Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Food Around the World: Entry 2

Here are some random pictures of food and food related things around the world. This entry is not specific to one country because as I mentioned in the last entry (which was about Turkey- the country), I do not have sufficient pictures of food... hmm...

So without further ado...

This is Djemaa el Fna in Marrakech. It's multi-purpose square full of people who sell water, snake charmers, dancers, musicians, and food stalls. This picture was taken during night time when all the food stalls are set up.
- December 2007

This is where my love of macaroons began! Gerard Mulot in Paris. On a quiet street on a Sunday afternoon. They had the best chocolate tarts there as well..
-June, 2008

Caffe Latte with icecream and frothy cream.
-Rome, August 2007
Marrakech, the first Moroccan tea I ever had! I love making it myself now.. it's very easy. All you need are some gunpowder tea leaves, mint, water, and LOTS of sugar!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Food Around the World: Turkey

Hello and welcome to my first entry in a series called "Food Around the World". These entries are basically going to contain pictures of restaurants I've visited, food I've eaten (and seen and coveted), and what the entertaining/food culture is like in that country. Since I just came up with this idea today and have not had a chance (as yet!) to teleport around the world snapping shots of food, I'm afraid the photographs in some entries won't exactly be spot on. Had I known about this wonderful idea of mine a few years back, I would have made an effort to be more specific or focused in taking pictures of food and all the lovely things that accompany it!

So here is my first entry: Turkey. I visited Turkey in July-August of 2009 and was instantly in love with its color, culture, history, vibrance, dynamicism (if that's a word), and all that jazz. Istanbul has wonderful food (albeit a LOT of it is kebab, kebab, and more kebab) served in beautiful locations. You can enjoy a full meal sitting in an award-winning restaurant in a five star hotel near Istiklal or you can lavish in an enriching meal served at the lokanta around the corner.

Here are four of my favourite eating places in Istanbul and Bursa.
1- HAMDI restaurant in Eminonu. This restaurant is three storeys high. Ask to sit at the top floor. The views are wonderful. You can see the New Mosque (which is my favourite) and the Sulaimaniye Mosque. Hamdi is well known for its wonderful hot bread and of course, kebabs!
2-Mikla @ Marmara Pera hotel. This restaurant is "the" chic, sleek, smooth restaurant in Istanbul. It has a wonderful rooftop bar.
3- Iskanderi! @ Bursa... this is where the famous Iskandari kebab was invented! It's lamb kebab with rice and a special yogurt! Tastes fantastic.
4- Il Porto- this restaurant serves up Mediterranean, mainly Italian, food in a beautiful outdoorsy location in a very good neighbourhood of Istanbul. I was staring at the view more than eating the food but the combination is fabulous!!!

This is a lovely restaurant-cum-cooking school where I took a cooking class at. The place is managed by a lovely Dutch lady called Eveline and Chef Feyzi. The cooking classes are intimate and very hands on.. I am horrible at chopping, always have been, and learned some invaluable tips while there! The best thing about the place is that you get to have a lovely lunch afterwards enjoying the food you've made with everyone in your cooking class. It was a wonderful way to spend a morning in Istanbul.

Some of thousands of kitties that I fed while in Turkey!!

Zucchini fritters and green beans

The other main dish

Lentil soup
Amazingly sticky and sweet fig dessert

Cooking @ Cooking Alaturka
The knife that looked like a fish!!

Spices @ the Spice Bazaar!

The pool at Mikla *drool*@ the view
Again, cooking at Cooking Alaturka

Waffle stand!
A.... WATERMELON! outside a lokanta

Tea leaves

The largest scoop of icecream ever.

More icecream.
Turquoise ceramic dishes that are so Turkish!

Outside a little grocery store

Playing checkers- Turkish men and a Japanese tourist. I wish the picture had turned out better though.
Rose tea leaves
What the tea is served in once it's brewed.

The view from Mikla
This is what the terrace opens up to at Il Porto

View from the top floor of Hamdi

The rooftop lounge at Mikla

Food stand around midnight in Sultanahmet

My Classics

As I've gone on cooking and baking I've come up with certain "classic" dishes of mine. These dishes are ones that were amazing successes, or ones that people have loved and asked for time and time again.

