pinch of salt and pepper
couple of shallots, finely sliced

This is a sort of recipe where you can be really lazy with measuring, and just go with the flow. Although I have made it vegetarian, it would also be quite lovely to add some thick smokey lardons. Pay enough attention to how the dough feels in your hands, you will be rewarded with these mouth watering, beautiful, earthy magenta nuggets.

First of all, preheat the oven to 200º and bake the potatoes with skin on and pricked for around 45mins to an hour, until it is really fluffy and soft inside. Baking potatoes will remove a lot of its moisture contents, which will then allow the gnocchi to be the lightest and fluffiest.

Meanwhile, put your beetroot into the saucepan with a pinch of salt, cover it with water, and boil them for around 30mins or until it is soft.
When it is cooked, drain and blitz them until it becomes smooth pure.

To make your gnocchi, skin the cooked potatoes and put them through the ricer. You can mash them really smooth if you don't have the ricer. However, passing them through the ricer will give you the airy texture you want from good gnocchi.
Mix in the beetroot pure into the potato, season and gradually add the flour until your dough becomes stiff enough to handle but supple.
Take handful of your dough, roll our on the floured surface into a long sausage shape, and cut them into small bite size chunks. 
Repeat this process until you use up all of your dough.

Now, let's make the green pesto sauce.
I am making my pesto slightly on the thicker side for this pasta because I like to have a little bite to it rather than puree like. But you can make it more runny if you prefer, by adding more oil and lemon juice. Or even tiny drop of water to loosen it up a bit.

First thing, put toasted pine nuts, garlic, parmesan, basil and parsley into your food processor or pestle and mortar. Blitz them into preferred consistency whilst adding some olive oil and lemon juice. Season with salt.

To put together this lovely gnocchi, pan fry your bite sized gnocchi with little butter and oil over medium to high heat, making sure you only turn once. You might have to do this in batches. Be patient, and don't be tempted to do it all at once. You want to get them really crispy on the outside to create contrasting texture.
Once you're finished with it all, put them on a side.

Into the same pan you've just fried your gnocchi, gently fry the shallots with little olive oil until it's golden and crispy. Add fried gnocchi and pesto, stir in well with lots of freshly cracked black pepper. Season to taste with salt and lemon juice. 
Garnish with some toasted pine nuts, and more parmesan cheese. 

It feels good to be back. To the place where I feel home.

Monday, 22 October 2012

a good helping hand.

When my mum rang me and asked if Toby and I would be able to put someone up in our spare bedroom, I hesitated.

Our spare bedroom was a tip. 
It was like a complete landfill stuffed with absolutely everything that had no use in anywhere else in our little flat, and to describe it as one could not even put a foot in it, was an understatement. 
We had already planned to do a car boot sale in an attempt to dispose some of the I-don't-know-where-this-belongs sort of useful stuffs, and to raise some much needed extra cash for those all things luxury that you may put it in your wish list on one of your favourite posh home goody sites. Consequently, to have somebody in that spare bedroom was neither imaginable nor convenient for us.
Our flat isn't small but very open plan. It does not have the ability to allow much of private space and too much of unexpected traffics up and down our narrow hall way or a bathroom will easily cause a jam. Any noise you will make, you will hear and any mess you make, you'll see.
We were still in the middle of our home renovation that never seemed to be kind enough to show us the end and I really didn't think it was doable.

To cut a long story short, after giving some thought to the subject matter, I remembered how tough it was when I first started off in this country all those years ago. Toby weighed out positives and negatives of the raised issue as he does and we both decided that we will put a roof over his head for a week because it is nice to be able to help out.

You see, the problem of this doing someone a favour, is often not everybody thinks the same way as you and not everyone is custom to function the way you do. And the compromise you have to make is much more than you'd ever anticipate.
I didn't like it when the toilet seat wasn't put down. I didn't find it amusing to discover lumps of cut or shaved hair blocking my bath. Seeing him doing the washing up, I was nervous for him and hoped he doesn't drop the plate and crack the sink because it would be embarrassing and awkward for all of us.
As much as I appreciated that he had all the good intentions to make sure that he does not interfere with our usual living and for sure, he did try to show his gratitude towards my cooking with many washing ups, I still found it very hard when things weren't quite how I would usually find.
And do you know what, I am sure it was pretty hard for him, too. As much as I did my best to offer him a home comfort and a good support, my honest opinions and my what you see is what you get sort of approach in expressing likes and dislikes aren't always the easiest things to put up with.

