Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Tumango White Omelette

Pubs, Chicken and Chip Shop, Brasseries and even Chinese Takeaway, and Single Rosettes Restaurants all across England have probably too many eggs in their fridge that an Omelette have an almost automatic appearance on its menu. And they were always almost in a civil partnership with Chips. Chips are such an adulterer here in England, it marries off with everything imaginable.

Nonetheless, this is a tribute to the Omelette Affair, it was never really British, not like Fish and Chips or English Breakfast but it is undoubtedly all over Britain. Omelette comes usually with Mushroom, Onion, Cheese, or Ham, or a double, or triple of everything. It is usually finished off in the grill (not tossed) to cook the top side.

Everyday I eat an omelette- an albino one (I can’t help the metaphor, it doesn’t mean to be derogatory), 3 egg whites, slivers of tomatoes minus the seeds, salt, white pepper, and a quick dash of basil fluffed out in the microwave after 2 minutes. Today, I have a 12-hour shift, hence I have to put in more nourishment. Chips are not my choice of carbs for the first meal of the day (Im trying to cut down carbs for a half marathon in June, after that I will go in a Chips Adventure Across England- by foot so I'd still use up the calories Lol) Anyways, side stories aside, so I chose a protein filler of tuna, diced mango, tomatoes, and basil, lazily nuked in the microwave for 2 minutes. My Albino Omelette on a Bed of Tumango took no more than 4 minutes to make. Fine add a minute as I battle it out with the can opener, pre production. And not more than 300 calories all in all, rounded to my nearest amateur estimate.

Tumango White Omelette

So, if Omelette is British, and Egg whites are still a part of an egg that constitutes an Omelette, then my White Omelette is still technically British..Oh, please ignore the pun or the racial color innuendo. I am hopeless with deductive reasoning.

I enjoyed my Tumango Omelette. And I will continue enjoying it every morning, at least the Omelette. I cant have tuna everyday as I may wake up with a yellow fin one morning, too bad I cant swim. But I think I would get quite a stare if I order a White Omelette from my local Chic and Chips, Mohammed would be bewildered.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Frozen Anatomy + Warm Memories = My English Christmas

That picture on the left is from my Christmas Walk which afterwards my toes and my hands would have take 2 minutes in the microwave to defrost. I have officially hated snow. . But my soul is thawed by the generosity, kindness, and Christmas spirit of people who a year ago were strangers and unknown. I got a bunch of flowers from my regular doctor on the block, several boxes of chocs of different nationalities, tins of all-English Cadbury Roses, bottle of wine, Authentic Scottish Shortbread, bears, and trousers, socks, tights…oh, gifts.

Bragging is not my usual aura of the day, but I am just pleasantly surprised, blushed-kind-of-embarrassed with the kindness that my British local friends had shown. You see, bunch of young people like us are not particularly sweet and kind at this time..gifts were never a thing in my family. I have to tell what I want, and then if Im really nice, I get money for it. But here in England, I just discovered the absolute joy of ripping a wrapper off to uncover something no matter how tiny or how fast it would bloat my body fat, there is that jumping jack thrill that somebody put in an effort to think, buy, and wrap a present for you. And then the cards, I am absolutely into this Britishness of sending Christmas cards around, and no matter how laconic the message is. (Starts with my name. Sandwiched by a one liner greeting. Ends with their Name or a scribbled Signature). Dont get me wrong I love the x and O's too.

I do believe it’s really the thought counts. I have got more Cards this holiday than what I had accumulated in my young 22 years of existence.

And boy do I love one from my post, albeit the Grinchy Postal Strikes, my post did arrive and you know that feeling that you think it’s a bit awkward to send somebody a Card because you just met them but then they were really nice, but your pride got the better of you, and then that person’s name suddenly shows up after Sincerely, in your mail. That is humbling. And a bit heart thugging. And that would mean a Happy New Year Present and an early Christmas 2010 card delivered to them by January 1.

I had a rough year. A really rough year. Hence every small miniscule act of kindness around me is such a breather, and every little good thing no matter how petty it is, seems like a miracle.

Food wise had been British turned University-ish again after Christmas. I had turkey roast for about 2 weeks now. And I made my first British Beef Roast with some sides of greens and roast mushrooms, next day I did that with an egg-whitish omelette, and the next day I had it with salad, I still have some of it so I may do deconstructed steak and ale pie with it. My roast looks suspiciously too rare. Fine, a bit more than too rare. I am not sure. But if I die of food poisoning in the next few days, tell them to look at my fridge and ribbon that too pink meat with a “police line do not cross”

I had early Christmas celebration with friends in London. But I stopped over my good friend, Thai Sushi Chef Dang to drop off his birthday present, I had a salmon skin roll and 2 pieces of eel sushi (Thanks Zin Sushi at Trafalgar Road, Greenwhich for on the house lunch), which is amazing as all his Sushi is always amazing. We talked about old times at the old restaurant as I scrolled back at his camera and found old pictures that were mostly of us holding a wine glass or a beer or both Hah. Old times.

I was 2 hours delayed but not because of the snow or the inability of First Capital Connect to hire more train drivers but because of my ability to get lost. Didn’t realize my train doesn’t stop in London Bridge during weekdays where Im getting the connecting line, hence I was lost in the outskirts of London. My google phone and google map quite helped me figuring out that there was an underground in Tooting Broadway which is a bus away from Tooting, my next stop. I should also probabaly google if my name is snynonymous to directionless or if my horoscope reads no to train travel. Anyways, Got in there, carried on, got off the DLR. And now what. I could walk or get a bus, since Im utterly a direction idiot that day, I carried on taking a bus, took me 3 tries to get to the right bus, which apparently just took a minute ride to my stop. It wasn’t my day for travel. I am really not this bad usually. But London Day Travelcard saved me, got me all through this plus the ride back home and all the rides in between for 10 quid or £9.55 to be exact. Not bad. Anyway, sushi done and dusted, I went back to Central to meet my college friends

