Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Christmas Spirit overflowing in London and Priscilla the musical

It's THAT time of the year again.
I visited England for an Exhibition and London in the evening of the 12th and 13th of December.
Christmas decorations were up everywhere and endless swarms of people dressed up in red Christmas suits crowded the London streets.

I saw this lovely Christmas Fair on Leicester square.

The trees covered in lights make it look like a fairy land.

Flying chairs( OMG ?! is that Elvis on the middle panel ?)
Traditional old fashioned Merry go round ( do click on the pictures for the lovely detail)

We're not moving yet, but we're already having lots of fun!

While I narrowly missed meeting my friend Priscilla ( from Kimono Daisuki ) who visited London earlier in the week and had just crossed the channel to Paris,
I did have a great time having dinner with her friend Mel in Chinatown.

But London still had a surprise in stock for me : the Palace Theater is running a musical called

Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Too bad I didn't have time to go see it, but I'm sure it must be great.

Tip 1 for photographers : for nighttime pictures your auto exposure won't cope. Turn off your flash ( it's too small anyway and do more bad than good) , set ISO to 800 and exposure time on manual to 1/30. If you haven't a lens with stabilization, like me , stand with your back against a tree or a pole or anything.

You'll get blurs on moving people and rotating merry go rounds , but that is perfect : it shows the motion ( a powerful flash would simply freeze it ).
Tip2 If you want a steady picture of a merry go round to show the lovely details , wait till it's stopped, between runs :)

Friday, 30 October 2009

A thousand year omelet ?!

Recently, while stocking up on food in Sun-Wah supermarket
I found this Chinese delicacy.

These are 6 preserved duck eggs aka thousand year old or century eggs.
They're preserved by covering the egg in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, lime, and rice straw for several weeks to several months, although modern methods use a brine of salt, calcium hydroxide, and sodium carbonate which does the same but more quickly. The story about using horse's urine is a complete fable ;) It's impossible, since urine can never be alkaline enough.

The peeled egg looks black or very dark brown

When you halve it , you see the white has become solid firm and jello-like transparent brown.
The yolk has turned dark green and creamy and smells strongly of ammonia.

So what does it taste like ?
I ate the first one with a spoon ( I know NO FEAR ) : the white has little taste, but a texture like very firm aspic
the yolk is creamy , a bit salty and the fume of ammonia that evaporates in your mouth would probably turn a lot of people off.

Since I have 6 , I made a dish with tofu , ginger, spring onions and a sauce of soy sauce and sesame oil ( I'll post pics when I make this again )
and this morning I made a Chinese "Old and fresh egg omelet" for which I invented a recipe , as I can't find it on Internet.

Peel and slice a preserved egg from top to bottom. ( This one has a very large yolk)

Whip 3 fresh chicken eggs in a bowl with a dash of oil and water. (Adding a teaspoon of water to an omelet makes it fluffier as the water boils off when poured in the pan )

Have a few sprigs of fresh coriander ready for a contrasting flavor and to add colour ( fresh chopped spring onions might be OK too)

Heat a very lightly oiled non-stick pan on a medium fire, pour two thirds of the mixture in and turn the fire to low.

Arrange the sliced egg in a decorative way on the omelet.

Tear the fresh leaves of coriander up and put them on top of the eggs.

Cover with the rest of the whipped egg, put a lid on the pan and cook on a low fire for another 4 to 5 minutes
I lightly seasoned the omelet with freshly ground white and black pepper , in order not to mask the taste of the preserved egg.
Eat this with a slice of bread or steamed rice.

It looks so decorative ! ( click on the pictures for a mouth-watering large picture )
Please note my genuine Japanese Furoshiki ( wrapping cloth ) underneath ^_^ .
I used it just for the picture of course , I removed it for eating :)

This dish is enough for two persons ( I ate the whole lot myself , I was hungry this morning )

How healthy is it ? It's no different from fresh eggs.
According to this article from China it has almost the same composition as a fresh egg.
I have 1 reservation : the 3rd method in this article uses lead oxide , which is poisonous. Eggs made with that method should be avoided. The ones I have are made in Europe where lead oxide is illegal, they're OK.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Ohmygod, it's hello kitty !

It had to happen sometime.
I found this advertisement on my way to work.

