#southkoreanbakeoff Weeks 5 & 6

So as you know, I haven’t been to Bangsan Market to buy a pie tin etc etc so Week 5 Pastry Week is currently on hold, until I have all the necessary items.

Skipping ahead, I have completed Week 6 – in a fashion. I was certainly a bit perplexed when they announced Botanical week and wondered whether it would be something I would be able to make happen here in Songdo. However, all was made clear when the episode started as all it meant was that all bakes needed to include  herbs, greens and flowers. Out of a ‘Citrus’ Meringue Pie (what DO you do with all those leftover yolks) a Herby ‘Fougasse’ and the showstopper – a 3 tiered floral cake (floral could either be part of the flavour, the decoration or both) I went with a version of the showstopper. I don’t have 3 concentric cake tins, the right stands/bases etc etc to even try something tiered, so I decided Cupcakes would be the way forward. And before you say I was getting off lightly, I chose to incorporate the floral element in both the flavour and decoration – and lo, the honey cupcake with chamomile buttercream icing came about – loosely based on this recipe with a few tweaks of my own . In addition, good friends back home just had a little girl so I decided to try to pipe pink buttercream roses on the cakes. Try being the operative word.


It is the first time I’ve used yoghurt in a cupcake and it makes for an amazing-moist-on-the-inside-with-a-light-crisp-on-the-outside bake. Hello go-to recipe – time to try you out with different flavour combinations I think!




I also tried to get the stripey effect that Candice was going for with her Lime Meringue Pie, by ‘painting’ the inside of the piping bag before loading it with buttercream.Being paintbrush-less meant that the painting didn’t work as well as I would have liked, so I went for pink icing and as much of a stripe as I could manage. And my roses are no way near as cool as Selasi’s but at least I tried!!

Coming up next week: Deserts – thinking ahead, I’m leaning towards a swiss roll but we shall see…




My South Korean Bakeoff: Week 4…. and a Bonus Battengberg

Week 4 is pastry week and out of the recipes made, which included lacy pancakes and churros, I picked Yorkshire puddings as I figured it was a useful thing to be able to make… even when you can buy frozen puds at home you can’t always guarantee that they wouldn’t have been made using lard so hey-ho and away we go.

I used this recipe (BBC Good Food to the rescue yet again) and it seems that the trick is making sure that the oil in the muffin tin is super hot prior to pouring the batter in. I also used a ladle to try and make sure that the puddings came out even in size (Thanks Bake Off for that tip) and when I served them for dinner, Raj gave them the thumbs up. I also have a few stashed away in the freezer for another day – Yum.

Now I’m a couple of weeks behind in my challenge: Pastry Week and Botanical Week have both been aired. For pastry week I’m going to make a Bakewell Tart but first I need to head back to Bangsan (or figure out how to shop online) and pick up a pie tin, flaked almonds and almond essence, so this one might be on hold temporarily. For Botanical Week, I don’t have the occasion for which to try a showstopper, but I am going to make honey cupcakes ( with chamomile icing piped in the shape of a rose – I’m using the piping from Selasi’s showstopper as my inspiration so fingers crossed it works out!


To make up for the fact that I’m a bit behind, I also decided to try an old GBBO classic and make a Battenberg Cake. It didn’t turn out perfectly because my marzipan was too sticky, but I have figured out how to combat that and have a second batch in the fridge ready to try again. It passed the taste-test at a friend’s birthday brunch though so wins all around for me!

Raj is away this week and I’ve run out of things to do today (it is 11:57 and I’ve already had lunch) so I think might try my hand at the cupcakes this afternoon.



Cultural Appropriation & The Expat 


So on-trend right now to be calling out instances of cultural appropriation on any kind of social media but in all honesty, I don’t know how I feel about it and whether it is actually as big a problem as it is made out to be. 

I tried to join the bandwagon on twitter, calling out Ralph Lauren with this article – the cover photo being an obviously Caucasian hand covered in Mehndi. I’m not going to get into which culture this appropriates (Indian or Middle Eastern.. chicken or egg…) but surely this is as bad as Marc Jacobs runway show featuring largely (possibly only, I don’t know for sure) Caucasian models with brightly coloured dreadlocks. But a photo is meant to tell a story. Maybe the owner of the hands just attended her best friend’s big fat Indian wedding, or had a big fat Indian wedding herself and the watch was her present. Or maybe she was travelling and it was a service for which she paid, in which case why the hell shouldn’t she have whatever she wants on her hands. Or if it genuinely is cultural appropriation, where were all the indignant people in the early 2000s when nose piercings and bindis and henna tattoos ran rampant through the lives of every teenage girl in England. And then the biggie, what about all the expats in the world.

