Tag Archives: menu

Wine Tasting + Tapas at O’Gourmet Food Hall

25 Feb

Last night was really exciting in my adventures as a cook. M. Sebastien had been after me for some time to create some food pairings for his monthly wine tastings at O’Gourmet Food Hall. It was a tasting of Spanish reds … and M. Sebastien was intrigued by the notion that vegetarian food could be paired well with such bold strong wines. When people think of red wine, they almost immediately think of red meats – robust, dark and complex flavours.

M. Sebastien challenged me to think up a menu that would complement his red wines which steadily built in terms of taste and complexity. We went through the list together, and he told me the spices, notes, flavours and depth of each wine. I came up with a food pairing that I felt would match and bring out the unique attributes of the wine. Together, we refined the flavours, and discussed the cheese I would cook with (three of the courses had cheese in the recipe).

In my life as a cook, this was a daunting, and yet ultimately satisfying project. I had 24 hours to cook for 20 people, I helped to serve all the courses, and enjoyed the positive feedback and interaction. I never would have imagined I could do something like this a mere six months ago, but I have been stretched to challenge myself – by good friends and loved ones – and it has paid off.

I will post the recipes for all five courses in the coming few days, but I thought you might like to take a glance at the menu from last night.

O’Gourmet does wine tastings every month. Please contact them here to be put on the mailing list for further events. Who knows, I might be cooking again!

Santonegro Syrah 2008 –ย A light wine, simple and fresh.

Paired with tapenade on crusty french bread toasts. I brushed the sliced french bread with a mixture of Maldon salt, garlic and organic olive oil and baked it in the oven. The tapenade was a gorgeous mixture of black olives, green olives, organic olive oil, caper berries, a touch of garlic, and grated lemon peel. The lemon peel elevated the flavour and made the tapenade sparkle.

Tapenade on crusty french bread

Gotes 2009 – interesting palette, contrasting flavours.

Paired with red peppers and goat’s cheese feta with smoked paprika. The red peppers were marinated overnight in herbs, garlic, olive oil and a touch of old balsamic. They were then enriched by the deep dark notes of smoked paprika.

Peppers with Feta and Smoked Paprika

Luberri 2009 – a unique open taste – people have strong opinions about this wine as it stands up to you.

Paired with Turkish figs poached in red wine and baked with fourme d’ambert. These gorgeous dried figs were poached until they were velvety and succulent, split open and baked with a beautiful french blue cheese. The taste was a fascinating melding of sweet and salty, sticky and sensuous.

Wine Poached Figs baked with Fourme D'Ambert blue

 

QV Crianza 2005 – a fantastic wine, organic, deeply lush and beautiful.

Paired with a caramelised garlic and raclette tart baked with a light custard. The caramelised onions were cooked for four and half hours, in a bottle of the QV Crianza, until they were dark and sticky, almost an onion jam. They were then baked in a butter puff pastry shell, with a light kiss of savoury custard and some smooth raclette to finish.

Caramelised Wine Onion Tarts with Raclette

Humiliat 2008 – a wine that starts out closed, but opens up into complex and deep flavours.

Paired with a chili chocolate mousse with vanilla whipped cream. The chocolate mousse was made with pure bittersweet chocolate, and I made sure not to add too much sugar. However, the whipped cream gave it balance, adding sweetness and creaminess to the final taste. The chili brought everything alive, and added fire and passion.

Chili Chocolate Mousse with Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream

 

 

Foodie Days

4 Feb

Since I first started this blog, life has changed for me. I have become more and more immersed in the pleasures of food and cooking. Its been a wonderful journey, at first taken with little steps, but it has now moved into joyful leaping bounds. I cook most every day, and often I am too tired to blog about it!

So much has happened, in such a short time. I am humbled and awed at this simple truth: if you live your passion, your true self, then everything falls into place. Every day is joy, every moment is a pleasure. In recognising that which resonates inside, happiness becomes normal. And opportunities (and wonderful people) come to you.

So what have I been doing, rather than blogging?

I did a photo shoot with the magificent Lascheersco for Retale magazine – O’Gourmet Food Hall’sย Chili Ice Cream for their Valentine’s day issue. It turned out gorgeously (as you can see here), and it was wonderful to work with such creative people. The image is really beautiful, and the process was yet another education in food presentation.

I was given so many good food things! Two of my favourites … The amazing GoddessMoments brought back a tub of dulce de leche from Argentina, which was devoured and savoured… I wish I had been less greedy, and put it in an ice cream, but so it goes. And I recently, GoldenOro gave me a little tub of mastic – the very particularly Greek herbal sweet gum paste. I am currently meditating on how to use it. Perhaps in an almond honey cake – the tart herbal hit an antidote to the sweet unctuous honey richness. Or in an ice cream – refreshing and creamy at the same time. Decisions, decisions!

Our foodie crew had dinner at Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio again to celebrate ZaZa’s and Adi’s birthdays. Nathalie is cooking with beautiful precision and artistry. This meal was absolutely phenomenal from start to finish. And, she is continuing the menu into the month of February, so if you havent tried her food (or are aching to go back), now is a good time! They are open for lunch, and two nights this month for dinner – the 11th and 25th. Go, if you can!

The deconstructed french onion soup was so beautifully presented, and delicious. Rich, without being heavy. And the vegetarian main course – an emmental and parmesan custard, topped with darkly sweet and bitter caramelised endive, and a endive and cream foam – I dont have words for how it made me think, and reevaluate, and abandon myself to the pleasure of that dish. And the carnivores were raving about the lamb, the beef cheeks, the fish, the prawns. I fell in love with the pureed peas. I wanted to slather it all over myself it was that good. Each dish was presented with such care and elegance, and yet it never felt artificial or forced. It felt like you could taste the passion of the woman cooking for you … and that kind of experience is soul deep satisfying.

On the way home, Adi and I talked about the joy of that meal, and how strong and confident the food is, and yet utterly feminine. There is an elegance and a grace, a female beauty to the presentation and the taste, which is often missing in the peacocking of some (very good) male cooks. I am a fan of Nathalie’s food (obviously) … but there is a power in a woman’s touch, and a great pleasure in being one of her lucky customers.

The following photos from that night are courtesy of Adi ๐Ÿ™‚

Sauteed Endive and Cheese Custard

 

Prawns with a Milk Foam

Lamb

Prettiest Peas Ever (and most delicious)

Lemon Cake with a Cherry Sorbet - Stunning

I also cooked, and helped to host, more than 50 people for Jobby’s baby shower. Ive detailed the menu in a previous post, and will definitely be writing up a few of the recipes – the truffled potato salad, and the fresh ginger cake were particularly lovely. It was overwhelming, and exhausting, to cook for that many people. But the challenge was a wonderful one. It made me stretch myself in a different way, and demanded I plan and consider what to cook, when, and how.

