Dinner Party / Food Coma

ON THE MENUTaiwanese Dinner Yum

Just yesterday I caught myself starting a sentence with the phrase:
“When I was a teenager…”

ūüėĪ Cue internal screaming.

It’s probably because last Friday I turned the kind-of gross age of twenty-three that this feels particularly terrifying. Turning twenty-three is not an achievement. I’m not a sassy, Taylor Swift twenty-two anymore, and I don’t really want to celebrate the fact that I am now closer to twenty-five than my wild (not) teenage years.

The good news is, turning a new leaf and beginning my twenty-third year on the planet seems as good a reason as any to celebrate with a little dinner party with my lovely flatmates. Seeing as I’ve been thinking of heading back to Taipei this year, and I Iove any excuse to eat unholy amounts of Taiwanese food, we had a Saturday night feast of some of the easiest and¬†nommiest¬†Taiwanese dishes that you can whack together with a wok, minimal culinary skill, and a whole load of sticky rice.

Dishes 1-6

Taiwanese Dishes

One // Sticky Korean Sushi Rice
Two // Soy Sauce & Shiitake Mushroom Chicken
Three // Mangetout & Ginger Seafood (Kingshrimp + Scallops)
Four // Taiwanese Tomato+Egg
Five // TW BBQ Sauce Vegetables
Six // Stir-fry Broccoli

 I felt very mature and grown-up kicking my old age off with a dinner party (even if we voluntarily opted to have wine and red Schloer instead of wine). If you wanna make something like this, my cooking time in total was around 1&1/2 Р2 hours for a group of five guests, but boy is the result i.e. a mountain of steaming, delicious food, so totally worth it. Needless to say, if you live in a flat with said dinner guests, its almost impossible not to get help drafted in from all quarters.

Thank God.

PUDDING

Taiwanese Sago

I had the time to whip up a classic, super-easy Taiwanese dessert in the shape of Coconut Sago and Sweet Potato soup. It just requires a saucepan and those three ingredients – plus a healthy dose of sugar – which, according to my flatmates, is an exotic approximation¬†of English rice pudding…. Though, if I’m honest, it wasn’t a real hit with the English.

But, I absolutely love this stuff. I think it’s even better after a night to stew to a thick porridge consistency, and the sweet potato has a lighter taste. I grew up with the stuff; folks you don’t know what you’re missing out on.

And, yes, I did eat it again for breakfast.

Nom.

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TWENTY-THREE

How does it feel?
Different, actually.

I can feel the heady, impending threat and freedom of graduation just around the corner (yes, I’m one of those multiple gap/study abroad year oldies). ¬†I know that real life, in all its delicious unemployment and assignmentlessness, calls with the summer sunshine.

Yes, I’m gut-wrenchingly sad that I think I’ll finally have to stop pretending be a hip (haha), baby-faced early twenty-something with a student loan… But maybe that means I get to level-up to a trendy, cool encroaching-on-my-mid-twenties-something who gets on with their parents and relishes the thought of starting a career.

But, I guess you’ll just have to watch this space and see how it turns out.

In the meantime,

Where’s that leftover dessert?

Signature

No-Cook Chocolate Traybake

What it is about being crazy in love and the desire to eat myself comatose?

I’ve had the luxury of having my boyfriend to stay this week, which gives me perfect the excuse to cook (and eat) the most ridiculous amount of food. More specifically, it’s the perfect chance attempt eating my own weight in chocolate.

Left to my own devices, I swear I usually eat pretty healthy, but when lovely boyfriend is over, I just want to be cuddled up in my duvet eating horrible amounts of chocolate traybakes to the dulcet tones of Kevin McCloud (Grand Designs, great TV).

These super-simple, lazy-ass chocolate traybakes are perfect for when you couldn’t be bothered to make anything that takes effort, or, God forbid, requires your to get out of your PJs.

Guaranteed favourite.