I think it was quite tricky because we were making compromises of our very personal space. 
Admittedly, I suppose it didn't help that I have mild OCD. It definitely didn't help that I prefer things to be just so. Oh, come on, it took Toby over eight and a half years to master the art of living with me! Yes, I know, poor boy.
I knew it was going to be a bit uncomfortable but didn't really realise the scale of it all.
I guess we don't often have to allow other people to enter our private spaces except your own family.
And I suppose, with family, perhaps we generate natural ability to accept and welcome the differences.

But you know what, the funnest thing was, and this is to my surprise, when he left eventually after finding the sanctuary of his own that he can call home for the next 10 months of his stay in London, I felt a bit sad. 
Our little flat seemed so big and so empty. I could almost picture the spot he used to stand and the stuff he used to do in his funny little odd way. 
I think I kind of enjoyed his company to an extent. I think it sort of felt good knowing that I was looking after someone, making a good use of my little self.

Anyway, talking about family, I wanted to share our holiday photos from Bordeaux.
Toby's dad and step mum kindly invited to us to this beautiful farmhouse in Chateau Bauduc, which is run by Gavin and Angela. 
The house is very spacious and well looked after, provided with everything you need. It has perfectly functioning kitchen and a smashing barbecue for you to cook up some amazing fresh produce from the local food market. 
Gavin's passion and exceptional knowledge in wine, and Angela's kind and caring personality really makes this place special. Obviously there's always plenty of good wine to be consumed, too.

I'd highly recommend it.

Plum and Apple Crumble with proper English custard
serves generously for 6

for the crumble 900g mixture of plum and apple, roughly chopped
100g plain flour
50g ground almond
25g almond shavings
125g butter, cubed and at room temperature
70g demerara sugar + 1tbsp
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground clove (optional)
handful of porridge oats

for the custard
250ml full fat milk
250ml fresh double cream
4 egg yokes
3tbsp caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, seed scraped and pod kept

Our amazing little niece R, was one of the best highlight of our holiday in Bordeaux and my little helper loves cooking and baking. Although she has to stand up on the chair and make an effort to carefully balance herself not to fall, she really enjoyed the process of making this crumble.
I couldn't help myself feeling all warm and fuzzy watching R baking for all of us with her little fingers.

This crumble recipe originally comes from the article in Guardian 'How to make perfect crumble'. I have fiddled around a little and although original recipe states it serves 4, I found it is enough for 6, quite easily.

First of all, make your crumbly toppings. Put flour, ground almond, ground cinnamon and butter into a large bowl and rub them until it resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar except 1tbsp which is for your fruit mixture. Let it cool in the fridge for few mins.

Into your baking dish, put your fruit mixture along with 1tbsp sugar and clove if using. Place the crumble topping on top of the fruit and gently fork them to break them up a little bit.
Sprinkle with some porridge oats and almond shavings.
Bake them for 35mins or until golden at 200º.

For the custard, I swear by Jamie Oliver's recipe. It always worked wonderfully and tastes really good. If you find it difficult to source double cream, just use 500ml full fat milk.

Start by putting milk, cream, vanilla seed, pod and 2tbsp sugar into the small sauce pan and warm them up over medium to low heat. Make sure not to boil them.
When the bubble starts to surface up, take it off the heat and let it cool down a little to infuse the vanilla flavour.

Whisk the egg yokes with 1tbsp sugar until pale and fluffy.

Take the vanilla pod out from the cream mixture. Slowly add the ladleful of the cream mixture into the eggs while continuously whisking. You only want to add the ladleful each time. If you pour it all at once because you can't be patient, the high temperature of the cream will make the eggs curdle. So spend your time.
Once all cream mixture is added to the egg yokes, put them back into the sauce pan and cook them gently over the medium heat, stirring constantly until the custard lightly coats the back of the wooden spoon.
When it is ready, sieve it through and serve warm with your crumble.

