Sunday, October 28, 2007

How to make risotto ahead

I am currently almost at the end of the Divertimenti Cooking With Confidence course and absolutely loving every minute of it. Our teacher Sarah Benjamin (a fabulously energetic chef, importer and now co-author of The Borough Market Cookbook - Meat and Fish) is an absolute star and has been imbueing us with a myriad of useful hints and tips over the last few weeks. One really useful one is how to make risotto in advance. I absolutely love risotto and make it all the time, but in a dinner party setting all that simmering and stirring seems a bit antisocial.

Worry no more though, fellow princesses, it is possible to part-cook your risotto in advance and leave just a couple of minutes of stirring for the night itself. Here are the steps you need to follow:

1 Cook the risotto in the normal way, until 2/3 of the required liquid has been absorbed.

2 Take the risotto off the heat and spread into a baking tray lined with cling film. The thinner the better as we are trying to cool it down rapidly.

3 Put the risotto into the fridge.

4 Once you need to plate up, return the cooled risotto to the pan with the final third of hot stock.

5 Stir until the liquid is absorbed, and the rice is al dente and creamy.

6 Serve to your super-impressed dinner guests.

If you're lacking inspiration on the risotto front, Bear Necessities has a tasty Citrus risotto with garlic chilli prawns, whilst Blogjam has a somewhat scary but nonetheless home-grown Garden snail risotto!

It is also possible to cook risotto in the oven, as ably demonstrated by The Passionate Cook and her Oven baked mushroom risotto.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Creamy roast tomato soup

Tomato soup - before roasting
I have been having a soup frenzy since being back in the UK, it's something about the delicious crisp weather we've been having that makes me want to curl up on the sofa with something hot, hearty and comforting. This recipe is inspired by an Ainsley Harriott number, with extra chillies for a bit of a kick.


8 vine ripened tomatoes, cut into halves
1 red onion, cut into quarters
1 head of garlic, cut in half across the middle (it's important to cut across the cloves to make them easy to squeeze out of their skins later on)
A few sprigs of thyme
A pinch of dried chilli flakes
Olive oil for drizzling
Maldon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 litre vegetable stock
1 tin of tomatoes
150ml creme fraiche

Preheat the oven to 200C/ Gas Mark 6

Fill an oven-proof saucepan with the tomatoes, onion, garlic and thyme all covered with a generous drizzle of olive oil and a good pinch of sea salt, chilli flakes and pepper. I find this easier than a roasting tin when it comes to whiz the tomatoes with the blender later. Roast the tomato mix for half an hour or so until the tomatoes are nice and soft. Don't worry if they blacken slightly.

Fish out the onions and garlic into a bowl. Pour the stock over the tomatoes and put them back into the oven for ten more minutes.

Whilst the tomatoes are continuing to cook, pop the now gorgeously sweet and golden garlic cloves and onion quarters out of their skins into the bowl of a food processor and whiz to a sticky paste (I used the slicer attachment to my Panasonic stick blender - a bargain at 20 quid from Tesco!).

Once the tomatoes are done, take them out of the oven. Fish out the thyme and throw it away. Add the onion/garlic mix and the tinned tomatoes to the roasted tomatoes/stock mix and whiz with a stick blender to a smooth soup. Reheat on the stove until piping hot.

Finally, stir in the creme fraiche and enjoy!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Arkle Manor - delicious Dorking dining

Arkle Manor exterior

One of the places I have been missing whilst I've been in Hong Kong is the Arkle Manor, near Dorking in Surrey. It is a traditional looking and huge country pub, with a refreshingly modern menu. This is no gastro-pub though, more a reasonably priced and tasty modern restaurant that just happens to have a bar with huge log fires to lounge by after you've finished your meal. It is very family friendly and the staff are genuinely interested in your enjoyment of the food.

When the BF and I rocked up for Sunday lunch, the restaurant was fully packed out. However, the delightful staff suggested we sit in the bar and we were still able to order from the full restaurant menu.

Arkle Manor pavlova

The BF tucked into roast beef with all the trimmings, whilst I went for roast red snapper on a bed of crab mash (genius) with broccoli florets and a balsamic glaze. We then indulged in puddings - a ginger sticky toffee pud for the BF and a sumptuous mango fool pavlova for me. The fool pavlova was such a great combination and was presented as a sticky mound of tiny meringue pieces bound together with creamy, fruity fool and chunks of mango, all drizzled with a vibrant coulis.

Bookings strongly recommended.

Arkle Manor
Reigate Road, Betchworth, Surrey RH3 7HB
01737 842110

Saturday, October 6, 2007

7 essential Hong Kong foodie experiences

This is it - after seven months living in Hong Kong we're heading back home to the UK today. In honour of our move I thought a list of the best bits of Hong Kong wouldn't go amiss. If you're planning a holiday here or moving over to work then these might just come in handy.

