Food reviews and recipes

The Poor Girl’s Guide to Yakisoba

I cannot wait for February to end.

Mainly because it means that it will be March, and I will be on holiday,  but also because I’ve just looked at my bank account to see that my balance is horribly depleted (mostly due to my frivolous spending). Mercifully, payday is close by, but as I scour the kitchen shelves to feed myself this feeling brought me back to my days as a student, and what I used to cook at university.

My idea of fast food growing up was my mom making me yakisoba, or fried Japanese noodles. I always seem to have the ingredients for my cobbled-together, frugal version of this meal to hand. It is by no means the proper, traditional recipe (so please don’t tell my old-school Japanese grandmother), but it is cheap, healthy and tasty which is fine by me.

The first time I cooked for Mr. A, I attempted to impress him by making yakisoba. Unfortunately it’s not one of those dishes you can just leave on the stove and come back to – it needs constant supervision. At the time, I was too busy paying attention to him instead and all the noodles clumped together to make one super noodle. It was seriously embarrassing and Mr. A referred to it as ‘noodle surprise’. Luckily he lived above a chip shop in Manchester at the time so neither of us were subjected to this monstrosity.

However, I like to think that I have learned many things since my time at university and how to cook noodles properly is one of them. For this recipe, you will need:

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What you’ll need:
Packet of udon or rice noodles
Spring onions
1 tbsp of oil (I used sesame)
4 tbsp soy sauce
Dash of Worcester sauce
Egg
Mayonnaise
Dried seaweed, nori
Peas
Garlic

If you have bought dried noodles, start to boil them in a saucepan. Ready to cook noodles can go in towards the end. Once the pan has come to a boil, strain the noodles and the rinse the noodles with cold water. This will keep them from clumping up (and becoming Super Noodle, or Noodle Surprise). They will be heated through again once they are fried.

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In a frying pan or wok, fry the spring onions and garlic in a wok on a high heat with a dash of pepper until they are lightly toasted. Add the soy and worcester sauce, then turn down the heat.

IMG_7518Pour the noodles into the pan with the sauce and vegetables.

IMG_7521Stir through until each noodle is coated in the sauce, and add the peas. As you would with a carbonara, crack an egg into the noodle mixture and stir it through so that the egg is incorporated into the mixture. (If you are vegan, you can leave the egg out, it will not make much difference). Once the egg has cooked, dish out the noodles.

IMG_7523Once served, add a little mayonnaise and sprinkle the nori seaweed on top. The nori will give it a crunchy texture. I love nori. So much that I named my cat after it.

And there you have it! This dish is pretty versatile – it is easily vegan friendly (just leave out the egg and mayo), and if you’re one of those people who can’t accept a meal without meat in it then this is a great meal to have with bacon. Just use sparingly, if you insist on keeping the mayo in, too.

 

Restaurant Review: The Bear Inn, Stock

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As much as I love London, there are times you need to get away for a bit to clear your head. It makes me appreciate it more when I’m back. This weekend I went to stay with family and I re-visited one of my favourite gastropubs – The Bear Inn, in Stock.

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The Bear is really cosy on the inside, with beautiful exposed beams and decorated with eccentric trinkets throughout. The owners, Richard and Brenda, have really done it up beautifully, but what always gets me coming back is the amazing food.

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I started off my meal with a trio of pan-fried scallops, which topped a grilled tomato and pea puree. Scallops can be a bit hit-or-miss: but even looking at the picture of my starter is making my mouth water again!

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I ended up having the Bear burger (unfortunately not actually made of bear), which came with red onion salsa, coleslaw and french fries. The burger was perfect and the salsa to die for. This is the type of English food I missed so much when I was abroad! It all washed down well with my glass of Chilean merlot. I ended up opting out of having a dessert, but when I was surrounded by amazingly presented banoffee pies and creme brulees I got food envy all over again. A mistake I won’t be making next time!

If you’re ever in the neighbourhood I suggest you check it out – you won’t regret it.

Wasabi and White Chocolate Cupcakes

A few years ago a woman named Naomi Moriyama published a cookbook called ‘Japanese Women Don’t Get Old or Fat: Secrets of my Mother’s Kitchen’.

I have absolutely no need for this book because as a Japanese woman I know the secret – copious amounts of sake and binge-watching Studio Ghibli films, clearly. All jokes aside, a lot of Japanese cuisine is very healthy, practical as well as flavourful – a theme I hope to explore more within this blog. Take wasabi, for instance. Wasabi is a type of Japanese horseradish, often served in the form of a paste. Historically, wasabi played an important role in the development of Japanese cuisine. The anti-microbial properties of wasabi were really important before domestic refrigeration was a common thing. This is part of the reason why it was served with sushi (top tip: nothing comes close to toro, a type of fatty tuna sashimi with some soy sauce and wasabi).

Wasabi has a hotness to it – if you have too much, you can feel it in your nose. It’s not the same heat you feel with chilli, and is more similar to mustard. It’s great for if you have blocked up sinuses, and they have even developed fire alarms for deaf people using wasabi. How practical is that?