This is an ultimate comfort food that deserves a gold medal.

After a week turned into 11 days of eventful experience with our lodger, I received an email from him. Named to both Toby and I, he thanked us for taking a good care of him.

I'm glad we all did mean well.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

a lovely thing.

I think I have told you before that, I love changing season.
When the leaves start to turn into deep golden amber, when the morning feels a little chillier, and the evening becomes sharp and crisp that makes you hunger for the warmth of home, you know that you're in the middle of welcoming the changing season of autumn.

I made a fuss of clearing up the wardrobe that has been in need of ruthless attention for a while. Toby has been busy around the flat trying to finish off the last bits of our never ending home renovation.
We've turned the heating back on and lit the candles for cosy nights. We put the jumpers on and cuddle up a little bit closer for the comfort of our silly souls.

Nothing much else is happening other than being as still as we could be to enjoy this lovely blue thing; the autumn, that seems so full and so empty.

How is your changing season?

Victoria sponge cake

for the cake
225g self raising flour
225g golden caster sugar
225g softened butter
4 large eggs, room temperature
2tsp baking powder
1 vanilla pod
1 lemon zest
pinch of salt

for the filling
jam of your choice
whipped double cream (optional)
fresh fruit of your choice (optional)

I don't think I need to tell you much about Victoria sponge cake. Everybody knows how simple it is to make it and how wonderful it is to taste it.
I'm not sure if there is any other cake that can beat freshly baked Victoria sponge cake, straight out from the oven, served still warm with a nice cup of tea, on a rainy day like today.

The basic is simple. 
You mix equal amount of fat, sugar, eggs and flour.
Start by fluffing up the softened butter with sugar. Gradually add the eggs and whisk to mix.
Shift the flour and baking powder into the egg mixture. Add pinch of salt, lemon zest and vanilla seeds scraped from the pod then fold in gently to incorporate, making sure not to over mix.

Divide the cake mixture into two lined cake tins and bake them in the oven for 25-35mins or until golden at 180º.
You could just use one cake tin that is deep enough to hold the entire cake mixture then just cut them in half later. In which case, you'll have to bake the cake for little longer.

Once the cakes are baked, take them out of the oven and rest them on the cooling rack.
When the cakes are slightly cooled down, sandwich them together with your choice of fillings.

I used homemade rhubarb and strawberry jam, whipped double cream and some fresh strawberries.
I think the beauty of this cake is that it can be as simple or as complicated as you like and the flavour combinations that you can work with are vast.
I often use vanilla butter cream instead of fresh whipped cream. Lemon curd would be lovely too. 

Get creative and enjoy!

Oh, by the way, Toby's new website is now up and running and it needs a little attention from all of you lovely foodies our there. 
Please check out on

Sunday, 9 September 2012

so we drop that bombshell.

Hello there!
I must confess something before I start this post and that something is, I did have all the good intentions to write up this post and share it with you, when the summer's sun was shining high up the sky and my skin was feeling slightly leathery from the tan. 
But, in truth, I struggled.
I tried hard to make sense of it all but it was all very difficult to get the words out when things were far too confusing in my own head itself.
So that is why I am a little late.

Well, so... I am, for real, getting married.
Yes, you heard me right.
So I suspect I should be telling you of those much wanted romantic proposal story of ours, of which of course, quite naturally that everyone expects to hear. 
Because it supposed to be 'The Moment', as some might refer. But I am afraid, this won't be the case. 
There wasn't a romantic candle lit dinner, neither the bunch of roses, nor the tradition of kneeling down, and most definitely no question was asked. 
Hold your thoughts, guys. It's complicated.

I can't locate that key moment that I can call 'The Moment'. 
It kind of happened gradually over the past few years and one day, I realised we have spoken the forbidden word; the wedding.
And over the first few weeks since our wedding was on the agenda, I sort of felt cheated. 
I mean, by the fact that Toby never had to asked me, kind of made me feel like I was being sold too easily. Sort of.
Having said that, it wasn't as if I didn't know him enough to realise that the chance of him popping the much regarded question was improbable. It is fair to say that sort of thing had no chance of happening. He is just not that sort of bloke. He has his own ways of doing things and his ideas of being romantic differs from others, of which more than often brought me a fair bit of unanticipated joy.
I appreciated him the way he was and this wasn't going to be a problem. And because neither of us had great interests in wedding/marriage nor the children when we first met all those years ago, this wasn't something that I expected to become an issue.
Then, what?
Well, as much as my understanding of this whole thing was very clear in my head, when it finally didn't happen, I found it very tough to comprehend that, although we're getting married, I was never going to have the once-in-a-life-time chance of experiencing the fuss and the excitement of 'The Moment'.

