Strawberry Basil Martini

Cocktail hour is all the rage at my folks pad these days. So to spice up the proceedings somewhat I decided to come up with a new concoction to tantalize their taste buds. My mums a big fan of Martini so I used it as the liquor of the day, but you can substitute for vodka if you wish.

Ingredients

50ml of Martini extra dry

250ml of lemonade

2 slices of lemon

2 strawberries

5 basil leaves

Directions

Slice the lemon and strawberries and put into a high ball glass. Add the basil leaves and ice then muddle with a spoon. Add a double shot of Martini extra dry and top with lemonade. Drink and enjoy. Repeat if necessary.

Pavlova

As a child pavlova was my absolute favorite dessert. My mum would always buy one if we had a guest for sunday lunch. My love of meringue has never wained as I have grown over the years. Meringue has always been famed as rather tricky to make (although I think it has a rather misguided reputation). As long as you follow the basic principles then they should turn out fine and dandy.

I’ve shied away from making a pavlova in Korea  for several reasons. The main ones being my lack of electric beater and my toaster oven being too small. However if your oven is of a decent size, I highly recommend you try making this delicious dessert.

Ingredients

120z of caster sugar

6 egg whites

1 table-spoon of cornflour

1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar

Topping

400ml of Whipped cream

A selection of fresh berries

Directions

Separate your eggs (whites only) and whisk them to stiff peaks in a clean mixing bowl. I would recommend an electric whisk unless you are very strong. Although my friend matt, seems to make them even better by hand than I can using the beater. So I guess it’s all in the wrist action (I assume he gets a lot of practice). You need the egg whites to be as stiff as possible as they will only get softer as you beat in the sugar. An old trick , is to beat them stiff enough so they are able to stay in the bowl when held upside down. Beat in the caster sugar a bit at time until it has been incorporated into the egg whites so the form soft peaks. Stir in the cornflour and vinegar to help them hold their shape and give them some extra gloss, although this step is not essential.

Line a baking tray with a piece of greaseproof paper. Draw a circle on the greaseproof paper and fill it in with a layer of the meringue. Then build up the edges by spooning or piping blobs around the outside until it forms the pavlova shape. Bake in an oven set to 150 degrees centigrade  for about an hour until the meringue has set. Turn off the oven and leave the meringue inside to dry out for a few hours, ideally overnight.

Pavlovas should be assembled at the last moment, so wait until you are ready to serve before adding the cream. Whisk the cream (add a little icing sugar and vanilla extract if you have a sweet tooth) and fill the pavlova then top with mixed berries. You can top your pavlova with anything you like, although I always think chocolate and nuts  goes down well.

If your pavlova cracks and breaks when your putting it on to your serving dish don’t worry, just cover it with cream and no one will be any wiser. .. If your meringue turns out too flat for a pavlova you can always break it into pieces and use it to make Eton mess, another british classic.

Pimm’s

There is nothing more delicious on a hot summer day than a glass of Pimms. The ultimate british summer cocktail (almost guaranteed to feature on ever cocktail menu in the country during the summer months). It’s the quintessential english drink. It’s also an absolute favorite of mine, it’s very easy to slip down a jug or two of these babies.

Sadly for those of us living in Korea, it’s not very easy to procure. In fact I have never successfully found a bottle myself, although I still belive they are out there somewhere. I find its easier to always come prepared and pick up a bottle or two at the airport every time I venture home. We also managed to find it in Langkawi when we went to Malaysia last year. If your lucky enough to have a british friend, then beg them to bring you a bottle so you too can revel in this summer delight.

Ingredients

200 ml Pimms

1 liter of lemonade (7up/Sprite USA/CiderKorea)

1/2 Lemon

1/2 Lime

1 Orange

1/2 a Cucumber

5 Strawberries

A handful of raspberries or blueberries (optional)

A bunch of mint

Directions

Chop all your fruit and put into your jug. It’s up to you if you like your fruit little or large. Add the Pimms and lemonade and a few ice cubes and stir. Serve in a highball glass and enjoy. Voilà a delicious jug sized drink.

Food Glorious Food!

