Sunday, 29 July 2012

Eating my way around Hong Kong Part 4: More is more in Hong Kong aka mango madness

When you need a cool drink and you will, frequently, in 30 degree heat wit 80% humidity there is a Starbucks and MacDonalds on every corner, literally they are everywhere! Obviously carrying water at all times is a must, but sometimes you will yearn to sit down in freezer like air conditioning and I’m not a snob about where this comes from, especially when you need it immediately.

But first, a HK native and therefore lesser known delight...
There isn’t an english version of the website, but you can definitely get the jest of what’s available from the photos, its like nothing we know in London, unless you have had some bubble tea in Soho.

Mango madness
More is more with a frapp ;)
From what I can tell, almost everything has mango in it. Whether its a drink or a dessert (and maybe with a side order of chicken wings). I had a mango and coconut juice, but why just have juice when you can add jelly, why not? So thats mango juice, coconut juice and mango juice. Interesting (in a good way) flavour and texture. Ice cold and such a relief from the heat. A lot of the other drinks had glutenious balls of some description, more is after all more.

Continuing with the theme that more is more, the starbucks frappicunios are more pimped in HK. There the tea with earl grey jelly and choc chip, which was a little too out there for me. And the green tea frapp, but its no good without adding the red beans, a classic chinese favour.

And the amazing Himalayan Iced Tea for MacDonalds, which in HK pretty much means you can get it 24 hours a day. It was a very sweet and creamy tea, I loved it. The Ice Soy Green Tea was very strong and grassy, I have a daily shot of Macha, but this was more intense in flavour and much more of an acquired taste.

Hong Kong McD specials

The HK equivelant to Starbuck’s is The Pacific Coffee Company, which also has many delightful coffee and iced treats (and pastries), should you be that way inclined.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Gluten Free Mexican

I haven't found it easy to get gluten free Mexican food in London, so I have started making my own. It took sometime for me to find the right packaging for the lovely contents. The contents is easy to make gluten free, its the content-carry which is a bit more tricky... things like tortillas, tacos and the like. I am very happy to have Mexican back!

For the contents, which serves two
1 red peppers
1 medium red onion 
2 skinless chicken breasts
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Small pinch of cumin
1 lime
Olive oil
Salt & pepper 
Soya Yoghurt 
Tub of guacamole
100g grated (lactose-free) cheese

For the salsa 
1/2 fresh red chilli 
15 ripe cherry tomatoes 
Small bunch of coriander
Salt & pepper 
1 lime
Extra virgin olive oil   

The method
Halve and deseed the pepper and cut into thin strips.

Peel, halve and finely slice the onion. 

Slice the chicken into thin strips. 

Put the peppers, onion and chicken into a bowl with the cumin, paprika juice of the lime, a big lug of olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix them altogether really well. Let them marinate for 5 minutes.

For the salsa, finely chop the chilli.

Roughly chop the tomatoes and coriander.

Put all this into another bowl with salt, pepper and the juice of 1 lime. Add good lug of the extra virgin olive oil, mix well.  
Put a griddle pan on a high heat and let it heat up for a minute.

Put the pepper, onion and chicken into the griddle pan. Use a pair of tongs to keep everything moving. It will take 6-8 minutes, and then its done. 

Put a serving of the yoghurt, guacamole and cheese on each plate with half the contents from the griddle pan. 

I took the recipe from Jamie's Ministry of Food (one of my favourite cookbooks).

So what can you put this chicken loveliness in? 
Two gluten free vessels that I have found which I definitely recommend...

For fajitas - tortillas from the Mexican Grocer - these will need to heated up first. Put them in a warm oven for a few minutes when you start cooking the chicken. Take them out a couple of minutes before you dish up and this will allow them to cool and will be easier to handle. 

For taco I found taco trays on Ocado by Discovery - these will also need to be warmed - instructions available on the packet. 

I have tried making my own gluten free soft tortillas without success as yet. 

But I have successfully made crispy tortilla chips which I good for scoping up chicken. This recipe I got from the ever trustworthy Phil Vickery's Seriously Good Gluten Free Baking. 

The Ingredients
100g gluten free flour (I used Doves Farm plain)
50g polenta 
3/4 teapsoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 pinches of salt 
Cornflour for dusting
Veg oil for deep frying 

The method 
Add the flour, polenta, xanthan gum, baking powder and salt in a bowl. 

Add eough warm water to form a soft dough. 

Dust a chopping board with cornflour.

Remove from bowl and knead for a couple of minutes. 

Divide the dough into 6-8 pieces - making it easier to roll out. 

Dust a rolling pin with cornflour and roll a piece of dough out as thinly as possible. 

