Salty Piggy Goodness: Chilli Whipped Lardo


If there’s anything I’m really good at, it’s disappearing off my blog for inordinate amounts of time. Whoops. This time I do have a good reason, though – I moved house! Yep, I’m finally out and free of the bedbug-ridden hell hole I was stuck in for a year and am in a lovely little place in SE London with two (new) friends. We’ve been slowly setting up the house (my current project is attempting to build us a coffee table as we didn’t like anything that was available on the market) and it’s coming together, slowly but surely (I still have two boxes to unpack as I don’t have a desk/home office yet). Pretty soon I’ll be able to share some photos but for the time being I’m going to leave you with this oldie but goodie – chilli whipped lardo.


There Will Be Stock (Part I): Ham Hock & Pea Risotto


Food has always been incredibly central for my family. Every major event has been told over a dinner or a lunch, every holiday celebrated with a spread that was enough to feed a small army, though there were usually only four of us at the dinner table.

Life for my mother consisted of an early start to feed my father, my brother & I, a mad dash into school where we’d be dropped off and collected by car every day, a small snack to help us through homework, a martini or other cocktail for my father when he returned home, and dinner on the table every evening by 7pm (sometimes on little tables in the TV room, if we were lucky). Every single day growing up, this was the way we operated. It was routine; it was synonymous with family.


On Being Thrifty: Fried Polenta Triangles


I will be the first to admit that though following your dreams is an amazing thing to do, dreams don’t necessarily pay bills. Being freelance is hard but this is the life I chose (much to the despair of my parents) and with the good you take the bad. The exhilaration of writing up a review about a meal greatly enjoyed, say about Noma, is often counteracted with being faced with the harsh reality of some frozen peas and a stock cube for dinner.

Okay, maybe this is an exaggeration, this is me we’re talking about, after all – I always have some meat in the freezer and some arborio rice or some form of starch in the pantry; but the fact is that when you live in the city and your money comes in dribs and drabs, it can be incredibly demoralising. There have been days when I’ve opened the fridge to see only a tiny knob of butter and some old eggs, deciding that maybe that evening I’d rather just not eat.

The term ‘thrifty’ had a bit of a negative connotation attached to it when I was a child. It was grouped along with ‘stingy’ or ‘miserly’, conjuring up images of Ebeneezer-Scrooge-like characters; but these days I’ve learnt the value of thrift, particularly when it comes to store cupboard favourites being spread across many meals. So let’s talk about money, saving and let’s talk about these fried polenta triangles.


I’ll Take My Christmas Pizza To Go – Fire & Stone, Spitalfields


Every so often in life two great pairings come along, ones that blow your mind and change the course of life as you know it. Romeo and Juliet. Fred and Ginger. Sonny and Cher. Cheech and Chong. Starsky and Hutch. Turner and Hooch. Christmas and pizza.

Wait, what? That’s right, Christmas and pizza. When I heard that Fire & Stone had a special Christmas pizza on offer that boasted a gravy base with turkey, roast potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing and brie on it, I called up the Young & Poor team and demanded that we have our Christmas party there. Christmas pizza?! How could you not be intrigued.


Christmas Time, Mistletoe & Biscotti


Do you notice a recurring theme round these here parts of late? Don’t worry though, I haven’t sold out, I’m still the bitter mad soul you all know and love; I’ve just donned a bit of tinsel.

Biscotti, like panettone, are one of those things that would end up in our household around Christmas… then stay in our household for months and months, uneaten, slowly going green, growing legs and practically walking out the front door. Have I mentioned Momma Lee’s tendency to hoard food goods? Unspeakable stenches drift from the open fridge because of her obsession with keeping random leftovers that never get eaten. This may just be an Asian thing: one chicken wing in a tupperware box that sits there for months. Do you know what I’m talking about?

My food memories of such goods are not amazing. But then they were always store-bought, and I will always champion homebaked goods over store-bought. Maybe it was time to mix it up a little and see if I could conquer my biscotti fears with that holiday favourite: cranberries and pistachios.


The Times, They Are A Changin’ – PizzaExpress Living Lab Launch Night


Photo courtesy of Unity PR, on behalf of PizzaExpress.

I love independent. I really like to support local, to find individual shops, eateries and places of interest, and I like to give them my business. I’m not doing this because I want to be poncy; I’m doing it because I am, essentially, a creature of habit. Once I’ve found somewhere I like I’ll shout about it from the rooftops, tell everybody I know, and bring copious amounts of people there. Just ask the Mooli’s boys – they can’t get rid of me!

