Wednesday, 27 November 2013

she, who cries.

Family is a strange thing.

Last time when my family came over to stay with me, we had our fair share of unforgettable moments. 
The excitement of much longed reunion, misunderstanding of the cultural differences, love and hate that only existed in our shared blood that couldn't be forgotten, laughter and sadness of family's misfortune; all spread out evenly to the giant piece of lost time blanket, every bite was a mouthful I struggle to swallow.

Although I was so very excited have them all; although I had all those plans of treating them with something special everyday; although I told myself several times that I would make sure they'd have a lovely time during their visit, when the day finally came to unfold its story, I found myself standing one step further away from the family I was born into and two steps closer to the family that I married into.
My family from home was a distant memories of the past that once existed. 
I've been living as they've been living theirs. We have been busy with the duties of living in two different cities over the decade, that the girl they remember wasn't a girl anymore, and the family wasn't the family anymore. My sister wasn't a little sister who once wrote me tearful poem about the butterflies in cocoon. My brother wasn't a sweet little boy that I used to cuddle. 
Everyone had all grown with the time. And with the time and the distance, we have all grown apart. Miles away. 
Perhaps it was my fault, that I let it happen that way.

It's been over four months since I spoke to any of my family.
And it has been about the same since I sent them a thank you card to say my thank you, and to say sorry if they ever felt I didn't look after them well enough.
But I still haven't heard, and I can't seem to be able to pick that phone up, even just to say 'hello'.

Strange thing is, it isn't as if something bad had happened. 
Okay. Yes, there was an argument or two like every other families do, but it wasn't anything serious that would have caused any upset to anyone.
Although it angered me that my mum cried her eyes out for an almost entire day, two days before my wedding party, screaming that her heart had been used by a boyfriend of hers, I knew she probably just wanted someone to comfort her. Although my dad's attempt to give me a pep talk and the lack of his appreciation of everything Toby and I had done really infuriated me, I knew he probably just wanted to be a dad.
But as the days went on, I felt myself looking into them from few steps away, outside the little circle. That transparent wall that I couldn't see was clearly there, and I was stood one step too far away. 
As we watched each other from the distanced circle through the transparent wall, I think, we've all realised that maybe, we couldn't break that wall. 
The invisible transparent wall was already cemented deep into the grounds of our lost time blanket, now was too late. 
Too late to compromise. Too late to demolish such a solidified differences. 
I was me and they were them.
It wasn't anyone's fault. Just one of those things.
Part of growing up; growing older.

Mixed Vegetable Rice (Bibimbap)
Serves 2

2 portions of steamed rice, kept warm.
2 fried eggs
1-2tbsp Gochujang (Korean fermented chilli paste)
little drizzle of sesame oil

for the mushrooms
4-5 dried shiitake mushrooms
1/2tbsp mirin
1tbsp soy sauce
1tsp sesame oil 
1/2 tsp runny honey
1/2 garlic clove, minced
pinch of white pepper
little oil for frying

for the spinach
200-300g spinach
1/2 tbsp spring onion, minced
1/2 garlic clove, minced
1/2tsp soy sauce
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar
pinch of toasted sesame seed
pinch of white pepper
little drizzle of sesame oil

for the carrots
1 carrot, thinly sliced like matchsticks
pinch of salt
little oil for frying

For me, good vegetarian dishes should have solid back bone that gives you a satisfactory bite. There is no reason why you won't be satisfied if the vegetables are handled and cooked with this in mind.

I think well flavoured shiitake mushrooms in this dish does just that. It is meaty. 
Each individual vegetables cooked with care, and a good dollop of spicy fermented chilli paste as a binder, the whole thing comes together as one quite well.

Although I am only using few vegetables, you could easily use anything you have in your fridge to substitute what I used or add a few extra to make it even more exciting.
Traditional recipes call for well seasoned sauteed courgettes or bean sprouts and the garnish of sliced or minced beef. Some others opt for generous helping of wonderful shell fish to substitute the beef.
I kept mine very simple, but cooked the rice in traditional stone pot to give it ever so slightly crunch bottom, which is just a delight to eat.
With regards to the eggs, you can use poached if you prefer. And if you are like my dad, you might even decide to have the raw egg cracked into the warm finished dish to give it a extra silkiness. 