I was so pleased to see how much everyone enjoyed themselves, and ate and ate and ate! ย And I was so very lucky, to have once again, the invaluable assistance of AngelKitten. She has a grace, a quiet strength and a wonderful eye. She made the food look good. And MsTK made the whole space look professionally designed and put together – in less than 24 hours!

Here are a few of the things we enjoyed…

Mini Cheese Scones - Served with Fresh Herb Cream Cheese

Chili Spinach Artichoke Bake

Truffled Potato Salad

Cakes! A dark chocolate cake with mint chocolate chip frosting and a fresh ginger cake with vanilla cream cheese frosting

Mini Baked Truffle Cookies (Starry Starry Nights)

And I have cooked, on request, for many friends. And even found it within myself to price and sell what I cook. This was unimaginable for me just a few short months ago. But as I immerse myself more and more in cooking, I recognise that I need to put a value on the time and energy I spend cooking. Its part of valuing myself as a cook. Its been a challenge, but its also been a learning and growing experience.

I made more Yee Sang cakes than I can count in the last week or so for Chinese New Year. They were such wonderful fun – and I still have a few more to make! People really enjoyed the quirky nature of these cakes – a traditional yee sang, it is not. But its a delicious dessert, that holds much symbolism and joy for the New Year of the Rabbit.

I made two versions. The first batch, with the assistance of AngelKitten, were corporate gifts. They had their own bespoke design, and were very beautiful.

Making the World Beautiful Yee Sang Cake

 

And this week, I did a series of cakes based on the original O’Gourmet Food Hall version. I do love that blue porcelain against all that red. Dramatic and gorgeous.

Yee Sang Cake for the Year of the Rabbit

I have also been cooking regularly for friends and loved ones. A hazelnut chocolate cake. The same cake, made into a big birthday cake, stuffed with raspberry cream cheese, and iced with vanilla whipped cream. An easy pasta with tomatoes, spinach, white wine and onions. My semolina white chocolate pudding, with raspberry sauce. A simple bread pudding, elevated with bittersweet chocolate and raspberries.

Each of these moments, these events, these experiences, have consolidated a celebration of myself as a cook. As I near my 40th birthday, I am thankful to have found such happiness. I am looking forward to what life will bring me. And I promise… I will blog regularly!

 

Please note that the photographs from Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio are copyright bigeyesentertainment@gmail.com and the second photograph of yee sang cake is copyright GoddessMoments. None of these images may be used without express permission from their authors.

Baby Shower!

20 Jan

This coming Sunday, I am hosting a baby shower for one of my dearest friends. It was going to be a rather casual affair, but we suddenly realised we have more than 60 people coming! Luckily, we live in the tropics, and the party can spill out into the pool area.

Cooking for those you love is a form of service and joy. I have cooked for birthdays and weddings, for those who are ill and for those who want to celebrate. I dont think I have ever cooked for a baby shower though. This crowd is going to be a lovely mix of women, some who are new friends, and others who I have known for decades.

Making food for a celebration is always special – but to celebrate a new life, well, now, thats just a beautiful moment. My friend is gathering around her all those who mean much, and it is such an honour to be able to provide the food for such a group.

I love cooking for parties, but I have to admit, 60 people is a bit daunting. At least we invited them for tea, and not for a major meal! AngelKitten and I have been working quite hard to come up with a balanced and delicious high tea, that has luxurious and exotic elements to it.

Here is what we are going to serve:

  • Baked spinach and artichoke dip – this one is a standby that is delicious every time we make it. We have adapted it somewhat to suit the Asian palette – we add a lot of very hot chili powder to the mix. It transforms the dip into something very special.
  • Mini cheddar cheese scones – stuffed with herbed cream cheese / chili jam / cranberry cheese – I love these, and they are easy to make and delicious to eat. Stuffing them with a variety of fillings gives variety from a single bake.
  • Avocado and feta dip – salty, creamy, fresh and bright. Avocados always feel luxurious, and feta is the perfect complement to the cool green flesh. A little lemon juice and some herbs make this dip complex, and yet it is so easy to make.
  • Sliced carrots and chips on the side – so that those who want a little indulgence can have chips, and those who want a lighter option can munch on the carrots!
  • Truffled potato salad – because sometimes a new, decadent twist on an old favourite is called for! I like having at least one dish that is different, and that will spark people’s interest and appetites. I will probably use mascarpone with the truffles … simple and deeply flavourful.
  • Starry starry night cookies – these baked truffle cookies, made with bittersweet chocolate, honey, almond flour, eggs and sugar, are my friend’s favourite. They are so good.
  • Ginger cake with vanilla cream cheese frosting – a request from my friend. I have some gorgeous ginger curd from O’Gourmet Food Hall which I am considering using in the cake batter to make it deeper, damper and more delicious. Luckily, we also found some Bentong ginger at O’Gourmet, so I know that the cake will be bright and beautifully gingery.
  • Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting – because you cant have too much chocolate, and because AngelKitten and I were worried that with 60 people, one cake wouldnt be enough!
  • Fruit salad with iced raspberry puree – a fresh alternative to all the rich desserts. We have a watermelon, kiwi and dragon fruits… and we are freezing raspberry puree into ice molds. These will be dotted amongst the salad, and will keep it cool and fresh, as well as add flavour and taste.
  • Iced fruit tea with starfruit

And for thank you gifts for all our guests, I am making blondies – ten per person … Ive just filled about 45 little gift bags, and will do the rest tomorrow.

What do you think? Any other suggestions? ๐Ÿ™‚

Comfort Food

5 Dec

Angel Kitten has taken a 1 month vow of vegetarianism. I am so proud of her, I just cant even begin to tell you. She was so moved by information she found on the PETA website, that she took a pledge to be a vegetarian for a month. I think thats amazing, and I truly believe she will feel wonderful after that month is over – so much so, that may be it will inspire her to eat vegetarian once a week or so. We have had several discussions about the choice to live a vegetarian life. I dont really try and “convert” people, but I do strongly believe that living a life of love and gentleness often includes making a choice not to eat animals.

However, I also believe strongly that if one chooses a carnivorous life, then thats OK too — especially if the choices about what meats one eats are made with care and forethought. For example, choosing to eat at the Golden Arches or the like, where the meat and chicken have lived largely painful lives, and been processed in a way that is wholesale, rather than respectful, is very different from choosing to occasionally eat meat that is free range and fed organic, non steriod, non hormone food. I would posit that the latter is much more delicious, even if much more expensive. I think if one wants to or has to eat a carnivorous diet, the logical, kind and respectful choice is to eat meat that has been treated with kindness and respect. May be not as often as highly processed meats and chickens, unless one is rich beyond the need to consider such things, but with much more satisfaction and enjoyment.

