Saturday, 25 February 2012

Korean Ginseng

Ginseng is a root plant and one of both North and South Korea's proudest crops. Ginseng is used as a herbal medicine to boost immune systems and energy levels and is seen as a product to calm the mind and body. It is believed to clear the blood of toxins, aid digestion, combat cancer cells and help maintain a healthy lifestyle. Interestingly it can be sold as candy but common forms include powder, tea or health supplements such as tonic drinks or capsules. The root grows in a long shape and it is thought a root resembling a human form is the best and most valuable. In October, Korea hosts the Youngju Punggi Ginseng Festival and visitors can dig for the herb themselves.

We each received a generously big box of this stuff for both major Korean holidays from our school director this year, but I only recently plucked up the courage to try it. On both Thanks Giving and Lunar New Year we were faced with occassions of gift giving. Ginseng is considered an expensive and thoughtful present.


The drink itself tastes like wood bark and is a very strong flavour. I dilute mine with a little water and try to drink it in one shot! It is not the most delicious taste, but it certainly feels healthy and wholesome. It was also recommened as a potent hangover cure by my boss and it does seems to do the trick!
Shot of Ginseng

It is a huge business amoung tourists and is world reknown for its stamina building properties as a tonic elixir. It can be bought in every city and in some cities there are herbal markets dedicated to selling the stuff. In Daegu there is a famous Oriental medicine street and walking down here, you can see huge vats filled with spindley roots. It is like walking into Professor Snape's Potions classroom! If given the chance, I really think it is within your interests to sample a glass. But as far as candy goes, I would stick to toffee!

Ginseng health drink

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Runny Scotch Eggs

Once again, Tom and I are obsessing about English food as we count down the days until we are home to Blighty. I remember when I first became vegetarian aged 12, I found it difficult to adjust. I was always looking for snacks I could eat. A healthy egg snack seemed like a good idea so I ate one of the mini Scotch eggs you can buy at the supermarket only to be reminded it was made from sausage meat. What a wally! I have since refined my snack search aged 26 and so I left this adventure to Tom.

So, we challenged ourselves to one of Heston Blumenthal's scientific recipes and the result was the perfect runny Scotch egg. Heston is a celebrity chef in the UK. He basically tries to perfect traditional dishes using laboratory precision. The key to making the perfect Scotch egg is to make sure the eggs remain runny, while the sausage coating is allowed to become crispy. Heston cooks the eggs for only three minutes in boiled water off the heat and they are then thrust into ice water to make sure they stay only 3minute eggs! This makes the eggs very difficult to peel, and of course Heston makes it look easy!

Scotch egg preparation

Wrapping a delicate runny boiled egg in sausage meat.

He then wraps the eggs in the sausage meat mixture using clingfilm so as to ensure complete smooth coverage. A flour dusting is coated on the meat and then each egg is deep fried at a precise temperature for 2 minutes.  This ensure the coating is crispy but the meat and egg remain cool.
The eggs are then baked for ten minutes to cook the sausage through without the heat reaching the runny yolk center.

Crispy coated Scotch eggs fresh from the oven.

The result is the perfect runny Scotch egg! They do look delicious, don't you think!
Magnificent work! We were very tentative towards the eggs and luckily they came out very well! I kind of wanted to nibble on one they looked so good.
Full recipe details here.

Runny Scotch eggs.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Spinach Breakfast Muffins

Spinach Breakfast Muffins


15g butter
1tsp sugar
150ml milk
1/2 tsp dried yeast
1/2tsp nutmeg
good handful washed spinach
225g flour
pinch salt


1. Melt the butter and sugar together in a pan, remove from the heat and add the milk and yeast. The hot pan should warm the milk, don't let it get too hot.
2. Heat the spinach in a pan with a spinkle of water until it wilts.
3. Sift the flour,salt and nutmeg together. Add the spinach and gradually add the milk mixture.
4. Bring together into a dough. Knead this for 10 minutes then leave to rise in a warm place for 30mins.
5. Stretch it out, cut into small balls and fry in a dry pan with a little flour for 5 minutes each side.