So with no further ado, these are my top Hong Kong foodie experiences:

1. Indulge in some high end dining at Hutong, Felix, Gaddi's, Toscana or M at the Fringe.

2. Brush up your chopstick skills then try some authentic Chinese cuisine at Spring Deer, Yung Kee or XinJiShi.

3. Find the latest hot tables with OpenRice, Hip Hong Kong or the Word of Mouth guide.

4. Haggle at the street market in Central, anyone for a fresh fish head?

5. Get away for a weekend in Macau for tasty egg tarts, distinctive Macanese cuisine and gambling.

6. Learn from a pro at a cookery class with Martha Sherpa. She teaches traditional Chinese, Thai and Dim Sum.

7. Or just stay at home and dream, by reading one of the many Hong Kong food blogs. Two of my favourites are Girl Eats Hong Kong and Cha Xiu Bao.

There may be a brief hiatus before I get reconnected to the net, and then The Princess and the Recipe will start in its new incarnation as a UK food blog.
Joi gin!
The Princess

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Hutong (TST, Hong Kong) review

Soft shell crabs with Szechuan peppers

Our time in Hong Kong is drawing to a close, and for the grand finale what better place to dine than Hutong? The decor is dark and sultry, the view is spectacular and the food is contemporary Northern Chinese cuisine at its absolute best. This is my favourite restaurant in Hong Kong, and quite possibly in the far!

Soft shell crabs with Szechuan peppers

We chose our three favourite dishes from previous visits - first the Crispy Soft Shell Crab with Szechuan Red Peppers. The presentation is beautiful and the crispy crabs that you fish out from the pile of peppers are deliciously meaty, but be warned - this dish is very, very spicy!

Hutong style deboned lamb ribs

Next up was the Crispy De-boned Lamb Ribs in Hutong Style. The BF and I both absolutely love these. The ribs are de-boned, the flesh marinated in spices and slow-cooked until it melts in the mouth, the skin fried to crispy bliss, and then the whole dish is re-assembled and served up on a wooden platter with dipping sauce and lashings of garlic. You just can't get better than this - if you go to Hutong you just HAVE to eat the lamb!

And finally...

Asparagus with salted fish

...the Steamed Asparagus with Salty Fish. The salty fish aspect divided us - the BF hated it and I loved it (more for me!), however we both agreed that the asparagus was super-duper. It was tender without a hint of woodiness, but yet with just the right amount of crisp bite.

If you are in Hong Kong and you only go to one restaurant, make it Hutong!

Hutong, 28/F 1 Peking, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
+852 3428 8342

Monday, October 1, 2007

Authentic Cantonese at Yung Kee

To celebrate National Day of the PRC (or, more importantly, the fact that we get a bank holiday because of it), the BF and I decided to head to Yung Kee. This restaurant prides itself in being the only Chinese restaurant to make the Fortune Best 15 in the World (in 1968!) and is famous for its roast goose.

The restaurant is easy to find and, although it is just a stone's throw away from the ex-pat debauchery of Lan Kwai Fong, this place is mainly filled with large Chinese family groups. It's wise to book ahead, which you can do online, as it gets pretty busy.

We decided to try the somewhat pricey $780 "Deluxe" set menu for two, as we weren't sure what to try. To kick off, we were served up a 1,000 year old duck egg and some pickled ginger. The ginger was tasty but we weren't quite so sure about the duck egg - it certainly didn't look appetising with a greyish, translucent white and a putrid, slimy looking greenish grey yolk. The BF found it completely nauseating and I could just tolerate about tolerate the intense boiled egg flavour, although I wouldn't want to eat a whole one! We both agreed that we preferred Kylie Kwong's less extreme version that I had previously cooked as part of a Weekend Cookbook Challenge.

We were relieved to be served up with some delicious Deep Fried Shrimp with Mini Crab Roe next. These were washed down nicely with some Tsing Tao beer.

Our Roasted Goose with Preserved Pig Trotter in Soy Sauce was unfortunately sans pig trotter, as these had already sold out by 8pm. However, it didn't detract in any way from the gloriousness of the dish. The meat was succulently fatty with a crisp, crackly skin and definitely worthy of the 2002 Gold award at the Best of the Best Culinary Awards.

The Abalone with Mushroom in Superior Soup was a tasty clear broth with a subtle seafood flavour. The Steamed Garoupa with Chinese Ham was pleasant enough, but nothing in particular to write home about, as were the Wonton Noodles.

Finally, the Mango Pudding seemed to have genuine chunks of mango in, which made a pleasant surprise and a bit of a change from the usual Angel Delight-style puddings most Chinese restaurants serve up.

Overall, the meal was slightly disappointing for the price, but there were the occasional flashes of brilliance which made it worthwhile. It was interesting to note on re-visiting the menu that the two dishes we loved (the shrimp and the goose) were the two award winning elements of the menu.

My advice would be, don't bother with the set menu - go a la carte and pick some of the award winners. The goose is out of this world and worth a visit by itself, but just don't expect the same superlative standards of every dish on the menu.

Yung Kee
38-40 Wellington St, Central
Hong Kong
+852 2522 1624