Anyway, thats me off my hobbyhorse ๐Ÿ˜‰ As part of my support of AngelKitten’s choice, I really wanted to make her food that will encourage her to see how satisfying eating a vegetarian diet is. This meal is one of her all time favourites, and we often order it in restaurants together, as a conglomeration of side dishes which we share. It could be completely vegan if you mashed the potatoes with olive oil instead of butter and cream… but I leave that choice to you ๐Ÿ˜‰ For us, we used organic cream and butter and were very happy with that choice.

For dinner last night, we had sauteed spinach and french beans with garlic, roasted broccoli with soy and balsamic (which Ezril said tasted meaty and immensely satisfying), and mashed potatoes with roasted garlic. It was sublime. So simple, so easy, so delicious. It was ultimate comfort food for us, and got me to thinking about what comfort food really is. Its not fancy, overly thought through, complex food. Rather, its simple, well cooked, well sourced ingredients that are cooked so their essential deliciousness shines through. We used organic spinach, french beans and broccoli – and organic milk and cream in the potatoes. If you wanted more protein in this meal, you could add some toasted almonds to the vegetables, but I dont think its necessary. I think that if you eat a balance of food through a week or so, high in protein sometimes, high in greens others, youre fine. Balance is as much about listening to what your body wants and needs at a given time as following strictures and formulas.

And by the way, these are not so much recipes, as memories of what we ate that night, in celebration of AngelKitten’s pledge. We love the juxtaposition of the clean bright freshness of the spinach and beans, the roasted dark stickiness of the broccoli, and the pure decadence of the potatoes. Its all about balance isnt it? ๐Ÿ™‚ย So here are the three recipes we put together for our comfort dinner. I am glad to say that AngelKitten took the leftovers home, and hopefully, they will nurture her and feed her for a few days more to come ๐Ÿ™‚

Serves 4 – 6 people (with leftovers of the potatoes, most definitely)

with Garlic!

Sauteed Spinach and French Beans

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter (or additional olive oil for vegan)
  • 3 + 3 minced garlic cloves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 – 2 cups washed, topped and tailed and chopped French beans
  • 2 – 3 cups washed and roughly chopped spinach

In a large saucepan or frying pan, over medium low heat, combine the olive oil and butter, and gently heat until the butter melts. Add 3 minced garlic cloves, and cook, stirring gently, until the garlic releases its unique scent, and goes glossy and soft. Add a bit of salt and pepper to the garlic, and toss in your prepared French beans.

Stir the beans until completely coated with garlic and oil, and continue cooking until the beans change colour – they will go bright green. Taste and adjust salt and pepper.

Throw in the spinach. Its OK if a little water still clings to the leaves, but you dont want the spinach to be soaking wet. I usually squeeze it to dry it, then chop it and add it to the pan.

Stir until the spinach wilts and turns bright green, which should finish cooking the beans perfectly. Add the remaining 3 cloves of minced garlic, stir and taste for salt and pepper.

Place in a large serving bowl, and set aside. Can be served hot or at room temperature. Its even delicious, in large spoonfuls, straight from the fridge.

Mmmmmmm

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs or herbes de Provence
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cloves from 3 heads of garlic (about 30 – 35 cloves)
  • 8 – 10 large potatoes (I usually use a mix)
  • 1 stick of butter (or 4 – 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1/2 cup cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 200C (400F). Line a baking sheet or pan with parchment paper.

Place olive oil, balsamic vinegar, white wine vinegar, herbs, salt and pepper to taste and garlic cloves in a bowl. Toss to combine.

Place the garlic on the baking sheet in a single layer, and pour over any remaining liquid.

Roast the garlic in the oven until it is soft, burnt, glossy and slightly caramelised, about 20 minutes or so. Remove from the oven, and set aside.

Peel and chop the potatoes roughly. Place in a large saucepan or pot, and just cover with water. Over medium high heat, bring the water to a boil, and simmer until the potatoes are soft. Depending on your potatoes, and how small the chop is, this will take between 20 – 40 minutes.

Drain the potatoes, and place back in the pot. Slice butter over the potatoes, and pour over cream. Using a hand masher, ricer, or immersion blender (as I do), mash the potatoes. Taste for salt and pepper, and adjust.

Add all the garlic, and mash into the potatoes. Use a spoon or spatula to combine thoroughly, and taste and adjust for seasonings.

This can be prepared a few hours ahead, and reheated over a very low flame. It can keep warm, covered for an hour or two.

Sticky Green Goodness

Roasted Broccoli

  • 3 – 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 – 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 – 2 tbsp roasted sesame oil (or olive oil if you dont have it)
  • Pepper (and salt if you wish to taste, but the soy should make it salty enough)
  • 1 head of broccoli, broken down into small florets, with the larger stalk peeled and chopped into batons – about 3 – 4 cups total

Preheat oven to 200C (400F). Line a baking sheet or pan with parchment paper.

Combine the soy, balsamic, oil, and pepper in a large bowl. Toss in the prepared broccoli, and using your hands, toss well to combine. Taste the mixture and adjust seasonings if you wish.

Place the broccoli in an even layer on the baking sheet and reserve any additional liquid for later. Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes. Remove, and flip each piece of broccoli over, dipping the broccoli in the remaining liquid. Pour over any additional liquid and continue roasting in the oven for another 5 – 10 minutes or until the broccoli is sticky, browny-green and delicious.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

Thoughts on Cooking + Celebrating

27 Nov

YUM!Yesterday was our Thanksgiving. What a wonderful night – and all my favourite F’s in one place: friends, family and food! We had a great time, and it was truly a moment to sit, laugh, love, eat and be thankful. And it was a day to truly indulge in the pleasures of cooking. I was thinking about it, and while some of the dishes were specific to an autumn feast, most of the guidelines and the menu structure are applicable to just about any celebration.

