Wednesday, December 31, 2008

S&P Pumpkin Custard

This custard from Thailand's S&P is quite tasty, the custard is made with whole eggs, brown sugar, coconut cream and salt, with Thai pumpkin slices. This is an upcountry dessert recipe, you're more likely to find it there than you would in, say, Bangkok.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Manora Fried Shrimp Chips

I found these for sale in one of the local Chinese supermarkets; I wondered that they didn't have a shrimp version (the more well-known kind). This tastes better than the Fish Chips, and about as good as the Crab Chips. Interestingly enough, what I had not mentioned before, is that each bag comes with a small pouch of nam prik pao, or chili paste, to enhance the flavour of the chips, but it would be better if they included a bigger pouch. These chips are salty and spicy, and good.

Mixed Vegetables with Sweet and Sour Sauce

We've made this recipe several times, it's so tasty (my beautiful Bride especially likes it), since we found it in a recipe book called Fresh Thai (restaurants would just use vinegar to make it sour, this is a better and healthier version - and fresher). You can use any combination of vegetables you have on hand, today's version includes brussel sprouts. For a totally vegetarian version, substitute light soy sauce for the fish sauce. The recipe in Fresh Thai calls for pineapple in light syrup, we prefer pineapple in its own juice, it's not as sweet and you can add more sugar if you want. If you have a 14 oz can of pineapple, like we normally find, use 2/3 of a can. This is a quick and easy vegetarian recipe, and one we made for our recent Christmas Dinner feast.

Mixed Vegetables with Sweet and Sour Sauce
adapted from a recipe from Fresh Thai by Oi Cheepchaiissara
1 lb mixed vegetables, such as baby corn, cauliflower, green beans, carrots, zucchini and red and yellow bell peppers
1 onion
2 tomatoes
8 oz canned pineapple slices in its own juice (or light syrup)
2 Tbsp vegetable stock or water
1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
1-1/2 Tbsp tomato ketchup
1/2 Tbsp fish sauce
1-1/2 Tbsp sunflower oil
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
boiled rice, to serve

Prepare the vegetables. Cut the baby corn and green beans in half lengthwise at an angle, if using. Cut the carrots into matchsticks. Cut the unpeeled zucchini in half lengthwise and then into thick slices. Core and seed the bell peppers and cut into bite-sized pieces. Cut the cauliflower into larger pieces. Cut the onion into 8 slices and the tomatoes into quarters.

Drain the pineapple (reserving the liquid) and cut each slice into 4 pieces. Mix the pineapple juice (about 6 tablespoons) with the stock, cornstarch, ketchup and fish sauce in a small bowl to make a smooth sauce.

Heat the oil in a nonstick wok or skillet and stir-fry the garlic over medium heat until it is lightly browned. Add the corn, beans, zucchini, cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, peppers and onion and stir-fry for 4-5 minutes.

Add the pineapple pieces, tomato and pineapple juice sauce and stir together for another minute.

Transfer to a serving dish and serve immediately with fragrant rice.

Stir-fry Tofu with Ginger (Pad Khing Tofu)

This is a very simple Thai dish, what you could make at home; in fact you would find this offered in few restaurants. Simple or not, it's still a tasty dish. You can also make a fish version by substituting fried firm white fish pieces for the tofu (it would be called Pad Khing Pla). You can buy fermented yellow soybean sauce in most good Chinese supermarkets. Chinese celery is much thinner and smaller than the celery found in North America, it also has a stronger flavour.

Stir-fry Tofu with Ginger (Pad Khing Tofu)
200 g firm tofu
100 g ground pork (optional)
5 slices ginger
2 cloves garlic
1/2 onion
2 stalks Chinese celery
2 spring onion
1 red chili
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1 Tbsp oyster sauce
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp fermented yellow soybean sauce
1/2 tsp palm sugar
1/4 cup stock
cooking oil

Mince garlic and julienne ginger. Slice onion and cut the celery and spring onion into 1 inch pieces. Slice chili thinly. Cut tofu into small cubes.

Heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in heavy bottomed pan to fry tofu. Fry tofu until golden brown; set aside.