You can serve with eggs or lashings of butter. :)

Monday, 13 February 2012

Cranberry Bakewell - Jamie's Britain

Cranberry Bakewell Tart

It was such a pleasure watching Jamie Oliver's 'Jamie's Great Britain'. Despite my vegetarian tendencies, I was even salivating at the roasts and pork pies! I think it must be nearly time for me to get back to my homeland!
One of the best episodes was in Derbyshire and particularly tempting was the cranberry bakewell tart!
I decided to give it a go a couple of Sundays ago and here are the results! A tart-but-sweet tart! This recipe is adapted very slightly as I couldn't find all the ingredients.

Jamie's Cranberry Bakewell


Filling/ Jam
300g cranberries (frozen or dried)
zest and juice of one orange
I used re hydrated dried berries; wash them in hot water to remove oil, put them in a pan with 100ml water and the orange juice. Simmer for 10mins remove from the heat and leave covered for one hour.
150g sugar

Batter/ Frangipane
100g walnuts crushed or blitzed
100g almonds crushed or blitzed
250g butter
250g sugar
zest and juice of a lemon
zest and juice of an orange
3 eggs
60g plain flour

St Clements icing
1/2 orange and 1/2 a lemon juiced and zested
100g icing sugar

Sweet shortcrust pastry- makes 500g
500g plain flour
50g sugar
250g cold butter cubed
zest  of one lemon
2 large eggs
a splash of milk

(the additional pastry dough can be frozen to use later)


1. Make the filling. Place the sugar and cranberries into a saucepan or wok. Leave on a low heat and stir occasionally to ensure all berries are evenly warmed through.
2. Make the pastry. Rub the butter into the sifted flour using your finger tips. Once resembling bread crumbs, add the sugar, bind together with the lemon, eggs and milk until it is a soft sticky dough. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 mins.
3. Make the batter. Blend the sugar and butter until creamy, use a mixer or a wooden spoon but make sure it is light and fluffy. Add the blitzed nuts, lemon and orange zest/juice and eggs. Mix well & add the flour.
4. Take the pastry out the fridge. Roll out on a floured surface to about the thickness of a pound coin. Tease it into the folds of a greased baking tray, preferably one with a removable bottom. Bake this blind for 12 minutes using baking beans or lentils.
5. Checking on your cranberries, taste for tartness and add more sugar if necessary, cook to reduce liquid but be careful not to burn the sugar. Add the lemon and orange juice/zest to finish.
6. Place the berry filling into the pastry case. Hold a bit back for dressing. Top with dollops of the batter.
7. Sprinkle with some of the remaining berries on the top. You could use the additional pastry to make a lattice or decorate the top.
8. Bake on 170C for 45-50 minutes.
9. Make the icing. Mix 100g sifted icing sugar with a little lemon and orange juice until a thick runny consistency is made. Drizzle lightly over the cooled tart.

Slice of chewy cranberry bakewell tart

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Lunar New Year Bite

On Lunar New Year's Day, Tom and I took a little trip into downtown Masan- Hapseongdong. It had been ages since we went to the movies and I realised how much I have been missing it. No cinema will ever beat Scunthorpe Vue cinema for comfort, but I can hold out hope. It is a funny thing in Korea, at any time there must be at least 75% Korean movies playing in any theatre at any one time. This means that usually there are only one or two English movies on at once. It can be slim pickings, but good old Tom Cruise did pull through with some all out action in Mission Impossible 4 (are they still making those movies? Turns out, yes. Not too shoddy)!

Before the film, we went for a quick lunch as we had nothing in the fridge and the supermarket was closed due to the holiday. We picked this tiny and very basic cafe style noodle restaurant. There was one young girl working and she seemed happy enough to be there despite the national holiday- true Korean work ethics.

