October 30, 2008

Arancini (Rice Balls)



I used proper risotto rice for this attempt at Arancini and I'm really pleased with the result. I decided on the conical shape after watching a video on Youtube of someone making arancini and I thought it looked more appealing than just a round ball. I also found that when it came to cooking them, I had more control to get them evenly brown on all sides, rather than them rolling around in the oil.
Making arancini from scratch takes some time and preparation, but it is ideal if you have leftover risotto, which means you can pick up this recipe from step 3.
This amount makes 8 Arancini Balls, so perfect to serve as a starter with a Roasted Red Pepper sauce (recipe to follow). I managed to eat 2 with my dinner, but Steve ate 5 so you may need to double the quantity if you're cooking for people with healthy appetites!
Next time I want to try stuffing them with meaty bolognese - yum!

You will need:

  • Saucepan to cook the risotto
  • 1 small bowl for the beaten egg
  • 1 medium bowl for the breadcrumbs
  • Medium saucepan with about 2 inches of hot oil
  • 1 baking sheet to keep cooked arancini warm in the oven

  • 1.5 cups risotto rice, e.g. arborio
  • 3 cups hot stock (you may need an additional 1 cup stock)
  • 8 mini mozzarella balls or chunks cut about 2cm cube
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • About 1 cup panko breadcrumbs (or normal breadcrumbs)
  • For added flavour you can add 1/2 cup parmesan to the breadcrumbs

  1. Cook the risotto rice until it is nice and tender, but not mushy. I used a Mushroom and Herb flavoured risotto to give it more flavour.
  2. Allow the risotto to completely cool and then put it in the fridge.
  3. When you're ready to make your arancini, remove the cooked rice from the fridge. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/180°C/350°F.
  4. Heat the oil in the saucepan until a few breadcrumbs dropped in the oil sizzle and go brown within a few seconds.
  5. Have the beaten egg ready in a small bowl and the breadcrumbs ready in a medium bowl.
  6. Divide the risotto into 8 portions. Wet your hands and take 1 portion and shape it with both hands into a hollow cone with the pointed end at the bottom. Place a piece of mozzarella in the middle and then seal the hole with the rice, creating a flat bottom. Put your arancini on a plate whilst you shape the rest of the rice.
  7. One by one, dip the arancini into the egg and then the breadcrumbs, making sure they are well coated. I like to put a small amount of breadcrumbs in the bowl and then add more as I complete each arancini. This prevents all your breadcrumbs becoming all glued together as they come into contact with the egg.
  8. When the oil is ready, carefully place 2 to 3 arancini into the oil and cook for about 4-5 minutes, turning so that they are nicely golden brown on all sides.
  9. When they are ready, place them on a baking sheet and pop them into the preheated oven to keep warm whilst you cook the rest.
  10. When ready to serve, rest them on paper towels to soak up any excess oil before plating up.

October 24, 2008

Potato Galette & Sweetcorn Succotash

Galette & Succotash


I bought some frozen ready-marinated Mahi-Mahi (similar to swordfish) from the supermarket so all I had to do was pop it in the oven to cook. This meant I could turn all my attention to the side dishes.

I knew I wanted to serve potatoes with the fish but I wanted to try something new. I knew I would already have the oven on to cook the fish so that narrowed down my cooking method and I knew I wanted to achieve something with a crispy texture to counter-balance the fish. Somehow the idea of a Potato Galette came into my head even though I've never made it before. After a quick search on Google I discovered there are a variety of ways to make this dish, so I went with what sounded best.

I've been wanting to make Sweetcorn Succotash ever since we went to The Cheesecake Factory (TCF) and I tried it for the first time. To be honest, before that meal I didn't know Succotash was an actual dish, I just thought it was part of a catchphrase by Sylvester The Cat! I couldn't find a definitive recipe on Google, it seems to be one of those dishes which is open to interpretation, so I made up my own recipe based on what I remembered of my TCF experience.

