May 27, 2013
Autumn is a lovely time of year
Light is mellow, colours are softer, the leaves burnish and brown creating a carpet of crispness that crunches underfoot. Smoke hangs in the air, not the oily burnt smokiness of BBQs, but a heavier blanket that laps around you each morning and evening as wood fires signal warmth and comfort around the hearth.
Even Autumn produce is mellow
Golden pumpkins, sweet and deep in flavour; pomegranates with their ruby glow and hidden tang; and walnuts brown as dry leaves, rich with oil and hidden goodness stored within for Winter's barren times
That's what inspired this weeks dish
I also added the sweetness of lamb, the creaminess of goat cheese, and a new cooking technique by trialling my Sous Vide machine for the first time.
Remember my Pressure Cooker experiment where I did a side by side comparison of three cooking styles to see which would provide the best results? http://intolerantchef.blogspot.com.au/2013/03/kitchen-experiments.html Well, this is kinda the same, but instead using Sous Vide and the more usual method of first searing, then using the oven to finish the lamb cooking through.
Sous Vide is a very gentle, low heat method of cooking, where the ingredients are first vacuum sealed under pressure, then cooked in a water bath at a very controlled temperature for a period of time.
Basically the food is cooked at the temperature at which you wish it to be served.
So to have my lamb at medium, it should reach an internal temperature of 60*C, so by cooking it at 60*C there's no way I can overheat my lamb, meaning that it will be perfectly cooked each and every time.
To temper these results, and in case your family didn't give you a sous vide machine for your birthday like mine did, I've also cooked the same amount of meat the conventional way using nothing more than a good old fry pan and finishing it in the oven. The method is up to you, but I promise you the flavour will still be delicious!
Two little racks of lamb cutlets, three per side. Just one larger rack cut in half, to make it a totally fair comparison
My marinade today is made up of pomegranate molasses and the most amazing pomegranate balsamic that you have ever tasted indeed. If you don't happen to have any of this on hand, use some reduced pomegranate juice and plain balsamic and a just touch of sugar so it's not too tart
I placed each half rack in it's own pouch and brushed a tablespoon of the pomegranate molasses and 2 teaspoons of pomegranate balsamic onto each
Vacuum and seal the pouches, leaving the meat to marinate for an hour or so, or until you're ready to use them
Pop one of the little pouches into the sous vide machine at for an hour and a half once it hits temperature of 60*C . Put the lid on, and make the salad while you wait for it to cook through
Once it's ready, pull the pouch out of the water with tongs and let it cool enough to hold. See how the meat has changed colour from creamy to opaque and the texture is softer looking
Remove the meat from the pouch- but don't waste all those yummy juicy bits, we'll use them to make the dressing for the salad
The meat is lovely and soft to touch, just a bit springy the way it should be; but the meat is only coloured because of the dark marinade, otherwise it would look rather unfinished
To make the rack look pretty and also to give it the complexity of caramelisation, sear it off in a fry pan on medium heat- just be careful as the marinade had a lot of sugar in it and that can burn very quickly indeed. The meat is fully cooked remember, you just want to burnish it up for presentation
Once off the heat, slice the rack into cutlets and lets see what's happened inside:
Perfect even colour throughout and the meat is soft and juicy. The fat isn't rendered out, but it has a nice jellied sort of texture that's OK and it certainly tastes cooked properly
Now for the other rack:
Once you've marinated it for a while, remove it from the pouch and sear it off over fairly high heat to caramelise and look pretty too, then pop it into a hot oven at about 220*C for 12-15 minutes to finish off cooking through
Let it rest, then slice into cutlets and to see what's going on inside here:
Hmmm... overcooked for sure, and not rested enough either. The meat is still fairly soft as it's a nice cut of meat, so I guess I'm lucky this time
See the difference between the two styles of meat:
*The sous vide is perfectly even throughout/ the other one varies depending where actual heat was applied
*The sous vide has kept it's shape perfectly making for a very tidy effect/ the other is a bit scruffy looking in comparison
*The meat that was sous vide cuts like butter, so soft and smooth indeed that you'd hardly even need to chew- all the fibres of the meat seem to have disappeared somehow. The meat is also lovely and moist and very tasty with a clean flavour of lamb coming through the marinade/ the other meat is still fairly soft and moist but chewing is certainly required here, and you can feel the springiness of the meat fibres as you eat
*The bones on the the sous vide cutlets are nice and clean, allowing diners to pick them up tidily if they want to nibble/ the other bones are dark and sticky, you could pick them up but cleaning your fingers elegantly would require a finger bowl
For the sauce, add all the reserved juiciness from the pouch/meat juices from the pan, back into your fry pan along with a nice sprig of crumpled mint and about 1/4 cup of water and allow to quickly reduce to a nice sweet sauce. Watch the sugars don't burn, and pull the mint out once you're done
Plate up your Autumn Salad, and sprinkle on a few extra pomegranate bits to look pretty.
