Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Feet o' Pigs

My Mom mentioned a dish the other day and immediately a craving hit like a punch in the belly.

It was a dish I often requested at dim sum restaurants and one for which I will unashamedly hang around women who have just given birth.

This dish, pig's trotters in ginger and sweet vinegar, is traditionally given to a woman after labor as a way to help ward off 'wind', keep the body warm, help in the replenishment of blood lost and serves as a tonic to help women recuperate.

I eat it because it's tasty.

I have never tried cooking it myself but if my Mom (who, shockingly is an even worse cook than myself) can make it, so can I.

So off I went to try to buy the vinegar. It must be Pat Chun Sweet Vinegar, at least that's what everyone tells me! I was lucky enough to find it at See Woo in Leicester Square. Then I bought some old ginger. I wasn't sure how much so I bought 3 hefty pieces approximately the size of my hand. I like things on the spicy side but this should be adjusted to how much spice you can take.

Then it was off to the local butchers where I put in an order for 3 fresh pig's trotters for the following week. A half dozen eggs and I was set to begin.

I first began by peeling all the ginger and cutting it into thickish slices and putting them into a pot with the whole bottle of vinegar and heat until just barely simmering. Once the ginger slices had softened and taken on a bit of color, I turned off the heat and let it sit overnight.

In the meantime, I hard boiled the half dozen eggs and peeled them and put them into the cooled vinegar to marinate overnight.

When I got the pig's trotter's the next day, I asked that the nails be chucked away and each trotter to be cut in 6 pieces. Happily the butcher cut them with the cleaver so none of that powdery bone dust you get from machines. Then I came home, rinsed them very well, pulling off any tough bits of skin and put them into a pot of cold water to cover and heat to boiling. You will see a lot of grey scum rise to the top. After it had boiled about 5-10 mins, I removed, rinsed and started again with cold water and heat to boiling. This time there was little scum but if there is, you may need to do it a third time.

I rinsed off the pig's trotters as well as I could and took out the eggs from the vinegar marinade (which were a lovely brown color by this time) and replaced them with the pig's trotters. I then topped up with about a cup of water to almost cover the pig's trotters and lets simmer on the lowest possible heat for 3-4 hours or until the pig's trotters look very soft and ready to eat.

At this point, I let the whole pot cool, replaced the eggs and leave overnight in the fridge. This way, I could easily scoop out the hard white lard the next morning before returning to the boil. Then it was ready to eat.

Don't be put off by the length of time it appears to take. I'm sure you could make this in a single day but I like having the flavors develop and really marinate into the egg and the pig's trotters. I like the sauce to be almost sticky and deeply flavorful.

This keeps incredibly well and you can add to it with more sweet vinegar, ginger or pig's trotters and reuse the sauce as the base for the next batch.

I like to serve it with white rice, lightly sauteed spinach and beansprouts with the egg cut in half, attractively showing three colors of the yolk, the white and the marinated brown, and a few pieces of pig's trotters. You won't need much of the sauce as the egg and pig's trotters should be plenty flavorful.

It is an easy and cheap dish to make (under 6 pounds!) and would be greatly appreciated by any new mother.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

I'm no baker...

...but I do love my chocolate baked goods!

I decided to make cookies.

I had two conditions. It must be easy and it must be chocolate-y.

So I found this recipe for Chocolate Crinkles and decided to give it a go.

And it was me, I made a few changes. I decreased the sugar by 1/4 cup and upped the cocoa by 2 tablespoons. Oh and no powdered sugar. Instead I put a few flakes of salt on top.

First dozen I made were too dry. It was my fault, I baked for 14 minutes instead of the 10 to 12 as they looked undercooked.

The second dozen I made I baked for only 10 minutes and they were undercooked. They spread a bit and was too moist inside. The third dozen was at 12 minutes on the nose.... still too dry.

Hmmm, next half dozen (all the dough I have left) will be at 11 minutes and hopefully I'll have that nice balance of crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside.

Taste-wise, they were better than expected. Nice hit of salt, not too sweet and a bit brownie like, especially the undercooked ones.

Not the best cookies in the world but they'll do for now. Oh and it was definitely easy and very chocolate-y.

Finally, a baking project that didn't go terribly wrong.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Follow up - 100 Chinese Foods...

As a follow up to the Omnivore's 100, we now have Appetite for China's 100 Chinese Foods to Try Before you Die!