Cut into small triangles.

Repeat with each piece of dough. 

Heat the veg oil (to about 175-180c if you have a thermometer or drop a piece of bread in, if it turns golden in 30 seconds its ready)

Deep fry the tortillas until crispy on both sides.   

Drain well on kitchen paper before scoping your chicken.


Sunday, 22 July 2012

Eating my way around Hong Kong Part 3: Afternoon Tea - Let there be cake

c'est la B - cake artistry
Like the website c'est la B is beautiful done out with dark background with an injection of colour coming from the fluffy cushions, butterflies and not forgetting the cakes. In Tin Hau, but wouldn’t be out of place in London’s Soho.

It doesn’t matter what you choose, every cake is as beautiful as it is delicious, which is the way is should be. They even have a selection of gluten and sugar free cakes and mousses, happy happy happy. You will need to spend a little extra compared to most HK desserts, but its well worth it. You may be reluctant to make the strike with your fork, you will mostly certainly want to take a picture first. The artistry will soon be forgotten, the cake demolished and you’ll be left wanting more. 
This cake is officially known as 'better than sex
On the last day of my trip, afternoon tea was required, I and one of my best friends had to choose between The Peninsula with its famous and traditional tea in the lobby OR tea with a view at the Intercontinental Hotel. We choose the more relaxed Lobby Lounge of Intercontinental with a habour view.
Lounge with a view
HK amazing skyline from the lounge
The setting was art deco and beautiful and the view, of course, was impressive. 
Beautiful art deco seating - calm before the queuing storm
Pretty pretty table decoration
Afternoon starts at 14.00, but its worth getting there just before to avoid the queues, which soon appear as no booking is available and very table was soon taken. And from it bit of people watching, it seems that people like to set up for the afternoon and sit and read with their tea. Our own leisurely afternoon tea (no reading) was two hours, you need to pace yourself and take small breaks from eating all the glorious food. In the UK, traditional afternoon tea requires some smart-ish dressing and we dressed accordingly. However, it seems those in HK don’t feel the need to conform to all the traditions, which is all good. 

You can choose between a 'traditional' afternoon tea set and the ‘red box’ contemporary chinese afternoon tea set. We went for traditional afternoon tea, as did most other tables. Due to the heat outside we went for the less traditional iced tea - peach and ginger for me, which was cool and refreshing. 
Even the tea looks beautiful
 It shouldn’t be surprising, but we were surprised and delighted by the beauty (and quantity) of the food presented to us....
Amazing spread!
Petite sandwiches including egg, crab, chicken and parma ham with cream cheese. All were sampled and enjoyed, but there was more food than we could eat and cake has to be given priority.
Pastries and sandwiches in all their glory
Four large scone for two people plain and fruit, with lashings of clotted cream and either strawberry jam or earl grey jelly. 
Scone forest
 Each delightful cake was shared - nobody wants to miss out on any of these. Every new treat cause small squeals and large happy sighs of taste delight, this is what afternoon is like in heavan I would imagine. Alas it is not gluten free (The gluten free afternoon tea in London’s Claridge’s is on the same delightful level as this I am happy to say).  Everything looked amazing and each tasted as amazing as the previous delight. The selection of French Pastries included chocolate square with a zesty lemon filling, raspberry & lychee sponge (the absolute favourite), a custard cream puff, lemon mousse complete with meringue spikes and coffee & nut sponge. Wonderful, so wonderful. One day I need to go to The Peninsula to compare their afternoon tea :) 
Posh strawberry milkshake was a surprise addition half way through our tea experience

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Chocolate & Liquorice Cookies - Improved Recipe

The cookies I had previously made, tasted good but were quite crumbly and cake like in texture. This recipe, the base of which I have adapted in several ways as I have it works the best. Their texture is cake like on the first day, but by the second day they are nice and crunchy. 

The Ingredients
125g unsalted organic butter or soya / olive spread
175g xylitol
1 medium egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
150g gluten free flour
1/2 tsp gluten free baking powder
Pinch of salt
50g xylitol chocolate
50g sugar free liqourice

The Method
Preheat oven to 190oC. Place baking parchment on a baking tray.

Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a large mixing bowl.

Chop chocolate and liqourice into very small pieces. Then add the chocolate and liquorice in the flour and mix until evenly dispersed.

Put the xylitol, egg and vanilla into a measuring jug and mix well.

Gently melt the butter, once melted completely, add to the xylitol/egg/vanilla mixture and stir thoroughly.

Add the butter mixture to the flour mixture and stir until well and evenly combined. The result is a relatively runny mixture.