IFirst I cubed some pumpkin, tossed it in oil and seasoning, then baked it at 220*C until it was cooked through with some nice dark edges. I tossed in a good handful of walnuts just before bringing out the pumpkin so that they would toast through and get a good crunch and release a deeper, richer flavour, then let them cool to room temperature.
Over a bed of baby spinach and rocket leaves I sprinkled some finely torn mint leaves for freshness and zing, then crumbled over some creamy goats feta and lots of yummy pomegranate seeds for that gorgeous pop of juice and flavour to tie it all together nicely. Add in the nuts and pumpkin, and you've got a gorgeous salad that tastes great on it's own, but still works as a perfect side dish for our pomegranate lamb cutlets
Pop the cutlets to the side of the salad, then drizzle the meat and salad with the reduced sauce and garnish with another sprig of mint- Yummo!
This dish really makes me think of Autumn- earthy with the nuts and pumpkin but still some freshness of the mint and fruit, deeper notes of tang and goat cheese and the rich flavour of lamb to complement it all
So what do I think of my Sous Vide machine Dear Readers?
I was really surprised how the lamb turned out- so buttery and soft. It was great to know I could get consistent product if I was cooking for a few people at once instead of 'guestimating' the cooking times. It was also nice to know I could pre-prepare the meat ahead of time and then just sear it off quickly if was in a hurry. I might not use this method for everyday cooking, but I don't think this machine will gather too much dust either!
So Dear Readers, what do you think of Sous Vide cooking, and what cooking method do you prefer?
May 20, 2013
When I was little, we had a painting of Raffles Hotel hanging in our entrance hall
It was of an older Raffles, with rickshaws in the street and not a high-rise in sight. Bell shaped skirts and parasols spoke of a quieter time of elegance and sipping tea daintily to catch up on gossip and escape the tropical heat
That's what I saw when I looked at the painting anyway, and I always wanted to go to try and capture a bit of that exotic elegance for myself. When we decided to visit Singapore for our family holiday, one of the first things I did was to lock in a booking for High Tea at the Tiffin Room at Raffles- it was a must-do. I didn't care what else we missed out on, but no way was I missing out on my touch of Elegance, and I made sure to pack the posh frock to prove it!
Posh frock donned and makeup melting in the pure humidity, we arrived at the appointed time and hoped we hadn't made a mistake when we saw the line of patrons waiting to get in. But not to worry, we were ushered in quickly and efficiently within a very short time indeed
Look at the huge line up of Eager Eaters
Lucky early arrivers already seated
BigJ and littlej were dining with me, and of course they just ate standard fare, no InTolerances for them, so it was good to get some perspective from the Other Side Of The Plate
The Regular menu High Tea Stand, shown here for comparison with the Gluten Free version - set for three although booked for two.
I guess they are just so busy that the kitchen sends out standard plates regardless of places booked. Warm Scones for the regular menu were also bought around with jam and cream from time to time in lovely baskets by the wait staff.
Now the Generous Gluten Free offering- and yes, all of this for me although we only booked for one GF seating. Lucky me I thought!