When making a big meal for a group of people, I like to think about what I will cook, and then go shopping. I try and shop and cook according to these few guidelines:

  • I try and make sure that I wont be completely bound by my initial menu ideas. If something at the shops strikes me as being particularly beautiful and fresh, then I adjust, change tack, re-imagine. Flexibility is all. If I want to make a raspberry tart, but the blueberries or strawberries look much better, well then, I just change the recipe!
  • I look for a certain flavour and richness balance when I am cooking many dishes – sweet, savoury, light, creamy, indulgent, healthy. Making everything with cream and butter for example just makes a meal in which people cant really enjoy it all – too rich everything cancels out the pleasure. But a few really rich dishes counterpointed by sharp, savoury, fresh – now thats something special!
  • I try and find a colour balance – browns and beiges need to be tempered with green, red, purple, orange. Fruit and vegetables come in such a gorgeous array of colours and texture. Big meals are the perfect time to take advantage of such variety.
  • I make sure to make enough – but not too much. One of my biggest problems as a cook is that I used to make such immense amounts of food that people got overwhelmed. Now, I try and make enough so that people can go back for seconds, but not enough so they will be uninterested in dessert. We had about 15 people at dinner. I made garlic mashed potatoes with 9 large spuds instead of 15 – because there were so many dishes, each person had a good amount of the mash, but there wasnt a huge amount left over.
  • I like to have what I consider a taste thread running through the meal. This might mean one component which I add to most dishes – sometimes as a highlight, other times as a flavour enhancer. Most of the time people dont spot the taste thread, but I know its there, and I know that it really connects all the disparate elements of the meal. In the case of our Thanksgiving Dinner menu, I caramelise-roasted about 7 heads of garlic. And I used that garlic in just about everything! I also added maple syrup to quite a few dishes as a sweetener, but also as a secondary taste thread. It worked for me!
  • I pay attention to where I am – when cooking here in Malaysia, I look to make some things with a little nod to our Asian tastes. So the cranberries were made into a chutney with a healthy dose of chili. And the butternut was roasted in a soy sauce-sesame oil marinade tempered with maple syrup. Context is important.
  • And finally, for me, the number of dishes is important. I always try and present an odd number of dishes. I dont know why this is important to me, but it is. Its part of how I imagine a meal and I always try and cook an odd number of things. May be its Malaysian custom – I know when making traditional meals with rice and curry and accompaniments, we always try and make an odd number of dishes. When getting married, the gifts the bride and groom give each other have to have an odd number. Whatever it is, wherever it comes from, it works for me!

So given those guidelines, here is what I prepared for Thanksgiving Dinner.

  • Mushroom pot pie – three different kinds of mushrooms, parsnips, leeks, caramelised garlic, red wine, quark/cream, covered with a home made puff pastry
  • Wasabi mustard cream – a savoury whipped cream with wasabi, mustard, and spring onions instead of a gravy – the sharpness and brightness of the wasabi and mustard giving a kick to the rest of the meal, and was inspired by my amazing horseradish quenelle with the mushroom pot pie at Per Se
  • Roasted Butternut – a whole butternut, skin on, halved and sliced thinly, and tossed in a marinade of soy sauce, maple syrup, sesame oil, fresh sage and olive oil. Roasted until darkly caramelised and gorgeous.
  • Rocket Salad – A fresh simple green salad of rocket leaves and avocado. A refreshing breath of clean green.
  • Cranberry Chili Chutney – cranberries cooked thick and jewel like with chutney spices, a touch of maple syrup, an onion, and a few caramelised garlic cloves
  • Braised brussels sprouts – from my earlier recipe – I used 5 cups of brussels sprouts, halved, with 1/2 cup of cream and a tablespoon of maple syrup. The sweetness of the maple syrup elevated the rich creamy nuttiness of the brussels sprouts beautifully!
  • Caramelised Garlic Mashed Potatoes – unabashedly rich and creamy – a stick of butter, cream, half a cup of caramelised garlic, creamed with three different kinds of potato. Lots of salt and pepper, and the final dish was probably the best mash I have ever made!
  • Cornbread Stuffing – the cornbread was made with maple syrup instead of sugar, and combined with sauteed leeks and spinach, toasted pine nuts and a small handful of chopped caramelised garlic. Combined with eggs, milk and grated parmesan and baked in a large shallow pan. The gold green combination was very pretty.
  • Cheddar Cheese Scones – because I love them so much, and couldnt resist. Such a quick delicious bread.
  • Passion Fruit Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream – refreshing and yet creamy – a wonderful end to the meal
  • Raspberry Tart – gorgeous lush tart with a pistachio crust, bittersweet chocolate cream, raspberries and a vanilla whipped cream. Decorated with pretty purple edible flowers. It was, if I may say so myself, really stunning

And there you have it… 11 dishes, prepared over the course of two days. A wonderful feast for beloved friends. I hope you had a beautiful Thanksgiving too. Much love x

 

Vegetarian Thanksgiving + NGS!

23 Nov

Gorgeous!I have been ill this past week. Just one of those yucky, enervating flus that goes around and just decimates you. And then, once the infection is over, the recovery takes a while… Im not getting any younger, and when I get sick these days, I really feel it! ๐Ÿ˜‰

But I have been trying to get out and about. Yesterday had lunch with two of my favourite women … Goddess and AngelKitten. We lunched at Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio, and were totally utterly blown away by the dessert. A gorgeous, decadent, stunningly pretty raspberry tart accompanied by pistachio ice cream. The ice cream was a revalation. Nutty and dark goldgreen, it wasnt too sweet, and tasted intensely, purely of pistachios. And who knew that raspberries and pistachios were best taste friends? What an extraordinary taste combination … and so inspirational!

It inspired AngelKitten and I so deeply that we immediately went home and made ice cream – a ripple of gorgeously tart passionfruit and glowing raspberries. And it made me imagine a tart, which I will make for Thanksgiving … pistachio crust, dark chocolate pastry cream, and raspberries sitting atop a gentle cloud of whipped cream. Perfection.

Which brings me to Thanksgiving. Last year, I was at my sister’s house, and it was wonderful! Cooking with those that you love – its the ultimate form of holiday celebrations. This year, I am far away from my family, but close to the family of my heart. So we are doing a collective, pot luck Thanksgiving at Pingaling’s house. I have been dreaming about what I am going to make for this celebration. I know we arent Americans, but the idea of having a day to be thankful is so resonant and powerful… well, we just cant resist.

But, because we are Malaysians, and we suit our holidays to suit our needs, we are celebrating on Friday instead! So I have a few more days to finalise my vegetarian Thanksgiving meal. Here is what I am thinking of at the moment:

  • Rocket / Arugula Salad with caramelised pears, macadamias and avocado
  • Mushroom pot pie (with remembrance of the ultimate Per Se version)
  • Garlic mashed potatoes
  • Red wine gravy
  • Roasted brussels sprouts
  • Sweet potato and parsnip hash with a touch of maple syrup
  • Pickled beets
  • Whisky and cranberry sauce (or may be a kind of a chutney?)
  • Broccoli with garlic
  • Cornbread stuffing with mushrooms, almonds, spinach and sun dried tomatoes
  • Cheddar Cheese Biscuits/Scones
  • Raspberry tart with a pistachio crust and chocolate cream
  • Cranberry biscotti
  • Pear Riesling sorbet

I dont think anyone will miss the turkey do you? ๐Ÿ˜‰

Plum Crisp + Frittata

13 Oct

CrispOn Sunday, BSA invited some lovely friends of his over for lunch. M and I chatted about what we should serve, and decided on a typical brunch-y meal that our family loves. Lots of bits and bites to eat (toasted breads, croissants, smoked white fish, james, cheeses, bagels, cream cheese) and two main dishes: frittata and plum crisp.