Next Stop Leicester Square. Got there without a hitch. But I was early and cold and hungry, I know I was going to dinner but I could really use a coffee. So I picked the small Italian place with a nice pizza parlour and a nice looking bartender. Authentic Cappucino. Mediocre Margherita. Amazing Brazilian Smile. 2 more flirtatious smiles and Im off, I cant have his smile for dinner, I have to meet my friends. But I took a bit of walk around and saw Trocadero Mall and remembered my first proper Date in Uk, my date got me 2 Simpsons in one go from the stuff toy catcher machine. Talk about lucky dates, and unlucky relationships. Anyways I was afraid I’m veering off to Soho, hence I try to walk back near the station, and yeah guess what I got lost again, my friends gave me a call and rescue me. Boy, did I not know that we’re having Sushi for dinner. Omakari, the place is. Got a Sushi bento Box. And tucked in to my 2nd round of raw food of the day. The fish is ok, not particularly an ecstacy but the salad was impressive, it had one of the most imposing and sharp dressing I’d ever had. It was promegnatey or citrusy with a texture of a freshly squeezed orange, fruity but not too sweet. I listened to my tummy, and I could hear my mercury level's rising.
After Dinner, we decided to undo the Dinner, well technically they want to try out the rides in Leicester Square, which looks tame from the sidelines, but bloody hell, a spinning roller coaster don’t get along with the swimming salmon in my tummy. I was dazed and cold when we decided we want more of this carouselling. Next Stop Hyde Park, but on the way we saw some street entertainer who is doing Limbo Rock in the tune of Santa's Coming to town. Ultra Cool.

Took the London Bus to Hyde Park where Winter World is. Winter World it is, cold, slushy snow all around but Santa, smell of cinnamon and pretzels, and all things Christmas just anaesthesizes our hypothermia away.

An hour of walk later, rain started to pour and we decided we would go for a last stop for dessert and coffee at a place where one friend works. We had waffle with maple syrup and a vanilla ice cream, it was a good cap off to day of getting lost, spinning around, and getting frozen. We walked to the underground and I went home feeling the Christmas Spirit for the first time.

Spent Christmas day alone, as I would like have a quiet reflective celebration, a sorta tribute, a plea, a prayer that I may have a better year, because even myself I cant believe how I got through this year alive and sane. I decided to go to the Church but it was close so I just took a walk, and it was magnificently serene, as if the heavens thawed out, and it wasn’t that cold either. English weather is in its better mood. I missed the Queen’s message, but I don’t think there’s anything personal or urgent that she’d like to let me know.

Boxing Day in UK or the 26th is a massive craziness of queue and bargains of high street shops and designer brands. Some people camp outside the outlets and when the doors open, as if umpire guns off the sprint to half-prized Guccis and Burberrys. Fights break out, apparently men too loves a good bargain, celings fall apart, and police get involved but at least not with the haggling. But it is a good British tradition, apparently it comes from “boxed presents” collected by tradesmen after Christmas Day for their good service, it also roots back to the Feast of St. Stephen, but now its more famous as a shopping holiday and an excuse to splurge a couple of hundreds with relatively less guilt. I did my own share of consumerism but I had a rather quiet Boxing Day.

The 27th is the day I zoom back to being a UUI. At Uni Under the Influence of Delibarate Eating and Drinking. It was a fellow Filipino Birthday with loads of Filipino Food. And I admit, no matter how I have fallen in love with Roasts and Brussels Sprouts, there is that hearty homey feeling as I tucked in to my mung beans, sinigang (pork stew), pansit(noodles), and liempo (pork BBQ). 2 rounds later, and a drinking game was up, 2 hours later, everyone intoxicated, we pull a decade back off our real age and played with leftover snow, that in a matter of time took over my friend’s living room. Went home hangovered, bruised with snow wrestling and armed with a promise not to drink ever again (don’t we all say that). I was down for a day, and realize Im not that young anymore, I don’t have the energy to party all night and cure the hangover all day. But it was a good fun. A good marathon of days that is neither grand, nor illustrious, but it was hearty and jovial, it was nourishing for the soul, and it was simple and spontaneous, it was playful and good-natured but it wasn’t extravagant yet it was sincere and full of kindness and warmth. It was just what I need to finally finally bid goodbye to a year that tried and challenged me to my guts end. The year needs respect and proper acclaim, and I hereunto take my cap off and humble myself.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Merrrry Grrrrrrrsmas and a Roasted Sunday

Merry Grrrrrssmas and a Roasted Sunday.

Gritting cold today as the British weather suddenly decided to serve us some frozen rain for our Christmas dinner. Its snowing on and off and tonight it actually did settle. White Christmas it is.

My Christmas cards had been done and dusted and delivered by my trusty hand, as the Royal Mail had been sort of the grumpy reindeer for the last year. Postal strikes since last October has affected the flow of mail and everything else in the country, not that snail mail is my main form of Mayday but when you are waiting for a visa stamping invitation letter, I guess it would be a top priority to check if the British Postal Force have really gone on coup.

Going rogue seems to be the order of the day, as the Daily Mail Headlines reads Brit Airways Strike. Sigh. Double sigh. I say the recession is the Grinch who Stole Christmas. But nonetheless, it would keep 1 million Brit travellers grounded home. What’s so bad about that? Aside from the fact that it would mean wrecking long before laid out plans of meeting up with Santa on the sunny beaches of Thailand sipping an Iced Chai and nibbing on a cold Som Tam Salad?

Pub’s been prepping up for a couple of Christmas parties. Office is off season as the restaurant we’ve been working on finally open its doors. And the Takeaway is on a downtime too as people opt to have a proper night out. So my December life is pleasantly laid back. But a Culinary Circus.

