London, barely, plus Yorkshire pudding and my Sunday roast
Some of you may have noticed, that this series of travel-diary/recipe-exploration on the three fabulous European cities I visited last month, is actually going in reversed orders. Reasonable doubts would suggest that I’m saving London for last, but truth is… it’s because I’m struggling to remember any of it.
Before Lisbon, before Madrid, going backwards in sequence, we actually arrived in London first, this posh and thrilling British gentleman that I’ve always had a crush on from afar. But turned out, we didn’t arrive alone. Came with us, was a persistent, cunning and serpent-like seasonal flu which already found us to be very amiable hosts back in Hong Kong, then apparently, took an even deeper liking in the unpredictable and drizzling British weather and decided to extend its stay for our next several miserable days. Although, in the flu’s defence, it did embody a certain level of traveller’s enthusiasm and took us for a joyride to all the most notable drugstores that London had to offer (Boots, you’re a doll). However, beyond which, it showed lacking interests in just about anything else. Museums? Charming little street? No, flu wanted to stay home and suck fingers.
(poetry, British profanity is poetry)
So I’m sorry, London (and the ones who fell ill on the tube going from West Kensington to London Bridge on Dec 22nd around 1 pm… It was me). Because I could only sort of remember you as a beautifully wetted city of yellow bricks and steels under an eternal overcast, or as least so you were every chance I looked, mostly up from a pile of tissue-ruins through my watery and bacteria-infested eyes. Were you a bit blurry or was it me? All jokes aside though, I would definitely make a return visit to London. In fact, I have already been looking at some mayfair hotels online for inspiration for our next trip. Watch this space.
THIS THING THEY CALL, YORKSHIRE PUDDINGS… THE AIR BALOON-EQUIVALENT OF PASTRY… ONLY THAT IT IS EGGY, CRISPY, FLUFFY AND SO MUCH BETTER THAN I EXPECTED
I did see though, a couple of the important stuffs. The Borough Market… Duke of York Square Market… St. John Bread & Wine… made the pilgrimage. And the more I scratched over the surface of all the excitements, wonderful smells of cheeses and seared meats, captivatingly unique architectures, and the deeply profound culture underneath it all that London has to offer, the angrier I was that I didn’t have the energy to explore further. So much to see, so little life. This isn’t an excuse, London! You weren’t the best mate to help sort out a flu and you bloody well know it!
And here I am, one month later, flu-free and apologetic, I figure the least I could do is not to insult London by pretending that I have anything insightful to say. In fact, the only tribute I could pay is to say this… Regardless of the experience I had, immobile or even if it was well explored, I feel London is the kind of city that will always leave me feeling hungry for more. More to eat, more to see, more to pry out of the maze of bricks and steels, and just when you thought you had it figured out, there it is, another discovery.
I hope I see you again, London. I know, I will see you again. But next time, summer perhaps.
YORKSHIRE PUDDING AND MY SUNDAY ROAST:
After I came back from London, I developed an abnormal obsession about this thing they call – Yorkshire puddings. The idea that there is an air balloon-equivalent of pastry, only that it tastes eggy, crispy and fluffy all at the same time and served along side of roast beef and drenched in gravy… is intriguing to say the least. But my enthusiasm was soon faced with utter failures, one flat and dense “muffins” after the other, even though I followed the recipes quite diligently. I believe it was around the 5th or 6th trial that I finally got it, and even though there are a lot of recipes for Yorkshire puddings out there, I felt like I have to add to it my own notes.
First of all, I found that most recipes share many similarities that are either useless (steps that contribute nothing to the rise of the puddings), or false (oven-temperature is set way too high). Then secondly, what’s worse, is that they generally lack crucial details that actually matters (let the batter bloody rest!). This recipe is my best effort in the hope that you can also enjoy this airy and eggy, crispy and slightly chewy and fluffy delights that are not only easy once you get the hang of it, but so so much better than I actually expected, like where-has-it-been-all-my-life better.
But of course, I can’t just serve Yorkshire puddings with a gloat of success, can I? Here is my version of a “Sunday roast”, with coffee and peppercorn-encrusted short-ribs that are slow-roasted until sticky and transcendent, with curried gravy made from the drippings and juices and blended with yogurt. It’s an aromatic, rich and unapologetic feast of proteins and sauce-drenched pastries, with the occasional heads-up from the sharp and tangy, mint and cilantro salad.
