Monday, January 19, 2009

Two kinds of ice cream from Hime

The first of the ice creams from Hime is the more traditional of the two, Green Tea, made from Japanese Matcha tea, a popular dessert in Japanese restaurants. It tastes pretty good, though it has a strong green tea flavour and is medium dark green in colour. I would say an acquired taste.

The second of the two ice creams is the more unusual, ginger ice cream. I was disappointed that it was only candied ginger pieces, which flavoured the vanilla ice cream around it, and made it sweet, I would rather the ice cream had ginger in it and thus be a little spicy. Still, not bad, but again I would say an acquired taste.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Dove Dark Individual Squares

Dark chocolate is good for you, there's enough evidence to suggest that, and I had heard off and on about the benefits of Dove Dark Chocolate, in particular, and the healthy flavanols that are in it (and you can read about them in that website, I applaud Mars for going in that direction, though any good dark chocolate bar has them, and if we just got rid of milk chocolate, we'd all be healthier). I've given little credence to a dark chocolate bar that contains milk ingredients, it must just make the dark chocolate category (ie. 49%). The ingredient listing is not good for a dark chocolate, sugar is the first ingredient (again suggesting it just makes the dark chocolate category), cocoa mass, cocoa butter, milk ingredients, soy lecithin, cocoa powder (wow, this must be a small amount to be less than soy lecithin), flavour and artificial flavour.

How does it taste? Very smooth, certainly, melts in the mouth well, and not bitter (and a little sweet). This chocolate reminds me, now that I think of it, too much of eating chocolate pudding. I like the sayings in the wrappers. As to the health benefits, certainly it would be better than milk chocolate, though I see that Dove/Mars makes a 71% cacao content bar, I think that would be a better choice health-wise.

Peanut Kisses

Along with the turrones de mani that my Philippine co-worker brought, she also gave me these snacks, what looks to me like peanut macaroons; I say that, because its ingredients are peanuts, cane sugar, egg whites and vanilla, very similar to most macaroon recipes I've made. They taste very peanut-y, and have a crunch to them. Not bad, though I would say an acquired taste.

Turrones de Mani

These Philippine snacks, famous from the city of Cagayan de Oro, were brought in by a co-worker, she brought them back from a recent trip there. Near as I can tell, they contain a mixture of peanuts and honey (the package says it contains the finest bee honey! Bee honey! I didn't realize there was any other kind!) surrounded by a crispy flour shell. Not bad tasting.

Godiva Chocolatier Sao Tomé Dark Chocolate with Cacao Nibs

My sister and I, independently and unaware of the other's purchase, bought this Godiva Chocolatier bar; she came to try it first, and recommended it to me. There's a Godiva store at Square One in Mississauga, but I've never really bought anything from them, I found them to be too expensive for what they offered. This bar, featuring cacao beans from the island of Sao Tomé off the western coast of Africa (I've had other bars with beans from this island), has a cacao content of 75%, and also features cacao nibs. The ingredient listing is good, chocolate liquor, sugar, soya lecithin and cacao nibs.

How does it taste? Not bad, there is a good espresso kind of dark chocolate flavour, the cacao nibs give it a good crunch. My sister liked it, recommended it, my beautiful Bride enjoyed it as well, but I don't know that I would buy this bar again.

Pork with Roots

I've made this recipe quite a few times since I found it on Anne's Food, a big thank you to Anne! It's an excellent recipe, if you like pork and winter vegetables (ie. root vegetables), which I do, the combination works so well together, though I think this should rather have been called Roots with a little Pork. Still good. The balsamic vinegar and honey combine together to give it a good flavour as well. I've also made this with Chinese daikon and kohlrabi; I can't see why you couldn't use parsnips either. Serve with brown rice or a good thick slice of whole-grain bread.

Pork with Roots
250-300 g lean pork, no bones
2 medium carrots
200 g rutabaga
100 g celeriac (celery root)
1 white turnip
1 yellow onion
1 bouillon cube
200 mL water
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
dried thyme, oregano and tarragon, a good pinch of each
freshly ground pepper
2 tsp good runny honey
2 Tbsp olive oil

Cut the carrots into thick coins. Dice the rutabaga and turnip into large dice, and the celeriac into small dice. Cut the onion into wedges. Cut the pork into bite-sized pieces.

