Blue skies and a cool dude

Posted on Jul 22, 2014 in life, travel | 10 comments

Blue skies and a cool dude

Mr Blue Sky

See that? Blue skies. I’ve been in London almost two weeks now and the novelty hasn’t worn off even though I am boring the pants off anyone and everyone.

I can’t myself.

There’s some serious blue sky-age going on people.

Mr Blue Sky

Mr Blue Sky

Mr Blue Sky

That’s what living in China will do to a girl.

Mr Blue Sky

When I wasn’t looking up, I was hanging out with this little man.

Mr Blue Sky

His favourite words are ‘no’ closely followed by ‘banana’ and ‘strawberry’. It’s only a matter of time before his next favourite word is ‘why’.

His favourite game is running away and squealing with delight. His next favourite game is doing exactly the opposite of what you’re telling him to do. It’s hard to decide whether to laugh or scowl when that happens.

Mr Blue Sky

He loves cats and dogs although next door’s cat took some persuading to go through the cat flap.

He’s two years and a bit.

He’s my nephew and godson and he’s a cool little dude. He’s working out his world and he’s totally adorable.

Rich arrives on Friday and we head down to Cornwall for more niece and nephew time. Everything is crossed for blue skies, fish & chips on the beach and sandcastles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In my hood….it’s watermelon season again

Posted on Jul 14, 2014 in in my hood, shanghai | 8 comments

In my hood….it’s watermelon season again

Watermelon street jamjnr.com

Watermelons are back on the streets again and a sure sign if any was needed that summer is well and truly here.

The number of days between the respite of a cooling rain shower grows longer and cicadas slowly reach an ear piercing pitch. The heat rising off the tarmac warms your legs when you venture outside.

Watermelon street | jamjnr.com

Watermelon Street | jamjnr.com

Watermelons are piled high on every corner or stacked up on the back of cars, carts and lorries.

Just like last year I have recipes in my head but in reality all I do when I get home is peel and cube the sweet refreshing fruit and eat it cold from the fridge for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

What’s going on in your hood this week?

 

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Shanghai eats: Pirata

Posted on Jul 10, 2014 in eating out, shanghai | 8 comments

Shanghai eats: Pirata

Pirata, Shanghai jamjnr.com

If ever proof was needed that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, chef Lin Huang, former Head Chef at elEfante has set up stall one street over in Xinle Lu. Opened in May, the restaurant is pretty much booked out at the weekends already so don’t expect to turn up at 8pm and get a seat.

It’s good. So good we visited on consecutive Saturdays and we were back there last Thursday too. It’s safe to say that we now have our favourite dishes and pretty much everything we ate on the first visit is on the list, which goes to show you should follow your instincts.

The room is simple with black and white tiles on the floor, bare brick walls and a large counter in the middle seating 12-14 people around the bar/prep area. There are tables to sit at too, but if there are only two of you why not sit at the counter and watch the action in the kitchen. It never ceases to amaze me when we are offered the counter seats as a last resort…

The menu is split into sections; things to pick at, small bites, vegetables, fish, meat, daily special and sweets. There’s also a section for imported tinned tapas which for some reason we always avoid. Tapas are served in portions of four but the staff offered to give us half portions which we loved because it meant we could order more dishes.

Shanghai eats: Pirata jamjnr.com

Steak Giros (115RMB 4 pieces) are served on a small pita and topped with hummus, tzatiki and chips. It’s a messy one but oh so good and you don’t mind the juice dripping down your fingers.

The Baby Potato Skins (55RMB) are a delightful combo of crispy, greasy, cheesy, garlicky, crunchy bacon topped skins with a side serve of sour cream. It’s a hard one to share.

Shanghai eats: Pirata jamjnr.com

Spicy Clams with Thai Basil (68RMB) come without bread so order up ahead of time because you’ll need something to mop up the buttery liquor from the bowl. I declared this ‘the best clams ever’ to which Rich smugly told me that we very rarely go wrong when he orders…..

Shanghai eats: Pirata jamjnr.com

Please order the tomato salad (38RMB) if you go. It looks simple but your taste buds will thank you for it – sweet, sweet tomatoes with slightly pickled red onions sitting on a small pool of balsamic and olive oil.

Spicy Fried Chicken (78RMB) we only ordered the first time. Rich liked it more than me – it’s sticky and spicy but with so many other stars on the menu it’s not our first round choice.

Shanghai eats: Pirata jamjnr.com

Steak Tartare (58RMB) appears under the Small Bites section of the menu. We had this on our second and third visits and it’s one that we will order again. Such a simple dish but without top quality ingredients it can go horribly wrong. This is the best we’ve have in Shanghai.

Ham Gougeres (40RMB) were probably our least favourite thing on the menu although they were perfectly acceptable if a little bland. I suppose if there were a few of you looking through the menu you could order a portion to nibble on with a glass of wine. They didn’t rock our world.

Shanghai eats: Pirata jamjnr.com

Unlike these little fellas who did. The Kingfish tostadas (88RMB, 4 pieces) we have ordered every time and are a non-negotiable item on the menu IMHO.

Probably the least successful dish we ordered was the smoked lamb ribs. As is often the case the lamb was mutton and they were just too fatty to enjoy.

Finally the desserts. They all come in portions of four so be sure to say you want a half portion if you want to try more than a couple.

Shanghai eats: Pirata jamjnr.com

The Tiramasu Fingers (38RMB) should come with a warning – you’ll want more. In fact don’t bother with the half portion of this one. Underneath the cream is a macerated cherry and it’s a divine mouthful let me tell you.

As soon as I was told Scroppino (40RMB) was lemon sorbet it was all over. Candied orange and the lightest lemony ending to a meal you could wish for.