It is traditional in Korea to eat a rice cake soup or ttokk-guk, on New Year's Day. The Koreans believe that eating this clear soup symbolises the start of the new year. It seemed fitting then, that although this was a ramen restaurant, we should order the spicy rice cake ramen. You can see the rice cake slices or 'ttokk' sitting proudly on top of my noodles. I felt rather auspicious eating this spicy soup. It also made my nose run!

Ttokk ramen - rice cake spicy noodles - Korea

In addition to the ramen, we ordered these cool heart shaped rice balls. Mixed into the sticky rice were some seaweed and mixed vegetables. The sticky texture allows the rice to be moulded into heart shapes. They were delicious with the wasabi and soy dip. This was served with the usual kimchi and yellow radish (daan moo ji) preserves which I love! I actually found one of the moulds in the shop today which is what made me think of writing about them. I am sure I will have some fun experimenting with these!

Rice ball shapers

Heart-shaped rice balls

The other funny thing about this restaurant was the decor. The walls were absolutely covered from top to bottom in post it notes from patrons. There were Korean, English, Konglish, doodle and love themed notes. It was hard to pick out any in particular because of the sheer volume of them!
I also noticed, and I love this about Korea, that they had cleverly installed some cheap as chips decor in the form of instant noodle sheets. The light box behind made an interesting feature amongst the post it chaos.

Post it mad and kooky ramen wall art!

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Lunar New Year Gifts

Rice cakes of various flavours

Lunar New Year is a time for gift giving. Traditional gifts include rice cakes, sweet treats and ginseng. For both new year and thanksgiving this year, our school gave a us a generous helping of ginseng. But our good friends got two huge packs of rice cakes. My Korean teacher Helen also had a big box to share.

The rice cakes are more like a puffed syrupy rice roll and have green tea, berry or honey flavours. They look really pretty and have the texture of polystyrene but I really like them! The boxes come wrapped up in a delicate pink carrier for easy transportation.

Traditional Korean gift box

The cakes our friends Grat and Leslie received included some really delicious sesame seed sticky cubes, although there was one shocking seaweed and sesame treat which was less treat, more surprise, and not in a good way.

Korean gift box of Lunar New Year treats

There were also some sweet and greasy pastry cakes with rich cinnamon and poppy seed flavours. These were by far my favourite! Soft and chewy but incredibly satisfying. These babies leave you wanting more!

So if you receive a box of these traditional sweets, don't be afraid to try them all, but watch out for the green ones! They may look pretty but the flavours can vary from bitter or sweet to bland, but all are very chewy and incredibly different to what our western palates are used to. Much better than getting the SPAM gift boxes I have seem about town.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Chickpea and Pumpkin Curry

Delicious coconut curry with a light spice. The sweet pumpkin makes this a real treat. If you leave it to stand for half an hour or so and then reheat, the curry becomes thicker and even more creamy. Give it a whirl.

Chickpea and pumpkin curry

Chickpea and Pumpkin Curry


1 tbs oil
1 onion finely sliced
Curry paste
1 kg pumpkin cut into small chunks
3 cups of water (750ml)
420g chickpeas drained
1 chunky cut carrot
140ml coconut milk (powdered coconut milk is really useful and is what I used)
20 bay leaves

To make the curry paste mix the following in a separate bowl;
1 tbs oil
1tsp curry powder
4 cm fresh ginger finely chopped
2 tbs coriander powder
4 cloves garlic thinly sliced
1 chili finely sliced
1 tsp tumeric


1. Heat the oil and cook the onions until browned.
2. Add the curry paste and lightly fry for a minute or two.
3. Add the pumpkin and carrot chunks and coat in the paste.
4. Cover with the water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Stir in the chickpeas and coconut milk.
6. Cook for a further 10 minutes on a low heat or until the pumpkin in soft.
7. Make sure to pull the bay leaves out if you can to avoid chewing on a leaf.