The frittata was a variant of the frittatas I have made earlier, but with added inspiration from my friend Karo’s post. I sauteed rounds of leek in butter until they were soft, and then I grated a couple of zucchini (courgettes), squeezed the liquid out of them, and added them to the leeks with a little more butter. Sauteed them until they were soft, and then made the frittata with some beautiful goat’s milk cheese for added flavour. This was a delicate and beautiful frittata, finished in the oven to make it puffy and brown!

For the plum crisp, I decided to be a little brave. I sliced the plums into quarters, and then chopped them up. I added cinnamon, vanilla, grated nutmeg, and a little basil – it gave the fruit a slightly savoury deep hit of flavour that was totally gorgeous. The crisp was embellished with oats and almonds. Beautiful, served with yogurt mixed with brown sugar and vanilla.

Serves 6 – 8 people

  • 12 ripe dark purple plums, quartered and chopped, skin still on
  • 1 tbsp + 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 + 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 + 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 4 tbsp butter, cubed
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 400C (200F).

In chosen baking dish (I used a rectangular Pyrex dish), tumble in the chopped plums. I kept the skins on – but obviously took the pits out!

Sprinkle 1 tbsp flour, 1 tbsp brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, nutmeg, basil and 1 tbsp vanilla over the plums and using hands (or a spoon if you want to be neat!), mix thoroughly.

Crush the sliced almonds – I put them in a little zip log bag and bashed them with the bottom of a wine bottle! A rolling pin works just as well ๐Ÿ˜‰

In a small bowl, mix together 1/4 cup flour, 2 tbsp brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp vanilla, oats, butter, crushed almonds, and salt. Use your fingers to really work the butter into the rest of the ingredients, and taste. Adjust spices if need be.

Sprinkle the crisp over the plums, and bake in the oven for 25 – 30 minutes, or until the plums are soft and bubbling. The plums will have let go of deep dark purple juices and the whole thing will be gorgeously lush. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or plain yogurt, scented with a bit of brown sugar and vanilla.

Per Se – Part II

7 Oct

My companion and I, both vegetarians, decided to have the Tasting of Vegetables. I really wanted to see how the Chef thought about vegetables, how he would present them, and how a nine course meal of pure vegetable, served haute cuisine, would feel. It was truly the experience of a lifetime. Though they say the menu is nine courses, it is actually more like twelve, what with the amuse bouche to start and the flurry of mignardises at the end.

Every day, the menu at Per Se changes. With the changing of the seasons, with the new bouquets of fall, winter, spring and summer, different dishes are presented. The knowledge of food, the breadth and depth of passion for each vegetable and fruit is stunning. I am so glad we got to experience Per Se at the end of summer, and the beginning of autumn … the flavours were deep and rich, as resonant as a bass drum.

My companion had wine, and asked our waiter to chose. It was the first time in a long time that I wished I still drank. Champagne to start, a Pinot Gris that was so delicious I find words hard to express its complexity, crispness, delight… and finally a red which was soft and rich and full. Perfect pairings for our most phenomenal meal.

———

Amuse Bouches

The amuse started the meal out with a bang. Tiny, miniscule gougeres – so little, they seemed inconsequential. Two, one each, served on a crisp white plate. Eaten by hand, they were like a peanut… until their huge flavour exploded in the mouth. Crisp outer shell, mindshatteringly savoury warm cheese, melting like velvet on the tongue. That little gougere was like a wake up call. Sit up! Pay attention! Your mind, your taste buds, everything is about to be blown away. It was so good, I immediately wanted 20 more. I could have sat and eaten those gougeres forever – but of course, that would have lessened the power of that singular mouthful. I thought it was one of the most intense and delicious things I have ever eaten. And it set up the meal perfectly because we couldnt wait to see what was going to come next.

One of Chef Keller’s most famous amuse bouches is his smoked salmon, served like an ice cream, in a tiny savoury cone. We had the vegetarian version, with artichoke, a sublime couple of bites – creamy, astringent, crisp. Eaten with the hands as well. Astonishingly clever. And a perfect match for that intense gougere because it spoke of balance, sweetness and savoury, a sense of humour and adventure.

Caramelized Salsify “Veloute” Pomegranate Reduction, Medjool Date “Marbles” and Truffle Puree

Our first course was … how to call this a soup? A veloute is one of the four mother sauces that the great French Chef Careme classified as being the basis from which all other sauces come from – bechamel, espagnole, veloute and allemande. Veloute is made from roux, with huge amounts of butter, and uncaramelised stock. This vegetarian veloute was smooth like the finest silk, soft as a baby’s cheek. Salsify is a root vegetable – it looks like a thin parsnip but it has its own flavour, hauntingly expressive, with notes of oyster, earth, dampness.

Together, the salsify and the veloute created a dream. Sweet and voluptuously satisfying. And then… pomegranate reduction and truffle puree! Taking that smooth white emulsion, and bringing in dark notes. Truffle is one of those tastes that in and of itself is mesmerising. Married with the pomegranate and the salsify … it was like nothing I had ever tasted before. And the dates – literally marbles of sweet honeyed flavour. This entire course was about grounding, earthiness, the life force of the vegetables tangible and yet elevated together to a stunning resonance.

Both of us considered putting our faces in our bowls and licking them clean, but we did not want to embarrass ourselves quite yet!

Compressed Persian Cucumbers Slow Roasted Beets, Horseradish Panna Cotta, Mizuna and Gold Beet Glaze

Well, one thing is for sure. I will never ever look at a cucumber the same way again! After the earthy complexity of the first course, we had a “salad” – but honestly, it was something else entirely. The cucumber and the beets had been pressed and roasted – until some shattered on the tongue like delicate shards of flavour, and some had the caramelised roasted perfume of the Goddesses. Each delicate slice was presented with reverent perfection and each tasted completely different. The mizuna – Japanese watercress – added a burst of colour, and reflected the sharp contrast of the sublime horseradish panna cotta hiding under a golden sunshine sweet beet glaze.

This dish was composed like a painting. It was gorgeously lush, and so beautiful to look at. The gold beet glaze was almost unreal – an orange yellow slick of brightness. It was sweet, as were the cucumbers and beets. But the creamy panna cotta had the acerbic sting of horseradish. What a combination! Each mouthful was different and yet perfectly similar. I wanted to take a breath, to savour, but it was so sublime, I could not stop eating it. I just wanted to find another taste, another angle, another combination.

And this was the pure joy of the meal – to experience a Chef thinking about putting different tastes, textures and emotions together. The colours, the presentation, the rhythm of the meal was so seductive because it was at once intellectual, humourous and wantonly sensual.

