Homemade Greek Yoghurt

After my success of making ricotta I decided to give making yogurt a go too. Never one to wait, I decided I would attempt to make it without buying a thermometer first. I was supposed to get one for the ricotta too but I’m very impatient and I couldn’t be bothered to go to Homeplus in rushhour traffic. It always a hell of a journey home and I always come back in financial ruin. I don’t know if I just got lucky or I’m culinarily blessed but my yogurt worked out perfectly the first time I made it, the second and third times too (I’ve eaten a lot of yogurt this week). This is a super easy recipe which you could make just from a trip to your local GS mart. So if you like natural yogurt I urge you to give it a go.

Ingredients

1 litre of full fat milk

2 Activia yoghurt’s (I used the plain ones, you could also try the Denmark brand as I heard it works too)

A rice cooker

Directions

Heat the milk in a saucepan on a low to medium heat until it starts to form bubbles around the outside but not simmering. If you have a thermometer it should be between 165 F-185 F but I managed well without one. Take it off the heat and allow it to cool until its warm but not hot to the touch or until it reaches 120 F, again I had to judge this but it turned out well. Put your two yoghurts into a bowl and add in a few spoonfuls of the cooled milk (remove the milk skin first) then add the yoghurt back into the milk and stir.

Fill you rice cooker with the hottest water you can get from you tap, two thirds full. Put a ceramic dish at the bottom. Poor your yoghurt milk mixture into a water tight jar or container. I used one of the large sour cream containers (which I seem to have about a million of) but anything you have should be fine. Put your milk mix into the water so it is standing on the dish (my container is plastic so if I put it directly on the heat it would melt). Switch your rice cooker onto the keep warm setting but leave the lid ajar. After 2 hours you can unplug the rice cooker and just throw a tea towel over the top and the heat should stay in. Leave the yoghurt in the rice cooker for a further 4-6 hours. When the time has pasted your milk should have thickened into yoghurt, if it’s a bit thin you can leave for a few more hours. Once you’re at a good consistency, put it in the fridge to chill for another 4-6 hours to firm it up. Voilà a delicious and cheap easy way to make yoghurt!

Cornish Pasties

Yes I know I’m supposed to be on a diet but I have been watching the Olympics, which has made me come over all patriotic and crave all things british. I spent a summer working in a pasty shop in Cornwall, so I like to consider myself quite the connoisseur. I love a nice bit of pastry but rarely make my own, so my boyfriend was delighted when he came home to find these in the oven.  Traditionally the filling of pasties is uncooked, but I prefer to cook mine as they don’t take long to cook in my toaster oven and  no one wants to eat raw potato!

Ingredients 

Pastry

330g of plain flour (I used the one for dumplings and noodles)

160g of butter

2 teaspoon on salt

2 eggs

Filling

150g of chopped steak

1/2 a carrot

1 potato

1/2 an onion

1 – 2 cloves of garlic

250ml beef stock

1 teaspoon of mixed herbs

A pinch of coarse ground pepper

Directions

Fry the onion and garlic in a little oil for a few minutes until softened, then add the steak and fry until its been browned on all sides.  Add your potato and carrot to the pan (these should be chopped into 5mm cubes or smaller). Fry this mix for a minute or so then add the stock and stir until it is bubbling. Then turn down the heat and cook for 20-30 minutes until all the stock has been absorbed. Set to the side and allow it to cool whilst you make the pastry.

Put the flour and salt into a bowl then rub in the butter. Butter is pricey here in Korea so you could use margarine instead but the flavor will not be as good. When the butter is rubbed in and the  mixture resembles bread crumbs you can mix in the beaten egg. Form your mixture back into one big ball of pastry, cover in cling film and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes.  Take a rest and watch an episode of your favorite show.

When the pastry has been chilled you can start to roll it out on a floured surface. Roll it out so it’s about 1/4 of an inch thick. It’s up to you how big you want to make your pasties. Personally I like them smaller rather than bigger. I made 7 with this amount of pastry.  You can use any round implement you have to cut the circles, I used a bowl which has a diameter of about 13cm. Spoon in your filling (I used about 2 teaspoons for each one), then fold the pastry over and crimp the edges. Traditional Cornish pasties have the lovely twisted edge with 20 crimps but I was too eager to eat them and didn’t want to faff around with doing that. I just did a thumb print the whole way around. Brush them with an egg wash and bake them in a preheated oven for about 10-20 minutes at 200C or until the pastry is cooked and golden brown. Oven times can vary so just use your own judgement, my toaster oven seems to  cook things far faster than my oven back home. You can eat them hot or cold although personally I think you can’t beat a warm one.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

There is nothing more satisfying than making one of the basic elements of food at home, bread for example. Today I became a dairy queen and made my own cheese.  Ricotta is a little hard to track down here in Korea so I decided to give it a go. I couldn’t believe how easy this recipe actually is. Just add acid to milk  and heat it up!

