Friday, 29 July 2011

Girdlebuster Pie

The theme for this month's Forever Nigella challenge hosted by Arthi at Soul Curry is all about iced desserts. I just knew straight-away the dessert I wanted to make and eat: girdlebuster pie!! Basically, it's an ice-cream pie... how good does that sound already? Well, you wait and see...

The base is made by mixing crushed digestive biscuits, soft butter and dark chocolate. Nigella uses a mixture of dark and milk chocolates, but I'm more of a dark chocolate kind of guy... the darker, the bitter, the better.

The filling is coffee ice-cream... YUM! I use store-bought Colombian coffee ice-cream. But by all means, you can make your own, it's not difficult, just requires patience which I do not have. You'll see, I'm going to prove it.

The pie is then topped with luscious and smooth butterscotch sauce made with some of my favourite ingredients: golden syrup, light brown sugar, butter, bourbon and double cream... I even added extra bourbon, just because "too much of a good thing can be wonderful" and I know Nigella will approve.

Now, the pie should be completely frozen before slicing it. I put it in the freezer for 5 minutes, but knowing something so delicious is in there, I could not resist but to cut me a slice...

Now, if you'll excuse me...

Girdlebuster Pie
Recipe by Nigella Lawson
Adapted by Me

For the base:
375 g digestive biscuits
75 g soft butter
100 g dark chocolate pieces (or good chocolate chips)

For the ice cream filling:
1 litre coffee ice cream

For the topping:
300 g golden syrup
100 g packed light muscovado sugar
75 g butter
1/4 teaspoon Maldon salt or pinch of table salt (optional)
4 x 15 ml tablespoons bourbon
125 ml double cream

Process the biscuits with the butter and chocolate pieces or chips until it forms a damp but still crumb-like clump. Press into a 23 cm pie plate of flan dish. Form a lip of biscuit a little higher that the plate or dish if you can. Freeze for about an hour or so until it gets really hard. In the meantime, let your ice cream soften, just enough to be scooped, in the fridge. Spread the ice cream into the hard-biscuit-lined dish to form a layer. Then cover with cling film and replace in the freezer.

Put the syrup, sugar and butter into a saucepan and let it melt over a low to medium heat, before turning it up to boiling for 5 minutes, the turn off the heat and add the bourbon, letting it hiss in the pan. Add the cream and stir to mix into a sauce, then leave to cool. Once the sauce is cool, but not set cold, pour it over the ice cream layer and then put it back in the freezer. Don't worry if the ice cream bubbles to the top. Once frozen, cover with cling film again.

When ready to serve, remove from freezer, take the whole pie out of its dish and cut into slices. Should you have any pie left over, slip it quickly back into the dish and return, covered with cling film, to the freezer.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Eating in Medan: Nasi Goreng and Sate Padang

Nasi Goreng means fried rice, simple as. I cannot stress enough the importance of rice in Indonesia, perhaps South-East Asia in general. Rice is the staple food and it is consumed daily, three times a day... like drugs. Not that I know anything about drugs. I have never taken any illegal substance...

Anyway, you can find nasi goreng anywhere you go in Indonesia. In Medan, there's one place my family, my dad in particular loves: nasi goreng pandu. It is located at pandu street, hence the name, in an alley and only open in the evening until after midnight. We've been going here for as long as I can remember. Throughout Indonesia you can find thousands of street side stalls selling nasi goreng. It's quite exciting I must say watching the cooks stirring the rice in a giant wok with shovels.

Sri Owen, an Indonesian food writer based in London writes "there are right and wrong ways of making nasi goreng. A bad one is oily, garnished only with a leathery fried egg... A good nasi goreng is light and hot; the rice grains moist but separate, and quite fluffy".

Nasi goreng pandu ticks all the good boxes. It's garnished with freshly cooked egg omelet (you can also ask for sunny side up if you wish), topped with spicy shredded beef and each customer gets a small plateful of prawn crackers, pickled shallots, carrots and bird's eye chili.

Not that you need an accompaniment for this fried rice, but because we're greedy family and it's nice and healthy (I'm making excuses here to cover up the greediness) we also had stir-fry vegetables, an Indonesian dish that is influenced by Chinese food.