Heat up the olive oil in a large pot. Brown the meat on all sides. Add the carrot, rutabaga, turnip and onion, and give it a good stir. Add the bouillon cube, the water and the balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle each pinch of dried herbs over the vegetables.

Bring to a boil, cover with a lid and lower heat to low. Let it simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until all the vegetables are soft. If the heat is too high, you may have to add more water.

Season to taste with runny honey and freshly ground pepper.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Le Chocolate Milk and White Chocolate with Strawberries

This is a large format bar of the Milk and White Chocolate with Strawberries that I reviewed, and enjoyed, earlier. As you can see, there are a lot of strawberries, and a lot of chocolate, 400 g worth.

Chocolove Extra Strong Dark

Chocolove makes some pretty good chocolate, I've enjoyed all of their bars that I've eaten (okay, three now, but all good). This one, at 77% cacao content from beans out of Africa and South America, has a very simple ingredient listing, cocoa liquor, sugar, cocoa butter and soy lecithin.

How does it taste? It has a very nice snap, its smell is not strong, it melts well in the mouth, and it leaves a pleasant if bitter aftertaste. My beautiful Bride enjoyed this chocolate bar, and that is saying a lot, as she does prefer dark chocolate, but more 55% kinds, with nuts. I would definitely buy this bar again.

Chuao Firecracker

I would say that this is the most unusual chocolate bar I have seen from the Californian chocolatier Chuao (owned by two brothers from Venezuela), this is a dark chocolate, at 60% cacao content, bar with chipotle, salt and popping candy (essentially dried carbon dioxide in sugar, that "pops" when you eat it; the solid carbon dioxide becomes gas in your wet mouth). The ingredient listing is again good, cacao liquor, sugar, cacao butter, soy lecithin, vanilla, popping candy, chipotle, chili pasilla and salt.

I saw this program as to how the Firecracker truffles were made (forgive me if I don't recall exactly how they were made, I'm doing this from memory, and it's likely they glossed over a few steps). Firstly, hot caramel was added to Chuao Chocopods; the two were mixed until smooth. To this was added the spices and salt, again mixing until well combined. Once the chocolate was cooled off a little, popping candy was added; the chocolate and candy were mixed well. Individual truffles were formed from this mixture. The truffles were then coated in cacao powder, then in melted chocolate, then again in popping candy, and again one more time in melted chocolate.

Like the other bars I have tasted, the cacao is from Venezuela, from the famous cacao-growing region called Chuao, in central Venezuela (Chuao Chocolatier contributes to the Aguasanta Growth Initiative, a program dedicated to the restoration of cacao in Venezuela).

How does it taste? Well, this was the most unusual bar that I have eaten in a long while, and I savoured the flavour of the chocolate by allowing it to melt in my mouth, the spice warming my tongue and throat, and then came the sometimes violent popping of the candy. I would like to try the truffle version, certainly, and it was much better than the previous encounter with chocolate and popping candy. I would buy this bar again, if I were to find it, but I think I prefer others of theirs.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Greenday Durian Chips

We had been looking for some durian chips, and found some from Thailand the other day in a local Chinese supermarket, though we thought, and hoped, that maybe they were like these, my beautiful Bride's favourite, I like them too, but they ended up being more like these, which I like but she doesn't. They don't actually say on the packaging how they are prepared (you can see why durians are called golden pillows). Regardless, they are dried chunks of durian, a little crunchy, but very durian in flavour.

Crofter's Organic Blood Orange Premium Spread

I like blood oranges, and look forward to them every Winter, now that I discovered them, so I was interested in this jam I found in the Organic section of Loblaws (I think you can find this particular brand in most health food stores). Not only is the jam organic, it has 1/3 less sugar than conventional jams, and has a high fruit content. Ingredients, other than blood oranges, include golden sugar (dehydrated cane juice), natural fruit pectin, ascorbic acid and citric acid. So far, so good.

Regardless of how healthy it purports to be, it's no good if it doesn't have excellent flavour. This definitely has the taste of blood orange, and smells really fragrant and tasty, which I like very much, though there is an underlying bitterness to this jam that spoils my enjoyment and makes we wonder if it would taste better with the missing 1/3 sugar.

