My (very brief) TV moment

16 Aug

Out of the blue over a month ago, I got asked if I wanted to be on the pilot of the after show of what is quite possibly my favourite TV show to date: the Great British Bake Off (silent scream – yes it still affects me that way!).  For those who aren’t familiar with it, the Great British Bake Off (GBBO), which is now in its fifth season,  is a reality TV show competition for bakers.  There are 12 bakers and each week they have a theme and they bake a signature bake, a technical bake and a show stopper and each week someone is awarded star baker and someone bakes their last bake.  At the end of 12 weeks (and 36 bakes) you have the winner of the Great British Bake Off.  I credit GBBO for the resurgence in my drive to bake better.

GBBO was such a hit that the bigwigs at the BBC thought it was necessary to move it from BBC2 to BBC1.  They also thought it would be good to raise the profile further by creating a post-show show, ala The Apprentice: You’re Fired.  I thought it was an excellent idea.  The more Bake Off the merrier, I say!

ExtraSlice

I had thought that that phone call was the end of it.  I couldn’t do the shoot of the pilot and I thought I’d lost my chance to appear on the GBBO aftershow.  But I got a call two weeks ago asking if I wanted to be part of the next episode of Extra Slice.  Of course I did and of course I said yes (of course!!!)!  The brief was to bring cookies and bring cookies I did!  I brought Chinese almond cookies.

I so wanted to tell the world and his wife about the impending TV appearance but I had to sit on my hands and bite my tongue.  Apart from everything being hush-hush and secret, I wasn’t even sure I’d get to see myself on camera.  Also, it had a lot to do with the confidentiality agreement that I signed before we went down to shoot the episode.  It was the closest I was going to get to the Bake Off (for the meantime!) and I was determined NOT to mess it up.

The day started off with a lot of rain and me and my curly hair!  Ha!  But nothing, even torrential rain (which it wasn’t really.  Everything was just a little gray that Sunday), could dampen my excitement.  I was going to be able to watch the next episode of my favourite TV show ever (ahead of most people) and I was going to get to see one of my favourite ladies of comedy for the very first time, in person!  Jo Brand hosts An Extra Slice!  Yay!

It wasn’t as if I didn’t know what TV production was like.  I’d been to a few sets in my time (mostly school field trips) but I was unabashedly starstruck.  Mostly because it was GBBO.  It was good getting to chat to people who loved the show as much as I did and who loved baking as much as I did!  Being in the ITV Studios was part of the excitement.  I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t take as many photos as I could!  D’oh and the accompanying face slap!

You tweet it, it's supposed to give you free orange juice .  Didn't work though!

You tweet it, it’s supposed to give you free orange juice . Didn’t work though!

While it wasn’t the GBBO baking tent, it was close enough.  There’s something to be said about GBBO magic.  There was a massive bonus though:  Lisa Faulkner and Monica Galetti were two-thirds of the celebrity trio that joined Jo Brand.  I love Lisa Faulkner from when she cooked her way into winning MasterChef and while Monica Galetti scares me, she’s quite an amazing chef and I am a fan!  Charlie Baker rounded of the three and let me just say that he has lost a massive amount of weight from when he danced into winning Let’s Dance for Comic Relief!

It took about 3 hours to shoot the 30-minute TV show and I got home at nearly midnight.  Was I bothered?  Nope.  Absolutely not.  The three hours were filled with a lot of aughter and amazing entertainment.  The guys at Love Production do an amazing job and the finished product is amazing (especially since I saw myself on telly — all of the two nano seconds!  Ha!)!  The experience of waiting around for everything to start wasn’t so bad either because getting a chance to chat to people, see what their bakes were, get inspired by other people’s creativity is something you can’t buy!  Even talking about the experience now makes me smile.

I hope they call me again.  I want to get a chance to bake a heck of a showstopper!  But if I don’t get a call back, I’ll still look back on the whole experience with a huge smile.  It was amazing.  VERY.

