Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Produce is very seasonal here in Shanghai, but now with my Mandarin improving I am now able to request things I want. My vegetable man is really good at tracking things down that he doesn't normally sell. Only problem is every time I go he is smiling and handing me my never ending supply of what I've asked for. Most recently it has been beetroot. Week after week I am being presented with it, and I don't want to be rude and refuse it. Thankfully I love beetroot, in all forms, pickled, raw, made into chutney or dips.

So in an effort to use it up I have been pickling and making chutneys. However this inevitably results in a kitchen that would defy CSI clearing up! No matter how hard I try I end up with a kitchen that looks like a scene from a bloody massacre. The more I chop, whizz and boil the more it splashes, spills and generally finds it way across all the kitchen surfaces, including the floor. Try and wipe it up and it merely spreads out.

 Please do not call on me to cover up a crime scene.

However once its finally constrained in its jar I can look forward to eating it. One of my favourite ways is sliced picked beetroot on a toasted bagel with cream cheese, Mmm! I love it chopped into a spinach and orange salad or whizzed with natural yogurt and a hint of mint to make a delicious dip, and a salad always tastes better with a little on the side.
I now have to learn how to say in Mandarin "Stop with the beetroot" It's always challenging here.

Happy to see my cupboard now filling up with jars of beetroot. However I do end up passing it along as it is pretty expensive to buy here, as are any imports, so ex pat friends always appreciate my efforts, Chinese friends not so much and they are not shy about telling you lol.


1kg beets, 200g caster sugar, 300mls white wine vinegar, 200mls cold water.
1 star anise, 3 cloves, 2 bay leaves, 2 tsps balsamic vinegar (optional)

Roast beets in oven at 200c until a knife is easily inserted. Remove skin while hot. It will rub off easily, use rubber gloves! Slice and pack into sterilised jars.

Put sugar, water, vinegar (not balsamic at this stage) and spices into a pan and bring to boil. Turn down and simmer until sugar dissolves. Sieve out spices and add balsamic. 

Pour over sliced beetroot in jars and seal. 
Enjoy the results.

Thursday, January 16, 2014


Haven't posted for some time, could blame the holidays, or the fact that I am becoming so used to everyday life here that there is nothing new to write about. However, these are both untrue, I have just become lazy about posting and just needed something to prod me back into sharing life here with you.

There are many wonderful traditions here in China, and my husband arriving home one night last week with a "goodie" bag made me want to share the tradition of giving these bags when a new baby is born.

With the arrival of two babies recently into the" Twinings Family", and one due any minute, we have also discovered that my husband has become the person responsible for giving two of these babies, so far, their English names. Chinese people like to have an English name, makes it easier when the are working with foreigners. I am assured his senior position is the only reason for him naming babies, lol. So if in the future you find yourself meeting a Chinese Isla, or Fiona, then you will know exactly where their name came from. There is also a Mary, but this was a request from one of Robin's colleagues as she did not already have an English name. Yes, it was decided it might be nice to spread some good Scottish names across the globe.

Anyway, back to the gift boxes. They are small and contain a few goodies, and a couple of not so good goodies!

There will always be sweets. this time our luck was in with Ferrer Rocher, although in the past there has been some more traditional Chinese candies which aren't really to our taste. Hershey chocolate is also often included. But there is one item in gift bags which belongs because of tradition, but just seems so well, so weird to us Westerners! What am I talking about? A preserved egg!!!!

These are preserved in a mixture of ash, lime, salt, clay and rice and left for weeks or months. They have quite a sulphurous aroma when broken into. As I'm sure you can imagine. Not really my favourite, although they don't taste quite as bad as they sound. They come in bubble packaging and you could be fooled into thinking something much tastier lies inside. Sometimes a tea soaked egg is substituted, which it had been in our bag. Whew!

The egg I'm sure signifies birth, and is a very traditional offering. I like to think of people hanging on to traditions. So often they get buried under the umbrella of global living, where cultures all seem to meldtogether. Whereas I'm all in favour of globalisation I think it is still important to hang on to our own traditions. Scotland has lost it's "guising" to the American "trick or treat". Why does this have to happen?

I say let's keep our our own traditions whilst embracing the traditions of other cultures. We don't have to adopt them to understand them.