Monday, April 29, 2013

Classic English Scones

I love tea time! When I was in kindergarten, one of my favorite moments was to open my Minnie Mouse snack box which my mom packed for me every morning. I always knew there would be those pretty sugary belly-button biscuits, chocolate-coated Digestives and bite-sized sausages, but my anticipation for tea time never ceased. I know they are nothing fancy, but that was tea time and I was happy.

Now in Hong Kong, afternoon tea sets can get quite lavish and sumptuous and having tea seems lofty and regal. But I really do not think tea time is exclusive to rich taitais, rich married ladies who do not have to work and sip their Early Grey tea well-mannerly with their pinkies up in the air. Instead, tea time can be simple, can be something enjoyed by everyone and form part of a child's fondest memories. 

Why pay a hundred dollars to restaurants when one can make scones that are just as amazing but more fresh at only HK$3 each in 30 minutes?!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Jamie Oliver's Sicilian Prawn Pasta

I respect Jamie Oliver. He is creative and adventurous with food, travels to seek inspirations. He cares about people's health, started the Food Revolution to combat the serious trend of obesity in America yet faced numerous setbacks and criticisms from children who were only introduced to and used to fast foods and school caterers who recklessly believed that they had already fulfilled their obligation for promoting healthy-eating simply by including fries (reason: potatoes are vegetables) in the children's meal plans. Each year, Jamie also hires and trains young ex-cons and drop-outs at his restaurant Fifteen to help them see their own value and better integrate them into society.

So many reasons to like Jamie. He understands home-cooks like us too. Work nowadays makes home-cooking almost impossible or a luxury. When work becomes hard, it is especially important for you to eat healthy, stay healthy, and please yourself with delicious food instead of oily takeaways or pre-packed microwavable pizza with pathetically little toppings or rice that stick together and can only be broken down by a fork.

This recipe is taken from Jamie's 15-minute meal. With break-neck chopping skills and cool kitchen gadgets, Jamie can easily whip up this pasta dish AND a lemon fennel salad in well under 15 minutes. I am not a particularly fast cook, but hey, in just 15 minutes I can make this pasta too! So do try this if you are pressed with time!

This generously spiced Sicilian prawn pasta is extremely cool. Saffron and cinnamon adds to this dish the aromatic arabic twist. I quite like saffron but I can foresee that not everyone will like its taste, so do give it a try before adding it to the dish. The one element that gives this ordinary pasta the WOW effect is the crunchy garlicky breadcrumbs! They completely elevate the taste and mouth-feel of a regular pasta in tomato sauce, and transform the pasta into something much more fun, interesting and even addictive! I seriously cannot help adding more and more of the breadcrumbs into my pasta as I eat it, I even grab handfuls of them and eat them like peanuts while watching TV. I can already see how versatile these crunchy breadcrumbs can be, suitable for many other pastas including mac & cheese.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Shanghainese Wonton 上海雲吞

This is a recipe passed down to me from my Shanghainese grandmother. Every year when I visit her in the San Francisco Bay area, she welcomes me with wontons. No matter what time I arrive, say, past midnight, she still cooks for me around 20 wontons. That is honestly too much, but knowing how much love and effort she has put in making them for me, and being a traditional Chinese who has been taught to place filial piety above everything else, I have to finish all the food placed in the bowl in front of me. 

My grandmother is proud of her wontons. She adds shrimps to hers. But I usually skip the shrimps because it is really time-consuming to wash, dry, remove the shell and pick out of the shrimps their intestines. Either way, the wontons still taste awesome. 

On certain days, my grandmother has to mass produce these pretty parcels for lunch with her mahjong friends. My mother and I, along with my grandmother's helpers, then help out under the direction and supervision of my grandmother. Making wontons is so calming and satisfying that it is almost therapeutic. It is, I must say, a great family activity too! I have tried my best to draw for you the steps to wrap these pretty parcels. Hope this helps and don't laugh! ;p

We call these little parcels "nurse's caps". The Shanghainese wonton wrappings are slightly different from those of Guangdong wontons. The Shanghainese ones are milk in colour and trapezium in shape. So make sure you buy the right ones for this recipe!

My grandmother only boils the wontons and serves them in chicken broth as in the picture below. For a naughtier and crispier version, which is greatly endorsed by my mother, you may pan-fry them and serve them with Zhejiang vinegar. They are sooo good, I eat them for breakfast, for lunch and even for dinner! So, enjoy!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Homemade Linguine with Mushroom, Thyme and Lemon

When I look at my newly-bought pasta machine, I can't help smiling like a proud Wall Street banker who has just nailed a great deal. I'm serious, I still think it's one of the best kitchen investments I've ever made! It has made life much easier for me, especially when my life now pretty much circles around pasta-making from scratch. 

Aren't they pretty? Hm, sometimes I really wonder if I actually think they're pretty just because I made them. But look! Delicate and highlighted with fine sand-like semolina, the unintended twists and curls are just like gentle waves stretching across the moon-lit ocean. 

Linguine is spaghetti squashed flat, best served with light vegetable sauces. Introduced to this pasta dish through the beautiful Nigella Lawson's cooking show a few years ago, I've been making this since then whenever I want a tasty meal real quick. Really, there's nothing to cook apart from the pasta! The mushrooms are served fresh. 

You know this pasta recipe is a keeper just by looking at the genius polygamy of mushroom, thyme and lemon. Like tomato and basil, mushroom and thyme, and thyme and lemon are best friends matched by heaven. So nothing can go wrong here. Perfect timing for me to share with you a little trick I recently learnt from Jamie Oliver on his 30-minute meals series. Before you pick the thyme leaves off the sprigs, wake them up by dipping them in hot water. It takes less than a second but you can immediately smell the thyme then. So good.