Banana Blueberry Bread 


A not-too-sweet recipe which makes the fruit the star of this fluffy and moreish tea-time loaf. 

Ingredients 

  • 185g plain flour
  • 2.5 teaspoons baking powder 
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 60g butter, melted
  • 50g packed brown sugar 
  • 50g coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 2 mashed bananas 
  • A couple of handfuls of fresh blueberries 
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup 

Method 

  1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees celcius 
  2. Grease and flour a loaf tin.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a large mixing bowl. 
  4. Stir in the melted butter and sugars until combined.
  5. Add the milk, egg, vanilla and fruit and mix until just combined. 
  6. Finish with a quick stir-in of the maple syrup
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.*

*Cooking time varies. I have a small oven which generally means quicker bake time. My loaf cooks in about 35-40 minutes with some tin foil introduced half way to ensure the top doesn’t burn. I would estimate a cook time closer to an hour for conventional sized ovens. 

A Post US-Election Dash of Nash.

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I felt it deeply, you know.

For those of us who value diversity and have it reflected in our work, lives and communities, this was a strike against what we believed was the status quo. How has the world’s largest superpower followed an alarming global trend that supports hateful and divisive rhetoric?

I’ve been taught differently since Sesame Street. These ideals were imported in, which is perhaps why I personally felt let down by them. To expect better, to rebel against oppression, to demand more, and to be that change. My instinct tells me to reject anything that challenges these ideals unequivocally. Yet, here we are the morning after, with the realization that I could have done a lot more to understand the societal fault-lines that have brought us here.

The thing is, when you get to half the population that seemingly repudiate the values that many of us hold dear, because these are the same people that feel hard done by a society who they say has left them behind, maybe we should have asked why. This is not about dissent of the ignorant– though they are out there too – people who feel their vitriol is validated. They are part of, but not representative of the silent majority.

This rise of the far or alternative right is steadfast and widespread and I suspect for reasons beyond what is immediately apparent. We can’t blame it all on Caucasian men, or women not having other women’s backs, or anything else that can be explained neatly and tied in a bow. We also can’t blame the DNC and Clinton scandals without looking at why Trump’s were ignored.

When you boil it all down, the republicans had a candidate that its own party reviled, but whom the voters identified with. We saw the opposite with Clinton. Voter turnout did the rest.

We must let ourselves consider that people who vote for the likes of Trump or Duterte were willing to look past deplorable levels of misogyny, because of what more was promised. Those that support Pauline Hanson and Brexited were willing to bear the stigma of intolerance because they felt they had no control. Feelings of disenfranchisement in systems that are leaving them poorer and rallying around characters with perceived authenticity – despite what absolute tripe comes out of their mouths.

Maybe all they saw was an opportunity cost.  (Electing a climate change denier, as an opportunity cost – Holy shit.)

We knew enough to know this was possible, but what I ask now, and what I asked last night at Peel Street Poetry was how could we not know it was this possible. This is beyond policy – this is a problem at grassroots levels.

In Hong Kong, I feel as though we are in the midst of an ideological war. In many ways I live in a bubble within a bubble. When Brexit happened I was scandalized because I expected better. After last night I was saddened not because I was wrong to expect progress to prevail – but because I was so off the mark with what progress meant. I wanted to hear the shards from that shattered glass ceiling fall even here in Asia. That inclusion dispels fear, that love trumps hate. I wanted the US to be that example to buck the trend, not confirm it.

I am afraid of what will come next, but I also feel that this year has helped me realize that there is work to be done. Those imported ideals weren’t wrong, they just needed to be actioned.

I’ll keep doing it the best way I know how. A meeting of minds and merging of narratives. A place for expression and community.

We need our poets and artists, our photographers and storytellers. We need to let the communities we are a part of that are hurt most by this to know that we will validate their sadness,  and we will continue to be on the side of history that visibly and unequivocally stood by them to support equality, social justice and freedom of expression.

If you’re in Hong Kong, come be a part of the conversation. No surprises for next time.

