a zesty beluga lentil and roasted tomato salad with herbs

a zesty beluga lentil and roasted tomato salad with herbs
I love the taste and texture of beluga (black) lentils, so-called for their supposed resemblance to caviar. Admittedly, when wet, the lentils seem to glisten like caviar fish eggs. But sadly, I find that they do lose their intense black colour during cooking. But brown or not, it really doesn't matter as they still taste good. If you can't get hold of beluga lentils then use Puy or French green lentils (which won't disintegrate during cooking).

tamarind and honey prawns (assam prawns)

 tamarind and honey prawns (assam prawns)
I've used Malaysian tastes for my influence with this marinade. Nothing could be simpler, just sweet with honey and bold with the sour taste of tamarind. It is lovely with prawns but very good with chicken too.

too hot to cook? zhejiang "drunken" chicken is the solution

Zheijang "drunken" chicken
The only downside of having a kitchen that faces south is that during the hot weather it can approach furnace-like temperatures, despite the fact that I leave the back door open while I am cooking. I find myself either cooking less or cooking things that can be prepared ahead of time, when the temperatures are a bit cooler, either late in the evening or early in the morning.

fresh coconut and coriander chutney

coconut and coriander chutney
One of my favourite chutneys or relishes is this one to accompany curries or dosas. Fresh and nutty, it zings with flavour. It is also rather good stuffed into wraps or sandwiches. Although quite often it doesn't even make it that far as I will eat the lot with a spoon! Unlike some chutneys, this doesn't require any cooking as all the ingredients are raw and it should be eaten soon after preparing, not that that is any hardship.

what's in season: august

a red pepper dragonfly!
Crimson pepper pod
add two pairs of wings, and look
darting dragonfly.
Basho 1644-94

I was ambling around the internet looking for some poetry inspiration to introduce this month's roundup of seasonal produce. Basho's haiku on the subject of red peppers and dragonfly wings really rather tickled me. His haikus are a joy and still speak vibrantly down the centuries.

northern chinese (shandong) style asparagus

 northern chinese (shandong) style asparagus
Asparagus doesn't appear much on Chinese menus, apart from in the northern region of Shandong, where asparagus is actually grown. I've kept things simple with the salty-savoury flavours of soy and sesame. They work perfectly.

malaysian crispy prawn fritters (cucur udang) with a sweet chilli dipping sauce

malaysian crispy prawn fritters (cucur udang) with a sweet chilli dipping sauce
There are many food bloggers who have a specific focus. While I suspect I am equally obsessive about food, I have always found it difficult to concentrate on one type of ingredient or cuisine. I always wanted to be a general practitioner rather than a specialist.

summer garden rice salad with preserved lemon dressing

summer garden rice salad with preserved lemon dressing
I have to confess that I approach rice salads with caution. I think it is because they remind me of school or office canteen salads where the cooks have a load of leftover rice and vegtables and a lack of imagination. They bung a load of gloopy vinaigrette over the sticky over-cooked mess and serve it up. Yuk!

celebrate national hotdog day with a chicago dog with the works

a chicago dog with the works
Much as I love and am curious about history, it seems that as far as family history goes that for the first twenty years of my life I wasn't asking the right questions. I only found out a few months before my Irish grandmother's death that she had actually been brought up in New York, only returning to Ireland at 15 just before the outbreak of World War 1, before running away to England to seek her fortune. "Why didn't you tell me?" I wailed. "I didn't think you'd be interested," she said somewhat bemused. Argh! I am so disappointed that I lost the opportunity to perhaps get a little closer to my grandmother and to learn what living in one of the most exciting cities at the beginning of the 20th century was like.

mul naengmyun: korean cold buckwheat noodle soup with beef

korean cold buckwheat noodle soup with beef (mul naengmyun)
Years ago, working in New York I loved the fact that my office in Manhattan was within toddling distance of Koreatown and lots of interesting places to have lunch or dinner. I was intrigued by the fact that many of the restaurants would have displays of fake plastic food in the windows so you could tell what kind of food they sold. As somone who has always adored kitsch, it was often difficult me to leave these restaurants without a piece of plastic food as a souvenir.

korean-style radish and chilli pickle

korean-style radish and chilli pickle
I love Asian pickles and I don't think there's much that can't be improved by a little jolt of chilli, including this utterly simple Korean-style radish pickle. Of course, you can leave the chilli out. But why would you want to?

buffalo wings with blue cheese dip

buffalo wings
About 20 years ago I was seconded to the New York office of the UK company I worked for. I wish I could tell you that I spent my free time enjoying the art galleries and museums, and going to poetry readings. Sadly, I educated myself in low culture, exploring New York's nightlife with considerable enthusiasm. Some of my favourite watering holes sold bar snacks (all the better to make you drink more, not that I needed much encouragement), and one of my favourites was buffalo wings, named for the northern city they are supposed to have originated from.