Chinese Tea Eggs (Beijing)

IMG_6503We had a lovely little paperback book, from the seventies, with Chinese country recipes.  It was filled with folklore & woodcut images, as well as some pretty amazing recipes.  It certainly helped me when ordering dim sum, as I would be able to recognize many of the little dishes that were being served.  In it we found a recipe for Tea Eggs that is very odd, but was a favourite for our kids to make and eat.  After hard-boiling the eggs, the shell is cracked all over and then let to steep with star anise, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom & black tea.  When the eggs are cool, you peel the egg and reveal a wonderful pattern of the shell’s cracks.  The seasoning from the spices is complex, but perfect with the egg.

It was always a fun to tuck one of these eggs into a school lunch.  Lots of looks of horror from the other kids, quickly followed by a bit of envy.

Anyhow ~ here’s the recipe in a more formal version. Continue reading

Shallots with Sherry Reduction

IMG_5691Back in the day, I used to make pickles, lots of pickles of every sort.  One fall I made many pints of pickled onions, and thought it would be a good idea to top each jar with a small chili.  Unfortunately I used Bird’s Eye Chilies.  There they sat, for several months, infusing my cheerful little onions with their heat.

We opened a jar one night, to sample these wonderful treats, so carefully preserved earlier in the fall.  One bite, and our eyes were streaming, and our throats were on fire.  So much work to create an inedible pickle!  Fortunately for us, we had a friend who’d grown up in Indonesia eating foods far spicier than our palates are used to, and she happily tucked into them.  She graciously accepted the remaining pints.  I’ve never made pickled onions since.

However, I do enjoy the sweet & sour of pickled onions, and this recipe is a worthy substitute.  I love the colour of shallots, from their raw bright purple to their delicate pink when cooked.  Their flavour is sweet and oniony, and when cooked this way, makes an excellent addition to a buffet dinner, or as a garnish on a plated meal, and there’s no unintentional heat. Continue reading

Lemon Roasted Prawns

IMG_6045Preparing a lunch the other day for visiting friends, I was wrapped up in a gluten-free, vegetarian, lactose intolerant, garlic-free menu preparation.  I really don’t mind being given parameters to cook from, as it simply narrows down the field of options.  Which is not a bad thing as it helps me to be creative.

Recently I read an article about Instinctos. I suggest you read up on it rather than me trying to explain it in any detail.  The basic premise is that an Instincto is guided by their sense of smell of raw foods, and when the right smell is found, they eat it.  As I have now found the hardest people to serve food to, I won’t complain again about someone’s life choices when it comes to food.

Here’s a very simple garlic-free recipe for prawns that I came up with for the meal.  The prawns were delicious, and I noticed more than one person sucking the cooked lemon away from the peel. Continue reading

Wedge Salad Appetizers

IMG_5938Appetizers are a mainstay of holiday parties, lots of cheese, phyllo, puff pastry, tarts, crackers and meats.  If we’re lucky there are bowls of olives & pickles, and some raw veg to balance things out.  I think that adding a cold crisp salad is a perfect foil for the rest of the menu.

Recently I was invited to a party that was to embrace the 50’s & 60’s. Most of my time in those periods, was toddling around in nappies, skinning my knees while learning to ride a bike, watching my mom go crazy for the Beatles, and my sister becoming a hippy.

My only true memory of foods of that time was when mom & dad would have Bridge night.  A group of 8 or 12 neighbours would play once a month, rotating houses.  I well remember getting up early the next day and scavenging through the living room, eating leftover AD mints, black olives, gherkins, and the ultimate, broiled spam & cheese on open dinner rolls.  Mom would grate spam, and cheddar (not even Velveeta), mix with mayonnaise (never Miracle Whip) and then spread this on top of dinner rolls.  Broiled just until the cheese melted and the spam sputtered, they were absolutely decadent.

Okay, so my tastes have changed somewhat from when I was eight.

The Wedge Salad was an ever-present menu item for the 50’s & 60’s.  It lost favour when Romaine started edging it out in the 70’s, and open leaf lettuces with vinaigrette started to take over.  The lowly iceberg lettuce has always remained on the produce shelves because it has some amazing qualities.  First off, no other lettuce can replace its crispness.  It holds up well to tossing, and works well with other lettuces to give your salad some lift.  It also seems that the iceberg lettuce of today, is more open and green than the ones of even 20 years ago, which is great.

The lettuce is what makes this appetizer fresh & crispy, and a wonderful addition to an appetizer buffet.  The recipe is followed with notes on plating a basic Wedge Salad, if you want to go traditional. Continue reading