Sunday, 28 February 2016

Visiting Hong Kong & Beijing

I visited Hong Kong and Beijing in September last year and I've been meaning to talk about what I got up to there for a while, especially the food I saw and ate! I went to Hong Kong with my boyfriend to visit some friends of ours. I've actually been to Beijing twice before, a long time ago in 1999 and 2001. So it was really cool to go back there and see what had changed in that time. The Olympics were held in Beijing in 2008 so there has been a lot of regeneration of the city between my visits.

We started our trip in Beijing at The Great Wall of China. We visited the Mutianyu section. I'd previously been to Badaling, which is the more well known and busier section. However I really loved Mutianyu as you take a chair lift up to the wall, and you can ride a luge down - so much fun! There are some breathtaking views from the Wall, but get ready to do some serious walking!

Our guide in Beijing took us to this awesome traditional steamed dumpling place. We really enjoyed the vegetarian dumplings on offer, as well as noodles with signature Beijing sauce. Food is very cheap in Beijing and also the portion sizes are extremely generous! We took the leftovers from this meal back to our hotel and had it for our evening meal too.

Autumn Festival was being celebrated during our visit and we saw moon cakes everywhere. These pastries are filled with a red bean or lotus bean paste and often have an egg yolk in the middle too.

Dates were also very popular and I saw them at markets and street stalls everywhere. Although, they were green or red and looked much harder in texture than the brown sticky dates I am used to seeing in the UK. They are a different kind of date called Jujubes, or Chinese dates.

The bakeries in Beijing showcased such perfect looking cakes, pastries and bread. Everything was so neat and tidy! They love to use very light sponge, fruit to decorate and uniformity is their speciality!

Other places we visited in Beijing included the Temple of Heavens, Tiananmen Square, The Summer Palace, The Forbidden City, The Ming Tombs, Beihai Park and the Lama Temple. I really must recommend our guide service, Catherine Lu Tours, they took us everywhere in Beijing and helped us with everything from getting tickets to ordering food. They were so patient and gracious at every moment.

Back in Hong Kong, we visited the Hello Kitty cafe. It was a very fun place to visit, and Hello Kitty's face was all over the walls, tables, light fittings and windows. The food was definitely style over substance. It looked amazing, but lacked in taste. However, it was certainly a unique place to visit for a one off!

Ok, now these beautiful things were my absolute favourite treats of the entire holiday! They are Portugese custard tarts from Macau. Macau is a similar kind of place to Hong Kong, in that it used to be owned by another country (Portugal), and has now been handed back to the Chinese. A lot of the Portugese influence and culture still remains, such as these divine tarts. Macau is known as the 'Vegas of the East' as it's full of casinos! There are two cafes that compete over who sells the best custard tarts, and these ones were from Margaret's Cafe e Nata. I could've eaten the whole box!

We visited Macau for the day, you can just get on a boat from Hong Kong and it takes about an hour to get there. You do need your passport to enter and leave Macau. We also found it quite tricky to walk around, it's not very pedestrian friendly. The most popular site there is the Ruins of St Paul, but I'd probably only return to get more custard tarts!!

Once we climbed the 431 steps up to the 10,000 Buddhas Monastery we found their vegetarian cafe at the top. It was great to find a veggie only place as we did struggle throughout the holiday to find vegetarian food. We really enjoyed the fish shaped fried potato dish above with sweet and sour sauce and rice.

At Victoria Peak, the most popular viewing spot in Hong Kong, we checked out the Forrest Gump themed restaurant Bubba Gump. They served some brightly coloured cocktails and extremely generous portions of shrimps. The garlic shrimp pictured above is meant to be a starter, but I could barely finish it as a main dish, even though the shrimp was so succulent and tasty.

We went to a food court called Food Republic at the City Gate outlet in Tung Chung. The whole place was busy with people and the food options were vast and varied. Again, we struggled with vegetarian options for my boyfriend. He got some rice with steamed vegetables and I had a won ton soup.

