Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Roquefort Risotto with Honey and Cacao Nibs

This was quite a particular risotto.  No alcohol (yay for Muslims), no stock - just water, and the onions aren't fried in oil, but rather simmered in milk.  So yes, it's interesting, but what's more interesting is this dinner party I catered for last night. 

Guys, start hiring me. This is my third time catering - 10 people, 4 courses and I had a blast.  Prior to this I had catered for a friends' anniversary dinner and their Valentine's Day dinner, and both occasions were lovely but last night was just fun.  With 10 people, surprisingly it was more casual and relaxed, because instead of having a couple's love and relationship at stake, it was just 10 people having a nice dinner.  Less pressure, more chit chat.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Carrot and Hazelnut Birthday Cake

I'm really not the biggest fan of your usual carrot cake that's slathered with diabetically sweet icing.  It tastes like a sugary sponge covered with cream cheese and sugar with a hint of carrots and it's just a sugary and buttery caloric bomb.

Too sweet.  I wouldn't say I don't have a sweet tooth, I like my desserts, but I like my desserts subtle and delicate.
So I went to look for an Italian recipe.  It was originally a carrot and almond cake but I just think that carrots and hazelnuts work so well together.  Have you ever had a carrot soup with hazelnuts?  Uh huh, prepare to have your mind blown.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Stuffed Pretzels

Pretzels most likely originated among monasteries in Europe, and their distinct shape is said to represent hands in prayer.  Then in the 18th Century, German and Swiss immigrants introduced them to the US, and it soon became part of their cuisine.

Anyway. There doesn't seem to be much literature online on the differences between American and German pretzels, but by looking at different recipes, I've found that:

1. American recipes usually ask for all purpose flour, i.e. low gluten flour, whereas German pretzel recipes ask for bread flour.
2.  American recipes say it's fine to just dunk the pretzels in a bicarbonate of soda solution water before baking, but the German ones strongly recommend the sodium hydroxide that's actually quite difficult to acquire.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Mac & Cheese with Thyme & Anchovies

Anchovies, thyme, caramelized garlic, a mixture of gruyere, parmesan and cheddar - this is a nice mac 'n' cheese.

This is my first time making mac 'n' cheese, actually.  I had no idea that it was more complicated than I had originally anticipated.  I had always made a cheese pasta by cooking the pasta and then just stirring in the grated cheeses afterwards - a nice mixture of blue cheeses and mozzarella and parmesan is the way to go, by the way.  But anyway, mac 'n' cheese involves a roux and a bechamel and all that.  I made this this morning (and I'm procrastinating now because I don't want to work on my essay), and oh my, the entire house smelled like cheese at 9am, it was glorious.  I had a bit of it for breakfast.  Some of you may think it's too much for breakfast, and it is, but just two forkfuls of delicious cheesy pasta is suitable for any time of the day. 

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Champagne Truffles

I meant to post this on Valentine's Day but my internet stopped working (I'm refraining from ranting on about this perpetual problem and bad customer service).  Anyway, you can make these champagne truffles anytime.  I made these for my flatmate on Valentine's Day, and you know what?  I love Valentine's Day.  I'm single and I love Valentine's Day.  I think it's such a cute holiday, as it's a day dedicated to celebrate love.  Not just romantic love, any kind of love.  Love for friends, love for family, love for pets --  just love.  I know I'm in the minority here.  Even couples hate Valentine's Day, they think it's too much pressure or whatever.  I mean, it's like birthdays - birthdays are a celebration of one's existence.  We may appreciate that person's existence everyday but it's nice to have just one day dedicated to it, no?

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Cranberry and Goat's Cheese Love Scones

What flavors define love for you?  The conventional chocolate, strawberries and oysters are just a bit too cliched now.  The aphrodisiacs for the current generation should involve beetroot, duck and goat's cheese.  These are definitely my top three foods of love.   Beetroot dyes everything a lovely pink and goes along with all your other aphrodisiacs like those mentioned above.  There's just something so luxurious about duck that makes it very worthy of a special occasion.  And then there's goat's cheese.  I don't even know how to explain it.  It just is sexy and romantic.

