Chocolate Creme Brulee

So, even though I used the exact same recipe as I did the first time, it decided to not set on me – which is possibly the most devastating (I do realize that’s overly dramatic) thing that could happen when working with creme brulee. In fairness, it was probably my fault as I messed with the sugar ratio and texture by blindly adding melted chocolate chips. The only thing left for me to do – aside from trashing it all – was to of course muster all the common sense I had to tackle this issue. So then I thought about all the ingredients I used and figured out which one was most likely the contributing factor. Through trial and error, I finally added just the right amount of egg yolks in the mixture for it to set properly, after reheating everything on the stove and chilling it overnight, (an undesirable and time consuming process that you will now avoid should you ever encounter this problem. You’re welcome.) it resulted in the perfect consistency. I even topped it with some berries just for aesthetics :). I’m getting better at this guys.

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Strawberry shortcake… pizza shaped?

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Recipe is courtesy of the foodnetwork.
I went into this thinking it was a cake. After the mixture became more and more dough like I revisited the recipe and the photo resembled a stuffed scone. What do ya know it came out of the oven nothing short of a scone… well except for the shape.

I definitely recommend sticking to an actual cake recipe for strawberry short’cakes’. They’re meant to be simple so don’t try to overcomplicate it. That’s my advice. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still delicious I hardly ever pass up a piece of cake, even if it did turn out a different species.

Bye bye #2 On My Bucket List

I just want to cheerfully announce that I am now able to scratch/cross out/check off-whatever you want to call it-the 2nd thing on my bucket list! It may not seem like a big accomplishment but there’s this feeble warm and fuzzy feeling on the inside that lets me know I am taking small but necessary steps. The only time I have ever had a macaron was when I was down in Melbourne last year; and it is without a doubt THE food city of Australia. Every few steps you take, something delicious slaps you in the face. Every corner you turn, almost guaranteed you’re heading down another food alley of awesomeness.

My first thoughts on macarons:

1. “It looks plastic.”

2. “Why isn’t macaron spelled with double ‘o’?” (…I’m such a spelling freak. I’m still bothered by people who cannot tell the difference between words like their, they’re and there. But if I correct them I’m the asshole.)

3. “There are too many colours and flavours… great, now I’m going to spend forever here making a decision. It’s not a life changing decision…just pick something… wow I really do have a problem”

I chose vanilla.

Despite my first impressions on this little gem, I’m pretty sure an orgasmic food bomb went off in my mouth as I bit into it. From that moment on, I wanted to try as many flavours as I can and make my own someday!

Then I came back to Brisbane without the first clue on where to find macarons. Aside from Starbucks but I don’t exactly want to pay an astronomical amount for just one. Until recently, my friend Jackie told me there’s a guy in the city every week on market day that sells them! And to the city I went…

Coconut macaron

Oh, what’s this? Pistachio macaron? Why not!

I loved both flavours and all the other nutty ones! Although the fruity ones were worth a try, they were too sweet and not as refreshing. In case you guys are wondering why I specifically wrote coconut macaron on the list; it’s because I love coconut. There’s no story behind it. I’m sure the title of my blog says how much love I have for coconuts. Did I have high expectations before trying the coconut macaron? Yes, I have been anticipating it. Did it meet my expectations? You bet!

TTFN

High Tea

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 3 years since I first came to Australia. Why is it that people have a tendency of picking the farthest place on the map whenever they want to go somewhere? Having lived in Toronto (well, Cambridge, but most of you are familiar with Toronto) for 16 years now, I never once visited NYC, Vancouver or Banff. Those are some pretty popular destinations that are not too far from me right? And when I ask some of my Aussie friends what Melbourne and Sydney are like, a few of them simply told me they’ve never been outside of Queensland. It’s an interesting observation, how sometimes we are not so inclined to explore what’s around us, but deviating far from the place we are most familiar with just seems like a refreshing thing to do. It’s almost as if we want to break away from our quicksand-like comfort zone so desperately before it pulls us even deeper.

