As life in the UK is still far too expensive to keep up towards the same level in my home country, I have to somehow manage to find where to save money.

Therefore the Christmas and New Year 09-10 festive period is rather quiet days for us this time.

Staub Le Creuset Chianti Pittini Riedel

Staub Le Creuset Chianti Pittini Riedel

Despite the difficult conditions of life in the UK and even in the heavy snowy conditions, somehow we have managed to travel to Paris to seek genuine food and kitchen products which are not sold in the UK.

It seems departments in the UK have withdrawn some popular products or deterred selling products of other countries, even in the neighbour countries, France, Germany, Italy and more as far as I can see.

This tendency is more obvious since the current recession has been recognised, I believe.

After the Christmas and new year celebration, I felt as if we saw the real state of the country under this downturn period.

It seems to me that as if Paris is rather sensible to be conservative to save monies, comparing with London where there seems to be many ongoing and completed refurbishment in public transportation and the rows of high street shops and buildings.

As long as the bill is charged to only people who have abundant spare of contributions, not from ordinary people who are under struggling state of life in the UK, this is fair enough to share the fantastic improvement in London, preparing for the 2012 Olympic and further.

This is what I felt after the full day trip to Paris this week.

I bought the little Staub cocotte which is difficult to buy in the UK, although there were no discount. If I wanted the regular size of casserole, I would have bought a discounted 20cm diameter in the sale.

But I already have one from competitor’s manufacturer, Le Creuset, which I satisfy with. 

I have tried some cocotte recipes to see what is the best ways to use the swelled spots on the back of the lids to get even convection in the little casseroles I have.

As it is just a good size for one portion to serve straight away without dividing a whole large dish into plates, however, the enamel coating seems to be vulnerable to metal scratches.

Well, I fancy I should try the French onion soup with this first, then I may be able to discover some other recipes.  

Now, I just tell you a little delight we tasted in the festival period that despite the still far expensive life in the UK in this winter, more people give us wine bottles.

The perfectly satisfied wine I bought in Sainsbury supermarket in December 09 above was sold at only GBP5.49.  – Piccini Chianti Riserva 2006

This is the fair reasonable pricing that should have been in the UK and this must have been applied to all other pricing to keep global standard life level in the UK.

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Somehow Tiny Kitchen

Nevertheless Tiny Kitchen

Well, after 8 years waiting period, at last the kitchen extractor was fitted – yet it has not been fully decorated, though.

Now, my kitchen has reached standard of the period when I live in my home country since at least 30 years ago!

Yet there are a lot of modernizations to be considered to fully reach the standard of living, absolutely due to the excessive high living cost in the UK.

The broken old boiler in one of the kitchen cabinet needs to be replaced with a new creating a larger space for the decent level of boiler in a new extension being built.

Unless the extension it built, we can not change the kitchen work top, cabinet doors, sink, while many other parts of the house have to be repaired and refurbished to meet the standard I used to live.

Even though I have given up some decorations and new appliances such as tiling, flooring, other part of windows, cookers, dish washers, it is still far too expensive to build up standards we can get in other countries.

Oh, I should mention how I could give up buying new cookers – I at last found a proper kitchen cleaner below!

Cif Kitchen Cleaner UK 2009

Before I found it, I tended to ignore the grease on the cooker and other places in the kitchen. It was fantastic in the UK as there used to be no proper cleaners I could find in the supermarkets I usually shop in the UK, unlike in my home country with a lot of selections in proper cleaning products that I had almost never experienced difficulties in finding proper cleaning products.

I would further like to find fairly reasonable cost of living with peaceful life in the UK ot once.

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Tomatoes in Sep 09

In the months of September and October, we harvested about 50 tomatoes.

At the end of October, I gave up growing about 30 of the yet green tomatoes as the rainy weather had started occupying most of the month.

Over the last years 1 packet of 6 tomatoes typically cost nearly £2.00 in London, however, some food prices become lower including tomatoes and we recently bought  a packet for only £0.70!

I expect all other living costs in the UK become as lower as those, rather than ridiculously increasing ever in the right middle of the recession.

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Tomatoes in Kitchen Garden Mid Aug 09

Tomatoes in Kitchen Garden Mid Aug 09

There are some more tomatoes growing the small growing bag, however, none of them have turned to red yet.

Well, I will see how sweet or ripe they can go, by grown in our part shaded garden in London.

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Aloe Vera Plants

Aloe Vera 15 Aug 09

Aloe Vera for Medicine Aug 09

I have got two little Aloe Vera in a little pot recently.

I think the hand made moisturiser is perfect for my skin, as well as meeting the huge saving of money for expensive moisturisers I used to buy 150ml for £66.

I posted how I made the moisturiser recently, here.

The only problem so far I have got is that it seems that the tropical nature plants could be so sensitive – they demand for warm, full sunshine as much as possible while they do not really require water.

In my house there is not no such place. I may have to move the plants in the house every day in the house in winter.

Anyway, I think I have to study about Aloe Vera more to grow them vitally.

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Katsudon Close-Up

Katsudon Close-Up

Just after I made the soy seasoning sauce for Chirashi-Zushi some time ago in this month, I fried pork to cook pork cutlet.