Add prepared garlic, onion, ginger, pepper, chili and cook until fragant. Add pork, if using, yellow soybean sauce, oyster sauce, sugar and stock. Stir-fry together about 2-3 minutes with no pork, 2-3 minutes more with pork. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Finally add fried tofu, celery and spring onion and mix together.

Serve hot with fragrant rice.

Thai Rice and Coconut Rolled Pancakes (Kanom Khok Muan)

This is a traditional Thai food, made fresh in many places in Bangkok, but never pre-prepared for sale in stores. You can also make it with taro or pumpkin; it's a dessert and is thus normally served sweet. Children like to eat them. They are quite tasty for adults, too. There is a fancier version, with two layers of rice flour, made in a special baking dish, the outside layer (with special finest rice flour) is crispy, the inside layer is sweet and soft; this one is far easier to make.

Thai Rice and Coconut Rolled Pancakes (Kanom Khok Muan)
150 g rice flour
3 Tbsp ground cooked jasmine rice
3 Tbsp dried coconut
1/2 cup sugar, to taste
2 cups coconut milk
1/4 tsp salt
sliced spring onion, cooked corn for garnish

Mix and blend all the ingredients except the spring onion and corn until sugar dissolves. Heat a nonstick pan on medium low heat. Apply a little bit of oil when the pan is hot. Put 2 tablespoons of the mixture onto the pan to make a circle; you might be able to fit two or three pancakes at the same time. When the flour starts to cook, garnish with sliced spring onion and corn. Roll the pancake up when it is mostly cooked through. Continue to fry the rolled pancake until golden brown on all sides and cooked through. Repeat with remaining dough.

Thai Fried Chicken

We got this recipe from Chez Pim the other day, who described it as the crispiest fried chicken ever. Now, ours didn't turn out so crispy, probably because we removed the skin from the chicken thighs we used, the skin is what would make it crispy. Not that these weren't good otherwise, quite tasty, though next time I'd cut down the amount of salt, we didn't use the recommended amount of chicken for the amount of marinade, and it did turn out a little too salty. But still great tasting. For some reason, Pim didn't put in the directions when to add the ground black pepper, I've added it at the same time as the oyster and fish sauces. The secret to the crispiness is rice flour, and it seems to work well.

Thai Fried Chicken
8-10 pieces of chicken, drumsticks or thighs, or both (a little over 2lbs or 1kg)
Enough canola oil or other high-temp oil to fill about 2-inch from the bottom of your cast iron pan (or a deep frying pan)
4-6 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
about 1 Tbsp of chopped cilantro roots (or just the bottom part of the stalks)
1 tsp kosher or (large-grained) sea salt
about 1/2 Tbsp ground black pepper
3 Tbsp oyster sauce
1/4 cup fish sauce

For marinade, in a mortar or a small food processor, pound or chop the garlic, cilantro roots and salt into a rough paste. Transfer the paste into a large bowl, add the black pepper, oyster sauce and fish sauce and stir to mix well.

Rinse and dry the chicken pieces thoroughly, then place them into the bowl. With your hands, toss and rub the chicken pieces all over with the marinade mixture. Cover the bowl with plastic and let the chicken marinade in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

Place about 2 cups of rice flour on a large plate. Take several pieces of the marinated chicken and coat with the rice flour, making sure to cover all parts. Shake off excess. Meanwhile, fill large heavy bottomed pan or wok with oil (about 2 inches from the bottom) and heat on medium-high to obtain a temperature of about 360C (use a thermometer). What you are looking for, is that the oil is not too hot, the chicken should "boil" quietly; if it is too hot, the bubbles will be violent and it will spit hot oil (be careful). If the oil is too hot, the outside will cook too quickly, and the inside flesh will not be cooked enough; lower the heat then. Ease each piece of chicken gently into the hot oil, being careful not to burn yourself.

Cook the chickens until golden brown and crisp all around. If you think the oil was too hot, and thus the outside cooked too quickly and quicker than the inside, cut into one piece and check to see if it has been cooked through (you should be able to see a little blood if it's not). If not, place in a warmed oven at 100C/225F for 10 minutes to finish cooking through.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Halwani Brothers Maamoul Fig and Walnut Filled Cookies

Like their Date Filled Cookies, this is a fairly good cookie, with few ingredients (unlike a lot of North American cookies). I like figs and fig cookies, but the walnuts here must be very tiny and are lost in the taste of the figs (or, at least, I can't taste them). I did enjoy these.