Peel Street Poetry – Every Wednesday except the first Wednesday of the month @ Orange Peel.

Leftover Hack: Grainless Cauliflower Fried Rice Turns into Soup


Today’s grain-free yum fest paired with a roast chicken dinner is tomorrow’s lazy lunch time soup.

Upcycling leftovers allows you to maximize your time in the kitchen and motivates you to actually eat that same (same, but different) meal the next day. This recipe  does just that – turning cauliflower fried rice into a soup base or salad mix for later.

Ingredients

  • 1 head of cauliflower, grated or diced into a fine grain in a food processor
  • Onion, diced
  • Courgette, cubed
  • Carrot, cubed
  • Pumpkin, cubed
  • Spring onion, chopped
  • a knob of butter
  • Seasoning: salt & pepper, paprika

Quantities are to taste / number of people getting fed. Athough butter is considered a good fat again (hallelujiah) I used it in moderation,  a little at a time during the cooking process.

The below fed 4 adults and 2 children, plus some extra for tomorrow’s soup. (1 cauliflower, 1 onion, 2 courgette, 2 carrots, half a small pumpkin, and a small bulb of spring onion.

 Method

Melt butter in a wok, add the onion and cook until it starts to soften. Add the carrot and pumpkin and paprika and cover for 2-3 minutes. Uncover, add the courgette and keep uncovered as you don’t want liquid to gather.  Once the mixture softens, add the cauliflower rice and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Season once more to taste, and add the spring onion at the very end.

Variants

Use olive oil or coconut oil instead of butter for a vegan version, and if eating on it’s own add beans or pulses. I would also suggest red pepper in leiu of courgette for a dryer texture but courgette / pumpkin / carrot do play so nicely together..

Leftovers

Blend the cauliflower fried rice using a food processor  to make soup. If eating on its own consider adding black beans or lentils to bulk it up and add some protein.

Fancy a salad? It has the same texture of a cous cous salad  – add green leaves, cherry tomatoes and cucumber and you’re well on your way. Dress with lemon / olive oil.

Apparently, something happened today.

Edited 5th June 2015

26 years ago, something may or may not have happened, depending on where you were  – or are today. This is reason enough for those able to acknowledge the Tiananmen Square massacre to do so, and remain mindful of the yet formally undisclosed sacrifices made for basic civic rights. Reason enough to demand these rights are upheld, and the memories of those who perished are honoured, or at the very least, that they are one day recognized. Reason enough for those that live in a de-facto region of China who are reminded with increasing frequency to not bite the hand that feeds it, to uphold the tradition of remembrance as this young nation continues to write its own story.

Coverage of the anniversary falls in the murky waters that stem from media bias but also reader bias, from the perspective of a city of 7 million with alliances that have splintered further since the Occupy protests in 2014. Official turnout figures and those of The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China as usual vary, this year by a margin of 88,000. However, both counts agree that this years turnout was less than last year. Could this be in part to a local movement that appealed for the focus for Hong Kong’s fight for democracy to be about Hong Kong? Arguments ranging from ‘Leave China matters to China’ to ‘What will this accomplish anyway?’

Another argument is that the vigil has turned into slactivism, or that people use it to further their own agendas. Perhaps. But consider how this all contributes to a much larger story – whatever the motivation. One that deserves the attention it gets given today’s media infrastructure – for a variety of reasons; recognition for the right to demonstrate in Hong Kong, solidarity for its own fight for genuine democracy, or simply because we are still allowed to remember, for those who cannot. The one thing that must be agreed on is, given the alternative, we must never stop trying.

From The Economist circa 10th June 1989:

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“Faced with a choice between more reform and a small loosening of the party’s grip on power, Mr Deng chose to strangle reform. He could do so because China’s Communist party is still at the mercy of its leaders’ whims and fat beyond the people’s power to control. It may be premature to hope that the remarkable acts of bravery shown by Beijing’s citizens this week will soon be translated into genuine democracy. But China’s people will not stop trying.”