Potato Galette


  • Serves 2
  • Oven Temperature: Gas mark 6/400°F/200°C
  • Cooking Time: 25 minutes
  • You will need: A mandolin or a box grater, small baking pan
  • 2 to 3 white potatoes (Russet or Maris Piper are good for this), peeled
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Some Italian seasoning or other type of mixed seasoning (optional)
  • 2 handfuls of grated cheese (I used a bag of Quattro Formaggio which had Parmesan, Asiago, Fontina and Mild Provolone)
  1. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 6/400°F/200°C.
  2. Slice your potatoes as thinly as possible, preferably with a mandolin. But if you haven't got one then I found that the wide slicing blade on a box grater works really well. To make it easier, lay the grater flat on a board with the slicing blade facing upwards and then push the potato away from you as you slice them.
  3. Put the tablespoon of olive oil in a large bowl and add salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. Add the sliced potatoes and toss in the olive oil until evenly coated.
  4. Starting from the middle, arrange your potatoes in the dish so that they are overlapping and the bottom is completely covered.
  5. Sprinkle on half of the cheese.
  6. Arrange another layer of potatoes on top and then sprinkle on the rest of the cheese.
  7. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until the potatoes feel tender when you insert a fork.
  8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes (perfect timing for me to cook the fish which takes 12 minutes!)

For convenience I used the 9" round silicone pan that I use to bake cakes. It gave a good result and was very easy to clean afterwards, however next time I would put a disc of foil at the bottom to give it a crispier bottom. Alternatively you could use a metal cake tin or simply arrange your potatoes in a circle shape on a metal baking sheet.
Of course you can use a much smaller dish but you will have more layers and your Galette is going to be much thicker, therefore it may take twice as long to cook.


  • Serves 2
  • Preparation time: 10 minutes
  • Cooking Time: 15 minutes
  • You will need: A medium saucepan
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed, grated or finely chopped
  • 1/2 red pepper (bell pepper), diced
  • Approx. 1 teaspoon red chilli flakes
  • 1 432g/15.25oz tin whole kernel sweetcorn, drained
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup chicken stock
  1. Heat the oil in your saucepan, add the onion and gently saute until softened and slightly golden.
  2. Add the garlic and cook gently for another minute.
  3. Add the red pepper and cook until softened.
  4. Add the chilli flakes and then stir in the sweetcorn.
  5. Add the chicken stock and simmer until it has reduced and evaporated away.
  6. It is now ready to serve.

October 23, 2008


I think it's great to share recipes, which is one of the main reasons I do this blog. Another reason is so I can take photos of my food and hopefully improve my photography skills.

I have a Nikon digital SLR and two lenses handed down to me from Steve (18-55mm) and my Dad (18-135mm) as they've upgraded theirs. I also sometimes use my old Sony Cybershot DSC-P150 if I want to take a quick snapshot, but it's not very good at close-ups and getting good depth of field.

It is actually quite difficult to photograph food and make it look appetizing. My biggest enemy is the lack of natural light. This is especially true when trying to photograph evening meals or during the winter months when it gets dark so early. So I hope to get a portable soft lighting studio and I've read that the Lowel Ego Light is brilliant. I'd also like to get a tripod as neither of my lenses have VR (Vibration Reduction) which helps to stabilize images so you don't get blurry pictures. But even without all this extra equipment I am still quite pleased with my efforts so far. It has made me look at the photographs in magazines with even more interest and makes me appreciate the effort the food stylists and photographers make to produce such tantalising images! Afterall, we eat with our eyes so it is making me think more about the presentation of my food.

The other problem I have with food photography is my impatience to eat the food! There are a few recipes on my blog which don't have photos because I just couldn't wait to eat my dinner! I also hate lukewarm food so whilst I'm fiddling around with the settings on my camera until I can get a decent shot, my dinner is getting cold! That's why I like baking because you have to let them cool down first! Maybe I should make more salads...

