Thursday, 30 January 2014

Fried Sweet Chilli Chicken Recipe

It's the Year of the Horse! Chinese New Year is a festival of lights, dance, dragons and firecrackers, a celebration of life, luck and the future, and most of all, food. Working at the School of Wok has introduced me to 'proper' Chinese food, and I have been watching lots of cooking programmes, and researching lots of recipes online in my search for more delicious recipes. On the Food Network, the lovely Taiwanese/Chinese Ching He Huang presents a programme introducing students to Easy Chinese food, and here is my adaptation of one of the recipes. A lightly battered deep fried chicken, coated in a spicy sweet chilli sauce. You'll never have a takeaway again!
sweet chilli chicken
Fried Sweet Chilli Chicken
8-10 mini chicken fillets
2 egg whites
5-6 tbsp cornflour
vegetable/sunflower oil, for deep frying
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 inch ginger, sliced into matchsticks
2-3 chillies, chopped
1 tbsp groundnut/coconut oil
6 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
2 tbsp light soy sauce
juice 1/2 lime
fresh coriander, chopped
Prepare the chicken by cutting into chunks.

Prepare the batter by mixing the egg whites with the cornflour until thick and gloopy, and season with salt and pepper.

Coat the chicken in the batter ('velveting') and deep fry in a wok half filled with vegetable oil until golden brown and crispy (about 6-8 mins). Turn occasionally to stop them sticking together and to brown all over. Check they are thoroughly cooked, then remove the chicken, and set aside. Retain the oil in a heatproof bowl.
Meanwhile chop the chilli, garlic and ginger.

Heat a little groundnut or coconut oil in the wok and add the garlic, chilli and ginger, and fry for 2 minutes. Add sweet chilli sauce, light soy sauce and a squeeze of lime juice. Stir until mixed well.
Add in the chopped fresh coriander, then add the chicken back in and coat in the sauce.
Serve with noodles or rice.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Breakfast at The Shard

It's not every day you drop your kids to school in a fur coat and heels and then go and have breakfast on the 31st floor of London's tallest building. The Shard offers fantastic views over London town, even on a cloudy, dull January day, most notably the Gherkin and the Heron Tower, St Paul's Cathedral, and of course, Tower Bridge, which you can almost touch. The foyer on the ground floor, the entrance to the Shangri-La Hotel, is where you enter this tower, and the automatic lift takes you directly to the 32nd floor. No sneaking out on random floors for a peek at the apartments or offices! Breakfast is served at Aqua Shard between 7am and 10.30am, Monday to Friday. I'm sure all the business meetings and multi-million-pound deals were thrashed out long before we arrived, so our reservation got us a booth overlooking the fantastic view, with St Paul's in the foreground, and Hampsted Heath in the hazy distance. Tables for two were even closer to the glass facade, but our four-seater was cosy and comfy and close enough.

We began with a Morning Elixir cocktail - it was after all, a special occasion! The Shard Mimosa is a refreshing yet sweet cocktail made with 'blood orange juice, solerno, Aperol, passion fruit syrup, a dash of plum bitter, and topped with English Sparkling wine'. Starting the day with an alcoholic cocktail isn't your everyday breakfast I admit, but it does brighten a dull day considerably! We followed this with a bottle of the English Sparkling wine which was one of the best I've tasted. Being sensible and responsible, it was time to eat!

Two of us chose the Eggs Benedict, 'Black Treacle cured ham, toasted English muffins, poached eggs, Béarnaise.'
aqua shard
Eggs Benedict
As a Benedict novice, I wasn't sure about Béarnaise sauce first thing in the morning (well, 10am, now), but it was delicious - the eggs were perfectly poached, the muffins tastefully toasted and the sauce simply spiced, with just enough of a kick to satisfy my love of a bit of heat. I polished off the lot, accompanied by a flat white coffee. Next to me Himself devoured his full English 'Two Old House Farm eggs, any way (he had poached), Maynard's farm treacle cured smoked streaky bacon, Cumberland sausage, spinach, Bermondsey salted ricotta, vine tomatoes, grilled mushrooms, smoked ham hock cannellini beans, hash browns, black pudding, toasted sourdough.'

Aqua shard
Full English
His only moan was the presence of his dreaded mushrooms, and the fact that all the food was piled up, so that he had to dismantle a tower of food before tucking in! But by all accounts it was excellent.

