Archive | July, 2010

Raspberry Curd

21 Jul

Pure Raspberry TasteThese last few weeks, I seem to be inspired by my conversations with people online. Articles, notes, photographs, comments … all these things make me think of different foods and ideas. And of course, eating – Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio last night was a veritable treasure trove of inspiration, and reading about other people’s favourite meals makes me think of different connections and ideas. I was chatting with my dear friend, Floating Lemons, and she mentioned that she was hoping for raspberries picked from her garden. I dreamed of raspberries that night! They are such a perfectly gorgeous fruit – and most of the time, they need no adornment. Well, may be a little cream, but thats totally optional. At the same time, I was reading Tamasin Day-Lewis’ cookbook, Kitchen Classics, and in it, she had a raspberry curd tart…

It looked so dramatic and so gorgeous, but what really intrigued me was the raspberry curd. When I first encountered lemon curd, I could not imagine the alchemy needed to produce this tart sweet creamy fondant. It was like lemon candy, but softer; jam, but creamier; pudding, but clearer. Fruit curd was always one of those things that terrified me – I was sure I would try and cook it and it would turn into an almighty mess, coating me and my kitchen with drippy gloopy failure. Well, I stand here before you to tell you that fruit curd is unspeakably easy to make. It does take effort, dont get me wrong, but the benefit outweighs the pain. Home made fruit curd trumps anything you can get in the markets – especially if you are vigilant and use all organic ingredients.

Making fruit curd is, for me, a deep and intense meditation on the fruit. It is extremely relaxing because you really need to focus only on the ingredients in front of you, and how they come together to create something so different, yet so essentially the same as their individual parts. Butter, eggs, egg yolks, fine sugar and fruit. Thats it. Whisk it constantly over a low, slow heat and watch magic happen – literally. It will come together and thicken, and deepen in flavour, but it wont over cook as long as you keep the heat low and slow. You will come away with a thick jammy (but not jam) mix, that literally trembles when you serve it so delicate it is, that is the esesnce of the ripe fresh fruit.

I have made loads of different curds, but this one feels very exotic in a way. May be someone in Europe would feel the same about a pineapple curd, but the deep fuchsia colour and the bright raspberry taste make this unique and special to me.

I have made this two ways – in a tart a la Tamasin Day-Lewis, and rippled into a warm rice pudding. The first is rather dramatic and stark, but pretty sensational. The second is comforting and yet sophisticated all at the same time. However, dont be constrained. Use it as a spread for breakfast, stir it into yogurt, or eat it by the spoonful for the sheer joy of it. Its a wonderful present too. People are astonished that you can make it, but they are also so pleased with something so out of the ordinary.

This recipe makes about 3 1/2 cups of finished raspberry curd. If you want to keep it or give it away, please follow jam bottling protocols. I used all mine up, so there wasnt much to save but there was a whole lot to savour 😉 I will give the recipes for the tart and the rice pudding separately.

  • 450 g / 1 lb fresh raspberries (about 1 1/2 cups after sieving)
  • 2 eggs + 3 egg yolks (I use organic for this)
  • 1 cup superfine brown sugar (see below)
  • 1 cup / 8 tbsp butter

I use an immersion blender in two places in this recipe. It makes things very easy, and it also enables you to liquidise and refine in your cooking bowls, rather than have to transfer from a blender or food processor. It simplifies things, but if you dont have one, use a blender or processor and adjust accordingly.

In a bowl, using an immersion blender, liquidise the raspberries. They should be pretty much a thick bright pinky red puree – no berry or flesh left whole.

Over the top of another bowl, place a sieve. I use a nylon sieve that sits on top of the bowl – this is very useful for jobs like this because it will take a lot of liquid all at once. Pour out the raspberries into the sieve, and using a spatula or wooden spoon, coax the juice and flesh through the sieve into the second bowl. This can take a while, and I usually like to do it slowly and thoughtfully. Its part of the process 😉

Once the sieve holds nothing more than tons of raspberry seeds, lift it off the bowl, and using your spatula, scrape the thick juices that cling to the bottom of the sieve. Measure off your pureed fruit and you should get about 1 1/2 – 2 cups. Set aside.

Whisk your eggs, egg yolks and sugar together.  I use light brown organic sugar in this recipe, but I was concerned about its fineness. I used the immersion blender to pulverise the sugar so that it was super-fine (not quite powder, but no large granules either). If you have super-fine sugar, skip this bit but its quite fun! If you do grind it fine, then just add the sugar to the eggs and whisk well. You want a light yellow thick ribbony mixture.

Prepare a bain marie (water bath) on your stove top. I have already written about how I dont use double boilers. A medium sized saucepan, filled about 1/3rd with boiling water, and a large metal bowl set atop, do it for me. If you have a double boiler, go for it! Basically, you never want the mixture to boil. You want to keep it at a very low heat for at least 15 – 20 minutes.

In your metal bowl, set over the saucepan, melt the butter. Once the butter is completely melted, whisk in the egg mixture and the raspberry puree. And now, just keep whisking. It may take you 10 minutes or longer (it usually takes me about 20 minutes of constant whisking) but eventually, this very syrupy thin concoction of butter, eggs, sugar and fruit will start to thicken. For me, this process is all about faith! And bravery to be honest. First time I made it, I was scared I was going to scramble the eggs, but if you keep the temperature very low (the water does not have to be at a boil – a simmer will do), and keep whisking whisking whisking, it will turn out beautifully.

You are looking for a soft whipped cream consistency, so that as you whisk, you see the tracks of your whisk in the curd. When it gets to this point, and it may take a while, your curd is done. Take it off the heat, pour and scrape it into a clean, cool bowl, and cover with a cloth. Let it sit and cool, and solidify, for at least an hour or more and then refrigerate. It will deepen in colour and become thicker, so that it stands up on a spoon.

Bottle, or use in desserts, spread on toast or scones, and delight in the taste of summer.