No-Cook Choccy Traybake

birds

Ingredients:
Cocoa Powder 3Tbs
(Milk/Dark) Chocolate 300g
Rich Tea Biscuits 250g
Golden Syrup 3-4Tbs
Margarine 250g

Utensils:
Saucepan
Glass/Pyrex Bowl
Baking Tray 3-4cm Depth
Mixing Spoon

Method:

1. Crush Rich Tea biscuits finely.

2. Melt marg in a saucepan on low heat, and add cocoa power, crushed biscuits, syrup. Mixture together thoroughly

3. Pour this sticky biscuit base into a baking tray with 3-4cm depth, and press down gently to help it set solidly.

4. Rinse the saucepan (or use another) to bring a 4cm depth of water to a steady boil – place the glass bowl on-top.

5. Tip in chunks of chocolate to bowl and melt for topping. When melted spread over the biscuit base.

6. Put the tray into the fridge to cool for 15-20mins.

Now, boil that kettle and brew yourself a cuppa. It’s traybake time.

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Wishing you all chocolatey joy,

Signature

Meals of a Twenty-Something

Eating is the best time of the day.
Fact.

Luckily, I also really love cooking: I love¬†the lone-ranger foraging, the neat vegetable chopping, and of course, the creative recipes that I’m forced to think up due to the lack of content in my cupboards. Now that I’m firmly in my twenties (cry), I feel like the transformation to a kitchen goddess is surely somewhere around the corner? Though I’ve got some way to go, my unashamed love of a good, home-cooked meal (or what you could¬†also¬†call a love of stuffing my face) means pottering about the kitchen is one of my favourite things to do.

So, here’s some super quick, no-fuss¬†student creations that might help you out in a pinch:

Stir Fry Noodles / Deconstructed Sushi /Blitzed Veggie Soup

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STIR-FRY NOODLES

Not the most imaginative of dishes, but a vegetable stir-fry is a great way to use up odds and ends of vegetables from the cupboard – and of course, feel free to add meat. The kick to these noodles is my mum’s special ingredient: Taiwanese ShaCha Sauce. It’s the mind-blowing, Asian equivalent to good ol’ BBQ sauce (which incidentally, I’m addicted to) and is usually sold in most Asian supermarkets. You don’t need much of the¬†thick, grainy paste to give a slightly spicy, rich taste to the noodles, so start small, but it’s my top tip for stir-frying anything.

noodles ingredients

Ingredients:
Amoy Straight-to-Wok Noodles (150g)

Fine green beans
Sweetheart Cabbage
Red Pepper
Small Onion
Shiitake Mushrooms
Broccoli

Garlic
Soy Sauce
Chinese BBQ Sauce

stir fry - cooking

Method:

1. Put the noodles and shiitake mushrooms in a bowl and a quarter cup of boiling water.

2. Wash and chop all vegetables.

3. Add groundnut oil to the wok and fry vegetables until soft.

4. Add noodles, mushrooms and water, 4 tbs soy sauce, 1 tsp BBQ sauce – stir for 3-5mins until noodles are soft and evenly coated with sauce.

5. Serve!

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noodles finished

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DECONSTRUCTED SUSHI
ie. the perfect sushi rice

So this is a cheat meal, and it certainly helps if you are addicted to sushi rice – as I am. There’s nothing like a bowl of incredibly sticky, white sushi rice to make my mouth water, and this super-healthy meal involves lots of it. The key to making this lunch or dinner pop is the faintest sweet taste to the traditional sushi rice: just add sushi vinegar, sugar and salt in the quantities below. You can get Sushi Vinegar pretty cheap at most Asian supermarkets, and sometimes major chains also. I could eat sushi rice by the mountain so I try to control myself…

I tend to make this rice to go with any combo of stir-fried veg, fish, roasted sweet potato – but for once, it’s the rice that’s the star of the show.

IMG_0481

Ingredients:
Sushi Rice
(I tend to go for the Korean rice brand ARIRANG)
Sushi Vinegar
Salt & Sugar

Seaweed Sheets
Selection of fresh vegetables
eg. Peppers, Sweetheart Cabbage, Broccoli

Optional Extras:
Sweet Potato Chips, Braised Eel, Honey and Soy Sauce Salmon etc.