And sate Padang (Padangese Satay) to share. Sate (pronounce as saté) Padang is also a very popular dish in Indonesia.  They're full of meaty goodness, often beef but also oxtounge or even squid. The meat is thinly sliced and then skewered through wooden sticks and barbecued on charcoals. The savoury sauce is thick and spicy and gets its yellow colour from turmeric among other spices like cumin and coriander. They're best served with ketupat (rice cakes) and a sprinkle of deep fried crispy shallots.

Back to fried rice, I think it is an everyday dish that can be served with whatever you have. Whenever I have leftover vegetables or meat, I like making fried rice, though more often I use noodles when feeling impatient. Cooking fried rice doesn't take long, but to get a good result, the rice should be cooked at least 2-3 hours before, so that it has time to get cold. Here's a recipe from Sri Owen I think you'll enjoy:

Nasi Goreng
Recipe by Sri Owen
Serves 4 - 6

2 tablespoons peanut (groundnut oil)
1 tablespoon butter
3 shallots or 1 small onion, very finely chopped
1 teaspoon sambal ulek or 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoon tomato purée or tomato ketchup
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
3 carrots, very finely diced
115 g button mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
2 tablespoons hot water (optional)
salt to taste
450 g cooked and cooled long-grain rice

Heat the oil and butter in a wok or a large frying pan. Stir-fry the shallots for 1-2 minutes, then add the the rest of the ingredients, but not the rice. Continue stir-frying for about 6 minutes until the vegetables are cooked. Add the rice, and mix thoroughly so that the rice is heated through and takes on the reddish tinge of the paprika and tomato. Adjust the seasoning. Serve hot on a warmed serving dish - by itself as an accompaniment to a main course; garnished with sliced cucumber, sliced tomatoes, watercress and crisp-fried shallots; or topped with seafood or meat.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Ritzy Chicken Nuggets and Capery Salad

This month's random recipe challenge, Dom asked us to pick our favourite cookery book, open a page at random and cook the recipe on that page. It's hardly a surprise to any of yous that my favourite cookbook is from the one and only... the Domestic Goddess... Nigella Lawson. I love all of her books, but my favourite has got to be the beautifully written, Feast - Food That Celebrates Life.

As the title suggests, the book is about the way we use food to celebrate life, from holidays to everyday pleasures and occasions. It includes everything from Christmas, Hanukah, Thanksgiving, Eid, Easter, Halloween, etc; also occasions like Sunday lunch fit for the In-Laws, weddings and even... funeral. I am also still working my way through the chocolate cake hall of fame chapter.

Both these recipes come from the 'kiddiefeast' chapter and they're really nice. I haven't had chicken nuggets for years. Ritzy chicken nuggets refer to the crushed Ritz crackers used as the breadcrumbs to coat the slices of chicken that have been tenderized by being marinated in buttermilk. Serve with the tangy capery salad and also for me, ketchup...

Ritzy Chicken Nuggets
Recipe by Nigella Lawson
For list of ingredients and instructions, click here.

Capery Salad to turn Ritzy Chicken Nuggets into a grown-up meal
Recipe by Nigella Lawson
Serves 4 - 6

4 little gem lettuces
2 large gherkins
1-2 tablespoons capers
2-3 tablespoons chopped parsley

For the dressing
2 tablespoons gherkin brine
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Slice the little gem into 1 cm slices across the lettuce and put into a bowl. Dice the gherkins and add to the lettuce with the capers.

Combine  the dressing ingredients, whisking together, and then pour over the salad, tossing it to mix. Arrange on a couple of plates and sprinkle over the parsley. And then just bring on the nuggets.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Eating in Medan: Tiong Sim Noodle

Now that I've organised all the photos, I think it's a good time to tell you about my trip to Indonesia a few weeks ago.

My journey to Medan, the capital of North Sumatra in Indonesia took just over 20 hours, flight and transit. A quick one hour flight from Newcastle to London, followed by 13 hours non-stop flight to Singapore. I actually really enjoy long flights... I find it strangely relaxing. You know, you have own little space, no one can contact you and you have those hours to watch films on the little telly, catch up with your readings whilst drinking. What not to like?! I also quite like plane food, on long flights only. Some airlines do provide good service and I tend to fly with the same company. My favourite is Singapore Airlines. I didn't fly first class or anything (I wish!), just the regular economy. Then from Singapore, it's another one hour flight to Medan.

