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Contents    
Issue #1 May 2021
Message from the founders
 

Dear Arete colleagues,

We know, we’re late to the party when it comes to publishing a company newsletter for colleagues but here we are and, as the old saying goes, better late than never!

 

This is the first issue of UPDATE which we intend to publish as a monthly newsletter to share achievements, news and stories about what is happening across the Arete family and, we hope, to get your input, suggestions, ideas and feedback on what more we can do for both our clients and our colleagues. With so many new initiatives and activities going on across the board right now this first issue certainly puts the ‘new’ in newsletter 🙄 🤣 

 

We’re thrilled that the Arete team is continuing to grow both in China and around the world with new Application Gurus and Sales Reps joining the team in the last month (new colleague profiles are featured in this issue, below). We hope that, given the physical distance between many of our colleagues (which has been exacerbated by travel and gathering restrictions over the past year) this newsletter will help you keep up to date with some of the great things you and your colleagues are doing which you otherwise might not see. 

 

We are always blown away by the commitment, patience, kindness and understanding which our colleagues consistently deliver to Arete clients and I hope you will take much pride in the results from your hard work and positive feedback from our clients. It is truly a team effort to overcome the cultural, linguistic and geographical barriers in order to provide life changing opportunities for so many young people. I hope you take a few moments from time to time, as we do, to reflect on how your work contributes to the transformation of your client’s future prospects and cross-cultural understanding between east and west. 

 

Enjoy the first issue. 

 

Best, 

 

Cheng, Chris and Nick

Why we are here
 

We have so many people working all over the world it’s important we don’t lose sight of who we are, what we’re doing and why we’re doing it! 

 

Our vision is a world where everyone has a chance to succeed and we contribute to this vision by inspiring, developing and supporting Chinese students and young professionals to help them realise their potential.

 

This mission was born out of the experiences of our founders, their passion for professional development and their cross-cultural experiences working between east and west. It is embodied by the commitment, dedication and compassion of our team.  

 

We believe that by facilitating opportunities for western and eastern students and young professionals to come together we can improve individuals’ career prospects, open minds, accelerate learning and development and contribute in some small way to greater international understanding, co-operation and economic development between China and the west.

 

We bring together a large network of fantastic colleagues, international advisors and commercial partners to help our clients gain the global knowledge, experiences, skills and networks which will form the foundation of their professional careers and inspire their personal goals and perspectives. 

 

Since we began this journey in 2013 we have helped over 1000+ clients with their early professional development journey and our growing alumni network are today making their way to positions of prominence in their chosen fields in leading organisations around the world.  

 

Welcome to Arete, Welcome to Excellence.

Expanding the China team
 

We are planning to update the way we work as we grow the business, seek to maximise opportunities from within our client and alumni base and help colleagues focus on a narrower and more clearly defined scope of responsibilities. We expect to generate more opportunities for our international team of advisors as well so check out what we’re planning and send us your feedback and suggestions! 

 

We have two strategic reasons for restructuring the way our China team work:

 

1. To extend the lifecycle of each client

2. To improve the efficiency and workload of our colleagues

 

With regard to point one we are planning to develop our own additional services for clients using the resources and experience of our existing and expanding team of international advisors. We are also seeking to develop relationships with selected products and services partners who may be able to provide our clients with complimentary services at various stages of their overseas educational journeys. These may include immigration and visa support, transportation, accommodation, local activities etc. In this way Arete will act as a gateway to a variety of services provided by our trusted and approved delivery partners and curated by us based on our understanding of each client’s personal needs.

In order to facilitate this we are planning to expand our SSO team in order to ensure clients continue to get the best possible experience while at the same time understanding their wider needs and suggesting suitable products and services to support them on their journey. We are also expanding our sales and marketing team to help us reach a wider target audience and improve our digital and social media presence. 

 

As we build towards this new structure, we expect to experience a period of transition and there may be a period where colleagues are expected to share some of these responsibilities until sufficient resources have been acquired to formalise the new structure. 

 

We greatly appreciate all colleagues’ understanding and support as we begin to make these changes.

