April 18, 2012 by MaryAnne
Spring has sprung! Shanghai is currently alternating between gorgeous, sunny, warm days and, well, the usual grim and drizzly murkiness that seems to be its default mood. I, however, have been feeling remarkably sane (highly unusual) and have been quite busy with lots of little cooking projects this week. Last night we had fajitas (but with spicy sauteed chicken), this afternoon I made a massive new batch of roasted garlic oil, and tonight…we had something I hadn’t made in years: tandoori chicken.
Or rather, toaster oven chicken in a style approximating tandoori chicken. With lots of peppers to go with. Lots.
Yesterday, Doug hit the jackpot whilst picking up dinner veggies at the wet market on Taiyuan lu and came home with the biggest bag full of red, green and yellow bell peppers ever. It’s not pepper season here. Capsicum related foodstuffs of the fresh sort are thin on the ground right now. Bell peppers are like hens’ teeth. Now the crisper in our fridge is stuffed to the gills with the suckers.
And my god but they are magnificent! I cut one of each colour open for last night’s fajitas and he could smell them from the living room. The jus (if you can call it that) from the raw red pepper was a lovely deep red that stained the counter top. These were crazy fresh.
Peppers! Oh, and onion. But look, peppers!
I haven’t figured out yet what I’ll do with the other half dozen still in the fridge. I’m sure I’ll think of something. Roasted, perhaps? Try my hand at a Turkish biber salcasi? It’s all very exciting. (more…)
Category Improbable Things, Spicy Things, Uncategorized | Tags: Chapati,Chicken,Indian,OMFG Yum,Toaster Oven,wok,Yogurt | 9 Comments
March 30, 2012 by MaryAnne
I bet you all think I live on tortillas and cookies, yearning for cheese and chocolate and fearfully snubbing the culinary options that surround me here in Shanghai.
I mean, that’s pretty much what this blog indicates in its persistent quest narrative, chasing after elusive sachets of gelatine or powdered sugar (found the sugar but not the gelatine), with long hours spent over a hot keyboard trying to figure out how to make mozzarella cheese without rennet (or citric acid or lightly pasteurized milk, for that matter).
I probably come across as a laowai so firmly jammed into her expat bubble that the thought of backing away from the toaster oven sends waves of homesickness and palpable fear coursing through her body.
This is actually more indicative of how I eat outside the flat, on a day to day basis:
See, I can get marvellous stuff like this for cheap (these were 10rmb, or $1.50) everywhere around me.
Most of my breakfasts are made up of a pot (or two) of coffee at home followed by steamed buns stuffed with tofu and greens or drippy barbecued pork, or hot and savoury tea eggs, or crispy fried rice cakes or savoury mung bean flour crepes stuffed with crispy fried wonton wrappers, chives, minced pickled veggies, cilantro and hoisin sauce en route to wherever I’m going.
I like to maintain a balance. Cheese, chocolate and tortillas on the homefront; tofu, lotus root and grated radishes outside.
Category Improbable Things, Spicy Things, Uncategorized | Tags: Beef,Flatbread,Mexican,OMFG Yum,tortilla,wok,Yogurt | 15 Comments
December 5, 2011 by MaryAnne
As you probably already know (or don’t care), I lived in Turkey for 6 years before moving to China. For the first 2 years before I moved to Istanbul, I lived in a small city called Kayseri, on the edge of Kapadokya (aka Cappadocia to the tourism brochures). For a single foreign woman moving to Turkey, it was probably an odd choice of first destinations. It’s isolated, traditional, religious and quite conservative. I was one of maybe 4 foreigners in a city of 800,000 people.
My friends there were big on, well, fresh local food.
Most of the women there who were my age were busy at home being housewives and a huge percentage of those (if I ever saw them) wore headscarves and those ubiquitous raincoats outdoors. I was pretty much alone in my uncovered pixie cut bright red hair and, um, unique fashion sense, a glaringly bright foreign beacon amongst the sea of dark mustached men in the streets. Genders were segregated, marriages were often arranged ones and unspoken social rules were complex and frequently, embarrassingly broken by me. (more…)
Category Baked Things, Improbable Things, Uncategorized | Tags: Autumn,Flatbread,OMFG Yum,Turkish,wok,Yeast Bread,Yogurt | 14 Comments
November 13, 2011 by MaryAnne
I’m starting to think this blog should be renamed, “Watch me make flatbreads! That’s all! Kthnxbye!”
Although I’ve been busy cooking all sorts of other lovely things for our meals (remind me to tell you all about that spicy chicken noodle soup with the 2 heads of garlic some day), what has been weighing heavily on my mind has been an obsession with seeing how many different noodle dough recipes can be successfully re-jigged as unleavened flatbread dough.
