Sunday, 30 January 2011

for your sweet ending

I love chocolates but only when it is slightly bitter.
I love creams but only when it is delicately harmonised with the rich.
I love fruits but only when it is propositioned suitably within.
I love desserts but only when it isn't too sweet.

I know, I can be awkward...

After having celebrated my main course, I feel desserts should be respectfully lingering not overtaking.
I'd like my desserts to remind us all, of the flavorsome journeys of our feast but never to override the memoirs of our experiences of social affairs.

I'd like it to be humble, but talkative.

Black against green was quietly pleasing to the eyes. 
Sweet rich biscuit crumbs do fabulous job delivering, this light and tangy baked cheesecake with a little depth of bitterness from the Matcha that tastes somehow clean and refreshing.
Mouthful of cheesecake smothered with a touch of delicate, but sharp blackberry coulis, it is indeed my kind of dessert.

You've got to try it. 
I promise you, it is most definitely, for your sweet ending.

Green tea cheesecake with Blackberry coulis

for cheesecake
75g unsalted butter, melted
125g oreo biscuits, crushed
55g vanilla sugar*
200g cream cheese
250g ricotta cheese
55ml double cream
1 egg
3tsp Matcha powder
1 lemon zest

for blackberry coulis
150g blackberry
1/2 tbsp vanilla sugar ( You can use ordinary caster sugar. )
1/2 lemon juice

First of all, line and grease your baking tin. 
Combine butter and the biscuits. 
Place them into the bottom of prepared tin and bake them in the preheated oven(180º) for about 10mins. 
Once ready, remove and cool.

Meanwhile, beat sugar and cheese together. Gradually add your cream, egg, Matcha powder and lemon zest.

Pour the mixture onto the biscuit base and bake them for about 40mins (200º) until the top is golden.
Let it cool for good couple of hours before you serve.

While that is cooking, make your coulis by placing blackberries, sugar and lemon juice in the saucepan.
Simmer over medium heat. When the blackberries start to turn gorgeously deep red, reserve some to serve in whole. And the rest will simmer away until syrupy. 
Once ready, blend and pass it through the sieve with your spatula. 
Leave it to cool.

When you are ready to serve this little beauty, assemble slice of cake with a little coulis and some whole blackberries.

* vanilla sugar
Just put some vanilla pods in your sugar bag, jar or tin.
I always keep the used pods (after making custard and stuff) and stick them in my sugar jar.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

6 cheerful glasses

I think I am nearly there.
Okay, my hair smells a little, I feel like I've been brined in Indian spiced water for the last 2 days and every corner of our home sweet home, scented like any good curry house in town, honestly, It's got to be ready. 
Minus the one element though.

I am no where near ready.
As I said, I need a good bath, preferably with lots of essential bath oil poured into it, hair properly washed in the running water and yes, I confess, in this state, I do need to scrub up a little. 
Followed by good strokes of blusher and mascara, you never know, I might feel and look, more like human.

This is of course, to welcome my guests.

Since appearing on our dinner party menu as a regular occurrence, cocktails have become our repertoire. 
And now we hold cocktail party.

P started off by accidentally smashing a glass for the opening of the night.
L redeemed her hubby's action by knocking up gorgeously refreshing Hendricks Flower.
N perfected Absolutely Fabulous for his lovely wife V and the rest of us.
Toby rustled up Bramble and we drank thinking of lovely S who unfortunately had to make an early exit.
The list goes on...

And I, served up samosas with vegetables or smoked mackerel for starters. 
For the main, slowly braised lamb curry in rich almond sauce, chicken curry in mild tomato sauce, aubergine with fresh coconut, okra cooked in tomato marsala, saffron pilau rice and selections of nann and chapatti bread.
Moscow mule jelly was our palate cleanser before rounding off the meal with green tea cheesecake served with blackberry coulis.

makes about 20 in total

with vegetables 
2 new potatoes, boiled and cubed
1 carrot, cubed
1 garlic, crushed and chopped
1 small onion, chopped
handful of peas
1/2tsp turmeric
1tsp curry powder
vegetable stock
handful of coriander, chopped
handful of mint, chopped
feuilles de brick pastry sheets (you can use ordinary filo pastry as well)
salt and pepper
vegetable oil

Start by gently frying onion, carrot and garlic with pinch of salt and pepper in little bit of oil until slightly tender. Add potatoes, peas, turmeric, curry power into the pan and pour the stock enough to cover the vegetables.