Arete opens flagship Shanghai office
 
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Chris Pan reports:

 

Arete opened a new flagship Shanghai office in early 2021 in the prestigious Jing'an Kerry Centre in Shanghai's Nanjing West Road. It’s a great move reflecting Arete as a high-end international education brand and connecting us with a first tier global city like Shanghai. The office is located in one of the most historic and busiest commercial areas in Shanghai - Jing’an Temple - and is well known as the high end part of the city. The office hosts our China Sales and Marketing team and provides an upmarket space where prospective clients can walk in to meet us, be cared for by a professional front desk, served with coffee, guided to meeting rooms, etc. It creates a great first impression and sets the right tone for our organisation.  

 

Best of all, every Friday from 4 to 6 pm there is an office happy hour in our shared lounge with free cocktails for our colleagues and those of other businesses on our floor. The cocktails aren't so delicious to tell the truth but it's a great opportunity to network and meet interesting other people from neighbouring companies who might be a good source of new sales leads!

Two new services trialled in April
 

We are always looking for new ways to use the fantastic knowledge and skills base of our team to provide added value services to support our clients. 

 

In April, Peggy, Head of Arete’s SSO Team, identified two new opportunities to support clients who have been finding things challenging.

 

The first is a dissertation review service for a client who has a dissertation which forms an important part of their final grade and who really wants to do a good job. Our Application Guru, Anna F, who is also a writing tutor and dissertation coach, will review and proofread the student’s dissertation providing advice on how to polish it into a final draft.

 

The second is an academic essay writing course which Anna is also providing to one of our clients in her specialist subject area of Environmental Science. The client and her mother had been growing increasingly anxious struggling to understand how to write effective academic essays in English. Anna is providing 10 hours of tuition to help the client develop her essay writing skills. This has already started to have a positive impact on the client’s confidence and wellbeing. 

 

We have a further 10 Application Gurus who have since expressed an interest in providing either dissertation or essay writing support and, as always, we welcome any colleagues to come forward with suggestions for how they may be able to further support any of our clients. Please contact Head of Delivery, Marc Adnitt, for more details.

 
Our growing family

We are delighted to welcome several new colleagues to the global Arete family across our delivery and sales teams. We are extremely proud to have you as members of our community and we very much look forward to working with you!

Clare R

Application Guru

Former Admissions Manager in the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of Kent.  Clare is a consultant Reader for a major TV production company, where she advises on novels and scripts and their potential for adaptation for television.

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Devon S

Application Guru

Negotiation & Commercial Consultant assisting entrepreneurs in building the negotiation, communication and leadership skills they need to grow their businesses. Her insights on negotiation have been featured in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and MSNBC. Amongst Devon’s clients are Imperial College London, London School of Economics, HEC Paris and University of Toronto.

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Jonathan B

Application Guru

Jonathan has been working in UK universities for the last 10 years, including roles as Admissions Officer at UCL and the University of Surrey. At UCL, he oversaw admissions for all courses within the Faculty of Arts and Humanities.

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Nick E

Application Guru

Nick is a multi-award-winning media professional with forty-years experience in the industry, including major roles within the BBC and CNC. His work with CNC involves advising the Chinese broadcaster on its international strategy. 

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Nadira T

Application Guru

In her 20-year career in broadcasting, Nadira has worked for major international news outlets the BBC, ITN and RT International as a multimedia presenter, news anchor and journalist. Until recently she was a News Anchor and Correspondent for RT International, broadcasting mainly from their Moscow studio.

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Debbie P

Application Guru

A business professional with an MBA and a BA in Economic History with Politics. After a successful career with PWC as a management consultant, a career change has seen Debbie work with school and university students, including at Bath University Career Service and the Business School at Bournemouth University.

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Sarah F

Application Guru

Sarah has enjoyed an 18 year career working in UK universities Admissions and Student Recruitment, including senior management roles at Imperial College London and King’s College London.  

