Latest Posts

Roasted Butternut Squash, Chestnut Miso Soup recipe

Roasted Butternut Squash, Chestnut Miso Soup served with Crispy Sage

I do love a heart warming bowl of soup seasoned with warm spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg, tastes festive like Christmas in a cold winter night. I know everyone has at least one winter squash soup recipe up their sleeves, but this one I made is a little different from the others – with a subtle umami flavour. The addition of dashi stock and miso paste which not only gives the soup another layer of flavour but also balances out the sweetness of butternut and chestnut. You can of course replace dashi stock with water or vegetable stock if you want to make it vegetarian.

Note:

If you don’t have the time to roast the butternut squash, you can skip the roasting bit and just peel and chop the squash and add to the onion fennel mixture and pour enough stock to just cover the vegetables. I love the nutty and intense flavour of the squash after roasting though, so give it a try if you have some spare times in hand. But I have done the non-roasted version as well, and it tastes also delicious.

Roasted Butternut Squash, Chestnut Miso Soup recipe Roasted Butternut Squash, Chestnut Miso Soup recipe Roasted Butternut Squash, Chestnut Miso Soup recipe

Roasted Butternut Squash, Chestnut Miso Soup recipe

Ingredients:

serves 4-5

  • 1 butternut squash (about 1.5 kg whole), halved lengthwise
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • a few turns of freshly ground black pepper
  • a few sprigs of fresh sage
  • 1 small carrot, finely chopped
  • 1/2 fennel bulb (or 1 stalk celery), finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 200g cooked chestnut, divided (120g for the soup, 80g roughly chopped for the topping)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • pinch of salt
  • 550ml Dashi or vegetable stock, divided
  • 1 tsp. tamari (or soy sauce) or to taste
  • 1 tsp. white miso paste
  • olive oil

Preheat the oven at 200 degrees Celsius. Season the squash with cinnamon, nutmeg, black pepper and place one sage leaf on each half. Then place the butternut squash cut side down on a baking sheet lined with backing parchment. Bake in the oven for about 30-35 minutes depends on the size of the squash. Once cooked, remove the seeds and the stringy membranes, and then scoop out the flesh of the squash and set aside.

To prepare the soup. Warm a tbsp. of olive oil in a medium soup pan, sautéed chopped onion, carrot, fennel (or celery) and pinch of salt on medium low heat for about 7 minutes or until the vegetables are starting to soften. Add the bay leaves and a small sprig of sage. Pour in 400ml of the stock, cover and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Then add the 120g cooked chestnut into the soup, cover and return to simmer for another 10 minutes.

While the soup is cooking, prepare the topping. Warm 2 tbsp. of olive oil in a pan and fry a few sage leaves until crispy and turns slightly brown. Remove from the pan and set on a plate lined with kitchen papers. In the same pan with the same oil, fry the chopped chestnut until it takes on a nice brown edges. Transfer it to a little serving bowl and set aide.

Transfer the squash to the soup and remove from heat, use a immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth (you can add a little stock to help the pureeing process). Now gradually add in the remaining stock until it reaches a smooth and silky consistence (add a little more water if it is still too thick).

Return the soup pan to medium heat (be careful not to let it boil as the soup will bubble up and it is scorching hot!) and add the tamari and miso paste. Have a taste and add more tamari if needed.

To serve, ladle the soup in warm bowls and top with fried chestnut, crispy sage and a drizzle of olive oil and freshly ground black pepper.

Roasted Butternut Squash, Chestnut Miso Soup recipe

 

Thai Curry coconut soup with Aubergine and Kale recipe

Thai Curry Coconut Soup with Aubergine and Kale

I lost count of how many times I have made this soup and I am not sure why I have never thought of putting the recipe up on the blog.  This soup is so easy to make and the type of curry – Masaman is mild (compares to the more popular green and red curry) but yet full of flavours. I love to add lots of fresh herbs such as coriander, lemongrass, ginger, kaffir lime leaf, chilis and Thai basil when cooking this curry as all the lovely flavours from the herbs will be infused into the soup, every spoonful becomes a delight to the taste buds! I always use shop bought curry paste as there are really good quality ones on the market (I use this one, only handful of ingredients without any additives, MSG etc). But of course if you want to make your own, I am sure you can find hundreds of recipe online for masaman curry paste. As for now, I am sticking with the quick and convenient way and I find it doesn’t compromise the taste at all, as I always have a tub in the fridge, I know I am covered if the sudden curry craving comes! Since this curry is quite mild so it is surely a great recipe for the whole family, my daughter loves this particular one as the combination of the intense curry flavour, freshness from the herbs and the creaminess of the coconut milk makes a complex yet delicious taste. Masaman curry is definitely a good introduction to Asian curry, so I highly recommend you give it a try if you wish to add Asian type curry to your cooking repertoire.