When all liquid is absorbed and vegetables are tender, take them off the heat and leave it to cool.

Once cooled, cut the pastry sheets in long strip.
Place spoonful of mixture onto the corner of the strip and roll into samosa shape by folding the right corner to the left diagonally. This should make a small triangle.
If you are not very confident to shape it as you go along, think of folding the edge of the strip to make a small triangular shape. Then fold again twice to resemble a corn following its natural flow. When you have the corn, just fill in with your mixture and keep folding the rest away.

Now, shallow or deep fry them in the oil until crisp.
I tend to shallow fry them for couple of mins on each side in advance and crisp them up in the oven (200º) for about 15mins just before serving. 

with smoked mackerel
1 new potatoes, boiled and cubed
1-2 smoked mackerel fillets, flaked (not too small)
1 garlic, crushed and chopped
1 chilli, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
handful of peas
1/2tsp turmeric
1tsp curry powder
1 lime juice
handful of mint, chopped
handful of coriander, chopped
5 feuilles de brick pastry sheets
salt and pepper
vegetable oil

Method is exactly the same as vegetable one.
Just add chilli, potatoes and smoked mackerel when onions softened. Lime juice goes in nearly the end.

We chatted the night away.
Room full of jokes and laughter, stories of our lives carried on.
Existence of our living and being touched upon our spirits.
With our belly full and discoveries of our sense of identity, we were all cheerful souls.

Very cheerful souls...

Sunday, 23 January 2011

and... the bar is open

I can't remember how and when exactly Toby and I started wondering around this adventurous world of mixologist. 
I suppose we were always an almost ready made candidates who just needed a little encouragement. Given the chance of being equipped with appropriate tools and booze, it was only a matter of time for one of us to shake up something or at least, try.

I think that was what happened...

Good old shaker was given, then 'a little black book' (Play boy cocktail guide or something).
Toby in his element beaming with joy, he did knock up something which was pleasant.
He became mildly obsessed.
He wanted to have all the liquors on the shelves, then it was right glasses to treat every individual cocktails with respect and then it was a new shaker. A proper bad boy shaker. 
He now became confident and he wanted play with the bigger boys!

I adore him when he is passionate. 
He is quite gorgeous when he becomes this big kid trapped in a man's body. 

So, he had it! 
The Boston shaker.

The thing that I had to remember and be supportive of was, okay, it is him after all, does all the hard work. 
And I, just have to sit there with a big smile on my face whilst cheering him up on all of his impressive actions he mastered over the years and when it is presented in front of me, just drink it!
How lovely.

I am educated now.
Being educated with his passion and the knowledge, I share his love for this joyous world of mixing. I may never read his now 'the very big black book' (Cocktails #8 by Diffordsguide)  like he does, but I will always look after our booze corner as long as he welcomes me to his '6 o'clock' bar.

#8 Whisky sour
Click here to see how it is done.

Oh, I'm in heaven

Yes, I have committed myself to become a vegetarian for a week. And not to be lonely in my journey, I have indeed quietly asked Toby to join the club. 
Then he said, 'If it is going to be a detox regime, no wine should be allowed, too.'

Hang on, I had to think there for a minute, and carefully.
Not because I am an alcohol dependent, but because there are days when all I want is a glass of wine in my hands, preferably in pouring action, into my mouth, without too much time intervals between and... (oh, let me catch my breath for a sec) have a good old moan about my stressful days to my partner, who now learnt to say that magic words 'Yes, dear', thanks to his uncle L and simply appears attentive all down to his selective hearing.

