Friday, 31 December 2010

New Year's Eve feast final binge at Rasa Sayang before the New Year detox :(

Happy New Year everyone!!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Chrimbo baking - lemon meringue tart

Since I'm supposed to be officially resting the ol' arm, I haven't been able to bake much :(

However, at the request of Ma Chan, I did manage to rustle up a lemon meringue tart over the festive period, which we brought over to some family friends to try. Again, this was the first time I had tried this recipe since finishing school so I wasn't sure how long to bake the tart for (merci chef for the lack of cooking times, char!!)

Since I hadn't blind baked my shell in advance, I figured 30 minutes ought to do the trick. Unfortunately, things went a little pear-shaped around the 20 minute mark when I started smelling the tart in the kitchen, decided to take a look and the top of lemon curd had turned a dark shade of brown, aaagh!!! This was NOT supposed to happen, the curd should've stayed a nice pale lemon colour. Since the tart crust wasn't cooked yet, it was time to put a sheet of foil on top......and pray :)
The tart was fully cooked after another 20 minutes or so.....when I made it at school, it was decorated with a thick ring of Italian meringue on the outside. Since my curd was looking so unsightly, I covered the whole of this tart with meringue.

Luckily, the whole thing tasted pretty good but as usual, need to make notes to myself about cooking times, bon app! :)
 And off we go!!

 Most important to "fraser" :)

 We have some dough, yay!

 All going to plan.......until I forgot to grease my ring, char!!

 Take 2, ring is greased this time!!

 Ha!! Now you see crappy coloured lemon curd...... you don't! ;)

 yum yum :)

Christmas feast, Chinese style :)

Duck marinated in soy sauce

 Steamed lemon sole, garnished with coriander

 Braised dry shitake mushrooms, abalone and fish stomach (fa gao) 

Mmmm.....abalone :)

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Merry Christmas everybody!!

Chrimbo dinner this year was less hectic as Ma Chan decided to do the bulk of the cooking - I only managed to make the gratin dauphinoise :)
Great food and great company, just the 3 of us, Merry Chrimbo all!!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Christmas baking

Sadly, I haven't been able to do as much Christmas baking as I would've liked this year due to straining my arm very much so that I even had to take a few days off work which wasn't exactly ideal. Thankfully, with a bit of help from the physio its on the mend but I still need to do exercises and be mindful of my posture. I can't change habits of a lifetime overnight but with a little luck, I can do it with a bit of time :)

The last time I made a Chrimbo cake for JD's mam was back when I was still living in the Emerald Isle.......which was a while ago! Ever since then, she has always wanted me to make her a cake for Xmas but one way or another, I've never managed it. Well this year, I got ultra organised and managed to make said cake before my arm decided to break down. I then iced and toasted it a few days before JD was due to head home. I also made sure that I made a bigger cake this year -  the last time, JD had told me that nobody ate fruit cake in his house except his mam so at the time, I decided to make a small 6" for her to enjoy. The cake got demolished in record time so I armed him with a more generous 8" this year - hope it was worth the wait!! :)

I had some extra cake batter which was enough to bake a little 6" for us and the almond paste even stretched to cover this ickle cake. Between the chaos at Heathrow and snow dump at Dublin, JD was delayed for 5 days before he managed to get home - not ideal but luckily, there was cake for him to enjoy.......all that time being stuck in the big smoke means there is not much cake left - oh wellos :)

Friday, 17 December 2010

Chrimbo dinner - Sardo

Since JD and I were heading back to our respective families over Chrimbo, we decided to head to one of our favourite restos in town for a bit of a treat! The resto was pretty busy with a number of Xmas parties taking place, giving the place a nice festive atmosphere. As always, the food was scrummy - we had booked a few days before and there was no problem with securing a table for 8pm (woohoo for somewhere not trying to squish 2/3 sittings a night!!). Service for the most part was OK.....competent at the very least (yep, am still grumbling about my Hix experience!). As usual, we rolled out of the place cradling our tummies filled with yummy food! :)
 Bread basket - very hard to resist!

Spaghetti bottarga (salted fish roe) - a Sardinian speciality, tasty but very rich! 

 I plumped for one of the daily specials of pan fried duck and braised duck leg with broccolli - delish!

 Pannacotta with berry coulis - pretty wobbly this time!

Sugar packets with JD's coffee - me Libra, he Cancer :)

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Arctic weather = roast meat! :)

If anybody has been reading or watching the news during the last month, you will know that we've been having some "exceptional" weather (aka. a shed load of snow) in Blighty. The snow looked pretty on the 1st day but unfortunately, it came with bitingly cold winds and before long, I was wishing that it would go away!! On the bright side, it did inspire me to do a bit of  "hearty" cooking at home in the form of roasts, which are perfect for this kind of weather. I had forgotten how straightforward the whole process is: season your meat and pop into the oven for an hour or so and voilà! some pretty tasty, hot meat! Prepare a few sides as accompaniments and you have one scrummy dinner to tuck into!! :)
Roast chicken - all I did to prep was pop a few cloves of garlic plus a bunch of thyme into the carcass. The body was then smeared with some soft butter and seasoned with salt and pepper. This is the result after being for an hour or so, yum! :)

 Simple sides of sauteed spinach and roasted hasselback spuds (these are new potatoes  which have slight cuts into them. Season with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on a different tray and roast at the same time as your meat for some delicious, simple roast spuds)

 Roast lamb with garlic and rosemary (best to marinate overnight in the fridge before roasting for maximum flavour - I only had a couple of hours but that also worked)

  Sides of sauteed broccolli, roast parsnips and yep, hasselback spuds (warning, the spuds are very addictive so best to make more than less!)