Manora Fried Fish Chips

Like the Fried Crab Chips Manora makes, these are similar to shrimp chips, but contain fish meat. These are not eaten like shrimp chips, with a meal, but as a snack. I would say that I liked the crab chips better, as did my beautiful Bride, but these were still good. They can be found in Chinese supermarkets, for about $3.75 for 100 g, and I think a healthier alternative to potato-based chips.

Norwegian Coconut Cookies (Kokosmakroner)

This is a recipe my beautiful Bride came across on a Thai website, she wanted to make it, and I thought it would be a good addition to our Christmas Dinner feast. This cookie is like a macaroon, but unlike it, in that it has butter and uses whole eggs (rather than just egg whites). We used sweetened coconut, because that was what we had on hand; for a less sweet cokie, use the desiccated non-sweetened version. They taste pretty good, anyways.

Norwegian Coconut Cookies (Kokosmakroner)
2 eggs
150 mL cane sugar
50 g butter, melted
200 g coconut (sweetened or desiccated)

Gently melt butter. Let cool.

Preheat oven to 175C/335F. Place parchment paper on several baking sheets.

Beat two eggs in large bowl. Gradually add in the cane sugar; mix well. Add cooled melted butter and mix well. Add coconut and mix well.

Place rounded tablespoonfuls of the coconut mixture onto the parchment paper (or rounded teaspoonfuls, if you want a smaller cookie).

Bake for 15 minutes, until coconut is golden brown. Be careful in the last few minutes, so as to not burn the coconut.

Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Bean

A better experience for me, than the Mayan Chocolate Ice Cream, was the Vanilla Bean offering from Häagen-Dazs. This is a simple ice cream, done well with real vanilla beans and pure, sweet cream. Still too expensive for everyday eating, but as an indulgence, great, as you only need to eat a little.

Häagen-Dazs Mayan Chocolate

My sister had tried this recently, it intrigued me when I first heard about it, wondering if it would be any good, or what their idea of Mayan was, whether it came close to what I would think it would be. Now, to me, the idea of fiery, spicy chocolate would make it Mayan, certainly cinnamon could play in the mix, but I wonder at what prompted them to put in a fudge swirl. Too sweet chocolate for any Mayan experience. And, it would have been good to have some chili spice in there, rather than just the cinnamon. Overall, this was a disappointing experience for me.

Kao Soi Chiang Mai

This is a Chiang Mai dish, Chiang Mai is one of the northern Thailand provinces. You'll likely have to travel there to eat this, it's not normally served in the south, at least not so much in Bangkok. Straw mushrooms are better tasting fresh, here you can only get them canned. Red sugar is also known as Chinese brown sugar, and can be found in all Chinese supermarkets, usually in squares. Preserved green mustard can also be found in most Chinese supermarkets. This is an odd dish, for North Americans, I would say, as the noodles are fried, rather than boiled, making them crunchy, but the sauce that is made and ladled over softens them up before eating them. Like a lot of noodle dishes in Thailand, the appearance is important, the garnishes are sprinkled on top to make the dish look appealing. Delicious!

Kao Soi Chiang Mai
300 g chicken, sliced into bite-sized chunks
1 cup straw mushroom
1/4 cup chili paste (see below for recipe)
1 Tbsp curry powder
2-3 star anise
2 Tbsp red sugar
2 Tbsp light soya sauce
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup water
2-3 Tbsp oil
3-4 fresh flat egg noodle bundles
sliced spring onion, cilantro, shallot, perserved green mustard as desired

Unfold egg noodle, shake off white flour from the noodle. Then fry the noodle on medium high heat until crispy yellow. Set aside.

Stir fry the chili paste with oil until fragrant, then add chicken. Once the chicken is almost done, add straw mushroom and curry powder.

Season with red sugar and light soya sauce. Mix all ingredients together, then add star anise. Add coconut milk and water, simmer them until boiling.

Ladle the curry on the fried crispy noodle as prepared earlier. Sprinkle on top with sliced spring onion, cilantro, shallot and perserved green mustard.

