Friday, July 30, 2010

A Taste of REAL Malaysia

For those of you who've read the early days of the blog, you'll have noticed that I didnt get the chance to have a cooking class in Malaysia. I stayed in Pangkor Laut Resort Malaysia for a review, spent weeks in KL and no cooking class. I didn't even do one in Singapore (and yes, I know they're different) even though I spent lots of time researching the coolest spots in Singapore.  Ridiculous really considering that, along with Thai and Indonesian, it was really my favourite cuisine in SE Asia. So you can imagine my glee when I saw the three magic words pop up on Twitter: Malaysian Supper Club.

Yes, YES YES. My reaction might have given Sally a run for her money in 'that' scene in the diner as she temporarily silenced a boggle-eyed Billy Crystal or Harry.
It didn't disappoint. A night with lovely food bloggers, Andre Dang and the chef du jour, his mother - accompanied by gorgeous weather on an outdoor patio and, of course, the food. Far superior to the rubbish passing as Malaysian in some of London's high class eateries (I name no names).

You have to get this into your life so quickly that I'll make it easy. Just words and pictures...

AYAM SIOH (Tamarind chicken)
Ingredients :
1 whole chicken (abt 1.5kg, cut into 8 large pcs)
90ml cooking oil

Tamarind sauce :
360g tamarind pulp (mixed with 810ml water & strained)
1 ½ T rice vinegar
2T dark soy sauce
150g sugar
2t salt
3T ground coriander (toasted)
12 shallots (peeled & ground)
3 clove garlic (peeled & ground)

Method :
(1) Marinade chicken with combined tamarind sauce in a large bowl & leave overnight in the refrigerator
(2) Pour tamarind sauce into a pot & bring to a slow boil. Add chicken pcs & boil over moderate heat for 20 mins or until chicken is cooked & tender
(3) Drain chicken in a colander & continue cooking sauce, stirring until thick. Remove from heat
(4) Heat oil in a wok until hot & fry chicken for a few min. until brown. Drain & arrange on a serving dish. Pour thick tamarind sauce over chicken. Serve hot or cold



250 g Glutinous Rice Flour
200 ml Pandan Juice
150 g Gula Melaka (Palm Sugar), finely chopped
100 g Grated Coconut
A Pinch Of Sea Salt


In a large bowl, combine the glutinous rice flour with Pandan juice and knead lightly. Pinch a small piece of the dough (about 40 g) and drop it into boiling water. When the dough rises up the surface, remove it with a slotted spoon and shake off the excess water. Mix it back into the main dough and knead well to form smooth dough. Cover the dough and set aside for about 15 minutes.

Mix the grated coconut with a pinch of salt and steam for about 2 – 3 minutes and let it cool completely.

Bring a pot of water to boil. Pinch a small piece of dough (about 15 g each) and flatten lightly. Fill the center of the dough with palm sugar. Roll them in your palm to form a smooth ball and cook the glutinous rice balls in the boiling water. When the rice balls float to the surface, remove them with a slotted spoon and shake off the excess water.

Coat the rice balls with grated coconut and serve immediately.


To make the Pandan Juice. Blend 10 Pandan leaves with 220 ml water.

Kueh Lapis - Layer Cake
1. 800 g.coconut (grated)
2. 650 ml water (for squeezing coconut)
3. 400 g rice flour
4. 280 g sago flour
5. 1/2 tsp salt
6. 550 g granulated sugar
7. 10 screwpine/pandan leaves
8. 350 ml water
9. a dash of red and orange food colouring

Kueh Lapis Method Step By Step:
1. Squeeze the grated coconut with 650 ml water. Top up with more water to get 950 ml.

2. Mix the rice flour, sago flour and salt in a bowl. Pour in the coconut milk, a little at a time to get a smooth dough.

3. Boil the sugar and screwpine leaves in 350 ml water for 10 minutes. Strain the syrup, and add in extra hot water to get 450 ml.

4. Add the syrup to the flour mixture. Stir till well blended.

5. Divide the mixture into 3 portions. Add red and orange food colouring to two portions.

6. Grease a baking tin. Place it in a steamer with boiling water.

7. When tin is hot, pour a layer of the coloured mixture into it. Steam for about 5-8 minutes. Pour some of the uncoloured mixture on top and steam again. Repeat for the next coloured mixture. Continue till all the mixture is used up.