At least that’s how I felt 3 years ago.

I remember being so excited to move far away and start a new chapter in my life. However, it didn’t take too long before I realized how I overestimated my ability to live on my own. An incredible sadness overcame me – and lingered like a fog for a long time- when I started to miss my comfort zone more than ever. I immediately wanted to get back on a plane and go home; but I didn’t. Well, because it would have been the most ridiculous thing ever; having paid $2000 for that flight, I am not a rockstar so I sucked it up. And I’m glad I did. Now I’m living happily in Brisbane and couldn’t be more ecstatic that graduation is just a mere 6 months away. After I finished my first year of University in Canada, I never would have dreamed of having a pharmacy degree at the age of 24 (because my grades were crap), let alone be fortunate enough to attain it while living in Australia.

One big thing that I’ve learned over the past few years is that the future is never exactly what I imagine it to be. For example, when I was in my first and second year University I never thought I would want to have a blog, a passion for food and now I want to start my OWN BUSINESS!? The old me would have said “don’t be stupid, focus on pharmacy”. I miss the old me.

Just kidding. But seriously, why can’t I do both? I feel so fulfilled that I’ve found the things I love doing. So I want to give a big thanks to all of you who have been alongside of me on this ride over the past few years. Yea yea, it’s still early in the year I’m not graduated yet why am I being such a cheeseball. That’s what I’m picturing some of my friends saying right now. Hey whatever, take it before the offer expires. 😛

Anyway, huge thick pair of graduation goggles are on and they seem to be glued to my face. Metaphorically not literally. If you don’t know what graduation goggles are or watch How I Met Your Mother religiously, they’re kind of like beer goggles only in your graduation year, everything about the student life seem much more attractive than usual. Symptoms include; but are not limited to: the urge to drink like a fish all day everyday (which can also cause beer goggles), fist pumpin’ that nasty club air with more enthusiasm, eating out as if there’s a zombie apocalypse coming (I’ve already mastered Rule #1 – Cardio), and striking up a conversation with people you’ve known for your entire degree but never talked to them until now. (Not that I didn’t think you’re an interesting person. I am just shy sometimes)

I’m trying to put a cap on the eating out thing. Lately I have been encouraging myself to explore the diversity of cuisines in Brisbane before I no longer have the opportunity to. Couple of days ago I had a fantastic afternoon at the Stamford Plaza with Kim and Quynh and finally experienced how delicious and elegant high tea is.  I am way overdue for photos in this post…

I’m still trying to learn about all the functions on my new camera. It takes time!

“Sipping on tea like a female sir”
Haha

Salmon on a piece of… pancake? Kim and I thought it was a cracker at first. How wrong we were

The waitress was suppose to be well trained at naming everything as soon as they’ve served us. She had to apologize as she forgot what a few things were. I said “don’t worry, it’s not like we’ll remember what you just said anyway”.  It’s true, we didn’t. My favourite was the salmon appetizer by far, and raw fish isn’t even my cup of tea! (I had to) The tarts and mousse were amazing as well and there were also curry puffs that I failed to include in the photos. My least favourite was the cucumber sandwich. It was just too bland!

It doesn’t seem like a lot of food but by the end all three of us were stuffed! Had to leave the leftover scones. Shame.  The inspiration from high tea influenced me so much that I want to master a wide variety of little delectable treats and host my own high tea someday haha 😀 All in all, another memorable afternoon in Brisbane. If you’re looking to go somewhere for high tea around this area, Stamford Plaza is it for you.