( click on the picture for a larger view)
I'm constantly exposed to it on my friend Kirin's blog so I'm not totally shell shocked , but still. I have to drive past this every day to work !
I can't even blame the Japanese for this , because it's a Korean brand.

What does the advert say ? Well for those of you who aren't fluent in Dutch ( that's 99.5 % of the planet ) it says in the balloon "(It's) Time to change your mobile phone"
and the horn blowing mouse announces 20 Euros per old mobile phone handed in.
The fine print explains you get 20 Euros for up to 3 phones in working order in vouchers.

Thankfully, I have a real cat at home to remind me cats aren't always white with a pink ribbon around one ear.
Meet my very real cat Kedam, everybody , lurking in the grass for passing prey she can kill

( click on the picture for a larger view of my backyard predator )
and sitting on her favorite cushion in HER house

( click on the picture for a larger view and check out the spooky green reflection in the eyes)
I'm only allowed to live here provided I open doors for Her Highness, fill the water dish and fill up the food container. I'm on constant probation : one too many mistakes and I'm sooo fired!

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Moroccan delights : lemons, olives and turkey

One of the most wonderful combination of tastes is this Moroccan dish, which mingles the robust tastes of olives with lemon and chicken ( or turkey ).
The original recipe uses whole chicken drumsticks, I'm replacing them with diced turkey.
It is cooked in a tajine, which most people don't have. The tajine is a clay pot , which has a large conical closed top to let the heat and steam circulate and is meant for slow simmering dishes. (This is not my kitchen , I don't have a tajine)

I'm replacing it with a large heavy pot, which works just as well.
You'll need :
1 kilo of turkey breast, diced roughly in cubes of 3-5 cm
3 medium onions ( red or yellow), chopped

2 citron confit ( pickled lemons ) chopped with all the juice ( there's an explanation below on how to make it or how to use fresh lemon) with the pips removed!
(the zests are separate in this picture , that's not required :) see below)

300-350 grams of green pitted olives (mine are straight from the jar!)
2 or 3 teaspoons of turmeric powder (yellow root , we call it curcuma here ;)
2 tablespoons of olive oil

2 or 3 garlic cloves , peeled, core removed and diced in 3 or 4 bits
1 slice of ginger, diced finely or grated

1 - 2 handfuls of fresh coriander leaves, shredded by hand ( if I can't find it fresh , I don't use any,I find the taste hardly changes )
1/2 to 1 teaspoon of pepper ( 10 twists of the pepper grinder )
no salt ( the traditional recipe uses salt, but the citron confit already has a lot of that )
Large pot with lid.

Heat the oil in your favorite large pot on a medium fire.
Brown the turkey cubes lightly on all sides by stirring them in the oil for about 4-5 minutes or so.
Add the onions and stir fry for another 5 or so till the onions are glazed.The turkey tends to stick to the pot, keep stirring.
Pour the turmeric powder all over the meat and stir to get them all colored.

Put everything else in , except the olives and the coriander leaves.
Pour water in till the meat is a bit more than half covered.
Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to very low ( 2-3 electric) so it keeps slowly simmering : check regularly that it simmers : boiling dries out the meat !
Leave to simmer for half an hour to 40 minutes and add the olives and the coriander ( if you have any ).

Leave to simmer for another 15-20 minutes.
Done ! My advice : serve this robust dish with couscous (made from semolina ). ( I feel steamed rice is not the proper companion for this taste ). There's still a lot of moisture in there and the couscous absorbs those lovely juices so well.

It keeps well in the fridge (must be the lemon acids). I'll be having it on and off for the next 10 days with couscous : about 8 portions. Hmm! The SMELL ! To die for.

I use precooked couscous and add boiling water and a small dash of olive oil ( as on the package ). Add a portion of the hot dish in a deep plate , eat with a spoon. Lovely.

My selfmade citron confit. Why are the zests separate ? Because I had started to peel the zest of 4 lemons when I suddenly decided to use 2 of them for citron confit.

Citron confit can be made by cutting whole lemons lengthwise with 2 deep slices down the middle, , but not all the way down, so it doesn't fall apart. Pour a tablespoon of salt in the middle of each lemon and put them in a glass jar with a tightly fitting top. Leave the pips in, you'll remove them when you use it.
You'll need untreated lemons , not the normal kind whose skin is treated with chemicals to prevent rot.Don't wash a treated lemon with hot soapy water as a replacement , it doesn't get rid of the chemical.
Leave the jar in the room for a day and then keep it in the fridge for 2 to 4 weeks.The lemon juice will run out and the lemons will become glazed. Use both in the dish.