Update: I've eaten two blood oranges in the last couple of days, one was sweet, the other one was slightly bitter, similar to the underlying bitterness I was talking about. Still, I'd say go with a little extra sugar.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

King's Vegetarian Food

My beautiful Bride had know about King's Café, a vegetarian restaurant, with an outlet on Augusta Ave. in Toronto, and others in the Maritimes, but they are part of a larger family of food companies, including Zen Gardens restaurants, with many outlets including one in Mississauga; The King's Tea Inc., seller of many fine Chinese teas (which are also sold at Zen Gardens) under the name of Zen Tea; and King's Vegetarian Food, maker and seller of Chinese-style soy-based vegetarian food substitutes (mock chicken, etc.). I suspect that their products are used by Zen Gardens. They have an outlet, and packaging facility, in Mississauga, located at 355 Brunel Road (905-501-8366). Their soy-based mock meat products are varied, I've seen mock chicken, pork, bacon, turkey, mutton, salmon and tuna. Their chicken is quite tasty and works well in recipes calling for chicken; I'm hoping their mutton is as good. They also sell their Zen Tea line there. As to their hours, Monday to Friday they are open normal business hours (I believe), and, while they are closed Saturdays, in our experience, if you call them during the day and they are working, someone will open the door and allow you to purchase what you'd like.

S&P Assorted Beans in Syrup

This is very similar to the Vietnamese Dessert that I tasted earlier, some of the ingredients are different in this dessert from Thailand's S&P. The syrup is really just brown sugar and water, with caramel colouring, the beans in this dessert are pearl barley, sago (similar to pearl tapioca), dried golden longan, nata de coco (coconut gel), Chinese jujube (red date), dried black longan, kidney bean and lotus seed. Good tasting, though I would prefer the syrup to be less sweet.

Chicken in Mushroom Gravy (Kao Nha Gai)

Save for the typical Asian marinade ingredients, I think that this tastes the most Western of the Thai dishes that I have eaten, a mushroom gravy with chicken. This is a good lunch and fairly easy to make (save for the half hour marinade time, it would be a quick lunch). You can also make a sauce from deseeded sliced red chilis and fish sauce; sprinkle over to give the dish a little kick.

Chicken in Mushroom Gravy (Kao Nha Gai)
150 g boneless, skinless chicken breast or thigh, sliced thinly
1 tsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp light soya sauce
1 Tbsp oyster sauce
1/4-1/2 tsp dark soya sauce, for colour
2 Tbsp milk
1/2 tsp red sugar
3 cloves garlic, minced
5-7 white peppercorns
1 coriander root
1/2 medium onion
3 button mushrooms
2 Tbsp cooking oil
1/2 cup chicken or mushroom broth
1 Tbsp tapioca flour
1/2 Tbsp fish sauce, if desired
sliced cucumbers, for garnish
sliced coriander leaves, for garnish
sliced tomatoes, for garnish

Mix sesame oil, light and dark soya sauces, oyster sauce and milk and place over chicken. Marinate chicken for at least 30 minutes.

Grind garlic, peppercorns, coriander root together in mortar and pestle. Slice onion thinly. Slice button mushrooms thinly. Dissolve the tapioca flour in water; set aside.

Heat heavy-bottomed pan on medium-high heat. When pan is hot, add garlic mixture and stir-fry for 10 seconds. Add onion and stir-fry until translucent. Add chicken and marinade and cook until the chicken is no longer pink inside, 5-6 minutes. Add the mushroom and mix together, stir-fry for another minute. Add the chicken broth. Stir the dissolved tapioca flour again, then add into the pan; mix well to distribute. Cook until sauce thickens.

Taste, adjust seasoning. For more salty taste, add fish sauce; for more sweet, add more red sugar.

Serve over hot fragrant rice, with cucumbers and coriander leaves and tomatoes on the side.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Red Bananas

Red bananas are much like the yellow Cavendish bananas you see everywhere, and eaten the same way (unlike the Cavendish, they are better not bruised). They are also 2-3 times more expensive than their yellow cousin, but still available in most larger supermarkets.

