Tuesday, January 29, 2013

BURNS' SUPPER ( PART 2)

Friday night was a wonderful night. Almost 200 people joined the party and sang, danced, ate and drank in celebration of Robert Burns. Fun was the name of the day, and Talisker Whisky the drink of the night, thanks to Diagio's kind sponsorship.


The usual speeches were made, but with a difference. Tam o'Shanter eloquently recited by Will Clem, accompanied by a group of children acting out the story. Perfect no, but fun, oh yes. It was to set the scene for the rest of the night. The children were fantastic. Great to see children far away from home still learning about Burns, and it seems enjoying it.



Speeches were kept short. As we had a large non Scot participation we decided not to overwhelm with long speeches and incomprehensible language. I think we managed the first, but the second not so well. Scots, with alcohol, at the best times can be incomprehensible, throw Burns into the mix and you can understand why we failed on the second count.


My husband toasted "The Lassies" and did it very well. A few jokes, not too derogatory, leaving us lassies feeling good about ourselves. In response to his toast a small play was performed where Rab finds himself at the pearly gates, and much to his horror finds God a woman. That was me! As Rab had written "her prentice hand she tried on man, and then she made the lassies oh". So really he shouldn't have been so surprised. A bit of fun for all.


The haggis was piped in, duly toasted and enjoyed, I think by almost everyone. Meal over time for dancing.




For anyone who has done Scottish Country Dancing will appreciate what a work out it can be. Our poor unsuspecting friend, English I have to add, was surprised by the physical nature of the evening. But with good humour, a bit of cajoling he was soon joining in.

When one man lifted a chair to his shoulder and played it as if it was a bagpipe, it was only a few minutes before at least 50 grown men were marching round the room piping there hearts out. The Burns' Supper virgins were once again stunned at the way in which we Scots find to enjoy ourselves.


People dug deep for raffle, as Scots do, and money raised will go to help sport for under privileged kids here in Shanghai, a charity Scots in Shanghai support, and with the help of Ainsley Mann, a lot of kids have been given the opportunity to participate in sports who otherwise would not have been given the chance. Good to give a bit back..

A group of Chinese sang Auld Lang Syne in Mandarin, it was beautiful. When Burns penned these words he could never have comprehended of the miles this song would travel, and of it's beauty even in a language other than his mother tongue. I wonder in just how many countries and languages this song has been sung, not only over the past weekend but over the years since he wrote it.


1-00am came, people started drifting off. It was obvious everyone had enjoyed the evening. As it was a bit off piste compared to a traditional Burns' Supper we wondered what the Scots amongst us thought. Two remarks made me realise we had got it right. The first one being "Burns would have loved it" and the second being "It was like good friends getting together and putting on a Burns' Supper in the town hall" Happy with the remarks, I made my weary way home ready to it all the following night. It would be quite different, more formal as it was British Chamber hosting. However I knew I would also enjoy this as there is room for both. Now all I had to do was rest myself in preparation for doing it all again.

Well done everyone for making this an event to look forward to in Shanghai. See you all next year.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

SHANGHAI BURNS' SUPPER (part 1 )

My husband thoughtfully put my name forward as someone who may help out at The Shanghai Scottish Club's first Burns' Supper in the city.

Always happy to help I was assigned table decoration. Right up my street. Tables would look like the St Andrew's flag. I surprised my little tailor with an order of 40 white table runners, and we were up and running. Dress rehearsal and tables looked great. A bit of tweaking of flowers and it would be perfect.


So my job done! But no. A food tasting had to be done. No hardship there then. Chef did really well, haggis is flown down from Beijing, and it tasted good. "Hao chi" as we say here. Cock-a leekie not so great but a few pointers and it will be fine on the night. Chef was happy for direction, and of course I was happy to give it. I mean what is cock-a-leekie without a prune? Cranachan also needed a wee tweak, but I am sure on the night all will be perfect.

Ok job done. Not quite. Would I make tablet?  http://thecelticcook.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=tablet For anyone who doesn't know what tablet is check it out. Recipe included.
So now it's tablet for 100 people! It's ok I'm told some one else is doing the other 100 pieces. So no problem then. Lol.

I'm thinking my talents are now exhausted. But once again I am called upon for table names. No numbered tables, we are making them all clan names. I can't complain as this was my suggestion. So I spend a bit of time making sure, that wherever possible each table will have a clan name relating to someone sitting there. Took a while, and a wee bit of artistic licence, but I got there. A suggestion for design of card and I was finished.

