Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Nut Butter Giveaway!

Dear Reader,

I bring good news.

Look how cute, two little jars of nut butters. A popular Chocolate Almond Butter and a brand new Ginger Hazelnut Butter. 
They're fantastic.  And I'm giving them away to a lucky creative person.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Miso Ricotta & Roasted Tomato Crostini

I'm Chinese and Italian, yet while I've always been intrigued by the idea of fusion, this was a practice rarely carried out in my household.  Italian food had to stay pure - there was no room for Asian influences.  And with Chinese food, my mother was not as strict, but I suppose she just stuck with traditional recipes -- with the exception of adding olive oil to everything. 

See, I grew up with really black and white ideas about certain ingredients.  Ricotta and mascarpone were ingredients in Italian cuisine.  Soy sauce and sesame oil were ingredients in Chinese cuisine.  Those were clearly separated in our kitchen and consequently in my mind.  Then, coming to the UK really opened my eyes to a whole new culinary world, ironically enough. 

You can say what you want about British cuisine.  It went through a horrific stage back in the 70's all the way to the late 90's.  Hell, maybe longer than that.  Yes, the Brits had it bad for awhile. Appalling, in fact.  Thank god I never lived through those periods, but there are still places in the UK where that food culture still lingers, unfortunately.  But you know what, right now, the UK is so imaginative with food.  It is truly a melting pot of cultures and that is seen through the foods.  I love British cookery programs because they have the most amazing things.  They take fusion to a whole new level.  And you know what, it's difficult with fusion, it's difficult to break boundaries and mix things up, and for that, I respect you, Britain. 

Monday, 28 October 2013

Goat's Cheese and EVO Oil Pumpkin Butter Crostini


If it was a child it'd be able to talk! 2 years! I don't know much about children and development, so I don't know what other things 2-year olds begin to do, but they talk around that age right?  Although I started talking really late, like at 3...


Unfortunately there's no cake.  I meant to have a birthday party but I'm too busy... However, fear not, I'm planning on a belated birthday party with a fancy cake. 

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Honey Coconut & Banana Chocolate Bark

That post-dinner treat accompanying your coffee is surprisingly underrated.  There are dinner parties that are so thoroughly planned out, with different courses and music and wine, and then after dessert, if you desire a coffee, it's served to you there on its own.  That lonely cup of espresso needs company.  It is the same for restaurants, I'm always slightly disappointed when that post-meal coffee does not come with a treat.  Yes, I understand that there probably is a dessert that precedes the coffee, but limit that portion size, and you allow for something else to tingle your taste buds with the bitter coffee before you end the evening.  You have two, three savory courses, you need at least two different sweet things as well in my opinion.  Make a dessert - make it small and rich, and then have something else for that necessary shot of espresso at the end. 

Chocolates, fudge, biscuits - take your pick.  If you're busy like me, chocolate bark's perfect.  Versatile, quick, and impressive.  I like dark chocolate with my coffee, but that's because I like my coffee bitter, so i don't like having something like a piece of fudge awaiting to be melted into my coffee. 
Coconut and bananas - - classic combination, with a drizzling of honey on top.  I like that every bite's slightly different in terms of sweetness levels, as I've used sweetened coconut flakes and banana chips.  It's like those chocolates with sea salt, you get these occasional bursts of flavor at different points, making it so much more exciting than a uniform flavor.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Roasted Broccolini with Lemongrass & Peanut Butter

I'm Italian.  I grew up with olive oil on everything.  Shallow-frying, deep-frying, Chinese food, Japanese food - always extra-virgin olive oil.  No it's not extravagant or anything, it's just...the way it is.  My grandparents used to make their own olive oil and they had so much that they would have to give them away - hence no tears were shed when they used it for deep-frying arancini balls. 

I grew up loving the taste of olive oil in everything -- even in Chinese food, I love that subtle olive undertone, that's true fusion right there.  And if it's anywhere more commonly used, it's used for roasting vegetables. 