October 21, 2008

Hoi-sin Pork

The marinade for the pork is based on a dish by Ching He-Huang that Steve cooked for me for Valentine's Day. Her recipe uses duck breast but I thought it would go well with pork as hoisin is the main ingredient for char-siu (chinese roast pork).

I had some leftover jasmine rice which I told Steve I was going to serve with the pork. However, I wanted to try something new with the rice so I did a twist on the italian arancini risotto balls. Steve was pleasantly surprised when he cut open the rice balls to find them filled with cheese and he really liked them, however I don't think they were 100% success so I will tweak them and then put up the recipe.

For now here's the Hoi-sin Pork recipe:

To serve 2

1 large boneless pork chop (or 2 smaller ones)
3 tbsp hoi-sin sauce
3 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp water
1 tbsp (dark) soy sauce
1 tbsp oil (preferably sesame for the flavour)
Ching's recipe calls for ½ tsp Chinese five-spice powder but I didn't have any, however the pork still has lots of flavour.

  1. Put the pork in a plastic zip-lock freezer bag and then add all the marinade ingredients. Seal the bag and massage the meat so that it is fully and evenly coated. Pop it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes but preferably for a few hours.
  2. Take the meat out of fridge about 30 minutes before you're ready to cook to bring it to room temperature.
  3. Heat a large frying/saute pan to medium-high and then put the pork into the pan, reserving the rest of the marinade (if you have a non-stick pan you won't need to add any oil).
  4. Fry the pork for a few minutes on each side until it is fully cooked and no longer pink in the middle. The cooking time will depend on thickness of your meat but you can generally tell when it is done when you press on the meat and it feels firm.
  5. Remove the pork from the pan, keep warm and allow to rest for about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the rest of the marinade to the pan and simmer gently for a few minutes until heated through and slightly thickened.
  7. Slice the pork and drizzle the sauce on top.

Banana and Chocolate Muffins

Banana and choc Muffins-1


I had two reasons for making these muffins:
1) I had two bananas that were quickly going past their prime but I didn't want to throw away.
2) Steve wanted something yummy to eat when he got his mid-morning cakey-pangs at work.

I had a recipe on the back of a bag of flour for banana bread, but I'm not a lover of it as I find it too banana-ry (funny that!) but I like chocolate and muffins are easy to make, so Banana and Chocolate Muffins had to be made! They're not very healthy but as Steve would say "It's got fruit in it so it's OK!"

I have to admit I wasn't that confident about making these as my 3 attempts at baking in SF haven't been that successful. But these were a great success as I've now got the hang of the electric oven, the cup measuring system and using the silicone pans Steve bought me.

  • Makes: 12 muffins
  • Oven shelf position: middle
  • Oven temperature: 350F/180C/Gas mark 4
  • Baking time: 20 - 25 minutes
  • You will need: muffin pan and cases if appropriate


  • 1¾ cups (245g/9oz) all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup (30g/1oz) cocoa powder
  • 1 cup (200g/7oz) granulated white sugar
  • 1 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (85g/30z) chocolate chips
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 stick (113g/4oz) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 large ripe bananas, mashed (approximately 225g/8oz/about 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    Optional: ½ cup (55g/2oz) toasted walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 350F/180C/Gas mark 4 and place oven rack to middle position.
  2. If using a normal muffin tin prepare it by greasing/placing paper cases inside.
  3. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a medium-sized bowl combine the mashed bananas, eggs, melted butter, and vanilla.
  5. With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, lightly fold the wet ingredients (banana mixture) into the dry ingredients until just combined and batter is thick and chunky.
  6. Fold in the chocolate chips (and nuts if using them).
  7. Spoon heaped tablespoons of the mixture into your muffin pan until they are pretty full so you get a nice muffin top shape (the only type you'll want!).
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Mine only took 20 minutes as I used a silicone pan.
  9. Place on a wire rack to cool and then remove from the pan.