I was very excited to visit Medan. As you may already know, I was born and raised in this city. This was my first visit in four years, so I was well excited to be reunited with my family, friends and the foods I love.

It is common knowledge for people who live in western part of Indonesia that Medan is known for two things: One, horrific traffic. It's just mad. Driving in Medan is possibly one of the most challenging task. I used to drive here and I couldn't do it any more, especially with my awful sense of direction. Two, absolutely fantastic food. I don't even know where to begin explaining this. People from all over Indonesia and neighbouring countries like Malaysia and Singapore would come to Medan just to eat. You can eat at fancy restaurants, but some of the most delicious places to eat are actually the not-so-big restaurants but very well-known. Do ask the locals.

Medan is the third largest city in Indonesia with population of approximately 2.5 million people. The population is mainly made up of Bataknese, Javanese, Minang, Chinese and Indian. Medan's multi cultural society is truly reflected in its cuisines. I ate a lot, I mean like A LOT during the 2 weeks when I was there.

Perhaps, I'll start here - Medan is popular for having a wide variety of Chinese noodles and I am a freak for noodles. Mi Tiong Sim is one of the most popular noodle shops in Medan. It is located at Selat Panjang street where some of the oldest Chinese eateries can be found here and is definitely the place to go for some great food. In the evening, the street is packed with stalls selling all kinds of dishes, loads of noodles, but you can also get steamed buns, stir fried dishes, satay, chicken rice, etc.

So, what's actually in Mi Tiong Sim? By the way, before I forget, Mi or sometimes also spelled Mie means noodle and Tiong Sim is the brand. Tiong Sim noodle is handmade and is very thin as you can hopefully see. The cooked and seasoned noodles are topped with thin slices of char siew pork (Chinese barbecued pork), pork dumplings, shredded chicken, slices of spring onions and crispy shallots. Served on the side are slices of chilli and a bowl of fragrant pork broth. Utterly delicious.

Besides noodles, the shop also offers varieties of congee and pek cam ke, steamed chicken in garlic, ginger, soy sauce and sesame oil. Served with fresh coriander leaves, spring onions, ginger and salty, sour vegetable which name I cannot remember.

Another side dish I love and I know it's not to everyone's taste, is hati dan ampela ayam (chicken liver and gizzards). I think they're absolutely delicious, but they must be cooked correctly.

The eating continues...

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Pizza time!

One time when I had some friends over for dinner, one of them suddenly asked, "Michael, have you ever had fast food or ordered a take-out?". Well, of course I had both fast food and take-out before, but I love cooking, so it's very, very rare. Even after a long day, I still prefer home-cooked meals or eat out at nice place. I'm not into fast food, but what I like is good food... fast. Nothing complicated, mostly pasta dishes, like linguine with pancetta, garlic, parsley and freshly grated parmesan, but when I'm really tired, I make spaghetti with pesto from a jar or spaghetti with Marmite, anyone? It's dangerously addictive and delicious.

Not a long time ago, I was asked to review Domino's newly launched Reggae Reggae pizza, and I thought, well, pizza is one of my favourite foods, and it's been a while since I had pizza from a joint place, what the heck, I'll give it a go. It's a Caribbean inspired pizza with BBQ Reggae Reggae sauce on the base and topped with roast chicken, green peppers, tomatoes, pineapple and mozzarella cheese. Sounds alright. So, last weekend, I ordered the pizza online (it amazes me what you can do on-line today) and the delivery guy arrived bang on time which was even more amazing. First bite of the pizza, my friend and I were not a fan. The pizza was dry and just lacked of flavours. Perhaps, I am spoilt. I have had some great pizza at restaurants and regular pizza just won't do.

Feeling disappointed, today I decided it's about time for a home made pizza... dough and all. Making pizza dough is surprisingly easy and I thoroughly enjoy the process. Russell from Chasing Delicious is a pizza fanatic and he makes some fantastic pizza and I recommend his pizza dough recipe.

Once the dough is formed, the possibilities for toppings are endless. Today, I topped my pizza with all of my favourite flavours. I brushed the pizza base with extra virgin olive oil before a generous scatter of mozzarella cheese (my preference is fontina or provolone, but the store didn't have it today... typical.), caramelised red onions, roasted fennel, green olives, artichoke hearts and cubes of pancetta.

