Tag Archives: pasta

Review – Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio

28 Jun

My friend, goddessmoments, had posted a photo on her FB page which showed what looked like an amazing restaurant that has just opened in Solaris Dutamas, Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio. We decided that we wanted to try it out and made plans to go today. They are open from 9 – 6pm, breakfast being baked goods and from 3pm onwards, tea and cakes. There was not a huge lunchtime crowd there (yet) but once people get to know the quality and level of cooking thats available, you will probably have to end up making reservations! Its a small place – about 6 – 8 tables, with seating outside that is not prime at the moment because of the construction going on next door. There is also a huge open plan kitchen where Nathalie runs cooking classes (AngelKitten and I are going for a macaron class soon!) as well as an organised professional kitchen which you can see from the seating area.

When we arrived at 2pm, we were greeted and seated quickly. The menu is simple – 5 or so of each starters, main courses and desserts, as well as a small children’s menu. I love reading menus, and this one did not disappoint. You can see the mind of the chef working in the menu, and it was intriguing. The place settings are beautiful and simple, yet elegant and functional. It made us feel welcome, and everything we needed was accessible immediately.

Nana and AngelKitten ordered juice, which came in beautiful little individual carafes. AngelKitten had orange (which I think may have been blood orange) and it was superb – the essence of orange, tart, sweet, sour, perfection. Nana had pineapple, which was sweet and gorgeous. I love the care and thought that has gone into the presentation here. It makes you feel special.

They served us gorgeous, crusty baked rolls, with sweet butter sprinkled with sea salt. I think you can tell the quality of a chef’s kitchen by their attention to details like the bread – and this one was perfect.

I had a starter for my mains – the eggplant three ways. It was wonderful! First there was a little toast with savoury eggplant and raw tuna. Just an astonishingly lovely combination of flavour. Then there was an eggplant ice cream – savoury, cold, a hint of sweetness, silky on the tongue and wonderfully challenging for those of us who think of icecream as dessert. For me as a cook, it was a great exploration of seeing eggplant in a different way. And finally, there was a beautiful eggplant jelly, with an eggplant and cream espuma or foam. It was my favourite. The creamy dusky flavour was essence of eggplant, and made me think of making an eggplant soup that would have those flavours in it. Not only was this a mouthwatering dish, but it was visually stunning.

Nana’s main course was the duck confit. He said it was delicious. Beautifully cooked duck, orange, and caramelised onions. He loved the balance of flavours, and the satisfaction of a hearty meal that was presented absolutely beautifully.

AngelKitten was looking for a simple main course so she could concentrate on dessert. She ordered from the children’s menu (since she is 12 plus 8!) and had the bolognaise tagliatelle. It was a very large portion for a child’s size! But she said it was really good – tomato-y but not too much so, meaty and flavourful without being too complex. Exactly what a child’s palate wants. She really wanted to try the chicken nuggets reimagined, but they did not have them, so we will have to go back again!

And finally there was another starter, salmon blini with lemon grass cream and a salad. Beautiful, simple, light – the lemongrass cream was sparkling – such a taste sensation with the silky unctuous salmon! Stunning presentation too.

And then… came dessert! AngelKitten and I had done what we always do – check out the dessert menu first, and then thought about the main course! She had an utterly superb orange creme brulee with caramel sauce, and a blood orange sorbet. Such lovely contrasts – the icey cool sharpness of the sorbet – light and airy – sweet yet tangy – and the creamy sweet meltingness of the creme brulee. The whole plate was so well thought out. Everything complemented and contrasted in interesting ways. A delightful crunchy tuile sat atop the sorbet, sharp and crackly and sweet, light and icy and tangy. The creme brulee sat on a vanilla cookie crust – the texture of the crust the perfect balance to the richness and wobbly delights of the creme. So very very very good, and so satisfying.