Dinner @ Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio

20 Jul

I know, I have already written about Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio, but we got an email saying they were slowly opening for dinner on selected nights, so we had to go! We had dinner there tonight, and it was just tooooo delectable not to share. The food here is really phenomenal – and with a new menu out every month, the exploration of flavour and taste and texture and delight can just go on and on and on! I wont go into detail about the ambiance or the chairs, the drinks or the table settings … I did that in my first review. I will just highlight some of the scrumptious food we had this evening, and leave you to drool!

And just to let you know, yes, there were six of us, and yes, we ordered every dessert (5 in total) on the menu, and yes, amazingly, we finished them ALL. Unabashedly licking the plates were we.

Starters

There were 6 of us for dinner, and we shared 3 starters. As a vegetarian, they had several options, including a vegetarian quiche. However, we tried these three:

with hidden artichoke heart!

Pingaling ordered the Norwegian poached egg. The egg was wrapped in a gossamer thin, silky layer of smoked salmon with an extraordinary chive sauce. It sat atop a simple, delicious artichoke heart, and since Pingaling doesnt “do” vegetables, I had the pleasure of eating that whole artichoke heart myself! I swizzled it in the yolky bits and was in heaven.

No, its mushroom cream

The mushroom soup was beyond heavenly. As Nana said, “Most of these soups are cream of mushroom, this one is mushroom cream!” and it was dreamy. Thick, unctuous, tasting of the essence of mushroom. A light foam on top, and porcini dust in the centre. It covered a huge (and apparently very delectable) scallop, but I only tried the soup. It was the perfect mushroom soup. I cannot find the words to describe it, though I am trying. It was as if your every memory of mushroom had been condensed, refined, and re-defined. Silky smooth, sensational on the tongue. Perfect.

beautiful

This salad was so elegant, so refined, and yet retained the essence of tomato and mozzarella with basil salad. From the top – toasted pine nuts, a beautiful, clean, clear tasting basil cream, slightly bitter fresh greens, and lightly poached tomatoes, layered with the creamiest mozzarella. Drizzled with old balsamico. Such incredible textures. Such a perfect rendition of a salad we all know and love. Thoughtful, creative, delicious.

Main courses

Pingaling and Ezril had the children’s portion of bolognese with fresh buttered noodles. Small portions, delicious (they said) and a fine buffer between the superb starters and the stunning desserts. I had a bit of the noodles, without the sauce, buttered and fresh, and dreamed of a bowlful of that pasta, naked but for a slick of butter and a shaving of parmesan…

And a divine ratatouille

AngelKitten had wanted to try the reinvention of chicken nuggets the last time, but they had run out. She managed to get some tonight, and finished her plate like a very good girl!

White breast of chicken, breaded and fried. AngelKitten said it was scrummyyummy. She was literally savouring every bite. Served with a beautiful pile of ratatouille – perfection. I tasted the ratatouille, and loved it. Deep bold flavour, delicious and rich, and yet simple. Served with a parmesan dip.

buttered noodles

Ezril’s Abang had the beef cheeks bourguignon over fresh pasta. Oh that pasta again. Sublime. He said the beef was bright, rich, delicious and winey. Tender and beautifully cooked. I wouldnt know, but he finished the plate!

newburg sauce

Nana had the chicken breasts stuffed with king prawns, on a tangle of braised vegetables and a stunning, deeply flavoured newburg sauce. He said it was delectable. I believed him as I watched him polish it all off.

ricotta and herb ravioli

I had the vegetarian entree. Now let me say, when I eat at places that are focused on non-vegetarian food, the vegetarian entrees can often be disappointing. But this. Oh my good goddess. A carrot foam (which is all you can see in the above picture), with hints of spice and ginger, covered ravioli stuffed with creamydreamy ricotta and fresh herbs, dabbed with a carrot and ginger broth. Underneath it all, a puree of carrot and pumpkin, condensed, rich, and earthy. Sky and terre, light, and rich, so many flavours bursting through. I was going to take more photographs as I unearthed this splendid meal, but I didnt want to stop eating! The carnivores at the table tried bites of mine (small ones because that was all I would share) and one and all, they were delighted. So rich, so tasty, such a wonderful treat for a vegetarian. I was as shiny golden happy as this photograph.

Oh and before I forget…

glorious bread

The bread was out of this world wonderful. Woman can live on bread alone, if it was this bread. Fresh out of the oven, chewy, crusty, sourdoughy, tasting of bread. With sweet butter and sprinkle of sea salt. We couldnt stop eating it. We mopped everything up with it, and ordered more. It was served with a smile, and received with gratefulness. Oh that bread.

Desserts

We ordered our desserts when we asked for our main courses. We couldnt decide, and so, the women at the table took an executive decision to order everything. The men just went along for the ride. And what a ride it was…

reinvented

Tarte tatin reinvented. Beautiful creamy apples on a puff pastry base. A gorgeous tuile. Caramel ice cream. Caramel toffee all around.

lime coconut sorbet

Pineapple and lime crumble with a coconut and lime sorbet. Such sharp clean Asian flavours, melded with classic baking techniques. Ezril’s Abang gravitated to this one. He adored it. He wanted to marry it 😉

chocolate chocolate chocolate

I would have married this one. All the elements I love. Tall, dark and handsome. And chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate. A bitter frozen chocolate mousse, enrobed in a crisp chocolate shell, with a chocolate tuile. Though I think Ezril might have fought me for it, we managed to share (just).

teletubby ;)

This was Pingalings favourite, the one she wanted, and which she graciously shared with us. It was called a strawberry and raspberry surprise. Nana said it looked like a teletubby, but that didnt stop any of us from devouring it. A gorgeous meringue, crisp and crunchy, studded with vanilla, encasing a beautiful razzle of strawberry and raspberry chunks, topped with creme chantilly, and a raspberry sorbet. Check that colour out. It tasted as good as it looks. Such a wonderful textural combination, sharp brilliant fruits, creamy light meringue.

coffe, caramel, lemon

The dessert threesome. Coffee cream, with a lick of luscious burnt caramel at the bottom, topped with lightly whipped cream, a caramel macaron, and a perfect, miniature lemon meringue tarte. Such a clever juxtaposition of flavour and texture. Bright, dark, creamy, rich, so so so good.

