Apparently I’ve been on hiatus.
I popped by here yesterday to update my plug-ins and noticed I hadn’t done anything in two whole months. You’d think I was starving to death or something.
Which I was, for a while.
After we came back from a gluttonous week in Hong Kong in early October, I sentenced myself to a 30 day detox, cutting out everything that was fun in the universe: no grains, no dairy, no sweeteners (not even honey), no starchy veggies, no nothing. I lived on veggies… and veggies and tuna and coffee and grilled chicken enlivened by the spice rub I brought back from Morocco.
Somehow I survived.
I didn’t do much inspired cooking though. Certainly nothing worth noting here.
Oh, hey, look, it’s another freaking tuna salad! I can’t wait to document it for posterity!
Oh, no, wait. Never mind.
Anyway, I’m back. I’ve dusted off the oven and prepped myself mentally to regain the 6 or 7 kilos I lost over the past 2 months. After all, it’s winter now and I need to be ready for the long, unpleasant season of hibernation. Shanghai is bad at winter.
We don’t get snow or frost or sparkly bright blue skies with crisp cold air. No, no. Shanghai is more subtle than that. We get grey, damp, oppressive clouds that are so vast that they might as well just be a big, grey, chilly lid over the city. And the rain! It will likely rain 75% of the days between now and April.
Since we are south of the Yangtze River, buildings are not legally required to be heated or insulated, so we will be damply cold, both inside and out, with everyone wearing big coats and scarves during staff meetings and at dinner. If the heat is somehow on in a building, it will be counterbalanced by the windows being flung wide open for fresh air.
I’m not kidding. I wish I was.
One thing I discovered during my month of being dairy-free was that coconut milk is awesome in coffee. I’m not sure if 3-4 coconut milk lattes a day still qualifies as a detox but at least I wasn’t having dairy. Because, you know, dairy is evil or something. Yay me.
Shall I remind you again what we are up against here for the next several months?
Above is my commute. This is why I’m reintroducing dairy, sugar, grains and martinis back into my diet. You would too.
My new hobby has been staging laser-cat invasions of things that annoy me. It’s cathartic.
Anyway, the food.
One of the perks of my new(ish) job is that they feed us. This has also led to a reduction in the amount I’d been cooking in the past few months.
If you’re curious about the Chinese food that Chinese people actually eat in China, here are a few examples.
Also, even back during my detox month we could still safely go out for dinner because a lot of the dishes are totally compliant with the brutal restrictions I self-imposed.
Below: bean jelly noodles with chilies, garlic cucumber, pickled french beans with chilies and pork.
Even though I didn’t actually need to, I decided to bake today. It’s a grim and crappy day and I wanted something lovely to accompany my pot of coconut coffee.
I decided to make biscuits. Or as the recipe calls them, butter dips. Because you dip them in a half cup of melted butter before you bake them.
Like I said, I’m making up for lost time (and weight) after that detox month.
Here’s the recipe, gleaned from a site I stumbled upon yesterday. They’re in Vancouver (my homeland!) but they’re originally Malaysian so they’ve got an intriguing outsider’s perspective that I relate to.
Butter Dips (AKA Straight-Laced Granny Biscuits)
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
- 3 green onions, finely chopped
- 1 cup 2% milk
- 1/2 cup butter
I couldn’t leave well enough alone though, so I added the dregs of our treasured jar of jalepenos, minced, and a rather large bundle of cilantro from the street market (because they sell it by the bushel) instead of green onions. I also used very very aged crumbly white cheddar. I used coarse kosher salt.
Here are the additions I made, below. I’m sure the onion would have been nice but we were all out and I was too lazy to go down 16 floors to buy them from the veggie guys on the street.
Below is the last of the recipe photos that actually turned out. I think that the low, grim, grey light in the kitchen wasn’t conducive to good photography. You’ll have to imagine what comes next.
In the rice cooker insert, I mixed together the dry ingredients (flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, a few grinds of black pepper), then added the cilantro, chilies, cheddar. Mix them up nicely.
After they’ve been mixed, slowly add the milk, stirring it all in until it forms a dough ball. Tip the dough ball out onto a floured cutting board. Knead the ball 10 times or so, tucking all the stray bits of dough back in.
After it’s nicely kneaded, roll it out until it’s about 2cm/1″ thick and cut it into 1 inch squares. Since mine had rolled out into a rough circle, I had some weird isosceles triangle shaped pieces, but they worked out just fine.
Get the oven up to 450 degrees, or 230C. I had to crank my little toaster oven up to the max. I definitely burned off some of the dust from the months of neglect.
While it was pre-heating, I put the half cup of butter into the cake pan I planned to use and melted it in the oven.
When the butter has melted, haul it out of the oven and start adding your dough squares. Dredge the squares in the butter as you add them. Make sure all sides have been dunked.
My pan was too small for all my dough squares, so I added another one, but using olive oil instead of butter. They turned out quite pale but still tasty.
Bake for 25-30 minutes.
Look! Biscuits soaked in butter, nicely browned!
And you can see the pale, olive oil ones on the left, below. They were still delicious. Hopefully I won’t eat all of them before lunch.
I had originally planned to eat them with the leftover soup that was in the fridge, a lovely experiment that had started as a hearty Lanzhou beef broth but then mutated over the course of the day into an Italian wedding soup, with white beans and a massive bag of baby spinach.
See? They’d go so well with that soup!
With these, I may just be able to cope with winter. Just.