Sushi Rice Method:

1. Boil rice and water in a 1:2 ratio and leave to cook until ready. × [see tips below]

2. Once rice is ready, take off heat and leave to cool for one minute, then add 3 tbs of vinegar per 50g dry weight of rice.

3. Season rice to taste, 3 tbs of vinegar usually sits well with a 1/2 tsp of sugar and a light sprinkling of salt.

3. Plate up with your chosen sides!

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decon sushi - finished

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√óTIPS FOR SAUCEPAN COOKED SUSHI RICE:
(ie. students like me who can’t afford rice cookers)

 + Turn heat down once water is bubbling, stirring rice only when a quick scrape with a wooden spoon shows rice sticking to the bottom of the pan. As the water boils off, be prepared to stir frequently to prevent sticking.
+ Rice is¬†ready when it tastes entirely smooth when chewed, so give it a taste and don’t be afraid to stir and add more water if it isn’t cooked. Keep a keen eye out if you’re adding more water as rice is more prone to burn at the bottom.
+ Other indicators of perfect rice are: the water has boiled off and rice rising slightly at the edges of the pot, or a white film of rice paper is gathering on the pan sides.

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Blitzed Veggie Soup

veggie soup ingredients

Ingredients: 
Broccoli
Onion
Garlic
Rosemary
Vegetable Stock
Butter
Salt, Pepper, Sugar
Optional Pre-Blending Additions:
 Cream, Philly/Soft Cheese (non-salted) 

Method:

1. Wash broccoli, chop with onions and garlic, and fry  in butter with rosemary leaves.

2. Tip into blender and blend till smooth, slowly adding 1 stock cube dissolved in 250ml of water.

3. Season to taste and serve!
(I added some ground pepper, and a tiny smidge of sugar)

I’ve used broccoli because it’s in my cupboard and thus all my student meals this week, but really lots of veg can be substituted – I’m looking forward to trying sweet potato, peppers, spinach and more! Whenever I get round to buying them, that is…

veggie soup finished

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With winter in my cold cold room, I’ll be looking to make some yummy stews and tomato sauces next week to keep my poor tummy warm. Hit me up if you try any of these tips for a quick lunch next week, and I’ll be back with more meals ASAP!

Happy cooking,

Charlotte xx

Chargrilled Mistakes & Chicken Masterpiece

What’s that… burning smell?

I have an interesting history of burning things in the oven. It’s so ridiculously simple: you pop it in, you twiddle your thumbs, you take it out. Easy-peasy. ¬†Unfortunately, one of my less admirable traits is my forgetfulness… And needless to say, forgetfulness¬†and ovens do not mix. I’ve burnt cakes, chicken, vegetables, tea-towels – you name it. But sometimes,¬†with strong emphasis on the >1% change of this happening, it turns into something quite lovely!

Trial by burning is not a cooking method I advocate. Do not try it at home.

Chicken edit

This is a super quick recipe I threw together during essay-crisis for a gruelling stint in the campus library.  Needless to say, the housemates were more than a little perturbed to smell singed vegetables at 730AM. However, lightly char-grilled veg works a treat in this sticky, sweet roasted potato salad.

Ingredients
6 baby new potatoes
2 chicken legs/thighs
1 pepper
1 /2 sweet potato
1/2 carrot
spring onions
1 clove garlic
sunflower oil

Seasoning
1&1/2 tbs clear honey
1 tbs mayonnaise
salt and black pepper

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1. Pre-heat fan oven to 200¬įC, set on fan + grill if possible.

2. Dice carrots, pepper and sweet pepper, douse in oil and place in oven on tray with whole, unpeeled garlic clove

3. Score chicken meat and and place on tray in oven: approx. 30mins

4. Boil baby potatoes with dash of salt: approx. 20mins

5. CHECK THE OVEN!!!

A light charring on the veg and nicely browned chicken means you’re good to go!