Chili paste
5 Dried Chile Spur Pepper, soaked and cut
6 shallots, chopped
1-1/2 Tbsp minced ginger
1 tsp salt

Grind all the ingredients together to obtain about 1/4 cup of chili paste.

Aztec Cookies

I found this recipe just before Christmas, and knew I had to make it for our Christmas Dinner, for several reasons. The idea of spicy chili and chocolate together is not new, but is one that I have enjoyed in the past. Too, this used a new chili that I had heard of before, ancho chilies, but had never tried. You can find dried ancho chili powder in most supermarkets, bottled by McCormick. It has a heat, but is not too hot. And so, these turned out really good, spicy and chocolate-y, they're also supposed to taste like Aztec hot chocolate.

Aztec Cookies
6 oz unsweetened chocolate
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ancho chili powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1-1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs, at room temperature
icing sugar for rolling and dusting

In double boiler, melt chocolate, stirring until smooth. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, spices and salt and set aside.

In stand mixer fitted with paddle, mix butter and sugar on low 30 seconds. Beat until fluffy on medium high, about 2 minutes. Turn speed to low and add vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, until combined. Slowly add chocolate until combined. Slowly add dry ingredients until combined. Transfer dough to plate and spread out evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Form heaping tablespoons of dough into balls and roll in icing sugar. Place slightly more than 2 inches apart on trays and flatten with bottom of coffee mug. If pans won't fit side by side on middle rack, use top and middle and switch trays halfway through baking time as quickly as possible to maintain oven temperature.

Bake in 180C/350F oven until cracked and cooked through, about 16 minutes. Cool completely and dust with more icing sugar. Store in airtight container for up to 1 week.

Mee Goreng

This is a Malaysian recipe we found on the 'Net, and it turned out really well, quite tasty. You can find yellow noodles in most Chinese supermarkets; they are egg noodles, and often are pre-cooked (look in the fresh noodles section). We used firm tofu that we cut into pieces and fried, instead of dried bean curds. I especially like the yellow colour of this dish!

Mee Goreng
cooking oil
2 cloves garlic (chopped)
3 Tbsp chili paste or to taste (recipe below)
1 lb of Yellow Noodles (rinsed)
3 pieces of dried bean curds (cut into pieces)
1 potato (boiled, peeled, and sliced)
2 eggs
4 squids (cleaned and cut into rings)
a handful of bean sprouts
1 stalk of spring onion (cut into small pieces for garnishing purposes)
2 red chilies (sliced for garnishing purposes)
1 lime (cut into wedges)
2 Tbsp light soy sauce
2 Tbsp dark soy sauce, or kecap manis
3 Tbsp tomato ketchup
Sugar and salt to taste

Heat the wok and pour in the cooking oil. Add garlic, chili paste, sliced potatoes, bean curd and squids. Stir fry until fragrant. Add yellow noodles and sauce and continue stirring. Set the noodles to the side of the wok.

Add some cooking oil and then crack the eggs. Scramble the eggs and mix in with the noodles. Add in the beansprouts and stir fry quickly for another minute. Serve hot and garnish with chopped spring onions and sliced red chilies. Squeeze some lime juice over the noodles before eating.

Chili Paste:

Blend 10 dried small red chilies in a food processor. Add some water and some oil to blend well. Heat the wok and stir fry the paste until the oil separates from paste. Set aside.

Gang Som Gung

This is a very healthy Thai soup, and tastes best if refrigerated overnight, allowing the flavours to develop to their potential. This soup, done well, produces the four tastes of Asia; hot, sour, salty and sweet. You can use whatever vegetables you have on hand, even leafy vegetables are good. We used the small dry chilis for this, they are hotter than the larger chilis.

Gang Som Gung
10 shrimp (deveined)
400 g fresh white fish flesh
1/4 cup tamarind water
1-2 Tbsp fish sauce
1-2 tsp palm sugar
4 cups water
1 boullion cube
2 eggs
mixed vegetables (long bean, cauliflower, green papaya, daikon, zucchini, etc.), cut into small pieces

Chop fish flesh and divide it into 2 portions. Boil one portion until done and blend together with the chili paste (see below for recipe).

Boil water and boullion cube together until boiling, then add the chili paste and fish from above. Once the water is boiling again, add the other portion of fish flesh and cook until done.