I have received my first Christmas pudding on the first few days of this month, a tiny little sugar oasis. And we’ve been serving up turkey roasts in lieu of chicken every Sunday at the pub. I work in the kitchen of the pub every Sunday, and boy do I love it. The regulars don’t mind that their Sunday All British Roasts were handled, plated and served by a black haired 5-foot of a pure-pedigreed Asian. Lily, my boss do all the roasts and sauces anyways so it is still technically Brit. I plate up and do everything. Prolly the unofficial Sous Chef (I wonder if that would be too ambitious). But most of the time, Lily trust me enough not to pour Mang Tomas Filipino Ketchup on her roast and decides to leave me on my own on the kitchen. She taught me how to do the roast potatoes which is heavenly with its texture and flavour but the recipe is trade secret so I reckon blogging about it would not be a good idea. Nonetheless, I look after the cooking of the roast potatoes and make sure that they come out in their best complexion and seasoned well. I discovered that if you occasionally checks the pan and cleans up the fallen off crumbles as you roast along, the potatoes would cook better and it would prevent the uneven burning as some of the granules tend to arson its way and stick to your potatoes. Yorkshire pudding is best to be roasted upside down, and broccoli should only be cooked on boiling water to retain its color, simple fundamentals I hold dear to.

Gravy is best done with the roast drippings, and a proper stock which should be slowly simmered through all morning. I did have some butchering lessons too as Lily rattles on about topside fillet and pork loin cuts every Sunday.

Dessert is my favourite. I love plating lily’s homemade bread and butter pudding and apple and blueberry crumble, half-drowning it in custard and adding a touch of mint leaf garnish. I think our roasts and dinner are rustic. It’s the sort of thing that you eat by a fireplace. And good thing, we do have one.

I’ll try to sneak in some pictures next week. I will be making my own first roast at home on Sunday as well as some sweet potatoes and all trimmings. And I will start to cook a healthier interpretation of all the food I could find in our pub menu. Wish me luck. Loads of it. P.S. Santa: Could you please turn off your air conditioning for awhile, cos its snowing frantically here. Everybody could use a bit of a warmin up. Thanks :)

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

In Beer We Thrust

This is not a mockery of the very respectable caption of Uncle Sam’s quarter. But an ode to my Beer Festival, my first one last October, after missing 2 consecutive annual events in UK. I took Sonia, my elderly British friend as my beer connoisseur accompaniment; along with our free pass (working in a pub has its great perks and motivational package) we hailed into an Odyssey of Authentic English Beers and Authentic English Drinking.

First Stop. Buy or hire your drinking apparatus. Which in here comes in a half a ton of glass shaped in a mug. I doubt if I will be able to physically hang on to this on my third pint, with my body mass and my locomotion abilities post-alcohol, but we’ve no choice, so I chose the half-pint and so did Sonia. We grab the program, which is like a Graduation Ceremony Booklet with the list of the beers and its description, origin, and alcohol content, and a tick box right next to it. Something Like an Alcoholic’s Guide to Being Drunk, systematically. It runs for three days, and I really really wonder if anyone hands-in a perfectly and completely marked, ticked program -consciously. Ah, enough wondering, the beer’s getting cold. I was never a beer drinker, but Im looking forward to my initiation into the culture of English Beer Festival.

2nd Stop. The Grand Hall. The Grand Hall looks like a lobby with a stage but hundreds of barrels of beers and ale and perry on the walls, arranged in alphabetical order. Well, I guess people could still read A,B,C and manoeuvre their way in a tricky 3-Floor Beer Festival under the influence, but I wonder why they can’t drive. We start off with an ale. A Real Ale from my Beer 101 Program according to the Campaigners of Real Ale (what would Campaigners of Not so Real Ale would say?) is a “beer made from natural ingredients: malted barley, hops, water, and yeast which, after primary fermentation in the brewery, is put into casks where it continues to undergo a slow secondary fermentation, then produces a gentle carbonation, it is unfiltered and unpasteurized, and is a living product”. Its antithesis (probably this is what campaigners of not so real ale would drink) is keg beer or as the industry would call it “brewery conditioned” which after primary fermentation is filtered pasteurized and sold freezing cold using extraneous gas to produce the excessive fizz and little taste (Beer Festival Guide et al, 2009). I was reading this while holding my first half pint of the day, a Devon Dumpling Bays, 5.1% of the unpasteurized living thing from Devon. It was a strong bitter taste when it first hit my senses, but I unusually love the undertone of hop and barley, and the way it plays at the back of my tongue. I am not particularly keen with the smell or the main tang of it, but I was looking forward to gulping it because the aftertaste was a good-natured lightness of hop and barley that was lost in the fizz of my usual lager of Carlsburg. Tick the box, 200 to go.

3rd Stop. The Stage Bar. We decided to go for cider next. Tumbling through my Beer wikipedia, it defines cider as fermented apple juice. One adult rating higher than the breakfast liquid accompaniment, two adult rating higher than the thing that keeps the doctor away. Me and Sonia looked at the towers of kegs confusingly as we try to pick our cider. Then an intervention came in a form of a veteran Englishman that picks for us a 7.1% Hertfordshire Brewed-Cider which is amazingly deceitful of its ABV. It has that lovely stink of a fresh brew, It’s non-fizzy, and bordering on medium dry. Hands down the best cider my rookie palate came across. Quarter of a pint later I managed to carelessly tumble my stranger seatmate’s beer with my hand bag. I am quite disappointed with myself as I knew my tolerance for alcohol has been fine-tuned and trained by the more lethal cheap Uni vodka and half-filtered tequila. Nonetheless, I profusely apologized and asked the gentleman if I could buy him the same drink. He said I don’t have to, but I insisted and he seems genuinely appreciative of the gesture. Anyway, me and Sonia discussed my absolute disability to pass the UK Practical Driving Test, I will not embarrass myself with how many tries I’ve done but as of this writing I am still trying. My hands-eye coordination is normally within the median bounds, and I’ve never failed anything in school, so this is a humbling experience, bordering on annoying and frustrating. Sometimes I just wanna scream discrimination. I did try all the moves though, dressing up a bit more sexier than one would in a driving exam, begging, reasoning out, laughing it out. Oh well. Me and right-hand driving don’t get along well, no actually I always say that every time it get jinxed (excuses). Nonetheless, my failure as a driver and my inability to stop trying was our cider topic. Then we decided to go to Germany, at least for a beer, which is a flight of stairs away.