Going back to Naomi Moriyama’s book here for a second – I have never read it. Only because I know that Japanese women do get old, just not like the rest of us. Check out this diagram below:

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Source

See? And in order not to perpetuate this stereotype further I’ve got a recipe here that’ll make them fat, too!

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I had a lot of fun making these white chocolate and wasabi cupcakes. Check out the link at Baking Mad for the full recipe! I ended up having to make my own paste from powder, something I’ve never done before – but it was so simple and actually quite relaxing. It felt unnerving and unnatural to put wasabi into a cake recipe – I’m so used to snacking on savoury wasabi treats like peas but the flavour went really well with the buttercream, which I find can be a little too sweet sometimes.

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Mmm. Spicy, sweet buttery goodness.

Poker Night Buffalo Wings

Last weekend I hosted a poker night at my house. I say hosted, as I didn’t end up participating – I don’t know how to play poker (at 22? how embarrassing, I know). This was somewhat of a surprise to my friend Nancy and her boyfriend, who felt that I had lured them there under somewhat false pretenses. So my Saturday night consisted of a group of neuroscientists, an engineer and a former paleontologist around my dining table, several pizzas and countless gin and tonics. It was a great success, something I’d partially like to attribute to my excellent buffalo wings.

The history of the buffalo wing is a bit unclear, but most people agree that it originates from Buffalo, New York. There was another American in attendance that evening, and I knew he’d appreciate a buffalo wing to go with all the San Miguels we’d bought for the night ahead. Buffalo wings are a great accompaniment for beer, and are easy to make in batches, making them the perfect bar food.

What You'll Need: 200g plain flour (or rice flour for gf) 1 tsp cajun spice 1 tsp chilli powder 1 tsp cayenne pepper pepper salt 150ml hot sauce (I used Frank's Red Hot) 50g salted butter plastic bag

What You’ll Need:
200g plain flour (or rice flour for gf)
1 tsp cajun spice
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
150ml hot sauce (I used Frank’s Red Hot)
50g salted butter
plastic bag
16 chicken wings

Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees, and grease a baking tray, then set to one side. In a saucepan, start melting the butter on a low heat. In a bowl, combine the flour, cajun spice, chilli powder and cayenne pepper, and pour into a plastic bag. Put the chicken wings inside the plastic bag, seal the top and shake until each wing is coated in the flour mixture. Some folks like to put the floured chicken into the fridge to marinade for half an hour or so, but I skipped this step as tensions surrounding the game were already high – no need for extra stress!

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Once the butter has melted in the pan, stir in the hot sauce and let simmer before taking it off the heat.

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Once the sauce has cooled slightly, dip each wing in the pan until it is covered in the liquid, then place on the baking tray. Once completed, pop the wings in the oven for 45 minutes. After the first 20 minutes, turn each wing over so each side crisps up evenly.

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And there you have it! Serve with a cold beer while watching your favourite team win at the Olympics (or, more realistically, whilst looking perplexed at all the sports you didn’t even know existed).

Restaurant Review: Rex Whistler at the Tate Britain

On Saturday, as a post-Valentine’s treat I was lucky enough to be taken to the most amusing room in Europe.

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At least, that’s how the Rex Whistler restaurant was described when it was first unveiled in 1927. As you enter the restaurant, you become surrounded by ‘The Expedition in Pursuit of Rare Meats’, a mural composed by Rex Whistler. According to the menu, Joseph Duveen, a benefactor of the Tate commissioned the mural in the hopes that others would do the same for young artists. I loved the idea, the history and the attention to detail behind the restaurant. What could be better than being served plates of art, surrounded by art?

I started off with a French 75, a gin cocktail made with sugar, lemon and sparkling wine, as well as a pork terrine with rhubarb chutney. Mr. A had a smoked mackerel pate which instantly gave me food envy and was too beautiful not to photograph.

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This was followed by slow-cooked lamb with celeriac gratin for me, and lemon sole with anise herbs and mussel sauce for my date.

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2014-02-15 09.09.59For dessert I had rhubarb (again) poached in sparkling wine with vanilla blancmange, and Mr. A had Cranachan, a Scottish dessert not dissimilar to a parfait, but with oats.

I think my favorite part of my experience at the Rex Whistler restaurant, besides the mural itself, was the wine match. They had an incredible wine list, and you could get your wine matched perfectly with each course. I loved not having to commit to a bottle, and the wine complemented each dish beautifully. So beautifully, in fact, that I was feeling rather merry at the end of my lunch, so we sobered up had a bit of a wander around the Turner exhibit, and visited some old favourites.

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2014-02-15 10.27.01The Rex Whistler restaurant is open for lunch until 3pm – and after that only open for afternoon tea until five. I would highly recommend it as part of a cultural day out in London, or if you wanted to impress a date with an amazing wine list.

It was such a beautiful day outside that we had a bit of a walk before we headed back up to North London, where we had to prepare for a very different cultural activity – keeping hungry scientists happy at poker night!

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Rex Whistler: 3 Stars (3 / 5)