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

Coconut Rice with Fragrant Onion Sauce

Image In my early 20’s my younger sister and I shared an apartment.  We had two cats, two bedrooms, and groups of friends five years apart.  Somehow it all worked.  I was big sister to many of her friends, and my responsibility for her kept me with my feet firmly on the ground.  We started off in a two bedroom ground floor suite that we could hop over the hedge and come in through the sliding doors, in a complex that had a pool that we never used.  Next step up was a one bedroom in a more amenable area, in an older building with bigger rooms, with a creepy guy across the way that used to exercise in his briefs (we called him Jock Strap).

Finally we moved into a huge two bedroom third floor suite.  It had been left in disrepair, so we made a quick agreement with the manager to paint the whole of it in exchange for the damage deposit.   There was even a horrible mustard yellow “feature” wall that had a large dark stain dribbled down it.  With a group of friends over one weekend (and a can of marine grade paint to cover the yellow wall), we got the whole of it done and moved into our first home-like suite.

There was a green grocer up the street who would sell us a stalk of celery or half a head of lettuce.  The butcher was across the street, with a grocery store across the laneway.  We ate well.  Not a lot, but well.

One of our mainstay dinners was a couple of pieces of chicken seasoned and baked for ½ an hour or so, while we cooked some rice and a veg.  Very plain, but it worked.  I think the format of the supper allowed me to get some nutrition in fairly quickly after a day’s work before I’d head down to the stables to train for a couple of hours.

Rice has always been an easy way to round out a meal.  I know we’re supposed to only eat brown rice, but it just takes too long!  I use it, but more usually Basmati or Japanese.  I’ll get my whole grains elsewhere.

When a large bowl of rice gets plunked down on a table family style, it quickly conforms to the shape of the bowl, and becomes less appealing.  This recipe builds in a bit of sauce, so it stays moist and tempting far longer. Tuck a couple of flowers in the side and your family will think you’ve gone all “gourmet” on them.       Continue reading

Rice Salad with Ginger & Lemongrass

IMG_4034Potlucks are easy ways to gather for a meal.  They’ve been around for years, and will continue for many to come.

One way to hold a potluck is to give no rules, and just see what turns up.  There have been stories of twelve bowls of green salads lined up, with nothing else.  Or the transformative Thanksgiving dinner we held at a shared house; we offered to do turkey as the hosts, and left the rest up to the ten or so guests to do the rest.  We had a great dinner of turkey, stuffing, gravy and 6 different versions of pumpkin pies.

What I recommend doing, is to look after the meat & dessert.  Let everyone else bring side dishes or appetizers.  At least this way the meal will have a bit of structure.

There are times that I pull out all the stops and work to create something memorable.  However if time is limited, there’s nothing wrong with doing a simple dish, as long as it is presented well, is yummy, and interesting!  This is easy to make, and can be served cold or at room temperature.  As you can see, I served it in my bamboo steamer, but here’s a tip if you don’t want to worry about dishes.  Line a foil pan with an oversized sheet of parchment, tuck in some herbs or flowers at one side, and you can just walk away from it at the end of the meal. Continue reading

Udon Noodles with Mushrooms, Gai Lan & Shrimp

IMG_2236It was dry today.  Yesterday was a mix of monsoon type rain, with snow.  Dry days in the winter allow us a snippet of daylight hours to get things done!  Living on our farm makes us so appreciative of breaks in the weather and a toasty fire in the woodstove.  Stretching the day to the limits means that dinner only gets about 45 minutes from the inkling of an idea to eating.  Here is today’s offering.  It happens to be Bill’s 65th birthday today.  As we had friends over on Sunday for a meal with a long, extremely fun visit and will be doing a January Birthday Boys’ dinner next week, having a simple meal tonight suited him just fine.  I hope. Continue reading

Gai Lan with Oyster Sauce

Thanks to Steamy Kitchen for the original recipe.

(brassica oleracea / Chinese broccoli / kai lan) – or you could use any of these other brassicas – broccoli, broccolini (a cross between broccoli & gai lan), or rapini / rabé  / broccoletti

Gai Lan’s bittersweet taste becomes more bitter the older the vegetable.  Look for tight, unopened flower buds, and stalks that are not dried out.

For this recipe & photos, I have used broccoli, as when I reached for the Gai Lan, I realized it looked like Swiss Cheese.  Many happy little organic caterpillars had taken up residence in its leafy folds.  Our chickens thought it was particularly good! As we live over the ocean from the market, we islanders are very good at using what we have at hand. Continue reading