Have I run out of superlatives? Here is the last picture because it encompasses how we felt about the food… a very happy, full family went home tonight to dream about Nathalie’s passionate, loving, delicious meal…

mmmmmmm

Thank you to everyone at Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio for a wonderful meal. Join their mailing list, and go when you can! So gooooooooood.

Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio Unit 4-1-5  Solaris Dutamas, Jalan Dutamas, 50480 Kuala Lumpur Tel : 03.62 07.95 72

http://www.nathaliegourmetstudio.com

Vegetarian Kuala Lumpur

20 Jul

I am very excited because tonight I am meeting up with a bunch of friends to go and eat at Nathalie’s Gourmet again … Theyre slowly opening at nights, and we have a booking at 8pm. It means I wont be cooking or baking anything (though I am dreaming of a raspberry curd which I will try out tomorrow) so I thought I would list three of my favourite places to eat as a vegetarian in Kuala Lumpur. Obviously this list is very personal – and I am sure I am missing out on some fabulous places. One is not completely vegetarian, but for someone like me, all these places have multiple delightful options, and the food here is good for non-vegetarians too!

Sure Pizza (otherwise known as Paolo’s), Plaza Damas

This has to be one of my favourite restaurants. Paolo, the chef and restauranteur, is welcoming, friendly and a brilliant chef. His food is Italian at its most casual and scrumptious. Everything he makes is full of love, and eating here is a comforting and joyous experience. I often have the margarita pizza, with garlic mushrooms as an extra on top. Once you try this, you will come back again and again for it. His bruschetta are extraordinary – bright, sparkling with flavour, and held together by the wonderful bread that he bakes every day. You can buy loaves of this bread, but beware, you will just keep eating it even after you are full! His pastas are also a manna from heaven for vegetarians, particularly the home made ravioli and the gnocchi. Amazing. Simple, and yet so luscious. Paolo’s is where my family goes when we want good food, served without fuss, in a loving and happy atmosphere. PS Dont miss the tiramisu! Oh I could swim in it 🙂

P37, Plaza Damas Ground Floor, Hartamas Shopping Centre, Jalan Hartamas 1, KL Tel: 03.6201.6014

Kechara Oasis, Jaya One

Kechara Oasis is a wonderful vegetarian Chinese-Tibetan restaurant, oddly located in the car park of Jaya One. Dont let that stop you though, this is one place you need to try. Its got all the fantabulous staples of good vegetarian Chinese – char siew, butter prawns, sweet and sour chicken, sambal petai prawns… oh I could go on – with an intriguing mix of vegetarian Tibetan dishes. I really enjoy everything I eat here, though its definitely a place for a group, rather than just a few. That way you can order more! And taste everything! I adore the sweet and sour mushrooms, and the char siew is phenomenal. The Tibetan offerings include asa bhima (baked buns with fillings), tingmo (steamed bread with a special sauce), and a very special Tibetan butter tea. Even their fruit platter, which we had for dessert recently, was brilliant – fresh, sweet, and quality fruits. Oh the mango … Try everything, and bring your meat eating friends. They will come away satisfied and delighted, I promise.

Unit 19-LG1, Level B1 Block D Jaya One, No. 72A Jalan University, 46200 Petaling Jaya Tel: 03.7968.1818

MG’s Cafe

MG’s Cafe is located  in the heart of Desa Sri Hartamas. Its a completely vegetarian bakery, deli and cafe, and I love this place. Its delightful, cosy atmosphere, extensive menu, and delectable desserts make me so very happy. And the best part is the prices are really fair, so its a drop by and hang out kind of a vibey place. I have really enjoyed everything I have eaten here – from the tagliatelle with pumpkin to the veggie beefsteak burger to the marinated mushroom donburi. Most everything is under RM10 and it has a kind of Hong Kong cafe noodle house feel. I love how happy everyone who works here is as well – you just feel good walking in. And please, do try one of their cakes – delicious sponges, cream stuffed mini pancakes, moon cakes … they have the lot. And its all tasty and made with love. A great place to drop by for tea or a snack, and non-vegetarians enjoy it too.

38-G Jalan 27/70A, Desa Sri Hartamas Tel: 03.2300.3118

Blueberry Banana Smoothie

19 Jul

come to mama!Today, I needed to take a break from all the richness that I cook. Dont get me wrong, I adore burnt cheese, tacos, and cakes. But a woman cannot live like that every day, even if everything is made from scratch, and I try and pay attention to fruits, vegetables, proteins and chocolate 😉

Today, I needed to be healthy. I wanted something that would be immensely satisfying, but at the same time would boost my immune system and soothe my rather too full tummy. I wanted something easy to consume, and yet full of vitamins, minerals, and all that other good health stuff.

Miles, my sister’s husband, regularly has a fruit smoothie for breakfast. It inspired me. Fruit smoothies can be decadent and delectable, while at the same time being incredibly good for you. And they are easy to make provided you have a blender or immersion blender. So yes, a smoothie. For breakfast, and that was about it the whole day save some water. I needed to feel full, but at the same time, I needed to give my system a little time to relax. That, and I know I am going to Nathalie’s Gourmet for dinner tomorrow night!

I chose the ingredients for my smoothie very carefully. Blueberries were at the top of my list. These are the ultimate superfood, and I think its just wonderful that they are such a pleasure to consume as well! I did some research, and blueberries just blow me away.

  • Tufts University analyzed 60 fruits and veg for antioxidant properties, and the gorgeous blueberries won, rating highest in their ability to destroy free radicals.
  • They are a veritable youth tonic. Anthocyanidins in the blueberries stop free radical damage to cell and tissues, veins and vascular system.
  • Blueberries contain a huge amount of vitamin C.
  • Blueberries are better then red wine for protection against heart disease.
  • Ellagic acid in blueberries blocks the metabolic pathways that lead to cancer.
  • Kaempferol a flavinoid that reduces the risk of ovarian cancer is abundant in blueberries.
  • They also contain fibers and tannins which promote digestive health.
  • And the same compounds found in cranberries that prevent or eliminate urinary tract infections are also present in blueberries.