But it does make me feel better! 
It is not whether he heard me or not that matters. I probably quite like the fact he doesn't respond with a lot of answers and solutions. It is just satisfying off loading all the crap so I feel ready to spare myself for my man who so deserves to have piece of me. 
Don't you agree?

Dear me... there I had to think about consequences of no more wine!

But the problem was as I realised, that little glass of drinkie never ends on just a glass. 
It always becomes 'oh little top up' then 'oh well, it's nearly the end, we might as well finish it off'.
The bottle is getting smaller, if you ask me.

What the hell! 
It is only a week.
It will do me good, real good.

5 days gone by, I was looking for excuses...

Et, Voila! 

Just because I had signed up for no red meat and no wine diet, didn't mean that I was forbidden to have a little bit of what I fancy, surely.
No one said or made any rules about naughty treats, if I remember it right.

After all, I have done very well for past few days, and the success must be celebrated!
Did it taste good?
Oh hell yes, it was quite satisfying and rather, heavenly!
And yes, I did lick the bowl, yum!!

Banoffee jar with salted caramel and coconut  
Makes 2 jars (but of course you can just do this like pie)

75g ginger nut biscuits, crushed
20g butter, melted
150g salted caramel (I had ready made jar in my cupboard, souvenir from Ill de Re)
3tbsp coconut cream
1 large banana, sliced
150ml double cream, lightly whipped
2tsp desiccated coconut

Place salted caramel and coconut cream into a sauce pan. Gently reheat and give it a good stir. Once ready leave it to cool.

If you haven't got salted caramel, just add some salt into the normal caramel. Make sure it tastes a bit salty and a bit sweet. Simples! 
( And those of you who might think it sounds odd to have salt into desserts, trust me, salt elevates something good to something very very good! It is like an ultimate power dust!!)

Mix crushed biscuits and butter.

Add desiccated coconut into lightly whipped double cream. Mix well.

Now it is time to assemble.
Place biscuit mixture, then some caramel. Banana goes on top followed by whipped cream.
Repeat once more, so you have 2 layers.
Drizzle over the rest of caramel and finish it off with sprinkle of  biscuit mixture and some icing sugar.
Chill in the fridge for 30mins so the caramel sets a little then it's all done!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Half way between and the sunny side up

It never feels right though, does it? 
The alarm goes off and you drag yourself out of the bed feeling 'Gosh, I so could do with another hour'. It comes though, regardless... And it just feels so unfair that the Monday has come to welcome us so soon as we feel, whether you like it or not. 
And quite rightly so, it will come to you, ready or not.

I don't feel quite there yet. I'm not there yet! 
I'm still mingling between the 6 o'clock and midnight of Sunday. 
Taste of 6 o'clock cocktail still lingering through my tongue and feeling every inch 'Je ne sais quoi', oh boy, I am not ready to enter. 
Let's just pretend... we stay here and now.

But then, another snooze can't simply go on for another 10 mins. Time is up. 

It's been a long day. It has to be what I've got. 
Bag of carrots caught my tired eyes, struggling half way through the blue and the sunny side. 

But didn't I tell you, a glass of wine and an hour in my kitchen, does the trick. 
And I find myself sailing my way through the week already somehow.

Here, mouthful of goodness and an eyeful of cheer. 
I am so ready to unfold the other side of the week. Now I am looking forward to it.
Knock Knock!

Lumpy and Chunky as you like carrot soup with giant croutons

250g carrots, roughly cubed
1 tomato, cut into quarter
1 white onion, chopped
1 celery stick, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 tbsp soup mix lentils and beans, soaked
handful tarragon, chopped
handful coriander, chopped
1/2 tsp coriander seed, dry roasted and crushed
1/2 orange
750ml vegetable stock
olive oil
nob of butter

for giant croutons
couple of slices bread, cut into large cubes
1 clove garlic, crushed and chopped
olive oil

Heat the oil and butter in a large pan and saute onion, celery for until soften a little. Then add garlic, carrots, tomato, crushed coriander and tarragon. Stir and cook for another few mins.

