Da Jie making dumplings at Mushu 01

Chinese New Year Resolutions- Less Telly More Dumplings

New year’s resolutions are something I like the idea of, although I’ve never been inclined to depend on a 1/1/20xx date to start new positive habits, or stop old negative ones.

Nevertheless, by a carefully considered combination of masochism and sheer terror, I have been dragging myself to the gym regularly for the past few weeks, starting on that most memorable of dates, the 24th of January.

Anyhow, it was in this spirit of “watch less telly, do more cool stuff” that I hastily typed “Yesssssss Dumplings!!!” and hit ‘send’ as fast as I could in response to an email from esteemed blogger and compulsive shutterbug TikiChris. A last minute cancellation meant that there was an opportunity to take part in a Qype event involving the making and eating of these delectable Chinese delicacies.

So, a mere 2 hours later I’ve arrived to fill the space at one of London’s newer wooden trestle tables for Mushu’s Dumpling workshop – ready to be filled to bursting, much like the dumplings we ended up constructing.

relaxed restaurant

Set deceptively close to both Great Portland Street and Warren Street Tube stations, this is a relaxed open-kitchen gem of a place that not only serves dumplings (made on site!) but also has a spot of sushi and the sort of atmosphere a solo diner wouldn’t feel out of place in.

Thus began our workshop, where (after we washed our hands) we were introduced to “Da jiě” (Big Sister) the Dumpling Deity, who simultaneously encouraged and corrected us while effortlessly making thirty or so dumplings at lightning speed. We watched, hypnotised, before commencing our own slightly slower efforts. Of course it was impossible for us to duplicate the dumpling dexterity on display, but still fun – and we were prepared to eat the results, no matter what they looked like.

We found out that dumplings needed to be squished from the ends a bit after we crimped them to make them look like fat purses filled with money – all eight of us thoroughly enjoyed this activity and knew they didn’t look quite right – not that we minded.

During the workshop, we were given enough information to feel quite confident about attempting to make our own dumplings. I’ve reproduced an attempt at the recipe below – but can make no guarantees about accuracy, or what you want to fill them with, sadly. Any thoughts, please reply in the comments 🙂

I’ll also upload some pictures to Flickr (edit: link here) which should also help anyone who actually wants to have a go at cooking them.

Dumplings at Mushu 04

So, once we were sufficiently covered in flour, Big Sister boiled our questionable bundles while the friendly owner told us they’d settled on boiling rather than steaming those particular ones to keep the dumplings moist and juicy. We were so eager for our first taste, our experimental parcels had already disappeared into our bellies by the time they’d brought us the dipping sauce. Oh well. We’d managed to take pictures first, though (as most of the attendees were that way inclined).

Miso Glazed Aubergine

After the workshop, we were treated to a selection of dishes from the menu including other meaty dumplings that I didn’t try, but the biggest surprise of the evening went to a miso-slicked roasted aubergine which I proclaimed “Auber-genius” among the obligatory groans.

I would definitely return here on a paying visit and take the opportunity to try more of the veggie-friendly dishes on offer.  And if there’s any moral to this strange story, perhaps it’s that saying “yes” to a cryptic email ends up with being dumped in the right place at the right time a few hours after a spontaneous reply. I found myself in great company, and smiled and laughed a lot more that evening than if I went home and watched the telly. I’m even going to try making dumplings the next weekend I find myself in the kitchen (although I may have to prepare for the session Dexter-style).

So, even if I don’t manage to watch less TV, I’ll definitely aim to go out with good people more –  if this is how the Year of the Rabbit’s set to continue, I’m resolving to make the most of it.

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ROUGH GUIDE TO DUMPLINGS AT HOME

– LESS A RECIPE, MORE A FREE-FOR-ALL

Make the filling first. For the dough, mix together normal flour in a 2:1 ratio with water, leave to rest for 1 hour, roll out in small circles with a dimple in the middle, stuff in filling, crimp the edges, then boil gently in a big pan of water until dumpling floats to top. That sounds a lot easier than it’s going to be, however, and I’m pretty sure that when I try it, my kitchen will look like I’ve attempted to cover every possible surface in dumpling elements.