On a similar vein, you have four, (now three) days left to back Hong Kong Free Press: A new, non-profit, independent English language news source for Hong Kong

Motherhood: My Ten Commandments

Mother’s day eve, my husband came home with three small bouquets of flowers. One for me, one for my mother who had come round for dinner, and one for our helper – who cares for our children during the week when we are at work.

I think after eight years of adding ‘parent’ as another notch to who we are- we’ve worked out what makes us work as parents and as a family. We have a functional tribe; raising happy, curious children and despite their irritating penchant for Minecraft I think we’ll keep them. This by itself is enough reason to celebrate. With it being mother’s day I took stock of the past eight years of being part of this club and thought about what I want to impart; unconditional love and ” WOULD YOU please PUT YOUR BLOODY TOYS AWAY?!” aside.

So here are my 10 commandments for me (but really for my children.) It was a spontaneous activity on the elliptical (generally, me using an elliptical would also be considered a spontaneous activity). Some days  are better than others, but that’s kind of the point to this parenting lark.

Motherhood: My Ten Commandments

1. I refuse to be my child’s first bully.
2. I am not perfect but I am enough to get the job done, and do it well.
3. I will respect their time and be a good listener.
4. As a family we run our own race.
5. I am raising people, not just children. We will respect choices, but demand accountability.
6. Kindness, creativity, honesty, respect and perseverance – if I want my children to value these attributes, I will have to lead by example.
7. I will help them uncover their sense of self worth and learn to be kind to themselves.
8. I will always say sorry when I have been unfair.
9. I will empower their ideas, and invest in them – if they can achieve external buy-in.
10. I will continue to add, edit and work on this list, and for that I have to thank them. This is for me to keep myself in line for them, but really also for me. Because, that’s how it all works -you get as good as you give, just not how you expect it.

Healthy food that tastes good enough to be bad for you

A dash of nom courtesty of the Gallagher test kitchen. These recipes are deceptively good for you and will knock back a range of cravings whether  you’re gunning after something sweet, clean or a family meal.

Mango Blueberry Maple Vanilla Overnight Oats

This breakfast is a simple luxury. Satisfying and powers up your morning. We can’t get enough of this flavour combination. No specified quantities in the recipe because this is down to personal preference but if it’s your first time making overnight oats I’d guesstimate: 1 cup of oats, 1/4 cup chia seeds, 3/4 cup of milk, and  between 1/3 – 1/4 cup yoghurt as a base. When I first started making these I’d fuss with a funnel and follow the proportions in recipes online to a T. Now, I just chuck it all in and top up with a bit more milk when I eat it if required. The whole point of this breakfast is to keep it painless to prepare, a joy to eat, and that it packs a nutritional punch. IMG_9327

Ingredients

  • Rolled oats
  • Chia seeds
  • Greek yoghurt
  • Milk
  • Mango, cubed
  • Handful of blueberries
  • a Sprinkle of nuts and seeds (almonds, pecans, sunflower seeds, pine nuts etc.)
  • a Drop or two of pure vanilla essence
  • a Drizzle of good quality maple syrup

Method

Place the dry ingredients in a jar (between 8oz-10oz) topped up with the wet ones. Stir, place the lid back on and shake. Leave it in the fridge overnight. Good for up to three days in the fridge. Out of all the recipes I’ve toyed with this one the most. Whether it was adjusting the consistency or being baffled by the fact that slow-digesting oats had little effect on me and I was still hungry by lunch. Thanks to the brilliant suggestion of adding nuts  by Louise from Loula Natural this recipe is now complete. Check out her website for a treasure trove of clean eating and healthy living recipes and articles.

Protein Party Salad

Filling and scrumptious – perfect for a post workout dinner.