Gluten free sandwiches:
Egg salad with cucumber and tomato; Tuna mayonnaise; Smoked Salmon with cream cheese; Turkey tomato,basil and cheese
Now I had been unable to find any gluten free bread in Singapore so I was initially pleased to see these here- until I tried them. The bread was very dense and dry despite the fact that they were mostly open faced, and I ended up just eating the topping and leaving the bread bases on my plate. I always wonder if chefs try the gluten free offerings they make, or do any research with customers. There is no reason they should not taste as good as anything else in the restaurant, and if they don't find it palatable why send it out? The only topping that could compete with the bread was the egg salad as it had plenty of flavour and moisture to compensate for dry bread. The salmon on it's own was yummy, but the tuna mayonnaise was a very thin smear of tinned tuna mixed with sweet mayonnaise that tasted like one from a bottle.
Middle Layer: Caramelised apple Panacotta; Orange Jelly with fresh Berries
The Orange jelly was nice and refreshing with a lovely burst of fresh tart berries, not overly sugary which made it a nice choice to counteract the sweet offerings. But the pannacotta....was just plain weird. The jellied caramelised apple layer was really quite tasty, but the rest was dreadful indeed. I don't know if it was soy based, some type of dairy substitute I've not tried before, or just plain off- but it tasted curdled with the sour nose-wrinkling effect to go with it. I spat it out and it almost ruined the whole meal. There was no real explanation from the wait staff when I questioned them, just polite apologies and deferential smiles.
Top Sweet Level: Fresh Blueberry Marshmallow, Assorted Chocolates
The chocolates were nice and rich, very smooth and creamy, but the marshmallow was the star of the show. Light as a feather and not too sweet, it was gorgeously melt in the mouth with a lovely berry flavour
Selection of Cut-your-own-cakes (not gluten free), Fresh Fruits, and at the end Fresh Berries in Tea Broth
There was a good selection of other cakes available for gluten eaters and they certainly all looked very nice, but it was good to see a gorgeous array of sliced tropical fruits including Star fruit, Pineapple and Dragonfruit too.
Right at the end there was also a great big bowl of delicious berry flavoured 'Weekend in Shanghai' Tea Broth with masses of fresh berries macerating in it. It was unusual in that it had to be carefully spooned up like a type of soup, but it was so yummy that I didn't mind risking my blouse with red drips.
Dim Sum buffet selection for gluten eaters- it all looked and smelled very good indeed and very popular with my littlej who has a love for everything dumpling shaped
I do have to say that the Regular High Tea was fantastic. BigJ and littlej enjoyed everything so much and there was such an abundance of choice that they didn't try everything and had the luxury of picking and choosing whatever caught their fancy.
With a price tag of $58 per person, I'm glad there was no extra charge for Gluten Free. I was quite disappointed with the selection- especially as a lot of it wasn't very nice and was left languishing on the tea stand hidden by my crumpled serviette. My comments are really just related to the Gluten Free options. I certainly didn't think the food was value for money for my Gluten Free selection and I was still hungry despite having a stand for two..........but I didn't feel completely ripped off...
I felt grown-up and special and excited and elegant all in one, as I soaked up the slightly snooty atmosphere that is exuded by Raffles. The service was first class, attentive without being cloying; the staff were lovely and were always ready with a top up of tea; and the room was spectacular with hugely high ceilings and gorgeous architecture that showed the age of building gracefully and proudly instead of trying to modernise it and cover it up with fake facades. It is what it is.
I wouldn't go back to Raffles for their Gluten Free High Tea again, but I'll always be glad that I did.
So Dear Readers, do you have any fulfilled childhood ambitions, and would you be interested in more Gluten Free High Tea reviews?
May 14, 2013
I have some lovely Foodie Friends
Friends who enjoy good food, interesting food, different food and cooking it as much as just eating it. Friends who get excited when they stumble across something a bit different, or who invite you to share a pig-on-a-spit in their backyard.
One of these friends of mine is Rachael, my Hydro Therapist, who is lovely enough to spend each session with me not only overseeing my physical health in the pool, but also my mental health by chatting and gossiping with me about the latest in her Love Life and Food Life too. Many a meal is discussed and disected with the rest of our group, recipes are swapped...and sometimes ingredients as well.