- 106 oz (3 kg) bone-in short ribs
- 1/4 (75 grams) Dijon mustard
- 6 shallots, peeled
- 8 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1" square (2.5 cm square) ginger, peeled
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1/4 cup (22 grams) ground coffee beans
- 1/4 cup (26 grams) coarsely ground black peppercorns
- 2 tbsp (15 grams) smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp salt
- 6 tbsp (84 grams) short-ribs dripping, or unsalted butter
- 6 tbsp (47 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tbsp curry powder
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp light brown sugar
- 1 cup (245 grams) plain yogurt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup (230 grams) whole milk
- 1 cup (125 grams) cake flour (9% protein), or replace 1 tbsp of all-purose flour with cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 6~8 tsp short-ribs drippings, or lard, chicken fat, canola oil
- ground white pepper to season
- 2 large handful (47 grams) fresh mint leaves
- 1 small handful (20 grams) fresh cilantro leaves
- 6 shallots, thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp fish sauce
- ROAST SHORT-RIBS: Puree the Dijon mustard, shallots, garlics, ginger and salt in a food-processor until smooth. Place the bone-in short ribs inside a deep baking-pan, then evenly rub the mustard-mixture all over the ribs. Mix together ground coffee, coarsely ground black peppercorns, smoked paprika and salt, then evenly coat the ribs with a thin layer of this spic-mixture. We only want a thin coating, so you might have some mixture left (use it on a steak!). Cover with plastic-wrap and let the ribs marinate for several hours or overnight in the fridge if you can (so start in the morning or the night before). Preheat the oven on 330 F/165 C. Cover the baking-pan tightly with foil, then roast in the oven for 4:30 to 5 hours, until a fork can be easily inserted into the meat.
- Carefully remove the short-ribs into another warm plate, then cover tightly with foil to keep warm. Transfer all the drippings (fat) and juices left in the baking-pan into a measuring-cup. Skim off all the drippings that float to the top, and reserve. You should have about 2 cups of juice left (if not, add chicken stock to make it to 2 cups).
- MAKE CURRIED GRAVY: In a sauce-pot over medium heat, cook 6 tbsp of drippings (my short-ribs were particularly lean and I didn't get much dripping, so I made up the rest with unsalted butter) with flour, curry powder and onion powder for 1 min. Add the reserved juices from roasting, and whisk constantly until it comes to a simmer and thickened. Add the plain yogurt and whisk until warmed through, then turn off the heat (do not let boil). Cover and set aside until needed.
- MAKE YORKSHIRE PUDDING: Start the batter while the short-ribs are roasting, AT LEAST 1~2 HOURS before the ribs come out of the oven. The one most important thing I've learnt from my several trials/failures at making this recipe, is that the batter MUST REST. If your Yorkshire pudding didn't rise, chances are, the batter didn't rest long enough. Most recipes say 20 min but I say AT LEAST 40 min to ideally 1 hour if not longer.
- In a container or jar that's easy to pour, whisk eggs and milk together until well and evenly blended (some recipes say whisk till foamy, but really, I find it having nothing to do with the rise what so ever). Add the cake flour (makes fluffier puddings) and salt, then whisk gently until you have a loose but smooth batter with bits of tiny lumps. Cover with plastic-wrap, then let rest for at least 40 min to 1 hour (I've even tried making the batter the night before and kept covered in the fridge, sky-high, my friend).
- When the short-ribs are done roasting, increase the oven temperature to 375 F/190 C. Add 1 tsp of short-ribs dripping (or lard, chicken fat, canola oil) into each muffin-holes but leaving one empty in between each (the pudding will need room to expand)(if using a Yorkshire pudding-mold, then this is not a concern). Once preheated, place the muffin-pan inside until the drippings are smoking, about 5~10 min. If there is foam on the surface of the batter, gently remove it with a spoon (it creates jagged surface that gets burnt) without stirring the batter. Pour the batter right into the centre of each mold until about 70% full. The dripping should be pushed aside and insulate/surround the batter from around the mold. This is important not only that it makes a crispier crust, but it prevents sticking which, EVEN JUST A LITTLE BIT, will drag the pudding down from a good rise.
- Now bake for 30~35 min until puffed, set and golden browned on all sides, and don't open the oven during the entire process. Nothing too exciting will happen in the first 5~10 min so don't panic. And by around 25 min or so, the puddings may look puffed and done, but they're not. The interiors are still undercooked and unstable, so opening the oven or removing them will result in major deflating. They must bake for a full 30~35 min. You can increase the temperature to 410 F/210 C for the last 5 min to get a darker browning. Out of the oven, transfer to a cooling rack and immediately dust with some ground white pepper. Must. Eat. Fast.
- MAKE HERB SALAD: Mix fresh mint leaves, cilantro leaves and thinly sliced shallots together, then toss with extra virgin olive oil to coat (before adding the lemon juice and fish sauce). Add the lemon juice and fish sauce, and toss to combine.
- TO SERVE: Pour a generous puddle of curried gravy over the short-ribs and inside the hollow Yorkshire puddings, then eat them with a bit refreshing highlights from the herb salad.