Processed with Moldiv

Ingredients

  • Indian lettuce (crunchier than many other varieties, packed with iron and tastes very pleasant)
  • Spring onion
  • Edamame
  • Avocado
  • Half a soft boiled egg
  • Chunks of roast chicken breast
  • Sunflower seeds

Dressed with Salt, extra virgin olive oil, and a spritz of balsamic vinegar. The edamame and roast chicken were pre-cooked and sitting pretty in the fridge. To make our salads and sandwiches during the week, we typically roast and store some fish or meat, and always have legumes on hand – edamame, black beans, chick peas etc.

Lemon Parsley Yoghurt Chicken with 1/2 and 1/2 cous cous cauliflower rice

This is hearty, satisfying and makes a great family meal in colder weather. It’s low-carb as the cous cous is mixed with grated cauliflower and relatively low-fat depending on how much yoghurt you use. Processed with Moldiv

Ingredients for the Chicken

  • Chicken legs and thigh (6 pieces)
  • 1/2  to  3/4 cup greek yoghurt
  • 1 tbs tomato paste
  • Juice of 1 lemon, plus grated rind
  • 1 bunch of fresh parsley
  • Sea salt and cracked pepper for seasoning
  • 1 tbs Olive oil, for cooking

for the 1/2 and 1/2 grains

  • 1 head of cauliflower blitzed in the food processor into a fine grain
  • 1/2 a box of cous cous (150g or so)
  • 1 tbs. Coconut oil
  • Shallot, finely sliced
  • 1 tsp Turmeric
  • Red pepper, diced
  • A sprig of fresh coriander, chopped
  • Sea salt and cracked pepper for seasoning

Method

Combine the chicken, yoghurt, lemon, and tomato paste in a glass bowl. Cover and place in the fridge to marinate for half an hour. Heat up the olive oil in a pan, add the chicken with it’s marinade, including the lemon peel for flavour, and cook until the chicken has browned. Remove peel, add the lemon rind and parsley and cover until fully cooked. Whilst the chicken is cooking, prepare the cous cous by following instructions on the box (usually pour boiling water over the grains and leave it to stand for five minutes). Once done, fluff, and set aside. In a skillet  heat the coconut oil, add the shallot and turmeric and cook for 30 seconds. Add the red pepper and cook for a minute before adding the cauliflower cooking until it begins to soften. Add the cous cous and season with salt and pepper. In the final 5-8 minutes of cooking, incorporate the coriander. Serve hot, as is or with a side of steamed veg. I sometimes add almonds to the grain too.

Almond ‘nom’ balls

Inspired by a faux coco-roon recipe from Pinterest. These health(ier) snacks hit the sweet spot and are super quick and easy to make. Processed with Moldiv

When I say easy, I mean throw into a bowl, mix until it sticks and shape into little balls easy. Play with the flavours, using as little or as lot as you like and enjoy!

Ingredients

  • Almond flour
  • Peanut butter
  • Maple syrup ( a dash, let’s not go nuts – these are meant to be a healthier alternative to my usual snacking vices)
  • Cacao nibs
  • Coconut flakes
  • Sea salt

Almond balls Recipe

There you have it. Four recipes that have become  fast favourites in our household. If you make any of them, let me know how you go in the comments below.

Beyond Bill Nye: Science, Media and Pop culture

Professor Brian Cox is a rare egg.  A physicist, educator and presenter who can harness a sense of wide eyed wonder of Attenborough proportions. So when I was sent a link of his appearance on the Joe Rogan experience I was excited to listen to it, despite the worryingly long 3 hour bloc.

This ended up being a sort of gateway episode  to the stream of consciousness set-up that Joe Rogan champions on his show, transforming the listener into a passive conversationalist, making you wonder why internet radio is more of a niche than mass media channel.

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Professor Cox is unsurprisingly an advocate for a government-funded broadcast system such as BBC vs the constant cable TV wars across the pond in America motivated by ratings and the value of eyeballs. Here in Asia, where western media is at the mercy of a different sort of licensing war passes the choice of content to the consumer – but given changing, shorter, more snackable appetites across a range of devices, it is fair to question – for how much longer?