I have to be honest and say that I am only a proficient cook therefore I usually don't bother with any gravy for roasts. Having said this, I still managed to rustle up a little bit of jus for my lamb which was particularly tasty!! Its very simple.....put your meat on another plate to rest, stick your roasting tin on the hob to heat up. We had no stock or wine handy so I added a touch of hot water to deglaze and scrape all the crusty bits off the pan. I didn't even need cornflour cos after a few minutes of simmering, I had a small but delicious and effortless amount of jus to go with my lamb, yay! :) 

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Hix Soho

JD and I had been wanting to try out Hix Soho for a while now so we decided to head there for a spot of dinner on Saturday night. The dining room itself is pretty funky and has a nice atmosphere but sadly, that is the only positive thing I have to say about our dinner. Where to begin??? Firstly, the table we sat at was jutting out from a pillar and blatantly screamed "we need to have as many covers as possible". It clearly shouldn't have been put there in the first place as demonstrated by the waiting staff continuously walking into the back of my seat. This brings me on nicely to the staff, who were split between servers and "order takers". By the time we were ready to order, a server approached us to ask the very question........only to tell us that she will now have to go and fetch an "order taker"??? What really is the point? Throughout the duration of our meal, the service just seemed to get worse and worse.......nobody bothered to tell us what each dish was when it arrived, it was literally just plonked in front of us. Similarly, no-one bothered to ask if we had finished and if it would be OK to take our plates, never mind asking how our food was. I don't think I am a particularly fussy diner - what I've just pointed seem to be the basics of service, right? The icing on the cake was when of the "head waiters" went to the all trouble of re-lighting the table candle......right at the end of our meal and another picking up JD's empty dessert plate despite me still eating mine......all in all, pretty disgraceful. Service is a tricky thing, you don't really notice it when it is good (and that is the hallmark of good service) but when it is bad, it really ruins a meal.

So onto the food, was it any good? It was passable but nothing that really wowed us. I got the feeling that it was aspiring to be like St John but just failed to hit the mark. Also, when you get down to the nitty gritty, its an awful lot of money to be spending on mediocrity....I don't think we will be heading back.
My starter of prawn cocktail - average

JD's starter of "heaven and earth" - black pudding with apples and mash....OK but failed to hit the mark as a "signature" dish

 My main of hanger steak with bone marrow - steak was tender but a bit weird with the limp charred exterior. It tasted as though it had been seared, then cooked in a sous-vide and then served without caramelising the outside again. The bone marrow was overpowered by too much breadcrumbs.

JD's main of pork chop with crackling and braised Brussel sprouts - not bad but unforgiveable to be serving pork that was raw in the centre.

JD's dessert of steamed sponge pudding with chocolate and chestnuts - the chocolate overpowered the chestnuts and the chestnuts had not been toasted so were a bit limp and raw tasting.

I was too full so opted for a scoop of pear sorbet - too sweet.

East End adventure

I've been meaning to make a trip to Broadway Market in the East End for a while now but a combination of sleeping in on a Saturday morning plus baltic weather at the weekends has meant that it has been continuously postponed......until now :)
True to form, the weather still wasn't great on Saturday but I had contacted the person I wanted to meet in advance and she said that she would be at her stall at the weekend. She is the author of the blog Coco&Me (which I stumbled across through another blog which I regularly check) and is a self-taught baker who is a mother of 2 and sells handmade chocs and cakes at Broadway Market every Saturday. It was a bit of a trek for us to get there (bus, tube, train, foot) but am glad we went......despite the weather, it was a nice day out and interesting to explore another part of London town. T's stall is right bang in the middle of the market, near a French cheese stand; I was really happy when I found it and pretty impressed by what was on offer at her stall. We plumped for some of her individual tarts (1 choc, 1 lemon) and I also got my hands on one of her well-presented truffle boxes. When I finally plucked up the courage to introduce myself, the stall was a little busy but we had a quick chinwag and she suggested that I pop back later for a proper chat. 

T's stall also happens to be very near Buen Ayre - an Argentinian steakhouse which opened to rave reviews from the food critics a few years back. Since we were heading out for a nice dinner (more on that in my next post) in the evening, we thought we could pick a choripan to keep us ticking over. Pretty good but dare I say it, not as nice as the ones that JD instinctively knew to pick up at the Bombonera in BA :(
We have made a note to ourselves to definitely come back for dinner and try out the rather nice looking juicy steaks on offer :)
  Choripan with some sinful crispy fat fries with garlic and parsley

I popped back to chat with T which was really cool - I really admire her for just having the guts to go out and set up is something which I would consider doing but fear of failure and lack of self confidence usually take over my thoughts before I've even given myself a chance :(
Meeting T and reading her blog has definitely inspired me to take Monsieur Niau's advice once more......osez!! :)

(We finally tucked into T's tarts and chocs on Sunday - yummy!)