Sunday, December 27, 2009

Deep Chocolate Cream

Deep Chocolate Cream

A toast, to my first attempt at PH's Desserts! Here's how it went.

Gather The Troops

As you can see the ingredient list is rather straight forward, as was the entire process. A nice, slow and steady start to my learning curve, much welcomed.

Yolks & Sugar Beaten To Ribbon Stage

Milk & Luscious Heavy Cream Simmering Away

At this stage, the butter and sugar mix goes in for another gentle simmer.

Half The Warm Mix Into The Chocolate Chips

The Rest In & Stirred Up Good

Pour, Chill & Set

Taste Test: The cream was good, but instead of the strong, dark, bittersweet chocolate as instructed in the book, I went ahead and used semi sweet chocolate chips. Why the diversion? Coz they were on half price. Never said I wasn't cheap.

Now, if you should do the same, please, for the sake of your kidneys, lipids and blood sugar levels, half the amount of sugar you use. I found mine too sweet for my taste, although my testers rather enjoyed the sugary treat. Ah well, nothing better to reel them in for the ride.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Pierre Hermé Project

From the moment I picked up my first cookbook (on chocolate, what better?) I've been fascinated by the complex world of baking, from chocolates to all manner of desserts, pastries and the likes. Over the years my interest in food has grown from baking to cooking ("real food", as I call them), from reading cookbooks to writing about my thoughts and experience on the subject on my own food blog.

One thing that has not evolved, however, is my skill around the kitchen. I cannot cook like the pros, nor can I make desserts as well as I would like to. My lack of cooking skills I can live with, it is a hobby at best. In desserts is where I aspire to do better.

And now, after watching "Julie and Julia", twice, on a recent flight to Perth and back, I have been inspired by the story of Julie Powell, who taught herself to cook with a little help from Julia Child. I would like to do as she did, only my interest is in baking, so I thought, who better to learn from then the one who led me on this journey, the great Pierre Hermé?

So here is my plan. I shall endevour to master the art of desserts by baking my way through PH's Dessert Cookbook, all 61 recipes, in just as many weeks, or more. We are talking about desserts here, not healthy salads or "real food" but real honest to goodness sweet treats, in all its buttery and sugar filled glory. None of the faddish diet stuff, no low fat low sugar lousy excuse of a dessert, but real desserts done the French way. The Pierre Hermé way.

Now I am sure there must be countless others who are probably doing the same, given the proportion of food lovers in the world, multiplied by the number of blogspot/typepad/wordpress users amongst them, divided by the fraction who has seen "Julie & Julia", twice, that should come up to say...a million. & out of that 1 million "Julie & Julia" inspired, blogspot/typepad/wordpress using, good food loving folks, at least 5 million must be as fascinated by baking as I am. And out of that 5 million, I'd say at least 20 million are capable of dreaming up the same ingenuous idea as I to bake their way through PH's Desserts/Chocolate cookbook. Half of them might have even completed this uphill task and graduated with flying egos by the time you finish reading this sentance.

No matter. This project isn't about originality, creativity or a competition to see who makes a better PH wannabe. This is about me. It's about time I did something about what I've always wanted to do but have never done anything about. Once again. This. Is about. Me.

So here's the rundown, though you must have figured it out by now. I will bake my way through PH's 61 dessert recipes, say 1 a week, and blog my blah about how it goes. My expectations, experiments, experiences, emotions and breakdowns, the works. I will not be publishing any recipes, for obvious copyright issues. What I will do is upload pictures of my ordeal, for accountability's sake, so you and I will both know if I stay true to my cause.

So there. Here goes. First up, Deep Chocolate Cream.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Brilliant Bodhi

Chinese Paos

Fusion Vegetarian restaurant in the heart of the city. It was quiet when we visited the please in the evening, which was quite a pity, as the food served was no boring veg grub but good food with great flavors, all accompanied by warm and friendly service that makes this a unique and ideal spot for a night out with your pals.

Peking Duck

Pasta With Pesto

Saturday, November 28, 2009

On Wheels, Out To Sea & Back Again

Harry De Wheels

Pie By The Port

Cakes & Tarts, David Jones

Pies & Quiches, David Jones

Pates, David Jones

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Of Sunny Sydney Days

Bondi Beach Babe

Coffee Break
Sheraton Hotel Open House

Live Cooking
Sheraton Hotel Open House

Sweet Treats
Sheraton Hotel Open House

Hop On Hop Off Tour Bus
Sydney Harbor Bridge

Room Service After A Long Day Out

Coffee Night Cap

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cupcake Bakery & Sydney Fish Market

Cupcake Bakery

Towers Of Temptation

Peter's BBQ Grill
Sydney Fish Market

Sydney Fish Market

Sydney Fish Market

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Verre by Gordon Ramsay

Golden Treasures

I've come to the Middle East with one goal in mind. Oil? Nah. Gordon Ramsay's Verre? Ooh Yah. Missing out on the opportunity when I was in London made me determined to right the wrong, and I made sure to rsvp way in advance to avoid disappointment.