I think, for me and in my pretty complicated little head, the act of asking was the ultimate confirmation and the declaration of one's devotion. 
The act of asking reinforces the answer and together it reaffirms that the both party is equally committed to one and the other. Also very possibly, this process brings two participants closer by sharing the, arguably one of the most significant moment of their lives together as a pair. And I didn't want to miss out on the opportunity that was open and available to any one of us!
And it was that, I was having problems with.

Then, over the family luncheon table, Toby, out of blue, spoke out. 
"Well, everyone knew what that ring really meant. It's just that it took me some time to come to terms with it all."

Oh, yes. I forgot about that. I do have a ring and yes, there was the moment, if you want to call it that.
Okay, lets go back a few years.
Two years ago, over a dinner with our friend who was responsible for us becoming an item, Toby declared that perhaps it was about time he should buy me a ring since I'd been banging on about this token of love business for many years. After few drinks, I decided that I will take the advantage of the offer and the following day, he bought me a ring. Yes, a little sparkler on my finger that represented his token of love. 
We called it a commitment ring. They called it an engagement ring.
We tried to explain that it wasn't an engagement ring and we were indeed very happy with it being a symbolic gesture of our relationship. But no one got it.
But that really did not matter to us. Because we understood it. 

Come to think of it, and without waxing the lyrical about what Toby said and done, his rather generous act of buying me a ring was of course, the moment to remember. One does not spoil the other with such an extravagance with no reason.
He actually did something. He took a giant leap toward the world of stability. He was in process of dealing with his believes in the subject matter and he was making the alterations in his own way, and in his own time.

That's it, isn't it?
I couldn't recognise this because I was so wrapped up in the world of what's norm and what is expected of you by other people. 
My brain did not function in an usual way and my emotions were all over the place. Not being able to cope with people hammering me down with what should happen and people making their own plans for our wedding even before I got to understand it all, I was totally lost and confused.
I was so frightened to step into the world that had no existence in me, I almost forgot what was there all along. Everything was so cloudy, I forgot that our love takes a different shape, like many others do.

The love that nurtured us through the thick and thin, is something that we cherish and all we ever wanted to do was to celebrate. We wanted to become an unit to make our own little people. We wanted to pay a gratitude to our love and the commitments that lives with us in humble gestures of everydayness.
And we are doing it in our own little way to compliment the invaluable qualities of our team work that had made us better, made us stronger, and made us who we truly are.

So, here I am, writing our versions of the eventful moments, in the hope of everlasting, love.

Cold Soba Noodles
serves 2 generously as main or 4 as starter

250g soba noodles (100% buckwheat)
85ml soy sauce (use a good quality soy like Kikkoman) 
15ml mirin (cooking sake)
15g sugar
400-750ml dashi (Japanese fish stock. I use instant one.)

for the garnish
spring onion, finely chopped
radish or mooli, grated
fresh ginger, grated
toasted seaweed, cut in to fine strips

This really represents fine hot summer's day for both me and Toby.
The only fiddly part of this dish is, a) you have few things to grate and chop, and b) you need to think in advance to have the cold broth ready. Other than that, it is dead simple and really flavoursome.
Don't be put off by the fact that it is served cold, and don't try to freestyle by serving it warm. 
It works one way and that only way is to have this ice cold, as cold as you like. The hotter the weather outside, the colder the broth you'll want to have. 
This is packed with Umami sort of sensation that you will never forget.