For the mushrooms.
Rehydrate the mushrooms with some hot water for 30mins or so. Squeeze the excess water out but keep the mushroom soaked water on a side for later. Slice the mushrooms thinly.
In a small mixing bowl, add the rest of the ingredients with the sliced mushrooms and marinade them for 10mins or so to allow the mushrooms to soak up the flavour.
If you are using fresh mushrooms, make sure to blanch them first to remove excess water. This process will help you to retain the good texture and intense flavour of the mushrooms.
When ready, saute gently with little oil over medium heat for few minutes. Add some mushroom soaked water to the pan, lower the heat and simmer for further 5mins or so.

For the spinach.
Blanch the spinach, squeeze the excess water and put aside.
Using pestle and mortar, roughly ground toasted sesame seed with pinch of salt.
In a mixing bowl, add all ingredients and bring it together. Mixing it with hands will allow you to evenly coat the spinach with the seasoning.
Season with little more salt if necessary.

For the carrots.
Gently fry the carrots in little oil until carrots are softened, and season with salt.

To put this dish together, divide warm cooked rice into two large-ish serving bowls and arrange the vegetables on top of the rice. Top with fried eggs, drizzle of sesame oil for extra nuttiness, and serve with generous helping of Gochujang.
The best way to eat this?
Mix them together with a good dollop of Gochujang, and dig in.
It is delicious goodness in a big bowl!

And maybe, that was why we cried when we hugged saying our goodbyes. 
Trying to capture the moment. 
Feeling every bit of our own flesh and blood with the bitter sweet love rushing through our bones and veins, maybe we hoped, the only moment that we breathed in the same warm air to linger on for a bit longer.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

love: lost and found.

It has been a while, again. I know.
Maybe you were wondering where I had gone all this time. 
Maybe you were thinking I had disappeared to somewhere exotic on our honeymoon; having too much fun, and forgotten all about that you ever existed.
But the truth is, I have been too busy looking for the little heart of mine that still wishes to live the every minutes of our Westival, and found it almost impossible to retrieve myself back into the reality quite as so soon as I had hoped for.

Back in March 23rd, on our 9th anniversary, when I made that little speech back at our flat, I couldn't rescue myself from tears thinking of one person who wasn't there to witness the moments of our union; who I knew very well, would joyfully have shared my tears.
She might have squeezed my hands while helping me to dry my eyes, just to let me know that she's there, in the moment, with me. She might even have hugged me tightly with all her warmth to comfort me. And I know she would have, most definitely given me the wettest kisses on my cheeks that I found hard to wipe off, because.., I loved her love.
I knew her well, and on our wedding day when I made that speech, feeling every presence of her around me, I could barely finish the last sentence.

Exactly two years ago, on 23rd of March, when Toby accidentally scratched the wheels of our beloved car 'Merry Edna' named after Toby's nan, we both hoped in anger, that maybe it was the sign of nannie telling us the flat we were about to view was the one.
Later that evening, Toby and I raised our glasses with an excitement that finally the long search of finding our dream home may have come to an end, and thought of nannie who would have been so pleased to hear that we found our nest, at last.

In March 23rd 2009, I thanked nannie Dubery for her kind acceptance and generous loving, and said my good-bye for the one last time.
I bursted into tears whispering how sorry I was that I didn't come back soon enough to see her smile again. I told her quietly that I loved her, and promised her I would always be a good girl to Toby.
I remember so clearly, the very last day I saw her back at the hospital few weeks before her funeral. 
Nannie held my hand with her fragile hands and told me with smile that I was a good girl, and asked to come back soon to see her again.
To this date, I still feel so bad that I couldn't have made another journey to the hospital before she passed away. 
At her funeral, Toby held my hands tightly and comforted me with the little words of wisdom, just like nannie used to. 
He said, nannie was finally happy that now she's with granddad. And we should all be very happy that she found the peace in him.
Love; that lost her soul, that got found in eternity.