Here are some of savoury and sweet classics:

Fresh tomato and caper penne
Lamb and corn quesadillas
Vegetable risotto
Baked tortellini and vegetables
Rogan josh
Tomato soup with pasta and basil
Pumpkin and sweet potato stew
Fettuccine with rocket pesto and tomato
Shepherd's pie
Beef and eggplant bake with polenta
Chicken chilli stirfry
Spicy chicken fried rice
Satay noodle combo
Chicken cacciatore with polenta
Chicken and spinach pie
Spicy penne with peppers
Mushroom, spinach, and lemon risotto

Crackle cookies
Chocolate shortbread drops
Chocolate buttercream on vanilla cupcakes
Marble cake
Vanilla cupcakes with a lemony, glacé icing
Triple truffle cake (a chocolate cake with chocolate icing and white, dark, and milk chocolate truffles!)
Chocolate self saucing pudding
Berries with orange syrup and mascarpone

These recipes are from cookbooks that I've been using over the years. :)

Sweet Little Facts

Here are some random bits of information I've come across through my time in baking, making desserts, and just playing with sugar!

BUTTER- must always be softened and NOT straight out of the fridge! If it is hard, it will not cream well with your sugar and that the base of your cake/biscuits/pastry/cupcakes will be not as it should be! If you just decided that you'd like to bake this instant and cannot suppress the urge, here are some tips to SPEED UP the process of warming/softening the butter...
1- hold it (while it's still in the packet/case) over a warm stove.
2- keep it outside.. (if you happen to live in climates like Dubai!)
3- fill the sink with warm water... carefully enclose the butter in a container/covering, and place in the water
4- (never tried this one, though) grate it into a bowl... this supposedly works.

EGGS- when you need to separate the albumen (white) from the yolk, use the freshest eggs you can find! They aren't as flowy and loose as other eggs!

I wonder what the best methods for separating eggs are, though. I've seen many different versions. There's a version where one splits the eggshell into two halves and continuously attempts to pour the yolk from one shell to the other, thus letting the white drop into a bowl below. Another attempt I've seen is breaking the eggshell and letting the egg drop into your hands and then slightly opening your fingers for the white to seep through.. this method is somewhat... disgusting and unhygienic and can be VERY messy if the egg yolk decides it'd like to break... (usual for an older, not so fresh egg)

AS FOR ME, I very carefully crack a little hole into the eggshell and let the white seep through to a bowl.. then I'm only left with the yolk. I remember this one time I was making soufflés with a very good friend of mine, and the eggs kept playing pranks on us! We had to make around three attempts until they were properly separated... At one point we nearly got it, but then the yolk just fell into it, and another time I happened to have a butterfingers moment and the egg slipped from my hand..

When you just need the yolks, the white's needn't go to waste! Use them to make healthy, low-cholesterol omelettes! I still need to find a function for the yolks though if I use the whites only......

Something I've gathered just through reading recipes.... Fan forced ovens always need to be preheated at 20 Celsius less than the temperature given in the recipe...
Also, preheating the oven is VERY important but apparently it doesn't really make a difference to the cooking time whether it's been preheated 10 minutes or an hour....

measure all your ingredients out before you start! and organize them in bowls! I arrange them to the point that I do so chronologically... first comes the bowl with the butter, then the sugar, then the flour... etc...
To save yourself washing up and to be kinder to the environment and not waste water!...do this.. : if several of the ingredients need to go in together, then put them all in one bowl!

Arranging all your ingredients beforehand really saves you a lot of time and hassle!

THE ONLY INGREDIENTS YOU NEED FOR CHOCOLATE DECORATIONS are the chocolate itself (melted, of course) and baking paper! You can shape the chocolate however you want to shape it and let it dry on the paper.. it's very easily to peel afterwards.. I personally prefer using chocolate decorations in milk, white, and dark for an elegant contrast... lovely for the taste buds, too!
DARK= COCOA BUTTER, COCOA SOLIDS, SUGAR (more solids than butter though)
These are the equations that differentiate chocolate if I remember them correctly!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Inventing your own dishes!

This is always fun! No recipes, no limits. Maybe not even a trip to the supermarket! It's always a pleasant challenge inventing dishes on the spot but sometimes they can go horribly wrong. Here are some simple, guaranteed things that you can do to invent in the kitchen.