You can freeze your baked muffins by allowing them to completely cool, then wrapping them in foil and then popping them in freezer bags. To reheat, just take out of the freezer, unwrap and put them back in your muffin pan and pop into a 350F/180C oven until heated through.
You can also freeze the raw muffin batter by spooning into your muffin pan and then putting the whole thing in the freezer until the batter is solid. You then put these discs into freezer bags. To cook, just put the discs into your muffin pan and cook for about 5 minutes longer than usual.


As my muffin pan is only for 6 muffins I had to cook 2 batches. I was a bit worried that the second batch wouldn't rise as much as the first, because I always thought you had to bake things ASAP so that the baking agents (powder and soda) didn't lose their potency. However, as you can see from these pictures, the muffin from the second batch on the right rose even higher than the first!

Banana muffins compare

October 15, 2008

Double Chocolate Cookies



These cookies are really good as they taste like brownies and have the similar squidgy texture. In its raw state the texture is just like the cookie dough you get in Ben & Jerry's ice cream - yum! Might try crumbling it up into some homemade ice cream.

However they are pretty bad for you at just under 200 calories each, however you could reduce the amount of sugar and leave out the milk chocolate pieces but where's the fun in that?!

  • Makes: about 20 cookies
  • Oven temperature: Gas mark 3/325°F/170°C
  • Cook time: 12-18 mins
  • You will need: a baking sheet lined with baking parchment or greased tin foil


  • 150g/5oz dark chocolate broken into chunks
  • 50g/2oz butter
  • 150g/5oz demerara sugar*
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 25g/4oz Plain flour
  • 25g/1 oz cocoa
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 50g/2oz milk chocolate chopped finely (I used a crumbled up flake)


  1. Put the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl and sit the bowl over a pan of simmering water until the chocolate has melted, taking care not to let the bowl touch the water. Stir until smooth and put aside to cool slightly (Or nuke in the microwave for about 60 seconds on half power)
  2. In a mixer beat the butter and sugar until creamy (you can do this by hand but the mixture is quite stiff so you can burn a few calories mixing before devouring these cookies!)
  3. Add the egg with a little bit of the flour to prevent it from curdling.
  4. Beat in the rest of the flour, cocoa and bicarbonate of soda, then add the cooled chocolate.
  5. Stir until well combined and then add the milk chocolate pieces.
  6. Put the mixture in the fridge to rest for 20 mins. You can preheat the oven to Gas mark 3/325°F/170°C whilst you're waiting.
  7. Using a teaspoon form the mixture into balls about the size of a walnut, then lightly press onto the baking sheet, leaving space for them to spread a little.
  8. Bake in batches for about 12 minutes for softer cookies and up to 18 minutes for firmer ones (I normally go for 15 minutes), until they've spread and slightly risen They will crack along the top which is supposed to happen.
  9. Leave to cool for 5 mins on the baking sheets before transferring to a wire rack.


  • You can really use any kind of brown sugar, but I wouldn't substitute brown for white sugar as you won't get the lovely caramel flavour that you get from brown unrefined sugar. In the past I have used a mixture of demerara and muscovado as I didn't have enough of one kind. I have also used all soft brown sugar and the results are pretty much the same.
  • When they come out of the oven (even after 18 minutes) they will still feel very soft. Don’t worry, they will harden up as they cool down.
  • You can freeze the raw dough after you’ve made them into balls and flattened slightly. Just bag them and tag them. Cook from frozen at the same temperature, you’ll probably need to cook for around 18 minutes.

I made these in America and used the cup measurement method so here's the quantities:

  • Approx 1 cup dark chocolate broken into chunks (but as most chocolate bars are sold in 100g, just use 1 and 1/2 bars)
  • 1/2 stick or 3.5 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup demerara sugar*
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 cup All purpose/Plain flour
  • 1 Tablespoon cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • Instead of the chopped milk chocolate I added a handful of Nestle Butterscotch chips (photo shows result of original recipe)

Lazy Sunday Roast Dinner with Roasted Broccoli

Back in the UK Steve's mum always cooks us a lovely roast dinner on Sundays and then we usually spend the rest of the day being complete coach potatoes. So even though the food out in SF is great and special ingredients are easily obtainable, nothing quite beats a Roast Dinner for pure comfort food (although I could quite happily sit and eat a big bowl of mashed potatoes!).