Earlier last month, when my family came to join our Westival, going through our wedding photographs they hadn't seen, my mum was surprised to see the snow in England in March. She said in Korea, snow on your wedding day means the wealth is wished upon you. 
I told her that I think it was nannie Dubery out on her little trip down to earth to spend the day with us. 
And as we were all hoping for the good weather for our much anticipated wedding festival, I whispered a little prayer to nannie to shine her lights on us, just like many other old times.


A huge thank you to all of you who helped us to create such an incredible weekend.
Max and Lucinda at the Park Farm were so helpful, and their 50 acre of private field was just stunning. The mother and daughter team of Vintage Scoops, Vic and Jo served up some of the most delicious ice creams. 
Henning and Kasia, the proud owner of the Taco Truck was one of the most loveliest and kindest people I've dealt with in this process of planning a huge party. And their taco is just spectacular!
And last but not the least, thank you Al, for capturing every moments of our special day. Every time I look at it, my emotions still run so high.
Thank you, thank you and thank you!

Baked Eggs with Lightly Spiced Tomato Jam
Serves 2

for the baked eggs
4 medium to large free range eggs
1 banana shallot, finely sliced
2-3 streaky bacon rashers (substitute with toasted bread crumbs if making for vegetarian)
2tbsp creme fraiche or natural yogurt
handful of chopped dill
some butter
some rapeseed oil
salt and pepper 

for the tomato jam (inspired by Tomato Jam NY Times)
940g mixed tomatoes, coarsely chopped 
160g red peppers, roughly chopped
50g mixed chilli, deseeded and roughly chopped
25g ginger, roughly chopped
1 chipotle chilli, cut into small flakes
300g jam sugar
50ml balsamic vinegar
1 1/2tsp cumin seed
10 cloves
1tsp cinnamon
good handful of fresh thyme
1tsp malden salt

Okay, please let me tell you couple of things about this recipe.
One: you know one of those weekends when you have your friends and family staying over and you're in serious needs of mean cooked breakfast to show off your hospitality, this is it!
Two: this tomato jam in your fridge will rescue you from need-something-quick moments, turing everything into tangy sticky saucy culinary satisfaction, and the left over jars that you've given to your friends will make them think you are one cooking genius!

This recipe will make about 1pint of tomato jam. Having said that, this relies heavily on the ripeness of the tomatoes you're using and the thickness of the final jam.
There isn't any rules as such on how thick it should be. Just go with however you like it. If you make it slightly loose, it will be more like a pourable posh tomato ketchup. I like mine quite thick and sticky, so I can smother generously over the cracker with some mature cheddar.
This jam is amazing with bacon sandwich. It goes really well with grilled portobello mushrooms stuffed with some fried garlic, onion and chilli flakes, and a spoonful of jam in the middle with a good helping of grated cheese. It is also brilliant quick marinade to roast the jointed chicken with extra squeeze of lemon and crushed garlic.

Making the tomato jam is very simple, once you have all ingredients ready. 
I use lots of different types of tomatoes; half of the quantity is ripe vine tomatoes and the other half is made up with plum and cherry tomatoes.
Again with chilli, use different strength. I use some very hot ones like bird eye chilli and scotch bonnet, mixed with some very mild ones.
Using your food processor, blitz red peppers, chilli and ginger into fine flecks. They should have paste consistency with bits.
Ground all spices. Put all ingredients into large sauce pan, bring to boil, then simmer over low heat for about an hour and half.
Make sure to stir every so often to prevent the jam from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning.
When ready, cool them down ever so slightly and decant them into the sterilised jam jars.
This will last you about a week in the fridge. However, if you use the canning methods to preserve the jars, it will keep up to a year; stored in a dark and cool place.

That settled, lets move on to bake some eggs.
Start by gently frying the shallots in some oil over medium heat for 5-10mins until golden and slightly crisped up around the edges. Set aside.
Grill or fry the bacon rashers until very crisp. Break them into fine crumbs and set aside.
Lightly butter your choice of baking dishes.
Sprinkle some fried shallots into the individual dish, reserving some for the top. Spoon in the 1tbsp creme fraiche into the dish, crack 2 eggs each per person, rest of the shallots, sprinkle chopped dill and season well with pinch of flaky malden salt and lots of cracked black pepper.
Place the ramekins into the large baking tray and fill the tray with hot water only half way up to the outside of ramekins.
Bake them for around 12mins or until eggs are set to your liking at 180º.
When ready, take them out carefully and garnish it with bacon crumbs.
Serve it with toasted sourdough; it's delish!