So when I received an email a few weeks ago from one of the PR team at Unity for PizzaExpress I nearly trashed it immediately. PizzaExpress is not just pizza (which we already know I have an aversion to) but it’s the very name: Express. Express meaning fast. Meaning chain. Meaning I’m-not-going-there-voluntarily. Narrow-minded? Sure. But like I said: creature of habit.


Releasing My Inner Foodie Communist: Food For The People By The People #4


Time for entry #4 in my Food Project Competition, which (if you don’t know by now and you SHOULD know by now so haven’t you been paying attention?!) is running up until the end of August and details of which can be found here. Get thinking, get submitting and I look forward to eating!

Floatykatja over at Kudocities submitted her recipe for Linguine a la Vongole, and I have to say, it totally hit the spot. I mean, I like linguine. I like clams. I like tomatoes. I love garlic. How was this not going to be delicious?!

Momma Lee is my main taste tester at home, whenever I cook something she’s there with fork (or spoon, or knife, or fingers) in hand (ha, fingers in hand), ready to dig in and give me her best opinion. Momma Lee is also very critical of food, so when she says it’s tasty you know it’s pretty darn tasty.


Everybody Needs More Polenta In Their Lives


I am possibly the world’s biggest advocate for polenta. Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I can’t emphasise enough how great polenta is. Seriously. It’s definitely up there in my top ten foods. Now I’m not talking about the ready-made blocks of polenta you buy from the supermarket, fry up or grill and then are disgusted over how tasteless and bland it is, no. I’m talking fresh-from-the-pot-my-mama-shoulda-been-Italian-I-love-it-so-much polenta.

I like to buy my polenta from Carluccio’s because I can get a huge bag and it lasts me a long while. It is quick-cook polenta so technically not “authentic” but it’s still darn good, and it makes your life a little easier. For really authentic stuff I’d probably need to move to Italy, somehow get myself adopted into an Italian family and then learn their family polenta secrets, but in the meantime this’ll do me just fine.

The great thing about polenta is just how versatile it is. When wet it works amazingly to sop up all the delicious juices from other food, and when you’ve let it cool it hardens and then you can fry or grill it to perfection (or, if you’re feeling peckish and can’t be bothered to heat it up, just eat it as is).

Normally, the way I make it, I use a base of chicken or vegetable stock mixed with a bit of milk, then at the end add a knob of butter and a very large handful of grated parmesan cheese (Parmigianno Reggiano, not the pre-grated kind, I always use real ingredients in my cooking, not fake ones!). I then eat it with some homemade bolognese sauce (I usually make a vat of this and keep it in the freezer for quick meals, I’ll post the recipe next time I have to make one, at the moment I’ve still got a large box in the freezer!), a little more parmesan on top and some freshly torn basil leaves. Perfection. If I have any leftover (which is rare because I’m a glutton) I pour it onto a baking tray, let it cool, cut it into triangles and store it in an airtight box. Try frying it with a little olive oil in a pan until crispy (be careful, it spits quite a bit because of the nature of polenta) – it goes a real treat with a glass of white wine!


David’s Pappardelle


A few months ago I came back from my friend’s Hen Party in Berlin and fell really ill for about two weeks. I think it may possibly have been a strain of Swine Flu, or, at the very least, a pretty bad case of the flu. I completely lost my appetite, felt nauseous all the time, was running a high temperature, didn’t eat for a week and lost about a stone. To make things worse, my mom had to go to Hong Kong for a few days, which meant that I was looking after myself at home.

Thankfully, my lovely boyfriend had a few days off from work and came over to help look after me (and, of course, then got ill as well, but for those few days he was awesome!) and force some food down me. This was one of the dishes that he made me towards the end of the week when I could actually eat again (he also made me chicken noodle soup from scratch and the world’s most onion-y omelette: yay antioxidants!) and I’m not sure if it’s because I started getting better so I associate this dish with good memories, or because it was just so darn tasty, but I’ve been a little obsessed with it ever since. However, being me, I have bastardised it a little from David’s version, but I think it’s the kind of recipe where you can make it your own.


Nuts for Butternut Squash


I love butternut squash. I love it mashed, grilled, roasted. I love it in risotto. More specifically, I love it in this risotto. Combined with pancetta or bacon lardons (I actually prefer the latter), Parmesan cheese and a beautifully creamy stock this tastes awesome.

I made this for my mom just before Christmas and ever since then she’s been asking me to make it for her constantly. I’ve made it for dinner parties and quiet dinners.

Try this one out, it’s awesome.