Being engrossed in eating my own breakfast I was distracted only by some exclamations from the kedgeree eater! 'Loch Duart confit salmon, green peas, rice, fried duck egg, herbs, spices, organic salmon roe.' Delicious, of course, filling, and surprisingly (?) spicy! I shall be having this next time! Service was a little slow, and the staff all seemed quite young and indifferent, but it was adequate enough for a relaxed meal. 

aqua shard
Aqua Shard Kedgeree
Once we'd finished our coffees (yes, still being sensible), we did the tourist thing, and admired the view, taking photos with our cameraphones. There are a lot of beautiful photos online of the London skyline and the View from the Shard at various times of day, so I will leave you to peruse those yourself, while mine are all engraved in my memory (i.e. my photos were a bit... blurred!). Also be sure to check out the bathroom!

It being almost lunchtime at this stage, we were still too full to eat any more, but were not deterred from trying a cocktail, one floor up. On the 32nd floor, hosted by girls in gorgeous Ted Baker dresses, is Oblix. There is a restaurant and a bar lounge, opening at 12 noon. As we were a few minutes early, we hovered in the lift foyer, and practiced some dance moves (no, not me). At 12 on the button we walked the long dark candlelit corridor to the bar lounge, where a deli bar serves food at lunch, and admired the view from a slightly different angle. Also the notorious ice block, used for sculpting ice with a chainsaw for cocktails! People began coming in for lunch so we were seated on the couch, and chose a cocktail from the extensive menu. Mine was a Sin City (centre of pic) which had lemongrass and lime, topped with English Sparkling wine (can you tell I like that stuff!?) and I'm sure other ingredients. The one on the right was rhubarb-based, and disappointing for the price. The one on the left was guzzled with gusto so it must have been good, but I'm damned if I can remember the name of it! One of us had a coffee at this point... and then back to North London for the school run.

oblix shard
Sin City

Overall I would definitely go back again for breakfast and cocktails. I can imagine an evening drink overlooking the beautiful city of London, watching the sun set, and the lights come on, would be very romantic and relaxing. Don't expect it to be cheap, and be sure to book before you go, but where else could you eat, drink, and relax with such a majestic panorama of our magnificent city?

Square Meal Aqua Shard on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Chicken Sichuan Recipe

I'm not a huge fan of Chinese takeaways, but when I do 'indulge', it is usually Sichuan Chicken that I go for. This recipe, however, is a million times better than any takeaway. I got the recipe for Sichuan Aubergine from The School of Wok, the recipe written by Head Chef Jeremy Pang, and adapted it so there was meat in it. Not that I'm biased or anything (ok, I am) but the Asian food I've learnt to make at the School has been, without exception, fantastic. Perhaps it's the home-cookedness of it, knowing everything that you have put into your dish, or perhaps it's what really Chinese food is like, (i.e. not oily takeaways) - or perhaps both.

You can find the recipe on the School of Wok blog (written by yours truly, incidently!). The ingredients you will be able to find in an Asian supermarket. To use chicken instead of, or in addition to, aubergine, just season some flour, or even better, cornflour, and dip strips of chicken breast in it, then sear them until lightly browned, then remove them from the pan, and continue with step 3. Be sure to add it back in before you bake it! You can also add in some peppers or other vegetables if you wish. 

The perfect dish to serve up on Chinese New Year! 

authentic chinese food
Sichuan Chicken - authentic

Monday, 20 January 2014

Rapunzel 4th Birthday Cake

A birthday cake for a little girl who loves princesses. She saw a picture of the one I did for my little girl, and that's what she asked for.

The tower did lean a bit, but I was able to stabilize it with some secret scaffolding (two bamboo skewers inside). The marshmallow arch covers the top of them nicely, and conveniently formed the space for Rapunzel to dangle her plait...

Friday, 17 January 2014

Tuna Teriyaki Recipe

 The great thing about fresh tuna (dolphin-friendly, ethically-sourced tuna, of course) is that is it healthy AND delicious. You can cook it as much or as little as you wish, even have it raw. It tastes great, a meaty and healthy midweek meal that you can have for a carb-free or 5:2 dish.
I've recently made chicken teriyaki, and tuna tataki, and both were simple and delicious, so this is similar, served with a rocket, spinach and peanut salad.

Tuna Teriyaki

Serves: 2
Cook time: 10 minutes plus marinating

teriyaki recipe
2 tuna steaks
green salad
rapeseed oil

For the Marinade:
1 tsp sesame oil

50 g light muscovado sugar
80 ml rice wine
65 ml dark soy sauce 


Mix all the marinade ingredients together and marinate the tuna steaks as long as you like, half an hour is fine.

Heat some rapeseed oil in a frying pan and sear the tuna steaks on each side, depending on how well you like them cooked. It's good to have them rare! 