I can’t upload the video because my account needs to be upgraded before I’m able to do that (I probably should have uploaded it onto YouTube.  But you can view a bit o it on my Instagram account, if you want to!  Just click here.

Blueberry cheesecake cupcakes and fruit goo

3 Aug

I love it when a plan comes together!  I managed to tick off 2 recipes from the book.

I made blueberry “fruit goo” (page 34).  It was necessary because the fruit goo was going to be the topping and filling for the cupcake recipe I was going to attempt.  The recipe was so very generous and there is still half a jar of the fruit goo in my fridge.

Blueberry fruit goo

The cupcake recipe I attempted today was the blueberry cheesecake cupcake (page 62).  I haven’t been able to taste it because I’ve had too much of the fruit goo and the cream cheese icing, but Alan says it tastes and smells like a cheesecake and I trust his food opinion!  So it passes the Alan taste test.  It was quite fun to do this though because you built up the cupcake in stages: first you had to put together the biscuit base (like any self-respecting cheesecake, this one, too, has a buttery biscuit base), then put in the cupcake batter, bake the cupcake, then fill the middle with the blueberry fruit goo (for more fruity goodness, I think), and top it with a cream cheese frosting and swirl through even more fruit goo!  I had fun doing this.  I really did.

Blueberry cheesecake cupcake

So, as far as today is concerned, I only have 47 recipes to go and 22 weeks to finish cooking through the book.

I can do this!

Blueberry cheesecake cupcakes ready to go

Thinking…

29 Jul

…can be very dangerous!

I am thinking of a redesign of the blog.  But I am slightly torn because I love how it looks at the moment.  I may have to change the theme but keep the colours.

But everything right now is just a thought and everything is still on a drawing board.

Watch this space!

Daily routine

28 Jul

It takes me ages to get ready everyday.  I like to take my time with my morning ablutions.  Although that being said, I think I should streamline my morning routine so that I don’t necessarily have to wake up too early in the morning.  Because I think I may benefit from a few more minutes in bed!

I started thinking about my morning routine when I read Emma Gannon’s blog entry called No, I Really Did Wake Up Like This.  I copied off the first few words of my comment on her blog.  There are probably 3 things that I need to be sure of before I go out the door (apart from my well-planned handbag – you know, the essentials: purse, phone, keys, headphones and kindle): straightened and neat hair, a non-shiny face, and eyeliner. This is my version of low maintenance. I very rarely go out the door without making sure those three things are sorted.

But before I get to the door, before I leave my bedroom I need to have done the following:  injected Byetta (I am a Type 2 Diabetic, in case you missed it – wouldn’t blame you as this blog is filled with food related posts!), drank my Gliclazide, washed my hair, blow-dried and straightened my hair, moisturised, moisturised, moisturised, put my face on (mostly the eyeliner) and spritzed on my scent of choice (it is currently Escale À Portofino by Dior).  If I don’t get my morning routine done, I feel out of sorts.  There’s something about starting the day the way you’ve planned it.  Sometimes I wonder if I dawdle too much or if there’s a more efficient way of getting ready.

Call it bizarre but it’s my armor from a Murphy’s Law day.

What’s you’re morning routine like?

Down day

27 Jul

You know those days when everything is okay but you feel horribly horrrible?  The sun was shining and it wasn’t too hot but I woke up this morning with a head that felt like it was meant to be on an elephant, my nose was running like it was meant to be a sprinter at the Commonwealth Games and my eyes were streaming like…well, I can’t really think of an analogy for streaming.

I drank hayfever meds and I took a couple of paracetamol tablet and went out with Alan because he wanted to get mango purée because I think he wanted mango lassi today.  I didn’t say anything about my head but I did mention my hayfever to him.

It has made me horribly cranky today.  I think it’s safe to say I’ve been acting like a brat an entire day.  But I must say, it would’ve been nice to be pampered today and spoiled rotten.  But I wasn’t.

Phooey.