Ingredients

1 litre of full fat milk

4 tablespoons of lemon juice (about 2 lemons)

1/2 teaspoon of salt

Cheese cloth or paper for steaming mandu ( When shopping just try saying 만두’ – 만두 찔 때 필요하는 천 ) I got mine at Daiso but its also available at most supermarkets.

Directions

Prepare by putting your cheese cloth over a sieve. Put the milk in a saucepan, add the salt and lemon juice, and stir. Heat the milk on a low to medium heat until bubbles are beginning to appear around the sides. If you have a thermometer the temperature should be between 165  -185F (74-85 C). Do not let it simmer. Once the milk has reached the right tempreture take it off the heat and stir it slowly for a few seconds and the milk should seperate into the thick white curds and the translucent liquid whey.

Use a a spoon to  put the curds into the cloth lined sieve and let the liquid drain away until its reaches your desired texture.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Voilà homemade cheese within 30 minutes.  Watch this space for lots of ricotta themed recipes.

Vietnamese Spring rolls

If you weren’t already aware (how many times have I gone on about it now?) I have just been on a jaunt to Vietnam. Whilst there I partook in a cookery class. It was great fun and I even learned a few things too. The first dish they taught us to make was these little beauties. Although I have made them at home before they did not turn out quite how I expected. I have honed my skills and so now I can make far superior ones.

The key to making this dish is not soaking the rice papers for too long which was what  I was doing wrong before. You can put anything you like into to these so let your imagination run wild, I just used what I found at my local supermarket.

Ingredients

Rice papers (They have these everywhere, Homeplus and small supermarkets)

1/4 Shedded carrot

1/4 shredded cucumbers

1/2 a sliced red pepper

100g of cooked rice noodles (I bought mine in the foreign food mart, but you could use any kind of noodles instead)

A handful of bean sprouts

10 king prawns or some cooked chicken or pork

Fresh herbs if you have them (Cilantro, mint or Thai basil work well)

Sweet chilli sauce for dipping (I’m not going to make my own, its a bloody monday but feel free to if you wish).

Directions

It’s up to you how many you want/ have the patience to make, but the ingredients listed will make about 20. Start by shredding the carrot on a mandolin if you have one (I got mine at Daiso), you could just as easily grate the carrot though. Chop the cucumber and pepper into long thin slices. The length of the slices should be about half the width of your rice paper. Then slice your king prawns in half lengthways (you can use any meat in these if you prefer). With all your ingredients close at hand you should be ready to go. Dip your rice paper into the water and rotate it so all the sides have been dipped into the water then take it out. If the middle is still dry rub some water on it with your fingers so that it’s also a little wet. Put your roll on to a plate with the edge hanging over the side of the plate closest to you. Start putting your vegetables on the roll in the middle on the side closest to you, two or three pieces of each max.  Don’t be too generous with your stuffing, less is more in this case. They will be far easier to roll. After you have put the veggies on add the rice noodles and begin to roll. The picture below should give you a rough idea of the amounts.

Fold in the sides and add the king prawns with the color side facing down so it can be seen through the paper when you have finished rolling it. The trick of these is getting the paper soft enough to work with as when they are too hard they rip. In our cooking class we used the larger rice papers which I found much easier to work with, so in this case bigger is better.  If my ramblings have confused you then here’s a video from youtube which should answer any questions you have.

Supermarket Shopping in Vietnam

Yay, I’m back!!! I’m not really that thrilled to be home, I must be delirious from the heat. My god its bloody hot at the moment, it was actually cooler in Vietnam! Enough of my moaning about the heat  though, I thought you  would all love to hear about all the goodies I brought back with me.

In amongst my many trips to the breakfast buffet, lying by the pool, drinking delicious cocktails and ordering club sandwiches I did find time to go out and visit 2 different supermarkets. Going to different supermarkets around the world is actually one of my favorite pastimes. I love to see all the different ingredients that are available and I brought them home in abundance as you can see.

