Sunday, November 22, 2009

Kombucha Wonder Drink - Jasmine Tea and Niagara Grape

Having enjoyed some of Wonder Drink's flavours, especially Himalayan, I finally had the chance to taste the last of their five flavours, Jasmine Tea and Niagara Grape. Three of them use Oolong tea, one Red tea, this one uses Jasmine tea, which I have enjoyed before (and is essentially green tea with Jasmine flavour).

Kombucha is a carbonated drink, a sweetened fermented tea or tisane, using a Mother of mushroom, or mushroom, or SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast). It is unlike any other drink I have tasted, an acquired taste to some, but good to me.

There is an underlying bitterness to this drink that I don't care for, and often comes in the first steeping of green tea (the second steeping is the sweeter, but more subtler). The Niagara Grape flavour (which comes from juice concentrate) is equal in flavour to the jasmine tea, but I don't know that the two particularly pair together well. I like the kombucha flavour of this drink, but still far prefer the Himalayan.

Fennel-salted Pork Chops with Roasted Root Vegetables

This recipe comes from the new magazine from Jamie Oliver, Issue 1 of Jamie Magazine. I have only bought and read issue 2 of his new food magazine, found it good with some interesting recipes. Jamie says that the combination of the rutabaga and the carrots highlights their natural flavours - the rutabaga's bitterness against the sweetness of the carrots. You can find the full recipe here. I omitted the spicy cabbage; instead my beautiful Bride made a favourite of mine, morning glory. The fennel was not too strong, though, I found it a little salty. The roasted vegetables were great, and something I could enjoy with other dishes, but it goes well with pork, and really was the better part of this recipe.

Fennel-salted Pork Chops with Roasted Root Vegetables
1 rutabaga, peeled and cut into wedges
4 carrots, peeled, cut into 3cm chunks
Olive oil, for tossing and drizzling
1 bulb garlic, sliced in half
A few sprigs thyme
2 pork rib chops, about 350g each, cut about 2cm thick
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp sea salt

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Toss the swede and carrots in a little olive oil, season with salt and black pepper, and place in a baking tray with the garlic halves and thyme. Cover with foil and put in the oven for about 45 minutes.

When the carrots and swede are cooked through, remove the foil and return to the oven to crisp for 10–15 minutes, turning them now and then to ensure they brown evenly.

Meanwhile, preheat a griddle to hot, and lay your chops on a board. With a pestle and mortar, grind the fennel seeds with 1 tsp salt until no whole seeds remain. Drizzle the chops with olive oil and sprinkle with the fennel salt and plenty of black pepper, rubbing over evenly.

Lay the meat in the pan, making sure it makes good contact with the griddle's ridges. Cook for 10 minutes, turning every two minutes, until cooked through. With a pair of tongs, pick the chops off the griddle and let rest for a couple of minutes.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

100% Georgian Blueberry Juice

Having enjoyed their Wild Plum Juice and Cornel Juice, and liked the Mulberry Juice, when I went back to Highland Farms where I had bought the others previously, I noticed they had some bottles of juice of my favourite fruit, blueberries. So, I bought one. Now, it doesn't say wild blueberries, and European blueberries are different, in taste and colour, than North American ones. I would say that this is a pretty good juice, though it seems that a lot of them taste very similar, not in specific flavour, but in the thickness/consistency of the juice and its intensity of flavour. I think that I like the Wild Plum and Cornel better, but this one is pretty good.

Côte d'Or Expériences Pistache Noir 70%

The Belgian chocolatier Côte d'Or is the #1 chocolate brand in Belgium; I have seen several of their offerings in Shopper's Drug Mart, but never tried them. This one has pistachios, albeit caramelized small pieces, so I should like it. The beans are from West Africa and South America. The cacao content is at 70% content. The ingredient listing looks good, unsweetened chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, caramelized pistachio nuts (pistachio nuts, sugar, artificial and natural flavours), cocoa powder, artificial and natural flavours and soy lecithin.

How does it taste? The chocolate is good, dark and a little sweet (probably because of the sugared pistachio), but I don't get much of the pistachio flavour, and there is a much more predominant flavour that makes the bar not so enjoyable, like a burnt almond or some other artificial flavour that I did not care for, and ruined my enjoyment of the chocolate.

Mecsa Osha Peruvian Jungle Chocolate 65%

This is the second of two chocolate bars from Mecsa Osha I've tried, the other being similar but at 75% cacao content. This chocolate bar, like the other, is produced from cacao beans from Peru, and is Fair Trade chocolate (meaning the local producers get paid more for their beans) and Organic. Mecsa Osha means "Sleeping Beauty" and refers to a mountain in the jungle of Peru where the beans are produced. The ingredient listing is fairly good, cocoa liquor, cane sugar, cocoa butter and soy lecithin.

How does it taste? Like the other one, the bar is very hard, you need a fair amount of strength, in your hands and teeth, perhaps because it is much thicker and less wide than other 100 g bars. This tasted better than the 75% bar, fruitier and less chalky. Ultimately, though, I wish to spare my teeth, and doubt that I would buy this bar again.

100% Georgian Cornel Juice

Having enjoyed their Wild Plum Juice and liked the Mulberry Juice, I decided to try this one that I had seen before, but thought strange. Strange, in the sense that the Cornel of the juice is Cornelian cherries, which look different than cherries I'm familiar with, in that these are elongated. Tasting the juice though, I see that it tastes very similar to European sour cherries (and like those I've bought before in glass jars). I would say that I enjoyed this as much as the Wild Plum Juice, and my beautiful Bride likes it best.