Shanghai eats: Pirata jamjnr.com

As an incentive to return we have yet to try the Praline Icecream Crepes, Ferraro Toasts or the Hot Chocolate shots.

And return we will – if only for the draft Asahi served in ice cold glass handled beer mugs just as it should be.

It’s still early days and the front of house staff seem to be a little anxious when it comes to taking reservations and seating you. Order a few dishes at a time in combinations you are happy to eat together and the food will arrive quickly and hopefully you will be as wow-ed as we have been.

In the wash up:

What’s good: Sitting at the counter watching the prep work, good value for money, great tapas in an easy going atmosphere

What’s not great: I must have a thing about toilets because they always get a mention in this bit. I’m not a big fan of unisex toilets and there’s only one in the restaurant. That’s the worst thing I could come up with.

Expect to pay 600-800RMB for two with wine/beer/sangria if you don’t go too mad on the ordering.

English menu, English spoken.

Address: 136 Xinle Lu, near Xiangyang Lu, Xuhui (Former French Concession)

Open: 6pm-1am, Tuesday – Sunday

Telephone: 5404 2327

 

 

 

 

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Sweet & sticky black vinegar ribs

Posted on Jul 7, 2014 in recipes | 13 comments

Sweet & sticky black vinegar ribs

Sweet & sticky Chinese black vinegar ribs | jamjnr.com

It’s not unusual for Rich to take lunch in with him a couple of times a week and for some reason the girls and guys in the office are always curious about what he’s eating.

I’m not kidding when I say curious – they pass judgement on whatever he takes in. It’s turned into a bit of a game now so when he comes home I always ask if there were any comments.

On the soup and a piece of fruit days he gets told that it’s not enough for a grown man – and where’s the rice? They must think I’m starving him…..

Sweet & sticky Chinese black vinegar ribs | jamjnr.com

When he took in leftover Thai fishcakes & glass noodle salad they asked where the new Thai place was and he smugly told them it was homemade. On the days he comes home and there have been no comments I’m always a bit miffed!

One day he took in these ribs and no one could believe I could cook Chinese. Which is true because although the recipe may have started out authentic it certainly isn’t now.

You can only imagine what I thought when a few weeks ago Rich came home after he took these in for his lunch (again) and told me the guys in Marketing where he was sitting that week wanted to try my Chinese ribs.

‘You really want me to cook ‘Chinese’ ribs for your Chinese colleagues? Seriously?!’

 

Sweet & sticky Chinese black vinegar ribs | jamjnr.com

The verdict was a big thumbs up although whether that’s because they got a free lunch or they were being kind I don’t know!

What I do know is that they never last long in this house and Rich’s face always lights up when I tell him it’s ribs for dinner. The good thing about these ribs is you probably have most of the ingredients in your bottle collection already and there isn’t much prep to do at all. The ribs will sit on the hob gently bubbling away and before too long the meat will be so tender it just falls off the bone. Things you should know:

  • I’ve put 500g of pork ribs in the recipe because that should be enough for two normal people or four people if there are other dishes. I say two normal people because we are obviously not – I always double this recipe because Rich will eat two huge bowls of the ribs on his own:)
  • I started off browning the ribs but don’t bother now because everything in the kitchen seems to end up splattered in fat when I do – or is that just me? And yes I have a splatter thingy from Ikea and it doesn’t help. Brown them if you want to but there’s no significant difference in taste and it cuts down on time and cleaning up if you don’t.
  • The ribs very rarely get to marinate overnight because I’m not usually organised enough to think ahead so thirty minutes or so seems to do the trick whilst I cut up the ginger and faff around the kitchen.
  • I use a combo of brown and white sugar because after much experimentation it’s gives a nice caramelised flavour. Use white or brown it’s up to you.
  • After seeing Sandra’s dried mandarin skins I’ll be doing my own in the autumn and substituting the orange peel in the recipe.
  • That’s not a typo in the ingredients – I like a lot of ginger :)

5.0 from 1 reviews
Sweet & sticky black vinegar ribs
Author: 
Cuisine: Chinese
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2-4
 
A simple sweet & sticky pork ribs dish with black vinegar sauce. Serve with rice.
Ingredients
  • 500g small pork ribs
Marinade
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp white sugar
  • 3 tbsp black vinegar
  • 10cm piece of ginger cut into matchsticks
  • rind from 1 whole orange (use a potato peeler)
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ½ tsp Schezuan peppercorns
Method
  1. Mix the marinade ingredients together and add the pork ribs*. Leave overnight if you can or for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Pour the ribs and marinade into a wok or large saucepan along with all the other ingredients.
  3. Add enough water to just cover the ribs and bring to a boil.
  4. Turn the heat down, cover with a lid and simmer for 30-40 minutes until the meat is tender.
  5. Take the lid half off the wok and turn the heat back up to a boil for 10-15 minutes to reduce the sauce which should now be shiny and sticky.
  6. Taste the sauce, being careful not to burn yourself and adjust for sweetness or add more vinegar - this will depend on you. We prefer it more vinegary to sweet.
  7. Serve with rice and steamed greens.
Notes
* If you use a sandwich bag to marinate the ribs you may need to double bag it - I find the ribs can pierce the bag and you don't want to lose any of the marinade.

Sweet & sticky Chinese black vinegar ribs | jamjnr.com

Thank you for all your kind comments about Dad and the postponed trip last week. Mum and Dad are safely back in Melbourne, Dad will be getting treatment next week and I’m off to get hugs and cuddles from my godson on Tuesday. There are four containers of ribs and rice in the freezer so it’ll be at least Saturday before Rich even notices I’m gone :)

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