Monday, June 28, 2010

Spending time in the kitchen.

So here are a few more things that I've been making in the kitchen.

I made a marble cake the other day which was absolutely fun! What you do is bake a normal cake and then divide it into three parts; leave one the way it is, tint one pink, and for the third part, you add a mixture of cocoa powder and milk to make it a chocolate flavour. You then add alternate tablespoons of the cake mixture to the tin and then at the end swirl a skewer through them gently to mix the colours. I find it takes a certain amount of talent to properly swirl. Otherwise- you'll end up with something that looks like it's a mix of pink or chocolate... an earthy colour... and not marbled cake. If I'm not mistaken marble cakes are also called Neopolitan cakes... so is that from Naples or Napoleon's era? The icing was a plain buttercream that was naturally yellow!

The day after that I decided to make jelly cakes, what you do is dip the cakes in jelly before it forms and then put it in the fridge. They look gorgeous when coated with desiccated coconut.

I took both these recipes from Australian Women's Weekly's "100 Classic Cakes", which is a very good book!

I've made two pastas the other day which turned out to be "classics" in my kitchen. They both don't have any sauce but instead are moistened by a combination of olive oil and balsamic vinegar coupled with some herbs. The best thing about pasta is that you can add anything you want. I added cherry tomatoes and capsicums and normal chopped Roma plum tomatoes. I always have to start with a base of onion and garlic in my pastas anyways.


The Saucier's Apprentice

I finally finished reading "The Saucier's Apprentice" by Bob Spitz. I bought the book a few months ago from Kinokuniya and started reading it a couple of weeks ago. The book is a travelogue about a guy who travels through France and Italy visiting various cooking schools. They're all about his experiences and the book is scattered with some really good recipes I can't wait to try. Sauces, pastas, and entrees. I love cooking with tomato. That's a fact. And tomato is a staple in Italian cooking and also French.

More than half of the book is set in France. After that, the author travels to Italy. I personally prefer the Italian parts of the book, but I guess that's only because perhaps I can relate to that more since I've been there. Or because I'm more accustomed to Italian food than French food.

It's a good book to read especially if you want to see the differences there are in "cooking schools".. the variety of forms they come in, from those that are simply demonstrations to one-on-one sessions, to those in peoples' homes to those which take place in posh restaurant kitchens.

Reading the book made me want to travel all over France and Italy. Taking my own time, a nice slow pace, exploring, and doing whatever I feel like spontaneously..


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Kitchen Shelving!

I got this random idea a few days back to move a shelf we have in the kitchen to a more convenient location. I then rushed to IKEA and bought all kinds of jars and tins and then labelled each with "Flour" "Icing Sugar" and so on and so forth! Also filled tiny jars with spices!

Now I have easy access to what I use most.. This is something that should have been done longgg ago...

At least I didn't color code the ingredients, as I have a tendency to do with everything else.


Monday, June 7, 2010

So these are some of my favorite cookbooks! You can tell from the titles how yummy they are! I can't cook without the first two.

Lots of Updates!

So there is a lot that I need to write about in the world of cooking!
The chocolate cooking class that I took, the pink layered cake that I baked, the lemon cake I made, the hokkien noodles I stirfryed for dinner one night, the soufflé I made tonight, the numerous cooking shows I've been watching, and the tea party I threw for my really good friend!

The Chocoladdict cooking class was the second cooking class that I took at L'atelier des Chefs Dubai. We made cookies, cupcakes, a fondant, and a soufflé. My favorite two recipes of the morning were the soufflé and the fondant. The fondant was self saucing in the centre and the soufflé has to be the world's best I have ever tried (which I recreated today!). I never knew that soufflé doesn't require flour as such. Apart from very little cornflour, there were no grains at all in the soufflé. We placed raspberries in the center of each ramekin and this added a lovely flavor to the entire dessert as the sweet chocolateyness of the dessert was broken up by the sourness of the raspberries.