If you are a dumpling filling expert, please leave some mini-recipes in the comments- thanks!

Expanded upon from my restaurant review on QypeMushu – Fitzrovia

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Nom Nom Nom 2009

…is only 10 hours away, and I’m ready.

No, of course I’m not ready, but I did source a particularly effective chef’s hat

The last month has been brilliant, manic and, alas, almost completely sleep-free.

Excitingly I’m going to be on the BBC again next week as my piece on Music Recognition should be cooked by then – first I have to get 2 or 3 internet shots at some ridiculously unsociable hour on Monday morning, before crawling into the Edit with both Callie the Editor and the sort of coffee that causes spontaneous leg-shaking and hallucinations.

But before that in 10 hours’ time I shall be entering NomNomNom 2009, a charity cook-off where the fabulous Jemimahknight and I are charged with making a 3-course meal and serving it to 2-michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens – so no pressure there, then…

Our team is called Bork Bork Bork – will report back with pix and video assuming I survive.

Music Messing with our Heads

I recently devoured a great book called “Quirkology” by Prof Richard Wiseman, whose experiment measuring how fast people walk in different cities around the world showed (unsurprisingly) that the pace of walking has got faster (to find out which cities were faster than others, and other weird and wonderful experiments, buy the book!)

This increase in pace mirrors an increase in musical pitch over the last few centuries – as the pace of life gets faster, Middle C gets higher! In Baroque times, (around 1700) Middle C was a full semitone lower – this is why I have to transpose in my head when I play baroque-pitch harpsichords.

When I’d go dancing, it would distress me musically as the sound systems would regularly play music at about 5-6Hz higher than it should have been – I wondered whether this pitch-shift was intentional, and people would unwittingly dance more / drink more as a consequence of this increase, or whether the sound systems were just rubbish, no-one was experimenting, and only freaks like me would suffer?

My freakiness is Perfect Pitch, a strange affliction/gift that means I can correctly identify notes, chords etc., and tell someone what key they are speaking in – where it starts to get a little strange is that I’ve found that people who speak in, say, F major, appear to be quite persuasive and good at motivating, whereas people who speak in B minor appear to be quite negative in their outlook – I’ll go out on a further limb here, and mention that everyone seems to have a key they normally speak in, and others that they modulate to depending on their situation/company/mood – this is something I’ve done since I was a kid, but last weekend at the Food 2.0 wrap party, I mentioned that someone was speaking in Bb major, which resulted in strange looks and a request to blog about it, hence the post.

…but one digresses (as usual). Continuing the pacing theme, in the 90s, music at 135bpm was considered ridiculously fast, however, in the noughties, we happily imbibe 160bpm without missing a beat (no pun intended) – there’s not that much more room in terms of tempo, (before it becomes pitch) so what happens next?

How fascinating that music affects us so deeply!  During (and after) my music degree, I performed some (very) empirical research. As a lifelong insomniac, I wanted to find out a way to get to sleep easily. The relaxation tapes I purchased were fine in terms of the NLP-type hypnotic language used etc, however, the background music kept me awake!  After reading all kinds of weird and wonderful research that music at 60bpm, the average resting heart rate, can sometimes have a calming effect on the body, I decided to test that out by composing – and engineered music that would relax me by using this tempo and also choosing the keys that I personally found calming.  Well, it worked on me, because I fell asleep writing it, and had to compose some of the stuff in double time (how frustrating).  What was even stranger was that it appeared to work on other people, too…

I’d be very interested to hear any thoughts on music and how it affects humans (or other animals – I remember New Scientist running a piece about chickens listening to Pink Floyd) – and I’ll put some samples  up online soon (will blog with link) so you can have a listen.   LJ x

Food 2.0 nom-nom-nom

I finally completed the mammoth task of editing that 10GB of video cooking for charity.  This was a geek “masterchef” competition, where 24 of us competed in teams of 12 to cook a 3 course meal in 2hrs30mins, and be judged on our efforts – a truly surreal experience.