Using a dessert spoon dollop 12 lumps of cookie mixture onto the baking tray and shape into rough cookie-like shapes with your fingers. This make 12 quite large cookies, you can make 14-16 small cookies if you like, really depends on how greedy you are feeling at the time of baking.  
Precooked loveliness
Once ready place into the oven for 15-20 minutes.
Lessoned learned: don't stack cookies when they're still slightly warm - they stick together!

Friday, 13 July 2012

Eating My Way Around Hong Kong Part 2: Ex-Pat and Fusion Food

Life is lovely restaurant in the heart of Hong Kong SoHo for excellent veggie, vegan and gluten free, even some sugar free desserts!

Life has a busy but relaxed vibe, its pretty small and always busy, generally full of ex-pats but its pretty mixed crowd. Decorated a bit like a trendy London boho cafe, although it may not sound like everyone’s cup of tea, there is no pretentious and generally very pleasant. It also doesn’t have the freezer like air conditioning of many places in HK, its comfortable rather than goose bump inducing.

There is actually a lot of choice for gluten free dishes, everything is either vegetarian or vegan. Several dished having both gluten-y and gluten-free versions.

We started with Organic Hummus Dip and organic flaxseed crackers (which had an intense dried tomato flavour), good option for sharing a couple of starters.

I choose the gluten free version of the Capital V Pizza topped with both fresh & sun-dried tomatoes, vegan goats cheese, caramelized onions, roasted garlic and basil pesto. The topping was tasty and delightful, the ‘vegan goats cheese’ was a surprise, nicely tangy - definitely made from tofu. The base tasted good, in terms of texture it was quite thick, yet light and crumbly... What I have come to expect of gluten free pizzas. The wheat pizza bases in contrast were thin and crispy.  

Gluten Free Pizza with Vegan Goats Cheese

Wholewheat Mushroom & Rocket Pizza
I shared a Organic Flourless Chocolate Cake for dessert and good job too as it was very rich - which is a good thing but its difficult to eat it all on your own, the sharp red berry coolie was definitely a great accompaniment. This may also be something to do with the texture, which let it down a bit in MHO, being very dense and a quite dry. I did enjoy it, but it was left me wishing I had tried the sugar and gluten free Organic Chocolate Tofu Mousse Cake. 

Flourless Chocolate Cake
All in all I would recommend Life to anyone who is GF or DF in HK. 

Small, Medium, Large in a Eurasian fusion restaurant with a novel approach to its portions - everything is available in small, medium and large and thus suited to any appetite! We found that a couple of medium size dishes is prefect for a light lunch.  

The fusion of the menu was reflected in mixture of diners, it was busy and a quite noisy with happy eaters, in Times Square, Causeway Bay - on the 11th floor. And this is what I really began to appreciate on this trip. If you only look for food on the ground floor level, you’re going to miss so much. In Hong Kong you always have to look up. The food court in Times Square is in a Sky Scrapper as is also everything else, apart from temples and parks.

From the ‘land’ section of menu we choose crispy pork belly with red cabbage & apple coleslaw - amazing! Being a reformed veggie of about 1.5 years so far (and never going back), my appreciation of pork belly is very new and I was delighted with the thin crispy yet tender SML pork belly. We teamed this with wild rocket with shaved Parmesan & balsamic dressing from the ‘raw & green’ section of the menu, also wonderful. There is definitely a sense of fun that comes through the menu and eating should be fun.

One word of warning, for SML and many other restaurants in HK, service is wagamama style, as in dishes come out when they are ready, without much concern to whether or not everyones food is ready at the same time. It just seems to be the way it is.

If you are just a bit peckish or absolutely ravenous on Hong Kong Island, SML is a good choice, with lots of choice for everyone. 

I was lucky enough to be invited by one of my best friend’s to a traditional (yet modern) banquet their mum was throwing for family and friends in honour of grandchild number 1!  It took place in the rather swanky Shanghai Min, which obviously serves Shanghainese cuisine. It was quite an experience, with an overwhelming number of courses at least 15 of them. There were many fab seafood dishes, although the sea cucumber was a little to exotic for me to finish.
Selection of starters - chicken, ribs bean curd & jelly fish
The Jasmine pudding was light & moussy, sweet and fragment and generally delightful. Every dish looked like a piece of art, in particular the spectacular sugar sculpture - definitely a foodie adventure. 
Jasmine Pudding
Sugar art

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Eating my way around Hong Kong Part 1

I am lucky with my food intolerances that I can eat some of what I shouldn’t really and as long as I detox afterwards, I am generally OK, although its not ideal. This is what I did in Hong Kong, so my posts about HK will contain a lot of food that contains dairy, gluten and sugar, but some free form food as well.