Mama’s Braised Pork

26 Jul

Today, I was comfort cooking.  And desperate for more of that belly pork from Bobby Chinn’s House of Ho.  Unfortunately for me, London is an hour and a half away from train and I wasn’t particularly feeling well.  So I did the next best thing: cook my mom’s braised pork – and add a few tweaks of my own.

Braised pork

Ingredients:

  • 1kg pork belly
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 50g sugar
  • 75ml soy sauce
  • 2 cinnamon bark
  • 20 cloves
  • 1 inch piece of ginger
  • 2 star anises
  • 3 tbsp xiao xing rice wine
  • enough water to cover the pork in a pan
  • 1 heaping tbsp of cornflour
  • 3-4 tablespoons of water to dissolve the cornflour in

Directions

  1. Score the belly pork rind.
  2. In a work or a deep sauce pan, heat up oil and add about 50g of sugar and slowly caramelise the sugar in the oi  Once the sugar has completely melted and has turned a brown caramelly colour, raise the heat to medium and lay the pork belly skin-side down down and allow to colour for about 3 minutes.  Turn to do the fleshy side for another 3 minutes.
  3. Fill the pan until  with enough water to cover the pork.  Add the soy sauce, ginger, cinnamon, star anise, cloves and rice wine. 
  4. Braise for 1 1/2 hrs turning every 30 minutes.  Then remove the pork from the braising liquid and place the pork in a lined roasting tin
  5. Preheat the oven to 200°C.  Pass the braising liquid through a sieve.  To the braising liquid add 1 heaped tbsp of cornflour (don’t add the cornflour directly to the hot liquid – dissolve it first in about 3 tablespoons of water) and stir over low heat and allow to thicken.
  6. Pour half of the thickened braising liquid over the pork and roast in the oven for 30 minutes.  After roasting, take the pork out of the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing to serve.   Serve with chopped spring onions sprinkled over the pork slices.
  7. This is best served with rice or hirata buns The left over thickened sauce can be a dipping sauce for the buns or sauce for the rice. 

Braised Chinese Pork

Eating at the House of Ho

22 Jul

Soho is a brilliant hodgepodge of restaurants.  You are spoiled for choice when you head there for a meal.  There is a brilliant mixture of chain restaurants, small mom & pop establishments, specialist restaurants that feature European, traditional English, South American, Chinese, Japanese, South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine.  There are a variety of bars, coffee shops and patisseries as well.  The question of what to eat becomes even more difficult to answer when faced with so much choice!

One of the newer kids on the block featuring Southeast Asian cuisine is Bobby Chinn’s House of Ho.  Found in the middle of Old Compton Street, the monotone gray facade of the restaurant contradicts the diverse flavours of the dishes that are on offer on the menu.  Bobby Chinn describes the food on offer at House of Ho as “modern Vietnamese food and flavours.”  I was mostly excited that it was Bobby Chinn’s restaurant.  I was a bit of a fan of his when I lived in Manila.  His cooking shows were an afternoon staple when I was at home and had access to TV.  Apart from that, I love Vietnamese food.  We had a Vietnamese lady stay with us once for a few weeks and she would cook us a proper Vietnamese meal once in a while.  My favourite was a chicken recipe with lemongrass.  I fell in love even more when I was introduced to pho and the fresh spring rolls (in Atlanta of all places!).  Vietnamese food is one of the lesser known Southeast Asian cuisines, although it is now becoming more and more recognised (thanks in part to very popular street food purveyors of banh mi and pho), and Philippine cuisine, being a Southeast Asian country, the flavour bases are typically the same with Chinese, Malay, Indonesian, and Indian influences.

We walked past House of Ho around lunchtime.  I recognised Bobby Chinn straightaway.  He was sitting at a table, having lunch, by one of the large open windows of the restaurant.  We crossed the street and looked at the menu and thought the prices were really good (I mean hey, it is a Bobby Chinn restaurant!).  There were lovely things like spring rolls, morning glory (we call it kang kong in the Philippines) and sautéed choyote (we call it sayote in the Philippines) on the menu.  It got me really excited!  But what made my day was when we walked past Bobby Chinn, we said hello and we said we’d be back and he smiled at us, said hi and said that that would be great.  It doesn’t take much to make me happy, but that made my day (insert fan girl wisecrack here!).