8. When all of the mixture is used up, remove tin from steamer and let kuih cool for 8 hours.

9. To serve, cut kuih lapis into slices.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dateathon starvashathon... But I'll always have The Lavender

I used to be such an angry little ball of fire. There was nothing I liked more than a bit of self-riteous inner rage. Don't get me wrong, I was never the kind of person who would lash out, and I'd be just as likely to cry tears of pent-up frustration than shout at anyone else but I'd be lying if I didnt admit that there was a little, no, large part of me that actually quite enjoyed the ride.

I'd like to think that this has changed. That with maturity (don't snigger) has come a mellowness that definitely was not there before. It started when I left Dubai - not only was I travelling around some of the most beautiful countries in the world but I was literally living an almost stress free existence.

There were no taxi drivers refusing to listen to my directions and haring off to the wrong end of the city, no coffee baristas calling me mamsir or sirmam or (the penultimate sin) just sir (I am CLEARLY a girl), no twats telling me that they didnt understand my English because of the colour of my skin. Yes, I certainly became a lot calmer.

But once in a while, I feel the old self-riteous boiling of blood coming back and these days you can almost bet your bottom dollar that it is going to be boy-related.

At 24, there is only a limited amount of patience I can have with a right old numpty, which is quite a bit of a pain in the ass as someone up there has decided to allocate me a fair share of them over the last few months.

There's no conversation, no spark, no enthusiasm. I've never understood why boys go through the rigmarole and potential embarrassment of chatting a girl up if they are not going to at least pretend to be a normal human being with good conversation, emotions and a bit, even a bit of joy in their life. Patrick the moaner, Matt the twat, Tom the waster, Sean the genie (poof he's disappeared - magic). It's a roll call of wasted evenings and often bad conversation.

That said, all these deflated dates have given me the perfect chance to spy out some new eating and drinking locations, the pick of which has to be The Lavender on Lavender Hill. Quaint, small and serving stellar cuisine, this is one of the stars of Clapham Junction's dining scene and relatively off the radar. Perfect.

And so, here beginneth a period of self-imposed singledom or, as I've named it my dateathon starvashathon, hopefully leaving more time for blogging and training for that pesky little half marathon I've signed up for in September. I will be in imminent need of distraction (the one thing dating is apparently is time consuming) so feel free to send over any recipes you've spied. I'll be glad to try them out.

Off to The Ship in Wandsworth tonight - soon to be blogged, keep your eyes peeled!

The Lavender
171 Lavender Hill, London, SW11 5TE
Tel: 020 7978 5242

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Girls Love Steak Too! The Lonsdale

I'll start this blog post by admitting that I'm slightly embarrassed because it is mainly about steak. Again.

Someone (male) said to me the other day 'You love your steak an awful lot for a girl'. Yes I do. But what does that even mean? Because I have mammaries that I am not supposed to like eating a healthy slice of big fat steakiness? Not this girl my friend. He of course tried to retract it with some kind of mumbled jumble about well 'girls normally like salads and stuff, you know, all that rabbit food, tofu, salad err'. He slowly stuttered into silence under the glare of my withering gaze.

'So I'm not girly then, is that it?' 'No no, of course not, you know what I mean' I obviously didnt and said words much to that effect before he uttered the singlemost worst thing he has ever said to me. "Well, it's not very ladylike Julianna." 6 days later and I am still barely speaking to him. So here it is for the record.

I will totter around in heels, much to my simultaneous pleasure at looking about 5 inches taller and chargrin that the price is the discomfort of considering every movement I make in them in terms of potential pain factors. I very rarely wear trousers (apparently another unladylike thing according to my prehistoric-era neanderthal buddy). I like the so-called girly foods such as salads, tofu, brown rice, soba noodles - in other words HEALTHY food that my dear little friend the oik doesnt seem to have got his head around. But I also like, scrap that, love a steak 'raw and wriggling' to quote Gollum and blue as can be. So there.

Which is why my Thursday night sojourn to The Lonsdale was really a very pleasant one. Myself and Anne-Laure from Tasty Diaries descended on Notting Hill's newly reopened bar/ restaurant/ club ready for a night of girly chatter, cocktails and steaks. And that's exactly what we got.