4th Stop. Germany. At least where the beer was from. We got a bottled 500ml of “Oktoberfest Beer”- a gigantic bitter fizz that is a tad too macho for me. We sat and talk about my other work, and a call from a supplier from my office work cuts in, I have to excuse myself from Sonia and find my sobriety. Quite confident that my alco tolerance didn’t betray me this time, I picked up the call and manage to book a meeting with him and my boss the following week. When I put down the phone, I asked myself in panic if I booked a Wednesday or a Thursday. I dropped my doubts and carry on Oktoberfesting. We struggled to finish this German concoction but still we decided that we could carry on with one for the road, from the topmost floor.

5th Stop. I could just remember a few notes from this one. I knew it’s on the top floor and that we had a stout that I could also remember I don’t like it and I had mixed too much of too many different drinks that my usual 40% threshold is slumped by a quartet of single-digit ABV potions. I didn’t finish the drink and neither did Sonia. But I could remember going to the loo and meeting my mishap victim along the way, the English gentleman whose drink I have managed to spill on my 2nd half pint. I first looked at him confusingly and so did he, and he laughed and he asked if I remembered him, and I smiled and beg for a salvation of memory, and he said that I bought him a drink today and he sincerely thanked me for that. Chivalry lives on. Let’s drink to that.

We cap off our little trip by buying Lily, my pub boss, one mug Glass with a souvenir program just in case she wants to check out the list of the guilty liquids that put our town in a drunk state for 3 days. I came home with a lovely feeling that even though I will always be Asian, today, my quartet of half-pints had taken me into an afternoon of being English and English gentlemen who manage to multi-task drinking and niceness, and it was bloody fun.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Ran. Rain. Ran.

I ran today. My contact lenses could prolly use a wiper, 2 seconds interval. And could somebody please get that backpacked heater invented, stat. Nonetheless, I do love running in English weather, in the rain, in the cold, amongst the swan, and dogs, amongst umbrellas and prams, amongst boots and walking sticks. I have a lake. Its not mine nor its not in my backyard, it’s at the backyard of the God, of a very very old (when they say old in UK, it meant really old) Abbey Church where I threw my toga and hats off last year. I kid my guy at that time that since the ceremony would be at 9 am, I could still go for an hour run at the lake and go straight to the Church for a quick sprint to my diploma.

I call it my lake, because the lake is where I go to when things happen in my life. I ran there every morning last winter, hopping off slates and ices just to tire my lungs off the appetite of smoking, I ran when I quit smoking, I ran when my grandmother died, I ran when my extension visa first got denied, I ran again when my appeal was granted, I ran when my guy, the “guy” who had been my housemate, my workmate, my tennis partner, my Manchester United Memoirs Lecturer, my lover, and my bestfriend all in one Thai boy baby face went away-for good. But I don’t call him my boyfriend, because we were never official, because I'm always afraid to put a label and a commitment to a relationship that could easily be cut off by Immigration rules and visa expirations. Not that the British Home Office is liable for my relationships fiasco.

Anyways, so I ran. I ran because I felt I may fly. Because I felt I may actually run so fast that I might even escape time. I ran in the rain when Im upset because it merges with your tears making you look less scandalous and less awkward in public. I ran during Sundays because I like smiling at the kids who got no problem smiling back at a galloping Asian girl, and I like looking at families, and though it made me miss mine more, it made me feel that though the culture here is reserved and private, people are really kin-tight and are kind enough to give me a bit of way and an encouraging smile as I dash and excuse myself from the swans and the ducks, and yeah the humans too.

I ran during British summers because it’s the only time of the year I reunite with the sun, a few minutes of reconciliation, and it gives me the forgiving half-cooked blush. And I love looking at ice cream vans, and kids and not-so-kids lining up for a mile. And then I found myself joining the queue. I forgot about my calorie meter and the next half mile I’m suppose to finish. But then I forgive myself for this is the only time my anatomy could take in an ice concoction.

I haven’t seen this much of the whole town gathered in the lake for an afternoon of the very timid British sun, and I think only one event topples the attendance, the Beer Festival. Though, Beer and Cider cans makes frequent appearances too during summer afternoons, along with all English Strawberries and Cream, Wimbledon, and BBQs of bangers, Lincolnshire sausages, and Irish steaks.

And then comes autumn, when you ran into a cushion of leaves, when your clothes are thicker and heavier, and your shorts turn into trousers. Then it rains. And you need a hood and a scarf, and probably a plastic coated-body. And then it snows, then now you need a miracle to run or a tefal coated skin.

I ran and smell and see and breathe Britain in all weathers. Sometimes I run to runaway from England itself, sometimes I run to runaway from myself. But nonetheless, I ran. And it felt really good.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

My Cuppa Tea

Lily, my English boss, teasingly told me to drink up my tea as I may be contributing to global warming by letting it go cold. There are enough cows farting around. We couldn’t afford to melt more ice bergs, British tabloid says, or as everyone amusingly interpret it.

I think here in England, the tea automatically freezes as soon as you put it down, as if the magic wind sweeps through and takes my heat away to Antartica. Prolly Santa Claus is working too much that’s why Antartica’s melting. Oh, where does he live again? Damn, Im old.

Better drink my cuppa before they blame me for destroying the earth or blaspheming Papa Santa.

I stopped ashort and start to think how many ways could a tea be done?

Do you put the milk and the teabag together before pouring in His Hotness? Do you take the teabag off or do you let it mull and procrastinate its way into caffeinating your senses? I wonder if its illegal to put sugar on my English Breakfast Tea. Not many I know do, oh well half I know are vodka drinkers, quarter on beer supplements, but everybody seems to have their own cuppa.

And the most interesting part is that the array of creative reasons why people have tea. Default and obvious are to make them warm, to go with their scones and shortbread, and of course to take a break.

