Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Quiche Lorraine

Christine’s Quiche Lorraine

At this time of the year I like a light and cold lunch. This savoury pie, named after the Lorraine region (north-east of France), is excellent eaten cold and served with a green salad. The main ingredients are smoked bacon (des lardoons fumés), eggs (des œufs) and cream (de la crème fraîche). The traditional quiche Lorraine did not include cheese but today some recipes have Swiss cheese (du gruyère) in. To make it lighter my Mum usually replaces the cream with milk. I also like to add ham and shallot in my quiche.

Here is what you will need to make 1 quiche:
A baking dish of 24 cm diameter
For the short crust pastry (pâte brisée)
  • 150gr plain floor, all-purpose
  • 75gr unsalted butter, diced (taken out from the fridge in advance so it is soft)
  • 1 pinch of salt
For the filling:
  • 3 eggs
  • 225ml milk (whole or low fat)
  • 1 pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • 170gr bacon (diced or if stripes cut into 2cm pieces)  
  • 200gr ham (diced)
  • 1 shallot, sliced

  1. Crust: Sift the flour into a mixing bowl, add salt and mix well.  Make a well in the centre. Add butter in.  With your fingertips, work the butter with the flour until coarse crumbs form a ball of dough. Add water as needed. If the dough is sticky, work in a little more flour. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap it tightly in cling film, and chill until firm about 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven at mark no.4-5 (180-190 º C) for 15mn. 
  3. Filling: In a skillet cook bacon over medium heat until almost crisp. Add shallot in and cook until translucent. Remove from heat. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs together with milk. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper.
  4. Roll pastry and line the dish.
  5. Spread the ham on bottom. Transfer the bacon and shallot mixture in. Pour over the egg & milk batter.
  6. Cook for about 40mn or until top becomes golden.
  7. Let the quiche sit for a while before cutting into wedges. Serve with a green salad.
Bon appétit!

For a lighter version vegetable oil (1/2 cup canola or grape seed oil) can replace butter in the crust. You can also omit the egg yolks and add one more egg white. 
The dough can be prepared in advance and put in the fridge for a few days (wrapped tightly in cling film).

I love making short crust pastry.  As a general rule the quantity of fat is half the quantity of flour. I particularly like to work the flour and the butter together with my fingers until obtaining sand-like grains. It is quite relaxing and similar to shaping clay and making pottery items.

Friday, June 17, 2011

About Twitter & My Blog

Use and challenge of writing a blog: 

I started writing my blog at the end of February (of this year). My first post was written on 25 February.
There are so many good food blogs and I just don’t see the point of repeating them. I would like to write something different. As I have been living in Hong Kong for the past 25 years I should not waste anymore time and put in writing my experience with local food (recipes and cultural aspects). The virtual world, via a blog, is the best option for sharing my stories and recipes with a lot of people. It is also an eco-friendly, fast & efficient and inexpensive way.

When my son came back to Hong Kong last April for Easter holiday I announced proudly that I had a blog. He replied: “that’s good Mum but how many people read it?” True! He advised me to use Tweeter. He said: “It will give your blog more exposure”. Of course Twitter is being used by more than 34.5 billion people!


Within these 2 months I learnt some Twitter terms such as RT (Re-Tweet); LOL (Laugh Out Loud); #FF (Follow Friday), and even WW (Wacky Wednesday).

Today, 17 June or a little bit more than 2 months after becoming part of the Tweeter family, I count 50 Tweep or Twitter followers. I am known as @ Colombe36 and my profile picture is a plate with mandarin, grapes, and dragon fruit and I am following 118 Tweeple or Twitter users. So I guess some people are looking at my blog.

Each time I post a new entry on my blog I tweet the link to inform my followers. I assume that, out of my present 50 Tweeps, 1/3 might not have noticed me, another 1/3 might have read it quickly, and the remaining 1/3 might actually have read my post. How many of the latter group have actually read the whole post? Nobody has ever sent me a comment or became my [blog’s] follower. However my son was right in some way. I know that these 50 persons might have already had (or will have) a look at my blog.