I want to learn more Korean. I want a hanbok to take home at the end of the adventure. Raj and I want some traditional Korean furniture for wherever we make our next home. I’m looking forward to a friend’s wedding, as it will be my first Korean wedding and I’ll be able to see how a different culture celebrates this ocassion. All of this is a result of my living here – am I guilty of appropriating Korean culture, or am I just taking this opportunity to learn and appreciate things that I might not have come across otherwise? In fact, as an Indian who grew up in London wearing western clothes – have I been a cultural appropriater all my life? 😬😬😬

I feel like the line is so fine but if you squint really hard, it does exist and it is this: when you look at a situation, is there a larger context/story in which the situation sits. The Marc Jacobs show and Ralph Lauren advert – probably not and in both cases it was a gimmick to sell more stuff. Kids wearing national costumes of other countries to school on international day arguably strives towards a more tolerant society where differences in culture are celebrated. Getting a tattoo in Chinese when I have no real connection to the country – well, this is probably just a bit silly because who knows what the character actually says. Giving my child a Japenese name because the meaning is so beautiful and let’s face it, what’s more beautiful than a newborn baby (Aiko – little bundle of love.. it’s been vetoed in our house but the name still means a lot to me) – not sure how this one goes. Trying to adapt to the customs of the country you are living in – definitely something to aspire too.. nobody wants to be THAT person who clearly has no respect for others. 

It’s not straightforward and even less so when you are a foreigner in the country you call home but the over riding lesson, as always, has to be moderation. The perpetrators of the “crime” needs to be wary that they aren’t being offensive or taking things too far and the judges need to make sure they aren’t being hypocritical or (yes I’m going to say it) overly sensitive on the matter. 

In the meantime, I am going to avoid joining the twitter conversation on this topic for fear that everything I want to say can’t be contained in 140 characters. 

And that’s my thoughts for tonight.. night all! 

Chuseok 2016

Chuseok is an important holiday in Korea. It is a major harvest festival celebrated with a three-day public holiday – Wednesday to Friday – which means that you end up with 5 days off in a row. It is likened to American Thanksgiving, but you find some people take offence at that comparison as Chuseok is said to have existed for hundreds of years before Thanksgiving.

This year the GCF gave 2 days off for Chuseok and there was another international holiday earlier in the week, so with a mere 2 days h0liday days booked, Raj and I had a full week to do something. Unfortunately, circumstance dictated that he did have to do some work and we couldn’t get out of the country as all our friends did but instead, we spent 3 days and 2 nights in Seoul to visit Lotte Adventure World and The Lotte Aquarium, in Jamsil.

Now a word about Jamsil. It is basically a big homage to Lotte. There is the Lotte Hotel (where we stayed) the Lotte World Mall, the Lotte World Department Store, Lotte’s head office, the Charlotte Theatre (Lotte comes from the name Charlotte) and Lotte Adventure World. In fact, while wandering around, we failed to find anything that wasn’t Lotte-branded.

The Lotte Hotel is a very nice 5* hotel, if ever so slightly dated. From the hotel itself, you can access the mall and department store without even stepping outside – it is a bit Vegas-y in that respect. Breakfast was yum but a word to the wise – the hotel gets immensely busy around Chuseok and on our final morning there, we went to the breakfast place at 9.30am and there were so many people that we had to wait 20 minutes to be seated!

Lotte Adventure World is the largest indoor theme park in the world. The majority of the rides are undercover, which makes it a great winter option, but the bigger, faster rides are outdoors. We had a great deal from the hotel with which we booked accommodation, breakfast and park tickets. We headed to the park at 10am (it opens at 930) wary of potential crowds, but as it was the day before Chuseok, it was still manageable. After getting our bearings we queued for the log flume – not being very smart, we queued before we discovered the fast pass process. Similar to Disney, you can ‘book slots’ for a few of the rides. By the time we went on our first ride and went to use the fast pass, we could only book a time on one ride – Comet Express – which was definitely a hidden gem for the speed lovers amongst you all! Atlantis is the largest rollercoaster and SO much fun and we queued for 2 hours to have a ride – worth it.

Food is your typical theme park fare, with the ever present beer and your usual candy floss, ice cream, churros etc. After 4pm you can buy discounted tickets for the park, and that’s when the high school contingent turn up – UBER dressed up and arriving in throngs. We made a hasty exit as the numbers in the park swelled and it probably a well timed one.