Add tamarind water, fish sauce and palm sugar. Taste the soup (It should taste hot, sour, salty and sweet; adjust as you like). Add shrimp and boil for another minute.

Leave overnight in fridge to allow flavours to develop (best), or use right away.

Beat the eggs and fry as an omelette; cut into pieces.

Finally add cut vegetables and omelette pieces; let boil for a minute or two, until vegetables are slightly cooked. Stir well to combine.

Serve hot with steamed rice.

Gang Som Chili paste:
10 dry small chili (seeded)
5 shallots
5 small garlic cloves
1 teaspoon kapi (Thai shrimp paste)
1 teaspoon salt

Soak dry chili until soft, then pat dry. Grind all ingredients together to make a paste.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Perky's Nutty Rice Crunchy Cereal

I'm always perusing the Healthy aisles in the supermarket, looking for something new and interesting, that I can incorporate into my morning meal, and came across this new cereal. Probably better for you than any of the standard sugared cereals available, this one is sweetened with raisin juice concentrate and honey. It's also made from rice, rather than wheat or corn, gluten-free (if that is important to you) rice flour and rice bran specifically. The only other ingredient in its listing is salt. Overall sounds good for you. How does it taste? Not bad, crunchy, definitely a rice flavour, but I doubt I would buy this again, it being too expensive and not a wonderful flavour.

Chuao Todasana

Lest you think I meant that all their bars are unusual, this one seems fairly standard, a dark chocolate bar, though it is unusual in that it uses cacao beans from Venezuela, specifically from around the village of Todasana (which seems also to have good surfing - maybe part of the laidback Caribbean lifestyle they talk about on the packaging). The ingredient listing looks good, with 74% cacao content, cacao liquor, cacao butter, sugar, soya lecithin and vanilla.

How does it taste? Again, I am impressed by this Californian chocolatier, they produce good, even great chocolate, and I again have a fairly good experience with Venezuelan chocolate. I would definitely buy this bar again (and have already).

Anthon Berg New Guinea

The second of the single-origin chocolate bars from the Danish chocolatier Anthon Berg that I have tried, this features Trinitario cacao beans from Papua, New Guinea. With 72% cacao content, the ingredient listing also looks very good, cacao mass, sugar, soya lecithin as an emulsifier and ethyl vanillin flavouring.

How does it taste? Pretty good, Anthon Berg seems to produce good chocolate. It's supposed to have the flavour of smoked peat and malt, but I didn't get either of those. I think I would buy this bar again.

Feletti Dark Chocolate Tanzania

I have a tie to Tanzania, my father was born there, so I'm always intrigued by products from there. This, hopefully, single-source dark chocolate bar, at 75% cacao content, features cacao beans from Tanzania (and I say hopefully, because there is no indication on the packaging that this is true), and is made by the Italian chocolatier Feletti. The ingredient listing is pretty good, cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, soya lecithin as an emulsifier and natural vanilla.

How does it taste? Pretty good, a good dark chocolate, smells quite good, but it doesn't snap very well (not well-tempered?). I think that I would buy this bar again.

Chicken with Gai Lan

I have been reading Barbara Fisher's blog Tigers and Strawberries for a long while now, a big shout out to her, and have wanted to make some of her recipes she's posted, this is the first that I have got to, and I must say that it worked out really well, and even better the second time, as I completely forgot to put in the fermented black soybeans in the first time, despite buying a container of them especially for the recipe; the black bean taste gives it a great flavour. We were even thinking of making this for our Christmas dinner with our relatives. The Shao Hsing wine gives it an interesting flavour too. Gai Lan is also known as Chinese broccoli. Light soy sauce can be found in most Chinese supermarkets, though you have to search for it; the Shao Hsing wine and fermented black soybeans (look for preserved soybeans, usually in salt) are easier to find. I've posted her recipe here, though I have made some changes to the directions, that make it more understandable to me.