Rosa Bianca Eggplant “A La Grenobloise” “Haricots Verts et Jaunes,” Parsley Shoots and Crystallized Eggplant Chip

After the black and white pleasures of the veloute, and the sparkling composition of the cucumbers, we were presented with eggplants. But not just any eggplant … Rosa Bianca, a beautiful heirloom variety, small and seedless, roasted to perfection. Sexy and rich, deeply moving. A la Grenobloise refers to a method of preparation which uses brown butter, parsley, lemon juice, capers and tiny croutons. This sexy salad had echoes of these flavours, along with beautifully prepared green and yellow beans, tender and subtle, and parsley shoots – tiny young shoots, sweet and gorgeous garnish – totally different in taste and texture from the older, full grown variety. So much contrast here, and so much to think about. The crunch of the crouton, the slickness of the green and yellow beans. The creaminess of the eggplant, highlighted by its preparation…

And to top it all off, a slice of eggplant. Sliced through from top to bottom, a slice gossamer thin, and crystallized. It was like a piece of stained glass art. So stunning I didnt want to eat it but then I allowed my appetite, and my interest its full rein. Sweet, perfect, crackly. Eggplant? Yes! Oh yes yes yes. Such a superb combination of presentation and flavour, and such deep connection to the first two dishes. A Chef at once thoughtful and playful. And so moving.

With this course, we were served our first bread of the meal – a small roll, a cross between a brioche, a croissant and Southern spoon biscuits. Utterly devastatingly satiny soft, like a pillow of richness. So good that on its own, it would deserve accolades and applause. Served almost nonchalantly with two butters – Vermont salted and California unsalted. Of course.

Butter Roasted Sweet Potato Brussels Sprouts, Pearson Farms’ Pecans, Frisee Lettuce and Blis Maple Syrup Emulsion

How to move on from eggplants? From that ripe earthiness? From the artistic exactness of that crystalized piece? A perfect square of sweet potato, roasted in butter until so unctuously soft, it was experienced like a toffee butternut! With a crisp coating that had saltiness and creaminess, and which stopped the sweet potato from going into the overwhelmingly ripe. Alongside, bright braised brussel sprouts, their acidity a counterpoint to the sweetness. Toasted pecans, artful tiny lettuce and a creamy maple syrup. Each element of this dish not only complemented each other but raised the tastes into an aria… sung a capella!

I know, I am verging on the obscene with the superlatives… but honestly. Harmony. Balance. Lushness. It was all there.

It just blows me away when I can enjoy a meal in such a way, and yet I can feel the thought and care, tenderness and intensity that has gone into preparing every mouthful. I love home cooked food because its really about love. When I eat a meal prepared for me by someone who cares about me, I sense it in every bite. Restaurant meals are more difficult, because there is rarely a personal connection between Chef and diner. More so with the superstar restaurants … and yet here, in every part of the experience, I was immersed in a depth of care. Every dish that was presented was done so lovingly, was prepared with honour and respect. You cannot fake that.

Mushroom Pot Pie “Matignon” of Root Vegetables, Ekerton Hill Farm’s Chestnuts, Watercress Salad, Fines Herbes Creme Fraiche and Madeira Cream

After five courses (including the amuse bouches), this was the pinnacle. A pot pie. Homely. Something that one would make to comfort and show love. A hug. Reassuringly familiar. Yes, and yet… Oh my good Goddess. This one, I did end up dipping my fingers in at the end and licking up the remaining juices.

Essence of mushroom, in all its complexity. Shadows and mustiness, dark thumps of flavour.

And with it, the matignon, which is a method of cooking vegetables slowly, softly, with butter and Madiera, until they are melted and melded with each other. Another essence, this time of root vegetables (and echoes of the salsify we began with). And chestnuts, sliced in perfect matchsticks with the mushrooms. Lush beyond belief. Creamy and earthy, so rich and intense. Crowned with a perfect crisp puff pastry, that was delicately sliced. A quenelle of fines herbes and sharp watercress horseradish cream deposited into the exceptional mushroom. A transcendent experience. It was perfect. Really truly, perfect. Every part of me resonated with that pot pie.

I could have laughed out loud with joy.

Mascarpone Enriched Parsnip “Agnolotti” Honeycrisp Apple “Parisienne,” Young Onions, Pea Shoots and Black Winter Truffle Beurre Blanc

Agnolotti are a form of ravioli, ย plump squares of pasta from the Piedmont region of Italy. These tiny, thumbnail sized squares were stuffed with a silken parsnip puree. Amazing explosion of flavour from a small bite… echoes of our gougeres and that sublime first course. Remembrance and memory woven into a singular meal. Sweet honeyed apples, tiny rounds of contrast, mirroring the dates. And a beurre blanc of truffles (black and white again! And oh, what a taste to leave you gasping!) … another memory intertwined with this one.

So flawless…except for the young onions. For me, they were a dissonance. I understood why they were there – the counterpoint. The astringent to the creamy. But I did not find that they melded well into this course, and I did not eat them. This was noticed, of course, and I was asked why I had left them. I answered honestly… and it was accepted.

“Ticklemore” Thyme Sable, Compressed Figs, Belgian Endive and Watercress with Walnut Marmalade

or

“Smokey Oregon Blue” Per Se Graham Cracker, Poached Quince, Celery “Ribbons” and Tellicherry Pepper “Aigre-Doux”

Our cheese course arrived. Since we were two, we ordered one of each, and shared. Two completely different cheeses. Mine, the Ticklemore, was a goat’s cheese from Devon – subtle and creamy. Very delicate for a goat’s cheese, and served with a sweet thyme sable biscuit, ripe figs, a sharp melding of green and a luscious walnut marmalade.

My companion had the Smokey Oregon Blue – totally intense, smoked over hazelnuts for hours, and strong. What a forceful flavour! Paired with the Per Se version of a graham cracker – honeyed and gingery, jewel-like quinces and the sour sweet pepper.

Our two versions of the cheese course highlighted how completely different cheese can be. It was wonderful to be able to share.

Huckleberry and Buttermilk Sherbet Oat Crumble, Oregon Huckleberries “Demi-Sec” and Buttermilk Chantilly

Ahhhh the sorbet. A chance to take a breath. Cleanse the palate. Huckleberries and buttermilk. Again, that magical contrasting combination of flavour and sharpness, softness and creaminess. The oat crumble, a laughing nod to crunchy granola folks, but perfectly done. And those partially dried huckleberries – an intense fruity version of sun dried tomatoes or raisins.

Purple and white on the plate, with golden dusting of oats. How not to smile when you are presented with such a plate after such overwhelming courses as had come before. So clean. And yet so impeccable. Just when the appetite flags, when we thought we could not have any more… this perked up the taste buds, cooled down the heat and cleansed our souls.

