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.

Trapa Supremo Milk Chocolate with Almonds

This is the third of the chocolate bars I tasted from the Spanish chocolatier Trapa (it seems there have been a lot of bars coming out of Spain to Canada recently, or perhaps I've just noticed them more). This one is a milk chocolate, with 28% cacao content. The ingredient listing looks typical to a milk chocolate bar, sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa mass, milk powder, almonds, cocoa powder, soy lecithin, flavours and salt (again with the salt).

How did it taste? Good milk chocolate, but too few almonds and too small pieces for my tastes. I don't think I would buy this bar again, except for my beautiful Bride, who does like it.

Trapa Supremo Dark Chocolate

This is the second of three chocolate bars I tried from the Spanish Chocolatier Trapa. The ingredient listing looks interesting, with 42% cacao content this is a bittersweet chocolate; sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, cocoa powder, soy lecithin, flavours and salt (this is the interesting part).

How did it taste? Very fruity, maybe too fruity (because of too much artificial flavour?), but a smooth chocolate. It would serve in a pinch as an eating bar, but I would choose other bars over this one.

Dona Jimena Almond Milk Chocolate

Another of the chocolate bars from the Spanish chocolatier Dona Jimena is made of chocolate from Belgium. The cacao content is at 25%, and the ingredient listing is typical for a milk chocolate, sugar, milk powder, almonds (at 15% content), cocoa mass, cocoa butter, soy lecithin and artificial flavour (vanillin).

How does it taste? Good milk chocolate, with fairly large almond pieces, my beautiful Bride liked it, and I could buy it for her.

Dona Jimena 70% Dark Chocolate

This Spanish chocolatier uses Belgian chocolate to make its bars. The ingredient listing is quite good, cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa powder and soy lecithin. No vanilla. The cacao content is at 70%.

How does it taste? Fairly smooth chocolate, a little fruity, but nothing outstanding. I don't think I would buy this bar again.

Monday, November 24, 2008

El Rey Sugar Free White Chocolate

I have talked about Venezuela's Chocolates El Rey before, and have reviewed two of their chocolate bars, their Mijao, and their Apamate, both of which I liked; this is another of their bars, different from the other two, in that this is white chocolate, and that it is also sugar free. Sugar free in the sense that it doesn't contain sucrose, rather it substitutes maltitol. Maltitol is a sweetener with similar properties to sucrose, made from maltose, among its benefits is that it does not promote tooth decay and it is absorbed slower than sucrose. The ingredient listing is fairly good, short, maltitol, cocoa butter, milk ingredients, soya lecithin and vanillin.

How does it taste? I would say that this is a very good white chocolate bar, the flavour of the maltitol was not much different than the normal sweetness of sucrose. I don't think that I would buy this again (assuming I could even find a source for it), but it provides more evidence of the quality of Chocolates El Rey.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Curried Chicken and Roasted Root Vegetable Stew

This recipe originally called for skinless, boneless chicken breast, we substituted roasted chicken, though you could use mock or vegetarian chicken, made from soy, and I think that this would taste really good with chicken with bone in (though, it would be less of a Heart Smart recipe, I think the good flavour of the bone-in chicken would enhance the dish). Regardless, this meal tastes great, the roasted vegetables work well with the sauce and the chicken. Use vegetarian oyster sauce and vegetable stock along with the mock chicken to make it a vegetarian meal. We used Malaysian curry powder; use your favourite mixture. Serve it over good hot rice for a great meal.

Curried Chicken and Roasted Root Vegetable Stew
adapted from a recipe from Heart Smart Chinese Cooking by Stephen Wong
250 g potatoes, peeled
250 g sweet potatoes, peeled
250 g parsnips, peeled
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp pepper
375 g roast chicken, cut into 1" pieces
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup flour
1-1/2 tsp canola oil
3 slices ginger
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 green onions, cut into eighths
1-1/2 cups chicken stock
1 Tbsp curry powder
1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
1-1/2 tsp light soy sauce
1-1/2 tsp oyster sauce

Preheat oven to 200C/400F.