Once they are cooked (or not!) to your liking remove them to a plate. Warm up the remaining marinade in the pan and pour over the tuna. 

Serve with a crispy green salad garnished with peanuts.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Moules Mariniére with Chilli Recipe

Mussels in White Wine and Chilli

This is a surprisingly simple, quick yet classically delicious recipe, taken from Michel Roux Jr.'s the French Kitchen, my signed copy, no less! I've adapted the recipe (as always!) to suit the ingredients to hand, but I can't see why it would be any less palatable this way.

Serves: 2 as a starter 
Cook time: 15 mins

knob of butter
500 g Mussels, washed, scrubbed, and any grainy bits removed
1 onion, chopped
3 spring onions, sliced (substitute celery for the classic French recipe)
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1 chilli, chopped,
300 ml white wine
2 tbsp Greek yoghurt (crème fraiche if you are being classically French)
chopped parsley
salt & pepper
crusty bread, to serve (if you are feeling carbilicious!)

Make sure you scrub the mussels well under cold running water, and remove any grit and hairy bits. Discard any broken ones, making sure the ones you keep are all closed.

Melt the butter in a large pan, and sauté the onions, spring onions, chilli and garlic until soft.

Pour in the wine and bring to the boil. Add the mussels, cover the pan and simmer for 3 minutes. Give the pan a toss, and then cook for another 5-7 minutes until all the mussels have opened - make sure you remove any unopened, and therefore uncooked ones, at this point.

With a slotted spoon, remove the mussels to a serving bowl. Bring the sauce back to the boil, then reduce the heat and stir in the yoghurt, parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Whilst still hot, pour over the mussels, and serve immediately with some crusty bread to soak up all the lovely juices.

michel roux jr
Moules with Chilli

Monday, 13 January 2014

Thai Supper Club

First Supper Club of the Year! Much as I love experimenting and always cooking something I've never done before, I wanted to try out the recipes I had learned at the Taste of Thailand Class at the School of Wok. I couldn't get all the ingredients, like the Thai aubergines, lesser ginger and galangal, but managed to make adequate substitutions. The satay I've done before with chicken, and here I used fillet of pork, as I didn't want to overdose on chicken!


Pork Satay with Peanut Sauce
served with a red pepper and cucumber salad.

A light yet spicy starter, with loads of flavour, reasonably simple to make once you had some time to marinade. You can find the recipe here.

Pork Satay with Peanut Sauce

Main Course:

Thai Green Chicken Curry
made with homemade green curry paste
served with lemongrass rice

A fresh and spicy curry made using the recipe from the School of Wok class. The use of fresh kaffir lime leaves makes all the difference. Some grinding with a pestle and mortar required!

Green curry paste with 10 chillies...
... Thai Green Chicken Curry

Vegetarian Pad Thai
served with chopped honey roasted peanuts

Ingredients such as tamarind paste and lime juice give this dish an really authentic Thai flavour. Remember to line up your ingredients clockwise in the order you need them, as it's quick wok time!

Ready to cook...
...Pad Thai


Lemon and Lime Ginger Tart

This is one of my favourite simple desserts. Tangy and zesty, the citrus fruits are a really refreshing taste after an evening of spice. The best thing I ever tore out of the Metro!

Lemon and Lime Ginger tart

Sunday, 12 January 2014

German Sausage Goulash

It's a New Year! It's been an indulgent festive season, with plenty of food, plenty of booze, and lots of foodie gifts to play with! First up some German ingredients, all the way from a town near Leipzig. We are all somewhat familiar with the currywurst and the prevalence of cabbage in German cuisine, but I have sampled some delicious lunches in the past year or so, cooked by my German friend, and now, it's my turn! Goulash is associated with Hungary and Austria, but the Germans also have an excellent version. It is traditionally made with beef, but here I have used a smoked sausage (which can be eaten raw!) and given it my own twist. Goulash is often eaten with a steamed dumpling called a Knodel which really are delicious with this stew.
6 German Smoked Pork Sausages
1 onion, sliced
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato purée
2 tsp hot paprika
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 large glass red wine
1 tsp sugar
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Gently sauté the sausages in some olive oil for 5 minutes. Add in the onions and sauté for about 10 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add in the tin of tomatoes, tomato purée and paprika and stir to disperse the paprika. Add the fennel seeds, red wine, sugar, and lemon zest and allow to simmer for at least half an hour.
Use the traditional beef instead of sausage. Coat the beef in seasoned flour and brown off before you add the onions, and allow it to simmer for about 2 hours.
 Smoked Sausage Goulash
May look unappetizing but is really delicious!
Please excuse the photography I am still getting used to some new apps and smaller screens!