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Matthew W

Application Guru

Matthew is an international education recruitment professional who has worked for Imperial College London and University of London and has lately collaborated on educational projects with major construction and architecture companies, such as McAlpine, the Waterman Group, British Land and Hawkins Brown.

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Aurelie F

Application Guru

Aurelie holds a PhD in Lingistics from the University of Manchester where she has worked as a lecturer. She is an expert in Pacific languages and has just returned from 3 years teaching and researching in Fiji.

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Mateja P

Application Guru

Mateja holds a Phd in Mathematics from the University of Glasgow, and is also a qualified teacher. She has lectured mathematics at degree and postgraduate level at 4 universities: Portsmouth, Strathclyde, Glasgow and Stirling.

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Rabi Z

Sales Rep

Rabi got her bachelor degree in Malaysia and Masters in Thailand. She worked in real estate sales in Thailand, which bings a new perspective to the dynamics of the sales team. Impressively, Rabi has done great work on acquiring leads on Chinese social media platformLittle Red Book (小红书) and has signed a first deal this month.

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Sarah L

Sales Rep

Sarah has an MBA from UIUC, a top 50 US university where she also worked in the admission office. She has previously worked as an education consultant helping high school students prepare applications to US undergraduate programs. Sarah is quickly adapting to the sales role and has already closed three deals (with the 4th and 5th on the way!)

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We continuously look for top talent to fill various full-time, part-time and freelance roles across the business to strengthen the service we provide to our clients. Check out our job opportunities section in this issue for information about available positions. 

Milestones and Achievements
 

There have been several noteworthy achievements from across the team over the past month and we are delighted to share these with our wider community. 

Welcome Baby Adnitt!
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From one expanding family to another! We are delighted to share the wonderful news of the arrival of Rosalie May Adnitt to Arete's Head of Delivery and all round hero Marc Adnitt and his wife Sally. Rosalie arrived at 18.02 UK time on Saturday 1st May weighing in at 3kg and doing great. Rosalie is a baby sister to big brother Quinn and we send our best wishes to all the Adnitt clan! 

Happy Areteversary! 
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Happy Areteversary to our one and only Kieron who marked two years with the company in April. Ever the popular colleague and SSO, Kieron is  known and loved for his hard work, kindness and commitment to his clients and also for the support he provides to his colleagues. The Ningbo Team celebrated the occasion with a selection of seasonal fruit teas from local favourite Hey Tea.

Aiming higher

Congratulations to Arete MD, Cheng Ding, who practiced what we preach at Arete by aiming higher and taking on a Herculean cycling challenge over the Labour public holiday in China. Cheng reports: "The tour is round the Shangri-La Rock route, in the southwest of China, an area part of Sichuan and Yunnan provinces. The route was first discovered by the American  traveller, Joseph Rock, who famously called the area Shangri-La which was later picked up by the local government. We started from Dali and cycled around 500km in total over 6 days with elevation ranging from 2000m up to 4300m."

Teamwork and tenacity 

Pat Power reports

Admission to the MSc in Financial Technology programme at Imperial is notoriously difficult. This year, the value of Arete’s integrated service framework was demonstrated when we managed to secure an offer for our client Haolin Li, who had already been rejected by Oxford, Cambridge and NUS Singapore and was beginning to despair. First, Simone drew on her expertise in mathematics to draft a superb personal statement containing immortal lines such as ‘This involved solving thousands of looped equations on Python and Matlab using a variety of techniques such as Gaussian elimination, distributed dynamic programming and graph theory’. Second, Heather, HR expert and member of the University Interview Preparation team, prepared Haolin for his interview. Third, after he had been on a waiting list for a month, Simone was again called into action to write a detailed follow-up letter, restating his case for admission succinctly and powerfully. Each service, underpinned by the hard work of the SSO team, helped Haolin come closer to his goal until finally, at the end of April, he received an offer! Well done, Team Arete!

April Referrals
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Congratulations to Amber who topped the SSO referrals table in April with one client successfully referring a friend to Arete last month. A Starbucks gift voucher is on its way to you!

