Thursday, August 31, 2006

BlogDay 2006

Today is BlogDay! YAY!

Today is a day to set aside and discover new blogs and highlight the ones you like. The past few months, I haven't had much time to surf the waves of the internet, so didn't have any blogs of my own to highlight. Instead, I made it my task to do some surfing and add new blogs to my RSS reader.

So, for my post, I'd like to introduce you to not only the new blogs that I've added, but to 5 of my favourite food blogs who recommended them to me via their BlogDay post. Quite fitting, no?

Without further ado:

1. Non Dairy Diary: Immediately, this appealed to my inner child. It reminded me of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, two of my best childhood friends. This was recommended today by Sam over at the new look Becks & Posh.Delphine has also generously provided the pattern above.

2. Recipes from Tanzania: African food is very much unchartered territory for me, but I am intrigued by Miriam's blog, which I hope will navigate me through the waters of this cuisine. Recommended by Jeanne at Cook Sister!, Miriam blogs in Swahili and English, keeping the language alive while she lives in an English speaking country.

3. kitesurfing the menu: I'm so glad that Helen from Grab Your Fork listed this little beauty of a blog. Kevin, a Canadian, blogs from my home territory in Far North Queensland!

4. the life i chose: This blog really appeals to me. Funny that - since it's about a foreigner in a new country! Thanks, Ivonne, for recommending this on Cream Puffs In Venice.

And finally,

5. an open cupboard: is a simply elegant blog from the San Fransisco Bay Area. With an eclectic array of food on display, I'm sure to find inspiration here. Anne recommended it from her blog: Anne's Food.

Phew! It's still the 31/08, so I made it! I sure glad I found these blogs and look forward to enjoying them in the future!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

London's Borough Market

Borough Market is like a wonderland to me. It sparks a sense of anticipation and excitement. What specialties will I find today? Which vendors will I have a chat with? What are the crowds like? And I wonder which coffee they're serving up over at Monmouth's?

Being the last long weekend before Christmas, we decided to make it a good one. We took an extra couple of days off, and planned different things to do on each. Friday was for London. It wasn't a difficult decision, less crowds is something I always appreciate. We arrived at the market just before lunch hour, and we made sure we got our felafal (a craving I've not been able to satisfy since I left New York 18 months earlier) ahead of the lunch crowds spilling out from the surrounding offices.

And for viewing pleasure, if you continue reading, a few great photos to share the atmosphere.

High on our agenda was a visit to Monmouth's, not only for the special of the day - cappucino style, but for a kilo of beans so we can enjoy that Monmouth flavour in the comfort of our own home.

Unfortunately, buying fresh meat and in particular, fish is something we don't indulge when we visit the market. Just doesn't travel quite as well...

And our favourite fruit shop, in full fledge seasonal abundance.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Foodblogger's Guide to the World

Ever since Jen over at Milk & Cookies tagged me for this little meme, I've been thinking about what to put down as the 5 things I recommend foodies to eat before they die. All day yesterday and all day today I've been racking my brain to think of the ultimate list that I can add to Melissa's list at The Traveller's Lunchbox.

Here is my list:

1. Rare breed British Pork - you haven't tasted pork until you've tasted a Gloucestershire Old Spotted, an Oxford Sandy or a Saddleback.
2. Reindeer - Not a healthier red meat can be found. Taking on the flavours of the forests of Lapland, reindeer meat is very lean and tastes like the berries that the reindeers eat.
3. Prosciutto - The subtle flavours of this dry cured ham cannot be beaten. Read more here.
4. Creme brulee - There's nothing like tapping into a creme brulee for the first time. Amelie agrees.
5. Mangoes - And not just any old mango. Mangoes from my home district cannot be beaten. Here is why.

I'm going to tag four fellow bloggers in the pursuit to compile this list and they are:

1. Nerissa, who has just completed a sojourn to Europe who blogs over at Deetsa's Diningroom.
2. Petra blogs from the Black Forest in Germany at Chili und Ciabatta.
3. Piperita blogs in Italian at The Kitchen Pantry.
and last but not least,
4. Mademoiselle who also blogs in German from Switzerland at Chez Demoiselle Differentielle.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Happy Birthday, Slashfood!

