Monday, 28 November 2011

Cooking: 20-min One-Pot Chinese Steamed Chicken & Rice with Shiitake & Ginger

This has got to be one of my favourite all-time meals and it's extremely easy to make. It's perfect for that cold winter night or a lazy night. It takes about 10 minutes prep time and 20 minutes cooking time. Take that Jamie Oliver!!! 

20-min One-Pot Chinese Steamed Chicken & Rice with Shiitake Mushroom & Ginger
(serves 3, 2 if you're very hungry)

1 package of Skinless Chicken Thigh Fillets (about 475g)
1 package of fresh Shiitake Mushroom (about 125g)
1" x 1/2" ginger thinly julienned
1/4 tsp White Pepper
1 tsp Sugar
1 tbsp Light Soy
1/2 tsp Salt (can add more after to taste)
1/4 tsp Chicken Stock Powder (extra chicken flavour)
1 tsp Toasted Sesame Oil
300 ml Jasmine Rice (with dry deciliter measuring cup)

  1. Cut chicken into 1/2" to 1" pieces put in a large bowl.
  2. Remove stem from mushroom, julienne, put into chicken bowl.
  3. Add seasoning (julienned ginger, white pepper, sugar, light soy, sesame oil, salt, chicken stock powder) into the chicken bowl and mix well. Set aside. 
  4. In a large non-stick saucepan, add rice & 500-550 ml (same measuring cup) of water into the pan. Cover, boil on medium-high heat until water becomes bubbly (boiling).
  5. Turn heat to low, add chicken mixture covering every inch of pan. Put lid on and let it simmer for about 15-20 mins. 
  6. Check in with chicken rice at about 10min mark to see if it's cook through. 
  7. Turn off heat. Stir. Serve. Done.
Chef's notes:
  • I recommend using skinless chicken thigh fillets for this dish because breast is much tougher when steamed. 
  • If no fresh Shiitake Mushroom is available, you can use dried, but rehydrate with hot water.
  • If you want to add some vegetable to the meal, please do, bok choi or Chinese cabbage will be great addition. You would like to add this 5 minutes to the pot before serving.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Photography: First Shots

Photography is something I've always aspired to learn and love. I know nothing about cameras (even though I'm quite technology savvy) and lighting. As a graphic designer, what we know is good composition and art direction which helps with my lacking photographic skills I suppose. Any willing photography teacher, please apply within!

Below are some of my photographs from my recent holiday. What do you think?

The Big Apple. New York City

The Soho Building. Soho, New York City

Parsons. Union Square, New York City.

Urban Jungle, view from The High Line.
Meat Packing District, New York City.

Salle Wilfred-Pelletier, Place des Arts. Montréal, Canada

Place des Arts. Montréal, Canada

Toronto Eaton Centre. Toronto, Canada



Saturday, 14 May 2011

Discovering London: Broadway Market Revisited 1906 vs 2011

Our office is situated in a very interesting part of London. It's in the middle between Aldgate, Fenchurch and Tower Hill stations. Despite the new stylish Mint Hotel and all other modern City offices and skyscrapers, we were still around by historic London. A couple colleagues at work and I took this opportunity and started a lunchtime walking club – Wednesday Walking Club.

Last week, our walk was based on revisiting sites featured in "Lost London 1870-1945" by Philip Davies and comparing what has remained or changed in 2011. From this book, I also found images of my neighbourhood in 1906. It was too tempting not to write a post about my hood's Then and Now.  

Please note that all THEN images were extracted from this book.

THEN: 75-77 Broadway, London Fields, 16 October 1906
The dogs seem more interested in Rosesnberg's the family butcher rather than the dog food shop next door, which has a finely-detailed canted bay shopfront coruscated with colourful enamel advertisements.

75-77 Broadway, 16 October 1906

NOW: 75-77 Broadway Market, London Fields, 4 May 2011
Once Rosenberg's butcher shop is now vintage furniture shop Stella Blunt. The pet shop next door is now the artzy Donlon Books.

75-77 Broadway Market, 04 May 2011

THEN: 85 Broadway, London Fields, 16 October 1906
P.J. Ryan, tobacconists, with a fascinating amount of contemporary detail. The advertising lantern is angled to throw light onto the shop window which advertises Victory V gums and Fry's chocolate. The Daily Mirror announces a major mine disaster in Durham with 10 killed and 150 entombed. The poster above the neighbouring shop offers the entire street block for immediate redevelopment, but similar parts of Broadway still exist.