Note:

Try to buy fresh coriander that still has roots attached as they are most flavourful and will add great depth of flavour to the soup base. You can add any vegetables you like to this soup, just to remember, soft leafy green only requires minimal cooking time so add them to the soup in the last couple of minutes or just before serving. This soup is great to be served on its own but you can also serve it with noodle or cooked mixed grain rice (pictured), or even chickpeas or lentils to make it a more substantial meal.

Thai Aubergine and Kale Cocnut Soup recipe

Ingredients:

serves 2-3

  • 1 tbsp. Masaman curry paste, store bought or make your own
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, sliced lengthwise at the bottom and flatten slightly with a knife
  • 1/2 thumb size ginger, sliced
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 1 kaffir leaf
  • 1 bunch of fresh coriander with roots (if available), cut and reserve the roots, stems finely cut (leaves picked and reserve for serving)
  • 1 bunch of fresh soft Thai basil, stems finely cut (leaves picked and reserve for serving)
  • 1 red chili, deseeded and finely sliced (optional)
  • 1 can (400ml) coconut milk
  • 600ml vegetable stock or Dashi stock
  • Juice of 1/2 lime, plus more for serving
  • A pinch of coconut sugar or palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 1 tsp. tamarind paste (optional)
  • Fish sauce (to taste)
  • Coconut oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 Aubergine, cut into bite size pieces
  • Handful of kale, removed the tough stems
  • Frozen peas and sweet corn (thawed), or fresh if available
  • 1-2 hard boiled egg (quartered) (optional)

Other vegetables, grain and legumes suggestions:

  • Mushroom, spinach, Swiss chard, green bean, potato, sweet potato, butternut squash, chickpea, green lentils, red lentils etc.

Warm 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a heavy bottomed sauce pan /soup pan/ casserole on medium heat. Add aubergine and cook until slightly brown and start to soften. Transfer the aubergine on a plate lined with kitchen paper to absorb excess oil, set aside.

In the same pot, add another tablespoon of vegetable oil or coconut oil and warm on medium heat. Add shallots, coriander roots and stems, Thai basil stems, ginger, lemongrass and carrots, sautéed until vegetables is fragrant and starts to soften. Add the curry paste, lime leaf and carefully add a splash of water. Followed by coconut milk, the stock (or dashi), stir until curry paste and the liquid is well combine. Add sugar, tamarind paste, fish sauce, lime juice and let the soup simmer for about 10 minutes.

Then removed the coriander roots and add the aubergine, have a taste, add more fish sauce or lime juice if needed, the soup should be slightly tangy but mostly savoury and complex. After about 5-8 minutes, add kale, green peas and sweet corns for another couple of minutes. Ladle the soup on warm bowls and add the quartered boiled eggs just before serving.

Served with coriander and Thai basil leaves, rice or noodles if desire.

Thai Aubergine and Kale Cocnut Soup recipe

Braised Aubergine with Pork in Spicy Bean Sauce recipe

Braised Aubergine and Pork in Spicy Bean Sauce

The incredible aroma of this dish fills up the air in our apartment, it brings me straight down to memory lane.  This Braised Aubergine and Pork in Spicy Bean Sauce is definitely one of my favourite childhood dishes, whenever I cook this dish, the smell always reminds me of my mother’s cooking and our small compact kitchen in Macau.

Traditionally, this dish is cooked with dried cured salted fish which is a famous locally produced delicacy in Macau, which gives the dish an extra layer of intense umami flavour, hence its name   魚香茄子 ‘fish fragrant aubergine’.  Unfortunately, I can’t get hold onto this amazing ingredient for my recipe I am sharing with you today, so I used dashi stock for the sauce instead, which still provides a subtle umami note to the whole dish.  But if you don’t have dashi stock, just use water with a splash of fish sauce (optional) and it will still be brilliantly delicious!

Braised Aubergine with Pork in Spicy Bean Sauce recipeBraised Aubergine with Spicy Bean Sauce recipe Braised Aubergine with Spicy Bean Sauce recipe Braised Aubergine with Spicy Bean Sauce recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 Japanese (Asian) Aubergine, or 1 small globe aubergine if not available, peel lengthwise partially, then cut in strips (about 6cm long)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 slices of ginger
  • 150g minced pork
  • 1 heaped tbsp. spicy bean sauce
  • 150ml dashi stock (or water)
  • 1 tsp. Agave syrup (or a pinch of sugar)
  • 1 tsp. light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. dark soy sauce (optional)
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch plus 1 tsp. water (plus more to make a paste)
  • handful of coriander or basil (leaves picked) for garnish
  • Vegetable oil

Warm about 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a shallow non-stick pan (or wok), add aubergine and fry until golden brown and translucent in places, about 2-3 minutes on each side, add just a little bit of oil if the aubergine get too dry.  You might need to do it in batches.  Transfer the partially cooked aubergine on to a plate lined with kitchen paper to absorb excess oil.