I shopped till I dropped. I was actually very surprised that we were able to fit it all in our suitcase, which was already full to the brim.  If anyone is taking a trip outside of Korea I would urge you to visit the local supermarkets to see what treasures you can find. Herbs and spices are always cheap and plentiful in south-east asian countries. Even in Tokyo we managed to find lots of cheap bits and bobs in their 100 yen shops that you can’t get here.

My main purchases were cheese (gouda, edam, emmental) , rice noodles, pancetta stuffed tortellini, Risoni, Pho spice mix, Thai green curry paste, lemongrass powder, Chinese five spice, lemon chicken salt, pork stock,  fish sauce, Campbells tomato soup, and various packet satay sauces. We also discovered salt and vinegar kettle crisps and a plethora of assorted flavors when we were in Ho chi minh but I am sad to say they did not survive the journey. Niall was also a very happy man as there was a multitude of Haribo sweets available in Vietnam, his favorite sweet treat.

If you have ever wondered what $64 of duty free chocolate looks like then here it is………………

I would like to note that the bags of Smarties were on sale and only $4 each, it would be churlish not to buy them at that price. About the rest what can I say, a girl has needs you know and personally I feel I showed a lot of restraint only buying 2 large bags of Malteasers. I was also very tempted by the peanut-butter cups but after an intense week of gorging I figured I had to draw the line somewhere.

I also weighed myself this morning and was very sad to find that I am now obese according to the BMI chart!!!! I shall have to do some serious dieting in the next few weeks if I want to lose those 5 lbs to get me safely back into the overweight category.  Damn you to hell breakfast buffet!

Hummus

I’m off to see the wizard the wonderful wizard of OZ! I’m going to Vietnam tomorrow so thought I would squeeze in one more little post to keep you nourished whilst I am away. I will be far too busy getting drunk and stuffing my face to find the time to be blogging, so you will have to suffer without me for the next 9 days. Hard as it may be I’m sure you will all soldier on though.

As a parting gift I leave with you my hummus recipe, which is one of the things my friends bug me most to make. A quick trip to the foreign food mart to secure your chick peas and your on your way. When I lived in Cheongju I also saw them at the world food mart too.

Ingredients

300g dried chickpeas

3-5 tablespoons of Tahini (buy it at the foreign food mart in Itaewon or make your own, it’s really easy just blend sesame seeds with olive oil)

200 – 300ml Olive oil

3 – 5 cloves of garlic

The juice  and zest of 1 or 2 Lemons

2 -4 tablespoons of cumin (foreign food mart or Gmarket)

1-2 tablespoons of paprika (foreign food mart or Gmarket)

3 tablespoons of peanut butter (optional)

Directions

Soak your chick peas over night or for several hours in cold water, do not add any salt. Cook your chick peas in boiling water for 2-3 hours or until they mash easily with the back of a spoon. I use my rice cooker to cook them as you don’t have to worry about topping up the water, just give them a lot at the beginning and they will be fine.  Once your chick peas are done, strain them but reserve some of the water for later. Blend the chick peas in your blender with a little of the extra water, olive oil lemon and garlic do this until they start to resemble the consistency of hummus. Everyone has a different preference about how they like their hummus, some like the runny oily kind whilst others prefer it thick. It’s really up to you, whatever floats your boat, so add more or less oil as you need it. Then you can start to add your spices, a little at first stirring them in until you get the taste you want. You also might want to add more tahini and lemon juice too. Hummus is one of those recipes that is hard to pin down. I generally make it the same each time but the results always seem to vary. As long as you get all the basics in there though it should turn out well. I’ve read a lot of recipes which recommend using peanut butter in the place of tahini, I wasn’t too keen on this, but I liked the result when I added both so don’t be afraid to play around with it by adding different things. Serve with my homemade flat breads.  Happy eating and I’ll see you all soon.

How to order food in Korea!

So I’m off on holiday for a week and I don’t want you all to starve to death, my 13 followers are very precious to me. So I thought I could pass on some of my wisdom to help you order some food without even leaving the house.

The first thing you need to do is find out your address. There are so many people living here in Korea who don’t know their address. There are two easy ways to find it. If your still on your first Alien card then it’s written on the back, although some people have the school’s address so just check its your apartment number. The second way is to get one of those pieces of paper called bills that are put into your letter box every month, the address is written on it. If you can’t read Korean then have one of your co-teachers translate it for you.