It's a shame that I cannot find any old picture of nannie to share with you. 
But maybe, I hope we all have our own nannie Dubery somewhere who lives deep inside of us; who quietly carries us through; who gives us the strength to believe in love that sometimes gets lost, and other times... gets found again.

I am yet to find myself to go through the going-cold-turkey moments as my memories of the highs of Westival faint out. 
But as amazing as it is to be fed off on those wonderful snippets of the past, I also know that those past were once present.
And for now, I am glad to be back in this space.

Monday, 29 April 2013

I used to.

If you knew me from all those years ago, you'd remember, I was that girl who used to blush in pain as I reluctantly say my name.
When I was growing up, I never used to like my name. 
It's only when I came to London that I made a peace of being 'Suk'.

'Suk' was quite an unusual surname to have as there weren't many around. 
I used to hate the fact that it was rare, and was never really keen on how it sounded.
It used to make me feel like I was an odd ball rather than one of many, which was quite strange because, all I ever wanted to be when I was at school, was to be different, and to stand out.

At the start of every academic year, thought of having to introduce myself was enough to put me off, and used to take all the excitements away from all the things I'd been looking forward to. 
Receiving new text books, making new friends, planning a year ahead on my brand new diary, all those fancy coloured biros that I've been proudly collecting with the intention to do well in the classes and etc., would quite simply shy away, and took a back sit whilst I quietly breathe in and out in fear of having to say my name out loud.
Oh gosh, I can tell you, those moments were painful. Painful to be me, and probably even more painful to be around me.

Yes, I know it may sound so pathetic, but back then, it was one of my greatest fear of all time. It was like the biggest mole or the scar on your forehead that I couldn't get rid of, and I had to carry this one giant catastrophic embarrassment with me forever. I had to grin and bear this painful journey of introducing myself all the way through my adulthood, and it wasn't gonna go away as long as my living life exists! 
It was like 'Oh God, please give me the strength!'.

So, as you can imagine, since getting married, I joyfully started the process of changing my name. I first casually started the process with the many online sites I joined up, which made me giggle as it seemed so wrong that my name sounded so English. 
Then I enthusiastically visited my bank, like a girl on the mission, and proudly presented my marriage certificate. 
I didn't even think twice about being 'Mrs Scott'. For me, it was a done deal. 
You see, I was always so sure that I wanted to take Toby's name. Well, I thought I was anyway.

The day I received my brand new bank card, however, with 'Scott' written all over it, I hesitated. I carried two cards in my purse for days and days. I was reluctant to sign the new card. 
All of at sudden I wasn't quite sure. I wasn't ready to say good-bye to my old self. I kept hearing my old self whispering, 'I quite like being 'Suk'. 
After all these years, and for the first time in my lived life, 'Suk' kind of sounded cool.
For whatever the reason, I felt sort of sad.
Was I scared? Did I feel sad thinking I was loosing part of me? Maybe. 
But it's a bit daft to think that, isn't it? Because actually, as you might say, nothing really changes at all.

I am still the same weird one trying to live this weird and wonderful life in its full potential to be happy, except now, I do that with my lifelong friend, husband!

Prawn Parcels in Aromatic Asian Broth
Serves 4 as starter or 2 as main

for the broth
chicken carcass or some chicken wings
1 small pork spare rib
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
10 cloves
5 white peppercorn
5 black peppercorn
bunch of spring onions
5 garlic cloves
1inch ginger
pinch of salt

for the parcels
250g raw king prawns
1/2 inch ginger, grated
1 garlic clove, grated
1 green chilli, roughly chopped (use less if you don't like it hot)
handful of coriander, roughly chopped
2 spring onions, roughly chopped
180g cooked rice (I used mixed wild rice which has more bite to it)
2tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tbsp mirin
pinch of white pepper
4 large savoy cabbage leaves (use 8 small leaves instead, if your leaves are too small)
pinch of salt

for the garnish
Shichimi powder (optional)
some red chilli, thinly sliced
some spring onion, finely sliced

This is a sort of dish I crave when I feel like my body's been overly nourished with rich and heavy food. Its aromatic broth will gently calm your palate, whilst sweet juicy prawns wrapped up in green cabbage leaves comfort you with a substance.

