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22 April 2009

Pomegranate & Spinach Salad

Pomegranate_Spinach_Salad

Week two in Sydney. The verdict? Well, no more salty tears welling in my eyes. There were many shed in the first week. Now, the only saltiness is that of the cool, delicious waters of Bondi beach on my skin.

My days have been spent catching up with family and friends and revisiting some of my old food haunts, almost all of which are still thriving.

I'm still to find some farmers' markets and less expensive organic produce, however, I have decided that it may be cheaper to go to the farmers directly...I feel some road trips coming on.

When without a home and pantry of my own, you'd think meals would be a little less healthy and delicious. Not so. Luckily for me I'm staying in a small apartment attached to what may as well be Martha Stewart's kitchen.

A few nights ago dinner was served and on the table was one of the most beautiful salads I had ever seen. It was simple yet dazzling and I was compelled to recreate it the next day.

I give you a baby spinach and pomegranate salad with feta cheese, fresh mint and Spanish onions topped with a balsamic cream.

Thanks Judy.

Continue reading "Pomegranate & Spinach Salad" »

13 April 2009

Vancouver Hot Spot: Granville Island

Granville-Island-1

A week has past since first arriving in Sydney. I've experienced a whole range of emotions and spent a lot of time reflecting on our lives in Vancouver.

There is much that I miss but also much I look forward to in rediscovering in Oz. Although, my first grocery outing in Sydney was a slap in the face after discovering  the cost of organic and bio-dynamic food -- a small punnet of strawberries costs $10; a head of lettuce, $5, and green beans, $39 a kilogram! Mind you, I was browsing next to a Baby Dior boutique so perhaps I was in the wrong neighbourhood. That being said, Australia seems as long way behind Canada in terms of organic produce. I need to start growing my own.

Our lives revolve largely around food and the purchasing of it is just as much as much fun as the preparation of it. This is why one of the things I miss most is Vancouver's Granville Island Public Market -- a cornucopia of culinary offerings. Over 50 merchants selling anything from fresh-of-the-boat wild salmon to hundreds of pungent cheeses. There are endless displays of bursting berries, plump vegetables, freshly baked breads and pastas.

Fruit

Continue reading "Vancouver Hot Spot: Granville Island" »

25 March 2009

Blueberry Cornbread

Blueberry-Cornbread

It's been a while since my last post and as each day passes I feel a nagging guilt for not having written anything. My life is upside down right now and mostly packed away in cardboard boxes. We are leaving our home in Vancouver and heading back to Sydney. It's been four happy years and it's very hard to leave.

Posting over the next few weeks, and perhaps even months, will be sporadic. But I look forward to getting back into a rhythm and sharing my love of food with you. 

Thank you for your comments and your emails. I'm sorry I've been so lax in my responses. I hope to be back to normal soon.

In the meantime, I give you a 'rush recipe' favourite of mine: blueberry cornbread. Enjoy.

Continue reading "Blueberry Cornbread" »

12 March 2009

Cashew Cream Parfait

Cashew-Cream-Parfait

I was recently in Portland, Oregon on a girls' weekend where we spent several days exploring the city’s surprisingly empty streets and eating.

I had several good meals but there was one that outshone everything. It was breakfast at the Blossoming Lotus – a casual café-cum-yoga school serving raw and vegan meals. Sounds appetizing? Perhaps not for some but after several days of sheer gluttony sometimes a bowl of slow oats, rice milk and fresh fruit is what you need.

The dish I had was more of a 'breakfast dessert'. It was a cashew cream parfait served with live buckwheat, apples and kiwis. Dazzling.

On the way back to Vancouver I was mulling over in my head how to re-create it. I tried it the next day and met with success.

The best thing, apart from getting to eat this every morning for breakfast, is that it’s healthy. The "cream" is simply a combination of raw, organic cashews, water, pure vanilla extract and raw honey. I blend the ingredients until they’re smooth and resemble a silky mousse-like cream and that’s it. I’ve been eating it everyday for almost 10 days and I can't imagine tiring of it anytime soon.