Still not convinced? Just do a search for blueberries online, and be amazed at the extraordinary properties of this fruit.

As a cook, it doesnt hurt that blueberries are just so damn sexy and gorgeous. The blue purple berry is just so beautiful to look at. And the taste – tangy, sweet, sour, bright. Stunning. When blended, blueberries add a stunning purple hue to any smoothie, and I love the fact that you can actually see the healthiness you are about to consume!

A perfect complement to the blueberry, and a pretty amazing fruit in its own right, is my favourite, the banana. Sweet, and creamy, tasty and yet chock full of potassium, fiber, vitamins and minerals, the banana is the perfect addition to any meal. I love bananas anywhichway. Sliced in yogurt as a cooling raita with spice Indian food. Baked in a cake. Eaten on its own. Frozen with chocolate. I froze some bananas (peeled) without chocolate, and they are perfect here. You dont have to add ice to get a cold smoothie because the frozen berries and banana do it for you while adding value.

As the basis for these beautiful fruits, fat free Greek yogurt is phenomenal. It adds its own tangy creamy taste, but is also packed with calcium, phosphorus, riboflavin-vitamin B2, iodine, vitamin B12, pantothenic acid-vitamin B5, zinc, potassium, protein and molybdenum. And, it has wonderful little live bacteria in it which boost the immune system, regulate the digestive tract, and can boost good cholesterol while lowering bad. I try and use low fat or fat free yogurt because to me, it tastes very similar to its fattier sibling, while being much healthier. If you are a vegan, try one of the great soy yogurts out there. They work almost as well, and add a creamy rich consistency to the smoothie.

And finally, honey is a another extraordinary substance – raw honey has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral properties that astound me. As a sweet alternative to sugar, I think honey cannot be beat. I keep lots of different types of honey in my fridge, but by far my favourite is Leatherwood honey, only found in Tasmania. Its almost medicinal, powerfully honey tasting honey. And sweet enough that you only need a little bit. If you are vegan, agave syrup is a great alternative, and healthy too. Or even a splash of fruit juice.

So, a smoothie for makan today. Delicious, healthy and satisfying. I think I might have a smoothie day every week just to give myself a little rest from all this eating. Whats next? Raspberries and …

For 1 smoothie you will need:

  • 3 small ripe frozen bananas (or 1 regular)
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 2 – 3 tbsp low fat yogurt
  • 1/4 cup low fat or fat free milk
  • 1 tsp honey or to taste

In a blender, or small bowl if you are using an immersion blender, combine the banana (chopped), blueberries, yogurt and milk. Pulse to combine. Taste. Add a little honey for sweetness and depth of flavour. Pulse gently again.

Pour into a large glass, and sip slowly, quietly thanking the universe for her bounty.

Welsh Rarebit (Rabbit!)

18 Jul

Rarebit Rabbit All Tastes YUMI recently read a post on things on toast. I adore just about anything on toast – from gorgeous glowing tomato bruschetta to a poached egg and mushrooms to simple toast, butter and sugar (a firm favourite of my late Ayah’s). Oooh Nutella and banana!

But when I thought of things on toast at that moment, I thought of Welsh rarebit – that divine burnt cheese creation that comes from poverty (instead of rabbit, you used cheese in an alchemical mix with ale and spices). Goddess, this is good food. Simple, warming, easy to make.

And wonderfully enough, any extra is quite long lasting! You can put it in the fridge where it will firm up. From there, you can slice this cheese-beer mixture and use it to top more toast… or whatever else catches your fancy! Its phenomenal stuffed into portobello mushroom caps and grilled. Its ambrosial as the centrepiece of a grilled cheese and tomato. Im sure you can think of many other uses.

The one issue I had with rarebit is that it is mostly made with Worcestershire sauce as its primary spice ingredient. Worcestershire has many good things – vinegar, molasses, tamarind, onion, garlic and other spices (including clove and cinnamon). Unfortunately, one of its major ingredients is anchovies – a big no no for vegetarians. So I had to find an alternative, and I found it in A1 steak sauce, amazingly enough! It had most of the same ingredients as Worcestershire sauce, but without the anchovies, which would have un-vegetarian-ed this delectable meal.

Because this is basically burnt cheese on toast, you need to really layer flavours. I added some old balsamic vinegar and a touch of soy to the recipe to make up for the “lack” of anchovies. I also rubbed a cut garlic clove over the toast before putting on the cheese – subtle, but it imbues the final dish with a whisper of flavour. Its delicious, easy to make, and a perfect supper or dinner for friends and family.

For the cheese sauce you will need:

  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 – 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 – 2 tsp A1 sauce
  • 1 tsp old Balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup ale – I used Leffe
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 cups grated cheese (I used a mix of 2 parts Cheddar to 1 part red Leicester with a tad of pecorino grated in)
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 2 – 9 drops hot sauce
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp or so soy sauce (optional to taste)

In a medium saucepan, over low heat, melt the butter. Once the butter has completely melted, add the flour, and mix well. Cook this mixture (a nominal roux), stirring all the while, until lightly toasted in colour – a light tan is good. This should take you about 3 – 5 minutes. Add the Dijon mustard, A1 sauce, balsamic and ground pepper, and mix well.

Add the ale, and stir to combine. I usually start using a whisk at this point. The roux will start to deepen the sauce, but you will be adding a few more elements to get a very rich thick final result. Add the heavy cream, and cheese, and whisk well after each addition. Continue whisking as the cheese melts well into the sauce. Make sure it does not come to a boil.