I have used prawns for this recipe but do feel free to use ground beef, pork or even maybe some shiitake mushrooms if you prefer. Just remember to season well. If you are going to use mushrooms as your choice of filling, you might want to blanch them first to remove some excess water, and season well with some soy sauce and sesame oil.
It can appear a bit fiddly to make, but trust me, you'll be so glad that you've had a go.

First thing you need to do is making the broth, which is quite simple.
Put all the ingredients for the broth in a large sauce pan, and fill it with water, about 2-2.5 litre. Bring it to boil, gently simmer for 2-3 hours, let it cool down a little when ready, and run it through the sieve to collect the liquid.
Now, you want to keep this broth in the fridge for a while, preferably overnight, or until the fat sets hard on the surface so it is easy to remove the fat from the broth. 
I like doing this because this process will make my broth extra lean but with all the flavours I need.
One thing I will say though, is please, do make your broth. 
I'd like to say you can just use shop bought chicken stock and it will possibly do the job, but it won't be the same.

For the parcels, first of all, bring the water to boil in the medium sauce pan, put the savoy cabbage leaves, add pinch of salt, and boil them for about minute or so until the leaves are softened a little.
Rinse the cabbage leaves in ice cold water, drain and give it a good squeeze to remove all excess water.
Carefully spread each leaves on to your chopping board, remove as much as of the hard stem bits in the middle, and set a side.

Now, onto the prawn filling. Place prawns, ginger, chilli, garlic, coriander and spring onion into your food processor, and whizz them up until it resembles a course paste.
Tip those into a large mixing bowl, add your cooked rice, mirin, soy sauce and white pepper, and give it a good stir.

To make the parcel, place your cabbage leave onto the clean surface, and spoon the prawn mixture onto the cabbage. 
You want to start wrapping this up by folding the softer bottom end of cabbage leaves first rather than the stem end, then the sides and just roll them until you get to the stem end. Secure it with couple of cocktail sticks.
Repeat the process until you finish all four of them.

Put your broth you made earlier in a large shallow saucepan and bring it to simmer.
Place your prawn parcels, and simmer gently for about 15mins.

You can finish off the dish with the sprinkle of some Shichimi powder, thinly sliced red chilli and spring onion.
Hope you enjoy.

I must admit, I found it very very strange saying the word 'husband'. 
I get all giddy and ever so slightly embarrassed when I say 'the word'.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

if you ever ask me.

I don't know about you, but I tend to do most of thinking in the car on my way to work.

When I was first learning to drive, I never though I'd be able to do anything other than just driving.
At that time, everything felt like such an effort to remember. Changing gears, minding the road and fellow drivers, steering left and right whilst making the correct turns, it felt like an impossible mission for someone who doesn't have much space awareness. I quite literally bump into everybody everywhere which often drives Toby mad, and it can be embarrassing when it happens too frequently.
When my instructor assured me that one day, it will all make sense and indeed it will become a second nature, I didn't believe him. 
I think I gave him the look as if to say, 'yeah... right.'.
It didn't take me long to realise, that he was right.

Most of the latter part of last year, I spent a lot of time thinking, on my journey to work in the car.
I am not exactly certain whether it was the marriage thing that got under my skin, or the pressure of work load, but I was very, very emotional. 
Thought of making changes to our lives when things were going alright definitely scared me. I was sure that I wanted to be with this person that I shared past almost 9 years of my life with, but I wasn't sure if we had the strength to make the marriage a right thing.
We came out with little cracks in our souls, sort of wounds that perhaps needed an unconditional loving and caring.
I don't know why the focuses were on the negatives, and neither of us knew how to deal with it. The more I tried to fight my corners, the more it went wrong. The more I tried to talk, the more we argued with defence. It was really hard. It was all far too much of an effort for very little rewards that felt so unreasonable.
I think we both were learning.