Cut root vegetables into 1 inch pieces. Mix with oil and pepper until well coated. Spread evenly in medium roasting pan. Bake 25 minutes, until just tender, turning once or twice.

Meanwhile, combine sauce ingredients and set aside.

Season chicken with salt, then toss in flour until evenly coated. Heat heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add oil, ginger and chicken and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add onion and garlic and continue to stir-fry until all ingredients are golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Add sauce ingredients and bring to boil. Reduce heat and cover to simmer for 5 minutes. Add roasted vegetables, mix and cover to simmer for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add green onions and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more on medium-high heat to thicken sauce, if desired.

Lindt Excellence Fleur De Sel

Fleur de Sel is hand-harvested sea salt from Brittany in France, expensive greyish salt that enhances most savoury foods by sprinkling over just before serving, just like fresh herbs (there are lots of different kinds of sea salts you can buy, each with a different colour and taste, Fleur de Sel is just one of the more famous). I have heard of a few ways of adding this salt to enhance sweet dishes, certainly there are enough with caramel, it pairs well with caramel, even Haagen-Dazs has one, but I have heard of few with just chocolate. This is a dark chocolate bar, but just dark, at 47% cacao content. The ingredient listing is very similar to very many of the Lindt bars, sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, butter fat, soya lecithin, sea salt, and artificial flavour.

How does it taste? Honestly, because I knew it contained Fleur de Sel, I was able to taste it, but I would say that it is subtle, and my beautiful Bride didn't get what was in the chocolate until I told her. I think that the saltiness would pair better with sweeter chocolates, not with the bitterness of this bar. Otherwise, it's good Lindt chocolate, which I don't know is quite enhanced by the saltiness. I doubt that I would buy this bar again.

Sesame Mochi

This normally Korean baked good we bought in a Chinese supermarket, it was an attempt to duplicate the crunchy sesame and flour ball. Japanese mochi are different, they are made from glutinous rice flour, and are normally filled with a paste with red bean or taro and other flavours. These Korean mochi are better eaten fresh, and they didn't taste so good, as we ate them when they were a little stale, though definitely there was the nuttiness of the sesame. I think, though, that I would rather like to try them baked in a Korean store.

Lindt Lindor Dark Peppermint

Lindt has some chocolate offerings flavoured with mint, such as Excellence Intense Mint and Lindor Mint, this is a version of Lindor with Peppermint and Dark chocolate (60% cacao content), a tie-in to Christmas, as the package displays holly leaves and candy canes (which are traditionally peppermint flavoured - though not so much these days, I have seen butterscotch, blueberry and lots of other flavours). The ingredient listing is very similar to other Lindor products, cocoa mass, sugar, coconut oil, palm kernel oil, cocoa butter, milk ingredients, soya lecithin, peppermint oil, vanilla, barley malt extract and artificial flavour.

How do they taste? Well, they don't remind me immediately of a candy cane, or even at all, the not-melt-so-fast chocolate coating and the melt-really-fast center bring you a shot of peppermint, though not that strong, and the dark chocolate is smooth and good tasting. I don't think I would buy these again, especially for $5-7 per bag.

Stirfry Pumpkin and Egg (Pud Fug Thong)

This is local street food, sold in fresh markets in Thailand, probably considered too cheap food to find in a restaurant. Nevertheless, it is tasty and worth having it prepared fresh (okay, I haven't, yet, but I can see that it would be good). We made it with a Japanese pumpkin we found in a Chinese supermarket, orange in colour, but you can substitute other squashes, like acorn or butternut. Or, likely even the traditional Hallowe'en pumpkin. My beautiful Bride tells me a story, about the second word, I've written it with a 'g', but it could be written, and pronounced with a 'k', so one must be careful of what one says in Canadian, Toronto-ian, supermarkets.