Joe Rogan argues that the cable TV paradigm is at its end, with increasingly vapid, sugar-loaded cereal type shows (Here comes Honey Boo Boo anyone?) he believes that personal interest leads to self-curated content with pockets of its own loyal followers. Rogan has an interesting background, the former host of TV’s Fear Factor and self-proclaimed ‘part of the problem’ he is far removed to where he is today, contributing to a micro-economy of content and choice that play into the dynamics of supply and demand across the web.

Professor Cox takes the opposing view, suggesting that viewing on demand could be cannibalizing the exposure to a wider breadth of content such as the sciences which is important to keep relevant at a cultural level.

The strongest case for the Kardashians yet                                                          

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IMAGE VIA FLICKR, SOOKIE

It’s by no means a new argument, and they both raise interesting perspectives. Professor Cox comes from a BBC background, an arrangement funded by tax payers to siphon interest in a range of topics. Whilst Rogan asks why wait for the BBC to spoon feed you? Rogen does not believe that this is mutually exclusive – raising a valid point, albeit jokingly, that boredom leads to stimulation. An episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians should in theory send us all kicking and screaming to the history channel.

Professor Cox counters that a programming mix, a ying and yang of public intere – the X-factor aired at primetime deliberately followed by a science programme is an easy way to cast your net wider. He talks about education not being the only place for ideas – for it to have resonance to a newer generation it must be filtered into culture.

It’s a noble enough sentiment, but is leaving the programming strategy to the professionals a mono-device perspective? As beloved as the TV is in the modern household and may never be replaced – we’re all still two-timing it.

The internet is not just an incubator but a sort of lattice-work for ideas. My seven year old watches MineCraft tutorial videos on  YouTube with  gusto, and then uses what he learns in the game. These are positive engagements that trump his experience of passive watching. After all, the idea of introducing science into popular culture should lead to inspiration not inundation. Could it be that interaction or the ability to turn content into utility on the internet, and therefore get more out of it, is why our eyeballs are straying? We can’t definitively say, of course – but it is something to consider certainly when looking at the user behaviour of the  next gen.

A free lunch for whom?              

 Full disclosure – I look at paying to access media online as an open gamble, placing my bets by funding the content I like which plays in a system that would theoretically benefit me in the long run.  Isn’t this the same theory Facebook newsfeed applies with sponsored placements for brands to gain visibility or for users to determine preferences? These content algorithms are beasts at this point, and ads can be a way to control them, provided they are not abused. We are already playing by the rules of a new media economy. Also, here I am listening to a podcast on Stitcher – with seven minutes of advertising before the show starts. So what does this mean?  My hunch is a matrix system of both, the behavioural trend that Rogan touches on – ease of access, content creators across the world working alongside the big guns of the entertainment industry, provided they continue to evolve within a platform agnostic mentality. Let them choose not just what, and when they want to watch it, but how. The customer is still always right.

Getting Meta                                                                                                                

The entire first part of this segment was by fluke something I was interested in, and as a testament to what they were both saying – how science must become a part of culture – of our collective consciousness -I was slowly pulled into their conversation, nudging the elastic band around my interests just that bit further.

This podcast also contains one of the most succinct explanation of the Higgs Boson yet ( a new fundamental particle that gives mass to other particles). They talk about infinite possibilities and monkeys on typewriters, life outside of earth, the speed and distances of light, probability,  and how the science of Cosmology is a powerful aid to philosophical thought. That piece particularly struck a chord. We are arguably an indescribably special species, but we’re also kind of doing it all wrong. We manifest this uniqueness in some pretty crappy ways from segregation to destruction.

IMAGE VIA TWITTER, KID PRESIDENT

When we look at what the Higgs Boson has allowed for; from putting a man on the moon, to sliced bread, to Betty White – from electrons to life; a way to ensure survival, propagation and connectivity; it seems like a highly disingenuous way to go about this whole higher intelligent life thing. A thought which I suppose underscores the entire idea behind their talk – we could all benefit from a little bit of perspective. A little more science in our everyday lives.