Earlier this year, however, was altogether the different story.
It felt like the moment that I realised I could drive whilst listening to the radio, planning my day ahead and even having a sip of drink, had come.
We were the same people doing the same old things except, that everything felt so much more respected and grounded, as if we had finally found the peace within ourselves.
It all started to make sense.

You know, I don't know what happens to other people, or my next door neighbours.
What I know is that, all our lives sometimes takes its unexpected turns. For better or for worse, it is the turn we just have to get through one way or the other.
As much as I couldn't stand the moments that we constantly argued like we were two enemies on the mission to kill each other, now I am on the other side seeing the light, for me it was that moments of continuous efforts to fight, made us to be who we are. And I am very, very glad we never gave up that fight.

Looking back, I think that's what I was most scared of.
What if one day, we just couldn't be bothered to care. What if giving up becomes a preferable option than trying. What if, if we ever forget how we got here.
But then I remembered, I used to say to Toby, we can't live our lives in what ifs.
Silly me.

Roasted Sweet Potato Taco
Serves 2

for the flat bread taco shells
70g rice flour
70g plan flour, plus little extra for dusting
2tbsp natural yogurt
some olive oil or softened butter
pinch of salt
some luke warm water

for the sweet potatoes
2-3 sweet potatoes, cubed
1 tsp cumin seed
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
some olive oil
pinch of salt and pepper

for the spicy slaw
1/2 small red cabbage (about 200g)
1 medium carrot
1 small red onion
1inch ginger, grated
1/2 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp palm sugar
1 fresh lime juice
1/2 fresh orange juice
pinch of salt and white pepper
small fresh chilli to taste

for the crushed avocado
1 ripe avocado, crushed
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 small tomato, finely chopped
1/2 fresh lime juice
handful of fresh coriander, chopped
some olive oil
pinch of salt and pepper
small fresh chilli to taste

for the garnish
some natural yogurt
lemon juice
pinch of sumac

Okay, here's the thing.
Like those moments I've been babbling about, mastering my own taco shells took me few errors in making. To get to the point where it felt effortless to produce such an outcome, I must say, there had been quite tricky. But don't be put off by it at all.
By all means, the beauty of this dish is that, you can make it as easy and as fuss free as you like. You can just buy ready made taco shells, simply opt for an ordinary coleslaw, and use shop bought guacamole.
It doesn't have to be just so. But do roast the sweet potatoes yourself, because for me, lightly spiced sweet potatoes are just to die for.

First of all, put all ingredients for sweet potatoes into the baking dish, and roast them for 35mins or so at 200º.

Mean while, make your spicy slaw. You can do this by chopping up all the ingredients really fine by hand, or pushing them through the food processor to shred them.
Once the cabbage, carrot and onions are shredded, add salt and put them into the colander for about 20mins or so to remove excess water. Once all the excess water is drained, put shredded vegetables into a large mixing bowl and add ginger, sugar, pepper, fish sauce, lime juice, orange juice and chilli to taste.

For the avocado, I crush my avocado with fork because I prefer the texture it gives. When you blitz them with the hand blender, although there's nothing wrong with it at all, I found the whole thing a bit too mushy for me.
So it is entirely up to you to decide how you want to have them.

To make the taco shells, mix all ingredients, and work the dough until it becomes supple.
Divide the dough into four, and roll them out on to the floured surface to make into four small discs.
Once rolled, brush them with little oil, heat heavy based pan, and cook them for two minutes or so on each side on medium heat.
The trick here is to make sure not to over cook them. Take them off the heat immediately, and gently mould it into the shape whilst it's still warm. As it cools down, it will become harder to shape.

As I think this is a great sharing plate, I will probably put all the components on the table and get people to help themselves. Although I am serving mine with natural yogurt, you could throw in some sour cream instead.
Hope you enjoy.

Hope you are not giving up that fight any time soon.
Because, as much as it may sound corny, in the end, it will all be worth it.