Global view
 

Each month we will ask members of our global team to share personal experiences of what is happening wherever in the world they are both to inspire us and to remind us of the value of seeing things from different perspectives. This month, two of our Application Gurus, Peter and Heather, share what life is currently like in the UK and Djibouti.

Peter, Application Guru and Quality Engineer from near Liverpool, UK

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Here in the North West of England, the weather has been kind to all the people emerging from lockdown! Fortunately, I have visited several urban and rural regional highlights over the past week. Glorious sunshine has brought into sharp relief  the architectural contrasts of the old and the new in the cities of Liverpool and Manchester. Ships on the River Mersey against the backdrop of Liverpool have presented excellent photo opportunities along the promenade at New Brighton. Elsewhere, one forgets that this region was once the cradle of industrialisation. The chocolate box charm of the coastal Lancastrian village of Heysham, and the panoramic sweep of terraced gardens and meadows at Ness Botanical Gardens (owned by the University of Liverpool) on the Wirral peninsula have never looked so stunning!

Heather, Application Guru from the Republic of Ireland living in Djibouti, Africa
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The temperature is heating up in Djibouti as summer approaches. Daily temperatures hover at 32-33 degrees celsius every day. Djibouti is a Muslim country, so the people here are currently observing Ramadan, meaning that they fast from sunset to sunrise without even drinking a drop of water. They take siestas in the afternoon to shelter inside from the blazing hot sun and rest their hungry bodies. COVID is not considered to be a big issue here. The local people are not fearful of it and we have no restrictions. As they have experienced diseases such as polio and tuberculosis in the past, they consider COVID to be nothing more than a mild flu! 

Team survey results
 

Marc Adnitt reports:

With staff based all over the world, one of the challenges for Arete is facilitating our Chinese and International teams to work together. In the last application season, we asked our SSOs and AGs to make a concerted effort to introduce themselves to one another and to consult each other about individual cases. At the beginning of 2021, both SSOs and AGs gave feedback about their counterparts which was extremely positive and shows that the team are working well together and respect the work that they do. On the subject of teamwork, 80% of Application Gurus ‘strongly agreed’ with the following statement:

 

It felt like we were working as a team in order to provide the best service for the client.

 

The team has made great strides in this respect, and we feel this is one of the reasons why clients have given such excellent feedback this year. To exemplify the co-dependence of the International and China teams, in any instance where the Application Guru receives praise or feedback, that feedback is also attributed to the SSO of that case and vice-versa. In the coming season, we hope to develop this team spirit even more by giving SSOs-AGs the chance to ‘meet’ each other on Zoom  (is there any other way to meet? 😉).

 

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Due to the client-facing nature of the business, and the stress that time-constraints can cause, prompt delivery and communication have been key to building that relationship. Both sides were very complimentary in this respect: 

 

SSOs agreed that 93% of AGs ‘Always submitted their work on time’ and 96% of ‘AGs reply to messages from the client and SSO within 24 hours’. Application Gurus were even more glowing about SSOs in this respect with close to 100% ‘Strongly Agreeing’ that their messages were responded to promptly.

 

Heather A (Application Guru) reserved particular praise for Kieron (SSO) in this regard:

Kieron gave me amazing help with one student (Ziyu Hua) when I was confused about the requirements for one university. He responds promptly (does he ever sleep?!) and is very clear.

 

Michael B (AG) wrote: Do the SSOs have set hours? It feels like many reply at almost any time of the day!

 

Joking aside, whilst the figures above are strong, with a mantra of ‘On Time, Error Free, and Authoritative’, Arete remains committed to always delivering within the timelines promised. We realise an obstacle to this in the past has been the challenge of organising and monitoring work on Mingdao. Though she has served us well for years, bless her, we are delighted to be moving to our new customised LMS for this season. This will enable us to help ourselves and each other in ensuring deadlines are met, and that colleagues are not placed under any more pressure than is necessary! 

 

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There was mutual respect between the two teams re: their expertise.

 

100% of Application Gurus agreed (or strongly agreed) that SSOs helped them perform their role. A number of AGs cited instances where the SSO ‘utilised their experience and knowledge to predict and prevent potential issues’.

