Statement Dining | October 11, 2016 | Food
The eastern banquet:
Anglo-Chinese recipe inspiration
In the ranks of marketing masterstrokes, Josiah Wedgwood’s commission from Queen Charlotte must be jostling for the top spot.
There were about 130 potteries in North Staffordshire in the mid-18th century but it was Wedgwood who toiled hard to develop the commonly-produced cream-coloured earthenware into a highly-refined ceramic. And once he’d achieved this feat, he knew just what to do next.
He made sure none other than the queen herself was aware of his excellent product. She responded enthusiastically and in 1766, Josiah delivered her order for ‘A complete sett of tea things’ – and was permitted to rename the product Queen’s Ware.
As he’d hoped, the popularity of his very special creamware skyrocketed, sold around the world and made Wedgwood’s name.
Blue Bird – a new Queen’s Ware collection
To mark the 250th anniversary of Josiah’s breakthrough invention, Wedgwood has launched a new Queen’s Ware collection, Blue Bird.
The brand’s designers created the floral and bird decoration from a motif found in the very first series of Wedgwood pattern books, dating back to the 18th century. Expressed in various shades of blue, the range is contemporary – but with a clear link to this rich heritage.
It harks back to a time when the fashion for Chinoiserie was at its most fervent. Smart Europeans had fallen in love with all things eastern – and they wanted to reflect this cosmopolitan outlook in their homes.
To celebrate our continuing love affair with China, we’ve rounded up recipe inspiration from a few of our favourite bloggers writing about Chinese food. To help you create a truly memorable evening, we’ve also included ideas from stylists who continue to turn the oriental aesthetic into a look to covet.
Lizzie Eats London’s stir-fried okra with Chinese sausage
Hong Kong-bred Lizzie Mabbott moved to the UK when she was 13 years old – and she’s on a mission to make south east Asian cookery as accessible as possible.
Her book, Chinatown Kitchen demystifies all those unfamiliar ingredients and explains the difference between the 77 types of noodles, (not including ‘Pot’). It’s packed with recipes from not only China but also Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Korea and Japan.
Alternatively, check out her popular blog Hollow Legs: Lizzie Eats London, which is where we discovered her recipe for stir-fried okra with Chinese sausage. Daunted to base a recipe on tricky okra and unfamiliar Chinese sausage? You won’t be.
Pile generously into the Blue Bird centrepiece bowl (shown here with lemons) for an impressive focus to your eastern banquet.
Image: Everyday Dishes
Chinese accessories can easily tip over into pastiche but this contemporary look by Everyday Dishes suggests several chic but simple ideas to dress your table.
Hang inexpensive lanterns or parasols over the table or at the window and keep floral decorations tight by packing bamboo stems into vases and topping with chrysanthemums in your chosen colour.
Jing Theory’s Mapo Tofu
Image: Jing Theory
Despite the Chinese fondness for pork, it’s a cuisine that’s always catered well for vegetarians and this mapo tofu is the perfect example.
Jenny Gao’s birthplace, Chengdu, is a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, which may have given her a head start in foodie credentials. Since then, she’s lived in eight countries, learned five languages and become obsessed with cross-cultural connections.
It was a collaboration with fellow blogger Yasmin, from Le Sauce that led to this dish. Soak up the salty, sweet, spicy – and brilliant red – sauce with a serving of rice.
As an alternative to Blue Bird, Jasper Conran’s Chinoiserie ranges also take inspiration from Britain’s historical craze for all things oriental. Heap your spicy mapo tofu into this soup bowl for a refined look.
The luscious vibrant red of Jenny’s mapo tofu references that most auspicious of colours to the Chinese culture. WedLuxe’s orient-inspired table-setting picks up the colour in linen, flowers and glasses. For a similar look, try these John Rocha Red cut red wine glasses from Waterford.
The Foodist’s tea-smoked duck breasts
Image: The Foodist
What could be more Wedgwood than using tea to smoke your food? The Foodist, aka Birmingham-based cook, tutor, food stylist photographer and foodie Lap-fai Lee makes the process so simple in this recipe for tea-smoked duck breasts. Naturally, we’d recommend using Wedgwood’s own high quality Earl Grey tea blend for that shot of bergamot oil with a hint of citrus.
Vivid red, lustrous gold and imperial yellow may be typically Chinese shades but the Blue Bird collection’s cool blue tones reference a more delicate oriental decorating tradition.
This place setting, so beautifully presented by photographer Sarah Hogan, embraces the fact that if the tones harmonise, your table can include influences from many different styles and cultures.