Sorry to have desserted you for so long (pun intended), but I have been far too busy having fun and eating to be telling you all about it. My waist line and my wallet have taken a serious hit after eating my way around Italy. As long as I don’t step on the scales or check my bank balance everything will be okay. Italy was everything I dreamed of:  ravioli, tiramisu, pizza,  gelato, gnocchi and many many Bellini’s.

As well as being in Italy, I’ve also taken a mini break at a 5 star spa where I indulged in the best breakfast buffet I’ve ever had and a divine 7 course meal. Today I finally succeeded in eating the chinese of my dreams, I was looking forward to the left overs later but my mum polished it off. I have also eaten copious amounts of salt & vinegar crisps and several wraps.

Now I’ve finally made it back to a real kitchen I will be posting some very delicious English themed recipes very very soon……. Ciao x

Food to eat at home!

So, this time tomorrow I shall be winging my way back to yonder England pastures. For weeks I have been dreaming about all the things I am going to eat when I am home. I thought I should do the sensible thing and make a list to be sure I don’t miss anything important.

1. A variety of wraps from Marks and Spencer – Oh how I love M&S . If you have never been to the UK then I don’t think you can understand how wonderful  food from this classy supermarket is, especially the wraps and sandwiches. A  true British staple! I like to go for the wrap selection pack and get three at once. My particular favourite is the duck with hoi sin sauce.

2. Sweet and sour chicken balls – Theres not much I wouldn’t do for a sweet and sour chicken ball. How I miss these battered beauties, especially when they are ensconced in a sweet and bright orange sweet and sour sauce. Not very authentic or healthy but they are amazing. In my chinese takeaway order I also plan to get special fried rice, crispy seaweed, chicken chow mien, springrolls and chips. I plan to have Chinese at least twice while I’m home, hopefully three times.

3. Patisserie Valarie  – (curtsey of my best friend Rachel V) Patisserie Valarie is an amazing cake shop that they have in London. I have actually never eaten a cake from there as it is pricey to say the least. I have only pressed my nose up against the window and looked longingly at the cakes. So I am very excited to attending with my favorite gorging buddy.

4. Crisps and dips -Yes I have finally mastered the art of making dip (recipe here) and now they sell cheesy Doritos in Korea, this snack is not as high on my list but I can’t say no to a dip selection pack. Four glorious dips in one pack with a mixed selection of crisps, what could be better.

5. Cider -I love cider, and in the UK its cheap and plentiful. I am actually from Somerset which is where most of our cider comes from so I will definitely be down the pub with my dad drink many of these babies. Also on the drinks list are vodka soda limes, a rapaska at L.A.B. Bar and a jug of Pimms in my favorite beer garden.

6. All bran – I love Allbran. I am so sad that it’s not sold here, as it is my favourite breakfast treat. Topped with a prune Activia and some extra fruit this makes for a yummy and healthy breakfast.

7. A chip butty – Chip shops chips sandwiched between to pieces of white bread slathered with butter. Topped with tomato sauce this a delicious carbalicous and comforting treat.

8. My mums roast dinner- No trip home is complete without at least one roast dinner and its hard to beat my mums when she puts on all the trimmings. Roast beef, Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes, swede and carrot mash, cauliflower cheese, parsnips and gravy yes please! I also plan a visit to Toby Carvery while I am back, all you can eat roast dinner, you rock my world.

9. Rhubarb. Not everything on my wish list contains copious amounts of transfats. I am a rhubarb fanatic, I can’t get enough of that sweet and sour fruit. Fresh out of my aunties garden and I’m a very happy girl.

10. A hangover feast foraged by Malcolm. I think we all know that I eat a lot. But on hangover Sunday that amount is trippled. It is not unknown for me to eat 2 or 3 family sized pizza hut pizzas. Here in Korea options are somewhat limited. But at home you can go wild. I’m generally quite pathetic when I’m hungover and find it hard to leave the house, so I employ the service of my gay bff to go on a rampage around london searching for treats to sate my never ending hunger. This should include but not limited too, a selection of wraps and sandwiches (at least 3) galaxy chocolate thick shake, salt and vinegar crisps, something covered in pastry, a box of chocolate eclairs, some kind of comforting ready meal, a chicken and mushroom pot noodle, a variety of crisps and dips and a cup cake. I also enjoy a surprise treat!