So, as I said already, the process is simple.
Lets make the broth by mixing the soy, mirin and sugar in a small sauce pan and gently simmer it until sugar is dissolved. Add prepared hot stock gradually and taste the broth as you go along. I like mine slightly on the stronger side in taste, so I tend to use about 500-600ml of stock and adjust the sweetness by adding a little more sugar if I need to.
Once you have the perfect flavour combo of salty and sweet, let them cool down and stick it in the fridge until you need them. You can cool them down quicker in the freezer, if you are short of time.

Prepare your garnishes.
Over the years, I have found the combinations of radish/mooli, spring onions and ginger works a treat with a little strips of toasted seaweed. However, it is entirely up to you to add or omit.

Cook the soba noodles as instructed in the packet and rinse them thoroughly in ice cold water to stop them cooking further.
These noodles get stuck together quite easily if you leave them out for too long once cooked,  so you want to cook them when you are ready to serve the dish.

Usually, the way to have this dish is to serve the noodles separately in a small bundle, either  in the bamboo basket or tray. You will have cold broth in a small bowl, garnish your broth as you like and dunk the noodles in your bowl.
But there is nothing stopping you to just serve it all in one bowl with a side garnish.
Hope you enjoy it!

So we drop that bombshell.

Monday, 2 July 2012

not one of those again.

When Toby and I took a week off earlier this month, in an attempt to finish off our ever lasting  home renovation marathon, we got nowhere near to the finish line.
During the entire week of our holiday together, we relentlessly sanded the old sash window frames creating more mess than making good of it, painted the sashes in no particular order which resulted more frustrations than the satisfaction, and just to make things little more challenging for us, we weren't too lucky with the ever so changeable weather in London either.
We spent the whole week working, covered in dust, wearing dirty combats and jogging bottoms without having to brush our hair and we clearly looked the part in the building site.
We never once shouted at each other although we did yell at the innocent windows or paints for being difficult.
We didn't particularly made a huge effort to pay attention to each other but shared a great laughter in an affectionate way.
Although we had not been able to accomplish our target goal of finishing the project, we were indeed pleased with how the week went and by Sunday I was even feeling a bit sad for it coming to an end.

But where did it go wrong?
Well, I became the monster, hormonal monster to be precise.

I never once in million years thought, I will ever be that emotional. 
Obviously being a girl, you do have that certain week in the month where you may feel a little  emotional and act a bit irrational. But I never have been so catastrophically hormonal in my entire life of 32 years.
Two days after I told Toby how lovely things were, I was moaning how things need changing!
Of course, by the end of the week, when I came round to be rational again, for once, I apologised to Toby for being pain in the bum.

The problem was, come to think of it, we were going through some enormous changes in our lives and I think I was a bit sacred.
It wasn't about the decision to commit our lives together in one pot in the eyes of the law that I was scared of, but to create a family in near future had made me want to be sure.
I was in need of reassurances that he will be able to deal with those irrational hormonal changes when the pregnancy does happen. I had to know that he will be my magical mirror who will say I look beautiful when I feel fat and ugly, even if I may be at my biggest and largest.
These were the worries of mine that needed to be discussed so he knows what to do in case of these horrific, irrational and emotional impromptu moments occur.
A bit like health and safety training for both of our sanity, you know.

Anyway, the conclusion was brought to the table after a few pints of cider.
The man with the few words spoke out loud and delivered one of the loveliest theories of his, to my surprise.

He says getting on and getting on well throughout our life time together in peace as a team is what's romantic; not the bunch of occasional flowers, not the rare weekend treats and etc. It is the everydayness that counts in a long run.

Well, what more could I have said to that?... 

Kimchi Fried Rice
serves 2

140g pork shoulders, cut in strips
1tbsp mirin
1tsp Korean chilli paste
1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1tsp sugar
1/2 onion, chopped
200g kimchi, chopped
220g rice, cooked
1tbsp sesame oil
2 eggs for frying
some rapeseed oil for frying
some toasted sesame seed
handful of fresh dill, chopped
some black pepper

I grew up in the household where Kimchi was never in short supply and as far as I remember, this was the first ever dish I taught myself to cook when I was a young girl and experimented to cook better from then on.
Most of Koreans have their own versions of this dish, just like they do with Kimchi itself. 
Giving that the rice and Kimchi is on hand, it is not really that difficult to put this dish together for an unassuming plate of flavours and textures.