We decided on having dinner at the House of Ho.  We’d been walking around London and were still quite full up from all the small bits of eating that we’d done throughout the day, so a light but late supper (we’d been to see The Commitments before deciding on dinner) was in order.  As luck would have it, Mr Chinn was again in front, twiddling away on his mobile phone.  I’m not entirely sure that he recognised us, but we did say we’re back as promised and he ushered us in and told one of the staff “They came back!”  We were promptly seated into nice seats.

The interior of the restaurant at night has subdued lighting and the seating is efficiently spaced – it only seats about 90 people apparently and while it does use space well, the seating isn’t cramped and you don’t feel like they’ve squashed as many seats as they could in the space that they had.  There was breathing space.

We chose edamame for nibbles, our usual sodas (diet for me) a bottle of water, a bowl of steamed rice to share, chicken Imperial rolls, chicken curry and apple smoked pork belly.

Everything was great.  I was a little taken aback by the portion sizes.  Southeast Asian eating is mostly family eating size.  So you get a big bowl of rice and a big bowl of your main dish or dishes.  But that being said, even though the portions were smaller than expected, they were enough to share, so that you could get a taste of everything.  I understood what Bobby Chinn was trying to do.  He wanted to make the dishes look elegant (because let’s face it, family eating is about functionality and not elegance, not really) so that apart from the look, you could focus on the taste.  And boy, did you get a taste!

House of Ho table

The rice came late, which was a bit of a disappointment (and on our bill, we were billed twice for it, but that was quickly changed with a lot of apologies, so that was okay!).  Rice is ESSENTIAL in Southeast Asian dining.  It comes first.

The Imperial rolls were lovely.  They were petit spring rolls, not like what the British are used to.  In the Philippines we have a version that we call Lumpiang Shanghai (loom-pee-yang Shanghai).  I’m not ashamed to say my yardstick for really (really) good cooking is my mum’s cooking.  And the Imperial rolls pass muster.  It’s up there in terms of taste compared to my mum’s lumpiang Shanghai.  I was in spring roll heaven.

Imperial rolls

The chicken curry was probably one of the best chicken curries I’ve ever tasted.  Everything was delicate and yet the flavour hit you.  You knew you were eating chicken curry but you weren’t walloped into realising it.  All the flavours just melded.  I wanted to ask if the delicate green leaves on top were the paddy leaves because they were yummy.  There was an amazing explosion of aniseedy flavour in your mouth when you included on of the sprigs.  I would probably, very willingly, dive into a vat of that chicken curry.  It was GOOD!

Chicken curry

But the showstopper was the apple smoked pork belly.  Oh.  My.  God.  Wait.  Let me gather my thoughts…That was the most amazing thing I’d ever tasted.  Ever.  Really.

My mum has a pork dish that she calls Lutong Intsik (loo-tong in-chick) which translated means “cooked the Chinese way.”  I think my mum used a pork shoulder joint and then braised the pork until it was meltingly soft.  House of Ho’s belly pork dish was like.  Only a thousand times better (sorry Mum!!!)!  It was just too good.  I know there was soy, there was probably some sort of sugar, there were spices.  I can’t put into words how good it was.  It was just an explosion of flavours in your mouth!  I mean there was a party in my mouth and it was hosted by that beautiful belly pork.  I think about the pork and I sigh.  I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that it is probably the best thing I’ve ever had.  It was really that good.

Apple smoked belly pork

If you go to House of Ho, if you order just one thing on the menu (rice doesn’t count because you have to have rice) you MUST order the belly pork!  It is an experience in itself.  But you must go, at least once, to House of Ho.  The staff are great, the food is glorious and Bobby Chinn is a genius!

Am already looking forward to my next trip!  And yes, you can bet that I’m ordering that pork!

House of Ho outside

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