Thursday, October 30, 2008

4pm: The Vessel

Now I've talked about the tea and talked about a biscuit so I suppose I should say something about the mug.

This is a major concern for the boy. He has rejected all but 2 of the dozens of mugs which came with our apartment, deeming them "unsuitable for tea".

At first I scoffed...

I mean seriously, are you that hung up on mugs for tea?

Then, as I began to drink my mug of tea, I realized just how right he was.

Our landlord has left us dozens of mugs but many of them just on the small side. As the boy rightly pointed out, they are just too unsatisfying. They contain just bitsy amounts of tea, not enough for 3 or 4 biscuits and to warm your belly and quench your thirst. It's also too easy to let it get too strong or too weak.

Luckily, a good friend in Hong Kong solved the problem for us with his and hers mugs. Customized no less. They were a wedding present and based on a themed surprise birthday party (Spongebob Squarepants if you must know) the boy threw for me where he dressed up in the said absorbent, lemon-colored cartoon character (complete with 3 pairs of vibrant yellow tights to cover the..uh... hairs) to present a self-made Spongebob Squarepants birthday cake in front of dozens of friends he had never met.

You can see why I married the boy despite his occasional quirks about his tea.

Anyhow, these two mugs are just the perfect size for a cup of tea and biscuits.

It also saves us from bickering over the mugs despite how awfully smug and silly we look toasting ourselves with mugs with our cartoon selves on the front.

Friday, October 17, 2008

'Nana Cake

I love, love, love Banana bread. So when I heard rave reviews about a certain banana cake which had a unique 'cooling' process, I had to try. It also doesn't hurt that the recipe itself had more than 330 reviewers rating it 5 stars!

Impatiently I waited for my bananas to go black, strictly checking and warning the boy NOT to eat them. Luckily, like me, he likes his bananas on the firm, green side.

Finally it was time. I mixed up all the ingredients and found I was 1/2 cup short of flour.


After Susan's comments last time I baked, I thought that for ONCE, I would follow the recipe exactly. The ONLY change I made was using salted butter (that was all I had) and omitting the salt, figuring it would even itself out.

As I had already done the grocery run once that day, I asked the boy to pick up some more flour on the way home from work.

The process involves baking the cake for an hour (took 1.5 hours for me, even though my thermometer showed that I had the right temperature) and then straight into the freezer for 45 minutes.

Those 45 minutes were agony as the smell of the cake had already permeated and the boy kept asking me "Is it done yet? Should I put the kettle on now? How much longer?". Finally I pulled out the cake and cut out a big piece each for me and the boy. I omitted the frosting as, quite frankly, our butts didn't need it.

It was good! A bit too sweet for my liking but nice and moist with a gorgeous crackly crusty top. I didn't know how to wrap the cake as I wanted to preserve the crackly top so I left it overnight in the cooled oven but sadly when I went for my breakfast piece (hey, cake is a perfectly decent balanced breakfast), the topping had become sticky and moist. Not bad but not the lovely crumb of last night.

Anyhow, I wouldn't mind making it again with more banana, less sugar and less butter although not sure how I could decrease without affecting the texture... any suggestions?

Monday, October 13, 2008

4pm: Tunnock's Dark Chocolate Caramel Wafers

I thought I'd start off round 2 of 4pm with a recently discovered and fast becoming favorite biscuit.

Although, to be fair, you can hardly call it a biscuit and it's more in the realm of chocolate bar.

It is Tunnock's Dark Chocolate Caramel Wafers.

Tunnocks has had a long history of providing many a packed lunch with that sweet treat at the end or as an afternoon snack. Two of its most famous products are the Tea Cake, a biscuit base with a marshmallow dome, all enveloped with chocolate, and the Caramel Wafer, containing 5 layers of wafer with 4 layers of caramel.

Tunnock's is still family owned and operated out of Scotland, and the scrolling trivia on their site tells me that the Caramel Wafer is regularly featured as one of the top 10 selling chocolate biscuits in Scotland. After eating my way through two packs, I know why.


What I have to go through in the name of research....

I bought the multi-pack, which , I think is the way to go, lasting a good week with one extra in case your *cough* significant other decides to steal one *choke*.

First of all though, you must make the tea and your cheerily wrapped Caramel Wafer (keeping it away from the tea otherwise you risk chocolate meltage), and find a good space to sit.