I had the trio of desserts – a consideration of how different chocolate can be! First there was a rhubarb and tarragon crumble with a white chocolate espuma. The rhubarb crumble was tart and soursweet, the crumble with hints of cinnamon. The chocolate here only highlighted the different taste sensations of the fruit, and was definitely a supporting character. Then there was a  macaron – I chose the caramel, though I should have probably chosen the chocolate for unity of plate! I didnt regret it though – the caramel macaron was astonishing – a delight, a whisper of macaron, and a bold flavourful bittersweetsalty caramel licked in the centre. I could bathe in that caramel and be happy. And finally, a tiny, delicate chocolate tart, with a fragile vanilla crust. But it had a huge chocolate flavour – intense dark smoky notes. Wonderful.

All in all a brilliant meal. As a cook, it inspired me to think of different balances and ways to present food. As an eater, it appealed to the sensualist in me.

Was there anywhere we could find fault in this lovely new restaurant? Well, yes actually. The only uncomfortable note of the entire meal was the seating – outside seats were very low, and we could not sit there because of the noise and pollution from the construction. Inside was beautiful, but they had inexplicably chosen high, sharp bar seats and high tables. Very uncomfortable and difficult to get in and out of. The seats were the only thing in the restaurant that did not encourage you to stay a while and enjoy. Honestly, after an hour or so of sitting, they were painful.

Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio changes its menu every month, so we will definitely be back next month to try more mouthwatering delicacies. It is exciting and very happy making to see such a high level gourmet space opening up in KL. Its wonderful to be able to explore the food mind of a serious chef through her menu. Thank you Nathalie for creating such a sumptuous gourmet experience!

PS – Try the macarons! We brought back a large box – couldnt resist!

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

Mushroom and Chili Pasta

27 Jun

Angel Kitten asked if we could have some chili in the food (I think I might make a veg curry soon…) It made me think about why I havent made a lot of spicy chili dishes. I think its because when I was quite small, I was in the kitchen with my Kak Gee. She was preparing a meal for an embassy function, and she had some sesame seeds next to the chopping board where she was preparing the chili. I was sneaking finger-fulls of the sesame seeds, and of course accidentally consumed some chili seeds as well. Oh my good goddess, they were so bloody hot! I cried my 5 year old eyes out! I think I have been nervous about cooking with chili ever since! But I decided today I was going to face my fears (unlike the England team), so AngelKitten and I had a chat and dreamed up a pasta we wanted.

We thought up a mushroom, chili and blue cheese pasta, because we were so enamoured with the blue cheese bread pudding from the other night. However, once we started cooking, the blue cheese just didnt go with the chili and mushrooms, so we left it out. This is an example of cooking on the fly 😉 If we had stuck with our initial daydream pasta, it would have tasted totally crap (kind of like England’s play) so we adjusted, and it was yummilicious.

This follows a basic pasta outline that I have used before. Infused oils, seared mushrooms, sauce, and quick mixing with angel hair. Mainly its what you do with your similar ingredients which changes the taste, flavour and texture.

For 6 people you will need:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil + 2 tbsp for cooking
  • 4 red chilis (NOT chili api)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 10 – 12 portobello mushrooms
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Butter
  • Red wine
  • 1 packet or less angel hair pasta

Put olive oil in a clean small bowl. Clean your chilis, and cut off tops, and (depending on the heat you prefer) clean inside – split chili in half and clean out chili seeds and stringy bits with the tip of a butter knife. Be careful here because the chili seeds are the most hot part of the chili and you could do harm to yourself if you rub your eyes or mouth while doing this job. The more chili seeds you leave, the hotter the finished dish will be. Dice the chili finely and put into the olive oil to infuse.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add minced garlic. Let it soften. Clean and chop the mushrooms roughly. Add about half to the hot oil (the garlic should be sizzling) and sear it – mixing it well in the oil and making sure that it burns a bit. Add the sugar to encourage caramelisation. As the mushrooms burn slightly, add the rest. This will encourage the mushrooms to let go of their juices. Add a few splashes of red wine and a couple small slices of butter to the top of this mushroom mixture, and a wonderful rich sauce will start pooling at the bottom of the pan. Add all the chili and olive oil and mix through for richness and heat. Season with salt and pepper and taste to adjust seasoning.

If you want it creamy, feel free to add milk or cream, but it really doesnt need it.