The restaurant was near empty when I arrived, by no fault of the chef; it was the month of Ramadan, which explained the quieter then usual atmosphere of the entire city. The crowd and energy of the place would pick up as the night went on.

Canape Tray

The Canape Tray, complimentary of Verre, is served as you settle in and ponder over the simple yet exceedingly tempting dinner menu. It was a brilliant ensemble of Croutons, Bread Sticks and & Shoo Buns with Truffle Oil & Cream, served with Goat's Cheese & Rosemary, & Harrissa Pepper Dip.

The light crisp croutons slathered with the goat's cheese was simple yet flavorful. The bread sticks, covered in fragrantly toasted sesame seeds were good on their own. The shoo (mushroom) buns were daintily sized but packed a punch, and the truffle oil and cream accentuated the earthy richness of the mushrooms. Last but not least, 2 thumb sized choux pastries, pipped with more goats cheese, which I gleefully popped in.

Asparagus Cappuccino with Trumpet Mushroom

While I was still lost for choice with the menu, the maitre'd served me another house speciality, Gordon Ramsay's famous soup cappuccino, a poshed up version of soup in a cup. This creamy white concoction of asparagus with trumpet mushrooms sitting at the bottom was another rich combination of flavors made very light by frothing the soup and serving it in an espresso cup, good for one sip and to whet your appetite with.

Ravioli of Scottish Lobster & Salmon

Delighted with the soup, I decided to go with more signature dishes I have read about and seen GR cook on tv. 2 entrees was the way to go, the maitre'd recommended. The ravioli, cooked on his programs and recreated again in Kitchen Nightmares was one I had to go for.

One ravioli goes a long way. The gently cooked salmon chucks held their shape and there was no skimping on the sweet lobster either. Resting on a bed of butter glazed lettuce, surrounded by crunchy baby asparagus, and ginger veloute served table side, poured into the waiting plate, it brought all the different flavors together beautifully.

Calves Sweetbread

Sweetbread, which I have not heard of before GR, let alone taste, was my next obvious choice. Cooked much like foie gras, seared quickly to caramelize without overcooking or drying out this delicate gland, it was neither unpalatable nor strong tasting as I had expected: It had the texture of foie gras and tasted mildly like kidneys.

Served with equally exotic cep mushrooms and Jerusalem artichoke veloute, this was a crowd pleaser. And the voloute was good on its own. I finished it to the last drop, long after the sweetbread were gone.

Complementary Chocolate Tray

Done with my meal, content and satisfied, out came another sweet surprise. Chocolates and meringues, oh how could I refuse (or resist)?

A Little Memento

I am no fan of high end dining, and this may be the first in memory of my stepping into such a fancy establishment, but I have to say, unabashedly, it may also be one of the best meals of my life. From the discrete attention paid by the staff to the keen attention paid to every plate presented, this meal has been an absolute and priceless delight.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Bit Of Singapore in Dubai Raffles

White Orchids in Azur

We had team building events lined up for the week, the highlight of my trip here. Imagine my surprise to learn they would be held at the Singapore flagship, Raffles Dubai Hotel.

The hotel has been built to resemble a 19 storey pyramid, complete with enormous Egyptian columns lining its spacious lobby and pair of stately looking Sphinxes guarding its grand entrance. Fodors dub it "The crowning glory of Wafi City's ancient Egyptian design theme, this majestic glass pyramid". I call it hilariously tacky and over the top cheesy. To each his own.

Breakfast in Raffles Dubai

Thank goodness we would be spending the week inside the hotel, away from the desert heat and the ridiculous eyesore of a structure. Enough bashing for now, we move on.

Still, it is quite a pride evoking sight, seeing the home flag from the conference room windows.

Appetizers & Naans cooked in a Wood Fire Oven

As far as team building activities go, nothing serves to bond fellow men as swiftly and strongly as a good meal shared over beer. Unfortunately no alcohol was served at this luncheon of esteemed colleagues, but to that end we had a leisurely afternoon spread in the international Azur restaurant.

Your typical international cuisine presents itself, from western salads, roasts and cheese to local specialties such as kebabs, olives and flat breads.

Lunch Spread in Azur

In true 5 star style the restaurants does not disappoint. The variety is plentiful enough to satisfy our contingent of 20 strong and diverse tastes, all prepared with exceptional quality and classically laid out in the same clean manner as the restaurant decor.

Dainty Desserts

I would have liked for more local desserts in the spread, although they did have some Middle Eastern pastries such as baklava and their amazing version of bread and butter pudding, Om Ali.

Hi Tea

So all you do is eat? I hear you cry. Well we were hard at work, I'll have you know, building team spirit and boosting company morale, all with chest thumping gusto, but I will not bore you with the details. You want to read about the food.

Well, the food was good, but not particularly outstanding for a Singapore girl visiting a land exotic by her accounts. I hope to fare better by you, when I go exploring in the days to come.

Not me. The cake.