Sunday, 11 January 2015

Growing Zinnia on the Big Allotment Challenge (Ep. 1)

Zinnia garden in August - masses of blooms (shown at the front is Zinnia Sprite, Zinnia Giant Dahlia mix)
While working on the Big Allotment Challenge last year, the gardeners were tasked with growing Zinnia for the Week 1 Floral challenge.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Foraging for Christmas decorations

With Christmas just around the corner, I feel inspired to make some nature themed Christmas decorations for our home. It's my fourth Christmas in England, and as each year goes by, I learn more about British traditions from friends and family and am particularly intrigued by the tradition of foraging for natural resources to hand craft Christmas decorations during the festive season.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Aubergines in Sambal

Aubergine / Eggplant in sambal recipe ...

Tantalising tender velvety aubergine with spicy sambal

Whether you call them aubergines, eggplants or brinjal, one thing that we can all agree on is that cooking this deep coloured fruit/vegetable can be tricky. They seem to absorb all the oil from the pan almost immediately and can take forever to soften; and even after extensive cooking can still be tough.  How do you achieve silkiness rathern than chewiness?

Friday, 12 December 2014

Big Allotment Challenge - I'm in!

Big Allotment Challenge - official photo (courtesy Silver River Productions)

I am so excited to fiiiiinally be able to tell you what I got up to this past summer.

Earlier this year, I was asked to take part in a gardening contest on a television series called The Big Allotment Challenge (Series 2)!!! Woohoo!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Make your own Sambal Chilli Paste using fresh chillies

Favourite chilli paste recipe using fresh chillies ...

This is a fragrant, smoky chilli paste that can be added to noodles, fried rice, stir-fries, casseroles.

Recently, I entered a chilli competition run by Victoriana Nursery and ended up winning 5 kilos - yes, 5 kilos of freshly picked chillies. When they arrived, I gasped. It was a biiiig box of chillies. After many hours of heavy duty pickling and freezing, I decided to use the remaining chillies to make a Malaysian chilli paste called sambal.

There are so many sambal pastes in Malaysia, some made from raw chillies, some are left to ferment and some, like the Sambal Tumis are made from cooked chillies (the word "tumis" is Malay for sauté). You know what happens to chillies when they are cooked gently over a low heat for a long time? They turn deep red and develop a kind of sweet smokiness; and tantalising flavours emerge that taste completely unlike it in its raw form.

To make this sambal paste, you will need to de-seed the chillies, which is actually not as tedious as it sounds. I don't wear gloves, but most people would advise you to. Having spent my childhood years in Malaysia means that I have no fear of chillies, nor the heat, nor the inevitable burning sensation which comes with handling them. Its not that I don't feel the burn, it is just that it doesn't bother me.

The chillies you choose for your sambal will depend on your taste and tolerance threshold. I prefer to use a combination of medium and hot chillies, so that the end-result is palatable and does not cause pain.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Tomato sauce for pasta with end of season tomatoes

Harvest Tomatoes
Tomato harvest 

Tomato sauce for pasta using end-of-season tomatoes...

I really can't believe it is that time of the year again... all of a sudden a chill is noticeable in the air, the evenings start to get dark before you know it, and it is time to harvest the laaaast of the vine ripened tomatoes. Yup, it is officially the end of summer.

Over the last few months, we have enjoyed eating the sweetest tomatoes plucked straight from the vine. Often, they are eaten just as they are, sometimes simply sliced thinly then topped with capers and finely diced red onion.  But these colder days call for something warming like a tasty homemade tomato sauce made from fresh tomatoes.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Five chilli peppers to grow and eat...

Grow Chillies (Apache, Cheyenne, Basket of Fire, Scotch Bonnet)
(L-R) A plate of harvested chillies; "Basket of Fire" chillies growing in container  

This time of year, there is no shortage of homegrown chillies, and this year, my chilli line-up includes Apache, Cheyenne, Hungarian Hot Wax, Basket of Fire and Scotch Bonnet.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Quinoa, Tofu, Wakame Seaweed in egg drop broth

Kale salad
Quinoa, tofu, wakame seaweed & coriander in egg drop broth 

Quinoa and tofu in broth that is just perfect for breakfast ...

Breakfast on the weekend doesn't always have to involve a greasy fry-up.  Sometimes, you simply want a cooked breakfast that is simultaneously hot, tasty, nutritious and doesn't involve three thousand calories.  I miss living in Hong Kong when a steaming bowl of rice congee was just a hop, skip and elevator ride down to the main street level away.  Which is why I am loving this recipe for quinoa in an egg drop broth filled with tofu, wakame seaweed and fresh coriander and spring onions.  It's a nutritious way to start the day and is surprisingly satisfying.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Warm Kale & Artichoke Salad with toasted almonds

Kale salad
Kale, artichoke salad tossed in anchovies and toasted almonds

Green leafy kale salad bursting with flavour and crunch...

It is early spring and the days have just started to get warmer, but there is still a noticeable chill in the air.  Today, I feel like a salad that is full of leafy green goodness that is warm, comforting and full of flavour and texture.  And I have just the thing, for kale, pan-fried, is seriously tasty, and even more so, when combined with the bold saltiness of anchovies, flavourful artichokes and crunchy toasted flaked almonds.