Also unorthodox reasons, amongst hearsay is to cut an awkward conversation. Eg: “So you’re gay?” Dad asks, Mummy cuts in and dutifully asks everybody “Anybody wants a tea? (pats Daddy on the back) its getting a bit cold here my love. Everybody could use a tea”. Wouldn’t it seem weird if she asks if anybody wants a coffee, as if she would be putting the whole awkwardness into overdrive with a Starbucks. But with tea it seems calm and polite, it seems like a very sociable and graceful way of saying let’s drop the topic.

Also, I think tea is more engaging, remember when people used to drink from one big teapot small and stout, here is the handle, here is the spout? I think even though that people now drink in separate tea cups individualized into skinny, decaf, white or chai, the idea of having a tea takes us back to tea parties and nursery rhymes of big tea pitchers parallel to partaking, sharing, mingling and socializing. Hence when you asked somebody for a cup of tea it’s more of an occasion to chatter, catch up or probably tone down a pace of a situation. Sometimes when you asked somebody if he wants a coffee, its either he thinks you’re seeing sleep in his eyes or you want a cigarette break buddy. That’s our code in college when we’re all at the library. Once my bestfriend says Im getting coffee downstairs, I go in my autopilot “me too”, and another smoker echoes a “me three” as coffee meant ciggie break too. But that’s just for me, or for us.

Tea meant a lot of things to a lot of people, I think it had become our sweet little deed of kindness in the pub, it’s our code for “are you ok, I’ll make you a cuppa so you’ll feel better”. She makes tea for me after a hard shift or early on to give me a break after prep up, I make tea for her when I think she’s having those knee problems again or when the sales are not good, or when we have a hard day. Maybe the tea ethos is about the effort not the drink, it’s about the offer, it’s prolly just about having somebody remembered that you could really use a break. So you want a cuppa?

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Dressing Britain (This is not about fashion)

Dressing Britain (This is not about fashion)

English cuisine. British culinary. What comes to mind?

Fish and Chips? Full English Breakfast? Steak Pies and Cornish Pastry? Slow Cooked Stews and Heavily worked out oven with our long list of roasts dinners. And a country full of potatoes- Crisps, Chips, Mashed, Roasted, and Adored.

Some regarded it as unassuming bordering on uncreative, sidelining on boring(quoted), others say its nonexistent. Look it up on the wiki and comes a snappy and nonchalantly short article turns up.

I beg to disagree with boring and uncreative. It’s probably just too practical, too convenient, and too sensible. But it’s not synonymous to nonexistent and nonapealling.

Imagine all cuisine coming to a gala. The French comes in the exuberance and elegance of a tuxedo with a Champagne that magically tops up itself, Italians on loafers and Armani, Americans come in a dressed up Abercrombie and Fitch, Indians come in their beads and spiced colored sarong and kurta, and Thai comes, well, in Chilis, no Thai comes in their zen outfits. The English Cuisine comes in a simple coat and black tie, not forgetting his overcoat/mac as it might rain or snow, or probably it’s just one of those days we have 4 seasons in 24 hours. It’s neither showy, nor luxurious.

He’s one of those who you know have weathered a storm or a hail. He’s reserved and simple. He’s not without depth, but he reacts to certain situations, and when he opens his mouth it’s of something very important and salient. He’s not the life the party, but he’s the season of the crowd. And I lost you there didn’t I. Now you’re thinking of an Englishman than my roast dinner metaphor.

The English cuisine have to battle great depression, recession, and rationing, not that the rest of the world didn’t, but the rest of the world have better climates, more choices of ingredients, and a less destructive weather. Raw ingredients, food, and wine have been more generous to other nations, they have it at default. They inherited it. They have trust funds of ingredients, and vegetations, and vineyards, and plantations, and rice terraces.

But Britain dig deep and cultivated cuisine based on its means, not on the glorious expectations of the world to an Imperialist. A Cuisine that specializes on food that is filling, succulent, and supplementative, flexible and durable to the whips and lashes of mama nature. Hence comes, the substanstial and stodgy stews and steak and ale, bangers and mash, full English and monty. Hence comes the fish and chips wrapped in newspaper for practicality and mobility of a workforce behind a country that fought for peace and for pride. Hence comes the beautiful cocktail of summer greens and vege and the warming and then comforting winter roots. Hence come the Jersey new potatoes at the start of the season, and the big sister maris piper of the colder months.

We change dress for the weather, but not as sensitive as the British cuisine. It is in their blood, in their markets, in their household talks, it’s in the paper, in the pub. And it stays, “it’s indeed passed on, love” as what a kind Englishman would say. It may have had adopted the curry as its co-national dish but this is an exemplification of its good nature to take steward of a foreign food of a country it helped developed.

The British cuisine in a gala is the one you go to when you need something reliably stuffing and fresh, one that you would eat with unassuming appetite but with grace. Whether it’s chips in your hand or curry in a naan, or roast on your fork.

The charm of the British Cuisine is in its heritage, reliability and its dignified weathered stance, it has provided for a country and a culture a food ethos that would definitely weather a hundred more recession, great depression, and rationing. It is a veteran. And with that British Cuisine indeed deserves respect, recognition, and a longer Wikipedia entry.

Comes the end of the gala, the French are elegantly tipsy, Italians have 2 buttons down their gorgeous Armani, the Americans on their Hoodie, but the English Cuisine is still Dressed in Crisp White and Black Tie, a trench coat on its hand in case his darling needs the shed from the storm. Even though the Gala is in Africa.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Living it 'Thai

Living it 'Thai.

One of the trio of jobs Im juggling involves weekend evenings of phone stuck on my ear, getting orders for a thai takeaway that my former workmate opened a few months ago.
I actually adore that job aside from the homey feeling of being with fellow Southeast Asians, I endearingly and teasingly call my boss Mom, she worked in the first restaurant I worked with in which our other boss there had been eventually my boss in the third medley of my working life - the office.
Small world.

Anyways, I got a few hilarious orders for the past few months.. and underneath each is my invisible replies, double underline invisible, cos I gotta hold on to my mouth and just smile my way through if I still want my job next week.

“Can I please have a portion of Chicken Cashew Nut without Cashew”
–Can I please take the order, without you saying the order? Prolly sign language would do?