The Lonsdale achieves that rare combination of being as much of a bar as it is a restaurant. It's one of my pet hates for a place to be described as a bar and restaurant, only to find when you arrive that if you're not eating you're shoved onto a high stool at the front and treated with a disdain normally reserved for lepers. No such thing in existence here, you're encouraged to plump yourself down wherever you like (if you're clever, on the leather banquettes towards the back of the venue) and peruse the cocktail or food menus, whichever takes your fancy.

It wouldnt have been too hard to get rather steaming on the cocktails alone, which were worth the trip themselves. Expertly mixed, the list would take weeks to work through - you may regard this as a challenge. I'd be thoroughly interested to hear if anyone ever takes it up.

Overall the food was very good. The steaks at The Lonsdale are bought from Allens of Mayfair, the oldest of London's master butchers who are, confessedly a dab hand at the craft after 120 years of practice. While the Sirloin steak with mustard sauce was admittedly, a little on the tougher side than we would have liked, the filet with bearnaise was flawless: a moderately large slab of meat that would have shone even being eaten on its own but went perfectly with a few chips and a fresh tomato, basil and onion salad. Sorry kiddos, no photographic evidence of the actual steak..

To round it off, we got stuck into the Sticky Toffee Pudding and Creme Caramel, both of which were very tasty, but proved too much after the other two courses.
And then, off we tottered in our high heels, post cocktails, post giggles and post steak. So far, neither of us has grown a mystery beard or hairy feet as a consequence. So a message for my friend. Girls like steak too. Please drag yourself out of the 1800s, I love you too much to let you run around alienating the fillies as you have been known to call us with silliness such as that above...

You got the best of my love: Bob Bob Ricard

I generally don't like to go with the flow and pride myself on a downright cantankerous outlook to many aspects of popular culture. Dan Brown = worst writer on the planet. Twilight films and books are so godawful I literally cannot get my head around how so much of the world's population has been duped into paying good money to see them. Team Edward or Team Jacob? How about team stick them all down the plughole and be done with the whole lot?

But even I can admit that there are some things that receive their just desserts and Bob Bob Ricard in Soho is one of them. Other bloggers have raved about Bob Bob and for once, I agree. Having dined there twice, I've been served two flawless meals - pretty much a first for any restaurant in London.

Unlike Bar Boulud, Bob Bob Ricard is a restaurant that understands the concept of space - the railway-styled seating is perfect for two or four, though maybe a bit too tight for six. With two, Farzana and I had the run of the table and didnt we make use of it?

Before we started the meal 'proper' we tried a pairing of traditional russian salted cucumber and Kauffman collection 2006 vodka 'to open the palate' (this is what I love about the Russians). The salted cucumber on its own is probably not going to rock your world, but the pairing with the vodka brings out flavours I wouldnt have imagined from this rather bland little vegetable.

The next amuse bouche was pickled herring with boiled potato and Bob Bob's infamous homemade zubrovka. I cant think of many better ways to start a meal...

After that, it was a parade of brilliance. The venison steak tartare I'd tried last time, but loved it so much I couldnt resist getting it again. The quail's egg and crispbreads set off the dense flavours of the tartare. Judging from the smells wafting across the table and the noises of appreciation, the scallop and shrimp shell pie went down equally well.

Mains came in the form of Lobster & chips (again another staple that can go so, so horribly wrong, as anyone who's been faced with an overcooked piece of chew can account for) and poached turbot with truffled mashed potatoes and duxelles. The lobster was impeccable - fresh and firm served with a just-on-the-right-side-of garlicky sauce and crispy frites. The turbot was a success story of its own, with strongly flavoured duxelles to complement but not overwhelm the delicate fish.

And desserts. It took some (not much) mutual persuading that dessert really, really was a good thing after all of that food. But a cheeky glance proved too much temptation for us to resist and we finally settled on the Grand Marnier souffle and Strawberry Souffle. When ordering the notoriously tricky desserts, we joked with the waiter that the chef had better be up to the challenge. He was, much to our delight. So finished a rather flawless meal...

Maybe the next time someone recommends something/ somewhere to see/ read/ eat - I'll take it on board. Though I still draw the line at Twilight. I'd rather watch paint dry.

Waiting rating: Is it wrong to say that the waiter was cute? What?! He was... That aside, service was excellent anyway.
Scoffing potential: If you can't eat and love the food at BBR you deserve to be sent to the land of bland
Wallet buddy: By no means cheap but balanced by large portions and sheer brilliance
The crowd: Soho's young and trendy, Soho's old and trendy.
1 Upper James Street
020 3145 1000