Junuary (The Coldest, Cruelest Month of the UK Year)

My toes are freezing and it’s June. Not just June, but two full weeks into this reputedly summer month. I sarcastically Google today’s weather forecast in Siberia:

Wow. This is a really cruel joke. If the Brits are reputed for their endurance (Keep Calm and Carry On), this is why — it takes real grit to put up with 8 months (and counting) of winter… and to be bested by one of the coldest populated sinkholes on the planet. The Brits are also very polite and don’t fight back. Fortunately I am neither polite nor patient so I went with this primordial craving for a hot, rich, heart-warming tummy-padding mushroomy mushroom soup. I wanted it to be hearty but still light — loads of vegetables, no cream — because we are not (supposed to be) in hibernation mode.

Below, you can see the process: stir-frying the thickly sliced chestnut mushrooms, diced and sliced white onions, carrots and celery. Shaking on lots of mixed aromatic herbs, garlic powder (which is not an inferior version of the fresh stuff — just different, with its own mild pungence), hot smoked paprika, and a dash of toasty nutmeg. Adding in some red kidney beans for some needed heft, stirring in lots of organic beef broth cubes and finally, serving with steamed brown rice.

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Voila — a hot soup to cradle in the crutches of my icy fingers and warm me from the inside out. It’s made about 8 portions so I have a batch in the fridge and one in the freezer to last me a week.

Next in the pipeline — Chinese cooking by Jamie Penaloza! Make that “by 蔡佳颖”. I’ve just received my order of Fuchsia Dunlop’s brand spanking new cookbook “Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking”. Seems like a horrible thing to do to learn the fundamentals of Chinese cookery from a British woman rather than from your own Chinese mother (who is an excellent Chinese cook too)! But it does make sense; I relate to Fuchsia’s wide-eyed reverence to Chinese food and culinary culture since I also feel like I’m approaching it from the outside, having grown up in the West. She also guides on how to cook authentic Chinese with what’s available to us in the UK.

I’m inspired, after much foodie-wandering far and wide, to reconnect with my culinary heritage and really get it right. I’m also inspired to eat better, more varied, yet still simple. I also like to wow people. I may start a separate blog to log the beginning of this project; stay posted.

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