“Can I please have a Nugget and Chips”
– Right we do that best, since we’re a thai takeaway

Three people came in, me jumping for joy for extra business, one of them call out the order: “Can I just have one portion of chips please?”
-I think the chicken shop next door do that better.

“Can you please just knock softly on the door and don’t ring the bell? My baby’s sleeping
-Maybe we should start whispering on the phone too.

But sometimes, I get the lower hand.

Me: Can I take a name and a contact number pls?
Customer: Mr Ascot. 077********
Me: Ascot? Like the Royal Ascot? (Royal Ascot = Royal Horse Sprints/Races)
Customer: Yeah, you made that joke last week.
Me to my mind: Glad to know you’re a regular sir :)

Holy Chutney.
Anyways, Chef Thaibool (my endearment for him) usually makes this homemade salad for everyone, it's not on any of the restaurants menu, rather, it’s an authentic salad from Northern regions of Thailand, and its damn good. And so easy. It’s a chutney of some kind. I call it Holy Chutney because I reckon its so healthy and its really tasty.

Aubergine, Garlic, Tomatoes – originally best to roast in a tandoori oven, but I don’t have a restaurant in my backyard so the grill/oven would do. Usually, I slice the auberigine/tomatoes horizontally first to exposed a lot of flesh to give it color/caramelization. Authentically, Thaibool would pound it on mortar/pestle to make it as a mach but then you sliced or mashed according to choice. I like mine strips.

Ground Green Chilis

Fresh chopped Coriander Leaf

Lime Juice

Nam Pla/Fish Sauce.

It got this sweet and spicy feeing playing in your mouth with different textures from the vegetable (crunchy and nuggetty from the roasted skin, and mushy from the flesh), the roasted garlic makes it more rustic, and the coriander leaf aromatize everything to freshness, the lime juice cuts through and gives the fish sauce a good marriage. Love Living it’Thai.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Tesco Treasures

Tesco Treasures
2 years in UK and I was trying to prove to myself that I could sort HEALTHY recipes out of the shelves that wouldn’t hurt my pocket. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t plan on starving myself, its actually cheaper and easier to buy junk and ready to go. But I don’t like junk and ready to go. I like food that stares at you and the flavours are just jumping. Bloody ambitious isn’t it.
The thing with this challenge is that you sort of get the most basic one, its cheap and basic, its up to you to do the makeover. You gotta see the white swan in the ugly duck. Blimey.

So my Top 5 Tesco Treasures.

Tesco Lights Baked Beans - 25 pence per 150 gram small can. With its lower sugar content, low GI, its definitely a filler. I have it with wholemeal toast, then lay my half fat cheddar slice on it, and let my 2-minute microwaved beans melt the cheese on top. Topped off with drips of hot sauce to wake up my tastebuds.

Spices-Oregano,Basil,Parsey,Rosemary, Five Spice, Garam Masala. Nitrate. Sulphur. Oxalic. Lover’s Quarrel. Cold wars. Name it they have in this tiny cute little bottles that would make a battalion of a spice if made to stand in a line. I actually like investing in spices. It’s quite cheap at 50-80 pence a bottle.

Olive Oil- EVOO says Rachel Ray. Whether it’s a branded one or just the generic Tesco self-named one which its still a good buy from £1.80 for the goddess of oils.

Balsamic Vinegar – here I draw the line of my frugality. It’s my Achilles heel. I love proper Italian Balsamic Vinegar as it definitely takes roasted aubergine, roasted courgettes, and salads from commoners to Buckingham-goodness. You could get a decent one from £2 or less.

Basil Infused Tomato Sauce Packs – at 50 pence for a medium tetra pack, its not bad at all. It’s a good base for making Ratatouille or any red pasta, or any red sauce, or well you could have it as a soup. Liven it up with your spice rack, served with wholemeal toast dipped in Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar. Then shave an invisible white truffle over it. There goes my Pobre Molto Mario Recipe. Who says you cant have gourmet below £1?

Brown Wholemeal Wheat Spagghetti – 80 pence per 500 grams. King of Bargains. Its carbs, its non perishable, but considering it’s made from durum, hence protein-packed it would have lower GI than bread, and it taste good with a nutty undertone. It cooks al dente, and its, say "one second thinner" than the usual spaghetti (pardon me for measuring it by seconds, my bestfriend back home influence this rascal mathematics)

Pub: Christmas dejavu

Yesterday I was a food magnet. I was working in my shift at the pub, when at the end of the day I realize I have amalgamated a goodie bag that would qualify as a Christmas Dinner (Crab, Prawn, Christmas Pudding, and a plateful of stirfried prawn with side of vege, all-star appearance except for the turkey that ran off to the gym for last minute work-out before its Christmas Premiere. Gratitude to Greg and Sonia (my regulars) , and the hidden Santa elves that were working pre-season Christmas. For some reason, people were giving me food that day. I know Im a bit tiny but I know I am far from looking malnourished, don’t get me wrong I love foodies and freebies. It was just weird to have it all thrown at you all on the same day

Anyways Lily, my boss made my lunch a tad more special too= Mushroom/ Cherry Tomatoes Omelette with a Salad Side. Recipe at the bottom after my blabber. I think my good fortune that day came from the day before, I made brownie points for staying after my shift to wait for her to come back from a party, and since it was market day I completed my sucking up with a homemade chocolate cake for her from the Wednesday baker. Well, I was late coming in so I figured to sweeten my entrance, and keep her mouth busy from telling me off.

What I love about the omelette is the fact that the cherry tomatoes are from the little shrub/vine(cant figure what) that miraculously sprout out from our serendipitous kitchen window wherein one tomato must have fallen off and started seeding. Talk about unexpected pregnancy.

I always hear Lily say that cooking is having the best and freshest ingredient available, and here in England, seasonality of ingredients is taken seriously. It takes second place to discussing the weather. And probably one rank higher than discussing Gordon Brown.