“PB & J” Peanut Butter Parfait, Crystallized Lemon Verbena, Toasted Virginia Peanuts and Concord Grape Sherbet

or

“Glace a la Vanille” Cardamom Grissini, Bartlett Pears and Root Beer Syrup

Again, we shared one of each dessert.

I had the PB & J (Peanut Butter and Jelly). Playful, fantastical romp over every memory of pb & j sandwiches as a child. The peanut butter parfait – splendid little cakes, lathered with peanut butter cream. The crisp sweetness of the peanuts, and the sweet dark purple cleanness of the grape sherbert. And atop one of the parfaits, what looked like a single grape. Turned out to be peanut butter fudge encapsulated in grape jelly. How funny and light and sense arousing!

My companion had the vanilla ice cream – bold in its simplicity, and adorned with root beer syrup which highlighted the dusky note in the vanilla, and pears, which resonated with the creaminess of the glace. The only wrong note, for me, was the cardamom grissini (sweet breadsticks) – served with much reverence, but slightly stale and sticky.

“Mignardises”

We thought we had come to near the end of our meal. A little coffee and may be a piece of chocolate to finish.

Mignardises are small bites – much like the amuse bouches but sweet. Little desserts, tiny tastes.

I am not sure what happened but it felt like all the Chefs in the kitchen of Per Se were replaced by a very worried Jewish mother – worried that we had not eaten enough, worried that we had not gotten our fill. A veritable blizzard of little treats were showered down on our table. I actually did laugh out loud – I could not believe the extraordinary symphony of delectables that were presented to us.

Along with the best cup of coffee I have had in a long time, we were offered a silver platter of home made chocolates – about 18 different flavours. We each chose two, and reveled in the unique flavours. Curry buttercream anyone?

And then… Keller’s justly famous “Coffee and Doughnuts.” Brioche doughnut holes, light and yeasty, dusted with dusky cinnamon sugar, and a cappuccino ย semi-freddo. Totally unannounced, this could have been a dessert in its own right. And it was scrumptious! So good in that down home haute cuisine sensibility that Keller has perfected. That semi-freddo was the perfect coffee ice cream – so smooth and light. And those doughnuts. Seemingly simple, I have read the recipe. This is a complex dish, and I was totally thrilled to be able to taste it!

And then… a silver triple layer container, hiding white, dark and milk chocolate truffles, pulled caramels, tiny hard candies. Chocolate covered hazelnuts. It felt like we were being buried in deliciousness. I could literally feel my stomache stretching to accommodate everything. And I wanted to taste it all, to feel it all, to be totally immersed in these sweet complex flavours.

And then finally. The last bite. A bookend to that phenomenal gougere. What looked like a white chocolate truffle – an impeccable bon bon which hid salted caramel pop corn ice cream (I kid you not) – a sweet salty explosion. A bang of a finish. A supreme hit of fireworks.

———

What a meal. What an experience. What theatre.

When we were done (almost four hours from when we started), I think we were both grinning like children who had had their first taste of joy. We had expressed our contentment and pleasure so clearly, that we were honoured to be invited for a kitchen tour. But thats another story for another time.

Throughout the meal, we were treated with such kindness and grace, with such happiness and pleasure that the total experience was sublime. This was special. It was unique. And I am thankful that neither of us is so world weary or pseudo sophisticated not to be grateful for the opportunity to experience Per Se in that light.

For right now… all I can say is, if you want a culinary education in a few hours, go to Per Se. If you want food that is cooked with love and laughter, joy and reverence, go to Per Se. If you want the experience of a lifetime, pure artistry in food, ephemeral and fleeting, and yet so clearly held in the memory that it is tangible… go to Per Se.

Thank you to Chef Keller for creating such an establishment, and such a wonderful version of American food. And thank you to our Chef, the Chef de Cuisine Eli Kamineh, for a meal that will live in in my memory for as long as I am on this earth.

 

Per Se – Part I

7 Oct

I recently returned from a visit to New York, and while I was there, I wanted to treat myself to something truly spectacular. For some people, this might be a gorgeous outfit or a piece of jewelry, a stay in a fabulous hotel or a night at the theatre. For me, it was a meal at a truly exceptional restaurant. I looked at quite a few – L’Atelier du Joel Robuchon, Daniel, etc. But there was one place I really wanted to go… Thomas Keller’s Per Se. I have read all his books, and the French Laundry is on my list of places I want to go before I die. But since I was in NYC, rather than California, I decided Per Se would do ๐Ÿ˜‰

Reservations at Per Se are notoriously difficult to get. One has to book two months in advance, and offer a credit card deposit. However, I figured out that Per Se releases their lunch cancellations on the Monday before the weekend of – they only serve lunch on weekends. So, the Monday before I went to New York, I looked on Open Table, and lo! Lunch was available for Saturday at 12. Perfection!

I have to say, I am glad we went to lunch rather than dinner. While dinner might have been more romantic, and reviews have told of the spectacle of watching the sun go down over Central Park, the meal itself is so phenomenal – so full on hedonistic – that if I had tried eating it for dinner, I would not have been able to sleep until 4 am. I was also really intrigued to note that Per Se offers lounge dining, first come first serve, from an a la carte menu which reflects some of the dishes served in the Chef’s Tasting Prix Fixe menu. Next time I am in New York, it might be a pleasant splurge…

From the moment we walked in, Per Se impressed. Its a very elegant space, with floor to ceiling windows, beautifully dressed staff, and a calm sophisticated atmosphere. The chairs are wide and comfortable, the tables set with beautiful cutlery and plates. Whites, browns and the beauty of Central Park. My companion remarked upon the fact that there was no music. To be honest, I quite liked this. Nothing to distract you from the symphony of food to come.

I have travelled the world, and been to some lovely establishments, and I was impressed by how the staff managed to be friendly and open, yet totally professional. They imbued the experience with a sense of occasion and respect, without once coming across as snobbish or belittling. They were as excited about the food as we were, and knew everything there was to know about each course.

The restaurant only has 16 tables, and is divided between two levels. We sat at the top level, which gave us a great view of the other guests. The rest of the clientele was quite diverse. Next to us were two women who were as intent on the food experience as we were. Flanking our two tables were couples – one celebrating a birthday, and the other who looked and sounded international. They enjoyed their food as much as they enjoyed each other!