In the same pan or wok, add one teaspoon of vegetable oil and add in the garlic and ginger.  Fry in medium heat for about 1 minute or until fragrant and add in the minced pork. Turn the heat up to medium high and continue to sautéed the meat until it is almost cook through.  Add the spicy bean sauce, then carefully pour in the dashi stock or water, followed by agave syrup, light soy sauce and dark soy sauce.  Stir until everything is well combined.  Add in the aubergine and stir well, let the content of the pan simmering in medium low heat for about 5-8 minutes or until the meat and aubergine are cooked through.  Have a taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

While everything is bubbling away, slowly stream in the cornstarch water mixture and use a spatula to stir constantly to ensure no lump forms in the sauce.  Once the sauce has thicken a bit, turn the heat off and transfer the aubergine and meat to a serving bowl or shallow dish.  Garnish with coriander or basil leaves, served immediately with steamy Jasmine rice.

Braised Aubergine with Pork in Spicy Bean Sauce recipe

Tamari Peanut Tofu with Courgette Ribbons recipe

Crispy Tamari Peanut Tofu served with Courgette Ribbons

I know tofu is not everyone’s cup of tea, some insist that it is bland and flavourless, but if you cook it right, tofu is wonderfully delicious and pack full of protein.  The key is to pair it with a sharp and well-seasoned sauce/dressing and it will absorb all the flavours like a sponge.  This recipe here calls for firm tofu and my favourite way to cook it is to dust it first with seasoned corn starch or potato starch, then pan-fry it until crispy and golden brown, follows by coating them generously with the silky and flavourful Tamari Peanut sauce just before serving.  The second you sink your teeth into a piece of these luscious jewels, you will change your mind about tofu forever.

Tamari Peanut Tofu with Courgette Ribbons recipe Tamari Peanut Tofu with Courgette Ribbons recipe

Ingredients:

Serves 2

  • 200g Organic Non-GMO firm tofu
  • 3/4 – 1 cup Potato starch (or corn Starch)
  • 1-2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 medium courgette
  • Sesame seeds (for garnish)
  • Vegetable oil for frying

For the peanut sauce:

  • 2 tbsp. pure peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp. tamari or regular soy sauce (if gluten free is not an issue)
  • 1-2 tbsp. water
  • 1 tbsp. mirin
  • 1 tsp. lime juice (or rice vinegar)

Drain tofu and wipe the excess water with a kitchen paper. Slice it in approximately 6mm thick pieces, lay them on one half of a kitchen towel (or a kitchen paper) and fold the other half on top to gently press out excess water from the tofu pieces.

Transfer them to a large plate and season them lightly with garlic powder and finely ground black pepper. Set aside.

Prepare the peanut sauce by combining all of its ingredients (apart from water) in a small mixing bowl, then gradually add in water, one tablespoon at a time, until creamy but not runny, and the sauce will coat on the back of a spoon. Have a taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Set aside.

Warm about 2 tbsp. of vegetable oil in a non-stick frying pan. Place potato starch on a plate and coat each piece of seasoned tofu evenly with the starch, shake off excess starch before lower the piece in the pan. Pan-fry each side for about 2-3 minutes or until it is golden brown and crispy. Transfer them to a cooling rack lined with kitchen paper. Repeat with the remaining tofu pieces.

Transfer the cooked crispy tofu on a plate and pour over the peanut sauce and make sure they are evenly coated.

Use a vegetable peeler to peel the courgette into ribbons. Lay them on two warm serving plate and then topped with the peanut tofu, sprinkle the sesame seeds before serving. It is lovely to serve this with steamy hot rice.

Tamari Peanut Tofu with Courgette Ribbons recipe

 

 

 

 

chicken karaage served with Sriracha Mayo recipe

Chicken Karaage served with Sriracha Mayo

This Japanese style fried chicken dish has been one of my favourites for many years, the perfect karaage is crispy on the outside and tender, juicy and full of flavour on the inside. The important step is to marinate the meat for at least an hour or even overnight, which ensures that the meat soaks up all the lovely flavours; and it will take on a nice golden colour when fried. Before frying, the meat should be at room temperature so that it won’t cool down the oil while placing in, in another word, the meat will be cooked quicker instead of sitting in the oil longer to wait for the temperature to raise up again, which also means crispier! The size of the meat matters, the smaller the cut, the faster they cook. I find the perfect size is a ‘2-bites’ size, which mean a piece that can be eaten in two bites. Chicken thigh is commonly used for Karaage, but I use breast here and it is equally juicy and finger licking!

Note: I didn’t plan to write this recipe for the blog, but I made this dish last night and it was so good (and in my opinion, it is relatively easy to make too) that I decided to share this recipe with you, therefore sorry for the lack of photographs in this post; however I am quite convinced that this one picture has said it all!