Anyways my hypothetical recipe of the Omelette I had yesterday.
Mushrooms (Normal Open Button Mushroom, yeah the flirty ones)
Cherry Tomatoes (cut in Half)
3 eggs (I saw what looks like carcass of 3 eggs at their final moment, sub egg whites if you’re keeping chole down)

What Lily usually do is cook it on the hob on a small frying pan (same size as the omelette) just to coat the other side, then finish it off on the grill to give the top side a lovely caramelization, which would be evident with the cherry tomatoes. Gives the omelette a good shape too

Greg my Japanese elderly customer had been going about gnocchi, roux, and hob hop, and every imaginable cooking method known to men. But I came across a few worth noting and probably a bit enlightening for me.

Roux – Greg reckon that the best way to make “proper roux “ is to drench chicken bones with flour then stow in the oven till it’s almost powderized and then mix it with boiling water until reduced to roux consistency. He was discussing this in between his 2nd pint of Carlsburg, so I guess I would still vouch for the credibility of this theory.

Egg Shells sentenced to a pulverizing at the oven would make clear soup. Greg said this at the 3rd pint so I would probably hang on to my ready to go sachet of supermarket clear soup powder till I ask for reaffirmation from him of this next time.

We were like Karate Kid and his Master whole afternoon, I must have been a good student because apart from the small bag of prawns and crab he gave me from his Wednesday market rounds, he came back 2 hours later for me to try on a plate of stir fried prawns with a side of cauliflower, and brussel srpouts. Spare half of it for Lily. More brownie points wouldn’t hurt

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Flashback Flat 3

Flashback: Flat 3.

My Flat in the Uni has 12 bedrooms, representing 12 nations or 11 (I have a fellow Filipino Friend on the same flat). Our kitchen during dinner time is almost identical to a United Nations Global Security Meeting. And the Smell would probably confuse even Pentagon Intelligence. It doesn’t help that it’s not sound proof much more smell proof. I never complained. I always like the diversity and I always get a spoonful of whatever they’re cooking.

Then there’s the question of Fridge Security. Marking your territory. Until when could somebody use your pan and fork? Until they graduate? And would that be the bachelors, masters, or until their doctorate degree?

I have a flatmate that never wash the dishes she used from Freshers week onwards, I still saw some of her stack lying around as I was hauling out of my room after graduation. Don’t get me wrong, school sent cleaners to clean common areas, but they don’t send nannies, and nobody from my flat bothered to clean up somebody else’s stuff just for the sake of social utility and world peace.

And the bin, of course. I hope they would invent a bin that would walk out automatically to the skips once they’re full ‘cause that would have saved so many friendships and marriages.

And then come people burning food. Flat 3. Burned Egg. Seriously? But then I forgive him. I am not sure if the absolution of the sin is because he’s drunk or he’s a HE. It caused a fire alarm, and that means 20 minutes of whole building residents out in the cold, while security officers assess if burned egg causes idiocy.

And the Flat specialties. Each Building/House consists of about 15 flats and each is usually known for something. There was a flat that is soooo popular for kitchen parties that when security tried to ban them for noise, they started the silent party- meant Shut up and Drink. In my building, Flat 1 is our Starbucks, nice group of guys that invite you over for a cup of hot chocolate. It does help that they’re on the ground floor and closest to the main door. It does help that they’re good looking too. I think anything taste good when you’re looking at something nice.

I miss smelling flatmate’s cooking cause it’s a smell of a year of carefree laidbackness, recklessness, and ignorance. Pre-recession days, back when I don’t pay the bills yet, back when my only worry is to hand over my 2000-word report and the world will be ok.

Spagghetti ala Uni

this recipe must have been the quickest pasta recipe Ive ever came across. We'll unless you're like the 5-year old me that eats raw spaghetti sticks when mama's not looking ( I still do, i nimble on the first spagghetti pencil of the pack before I sentence the rest to the pot of boiling water, its for good luck that I may not forget Im cooking).Anyways, at the Uni, we had Italian friends that live 2 floors down from us, we used to go out with them or load up (pre-club drinking) at their place. One fine night after a 2hour mission to the the school bar/pub, we went back to their kitchen soooooooooo hungry. Locomotive skills hampered by alcohol, our culinary abilities are dwarfed to NIL. But one Italian boy saves us all. He heroically plunges a pack of spaghetti to a pot of boilee, 10 minutes later, our soberiety coming back, he drained it, and shaved Parmesan on it.

and thats it. No olive oil. No basil. No anything else.

Then comes our French friend, tossing Knorr Seasoning (Far East Soya Sauce) on to his plate.
(Count on the French to be culinary upperlip)

Then comes me, putting pieces of Pringles to my heap (Count on me to make croutons out of Pringles).

I dunno if it was starvation or alcohol but it was good. Parmesan and Spaghetti = Spaghettia ala Uni.

Rewind 1 year ago. My Baby Days in UK

wrote this when I was in Uni. never fail to drag me back to memory lane. oh pardon my ignorance, and unsophistacation (though, I am still ignorant and unsophistacated but at least i got a bit more to share forward 1 year on). Anyways enjoy.

The Tesco Diet.

Or Asda, or Morrissons, or whichever is your preference of the Super 4.

I aim to present the simplest diet plan and the cheapest, as both adjectives is very specific to allowance-limited students like me. Simple and Cheap- fairly easy. Simple, Cheap, and Healthy. That’s what I had been up to instead of courseworks. Discovering the market trends, the five forces of my personal economics and my demand to be able to discover the best mix of products that fits those three adjective and that would actually be edible, at least to my 20-year old palate.

The Tesco Diet
Its simple because it is assumed that everything in here was outsourced from the very best, the finest, and the most convenient shelves of the top UK supermarkets. Easy to access, as my vertically-challenged self had come across it despite the fact that most of the good ones in the groceries are above my reach level(with even tiptoeing)

Its simple enough to be discovered by an international student with just a year of England. Cheap enough to be afforded by my home currency that was delivered, and devalued by Western Union. Spare me the royals of the Far East, I think they have curry or nasi lamak delivered by courier everyday to their dorm rooms. But for commoners like me, college is a culinary adventure.

