This is a throw back from last year, since COVID 19 has shat all over my travel plans this year, I have been torturing myself looking over photos of places I loved.
Like most people, when I first thought of Hong Kong I thought of the heaving metropolis, full of neon lights and skyscrapers. Take a relatively short bus ride into the lush green mountains in Lantua Island and you’re in a different world.
You can take a bus from central Hong Kong or a cable car, to bring you to the summit where you’ll find the Tian Tan Buddha. My traveling companion and expedition photographer (my sister, Bronagh) fibbed when we set off, telling me that our bus would leave us at the top. This turned out to be a filthy lie, and I almost met my death after climbing these 268 steps in 32 degree heat (top tip, do this before lunch and take your time, they are as steep as they look). On the upside, once you can breath normally and your heart doesn’t feel like it’s going to burst any more, you’re treated to a spectacular view of the mountains and Po Lin Monastery.
There is also a small village and shopping area at the base of the Buddha if you haven’t bought enough tourist tat in the city. Walk along a paved avenue with statues of Chinese deities and you’ll reach the Po Lin monastery.
Like most Chinese monasteries, it’s richly decorated and serene. It has manicured courtyards where pilgrims burn giant incense sticks in huge wracks and pray. Beautiful, calm and smelling fantastic, the monastery is the perfect antidote if a couple of days in busy Hong Kong has left you feeling a bit frazzled.
You can also buy lunch at the monastery, there is a small cafe that sells snacks and light bites. I spoke to other visitors who ate there, and they enjoyed the food. We went for the “deluxe ticket” set meal in the monastery’s dining room (I had almost died after all, after climbing the “Big Buddha”). This was reasonably priced set meal with 7 or 8 dishes including pumpkin soup, mushrooms with leafy greens, vegetables plate, bean curd rolls, spring rolls, and tofu in lemon sauce and endless pots of tea. I’m not vegan, but probably could be if this was the sort of food served daily.
I never thought I would say it, but after weeks stuck at home. I was finally fed up with carbs.
The antidote was a quick and easy salad. I used tinned crab meat because it was what I had, but fresh or frozen would also work.
Like most salads, use what you have or what you like, I added nectarine because it’s what I had, but mango but would be great too. Lemon and tahini are great in dressings. I usually add garlic to this dressing mix, but left it out this time so that it wouldn’t overwhelm the delicate crab flavour. Fresh herbs like parsley or corriander would be great in this salad too.
1 Carrot (grated)
50 Grams Endame beans (frozen)
6 Radishes (sliced)
1/2 Avocado (cubed)
1 Nectarine (cubed)
145 Gran Tin of crab meat
2 Handfuls of rocket or other salad leaves.
For the dressing
Juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp Rapeseed oil
Salt and pepper
Add the tahini, oil, and lemon juice to a bowl. Mix well and season with sat and pepper, loosen with a little water if it’s too thick
Combine all the salad ingredients in large bowl, add the dressing and serve with crusty bread
Good roast potatoes are one of life’s simple pleasures. But it is possible to improve on perfection. This is a recipe that I used to make when I student and constantly broke. It’s made from simple cheap ingredients, and tastes fantastic.
You can eat it as a side dish, but I’m more than happy to eat a big bowl of it just on its own. You can also make this with mashed potatoes and it’s still a totally amazing comfort food, but do yourself a favour and try it with roast potatoes.
1Kg Potatoes (Scrubbed with skins left on)
4-5 Large onions (Chopped)
2 Tbsp Oil
25 Grams Butter
Salt and pepper
100 Grams Cheddar Cheese (Grated), you can also use any cheese you find in the fridge.
Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees. Cut the potatoes into 3-4 cm cubes, and toss with 1 Tbsp of oil and spread across a baking tray. Bake for 30 minutes (or until soft)
Cut the onions, I don’t cut them too finely. Heat the remaining oil and butter to a large frying pan. Add the onions and fry over a medium heat, stirring occasionally for 30-40 minutes until dark brown (not burnt) and caramalised
Spread the onions over the potatoes, and then cover with the grated cheese. Return to the oven, and bake for 15 minutes until the cheese is golden brown and bubbly
Most people from Northern Ireland will remember grandparents trying to force dulse on them as a child. If you were lucky enough to escape this and don’t know what dulse is, it’s deep purple seaweed gathered around the coast of Northern Ireland (and other places too). As a child I found it too salty, and the long strands too chewy (I wasn’t a fan).
The reason most grandparents tried to make kids eat it is because it’s amazingly good for you. It’s jam packed full of iodine, calcium, potassium, and all sorts of vitamins and anti oxidants.
I know apart from the health benefits, I’m not really selling dulse as something you can cook with. However, like the big food nerd that I am, I went on a coastal foraging day last year which was amazing, and ended with a fantastic meal cooked by Celia Sponcer (brilliant local chef). She used different seaweeds as seasoning for breads like focaccia and they were delicious, so she inspired me to try this. Dulse provides a saltiness to dishes, but also a deeper flavour that reminds you of the ozone smell you get when you’re at the coast.
In Northern Ireland dulse is sold in most greengrocers, but if you aren’t able to get hold of it you can buy it online from a lot of health food retailers or online (because it’s so good for you).
This recipe calls for buttermilk, which i never have, so if you don’t have it use ordinary milk and the juice of half a lemon (the acidity from the buttermilk/lemon juice is needed to cause the chemical reaction that makes the bread rise).
If you can’t find dulse, or aren’t brave enough to try it, this still makes really delicious and healthy bread. If you’re not using dulse replace it with 1 teaspoon of salt. It’s great served with soups, but my favourite way to enjoy this is sliced with cheese.
375 Grams Wholemeal flour
75 Grams Plain flour
1 Level Tsp Bicarbonate Soda
2 Tbsp Dulse (finely chopped)
325-350 ml Buttermilk (or use ordinary milk with the juice of half a lemon added to it)
Add the flour, bicarbonate of soda, dulse and baking powder to bowl
Stir in the butter milk/milk and lemon juice mixture until it’s s soft dough
Handle as little as possible, but make the dough into a ball
Turn onto a sheet of baking parchment
With a sharp knife, cut a cross (about one third of the depth of the dough) across the centre of the bread
Bake in an oven pre-heated to 180 degrees for 45 minutes or until the base sounds hollow when you tap it
Like everyone else I’m trying to go out as little as possible at the moment. I took a craving for fajitas and didn’t have the chicken I would normally use, or tortillas.
What I did find in the fridge was halloumi, which worked brilliantly. The saltiness of the cheese is yummy with the sweet peppers and onions, with little kick of chilli heat. I didn’t have tortillas, but I substituted these with Carribbean flat breads, I made using a recipe provided by the fantastic Debbie at D Rum Pot. Fusion cooking by accident rather than design.
The fajitas take 5 minutes to prepare, before popping in the oven. You have a delicious meal in less than 30 minutes.
200 Grams Halloumi (cut into 1,1/2 cm strips)
1 Onion (sliced)
1 Red pepper (sliced)
1 Yellow pepper (sliced)
2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
1/2 Tsp Cumin
1 Tsp Smoked paprika (I used the hot version, but if you are using sweet paprika then use a 1/2 teaspoon, and add a 1/2 teaspoon of chilli powder
Add the spices and oil in a bowl and mix until thoroughly combined
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees
Add the chopped vegetables and halloumi, to the oil and spices and mix until coated
Transfer to a baking sheet, and bake for 15-20 minutes (or until the halloumi is golden brown)