The Pottinger bar at The Mercer hotel was a super swanky place with a roof terrace area. They served such fun and unique cocktails including the True Blood themed 'blood bag' cocktail above. If you watch the show True Blood, you will really appreciate this cocktail!

We also checked out a Thai restaurant called Sala Thai and I really enjoyed the dish above. It was very similar to a chow mein. They also served these delicious fruit iced teas that were far too easy to slurp down!

So that was out trip to China! We had a great time visting our friends, seeing the sights and trying lots of new food. If you are planning a trip to Beijing or Hong Kong please feel free to ask me any questions and I'll be happy to help!

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Cardamom & Sea Salt Chocolate Ganache Tart (Vegan & Gluten Free)

A while back the kind people at signed me up for 3 magazine subscriptions of my choice. (If you follow my blog you may remember this delicious Coconut Bar Cake I made from Olive magazine.) So this time round I got my first issue of Veggie magazine through the letterbox. I chose all food related magazines for my subscriptions - obviously! As we're a vegetarian friendly household I'm always looking out for new veggie recipes so it was the perfect fit.

Veggie magazine is completely vegetarian, from it's recipes to the beauty and skincare products it recommends. It also includes some vegan and gluten free recipes. My sister is vegan and we've recently found a love of baking together so when we do we of course make vegan friendly treats. So this chocolate tart was an easy choice to make as it's vegan, and sounded damn delicious!

I started by making the tart base which involved gently warming 75g coconut oil and 4 tbsp maple syrup in a pan. Once it melted together I added 150g dessicated coconut and 2 tbsp cocoa powder and mixed in.

I pressed the base into a tart tin making sure to pack it as tightly as I could and also cover the sides. I decided to use my rectangular tin as I love the elegant look of a tart this shape.

I baked the base on 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 15 minutes, I left it to cool. Do put it on a baking tray when in the oven as some of the coconut oil will leak out.

I made the filling by warming 270ml coconut cream, 1 tsp ground cardamom and a pinch of salt until just simmering. I then left it to thicken for 10 minutes with a lid on the pan.

I added 100g 70% dark chocolate to the coconut cream and stirred until it melted. If you want this to be a vegan tart make sure the chocolate doesn't contain any milk ('may contain' is ok as this is related to people who have allergies).

I poured the ganache into the tart base and put it in the fridge for 2 hours to set. Once set I decorated it with raspberries and a sprinkling of salt. You could decorate it with any fresh berries you like, or some grated dark chocolate, or leave it plain.

Wow this tart was decadent! The filling was so rich and creamy with the perfect chocolate hit. The cardamom lingered delicately in the background and the sea salt provided the perfect kick. The base was deliciously crunchy, it all came together so well. This is a dessert that can be enjoyed by vegans and non-vegans alike, and would be perfect for a dinner party where your guests have mixed dietary needs.

I'm entering this into We Should Cocoa hosted by Tin & Thyme. The theme this month is butter, or coconut oil for vegan recipes.

And the Sunday Fitness & Food Link Up hosted by Marathons & Motivations and Ilkas Blog.

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Cardamom & Sea Salt Chocolate Ganache Tart (Vegan & Gluten Free)
  • 75g Coconut oil
  • 4 tbsp Maple Syrup
  • 150g Dessicated coconut
  • 2 tbsp Cocoa powder
  • 270ml Coconut cream
  • 1 tsp Ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 100g 70% dark chocolate
  • 10 Fresh raspberries
Gently warm the coconut oil and maple syrup in a pan. Once melted, add the dessicated coconut and cocoa powder and mix inPress the base into a tart tin, pack it tightly along the bottom and sidesBake the base in the tart tin, but also on a baking tray, on 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 15 minutes. Then leave to coolMake the filling by warming the coconut cream, ground cardamom and a pinch of the salt until just simmering. Then leave it to thicken for 10 minutes with a lid on the panAdd the dark chocolate to the coconut cream and stir until meltedPour the filling into the tart base and put it in the fridge for 2 hours to set. Once set decorate with raspberries and a sprinkling of salt