Ingredients:

serves 2-3

  • 2 chicken breast (around 200g each), cut into about 6-7cm strips/pieces
  • 3/4 – 1 cup Potato starch
  • Vegetable oil (for frying)
  • 1/2 -1 lime (for serving), cut into wedges

For the marinade:

  • 1.5 tbsp. Tamari (or regular soy sauce if not gluten free)
  • 1.5 tbsp. Mirin
  • 1 tbsp. sesame oil
  • 1 scant tbsp. agave syrup (or honey)
  • 1 tbsp. Sake
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 small chunk of ginger (about 3cm), peeled and grated
  • freshly ground black pepper

For the Sriracha Mayo:

  • 3 tbsp. good quality Mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp. Sriracha (adjust the amount if you like it less or more spicy)
  • 1 tsp. of lime juice

Serving suggestions:

  • Steamy white rice
  • stir-fry leafy green (for example this one or this one)
  • pickle cucumber

Combine all the marinade ingredients in a mixing bowl and place the chicken pieces in (mix well) for at least an hour in room temperature (if marinated over night, bring the meat back to room temperature before frying – see head note).

Prepare the Sriracha mayo by mixing its ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

Pour in vegetable oil to reach a depth of about 2 cm in a heavy-bottomed saucepan or wok. Heat the oil on medium high heat until hot, you can test it by carefully dropping a little bit of potato starch in the oil, if it sizzles immediately, the oil is ready.

While the oil is heating up, scatter half of the potato starch on a plate. Drain the chicken pieces from the marinade and coat them with the potato starch. Shake off excess starch and carefully lower the meat into the oil. Do not over crowd the pan. Since there won’t be enough oil to submerge the pieces (as I am trying to use less oil, so the meat is not exactly ‘deep-fried’ like the traditional Karaage cooking method, but feel free to use more oil if you wish or you can also use a deep-fryer if available), so fried them about 3-4 minutes on each side or until they turn golden brown and are cooked through. Transfer the cooked meat onto a cooling rack lined with kitchen paper (you can also place them in the oven to keep them warm while you are cooking the rest). Repeat with the remaining meat and starch.

Transfer the crispy karaage onto a serving platter. Squeeze the juice of the lime over the Karaage just before serving with Sriracha mayo.

Braised Yuba with Mixed Mushrooms and Asparagus recipe

Braised Yuba with Mixed Mushrooms and Asparagus

The other day when I was writing a family story about how my father mastered cooking after my mother passed away, there I mentioned his specialty dish – ‘buddha vegetables’ –  a vegetarian dish that was made with at least seven different types of fresh and dried vegetables and mung bean noodles braised in a fermented beancurd sauce.  I realised while going through my notes that I had forgotten to include one particular ingredient in the description – Yuba – is also known as ‘tofu skin’, a very popular ingredient in Chinese cooking.  It is a food product made from soy beans, as a result, it shares a similar taste with soy milk and tofu.  But unlike tofu, it doesn’t made with added coagulant.  While soy milk is being boiled, a film is formed on the surface of the liquid, and the film will then be collected and dried in sheet or stick form.  Since Yuba retains its shape and texture after cooking, therefore it is widely used for stir-fried, as a wrapper for dim sum, for braising or for slow-cooked dishes.  Yuba is easily found in Asian supermarket, an excellent alternative to meat products since it is packed full with protein.  It is also a great subtitle to tofu.  So ‘Yuba’ is now back in the main text of my story and I realised how much I miss the taste and texture of this peculiar but wonderful ingredient, hence this recipe.

I have chose the Yuba in stick form for this recipe as this particular type will retain its texture best during and after cooking (but it also takes longer to rehydrate, see instruction below).  If you fancy a bit of a spicy kick, add in some chopped chilis will surely do the trick.  You can basically use any other leafy green such as spinach, Pak Choi, Swiss Chard, or even broccoli if asparagus is not available in your area.

Braised Yuba with Mixed Mushrooms and Asparagus recipe Braised Yuba with Mixed Mushrooms and Asparagus recipe Braised Yuba with Mixed Mushrooms and Asparagus recipe Braised Yuba with Mixed Mushrooms and Asparagus recipe

Ingredients:

serves 2-3

  • 250g mixed mushrooms, brush cleaned and slice the bigger ones into bite size pieces
  • 80g dried Yuba, break in to smaller and shorter pieces
  • 6 green asparagus, snapped off the woody ends and cut in to three or four pieces each
  • 1 thumb-size ginger, peeled and julienned
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce:

  • 4 tbsp. of tamari (or regular soy sauce)
  • 2 tbsp. oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp. sake
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 300 ml water
  • 1 heaped tsp corn starch
  • 2 tsp. water

Submerge the Yuba sticks in water for at least 3 hours or overnight (I put them in a mason jar in the fridge overnight).  Squeeze out excess water once the Yuba is fully rehydrated (see picture) and set aside.

Apart from the last two ingredients, combine all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl, mix well then set aside.

Prepare the corn starch and water mixture in a small bowl and set aside.

