Friday, 26 November 2010

Weekend eating - Toku

Having finished early-ish at work on Friday evening, I decided to head into town and kick start my Chrimbo shopping. JD and I were then stranded in town around dinnertime - not the best time to be hanging around town on a Friday night without a dinner reservation if you're looking for a semi-decent meal. We took a chance and rocked up to Toku, the adjoining resto to the Japan Centre and managed to grab a table despite the place being pretty rammed.

This was the first time we had come here since they relocated to the present location on Regent Street and to be honest, I think the food might even be a smidgeon better now - a most satisfying dindins :)
 Classic eel roll - yummy and very generous

 Gyoza - nice flavour, esp. dipping sauce despite a little charred on the edges

 Tori kara age - fried chicken.....a bit unsure on the dipping sauce which was a little heavy on wasabi

 JD's spicy Korean don - it now has pork instead of fried chicken, still not bad

Green tea and red bean cake roll - very tasty!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Gingerbread mob

I've been keeping out of/avoiding the kitchen ever since finishing the macaron tower for my bro's birthday but I need to remind myself every so often of my ultimate goal, which means continuing to try out recipes and seeing which might work out.

I acquired a copy of Tartine in the summer and had already tried a couple of recipes in the book which were not bad. At the time, I had also bookmarked to try out their glazed gingerbread recipe which looked pretty yummy in the pics. Its taken my lazy arse until now to finally try it out....rather than cut them out into sqaures, I decided to try out my new gingerbread man/woman cutters. The recipe said that the yield would be 12 to 20 cookies, depending on size. They clearly make super super size cookies at Tartine because I managed to make 60+ large gingerbread peeps - my kitchen was invaded by the suckers!! Luckily, they do keep for a couple of weeks which gives us some opportunity to munch through most of them :)

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Tasty leftovers - tuna fried rice

I was first introduced to the joys of tuna fried rice by an old flatmate in my undergrad years - I had always thought that fried rice always needed egg but not so. Its been many years since Uni but this recipe (give or take) has always come in handy when one is low on ingredients and looking for something yummy and filling :)

Ideal ingredients are leftover cooked rice, a can of tuna, some sliced spring onions and some of green vegetable which is not too "watery" (I tend to opt for diced courgette, french beans, or peas)
 The ideal condiments - light soy sauce, sesame oil (add with caution), sweet chilli sauce, sriracha sauce. Add according to your own taste preference - if you are new to these sauces, I suggest adding less rather than more initially. Taste your rice along the way and if it is not enough, you can always add more :)

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Winter eating

 Pork shoulder stir fried with chopped kimchee and enoki mushrooms..... served piping hot with steamed rice - perfect for baltic blighty winter evenings :)
(Word of advice - always get Korean kimchee thats been made in opposed to kimchee that looks Korean but actually comes from China......not a patch on the real thing!) 

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Macaron tower attempt

My bro and Jools are big fans of macarons, especially the salt caramel ones from Ladurée! As a birthday present, I decided to have a crack at making a macaron tower for them. This project took a couple of months of planning and executing and not all of that time went smoothly either!!

Of course, the first thing to tackle was to try and perfect an acceptable salt caramel macaron - the recipe which was given to us at school by our chef called for "caramel maison" which I remembered making in class but there was no recipe in our books for this!! Luckily, chef was at hand to sort that out, merci! :)
My first batch of shells (the 1st time I had made macarons since leaving school), turned out perfectly......I literally jumped for joy when I peered into the oven and saw "feet"! :) 
Unfortunately, the filling didn't turn out so great and neither did my Plan B attempt of "salted" dulce de leche. Attempt no. 2 was to make a caramel based on a recipe from one of my resto stints......that was a bit of minor disaster as I managed to completely burn the bottom of my new stainless steel saucepan (luckily, after much elbow grease and scouring I was able to salvage it). I decided to leave the caramel to cool and then use it the following day. However, after a night in the fridge, my caramel had turned rock hard. Things went from bad to worse when I nooked it briefly in the microwave and the whole mixture managed to split on me!! Taste wise it was OK but I also realised that it was overcooked because my new thermometer is inaccurate and useless.........shit basically! Trying to make recipes which call for boiled sugar at exact temperatures with a shitty thermometer is a recipe for disaster!  
A weekend later,  I managed to find another recipe for salt caramel on the net and this time, success! Finally, I was left with something that sort of aspired to the famed Ladurée version :)

I decided to make 2 other flavours and settled for raspberry and chestnut (cos its "seasonal"). My first raspberry macaron shells attempt were completely overcooked and were a terrible colour (NEVER use natural food colouring!!) but my 1st attempt at raspberry ganache was OK. Macaron shells then had to be made again....using pink ARTIFICIAL food colouring and they came out pretty good :)

I have to say my chestnut macarons probably looked the best of the 3 and the filling was pretty yummy but a little time consuming traipsing around London getting all the ingredients (chestnut cream, chestnut puree, marrons glaces and rum).