Once the cheese has completely melted, drip the beaten eggs very slowly into the mixture, whisking all the while. Once the egg is completely incorporated, continue to whisk until it is thick to your liking. It should coat the back of a spoon, and when you draw a line through the sauce, the line should stay clean. Taste. Take off heat, and add hot sauce. I usually add 9 drops because I like it a little spicy, but do what tastes good to you. A few drops will be barely traceable but it will add to the final sublime flavour.

Add salt and soy to taste. The cheese should have added quite a bit of salt already, so be gentle.

Leave to cool for a while, as you prep the toast and oven.

To serve (for 2 people – you can adjust for the number of people in your house – the cheese mixture will serve up to 8 people):

  • 4 slices good toasted bread (I used multigrain and sourdough from my favourite bakery)
  • 1 cut clove of garlic
  • a handful of micro-greens (I used pea shoots), washed and cleaned
  • a lick of olive oil and vinegar for the greens
  • 1 vinegar onion each
  • a few baby tomatoes
  • A little minced Italian parsley

First, preheat your oven broiler, and arrange your oven rack to the highest level.

Toast your bread very well. You want it well browned on both sides (this is caramelisation, and flavour!). Rub one side of each piece of toast with a cut garlic clove.

Arrange the toast, garlic rubbed side up, on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper. The paper will capture any cheesy bits that come off the toasts – usually the most tasty bits!

Spoon about 2 – 4 tablespoons (depending on the size of your bread and your greed, obviously) of cooled cheese mixture over the toasts.

Broil for about 5 – 10 minutes until the cheese is burnt on top and bubbling.

While the toasts are broiling, toss the micro-greens with a tiny lick of olive oil and vinegar, and slice a few baby tomatoes.

Serve 2 toasts per person, with some micro-green salad, a few tomatoes, and a vinegared onion. Sprinkle a little minced parsley over all.

I specifically chose sharp and vinegary side dishes to cut the serious richness of the cheese toasts, but if you hate micro-greens or vinegar onions, obviously, choose what you love as sides!

Pure heaven.

Frozen Chocolate Dipped Bananas

17 Jul

Little Chocolate Banana Babies Waiting for the FreezerTonight, a short recipe. I was going to make Welsh Rarebit (inspired by an article on things on toast – burnt cheese is my weakness) but I realised that Worcestershire sauce is not vegetarian (it has anchovies in it – will have to do some research on that one). Also, I had the pleasure of going to see the last night of Junji Delfino’s Here I Am celebration – what a voice!

Anyway… came home a bit tired, and thought I need something simple, comforting, with shades of my childhood.

When I was little, a huge treat for my sister and I were frozen bananas dipped in chocolate. Anyone can make these, and they are DELICIOUS! The bananas seem to freeze and turn into a heavenly natural version of ice cream – the chocolate just adds a rich delicious topping to the whole thing. And bananas seem to love the freezer more than other fruits. They adapt so well to freezing, one would imagine its their natural state! A little chocolate ganache from yesterday, a few pisang mas (the tiny golden sweet bananas here in Malaysia – from my organic delivery!) and a little freezer action. Oh so good.

The chocolate becomes this crunchy shell, and the banana within is creamydreamy.

This is a wonderful recipe to make with young ones – they feel so accomplished afterwards, and its quite healthy too! In my book, chocolate is a health food 😛

Use any good chocolate – white, milk, dark. I prefer it dark because there is such a lovely contrast to the pale frozen banana. They seem to complement each other. And once youve done this once, you will want to do it again. You can experiment. Add a teaspoon of honey to your chocolate mix. Or may be a sprinkle of cinnamon. How about melting down peanut butter chips? Banana and peanut butter, mmmm. Go nuts. Its fun!

You will need:

  • Baking tin, lined with greaseproof paper
  • As many ripe bananas as you want to freeze (I would do at least 6, because once you try these, they are addictive!)
  • A few squares of chocolate for each banana
  • A teaspoon of milk or cream for each banana
  • Some plastic wrap or greaseproof paper to cover
  • A few toothpicks

In a saucepan, over low heat, melt the chocolate into the milk or cream. Dont let it boil over, but as soon as you see the chocolate starting to melt take off heat and stir well. The residual heat will melt the chocolate. Leave to cool a little. If the mixture becomes too stiff, just heat it up a little again.

Meanwhile, peel the bananas. Depending on the skill of your helpers, and the desired level of mess in your kitchen, either lay the bananas on the baking tin and spoon chocolate over (less messy) or dip and roll the bananas in the chocolate and transfer onto the baking tin (rather messy). I often ask my young helpers to peel the bananas and drop them in the saucepan of chocolate, and roll the bananas around with a batter spreader or other blunt cooking instrument to make sure they are covered completely in chocolate. I then go in with two toothpicks, skewer each end of a banana and reverently transfer it onto the baking tin.

You could dip or sprinkle ground nuts, coloured sprinkles, or anything else you like that adheres well to chocolate.

These dont have to be perfect – the beauty is in their imperfection. I get geram looking at all these beautiful and different little chocolate banana babies lined up in a row waiting to be eaten!

You could stick toothpicks on one end of the banana to help in the eating afterwards, but I rarely do. I quite enjoy mess, and feel safer that there is nothing sharp in the banana that could harm little mouths.

Freeze for at least half an hour or so. If youre concerned about mess, wrap half of each banana in greaseproof paper once its frozen and hand out.

Eat greedily and with joy and sharing and mutual accomplishment 😉

Strawberry Tart with Chocolate Ganache, Creme Patissiere and a Port Wine Balsamico Glaze

16 Jul

Strawberry TartIts the end of exam time for Angel Kitten and Ezril, and I wanted to make them something that would be a celebration. I have a real thing for tarts (a natural affinity, shall we say), and strawberries are on my mind. The organic strawberries are just gorgeous – lush, ripe, juicy, and that glowing red that only strawberries can glow. So a strawberry tart it was, but I wanted to make it even more of a celebration. Each and every part of this tart had to be sublime. So I went with a crumbling sweet cookie crust, that is surprisingly easy to make, and, as long as you freeze it, easy to bake too! No pie weights and all that nonsense. Then, hidden between crust and creme, a lick of dark chocolate. This actually is very useful because it waterproofs the crust from the creme that goes on top. And the creme patissiere? Sweet, but not too sweet, studded with vanilla bean, creamy and yet not overwhelmingly so. Perfection. And then the stars of the show – red, ripe strawberries, glazed with a port wine balsamico reduction that just highlights their sweet-tart-juicy-tang.

