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Showing posts from March, 2011

Anniversary Eats

Today is our seventh wedding anniversary. They say the traditional gift for seven years is wool or copper.

We're going for bacon. Real bacon - proper dry-cured stuff that won't shrink or exude white goo.

Fried till crisp around the edges, and slapped in a buttered floury bap, toasted on the inside only to give it secret, unexpected crunch.



Our condiment of choice has always been ketchup, but today we will fancy it up with Heinz Balsamic Vinegar Ketchup - a fruitier, tangier version, not unlike tonkatsu sauce.

We will sit in bed with our bacon butties and mugs of builder's tea, and we will feast, and we will not worry about crumbs.






Thank you to I Love Real Bacon for sending the premium British bacon http://www.facebook.com/realbacon
Thank you to Heinz for sending the Heinz Tomato Ketchup blended with Balsamic Vinegar http://www.facebook.com/HeinzKetchupUk

Bags for Japan

I've been thinking that I want to do more to help with the efforts in Japan.

I'm not remotely athletic, so physical feats like doing a sponsored run are out of the question.

I don't really bake, so I don't want to provide paltry efforts for the wonderful Cakes for Japan.

I've not really got the time to auction stuff on eBay for the brilliant Bento4Japan campaign, much as I would like to take part.

Then I realised that I had lots of rather nice photos that I'd taken in Japan which languished in this weird half-life on Flickr, as I'd never got round to printing them out.

So I thought to myself, "I really like tote bags and I reckon others do - let's use those photos to make some bags for Japan".

I played around with all the designs to make them a bit funkier, and I'm pretty pleased with how they came out.

The bags are only £8 each and all proceeds will go directly to the Japanese Red Cross (that's £1.10 per bag). And there's free shipping t…

Thoughts on Radiation Poisoning

At the end of my first year at university, I began to get very ill.

I felt exhausted but hyperactive, I sweated all the time, I had panic attacks and my hair fell out, I had chronic stomach upsets, I kept losing weight no matter how much I ate, and I even had the occasional black-out.

What I found hardest to cope with were the palpitations and tremors - I couldn't even hold a pen without trembling, and I could constantly hear my heart beat. And if I lay flat on the floor, I could see the blood pumping through my aorta in my stomach as I'd got so thin.

God knows why. but I didn't tell my parents what was going on. But when I developed a goitre and weird, bulging eyes, they worked out that I had Graves' disease - a hereditary illness, which my mother had also suffered from.

Graves' disease is an autoimmune disorder where the thyroid gland goes into overdrive; the thyroid gland controls metabolism, so basically it was as if I was on speed.

Thankfully, there was a treatment…

Tommy Lee Jones is BOSS (Natsukashii Series)

In Japan, there is a popular canned coffee brand made by Suntory called BOSS.

You can get it in vending machines and convenience stores pretty much everywhere - the former will dispense both hot and cold versions.





In the same unlikely way that Bill Murray was the (fictional) ambassador for Suntory's Hibiki Whiskey, Tommy Lee Jones is the (all too real) face of Suntory's BOSS Coffee.

Apparently, these are known as japanders.





I've been to Japan three times now, and it's got to the point where it doesn't feel like I've arrived properly if I don't catch a glimpse of his craggy features on a billboard somewhere.






I'd be in a village on the outskirts of Osaka, where life seems as rural as can be, and I'd suddenly turn the corner, and there he would be - on a vending machine, looking stalwart and true.




In his wonderful book Sushi and Beyond, the author Michael Booth even mentions Mr Jones in a description of Tokyo:
"Emil clung to my thigh for the first few m…

Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief - How you can help

"Till drowsy eyelids seem to see
A-flower 'neath her golden htee
The Shwe-Dagon flare easterly
From Burmah to Kamakura"The tragic and frightening events unfolding in Japan will be familiar to you all, so I won't recount them here, except to urge you to view this piece by ABC News showing in stark detail the extent of the devastation so far.

What I do want to tell you is that Japan has asked for outside help, and for a country as proud as that to do so (they were forced to accept foreign assistance after the Kobe earthquake in 1995 which virtually destroyed that city and killed 6,500 people), they must be in severe need right now - faced as they are by earthquake, tsunami, nuclear emergency and an erupting volcano.

I have a vested interest - I love the country; I have family and friends who live there (they're all okay if scared); and I have been to Japan three times out of the last four years - and am meant to be going again in three weeks' time.

But even if you…

The Glass Kitchen - Franck Pontais at Harvey Nichols

Now, you all know I like bentos, but my first introduction to the world of compartmentalised cuisine was the humble steel tiffin carrier - the school/office lunchbox and preferred picnic basket of all Burmese people.

As a child, there was little I loved more than deconstructing a tower of edible treats and digging into each part - fluffy rice in one section, fried chicken in another, and crunchy salad in the last.

Keeping the foods separate meant that the leaves didn't go limp, the chicken stayed crisp, and the rice stayed pristine till it was time to tuck in.

So when I was invited to visit the Glass Kitchen, a pop-up at Harvey Nicks, and found out that it was devoted to a similar concept, I couldn't resist dropping by.

The Glass Kitchen is a ten seat tasting bar run by traiteur chef Franck Pontais, winner of Iron Chef UK, caterer to the stars (he did Stella Mccartney's wedding), and owner of Food Creation, a food consultancy company.

The dishes he serves up come from his 2008 …

Sundubu Jjigae - Korean Soft Tofu Stew (Recipe)

It's March, but it feels like the depths of winter. All I want to do is fill my belly with hot soups and stews in a bid to stay warm.

A double whammy of chilli heat and steaming broth is guaranteed to keep the chills away and one of my weapons of choice is the Korean dish sundubu jjigae aka soondubu jjigae.


Dried shiitake, garlic, dried anchovies

Sundubu jjigae is a hot and spicy stew (jjigae) made with super-soft uncurdled tofu (dubu), seafood, mushrooms, onions, kombu (kelp) and gochujang (a Korean savoury chilli pepper paste).

Made in a special earthenware bowl called a ddukbaegi which can be heated directly on a stovetop, a raw egg is cracked straight into the jjigae just before it's time to eat, and then the jjigae is served in the same bowl while it's still bubbling away.

The combination of barely poached egg and cloud-like tofu dancing together in the intense broth is obscenely good, especially when you break into the egg and the soft golden yolk melds with it all. I'…