Thursday, March 31, 2011

Trying Something Old School: Tapioca Pudding With Coconut Milk

When I went to the supermarket the other day, gazing through the isles, my eyes were caught by the sight of tapioca pearls. Not to be mistaken with rice or couscous, tapioca pearls are widely used by the Asians in their deserts. Some of you might have tried bubble tea, in which you can find the pearls.

My dad always says that one of his favourite desert is tapioca pudding. I don’t doubt him, but I’ve never really seen him eat any of it. Maybe it’s because it’s such an old school desert. It’s not like I’ve ever  seen tapioca pudding on a restaurant’s desert menu. But come to think of it, my dad did eat a whole lot of it when I was a little girl… when my mom used to make it. That I remember. Maybe it is his favourite desert after all, he just doesn't have the opportunity to eat it!

You can guess that by seeing the tapioca bag I decided I would try to make a pudding out of it. I had never done so in my life and felt like having a light desert. Something different that wasn’t a cake. After I made my pudding, I brought a Tupperware filled with the goody pudding to my parents’ house and you should’ve seen my dad's face. He was ecstatic at the idea of having his desert. Just to see the look on his face, trying out this recipe was totally worth it. On top of it, it was absolutely delicious. So much that my sister is pushing me to get the recipe. So here it is! 

Makes 4 servings

½ vanilla been or ½ tsp vanilla extract
1 can (14oz) coconut milk
½ cup milk
½ cup sugar
Pinch of salt
¼ cup medium tapioca pearls
2 egg yolks

With the tip of a knife, split the vanilla bean in half. Remove the seeds. In a double boiler, heat the milk, coconut milk, ¼ cup of sugar, salt and vanilla pod and seeds. Sprinkle in the tapioca while stirring. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 40-45 minutes.

In a bowl, combine the egg yolks and the remaining sugar with a whisk. Stir into the tapioca mixture. Continue cooking while stirring until the pudding thickens (about 5 minutes). Remove the vanilla pod. If you are using vanilla extract, add it at this time. Remove from heat.

Enjoy warm or cold.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bringing Balinese Paradise To The Table With Chicken in a Spicy Coconut Milk

Have you ever been to Bali? If you’ve answered yes to this question, then you’re part of the lucky ones who can easily say they’ve been to paradise on earth. Who can deny that this place has something magical with its breathtaking scenery, its generous and warm people and its laid back Buddhist approach to life? Not to brag, but I answered yes to the question. And I really feel privileged to have done so.

Some friends of mine had the chance to visit Bali not long ago and these people are true foodies! They went out of their way to find the best food on the island and made sure they sent me some pictures of what they ate to relate their experiences. I can tell you that the mouthwatering pictures they sent me made me dream of my personal food experience on the island. They made me reminisce of the tasty plates I devoured while I was there.

Which is why I was reminded of the one souvenir I brought back from my trip. This one and only souvenir is a cookbook written by one of Bali’s renowned chefs. Although I’m not proud to admit this, I had never gotten around to making one of its recipes. So last week I took matters into hand and headed over the Kim Phat (see the list of places I like to shop) with a long list of ingredients and bought everything I needed for an exotic Balinese dinner. The trip to the South Shore was well worth it. This chicken was so tasty it really reminds me of what I ate in Bali. If you’ve never been there but want to bring a piece of the island to your plate, this is really worth a try. Don’t be afraid of all the ingredients you might not have heard of before. You can find them in Asian stores. Ask if you don’t know what they look like!

Makes 4 servings

4 chicken thighs (or breasts, if preferred)
3 lemongrass branches
3 tbsp vegetable oil
3 salam leaves (also called lemon leaves)
400ml thick coconut milk
1 tbsp palm sugar

Spice paste
9 candlenuts (if you can find some)
½ tsp white peppercorns
½ tsp black peppercorns
5 shallots, peeled and finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
5 bird’s eye chilies, sliced
3 cm piece of fresh turmeric, peeled and finely chopped
4cm piece of fresh galangal, peeled and finely chopped

Preheat your oven at 375˚F.

To make the spice paste, use a pestle and mortar to pound the candlenuts and peppercorns to a fine paste. Add the shallots, garlic, chilies, lesser galangal, turmeric and galangal and pound again to paste.

Cut the lemongrass in half, and bruise the stalk.

Heat the oil in a wok and fry the spice paste for about 3 minutes. Add the lemongrass, salam leaves, coconut milk and palm sugar. Add some salt. Take off the heat.

Put the chicken in an ovenproof cooking plate and cover with the hot paste. Put in the oven and cook for about 45-50 minutes (less if you’re using chicken breasts).

Serve the chicken in the sauce with white rice.

Notes: Candlenuts are used in Indonesian and Malaysian cooking to thicken recipes. They look similar to a large hazelnut but don’t taste the same. If you can find them, great, if not, don’t worry; you’ll still get a great taste from this recipe.

You can use gloves when dealing with fresh Turmeric, as it stains. If you don’t, there’s nothing to worry about. The color on your hands will go away in a day or two. Just be careful with your clothes!

If you live in the Montreal area, I highly suggest visiting Kim Phat in Brossard, the biggest Asian supermarket in the city area. You’ll find absolutely everything you need in this one store. The best day to visit is Wednesday when they put out all their newly arrived products.

