So we bit the bullet and bought a Thermomix TM5 for our kitchen! This is also the first time I have posted in over a year, and with a baby on the way and arriving in June (yay!) I thought … Continue reading
Pineapple Caramel Upside-Down Chocolate Cake
Another recipe from my magazine cutout folder – this one is from the French issue of Saveur, and caught my eye as I just love any cake with fruit in it. Somehow I can trick myself into thinking that it’s a ‘healthy option’ 🙂 It’s also a simple recipe with few ingredients and really easy to put together, all good reasons for trying it out for yourself. It’s a winner at dinner parties!
Magazine recipes are a bit of a gamble as I find that sometimes, there is just something missing, or the cooking times aren’t quite right. This one however is spot on – a nice cakey exterior with a moist interior, the sweetness of the pineapple juxtaposed by the bitterness of the chocolate (the darker the better).
My latest kitchen toy is a pineapple corer, which is rather indispensable if you want your cake to have nice round pineapple circles. It also takes a lot of the fuss out of eating this rather prickly fruit as it takes literally seconds to peel and core it – without it, I just wouldn’t be bothered as it’s so much of a hassle to do it by hand.
1 whole pineapple
150g brown sugar
100g caster sugar
150g plain flour
150g unsalted butter, softened
100g dark chocolate
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
A Greek Summer – Island Hopping Around the Cyclades (Athens, Naxos, Santorini & Crete)
Touching down for the first time in an unexplored country always holds that magic, a promise of exciting new adventures in store. PB and I chose Greece as our honeymoon destination – it is a land of Gods and stories, romance and blue skies, amazing food and incredible people.
Planning two weeks of visiting the birthplace of Western civilisation is no easy feat. Seeped in history and culture from the 3rd century BC to the present day, Greece offers countless ruins, churches, antiquities, islands, beaches, rugged mountain landscapes, Spartans (although most of them keep their shirts on) …
The Greek Islands number “somewhere around 1,200 to 6,000, depending on the minimum size to take into account”, according to Wikipedia. They are widely scattered across the bright blue Aegean Sea and grouped into 4 different island chains – the Ionian Islands, Cyclades Islands, Sporades Islands and the Dodecanese Islands, and each of the islands has something different to offer
We decided on the Cyclades, not wanting to miss out on the famous honeymoon destination that is Santorini, and for the proximity to Crete, which was our final destination. We settled that we would do a maximum of 4 islands or else it would be too rushed – Naxos, Paros, Santorini and Crete. This was based on recommendations from friends, and also limitations of ferry schedules (we would have loved to go to Sifnos too, well known for its gastronomy!) If you need help choosing your Cycladic islands, here’s a pretty decent summary of them all. Paros turned out to only be an uneventful day trip, and thus is not included here.
When to go: The peak summer season is in July and August, but the warm weather starts from June and goes all the way to October. We went in the final weeks of September – sure it rained for one day, but we preferred it as we avoided all the summer craziness. All of the tavernas and hotels are still operating normally (with low season rates in October), the beaches are less crowded but the water is still warm, and the ferries are regular.
I’ve included our whole itinerary below, including the restaurants we went to, the hotels we stayed at, and the activities we thoroughly enjoyed. Take from this what you will, and have an amazing time!
♥ 2 DAYS IN ATHENS ♥
Walk: If you can stand the heat, Athens is a great city for walking as the city centre is quite a concentrated area with all the sights within general walking distance of each other. Arm yourself with a fan, a hat and sunscreen! We started off at Syntagma Square to watch the changing of the guard at the Parliament building, through the National Park under the trees for shade, a quick look at the Zappeion. Then we crossed over to the Arc of Hadrien and the impressive stone pillars of Olympieion, which loom over you like tall ghosts of history past. The Panathenaic Stadium is well worth a visit. Walk (or run) on the track where the first Olympic greats won their olive leaf crowns, and check out the small museum which displays the torches from some of the more recent Olympic Games.
From here you can head to Plaka, a collection of small streets, quiet alleyways and bougainvillea-covered staircases, where cafés are filled with young beautiful people and there are some cute shops as well. Stop by Thyreos Vassiliki near the Acropolis Museum, to see some interesting Greek jewellery (slash art) – the prices are a bit prohibitive for holiday spending, but it’s still beautiful to behold. I eyed a pair of earrings there that were a bit more than I wanted to spend, and thought I might find something similar later in the trip, but I didn’t and regretted not getting them.
Take in some culture: It’s worth contacting your hotel concierge in advance to see if there is anything special going on whilst youre there, you never know what might come out of it – there is no Time Out Athens or any all-inclusive Athens online guide that I could find. Our highlight was a one-night-only charity tribute to Maria Callas at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, the outdoor stone theatre built in 161 AD at the foot of the Acropolis – it was the most spectacular evening!
Check out the National Opera website for events around Greece, or the website for the Athens Festival, which reportedly runs from May-October. There’s also a great website called Eventful which seems to list every other event apart from opera.