Warm the vegetable oil in a wok on medium high heat, add in the julienned ginger in the oil and let them sizzled for about half a minute.  Add the mushrooms and fry until slightly brown, add the Yuba, the sauce, and a few turns of freshly ground black pepper.  Let it simmer on lower heat for about 3 minutes.

Slide the asparagus into the wok and mix everything well.  Cook it for a further 2 minutes.  Have a taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.  Stream in the corn starch water mixture slowly and stir the entire content in the wok until the sauce is thicken and coated well on the vegetables.  You might not need to use all the corn starch mixture.

Remove from heat and transfer the vegetables on a warm serving platter.  Served immediately with steamy white rice.

Braised Yuba with Mixed Mushrooms and Asparagus recipe

teriyaki king oyster mushroom recipe

Teriyaki King Oyster Mushroom with Snow Peas

This wonderful teriyaki sauce is one of the easiest sauces to make, it is deliciously piquant and so versatile that it can be used on nearly anything: meat, vegetables, noodles or grains. I always turn to this sauce when I am not sure what to cook. My favourite one is teriyaki salmon or chicken served on steamy hot rice with a side of nori seaweed and green leafy vegetables.

But today, I opt for a vegetarian version with my new found favourite king oyster mushroom. This mushroom has the most meaty texture with the least water content compares to all of its other contemporaries. It holds its shape beautifully when cooked which makes it a brilliant replacement for meat.

In this dish, the powerful flavour of the teriyaki sauce is complimented with refreshing and naturally sweet snow peas. The snow peas are barely cooked to retain its freshness and crunchiness, it goes perfectly well with the piquant teriyaki sauce and add a lovely contrast to the tender velvety mushroom. Serve with pipping hot rice as a comforting and satisfying meal. If snow peas is not available, raw julienne celery will make a smashing substitute.

teriyaki king oyster mushroom recipeteriyaki king oyster mushroom recipeteriyaki king oyster mushroom recipe

Teriyaki King Oyster Mushroom with Snow Peas

Ingredients:

serves 2

  • 3-4 large (about 220g-250g) king oyster mushroom, wipe clean with a clean, damp kitchen towel, slice lengthwise (about 3mm thick)
  • a large handful of snow peas, trim both ends
  • sesame seeds for garnish
  • 1 tbsp. of butter (or vegetable oil if vegan)

For the teriyaki sauce:

  • 80ml tamari (or regular soy sauce if not gluten free)
  • 80ml Japanese mirin
  • 1 tbsp. sake
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar (or honey)
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil

To serve:

  • Steamed Jasmine rice or Japanese short grain rice

Combine all teriyaki ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir well, add the sliced mushrooms to the bowl and marinate for about 5 minutes (make sure all sides are covered with the sauce). Remove and transfer the mushrooms to a plate. Reserve the marinade.

Prepare a bowl of ice cold water, set aside. Bring a small pot of water (unsalted) to boil and add the snow peas in the boiling water for 20 seconds. Remove them with a slotted spoon and put them straight in the bowl of prepared ice water, it will stop them from cooking further and retain the lovely green colour. Drain and pat dry with clean kitchen towel. Finely chop them into julienne, set aside.

Melt the butter on medium high heat in a shallow frying pan and add and arrange the mushrooms in one layer, fry for about 4 minutes in medium low heat (turn a few times during cooking, you might need to do them in batches), make sure you don’t burn them. Transfer them to a plate and keep warm, set aside.

Pour in the reserved teriyaki sauce into the same pan we used for the mushrooms, and simmer until the sauce is thicken (about 1-2 minutes). Remove from heat.

Sprinkle the sesame seeds on the mushrooms and topped with the shredded snow peas. Spoon the thicken teriyaki sauce on the mushroom and snow peas. Served immediately with steamy hot rice.

teriyaki king oyster mushroom recipe

 

 

shiitake-meat-ball-noodles-soup recipe

Shiitake Meatball Noodle Soup with Courgette Ribbons

The outside air smelled of firework the other morning when we were on the way to school. The air was crisp, cold and familiar. Though it didn’t take me long to recognise the combination of the cold air and the smell of exploded firework was part of my special childhood memory. I told my daughter who stood right next to me that it was how Chinese New year smelled like in Macau. We talked about we should try to spend Chinese New Year there in the near future, but it seemed far too long for me to wait, so I closed my eyes, breathed deep and hard as if doing so would bring me back to Macau immediately.

We have entered the new Lunar Year, perhaps that’s why the smell of firework seemed so signifiant that morning. Sadly I don’t celebrate it as much as I did when I was still living in Macau with my family. But having said that, I still like to cook one or two dishes that I miss most from home to soothe my homesickness.

My mother used to make meatball congee when we were little, the flavourful springy meatballs submerged into soft pillowy rice porridge. Sometimes served with ‘Century egg’ (preserved duck eggs) and other times with pickled radish. For me it is ultimate comfort food in any day, so is noodle soup (I do have a soft spot for noodle soup, as many of you who follow my blog know). Therefore I thought a handmade meatball noodle soup will be the perfect recipe for this week – a combination of the essence from two of my favourite dishes.