My very favouritist food news website, Slashfood turns one tomorrow, and in true Slashfood style, they're having a birthday cake competition. And the stakes are high. For first place, the winner will receive The Cake Book and the runner-up will receive a copy of Crazy About Cupcakes. Since I own neither of these, I thought I'd give the challange a go.

I've never decorated a cake before, so I thought I'd keep it simple. I copied the Slashfood logo in the hope that it would catch the judges eye. The winners are announced in the morning, so all of my digits are crossed.

See the rest of the competition that I'm up against on this Flickr group.

Updated: Well, I guess the digit crossing worked! I came second. YAY for me! :) Look out for recipes from this book!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The fruits of our harvest

Little did I know back in January, when I moved into Dan's little flat, that there was a strawberry plant hibernating in the tiny courtyard space, known as our garden. Had I known I may have been a little more careful come the spring and protected it with a net so the hungry sparrows that scour the area didn't feast on them.

Back in June, I found two miniscule strawberries that had survived. They were no bigger than the tip of my little finger and I picked them gently and took them inside to Dan where we tasted them together. I had never tasted a strawberry that could pack a punch of flavour than these two did. Dan and I just stared at each other, both not believing what we had just experienced.

Every week thereafter I combed through the plants looking for more fruit, and today I was lucky. I couldn't believe my eyes! This late in the year! And I found 4!!! But one was half eaten, so I left that as a little gift for another creature. After they did some modelling for the camera, Dan and I again, tasted them together knowing that they were going to be so flavoursome. They certainly did not disappoint.

If we are going to be here next year, I will be sure to protect them so we can savour the berries a little longer. If not, I may have to pluck a plant and take it with me.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Reflections on a Saturday evening well spent

There is nothing better than waking up on a refreshed, Sunday morning and recollecting the meal that was indulged in the evening before. This meal was a culmination of certain dishes that we both wanted to create.

Tomato Trio Tart

This simple light tart is made from three types of tomatoes on a bed of shallots sauteed in balsamic oil placed on a puff pastry base. I had been craving a tart similar to this ever since I was bitterly disappointed by a plate of sliced supermarket-grade uncooked tomatoes on a cold pastry base which was flaunted on the menu as a tomato tarte tatin in an overpriced restaurant. This one I made was the answer to my dreams and so appropriate to this time of year.

Bream me up, Scotty!

According to Gordon Ramsey, bream is a chef's secret. Dan originally followed Gordon's recipe for poached bream but felt that one bream was a little small for two people and poaching isn't really all that tasty. A couple of months down the line, we were able to get a hold of two whole bream and Dan roasted it with a wedge of lemon and a basil leaf in the cavity of each fish. We served it for the main course with roasted new potatoes. The bream was succulent and sweet and well worth the £5 each that we paid for them.

Passionfruit & Strawberry Roulade

I don't think I really believed my ears when I heard Dan declare his intentions of creating the dessert for the evening. Afterall, he's not really known as the 'pudding chef' of the family. His inspiration came from a punnet of strawberries and four passionfruit that we had purchased on a whim. When both ingredients were typed into Google, the most common suggestions were either a Pavlova or a roulade. He chose the latter, since pavolva is one of my specialties and he didn't want to live up to expectations. The roulade, in fact, was amazing, with crushed nuts and chocolate shavings adding a special touch. I will savour this creation, as I expect I will have to wait a very long time for Dan's next adventures in dessert cooking...

In all, we had a delightful evening with each dish being relatively easy to create. We polished off a bottle of my favourite wine, Brown Brother's Chenin Blanc, which was a perfect accompaniment to these relatively sweet dishes. I certainly would not be disappointed if I was presented with this menu at restaurant.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Cheese (souffle) cake

Ok, so this was an experiment. I'll disclaim it now. A photo with baking parchment is not the most prettiest photo, I know. But hey, I like to share my semi-disasters along with the best of them. That said, it was really, very tasty.