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Lemon Basil Bars

Today was like being thrown into a pit and having my lungs sucked out of my nose.  There was no light of day, the temperature dropped, constant rain, blueberry prices rose, econometrics miraculously worsened further, and it's just the time of the month.  It was an off day.  I came home in the mid afternoon, and 5 espressos and two vitamin D pills later,  I just curled up on my couch and felt the life slowly drain out of me.

Just when I thought that the last thing I needed was human interaction, then came my Indian sunshine.  My flatmate, Saanya, just miraculously made things better.  The evening ended with making lemon basil bars together with jazz music and the sound of drizzling rain in the background.  The whole living room is still warm from the baking and things just aren't that bad anymore.  Off for a quick escape tomorrow and the day after and all will be well.  All is well. 

So we made these lemon basil bars.  I'm telling you, the basil's the star here, and basil needs to be present in desserts more.  Remember my strawberry basil tarts?

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Spiced Beetroot and Coconut Rice

Going into my Indian friend's house is the most thrilling experience for my olfactory system.  There is apparently a misconception that Indian households reek of curry -- no, no, Saanya's flat is heavenly.   It's not a greasy unhealthy smell, it smells of the most beautiful concoction of spices.

Have you seen an Indian household's spice rack?  Saanya's was actually a bit special.  See, Saanya loves nutella.  Can you imagine how many different spices an Indian household has?  Can you imagine all of them stored in nutella jars?  It's an impressive collection. 

So staying at Saanya's house was pretty awesome.  Her mother made me this coconut beetroot dish that I fell in love with.  I tried searching it online and somehow ended up with this beetroot rice dish and I added coconut to it and it's not bad at all.  I added grated coconut but try it with some shredded coconut or coconut chips.

I've made this twice.  First time was better, second time I just winged it with the spices and..well, the balance wasn't right. 

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Stewed Pears with Ginger and Lemongrass

On a cold winter's night, there is nothing more satisfying than coming home to fogged up windows from cooking.  Nothing more satisfying than a warm house soaked in the smell of spices and honey.  Smells like Christmas, but with ginger and lemongrass instead of the conventional cinnamon.  And there is nothing more satisfying than eating this hot spiced pear stew with good company. 

I am aware that it is only October, but as I reside in Scotland, trust me, it's winter already.
Get creative.  Play around with the spices, add a vanilla pod in there.  Add some other dried fruits, here I added raisins.  Add a healthy splash of alcohol.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Fondued Crostini

Christ.  It is obscenely cold, dammit.  It's one of those days where you just refuse to leave the house, not even step out of your house, really, because of how cold it is.  It is cold and it is windy.  You know what's worse?  It's deceiving because it's sunny.  It's been sunny the entire day, and before stepping out I was like oh what a delightful day, I may have the flu and its associated symptoms of dizziness and sore throat, but it's a warm delightful day.  Then I stepped out and the worst possible profanities burst out of my mouth. 

You know what this day needs?  A cheese fondue.  A wonderful cheese fondue prepared by my Swiss friend, Sarah.  We used to live together and she used to make these wonderful cheese fondues that on a cold winter's day is all you need to restore your faith in love and humanity. 

Unfortunately she has left me.  She has graduated and moved on with her life, and left me here in the Scottish cold.  Though I am deeply hurt by this, especially now that all I want is a cheese fondue, I've made these "fondued crostini".  They're cute little canapes, and I've called them fondued crostini because..well, it's essentially a mixture of melted cheese and garlic and herbs on top of bread.  Use whatever cheeses you have to melt on top of them, add some herbs - thyme or rosemary or whatnot, and something to cut the fat, like lemon zest.  Be creative.  If you have access to a fondue pot or a Swiss friend, have a proper cheese fondue.  If not, just melt a bunch of cheeses and stuff on top of bread and make do. 

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Hazelnut-Praline Dacquoise

F*ck the raw challenge, man.  I stopped after two days because, to put it mildly, my body was not in the best state.  First day I was hungry, second day I was exhausted and my stomach was upset, and on the third day I felt like I had caught a cold. I'm still feelin ill now -- queasy stomach, raspy voice and dizziness.  F*ck the raw challenge, man.  

I'm slowly easing back to normal foods, I'm blanching my vegetables and cooking my oatmeal now.  That warm bowl of oatmeal for breakfast made me all warm and fuzzy inside -- just like the feeling of falling in love.