If you have a lot of restaurants near where you live then a great way of securing a delivery when you need it is to go to them and give them your address and phone number, then when you call them they will automatically know who you are. If you order the same pizza time after time or read Konglish then this should be relatively easy for you, when ordering new things from the menu a bit of Korean always helps.

If your Korean is even remotely passable then use one of those many delivery leaflets that are pushed through your door on a regular basis and call them up. I even managed to do this in my first year here and I think anyone that knows me would say my Korean is poor at its best, so give it a try, there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain. The restauranteurs are always keen for business so will try their best to understand what you want and where you are.

Mcdonalds – Yes you can get Mcdonalds delivered to your door here in Korea if you are lucky enough to live relatively near one. The number is 1600 -5252 and they speak English. Most delivery services are 24 hours a day too, so no need to go without that midnight snack. This is the thing we always longed for when I lived in England and was feeling hungover and now it’s a reality.

Pizza hut – A classic, you can check out their menu online http://pizzahut.co.kr/ and choose what you want then call them on their central number 1588-5588. If the person you are speaking to can’t speak English they will call you back with someone who does. The best thing about this service is that they store all your details so the next time you call its much easier.

Dominos – They have an English menu online which automatically makes the whole process a lot easier. http://www.dominos.co.kr/index.do Dominos used to be the easiest way of ordering pizza as you could pay for it online using your card in the English setting, but they have now changed the pay system which doesn’t seem to work on my computer for some reason. However I have just been advised by a faithful reader that you can pay with cash if you order online on the Korean version. 1577-3082

Lotteria – The inferior Korean cousin of Mcdonalds also delivers, not everyone’s cup of tea but for those of you not living within the Mcdonalds delivery zone a  Lotteria burger is better than no burger at all. Personally, I’m rather fond of the European Frico with cheese.  1600-9999.

If all of these fail then its always good to have a kind and loving Korean friend who can call up and order for you, to get you through those bleak and hungry times.

Cheese Tarts

I really miss being able to buy ready-made pastry. Short-crust, filo or puff I love them all. Being able to go to the store and just throw a couple of things on a delicious pastry base makes such a lovely dinner. However with the lack of ready to roll pastry here in Korea, it’s a pain in the neck to have to make your own every time you want it.

I have been looking at my spring roll wrappers for a while now, they look very similar to filo pastry, would they work for a tart? Turns out they do, they worked even better than expected. They cook really quickly and have a nice crunchy texture. They are also really cheap so you can save those pennies and put them towards the filling.

Ingredients

16 Springroll / samosa wrappers (I got mine at the foreign food mart in Itaewon)

1 sliced tomato

150g grated cheddar/ mozzarella

4 teaspoons of Garlic herb Philadelphia

50 g spinach

2 red onions

Directions

Defrost the spring roll wrappers so you are able to peel them off one by one. Arrange them in your tin by layering them on top of each other. Try and skew them so you get the pointy bits the whole way around, about 3 or 4 will do it. Then choose your filling, pretty much anything will do here so let your imagination run wild. I just had a go with what was in the fridge. I caramelised some red onions with a bit of balsamic vinegar then topped them with the Philadelphia and then the grated cheese. The other ones I made had the spinach, tomatoes and grated cheese . Put them in the oven for about 5 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and the cheese has melted. Serve on their own or with a side salad. Voilà a quick and easy dinner.

Mi Casa

I was very excited about eating some spanish cuisine as it’s something I rarely cook myself.  I used to work in a Spanish restaurant when I lived in Sydney and they always kept me very well fed. We managed to secure a table in the busy restaurant on short notice. Sadly I left feeling rather disappointed and little hungry. There wasn’t anything majorly wrong it was just a few bad points that added up to a less than perfect night. Our total bill was 78,000, not astronomical but I don’t want to spend that much on dinner then feel the need to go and buy a kebab because I’m still hungry. You might feel I’m being picky but one thing that annoyed me is that they told us the kitchen closed at 10, which was fine, we had plans later that evening anyway but they brought out all four of our dishes before we got our drinks. It was a Friday night and I was looking forward to having a nice drink with some dinner but by the time it finally showed up I had lost the desire for it. It wasn’t a fancy cocktail, just a sangria and a beer, but to have it come at the end of the meal was disappointing. It’s service 101 that you get your drinks before your food.  Otherwise everything else was fine.