I use quick marinaded pork shoulders to give the dish an extra depth of falvour in this recipe but you can use bacon, leftover ham or even prawns, if you prefer. Some Koreans opt for tinned tuna. So be creative and use whatever you fancy.

So, start by making the pork marinade by mixing the mirin, chilli paste, soy, sugar and black pepper. Add the pork to the marinade, stir well and set aside.

Gently fry the onions over medium heat for 5 mins and add chopped kimchi including all the juices. Fry the mixture for further 5mins stirring occasionally then add the marinaded pork.
After about 8-10mins, add the cooked rice, fry them gently for further 5mins and give it a good stir every now and then.

Now, this is the very important part.
In my opinion, kimchi fried rice should always have a slightly crispy bottom, like jewelled rice.
You want to make sure the rice at the bottom of the pan gets a chance to crisp up lightly but not burnt.
Make sure to lower the heat, spread the rice evenly over the pan, pat them down a little and let them crisp up for 5mins or so. 
Don't be tempted to stir and to stop the temptation, I have a job for you; fry your eggs.

The garnish of fried eggs actually is just as substantial part as the main act itself. Not only that the soft egg yolk contributes a little silkiness to every mouthful of what could be super spicy but also the very plain egg white really balances the spiciness. 
So fry those eggs with extra TLC.

Now drizzle some sesame oil over rice, sprinkle some sesame seeds and there goes your beautifully fried eggs.
I garnished mine with some fresh dill but it is more usual practice to use toasted seaweed. 
All there is left to do, is just get your spoons into these wonderfully spicy comfort food.

I must say, this time, he was quite right.

Monday, 11 June 2012

this is why.

Someone asked me the other day why I write this blog and what I am gaining from by sharing the stories that may seem a little too personal.

I started this blog just over a year and a half ago, over a glass of wine. 
Toby, my partner of 8 years encouraged me into it as I have been forever talking about wanting to write a cookbook. 

Living in London, which is regarded as one of the most multi-cultural cosmopolitan city in the world, I have been naturally exposed to the vast varieties of ingredients that I have not been able to experience properly when I was growing up back in South Korea. 
Having been with the partner, whose field of expertise is food/drink and still life photography, I was hugely influenced and inspired by his passion for all things edible and beautiful.
Our love of food and drink soon took off in our, then, very little kitchen and we were constantly experimenting with different ingredients and cooking methods from both of our heritage, of which eventually became our very own home food.

I wanted to remember who I am and where I came from. 
By revisiting my childhood memories of food, I was able to recognise my troubles and treasures. I've been able to welcome those issues from the past without fear by learning who I am though this blog. 
What started off as a humble exercise of jotting down the recipes to keep, has in fact been an invaluable sessions of self-counselling that has made me help myself to become a better person. 
And that is why I write my stories. 
Through those stories, I have met so many people of good heart that I'd love to share a big hug if only it wasn't through the computer screen. So those of you who has been in this journey with me, I owe you a huge hug!

And through those dishes from my humble kitchen, I have been given a great opportunity to write a column for the 'Cookand'.
It is a monthly issued food and drinks magazine that is loved by many foodies in South Korea.
My column is titled as 'Letter From London' and is an echo of my blog but mainly focused on my life in London and the recipes that are quintessentially British.
It is written in Korean which I found very hard to get back into. But I hope in time, with the greatest supports from my dear readers, I will be able to improve.

Beer Batter Fish and Chips with Minted Peas
serves 2

for the beer batter fish
2*175g cod fillets
35g corn flour
100g plan flour + 2tbsp for dusting the fish
1tsp baking powder
150ml beer or ale
1/2 lemon juice
salt and pepper
some oil for frying

for the triple cooked chips
see here

for the minted peas
handful of frozen peas
1 garlic clove, crushed
some lemon juice
some mint
some olive oil
salt and pepper

I understand if you think that I am missing the point of this, what is meant to be quick and easy, nation's Friday night's favourite take away 'Fish and Chips' by making it at home. But please bear with me, and give it a go if your anticipated result of this beloved take away is something of crispy, light and fresh.
I have done my version of triple cooked chips before, which I think, is relatively easy and well worth of the time and effort you invest in.