Bake in a hot oven for 20-25 minutes and it's done. A tiny sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper and fresh oregano leaves, and now that's a pizza! What are your favourite pizza toppings?

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Lunch at The River Cafe with The Good Soup

Yesterday I had one of the most delicious and satisfying lunches in ages at The River Cafe... and here I am now, going to brag about it to all of you. What made this lunch even more special is I met Angela Hirst, the woman behind The Good Soup blog.

When Angela emailed me about a couple of weeks ago asking for restaurant recommendation, the River Cafe was the first place that came to my mind. Angela was so excited about going to the River Cafe and so was I. This was my second visit to the River Cafe and I have waited long to come back. The food is rather expensive (none of the main meals is below £32), but it's a treat and it's incredibly delicious.

If you don't already know, Jamie Oliver got his big break while working at the River Cafe years ago under one of the most influential British chefs and co-founder of the restaurant, Rose Gray (Sadly, Rose passed away last year). Jamie was spotted by TV crew who were filming at the restaurant and the rest is history.

Anyway, I met Angela at the restaurant and it's so lovely and exciting to finally meet someone 'online' offline. We got to talk, and no surprises that the subjects revolved around food and blogging. What to expect?!

The menu at the River Cafe changes daily and also according to seasonality of the produce. Everything on the menu sounds delicious and making decisions what to have wasn't easy. You can have the full-five course Italian feast (antipasti, primi, secondi, dolci/gelati, formaggi) if you wish. I did that on my first visit. I suggest you don't. Angela and I talked about the menu and after few deliberations, we made up our mind.

We went for a starter and a main and hoping to save room for dessert. Angela had the classic Prosciutto di San Daniele - with Charentais melon. I am normally not a fan of melon, but I did have a bite of this and I must say, it's good. Sweet juicy melon and salty prosciutto bring out the sweet and salty best in one another.

I had the Vitello Tonnato - finely sliced roasted veal with tuna mayonnaise, anchovies, capers, parsley and rainbow chard. The succulent veal melts in your mouth and the flavours in the dressing are intensely delicious. Plus, I love good anchovies. What a way to start an elegant summer eating.

For her main, Angela had Stinco di Vitello con Risotto Milanese - veal shin slow-cooked in Pieropan Soave with garlic and thyme with saffron risotto and gremolata. The veal is tender and with the gremolata made of lemon zest, garlic and parsley, and the golden coloured saffron risotto, beautiful!

For me, Piccione al forno - whole Anjou pigeon wood-roasted in Brunello di Montalcino with wood-roasted potatoes 'luchesse'. The pigeon is cooked to pink perfection and the potatoes are superb. I started carving the pigeon with knife and fork, then I lost patience and I was hands on. Such a great feeling ripping the flesh of the pigeon with my teeth and sucking on bones.

After the two courses, there was still definitely room for dessert. After all, this is a special lunch. Angela's been eyeing the Almond and Strawberry Tart on the counter and she wanted it, she got it. This was simply out of this world and I could not stop eating it. It's my involuntary reflexes to delicious food.  

I was tempted to get the Nocciola (hazelnut ice cream... one of my favourite ice cream flavours) but changed my mind and went for the Lemon Tart instead. Man, it was the right decision. This tart is ridiculously delicious. Lovely pastry and the smooth lemon filling is just right, not too sharp, just fresh and deeelicious.

Before we left the cafe, I gave Angela the chocolate beetroot cake and a couple bars of Green & Blacks cherry dark chocolate that I know is not available in Australia. We walked to the underground station and I asked Angela if she had the time for a quick visit to Selfridges for some macarons, but she had to get back. Well, there's always another time. Maybe, I'll visit Australia.

Snacks for train journey back to Sunderland: 4 pieces of Pierre Herme macarons, pistachio, jasmine, milk chocolate and passion fruit, olive oil and vanilla. I was smiling with each bite and made inappropriate yummy noises.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Ham and Smoked Cheddar Quiche, Q & A

I want to say a big thank you again for all of your answers for my train food question. I am still on baking mode which is rather strange as I normally catch the baking bug after watching horror films and I am so inspired to bake some home-made goodness for my train journey tomorrow. I am going to London to meet Angela from The Good Soup for lunch. I am so excited!