This recipe seems to have a lot of ingredients and steps, but most of the ingredients are pantry items which means you most probably have already. The meatballs do take a bit of time to make, but trust me it is worthwhile. For the vegetables, you can use any seasonal leafy greens such as kale, Pak Choi, Swiss Chards, spinach or even broccoli whichever one you prefer. All you need to do differently is to blanch the vegetable of your choice in the soup before you cook the noodles. Once you are familiar with making the soup base, you can top it with almost anything you like, leftover roasted meat, grilled tofu, sardines (I have a recipe here), sautéed mushroom, edamame, poached egg, and so on.

shiitake-meat-ball-noodles-soup recipe shiitake-meat-ball-noodles-soup recipe

Shiitake Meatball Noodle Soup with Courgette Ribbons

Ingredients:

serves 4 generously

For the meatball: (makes about 24)

  • 5 dried Shiitake Mushrooms
  • 500g minced pork
  • A small bunch of fresh coriander (leaves picked for serving), stems only, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. good quality oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp. Tamari (or regular soy sauce)
  • 1 tbsp. Mirin
  • 1 scant tsp. caster sugar
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch
  • A pinch of salt
  • A pinch of freshly ground black pepper

For the Soup:

  • 1 piece of thumb-size ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 1 spring onion, cut into 3 pieces
  • 1L good quality beef or chicken stock
  • 200ml Dashi stock (or more beef / chicken stock)
  • 1 tbsp. oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp. tamari (or regular soy sauce)
  • 2 tbsp. fish sauce

For the noodle bowl:

  • 200g dried rice noodles
  • 1 courgette, ribboned with a vegetable peeler
  • 2 large handfuls of mungbean sprouts
  • 2 spring onion, chopped
  • The reserved coriander leaves

In a small bowl, rehydrate the Shiitake mushrooms in just-boiled water, covered and let it stand for at least 30 minutes. Remove and squeeze out excess water (back to the bowl) from the mushrooms. Remove the stems and finely chopped the mushrooms. Do not discard the water or the stems, keep them for the soup.

To make meatballs: In a large mixing bowl, combine minced pork, chopped mushrooms, coriander stems, and the rest of the seasoning. Mix well first with a spoon or fork. Then use your hand to ‘knead’ the mixture and then scoop it up (in one piece) with one hand and ‘throw’ it hard back inside the bowl. Repeat this procedure for about 3-4 minutes (a good workout for your arm), this step ensures the meatballs are springy to the bite and won’t fall apart when cooking.

Shape the mixture into balls, each ball is slightly bigger than the size of a cherry tomato. Leave them in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up.

Prepare the rice noodles according to packet instructions and set aside.

Warm a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan (I use a wok) until hot. Carefully lower the meatballs to the hot pan (you might need to do it in batch), lower the heat and fry and turn the meatballs until they are brown (but not burnt) all over and almost cooked through. Remove them from the pan and keep them warm.

Transfer most of the oil from the pan to a little jar (for later use and do not clean the pan as the brown bits on the bottom help flavour the soup) and turn the heat up again.

Add the spring onion and ginger slices in the pan and deglaze the pan with the mushroom water (with the reserved stems).  Then pour in the stock and dashi (if used). Once boiled, add the remaining seasoning and have a little taste. Adjust if needed.

Just before serving, remove the ginger slices, spring onions and mushrooms stems from the soup base with a slotted spoon, then add the meatballs in the soup and simmer for about 3 minutes to finished off cooking through, which will also add in more flavour to the soup. Add the noodles and cook for a minute more (it is all it takes to warm up the noodles).

To assemble the noodle bowl: Prepare 4 large warm bowls and divide the noodles first and then meatballs equally on each bowl. Then place the courgette ribbons, mung bean sprouts, chopped spring onions and coriander leaves to the bowls. At last, ladle the hot soup over the everything on the bowl and serve immediately.

shiitake-meat-ball-noodles-soup recipe

 

 

baba-ganoush recipe

Baba Ganoush with Pink Peppercorns

I didn’t intend to be absent from the blog for so long, I had planned for a mere three weeks break but it turned out to be an ongoing journey of self- (re)discovery, and somehow I didn’t want it to stop. During the break, I returned to my drawing board, literally, and my sketch book, doing sketches of all kinds; things that surround me, people who passing by, or even just ideas in my head. And I realised that I have forgotten how much I enjoyed drawing when I was growing up. I also spent a lot of the time reading novels and writing short stories, and I met some amazing people through a fiction writing class. I hope I can share some of the stories with you soon. I haven’t stopped cooking though, as you know if you are following my Instagram account, and can’t wait to share the recipes that I have created during the break. All in all, it has been a relax and inspiring time for me and I am glad that I had made this decision. I thank YOU sincerely, the followers who have been supporting me since the beginning as well as those many who decided to join my journey even during my absent, for your incredible patient awaiting for my return. I am most grateful.