I scored 97%, and a hard craving for food back in Hong Kong. Bittersweet.

1. Almond milk
2. Ants Climbing a Tree (poetic, not literal, name)
3. Asian pear

4. Baby bok choy

5. Baijiu

6. Beef brisket

7. Beggar's Chicken

8. Bingtang hulu
9. Bitter melon

10. Bubble tea

11. Buddha's Delight

12. Cantonese roast duck
13. Century egg, or thousand-year egg

14. Cha siu (Cantonese roast pork)

15. Char kway teow

16. Chicken feet

17. Chinese sausage

18. Chow mein

19. Chrysanthemum tea

20. Claypot rice

21. Congee

22. Conpoy (dried scallops)

23. Crab rangoon
24. Dan Dan noodles

25. Dragonfruit

26. Dragon's Beard candy
27. Dried cuttlefish

28. Drunken chicken

29. Dry-fried green beans

30. Egg drop soup

31. Egg rolls

32. Egg tart, Cantonese or Macanese
33. Fresh bamboo shoots
34. Fortune cookies

35. Fried milk

36. Fried rice

37. Gai lan (Chinese broccoli)

38. General Tso's Chicken

39. Gobi Manchurian
40. Goji berries (Chinese wolfberries)
41. Grass jelly

42. Hainan chicken rice

43. Hand-pulled noodles

44. Har gau (steamed shrimp dumplings in translucent wrappers)

45. Haw flakes

46. Hibiscus tea

47. Hong Kong-style Milk Tea

48. Hot and sour soup

49. Hot Coca-Cola with Ginger

50. Hot Pot

51. Iron Goddess tea (Tieguanyin)

52. Jellyfish
53. Kosher Chinese food
54. Kung Pao Chicken

55. Lamb skewers (yangrou chua'r)

56. Lion's Head meatballs

57. Lomo Saltado
58. Longan fruit

59. Lychee

60. Macaroni in soup with Spam

61. Malatang

62. Mantou, especially if fried and dipped in sweetened condensed milk

63. Mapo Tofu

64. Mock meat

65. Mooncake (bonus points for the snow-skin variety)

66. Nor mai gai (chicken and sticky rice in lotus leaf)

67. Pan-fried jiaozi

68. Peking duck

69. Pineapple bun
70. Prawn crackers

71. Pu'er tea

72. Rambutan

73. Red bean in dessert form

74. Red bayberry
75. Red cooked pork
76. Roast pigeon
77. Rose tea
78. Roujiamo

79. Scallion pancake

80. Shaved ice dessert
81. Sesame chicken

82. Sichuan pepper in any dish
83. Sichuan preserved vegetable (zhacai)
84. Silken tofu

85. Soy milk, freshly made

86. Steamed egg custard

87. Stinky tofu

88. Sugar cane juice

89. Sweet and sour pork, chicken, or shrimp
90. Taro

91. Tea eggs

92. Tea-smoked duck

93. Turnip cake (law bok gau)

94. Twice-cooked pork

95. Water chestnut cake (mati gau)

96. Wonton noodle soup

97. Wood ear

98. Xiaolongbao (soup dumplings)

99. Yuanyang (half coffee, half tea, Hong Kong style)

100. Yunnan goat cheese

There's also a 100 Japanese Foods to try.... or has the 100 Food List's five minutes already expired?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

St. John Bread and Wine

In the words of Fergie's annoying and shrill song, "London, London, Lon- DON!"

Yes I'm back and I've been slow. I have no excuse.... Well... I kind of do. I've been eating crap food mostly. For some reason I've been craving spaghetti bolognese like nobody's business and I can't seem to cook a decent potful of the stuff! Instead I've been eating the frozen stuff from Sainsbury's with ketchup and Tabasco. Yes, I'm disgusted with myself.

But I am here back to tell you about a restaurant I went to with Susan, who was so impressed, we went back a mere 3 days later, joined by the gracious Fushia Dunlop. The restaurant being St. John Bread and Wine in Spitalfields.

The first time Susan and I went, we got there early at noon and was the earliest lunchtime table. It was a nice, casual setting, with a counter separating the kitchen from the main dining room. Lots of white and dark woods, it was very clean and modern looking, with a small selection of breads and pastries available for take out.