A punnet of blackberries saw the start of this little dish. The new ramekin dishes sitting in my cupboard was the inspiration. What was expected from the dish was a mini-baked cheesecake. What emerged was a blackberry souffle on a crushed gingernut biscuit base. What caused my cheesecake to turn into a souffle? Ahhhh good question.... I put it down to the fact that I had no cream on hand and justified it in the fact that the addition of cream was added calories and who needs 'em anyway? So no cream went in and this caused the mix to have no 'weight', so up it went into a souffle.

The reason for the baking parchment was to extract it from the ramekin - much needed in the case of normal cheesecake, but completely unnecessary, and certainly not recommended for a souffle. My plate was a big blop of souffle once I had removed it from the ramekin and certainly not photogenic.

Should the concoction be replicated (sans baking parchment) these directions should be followed:

Souffle Cake

Serves 2 - with a little extra for quality control

150 grams of cream cheese
2 eggs, separated
4 tablespoons of unrefined sugar
1/4 of icing sugar
1/4 teaspoons of vanilla
150 grams of blackberries
125 grams of gingernut biscuits, crushed
75 grams of butter, melted

Create the base in the usual manner by mixing crushed biscuits and press them into the bottom of a greased ramekin. Refridgerate until needed. Beat the cream cheese with the unrefined sugar and add the vanilla and egg yolks one at a time and beat until the sugar is dissolved. Mix the blackberries through. In a different bowl, whip the egg whites until frothy. Add the icing sugar, a little at a time until soft peaks are formed. Fold through the blackberry mixture until just mixed. Spoon over the biscuit base and fill to the top of the ramekins. Bake in a 180 degree Celsius oven for about 20 minutes, until risen or slightly browned. Good luck!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

It's a blogger's world.

And it's a beautiful blogger's world. This particular event just goes to show what a lovely blogosphere I've found myself in. Jeanne over at Cooksister! hosted this months European Blogging By Post #5. Food bloggers from all over Europe are invited to 'attend' this event by signing up and putting together a parcel of 5 or 6 particular items from their particular country and sending it to another blogger in a different country that has also signed up for the event. The twist is, you don't know where the parcel that you receive is coming from.

So, look what I received yesterday! YAY for me! Sitting on my desk at work was this cute little package that had made its way from the Bavarian Forest in Germany. The only hint I had as to the contents of the parcel was where it came from: the lovely Petra of Chili und Ciabatta. I did not want to evoke jealous tendencies in the eyes of my colleagues, so I waited until I got home to open my package. Inside, I found a bounty of homemade preserves made mostly from the fruits of Petra's garden. I am one lucky girl.

I think the most exciting product that was in my little parcel was this bottle of homemade Cassis. Made from blackcurrents, this liqueur, I am assured, is very yummy. Petra suggests adding a drop or two to a glass of white wine or champagne and I think it would be equally good over a scoop of icecream. Needless to say, this will be a bottle to cherish and will only be brought out on special occasions.

As I was eating my toast this morning, Dan came out and asked me why I hadn't already opened this jar of redcurrant jam with orange and vanilla. I think I've already deemed it too good to use. I might use it for jam drops. I might use it as a filling for a sponge. But whatever it is, I want to do it justice. The best thing is, if I do run out, Petra supplied me with the recipe.

These special, sweet swizzlesticks are destined for my weekend morning coffee. But which one to try first?

I was assured by Petra that the pineapple in this chutney was not from her own garden. If it was, it would have proven to me that global warning is really getting worse. I think Dan has got his eyes on this one, being a big chutney fan. I could just imagine it with a dab of brie or a chunk of cheddar. Or perhaps it would like to take pride of place on a ploughman's plate.

I couldn't help but to sample this Friesischer Sommer tea last night. Just the thing to end a cooler summer evening. I steeped it for a good five minutes and drank it simply with no milk, no sugar, to really enjoy the flavours. One of the best things about tea is its endurance and I'll hopefully be able to enjoy this tea for a good few months to come.