Goat's cheese is like the popular nice kid in school that gets along with everyone.  You can even find it playing around in a sweet setting like a chocolate goat's cheese cheese cake.  It just shines when paired with sharp sweet flavors in savory dishes though.  So here I've put it together with dried cranberries.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Sweet Carrot Chips

I was going to post this yesterday but I was met by the most horrid lower back pain known to man.  Well, known to 21-year-old's for sure.  I could not stand up straight, and my stomach was upset as well and it was the time of the month - I was not in a good state. 

But I woke up after a healthy 8-hour-sleep feeling better than ever.  I dreamt that I was trying my luck with Morgan Freeman but then he turned me down because he said I was too young for him - fair enough.  I've been having weird dreams and I've been spending too much time trying to analyze them.  Did I tell you about my dream where I tackled someone and repeatedly punched them and tried to strangle him?  My friend said that he had to quit his last job because he had repeated dreams of him murdering his boss. 

For something less dark now - sweet carrot chips or crisps.  Commercial veggie chips are incredibly overpriced, especially kale chips, but fear not, here I offer a nice homemade alternative. You shave the carrots into strips, toss them in oil, sugar and salt and bake them at a low temperature and you have your carrot chips.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Garam Masala and Citrus Scones

I know that it's not right to boast, but you know what? I will. I've been having a horrible couple of days and you cannot imagine how proud I am of myself for these little inventions.  I'm usually the happy go-lucky girl holding a glass half-full with an unlimited refill.  Well that glass shattered.  And it cut my hand.  And blood just went everywhere.

I applied for a culinary school scholarship and I didn't get it.  I knew my chances were low but it still hurt, as it was like a big slap in the face.  With a cast iron skillet.  My friends say I should just view this as a speed bump in life.  Yes, a speed bump where I tripped over and fell and twisted my ankles. 

I lost faith in myself.  Cooking is the only thing I care about and that just shattered my confidence.  I've been avoiding cooking at home because I felt like I can't.  I know it's silly but I just wanted a break from the kitchen...But last night I just needed to bake something.

A quote sprang to mind

“My choice sometimes is: I can kill myself or I can make a dozen cupcakes. Right, so I'll do the cupcakes and I can kill myself tomorrow.” - Marian Keyes

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Valentine's Day Dinner [a guide]

"I think careful cooking is love, don't you?  The loveliest thing you can cook for someone who's close to you is about as nice a valentine as you can give"  - Julia Child

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Homemade Mustard

You know those people that you initially dislike but then grow to love? I like to describe those people as mustard.  Mustard, wine, coffee, blue cheese -- those foods that needs time to appreciate.  They're not easy flavors for children to like -- bit too harsh for those delicate little palates. 

I used to love those cheap hot dogs with questionable meat in malls.  I remember the condiment section with the bright yellow bottles and the bright red bottles.  I'd slather those bad boys with ketchup, and despite hating mustard, I'd always try just a tiny little bit of it.  Just the tiniest dollop of it on one end, enough to see but not enough to taste.  I don't know why, I think I wanted to like it.  Unfortunately my love for mustard only came about much later on.  For the longest time, my experience with mustard was limited to the American yellow mustard, and I thought that that was all that there was.  Then one day my father introduced me to wholegrain mustard, and it wasn't exactly love at first taste, but it was the first mustard experience that didn't make me grimace in disgust.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Steamed River Fish with Ginger (清蒸鲈鱼) & The Hutong Review

It's been a long while, I'm sorry.  It's been a mixture of laziness and stress and apathy, perhaps not the best way to start the year. 

So let's talk about January.  January was mostly spent in Beijing, where it was cold, sunny and "foggy".
I went to a cooking class over at The Hutong, which is a Chinese cultural center for foreigners.  I learned to cook Chinese New Year specialties, and this is one of the recipes that was taught: steamed river fish with ginger.  We like to eat whole fish. Fish is like the lucky mascot of Chinese culture.  It's often eaten on New Year's because the word "yu", fish in Chinese, sounds the same as the word for "surplus".  So we'd say may every year have surplus.

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