I happened to have some leftover ham from dinner the other night which is exciting. I love leftovers but I don't often have them because my friends and I eat like monsters. Anyway, I thought why not bake a quiche? They're perfect for travelling and so I did. No I didn't make my own pastry, thank you for asking :(

I also baked a batch of chocolate and beetroot cake, because you've got to... well, I've got to have something sweet with me as well. If I could restrain myself from eating the whole lot, I plan to share some of this cake with Angela. However, I make no promises.

Now, Pierre from Little Hungry Heart (who I reckon is my long lost brother; we have so many things in common, it's scary) tagged me in a series of questions and here are my answers:

1. Do you think you're hot?
I'd like to think I am.

2. Upload the wallpaper you are currently using.
Yes, I am a child.

3. Last time you ate a chicken?
Last night... on a pizza.

4. Last song you listened to?
Dara Maclean - Suitcases

5. What were you thinking while doing this?
I'm quite enjoying this game and I can smell the pork roasting for dinner later...

6. Do you have nicknames? What are they?
I am known as 'slave-driver' at work. But I prefer to be addressed as 'Your Majesty'.

7. My lucky 7s
Well, I don't want to put pressure on anyone. If you want to play along, feel free.

Gotta go now. I'm meeting some friends to watch Harry Potter. When we got back, the pulled pork should be done and the green tea tiramisu will be nicely set. Ah, I love Sundays like this.

Have a great one!

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Reine de Saba et Mes Rêves

When I woke up this morning with an urge to bake and it's a wonderful feeling. The only trouble is deciding what to bake... I went through my 'to-bake' list, and for second year in a row, I am still (well, kinda) sticking to my new year's resolution. Do you still remember your new year's resolution? Or has it gone out the window?

I decided to bake this reine de saba from the legendary Julia Child's et al, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I have all of the ingredients at home except one. I ran out of butter. I was mortified and disgusted! I went to the supermarket and came back with two bags full or groceries. Few blocks of butter and also some stuff for tonight (my friend and I will be testing a new tiramisu recipe) and tomorrow night I have an army of friends over for dinner after watching Harry Potter.

Anyway, let's talk about this delectable chocolate and almond cake. The texture of both the cake and the chocolate-butter icing is simply wonderful. They just melt in your mouth. It's important though to bake the cake just slightly underdone otherwise the cake loses its special creamy quality. My only difficulty was waiting for the cake to cool before frosting it. This cake is definitely worth the wait.

Reine de Saba
Recipe by Julia Child, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle
For list of ingredients and instructions, click here.

Mes Rêves

Vanessa Kimbell has asked us all to share our dreams and are you already following your dream? Vanessa followed her dream and she is now officially a food writer with her own BBC radio show and a newspaper column among other fabulous things. Vanessa's story is very inspiring and I started thinking about my own dreams:

When I was seven I told my uncle that I want to be a comedian, then he told me "Michael, don't you have to be funny to be a comedian?!" Ouch! That's definitely the way to crush a child's dream. We haven't been in touch since. As I got older, I realised he's probably right. My best friend at high school told me that my jokes are mean and dry. Becoming a comedian is off the list... and to cut a long story short, becoming a rapper or a country singer are also off the list. I cannot rap to save my life.

My dreams became clearer, a couple years ago, not long after I turned twenty-one. The good times that came from cooking as a family, got me psyched about food, and I wanted more than anything to be a great cook. I was watching a re-run of Glee yesterday and there's a quote "if you can imagine it, it can come true". Can I imagine one day, oh I don't know, attending le cordon bleu or tante marie? and then working in a professional kitchen whilst writing a food column for conde nast publication? Actually, I can. My dad once said, "you can dream of success, but you also have to wake up and work hard at it". I have had several unsuccessful attempts and I am not giving up. Maybe the next one will be the one. One can only dream... right?

I also really, really want to do this:

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Chicken Teriyaki + Question #2

I have been working on my dissertation this weekend and although the progress is rather slow, it is getting there... I hope.