The competition was not just about how the food tasted, it’s also about how it was recorded – very digital/interactive – so consquently I’m also compiling a blog post especially for the food 2.0 nomnomnom site including a Flickr gallery of our team, the “Avocadolls” and a story of the day, and hopefully the recipes too.  If all goes to plan, you should be able to see it here from Friday 30th May – please vote for our video if you like it.

Here’s the Youtube vid, looking shiny and new. I had to re-do the captions at 20pt font instead of 14 so you can read some of the groan-worthy puns at the bottom.


RSS readers / Can’t see the Embedded Video?  Click here for the link

Here’s the Flickr gallery if you want to have a look

Right, must pop off now, I have much work to do, and an Archos Blog to prep – also on telly this weekend, which means time to memorise those techy stats and make sure I have everything I need for Saturday afternoon, evening, and Sunday…

24 Hours on TV

I have no time at the moment! So I’ve decided to “do less”, which is a new one on me, brought about by a schedule that was crazy last week even by my standards.  Just to give you an idea of how busy I’ve been, there are still 3 unwatched episodes of Battlestar Galactica on my box.  I’ve reproduced Friday/ Saturday here:

Friday 1400 – get ready for TV marathon- that includes the incredibly dull and non-glamorous stuff like washing hair, doing nails, choosing outfits, making sure I have all my kit, checking specifications, and confirming the hotel is booked and the staff won’t be freaked out that you’ll be turning up at 2am looking half-mad and slathered in heavy make up. (NB: It turns out that if you call in advance and let reception know that you’ll be turning up at 2am looking half-mad etc, you are 78% more likely to be admitted.)

Friday / Saturday midnight to 0200 – go on telly.  There is an odd thought that sometimes hits me when I do the late shift, which is this: I know for a fact that the vast majority of people are going out on the town, dancing, eating, messing up their hair, or definitely not working – I can’t remember the last Saturday night I’ve not worked! Prior to doing the TV stuff, I used to gig in a band from Thursdays to Sundays – weekends were work even then… but I love having Mondays off.

Saturday 0830 – wake up ravenous and driven slightly bonkers by lack of sleep mixed with adrenalin from being on TV – yes, even after 8 years on the telly,  I still get quite excited.  Must. Eat. Now.  I suffer from “angry hungry” if I’m not fed, especially in the morning.

Saturday 0930 – back into QVC to get ready for the next show, including making sure the tech is working and no-one has unplugged/blown up anything whilst I was asleep, which is possible, although unlikely.  I normally also go for breakfast no. 2 at this point.  Must. Eat. Again.  I meet with the producer and the director and we talk about how last night went, what was good, and what could be done better (i.e. what was utterly pointless and needs to be dropped)  – I normally cave in to my first caffeine craving and drink a cup of tea just before going to air.

Saturday 1300 – I’ve presented 2 shows by now, we’re into the swing of things and the afternoon beckons- I’ll be looking at the 1600 and 1800 show, then it’s on to the evening shows at 2000 and 2300.  All the preparation of the weeks before has paid off – I know what I’m talking about, and I know how to talk about it, and of course, I’m used to the voices in my head (producer/director) giving advice and asking questions at the same time as my co-presenter is talking to me on air.  After the 1800 show, I start looking forward to yummy chinese food for dinner, which I normally indulge in between the last two shows of the shift.  

Saturday 1700 – this is where I’m hoping for my second (or third) wind, the frenzied preparation of the days before has finally demanded payback by now – I’ve sold my soul to caffeine, which comes to my rescue, a double latte with an extra shot, no foam.  Although it has to be skimmed milk now, I’m currently on a health kick and saving my “recommended guideline daily amount for Fat” for CHOCOLATE.

Saturday 2015 – just finished my penultimate show – normally the 8pm slot is quite fun.  Everyone knows what they’re doing and we sail through (assuming there’s no technical mayhem).  I bolt from the double doors off to dinner, and stuff my face with the same thing every time* before waddling back to the studio feeling contented and a little too full up.