The small triangular grains you see in the picture is buckwheat, and incidentally, they're actually seeds from the same family as rhubarb and sorrel. This was my first experience with whole buckwheat. I've only ever used the flour in cookies and blinis. The buckwheat seeds don't have a strong flavour, but they add a great texture and crunch with added health benefits.


Continue reading "Cashew Cream Parfait" »

03 March 2009

Chocolate Melting Moments

Chocolate-Melting-Moment-Cookies

My first melting moment seems a long time ago. I was sitting in a cafe in Australia when I ordered this shortbread sandwich. It was lemon and passionfruit and I've never forgotten it.

True to its name, the cookie melted on my tongue. Its texture is different from regular shortbread. It's crumbly yet it's moist. It's buttery yet it's dry.

What gives them their soft texture is the addition of cornstarch, also known in Australia as 'corn flour'.

In this chocolate melting moment recipe, I use a little pure vanilla extract to enhance the icing however you could also use peppermint, coffee or even raspberry extract.

Continue reading "Chocolate Melting Moments" »

19 February 2009

Cardamom Custard with Caramelized Oranges

Cardamom-Orange-Custard

Cardamom, the second most expensive spice next to saffron, is one of the world's oldest spices. Originating from the forests of India's Western Ghats mountain range, the little green pod has traveled far and wide.

Over the centuries cardamom has been used as a tooth cleaner, a perfume and even as a cure to obesity. Today the spice is used more commonly in cooking to flavour both sweet and savory dishes and drinks such as coffee, mulled wines and some liqueurs. 

I often cook with the aromatic spice but mostly in curries (although I do use it in rice puddings too). This week I went a step further and used cardamom in a sweet custard with oranges caramelized in palm sugar. The sweet, subtle scent of the cardamom pairs wonderfully with the smooth egg custard. The caramelized orange imparts a hint of citrus sweetness however its main contribution to the dish is  aesthetic rather than flavour.

I recommend giving the custard time (overnight) to develop its heady flavour. It's well worth the wait.

Continue reading "Cardamom Custard with Caramelized Oranges" »

14 February 2009

Himalayan Truffle Pasta

Truffle-Pasta

The truffle, a highly prized subterranean fungi, may be the last thing on people's minds in these troubled economic times. With a one ounce truffle costing up to $165, you can imagine my shock to see a basket of fresh black truffles at South China Seas Trading Company selling for $10 each. This must be some kind of mistake!

I tenderly picked a truffle up and sniffed it. While the tuber did have the smell of damp earth, that distinctly pungent truffle musk was missing. It turned out that the truffles were of the Chinese variety, grown in foothills of the Himalayas.

Himalayan Truffles look like your average truffle on the outside. They are knotty and knobbly, a dirty black-brown color, a little smaller than European truffles -- about the size of a walnut. On the inside, they are jet black, with cream-coloured, marbling.

French and Italian truffles grow symbiotically with trees such as the oak, beech, hazel or chestnut while Himalayan truffles predominantly grow near pine trees or other conifers.

Himalayan-Truffles

It is said that unscrupulous restaurants sometimes pass of Himalayan truffles by enhancing them with  truffle oil or butter. Don Dickson, owner of South China Seas Trading Co, opined that this masquerading has "resulted in Himalayan truffles being negatively regarded as fakes rather than just being appreciated for what they are".

Making-Pasta

I tasted a sliver of the truffle and decided that it wouldn't hurt to saute them. If anything, it heightened their delicate flavour.

First, I sauteed some onions in olive oil and butter, I added finely chopped garlic, followed by slivers of truffle which I seasoned with flor de sal and then sauteed them for several minutes. I added a handful of finely chopped flat leaf parsley and gave the pan several flips. Finally, I threw in the cooked fettucine and tossed it around to coat it. Simple and delicious.

Continue reading "Himalayan Truffle Pasta" »

03 February 2009

Ricotta Ravioli with Dark Chocolate Sauce

Ricotta-ravioli

A few months ago I wrote about my first experience with chocolate pasta. Since then I've often thought about the endless possibilities of sweet flavour combinations.

After a recent pasta-making class at Quince cooking studio in Vancouver, I promptly raced out and finally bought a pasta machine.

