Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Lemon tarts

I have been eyeing up Tartine's recipe for lemon cream tarts for at least half a year now and haven't managed to try it out until now due to the impossibility of obtaining the right size tartlet rings here in the big smoke, char! Obviously, said tartlet rings were top of my shopping list in Paris which I promptly managed to track down so I don't have any excuse for not making these tarts!

After reading the recipe over and also reading the recipe for PH's lemon tart in Dorie Greenspans' book, I realised that both used the same method of cooking eggs, sugar and lemon juice over a bain marie until thick. The resultant curd is then left to cool a little and finally, cold butter is added to make a silky emulsion. Having made the PH version during my stage (there is a swanky machine for it!) and not being a fan of the taste (too eggy), I decided to sitck to my guns and try out Tartine's version. Tart shells were made from pate sucree which was no biggie......however, my tart lining skills are a bit rusty (well, they were never perfect!!) and when, I had rolled my pastry out too big for the tart ring, all I could hear was chef shouting in my head and reminding me that I should only take enough dough to roll pastry just large enough for the ring......I might not have executed this time but at least, he taught me well :)

The lemon cream took much longer than I had expected to cook and despite purchasing a new thermometer in Paris, I was having trouble reaching the right temperature for the curd. Anyhoo, after a lot of whisking and sweating, the lemon cream was finally made and spooned into tart shells. No nappage (shall I mention again just how difficult it is to get specialist pastry stuff here????!!) so we went for the natural, rustic look :)
The tarts tasted pretty yummy with no eggy after taste.......Carl Marletti had better watch out, haha!! ;)

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Banana bread

Buoyed on by my Oreos success, I decided to have a bash at another recipe from Joanne Chang's new book, Flour. This week, I attempted her banana bread.....I had made banana bread before using a recipe which Ma Chan had given me many years ago. While it tasted very nice, I also remembered it going stale and hard very quickly so was hoping that Joanne's recipe might be an improvement on that. I was surprised to see that the only fat being used in the recipe was oil - I use oil at work for making carrot cake and had always assumed that butter makes the best cakes/pastry......mmmm?

As before, the recipe was very straightforward and after an hour or so in the oven, said banana bread was ready. Our flat also had that lovely aroma of fresh baking wafting around so JD and I were eager to try the bread out. I got my grubby mits on the first slice when the bread was still slightly warm and it was really yummy. JD concurred and between the two of us, we managed to scoff half the loaf in one sitting!! ;)
 Mmmm, not exactly a carbon copy but my loaf tin is slightly different in dimensions :)

No nuts but a few plump sultanas instead :)

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Flying visit to Paris

JD and I undertook a pretty manic visit to Paris midway through last week for a few reasons:
  • to check out the Chrimbo "soldes"
  • to go and see the Monet exhibition at the Grand Palais

I didn't manage to pick up great bargains but ended up splashing a lot of cash at Mora picking up all sorts of pastry equipment.

Since we weren't in town for long, we had to choose carefully where we would go for dinner - after a little bit of trouble securing a reservation, we opted for Argentinian resto Unico and dinner did not disappoint :)
 Selection of starters

 JD was not a fan of the roasted bone marrow so all the more for me!! Far superior to St John!!

 Delicious steak with a glass of "full of character" Malbec!

A whole dulce de leche fondant to myself this time!! :)

Being in Paris for just 2 days made me realise how lucky I was to have spent some time living there and having the luxury to explore the city at a more leisurely pace - I had completely underestimated how long we would need to get to all the places I wanted to visit.  

As mentioned, one of the reasons to come to Paris was to go and see the Monet exhibition at the Grand Palais since it was the largest collection of the artist's paintings all under the one roof. All day tickets had sold out before Christmas so I was cursing myself for not booking them sooner. I had also read that the queues were also pretty horrific so decided to bite the bullet and buy a much more expensive "Sesame" pass which is essentially an annual pass to the venue which allows access to the Monet exhibition and we were also hoping, shorter queues. Buying the pass proved to be challenging (we found an internet cafe whose printer was broken!! and who knew you actually needed to scan in a photo as part of the app???!!) but we persevered and arrived just after opening on our last day in town. Unfortunately, there was a significant queue of people with "Sesame" passes but the "normal" queue had an average waiting time of 6 hours??!!! We managed to get in after an hour or so of queueing - the exhibition did not disappoint (except for the massive onslaught of crowds) and it really was lovely seeing all Monet's paintings in the one place, I guess it really highlighted just what a genius he was!

Of course, no trip to Paris is complete these days without arming myself with something sweet - as we were so short on time, the only things I managed to acquire were chocs from my favourite shop, Jacques Genin and I also splashed out on a Ispahan galette de rois from PH - a lovely visit and will make sure not to leave it so long the next time!! 

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Home-made oreos

My belated Chrimbo present from my bro was a cookbook by Joanne Chang - a Harvard Business School graduate turned pastry chef and owns a very popular bakery in Boston called Flour. So far, the book has been a great read and there are loads of recipes which I want to try out.

The first recipe to really grab my attention was the homemade Oreos - it also looked pretty easy so even more appealing!! (when baking is your full-time job, the last thing one wants to do at the weekend sometimes is to head straight back into the kitchen!!)

Was really happy with the way they turned out and they got the thumbs from JD and colleagues from work - woohoo! Banana bread is next on the hitlist - the bananas are ripening in the kitchen as we speak! :)

Friday, 7 January 2011

Kiraku revisited

Since our first visit to Kiraku last May, we have been back for another meal and I also took Ma Chan there the last time she was in town so its turned into a bit of a local favourite! :)

I had also mentioned the resto to my bro before but its a bit of a trek from his neck of the woods so its taken a while for him and Jools to pop over to try it out......lovely food (as usual) and great company :)
 My gigantic pint of Asahi :)

 Kushiage set (grilled skewers of different meat)

 Grilled octopus balls - takoyaki (my favourite dish of the night, yum!)

 Spicy chicken wings

 Spicy tuna roll

 Grilled aubergine

 Salmon teriyaki

 Assorted tempura

 Eel, egg and fish roe roll

 Soft shell crab roll

Fried monkfish

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Experimenting in the kitchen - porcini risotto

During my brief trip back to the Emerald Isle, Ma Chan and I popped out for a post-Chrimbo shopping trip which included a visit into our local Lidl. Lidl is generally more known for pretty average groceries at cheap prices so imagine my surprise to find bags of yummy looking Italian dried porcini going for for 99 cents a pop!!

I armed myself with a couple of bags for the trip back down to the big smoke and my first foray in cooking with them was in the form of risotto. It all worked out pretty well but I failed to realise that I was cooking a tonne of the stuff!! (mmm..... so that's why so much stock was needed!!!) After a substantial dinner, the rest of the risotto has now been shaped into cakes and stashed away in the freezer for a potential weekend lunch.....watch this space!! :)
 So many components!!

 Hmm....not bad for a first attempt! :)