So, start by dusting your white fish fillets with plain flour with little season of salt. This will help the batter to stick to the fish. I used cod but you can use haddock or any sort of white fish that has firm flesh.
In a large mixing bowl, sieve the flour, cornflour and baking powder and stir in the beer. Whisk well until it forms a smooth batter but do not over work the batter. 
Add the lemon juice with a good seasoning of salt and pepper. 
What you must make sure at this stage is to ensure that your choice of beer/ale is super cold. This will keep the batter extra crispy whilst sieving of the dry ingredients will ensure lightness of the batter.
Dip the fish into the batter and fry them in hot oil for 5-6mins or until the fish is cooked through.

Meanwhile, prepare the minted peas by blitzing all the ingredients into the food processor or hand held blender.
This is very simple side dish that takes no time to make but super tasty.

All you need now is a glass of cold beer to wash it down with.
Hope you enjoy!

And I want you to know, that you are the better half of my world that made everything possible. 
So, Thank you.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

we made the fire.

You know, I was going to babble you about the fishing trip that my dad used to take me to when I was younger. I tried hard to jog my memories back and tried my upmost to write them all down here, so I can share those magical moments with you. But I found it hard. It's proven rather difficult.
Such a moment, that has been wrapped up tightly with so much emotions, isn't the kind of thing you can share by talking perhaps.

Growing up, I didn't have very good relationship with my dad unfortunately. 
It wasn't until very recently that I have learnt to understand him for who he is really. I'm pretty sure he will say the same about me.

I think we were two strong characters with very different ideas about way of life. 
We used to argue day in, day out until he shouted 'Under my roof, my rules!'. 
I was so desperate to get away from that roof, the roof that sheltered me for all the wrong reasons. What he expected of me seemed so far from what could be achieved or what I wanted to pursue. I just wanted get out and do my own thing so desperately. And that desperation eventually brought me here, to London.
I remember my dad yelling at me once, that he didn't believe I will be able to last here as I have been a quitter for all those years he remembered. He more than often used say I give up things too easily. It was so harsh things to hear, I know. But that was my dad. And I know why he said that. 
He knew if he said that, I would work harder and make sure I last, just so I can prove him wrong. He knew his daughter too well.
The man with very few words congratulated me on my first return visit home, almost 3 years after landing in London.

My first camping trip few weekends ago reminded me a lot of the fishing trip. 
Being out in the wild with very little convenience, gave us a chance to appreciate each other's company. Hearing nothing but the birds singing, we could hear our voices better. Looking after the fire that kept us warm and full, we learnt to be patient. Searching for the stars in the dark, we found each other in different light. Walking along the muddy woodlands, we spent time helping each other. We made an effort to talk. Not to upset each other, not to demand anything but just to keep each other's company happy. 

Sweet lentil and goats cheese salad
serves 2

for the salad
80g puy lentil
1-2 shallot, finely sliced (save little bit for the dressing)
some cooked and pickled beetroots, thinly sliced
some mild goats cheese
some olive oil
salt and pepper

for the chilli and coriander dressing
some finely chopped shallots
1 1/2tbsp cider vinegar
1tsp caster sugar
pinch of salt
pinch of crushed chilli
handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped
1tbsp olive oil

This is simple and humble plate of food that is perfect served on its own as a light lunch or as a side with beautifully grilled meat. Gently fried shallots add lovely sweet flavour to the lentils whilst shallots in the dressing keeps the dish fresh and light.

First of all, cook your lentils with plenty of water and pinch of salt for 20-25mins. You want them to be cooked through but still have a bite to them. Once ready, drain well.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix all the ingredients for the dressing except the olive oil. Set it aside. Add the olive oil in when you are ready to bring things together.

Now, gently fry the shallots in little olive oil until dark golden. 
Add the well drained lentils to the fried shallots as well as the sliced beetroots.
Bring things together by dressing them generously with prepared chilli and coriander dressing. Season with black pepper.
Plate up, add your goats cheese, drizzle little more dressing over the salad and tuck in.

I treasure the fishing trips with dad. It is one of the very few memories that is not tainted with anger. Every moment I can picture of those trips has an ordinary father and daughter loving each other the way that I saw in others.