Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Mio (Beijing)

Mio is an Italian restaurant in the Four Seasons, and it's actually quite good, in fact I'd arguably say that it's the best Italian restaurant in Beijing. There are very few good Italian restaurants in Beijing, even though I'm pretty sure there are around 100 of them.  Mio's not your traditional Italian food, it's all modern with foam and gels and all that -- which is reflected in the prices

The restaurant is beautiful, and it's got an open kitchen, which for me is always a plus.  The head and sous chefs are both Italian.  They're talented, imaginative and very friendly, so feel free to chat to them if you're there. 

The meal started off with beautifully crisp bread and fragrant olive oil. 
 Tuna and fish roe. 

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Whipped Cream Bundt Cake

In Italy you'll find that most bars (and that's actually cafes in Italy) have ciambelle.  These are just simple bundt cakes, usually flavored with vanilla or lemon, and my mother loves them.  They're essentially just pound cakes, but my mother said that this Martha Stewart recipe with whipped cream rather than the standard creaming of butter and sugar tastes most like the ones you find in Italy, strangely enough.
I thought this was interesting.  I was trying to use up the heavy cream I had in my fridge and googled and googled and found this.  I had never made a cake with whipped cream in the batter before.  The texture is quite nice, it's obviously lighter than a standard pound cake but I wouldn't say the difference is massive.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

The Rug (Beijing)

Very few brunch places do scrambled eggs well.  It's always so disappointing to eat it overcooked and rubbery and slice-able with a knife, so you can imagine my surprise and excitement to find proper scrambled eggs in a restaurant in Beijing. Of all places. Beijing, despite having thousands and thousands of restaurants, few Western restaurants are really that good.  At least if you want the quality to match up to the price.  The Rug gave me hope in this city.

Their brunch menu is beautiful and extensive.  Pages and pages of items with scrambled eggs (like fishcakes, shrimps and avocado, toast, bagels with other toppings), poached eggs (on bagels, toast but also with mashed potatoes and stew or Thai curries), fried eggs (on hash-browns, and shakshuka is also on the menu).

We had the scrambled eggs with shrimps and avocado along with roasted tomatoes and a side salad.  Gorgeous, with silky scrambled eggs on top of fresh avocados and rich prawns.  The roasted tomatoes are cooked perfectly with side salad that's also seasoned to the right amount. 

Their take on the shakshuka was great.  With roasted peppers and tomatoes and bread to dip into those bright egg yolks. 

Tuesday, 7 January 2014


My parents have a set of electric beaters that are over 20 years old.  Phillips.  And still works very well.  Whereas I somehow get through a set every year.  I had thought that it was a question of quality, as my first one was an Argos Value one that cost less than £10.  So then I bought a standard Morrisons one for a bit more, then I went and bought a James Martin one.  Still, I think it's breaking.  Maybe I should really splurge and by a Phillips one.  It's like buying cheap quality shoes, you can buy a pair for £10 but then you'd have to buy a new pair every couple of months, at the end of the day you're better off with spending £70 on a good pair that will last you a lifetime.

Ok so about this dessert: the paris-brest was made to commemorate a bicycle race, and it's supposed to represent a wheel.  In all honesty, I think that's...pretty disappointing.  Knowing that a beautiful circular dessert was made to represent a bicycle wheel?  In China, round and circular shapes represent unity and family.  If you're going to make something to commemorate a bicycle race, take up the challenge and pipe your choux pastry into an actual bicycle wheel, man.  I think they did that at The Great British Bake Off at some point, no? It's like a lovely Christmas wreath, it's sad to know that it's meant to be a bicycle wheel.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Thin & Crispy Coconut Cookies

I just wanted to say something basic about cookies.  I want you to learn from my mistakes. 

1. When baking cookies, don't place them so close together.  Especially cookies that have high butter content and are likely to spread.

2. To insure that your cookies are  "thin and crispy", make sure you bake them for long enough.  With the brown sugar in these cookies I didn't know when they were done, because they just constantly looked burnt, so my first batch was underdone and were fudgy rather than crispy. 

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Spaghetti con la Bottarga

Hello, 2014.  The media is filled with articles on "How to eat healthy in 2014" and "The best diets for 2014", but you know what, this is the way to start 2014.  It's comparatively decadent but it will make you happy inside out.

Spaghetti with bottarga is one of those quintessential Italian recipes that puts the focus on the ingredients.  See, it really is just a couple of ingredients, you can even omit the anchovies and perhaps fry a bit of garlic in a pan then toss the pasta in that first before adding the bottarga.  But essentially all you need is good bottarga and good olive oil in this recipe (or you can make a light tomato sauce with fresh cherry tomatoes cooked in a bit of olive oil along with some chopped parsley).
Let me first explain bottarga.  Bottarga is cured fish roe.  It comes in a big slab as you can see in the photo below.  It is, according to Wikipedia, fish roe massaged by hand to remove the air pockets, and then compressed, dried and cured in salt for several weeks.  The flavor is quite strong, and it really is a delicacy.  It can be quite expensive. 
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