Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Anthon Berg Chocolate Origins Ghana - Dark Intensity

The fourth of the Chocolate Origins line from Anthon Berg (the others being Venezuela, New Guinea and Ecuador), this one features cacao beans from the African country Ghana; these beans are Forastero (both the cocoa mass and the nibs). With 60% cacao content, the ingredient listing looks good, cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, finely chopped roasted cocoa beans and rapeseed/canola lecithin as an emulsifier.

How does it taste? It smells very good, if a little sweet and fruity, snaps well and does not taste chalky, rather fruity. The cacao nibs give it a good crunch. I don't have a good source for these bars, nor even really a source at all, but, if I did, I would buy this bar again.

Tanzanian Curried Chicken-Banana Soup

I have somewhat of an African heritage, from Tanzania, onetime Tanganyika, specifically my father was born there, though food-wise this heritage is sparse, and I've never really felt a need to discover the cuisine of that former German protectorate (my father is not a chef, my mother did the cooking, and she cooked mostly German and North American meals, so I was never exposed to that kind of food till much later). Really, the only African dish I remember my father regularly bringing to the table (mostly in the fall when the corn came out), is something he called ngati, which consisted of field or feed corn, with the tough kernels which are normally feed to livestock, you boil these for a long while, then add some red kidney beans and boil some more; what you get is something which I believe is designed to make you chew for a long while, then cleans out your system (or so I have memories of it, I haven't eaten it for a long while, but my father continued to enjoy it well into his 60's; he's almost 80 now, so it must have been good for something).

The curry powder I used for this soup is certainly not traditional, though there were a fair number of Indians living in Tanganyika and they had curries (which my father enjoyed as well, though the one that we made wasn't that spicy and the appeal of it, to my father, was the little side accompaniments); we used a Malaysian curry powder that we had on hand. Too, I used Ancho chili powder, sweeter and raisin-y in flavour, rather than a hot chile that would be used. I also used young coconut meat rather than the older water coconut meat, we had some frozen, and I just roughly chopped the meat up, though I think that the more traditional older coconut ground fine would have tasted better, and provided a sweet coconut base flavour to the soup. Lastly, we used sweet bananas, rather than what I would guess is used more traditionally, plantains, which are more starchy and less likely to fall apart when cooked. Still, the product of our labours was great tasting, and we used it more as a sauce than a soup, I first had it with rice, then we both enjoyed it with noodles. The result of our curry-chili mixture was not so spicy hot, feel free to up the temperature if you need to. My beautiful Bride wanted me to make this again, and soon, which is a testament to how good it tasted.

Tanzanian Curried Chicken-Banana Soup
4 Tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
4 chicken thighs, bone-in, or 3-lb. chicken, cut into pieces
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 Tbsp curry powder
1 Tbsp dried red chile, ground to a powder
2 tsp black pepper
8 cups chicken stock
1 large tomato (or 4 canned tomatoes), peeled and chopped
1 cup fresh coconut, grated
2 ripe bananas, sliced into chunky quarter pieces

In a Dutch oven, brown the chicken pieces in the oil. Remove chicken, reserving, and add the onion and garlic to the pot. Sauté until soft, then stir in the powdered chile, the curry, and the black pepper and fry for 2 more minutes. Add the tomatoes, stock, chicken pieces, and coconut, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

When the chicken is done, remove, let cool, then strip away the meat and cut it into bite-sized chunks, discarding the skin and bones. Add it back into the pot with the banana chunks. Simmer 10 minutes.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Vivani Organic Dark Lemon

It was a while ago that I tried two of the German chocolatier Vivani's bars, I thought their Green Tea was interesting, but their Ecuador one failed, but I thought this one was interesting enough to give it another shot (or perhaps it was long enough for me not to really remember what they tasted like, my beautiful Bride was "my beautiful Thai friend" then - beautiful then, beautiful now), it contains lemon, one of my favourite flavours. Certainly the ingredient listing looks good, at 70% cacao content, cocoa mass, raw cane sugar, cocoa butter and lemon essential oil (all certified organic in Germany); they make a point of stating no soy lecithin - I at least applaud their effort to not use it nor vanilla flavour (real or not).