 

Robin S (AG) said: I was contacted beforehand by SSO's to flag up potential difficulties with clients which made me more aware of the situation and better able to navigate.

 

One of the areas of continuing debate between SSOs and AGs is Course Selection. It is no secret that a student’s course selection can come of something as a surprise to the international team. Students’ course choices are sometimes not particularly reflective of their academic background, or career direction. This often comes down to cultural factors, with Chinese students (and their parents) focusing on the target university as much as the subject and sometimes targeting a less obvious course in order to achieve a place at their dream university. That said, it is clear that a greater understanding has been reached between the two teams, with AGs responding very positively to the following statement:

 

The client course selection seemed logical, taking into account one /some /all of the client’s background, future direction and university preferences. In cases, where it did not seem logical, if asked, a satisfactory explanation was provided by the SSO.

 

All of this year’s AGs agreed or strongly agreed with the above, which at least shows that the SSOs had effectively communicated any left of field choices! Nonetheless, this remains a rather hot topic with AGs. Next season, SSOs are keen to utilise the subject expertise of the Gurus and are hoping to get more of the International Team involved with initial course selection. If only to try to convince our clients of the benefits of following their passion for their subject and the worthy opportunities that will arise as a result of it…. Watch this space!

 

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It was clear from feedback that SSOs really valued those AGs who made their clients feel valued and tailored their work accordingly to each personal statement. Chloe (SSO) wrote this about Amy S:

 

My favorite AG! She will do a lot of research for clients who provide little idea input, making sure every PS fits the corresponding programme perfectly. She takes the initiative to communicate with clients patiently all the time.

 

Whilst Amy was outstanding in this respect, she is also reflective of an AG team who often went the extra mile to exceed clients’ expectations:

 

In 85% of cases, AGs received ‘good’ or ‘very good’ feedback from their clients, with 5% in the ‘neutral’ category. Below you will find some examples of great client feedback which will help you know what how much your efforts mean to our clients.

  

Amy in turn remarked:

 

I think the SSOs do an amazing job, and I feel that this year they are even better than last year (somehow). They are so efficient and obviously take their job very seriously. I feel part of a team when I work with them, and their friendly personalities shine through in any communication they have with me.

 

The aim this year is for every Application Guru and every SSO to be able to honestly make this kind of statement about their counterparts. We hope that as a management team, we can help facilitate this relationship to be as friendly and productive as possible. Thank you for all your contributions to this, and feel free to get in touch with any more ideas.

Launching Arete's Edtech platform: ASSIST
 
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Max Feng, Systems and Data Manager, reports:

We have been using our new Edtech system for around one year now for CRM functions, replacing Zoho to manage all types of leads, clients, and alumni. The system, who's working name is ASSIST (Arete Student Service Information SysTem), will next be rolled out across the university application service delivery function effectively replacing Mingdao and most google sheets. We are anticipating that the system will be ready for use for the 2022 application season and we are preparing guidance so that clients can register in ASSIST this month. We are checking the Application Guru functions and will engage a first group of AGs to run an initial trial of the system in May. In the next stage of development, we will incorporate all client information, including Record of Achievements, in the system and we are also working on developing relevant functions so that other application team members, including QEs, TAs and SGs, can work via ASSIST. 

Job opportunities
 

We are always looking for top talent to join the Arete team. The following work opportunities are currently available

Application Gurus (Int'l)

We looking for Application Gurus who can complement our existing team’s broad range of skills and expertise. As we are expanding our services to undergraduate entry and looking to assist more students with US applications, then we are particularly interested in those with strengths in either (or both!) of those areas. For postgraduate applications, those with backgrounds in business are particular welcome at the moment.  But above all, if you know anybody who is a great communicator and an outstanding writer, then please let Marc know!

Work Experience Opportunities (China / Int'l)

Arete places Chinese students in internships in the UK and China and we are always on the look out for work experience  opportunities which may be of value to our clients. These may be internships with private or public companies or providing research assistance to academics at a university. If you know any individuals or organisations who might be interested in having a bright, multilingual, cross cultural Chinese student work with them then please let Marc know!