I know, other people have more sensible hobbies like philately and methamphetamines but, really, I’ve got a thing for dough. Particularly multi-purpose dough. I want to mess with the noodle dough’s head until it has no doubt that it was ever anything but a chapati. Like Gaslighting but for flour products. I’m a bit sadistic that way, I guess. (more…)
Category Improbable Things, Pasta Things, Uncategorized | Tags: Buckwheat,Chapati,Flatbread,OMFG Yum,wok,Yogurt | 7 Comments
October 24, 2011 by MaryAnne
I actually left the flat this past weekend. In fact, I even left Shanghai. For the past two months, I’ve been like the love child of an eccentric hermit and a domestic goddess, holed up in our cozy flat, dusted lightly with flour, filled with coffee, doing odd things, barefoot in the kitchen.
But a girl has to work sometimes. It’s unfortunate but it’s true.
So, sometime on Saturday morning, I went to Hangzhou. Unlike every other time I’ve been to Hangzhou, it wasn’t raining. However, since I was there for work and not for pleasure, the skies and their activities were irrelevant.
Before I tell you more about this trip and show you how to bake a particular cake in which I made substitutions for pretty much every ingredient, I want to show you some photos I took during a previous trip to Hangzhou. (more…)
Category Baked Things, Sweet Things, Uncategorized | Tags: Apples,Autumn,Cake,Chocolate,OMFG Yum,oven,Toaster Oven,Yogurt | 8 Comments
October 10, 2011 by MaryAnne
My unemployment is showing. I haven’t done a lick of work since the end of September. I’ve kept myself occupied with bursts of scone-baking (using the leftover whey from the ricotta cake topping from last week), minestrone-cooking, tortilla-wokking and waaaay too much reading.
Indeed, I’ve been very busy.
Very busy lying in bed, drinking coffee, and telling myself that I really ought to get my act together and do something productive for once.
So I have, briefly. I’ve made something new.
Or rather, something really quite old. Today’s recipe comes from, seriously, a 14th century cookbook called Kitab al-Tibakh (aka كتاب الطبيخ or Book of Dishes), which I was happily able to easily translate as the Turkish words are pretty much the same, though with different grammar linking them- kitap (book)+tabak (dish)). What we have here are (apparently) the world’s oldest recorded pasta shapes. They’re shaped like coins, by hand, squashed between your fingers. No need for a pasta maker or even a knife. I find that very exciting. (more…)
Category Improbable Things, Pasta Things, Spicy Things, Uncategorized | Tags: Beef,Middle Eastern,OMFG Yum,Pasta,wok,Yogurt | 8 Comments
October 5, 2011 by MaryAnne
So I’m cheating a bit on this one.
I have a secret weapon. A secret Canadian weapon. A secret, um, Surrey, BC, weapon. Which is also, technically, an Indian weapon. Or Pakistani, depending on which one I use. My aunt gave it to me, so you can speak to her sternly about my lack of Sino-authenticity.
I will admit it: the spices are not from ’round here.
Whenever I go home, my aunt (hi Pat!) goes shopping in her local Vancouver supermarket and buys me an enormous supply of Indian spice mixes. Jalfrezi, Korma, Biryani, Chana masala, the works. I have a cupboard loaded with these things. They’re all from India or Pakistan, and the instructions on the back pretty much assume you’re cooking for 15 people and happen to have, say, a side of mutton and a large barrel of ghee at hand.
I have, um, 2 very small pieces of awful boneless ‘Chinese top’ beef, whatever that is. They’re the kind of cuts that need to be marinated in something penetratingly acidic (hence my fridge full of citrus fruit and yogurt) and then cooked for a rather long time before they take on a texture that could be described as anything other than leathery. The recipe on the back of the box calls for bone-in chunks of beef or mutton, about twice as much as we have. We’re not big meat eaters here (I’m a lapsed vegetarian) and the photo on the front of the box, replete with enormous bones jutting out of rice, is daunting.
I’m a brave little culinary soldier, so I forge ahead.
Let me show you how to make a beef biryani with just a wok and a rice cooker. (more…)
Category Improbable Things, Soupy Stewy Things, Spicy Things, Uncategorized | Tags: Indian,OMFG Yum,rice cooker,wok,Yogurt | 5 Comments
September 5, 2011 by MaryAnne
About these pancakes: These are borderline savoury pancakes- I’ve been able to happily eat them with both jam and with sharp, aged Cheddar. If you’re expecting a mild, fluffy, sweet American pancake, you might want to add more sugar. These are more yogurty, more sour-doughy, more…complex. And awesome.
Yesterday, I made home made ricotta cheese. Now, if you happened to read the whole brutally long post, you may recall two key things.
- We ate the whole batch in one go last night
- I saved the whey when I drained the curds
And you may be asking yourself, why on earth is she saving that… stuff? Why did she subject poor Doug to a barely-sealed, leaky Tupperware container of thin, watery liquid placed awkwardly on top of a bunch of other things in our already too-full half-sized Chinese fridge? I mean, we could have fit three whole beers there!
Well, I wanted pancakes. Buckwheat pancakes, to be precise. (more…)
Category Improbable Things, Milky Cheesy Things, Uncategorized | Tags: Buckwheat,OMFG Yum,Pancakes,Whey,Yogurt | 2 Comments