Chicken with Gai Lan
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast or chicken thighs cut into thin 1″x1/2″ slices
1 tablespoon Shao Hsing wine or sherry
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
1-1/2 cups thinly sliced onions
1 tablespoon fermented black soybeans
1-1/2" cube fresh ginger, peeled and minced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon Shao Hsing wine or sherry
1 large carrot, peeled and thinly sliced into diagonal, oval-shaped slices (about 1/8″ thick)
1 pound gai lan, bottoms of stems trimmed and thick stems sliced thinly on the diagonal, thin stems and leaves cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup chicken broth or stock
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Toss chicken meat with the first measures of wine or sherry and soy sauce. Sprinkle with cornstarch, then toss with your hands to coat the
chicken pieces thoroughly.

Heat wok until a thin ribbon of smoke coils up from the hot metal. Add oil, and allow to heat for about another thirty seconds. If using a heavy-bottomed pan, heat oil in pan on medium-high heat until hot, then reduce heat slightly. Add onions, and cook, stirring, until they turn golden and translucent. Add soybeans and ginger, and keep stirring for thirty seconds. Move the onion to the edges of the wok or pan to make room for the chicken. Add chicken, and spead out over the bottom of the wok in a single layer. Sprinkle the garlic on top of the chicken and allow the chicken to cook undisturbed for a minute or until the meat browns well on the side touching the wok. Start stirring and cook until most of the pink is gone. Add soy sauce and wine and cook, stirring for thirty more seconds.

Add carrots and thick stem slices of gai lan and cook, stirring until the chicken has no pink showing and the vegetables are tender, about one minute. Add the broth or stock and the thin stem and leaf pieces of gai lan, and cook, stirring, until the gail lan leaves wilt, and the sauce reduces to a nice, thick brown glaze, about another minute.

Remove from heat and drizzle with sesame oil and serve immediately with steamed rice.

S&P Taro Pearls in Coconut Cream

This is the second dessert from Thailand's S&P that we tried. Like the Chandol we tried, this contains coconut cream, brown sugar and glutinous rice, but also taro and tapioca flour. I would say that this one tasted pretty good, though not as good as the Chandol.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays!

This past year has brought a lot of changes to my life, and all for the better. Throughout most of the year, I watched my beautiful Bride take on that wonderful glow that comes from pregancy, and, in September, I welcomed into the world my beautiful baby girl. They both are a joy in my life. May you too have joy in your lives.

I wish everyone all the best, joy, luck, surprises, in this holiday season and into the New Year.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Nutella - 40 Years of Breakfast in Canada

This year marks 40 years of Nutella in Canada, and to celebrate, Nutella Canada is running a contest. Submit your best picture of your family enjoying Nutella to this contest, and you could win a $5000 Kitchen Makeover from RONA from Nutella Canada. Go here to enter. You can also find in most stores a limited edition 750 g Nutella jar celebrating 40 years of breakfast in Canada.

I'm glad to see that I was around to enjoy Nutella for most of my life, but I want to know what they were doing the first few years of my young life! Oh, only kidding. Being of German and European heritage (I am aware that Nutella is Italian, and not German, as some would think, it's owned by Ferrero, perhaps more commonly known by their chocolate-hazelnut offering Ferrero Rocher), Nutella was a part of my growing up, and I knew about its great taste long before all my North American friends, as Nutella was available in the European delicatessens way before any other kind of store. Nowadays, you can find Nutella anywhere, it seems, and it's enjoyed by a cross-section of people (not just us "Europeans").

Nutella introduced me to hazelnuts long before I even knew what hazelnuts were or that I enjoyed them so much.

Another memory from growing up - my sister and I would have this argument, she maintained that Nutella must be spread on a naked slice of bread or toast, I enjoyed it with butter spread on there first, and I'm talking soft sweet butter on bread, not on toast, which immediately melts (still do, though these days I don't use butter much, other than for baking, and so when I spread Nutella on bread, there is no pre-spread of butter, so, I still say she hasn't won, it's just circumstance that makes me eat it that way, not preference - I'll have to remind myself to put out a little butter for the weekend, now that I've created a craving for it!). Try it, you might just enjoy it.

Here are a couple recipes to get you baking with Nutella, Chocolate Nutella Honey Cake and Nougat Crescents.