We, my family and I, have spent the first week of our new year in a warm, beautiful island –  Tenerife, a brief escape from the bitter cold winter in Berlin. Although short, it was one of the most inspiring holidays I have had. I have written a separate post here if you want to know more.

I intended to start writing here again right after our holiday, but I caught an everlasting cold that kept me in bed most of the time for a week. But finally I have found peace and regained my energy to finish this post.

Let talk about the recipe I would like to share with you this week: baba ganoush, it is one of those dishes that I have known and eaten for years, but never really made it myself for some reasons. Then on the eve of new year, I decided to give it a go since I had a sad looking aubergine lurking in the fridge. I found a smoky baba ganoush recipe from Jamie Oliver’s website and I knew it would be a good one (as nearly all of the other Oliver’s recipes), and it turned out to be a big hit, even my husband isn’t really keen on aubergine was impressed by the taste.

But the idea of sharing this Baba Ganoush with Pink Peppercorns recipe as my first post after a long break was not intentional. I was thinking of making something which is more Tenerife inspired, but when I unpacked the little bag of pink peppercorns from my luggage (these peppercorns were collected under a beautiful peppercorn tree in our hotel ‘secret garden’ while feeling like Mary Lennox), I realised I had to put them into good use. These pink peppercorns have a beautiful sweetness with a slight hint of licorice taste and a subtle flora tone. So I thought, its flavour would compliment perfectly with the smokiness of the aubergine. And I was right about that. But just a few berries will do the trick, too many of them will overpower the entire dish.

baba-ganoush recipe

baba-ganoush recipe

baba-ganoush recipe

Baba Ganoush with Pink Peppercorns

Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s recipe on jamieoliver.com

Serves 4

  • 2 large aubergine, halved lengthwise
  • Olive oil for roasting
  • 1 tbsp. tahini
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Smoked sweet paprika (for garnish)
  • 5 pink peppercorns, crushed with pestle and mortar

serving suggestions:

  • pitta bread
  • tortilla chips
  • raw vegetable sticks
  • use as a spread for wraps

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Place aubergine on a baking sheet lined with baking paper and drizzle them generously with olive oil. Place in the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes or until aubergine is golden brown and the flesh is juicy and soft. Remove from the oven and cool slightly.

Scope out the flesh of the aubergine into a mixing bowl, and discard the skin. Add the rest of the ingredients apart from smoked paprika and pink peppercorns. Use a handheld blender (or you can use food processor or blender) to puree the mixture until you get a nice thick dip. Taste and season when necessary.

Transfer the content into a serving bowl and sprinkle the smoked paprika and crushed pink peppercorns. Finally drizzle a little olive oil on top. Serve immediately.

This dip can be made a couple of days ahead, but of course it tastes great freshly made or even better after a few hours rest.

baba-ganoush recipe

 

 

 

 

tenerife mountain

Tenerife

We spent our first week of  2017 in the warm and wonderful Tenerife, the largest island of the Canaries situated on the Atlantic Ocean, about 100 km from west coast of Morocco. The island formed by an eruption of a volcano three million years ago. The landscape of the island is, in my opinion, most intriguing. The south side of the island features almost desert like landscape dotted with gigantic cactuses, aloe vera, weeds and palm trees where the climate is relatively dryer and warmer compared to the northern side. The more one travels north, where altitude is significantly and gradually higher with a more humid climate, the more green trees and shrubs one sees. Pine forests usually cover the mountain area. I was enthralled by the radical change of the ecosystem on this island which is unique to the world, and I was once again amazed by our wondrous nature. We landed in the Tenerife South Airport and had to drive along the coast to the north where our hotel was, therefore we had seen the change of landscape, the diversity of vegetations and the humble yet attractive local architecture. I fell in love instantly by the ever-changing sights of this island.

Our hotel is in the northern part of the island, in a city called Puerto de la Cruz. It is historically a coastal port for trading, but now the main industry is tourism. The oldest botanical garden in Spain is also situated there. Another famous site is Playa Jardín, a popular black sandy beach with sand and rocky coast that were formed by lava contacted with the ocean years ago. My almost 8 years old had spent hours fishing patiently with a bucket and net among those lava formed rocks. The landscape of Puerto de la Cruz is consisted of high mountains and rocky coasts, a rather interesting combination. From our 9th floor hotel balcony, we could see the snowy top of the famous volcano – Mount Teide (El Teide) surrounded by ghosty mist on one side and the royal blue ocean with fiery waves on the other. I was astounded by this fascinating contrast of sight every time I set eyes on the view. So every morning, I found myself admiring this amazing landscape on the balcony, listening to crickets chirped and the sounds of the awakening city.