Just behind the Lotte World Mall runs the river where they have annual installations and this year is was the colour-changing SuperMoon.

Dinners were eaten in the extensive food court of the mall – California Pizza Kitchen for him one day, P.F Changs for me the next. Yummy. We also made a trip down to Gangnam to check out the Kloud 21 bar at the Mercure Hotel – one of the few actual rooftop bars in Seoul, which was a rather pleasant and fun way to end the evening.

The next day, we made our way over to the Lotte World Aquarium (having bought tickets at the hotel) which is located in the basement of the Mall. After whiling away a couple of hours looking at all the fishes it was time for a quick lunch and a hop skip and jump back to Songdo.

All in all, a lovely mid-week-long-weekend in Seoul to celebrate Chuseok! And oh yeah, because we booked 2 nights at the hotel, we still have another 2 tickets for another day at the theme park – YAY!

My South Korean Bake-Off: Week 3

Bread Week

I finally bit the bullet and tried my week 3 bread week challenge. I had to wait until the weekend for Raj to be around, because all my various aches and pains definitely rule out kneading dough and if there is one thing I knew without being told, it is that good bread needs strong kneading.

All the recipes I found online required strong bread flour and as I have no clue what this would be in Korean, I put out a Facebook plea for an easy to make recipe that uses plain flour and lo and behold, the Facebook world delivered.

We started in the morning, because I didn’t know exactly how much time we’d need to prove the bread for. Mixing the dough was an adventure – we added flour cup by cup and for a long while it just looked like a gloopy mess, but our patience was rewarded when suddenly a smooth beautiful ball of dough was formed.

Raj and I have never made dough before so we were slightly over excited by the proving process and kept poking our noses into the bowl to see how the rising was going.

Once the dough was doubled in size, we kneaded again and then came the shaping. There was SO much dough that we decided to make 3 loaves (pending the first one turning out edible) but first, we focused on the first loaf. Once plaited (kinda) a further 2o minutes prove and into the oven it went.

I spent most of the 20 minutes peering into the oven and when I finally removed the loaf, tap-tap-tapping the baked bread provided a most rewarding hollow sound.

Obviously I was over excited and couldn’t wait for the bread to cool down. Taste-test passed, it only remained for me to shape the next two loaves and pop them in the freezer for next time I want newly baked oven fresh bread 🙂

Now I’m mentally preparing for Week 4 – Batter Week and Yorkshire Puddings: EEEEEP!!!

When the world makes me want scream 

First there were pens for women. Because when I read Law at Cambridge, obviously the lack of female pens is why I only managed a 2:1 and not a 1st class degree. I chose to ignore this rampant sexism and keep using my old, male pens. 

Then, as we know all junior doctors in the UK were getting a raw deal (ps. #saveournhs #supportjuniordoctors)  – but within that, female junior doctors were getting even more shafted because biology/genetics determined that they would be the child-bearers and this in turn meant that the audacious women who were taking time to raise the next generation of human beings should be penalised. By the way, the men who were culpable for the co-procreation of said children were A-Ok and making the world a better place through the spreading of their seed. (#likealadydoc #likealadyboss) 

Yesterday, a friend posted on Facebook that her husband, the only dad at the baby-parent nursery was disappointed that his son was already being taught male/female stereotypes because “the mummies on the bus chatter chatter chatter” and “the daddies on the bus work work work.” Why. Can’t parents be chattering or working as they have discussed and agreed with their partners/home-helpers/family-members? 

And today I see this: https://www.facebook.com/kerrywiliams/posts/10209930631717760

A car, designed by SEAT, in conjunction with Cosmopolitan Magazine specifically for women. Obviously I don’t care if my headlights work, or have good fog lights for when the haze in Songdo is thick and visibility is low – my headlights will look like they have eyeliner – and the eyeliner is on point, so I’ll just smile and snap a selfie after checking my hair in the sun visors. I mean, I really don’t care that as I am a short female, a drivers seat with adjustable height, or a seatbelt that I could bring down so my boobs don’t have seatbelt welts in them would be SO much more useful. And yeah, I totally tan through the sun-roof year round because sun-damaged skin is sexy, and I need to look good to get/keep a man, right? 