How did it taste? The lemon flavour was not strong on opening the packaging, one had to get ones nose right up close to smell it. The chocolate snaps good, and does not suffer from bad tempering (and perhaps that Ecuador one was just a 'lemon'). The chocolate melts fairly well in the mouth, and the lemon oil is fairly dominant in the flavour, there is an underlying bitterness coming from the lemon oil (different than the bitterness of chocolate), that may turn people off (and did me a little, but my beautiful Bride didn't get the lemony flavour, until I told her) - though it is better if you chew it rather than let it melt in your mouth (and thus not activate your 'bitter' tastebuds). Overall, it was a good bar, but not a great bar, and I don't think that I will buy this again.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Rösti with Purple Fingerling Potatoes

We used those Organic Purple Fingerling Potatoes that we got the other day, you can see that they are at least a little purple on the inside, far more colourful than the regular potato we used as well. And the purple fingerling potatoes were far more flavourful, quite good tasting. This recipe is different from the last Rösti recipe that I posted, the potatoes are not boiled before frying, similar to German Potato Pancakes, and they are fried in oil instead of butter. Quite good.

Rösti with Purple Fingerling Potatoes
2-3 medium potatoes, peeled and coarsely grated
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
salt, to taste

Heat non-stick frying pan on medium heat, then add oil. Place grated potatoes onto frying pan and spread out till it fills pan. Season with salt to taste. Fry potatoes until bottom is golden brown, then flip over (I used two plates to flip; if you're more talented, then you can flip using just a spatula). Fry opposite side until it is golden brown as well. Serve hot as a side dish.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lindt De Luxe Dark Collection

I bought this the other day at the Lindt Outlet store, likely because it was on sale, and it is dark chocolate, normally I don't like filled chocolates (okay, some exceptions).

Here's the box opened up, all the chocolates revealed. Looks interesting so far, but I must confess, I spilled the contents, and I guessed as to how they should fit, so it might not reflect the actual layout.

The Lune d'Oranges is filled with orange marzipan with a hint of orange liqueur, covered in dark chocolate. This one was not so orangey, not bad tasting.

The Pistachette is filled with pistachio marzipan, covered in dark chocolate and topped with a whole glazed pistachios. Pretty good, my favourite of the two marzipans, I like pistachio, though this does not have a strong pistachio flavour.

The Caramelita is filled with caramel cream filling topped with creamy caramel and coated in dark chocolate. This one was very sweet, though not bad.

The Dragon Classique (I like the name), is filled with marc de champagne truffle filling enrobed in milk chocolate and topped with the Lindt dragon in dark chocolate. Marc de champagne is still not my favourite. Not bad.

Serenade is filled with orangey-caramel and enrobed in fine dark chocolate. This was too sweet, and more orangey than the Lune d'Oranges.

The Stracciatella is filled with white chocolate filling with pieces of milk chocolate and cookie chunks and enrobed in dark chocolate. This was good, though a little sweet.

The Noccino was my favourite. It is filled with caramelized walnut pieces in a velvety hazelnut cream, covered in dark chocolate. Good tasting.

The Cornet Excellence is filled with a bittersweet truffle and enrobed in fine bitter dark chocolate. This was not bad, though it had kind of a liqueur taste to it, that ruined it for me, and I don't know where it came from.

The last of the dark chocolates is the Amaretti, which is filled with amaretti filling (marzipan) in dark chocolate and sprinkled with crunchy, crushed amaretti crumbs. Not bad.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Restaurant Review - The Host

We've been to The Host's Mississauga location several times (33 City Center Dr., at the corner of Robert Speck Parkway, just west of Hurontario, by Square One), there are two others, one in Yorkville and one in Richmond Hill, and enjoyed their all-you-can-eat buffet (only at lunch Thursday to Sunday - about $15 per person on the weekend); we'll likely go back again. You can also eat a la carte at other times, prices are fairly reasonable ($9-15 per dish). The buffet has a number of interesting South Indian and Indian dishes, including meat and vegetarian ones, with appetizers, soups and salads (pretty typical of most buffets). Some of our favourites are the Murgh Makhni, or Butter Chicken (an award winning dish); Rara Goat, with a brown curry of tomatoes and onions (ok, I like that one); Fish Amritsari, Punjabi white pasa fish marinated in spices and deep fried in gram flour batter (excellent!); Panir Makhni, homemade cottage cheese cooked in buttery tomato sauce; Gulab Jamun, a dessert made from milk solids and flour in a syrup flavoured with cardamon and rosewater (wonderful! I could eat half a dozen of these, and have!); their Nan is also tasty.

