Welcome to my world!

The reflections and comments of a resident in Southsea, Portsmouth, England.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Sunday cooking - meatballs!

Sunday is always a good day for cooking. When the chores are done, there is always a lull in the afternoon to plan and plot.

This evening I started with 700 grams of minced beef and the aim was to create different dishes to freeze so I can eat them during the week when life's a bit too busy to cook.

First beefball recipe:

Mix together
100 grams bacon, chopped
350 grams minced beef
1/2 onion chopped
1 tsbp plain flour

Form into balls and fry in a pan with heated 1 tsbp olive oil, until all browned. Add 100 ml of red wine and let is bubble for 2 minutes.
Add 200 grams chopped tomatoes (which is about half a tin)
Add salt & pepper to taste
Simmer for 15 minutes.
Then toss together with pasta.

Second beefball recipe:
Mix together
200 grams minced beef
Salt & pepper
1 tsp thyme, chopped

Clean 6 medium mushroom caps, remove stalks. Pick up a small ball and squeezed into each cap. Line the caps in a roasting pan. Dot each cap with soy sauce and some vegetable oil. Roast at 180 degrees Celcius for 30 minutes.

Remove the caps, and in the roasting pan add
1 tsp cornflour, mix
1 garlic clove crushed
150 ml water

Transfer to a cooking pot and add 3 tbsp rice. Simmer covered for 15 minutes until the rice is cooked in the thick brown sauce.

Third beefball recipe:

150 grams minced beef
1 tsbp plain flour
dashes of Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper
form into balls

Chop some mushrooms and fry in 1 tbsp olive oil with 1 garlic clove, crushed. Add the beefballs into the pan, let is fry a minute or two. Add 100 ml of red wine, let is bubble for a minute, cover and let it all steam for a further 15 minutes. If you prefer, you can have this one with some boiled potatoes.

And then roasted vegetables...
I also roasted some carrots, peppers, onions and potatoes in 180 Celcius for 40 minutes with a dash of olive oil and a sprinkling of herbs. Roasted vegetables are always delicious.

Please try these recipes and leave me with your comments. I would especially be interested in your 'improvements'. Good luck!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Make you own Gyoza

I love gyoza or Japanese dumplings. Since I found this recipe many years ago when I was a student in Cincinnati, Ohio, you can call these little darlings potstickers like the Americans do. So called because they stick to the bottom of the pot - you will find out why when you read the cooking instruction.


2 cups plain flour, will need more to make it more solid, plus extra for rolling
2/3 cup boiling water
1/3 cup cold water
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Combine all and knead until smooth. Divide into 30 balls and roll each into a thin 2-inch circle.


500g pork
1 1/2 tsbp soy sauce
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tsbp sherry
Dash of pepper
1 egg
1 1/2 tsbp cornstarch
1/2 inch finger of ginger, finely chopped

Mix all the ingredients together. Put a small dollop into each 2-inch dough circle, fold into half and pinch the semi-circular edges - I'll have to make a video of how I do this!

Now, put a small amount of oil in a flat bottomed pan, with lid. Arrange the potstickers at the bottom of the pan and let them brown in the oil. The once it's nicely brown, pour 1/4 cup of water into the pan in high eat that it bubbles and hisses - cover and let the whole thing steam. You will get beautifully steamed dumplings with nice brown bottoms.

To eat these lovelies, make a dipping sauce from 1 tbps soy sauce, 1/2 tsp sesame oil and 1 tbsp vinegar (malt, if you can).

These make a lovely starter or invite some friends to dinner and make them together.

For vegetarian, use steamed shreded cabbage mixed with chopped mushrooms, spring onions, ginger and soy sauce. But I've never tried this one.

Enjoy! Post me your feedback on how yours turn out.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Music taught me a lot

I have loved music from a very young age. My papa used to play various cassettes when he was at home. He is a good singer too and I know his many songs such as Sinatra's 'My Way' and the one we call 'And I love you so'

I just checked that there are videos of Dan Mclean singing this on YouTube. And I know the first stanza by heart!

My father is also a brilliant musician. He has taught himself the guitar and
piano, and years later I found out that he can also play the saxophone. Better than me! Not that I was very good, but as a teenager I play the tenor saxophone almost every day.