85 Broadway, 16 October 1906

Now: 85 Broadway Market, London Fields, 4 May 2011
I was surprised to learn that this has remained as a cornershop in 2011! 

85 Broadway Market, 4 May 2011

I approached the shopkeeper with my photocopy of page 237 from the book, I asked if he has seen this, he said "that's my shop." Apparently, The Hackney Citizen has covered this story a few years ago. This cornershop has overtaken the shop next to it. Broadway Market used to be just named Broadway in 1906, Lansdowne Road is now Lansdowne Drive. Once postal code NE is now E8.

If you're interested in our Wednesday Walking Club, we walk on Wednesdays around 1pm (unless we are on a deadline), check our website or follow us on Twitter for details.

Do you know any of your neighbourhood history? How has your neighbourhood changed over the years? Good? Bad? Gentrification? 

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Reblog: I've been blogged


I feel rather narcissistic reblogging this on here and frankly a bit embarrassed too. *blush* =^_^=

This was my first professional photoshoot and it was for Hermès store window, this was shot last year end of February. I have no previous modelling experience at all and I've learned loads from this  memorable experience. Andrew was a pleasure to work with and definitely worth a mention!

Now for some pluggin'... Andrew is an extraordinary (not to mention – award-winning) interior/architecture/portraiture photographer to some of world renowned magazines (Design Week, Mark Magazine (great for architecture and typographic eye-candy), Frame and Elle Décor Italia... etc) and for clients like Chanel, Burberry, Selfridges, Hermès (I've worked with him for two occasions: Hermès pour Liberty and store window which I've previously blogged about) and other clients too many to mention!

All this aside, he still finds time to work on personal projects such as: Excursions, Slaughtermen, Model Village, Mountain Men (my favourite!) and his recent Progress, Peace, Prosperity (loving this one too) in Gambia. Oh, did I mention he also photographed one of Kayne West's album cover artwork? – *Phew* A very, very busy man!

Visit his website at Andrew Meredith Photography

For his most recent work, visit his blog at

Follow him on Twitter at

Monday, 25 April 2011

Cooking: Langoustines 3-Ways: Céviche, Caviar on Crostini & Aromatic Poached

Langoustines from Fin & Flounder £11.58
I don't normally cook seafood at home, the packaged fish at the supermarket has always been so off-putting. Since the opening of Fin & Flounder around the corner, it's been much accessible to learn and purchase fresh seafood. I remember having dinner at Bocca di Lupo last summer and ordered Cruditá di mare (raw sea bream, red prawn, scallop with rosemary oil – sm £9.50 lg £19.00) they ran out of prawns and replaced with langoustines. The sweetness of the langoustines, rosemary oil lifting earthiness of scallops, it was a heaven! This dish was so fantastic that a second round order was absolutely inevitable! That was my first experience with langoustines at its best – fresh and raw.

This is like mini lobster, could be intimidating to buy but worth it!
Adam gave me a langoustine with roes, and three males. I couldn't make up my mind on how to cook them, since they are fresh, I decided to have them three ways: céviche, the roe I'll put them on toast and light poached in an aromatic bath.

Aromatic Poached Langoustine with Olive Oil & Lemon

Aromatic Poached Lagoustines
Langoustines in aromatic bath

Aromatic Poached Langoustines
Serves 1

3 Langoustines (usually 3-6 per person)
10 Black Peppercorns
2 Bay Leaves
1 Small bunch of parsley
Good Slug of White Wine
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Flaked Sea Salt
  1. Pull the leaves off the parsley and save them for later. 
  2. In a large pan, fill in water to about 1/4 of the pan, add peppercorn, bay leaves, parsley stalks and a good slug of White Wine, bring to boil.
  3. Once the bath is boiled, add salt and in goes the langoustines. Use a laddle to keep pouring hot liquid over the langoustines. Keep doing so about 4 minutes. 
  4. Get the langoustines out of the pan. Put the cooked langoustines onto plates then drizzle them with olive oil and scatter with parsley and sea salt, squeezing over lemon juice
Chef's notes: This is inspired by one of Nigel Slater's 50 favourites summer recipe off the Guardian, his recipe calls for a deep pan of water, but I was afraid to over cook them, by keep pouring hot liquid over them is a way to have them evenly cooked without over boiling them. I also added a good slug of white wine to add more depth.