The world we live in is meant to have evolved. Yes, sometimes I baulk at the extremes that ardent feminists will go to, for example:a few years ago I knew of a woman who was a resident doctor in the USA and she was married to a male resident doctor in the same hospital. Often they worked different shifts. Said women, being a feminist, would only do her laundry / cook meals for herself when she had free time, citing her status as an independent woman who would not be chained to household chores as her excuse. Said husband would use his similar amount of free time to make sure both their laundry was done / cook larger portions to freeze or keep in the fridge so that his wife would have something to eat after a long day at the hospital. I mean, it’s just kind to help each other out in that way. Nobody ever said SHE had to do everything and he more than demonstrated his willingness to share the load.  I don’t know what became of them – I wish them well whatever the case. My point is that we should make the effort to be fair and moderate in our lives, any kind of extremism always works out badly for someone. 

But I digress. It’s 2016. We accept that people have different strengths and capabilities. We accept that there can be physical differences between the sexes – my husband will ALWAYS be able to open a jar more easily than me because he is stronger and doesn’t suffer from slipped discs in his neck and back, as well as tendonitis in his elbow all on the same side of his body. We bring up our daughters to believe that they can do anything they set their minds to (major props to my parents, amongst others, who told me this in the 1980s) and we lift them up, making sure that they have choices throughout their lives. And then we rudely crash them down to earth by designing tools in pink, pens that look pretty,  cars that “have all the essentials” and we blame women for being provocative/too modest/always wrong… I know I’m screaming on the inside (as millions of women across the world probably are as well) but I also use my social media voice to bring light to the ridiculousness I see, as and when it happens. I still have some hope that enough voices will reach the ears of the people perpetuating such nonsense and change is possible. Until then, I scream and tweet… 

My South Korean Bake-Off: Weeks 1 & 2

This is the first year that I have not had a weekly 8pm(GMT) date with BBC1 and the Great British Bake Off since the show started. It is also, however, the first year that I have time on my hands to be more actively involved in my love of the show and as such, I’m taking part in my own little bake-off in Songdo.

My challenge involves me making one recipe (I stuck to one given the hideous expense of getting baking ingredients here – sorry Raj!) from each week of the show and here is where I will post my results, for better or for worse.

Taste Test Wise I’ll be feeding my baked goods to Raj and our Friday Night Drinks Squad – although obviously this depends on whether my attempts turn out to be edible or not!

Before I started the challenge however, I made a trip into the Baking district in Seoul to get a few essentials (and also check out what else I could buy for the future challenges). Bangsan Market is central-ish in Seoul. I went to Euljiro4-ga station, which is on the same line as Hapjeong and left through exit four. Immediately upon exiting the station, you’ll find yourself in the sewing district (making my own clothes is going to be 2017’s challenge).


Following the map (left) I made my way to the market, via the promotional and packaging district – useful to know where these places are!

The market has a bit of a weird smell  but once you get used to that, there is loads of stuff at affordable prices for the amateur baker such as myself. I picked up a couple of things and saw a few others too…

  • Icing Sugar: 1.5kg for 3.500 Won
  • Vanilla essence: 118ml for 16-18,000 won depending on the shop
  • Chocolate chips (and other cooking chocolate): 500g for 6,000won or 1kg for 10,000won
  • A huge variety of cake pans in different sizes, from 5,000 won up
  • Almond powder: 500g for 8,000 won (or 1kg for 15,000 won)
  • Dessicated coconut: 400g for 3,000 won
  • Unsalted Anchor Butter: 454g for 6,000won

And plenty of other stuff besides. I think Bangsan is going to be a regular haunt of mine.. at least for the duration of my bake-off-challenge.

Week 1: Cake Week

This week was all about drizzle cakes. Now I do actually make a Lemon Drizzle Cake on a fairly regular basis, as it is Raj’s favourite, so I decided to up my game and try something new – a Passion Fruit & Lime Drizzle Cake.

I used this recipe and all in all, I am quite pleased with the results – it smells fruity and citrusy and taste nice and moist with the right amount of zing! I’m waiting for Raj to get home from Manila (2.5 hours until he lands!) to proivide the final taste-test however…


Week 2: Biscuit Week

This week’s technical challenge was to make Mary Berry’s Viennese Whirls – a wonderfully melt in the mouth combination of butter and sugar. I did cheat slightly by using ready made jam instead of making my own, but I blame the lack of jam sugar in my kitchen…

As far as my first biscuit attempt goes I was pretty pleased. OK, so I won’t be winning any technical challenges based on appearances any time soon but the biscuit was nice and short and the buttercream filling wasn’t overly sweet.

Biscuit Week

I’ve literally just finished watching breadweek (SO NERVOUS!) and after a Facebook plea, one of my friends has given me a supposedly easy recipe for a plaited loaf (just the one – it is my first time making bread so there won’t be any showstoppers in my immediate future) so once I top up on flour and yeast I’ll be giving it a shot. YIKES!