Stirfry Pumpkin and Egg (Pud Fug Thong)
1 cup water
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 cups pumpkin
10 white peppercorns, crushed with mortar and pestle
2 cloves garlic, crushed with mortar and pestle
1 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1 egg

Cut off hard skin of pumpkin. Remove seeds and spongy part around seeds. Cut remaining pumpkin into pieces half and inch thick and 2-3 inches long. Heat oil in heavy pot over high heat. Stir-fry crushed garlic and peppercorns until fragrant. Add the pumpkin pieces and stir to coat with the garlic and peppercorns. Add water and cook for 5 minutes, until pumpkin is tender and water is almost gone. Add fish sauce and sugar in final minute. Add egg and stir-fry until egg is cooked. Serve with hot rice.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Valor Dark Chocolate with Banana

My absolute favourite combination for a chocolate fondue is banana, thus I was excited to see this chocolate bar by the Spanish chocolatier Chocolates Valor, S.A. (I've always thought someone should make one). Too, this is a dark chocolate bar; at 70% cacao content, a very dark one (even better - dark chocolate with banana). The ingredient listing looks good, chocolate processed with alkali, sugar, cocoa, cocoa butter, fructose, banana pulp, natural flavour, soy lecithin and citric acid.

How does it taste? Did I set myself up for too much of a disappointment. It certainly smells good, opening the package, looks very dark and snaps well. And the early indications are, that my beautiful Bride enjoyed it when she ate it earlier in the day. So, it does taste good, the chocolate though is perhaps a little too bitter for the combination of banana and chocolate, or perhaps there needed to be more banana (in a fondue, it's banana with a chocolate coating that makes it good). Overall, good but not great. I think I would buy this bar again.

Pork with Nam Prik Pao

This is a versatile recipe, you could the same basic ingredients and make a chicken version, or a seafood one with shrimp or squid, and it would end up tasting good. You could use the store-bought Nam Prik Pao, we used it here, or make your own (it will likely be more spicy). This is a creation of my beautiful Bride's, she attempted to duplicate a traditional Thai recipe, and did a good job, as it turned out quite tasty.

Pork with Nam Prik Pao
200 g pork, sliced very thin
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 medium onion, sliced
3 spring onions, cut into thin slices
1/2 tsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp light soya sauce
2 tsp nam prik pao

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottom pan on medium heat. Add the garlic and stir-fry until fragrant and beginning to brown. Add pork and stir-fry until almost cooked, 4-5 minutes. Add spring onion and onion slices and stir-fry for 1 minute more. Add fish sauce, soya sauce and nam prik pao, and stir to coat all. Serve warm over hot rice.

Lindt Dark Almond

Unlike the 32% almond content of the Grand Almond White, this very large (300 g) dark chocolate bar has only 15% almond content. The cacao content is at 49%, making it just dark. The ingredient listing is okay, sugar, cocoa mass, almonds, cocoa butter, butterfat, skim milk powder, soya lecithin as an emulsifier and flavouring. How does it taste? Pretty good, the chocolate is good, and pairs better with the almonds than the white chocolate. So, Lindt should marry the two and make a Grand Almond Dark.

Thai Chili Paste (Nam Prik Pao)

Nam Prik Pao is a favourite sauce in Thailand, you can add it to soups such as Tom Yum, as a spicy vegetable dip, as a sauce for cooked jasmine rice and even spread on bread for a spicy treat. This prepared sauce, a favourite of my beautiful Bride and brought all the way from Thailand (if anyone knows where to get this in the Toronto area, greatly appreciated), is different than the one you can make on your own Nam Prik Pao, the chilies used are the longer variety, and thus less spicy. The consistency of the sauce is almost like a jam, with oil. I don't know yet whether I'll try it on bread, but I have added it to various dishes for a little spicy kick.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Lindt Excellence Plantation Diego Vaz

The idea of Single Origin chocolate bars is not new, certainly I've seen lots that feature cacao beans from one country (Ecuadorian beans being one of my favourite), and Michel Cluizel has one or two, I've seen, but this is an unusual chocolate bar for Lindt. Plantation Diego Vaz is located on the island of Sao Tomé, what they call "Chocolate Island", off the western equatorial coast of Africa; some of the finest cacao in the world is grown there. I especially like the ingredient listing of this bar, the cacoa content is at 70%, cacao mass, sugar, cocoa butter and natural bourbon vanilla beans (wonderful that they have this).