For me, the key to this tart is there is a lot of resting and waiting. It seems like a lot of work, but it isnt really. The tart dough comes together in minutes, as do all the other components. The important thing is they all need to rest, cool, freeze, calm down and meld together before you go on with the next step. This is a tart to bake over the course of an afternoon (3 or 4 hours) when you have a good book to read, or a dvd to watch. Its fun because the sum is so much more than the parts – but the parts themselves are pretty delightful!

Crust

For a 10 inch pie plate, you will need:

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 9 tablespoons very cold butter
  • 1 large egg

In a large bowl, combine the flour, caster sugar and salt. Mix well and make sure there are no lumps. Take the butter out of the fridge, and grate into the flour mixture. I do this in two stages, grating about half, then putting the butter back in the fridge, then using my fingers to mix the grated butter into the flour, and then repeating. Once the butter has been mixed into the flour, it should look crumbly, almost like oatmeal. Make a well in the centre of the flour butter mixture, and in a separate small bowl, beat the egg lightly. Pour the egg into the well, and using your hands or a large spoon, lightly mix all together. As you turn the mixture upon itself, it should become a dough. Dont overmix. Dont knead. Just get it bound together as a dough. It will happen, I promise.

Centre your dough in your pie plate, and using floured fingers, gently roll out the dough to cover the entire pie plate. Make sure the dough is even, there are no bald spots, and that the dough comes up to over the edge of the plate. Prick with a fork all over, and freeze for at least half an hour or more.

While the dough is freezing, you can go on to do other things.

When youre about ready to bake the crust, preheat your oven to 190C.

Take the frozen dough out of the freezer and cover the dough with buttered tin foil, butter side down, pressing down quite strongly. Bake in the oven for about 20 – 25 minutes until lightly browned. Take out of the oven, remove the tin foil very gently. Put back into the oven to brown completely. You want a pretty dark brown crust, otherwise it will be flavourless and slightly doughy.

Once the crust has browned (about 5 minutes more), take out of the oven and leave to cool.

Chocolate Ganache

This is simple, easy and you can use it for many things – glazing a pie crust is but one life – you could drizzle it over vanilla ice cream, use it as a glaze for a cake, or even as the basis for a phenomenal hot chocolate. Im sure there are loads of other uses that you can imagine up.

  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup dark chocolate, in chunks

In a small saucepan, over low heat, combine cream and chocolate. As soon as the chocolate starts to melt, and the cream starts to bubble, take off the heat. Mix well, to ensure the chocolate melts into the cream and all is combined. Keep aside, and allow to cool.

Creme Patissiere

This is so yum. So easy, and so very subtle. I love the vanilla bean studded throughout, but if you dont have a vanilla bean, just use a couple tablespoons of vanilla extract. You can use this to for the basis of any cream fruit tart, and also to stuff eclairs. Simple and good.

  • 2 1/2 cups thick milk
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 – 6 tbsp caster sugar
  • 4 tbsp flour

By thick milk, I really mean milk that has been cut with a bit of cream to give it richness. You dont have to do this, you can definitely use just milk, but I prefer to add about half a cup of cream to 2 cups of milk in this recipe.

Pour the milk into a medium saucepan. Cut the vanilla bean in half, and using the tip of your knife or a small spoon, coax all the seeds out of the bean. Place both bean and seeds into the milk. Put over high heat, and allow the mixture to come just to the boil. Whisk to ensure that a skin doesnt form. Set aside, covered, to steep for about 15 minutes to half an hour.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with the caster sugar until light yellow. By the way, the amount of caster sugar really just reflects how sweet you like your creme patissiere. If your strawberries are not that sweet, then use more sugar. Whisk in the flour. The mixture will become very thick and almost pudding-y.

Once the milk has come down to lukewarm, whisk about half a cup into the egg mixture, and then whisk this back into the remaining milk. Put saucepan over heat again, and cook until the creme just comes to the boil, about 5 minutes or so on medium heat. It must boil to become creme. It will get thicker as it cooks, just make sure you whisk constantly. Once the creme is to your consistency, pour into a bowl, and allow to cool, covered with a bit of greaseproof paper or plastic wrap. This will ensure no skin forms.

You can refrigerate the creme patissiere for up to two days. When you are ready to use it, fish out the vanilla bean stalks.

Port wine and balsamic glaze

  • 3/4 cup port wine
  • 3 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp very old balsamico

In a saucepan (just a note, I used the same saucepan for all these components! Just rewashed it over and over, saved on the cleanup!) combine the port wine, caster sugar and balsamico. Stir to ensure that the sugar has dissolved into the wine mixture. Over medium heat, boil the wine until it reduces by half and becomes very syrupy. It will eventually boil up – this is usually a clue that its reduced far enough. Pour into a heat proof bowl, and allow to cool.

Assembly

  • Baked and cooled tart shell
  • Chocolate ganache
  • Creme patissiere
  • 1lb/500 gm fresh strawberries (or more if you want), hulled, and sliced if you want or kept whole

You can assemble this pie up to 1 day before serving, but honestly, I think its better the day of serving, assembled a few hours before eating.

Using an icing spreader, or the back of a spoon, spread the chocolate ganache all over the cooled tart shell, including the sides. Use as much or as little of the ganache as you like. Any leftover can be used for a variety of delicious things! Place the chocolate covered tart shell in the fridge for at least half an hour to let the ganache solidify.

Once the ganache has hardened, take the tart out of the fridge, and spread the cooled creme patissiere over. Dont fill the pie right to the edge, as the strawberries will displace a bit of the creme.