The meal started off well with the Albondigas en tomate (spanish meatballs), 10,000 for the small portion. They were good and came with a trio of sauces and fresh bread.

Next up was was the Montaditos (bread topped with salmon and ham) 7,000 for 2 this was my boyfriends choice I didn’t eat them but he said the salmon topped with capers was great with a delightful mustard dressing and the one topped with parma ham was  nice but not as good as the salmon.

Then came the Patatas Bravas, which was my biggest disappointment. Having worked in a spanish restaurant and visited Spain several times I knew what patatas bravas should be and sadly these were not the delicious little chunks of potato I was expecting. They were hand cooked crisps. Had this been specified on the menu, I wouldn’t have ordered them. I nearly sent them back and wish I had now, as crisps they were nice and the accompanying sauce was ok, but not what I was expecting. I would not be willing to pay 12,000 for a few potato chips, which is what they were. You could have two kebabs for that.

The saving grace of this meal was the Panceta A La Plancha (pork belly) 26,000. The pork belly itself was very good and cooked to perfection, especially the fat, although the balsamic onions were slighty too acidic and overpowered the taste of the pork, this dish was good, but small, a bigger portion would have been better for the price.

They served Paella here which I really would have liked to have tried but it was rather expensive, although I think I would have left with a full belly had I chosen it. The girls at the next table had barely touched theirs and I was very tempted to ask if I could some but thankfully didn’t. The wine list was very extensive and the bar upstairs seemed to be thriving, perhaps that was why our own drinks took so long. I personally wouldn’t return to Mi Casa as I think my money could be better spent elsewhere. However if you have deep pockets and enjoy wine this could be the place for you.

Mi Casa is located in the allyway behind the Hamilton Hotel right opposite, My Thai China (see my review here) 119-21 Itaewon-dong, Yongsam-gu, seoul, Korea. Call them on 02-790-0063 or check out their website for a full details and a menu.  http://www.micasa.kr/en/index.html

Halloumi Pesto Pasta

This is a little treat I whipped up for myself with all the left overs I had over in the fridge. It turned out great it will be making it into my regular collection. Quick, easy and delicious, just what I look for in a weekday dinner. My boyfriend was lucky to get some. I used penne pasta in this dish but you could use any other kind of shaped pasta you can find, spaghetti would be ok but not ideal, don’t use macaroni. It has no place in this dish.

Ingredients 

300g penne pasta (you can alter this to a bigger or smaller portion if you like, it’s currently on sale in Homeplus 1,800 for 500g)

60g of Halloumi (I just used the leftovers I had, you could use any other kind of cheese though)

100g Anti Pasto peppers (recipe here)

3 cloves of garlic

3 tablespoons of pesto (recipe below, but you can use the jar stuff if you like, its at Costco and the foreign food mart)

15 cherry tomatoes halved ( I soaked my in a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar first with a pinch of salt)

A generous grating of fresh parmesan

Directions

Cook the penne in salted water for about 10 minutes or until its al dente and drain. Fry the garlic in a little butter or oil until its soft and slightly browned. Add the halloumi until its also browned on each side, it should only take a minute or too. Next add the cherry tomatoes and peppers and stir for a minute or 2. Finally add the pasta and pesto until everything is well coated. Leave on the heat for a further minute or so until the pesto is warmed through, then transfer to a bowl and top with the grated parmesan. Voila a fantastic dinner made from leftovers.

Homemade Pesto

Ingredients

100g of basil (it’s all my plant could muster, if you have more use it)

100g of spinach ( I used this to bulk up the lack of basil, but I found it worked rather well)

50g of walnuts (I’m pretty sure I have seen pine nuts in Homeplus, but you can use walnuts or almonds in their place)

3-6 table spoons of olive oil.

A generous grating of fresh parmesan.

A  small pinch of salt

Directions

Put the basil, spinach, walnuts and olive oil in the blender for a minute or so until it resembles the consistency of pesto. Add more oil if you need it, or add more spinach/basil if it’s too oily. Mix in the grated parmesan and salt. Voilà. This pesto is actually very easy to make and if you already have the basil and parmesan, you can get everything else in a Korea supermarket. I’ve never actually made pesto before as you can get such nice fresh one as home in the supermarket, but here in Korea I haven’t actually found one in a jar that I’ve liked all that much. The pesto will keep in the fridge for at least a week so it’s the perfect pasta accessory.