One more job was requested of me. This one way above my level of competence. This would have me fighting way above my weight. What was this request. Well only to play GOD! Yes a short play involving a dead Robert Burns arriving at the Pearly Gates only to find GOD is a "wummin"  

So wish me luck. Who knows maybe GOD is a white Scottish woman of a certain age. Stranger things have happened. I'll let you know how it goes.

So I'll leave you today with a traditional Scottish Grace, as written by Robert Burns.

"Some hae meat and cannae eat
Some can eat that want it
But we have meat, and we can eat,
So let the Lord be thankit........"

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

DISH of the WEEK

I haven't posted one of these for some time. Maybe I am just getting used to seeing unusual things on menus. However this caught my eye in a local restaurant this week. Apparently winter is the time to eat it as it warms the body. Especially good for business men. No I do not know why, just one of the many weird things people here believe. So here it is, and no I didn't and neither did my business man husband. he decided there could never be enough benefits gained to persuade him.


So decide for yourself. At least it is what it says on the menu, unlike Tesco burgers which I have been reading about this week. with this you make the decision to eat or not.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

FREEZER CLEAN OUT

A few times a year I get around to clearing out my freezer. You know what I mean, the stuff you're not quite sure how long it has been lurking, the stuff you bought for a "special recipe", which you never got around to making, and probably no longer even know where the recipe is, the odd bits and pieces which you froze rather than waste and of course the escapees. The peas and sweetcorn which has rolled around in the bottom of the freezer drawer. We all do it, come on own up. You'll feel better knowing you are not alone.

So with my husband out of town for a few days this is the perfect time for using up small amounts. First off was the minced beef. With beans, tomatoes and chilli it could have been turned into a nice chilli con carne. But as I was alone, I decided to indulge myself with something I very rarely eat, but do enjoy when I do. A humble burger.


Simply added a finely chopped onion, salt and pepper, shaped into patties and left in fridge for an hour to firm up. With the addition of a nice roll, fresh, some salad, a slice of cheese and a few frozen fries which were lurking I had a delicious supper and freed up some space.

Some chicken wings formed part of Sunday lunch. I was cooking Asian so some wings were a perfect dish to nibble on while waiting for main course. Again nothing complicated, just marinaded for an hour in soy sauce, honey, five spice. garlic and a few slices of ginger. Cooked for an hour, during which time they smelt delicious, we couldn't wait to get our teeth sunk into them.


A scattering of red chilli and spring onion, and some soy sauce and sour cream alongside completed our appetiser.

I'm sure you all have puff pastry in the freezer ready for when you need it. I can't always buy it here so when I do I tend to buy a few. So now time to use some up.

Using chicken left over from the weekend, I decided to do a chicken and mushroom pie. Always a favourite in this house. I think everyone loves chicken pie. This time it involved frying a leek and mushrooms, adding the chopped chicken and some stock, made from the aforementioned chicken. Yes I really am trying to be more economical, I hate waste, so decided 2013 is the time to put feelings into practice. I let it all cook through then thickened the stock with cornflour slaked with water, doing it this way also cuts the calories leaving you less guilty about eating the pastry! The pastry cooked off in the oven, then the whole thing put together for a tasty easy quick and cheap supper. Words to make me happy. Added a few fresh veg to complete.


Unfortunately this only used up half a packet of pastry so the following night I decided to make a dessert with the other half. So easy you won't believe it. I cut the pastry into circles, spread a tub of apple sauce, I had it in the cupboard, over the centre leaving a 1cm edge. I took an apple from the bowl cut it into slices and arranged them on top. A sprinkling of brown sugar and they were ready for the oven. 25 mins and with the addition of some cream we were once again enjoying the "dregs" of the freezer.

 

So as you can see with a bit of thought and imagination cleaning out the freezer doesn't need to be boring. I enjoy the challenge. I'm not quite there, still have some chicken livers, belly pork and prawns to deal with then I can start to fill it all over again....... so in 6 months I'll be doing it all over again.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A BIT of SUN in WINTER

The past few days have been pretty bleak here in Shanghai. Grey overcast skies and drizzling rain. Days to get things done around the house. So thanks to the depressing weather I am now proud owner of the tidiest drawers and cupboards in the building. Okay, I have no idea if that is true or not, but I am feeling very smug about my accomplishment.

So when I woke this morning and saw a glimpse of sunshine from behind the curtain I knew a nice walk was on the cards. I had a couple of bits to buy, so by taking the long way round I could combine necessity with pleasure, and a bit of much needed exercise too. It was 3c but without wind I knew it would be a pleasant walk.


It was so nice to see first signs of Spring with buds appearing on the plum trees. Traditionally this is the first tree to bud, and with this comes the promise of Spring. It's a few months away, but nice to see a hint of it right outside the doorway.