Duck eggs are not something I use regularly. Hen eggs are easily available and are the go-to for every baking recipe so it was very exciting when Rachael offered me some duck eggs to play with for a change.
Duck eggs on the left, hen eggs on the right:
Duck eggs are just perfect for baking, the whites have more protein so they'll whip higher than regular chookie eggs, and the yolks have more fats so they are richer as well. I figured that with such good characteristics as these the best way to show off the little lovelies was in a classic Sponge Cake because it needs both of these attributes to perform their best
The hardest part about finding a recipe though, was the size difference between the two types of eggs. Baking has a fine balancing act between ingredients and I didn't want to mess them up with guess work, and these eggs were big suckers indeed.
I figured instead of trying to do something completely different, I'd follow Michael Ruhlman's guide of cooking to Ratios instead of individual ingredient count.
His basic Sponge Cake Ratio is 1 part Egg: 1 part Sugar: 1 part Flour: 1 part Butter
The only part that is really variable is the amount of butter used. You can use none at all, some or the full amount. Michael insists that it's the method that makes the cake light and airy and the butter just makes it richer and more delicious. I went with a fraction of the butter amount- only because I had forgotten to grab any at the shops that morning :) I would use more next time though, as we sadly know all to well, gluten free baking tends to dry out much faster than the regular version and this would help keep it moist longer
So there is no 'real' recipe for this cake today, instead the magic ratio of Egg:Sugar:Flour:Butter, and a surprise ingredient for adding a lovely floral flavour that permeated the whole cake through and made my kitchen smell divine all day
I started my ratio off by weighing the cracked eggs, they set the benchmark for the rest of the ingredients. Always use room temperature eggs as they whip much better than ones from the fridge.
Now this made enough batter for 1 huge 40 cm cake pan, but smaller, thinner layers would have been by far the better choice. I just happened to break my other same sized pan and didn't want to let my batter go flat while the first layer cooked. If I were you, I would use a more conservative amount of ingredients :)
The magic four ingredients:
You can also use a flavouring medium like vanilla or lemon zest or something yummy
Beat together the eggs and sugar until they are nice, thick, and about tripled in size- this will take about 5 to 7 minutes, but my mixer is pretty strong and yours might take a little longer
Now for my surprise ingredient- Rose Geranium leaves from my Kitchen Garden
I love the scent of this, it's a bit sharper than straight rose, and flavours things quite strongly. You can get it in the herb section of your Garden Centre, or feel free to use you own favourite flavour instead
While the eggs are beating, line the bottom of your cake pan with paper, then with the Rose Geranium leaves.
I made the mistake of not using two cake tins- Big Mistake! The weight of the batter was a bit too heavy and the sponge didn't get the extra lift that it should. If I'd used the two pans I would have had a tower of a cake with a feather light texture instead of a nice cake that had slightly dried out edges by the time the centre was cooked through
The eggs and sugar should be lovely and fluffy by now, leaving ribbons of batter as you move the beaters across the mix
Gently sift over the flour and start carefully folding it through
Drizzle in the melted butter and keep folding it in until it's evenly distributed
See how it's gone nice and glossy now?
Pour the mix into the pans, don't knock it about too much or you will get rid of all the lovely little air bubbles that will help it to rise
Because I made the one larger cake, it didn't bake as evenly as usual. The edges were higher than the slightly sunken middle so I had to trim it up carefully with a serrated knife
As this baked the kitchen filled with the glorious scent of a flower garden- heady, sweet, and when I opened the oven door- almost intoxicating!
Turn the cake over to reveal the leaves underneath. Of course you could eat them, they're not too bad really, but it's a bit chewy and odd to have big bits of greenery in a sponge
Prise out the leaves carefully as they would have sunken a bit into the batter as the cake cooked. I like to leave the pattern as decoration, but you could hide it inside if you prefer
If you were silly enough to use one big pan, cool the cake completely then split it in two
Spread the bottom layer with a nice thick covering of raspberry jam, then if your diet allows, plenty of whipped cream. Stop the cream just a little shy of the cake edge so it can handle compressing slightly when topped and cut
Pop the top layer with the pretty picture on top of the filling, but carefully so you don't squish it all out the sides
Deliciously dust the top of the finished cake with icing sugar for an appetising ethereal effect
Slice very carefully with a very sharp knife indeed to avoid spoiling the loveliness. Not quite perfect looking I know, but it sure tasted good anyway
Mmmm..... so sweetly scented and lovely and light!