How does it taste? Quite good, with the smooth chocolate that most Lindt bars have, though I found their to be an underlying crunchiness as you chewed the squares, I'm not sure if that is sugar crystals or vanilla beans, or even cacao nibs (though there is no indication of this on the package. This bar was not any more expensive than any of the other Excellence line. I believe I would buy this bar again.

Ethnic Food Source - Vientiane Supermarket

My beautiful Bride's brother showed us this store on Weston Rd., on Bradstock Rd. north of Sheppard Ave. (on the right side as you are going north on Weston Rd., in an older strip mall next to a Latin restaurant). The owners are from Laos (Vientiane is the capitol city of Laos), which is next to Thailand, and thus they have a lot of products from Thailand (it seems far more than from Laos), including fresh vegetables and frozen goods. We've found holy basil, krachai and kaffir limes for sale there, as well as lots of interesting frozen Thai products. Too, they have Thai recipe books, magazines, snacks, rice, noodles, lots of bottled vegetables and sauces, and a fair amount of Latin foods (for the clientele in the area).

Lindt Grand Almonds White

I had thought this was the White version of the Grand Hazelnuts line, I was a little surprised to see that instead, it contains whole almonds and caramelized almond slivers. And it quite features almonds, they are the first ingredient in the listing, at 32%, followed by sugar, cocoa butter, milk ingredients, soya lecithin and artificial flavours.

How does it taste? Not bad, lots of almond flavour, the white chocolate part is also not too sweet. My beautiful Bride likes this very much, though she does prefer almonds over hazelnuts (okay with me; more hazelnuts for me).

Sweet Fish Sauce (Nam Pla Wan)

This dipping sauce, used only for raw Thai sour mango, is made from mostly sugar (to counteract the sourness of the mango), Thai shrimp paste, fish sauce and dried shrimp; definitely the combination of sour, sweet and salty is in this sauce. And definitely an acquired taste, I didn't care for it, so more for my beautiful Bride, in this case.

Black Beans in Sweet Coconut Sauce (Tua Dam)

This is a simple, yet delicious dessert, the combination of black beans with coconut is quite good (I'd have thought of black beans as a savoury dish ingredient, and mostly in Western food, though it works well as a dessert).

Black Beans in Sweet Coconut Sauce
1 cup dry black beans
3/4 cup coconut milk
salt to taste
1/3 cup palm sugar
2 Tbsp cane sugar
1/2 cup sliced young coconut meat
2 cups water

Soak the black beans in water overnight. They will swell to approximately double their size.

Place the beans in a steamer and steam for 30 minutes, until they are slightly tender.

Put the sugars, coconut milk, water, salt and young coconut meat together in a pan and boil on a medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the beans are tender.

Chinese Spaghetti Sauce Soup

Chinese spaghetti sauce a vegetarian sauce, we first encountered this dish when we went to the Buddhist Temple in Mississauga, we tried to near-duplicate their noodle-soup dish. The sauce is mostly soy and wheat gluten in oil with a little green bean, mushroom, sugar and spices. You can use it directly on spaghetti as a sauce, but it works well as a ingredient in soup.

You can use any kind of noodles in this dish, we had egg noodles on hand. To make it non-vegetarian, you can use heated chicken stock. To finish the soup, stir together so that the sauce permeates throughout the stock. Quite delicious.

Chinese Spaghetti Sauce Soup
egg noodles, enough for two
mushroom stock, made with boiling water
baby bok choy, a handful per person
julienned carrot, a handful per person
Chinese spaghetti sauce, 2 Tbsp per person

Cook the noodles until they are done. Place noodles in the bottom of a big soup bowl. Blanch the bok choy for 2 minutes, until they are slightly soft. Place a handful of bok choy leaves on top of the noodles. Place a handful of julienned carrots on top of the noodles. Carefully cover the soup ingredients with the stock. Place a couple of tablespoons of the Chinese spaghetti sauce on the side. Serve hot.