My Foodie Penpals parcel this month came from a lovely lady by name of Lynne. Lynne doesn’t currently blog so I don’t have a link for you, but she *does* send amazing FPP parcels, that’s for sure. She sent me lots of treats and ingredients, but also a couple of little gifts from her very own house, which was an added kindness that really made my day. Let us begin with the pictures!
Here’s my cool card, with all different kinds of apples on the front (can you spot Apple Pi?). This kept me amused for ages, my colleagues were extremely impatient for me to finish looking at it and then reading the inside so that they could see what was in the parcel. None of them take part in FPP, they just live vicariously through me. The arrival of a parcel is a group event. I take it at my own pace though – who’s the organiser around here, anyway?
I finally relented and opened up the parcel – I wasn’t sure where to start! I’ll kick off here with the little gifts that Lynne passed on to me from her own collection – chopstick rests.
Look at that little crab dude! He is so keen to be helpful, I can see it in his eyes. The other rest is so pretty and delicate, it will go beautifully with my purple dragonfly chopsticks. Only very special guests will get to use one of these.
Next up, homemade treats from Lynne – the ever impressive macarons. One of the down sides to opening my parcel at work is that only one of the macarons made it home with me to be photographed… Oops… The macarons were mango and chocolate and whiskey mac flavours – a cocktail flavoured macaron. How perfect is that for me?
They were delicious, despite the perils of being sent in the post, and the texture was just right. Crispy on the outside, chewy in the middle, a soft filling. Yum. The tea is also very welcome. I drink a lot of tea, especially at work, and it’s lovely to have the real thing and not just a run of the mill teabag. I love the packaging too, the handwriting is a lovely touch. I have to admit, I haven’t tucked in to the tea as yet, but I plan on doing so very soon. It smells divine.
The next item is to help me with my Year of Bread – a dough scraper. I’ve been getting by without one but it’s on my ‘I’ve been meaning to buy this’ list, so I’m really grateful to Lynne for sending it to me! It was accompanied by a Dan Leperd recipe for white bread, which by the time you read this I intend to have made (slightly weird sentence structure there).
A dough scraper helps you to knead bread dough without having to add extra flour or water to your hands, so you don’t alter the texture of the loaf. I think it might take a bit of practise but I look forward to some lovely, light loaves thanks to this little number.
The final items were all geared towards making one particular Chinese dish – Ants Climbing Trees. Sounds odd, no? Luckily I knew what it was already but, if you’re not sure, it’s a dish of noodles with flavoured, minced pork and spring onions. When you lift the noodles out of your bowl, the pork crumbs cling to the sides and look, if you squint and don’t mind using your imagination and pretending there are insects in your dinner, like ants climbing up a skinny tree trunk. One of my colleagues taught me the proper Chinese name for it, too – it’s Ma Yi Shang Shi. So there you go!
The main ingredients were provided for me in my parcel – rice noodles and chili paste. I also got the recipe, painstakingly copied out which was, again, much appreciated. I did make it a couple of days later but I’m a bit concerned that it didn’t look like it was supposed to, and for the life of me I couldn’t lift the noodles with the chopsticks in my left hand so I could take a picture with my right and got annoyed and just sat down to eat dinner instead… I really, really enjoyed it, even if I couldn’t get it to look like ants, and I plan on making this many times in future, maybe trying some variations. I know I have a version of this recipe in one of my favourite books, Sichuan Cookery, so I’ll have a peek and see what Fuchsia Dunlop has to say about it.
Here’s a closer shot of the chili paste. It is thick and fragrant, garlicky and spicy and great for adding a huge flavour boost with as little as half a teaspoon.
I have loads left and it’s in the fridge waiting for my next adventure in Chinese cooking. I’m psyched.
Thank you again to Lynne for my great parcel, I loved everything (but especially the macarons) and there was a great mix of things to eat, things to use and things to keep.
If you’re interested in becoming a Foodie Penpal, it’s easy! For UK and Euro folks – blog writers and readers alike – have a look at my Foodie Penpals page. For US and Canada folks, go to Lindsay’s blog The Lean Green Bean to sign up. If you’re in another part of the world, get in touch with Lindsay, I know she’s been thinking of branching out.