Saturday, September 10, 2005

Sticky bun preparations! Posted by Picasa

Sticky Buns Posted by Picasa

The cookbook addiction

Cookbooks! Posted by Picasa

I first started reading cookbooks as a therapeutic way of winding down my work day during a particularly stressful time at work last year. I had previously been rather stingy with my book purchases - believing that most recipes could either be borrowed or downloaded from the net. But boy - how things can change in a year. One comforting cookbook in bed led to another, and then another... which then progressed to browsing through them on Sunday mornings as a 'therapeutic way' to spend the morning... and it just steam rolled into one big fat obssession with cookbooks. I would lurk around the cookbook shelves of Borders and try not to salivate. Gasp and clutch a book to my chest in pure waves of desire - only to put it away with a sigh.
But not long ago - i received $600 worth of book vouchers for a photo shoot i had done. Oh the glee! The huge amount of lurking i did at borders, clutching at books and the joy of not having to put it back on it's shelves.
I did my research mind you. I have come to realise for example that great pictures do not a great cookbook make (not necessarily anyway). That not all cookbooks are born equal, and some are truly mediocre with mediocre recipes (despite all the hype). That those that might appear daunting at first, might turn out to be the most useful of the lot( and the only reason they appear daunting is because of all that text, that actually serves to take you through step by step, never leaving out the tiniest details.)

So what you see is a pic of some of my recent purchases.

Vegetarian Cooking for everyone is a Mammoth book that is apparently quite the bible for vegetarian cooks (and has won a few awards). i've always wanted to get into Vegetarian cooking, beyond my repertoire of stir fry vegetables and tofu at any rate! I have yet to try anything from this book (and it's one of those with a very limited number of photos), so it should be interesting taking the plunge!

Baking with Julia is one of the best investments i have made as far as cookbooks are concerned. Daunting at first (so much text!) but it truly takes you through every step of the way - ensuring a minimal chance of failure (as long as you are good at following instructions!) i have tried about 7 recipes from this book, and they have all turned out amazing. With the exception of the bagel recipe, which i think is a truly questionable recipe. Otherwise - i would reccomend this book heartily to all avid bakers out there.

The Zuni Cafe Cookbook - This was recommended on 101cookbooks.com - one of my favourite food sites. It's a beautiful book and another one of them that has won a handful of awards. Extremely detailed on everything from how to make salads to meats to desserts. Not only is it an enjoyable read, it is also educational and unpretentious. I tried the braised beef chuck recipe(my first attempt from this book) and it turned out beautifully-so i've got a great start from this one!
Here's a pic of it below:

Zuni Cafe Cookbook Posted by Picasa

Kitchen by Michelle Cranston - i've yet to open this one, but beautiful big book with beautiful pictures and lots of good reviews from other blogs and friends alike so i'm hoping this is going to be another faithful companion.

French Laundry by Thomas Keller - this restaurant of course, has earned it's reputation for one of the finest places in the world for an exquisite meal. I was in Napa Valley last year and never managed to drive that extra half hour to where this restaurant was located. I wasn't on the biggest holiday budget, but would have liked to just peek through the windows anyway. Or maybe beg for some scraps of cheese. But now - i have the book. Incredibly complex recipes and certainly those fit for your most royal of guests. Meals to cook from when you want to truly impress and spend an entire day fiddling about making it. Having said that, the cooks of Saint Pierre love this one - so do other gourmand friends in the 'industry' so i guess it's got rave reviews. Personally, i'm not sure how many I'll be able to attempt from this book. A bit overly fancy for my blood and i suspect i might just end up flipping through it from time to time and sighing wistfully.
So here's a pic of it and a sample of what it looks like inside. Certainly a book almost made to frame.

French Laundry Cookbook Posted by Picasa

French Laundry cookbook Posted by Picasa

A Mammoth dinner for six

Onion tart Posted by Picasa

braised beef Posted by Picasa

Dessert Posted by Picasa

The real deal Posted by Picasa

This was for a mammoth dinner i had done for a dinner for 6. It took a huge amount of effort, and involved me standing in the kitchen WITHOUT rest for 8 hours straight.
By the time my guests came, i was all ready to send them right back home. All i wanted to do was sit and stretch out my tired legs with a bag of crisps!

This was a bit of a tricky dinner because my friend's boyfriend who was coming refuses to eat vegetables(the freak!). So the option of tossing a flavourful salad for a starter was not really an option.