Rosemary and Lemon Roast Chicken

So chickens are on sale this week in my favorite supermarket a bargain a 3,000 each. I considered it to be such a bargain that I decided to buy two and eat twice as much, saving myself no money at all (boy am I smart). I must state that chickens here are rather on the small side, to stay the least . It’s certainly not beyond the realm of possibility to eat a whole one (or two). I must confess though that I didn’t eat all the meat, I had some left over which I used to make Thai Chicken noodle soup the  recipe coming later this week. Most of my roast chicken recipes are more of a winter theme, so to summer it up I served it with rice salad. The left overs also made a great lunch to take to work. My schools dinners are poor at best, unless boiled bean sprouts and kimchi float your boat? They do not float mine!

Ingredients 

Roast Chicken

1 whole chicken

1/4 of a lemon

2 sprigs of rosemary

2 cloves of garlic

1-2 table spoons of olive oil

A pinch of salt and pepper

Rice Salad

200g of brown long grain rice (I used brown as that’s what I prefer but white would be ok too)

1 green pepper

1 red pepper

1 yellow pepper

15 cherry tomatoes

1/2 cucumber

A bunch of spring onions

1 lemon (or just use the 3/4 left over from the chicken)

1 tablespoon of olive oil

A pinch of salt and pepper

2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar.

Directions

Put the two sprigs of rosemary, the wedge of lemon, and the garlic inside the chicken. Rub the outside of the chicken with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, cover with tin-foil and roast for about an hour at 200. Cooking times may vary, it may need longer depending on the size of the chicken. To check it’s done, cut into the thick part of the thigh,if the juice runs clear its ok. Once the chicken is done, cook for a further 10 minutes without the foil just to crisp up the outside.

For the rice salad, cook your rice and then run it under cold water when it’s done. Leave it to drain. Chop the peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, and spring onions into small pieces and mix them in with the rice. Add the lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Feel free to add some fresh herbs if you have some on hand. Voilà my easy roast chicken and rice salad!

Banoffee Pie

So this would have been posted last Friday but I managed to mess it up. I’ve made this pie so many times before I’m not sure how I managed to screw it up so badly. I’m not saying that I didn’t eat it and it wasn’t delicious, it was just wasn’t a perfectly formed pie. Clearly my diet has gone to hell but I can’t help if my body requires copious amounts of delicious treats. In fact I have been very been very fortunate and have lost 3 of my 5lbs despite the Cornish pasties, cheese and banoffee pie etc. Although I would say that is due to the fact I have only been eating a cucumber and green pepper soup for my  lunch. I won’t post the recipe as it’s not particularly good. I thought  I would be inventive and make a lovely green gazpacho but sadly the colour is far superior to the taste but the pounds seem to be shifting so I’ll stick with it for now (only 4 days until England/Italy).

On to the banoffee, this is one of the most gorgeously sinful desserts in my personal repertoire and it always goes down well at dinner parties. Its very rich and sweet and not everyone’s cup of tea  (although even my boyfriend  Niall manages to eat a slice or two despite his dubious claims that he does not like desserts!)

Ingredients 

Base

200g digestive biscuits (if you don’t want to make your own base, I have seen premade ones at the foreign food mart)

75g of butter

1 tablespoon of brown sugar

Filling

200g of brown sugar

75g of butter

100ml of milk or cream

1 – 2 bananas

Top 

350ml of whipped cream

chocolate shavings

Directions

To make the biscuit base first put you digestive biscuits in to a bag them bash them with something heavy until they resemble bread crumbs. In a saucepan melt the butter then stir in the biscuit crumbs and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar. Make sure the crumbs are completely coated in the melted butter. Then press and pack them down into your pie tin. I got mine at Daiso. If you can’t find one then use any large flat bottomed dish.

Slice your banana into pieces and arrange on the bottom of the pie crust.

Then pour the toffee sauce on top making sure all the slices of banana have been covered.

To make my toffee sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan then put in the brown sugar and cook for around five minutes until the butter and sugar have combined properly. Add the cream or milk and cook for a further 5 minutes, the sauce should be a lovely golden brown. At that point, let it cook for a further few minutes just so it reduces slightly. Take the sauce off the heat to let it cool down. Stir it for a few minutes to help this process. You should feel the toffee sauce thickening as it cools. Dont let it cool too much, as you still need to be able to pour it on top of the bananas.