Cheers to the rest of 2012 and more great experiences 🙂

Coconut Mango Sago Soup

Heads up: this post is not as dramatic as the title. Yeah I know it’s got a dark feel to it… If it’s one thing I learned from being a part-time blogger for 2 months now (whoa. I should be popping a bottle of bubbly), is that the attitude of the title makes an absurdly big difference in whether your post will get read. This is clearly not an all-or-none scenario, because if I changed the title to just “sago”, I’m sure some of you will still peek in pure curiosity from questioning “what the fuck is sago?”. If it was a household word/term like… I dunno.. “Chocolate Pudding”, it’s prooobably going to get the short end of the stick. Making a mental note to edit my “Creme Brulee” post *shifty eyes*. Enough of my scattered, aimless thoughts.

[Side note alert] By the way, I am really enjoying this blogging business. Not only does it give me a place to visually gather my progress and reflections, it has even provided me some level of comfort in writing. The latter, I did not expect going into it. I have read – and enjoyed reading – many superstar articles a.k.a Freshly Pressed. Let’s be honest, and I say this with a chuckle, I’m not planning on quitting my day job. Anyway, like I said, blogging is keeping me interested and I really do appreciate those of you who are reading my food rambles. It means a lot 🙂

OKAY okay, sago, with a long “a” sound. This is where grade school English is coming back to bite me in the ass. You know, I am still iffy on that concept. It’s deceiving in the sense that anyone could have just pronounced sago like “saaaaago”. Is that LONG enough of an ‘a’ sound for you Mr. Insertnamehere!? Instead, what it really means is that sago, is legitimately pronounced as “say-go”. Tomato tomahto.

So! I made mango coconut sago. What are the ingredients? I just told you. Easy, simple, doesn’t beat around the bush. If it were only that way for other desserts, like Chocolate Diane, but that’s a whole different story for another sitting.

Shanghai is a hotspot for sago desserts. I spent 50% of my time seeing family and the other 50% eating that stuff last time. They come in a variety of flavours containing black sesame, tropical fruits, durian, sticky rice, red beans, grass jelly etc.  That’s a lot of trial-and-errors to go through to get the successful mixtures. Interestingly, I did not know that sago and tapioca are essentially the same thing. They are both starches extracted from a family of trees mostly found in SE Asia. Did you make the connection  to the title of the post yet? Sago is pure carbohydrate and extremely scarce in other nutrients. So, if you’re on a low carb diet… Make sure you ask for no “bubbles” in your bubble tea!

In all honesty, my creative juices were just not flowing and I struggled with the title of this post. I actually don’t have a lot to say about low carb diets. Except I tried it once and failed after 2 months hah. One thing I know for sure now: stay away from sago if you want to succeed. There are approximately 5g of carbohydrates in a slice of bread and 94g of carbs in 100g of sago. Yikes..

Sago in its packaged form.

It’s surprisingly tricky to “cook” sago. I find that boiling it for a few minutes and then drowning them in cold water for about a day works wonders. When they’re ready, I submerged them in coconut milk drink and diced a mango.

I apologize for the crappy picture. It wasn’t actually taken until I was half finished. I am probably the most distracted food “photographer”.

This is one of the simplest dishes among a million other varieties of sago soupy desserts. I encourage you to branch out and give this a shot sometime. It’s a very refreshing and light palate cleanser. Not too sugary or dense. The most challenging part is knowing where to purchase sago. As I got mine from Shanghai, you will most definitely not be able to spot it on a shelf at your regular supermarket. Try T & T, or other Asian grocery stores-for all you Canadian readers. For my Australian friends, try this place about 10 minutes away from CBD near the corner of McLoughlin and Ma-I’m just playing with ya I have no clue where to get sago in Brisbane. 😉

TTFN

Creme Brulee

The sole purpose of this post is to not make my last post seem so awkward since I promised to blog about my creme brulees. Just kidding. In all honesty this was probably the funnest food I’ve ever made. As a kid, I always found amusement out of playing with fire. Now I get the pleasure of torching the shit out of my food to make it what it’s suppose to be: delicious.