I enjoy looking at what people are cooking and eating at their homes. I don't think that's a secret, I read food blogs after all. I also like looking at people's supermarket trolleys... Oh, come on, you know you have and enjoy doing it too :)

However, I am afraid to tell you that the truth about my nosiness is worse than that. I travel quite often by trains and travelling by train is truly an experience in itself. Whenever possible, I always ask for a seat with a table, even though this means sharing the table with three other people. You can most definitely close your eyes and ignore all the passengers around you, or concentrate on a good read, or playing with your gadgets.
I sometimes do or at least pretend to do all the mentioned, but I couldn't help myself from doing other things like overhearing people's conversation... but who could?! It's a public transport.

Anyway, peeking at what people are having for their snacks is what I enjoy most! On a recent train journey from London to Newcastle, I sat next to a lovely elderly couple and they had home-made sandwiches, cubes of cheddar, crackers, grapes, batons of carrots and cucumber, cherry tomatoes and a loaf of banana bread. Of course, I tried not to make it too obvious that I am staring at their packed lunch, even though I was drooling over that banana bread. To makes things worse, the table across from us were having cupcakes from the hummingbird bakery. I make an excellent secret agent one day.

I never bother really to make something for 'on-the-go'. I suppose that's probably because I would have eaten it before the journey and all I had were crumbs.

My friend introduced me to Japan Centre at Regent Street few years ago and since then, whenever I'm going on a train journey from London, I almost always stop by there to grab my food supplies, sweet or savoury, like onigiri, sushi, edamame, ramen noodles or my latest favourite thing, green tea tiramisu. Yum... and to drink, equally Japanese, I like pocari sweat isotonic drink.

On another journey, I was surrounded by a group of lads on their way to a football match, and all they had was beers. I like beers, but I also need the ham sandwich or at least salted peanuts or doritos.

Now my question for you is, "Imagine yourself going on a train journey, what would you have to eat? Do you prepare something home-made? or if you're buying something pre-made, what do you get?"

Again, this is part of my research for my dissertation. You can leave your answer by leaving comments below or you can email me. Any ways would be greatly appreciated. If you miss question #1, you can read it here.

Now, to food I cooked and ate earlier: chicken teriyaki. This is another one of Nigella's quick and delicious recipe. Just a few ingredients mixed for the brief marinating of the chicken thighs, followed by an easy stove-top cooking. You can serve it with sushi rice, but I like it with sticky Thai rice noodles and a scatter or chopped coriander leaves.

Chicken Teriyaki
Recipe by Nigella Lawson
For list of ingredients and instructions, click here.
If you want to watch the video, click here.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

J'adore Paris

On June 10th 2011, I ditched my friends and I ate my way around Paris. It was a monumental day as I discovered I don't have a sweet tooth, I have about 32 of them. I know and you know that I can eat a lot, but I didn't know I could eat this much sweet things in one day.

The day began with a quick bite of chaussons aux pommes from a boulangeri not far from our hotel. I had an itinerary and my first destination is not far from the Louvre, at Rue de Rivoli, Angelina. I found this place whilst watching Lorraine Pascale's Baking Made Easy. The tea house was already busy that morning with people having breakfast, but if you're there for cakes to take away, the wait shouldn't be that bad.

cakes at Angelina

All the cakes look fantastic and deciding which one to have was not an easy task. But the two that caught my eye and mouth straight-away are tartelette Eva, one sinfully rich chocolate tart with perfect pastry base and smooth chocolate filling; and also the millefeuille a la vanille bourbon which is vanilla-bourbon crème pâtissière sandwiched between layers of buttery puff pastry... I have also been told to try the hot chocolate here, as apparently it's one of the best, but hot chocolate in the morning makes me sleepy and I need focus.

Tartelette Eva et Millefeuille à la Vanille Bourbon 

I then met up with my friends again at Arc de Triomphe followed by a nice walk to the Eiffel Tower. After taking lots of photos, I ditched them again at lunchtime and I went off to my next stop: Pierre Hermé famous for its macarons. No doubt, they make the best macarons in Paris. The same macarons are actually available at Selfridges in London, but I just had to visit the Paris shop for the experience. Unfortunately taking pictures inside the shop is strictly prohibited. As soon as the shopkeeper saw my camera, I was told to put it away. Be prepared to queue for a long time but the macarons are worth the wait... You might want to practise some Japanese too, as I was queueing with lots of Japanese tourists... such lovely people.