After you have topped the base with bananas and toffee you need to let it set. I would recommend doing this for at least three hours – overnight. If you don’t do this you will have problems taking out the slices. If you’re just making it for yourself then you can put the cream on top and get stuck in as soon as the toffee has set. Top the pie with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Voilà an amazingly scrumptious dessert.

Les deux plats

Set over three floors “Les Deux Plats” is located in the myriad of restaurants behind the Hamilton hotel. As hinted at by the name the menu is French, but with a heavy Italian influence. Although, it has been tweaked to be more suitable to the Korean palate

We went on a saturday lunchtime and although it was busy we were able to select our table from a choice of three floors. We opted for the top deck which was cool and refreshing in this hot and humid weather. It has a canopy to stop the rain and they have blankets if you get too cold.

The menu arrived promptly and had a wealth of choices ranging from brunch items, salads, pastas, risottos and steaks. My companions and I all opted for brunch items which run from 11am-3pm and include a bowl of soup and a tea or coffee all for the bargain price of 8,000. Tell me where else you will find a deal like that in Itaewon!!!

I opted for the Eggs Benedict. Sadly it only contained one poached egg but it did come with french fries and salad which I consider a fair trade. The egg was cooked perfectly and the hollandaise was good too. The muffin was great and the ham reasonable although  nothing special. It also has a slice of plastic cheese which was strange but not unwelcome. The french fries were  very nice as was the pumpkin mash but the surprise guest at the dish was the salad dressing hidden under a delightful mix of leaves. No one  knew quite what the dressing was, it was like Caesar dressing but not. Either way it was really great. Although at first I was slightly disappointed not to have two eggs, this was actually the perfect amount of food, I was full and happy at the end but not stuffed to the gills.

My mon cheri opted for the croque monsieur. Although it looked good from the outside they had used cheese slices in the middle,  sacre bleu! I don’t know what they were thinking with that one, as it was topped mozzarella. I think most people would pay an extra dollar or two to have real cheese in the middle. Anyhow despite the great cheese scandal it was still a fairly decent toastie and it was accompanied by the same sides as my dish.

The lovely Elenor, the last diner to make up our little ménage trois ordered the Caprese Focaccia. We are big fans of the caprese in our house so I was pleased to see this on the menu. Elenor was kind enough to offer me up a bite and it was just as good as I had  hoped. Made with fresh mozzarella and topped with a gorgeous balsamic dressing, this was the star of the show.

The last point worth mentioning about this place is that they served me the best long island ice tea I have ever had ( and I have drunk a lot in my time). I would also like to point out that I am not easily pleased, especially in the drinks department so this place definitely gets the thumbs up from me. The food was good, nothing spectacular but good. At 8,000 a pop I think your laughing especially when it comes with soup and a free drink too. Our bill was only 44,000 between the three of us, an absolute bargain since we all had a real drink each too.  I will be sure to pay them another visit very soon. There is also a bar in the basement that’s open late.

Les deux plats is located in Itaewon.  at 19-gil 6-4 Itaewon-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul. To get there take line 6 to Itaewon and come out of exit 1. Take your first right along the side streets behind the Hamilton hotel. Turn left and walk straight past Sam Ryan’s and My Thai China (review here). Its opposite Radio Garden. Call them on 02 – 797 – 2228. Bon appetit! (Screw Flanders)

 

Tempura King Prawns with Mango Mayo

Being a larger lady I’m rather fond of anything deep-fried in batter. I’m not really very keen of fish but you can’t beat a good prawn. For many years I was rather wary of deep-frying. I don’t know why exactly, maybe it was just the thought of using so much oil. It’s not even that wasteful if you clean your oil by straining it through a piece of kitchen towel each time you use it. You can keep your oil for sometime if you do this. Sadly I did not take my own advice and clean my oil thoroughly, which is why my prawns have little black dots on them, but que sera sera. I generally use soy bean oil for my deep-frying as it has a high smoke point and its cheap and plentiful in Korea.