Add vegetable stock and soup mix. Bring to boil and simmer until tender.

While soup is simmering away, mix the bread, oil and garlic in a large baking tray.
Bake them for 10 mins in the pre-heated oven (180º).

When ready, whizz them with blender. I don't bother too much with making them smooth. 
Season, add squeeze of an orange and garnish with chopped coriander. Finish it off with giant croutons and a little drizzle of olive oil or spoonful of creme fraiche.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Couple of paracetamols and popcorn chicken

Waking up with sore head and disturbed tummy is never much of fun. 
It seemed like a good idea at the time. I'm quite good at being carried away too, which doesn't always help the situations.
But don't we all have those moments you just wish to stay with you for a little longer?
I feel... if I have another drink, it might just stay that way.

But all is not lost, surely.
Knowing it was all worth a headache, couple of paracetamols will have to do.
I'm still standing and we're still laughing. 
It was all a good fun. Thanks B. and, B.

Something substantial was a must! Thought it had to be something naughty to settle a teeny weeny bit delicate myself. 
It tasted good. All worth of an effort. 
I am good now.
I can face the world feeling quite alright.

Then, 'the 6 o'clock' came.
We used to call it beer o'clock. 
It felt mean to be called just that. Somewhat of less generous for Toby's loving gesture and effort. 
'The 6 o'clock' sounded much more suited for us, creatures of habit.
And every Sunday, 6 o'clock is exciting!

Smokey, jammy and a bit tangy. Breakfast club, We have got it just right!

Tori Kara Age with sweet potato chips

4 chicken thighs deboned and cut into chunks
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp mirin
1 tsp grated ginger
1 clove garlic, grated
1/4 tsp curry powder 
1 egg, lightly beat
3 tbsp corn flour
salt and pepper
1 sweet potato, cut into thin wedges
frying oil

In a large bowl, put chicken chunks, dried oregano, soy, mirin, grated ginger, garlic and curry powder. Season them with little bit of salt and pepper and leave them for 30 minutes to marinade.

Once ready, combine egg and corn flour into chicken.

All you need to do now is, to fry the chicken chunks and sweet potato chips until golden in very hot oil.
I like to fry the chips first. And usually I fry things twice to make them extra crispy.

Drain excess oil and serve them with light soy dip*.

* soy dip
2 tbsp soy
2 tbsp rice vinegar or cider vinegar
1/4 tsp sugar
1/2 lime juice 

#8 Breakfast Club
Click here to see how it is done. 

We substituted white rum with dark rum.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Ill de Re

Christmas was all fab, new year's eve party was quite lovely too, first day back at work was hectic and the first day back at training was a catastrophic mayhem!!!

Sometimes..., it just feels safer to daydream on memories than to struggle with what's ahead of me. It feels little more satisfying and reassuring knowing 'oh yes, I had a good year'. That silly little feeling gives me an ultimate sense of hopelessly unrealistic optimism I adore. 

And... I smile, romanticising everything will all be just fine! 

My dad used to take me to fish markets on Sunday morning. He would wake the whole family up at the crack of dawn and drive through the town that was still fast sleep. 
It was never very exciting arriving at busy market. There was always this man standing in front of the crowd looking like a preacher, shouting mysterious numbers and codes to people. It was full of rather smelly and dirty narrow endless isles.
My dad will walk around maze like corridors of isles and brows all stalls and would eventually be satisfied with all of his findings. Then it was time to head home to participate on cooking it.

I didn't get it! 
At that time, I always thought it was boring, pointless... I don't think any of us understood quite why it was so important to my dad and what kind of joy he was getting out of dragging all of us from our beloved lazy Sunday morning lying in.

Then the lesson slowly crept into my life and became very existent enjoyment. 
Market is full of life!
Full of love and care that fulfills every one's fundamental needs with such an affection. There's passion that livens up the spirit of every hungry souls and empowers people to communicate and share.

Toby shucked oysters and I made simple shallot vinaigrette.
He prepared the BBQ with his brother, I made endless kinds of salads with my joyous findings. Nanny, grandpa and K was on duty of sending my gorgeous niece R to night nights.

