Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Chinese New Year 2009


It was fortunate that the height of the Chinese New Year celebrations were not spoiled by the onslaught of snow that hit London later that same night. The air was bitterly cold and it began to snow in sporadic sessions here and there, but it was not enough to cripple the celebrations as yet.
Gerard St in London's Chinatown was packed with revellers, all with cameras at the ready. I never felt so less out of place with my camera in hand and it was more a question of who didn't have their camera than who did.

Here's a few pics of what went down that day:


Dragon's Beard candy in the making. It can be likened in texture to Fairy Floss (Cotton Candy) or Pashmak, a confection that is traditionally made using honey and rock sugar. There were two of these stalls demonstrating how apparently easy it was to make the candy. A little rolling, a little rubbing, then some pulling and a little slight of hand and there you have yourself some Dragon's Beard candy. It was like a magic trick. They were selling them for £3 per box.

A familiar sight at any Chinatown you go to are the ducks hanging from the restaurant windows inviting hungry passer-bys into the shop. Sweet buns were also selling fast.


It started snowing quite quickly, but disappeared as fast as it appeared. It later turned into the infamous snowfall that crippled London the next day.

As you can see, it was blaringly obvious everywhere you went what year it was on the Chinese zodiac, the year of the Ox. This man was getting really into character.



Everyone followed the beat of the drum and the dance of the dragon as it made its way through the streets and warded off evil spirits as it is fabled to do.



Chinatown became a sea of red, as lanterns floated above you along the laneways. And trinkets for good luck hanged across each stall goading children and adults alike.



Thursday, February 05, 2009

Snow Day


Last Monday, most of Britain was covered in what has been touted as the heaviest snowfall in 20 years. Most of the London public transport ground to a halt, as it's already fragile transport system couldn't cope with what they claimed were "adverse weather conditions", even though Paris and Italy, who were hit with the same amount of snow didn't even bat an eyelid. It's amazing that such a progressive city like London can be halted by a foot of snow, especially when so many other places seem to manage just fine despite getting larger snowfalls than we do here.


But what these supposed adverse weather conditions did bring was a chance for most of Britain to have the day off work and school. All my routes to work had been suspended by the morning and even if I had decided to hoof it work, I wasn't sure how I was going to make it back home in one piece. And I already had a slight taste of the temperamental nature of the London tubes, especially the District Line, when trains were delayed because of leaves on the track! Not sure what kind of leaves these were, but I was envisioning giant killer leaves with sharp tendrils and a cantankerous disposition. So the only thing left to do that day was to call it a snow day and make the most out of London being turned into a winter wonderland.


So we trudged out into the white expanse and made a snowman, got into a few few snow fights and most of all just frolicked like we were 10 again. There's nothing like snow to bring the kid out of anyone. People were out and about despite the cold, strangers were smiling and talking to each other, which in a city, is almost as rare as the abominable snowman, and people were snapping away at every possible angle like giddy tourists. When you see normally nonchalant Londoners taking photos, then you know this isn't something that happens everyday.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Keen For Quinoa

Quinoa Lunch Bowl

You might be interested to know that I've been storing up fats this winter, hoping to insulate myself from the icy climes that my Australian disposition is unaccustomed to. And with the storing up of fats comes, well, not surprisingly enough- an unwelcome heftiness around the belly, however, I find myself still feeling an overall sense of coldness inside.

So despite all this fat storing, my condition hasn't changed. There's something impertinent about this cold that seems to seep through all my layers, regardless of what seems like the most impermeable thermal layering on my part. Perhaps I'm just not meant for this weather? But I really do love London, even her rainy days, just not the way she bites in the cold. All I have to say is thank-God for double-glazed windows, something I've come to love over the past few months.

Quinoa for Lunch

So, I'm afraid that this pot-belly I've acquired ain't getting any smaller and this weather is the perfect breeding ground for the flu. And, after flicking through my flickr account, I've stumbled upon a forgotten dish I made last June using quinoa- that much revered grain of the Incas. Just like now, this was made at a time when I was needing something nutritious, but something that didn't seem too healthy. Like when your parents try to hide vegetables into your food hoping you were none the wiser. Despite my penchant for desserts I do love healthy meals, although if someone ever tells me they eat only bread made of sprouted grains and drink nothing other than non-homogenised, unpasturised milk, and everything raw, I'll probably give them some look of bemusement.

This dish is healthy, but doesn't wreak of wholesomeness in that elitist sort of way that looks down on anything that has touched a stove. The quinoa grain, grown in the heights of the Andes is a quiet achiever, unbeknownst to most, quinoa boasts a solid reputation for its nutritional potency. Packed with vitamins– phosphorous, magnesium, zinc and iron, plus loads of fibre, it can pride itself as the only grain that is a complete protein, containing all 8 amino acids required by the body. And not to mention it's gluten free, so it's perfect for coeliacs; but really, it's perfect for anyone. So don't mess with the quinoa.

Quinoa Lunch Bowl

Frankly I don't know why quinoa isn't getting more of a rap. It's perfect. It's the kind of food that you can feed your kids knowing you won't have to disguise them as something else less healthy. And it's possibilities are endless, it might even oust rice as my favourite starch of choice, as it's just as fluffy but packs a bigger punch.

Aside from harping on about quinoa, you might know about my fascination with Eumundi Smokehouse sausages, namely in:
In The Closet, And A Really Good Pizza Recipe
Australians All Let Us Rejoice
All The Way, With Carbs Today
Lifting The Fog
And this post is no different. This time I used Chicken and Chilli sausages. It was perfectly juicy and even when a little overcooked, an oversight on my part, it didn't dry out.

Chilli Chicken Sausages from Eumundi Smokehouse

I cannot mention it enough how much I miss Eumundi Smokehouse products, although I might have found some answers to this stark absence of Eumundi in my life. Aside from the various farmer's markets around London, there are a number of online grocers and butchers that are selling a large range of gourmet sausages in the UK. Here are some to name a few, if you happen to live in London:
Abel & Cole- organic grocer
Heap to Home- mail order sausages and bacon
Biggles- gourmet sausage supplier (wholesale and retail), home delivery, Marylebone store.

This quinoa dish is something you can easily whip up and eat in no time. Also it's completely versatile and open to adaptation, maybe toss a few root vegetables in with the quinoa, or eat it with a side of broccoli instead. The possibilities are infinite. I shows it doesn't take that long to get a proper meal going and this is certainly proof. Half an hour in a kitchen to eat something wholesome and sound, or a microwave dish zapped in 60 seconds devoid of any flavour and nutrition- I know which one I would choose.

Quinoa Lunch Bowl
Inspired by this recipe
Serves 4

Quinoa Lunch Bowl

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small brown onion, diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
250g mushrooms
1 cup Quinoa
500ml stock (whichever is your preference, in this recipe I used chicken)*
sea salt and black pepper
parsley, roughly chopped
8 gourmet sausages
*You might need to add more stock or water if you see that the quinoa is drying up.

olive oil
5 cloves of garlic finely chopped
400g green beans, cut into thirds
sea salt

In a medium pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.
Fry onions until soft and translucent.
Add the garlic, chilli and mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes.
Add the quinoa and stock and stir to combine.
Cover pan and allow to simmer for approximately 20 minutes or until the quinoa has taken all the liquid and is translucent. The quinoa should be soft with a slight bite, if not, then add some water and cook further.
Meanwhile, grill sausages until cooked. Slice before serving

Heat olive oil in a pan.
Add garlic and beans and fry until beans have become a bright green colour.
Season with salt.

Assemble qunioa, sausages and green beans into a bowl and serve.