Why am I doing this.

Feeding yourself was once upon a time a quick decision.
Supposedly it’s a quick decision.

Half your allowance went to booze, party, and a stock portfolio of Aspirin afterwards. A quarter of which you seclude for the Chinese buffet, Chinese delivery, and your Chinese girls; or boy for my instance. Then all you are left are some pennies that could afford you 4 course dinner of microwavable, or the products which are the result of the Super 4 narcissism. Self-labelled generics are always the cheapest one and most of the time the shi**est as well. But then you actually get some salvation at times. Yet 10 months and 3 stones later, you found yourself clamouring for gym membership, or a quick fix to the college fat that comes with your diploma.
Cheap and Good. Win Win. Cheap, Good, and Healthy- Miracle.

We have to start from the beginning. Clean Slate. Imaine you arrive at uni for the first time. Jetlagged, Lucid, Lost, and uber hungry. My first meal was a Walker Crisp and a pint of milk to soothe my complaining ulcer. Not exactly a welcoming feast. Then for the next 10 months I gorge on every sausage pizza, chocolate, Walker crisps I could find. Its cheap and easy, and filling. I fell in love with the Full English Breakfast, had a quick affair with the pizza and curly fries, haven’t gotten over Fish and Chips, and I think I will be marrying Wines for the rest of my life. 2 extra stones later, I think I must have gone into a sort of culture shock, British culinary for me is too refreshing liberated and new , and I just set my eye-and-culture apetite and curiosity to prison break. I love British cuisine, and this is not an insult to the culture but an insult to my ignorance. That is why I am doing it. Because after all, I found the British grocery and the British lifestylye more fairly easier to get along with if you’re trying to live healthy- and when you’re really trying. Really Really trying.

So there is no quick fix. Just a good start.

First Trip to Asda. Or Tesco or whatever

Things I should have bought:
1. Water Filter – Drinking from Tap is zero-maintenance BUT it does taste weird at times, and £5 of taking extra care of the most important liquid coming into your body is WORTH it. Do the math, its just 2 smirnoff ice in exchange for Clean water for the rest of the year.

2. Set of Decent Cooking Pan- 1 Casserole, 1 Frying Pan, and probably an extra tefal pan if you could spare the extra pounds.

3. Microwavable Plastic Containers- so you could store pre-made soup, marinated veggies and meat, and where you could hide all those leftovers chic and turkey that could be reincarnated into a sandwhich filler in their next life.

4. Invest in a Rice Cooker(All Asians are nodding in chorus with me)- its good to keep homesickness blues down as rice feels more homely than chips, also it is good for STEAMBOAT(SHABU SHABU) or steaming vegetables. Talk about Healthy. But there’s always the microwave or there’s always starving yourself to death.

5. Roasting Pan- cost u less than £1(Morrisons). Baking roasting or whatever, as long as u put it in the oven, and reserve the oil and butter for those Comfort Food 911 Nights, it sets you to a healthier method of cooking. Ultra Easy as well. Pop in a chicken marinated with lemon chilli sauce, salt, and pepper. Watch an Episode of Friends (20 mins) and its all good. You could even sequel it with homemade baked baby potatoes with herbs as a 2nd course in between Ross and Rachel then Rachel and Joey.

Other equipment worth acknowledging for. The Oscars goes to…
Toasters- best and quickest. Ciabbata, Pita. Or good ole bread. Do your heart a favour and stick with wholemeal. THERE IS A WORLD OUTSIDE WHITE BREAD. Wholemeal malted, seeded, half brown, drunked, and taken for granted. And the best place to get bread? Market place. Wednesdays and Saturdays, freshly baked

Microwave - did they ever gave Mr. Microwave a Pulitzer? I sure hope they did. Cos this had absolutely been my best mate. Not all microwaved food are appaling. It depends on what you put into it. If you had plonk a ready to go sausage and mash, DO NOT expect caviar to come out after 7 minutes. Microwave is a tool, not a lifestyle. Take advantage of its ability to cook fast without oil. I normally cook white eggs in it (there is such a thing as an egg microvable plastic cooker 99p Morrissons), I steam veggies in it. I thaw my rock frozen meat, and I rejuvenate my past with it- past chicken, 2 day old tomato soup, way past curry, and past-a. Trying to be funny here. It would take a lot of humor to get through this huge advocacy.

Oven – oven is the most taken for granted siblings in the kitchen family at least for uni students. It is always overshadowed by Big Brother Hob. What most didn’t realize is it is far easier to cook in oven than in anything within 2 mile radius. It is also more flavourful, as goes with the convention of slow cooking.

Ab Initio

Ab Initio
Uk is my playground.
The world is my classroom.
Lived. Laughed. Drunk. Shivered and Cried. Frozen Cold Anatomy, Warm Memories.
UK Diaries.

I went to uk to run away.
I felt Im Huckelberry or Hazelberrry Finn, my laptop is Tom Sawyer, and the British Airways is my raft.
And probably Thames River is my Mississippi.
Forgive me Mark Twain, I know you had better adventures but I can’t help the metaphor.

This a chronicle of my adventures and misadventures, funny, endearing tug of war between British Immigration, English rainy days, my 3 jobs-a-week-life, and nostalgia of homeland I will never forget.

I didn’t come in the usual working channel, I am not a nurse, neither a wife of a local. I came legally though as a legit student, and remaining to do so with my extension. I don’t have any family here, and my core community is half of Southeast Asian (Thai, Indian) and old English locals.

Im a nutter for writing and an audience wouldnt hurt (hence the blog). But I'd like to think that this is more of a diary rather than a showbook but nonetheless, come with me as I peel off the different characters of British life, food, culture, and living, that you would never thought happens in the grounds of Queen Elizabeth as we battle recession, MP expenses Scandal and the bitter coldness of long winters and 2-day indian summers. All in the backdrop of 3 jobs in the food industry, and a 1 year in past tense as a student.

3 jobs. 3 bosses. 3 lives. Thrice the adventure.