Monday, 15 February 2016

Leftovers Savoury Bread Bake

I am always looking for ways to use up leftovers as food waste is something I really can't stand. Did you know that we throw away 7 million tonnes of food every year? Reducing food waste not only helps the environment, but it helps your bank account too! We're so lucky to have access to piles of food whenever we need it that most people forget it isn't like that everywhere in the world. So, I think it's really important to try not to waste any of it. Joseph Joseph and Love Food Hate Waste have joined forces against food waste this month and in order to help with their campaign I've created this savoury version of a bread pudding, which you can fill and flavour with a variety of leftovers. It will also easily feed a family of four.

I love Joseph Joseph's Nest Storage Set for storing leftovers in. They are space saving in your cupboard when they are not filled with leftovers as they all stack into each other. They come in sizes perfect for taking your lunch into work, storing cupcakes and biscuits or of course any leftovers in the fridge! Plus they're colour coded so you can quickly match up the tubs to their lids.

The leftovers I had in my fridge were half an onion, a red pepper and about 8 cherry tomatoes. You could also put other veg in this like mushrooms, leeks, courgettes or aubergine. And if you're a meat eater, any leftover meat like chicken, chorizo or ham would work well. I pre-cooked my onion and pepper in some olive oil and garlic. I'd advise pre-cooking any veg you decide to use.

I sliced 5 slices of bread into diagonals, buttered each one, and arranged them neatly in my dish. I used my Berndes 27x18cm dish. The crust of the loaf is perfect for this recipe and often gets leftover.

I whisked up 4 eggs, 500ml semi skimmed milk and 50ml double cream. If you don't want to add the cream, just replace it with more milk. I also added 1 tsp mixed herbs and 1 tsp salt. You can add your favourite spices or herbs to flavour this to your taste.

I spooned the cooked veg in between and around the slices of bread, I then added the cherry tomatoes which I sliced in half.

I poured the egg mixture into the dish and left it to soak into the bread for 5 minutes.

Finally I sprinkled over 75g mature cheddar, and popped it into the oven on 180C/160C Fan/350F/ Gas Mark for 40 minutes.

I left it for 10 minutes or so, as it sets better together, a bit like a lasagne. Then I dug in! This bake is great served with salad, fresh spinach or any green veg like broccoli.

It was so yummy! I loved the soft eggy bread and vegetables, but then the crispy cheesey topping was equally as satisfying. This is a fabulous way to use up lots of different types of leftovers and feed hungry family and friends! For more ideas on using up leftover bread, check out Love Food Hate Waste's dedicated Use Your Loaf page.

I'm entering this bake into Simply Eggcellent, hosted by Belleau Kitchen. This month's theme is anything goes!

And into the No Waste Food Challenge hosted by Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary.

And this month's Credit Crunch Munch hosted by Fuss Free Flavours and Fab Food 4 All.

And Extra Veg hosted by Utterly Scrummy and Fuss Free Flavours.

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Leftovers Savoury Bread Bake
  • 1/2 an Onion
  • 8 Cherry tomatos
  • 1 tbsp Olive oil
  • 2 cloves of Garlic
  • 1 Red pepper
  • 5 slices of Bread
  • Butter
  • 4 Eggs
  • 500ml Semi skimmed milk
  • 50ml Double cream
  • 1 tsp Mixed herbs
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 75g Mature cheddar
Dice up then fry the onion, garlic and pepper in the olive oilSlice the into diagonals, butter each piece, and arrange them neatly in a 27x18cm dishWhisk up the eggs, milk and double cream. Add the mixed herbs and saltSpoon the cooked veg in between and around the slices of bread, then slice the cherry tomatoes in half and add them tooPour the egg mixture into the dish and leave it to soak into the bread for 5 minutesSprinkle over the mature cheddar, and pop it into the oven on 180C/160C Fan/350F/ Gas Mark for 40 minutes