The cooking class was taught by chef Adam Pegg of La Quercia restaurant. Pegg studied in Italy for several years and spent much of his time studying pasta-making techniques in the Emilia-Romagna region. Emilia-Romagna is considered by many in Italy to produce some of the country's finest fresh pasta.

Pegg recalled his good fortune in spending many a day with little old ladies in their homes learning how to perfect their craft. Even as a young man Pegg couldn't keep up with the dexterous workings of those seasoned veterans. 

During class we learned how to make orecchiette (little ears), mini gnocchi, fettucine and ravioli. I've been wanting to make my own ravioli for a while, especially paper-thin sheets, which I think, makes for the best ravioli.

So I bought my new machine this Sunday morning past and set it to work as soon as I got home. Our glass dining table became a mini pasta workshop. The flour was flying. Several happy hours later I was serving ricotta and lemon zest-filled ravioli topped with a dark chocolate sauce, followed by fettucine served with shaved Himalayan truffles (the poor man's truffle, but more on that next week).

The ravioli was sublime. If you don't have a pasta machine and can't be bothered making your own then you could always substitute the pasta with Chinese dumpling wrappers but there's just something about freshly made pasta that cannot be topped.

Enjoy!

Continue reading "Ricotta Ravioli with Dark Chocolate Sauce" »

29 January 2009

Sweet Corn Cornbread

Cornbread

Cornbread, once a means for survival by European settlers of the New World, has evolved from a "sad paste of despair" to a much-loved staple in parts of America. 

In colonial America, the shortage of flour and sugar meant that settlers had to make do with bread made from ground maize, salt and water. Early cornbread went by names such as "pone, ashcakes, hoe-cakes, journey-cakes, johnny-cakes, slapjacks, spoonbreads and dodgers".

Today cornbread recipes vary depending on location baking techniques. In northern America cornbread tends to be made using yellow cornmeal while southern states prefer white.

For my cornbread recipe I use buttermilk, butter, sugar and eggs. The cornmeal is just gritty enough so that the outside of the bread forms a fine crust. It's delicious and I've been eating it for days. The first time I made it, I ate it with a slow-cooked beef and vegetable stew. This time I've been eating it for breakfast with sliced bananas on top. The recipe has just the right amount of sugar in it to pair it well with savory or sweet foods.

Continue reading "Sweet Corn Cornbread" »

20 January 2009

Dark Chocolate Souffle

Chocolate-Souffle-1 

The soufflé, once the bane of my existence, is now something I enjoy cooking and relish eating. The chemistry of this dish is one that fascinates me and I often think about the trials and errors of the first chefs who invented and perfected it.

The soufflé, a French invention, is dated back to late 18th century and translates to “breath of air”. Soufflés can be served hot or cold and sweet or savory.

The technique of preparing a hot soufflé begins with the making of a roux – a combination of melted butter and flour – which acts as a base and thickening agent, like that of a Béchamel sauce. The next steps are pretty simple and are laid out in my recipe below.

In my experience, the trick to soufflés is not to over-mix. Have a steady, yet gentle hand when combining the egg whites to the roux sauce. The second, and probably most important point, is to not open the oven door when the soufflés are cooking.

I usually press my nose against the oven window in anticipation of the majestic rising until it gets too hot. It's a wonderful thing to watch a soufflé rise. The joy is fleeting, however, because once you open the door, you have about 40 seconds of wonderful puff followed by rapid deflation. As you can imagine, taking photos of a soufflé happens at Formula-1-pit-stop-pace.

Whenever I'm making one, I always wonder how restaurants can serve soufflés when they're so briefly at their perfection.

This is my fifth time making a souffle and my third successful attempt. My first two attempts were abysmal failures - they tasted great, they just didn't rise. I called them "shriveled toads" at the time.

Soufflé number 3 was also successful but had a slightly heavier texture as I used coconut milk in a Thai-inspired Pandan souffle .

Souffle number 4 was also successful and punctuated with hints of passionfruit.

Chocolate-Souffle

Continue reading "Dark Chocolate Souffle" »

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