Saturday 2259 – one more show to go, I’ll get to leave after this, but live TV is broadcast until 2am every night, so I can’t get publicly excited about going off home to bed after 24 hours, because others can’t turn in until much later.  It’s difficult being “De-mob happy” if you’re the only one allowed out.

Saturday 2315 -just finished the last show, all that’s left now is to De-rig.  This includes striking the set (i.e. clearing down the stuff in the studio), sorting out what’s mine and needs to go home, and what belongs to QVC and needs to stay at the studio, before completing the last “once-over” check and leaving at around midnight.

Saturday/Sunday 0125 – I’m finally making my way back home where I’ll attempt some form of make-up removal and hit the pillow square on in a triumph of unconsciousness.  I won’t even unpack until I wake up in the morning.

Normally, this is where I take a break, however, last weekend, I enjoyed the honour of taking part in Food 2.0, a fantastic charity event in which we raise money for Action Against Hunger whilst cooking a 3-course meal at the Cookery School for some incredibly sophisticated judges.  It was just like Masterchef, except with geek. You should have seen the kit people brought with – there were laptops, mobiles and camcorders everywhere.  We could have probably hacked into the Pentagon and/or broadcast to the outer reaches of the universe with the computing power in that kitchen.

Re: Food 2.0 Gulp!! I’ve managed to record 10GB of data!! 10GB!!!  Am not looking forward to wading through that much footage, when I’m pretty certain that the vast majority of it is not very interesting at all… mainly waffling about mushrooms and pastry it seems.  The usual saying in the industry is “Don’t worry, we’ll fix it in post (post production i.e. editing etc)” but I shall soldier on valiantly and post a link once it’s a) done, b) interesting, and c) not 14 hours long.

Well, next posts are imminent, they will be on the Food 2.0 experience, and I’ll be doing a special Archos post as I’ve been getting some techy queries from some viewers, it’s only polite to respond accordingly. 

*Vegetable Ho Fun noodles, no beansprout, no baby corn, no water chestnut, no bamboo shoots, extra tofu and extra chinese mushroom.  Followed by banana fritters.

Food 2.0, Lightscribe

As I’m taking part in Food 2.0 this Sunday, I went to do a little research at a place in London called Vanilla Black, perhaps one of my favourite places to eat an unsuitable amount of food.  Here’s the first part of the review I posted:

Gasp!! Gourmet Vegetarian food that even carnivores are satisfied by? Tasty veggie delights that your tongue will treasure for weeks to come? Vanilla Black is out-of-the-way in Chancery Lane, but only 3 mins walk from the tube – a blessing if you’re bored with fighting through Soho and fancy a change. This destinational eaterie is a heavenly escape from the usual bland veggie options that I’ve become resigned to…. check out the rest here:   Vanilla Black

I’m partnered with the lovely Tiara Diamond and we are planning a vegetarian feast of fabulous flavours.  We spent quite some time going through what we ate and didn’t eat – turns out that both of us have a fear of raisins as well as a startling amount of “no-go” food areas.  After writing out a “hate list” followed by a “love list” we decided upon Mushroom Menage on Summer Rosti with Fresh Asparagus as a main course, followed by Toffee Apple Meringue pie.  The starter will be a tricolore salad with Honeyed Balsamic Dressing. It’s going to be mad because I’ll have just finished a 24-hour stint on telly, and will be ravenous.

 

Burn, Baby, BurnMeanwhile, I got a lovely Lacie Lightscribe drive to play with in the post today, installed like a dream on my Mac, it’s almost enough for me to consider defecting from Vista, all this plug-and-play business… but I must confess, it’s weird not having that right-click for tweakage.  I’m very clearly straddling two camps here, as it were.

This drive is both PC and Mac compatible so happily I don’t have to choose yet.  Now I must fight the temptation to lightscribe a naughty word on to a disc with a laser.  Just like old times – I just remembered programming my ZX Spectrum to “speak” words that were typed in – this was many years ago – and a Derek and Clive sketch was chosen as the ultimate test of skill … but what would you expect from a Red Dwarf fan?*

 

*only the first 4 series though.