Kashi Trail Mix Chewy Granola Bar

The newest of the Kashi Seven Whole Grain granola bars, this one features, along with the seven whole grains that are in all their products, crunchy, roasted almonds (very crunchy), sun-dried raisins and sweet, tangy cranberries (which I didn't really taste), along with roasted sunflower seeds. The other ingredients that make it a bar at least look healthy (evaporated cane juice and brown rice syrup and honey as sweeteners). This does contain nuts, even a small amount of peanut flour, for those with allergies. I still prefer their dark chocolate and cherry one, though this one was pretty good.

Loves Flower Durian Cake

Similar to the Pineapple Cake from Kumei Enterprises, this is a shortbread pastry with durian jam within. There isn't really a similar meaning to this kind of cake (pineapple = prosperity), it is just another version, but still liked.

This I didn't find so easily as the pineapple version; other flavours are more popular, I guess. I found the durian fragrance to be strong and inviting when you open the small package, but the durian flavour as you bit into the cake was not so strong, and it had several very chewy bits, so a little disappointing for this durian fan. I think I prefer the original pineapple flavour.

Loves Flower Pineapple Cake

Pineapple is a symbol of prosperity for the Chinese, and originally these cakes, much bigger and rounder when first created, were only sold for the mid-Autumn festival and for engagements in Taiwan (very similar to mooncakes in mainland China). Nowadays, they have transformed to the traditional square, and can be given as gifts year-round. Inside the shortbread pastry, made with flour, milk powder, butter (originally lard), egg, sugar and shortening (from palm and/or soybean oil), is a pineapple jam, made, as I read, paired with white gourds, which gives it a better texture and flavour.

These are quite tasty, and I can see why they are much beloved. They are definitely sweeter than the Singaporean version, though no less good. I found this particular brand in almost any Chinese supermarket in Mississauga.

Taro Rice Pot

The idea of a one-pot meal is great, that we can make this in a rice cooker is convenient. We used a lup cheong, or Chinese sausage, that had pork and chicken, there are many kinds, found in most Chinese supermarkets. The taro tastes good as well, I can see that it is a versatile root vegetable (I've had it in both savoury and sweet dishes, similar to sweet potato).

Taro Rice Pot
2 lup cheong, sliced thickly
1-2 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 cilantro roots, crushed
1/4 cup textured protein, soaked
3 shittiake mushrooms, soaked in hot water then sliced
1/4 cup small dried shrimp, soaked
1/2 medium Taro, cut into bite-sized chunks
2 cups brown rice, rinsed
1-1/2 Tbsp light soy sauce
ground white pepper
4 cups mushroom stock (or as per rice cooker instructions)

Put some vegetable oil in a heated pan and add sliced lup cheong; fry until cooked, 3-4 minutes. Add garlic, cilantro roots, and textured protein; fry until fragrant. Add dried shrimp and shiitake mushrooms. Mix together, then add taro and rice. Season with light soy sauce, ground white pepper and stir-fry together well - make sure it doesn't get too dry. Put mixture into rice cooker and add stock; cook as per rice cooker instructions.

Serve with Nam Jim King Ginger sauce if you wish.

Kellog's All-Bran Chewy Strawberry Flavour Cereal Bar

My boss declared it as strawberry-flavoured bran. He had brought one in for me to try, as he didn't like them and wondered if I wanted them. I asked him if he really meant strawberry-flavoured hay. He laughed. My beautiful Bride thought it didn't taste crunchy, and thus didn't taste fresh. She preferred the Kashi that we have. I found the strawberry flavour odd (there are strawberry-flavoured cranberry pieces) and the bar tasted like slightly soggy cereal and was too sweet. Three strikes and you're out.