By the way, my new torch is pretty bad-ass. I’m not talking about an industrial torch, that’s unnecessary. Don’t go looking for this thing at like Home Depot or Rona. Although Home Hardware carries them, they’re a bit on the pricy side. Yeah, I did my research. I bought mine from a kitchen store and a can of butane from Canadian tire.

Pretty confident that I will be using this a lot in the future

So anyway, creme brulees are really easy to make, but it takes a few hours of your time. I used Alton Brown’s recipe. You know, the host of Iron Chef America. Do me a favour and not substitute vanilla bean for vanilla extract or vanilla essence or… no. Take this opportunity and use the real stuff. Ever since I used it in my wonderful concoction of mulled wine, it’s hard to step down. It might cost you a bit more but in the end you’ll notice a big difference. I got a pack of two beans from Bulk Barn. The recipe tells you to split and scrape them, I only split. I find that it’s too much of a hassle to scrape it because not only is it sticky, it’s hard to wash off your fingers too. It’s going to be swimming in a large pot of boiling cream, if that doesn’t extract the vanilla flavours then I don’t know what will! Then again, I haven’t done much research on vanilla beans, so if you think I should have handled it differently, comment away.

Submerging half of the ramekins in water. Don’t ignore this step as it will dry out your creme brulees!

So after those are out of the oven and have been chilling in the fridge for at least 2 hours and blah blah blah, we’re finally ready to use my new toy!

I mixed half a teaspoon of vanilla extract with some sugar – perhaps too much- and spread it over top. Let’s be realistic here, I wasn’t willing to spend another hour using vanilla bean to make vanilla sugar. Temptation was taking over at this point, thus shortcut will suffice 🙂

It’s hard to stop

I’m about halfway done here. Maybe subconsciously I purposely used more sugar to make the fun last longer

I was far too excited to take my first bite that I forgot to use my camera. Food photography is not easy sometimes! You get distracted a lot. I apologize for the unappealing sight of my licked spoon, but at the same time I wanted you to see how mouth watering this dessert looks. I would gladly describe the texture and taste of it all, but my comment box will probably be bombarded with sexual innuendos, (mostly from my closest friends, they won’t be able to pass it up) so I will leave it at that.

I believe this experiment was deemed successful and I am stoked to try different flavours. Would love a chocolate base next time with some fruit purees (still ignoring the accented e’s) to garnish. Or maybe a fruit “creme” with chocolate sugar. I dunno, whatever. Point is, I just wanna use my torch again. Oh, I can put it to good use on some meringue pies as well.

Last thing, just a tip with the recipe. Never add the yolk mixture to the hot cream, the eggs will probably cook and you will get a messy curdled brew. Slowly add the cream to the eggs.

Let me know what you think! This is only my first time attacking this recipe. I’m sure some of you have tricks up your sleeve, don’t hide it =P. Also, I always thought creme brulees are super rich and sweet, which I’m not a fan. Turns out they don’t have to be. If you don’t add as much sugar, it can be a nice and light palate cleanser. That’s all. 🙂

Stuff it good!

Stuffing food is great fun, it’s capable of sealing in a lot of food and flavours into a pocket that is, guess what, made out of more food. Get a grasp of this: you don’t need to bend over backwards in order to make something delicious. Exhibit A: strawberry stuffed cheesecake.

What fascinates me about stuffed foods: it’s kind of like eating an oreo. We all love it when life gives us options. You can (try) force the whole thing in your mouth, you can eat the cookie part first, or the filling! Whatever tickles your fancy. There are no rules. In a way, stuffed food brings out the kid in me.

It reminds me of this commercial…

Anyways…

Bite sized strawberry cheesecake

Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for this recipe. I googled it. I can briefly walk you through the steps. It was ingeniously simple and stupidly time-consuming.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, the most time consuming part goes into carving out the centre of the strawberries. Tip: buy mutant large strawberries. The bigger the better in this case. Screw the “motion of the ocean” attitude. It really does make your life easier if you’re able to carve out a decent sized cavity without demolishing the sides.