YumArrange strawberries in a pretty pattern all over the creme patissiere, and brush them gently with the port wine glaze. Refrigerate for at least half an hour and up to a day.

Celebrate 🙂

Veggie Burger

15 Jul

Veggie Burger HeavenI was having tea today with Goddessmoments and her Spouse. As we were chatting about food, he said something that made me think about what I miss most about being a carnivore. I think its a great juicy burger, with melted cheddar on top, in a beautiful bun and may be some slices of avo or tomato. Pure heaven. All those different tastes and textures, the satisfaction of a handheld meal, juices dripping everywhere. But I dont eat meat, and so I wont ever have that kind of burger again. But, this veggie burger more than makes up for any sense of loss I might have!

This is scrummy yummy. It can be vegan if you leave out the cheese (or use soy cheese) and its so full of wonderful, healthy vegetables and grains. I use quinoa in this recipe – the wonder grain! It has the most complete proteins of any grain, and it is full of vitamins and minerals – from iron to vitamin e to amino acids. And it tastes wonderful too! Nutty and creamy at the same time.Its a really useful tool for a vegan diet because it adds protein from a surprising source, and its extremely well tolerated, even by those who cannot eat wheat. I love it. I even use it in place of couscous and rice on occasion.

While your quinoa is cooking, you roast a few aubergines, garlic and some nuts. Fry up some mushrooms. I usually throw everything in one large bowl, and mince with my immersion blender (oh how I love thee, let me count the ways!). It comes out tasting really “meaty” in a good way, and its incredibly satisfying. Because everything is cooked or prepped before being formed into patties, the final fry up is really to create a lovely burnt sticky caramelised crust. You could probably do this in the oven as well, though I have never tried. These freeze really well, by the way. Layer in greaseproof paper, and pack away in a plastic container, and use within 6 months.

For about 8 – 10 burger patties, you will need:

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cup water plus extra to soak
  • salt
  • 5 baby aubergines (or 1 medium – 1/2 large), sliced in half
  • 1 head garlic
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 cup raw cashew nuts
  • 1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/3 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup grated carrot
  • Small packet shiitake mushrooms, de-stemmed, and sliced
  • 6 – 7 medium portobello mushrooms (250 g packet), peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp Italian mixed herbs (or herbes de Provence or any other herb that you like – basil, rosemary, thyme)
  • truffle oil (optional)
  • balsamic vinegar
  • 1 – 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup parmesan or pecorino cheese, grated
  • Handful of fresh herbs, minced fine (optional – use what you like – basil, rosemary, marjoram, thyme, parsley, mint even)
  • Soy (optional to taste)
  • pepper

To serve, you will need hamburger buns, cheese (optional), lettuce, tomato, avocado, onion (your choice of any or all or none!), some mayo, ketchup, mustard, pickle… you get the drift!

Preheat your oven to about 220C.

First start off by soaking the quinoa. In a medium saucepan, cover the quinoa with water, and let stand for 15 minutes or so. This softens the grain, and also encourages the hard outer casing to split. A good thing!

Meanwhile, split your baby aubergines (or slice your medium/large one), and arrange, skin side down, on a baking tin that has been lined with baking paper. Slice the top of a head of garlic, and place on tin. Lightly oil and salt the aubergines and garlic and pop in the oven for 15 minutes. About 3 – 4 minutes before they are done, flip them over, and sprinkle the cashew nuts onto the baking tin. You want the cashew nuts to toast lightly, but not really to burn.

When your quinoa has stood for 15 minutes, drain, put back into saucepan, and add 1 1/2 cups of water, and a bit of salt. Cover the pan, and bring to the boil over high heat, and then lower heat and simmer the quinoa, covered, for about 15 minutes. You will know when its done when most of the water has boiled off, and the quinoa has fluffed up and doubled in size. Take off heat, and leave covered for at least five minutes.

Once your aubergines, garlic and cashews have been taken out of the oven, leave to cool for a few minutes. Meanwhile, add sunflower and sesame seeds to a large mixing bowl, and grate in the carrot. Add the cooled aubergines, the garlic cloves (pop them out of their papery casing), and the cashew nuts.

Go back to your quinoa, fluff it up a bit, and measure out 1 1/2 – 2 cups. If there is any left over, it freezes well and is a wonderful addition to any soup. Add the measured quinoa to the large mixing bowl.

Prepare your mushrooms. Pour a little olive oil into a medium – large frying pan, and add the shiitake mushrooms. I was taught that shiitake mushrooms need quite a while to cook. You need to slice them thinly (I also de-stem them) and leave them over low heat to brown around the edges. They will melt, and get soft, and reduce in size. Dont mix them in the pan too much, just let the heat and the oil and the mushrooms do what they know how to do. It should take about 10 minutes or so.

Once the shiitakes have been well browned, add the portobello mushrooms (still on low heat), and stir to combine. If you want, sprinkle a little truffle oil over, and let cook for about 5 minutes or so, stirring every now and then. Add some balsamic vinegar, the tomato paste and Dijon mustard, and stir to combine. The portobellos should have browned a little and reduced in size. Add the mushrooms to the mixing bowl.

Grate the cheese into the bowl if you are using.

With your immersion blender, process everything in the mixing bowl. Do it in short sharp bursts because you want to make sure you combine and chop most everything very fine without pureeing it into complete oblivion. You can use a food processor if you like. Again, short sharp bursts.

Once everything has been combined to your liking, taste. Season with salt and pepper if needed. Add the minced herbs, if you like. I often add some soy sauce for deeper darker flavour.

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes up to 2 hours.

About fifteen to twenty minutes before you are ready to eat, heat a little olive oil in a shallow non stick frying pan over low heat. Take the burger mix out of the fridge, and form thin (about half an inch to an inch maximum) patties with your hands. Fry up to three patties at a time, flipping only once or twice. It should take you about 10 – 15 minutes to get a glistening dark brown exterior. You wont need much oil. A few minutes before you are serving, flip a final time and slice some old mature cheddar (or not) over the burger, and let it melt a bit.

