Saturday, 8 September 2012

Valentine's Treats

I wanted to share this lovely chocolate figure picture. It was given to me by one of my students on Valentine's Day 2012. Most of the young girls made chocolates from kits they bought at the local accessory and stationary shops for young'uns (although I was quite partial to shopping there myself for cute Korean goodies). The kits contained molds, sprinkles and chocolate to melt, plus individual bags for the chocolate gifts to be wrapped in. It is common for kids to give their teachers little gifts on Valentine's Day, something I found strange at first but that now seems completely normal!

Friday, 7 September 2012

Angel-In-Us Coffee

Starting work at 1 or 2pm at an English academy means you have the morning time to kick back, catch up with friends, get a spot of Korean study under your belt or have a good gossip; all over a coffee.
My favourite coffee spot in Korea had to be Angel-in-us Coffee, purely for the nonsensical name and branding common to much of Korea and adherent to baffling Konglish tendencies. I especially loved Samgye's Angel-in-us, because of the big windows where you could watch the Korean world go by. Also, it had a view of my academy; providing a quick skip across the road to work!

Korean coffee shops have it all right, comfortable seating, open spaces, quirky decor and big mugs! It was not unusual to be given 'service' chocolate bars, plus coupons for free coffee and cheap as chips merchandise were also a big draw for me. One of these delightful mugs made it as my Secret Santa gift and within the 10,000won budget.

Barista courses are very popular among young Korean women who dream of having their own coffee shop selling western inspired cakes and confectionery. Many Coffee shops in Masan came and went, and it was clear that although most of the proprietors had great passion for design, taste and all things pretty, there was little room for making money if you gave free brownies to every customer! This sweetness in employee character and atmosphere made Korean coffee shops one of my favourite resting places. You were filled with the charm of Korea and humbled to be treated with such respect and concern for your comfort.
You could sit and devour two or three coffees over a couple of hours and sit alone, with a friend or a host of Korean study and note books in a large window seat, without ever being asked to move on or buy more. As regular customers, you were greeted with adorably enthusiastic English greetings and an offer of assistance with your studies!

Koreans have a love of all foods western; bagels, sandwiches, cheesecake, paninis, ice cream, cookies and doughnuts. Despite this, there is still a vehement passion and a firm refusal to give up their own traditional sweet treats as should be the case. The two streams are found together in most bakers and coffee shops. There is a distinct love of sweetness in this place. I can just taste that blackberry cheese cake. . .

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Camping is so much better with Fondue

We did a lot of camping while we were away, so now we are back we want to keep this up and make the most of the patchy summer weather.  We took a trip north of Harrogate up to Leyburn and set up camp for the evening in a lovely garden camping field. It was quiet and we had our own picnic bench and private garden complete with stream at the gorgeous Craken House which lies about a mile out of Leyburn, Wensleydale. There were a handful of caravans on the further paddocks, but we were the only tent. The campsite overlooks Middleham and the scenery is gorgeous. Facilities there are basic but clean and tidy and although the driveway up to the house is a little confusing, the neighbours pointed us in the right direction :) Camping cost 10 pounds: one night for two people and a car.

So, once we had unpacked the boot and backseats of the car which had been filled with duvets, pillows, walking boots and a hamper of food, we set up the gas stove and started to cook our Swiss cheese fondue!

Swiss Cheese Fondue

450g Emmental Cheese
450g Swiss Gruyere Cheese
One quarter of a bottle of dry white wine
1 tbsp cornflour
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 juice of one lemon


1. Mix the cheese and cornflour in a bowl (or bag if you are taking the ingredients camping).
2. Pour the wine and lemon juice into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the crushed garlic. You can add a few sprigs of thyme or cloves at this point, too.
3. Slowly add the cheese mixture a handful at a time, stirring lightly until all the cheese has melted.
4. Season to taste

The beauty of eating fondue while camping is that you can put the cheese in one pot and take blanched crudities and crusty bread along with you. It might be worth trying this with some Wensleydale cheese! Whatever cheese you choose, this makes a lovely comforting one pot meal which is very simple to make and involves very little washing up. This is a good thing as we always, always forget our washing up stuff! We also took a bottle of ale and enjoyed the rest of the wine to wash it all down. The alcohol definitely helps you wind down and keeps you warm during the night! Although you shouldn't really be able to taste the alcohol in the fondue, be careful to cook off your wine for long enough to release most of the alcohol before adding the cheese! You need to keep the cheese loose by maintaining the heat beneath the pan so make sure you have lots of gas for your stove! The heat from the pan also acts as a lovely warm fire!

We packed everything up and had a little walk through the sheep fields, all of them looked at us suspiciously (probably because we smelled of garlic, cheese and wine).

The next morning we drove up to Aysgarth Falls, the setting for the very wet Kevin Costner fight scene in 'Robin Hood - Prince of Thieves'. We enjoyed the shorter walking trail along the riverside including the upper, middle and lower falls and delighted in exploring our dearly missed English countryside!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Jeju Gumgyeol (Kumquats)


 These tiny oranges are delicious but a little disconcerting. No one likes pith, peel or seeds. They are tedious to get rid of and lets not forget messy! We were first served gumgyeol at school on our lunch tray, where we were encouraged to pop them down the hatch all in one, one at a time. Packed with vitamins and tiny edible seeds, the bitter peel is consumed along with the sweet citrus fruit and you can taste the goodness without any mess! The fruit grows well on Korea's very own paradise island, Jeju. It is often sold as a kind of marmalade tea which provides a warm and nutritiously packed alternative to hot chocolate during winter time when the weather really takes a plunge into bitterness!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Mussels in Korean Beer

In our last few weeks in Korea, we realised we had talked about cooking some of the mussels sold on the street by the ajumammas for weeks and weeks. We had a spare can of Korean beer in the pantry and decided we should combine the two with a french loaf from our local baker.

Mussels in Korean Beer

50g butter
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
1 can of Korean beer
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs of thyme
2 kg mussels cleaned
220ml double cream
crusty bread to share
1. Melt the butter over a medium heat in a large pan.
2. Brown the onions in a little salt for 3-5 minutes and then add the garlic.
3. Add the bay leaf and thyme to the pan and pour over the beer.
4. Bring to the boil and then add the mussels.
5. Cover the mussels tightly and boil for 2-3minutes shaking occassionally.
6. Use tongs to pick out the mussels, removing and discarding unopened mussels.
7. Add the cream to the sauce, boil for a further 2 minutes.
8. Season well and serve the mussels in a large bowl to share with the liquid poured over. 

We ate our mussels with some steamed broccoli and crusty bread.