Another close up look at the dish

Langoustine Céviche with Caviar Crostini

Langoustine Céviche
Serves 1

1 Langoustine
Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 lemon wedge
1 tsp chopped parsley
  1. Turn the langoustine over on its back, and use a very sharp knife, cut through the middle of the abdomen.
  2. Use a pairing knife to loosen the meat from the shell. 
  3. Drizzle olive oil, squeeze lemon and sprinkle parsley on top.
Chef's notes: I was a bit nervous in preparing the céviche, the cutting part was the worst because the langoustine was still alive. So if you're squeamish, this dish might not be for you. In hind sight, I should have made an infused rosemary oil instead.

Lagoustines Roe
Langoustine with Roe – I'm about to become a serial langoustine baby murderer!!
Lagoustines Caviar Crostini
Langoustine Caviar Crostini
Langoustine Caviar Crostini
Serves 1

1 langoustine with roe
1 Italian stick or French baguette
1 tsp of Mayonnaise
Butter or Olive Oil
  1. Preheat oven to 200ºC/400ºF
  2. Extract the roe from langoustine with a spoon, put them into a small dish, set aside.
  3. Slice bread and either butter or drizzle with olive oil on both side, put on baking tray and into the oven until golden brown and toasted. 
  4. After crostini has been toasted, spread a thin layer of mayonnaise and garnish with langoustine roe on top. Serve whilst crostini is still warm.

This dinner was slightly expensive but sometimes one needs a treat and indulge with lovely food. Simply prepared fresh langoustines tastes its best this way.

What do you think? Have you cooked something you haven't tried before? How did the dish turned out?

Friday, 22 April 2011

Fashion + Design: A Design Story – The Making of Sweaty Betty Everyday Lookbook 2010


Graphic Design is about the creative process, from concept to production, it needs enormous of attention in details and planning. Since I haven't posted for a long time, I thought to share a design story and a bit of behind the scene with you. Let's travel back in time to August 2010...

I never realised fitness has such an important and significant role in my life until two summers ago. I've been a loyal Sweaty Betty member for quite a long time now, I pay weekly pilgrimage to their Circuit, Yoga and Pilate in-store classes. Last year, whilst I was casually shopping on their website, I noticed they were hiring for a Senior Graphic Designer – a perfect job for me!!

I lack fashion graphic design experience and to stand out from my competitors, I've decided to go the extra mile. I always have to rush to their classes after work, not giving too much time to change, so I usually incorporate my exercising gear into my workwear on exercise days. The girls at Sweaty Betty always asked me "how do you manage to look great coming here straight from work, work out, and go out afterwards?" This has inspired me to produce an everyday lookbook to illustrate my passion in fashion, understanding their brand and their philosophy, and of course, my skills in graphic design.

The challenge
This project had a very tight time frame and resources are limited – from concept to finished production, I managed to complete all this in just 5 days!

SS10-SBLB-Outfit Layout
Outfit Testsheet & Bible for Photoshoot

Day One: The Concept
• Creative & Art Direction and Concept Development – A6 20pp perfect bound mini lookbook
• Pagination Layout – 6 Themes/12 Outfits
• Fashion styling & testshots
    The idea of this Everyday Lookbook is an additional marketing material on top of its seasonal catalogue. This lookbook will be a great marketing campaign to encourage addition sales beyond customers who purchase Sweaty Betty merchandise only for exercising. I've gained significant knowledge of their target customers from observations whilst shopping and attending their weekly in-store classes throughout the years. I thought to create the "Sweaty Betty Girl" – a day in life, what would she be doing? What is her lifestyle?

    After some 48 outfits and over 96 combinations, I've nailed down to 12 outfits for the six lifestyle and exercise types.

    The six themes comprising:
    1. Something for the weekend – Boxercise
    2. Beyond the nine-to-five – Pilates
    3. Let's go shopping – Yoga
    4. A romantic date – Yoga
    5. Night out with the girls – Dance
    6. Art gallery opening – Running
    I needed to hold back on the styling from being too editorial looking, after all, this is an everyday lookbook. Creating this initial styling testshot was important for me to see what works and what doesn't. If you have eagle eyes, you will notice some accessories changes in the final lookbook.

