Friday, 30 December 2011

Honest Cooking

So I have recently been featured on a website called It is so exciting and I am shamelessly plugging it now, because I just submitted a couple more articles.
Watch this space! And why not follow the website on facebook, too!

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Cat Cafe

When I first heard about Korean Cat Cafes, I have to admit I was a little dubious. I am not really a cat person, although I do have an enquiring interest in dog cafes.

So yesterday we took a girly trip to find the place in Hapseongdong that self confessed cat-addict, Leslie, has been raving about for weeks. This cafe was the most oestrogen filled place I have been in a long time. Girls were pawing all over the cats who were quite clearly uninterested as they have seen it all before and as self-pleasing creatures at the best of times, all the human attention was clearly old news.

There were bios for each cat, but we took to creating our own names for each kitty, some of which I have to admit stole my heart a little. The coffee was served in take out cups, which I was pleased about, no cat hair in my coffee please.  For 6,000won, you got a choice of drink from a set list, plus as long as you liked to coax the cats into some play time fun. There was also a Jenga set available which we made use of.
The coffee was really sweet, but good, and there were some nice bread-biscuit treats to nibble on included.

Butternut, as his face was all squashed. Perhaps my favourite.

Vin (as in Diesel). At one point he had his elbow hanging outside his house as though he was pimping his ride.

Cute little houses and pictures.
I was really surprised how much I liked it. There were no litter trays or cat poop to be seen, there was a cat flap into a different room with a sign saying toilet. I assume that was where the action happened, I was just pleased to know it wasn't anywhere around my table.

At one point, the waitress opened a can of cat food and served it to the kitties with chopsticks! One of the more bizarre moments of an entirely bizarre experience! There were toys to play with and cubby holes to sit in surrounded by a host of cat paraphernalia.
I would definitely recommend a visit to any cat cafe. The one in Hapseongdong, Masan is clearly very nicely put together, the cats are all rare breeds and very placid. The coffee is great and the atmosphere is very feline!

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Ridiculously Happy pancakes!

Happy pancakes

Last weekend, my better half and his epic food obsession struck again. He and Grat found an all American pancake recipe and gathered a host of fresh sweet ingredients to make an immense breakfast treat! Ice cream, almonds, banana, honey, choc chips, honey, whipped cream.... Grat's started to leak ice cream from every layer.
Using Jamie Oliver's USA pancake recipe, they formed a four tier mountain that conquered them both and Tom was eating his the next day. Grat had two cups of tea on the go and was still beaten by the sweetness. Clearly half the portion would suffice, but it was a Saturday challenge to get both boys revved up for the weekend. Teaching can take it out of you so the extra calories will go to good use! I had a modest two tier mountain with far less ice cream, but it was still too much.

Happy face American style pancakes

4 tier USA style pancakes - Delicious!

Jamie's Recipe - click the link or read below.

3 large eggs
115g/4oz plain flour
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
140ml/5fl oz milk
a pinch of salt

Separate the eggs.
Add the flour, baking powder and milk to the yolks and mix to a smooth thick batter.
Whisk the whites with the salt until they form stiff peaks.
Fold into the batter – it is now ready to use.

Cook on a medium heat.
Sprinkle you topping on the pancake as it is cooking to make a crispy golden brown finish.
Cook for a couple of minutes and flip over.

Merry Shinsegaemas

Shinsegae Christmas party food

Christmas is not overwhelmingly apparent in Korea, and sometimes you have to go looking for it. There are clusters of lights in our neighbourhood and we have a rather lovely looking tree in our living room. So last weekend I took a hopeful trip to Korea's second city, Busan. Centum City is Shinsegae's flagship department store. Shinsegae translates as, 'New World' and this store is actually the largest department store in the world. I have visited the international food court before, but with Christmas approaching it seemed like the kind of place I wanted to spend a Saturday morning and I was not disappointed! The Christmas displays were a treat and the food was a feast for the eyes. The basement food court is really amazing and a great place to forage for western style fodder and special Christmas finds. We were lucky to find some real Stilton cheese. At $17 for 150g it was an expensive purchase, but you absolutely must have a decent cheeseboard on December 25th.

Shinsegae Christmas window display.

The food court is a hive of activity. Sushi, fajitas, and waffles are earnestly prepared with creative flair by incredibly friendly staff. More traditional Korean sweets like Gyeongju (Hwangnam) bread are swiftly formed and neatly lined up ready to be baked. Gyeongju bread is named after the city and is a sweet bread filled with even sweeter red bean paste. Down in the basement food court you can see this paste in huge quantities as it is scooped into small balls and used to fill the small pretty circular breads. Many of the foods are being prepared out in the open like this, so it is really fun to leisurely walk around and soak up the culinary atmosphere. There are some pretty fantastic aromas, too.