tenerifetenerife

The old city of Puerto de la Cruz houses one of Tenerife oldest harbours, near a couple of cozy and well maintained squares and few churches, one of them is the well known Church of San Francisco. The church building itself is considered the oldest building in the city. We spent every night walking through streets with market stalls in the old city and enjoying various local Canarian tapas such as the famous baked canaries wrinkly potato, calamari fritters, grilled pepper, baked goat cheese with mojo verde (green sauce), paella etc. My favourite restaurant is called Restaurante Tropical on Calle Lomo, the food is exceptional and inexpensive. We were there with another family whom we met in our hotel, we feasted on some delicious tapas enough for 7 people with good quality local wine, altogether was merely 70 Euro including tips! It was just marvellous! We wanted to go back there on our last night, but it was closed because of the Spanish Epiphany (also known as Three Kings Day, 6th January), a Spanish Christian feast day equivalent to the commonly known Christmas. Presents for the children are brought by the three kings instead of Father Christmas. We were lucky enough to experience the most important festive celebration with the local people and we witnessed the famous ‘Three Kings Parade’. Everyone was excited to see the ‘Three Kings’, especially the children, who were showered with the sweets threw from the floats. The atmosphere was uplifting and heartwarming, everyone had a big smile on their faces.

tenerifetenerife paradetenerife parade

Another city which I absolutely adore is Garachico, in the north coast of Tenerife, an hour drive from Puerto de la Cruz toward the west. A small city by the beautiful rocky coasts where fishing and sailing are popular among the locals. Although it is also one of the mass tourism town, but it is surprisingly tranquil. Strolling through the narrow streets and hidden alleys gave me a sense of adventure. The architecture is the typical Andalusia and Portuguese inspired. Being there reminds me so much of my home town Macau, stone paved streets and beautiful squares where people can gather and enjoy a relaxing afternoon. Calle Esteban de Ponte, perhaps the most famous street in Garachico, consists of shops, restaurants, hotels and many simple courtyard style stone houses with beautiful handcrafted wooden windows and balconies. Shops are selling mainly local handmade crafts and souvenir. We spent a blissful afternoon exploring the city and had a simple tapas lunch that was wonderfully satisfy. We ended our visit in Garachico by walking along the magnificent rocky coast with ice cream in our hands. Garachico is definitely my favourite city in Tenerife.

tenerife-7GarachicoGarachicoGarachicoGarachicoGarachicoGarachico

The highlight of our visit had to be the trip to Mount Teide, the volcano situates near the centre of Tenerife island. It stands at over 3.5 thousands meter above sea level and is the highest point in the islands of Atlantic. It is surrounded by the Teide National Park (world heritage site) which stretches over 18,000 hectare. I remember it took quite some times for us to drive through the seemingly endless forest to reach Mount Teide. When we arrived at the crater which surrounds the volcano, we were blown away by its size and amazing structure. We could hardly get our heads around the idea of we were inside a volcano crater. It was just sensational. Walking on the lava sands and against the strong cold wind, looking afar to the snow-topped edges of the crater was not doubt a surreal experience. I read about its geographic condition is comparable with Mars, therefore it is also a testing ground for space robotic vehicles. I almost felt like I was in a science fiction movie. We didn’t go all the way up to the summit unfortunately because of my ear-ache, so we drove to the only restaurant in the area and warmed our bellies with some very traditional Canarian dishes: Rancho Canario (Chickpea and potato soup with meat and noodles) and Caldo de Pescado (fish soup). A delicious end to an enchanted journey.

tenerifetenerife mount Teidetenerife mount Teide tenerife mount Teide tenerife mount Teidetenerife

We spent our last morning in Tenerife by the hotel swimming pool as we didn’t have enough time to drive anywhere else. So while my family was having fun in the pool, I took some ‘me-time’ wandering around the hotel ‘secret garden’, it isn’t really a ‘secret’ but the way it was built is somehow mysterious. The garden is laid out on different levels because of its hilly location, each level then divided loosely into smaller spaces by stones, with different types of trees, flowers and shrubs planted within it. One minute you see stocky palm trees and enormous Lilys plants on one level and then, the next minute, just around the corner, you can see banana trees and their blossoms standing happily in the warm warm sun. There is always a surprise everywhere you turn. It was peaceful and quiet, all I could hear was the sound of my own footsteps and the occasional rattling sounds of tiny lizard hurrying by. I came across a beautiful willow-like tree with bunches of little red berries hanging on it. I was curious to know what they were, so I crashed one berry from the ground with my fingers and it released a wonderful peppery aroma, it was pink peppercorns. I was thrilled to see so many have fallen on the ground, so I decided to collect them and bring them home (and I used them in this recipe). I didn’t expect just a brief walk alone through a tranquil garden would give me so much joy. We need a little pleasure from time to time, so after this holiday, I am determine to make ‘pleasure hunting’ my daily habit.

The trip to Tenerife was inspiring and we were happy that we made this last minute decision to go there. I have heard there are many more places worth a visit, so we will definitely go back there to explore the rest of the island, hopefully soon.

tenerifetenerife-pepper-tree1 tenerife-pepper-tree2

Photos by Alexander