This is definitely a cereal bar, it has wheat bran cereal and rice cereal, with sugar, whole oats, strawberry-flavoured cranberry pieces and chicory root fibre (inulin) and psyllium seed husk, and a whole long list of ingredients that don't sound too healthy. I guess it can't be any worse than eating the cereal separately. I saw it for sale in the supermarket, I passed it by.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Foco Mangosteen

This drink from Foco I did like. The taste of mangosteen is not a strong flavour, and the consistency of the liquid is thicker than I would expect. Like other drinks in this line, this one has 30% juice (I would say that mangosteen juice is more expensive than other juices, the fruit certainly is); other than water, the only other ingredients are sugar and citric acid.

Lion City Singaporean Pineapple Tarts

We bought these pineapple tarts from one of our favourite restaurants, Lion City, they were quite tasty. Lion City is a Singaporean restaurant. The little bit that sticks out, which is supposed to be the stem of the pineapple, is a dried clove. These are quite popular in Singapore, and often sold for Chinese New Year, but are also available year round in most bakeries. The pastries take different shapes; these ones look to me like they are supposed to be pineapples. Deliciously artistic!

The inside of the pastry is filled with a pineapple jam, which is made by slowly reducing and caramelizing grated fresh pineapple mixed with sugar and spices (cinnamon, star anise and/or cloves, even pandan). Very good tasting.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Valor Dark Chocolate with Pear

I saw this new chocolate bar at Christmas from the Spanish chocolatier Valor, and couldn't buy it except as a package of four (too expensive at $16, even on sale, to try), so I was disappointed. Until recently, when I found it for sale individually. They have nice looking packaging. The cacao content of this bar is at 70%. The ingredient listing is long for a good quality chocolate bar, but still looks good; cocoa liquor, sugar, cocoa powder, cocoa butter, pear pulp (3%), apple, pineapple fiber, sodium alginate and calcium phosphate as thickeners, natural aroma and soybean lecithin as an emulsifier.

How did it taste? Well, I guess I could have waited longer. It is a good dark chocolate, and you can taste the pear fine, and pear and chocolate make a somewhat good combination, but ultimately it was only a good bar. I don't think that I would buy this bar again, and prefer other bars in Valor's offerings.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

SwissMar Fresh Bag

Fresh bread is wonderful. The smell of it. The feel of it. The taste of it. Go to your favourite bakery, and pick up a loaf, or two, made with whole grains and little or no preservatives, bring them home, spread with a little home-made jam, and enjoy.

Well, at least for a day or two. Because, with no preservatives, and sitting on your counter, it will soon be a stiff block (from which you can make bread crumbs or croutons, or feed the birds) and you feel like you wasted most of that wonderful bread.

SwissMar's Fresh Bag aims to prevent that kind of disappointment, it purports to keep things fresher longer, including potatoes, onions and apples. Designed with a cotton outer sleeve surrounding a specially perforated, naturally breathing inner poly lining, this creates an atmosphere which preserves your food.

Or, so it claims. For our first test, we took a loaf of Honey Wheat from Panera, a loaf that had gone rock hard on us less than two weeks ago. Well, it did as advertised, and has kept it "fresh" for 4 days. I know, eat if quicker, but when there's so many different foods to try and enjoy! Of course, it likely won't keep mould from growing, at least eventually. But, at least you have a little more time to enjoy that loaf of bread.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Chuao Spicy Maya

The fourth chocolate bar I tasted from the Californian chocolatier, from what I understand this is their most popular bar. It is their intent with this bar to go back to chocolate's origins, and combine traditional ingredients that the original chocolatiers, the Mayans, used, in this case cinnamon, chile and pepper. The other ingredients look good, with a cacao content of 60% and of Venezuelan origin, cacao mass, cacao butter, sugar, soy lecithin and natural vanilla, with the above spices.

How does it taste? Spicy, good dark chocolate, snaps well and smells quite spicy. Overall a good chocolate, but I would not say that this is my favourite of their offerings.