Toast your hamburger buns, add the fixins – mayo, ketchup, mustard, fresh veg. Eat with your hands, and mop up any fallen bits and juices with your bread. Its that good.

Aioli – Garlic Mayonnaise

15 Jul

This is the Provencal version of mayonnaise. Lightly golden, thick, unctuous, and garlicky. Its delicious. Its a lot of olive oil, but the flavor of the oil, with the creamy yolks is grassy and summery and very French. Its a sophisticated delicious mayonnaise, and you should try to make it the day of eating, but it can be made ahead and stored in the fridge, covered, for up to 2 days.

The process of making aioli can be very zen, but it can also be terrifying because of the ability for it to separate and “break”. Don’t be scared. There is a very easy fix. Take a couple more egg yolks, beat them till light golden, and drip the broken aioli back into this mixture. It will firm up. Guaranteed.

  • 4 egg yolks (+ 2 more just in case the aioli breaks) – organic and free range are a must here because they will be eaten raw
  • 2 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 – 3 cloves of garlic mixed with 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 – 3 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon of dijon mustard

I use a large metal mixing bowl and a whisk to do this. Not because I am old school, but because you can control the emulsification process much better than in a blender, an electric whisk or a food processor. It doesn’t take that long.

First take the garlic and take out its germ or inner shoot. Mince and then with the flat blade of a knife puree the garlic with the salt. Leave for a while as you mix together the oil and egg. The salt breaks down the garlic, and when you come back to it, you can really squish and squash it to a fine paste.

Take a kitchen towel and centre your bowl on it. This helps prevent it from jumping around as you whisk. Take your egg yolks and whisk them until they are light gold. Using a measuring cup with a spout, start dripping infinitesimal amounts of oil into the egg, whisking all the while. Use a light hand, and keep up a steady stream of droplets. After about half a cup of oil is incorporated, you should see this coming together. It thickens, and becomes much harder to beat. Start using stronger strokes, and keep adding the oil in tiny droplets.

After a full cup of oil is added, you can start a steady, but very thin stream of oil, as opposed to droplets. Keep beating strongly. The entire process should take about 10 – 15 minutes. You can stop and take breaks if you get tired! Just give it a couple whisks before you start adding oil again! Once all the oil has been added, you should have a thick glossy goopy mayonnaise, greeny gold in colour.

Take about half the garlic and add, whisking all the while. Add the lemon juice and mustard, whisking to incorporate fully. Taste for salt, garlic, and the edge of sharpness the lemon juice brings. Adjust accordingly.

Store in a covered container in the fridge for up to 2 days.

This is phenomenal as a dip with fresh vegetables, and takes a sandwich to new heights. I make it when I have a dinner and want a gorgeous sexy succulent dip – and I always keep some back for me for the next day 😉 An avocado and aioli sandwich on rough brown bread is beyond wonderful.

Please note pregnant women and those with immune risks should not consume raw egg yolks. You might want to try pasteurized eggs though I personally don’t like them.

Cream Scones with Strawberries (or Strawberry Shortcakes!)

14 Jul

Scone with strawberries and creamEither way you cut it, scones with strawberries (English) or strawberry shortcakes (American) are delicious – and they highlight one of the most beautiful, sensuous, tangysweetsourjuicy products of summer – the strawberry. I love strawberries every which way – plain, with yogurt, cream, ice cream, with balsamic drizzled all over, in pies, crumbles, smoothies. I could go on and on and on. Strawberries, especially fresh summer berries, are a little love explosion in your mouth. But please, if you dont have strawberries, do not buy the frozen berry. Of all the different berries, strawberries just die when you buy them frozen – I find that they turn mushy and pulpy. Strangely enough, fresh picked, home frozen strawberries dont have that problem so much. Not sure why.

Scones and devon cream have always been a favourite – as have strawberry shortcakes the other side of the pond! Amazingly enough, the recipe is basically exactly the same. And so simple, as long as you do a little prep work (if you can call shoving some butter in the freezer and cutting up some berries prep) a few hours beforehand. The frozen butter is a must. It ensures soft, fluffy, rising scones, with plenty of layers. Try and handle this dough as gently and as little as possible. You dont want to melt the butter. Work quickly especially in the heat and humidity of summer.

Makes 6 – 8 scones / shortcakes

  • 1 stick / 8 tbsp / 115 g butter, frozen
  • 2 cups all purpose flour + bit extra for roll out
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup cream/half and half/milk + 1 tbsp
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp rough granulated sugar
  • 1 – 3 cups strawberries
  • 1 – 2 tsp caster sugar
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 – 2 cups heavy whipping cream

First of all, freeze your butter. You need to do this at least an hour or so before you start the recipe. Then, if you like, prep the strawberries. Cut about 1/3 of the berries into slices, and crush with a few teaspoons of caster sugar. Cut or slice the rest of the strawberries into the crushed juices, and if you have it, pour a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar over. Leave in the fridge to get juicy and gorgeous.

When you are ready to start, preheat your oven to 200C.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, brown sugar, and salt. Mix with your fingers to combine well. Grate the frozen butter over the flour mixture, and using the tips of your fingers, mix till just combined, and all the butter is coated with flour.

Measure out 1/2 cup of cream or milk, beat egg lightly into milk, and add a glugg of vanilla extract. Pour this over the flour/butter mixture, and using your hands, combine lightly. Knead once or twice to form a soft dough. Refrigerate if you are not using immediately.

Flour your work surface lightly, and roll out dough to about 1 inch thick. You should be able to get about 6 – 8 scones from this. I used a glass as my cutter. Place at least 1 inch apart on your baking paper lined baking tin, and using your fingers, glaze with a little heavy cream. Sprinkle some rough granulated sugar over the top. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes, or until tops are golden brown, and baked through.

While scones are baking, whip 1 – 2 cups of heavy cream until soft peaks form. Once scones have cooled down to warm, split apart, pile with strawberries, and top with cream. Devour.