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October 2008

30 October 2008

Vegan Cupcakes -- a revelation


Some may think the words 'vegan' and 'cupcake' should never meet in a sentence. Unfortunately, the word 'vegan' still has some rather drab connotations. It conjures up images of tofu-like textures and pale imitations. Cupcakes, on the other hand, inspire child-like delight and sinful decadence. The idea of a dairy-free cupcake certainly didn't do anything for me.

That was until I tried a cupcake from the cookbook Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

They're quite spectacular. Light, moist and decadent -- all perfect cupcake prerequisites.

In the recipe, milk is substituted with plain soy milk and apple cider vinegar. It's rather ingenious really. The cider curdles the soy milk and turns it into the consistency of buttermilk. Eggs are substituted with a little canola oil which gives the cupcake its moist, fluffy texture.

The icing is a combination of non-hydrogenated margarine, vegan shortening, soy milk, icing sugar and cocoa powder.

I made the cupcakes for the Thanksgiving party I recently catered for. My reason for choosing a vegan recipe was purely out of practicality - not to cater to anyone's dietary restrictions. I know these cupcakes to be reliable and their 'veganess' takes nothing away from their 'cupcakeness'.

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World is the brainchild of punk rocker Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Romero. Moskowitz has authored several vegan cookbooks all of which have won critical claim amongst the vegan community.

These cupcakes are a great way for the uninitiated to venture into the ever-more-popular world of veganism.

Continue reading "Vegan Cupcakes -- a revelation" »

21 October 2008

A Day in the Life of a Caterer


Catering: it's an important business and one that sometimes, I think, is taken for granted. The success of events, large or small, is often dependent on the food.

Last week I had the rather stressful job of catering a 'party' at the request of my partner Nic. When he first asked me I wasn't so keen on the idea. His idea of catering was "let's just cook up a big pot of curry and then heat it up in the microwave at the venue", to which I gave my standard response to all of his bad ideas: "that's a great idea, but...no".

It had to be something easy to eat. Finger food, food that would taste great hold or cold.

Now, about the party. I was given some rather cryptic details. It was a Thanksgiving snack for people volunteering on a political campaign. "Ahhh!" I thought: "A political party". They were giving up their holiday time to make calls and canvas the streets. How many of them were there? "Not sure, about fifteen", he replied. There were in fact about 20. Will other people be bringing any food? "Oh yes, it's like a pot luck". Only one other person brought food.


So armed with these details, I came up with a menu. My previous trepidation about catering had vanished because I thought what the hell, it's good experience, other people are bringing food and I'll use the recipes on my websites.

Continue reading "A Day in the Life of a Caterer" »

14 October 2008

Homemade Chocolate Truffles


Ganache -- a combination of cream and chocolate that forms the velvety  heart of truffles. It can be used to glaze cakes, to coat nuts or be coated with a crisp layer of chocolate.

To make ganache, gently heat cream until it starts to boil and then pour it over chopped chocolate or chocolate buds, all the while constantly stirring until the mixture is smooth and silken.

Let the chocolate/cream mixture cool to room temperature and then cover it and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours. I usually let it set overnight.

I also like to add a little liqueur like Grand Marnier. Some other flavours that go well include coconut essence, a tablespoon of black coffee or try rolling the ganache in desiccated coconut or chopped pistachios or hazelnuts.


Truffles are surprisingly easy to make but be prepared to get your hands dirty. It's a rather messy affair and you're likely to end up with chocolate in your eyebrows.

But don't despair, the mess is worth the result. Just lay down a sheet or two of newspaper and remember this tip -- keep your hands cold.

Ganache is delicate and sensitive to heat. When it comes to rolling time, I  always have a bag of ice next to me and in between every second rolling of the truffle balls I simply lay my chocolately hands on the bag and cool them down.

It does wonders for the truffles and makes things less gooey.

Check out these easy step-by-step instructions for making truffles. If you're not using nuts in the centre, then just skip over point 6 and 8.

Continue reading "Homemade Chocolate Truffles" »

07 October 2008

Manhattan Eats: Pearl Oyster Bar


The lobster roll; an east-coast classic and reminiscent of New England summers, the roll is a soft hot dog bun filled with cooked lobster and mayonnaise peppered with celery and onion.

We were lucky (mostly) enough to sample many a roll on our recent road trip of the east coast. We left the sensory overload of Manhattan for the quaint seaside fishing towns of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and finally, Maine, all the while stopping at roadside clam shacks to sample the famed roll.

More often than not, it'd be a resounding disappointment. The lobster was too dry, too laden with mayonnaise or too bland. Often it seemed more waste than luxury: surely there was a better way to appreciate succulent lobster meat.

Ironically, it wasn't until we got back to Manhattan that we finally found the holy grail of lobster sandwiches -- at Pearl Oyster Bar.


Pearl chef and owner Rebecca Charles has taken traditional east coast cooking to new levels and refined the flavours. Her food is truly homemade in the sense that meals are prepared from scratch, right down to the hand-cut fries and freshly grated horseradish, leading me to think that someone must really have sore knuckles.

Charles' inspiration came from her childhood summers spent in Kennebunkport, Maine. Her recipes are testament to the three generations of food-loving women in her family and are simple, old-fashioned and comforting.


The menu is dependent on what's available each day and tables fill up as soon as the doors open.

We were lucky enough to try the Pearl lobster roll, the salt-crusted shrimp, cracker-crusted fried oysters and the blueberry cloud pie. In fact, we tried everything twice it was so good. Not on the same day of course. While we ate we were entertained and informed by Maria who served up the plates along with their charming stories.

If you find yourself within 500 miles of Manhattan then Pearl Oyster Bar is definitely worth a visit!

Pearl Oyster Bar
18 Cornelia Street
New York. NY 10014

01 October 2008

Raw Wraps: ridiculously good


A few months ago I wrote about my new found experiences with raw food in LA. It was a revelation at the time and I still try to incorporate some raw recipes into my diet.

I was recently trawling raw food guru, Juliano's website for some ideas when I spotted his recipe of the month for a basic wrap.

I read the recipe and instantly thought 'wow'. Now you might be looking at the picture above and be thinking that I'm far too easily excited. It's a bit of lettuce, tomato, avocado, onion and what looks to be like soy sauce in the background. So what?

But that's exactly why I'm excited. It's healthy, ridiculously simple and absolutely delicious. The sauce is a mixture of nama shoyu (raw, unpasteurized soy sauce) and lemon juice. Light soy sauce will also suffice.

The combination of red romaine lettuce, juicy tomato, slices of creamy avocado topped with sweet, white onion is perfect in its simplicity. The dipping sauce is also perfect -- full-bodied with a fresh lemony twist. I like to add finely grated ginger for an extra layer of flavour.

I ate ten of these little wraps and would have kept going if I hadn't had to share my simple feast.

I urge you to try this recipe and if you do, please let me know what you think. Am I too easily pleased?

Continue reading "Raw Wraps: ridiculously good" »

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