Stir-Fried Potato with Lup Cheong and Green Chilli

We saw this recipe on Kylie Kwong's show on the Food Network (the Beijing Episode), it looked quite tasty, so when we found it online, we had to try it. And it tasted as good as it looked on television. The lup cheong she used was made with duck meat (which also sounded good); ours was made with pork and chicken - there are all kinds with different flavours. Chinkiang vinegar is dark vinegar made from glutinous rice. The green chili we used was smaller, I believe, than the one that was used to make this recipe. This amount makes enough for 4-6 people as part of a larger meal.

Stir-Fried Potato with Lup Cheong and Green Chilli
from a recipe by Kylie Kwong
2 large potatoes, peeled
1 medium carrot, peeled
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
5 cm (2 in) piece ginger, cut into thin strips
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 lup cheong (Chinese dried sausage), finely sliced
2 Tbsp Shao Hsing wine
1 tsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp Chinkiang vinegar
2 Tbsp light soy sauce
1 large green chilli, finely sliced lengthways
1 tsp sesame oil
1/4 cup water

Cut potatoes lengthways into 5 mm (¼ in) slices, then into 7 cm (2¾ in) strips. Use a vegetable peeler to shave carrot into ribbons, then cut into fine strips.

Heat oil in a hot wok or large heavy-bottomed pan until surface seems to shimmer slightly. Add potatoes, ginger and salt and stir-fry for about 2 minutes, or until the potatoes are lightly browned. Add sausage and stir-fry for 2 minutes.

Add shao hsing wine and sugar and stir-fry for a further 2 minutes. Stir in carrot and remaining ingredients and stir-fry for about 6 minutes or until potatoes are just tender. Serve immediately.

Foco Mango and Passionfruit Juice Drink

Sometimes you have the intent to write about something, you take a picture, but it falls through the cracks. So it was with this drink.

The Mango and Passion Fruit Juice Drink by Foco has 30% juice, mostly mango with a little passion fruit juice, some sugar, citric acid and mango flavour. It doesn't taste that bad, though the mango flavour is much stronger than the passion fruit flavour. Not my favourite of the Foco brand.

Curry Leaves

Highly valued in South India and Sri Lanka, the leaves of the Curry tree, also known as Sweet Neem, are interesting; you can smell curry with the fresh leaves, especially when fried in oil. You can best use them with fish or coconut milk curries. They are best fresh, though their shelf life is short; you can also freeze them indefinitely (separate the leaves from the stems and remove any bad leaves); or you can dry them (to dry, put whole stalks with leaves between newspaper sheets and place in a warm area, like the top of a refrigerator), though this way they lose their flavour quickly.

Where do you find curry leaves? In specialty Indian stores, or certain Chinese supermarkets (which is where I found these). You can also sometimes find young curry tree plants for sale; you can grow them indoors and thus have a constant supply.

For a delicious recipe, try Eggs with Curry Leaves.

Lindt Fioretto Caramel

I bought this at the Lindt Outlet store. Inside is a very sweet caramel, surrounded by chocolate and crispy rice. Not bad, but a little sweet. I prefer their Nougat Hazelnut Praline version.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Krispy Kreme Donuts

I remember when Krispy Kreme donuts first arrived in Canada, there was one in Kitchener, and one in Mississauga; I used to pass the store on a Sunday evening returning home, there were long line-ups, out the door, to buy these new donuts. Nowadays there are no long line-ups, but it is still an attraction (at least in Mississauga, the one in Kitchener closed long ago - perhaps because no one was interested in the new kid on the block, they already had their favourite - Tim Hortons), my beautiful Bride's brother recently came to try them, and dropped off a six-pack for us. The one time I was in one, down in the States near Buffalo, I was handed a freshly made donut, and you could watch them being made. Hot donuts are good, and these are fairly good tasting, but I find these ultimately very, very sweet. I read too, recently, that one minor league baseball team had burgers for sale, in which they replaced the hamburger bun with a sliced original Krispy Kreme donut.

In the picture, one of the donuts is upside down; the top side has chocolate icing, and it is filled with cream. Another is filled with raspberry. Another is filled with custard.