My next challenge was then to find a polystyrene cone to stick the macarons on....after a bit of surfing on the net, I managed to track down a crafts website who happened to be selling them, woohoo! Of course, presentation is key which meant getting hold of a cake dummy, cake board, royal icing, fondant, acetate and ribbon for the final touches. Covering cone and dummy with royal icing was a pain and then there was some piping to be done.......I was feeling pretty pleased with my effort at first but had misjudged the consistency of my royal icing. It was too runny which meant my lovely teardrop piping started to droop downwards, char!!!

The days leading up to my bro's b-day, I had been worrying about not having enough macarons for the tower (my friend from PH had suggested that more macarons make the tower look prettier) but after all the trials and tribulations, decided against making a 4th batch. I was cutting it fine as I ended up using every last one!! 

Overall, I think the tower looked OK but if I were to make it again, I would definitely tweak a few things:

  • make more macarons and make ones which have a more "solid" filling......raspberry is a disaster and are more prone to falling
  • cover my cake dummy with a 2nd layer of royal icing so that you can't see the dimply effect from the polystyrene
  • make my royal icing more stiff for piping
  • if possible, construct my tower at the final destination......travelling with this baby in the back of a taxi is not ideal........2 macarons managed to fall off......cue expletives in the car!
  • start sticking macarons from the top down.......this prevents a gap appearing at the top of the tower :(
As you can see, I tend to focus more on the negative sides of this project :)
On the plus side, I think my bro and Jools did like it and I got some comments from other people at the party asking if I had bought it? I guess it didn't look as bad as I thought.....

A lot of might be a while before I attempt it again but it was appreciated and I learnt a lot in the process which is the main thing :)

Final postcards from Florence :)

3 desserts in 1 day - Napoleone

Despite our rather rich lunch of white truffle and wild boar, we were still feeling a little peckish come dinner time. Once again, we headed across the river to Oltrarno (note to self. must book hotel in this area for the next time!) and grabbed a bite to eat at Napoleone, a cosy, funky resto which had pizza on the menu, a rarity in Florence. Initially, we were just ordering a couple of courses but then I spotted burrata on offer as a special and couldn't resist so we ordered an additional antipasti. After our mains, our waiter also highly recommended the tiramisu, which JD succumbed to. 3 desserts in 1 day.....the "love handles" continue to develop nicely ;)
Burrata with prosciutto - the creamy centre was a real treat!

Hearty vegetable soup

 Quattro stagioni pizza - OK too much dough to finish :(

 Strawberries macerated in lemon juice and icing sugar

Tiramisu - yum ;) 

Friday, 12 November 2010

Luxury lunch - Olio E Convivium

Olio E Convivium had been recommended in my guide book as a place to get nice edible pressies which was the reason why we headed there. Once we had arrived, we also realised that there was a restaurant adjoining the shop and seeing as it was time for lunch, we decided to grab some grub. The idea was that we would go for something light but it was not to be.

One of the specials on offer was taglierini with white truffle - a pretty pricey dish but the excitement of being on holidays (and cliche of "eating whats in season") took over so I plumped for it. Very simple but absolutely delicious......word of warning though, you will probably not have to eat for the rest of the day as it is mucho rich and sits on one's tummy forever!! :)
 JD had roast wild boar with apples, chestnut and bacon - it really was as good as it looks on the plate!

  Chocolate souffle - good taste but a little overcooked

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Mercato Centrale

An amazing food market in the middle of town selling all sorts of delicious food - real feast for the eyes as well.......really puts our supermarket lifestyle to shame :(
 "White gold" at the front of the display - the very in-season white truffle

The Florentines are big fans of offal.....bit like the Chinese really.....was pretty impressed that this section of the market was pristeen clean with no smells either (unlike some Chinese markets)

 Check out the straw pig hanging from the ceiling!