Prepare 3/4 packet or so of angel hair pasta. Drain. Add pasta to pan with tongs and mix well. Enjoy your comfort food even if your team does crap 😛

Green Pasta for MZ+BSA

27 Jun

While visiting M a few months ago, I was able to cook in her wonderful kitchen (using knives that a friend of BSA had hand made!) and enjoy all the bounty and amazing-ness that was Whole Foods! I could so live in that place!

One of my favourite concoctions was this green pasta. BSA seemed to like it enough that he went for thirds (or was that fourths?). Either way, it is made with the freshest and greenest veg you can find. Feel free to adjust, though these go well together. The mushroom adds a warm muskiness that holds everything else together.  This dish bursts with energy and vibrancy, and its so delicious. Simple, and not creamy either, which is satisfying without being overwhelming.

You could serve this with all sorts: couscous, rice, even a toasted brioche, but angel hair pasta, to me, has the delicacy that this dish needs.

Feeds 4 hungry people

  • Approximately 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 5-7 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 250 g mushrooms
  • 2 cups baby spinach, thinly sliced into ribbons
  • 2 cups artichoke hearts
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup white wine (or alternatively, veg stock and lemon juice, if you dont want alcohol)
  • 1 cup broccolini (or other type broccoli) roughly chopped
  • Few leaves fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup or so parmesan and more to serve
  • Angel hair pasta

Start with about half the olive oil, or enough to thickly coat the bottom of a large non stick pan. You should have a green gold puddle. Add more olive oil as needed while cooking. Turn heat on low.

As oil heats, throw in all the thinly sliced garlic. It will infuse the oil, and add depth to the flavour of the finished pasta. Watch as garlic gets soft but dont allow it to brown.

Meanwhile peel and slice the mushrooms, and add to pan, putting heat up to medium low. Stir well and encourage the juices of the mushrooms to let go.

Prepare spinach by taking leaves, rolling them into little cigar shapes, and cutting into ribbons. Add to pan and saute to wilt.

Roughly chop artichoke hearts, and add to the pan. Stir all ingredients together, to introduce them to one another and immediately add wine (or veg stock/lemon juice). Allow to braise for a few minutes, and check for flavour. Add salt and pepper to taste. Note: I usually add white pepper to this dish so as not to whack all the delicate flavours over the head with ground black pepper.

Roughly chop broccolini, and add it to the steaming pan. Turn off heat after a few minutes. Use a light hand with this recipe and work quickly. You want your ingredients to cook, but you dont want them to boil and leach all their flavour and freshness. Remember that the heat will continue cooking the vegetables for quite a while after you take the pan off the fire.

Tear a few leaves of fresh basil in half, or crush them between your fingers to release their amazing scent and oils. Add to the pan and mix all together.

Cook angel hair pasta, reserving 1/2 mug of cooking liquid. Drain pasta. Mix vegetables and pasta together by adding pasta to the vegetables rather than vice versa. Use tongs and mix well. Add a little of the pasta cooking liquid if you think its too dry. You might want to add some lemon juice or another splash of wine. Grate parmesan lightly over and mix well.

You could use many different vegetables for this beautifully delicate dish. Asparagus comes to mind, as do peas, rocket, french beans.

Asparagus Pesto

23 Jun

Astonishing, divine, food of the Goddesses. Bright green and tasting like spring. You can eat this right out of the bowl (my sister, M’s preferred consumption method), or spoon it over toast rounds for bruschetta, in a sandwich, or over pasta or couscous. Its so extremely good, it needs no accessories. This is one of my favourite meals because who knew that asparagus could be made into pesto – and who knew that this taste combination existed and was soooooooo goood?!