Further along, was obviously a touristy couple, here for the experience. Unfortunately, the woman (we shall call her Red) decided to cobble together her own menu from the Chef’s Tasting, Vegetable Tasting and 5 Course Prix Fixe. She loudly replaced one thing with another, and told her server that they were on a low fat diet! I am not sure why one would even begin to think of coming to a restaurant like Per Se if one couldnt actually eat the food they served! I also feel that the Chef planned the tastings in a certain order, with a certain balance. To start shifting dishes around, and ordering off point was exactly besides the point – it killed any possibility of really seeing the Chef’s vision. We did note that when Red went to the restroom, her husband devoured the course in front of him with a relish that told us he had not gotten to eat like that in a long time.

There were others. Two men who had a menu quite different from anyone else, and who were the centre of attention from a lot of the wait staff. A woman who had brought her parents to Per Se from out of town. Two couples in their 60’s, with the women wearing pearls as big as golf balls. It was fun to check out our fellow diners, but to be honest, I was there for the food!

And what food it was! We could choose between a nine course Tasting of Vegetables or Chef’s Tasting Menu, or a five course Prix Fixe. As vegetarians, we decided to go with the Tasting of Vegetables, but because I love reading menus, and I think you might too, I will reproduce the other two menus here.

———

5 Course Prixe Fixe

Smoked Columbia River Sturgeon Sweet Pepper Tapenade, Carrot “Ribbons,” Garden Dill and Preserved Horseradish Vinaigrette

Liberty Farms’ Pekin Duck “Presse” New Crop Potato Salad, Cornichons, Greenmarket Onions, Celery Branch, White Heart Celery and Caramelized Onion Jus

or

Sea Urchin “Tofu” Crispy Rice, English Cucumber, Watermelon Radish, Jalapeno, Pea Tendrils and Kanzuri

Australian Abalone “Poele” Butternut Squash, Glazed Chestnuts, Crispin Apples, Fried Sage and Brown Butter Emulsion

or

Dover Sole “AmandineHeirloom Cauliflower Florettes, Plumped Sultanas, Parsley Shoots and Truffle Coulis

Elysian Fields Farms’ “Cote D’Agneau” “Petit Sale,” Herb Scented Panisse, Red Wine Pickled Eggplant, Young Fennel, Aji Dulce Peppers, Sylvetta and Lamb Jus

or

Herb Roasted Thomas Farms’ Squab Sauteed Hudson Valley Moulard Duck Foie Gras, Flowering Quince Puree, Brussels Sprouts, Petite Turnips and “Sauce Hydromel”

“M&M’s” Pretzel Chips, Candied Peanuts, Madagascar Vanilla Mousse and Mast Brothers’ Chocolate Ice Cream

———

Chef’s Tasting Menu

“Oysters and Pearls” “Sabayon” of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and Sterling White Sturgeon Caviar

Salad of Big Island Hearts of Palm Jingle Bell Peppers, Cherry Tomatoes, Cilantro and Hass Avocado Puree

or

“Tourchon” of Elevages Perigord Moulard Duck Foie Gras Quince Marmalade, Eckerton Hill Farms’ Chestnuts, Young Beets, White Heart Celery and Aged Balsamic Vinegar

Herb Roasted Fillet of Atlantic Halibut Globe Artichoke, Sunchokes, Castelvetrano Olives, Parsley Shoots and Meyer Lemon Vierge

Nova Scotia Lobster Mitts “En Brochette” Hadley Orchard’s Medjool Date “Marbles”, Glazed Sweet Carrots, Mizuna and Madras Curry-Cauliflower Puree

All Day Braised Salmon Creek Farms’ Pork Belly “Matignon” of Root Vegetables, French Green Lentils, Frisee and Pork Jus

Snake River Farms’ “Calotte de Bouef Grillee” Chanterelle Mushrooms, Salsify Root, Wilted Arrowleaf Spinach and “Sauce Bordelaise”

“Pyrenees Brebis” Pain de Campagne Croutons, Haricots Verts, Confit of Torpedo Onion and Petite Radishes

Strawberry Sorbet Rick Bishop’s Tri-Star Strawberries, Strawberry Lace and Saigon Cinnamon Soda

“Tropical Tea” Passionfruit-Chocolate Cremeux, Earl Grey Genoise, Passionfruit Mousse and Earl Grey Ice Cream

or

“Delice au Damas” Brown Butter Financier, Damson Plum Mousse, Mint Jelly and Plum Ice Cream

———

We had the Vegetable Tasting Menu, which I will go through, in detail, in the second part of this review. Just note, this is not a restaurant for vegans – they use lashings and lashings of butter, cream, cheese and eggs. We did not eat for 24 hours after this meal… it was just that overwhelming, that amazing. Each dish was so carefully constructed, so beautifully presented, and above all else, tasted so astonishing… nothing else could compare.

Malaysian Dinner

5 Oct

Last night, after a long journey back home from NYC, I was confronted by a quiet empty kitchen. M had gone upstairs to put Z to bed, J had gone to have her shower, and I realised that we would all be hungry in about half an hour. I wanted to make a REALLY fast, but really delicious meal that would be warm, and full of the flavours of home.

We didnt have much in the fridge, but we did have some tempeh, a half bag of frozen spinach, some milk (for vegans, you can replace with a bit of coconut milk), some salsa with chopped tomatoes and garlic, an onion and jasmine rice. Chili and soy sauces provided heat and flavour, along with a drizzle of toasted sesame oil. This was such a good meal, and took only a few minutes to put together.

Serves four hungry people on a cold rainy day, with the remembrance of sunshine and heat.

Prepare some jasmine rice.

While the rice is cooking, chop an onion, and saute, with a bit of olive oil and a bit of toasted sesame oil, in a medium sized non stick pan until translucent. Sprinkle over some soy sauce and some chili sauce until the onion is very dark and sticky looking. Slice up the tempeh, bring the heat up high, and quick fry the tempeh, ensuring it is covered in the onion sticky mix. You should fry the tempeh in an even layer, and then flip it over. Add more soy or chili sauce if you want it stickier, saltier or hotter. Once the tempeh has been cooked on both sides (it will get a bit brownish and will start to burn on the edges), stir fry it a bit, and transfer to a bowl. Set aside to serve. This should take you about ten minutes total.

Clean out the frying pan, and put half a bag of frozen spinach (or 2 – 3 cups fresh, chopped) and a few tablespoons of salsa into the pan. Put the heat on to low, and let the mixture melt and come to room temperature. Add the milk or coconut milk (I used about half a cup), and about a teaspoon of soy sauce. Let the mixture come to a boil, and let it bubble down a bit. Taste for saltiness and adjust. If you have it, sprinkle over a half a teaspoon or more of garam masala for a soft hint of spice.

Serve the spinach and tempeh with rice for a simple, easy Malaysian meal.

PS – We were so hungry, and it smelled so good, I forgot to take a picture! But trust me, its easy, delicious, and it looks beautiful, with the deep creamy green of the spinach, the sticky golden chili tempeh and the pure white rice.