The first time I made Roast Dinner in the apartment it was a bit stressful because we only have 1 shelf in the oven, so I had to juggle a few different baking trays to get everything to be ready at the same time. But I now have this great new method which is so much easier and I can sit back and relax whilst it cooks away in the hotbox.

Also, here is a fantastic recipe for Roasted Broccoli (yes really!) by Alton Brown. It's perfect to serve with roast dinner as you've already got the oven on, you just need to crank it up once everything else is cooked. Being Chinese I've grown up with my parents cooking vegetables perfectly al dente in stir fries etc, so I find nothing worse than overcooked broccoli which has no flavour and the texture of a soggy sponge. This method of roasting broccoli ensures you have perfectly cooked broccoli and none of the vitamins are lost through boiling - bonus! OK so dumping a load of cheese on top probably negates any of the health benefits, but trust me the cheese really makes this so good! I haven't tried it with the panko breadcrumbs yet so will let you know if it's any good!
  • Serves 2
  • Oven temperature: Gas 6/200C/400F
  • You will need: Large baking dish/tray about 13 x 9 inches and a baking sheet
  • Prep time: 10-15 minutes
  • Cooking time: 45-50 minutes plus 8-10 minutes for the broccoli
  • 2 large Chicken Thighs, bone in and skin on
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped into sticks
  • 2 or 3 large floury potatoes, peeled and cut into walnut-sized pieces (Russets or Maris Pipers are good)
  • 5 or 6 garlic cloves, peeled and slightly smashed
  • Salt and pepper
  • Herbs & spices of your choice (I used a ready-made Italian Seasoning mix grinder)
  • Some olive or vegetable oil
  • 2 small heads of broccoli, florets cut into bitesize pieces and stalks cut into batons
  • A large handful of grated cheese (I used Monterey)


  1. Preheat oven to Gas 6/200C/400F.
  2. Season the chicken and arrange in the baking dish skin side up.
  3. Mix the oil and your seasoning in a large bowl, add the potatoes and thoroughly coat. Add the potatoes to the baking dish in their own section. Do the same for the carrots.
  4. Evenly distribute the garlic around the chicken, potatoes and carrots.
  5. Put the dish in the hot oven and roast for 45-50 minutes, occasionally turning the potatoes and carrots, until the chicken is completely cooked. About halfway through cooking you might have a pool of oil in the dish as the chicken skin renders the fat, so collect this and save it to use on the broccoli.
  6. Remove from the oven and cover with foil to keep warm.
  7. Now crank up the oven to Gas 7/220C/425F to cook the broccoli.
  8. Place the broccoli into a mixing bowl and toss with your reserved oil from the baking dish (or drizzle with some olive oil and seasoning) and then spread the broccoli out on a baking sheet.
  9. Roast in the oven for 8-10 minutes or until just tender. (Whilst this is cooking you can make your gravy). Sprinkle the cheese on the broccoli and melt under the grill/broiler (I usually turn this on so I can make the chicken skin and roast potatoes even crispier!).
Serve up the garlic! Even though it has imparted a lot of flavour to the chicken, carrots and potatoes during cooking, it has a lovely flavour when eaten whole and isn't too strong - trust me I ate some thinking it was potato and was pleasantly surprised!

Beef Stroganoff

I had lots of sour cream to use up so I thought a stroganoff would be perfect. I found this recipe on the foodnetwork website and it's by Rachael Ray which is one of the cooks I liked to watch when we had a TV in our hotel in SF! Click on the recipe title to go to see Rachael Ray's original recipe.