    Printed sheets ready to create signatures
    Day Two: The Production
    • Research on bookbinding
    • Sourcing bookbinding, knitting & printing material
    • Gathering all materials/outfits needed for photoshoot
    • Copywriting 
      I have created numerous mock-ups during my education at Ontario Colledge of Art and Design (OCAD) despite I was majored in Packaging Design, surprisingly, there was never an opportunity to fabricate a perfect bound book. Many thanks to the internet and forum like Craftster and YouTube, I was able to learn sewing signatures and the art of bookbinding.

      I went to Shepherds Bookbinders (76 Southampton Row, London WC1B 4AR ☎ 020 7831 1151), for all the bookbinding materials. I show their staff and my printing material and they were very knowledgeable and helpful to advise me on ideas and materials I need for the project.

      Err... copywriting is my nightmare, I was never good at writing – I express visually. Actually, writing for this lookbook wasn't too difficult at all as it was mostly inspired from personal experiences.

      Running on the Broadwalk of Brighton
      Day Three: The Brighton Photoshoot 
      • Make-up & Hair
      • Train to Brighton
      • Location scouting
      • Photoshoot
      • Select testshot images & audience feedback

      I originally wanted to have the photoshoot around London Fields, Broadway Market and the Regent's Canal, after consulting with my friend Laura Kirkke (she's an amazing artisté, illustrator and photographer, check her out!) who photographed all images used in the lookbook, Brighton seems to be a more suitable location. This is a time I wish my sister was in London (she's a brilliant hair and makeup artist – check her out here). I had to set my hair, do my own make-up, packed all outfits and took the train down to Brighton.

      It was a sunny hot day in Brighton, we used Laura's studio as a base for changing the looks and re-styling on hair and make-up. We shoot both outdoors and inside the studio and managed to complete the shoot before dusk. Then we went through the entire film and highlighted the ones we've liked, burned images onto disk and I head back to London.

      Sample page layout from lookbook
      Day Four: The Design
      • Final decision on selecting images
      • Digital imaging & retouching photos where necessary
      • Design and layout of lookbook
      • Outwork for proofreading

      After collecting feedback on images, I finalised the images and retouched any where necessary. Finally, design layout time! The lookbook is finally coming together. Lastly, I sent to my journalist friend Zara for proofreading. Tomorrow will be finishing day.

      SS10-SBLB-FinishedProduct 1
      Finished perfect bound Lookbooks
      Day Five: The Finishing
      • Print production with home printer
      • Trim, score, sew & bind
      • Knit mini bag & sew on StayStylish label
      • Create digital lookbook where links products to website
      • Create application website

      I had to make a few copies of the book, for the purpose of testing, screw-ups and practising sewing signatures and the binding. In additional to the lookbook, I also knitted a mini version of the yoga bag I knitted featured in the lookbook. The lookbook will go into the knitted bag, complete with my little StayStylish label. To demonstrate my creativity in marketing, I have also created an interactive e-book, where one can click on the product and directly link to their website and purchase. Finally, to accompany to my application, I have also created a website where their HR department can download my covering letter, CV, link to e-book and online portfolio.

      SS10-SBLB-FinishedProduct 2
      Detailed look at the mini spines of the book
      Day Six: The Delivery
      • Finalise CV, covering letter, email application digitally
      • Travel across the city to deliver application package in person to head office

      SS10-SBLB-FinishedProduct 3
      Finished Lookbook with knitted bag

      Outcome & Experience 
      By going the extra mile, Sweaty Betty was very impressed with the hand bound lookbook and the amount of work I have put into, it was definitely the most creative job application they have ever received to date. This has landed me an interview, but unfortunately I was not hired for the job due to my portfolio being "too diverse" (I never understand why this is always a set back when I look for work in the UK!), "too corporate" and lack of fashion graphic design experience.

      It was heartbreaking that I didn't get the job. To add more to the injury, a fortnight after my submission, they held a streetstyle photo contest on Facebook where followers send in their photos of them mixing Sweaty Betty merchandise and streetwear! Since my submission, they have also started to create online catalogues similar to my e-book. Err!

      Despite all, I am very proud of this project: art direction, styling, hair & make-up, modelling, lookbook concept, design, production, finishing and copy were all done by myself. This not only makes a great portfolio piece and a design story, I fell in love with bookbinding.