So, you will need: Philadelphia cream cheese (light for me), softened. 1 tsp vanilla extract, about 2 tbsp confectioner’s sugar (adjust to taste), and crushed graham crackers (optional).

After all of the strawberries have been carved, whip the cream cheese, vanilla extract and confectioner’s sugar using a hand mixer until smooth. Yup, that’s pretty much the basis of all cheesecakes that you get at stores and restaurants. If they can do it, so can you!

Using a zip lock bag, I snipped the corner and spooned the filling inside. You know what to do next! For the complete cheesecake look, sprinkle crushed graham crackers on top.

For about 2 dozen strawberries… it took me around half an hour with my sister’s help (she carved most of it… muahaha).

May I now introduce you to my newfound love. Stuffed mushrooms, ladies and gentlemen.

After making the stuffed strawberries, I was really getting into the stuffing groove. I knew that mushrooms are awesome stuffers…because you can find “Stuffer Mushrooms” at the supermarket.

If you are a mushroom lover like me (we all love a fun-guy. Haha.. that one hasn’t gotten old for me yet), you need to try this.

I still consider this recipe pretty simple. I mean, unlike the strawberries, you will need more than 2 ingredients, but I promise it’s going to rock your taste buds.

What I used for the stuffing:

  • Handful of chives. Chopped
  • Spring onions. Chopped.
  • Garlic. Chopped.
  • Bacon. Cut into small pieces. (Easier to deal with if it’s partially frozen)
  • Mushroom stems. Finely chopped.
  • Bread crumbs. The Italian seasoned ones are the best!
  • Chili powder or red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Salt and pepper of course

Firstly, you need to clean and de-stem the mushrooms and lay the caps on a baking tray. Remember to save the stems! Bake it for about 7 minutes at 400F. The purpose of this is to extract as much of the juices so the end product doesn’t get soggy. When that’s out of the oven, lay them right side up on paper towels.

Sautee onions and garlic in just a tad of olive oil on medium heat. Add the bacon and cook for 10 minutes. The longer the crispier the better!

Then I added chives and mushroom stems and cooked for 5-7 minutes more. Seasoned it with some chili powder, pepper and a pinch of salt. When I say a ‘pinch’, I really mean ½ teaspoon to 1 teaspoon. You know sometimes on TV how they throw in a good handful of salt as if saying that’s the correct definition of “a pinch?” Maybe I missed a website called foodurbandictionary.com but I normally try to cut down on as much of that stuff as I can; especially in this recipe where the bacon is already salty.

When you’re ready, remove from heat and stir in a liberal amount of bread crumbs. It’s important that you don’t cook the bread crumbs on the stove as it will burn.

Start stuffing the mushrooms! Grate some parmesan cheese on top and bake in the oven at 400F for 8-10 minutes. It’s good isn’t it?

My third dish…

Was a disaster.

It was mostly out of curiosity when watching Chef at Home one day. I am not at all against the combination of sweet and savoury. I believe that some things that wouldn’t normally SEEM to go well together can surprise me. So, I really wanted the idea of apples and pork to impress me. It was just not appealing in my mind. Nonetheless, I was excited to give it a real shot…

*sigh*

Essentially, I caramelized the apples and onions in olive oil and apple cider vinegar. Seasoned with rosemary, a bit of thyme, salt and pepper, and a dash of soy sauce. There were pieces of garlic in there somewhere too.

I marinated two slices of pork center loin and seared it in the pan on both sides. Instead of cutting a pocket out of a thick slice because that’s not the kind I bought, I sort of folded a pocket out of it and they were secured with toothpicks. I stuffed it and put it in the oven for 5-7 minutes at 400F.

I did not like it for a few reasons:

#1: Apples and pork did not impress or surprise me. It tasted just as unappealing as I had imagined.

#2: Meat was tough.

#3: I should have saved the apples for an apple crumble.