The macarons are so beautiful to look at and even better eat. Oh, and these little delights do not come cheap... My personal favourite are the rose and pistache (pistachio), but do try the mogador (passion fruit and milk chocolate) and eden (peach, saffron and apricot)... or get the selection box if you want and can afford it.

Not far from Pierre Herme, I then visited the famous Poilane bakery on Rue du Cherce-Midi. Lionel Poilane apparently sells the most bread in Paris. Poilane's signature bread is the large round rustic sourdough loaf with the big 'P' inscription.

The moment I stepped into this charming little bakery, I was immediately welcomed with the comforting aroma of freshly baked bread. Apart from sourdough, you can also get rye and raisin bread, walnut loaf, milky white loaf, apple tart, gingerbread, baguettes, croissants, cookies, jams, etc. It was like heaven. I used to get the signature loaf to take home, but found out sometime ago that the bread is now available in the UK. Hooray! They deliver abroad too, so check out the website.

photo courtesy of frogandprincess

The last bakery I visited, I promise this is the last, was La Pâtisserie des Rêves or in English, Pastry Shop of Dreams. It is located in Rue du Bac and I absolutely love the bright, cool design of the shop and the display cakes are presented so beautifully under bell-shaped glass dome. On the right hand shelves, there were piles of chausson aux pommes and pain gourmand a la vanille, but the three items I simply had to try were the Madeleine, the kouign amann, a round-crusty-buttery-sugary cake and this one is also flavoured with lemon paste...

photo courtesy of the taste of... Paris

and the chocolate éclairs... This is one serious éclair. Each one is wrapped in a tunnel of fine dark chocolate and then flecked with gold. It's beautiful and delicious. The wonderful thing about the chocolate tunnel is it manages to stay firm and keep its shape, but it just melts in your mouth. The choux pastry inside is so tender and the chocolate cream is smooth, smooth, smooth. I am craving for one now....

My friends and I met up again for dinner not far from Notre Dame Cathedral and I desperately need to eat savoury dishes... and I had moules marinieres, duck a l'orange and whilst my friends were enjoying their profiteroles and crème brûlée for desserts, fresh fruit salad for me.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Burgers at Bar Boulud

Continuing my eating adventure, just a little over three hours after a late lunch at Spuntino, my friends and I went to dinner at Bar Boulud. I do have a quick metabolism.

London's Bar Boulud is located in the heart of the exclusive Knightsbridge at the famous Mandarin Oriental hotel. Created by Daniel Boulud, a French chef and a restaurateur, this is the sister restaurant to New York's Bar Boulud. Chef Daniel brought over some Big Apple style and mixed it with classic French cooking.

This was my second visit to Bar Boulud and will certainly not be my last. The restaurant is cosy with great vibes all around. But most importantly for me, the staff are so friendly that made you feel like home which added to the dining pleasure.

At our table, we were greeted by Paulo, the Maitre D' of the restaurant. He asked for me and about the blog which was a surprise. I always check, out of courtesy when making on-line reservations if I could take photographs at restaurants especially when planning to blog about it. Paulo gave his permission and he even offered a complimentary charcuterie board. How very nice... See, it never hurts to ask.

Paulo explained that everything on the charcuterie board is made on the premise. I must say the selection of pâtés and cured meat were done flawlessly. A couple of my favourites from the board are nougat de volaille which is terrine of chicken breast, curried apple, hazelnut, pistachio and balsamic as explained by our knowledgeable waiter; also tagine dagneau, terrine of slow-cooked leg of lamb, sweet potato, aubergine and Moroccan spices.

When looking at the menu, I was tempted with many of the French classics dishes, but I must focus. The real reason I visited Bar Boulud was to try their burgers, one of my favourite food, which have been winning a lot of fans. So, to prove it we simply had to order all three of them. I had the Frenchie Burger - grilled beef patty cooked to medium, the way I like it and topped with confit pork belly, rocket, tomato-onion compote, Dijon mustard, morbier cheese, brioche bun... in one short word: Yum. 

The quality of the beef is superb... and beneath the charred exterior, inside is pink and juicy. The peppery bite from the mustard and rocket is nicely balanced with the sweetness from the tomato-onion compote. 