Then, have a slurp of your tea and begin to unwrap. STOP. Do NOT rip the top bit open and eat like a chocolate bar, you heathen. Unwrap it fully.

Then, using the wrapper as your 'plate', pick it up with your thumb and forefinger and bite.

The warmth of your mouth from the tea should nicely melt the chocolate, which combined with the slightly chewy wafer and caramel leave you nice and happy.

Then, a further sip or two of tea then another bite.

Proceed until finished.

Assuming, like me, you are a hot blooded individual, you should be left with traces of chocolate to be licked away regretfully after the Caramel Wafer has finished.

Usually this is the time to sigh, look sadly down at your chocolate streaked empty wrapper and begin to fold. I fold mine according to the fold already in place, turning it over to admire once again the wrapping before folding it into an every smaller thin strip and wrap around my finger like a ring.

I leave this bit to your own imagination as to how you'd like to fold your empty wrapper.

Friday, October 10, 2008


Lunch is not a fun affair.

I'm usually by myself, at home and try to either finish off any leftovers of the previous evening (of which there are never many), or make something simple. Sadly, I often turn to instant meals bulked up by something at home.

Today's lunch was Nong Shim's Chapagetti, an instant noodle of which my Dad and I are inordinately fond. Introduced to me by my Korean flatmate in university, I introduced it to my father and we have been buying it by dozen ever since.

Based on Cha Chang or Zha Jiang Mein, a savory spicy sauce which can reddish with lots of ground meat in the Cantonese style and dark black (using black soybeans) in the Korean style and usually served with thick chewy noodles. My favorite is the Korean version, one in which my Taiwanese aunts make particularly well along with their own handmade noodles and accompanying pickles....thinking about it makes my mouth water. But as a hopeless cook I make do with this version of Cha Chang Myun by Nong Shim.

I just want to take a second here and acknowledge that Nong Shim is one of my favorite makers of instant noodles. Their noodles, which are very much deep fried, are thick, chewy if cooked right and have a great bite to them.

It comes with a little packet of dehydrated soy/meat and veg, a packet of powder for the sauce and a small packet of vegetable oil. I, heathen that I am, usually toss away the oil, and after boiling the noodles to a consistency I like, dump out the water, put in two tablespoons of fresh water, a splash of white vinegar (I like my noodles with a bit of tang) and the sauce powder, putting it back on the hob at the lowest heat possible. I then attempt to stir, mix and coax it all together, turning it into a lovely curly black mess.

Today's meal was made complete with a surprisingly double yolked hard boiled egg and 3 sticks of surirmi (faux crabmeat, seafood extenders, whatever you want to call it), and a dollop of spicy Sriracha sauce on the side.

A quick, tasty, if not exactly healthy, lunch for one.

Monday, October 06, 2008

4pm: Tea

I've decided that since I'm in England, I might as well adapt some of the weird quirks about the English, but mostly about the boy, that I enjoy.

One of these is the 4pm Cup o' Tea.

Now that the boy has beaten the sugar out of my cup of tea, I like it strong, with a dash a milk so its a nice caramel color. I'm picky about it because I'm not fond of too much milk and weak tea is a waste of my time.

But since the sugar has been taken away with me, I've taken to biscuits (cookies in my book) with an alarming alacrity. I figured that it balances it out nicely, no?

The everyday 4pm cup of tea is not meant to be a nice dainty affair with real china and platters of scones and sandwiches, as much as I'd like it to be, but a reinforcing cup of warmth with a biscuit (or two, or three or four....) to sustain you until dinner. I find it a perfect way to begin thinking about what I'm going to prepare for dinner and not making me so hungry that I want to bite a chunk out of the raw meat I'm preparing.

My tea of choice had been the long held favorite, PG Tips. However, as I find myself just that bit chilly all the time, and craving that hit of hot liquid, I find myself wanting to cut down on the caffeine... just a little. So when the boy brought home the wonderfully retro box of Tick Tock Tea with no caffeine, I was excited... at first. However, upon seeing it rooibos and smelling just that little bit funky, I became apprehensive.

After my sip, I wasn't exactly sold, but I wasn't put off either. Much, much weaker than normal tea, it nevertheless had a comforting aroma and flavor to it. I have surprisingly taken to it quite well and have now cut down to 1 cup of normal tea and three of the Tick Tock Tea.

I have to admit, the cheery box does help.