I'd like to say a big thank you to Petra for sending these delights and especially thanks to Jeanne for coordinating the event. Go here for a full list of participants and their parcels. If you'd like to check out the parcel that I sent to Lilian at, go here.

Monday, August 07, 2006

A fruit cake for all

I think I was rather spoilt in my childhood. Growing up in Far North Queensland, the fruit of the gods were on my doorstep. Every type of exotic fruit was not exotic to me. It was just a part of life. Such fruits include lychees, papaya, star fruits, custard apples and the most celebrated of all exotic fruits: the mango.

Where a box of mangoes and a very full bag of lychees would cost $10 for both, it was easy to be spoilt. And when, for a couple of seasons my brother picked mangoes on a farm that grew produce especially for the Japanese market, I was in seventh heaven. B-grade produce meant a single black spot on the skin - something that a consumer paying $1000 per box of 12 does not want to see. Although I don't personally see the point in paying so much for a fruit, it was all the better for me.

In mango season, it was not beyond me to eat 2 to 3 mangoes per day. I would carefully estimate where the seed would be and slice off each cheek. The flesh would then be sliced into a slanted grid on each side and the skin removed from the seed. Over the sink I would invert the cheeks and suck off each "mini-block" of mango. The juice would be across my mouth and make its way down my fingers to the tips of my elbows and drip into the sink. Last, but not least, the seed would be attacked, making sure that every possible bit of fruit was removed from the seed. Once, I even dried the seed for several months, planted it and grew my own non-fruiting mango tree.

I always believed that this fruit was too good to cook with. That was until I became disillusioned with the fruit when I left my home territory. I was scared to even taste the foreign mangoes in the fear of disappointment. And for the most part, I have been let down. I selfishly bought a very expensive mango in Finland (a country not well known for exotic fruits) and was, in turn, disappointed with the not so soft, flavourless flesh. I tried again in the US which provided me with edible mangoes but none compared to the home grown FNQ varieties. I've given up trying to match those at home, but don't feel so blasphemous when I use them in cooking.

This will go down as one of my favourite fruit cake recipes of all time. I will be able to eat it guilt free my whole life. Given to me by my father's partner, Sharon, this cake is moist, soft and tasty without the use of butter or sugar. This would be a great cake for a diabetic or someone that's watching the calories.

Mango Fruit Cake

425 gram can of mango slices
5oo grams mixed dried fruit
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
2 eggs, lightly beaten
icing sugar mixture & lemon slices to decorate

Drain the mangoes by pouring the juice into a large pan. Chop the mango slices. Add the mangoes to the pan with the juices. Mix in the dried fruit and water. Bring to the boil and simmer, uncovered, for 1 minute.
Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Stir in combined sifted soda, powder and flour. Mix well and add the eggs. Stir until well combined. Pour mixture into a nonstick loaf pan.
Cook in a moderately slow oven (160 degrees Celsius) for about 1 hour, or until and skewer comes out cleaned when put into the cake. Cool the cake in the pan. Serve cake dusted with icing sugar, decorate with lemon slices.  You can also serve fruitcake as is, tastes just as great.

If you wish to use fresh mango, use 2 large mangoes and 1 cup of water instead.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall

Running a close second behind Nigel Slater as my most favouritist food personality, comes Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall. His endearing charm and passion for real food is a breath of fresh air. And the best thing about him? He practices what he preaches at River Cottage HQ.

Last night, as the rain continued to refresh the land, I curled up in front of Hugh's first series, Escape to River Cottage, and although I've only watched a couple of his television series, I feel that I've learnt so much from Hugh. From Sloe Gin to Pike Terrines and Victoria Sponge, he has reintroduced real English food to the nation. We're slowly working our way through each series, thanks to our ScreenSelect subscription. I am looking forward to devouring each and every episode, but will be sad when it comes to an end. I just hope that Hugh will continue bringing joy into my world.

Thanks to his website for the picture.

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