We could serve them with thinly sliced tender green cabbage with thick brown sauce. They are usually served with Japanese white rice and Miso soup and is popular dish in Japan.

Katsudon Served with Miso Soup

Katsudon Served with Miso Soup

On that day as I had some spare time, I cooked the cutlet in the following ingredients:

Ingredients of Katsudon for serves 2:

  • around 150g x 2 pork cutlet
  •  half onion – thinly sliced
  • 300ml soy seasoning – fish stock, sugar, sake, mirin
  • 4 beaten eggs
  • 50g of mangetout or green peas – boiled with a pinch of salt ( Never allow overcooked. )
  • 2 full Donburi amount of Japanese white rice cooked 

I used the soy sauce seasoning used to taste the ingredients of Chirashi Sushi on the other day, so there is some stock from Shitake mushroom and deep fried bean curd.

I actually fried the cutlet for at least 4 portions with the pork shown below, I had them simply with rice and miso soup on the next day.

However, the taste is off course better with the ones which have just been fried for a while ago.

Katsudon Ingredients

Katsudon Ingredients

Katsudon Ingredients Processed

Katsudon Ingredients Processed

1. Heat a frying pan in a medium heat and add oil, then saute onions for a half minute or so.

Sliced Onion with Soy Seasonings

Sliced Onion with Soy Seasonings

2. Add soy seasoning and put cutlet on laid onions all over the frying pan.

Katsu Pork Cutlet Put on Onions

Katsu Pork Cutlet Put on Onions

3. Add egg and put a lid, continue to cook in the medium heat for a couple of minutes.

Covered with Beaten Eggs

Covered with Beaten Eggs

4. Once the egg starts to firm, reduce the heat and add green topping – mangetout or peas and countinue to heat with lid.

5. Dish up Japanese white rice in Donburi bowls.

6. Immediate after the surface of the egg finaly starts to firm, turn off the heat and cover the rice with them.

If you like thicker seasonings, add more soy seasoning sauce to be absorbed by the white rice. You could also adjust to season the soy seasonings with more or less of sugar, Mirin and soy sauce to your preferences.

This dish is very popular in Japan as well as the set of simple pork cutlet with white rice and Miso soup.

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Chirashi Sushi



With the prawns I left the half of the packet for the Okonomiyaki I fried this afternoon, I carefully boiled them for very short time to keep the prawns as softer as possible.

For 10 prawns, I have put about half tea spoon of salt in water.

Once the water is boiled fully, I put the prawns and wait for 10 seconds just after the prawns turn white-red colour.

Then, Drain them and keep on a plate.

As it continue to be cooked for while even after it is drained, the waiting time of 10 seconds for 10 king prawns without the shells was adequate time.



Chirashi-Zushi Close-Up

Chirashi-Zushi Close-Up



 Sushi Mixed Vinegar, High Grade Nori Seaweed


Ingredients of Chirashi Sushi for serves 2:

   —- for Sushi Rice —-

  • 1.5 cup of Japanese rice – cooked with a few kelps and 1 table spoon of sake
  • 70 to 80 ml of Sushi vinegar mix – adjust the amount as you like

   —- for mixture —-

  • 7cm thick cucumber – thinly sliced 
  • 1 beaten egg – fry thinly and then thinly sliced
  • 10 prawns -boiled in fully boiling water for 10 seconds after it turns its colour

   —- and for mixture tasted with seasonings —-

  • half deep fried bean curd – soak in hot water for minutes and thinly sliced
  • a couple of dried Japanese Shitake mushrooms – soaked in hot water for 15 minutes and thinly sliced
  • 1 fist amount of dried shredded bonito
  • 1 table spoon of sugar
  • 1 table spoon of sake
  • 1 table spoon of mirin
  • 3 table spoon of Shoyu
  • 200ml of water

    —- for topping —-

  • roasted Japanese white sesame seeds
  • roasted Japanese seaweed – thinly sliced
Japanese Shitake Mushroom and Deep Fried Bean Curd

Japanese Shitake Mushroom and Deep Fried Bean Curd

1. Once the white rice is ready add Sushi vinegar and mix well to make the rice cooler and dryer.

2. Boil the water with shredded bonito for a couple of minutes, then add the above ingredients for the mixture which is tasted with seasonings. Please note that the deep fried bean curd is drained and discurd the water. The water from the dried Shitake is to be added to the sauce with the sliced Shitake.

3. Cook it for 5 minutes and leave it to cool down.

4. Add cucumber and the drained deep fried bean curd with Shitake into the rice and mix well.

Chirashi Zushi Ingredients

Chirashi Zushi Ingredients

5. Add 2 or 3 table spoons of sauce when the deep fried bean curd and Shitake are cooked into the rice.

Sauce When Shitake and Deep Fried Bean Curd are Cooked

Sauce When Shitake and Deep Fried Bean Curd are Cooked

6. Decorate with the egg, prawns and add topping of the seaweed and sesame seeds.

I was happy to eat the Chirashi Sushi as I had not eaten it for a long time.

As Chirashi Sushi looks as gorgeous as other Sushi and Sashimi, it is often made in home parties in Japan and is also very popular as lunch box we can easily buy from super markets or 24-hour 7-day operating convenience stores in Japan.

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