So my Dear Readers, have you ever heard of Rose Geraniums, and who are your Fabulous Foodie Friends?
To see some more of my Fabulous Foodie Friends in action, check out Lorraine's story on her long-awaited Book Launch- then go out and buy one for you and all your foodie friends too!
May 8, 2013
Birthdays and Mothers Day galore which means lots of goodies for this months In My Kitchen post, hosted by delightful Celia, over at her lovely blog http://figjamandlimecordial.com/ I was lucky to spend some time with her wonderful family (and chickens) recently, and can assure you that this lady is very special indeed. So I hope you head on over and check out what's going on around the world with the In My Kitchen posts this month
In My Kitchen this month you will find......
The best book you'll buy all year! A wonderful story of the awesomness that is Lorraine Elliot of http://www.notquitenigella.com/ and her love of everything Food. Please make sure you buy a copy or three and you should most definitely subscribe to her wonderful blog for daily dosages of her adventures in travel, cooking and eating around the globe. It's nice to have friends like this to live vicariously through when our own lives are not quite as exciting sometimes :)
An awesome little charcoal BBQ for my Satay Sticks. Perfect for that smoke kissed flavour that makes all the difference for authentic taste
A gift from MiddleC, another of Yotam Ottolenghi's bright and vibrant take on cooking- this time focused on the various varieties of vegetables
Isn't this a cute little petits four pan? I can feel an excuse to bake up some goodies for a gluten free High Tea coming on!
Fabulous Pepe Saya butter. Smooth and Oh-So-Creamy, quite expensive at about $8, but a world away from the cheapy no name brands in the supermarket. This one's not for cooking but for slathering on some homemade gluten free crumpets instead http://intolerantchef.blogspot.com.au/2010/12/crumpets.html
Oh My Goodness amazing Truffle Honey. I am in love.... this is just so good and it has such a strong truffley flavour that is so decadent and indulgent and I want to drizzle it on everything! You can get this addictive deliciousness from Lario International, but don't be put off at $42.50 a jar- it is worth every cent indeed
These are some whole candied Clementines
I'm not sure what to do with them yet, but they looked so glossy and pretty that I couldn't resist them
Delicious and healthy Avocado oil, gifted to me by Bridget The Internet Chef. Rich and tasty and I love the lime flavour one on crisp tart green salad- yummo!
A present from my Bloggy Besties! Thanks Lorraine, Celia, Charlie, Tania, and Brydie who took me to a wonderful gluten free High Tea on the weekend. Stay tuned for more details :)
What lovely little vintage cutlery, snapped up for a song at the markets. I particularly love the little sugar tongs- very elegant indeed
Now these are actually for my Kitchen Garden- an itsy bitsy Wasabi plant, and a wonderful Vanilla Orchid! I know that it's much easier to buy them form the supermarket ready-to-go, but this is more fun
Also a lovely little Pomegranate tree from Pony, Party Mistress Extraordinaire! After a sad episode recently where I drove around the neighbourhood looking for a pomegranate tree to steal fruit from after being let down by no less than 5 supermarkets, I'm grateful to have my own supply to keep me from a life of crime
And last but definitly not least.....(drumroll please).......... A Sous Vide machine of my very own!!!
The photo is just a copy though because the shop accidently gave us the wrong product -d'oh!- but it's arriving tomorrow and I can hardly wait to play around with it. Thankyou BigJ, MiddleC and littlej for such a cool birthday present- I promise you will get to reap the rewards of your generosity through many delicious dinners to come xox
Don't I have some lovely goodies to share this month indeed!
So Dear Readers, what's going on In YOUR Kitchen this month?