Six wonderful foods on earth:
1- pasta
2- pizza
3- risotto
4- salad
5- soup
6- stirfry

These foods are akin to heaven-sent when it comes to you wanting to invent hassle-free.. But what's the fun in that? Isn't the fun really trial and error? Yes, I agree with you. But when you're short on time and your stomach needs something ASAP, these six dishes are great.

Soup and salad are kind of the safest options to put whatever you want in it... In the past, and to this day, people who are not fortunate enough to have access to a supermarket or food the way we do, place whatever they can find in a huge pot with water and cook it for hours for the flavour to emerge. Lamb, chicken, fish, vegetables of any kind, and even dried fruits can be added to soups.. you just need to know in which order! You must look at the vegetables and try to decide the cooking time of each. You don't need to be an expert for this. Just look at, let's say, mushrooms, and you'd realize that they'd take longer to cook than, say, spinach. (Spinach by the way, wilts to a third of its size when heated and cooked.. it's always a pleasure to observe!)

Meat should always, always be cooked first! That's to ensure that it HAS enough time to properly cook and also, so that the flavours of other ingredients manage to blend well with it.

Pasta is always fun to cook.. and it doesn't have to be boiled penne with bottled tomato sauce if you don't know how to cook or are short on time. Throw in onion, garlic, corn, mushrooms, fresh basil (at the end!), capsicums (always my favourite) and whatever else you have in the fridge!

Today was the first time that I invented with stirfry. I was making a Sang Choi Bow. (Here is a sang choi bow if you don't know: http://bit.ly/dn65aU ) The recipe I was using only included chicken, garlic, ginger, and red capsicum. I, obviously, wanted a lot more in it and so I added vegetables that would go well with oriental flavours... hence, I picked mushrooms, corn, other capsicums, red chillies, pak choi, and beansprouts. I threw everything in the wok at once which wasn't a very good decision on my part, as the stirring and cooking took longer than supposed to, but it turned out fab! And I love how the iceberg lettuce acts as a bowl!

The iceberg lettuce was BELIEVE IT OR NOT, the toughest part! You'd think it would be the easiest, what with just having to separate the leaves and wash them. But their shapes were unimaginable... There were hardly any that looked like "bowls" (as they're supposed to) and hardly any seemed fit to be able to "hold" the mince mixture well!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ramadan Gathering

Three of my closest friends came over tonight for a Ramadan gathering. I decided to set the table in shades of white, gold, and cream.. but not overly so.. I made coconut ice cakes, fruity custard tarts (both first attempts!), tiramisu, and lemon jello! For savouries there were quesadillas, puff pastry, sambousa, & pasta. My friends brought some lovely hot chocolate, coffee, sandwiches, chocolate dipped strawberries, chocolate cupcakes with a lovely icing, lgaimat and knafa <3

The custard tarts were the most challenging of all to make. I think I may have processed the sugar, butter, flour, egg, and water a little too much so that instead of it just being crumbly and coming together, it was a full on dough. Anyways, the refrigeration really helped harden it up, as it usually does. But when I cut the rounds out to place them in the mini muffin tin they ended up squishing against one another and then I had to use my fingers to fix the shape.. that's why they look kind of funny.. and the custard was supposed to be refrigerated for an hour... I left it in for 45 minutes and when I removed it, it had.. solidified.. anyways I whisked it a lot for it to soften and then added some cream.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Iftar Cooking with my Girls

Two of my really good friends came over this afternoon to cook for Iftar.
They let me choose the menu and so it looked like this:
Starter- Tomato and Basil Soup
Main Course- Chicken Chilli Stirfry and Lemon, Mushroom, and Spinach Risotto, Vegetable Couscous
Dessert- Chocolate Self-saucing Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream
Drinks: Lemon and Mint Spritzer

These were all some of my tried and tested recipes as we wanted a nice, fun, relaxing time to cook and not a crisis situation in which the stock overflows from the pot... (which it did!)

Here are some pictures of the food-in-the-making:

The vegetables for the couscous

Stirfrying the vegetables for the stirfry! Yes, that blurry thing is a hand!
Our little joke.
The vegetables all cut up and ready to be used!
My attempt of an artistic shot of the vegetables.

What the table looked like! Red, orange, and white!

The risotto!
Chocolate Selfsaucing Pudding! Looks messy, doesn't it?

Vegetable couscous

Chocolate self saucing pudding.

These last three pictures courtesy to F & A. :D

Lots of love,
Spontaneous Euphoria