I had wanted to try a Braised Beef shoulder for the main meal for which i had a recipe for in my newly purchased book 'The Zuni Cafe Cookbook'.

So here was the menu for the night:
Onion tart with a mixed salad dressed with balsamic vinagerette

Main course:
Braised Beef Shoulder Chuck served with buttermilk Mashed potatoes and Glazed Carrots

Phyllatello with Ice Cream and Summer Berries

My pictures don't do justice to how this turned out. The onion tart turned out well, EVENTUALLY. There was a lot of fiddling with the tart pastry, which didnt seem to roll out very well without crumbling into a million dry flaky pieces. I was wary of adding too much water when making the dough because of the constant warning that too much water leads to shrinkage in the oven, but i suspect a bit more water would not have done too much damage. I had to make my tart pastry TWICE - the second time a little more successful than the first!
But overall - i believe it was a success, although a bit heavy for my liking (a lot of cream and eggs added to the cooked onion.

The Main course was a dream. My friend raved about the sauce, which involved an entire bottle of robust Red wine, 1 and a half chickens for the stock (With a lot of flavourful vegetables thrown in), a pork leg added to this concoction after the entire braising had been done (first time i have ever used a pork leg, which certainly seemed to do the trick - this was the alternative to a beef stock, which would have been far more expensive).
The beef was tender (i think the oven time was 4 hours? )although i suspect a TAD overcooked.

The dessert was beautiful. Very fancy schmancy looking without too much hard work as i had used ready made phyllo pastry to make it.

Overall,a successful dinner, but a lot of hard work and incredibly time consuming!

Delicious Tomato Tart

vine ripened tomatoes Posted by Picasa

Tomato Tart - the real version! Posted by Picasa

This is a beautiful starter. It's simple, it looks wonderful, and it doesnt take much time at all (as long as you're willing to use frozen puff pastry instead of making it layer upon buttery layer yourself!)

Vine ripened tomatoes are often seen as the 'superior' tomato and heartily recommended in most cookbooks where tomato is the central feature. However, in Asia - vine ripened tomatoes are helluva expensive, and about 5 times the price of normal (non vine attached) ones. I think there IS a distinct difference in flavour, and hence - i splurged this time on proper pricey vine ripened ones to make these tomato tarts.

Basically, the recipe here is simple.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
Roll out the defrosted puff pastry into 3 inch width rectrangles (or whatever size you want really!)
Make an indent with your knife to shape the (left and right hand )border of the pastry (on both sides).
Brush both borders with egg yolk using a pastry brush (so they turn a nice pretty golden after baking).
Slice the tomatoes and place them in the centre of the rolled out pastry.
Sprinkle with sea salt and rosemary.
Put into oven for approx 20 mins.

Remove, and place a dollop of goat cheese on the pastry.
Serve immediately!

Below is the pic of the tart taken from the Magazine

tomatoe tart from mag Posted by Picasa

Scallops Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Single Female behaviour

i thought i should share a little story that might either gross some of you out or make you nod your head in acknowledgement (i doubt it'll be the latter though).
i had made another batch of choc cupcakes recently. i had brought one to work, carefully packed in a tupperware, but had not had the chance to eat it, and hence when I returned home after a late night out with tupperware in hand, i left it by my bed side, passing out on my bed in exhaustion.

My boyfriend had been away for a week. I had not been sleeping well without him by my side (aaawww). At 2am that night, i opened my eyes, wide awake and strangely - hungry. (this is a rare thing. I never usually wake up in the middle of the night). I tossed and turned for a bit, and eventually sat up. I turned on my bed side light - and there it was - my chocolate cupcake sitting lonely in it's plastic casing.
I opened the tupperware, carefully held up the cupcake, (had a feeling of having to look around me to make sure no one was watching) and starting chomping into it, eyes half open, hair ratty, licking the icing and downing the chocolate sponge in big sleepy bites. Body still tucked away under my duvet, head resting on pillow.

After i had finished the last crumbs, i turned off the light, and went right back to sleep.

I woke up the next morning with a niggling feeling i had done something awfully bad,
i looked at the empty tupperware and there it was ! The evidence!

This is what my friend calls 'Single Female Behaviour.'

The things we do when alone in bed. For some, the stories could be much more sordid -for me, it was eating a giant cupcake in bed!

the 'grown up version' Posted by Picasa