Eat: One thing’s for sure, you will never eat so much Greek Salad as you will in Greece! We didn’t have that much time in Athens to really explore the food scene. The GB Roof Garden Restaurant offers famously great views of the Acropolis, and whilst it tastes just fine, the food is not inspiring. Our favorite restaurant by far was one that we stumbled on by accident. We saw several Greek families enjoying an alfresco lunch at To Kafeneio as we wandered the streets of Plaka, and thought that was a good sign. Their signature meatballs with THE sauce (yes, it was in caps on the menu) were RIDICULOUSLY good. A decent restaurant near Syntagma Square is O Tzitzikas Ke O Mermigkas (reserve a table here), a mezedopolio (think Greek tapas) that is popular with locals and tourists.
Go ride a bike: If you only have a short amount of time, it’s really the best way to get the most out of it whilst getting some exercise, and if you’re lucky you’ll meet some interesting people too. We booked a 2 hour tour with Athens By Bike – our guide was Kostas, a history buff, sports enthusiast and general all around great guy. He told us a bit about the sites, tested our Greek trivia knowledge, and told us about his favorite beach in Naxos that we had to visit – all in all, a very fun morning!
Moroccan Lamb Cutlets with Easy Pea-sy Couscous
Our new French foodie obsession is meat from L’Aubrac, the region where PB is from. It’s best known for it’s knife industry (this is where authentic Laguiole knives are produced), as well as their own breed of cow, which produces some of the best beef that France has to offer. Our main man is butcher Maison Conquet, whose wares are served in the 3 Michelin-starred restaurant headed by Sébastien Bras – if it’s good enough for them, then it’s certainly worth the effort to bring it home to our kitchen!
The region is also known for it’s lamb, and we had some lamb cutlets that were destined for our plates this weekend. Lamb is already a strong tasting meat, but a little bit of spice goes a long way to give it some dimension. I found a recipe which called for a dusting of ground almonds with ras el hanout, a Moroccan spice which basically translates as ‘best of the shop’.
I couldn’t find the spice in the shops so I made a simplified version of it myself, the recipe is below if needed.
Colourfully Spiced Turmeric Rice!
When I think of rice dishes, my mind wonders to the pilau rice served at one of my favourite weekend foodie getaways here in Hong Kong, Spices Restaurant. This turmeric rice recipe comes in a close second, and went really well with my whole fish marinated in spiced yoghurt. Colourfully Spiced Tumeric Rice!
You’ll need: (serves 4-5)
2 cups of rice
1 inch of ginger, peeled and grated
1 tsbp olive oil a knob of butter
2 shallots, peels and sliced finely
1 heaped tsp turmeric
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Coriander, for decoration (optional)
Spiced Yoghurt Baked Whole Fish
When I called Siemens two weeks ago to arrange an inspection for our broken oven, I was told that it was manufactured in 1994 (!!) and due to the fact that it was older than Justin Bieber, there would be a more expensive inspection charge. To be fair, the oven itself technically still worked, but the old school plastic knobs had completely broken so that I didn’t know what the temperature was, what function the oven was on, and the lamps were broken so I couldn’t see what was going on inside the oven – but it still got hot!
Our landlord chose to just buy a new oven rather than muck about, and I was so super excited when our brand new, stainless steel beauty arrived this week. In fact, I realised that I had never used a brand new oven in my life, ever. PB and I started getting really excited, negotiating over who would cook what and when (I know, we’re total food geeks), and who ultimately would be the one to christen it.
Naturally, it was me… 🙂
Since it was a weekday I needed a simple, easy to prepare and fast-cooking recipe. I had recently made a fresh batch of homemade yoghurt (using my nifty Severin yoghurt maker, which I bought for a whopping £22.89 the last time I was in the UK, and it has been a very welcomed addition to the kitchen arsenal) and found an awesome recipe for a yoghurt marinade for baked fish. If you get home after work and don’t have time to marinade the fish, I would just skip that step – I’m sure it will taste just as good!
A whole fish dish definitely benefits from having one large fish rather than two small ones, to maximise the meat and minimise the small bones. Aside from this, I found that the barramundi held together much better when cooking, and had a nicer firm texture than the sea bass. Verdict – the barramundi was the overall winner for this recipe! I’m sure the yoghurt marinade would also work well with a whole butterflied chicken, salmon fillets or maybe even prawns or lamb. Spiced Yoghurt Baked Whole Fish
1kg whole firm white fish (sea bass, barramundi, snapper)
6-8 branches of fresh coriander, thick stems removed
6-8 branches of mint, leaves only
2 limes, seeded and juiced
2 large chillies, seeded (or 1 tbsp chilli flakes)
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1.5″ piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1 1/2 cup natural yoghurt
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp salt Freshly ground pepper
1/2 red onion, finely minced (optional) Continue reading
Slow Roasted Lamb Leg (or Shoulder) with … Anchovy?
Here’s another recipe that’s great for a social dinner party, where time is of the essence and you want to be able to just take it out of the oven and pop it on the table. No one likes to be slaving away in the kitchen whilst the guests are all having fun outside! What sets this recipe aside? Firstly, the slow cooking and continuous basting may be a labour of love, but it gives you a wonderfully juicy tender meat, with a crispy, salty crust – yum!