Sweet and Sour Fried Pork

I had been meaning to post this recipe for a long while, I'm really sorry for that, as I find this to be the best version of the Chinese Sweet and Sour Pork that I have ever eaten. And, it's likely better for you than eating at a regular Chinese buffet restaurant. You can substitute chicken for the pork, I'm sure it'll work well too. It's fairly easy to make as well.

Sweet and Sour Fried pork
300 g pork or chicken sliced in to 1 inch
1/2 tsp salt, for marinating
120 g sweet bell pepper, chopped into small pieces
1 medium onion, chopped into small pieces
1 cup orange or pineapple sliced into pieces
For the sauce:
1/3 cup ketchup
1/2 cup chicken stock or water
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp chinese cooking wine
1/4 cup red sugar
2 Tbsp soya sauce
1 Tbsp corn starch
For the batter:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup corn starch
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup cold water
1/4 tsp salt

Mix together all ingredients of the sauce in a medium bowl.

Marinate the pork with salt; set aside.

Mix the batter ingredients together in a medium bowl.

Meanwhile, put enough oil for deep frying into a wok; put on medium-high heat.

Add the marinated pork into the batter and mix well.

Deep fry the pork when the oil is hot and put on paper to absorb any oil.

Put the sauce mixture into a clean wok. Cook the sauce, mixing, until the sauce become thick and boiling. Adjust seasonings.

Add the fried pork into the boiling sauce, mixing in quickly. Add the rest of the cut vegetables and mix well. When the vegetables are heated, the dish is ready for serving.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Cannellini Beans

I had been searching for cannellini beans all over the place (on a recommendation by Rachel Ray and searching the 'Net), with no success, but then recently found out that in these parts they are called White Kidney Beans (and I did see lots of cans of those!). The above dried white kidney beans we bought on the last day of the Square One Farmer's Market.

Kashi Soft-baked Cereal Bars - Blackberry

This is the second of the three new offerings from Kashi, the other one I tried is Ripe Strawberry. The main ingredient in this is the blackberry filling, which is a mixture of blackberry puree concentrate with some sugar, cornstarch and pear juice concentrate and apple powder and apple fiber; surrounding this is their signature seven whole grain and sesame blend. This, like the Ripe Strawberry one, reminds me very much of Voortman's turnover cookies, they were very soft and crumbly, and, small (still, 120 calories for a 35 g bar). The blackberry filling was sweet and, well, not that evocative of blackberries. I think I still prefer their granola bars.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Thai Lychee

The lychee grown in Thailand is different than that found in parts of China, it's larger for one, and perhaps better tasting. Thai lychees are grown in Central and Northern Thailand, and are exported all across the world; fresh, dried, frozen, and canned, as well as Lychee juice or wine. These were expensive, bought at a Chinese supermarket, about $8 for the bunch. Worth it, though, tasty.

Thai Desserts

My brother-in-law's girlfriend's friend brought these Thai desserts from New Jersey the other week, they were for sale at this Thai Buddhist Temple.

This dessert is called Mor Gang, and often has pumpkin or taro as an ingredient or flavour, but this one seemed to be plain. Still great tasting.

The golden threads, or foi thong, on the left are made from egg yolk which are cooked in sugar and perfumed water. Delicious. The cassava dessert in the middle also has coconut. Interesting and flavourful. The lucky coins are formed with a mold and are made from mung bean. Tasty.

Lion City Multi Layer Cake

I don't know the technique to do this, but I think it requires a fair amount of work, putting down each thin layer, alternating between light and brown. Whether you have to bake each layer in-between for a short while, to set it, before adding the next layer, or that you can just set the batter down in alternating layers before baking, is the interesting part; if anyone knows and can point me to a recipe, that would be great. This dessert tasted pretty good, kind of a brown sugar or mocha flavour.

Chinese Green Tea - Moonlight of Spring River

I must admit, this gift box of Chinese Green Tea has been sitting on my shelf for a few months; I only recently opened it. At first, I thought there was a large bag of loose green tea, but opening the box revealed something quite different.

There were several small boxes, all the same.

Opening the small box revealed several bags of what felt like loose green tea.

Opening the bag reveals slivers of green tea, enough for a cup of tea.

The tea tasted very fresh, I think a measure of the individual packaging (with a large bag, it tends to go staler faster); on the other hand, there is a lot of packaging, not good for the environment (though some of it is recyclable). As always, the second steeping is sweet while the first is more bitter.

Pumpkin Bread with Walnuts and Raisins

This is a perfect bread to go with Hallowe'en celebrations, the spiced pumpkin pie flavour comes out. Too, it would work well at Thanksgiving. It's easy to make. Now, I didn't chop the walnuts so well, the large pieces ended up at the bottom of the bread. It makes two, one good for freezing.

Pumpkin Bread with Walnuts and Raisins
2-1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
425 g pumpkin puree
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Combine sugar, oil, eggs and pumpkin puree in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flower, baking soda, baking powder and spices. Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk; mix to combine. Add raisins and walnuts and mix well. Grease two 9x5 loaf pans, then divide the batter evenly between the two. Bake the pumpkin bread for 60-70 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes up dry (if you like the bread not so browned, cover at the halfway point with tinfoil). Allow to cool before slicing and serving.

Pandan Sticky Rice Dessert

We bought this dessert from Lion City, it has sticky rice on the one side, with a Pandan custard on the other. Interesting and flavourful.