Public / Independent School Admissions (UK)

We are currently exploring the option of supporting Chinese families who wish to send their children to independent high schools or VI Form in the UK. If you know anyone with expertise in preparation and admissions to UK independent schools Marc would be very interested to hear from them!

Third party service providers (China / Int'l)

We are also exploring opportunities to work with third party partners who can supply complimentary services to our clients once they have received offers and are preparing to study abroad. These could be visa and immigration support services, transport services, accommodation providers etc. If you know anyone who works in these kinds of student support services Nick would be really interested to hear from them!

Client Relationship Managers (China)

Our client relationship managers are responsible for:

  • Advising clients on a one-to-one basis on their education and career development planning

  • Curating and co-ordinating Arete delivery resources to ensure the successful execution of clients’ Education and Career Development Plan (ECDP)

  • Ensuring their clients’ experience with Arete is world class and exceeds all expectations

  • Tracking clients’ education and career development journey and upselling appropriate additional products and services (Arete and third party) along the way

  • Encourage clients to refer Arete services to their contacts

  • Maintaining a positive relationship with clients when they become alumni continuing to offer and sell appropriate additional products and services as opportunities and needs arise. 

The ideal candidate will have: 

  • Bachelor or postgraduate degree from a leading overseas university

  • Minimum two years previous work experience in a customer facing role

  • Outstanding communications skills

  • Outstanding customer service skills 

  • Ability to sell directly to clients and support teammates close upsales to their clients

  • Ability to identify opportunities to improve service and performance

  • Excellent attention to detail and flexibility in working time and practices

Please notify Peggy if you would like to recommend any candidates for this position

Sales Reps (China)

Our sales reps:

  • Faithfully and positively represent Arete’s brand, organisation, values and services to new and prospective students

  • Identify, manage and close a pipeline of new sales leads to achieve annual performance targets

  • Contribute to Arete sales and marketing activities  

  • Support the wider Arete Sales Team

Please notify Cris if you would like to recommend any candidates for this position

 
Client feedback

All of our team work so hard to provide great service to our clients, often in very demanding circumstances. Your efforts mean a lot to us but more importantly to our clients and their families who trust us with one of their most precious investments, their children's education. Here we want to share with you a few examples of the most recent positive feedback from our clients. These reflect the efforts of the WHOLE team. 

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An appreciation message from a client's mother: 

Thank you for spending so much time on Shiyuan, she is so lucky to have met you and Arete

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Wok vs Pot
 

In what we hope will become a popular regular feature we will publish two monthly authentic recipes, one from China and one from the west, to share across our community that ultimate cross-cultural unifier: food! We would love members from across our diverse international community to submit their own recipes they would like to share, particularly any recipes which have a personal connection or meaning – please send suggestions to Nick if you would like to share a recipe (include your name, a short explanation of what the dish means to you and a photo of the dish if you have one!)

 

This month we are looking at two popular spring dishes from east and west and encourage you to give them a try (please send photos of your attempts!).

POT: Grilled Lamb ribs with barbecued cucumber and new potatoes (credit: Tomos Parry)
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Lamb is the meat most traditionally associated with springtime in the west and in particular the Christian festival of Easter which took place in April. As the weather starts to get warmer moving into late spring and towards summertime it is also the season to dust off the BBQ and enjoy some al fresco dining with friends and family in the back garden now that small groups can gather outdoors. 

 

For the lamb (serves 4)

 

  • Salt

  • 1-1.5kg lamb breast ribs, French cut, divided into 5 or 7 bone-in pieces

  • Few thyme sprigs

  • 8 garlic cloves, crushed

  • 4 black peppercorns

  • 300ml lamb or chicken stock

  • 100ml rapeseed oil

 

1 Preheat an oven to 160C. Season the ribs with salt and place in a roasting pan with the remaining ingredients. Cover the tray with foil and roast in the oven for 1½ hours, turning the ribs every half-hour.