Thanks, Nutella, for the wonderful taste of the hazelnuts and the memories!! Here's to 40 more!!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Chuao Chocolatier Caracas

I found several chocolate bars from the Carlsbad California chocolatier Chuao Chocolatier, they seem to have several unusual chocolate bars in their product line. I was intrigued too to see that they use cacao from Venezuela (hence the name of the bar, Caracas, which is the capitol of Venezuela!). This bar, with 60% cacao content, combines nuts and chocolate, specifically Californian hazelnuts, pistachios and almonds. The ingredient listing looks good, dark chocolate (made from cacao liquor, cacao butter, sugar, soy lecithin and vanilla), almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios. The packaging was different, it is like a sealed plastic bag, rather than the more common foil wrapper.

How does it taste? The nuts were whole, I'm pleased to see, and crunchy. The chocolate was dark and smooth, pretty good chocolate. I definitely tasted the hazelnuts, a little of the almonds; the pistachios were least present (I have grown to like pistachios and hope that I can one day properly taste the combination of chocolate and whole pistachios). I definitely think that I would buy this bar again, and am further intrigued at tasting any of their other offerings.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Manora Fried Crab Chips

The idea of seafood in chips is not a new one, anyone who has been to a good Asian restaurant has seen and eaten shrimp chips. This Thai version is made from fresh crab meat bound with tapioca starch and then fried. Quite interesting in taste and consistency, it's a good alternative to the potato based chips we are all used to. I've found these in a number of Chinese supermarkets.

Honey Sundried Banana (Gluoy Tak)

This is a preserved food, which you can find in markets in Thailand, the smaller Thai banana is first sun-dried, then preserved with a little salt and some honey. Good tasting, if you like dried fruit.

Halwani Brothers Maamoul Date Filled Cookies

Looking at the back of the package, I can see another of their offerings that intrigues me, the Pistachio one, but this one I thought would be good too. I like date squares, and date cookies, just eating dates too is good; my interest in pistachios is fairly recent. Now this is a fairly good prepared (ie. not made from scratch) cookie, with few ingredients, flour, dates paste, butter, sugar and baking powder. And they taste pretty good as well. The dates here are from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Jin Xuan Oolong

Jin Xuan Oolong, or High Mountain Tea, is a special variety of Camellia Sinesis (tea) that can grow at very high elevations, the fog or clouds present high in the mountains make for excellent growing conditions for oolong, producing a fragrant and light creamy tea. Oolong is tea that is between green and black, closer to green, though it lacks the grassiness of green tea, nor does it have the rosy, sweet aroma of black tea. Some of the best comes from Taiwan. I remember being gifted with a quantity of special 'High Mountain Tea', from Taiwan, very good, with a very sweet flavour, you got a kind of 'numbness' at the back of the teeth when you drank it. Now, this is definitely high mountain tea, and very flavourful, but not the same quality of that wonderful tea. And where did I get it? At Zen Gardens, an excellent vegetarian restaurant, specifically at their Mississauga location, which I find not so good as their Cambridge location.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Anthon Berg Chocolate Origins Venezuela

Of the four Chocolate Origins bars I recently purchased of Anthon Berg's, this one intrigued me the most, as I had mostly enjoyed the chocolate from Venezuelan beans made by Chocolates El Rey, so I tried it first. Anthon Berg is a Danish chocolatier, in operation since 1884, and also is in appointment to the Royal Danish Court. This bar is milk chocolate, described as Vivid milk, it contains a combination of the better tasting Criollo cocoa bean and the stronger tasting complex Trinitario. This bar is supposed to have the flavours of vanilla and caramel (which I can taste). The cacao content is at 44%, not quite what is considered dark. The ingredient listing looks good, sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa mass, whole milk powder and real vanilla.

How does it taste? A very good smooth milk chocolate, I definitely get the caramel-y sweetness. It was priced at $4-5. I think that I would buy this bar again, despite it being not dark.

Amalia Dark Chocolate with Almonds

Amalia is another Spanish chocolatier, this is one of their bars, a dark chocolate with almonds. The cacao content is at 55%, and is thus just a dark chocolate bar. Otherwise, the ingredient listing looks good, sugar, cocoa (cocoa and cocoa butter), almonds (at 15% content), lecithin and vanillin.