If you are wanting traditional when in Hong Kong then Dim Sum at the Luk Yu Tea House is a must. This is an old school tea house, that’s been around for a long time (1933). Located in Central, in the heart of the modern ex-pat fast pace business district, Luk Yu is a complete contrast, like stepping into another world, in another time. 

Luk Yu: Another place, another time
Everything about Luk Yu was delightful, from the decor to the teaware and cutlery, to the menu, where you make your selection bingo style by circling your choices and tearing for the menu sheet to hand to your waiter. They do have an English version of the menu, but I was lucky enough to be with a native speaker, which always helps. We also compared menus and found it to be accurately translated, which doesn’t happen everywhere.

Delicate teaware @ Luk Yu
Dim Sum bingo sheet
We went at 4PM for a very late lunch, and found the place to be empty, which I understand is very unusual with such a popular place and so many long standing, regular customers.

We ordered Chinese Tea and 4 Dim Sum dishes, which is more than enough for 2 people with such generous portions. The waiter also thought we had ordered quite a lot, and told us so :)

Steamed barbecued pork bun - by far my favourite (although all the food was delicious). The buns, made from rice flour, were light and fluffy, the closest I have come to imagining that I was eating a cloud. A cloud with sweet and tender bbq pork inside. 

Steamed buns
Another dish was steamed rice with chicken wrapped in fresh lotus leaves, a gift of deep flavours enhanced by the infusing on the lotus leave flavour, or something like that - it was definitely good stuff.

Lotus leaf gift wrapped rice
I wanted to try a bit of everything, so of course there were dumplings and spring rolls, filled with shrimp, chicken and pork. Accompanied with lovely sauces. I wanted to keep eating even when I was most definitely full.

An amazing experience I would definitely recommend for anyone going to Hong Kong and wants to see Dim Sum done properly.  

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Inspired by Wimbledon aka healthy & light summer dessert

Yes its raining, but its warm which means the British Summer is here! Rain is what makes our land green and pleasant, so no complaints from me, well not too many :)

With no cake or biscuits in the house and working with the ingredient I did have, whilst watching the tennis I threw together a sweet and refreshing dessert in no time at all.

All you need is some mixed berries, soya yoghurt (plain), flaked almonds & some organic / manuka honey then layer them up - yummy. Using plain yoghurt and manuka honey means natural sugars only, if you’re being particularly health conscious. The fruit makes a pretty picture too :)

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Gluten Free @ Whitecross Street Market

Whitecross Street Market sits in the heart of Central London by the Barbican and easy walking distance from Farringdon and Shoreditch, to name but two of the local ‘hotspots’. There is weekly specialist food market, which runs every Thursday and Friday. Strolling down the street, strolling being the only option as its packed at lunchtime, you will pass stalls offering food from all around the world. Its seems to me that from most stalls you can get a decent lunch for around a fiver and you’ll need to queue.

I was delighted to find a stall that was specifically gluten free! Selling ‘French Speciality Galettes’. This I discovered was a large thin buckwheat flour pancake, generally a larger, savoury and gluten free version of the infamous crepe.

I choose a Toulouse Sausage and grated Emmental cheese galette, which on its own was £4.50, for an extra 50p you can add salad, and why wouldn’t you?! So I had the tomatoes, spinach and mushrooms thrown in as well.
Let me tell you, it was delicious. A lovely gluten free lunch for £5 in Central London - fantastic. My first galette, and a high standard has been set.

The galettes are assembled on demand, so they are lovely and fresh for your consuming pleasure. There were several filling options, including vegetarian versions, but the Toulouse Sausage turned out to be a excellent choice, hearty full of flavour. I use buckwheat flour a fair amount in my own baking as I like the flavour and the texture and I was impressed by the superbly thin galette. It also remind me a little of a thin version of Ethiopian Injera. 

I was pleased at the time not to have to queue to get my lunch, but in hindsight disappointed not to have to queue - more people should be eating this delicious food! It wasn’t uncommon to see queue 10 hungry people deep, why not here too? I am not sure how long the stall has been there and unfortunately the stall didn’t have a name. I wasn’t brave enough for a friendly chat on my first visit. But I hope they will be there for some time, and I hope to find out more about them in the future.

What the galette lacks in beauty it makes up for in taste! 

Goodbye Freedom Desserts, Hello Introverted Artisan

I have decided that just blogging about desserts and my dessert making experiments, with gluten, dairy and sugar free ingredients has become a bit limited in its scope. So I am expanding my musings into a much more diverse foodie universe, Not abandoning the sweetness of ‘Freedom Desserts’ but starting to appreciate the savoury too, in my own cooking as well as what I find out and about. I felt new content needed a new name... Let the food exploration begin!