I learnt that catchy tweets are the key for Tweeple to click on links. I discovered that re-sending old posts or messages tweeted before was a way to attract potential followers. And I also realised that:
- It was difficult at time to keep tracks of all the messages,
- It was very difficult to get French Tweeps. {I might have to consider amending my bio and replacing my profile picture with my real face}, and
- Tweeter has made me discovered many recipes and articles that I would otherwise not have had a chance to read. I find most of the posts really inspiring. It gives me ideas while sipping coffee on my sofa.
But I also realised that it was a challenging task to write an attractive blog and I needed to work harder, improve my writing and take nicer pictures.

Despite all of the above I am happy to tell you that 2 nice ladies have advised their Tweeps to follow me. A big thank you to Sandy Hu of www.specialfork.com and Ruby Beets!

加油!(Means add-oil

The 17 Tweep I like best with some figures:

Key: Figures are as of today 17 June, 2011
{a = number of Tweeple @ is following; b = number of Tweep/followers}
= My Tweep (= my followers)

Living in USA:

  1. @Specialforksndy by Sandy Hu - San Francisco {a/536; b/631} http://www.specialfork.com/.

  1. @ChefFelisha by Felisha Wild - Milwaukee, Wisconsin http://www.ourdailysalt.com/ {a/4,072; b/4,592} Writes about food, restaurants & book reviews, recipes, teaching, etc.

  1. @Drwinnie by Winnie Abramson – New-York http://www.healthygreenkitchen.com/ {a/3,346; b/ 3,042}. A lady full of energy. Sends pictures of her chicks, home-grown radishes, etc.

  1. @Simplyrecipes by Elise Bauer - Carmichael, California http://www.simplyrecipes.com/ {a/1,427; b/77,925}. Amazing lady! I recommend you read her biography.

  1. @MoreThymeBlog by Roberta - Columbus, Ohio {a/1,683; b/1,990} http://www.morethymethandough.com/  Gives not only recipe (ingredients and illustrated steps) but also the cost. A short story precedes the instructions.

  1. @CookUnderwriter Mrs. Mix It - Los Angeles, CA {A/1,691; b/ 1,594} http://www.cookingunderwriter.com/  

  1. @CannelleVanille by Aran Goyoaga a Basque lady living in Florida. http://www.cannelle-vanille.blogspot.com/ {a/271; b/ 10,798} She is a remarkable photographer. Write on food, life and photography. Her romantic pictures are really amazing!

Living in Europe:

  1. @Davidlebovitz American living in Paris {A/457; b/75,679}. Writes about food, and a lot about French food.

  1. @Clothildenet by Clothilde Dusoulier - Paris {a/195; b/53,927} http://www.chocolateandzucchini.com/  Parisian food writer.

  1. @Lucyvanel by Lucy Vanel, Lyon www.kitchen-notebook.blogspot.com {A/340; b/592}

  1. @PreteMoiParis by an American in Paris http://www.pretemoiparis.com/ {A/338; b/ 1,589} writes on restaurants, boutiques, Paris, and food (of course!)

  1. @BonjourParis.com written by Paris insiders. {a/687; b/ 3,114} Provides news and events in Paris.

  1. @RecipeDepot from London, UK. No blog or website {a/2,410; b/2,713} similar to @CuliBlogs – sends links with catchy tweets. Could be recipes from famous chefs or not so famous bloggers.

  1. @Cookitaly Carmelita Caruana – Bologna, Italy http://www.cookitaly.com/  {A/4,200; b/5,700}

Living in different countries:

  1. @Doriegreenspan Dorie Greenspan lives in NY, Paris and Connecticut {A/1,013; b/66,078} http://www.doriegreenspan.com/ author of cookbooks.