How does it taste? The chocolate is definitely dark, and serves as a decent dark chocolate, but certainly not a great one. The almond pieces are big, which is good. Overall, I would say that this bar is okay, and that I would not buy it again.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Strawberries in Roselle Syrup

My beautiful Bride found this recipe on Chez Pim, though Pim used hibiscus, and thought I might like it, she declared it a secret recipe, a special surprise for me. And it was interesting, I couldn't quite figure out what it was, until I realized that we had recently made some roselle. The combination of Roselle, or Hibiscus, or Sorrel, and vanilla with the strawberries is quite interesting, though it wasn't until we hit upon the idea of pouring this over vanilla ice cream, that it really shone as a dessert. Wow, is it ever good with ice cream!

Strawberries in Roselle Syrup
1 vanilla bean pod
2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup dry roselle

Cut vanilla bean in half and scrape the vanilla beans out, putting the beans and the pod into the water. Bring the water to a boil. Add sugar and stir until it dissolves. Add roselle and allow completely to cool. Clean strawberries, cutting the green leaf off. Pat the strawberries dry. Cut the strawberries into quarters; set aside. Strain the roselle syrup to get just the liquid; throw away everything else. Put cut strawberries in a shallow container, cover with the roselle syrup. Place in the fridge until it is cold.

Von Geusau Chocolates Star Anise Dark

I had never heard of the South African chocolatier, Von Geusau; too this is my first South African chocolate bar, and the first I've seen with the flavour of star anise. The ingredient listing looks good, there is no indication of the cacao content, though they use Belgian chocolate; cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin and star anise. This too is an unusual bar, in that it is 110 g, most bars I've seen are 100 g. I did see some of their other offerings, this one was the most unusual.

How does it taste? The star anise flavour is there, but fairly subtle (and on the other hand, not overpowering). The chocolate is smooth, but I don't think the flavour combination is to my tastes. This too is an expensive bar, at $5-7.

S&P Thai Chandol in Coconut Cream

My beautiful Bride calls this Pla Grim Kai Tao, or fish and turtle eggs; I would be interested in learning the story behind this. At least, roaming street vendors in Thailand once offered the contents of two pots they would carry on one shoulder, one sweet with brown sugar and the chandol (the rice flour "worms"), another salty with coconut cream and the chandol; my beautiful Bride remembers stopping them, and that her mother liked this dish; this is now disappearing more and more. Another place to find it is the open markets, too you could find this dish in certain stores that carry traditional Thai food. This is S&P's version of that dish, S&P being a well-known and respected brand, so it should taste good.

And it did, the worms are made of rice flour, both glutinous and not, and as you can see, it does not look at all like the packaging offers.

Jubilen Extra Noir

This is my first chocolate bar from Portugal, thankfully it was a good experience. The name of the chocolatier is Imperial Produtos Alimentares, S.A.. At 70% cacao content, the ingredient listing looks okay, cocoa paste, sugar, cocoa butter, concentrated butter (? - hopefully not one of those fake cocoa butter replacements, though butter would be better than some of the other fake ingredients I have heard of), emulsifier (soya lecithin) and flavouring.

How does it taste? Fairly smooth chocolate, lots of "darkness", good flavour. I think I would buy this bar again, but I'm still wondering about the concentrated butter.

Mango Honey Cake

I had the idea of using mango puree for this dish, but decided at the last moment that it would add too much liquid to the cake, and instead used a cup of Philippine Mango Powder; I think that I should have gone with my original idea in addition to the mango powder, certainly the mango-ness was lost in the honey flavour. Don't get me wrong, it was still very tasty, we just couldn't taste the mango.

Mango Honey Cake
225 g sweet butter
250 g runny honey
100 g dark muscovado sugar
3 large eggs
300 g (2-1/4 cups) self-rising flour
1 cup mango powder
2 Tbsp honey

Preheat oven to 300F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan. Allow durian flesh to thaw.

Melt butter, honey, and sugar slowly in a saucepan. Boil for one minute. Leave to cool (caramel will thicken).

Beat in eggs one at a time in the saucepan. Whisk in flour into egg caramel mixture in two batches. Mix mango powder well into the flour mixture with a whisk.

Pour into the greased pan and bake for 50-55 minutes or until cake is golden brown and spring back when pressed.

Turn out the cake onto a wire rack. Warm 2 Tbsp honey in a small saucepan and brush over the top of the cake to glaze. Leave to cool.