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Party Food

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" »

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" »

02 September 2008

Orange Soy Glazed Scallops


I have never been a huge fan of scallops. When I've eaten them they've usually been undercooked or overcooked. My feelings have changed. Although I don't eat them often, I have a new-found appreciation for them.

The trick to cooking scallops is to have the fry-pan smoking hot. What I mean by this is that it should be giving off a tiny bit of smoke just before burning point. I usually use vegetable, canola or sunflower oil for these high temperatures. The pan should be lightly oiled and the oil itself should be swirling.

Scallops only require very little time in the pan. Medium-sized scallops such as the ones pictured were cooked for 80 seconds: 40 seconds on each side and - this is important - turned only once.

The high heat of the pan sears the outside of the scallop which helps to seal in the juices making the flesh firm yet tender.

The glaze is a combination of caramelized sugar, orange juice and zest and soy sauce. If you've never caramelized sugar before, then be warned, it requires a little patience and constant attention. The result is worth it though and it only takes about 15 minutes. This particular glaze is also excellent with chicken, oily fish such as salmon and halibut or pork.

Continue reading "Orange Soy Glazed Scallops" »

27 May 2008

Wild Salmon & Kaffir Cakes with Ponzu Sauce


I did a seafood & citrus cooking class last week at the Cookshop in Vancouver and these salmon cakes were one of the items on the menu.

We used wild Pacific Salmon which is oilier than the sockeye I'd normally use and much more 'forgiving' as the chef kept saying. What he meant was that Sockeye being a drier fish is much easier to ruin when frying in recipes such as this one.

The salmon cakes were simple to prepare and delicious. They were peppered with kaffir leaves which added a citrusy bite to the natural sweetness of the salmon. The little cakes were coated with Panko crumbs and then gently pan-fried about a minute or so on each side.

We made a Ponzo dipping sauce using soy sauce, brown sugar, green onions, ginger and lime juice.

The chef used an ice-cream scoop to make the salmon cake rounds which worked brilliantly and kept each cake the same size. I promptly raced out and bought one!

I'm submitting this post to Weekend Herb Blogging being hosted this week by Wandering Chopsticks.


Continue reading "Wild Salmon & Kaffir Cakes with Ponzu Sauce" »

15 April 2008

Oysters Tempura: Oishi Indeed!


There is something about the Japanese aesthetic which calms. So I'd like to say that it was with some hesitation that I destroyed the little Japanese garden I had just made on my plate.

The truth is that there was no hesitation. These little tempura tempters were gobbled up within 7.5 seconds of my camera going "click".

Happily, I was able to reconcile my appetite with the aesthetic by invoking Wabi-sabi. Wabi-sabi, in terms of Japanese art and arrangements, is centered on the acceptance of transience. This view, rooted in Buddhist ideals, particularly values imperfection and incompleteness, and considers these qualities to be beautiful.

And it was beautiful. The oysters were delicious and, afterwards, looking at their empty shells, I saw the beauty of their transience - into my tummy!

Continue reading "Oysters Tempura: Oishi Indeed!" »

12 April 2008

Panko Prawns: Delicious and Healthy!


All right, all right! Perhaps not healthy... exactly.

These little guys certainly were delicious, though. So you'll forgive me for getting a little bit carried away.

Nic published a panko post last year and I wasn't planning on posting another one tonight - that is until I popped one of these panko'd pleasers into my mouth and it almost burst it was so juicy!

Recently, I have been tending to Asian White Shrimp which I've found to be sweeter than Black Tiger Prawns. Black Tiger Prawns are said to possess firmer flesh, but I can tell you that the White ones I had tonight were plump and bursting with flavour.

Oh, and as for the indubitable health benefits: I figure that the prawn shells are very high in calcium, so if you eat the tails, your bones will be sure to thank you.

If you want to have a look at this embarrassingly simple recipe, click on the link to the Nic's post.

04 March 2008

Chocolate Banana Springrolls: fit for a King


If Elvis was still alive, I think that chocolate banana spring rolls would be his midnight snack of choice. They're sweet, extremely delicious and deep-fried (all prerequisites for Elvis' snacks ).

These ones were perhaps a little petite for The King: he'd have probably stuffed a bunch of bananas and a block of chocolate into entire sheets of the poor, bulging spring roll skins. He likely would have also tried to squeeze in a jar of peanut butter for good measure.  I, on the other hand, feeling guilty for my 4 o'clock deep-fried dessert, was a little more restrained.

You need not feel too guilty, though. Despite the deep-frying, these crunchy little treats aren't at all oily . The trick to this is to use sunflower oil at a really high temperature so that they're in and out in a less than a minute. Sunflower oil is also excellent when frying at high temperatures as it doesn't burn easily.


The snap-frying gives the rolls just enough time to melt the chocolate and warm the banana. The result is a wonderful combination of textures: little crispy cases of warm, soft 'banocolate' (my new word for banana & chocolate).

Continue reading "Chocolate Banana Springrolls: fit for a King" »

24 February 2008

The Pavlova: Queen of Desserts


I revisited an old recipe that I made last year: the Pavlova.

It is my third time making one. The last time I made it, the meringue sank when I opened the oven door. The same thing happened again today. But it wasn't the end of the world and this time my heart didn't drop when I saw the meringue slowly deflating before my eyes.

To remedy matters, I just put a little extra whipped cream where the hole was and piled on loads of strawberries to give the Pav a little extra height. So despite the hole, I still had a very successful dessert.

I cooked the meringue slightly longer this time by about 10 minutes. This gave the base a delicious, almost caramelly chew to it.

There are only four ingredients in the meringue: egg whites, castor sugar, cornstarch and a little bit of white vinegar. When I was beating the egg whites, I was thinking about how amazing the chemistry of food is. The transformation of the egg whites with the addition of sugar into a thick, glossy substance like shaving cream, is quite amazing to watch.


Another thing that crossed my mind was, how in the world did people make the Pavlova or meringues before the time of electric egg beaters?

It must have been a terrible ordeal but at least you'd have strong arms! I thought that if I'd been alive in pre-beater times, I would have invented a bicycle-ilke contraption so my legs would do all the work instead of my poor little arms.


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