“I was this really, really chubby child covered head to toe in tie dye”
Fatboy is a food magazine named after its editor, Christopher O’Leary. “It was a family nickname,” he explains over the phone. “You had me as ‘fat boy’, and then you had my sister as ‘fat girl’. Except her nickname didn’t really stick.”
Christopher moved from then UK-governed Hong Kong, to the Philippines, and then to Liverpool, all before he was ten. Food was his way of digging into a new place: eating his way through the culture shock. The move to Liverpool was strange: “I remember my mum taking me to a cockfight in the Philippines in a backstreet, and to a motorcycle rally and nobody bats an eye. You can go gambling with your uncles when you’re nine, and that’s completely fine. But then you go to Liverpool and that stuff is not normal! Suddenly I had to learn how to be a completely different kid.”
Featuring recipes for ube ice cream, rump steak, and buttery fingers of plantain, this issue is a tribute to the food of the Philippines, which Christopher describes as a paradox: “sweet and tart, fat and acid, earthy and light.”
It’s also a tribute to his mother, who died two years ago. Christopher grew up watching her in the kitchen: she had a rule about never ‘teaching’ recipes; he would have to observe her and learn it for himself. Cooking her recipes was the only thing that helped with his grief after she died.
Made in collaboration with his partner, the photographer Emily Leonard, the magazine itself is slim and very simple: just recipes, quietly written, interspersed with a few memories (on plantain fritters: “I used to eat like 10 of these a day in summer…with a coke served in a small plastic bag with a straw in it, perfect.”)
The cover, rather surprisingly, is tie-dyed — which turns out to be a reference to Christopher’s unusual outfit choices growing up: “I would wear head to toe tie dye. You can imagine, this really, really chubby child covered head to toe in bright tie dye suddenly moving to grey Liverpool.” Tie dye, Christopher explains, feels like a good visual representation for what he loves about Filipino food: tie dye is a mix — it may not achieve a really sleek end result, but it’s beautiful and it has texture and it has emotion behind it.”
To celebrate the arrival of a beautiful issue, Christopher shared a recipe for Halo Halo ice cream coupe. It’s not very seasonal but might remind you of sunnier times.
This is summer in a cup; sweet, fresh and cold. And one of the best things I love about it is how easily changeable it is depending on your taste. I prefer a mix of citrus and sweet fruits paired with ice cream.
2 handfuls of Tapioca pearls (for this recipe I’ve used small rose pearls for speed)
1 Handful of Nata de coco (or coconut gel available at most east Asian or Filipino stores)
2 tbsp. condensed milk
Ube ice cream (or any ice cream you prefer)
The great thing about this dessert is its versatility. I prefer grapefruit but my family also loves peaches, pineapple, avocado and sweetcorn.
First, place the tapioca pearls in a pan, add enough water to cover and boil, this process takes a long time depending on the size of the pearls (large ones in my experience have taken up to 3-4 hours while small ones take around an hour). You’ll need to keep an eye on the water level and ensure it’s topped up.
Peel the grapefruit, kiwi and mango, then slice into your chosen shapes, I prefer cubes. Set all fruit aside in the fridge until your pearls are finished cooking. Once the pearls are cooked, drain and set aside, stir them occasionally in cold water to keep them from sticking.
Take your cup or bowl and start layering the ingredients. I usually start with the pearls and nata de coco on the bottom, followed by ice, fruit, condensed milk and ice cream on-top.