When I recreated making the soufflés tonight, I made them in slightly smaller ramekins and ended up with six in total. I felt that the consistency of my pre-baked soufflé was slightly runny and was thus concerned about how the final result would be. I however left the soufflés in the oven for a couple of more seconds than necessary and it thus became alright. The only issue I have with making soufflés is that it has to be served immediately. After leaving it out for a few minutes, it tends to make a dent within itself and deflate. I wonder whether making the entire thing beforehand and then just popping it in the oven right before it needs to be served would be alright....
Next up is my "lovely" pink layered cake. I wanted to make a slightly more complex, professional cake so I decided to bake a three tiered plain butter cake. All that worked out perfectly. I wasn't in the mood to make the icing/fondant so instead decided to make a pale pink buttercream. I ended up added a lot more red icing than necessary so it turned into a darker pink than I intended it to- in fact it ended up looking like barbie pink. Anyways, I was carefully using an icing knife and coating the cake when my trusty assistant :) decided to take the entire bowl of buttercream and pour it all over the cake. I watched in horror as the buttercream became soggy and dripped all over the cake, and had flashbacks of the pink goo the characters were after in the Power Rangers movie I used to be addicted to. Anyways, I tried to salvage the cake by removing the excess however it looked better once it dried slightly than it did initially. I ended up adding little pink cake decoration hearts and pink flower shaped icing to the top of the cake.. and it looked like a birthday cake for a five year old girl who's into ballet. BUT, the important thing is whether it tasted good, WHICH IT DID! So, looks can be deceiving, as always.

Last Sunday I decided to make something quick and easy for dinner so instead of going for the usual easy solution: pasta, I decided to make Asian noodles instead. The recipe I used was from Australian Women's Weekly Vegetarian Stir Fry. I've made this before and it was a big hit so I decided to go for it again. However this time, hokkien noodles weren't available in the supermarket and so I had to go for Pad Thai. Also, I accidentally ended up with creamy instead of chunky peanut butter. It tasted nice but for some reason not as spicy as last time, which was a bummer since I'm a junky for anything beyond spicy.

The Food Network and BBC Lifestyle have both been showing some very interesting cooking shows. There was one I watched last night, can't remember the name, but it was about this guy who sets out to deviate from the usual picnic menu and come up with other picnic staples. He visits random people and cooks with them however the dish that I liked best was his own where he scooped out the center of a bread loaf and filled it with a jar of homemade mayonnaise, sticks of julienned carrots, capsicum, celery etc... and other vegetables. That loaf of bread thus ended up becoming an edible picnic hamper. Another interesting show is "Come Dine with me", where people take turns in throwing dinner parties for one another. "The Restaurant" was one more
interesting shows where eight pairs of people compete for the top spot by each opening their own little restaurant for a period of time.

The lemon cake I made was also nice as it was a plain cake which I then spread with a lemon juice/sugar mixture while it was still hot. The liquid seeps into the cake and flavors it wonderfully!

Well last thing I need to discuss is obviously the best! -- which is the tea party I threw for my friend's birthday. I made it very feminine. The tablecloth was white with random floral embroidery in pale pink, green and yellow. I threw a baby pink chiffon cloth around the center where I arranged flowers in a vase as the centerpiece. The flowers were baby pink and white roses, chrysanthemums, and carnations. I filled the rectangular vase with pebbles and poured water halfway up. I trimmed off the stems of the flowers and so when they were placed in the vase they looked as though they were suspended in mid air. What held them there was the close proximity of each flower to the other. I then took little silver arabic tea glasses and filled them with jellybeans and marshmallows. The crockery was baby pink and white and the cutlery was silver. As drinks I served water, and fanta! The orange color of the fanta added a really nice bright contrast to the table. There were also five thick cream colored candles I scattered across the table. Each place setting had its own white rose, the birthday girl however got a bright pink one! The plates also held one cupcake each, the birthday girl's cupcake was in a special "birthday princess" case with a crown on a toothpick sticking out of it. The chairs had swaths of chiffon wrapped around them with a rose poking out of the knot formed.

The menu was as follows: vegetable filled puff pastry, Lebanese inspired pickled chicken rolls, chocolate buttercream and vanilla cupcakes, plain floral shaped biscuits, chocolate mousse served in champagne flutes, and a coconut and lemon cake.

I hope I can upload pictures! They never work for some reason!