You will need (for about 3 – 4 cups):

  • 1 1/2 pounds (about 600 – 700 gms) asparagus
  • 1 cup pine nuts
  • 5 – 7 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/2 cup (or more) extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt

First prepare your asparagus. Ensure that the tough woody bits have been snapped off – the asparagus will do the work for you if you just hold it and snap it near the bottom end. It will naturally break where the tough bit is – discard this. Chop the asparagus very roughly – 2 – 3 sections per asparagus. In a large pot of boiling, lightly salted water, blanch the asparagus till bright green. They need to be cooked, but not soft. Probably about 5 minutes or less. Just before you drain the asparagus, put a coffee mug in the boiling water, and remove a mugful, and keep aside. Drain, and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a shallow frying pan, toast the pine nuts (no oil or anything added) until golden and slightly browned. Use a spatula and keep stirring the nuts. Keep a watch – these go from light golden to toasted to burnt in a blink of an eye and you cant really save them when they burn. Set aside to cool.

Put all the asparagus and garlic into your food processor, and pulsing gently, start the machine. Add about half the olive oil in a steady stream. Add all the pine nuts, and pulse again, adding the rest of the olive oil. Add the parmesan and lemon and pulse again. If at any point the mixture gets too thick, add a little of the water you kept from the asparagus. Taste and adjust seasoning. You might need more oil or salt, or even parmesan.

I usually keep aside a few asparagus tips and serve this combined with angel hair pasta, with the tips for prettiness. Its delicious. And very good for you!!!

World Cup Pasta

20 Jun

Yesterday, we watched the World Cup together, and decided to make a meal. Its such an exciting time of the year, and so much fun to watch the action unfolding in South Africa! We made rice crispie treats with rice crispies, marshmallows, butter and vanilla (very delicious – like crisp vanilla ice cream!) and the perfect chocolate chip cookies from Cook’s Illustrated. I will post the recipe for those later. But the pasta was the star, and oh my goddess it was good!

For 4 – 6 people

  • Approx 2 – 3 tbsp truffle oil (olive oil infused with truffle)
  • 4 -5 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 4 – 6 large mushrooms (I used portabello) sliced roughly
  • 4 – 5 thin slices cold butter
  • Good glug of very old delicious balsamic vinegar (the syrupy-er the better!)
  • Approx 10 – 15 ripe cherry tomatoes sliced in half
  • Salt and pepper
  • Big glug of cream
  • Angel hair pasta

Coat the bottom of a large frying pan with the truffle oil, and arrange garlic over. Over a very low heat, begin to fry the garlic. You dont want it to burn, just infuse the oil and become soft and ever so slightly golden. Dont flip the garlic or move it around the pan – just let it slowly come to heat with the oil.

Meanwhile, peel and roughly slice the mushrooms. How many you use depends on how much you like mushrooms, and how many people you have to serve – I usually use 1 large mushroom per person. Once you really smell the garlic wafting from the pan, tip in all the mushrooms all at once, and increase the heat to medium high. Stir the mushrooms so they pick up the oil and garlic, and then lay the butter over the top of the mushrooms. The butter will melt in the heat and steam coming from the mushrooms, and will infuse them with flavour, and will also add to the thickness of your sauce.

As the mushrooms begin to fry, and the butter has been melted, pour a good glug of balsamic vinegar over, and stir the entire heady mixture together once or twice. You should see some mushrooms begin to burn a bit, and some juices begin to release. Slice the cherry tomatoes over the top, and let the heat get to them, and watch them wilt a bit. Add salt and pepper to taste.

As the mixture begins to come together, add the cream. I usually dont measure this but again, its relative to the amount of people eating. The cream will pick up all the flavours of truffle, balsamic, mushroom and garlic, and will turn a rich brown. Squish the tomatoes into the cream so that they add their sweetness and tartness to the sauce. Let the cream come to a full boil and thicken. Taste for seasoning. Add more cream if you want it.

As the cream is boiling, prepare the angel hair pasta. It should take a few minutes in a boiling pot of water, with a pinch of salt and a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking.

Drain the pasta, stir it, and if you want, add a little bit of butter for flavour.

Using tongs, transfer the pasta to the frying pan and mix well. This gives you control over how much pasta you add to the sauce and ensures you dont have a pasta heavy, lightly sauced meal. Keep tasting as you add the pasta – it will dilute the flavours of the sauce. You might need to add a little more salt to brighten the flavour.

Serve, in bowls, with parmesan to grate over. Enjoy the game!