The Sun was still up and high smouldering us with warmth. Occasional sea breeze came as a pleasant surprise kissing on our cheeks to cool us down. 
With laughter and jokes shared around the table, such an inexpensive rose tasting top dollar... There it was... that magical moment firmly engraved deep into my bone. Beautiful!!

As my dad used to say, 'Family eats together stays together'. Thanks dad!

Simple Shallot Vinaigrette

1/2 shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, fined chopped
1/4 tsp sugar
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lemon juice
salt and pepper

Mix shallot, garlic, sugar and white wine thoroughly until sugar is well dissolved.
Start whisking in olive oil, lemon juice and season to taste.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Shiitake mushroom Risotto

If I'm going to any kind of oriental food store, I'll always make sure to drop this gorgeous dried shiitake mushrooms into my basket. Although I never necessarily have any reason to buy them, I just feel it'll come handy one day.

I love using them when I fancy something of vegetarian but still a little meaty, something with a bit of depth and a bite to it. Its distinctive flavour and perfume adds the third dimension to the dish, making every mouthful ever so oozy and full of texture. 

Shiitake mushroom Risotto
serves 2

1 onion, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed and chopped
160g risotto rice
6-7 dried shiitake mushrooms
125ml white wine
750ml-850ml chicken/vegetable stock
some Parmesan cheese
few sage leaves, chopped
handful parsley, chopped
25g butter
olive oil
salt and black pepper

First of all, pour boiling water into dried shiitake mushrooms and soak them for 30mins. Once ready drain and reserve the water to use it as part of your stock. Slice re hydrated mushrooms into fine strips.

Put a saucepan on a low heat and add a good lug of olive oil. Saute onion, celery, garlic and a pinch of salt until soften. This will take 5-10mins. Make sure to stir from time to time. (I love doing this for good 10mins as softened onions give lovely sweetness to the dish.)

Once softened, turn the heat to medium and add half of butter, rice and chopped sage. Stir well for couple of minutes until rice becomes little translucent on the edges.

Now add sliced mushrooms and wine and let it bubble away. (And of course, add a few little too much drop of booze, confusion may cause oozy to become boozy. Something that I always succeed and enjoy due to the pretend accidental amount of wine poured into both myself and the supper!)

When all the liquid is gone, add your stock just enough to cover the rice and stir well. Once absorbed add little more stock. Repeat this process until the rice is cooked but still aldente. This will take about 20mins. 
Make sure the risotto falls off the spoon. (I prefer it more wet consistency than dry.)

Add chopped parsley, the other half of butter, salt and pepper to season, grated Parmesan cheese and let it relax for a minute or two with the lid on. This will let the flavours to mingle and rice to do its own thing.

When ready, add zest and a good squeeze of lemon and serve it with some more shaving or grating of Parmesan cheese. (I like to finish it off with good handful of rocket leaves dressed in a little olive oil or some chargrilled king oyster mushrooms dressed in olive oil, lemon and thyme.)

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Journey, from here on...,

It was quite some time ago, my dear friend V decided that it was about time for him to pack up his life in this dirty land and start fresh on the water. 
We sat and talked about names for his new home. 

Toby and I thought baba ghanoush sounded sweet.
V thought we were being very silly or perhaps not quite all there, and decided to name his home, otherwise!

Naming our child as baba ghanoush would be a crime for our future bab's school days.

Toby said he'll get a cat and call 'baba'. 
I thought I'll get a sausage dog and call it 'ghanoush'. Train the Cat with a little bow to walk the dog with a little bandana!!

But my dream... had to end there sadly.
Realisation came after a few glasses of wine that we live in a tiny little pretend grown up shoe box, and although it is quite beautiful and cozy, we just don't have the space for another breathing kind. Damn!

So here I am, on the missionary journey to have purpose to write. Logging our thoughts, love for food and drinks, and our life on this beautiful planet, earth.
Hop on, if you fancy.