Around the next corner was evidence that it is still winter despite the sunny skies. The trees are wrapped up keeping them safe from the nasty elements of wind and frosts. This happens all over the city. Must keep many people busy.

So off I set on my way passing very familiar sights. My regular route, which I hadn't taken since I returned before New Year, was still reassuringly familiar. The car wash boys were busy at work. A whole team of guys who never seem short of a car to wash. As they wash them quite literally in my path I often have to detour around them. Today I was very surprised to see them hard at work on a Rolls Royce! A car which is far more common here than you may think. A lot of money around this city.




A stop at my favourite coffee shop, Gloria Jean's for a warming cup of coffee was next up. I like going here because the staff are welcoming and friendly and understand my Mandarin offerings. Although one thing I can do is order my coffee, tea or whatever other drink I am having, I can order the size and state it is for drinking in. I always feel very proud of myself, and it makes me smile knowing I am able to do this. Who would have guessed?


A walk down a side street brings to mind how every day there is something new, something unexpected around every corner. Today it is dried fish hanging up outside a wooden kiosk which sells cigarettes, tobacco, lighters sweets and various other things I'm sure. However no reason I can see for them to be selling dried fish, open to all the elements. These things always amaze and amuse me. They make the city different, at least from anything I have known before.


I then set off to cross the road, my nemesis. Today I don't hear an electric bike approach but to be fair he managed to swerve around me. I then almost have a incident with a car, yes the green man is there, but I guess not having dealt with Shanghai traffic for several weeks I had forgotten what a game of roulette it can be! 
Thankfully I made it across safe and well. Long may this continue!


Last stop local bread shop, Paris Baguette. All I need was some rolls but couldn't resist taking a picture of, well not exactly sure what it was, but basically it was a chocolate cake with chocolate filling encased in a plain cake with a cream filling between the two. To top it off there was a streusel like topping. The lady in front of me was actually buying it. I so wished I could have asked her more about this delicacy. They only sell it in half pieces. Why? No idea. Hope she enjoyed it.


On the last stretch I was delighted to see boxes of delicious strawberries on sale. Yes the strawberry season has arrived in Shanghai. Seems strange to see them so early, have not seen them since last year. It made me smile and tempted me into buying some to enjoy at lunchtime.


All in all it was a nice brisk walk and conformation of how much I love this crazy chaotic city. I look forward to the next few months and to seeing what surprises and challenges they may bring.


PS  The strawberries were every bit a delicious as they had looked. So please I succumbed to the temptation.






Thursday, January 3, 2013

BACK in SHANGHAI

After a wonderful, if exhausting trip to Scotland for the festivities I am now back in Shanghai. As usual we ate to much, drank too much and stayed up way to late, but it was so much fun and just what was expected!

It was great spending time with family, the grandchildren were so excited about us being there, and were able to enjoy lots of hugs and kisses and early morning cuddles in bed. Did I spoil them? Never......



Taking some time to catch up with old friends also made the trip enjoyable. Funny with some people it doesn't matter how long the gap is between get togethers it still feels like old times. A big thanks to everyone who took the time to fit in with our tight schedule. It was a blast.

Of course goodbyes are always difficult, but after 15 solid days of heavy rain, maybe they were a little less traumatic than usual.

We arrived very late in Shanghai on Saturday night,to flurries of snow, and a cold chilly night. Now the cold I can deal with. Lots of warm clothes to keep out the chilly winds. The Chinese take the cold very seriously and wrap up well against it as you can see fro this photo. They are taking no chances.


We tried to get back on track, tried to catch up on sleep but of course hogmanay was but a short 48 hours away. Once again we were out  partying. More eating and drinking, this time there was also singing and dancing. Thanks to our new friends who hosted a small, but wonderful party to herald in 2013. We were a group of 6 Scots, 3 English and 1 American. It was a group who loved to party and did so through until 5-00am. Safe to say we all had a great start to the new year. It was so good to be able to spend this time with new friends and like minded people. 


So now I am struggling to restore sleep pattern, given the double whammy of jet lag and late night partying. I am also trying to compensate for all the delicious food consumed, over what was a very long, and very enjoyable festive season.

So as these were typical Scottish breakfasts.............

      


This is what breakfast for the coming weeks, or months will be looking like......



Have to pay for all the fun, and this really isn't too bad a way to start my day.

So the start of 2013 sees me hoping for a smaller waistline, a larger bank account, and to spend more time keeping old friends close, and to making new connections with new people who hopefully will find a place in the old friend category.

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE
or as they say here in Shanghai
XIN NIAN KUAILE