But wait until you hear about the Piggie Burger... This is my personal favourite of the trio. If you had a chance to visit Bar Boulud either in Manhattan or London, and you can only order one burger, this is the one you must try. 

This handsome burger consists of another flavourful grilled beef patty and this one is topped with tender, melt-in-your-mouth BBQ pulled pork, bibb lettuce, green chili mayonnaise, red cabbage slaw and cheddar bun... Oh yeah, this is the stuff. I'd eat this burger any day, any time... Each mouthful is filled with beefy/porky succulence, and the fatty juices with the green chili mayo lubricate the cheddar bun oh-so beautifully. It was love at first bite.


The last but not least is the Yankee Burger which consists of grilled beef patty with iceberg lettuce, tomato, sweet onion, pickle and sesame bun. This may sound like a simple burger, and it is, but don't be fooled, this is one fantastic burger. The only mistake was my friend who ordered it to "well-done". Guess who's no longer invited to dinner. 

Unfortunately, I don't have a decent picture of the Yankee burger. I was 'high' on burger love and my hands keep on shaking (probably the wine too), resulting in blurry pictures.

To accompany our burgers, we had the super green spinach and some perfectly cooked pommes frites served in a silver bucket. Now, let's talk quickly about the fries: they're amazing! 

Honestly there was absolutely no need for dessert as we were already so full, but I thought a couple of sorbets to share between the three of us couldn't hurt... The passion fruit-coconut sorbet is ultra refreshing. The sharpness of the passion fruit will definitely wake up your taste-buds and combined with the smooth coconut... delicious. The coffee ice-cream... well, I could happily eat a tub of it.

If you still have some room in your stomach, I'd thoroughly recommend for you to head to the bar and have the champagne mojito... just saying...

Friday, 1 July 2011

I'm back! + Spuntino

That's right, I am back! and exhausted... but I have had an amazing past few weeks! Ah, the amount of food I ate is unbelievable. Yes, I gained weight, but not a problem... I was on holiday. I'm gonna start tackling these extra pounds tomorrow at the gym and will only be consuming the following in the mean time: miso soup, red wine, fruits and tranquillizer.

I missed all of you and I look forward to catch up. I also want to say a big Thank You for all of your wonderful comments on the previous post. They are very much appreciated. Next question is coming up soon. And to all my Canadian friends, Happy Canada Day to all of you!

Now that I'm back, I'm gonna tell you all about my trip, in chronological order and it began around three weeks ago with a late lunch at Spuntino in London. I was very excited to finally made my first visit to Spuntino as I have heard and read great reviews about this place. What was even more exciting, I went with my lovely friend Alex.

Located at the colourful Soho, amongst several sex shops and massage parlours, normally the easiest way to spot the restaurant is by seeing the queue of people waiting to get in. Though I suspect in the evening there may be several queues for other these businesses too... Anyway, back to the restaurant, it's first come, first serve basis only, no reservations. But that afternoon was quiet, Alex and I were seated immediately around the central bar on high stools. The waiter handed us the menu printed on brown paper which then doubles up as our place mats.

Whilst we were making our choices, we were given complimentary chilli popcorn which was nice, served in a tin cup.

Dishes comes in small portions and Alex had the ricotta, pea and radish crostini. I had a little bite of this and it was nice, but I must save some room as I greedily ordered not two, not three, but five dishes (some to share of course). Alex had been here a couple of times before and she recommended some of her favourites.

The next three dishes are the shoestring fries which was crispy and dangerously addictive; bite-size cheesy croque monsieur and eggplant chips with fennel yoghurt which I could happily eat all day long. The deep-fried aubergines were not at all greasy and the cool yoghurt combines with liquorish fennel works beautifully.

Next is the highly anticipated truffled egg toast. I absolutely love truffle and this toast is so, so good. The thick white bread is covered with melted cheese and in the centre of the bread is a pool of silky smooth egg yolk and truffle. Yum!

I was full but I couldn't resist the peanut butter and jelly sandwich especially that it's recommended by Alex. The bread part of the sandwich are actually peanut butter ice-cream, in between is raspberry compote and generously sprinkled on top and around the sandwich are candied nuts. Again, Yum!

I look forward to coming back to Spuntino again... You can also read Alex's review, here.