Making Gyeongju bread with sweet red bean paste.

I loved these gingerbread Christmas houses which were lined up on the counter, each one unique in design and sprinkled with Christmas cheer. They were rather pricey, but as gourmet houses go... I thought they were impressive!

Christmas gingerbread house with snowman.

Ginger bread Christmas house

These houses were not the only baked goods which caught my attention. The cakes were amazing! Fruit, icing, jam, sponge, cheesecake, chocolate, coconut, sweet potato every imaginable flavour and each one immaculately presented.
Shinsegae cakes

I was also taken with the range of preserves which included onion and olive marmalade, blackcurrant jams and ginger and lime jelly. There were also very heathy looking deli and wine sections. They even had Yorkshire tea! All in all, I recommend going to check out Shinsegae over the Christmas period and if you can make it over to Busan, the food court is a must. Like me, you will probably have a little chuckle when you see the 'Merry Shinsegaemas' signs.  

Preserves at  Sinsegae food court- Centum City

World teas at Shinsegae - Centum City

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Simple Hummus

One of my favourite comfort foods any time of year is a homemade hummus recipe that anyone can make! Although some people object to eating uncooked garlic, there are some advantages to this. Having lived in Korea for nearly 2 years, I have become accustomed to using garlic as a staple ingredient. Koreans  use it in their annual kimchi preparation which is currently well underway! But the smell of cabbage and garlic will not be fazing me. With winter in full swing, it is always a battle to keep coughs and sneezes at bay. Using garlic before you feel a cold coming is commonly know to help boost the immune system. It has been said that taking a dose of garlic, can shorten the symptoms and help you get back on your feet.
With this in mind, and the fact that I have recently acquired a massive bag of dried chickpeas, I thought I would try introducing the world to my simple hummus recipe.

2 cups (150g) cooked and drained chickpeas or canned chickpeas, drained
3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup (120ml) squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 cup (240ml) cold water
sea salt
optional fresh rosemary and balsamic vinegar to taste

A note on dried chickpeas
1. Soak your dried chickpeas over night and then boil with a little salt for around 2 hours until soft.
2. Drain away any froth during the boiling process.
Alternatively you can use canned chickpeas if you don't have the patience, but I really enjoy the anticipation. Either way your chickpeas are ready to roll!

The Hummus itself
1. Put the garlic, lemon and olive oil into a blender and process until the garlic is pureed.
2. Add the chickpeas, cayenne pepper and gradually add a little water to help blend the ingredients into a thick paste. Add a little more water if necessary to help the blender push round the drier ingredients.
3. Add sea salt to taste.
4. As for flavouring, I have tried adding fresh rosemary or a table spoon of balsamic vinegar to the mixture and blending for a further 30 seconds. This can really add some flavour to your hummus.
5. Sprinkle with a little cayenne pepper to present and serve with crudities or freshly baked flat bread as a light snack or deliciously tempting appetiser.

Stained Glass Christmas Tree Cookies

I wanted to make something to brighten up our Korean Christmas tree this year as there is not much Christmas cheer in Korea and some of our decorations have been damaged as we moved from one apartment to the next. So I stumbled across a recipe which I adapted to make some festive stained glass cookie decorations. They turned out pretty well!

Stained Glass Window Tree Cookies.

350g plain flour
1tsp bicarb soda
2tsp ginger
100g butter
175g brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 beaten egg
milk to bind together
Boiled sweets crushed.


Grease and line two baking trays. 
Sift the flour, baking soda and ginger together.
Rub in the butter with your finger tips until the mixture has the consistency of breadcrumbs.
Add honey, sugar and egg. Form into a dough and add milk a little at a time until a soft palpable dough is formed. Rest it for 5 minutes.
Flour a surface and roll our your dough until it is around 1/2cm thick.
Use cutters to make shapes with a space for the window.
Make a hole in the top with a chopstick or straw.
Crush a boiled sweet (a garlic crusher works a treat). Place the sweet in the central window try not to sprinkle on the cookie.
Put all cookies in the oven 180 C for 10-12 minutes or until golden.
Cool on a baking rack.
Once soft, gently peel off the baking sheet. Tie string or ribbon through the hole and use to decorate you tree or windows.

They look really pretty, but more importantly, they taste good! They should keep a long while on your tree, but I was saving mine in a tin for Christmas week. I put it on top of the fridge and unfortunately, Tom pulled the door a bit too hard and the tin fell on the floor. I now have a box full of smashed Christmas cookies :(
Oh well, I will just have to make more!