The inside of this banana is light pink (though you might not be able to see it in the picture), and it is definitely softer in texture than the Cavendish. The taste I like better, sweeter; they have been described as having a slight raspberry-banana flavour, I would agree. Another banana variety I like much better than the Cavendish.

Chocolove Raspberries in Dark Chocolate

I had previously tasted one of Boulder Colorado's Chocolove's chocolate bars, a 65% Rich Dark Chocolate and liked it, this now is a dark chocolate bar, at 55% cacao content, Belgian chocolate made from African cacao beans, with raspberries. The ingredient listing looks good, cocoa liquor, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla and freeze-dried raspberries.

How does it taste? Pretty good, I've had chocolate with raspberries before, this is a smooth dark chocolate, that snaps well (is tempered well), the only thing that I don't like about these bars, is that they have small crunchy raspberry seeds that get between your teeth (and I suppose for a normal raspberry eating experience). I would buy this bar again, and hope to taste more of their products.

Foco Passion Fruit Drink

Foco from Thailand makes a number of fruit juices that are pretty good, this is one with passion fruit juice, essentially just water and passion fruit juice (at 25%) with a little sugar. It didn't taste very much like the passion fruit I had eaten before, not as sour, but still good.

Yellow Curry Chicken with Pineapple

The pineapple in this dish was simultaneously sweet, spicy and hot; it tasted excellent! We used chicken thighs, rather than the breast it originally called for. We also used mushroom vegetable stock, rather than the chicken stock it calls for. Yellow curry is less spicy than its red and green near-cousins, and has turmeric to give it its yellow colour. This is an easy dish to make.

Yellow Curry Chicken with Pineapple
adapted from a recipe from Fresh Thai by Oi Cheepchaiissara
1-1/2 Tbsp sunflower oil
1-1/2 Tbsp yellow curry paste (we used Mae Ploy)
300 g boneless, skinless chicken thighs, thinly sliced
3/4 cup canned coconut milk, shaken well
3/4 cup vegetable or chicken stock
10 oz pineapple, cut into 1 inch cubes
1-1/2 Tbsp fish sauce
1 long red chili, stemmed, seeded and finely sliced, to garnish (optional)

Heat the oil in a nonstick wok or skillet and stir-fry the curry paste over medium heat for 2 minutes until fragrant.

Add the chicken and stir-fry for 4-5 minutes.

Add the coconut milk, stock, pineapple and fish sauce.

Spoon into a serving bowl, garnish with chili, and serve immediately.

Book Review - The Fruit Hunters

It was with a mixture of joy, surprise and growing interest, and occasional anger, that I read Adam Leith Gollner's book "The Fruit Hunters". Joy because I enjoy fruit, and have some wonderful experiences eating fruit, climbing a peach tree as a teenager and eating a sun-warmed large juicy peach, the best I've eaten; picking wild blueberries in early August along the rail tracks north-east of Espanola, Ontario, they tasted tart and sweet; canoeing across Cuttle Lake near Fort Frances to again pick wild blueberries. Suprise because I found out about different varieties of fruit available, different heirloom apples with amazing tastes, red and white durians, the miracle fruit (eat it and sour things taste sweet) and its story of intrigue and big business, the lady fruit (looks like a lady's, er, private parts). Growing interest, because I have a desire to taste the fruits I have read about, where they are grown at the time they ripen, rather than waiting for the few picked-too-early-and-not-properly-ripe, crunchy or crisp rather than juicy, fruits we can only buy in supermarkets, and the hundreds of vastly superior in taste varieties of fruit available around the world. And occasional anger, at the bureaucracy that decides which fruits we can and can not have, the banning by the Government of imports of certain fruits for what I can see is little or no good reason, the decision to allow fake chemical potentially-cancer-causing sweeteners to be sold rather than natural alternatives like miraculin (what makes miracle fruit so interesting). Read this book if you are interested in fruit in any way, it will open your eyes to the world of tasty fruit and the activity of fruit hunters, who search the world for exotic and interesting and tasty fruits before they are lost. Fascinating. Intoxicating. Delicious.

Happy New Year!

I hope 2009 brings you the best of health, happiness and joy.