It’s a common complaint, especially with the 40-somethings: they’ve had enough of the corporate world; they’re sick of the endless office politicking; and, most compelling of all, they feel like this could be the last chance for them to do something different, something they’re really passionate about, before it’s too late. I was one of them.
When I hit 47, and after more than 10 years as a book publisher, I handed in my resignation, packed my bags, and left for Hong Kong, as they say, to start a new chapter of my life. I opened a bistro and a bar at SOHO in the heart of Hong Kong.
Most people would consider that a hasty decision, but that’s to put it mildly. In actual fact, to me it was a “no turning back” and “sink or swim” decision rolled into one -- because I had absolutely no F&B experience nor have I ever cooked professionally in my life. But it seemed luck was on my side.
Despite my inexperience, I managed to somehow win the support of fellow Singaporeans living there as well as of the locals -- many of whom, I’m glad to say, have become firm and lasting friends. The media, too, was just as enthusiastic and supportive; my little eateries received TV coverage even in Korea, China and Japan!
During those four years in HK my cooking repertoire expanded, going from Western to Singaporean and than to my own creations. Some recipes became bestsellers; and this is one of them.
Ox Tail Stew in Stout
Ox tail 600 g
Corn flour 2 tbsp
Oil 3 tbsp
Butter 2 tbsp
Carrot 2, chopped
Celery 4 sticks, chopped
Leeks 2, sliced
Onion 1, chopped
Garlic 3, minced
Salt 1 tsp
Sugar 1 tbsp
Ham hock 300 g, cut into chunks
Tomato 4, skinned, seeded and chopped
Black-eyed beans 200 g, soaked overnight
Stout 650 ml
Veal stock 400 ml
Bay leaves 2
Rosemary 3 sprigs
Lemongrass 2, bashed
Salt 2 tsp
Black pepper 1 tsp
1. Preheat oven at 180°C
2. Dust ox tail with corn flour and sear till brown. Set aside.
3. Saute vegetables, ham hock, sugar and salt, with oil and butter until soft.
4. Add tomato and black-eyed peas and continue to fry for another 5 minutes.
5. Pour in stout, stock and herbs and stir thoroughly.
6. Put it in an oven and bake for 2 hours, stir it occasionally.
7. Season it with salt and pepper before serving.