  1. @EatingAsia by Robyn Eckardt http://www.eatingasia.typepad.com/ lives in Penang most of the time {a/373; b/3,880}

Does not say where he lives:

  1. @CuliBlogs by Marcel Kaptein {a/ 3,663; b/ 3,360} similar to @RecipeDepot – sends links with catchy tweets. Could be recipes from famous chefs or not so famous.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Nautical jousting

Last Monday as I was watching the dragon boat races I could not help but think of another popular water sport in France called “les joutes” or nautical jousting. It was originally organised to distract the kings and their courts. Since 1960 it has been recognized as an official sport. 

The aim of the game is to throw one’s opponent in the water. The two boats move forward with the sound of a brass band (la fanfare). The two jousters (one on each boat) stand on the tabagnon (platform) holding one shield in one hand and a wooden lance in the other. Each one of the adversary aims at the other’s plastron and try to push him/her in the river. This requires remarkable balance and strength. Sometimes both athletes fall in or both remain standing; and sometimes a lance breaks!  The tunes played by the brass band change to fit the fights cheering spectacular passes and applauding the winning jousters.

During summer the competitions bring a friendly atmosphere in the cities where they are held. Festivities start in the morning with the weigh in session in front of the city hall, followed by a parade (le défilé) and in the afternoon the tournaments. Not only the Rhone’s residents but also many visitors gather along the river to watch the games organised by the local rescue and nautical jousting association. 

The refreshment area (la buvette) is always crowded with spectators getting cold drinks. Another busy place is the barbecue corner where  you can buy grilled merguez. Kids play with their friends and cousins while parents catch up with their neighbours and relatives.

I love that festive mood!

Tomme Daubée

Fromage Fais with Aromatic Herbs / Tomme Daubée

Fromage frais with aromatics herbs is a popular dish in the Dauphiné region and in Lyon.  In the Dauphiné it is called "tomme daubée" and in Lyon "cervelle de canut". {Cervelle means brain. Canut was the name given to the people working in the silk industry in Lyon.}  

The preparation of fromage frais (a fresh curd cow’s milk cheese) in Lyon is slightly different than in the Dauphiné. The cervelle de canut is prepared with cream (crème fraîche), shallots, new onions, parsley, chives, and white wine, while the traditional tomme daubée with chives (called ciboulette or porette d'Avignon) and vinaigrette.

Tomme daubée is best prepared with fromage frais sold in a faisselle (cheese strainer - this looks like a yogurt pot with tiny holes).

This dish is excellent with rye bread (pain de seigle). It can be served as a dipping sauce for raw veggies such as radishes (radis), chicory leaves /endives, julienne carrot, etc.  It makes a good side dish to accompany salami (saucisson) or grilled merguez (a spicy pork sausage).  You can also spread it on toasted bread!

  • 250gr fromage frais
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • ½ tsp salt + ½ tsp black pepper
  • 50gr chives, thinly chopped (reserve 10gr for garnish)
  • To add a little spicy note: 1 clove crushed garlic + 1 tbsp Dijon mustard

  1. Pour the fromage frais in a serving bowl.
  2. Add olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in. Whisk thoroughly.
  3. Put chives, garlic and Dijon mustard in. Stir well.
  4. Put in the fridge for 1 hour.
  5. Scatter the remaining chives on top before serving.

Bon appétit!

I did not find fromage frais sold in a faisselle. I bought another sort sold in a 250gr plastic tub which has a smoother texture and milder taste than the faisselle type.
The word “daubée” is not to be confused with the word daube which means stew or casserole (or bad movie). 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Wet Market at Mongkok

I love wet markets!

I love wet markets for their atmosphere, the beauty of their fresh and dried produces, their colorful diplays and also their smells (even if sometimes it is not always pleasant, especially in the summer!).

I also like looking at the sellers and buyers chatting with each others - whether simple chit-chat or haggling over prices - hearing the sound of the fish fighting in the water (avoiding being caught by the fishmonger), the swift knife of the butcher cutting fresh meat on his wooden chopping board, etc. 