And secondly, for all those who turn their nose up at anchovies (like me, yuck!), I have recently discovered with this recipe that they are SUPERB in marinades! They have a salty, rich umami flavour which really complements the flavour of the meat without being the least bit fishy. I made good use of that jar of anchovies that’s been sitting in my fridge for ages, lurking dangerously close to the expiration date. Ok fine, it had already expired, but they’re swimming (pun intended) in olive oil and tasted just fine. I’ll certainly be adding it to a lot more of my marinades from now on!
This recipe was initially intended for a boneless shoulder of lamb, but all they had at Pacific Gourmet was boneless leg of lamb, and I find that they are interchangeable most of the time.
English Breakfast for Dinner, Hold the Sausage, Add Some Greens
It was PB’s birthday earlier this week and my challenge was to cook up a meal that would wow him, and ultimately make him feel like the man of the hour. In my meal planning, I had remember once mentioning to him a dish that I had eaten for lunch at Aberdeen Street Social. It was a starter that stuck in my mind because it looked beautiful, tasted great, and was simple enough to be something that I could replicate at home.
Whilst the 3 elements of this dish are quite hands on and it’s a challenge for one person to complete and plate in a timely fashion so that it’s still hot when it gets to the table, it should get easier with practice! Preparation takes quite a bit of time as well (especially when you are prepping a main and a dessert at the same time), so when I started panicking that I wouldn’t have dinner on the table in time, my mum came in to help me and it certainly is easier with 4 hands!
Breaded Soft Boiled Egg with Iberico Ham and Smashed Peas
For the smashed peas:
300g green peas (petits pois or garden peas)
1/2 onion, peeled and finely diced
275ml chicken stock
50g unsalted butter
1 tsp sugar
a dash of cream (40ml)
a pinch of salt
For the soft boiled egg:
4 good quality eggs + 1 egg
100g plain flour
200g bread crumbs
Vegetable oil, for frying
Salt and pepper
Garnish: 80g iberico ham
small, crisp salad leaves
Yum Yum Chôm Chôm
I FINALLY made it to Chôm Chôm, after so many months of walking past the seemingly huge queues of beautiful and hip people gathered outside, and that tempting big tin bucket full of beers – I made it. I thought, perhaps after all this time, the hype might have died down and I finally wouldn’t have to wait for a table. Sadly of course, that was not too be – but I must say, they make the waiting easy, and surprisingly not too long. If you’re lucky, you can park yourself on the cushioned ledge running the front of the restaurant. Here, the time being a beautifully hip person passes quickly. Grab a beer, or a cocktail and next thing you know, there’s a table with your name on it.
The restaurant is small, the staff very friendly. The kitchen, which is located in the centre of the restaurant and can be surveyed from the bar seats (a great place to sit if there are only two of you), is efficient and do an amazing job with the small amount of space they have. The food is something that you just have to keep on going back for.
I have heard so much about the incredible pho that chef Peter used to serve in his previous establishment, which is no where to be seen on Chôm Chôm’s menu. Here, the food is street smart. The menu is said to be inspired by chef Peter’s favourite street foods – whether the location inspired the menu or vice versa, I will have to ask him one day. He is an ever present fixture in the restaurant, either managing the flow in the kitchen, or chatting to diners.
The eggplant salad was very mild tasting, with a wonderfully smoked flavour. The pho roll is delicious, the rice noodle has the right amount of bounce when bitten into, and that wonderful dipping dressing is tangy and sweet all in one go.
The VFC lives up to the hype, and has to be one of my favourite starters – marinated overnight, the chicken is juicy, crispy and moreish.
LoveBites Lunches: Nadaman
Every now and then, one deserves a little treat in the form of a nice lunch in the middle of a work day, and whilst my favourite Japanese lunch stop is still Sushi Kuu (addicted to their sashimi salad!), I had a cheeky treat at Nadaman the other day and I tell you, their tonkatsu set really hits the spot!
Lunch sets range from HK$240-$530. True, it’s not the best value Japanese lunch set on the block, but you pay for the setting, quality and 5 star hotel experience. Whilst I feel that the assorted sushi set most probably would leave a grown man still hungry, who wants too eat too much in the middle of the day and snooze in front of the screen afterwards anyway? The tonkatsu set is very generous, with a good range of side dishes and a killer chawanmushi (the recipe on their website, check it out!). The tonkatsu is crispy and juicy, with a nice big heap of thinly shredded cabbage that goes down very well with their tangy Japanese salad dressing.
The setting is bright and cheery, and some of the waitstaff have been working there for decades. Our server was a sweet older woman who was very attentive – almost too attentive actually. She continued to take individual dishes away as soon as we finished them, interrupting our conversation. But she was super sweet, so we just grumbled a bit amongst ourselves and didn’t say anything.
If you really feel like treating yourself, I highly recommend that you go in the evening to try Nadaman’s supreme teppanyaki dinner (HK$1,380) – if you do, you must get a seat at the teppan counter to enjoy the full experience.