I have tweaked her ingredients to suit our taste and I've altered her method so you only need one frying pan! Although her recipe says it feeds 4 people, Steve and I like a lot of sauce so it comfortably fed us 2. Delicious served over fluffy white rice.

Serves 2 who like it saucy!

Enough steak to feed 2 (I used 3 small thin frying steak pieces, but use better quality if you can)
Salt and pepper
1/2 small onion, sliced
4-5 mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup sour cream, eyeball it
1 tablespoon extra-virgin or vegetable oil

  1. Heat a large frying pan or skillet until smoking hot, then add a little oil. Season your meat with salt and pepper. Add the meat to the pan and quickly sear on both sides, then remove from the pan and set aside on a plate. Don't worry that the meat is still undercooked at this point as you will add it back to the pan later. When the meat is cool enough to handle, slice it in thin strips.
  2. Next saute the onion and mushrooms for 3-4 minutes in the same pan you seared the steak in. You want the onions to become a nice golden colour and the mushrooms to be cooked through. Remove from the pan onto the same plate as the steak.
  3. Now make the sauce in the same pan - you will get all the nice flavours from the meat and veggies. Melt 2 tablespoons butter and add the flour and cook for 1 minute stirring constantly to make a roux. Whisk in your chicken stock and simmer for 1 minute until nicely thickened. Stir in the mustard and sour cream and continue to simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. When your sauce is ready add the steak, onions and mushrooms back to the pan. Simmer for another couple of minutes until the meat and veggies are heated through (I'd say 1 minute max to keep your steak rare)
  5. Remove from heat and season sauce with salt and pepper.

October 1, 2008

Panko Chicken Nuggets


It's been a while since I've blogged on here because I've only recently had a kitchen to do any proper cooking! The hotel we stayed at for our first month in San Francisco only had a microwave and toaster so creating culinary delights was pretty limited. Two staple meals were Jacket Potato with Canned Chilli and Packet Rice with chopped up Frankfurters.

So here is the first recipe I've made in our new apartment which is worth blogging. I'm a big fan of Panko breadcrumbs which are impossible to get hold of in the UK unless you visit an Asian supermarket, but they're everywhere in the US so I might stock up and take some home with me! They're really worth getting as they give a really crunchy coating - if you've ever had Chicken Katsu Curry at Wagamamas then you'll know what I mean.

This recipe also calls for buttermilk which is used in a lot of American recipes but also difficult to find in the UK. However after watching a programme over here called Good Eats (a new favourite!) I learned you can make your own buttermilk. Just add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to every 1 cup of milk, mix and leave to stand for 15 mins until slightly thickened and then use.

I have also made this recipe without buttermilk by simply coating the chicken pieces in a little bit of oil (I used olive oil for flavour) so that the breadcrumbs stick to the chicken.

I know I said before that I hated the cup measurement system, but that was before I had measuring cups! Now I really like using this method as it's so much quicker and easier than using scales. I do have a conversion page on my blog but it's not very comprehensive so I'll try and add to it. However if you see some measuring cups then I recommend you get some - I saw some in Sainsburys for about £3 before I came to the US.

Serves 2 greedy people (served with potato wedges and veg)

  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 pound (that's 3 small) boneless skinless chicken thighs (or breast), cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 -1.5 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil

  1. Whisk the egg and buttermilk in a medium bowl. Soak chicken pieces in egg mixture while you gather remaining ingredients.
  2. Meanwhile, in another shallow bowl combine panko with paprika, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper, to taste.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Lift chicken from buttermilk, letting excess liquid drain back into the bowl, then dip into panko and turn to coat on all sides.
  4. Carefully place chicken in oil and cook until they are golden and crispy and cooked through, about for 5-10 minutes per side.
  5. If you have the oven on to make potato wedges then you can transfer the chicken onto a baking sheet and pop them in the oven to keep warm/finish cooking whilst you cook your veg.
The buttermilk and egg mixture is enough for 1 pound of chicken. Adjust amount of breadcrumbs accordingly.
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