Each scene makes wet markets look like real life pictures.

For me wet markets are like daily festivals of colors, music and aromas illustrating the neighbourhood and the daily life of its residents.

Bitter melons/gourds, Chinese white cabbage (pak choi/pok choi)

Dumplings & suckling pig

Nice display of colourful produces

Different varieties of beans, carrots, jade melons etc

At the butcher

Big frogs (toads!)

Nice fish isn't it?

Sellers on Argyle Street, Mongkok

Fresh Day Lily Buds Stir-fry

Fresh day lily buds, bamboo shoots, black fungus and pork stir-fry

I bought fresh day lily buds at the market the other day. I checked on Internet and asked some local friends how to cook them. Here is my recipe which is an adapted version of a dish from northern China called “Muhk-séui-yuhk - 木须肉”.

  • 150-200gr fresh day lily buds*
  • 20gr black fungus
  • 300gr (1/2 catty) lean pork, sliced
  • ~300gr bamboo shoot (1 can)
  • 1 garlic clove (thinly sliced)
  • ½ large onion (thinly sliced
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil (divided in 3 parts)

* see photo on PAGE: Fruits, Plants and Fungus

  • 1 tbsp dark soya bean sauce
  • 1 tbsp Chinese rice wine
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • Salt and white pepper to taste

  1. Marinate pork slices in 1 tbsp cornstarch, 1 pinch salt and 1 tbsp water for at least ½ hour.
  2. Wash and soak the lily buds for ½ hour. Rinse and drain.
  3. Wash and soak the black fungus for at least 1 hour. Rinse and drain.
  4. Rinse bamboo shoot in water. Blanch in boiling water. Drain and dut into small chunks.
  5. Mix all the seasoning ingredients in a cup.
  6. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a wok and add onion and garlic in. Stir-fry until translucent. Remove from wok and reserve.
  7. Heat 2 tbsp oil in wok and stir-fry pork until slightly golden. Remove from work.
  8. Heat 1 tbsp oil in wok and add black fungus and bamboo shoots. Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes. Transfer onion, garlic and pork in wok. Continue stirring with spatula.
  9. Add seasoning. Continue stirring for another 2 minutes.
  10. Add day lily buds and stir-fry for another 2 minutes.
  11. Add water if necessary, salt and white pepper to taste. Transfer to serving bowl.

Fresh day lily buds, bamboo shoots, black fungus and pork stir-fry

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sweet Potatoes Leaves

Once a week I receive 3 catties (or 4 lbs) of organic vegetables from Hong Chi Association (that I order and pay for, of course!)

Here is what I found in my basket last Thursday:
  • Long beans (also called yard long beans/ asparagus beans/ “horn beans” in Chinese
  • Green bell peppers,
  • Eggplants, and
  • Sweet potato leaves / fàan-syú-yihp 

I love the tuberous root (or sweet potato). Chinese people make a soup with it that is very yummy. It is called, in Cantonese, fàan-syú tòhng-séui. This is prepared with fresh ginger and 'traditional' raw slab sugar (made with sugar, molasses and cane juice). I have bought the tuberous roots before but never the leaves. The latter can be found at wet markets but it is less common than other Chinese greens (e.g. spinach, water spinach, or white cabbage [there are so many spelling: baahk-choi /bok choy / pak-choi]).

Although it takes a while to wash leafy green vegetables and remove grit and dirt it is time well spent as the leaves are so tender and sweet!

Sweet potato leaves / Fàan-syú-yihp

Preparation: First remove the rough ends and bad leaves (keep the stems). Then, soak the sweet potato leaves in water for at least ½ hour. Rinse well several times. Drain in colander.