Fresh Vietnamese-Style Spring Rolls

This is what I would call a Vietnamese sandwich, you take what you have on hand, cut it up into small pieces, and assemble your Spring Roll. We understand this is not a traditional recipe, but it has Vietnamese flavours. Vietnamese ham is mostly flour and pork, but still tasty. Sawtooth coriander has long broad leaves. The rice paper wrappers we use are from Vietnam, are square (you can get round ones), and are called Banh Trang.

Fresh Vietnamese-Style Spring Rolls
rice paper wrappers
lettuce leaves, washed
coriander leaves, washed
sawtooth coriander, washed
mint leaves, washed
avocado, peeled and sliced
field cucumbers, washed and sliced
fried puffy tofu, sliced
Vietnamese ham, sliced
roast chicken, sliced

To soften the rice paper wrapper, fill a large bowl with warm water; dunk in the rice paper wrapper and let it soften for about a minute; you'll have to first dunk one edge, then another - as the rice paper softens, you can eventually put it all into the water.

Lay the wrapper carefully on your plate. Place a lettuce leaf on the wrapper. Put some Vietnamese ham, some chicken, some tofu, cucumber, a few coriander, sawtooth coriander and mint leaves and an avocado slice (or any combination of these) on the lettuce leaf and fold up, enclosing the filling in a neat little roll (to do this, fold the edge closest to you, then the two sides, then roll away from you).

Organic Purple Fingerling Potatoes

We got these at Planet Organic here in Mississauga (Lakeshore Rd. in Port Credit). They look good, though they weren't as purple inside as I expected.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Avocado, Prawn and Pink Ginger Rice Paper Rolls

As soon as I saw this recipe, I knew that my beautiful Bride would like it - prawns, ginger, rice paper wrappers, coriander - all foods she likes. Too, she thought the addition of the avocado (a fruit we have been eating more and more) was a good idea. These were easy to make; cook the prawns any way you like (we boiled them, but I think that pan-frying them with garlic would be tasty), then assemble the "sandwich" and enjoy!

Avocado, Prawn and Pink Ginger Rice Paper Rolls
Adapted from a recipe from Jo Seager: The Cook School Recipes
For the rolls:
rice paper wrappers
14 prawns, cooked and peeled
1/4 cup Japanese pink pickled ginger
1/4 cup coriander leaves
1 large avocado, firm but ripe, peeled and sliced
several lettuce leaves, washed
For the dipping sauce:
1/4 cup sushi rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsp hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp sweet chilli sauce

To soften the rice paper wrapper, fill a large bowl with warm water; dunk in the rice paper wrapper and let it soften for about a minute; you'll have to first dunk one edge, then another - as the rice paper softens, you can eventually put it all into the water.

Lay the wrapper carefully on your plate. Place a lettuce leaf on the wrapper. Put a prawn, a slice of ginger, a few coriander leaves and an avocado slice on the lettuce leaf and fold up, enclosing the filling in a neat little roll (to do this, fold the edge closest to you, then the two sides, then roll away from you).

To make the dipping sauce, whisk the ingredients together and serve in a small bowl beside the rolls.

Cocoa Camino Espresso

This Swiss chocolatier I had heard good things about, and I see their bars now all over the place, but more in health food stores; this is the first of their bars that I have tried (though I have tried their organic cocoa powder). Cocoa Camino is a company that is attempting to create products from ingredients that are Fair Trade (in which local producers receive more for their raw materials, with training and other aid) - the organization they deal with is called La Siembra Co-operative (based in Canada, but the local producers are in South America). So, all the ingredients are Fair Trade, and this bar is their idea of marrying their Fair Trade coffee with their Fair Trade dark chocolate. The ingredient listing, with 55% cacao content, looks good, cocoa mass, golden cane sugar, cocoa butter, whole cane sugar, ground coffee and ground vanilla bean.

How does it taste? I'm still unsure of the merits of coffee and chocolate together, and some people, I have read, think it's absolutely wrong, but this was a fairly good chocolate bar. The chocolate was smooth and melted in the mouth well, the coffee was not too strong but definitely pleasant. I did enjoy it, and it makes me want to try some of their other offerings.