Chinese Beef Hotpot

I have not posted anything relating to food for a while so here is my own recipe for Cantonese style Beef Hotpot. This makes a very rich and satisfying maincourse and is very simple to make.
If made with good chuck steak this can be cooked quite quickly using a wok or similar pan. If you subtitute something like shin of beef, it would be more suitable for slow cooking in a casserole.

Cantonese style beef hotpot

Cantonese style beef hotpot

500 grams  cubed beef  (chuck steak or skirt)
1 tsp 5 mixed spice
1 tsp curry powder
3 cloves of garlic (crushed)
2cm ginger (crushed and roughly chopped)
1 tbsp light soy sauce
½ tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp rice wine or sherry
1 tsp brown sugar
Cornflour to thicken
Spring onion or wild garlic flowers and coriander leaves to garnish
Carrot or mooli (daikon) cut in chunks

Cubed beef

Cubed beef

Cut the beef into cubes and marinade with the 5 mixed spice and curry powder for half an hour.

Crushed ginger and garlic

Crushed ginger and garlic

Frying the garlic and ginger before adding the beef

Frying the garlic and ginger before adding the beef

Heat two tablespoonfuls of oil in a wok or frying pan. Add the garlic and ginger and fry for 30 seconds (taking care not to let the garlic burn.) Introduce the beef and fry until brown. Add the wine and cook for another minute, then add the soy sauce and cook for 30 seconds more.

Adding Mooli chunks after the beef is browned

Adding Mooli chunks after the beef is browned

Now put in the carrot or mooli, the sugar and enough water to cover the beef. Bring to boil and simmer for around 20 / 30 minutes. Check that the meat is tender. You should have only a little bit of sauce left in the pan. If the dish seems too dry then add a little bit of water. Just before turning off the heat, mix a teaspoon of cornflour with a little bit of water then stir into the other ingredients.

Carrots can be used in chunks as a main vegetable or as decoration

Carrots can be used in chunks as a main vegetable or as decoration

Shredded spring onion for garnish with carrot "leaf"

Shredded spring onion for garnish with carrot “leaf”

Cantonese style beef hotpot

Cantonese style beef hotpot

Serve with rice and stir-fried vegetables. Enjoy!


I Love Kimono

The best Kimono are among the most beautiful textile objects in the world, and the “fine art” Kimono, produced by the late Kubota Itchiku, hold a place close to my heart. They are truly stunning.

Although Japanese shops can be among the brashest and, at times, the trashiest anywhere, when it comes to selling traditional artefacts the Japanese flair for beautiful design comes to the fore, and this is very much true of Kimono.
So to give you an idea of why I love them so much, here are some photographs that I took in Tokyo a few years ago – I’m sorry about the quality of the shots and the glass reflections!

"Rurikon" 1983 - Kubota Itchiku

“Rurikon” 1983 – Kubota Itchiku

Itchiku Kubota was born in 1917, and died in 2003. Kubota devoted the second half of his life to developing his own style of Kimono making, which included long periods of experimentation where he sought to recreate ancient techniques that had been lost over the ages. In the last two decades of his life he worked on large series of oversized “art” Kimono where a landscape image unfolded over several individual pieces. Each Kimono required many hundreds of separate dyeing processes, and the end result is breathtakingly beautiful.

The image above shows  “Obi” for sale in a Japanese department store. Obi are the wide bands tied around the waist over a Kimono.

A dramatic Kimono in a feature display at a Tokyo store.

Detail shot showing the amazing printed and hand-embroidered detail on the Kimono above.

This photograph was taken through the window of a Tokyo store. In spite of the reflections of cars and flowers, I love the abstract composition of this detail shot of part of a Kimono and an Obi.

A detail of another Kimono taken through a shop window.

Another close-up of the same piece.

Another shot in a store.

Display is a form of artwork in itself.

This Kimono was on display in a hotel we stayed at.

As was this one!

On the Silk Road: Gobi (Part Three)

The embroidered picture “Gobi” was directly inspired by the amazing photographs my husband took of the Gobi desert, whilst flying from Beijing to Urumqi, in far western China. The harsh deserts of north-western China and Mongolia breed a tough and independent people, which China has always sought to dominate (although at times over the millenia, the boot has occasionally been on the other foot.)

People often ask me about the meanings behind my work, but I’m inclined to believe that the meanings and feelings that a viewer draws from a work should be down to them, thus the form hovering over the desert could have any number of interpretations. Having said that, for me the form perhaps echoes the power of the Chinese Imperial dragon that has always loomed over this region.

I’ve again included a few pics of the making of the piece, enjoy!

If you missed parts one and two, you can find them here:
On the Silk Road (Part One)
On the Silk Road (Part Two): Shadow of the Great Wall



Cornwall: rocks and reflections

I live within a few miles of the North Cornwall coast and enjoy visiting its spectactular cliffs and rocky beaches.
“The Strangles” is a beach beneath high cliffs that is rather difficult to get to but well worth the effort.

Rock pool, "The Strangles"

Rock pool, “The Strangles”

Crafts of India: Block Printing

While visiting the village of Bagru, near Jaipur, I had the chance to watch people  making traditional Indian block-printed fabrics. The craftsmen of Bagru cut the wood blocks by hand and use only eco-friendly vegetable dyes in the painstaking process, rinsing the fabric between colours. Although basic hand relief block printing is a familiar technique, it was incredible to see people using such techniques on a commercial scale – it can take days to print an entire bolt of fabric, or weeks if the design is more complex.

Multi-colour wood-block printing on a length of fabric