      For testshots and more photos from this project, please see my Flickr set.

      Click here to view the final lookbook.

      What do you think? Have you ever gone the extra mile for an job application? How did it turned out? How do you protect your ideas?

      Monday, 18 April 2011

      Cooking: Les moules et les frites avec l'aïoli

      I haven't posted for a while, so hello and thanks for reading!

      Here's another reason to love my neighbourhood – I love my new-ish (opened in 2010) local fishmongers Fin & Flounder (71 Broadway Market, London E8 4PH Tel: 0783 8018395). Their seafood are sustainably caught, reasonably priced and the guys are very knowledgeable despite they're all young. What I like about them is that they bring back the nostalgia of a local fishmonger – a bit of chit chat, they are passionate about what they do and their enthusiasm to get to know their customers even if it's by means of Twitter.

      Moules et Frites avec aïoli

      Last week, I dreamt of a big bowl of Moules Frites. On Saturday, I went down to Broadway Market to purchase some mussels from Fin & Flounder. I had no time to make my own sourdough bread that day (it needs some premeditation – I need to plan and prepare at least a day before making one, it really deserves its own post) so I went to E5 Bakehouse for it, it was hot off the oven too! One stop shop, I can get everything in my hood! London Fields was absolutely heaving, the Lobsters were out but sadly left all their rubbish behind when I return from my run in the evening. Shame on them!

      Moules et Frites avec aïoli

      This recipe takes on a bit of Nigella/Delia approach. It's okay to cheat a little, sometimes. These oven frites are a much easier and healthy alternative to deep frying or double frying chips. I don't have the patience on this occassion and it's too much work deep frying frankly. Oh, the aïoli is also lazy made too.

      Recipe Serves 1

      Moules et Frites avec aïoli

      For Frites:
      2 medium sized yellow fleshed or russet potatoes
      1-2 tablespoon olive oil
      4 sprigs fresh thyme, or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried
      Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

      1. Preheat oven to 425ºF/200ºC. Leave the skin on, cut potatoes lengthwise into thick slices, then into 1/2-inch-by-1/2-inch-thick strips. Place them in a bowl of cold water until ready to use. Drain and dry proper on kitchen towels.
      2. Toss potatoes with oil and spread out on a baking sheet / roasting pan. Scatter thyme sprigs over potatoes. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, turning occasionally, until potatoes are brown and crisp on all sides. Meanwhile prepare mussels (see below instruction 1 for Moules Marinière)
      3. Remove from oven, discard thyme stems (the leaves will have fallen off), sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.
      Note: Only cook the mussels when the potatoes are nearly ready, the mussels takes no time to cook! If you're twirling thumbs looking for things to do, then it's a good time to prepare the aïoli.

      Moules et Frites avec aïoli

      For Lazy Aïoli:
      1 small clove of garlic
      1 teaspoon of prepared Coleman's tartar sauce
      3 teaspoon of store-bought mayonnaise

      1. Press the clove of garlic through a garlic press into a dipping bowl.
      2. Combine tartar sauce and mayonnaise with the garlic and mix well. Let sit and allows flavour to mingle before serving.

      Moules et Frites avec aïoli

      For Moules Marinière:
      1/2 lb fresh & live mussels, scrubbed and debearded
      (General rule is 1/2 to 1 lb mussels per person but get a few more in case you need to discard some)

      1 medium finely minced shallot
      4 sprigs of thyme
      2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
      Small knob of butter
      1 small glass of white wine of choice
      Pinch of coarse sea salt

      1. Preparing mussels: DO NOT soak them in water, this will kill them because they live in sea water! Give each mussel a little tab to see if it closes, if it doesn't, it's dead. Discard. If its shell is cracked, discard. Use a scrub pad or brush to give the mussels a good scrub. Remove any barnacles if necessarily. To debeard, pull the beard towards the crack joint of the shells, sometimes they can be a bit tough, go on, give it a bit of elbow grease, will ya?
      2. Put mussels, butter, wine, shallots, salt, and thyme in a medium pot. Cover, and cook over high heat, shaking pot occasionally, until mussels open, about 4 minutes. Discard any unopened shells. Sprinkle with parsley; gently toss. Serve with toasted butter bread.
      For more photos and to see my other gastronomic treats, please see my Flickr album.
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