One day I came home with my saxophone and he played it. He showed me all the vibrato and jazz techniques. I think I stared at him and wondered is this the father I knew! Shouldn't take anyone for granted; even your nearest and dearest.

I've always wanted to play a musical instrument, but they were too expensive for my parents to afford. So when at the secondary school welcome assembly the band master invited new students to join, I jumped at the chance.

Mr Chan was a kindly father figure, but also strict in his leadership of the band. So I learnt on my own, coached by the seniors on how to play the tenor saxophone. It took me a whole afternoon to get a sound out of the mouthpiece that first time. I remember the seniors around me trying to tell me how to blow. But not like blowing a balloon, they said. The trouble was, I didn't even know how to blow a balloon!

I tried and tried again. I'm glad I didn't give up that afternoon for playing the saxophone has given me tremendous pleasure over the years and taught me a lot. Being able to play the saxophone was my proudest achievement because I came from nothing and to be able to read music and play the most beautiful melody was such an accomplishment indeed.

And when Kenny G became famous right around the same time, I had street cred!

Music has opened up my interest and now I love the opera, going to concerts and even promoting music. CDs are fine but everyone must experience a live music concert. There is nothing like listening to a rousing percussion section or to a flute whistling a jolly melody.

Music has taught me discipline and to work well with others. You must work with your band mates to achieve the right sound, otherwise the whole symphony wouldn't work. I learn to watch and to listen.

It's been a long time since my school days and I no longer play the saxophone, but when I was at university, my then boyfriend bought me a clarinet. So I took lessons and now I join my local university wind band.

The younger players are very good, but rusty ones like me also feel welcomed in such a group. We are all equal and equally play our part in making the whole piece.

One day I felt tired and lazy but I dragged myself to rehearsal (discipline!) and playing actually lifted my moods so much that now the more tired I am the more I know I need to have some music. I go for relaxation even more now than just music making.

I hope after reading this you will look into your attic or garage and find that old musical instrument of yours and take it to play with your nearest amateur orchestra or band. If there is none, gather a few friends and have a jamming session.

Music is good for you and it may give you more than just entertainment.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Finding things out

It's good to have curiosity and the thirst to learn. That's how one finds out about things. It's quite important to instill in children not just facts, but also the desire to learn. When you keep learning, you keep your mind active.

I'm just saying that as now I have to find things out about Indonesian curry. There are many curry houses in Southsea, but mostly from the Indian subcontinent. Well, and the one Thai restaurant called Bangkok. Delicious food, by the way, if you are ever this way.

So I should look into Malaysian, Indonesian and other South East Asian curries.

Google it, Wiki it, read a book in the library or ask your auntie. Whatever the method, don't forget that there is a quest to collect family recipes and you can add yours at innocentdrinks.com/recipearchive

Get searching and tell me about your regional dishes!

Happy New Year!

Well, a happy new year to you and I hope you and yours have had a very good festive season. I won't bother with resolutions this year, but I do have a few things I'm looking forward to.

For Christmas I was given a year long subscription to delicious. magazine and also Nigella's new book - Kitchen. So I shall be making some things from the pages of these. Already I have my eye on Nigella's teriyaki chicken recipe and some cauliflower curry from the pages of delicious. I'm not sure how much use I will have of the 1001 cocktails, but those half drunk bottles that have been lingering in the drinks cabinet may get to be used too.

Also a stay with my friend Jan has always inspired me to cook because she's so amazing in the kitchen. While we sleepily watched television, she cut apples and made crumbles. Wow! I should take inspiration from her industry and try to make pies like her.

I will write more about living and working in Southsea, one of the most vibrant neighbourhoods in the UK. If you don't believe me, come down and I'll show you around. Or just read all about it on these pages.

I'm also excited about friends I've 'met' on Twitter and so will plan to meet up with them and if you want to follow my thoughts, comments and information about Southsea, follow me on @southseascene

On these pages or on Twitter, I hope you will post comments, ask a question or two, or just say hello. Have a productive 2011!

PS: Speaking of productive, lots of sales are now on in Southsea shops so a good time to visit.