Here are 2 ways to cook sweet potato leaves:

  1. Warm up a wok over medium heat. Add 2 tbsp of vegetable oil and swirl around.
  2. Add 1 clove of garlic (chopped); stir-fry for 1 minute.
  3. Add all the leaves in wok.  Keep stirring the vegetables with the spatula. Add some water if necessary (I don’t put too much oil so I need to add liquid). Stir-fry until cooked but still bright green.
  4. Add salt to taste.
  5. Transfer to a dish and serve hot.

Stir-frying sweet potato leaves - the leaves are shrinking

Stir-fried sweet potato leaves

Steamed: You can also steam the sweet potato leaves on top of the rice. Once the rice is cooked open the rice cooker and put the leaves on top. Cover the rice cooker with the lid and let stand for about 5 minutes (let the rice cooker on ‘keep warm’ position).

Sweet potato leaves on top of rice

Steamed sweet potato leaves

Steamed sweet potato leaves with rice
For both methods the quantity of leaves will reduce by about a quarter after cooking.
Note: The leaves looked wrinkled and shriveled but believe me this dish is easy to make, full of vitamins and minerals and tastes deliciously sweet!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Oriental Milk Cheese Cake

Daaih-leùnhg ngàuh-yúh – 大良牛乳

I just discovered a new type of cheese, a cheese which looks like thin cakes and is made in China.

Oriental milk cheese cake / Daling milk / Bang milk cake 
Thin cheese cakes with embossed lace pattern
My husband’s uncle brought us back some “oriental milk cheese cake” or “Daliang milk”, also called “bang milk cake” from Foshan city, Guangdong province.

The curd, made with cow’s milk fermented with white vinegar, is pressed into thin slices which look like slim cookies béng-gón. Salt is added. It is rather salty.  
The cakes are very fragile and have an embossed lace pattern.

Daliang milk is a good congee jûk, oatmeal mahk-pín / mahk-pèih, steamed rice faahn or steamed bun, accompaniment.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dragon Fruit Cereus Flower Soup

Dragon fruit cereus / ba-wòhng-fâ / 霸王花

I found these nice flowers (not yet opened) at one vegetable and fruit seller in Mongkok. As I had never seen them before I asked the seller for the name of this plant and how to cook it.  

He only gave me its Chinese namewhich is in Cantonese Ba wòhng fâ.  When I arrived home I immediately googled Ba wòhng fâ (I did not know how to write it in Chinese) and did not find anything like the flowers I bought.
Today I asked my Mandarin teacher how to write  Ba wòhng fâ.  Then I googled again in Chinese 霸王花 and found that these flowers were from the cactus family and had several common names:

 - Night blooming cereusas the name indicates the blooms appear at night and close as soon as the day starts;
- Dragon fruit cereus - Pitaya – Dragon fruit - Strawberry Pear:  these are all names of the same fruit and come from the Dragon fruit cereus.

The Night blooming cereus is widely grown in the tropical regions.  Its scientific name is: Hylocereus undatus

Here is the recipe of the soup (for 3-4 persons) given by the seller:

Dragon fruit cereus soup

  • 3-4 (about 1lb) dragon fruit cereus flowers - Ba wòhng fâ
  • ½ catty (300gr) lean pork
  • 3 honey dates maht jóu
  • 10gr sweet and bitter kernels nàamh-bâk-hahng

  1. Soak the flowers at least 1hour and wash clean. { It is quite slimy} Rinse well.
  2. Wash and drain the kernels and honey dates.
  3. Wash and blanch the pork for a few minutes, and rinse.
  4. Boil 6 rice bowls of water in a large saucepan. Put all the ingredients in. Cover. Bring to the boil.
  5. Lower the heat and cooked for about 2 hours.

I found Ba wòhng fâ quite bland. Its flavour is similar to an asparagus and it has a slimy texture. The combination with the meat, the sweet dates and the kernels is perfect.  I like it! And I will definitely make it again!

The stall where I bought the ba-wòhng-fa

Dragon fruit or pitaya / fó-lùhng-gwó