Ingredients

Tempura

15 – 30 King prawns with the tails on (get the biggest ones you can find. I usually buy the bags of frozen ones from Costco)

250g of Ottogi frying mix (they sell it everywhere, it has a picture of a tempura prawn on the front)

300-400 ml of ice cold water (use fizzy if you have it)

500ml soy bean oil

Mango Mayo

200 ml of mayonnaise (any brand is fine, make your own if you have time)

3 tablespoons of sweet chili sauce

75gof frozen mango (use fresh if you have it ,but frozen is much cheaper here in Korea)

Directions

Heat the oil in a wok or saucepan until it reaches 180 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, drop a little bit of the batter into the pan, if it sinks to the bottom it’s not hot enough. If it sizzles at the top then its fine. Dip you prawns into the batter then put them into the hot oil being carefull not to splash yourself. Don’t cook too many at once as it will lower the temperature of the oil, about three is fine. Give them a minute or so then flip them over. When the batter is a light golden brown they are done. Place them on a few sheets of kitchen roll to remove excess oil while you are cooking the rest.

To make the mayonnaise. Chop the mango into very small pieces then put them into a bowl. Add the mayonnaise and sweet chilli sauce and mix together. Voilà a delicious and easy starter to impress all your friends.

Ricotta Gnocchi

After the success of my tortellini (recipe here), I thought I would try my hand at making gnocchi. I have been wanting to make this for some time now but hadn’t really got around to it. I’m actually going to Italy in 2 weeks  (yay!!!) So I will soon be able to see how the professionals do it. Expect to see many delicious Italian treats in the near future.

The gnocchi was actual very easy to make, it’s just a little different from pasta dough. It was actually easier than making the tortellini as all you have to do is roll it and cut it into chunks, rather than rolling, cutting and stuffing. I made my gnocchi with a white wine and mushroom sauce but you can use any sauce you like.  Pesto or tomato would work really well.

Ingredients

Gnocchi

200g of ricotta cheese (make your own using my recipe here, 1 litre of milk should produce about 200g. If not you can buy it from the foreign food mart or Costco)

2 eggs

40g grated parmesan (fresh is better but you could use the powder stuff in a pinch)

200g of all-purpose flour (or as needed, I used the noodles and dumplings flour)

A pinch of salt and pepper

Sauce

1 onion

4 cloves of garlic

6 button or chestnut mushrooms

1 knob of butter

1 glass of white wine

200ml of milk

2-3 table spoons of flour

1 tablespoon of mixed herbs

Directions

Squeeze any extra water out of your ricotta. You can do this by putting it on a cheese cloth or mandu paper in a sieve and letting the excess moisture drain away. If you have made your ricotta yourself you can skip this step if it’s not too wet. Put your ricotta in a bowl and mix in the two eggs, grated parmesan and salt and pepper and blend. You can now add the flour. You may not need all of it, so I like to stir in a few tablespoons at a time. You have enough flour when it makes a soft dough that you are able to work with. Give the dough about 10 minutes to rest. You can make the sauce whilst the dough is taking a nap.

When your dough is well rested divide it into three or four chucks then roll it into a long thin sausage like shape until it’s about an inch thick. Cut your dough sausage into 1 inch chunks. This was my first time making gnocchi so mine are a bit raggedy around the edges. You could make them neater if you have the time and patience. You could also run the back of a fork over them so the have the grooves on one side. I was too eager to eat them so I didn’t do it.

To make the sauce fry the onions and garlic in olive oil for five minutes until they are soft and translucent. Add the mushrooms and butter and cook for a few more minutes until the mushrooms are cooked on both sides. Add a little more butter then add the flour to the pan. Combine the flour with the onions and mushrooms and cook for about a minute just so the flour is cooked. Add your milk and keep stirring until the sauce begins to thicken. Once its thickened add the wine and keep stirring for 5 minutes until the alcohol in the wine has cooked off. If your sauce is too thick, add some more wine or milk. If it’s a little thin you can reduce it further or add a little bit more butter and flour. Bring a pan of salted water to boil then add your gnocchi and cook for 3 – 5 minutes or until they are floating on the surface. When they are cooked, strain your gnocchi to remove any excess water and add them to your sauce. Mix the gnocchi with the sauce and devour immediately. Voilà very easy home-made gnocchi.