6. Drain and dice potatoes, take chicken off the bone,  peel and chop garlic clove, finely chop a bit of rosemary (without stalk)

6. Tip potatoes, pepper, sweet potato, carrot, garlic and rosemary into a bowl

7. Add mayonnaise, honey, a twist of salt and black pepper, a few snips of spring onion – mix

8. Eat warm or box for later!

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As always, comment if you’ve any queries and let me know how you get on!

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‘Is that… Apple?’: The Chilli and Apple Con-Carne

This recipe comes from a mixture of  wild culinary upbringing, and a strong sense of student fugality ie. I bought a huge £1 bag of apples, and had to do something with them. Needless to say, the housemates were horrified.

I feel like cooking style like this should come with an¬†explanation.¬†Delia Smith, the fabulous lady she is, was a constant presence in my house growing up. She helped me learn to read (as I dictated her¬†recipes¬†to my Dad, and he quickly learned not to trust what I said), she was there with me as I wreaked havoc (serious the-oven-is-on-fire havoc) in the kitchen, and supplied me with staple culinary skills that keep me alive and sane at university. Delia’s emphasis on precision was tempered by my Dad’s sense of absolute wild abandon in the kitchen, the supermarket, in¬†foraging; Delia’s Britishness, by my Mum’s exquisite and traditional Chinese style. On our cookery book shelf at home, well protected by the thick paper covering my Dad and I sello-taped on to prevent further damage, is a wedding present from my Grandparents to my parents in 1991:¬†Delia’s Complete Cookery Course.¬†I’m patiently waiting to passed on Delia’s Cookery Book, stains and all, when I get married.

Apple

Let me know if you have any interesting variations on the usual ol’ Chilli!

Ingredients:
2 value tins of plum tomatoes
1 value tin of kidney beans
1 small onion (finely chopped)
1 tbs tomato puree
a quick shake of dried chilli flakes
500g mince beef/stewing beef
3 small apples cored and cubed
splash of apple juice
1 tbs honey
100ml red wine (optional)

….

1. Put everything but the beef into a large pot.

2. Fry the beef lightly (just seal the stewing beef) and add to pot.

3. Bring to boil, then simmer for approximately 2 hrs.

Yum.

“Cooking is rarely an automatic instinct, we have to learn as we go.”

-Delia Smith, Complete Illustrated Cookery Course (Classic Ed.). Introduction, p.7.

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You Cheap Treat: Scones

“…The only time I see you this happy, is when you’re eating.”

– Jakob (my China backpacking partner)

Jakob was slightly worried when he said this, but it is the truth: I am a food junkie. I unashamedly eat my emotions and my emotions are dangerously ruled by what I’m consuming…

Bad news is best handled with Chinese¬†chicken soup¬†[ťõěśĻĮ – ť¶ôŤŹá,ÁīÖś£ó,śěłśĚě,Śßú] or Irish¬†stew and wheaten bread,¬†headaches are less painful with¬†hot water,¬†romantic stories are sweeter with¬†sticky chocolate brownies and tea;¬†work is done best when a Spanish¬†pork and olive casserole¬†is in the oven, and let’s face it, life in general just simply better when¬†sticky white rice¬†is involved.

As such, for all you hard workers out there, I leave you a simple and cheap pick me up for that well-deserved afternoon break.

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Light (Dairy Free) Scones

225g self raising flour
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
50g margarine
135ml soya milk
2 heaped tbs caster sugar
50g raisins (optional)
pinch of salt

1. Heat oven to 200¬įC

2. Add margarine to flour, caster sugar, salt and baking powder; rub until breadcrumby.

3. Mix in soy milk, leaving some to brush the tops of scones (then raisins).

4. Roll clementine-sized balls of dough and on a floured surface, pat down to 2cm.

5. Brush tops with soy milk and put on tray to cook in oven for 10-15mins.

Et voilà! Serve with spread and jam while warm!

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