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January 2009

29 January 2009

Sweet Corn 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.

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20 January 2009

Dark Chocolate Souffle


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.


Continue reading "Dark Chocolate Souffle" »

13 January 2009

Thai Fried Rice with Crab - Kao Pat Boo


I'm quite late in starting this year with this being my first post for 2009. A belated Happy New Year everyone!

Living in Vancouver I am treated to an abundance of fresh seafood and I am spoiled for choice. The cold, pristine waters of the West Coast offer up unmatched seafood and that says a lot coming from Australia, which some would argue has the best seafood in the world. While Australian seafood is fantastic, seafood on the West Coast is also fantastic but much less expensive.

The jewel in the West Coast seafood crown is crab -- in this case Dungeness Crab.

The sweet, succulent crab is the perfect addition to Thai fried rice. I have to admit I'm a bit of a fried rice snob. It's usually Thai-style or nothing. While the dish is very easy to make, Thais just seem to have a knack for frying the rice perfectly. The trick is to use cold, day-old steamed Jasmine rice. This helps the grains keep their shape while absorbing the flavours.

Thai fried rice has a delicious yet subtle burnt flavour. This is from the hot wok that it's fried in. And that's the other trick, to get the best results, you need to fry the rice in a wok, over a gas flame and quickly.

Continue reading "Thai Fried Rice with Crab - Kao Pat Boo" »

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