So two days ago I was not productive mentally and thus I decided to take my time and make a dessert.  It's quite a cumbersome dessert, not difficult, just takes a bit of time but it is so.good.  One of my friends said it's the best thing I've made.  Well, what can I say, it's just another recipe from Christophe Felder's Patisserie. 

The cake took awhile... And I did encounter some challenges, namely that of my broken hand mixer, which definitely made my life more difficult when it came to whipping egg whites.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Soaked Oatmeal with Lemongrass and Ginger

The biggest challenges I faced on the first day of my raw challenge were constant hunger and constant jaw pain.  There was a lot of chewing -- carrots, celery sticks, brussels sprouts.  Yes, I was eating raw brussels sprouts, I don't see what's wrong with it.  Most people grimace in disgust when I tell them this. 
Day 2, I'm not so hungry anymore but I'm feeling nauseous.  I rarely have stomach problems and I can tell you with shameless certainty that I'm definitely not pregnant.  But yes, nausea and dizziness.  I think I shouldn't have made such a sudden transition to 100% raw food.  The night before I was eating venison wellington -- venison loin wrapped in mustard, sauteed mushrooms, prociutto, and then all encased in puff pastry, served alongside with a brandy cream sauce.  Quite a jump there, and I think my body's confused and upset. 

Thursday, 3 October 2013

The 4-Day Raw Challenge

Yup.  Raw.  Raw vegan.  Anything heated above 47C/118F is not raw food.  So dried fruits, nuts, vegetables, sprouts, and legumes.

Ok. Raw Foodists argue that cooking food can destroy certain vitamins and minerals.  Supposedly it makes you feel incredibly energized, it increases your mental alertness and it connects you to the earth.


I pretty much agree with this article by Jay Raner:

"We are humans, ergo, we cook. The celebrated anthropologist Richard Wrangham recently published a whole book, Catching Fire, which argues it is cookery which made us human. Heating food makes it possible to extract the maximum amount of energy from ingredients. That meant our ancestors could waste less time foraging for stuff to keep them going and could instead concentrate on really cool things like inventing machinery, developing language, and becoming artists so they had something to talk about. Without the appliance of fire to food we really would still be hanging about in trees doing the fly-eating thing. "

Fried Potatoes with Romesco Sauce

So I catered for my friends' 3-year anniversary dinner and one thing I had made was romesco sauce potato cakes with grilled chicken. 

This is a simplified version of the potato cakes.  What you can do is peel and boil the potatoes, mash them and add some butter then mix in some of the romesco sauce.  Form it into patties, dip in flour and shallow fry them. 
Here I just sliced and fried the potatoes and put the sauce on top, then decorated with some basil on the side.  Just some ideas.  Oh I've got a good one!  Make fries and then serve with romesco sauce instead of ketchup.  OR make a potato gratin where you layer potatoes with the romesco sauce.  OR potato jackets. OR potato soup with a swirl of this sauce.  OR just mix it with mashed potatoes.  All the ideas with the same two components, isn't it amazing?  Get creative.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Croissants et Boules de Noisettes

So, again, i got this recipe from Patisserie.  All recipes come with a French name and an English name, and I've decided to keep the French name, because "Hazelnut crescenets and Balls" just doesn't sound as appetizing as croissants et boules de nousettes. 

I encountered serious problems when making these.  So I have the world's most awful electric beaters.  They were a gift from a friend, but my god.  Anything other than pure liquid it cannot beat.  I was genuinely worried that the whisks would break out of the main body and fly out and seriously injure me.  I've already got first degree burns on my right arm and my right ring finger, and a second degree burn on my right middle finger.  And cuts and chipped nails all over.  I really don't need more injuries.

Anyway, all was well. I didn't injure myself while making these cookies, but the problem is, these cookies could have been better.  They were delicious, but the butter was meant to be beaten until pale and fluffy and  I had to hand whisk it at the end.  My biceps essentially just come from cooking.
The flavors are fantastic.  Hazelnuts, cinnamon, orange zest and lemon zest.  It's Christmas.  It's love.  It's wonderful. 

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