2 Once they are tender, remove from the roasting tray and drain. Spark up the BBQ to a high heat and grill the lamb for 5 minutes until the outside is crisp and charred. Serve with barbecued cucumber and new potatoes.

 

For the barbecued cucumber and new potatoes (serves four)

 

The smokiness and bitterness of the charred potato and cucumber skins along with the freshness of the mint and lemon give this salad a delicious depth of flavour. We recommend Jersey Royal potatoes if you can get them but any new potatoes will do. 

 

  • 250g Jersey Royals (or other new potatoes)

  • Sea salt

  • Rapeseed oil

  • 1 cucumber

  • 100g crème fraîche

  • 50g mint, finely chopped

  • 1 garlic clove, grated

  • Juice of 1 lemon

 

1 Cook the new potatoes in salted water until just cooked. Drain.

2 Season and drizzle oil on the cucumber and place on the barbecue, turning every 3 or 4 minutes, until blackened all over and the cucumber has started to soften slightly, but not too much – it needs to remain quite firm.

3 While cooking the cucumber, mix the crème fraîche with the finely chopped mint and grated garlic and season with lemon juice and salt.

4 Remove the cucumber from the grill. Lightly crush and oil the new potatoes and place them on the grill, turning a couple of times, for the skins to char nicely.

5 Cut the cucumber into small cube-like shapes, toss with the minty crème fraîche and add the warm new potatoes.

WOK: Tang Yuan - sweet glutenous rice balls with sesame paste
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The most significant festival in China at spring time is, errrr, well, Spring Festival or Chinese New Year. Tang Yuan are traditionally eaten as a dessert on Lantern Festival which is the 15th and final day of the Spring Festival and symbolise harmony and reunion. You won't find these in your local Chinese take away but give them a try, they are great to impress friends as a traditional Chinese desert after a dinner party. The most famous variety of Tang Yuan come from our very own city of Ningbo here in Zhejiang, China.

  • 60g toasted black sesame seeds 

  • 85g fine caster sugar

  • 85g butter (alternatively substitute with coconut oil for a vegan friendly version)

  • 130g sweet rice flour / glutenous rice flour

  • 120ml warm water

Note: This recipe makes 4x the amount of filling to dough but the extra filling will keep in the fridge for 2-3 weeks

1 In a food processor or blender, finely grind the sesame seeds. Add the caster sugar and use a spatula to mix together in the food processor a bit. Then add the butter and pulse for 10 seconds at a time until the mixture is well combined. Scoop everything out into a bowl and put in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. The purpose of this cooling process is to harden the mixture slightly for easy handling later.

 

2 While the filling is cooling, make the dough. Put the sweet rice flour into a mixing bowl. Slowly add in the warm water, while stirring to form a dough. The dough can’t be too wet, or it will not hold its shape. Cover with a damp towel.

 

3 Now boil some water in a small pot, take out a small piece of the dough, about 1” in diameter. Add it to the boiling water and cook the piece of dough until it floats. Scoop it out and add it to the rest of the dough. Mix the two parts together until the dough is soft and smooth. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces (about 18 grams each, if you want to be really exacting), and roll them into balls. Keep the dough and dough balls covered with a damp paper towel while assembling.

 

4 Take out the filling after it’s cooled for 30 minutes. It should be slightly hard, but still workable. Roll the filling into small marble-sized balls, about 4 to 5 grams each. Then take each dough ball and flatten into a circle about 2 inches in diameter. Add the filling to the center, and close the dough over the filling. Roll the ball around in your hands until it’s smooth and round. Repeat until all the sesame balls are made. Cover the remaining filling and return to the refrigerator for later!

 

5 While you are assembling, bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the sesame balls and stir immediately to prevent them from sticking. Adding the sesame balls will cool down the water temperature significantly, so once the water comes back up to a boil, add a 1/2 cup of water to the pot. Repeat this step two more times. This cooking process will allow enough time for the sugar and butter to melt nicely into a smooth filling. Serve the sesame balls in a bit of the hot cooking water!

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