The menu was printed and handed to us with the day's specials on the board. We were instantly drawn to the Pig's Tail, Chicory and Mustard, which we decided we most definitely had to have. Then we ordered a selection of dishes including Peas and Ticklemore, the simply named dished of Tomatoes, Deviled Rabbit's Kidneys, and Old Spot and Lentils.

Susan started with a single razor clam, which looked like it had been drizzled with a vinaigrette and thinly sliced red onion. I'm not sure how it tasted but I'm sure she can enlighten us in the comments... Please?

The Peas and Ticklemore (type of cheese) arrived next, a really fresh, sweet, delicious tasting peas with tangles of pea leaves and the slightly tangy, thin slices of cheese. It was dressed simply in some olive oil and was wonderful. We ordered this again on our second visit, which came with gorgeous edible purple flowers from another species of pea plant.

The Tomatoes, we had to try since we wanted to understand how a dish of tomatoes could cost . The came all different colors and types, some small and some a bit larger, cut in half and dressed. Accompanied by a small salad with these lovely pickled walnuts. The tomatoes were good but not anything special tasting, despite their probable unique heritage.

But the Pig's Tail. It was great! All crispy on the outside and soft, fatty and cartilage-y. Yum, yum! It was very rich and with all our other dishes, we couldn't finish it and by the end of the meal, the crispy bits had softened somewhat, making it less delicious. Although we did hope to see it on our second visit, it wasn't available.

Old Spot and Lentils, which we had high hopes for, was slices of pork belly on a bed of lentils. It was ok but nothing spectacular. The pork, although a fatty cut, was slightly dry and salty. We ate little of it due to the temptation of all the other dishes.

The Deviled Rabbit's Kidneys was delicious. Tender little nuggets with just enough chew with a lovely sauce over a toasted piece of bread. I do love kidneys and luckily, so does Susan!

The second visit lasted from breakfast to lunch and we started with a bacon butty, a wonderfully piggy bacon sandwich, which just made us a bit more hungry for the rest of our meal.

We ordered the Smoked Eel & Horseradish, which was just sooo good, smoky, oily and rich, and came in two small pieces with real horseradish. Upon tasting it, I really wanted to immediately order another one all for myself.

The Snails, Nettles & Brown Butter came in a buttery, chewy tangle with bread underneath to mop up the juices, of which there were a plenty. It was good but I was still fixated on the eel.

The Girolles & Goat's Curd was very 'forest-y' tasting if that makes sense. The tang and creaminess of the goat's curd was a good contrast as it brought out the foresty greeness of the just tender girolles.

Crab Meat on Toast was sooo rich, even with the squirt of lemon. It was a bargain in my opinion, with two generous slices of toast slathered with crab meat (which is a pain to remove). Happily, they didn't include just the white crab meat but bits of roe, which gave it a slight discoloration but made it all the more rich.

The first time we went, we had an Eccles cake to share. This was a huge piece of dense and surprisingly delicious sugared pastry wrapped with dark, dense, sweet currants and perhaps other fruits. It was served with a big piece of Lancashire Cheese. I am not usually a fan of anything with raisins (crunchy eyeballs...ewww) or dried fruit but this was very good, sweet, chewy and was definitely moreish.

The madeleines we ordered, on the other hand, were a big disappointment. Dry and a little too large, they were nothing to write home about. As much as I like dessert, I say, stick to the small plates here and maybe finish with an Eccles cake...only if you have others to share with, it's a rich dessert!

The second time we couldn't manage dessert but I did manage to finish off the yogurt and strawberries which we had ordered with our bacon butty but had completely forgotten about by the time the savories arrived.

All I can say is that writing this post has made me hungry for more food there. Simple yet complex yet delicious and hearty, I can't wait to go back for more.

St. John Bread and Wine Spitalfields
94-96 Commercial Street
E1 6LZ
Reservations: 020 7251 0848

Monday, September 08, 2008

Bad spacing

About the post below... I have no idea how come my spaces don't show up on blogger!!

It looks fine in the preview but is all squashed into 1 neverending paragraph for you to read.

Sorry and if you have any hints as to how I can sort this out, let me know!

Friday, September 05, 2008

The Ominvore's Hundred

Very late to the game but I still want to play!!

The Omnivore's Hundred...

In bold are the ones I've tried... and the 24 I haven't tried. None of them have been crossed out as I'd try anything....once.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu - it was dried...does that count?
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse - it was raw tartare...do I get double points??
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

So, what about you? Any of you tried all 100?? Any of you tried none at all?? I'm so curious...