When I'm out of citron confit or untreated lemons , I cheat by peeling and dicing a normal lemon and leaving some of the white skin on and adding salt.

Here's a tip : if you buy garlic it usually comes in a bunch of pods. I find they dry out or start to go bad after a few weeks.
To have a fresh supply that's quick to use, peel the cloves, remove the cores and keep them in a jar with a tight lid in the deep freeze. Same for the ginger : peel and slice. Glass jars have the advantage that you can see what's inside.
Also I find the frozen ginger is very easy to dice finely.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Beer trek : the new frontier.

It was bound to happen sometime: we Belgians make beer , drink beer, cook with beer and make world famous chocolates.
Beer Brewery De Ryck has boldly gone where no one has gone before.

They sell a collection of beer chocolates (no no ! not chocolate beer : Beer Chocolates ! )

Unfortunately even the English version of their website will only give you a Dutch description of these delicacies, so for you my dear readers , I've translated it into English.
( Because I like you all so much, I want to share this inside knowledge with you ! :)

( Want to get a better view ? Leftclick the image for a mouthwatering larger view )

Oh and did I mention they also have beer cheese, beer marmalade, beer sorbet and beer pâté ?
Belgian type breakfast , anyone ?

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Japanese Art Festival Richmond : everybody arrives for the great kimono show

Finally : the kimono show post. Do a leftclick on the pictures to get a larger view.

A bit later on the first day of the Festival , April turned up, everybody got into kimono , so I made them all pose !

Everyone getting ready for the group pose :

They're ready ! From left to right : Isla, Hong, Chantal and April.
The kimono showing was held in the main hall. Thank God I photographed it , it was all over in under 15 minutes!
April walked on stage first with Chantal and Isla, introducing everybody.
Commenting on their kimonos for the public.
Akemi comes on , telling us she's dressed up her friends in some rare and expensive kimonos from her collection.
Akemi's friend n° 1Akemi's friend n° 2View from the back : the red and yellow bow is a clip-on bow ( they have that ??!) , the right is a genuine folded one.

Akemi's friend n° 3 : this furisode (long sleeved) is worn only by unmarried women (Aha! Must remember that when I visit Japan ;)
The "Aaaaaah, she's so kawaii !" moment : the girl from the Chibi stand.

" Thank you everybody ! " ( I really need a bigger flash)
Day 2 : Kelly visits the stand .
(Chantal , if you want the RAWS , use the email me Form on my blog site )

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Cooking lesson with Atsuko : hands-on cooking

On Sunday I had booked a cooking lesson with Atsuko from Atsukos kitchen to learn hands on how to make proper onigiri.
The lesson was great , I can recommend it. If England wasn't so far to commute, I'd sign up for more lessons!

Atsuko-sensei herself.
More students arriving.
Ingredients for the wrapping and the filling.

More ingredients. Check out those lovely origami cranes.

With the rice precooked ( and after being explained how to make proper 'sticky' rice : you need to use Japanese rice and wash it properly before cooking with the right amount of water.) Knew that.

Put the rice in a large wooden tray (rub with a wet towel to keep from sticking) and fluff the rice before use. Take a small handful of rice , add a small amount of filling in the middle and quickly knead it into a triangular shape, then wrap partially or completely with nori, while still warm.
I also made one with some stringy konbu ( seaweed) around it.
Some were with beef , some with salmon, some with umeboshi ( I love umeboshi !)

According to Atsuko sensei my onigiri looked good enough to sell and her assistant complained mine were better than hers. I know how totally polite Japanese are, so I'm always suspicious of so much praise, but actually , they do look OK.
I just have to learn to make em more quickly.

I didn't like this picture I'd taken , so I made a new batch at home.
Check it out these triangular ones : you were right Atsuko-sensei , they're good enough to sell.

I also made a round one and one fully wrapped. I call it the 'surprise package' ( it has umeboshi in it).

Of course I didn't sell the ones I made at home : I ate them and when the sun came out I had this lovely Japanese beer to finish it off. It's way better than the Asahi super dry. It's right up there with the best German pils beers. Hontoni!