Salam Leaves


Monday, March 28, 2011

Making A Friend Happy and Healthy With a Fresh Quinoa Salad

This week I went to visit a good friend of mine who’s just had a baby. When I was in the same situation, nothing seemed to please me more than friends who showed up at my place with a surprise of good healthy food to fill my too often empty stomach. So when my friend told me I could pass by to see the newborn, I just felt I had to bring something to make her feel better. Something that would bring her all the good vitamins she most certainly needs. When you do this, the food needs to be really simple and straight to the point, and requires no onsite preparation. Which is why I thought of a salad. But if I made a regular salad, with lettuce, it would get soggy by the time I got to her home. Like I said, no onsite preparation also means no need for a bowl and utensils to add the dressing.

So I came up with the idea of a fresh quinoa salad. Refreshing and ultra nutritious, I think it was the perfect snack for the occasion. Quinoa is a high protein grain as well as a good source of dietary fibers. It’s gluten free and easy to digest. Effortless to prepare all sorts of way, quinoa is a great thing to always keep handy in your kitchen. These days, I much prefer it to rice as an accompaniment, mostly for it nutritious value.

I think my friend was happy with what I brought her. Although she couldn’t manage to sit down for more than 5 minutes to eat her salad, she did manage to eat a good portion of her daily vitamins, essential any time but even more when you’re breastfeeding. And I was certainly a happy camper to know this salad was also my lunch. Not only did I do a good deed, but I did satisfy my hunger at the same time! 

Makes 2 servings

1 cup quinoa
2 star anise
2 cardamoms
2 cloves (clou de girofle)
2 cups light chicken broth

1 tbsp Dijon Mustard
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil
Salt  & pepper

¼ white onion, finely chopped
8 small vine tomatoes, quartered
2 small Lebanese cucumbers cut in small pieces
4 celery branches, finely chopped
½ jalapeno, finely chopped (optional)
2 tbsp fresh coriander, roughly chopped
2 oranges cut in small pieces

Rinse the quinoa. In a small skillet, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Add the quinoa, star anise, cardamoms, and cloves. Cook for about 20 minutes or as indicated on the package. Once ready, let cool.

In a small bowl, blend the mustard with the vinegar. Slowly add the olive oil until you obtain a thick texture. Add salt and pepper to taste.

In a bowl, mix the white onion, tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, jalapeno and about 1 cup of cooked quinoa. Add the dressing and mix well. Finish by adding the coriander and oranges and mix gently.

NOTE: I like to prepare my quinoa in advance. You can make it a day ahead or even use leftovers to make the salad.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Because I still dream of Italy, Porcini Crostini

This weekend I really got into the pasta thing with my Tuna, Tomato and Black Olive sauce, which made me dream of Italy. Once you start dreaming of such a place, it’s not easy to get it out of your head. I feel like eating pasta everyday now, or anything Italian. I want to watch La Dolce Vita and indulge on tons of Gelato. I feel like drinking a nice big glass of Chianti and sing like Pavarotti!!

I can’t get any of these great things from my kitchen. Sadly. But I can try to make the most of it by cooking something Italian and simple. I’ve said it before, I’m a big mushroom fan and I so happen to have some really nice wild mushrooms in my fridge. Why not make something simple like the Italians do so well and put a lot of taste into it? Who needs to try to make something complicated when simplicity usually pays off in the kitchen?

I won’t go to Italy any time soon, so I’ll have to get over the dreaming. But cooking a few Italian things in the last few days has made me feel like I was elsewhere, far from the last bits of Canadian winter and its melting snow. Very soon, La Dolve Vita will be right here in my own back yard.  

Makes 4 small crostinis
4 slices of sour dough baguette
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 small shallot
2 garlic cloves
1 cup porcini or wild mushrooms
½ tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
3 tbsp heavy cream
1 tbsp black truffle oil (optional)
Salt & pepper

Preheat your oven at 450˚F. Cut 4 slices of your bread and generously spread olive oil on top. Bake in the oven for 5-7 minutes, until lightly roasted.

In a large skillet over high heat, heat 1 tbsp of oil and the butter. Add the shallots and the garlic and cook for about 1 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes. Lower the heat to medium and add the oregano, mint and cream. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, until the cream thickens. Finalise with salt and pepper to taste and truffle oil, if you like.

Serve hot on the crostini bread. You can serve with a nice arugula salad or, as I did, with tomato and Mozzarella Di Buffala. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Just In Time For Spring? Tuna, Tomato and Black Olive Sauce

What a great day for spring to arrive… with yet another snowstorm!!! I’m totally sarcastic here. What the heck is wrong with mother nature? Isn’t she happy we’re finally going outside again to enjoy the nice weather? Does she really want us to stay in, secluded from the rest of the world for longer? I can’t stand my winter boots anymore (they’ve decided to let water seek in), and don't get me started with my winter coat… soon I’ll make a big ceremony and burn it to the ground!

Ok, so I might be a little harsh. I’m sick of winter but I can still stand it. But not for long. Until it clearly goes away, I will stick to making winter food and will only dream of the day I’m going to sparkle that BBQ again. Yet nothing is stopping me from trying to get some refreshing flavours on my plate. Which is why I was really excited when I found this totally tasty and bursting with Mediterranean flavours inspired pasta sauce. With it’s lemon kick it made me think I was on the Amalfi coast, enjoying the nice Italian coastal breeze while napping in a hammock.  

The sauce is great served with Penne. Make sure you get yourself a nice bottle of Italian Red Wine to go with it. Who eats Italian pastas without a great glass of wine?!!

Makes 4 to 6 servings

6 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme
14 oz canned chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp sundried tomatoes
2 tbsp black olives, pitted and chopped
1 tsp green peppercorns, drained and chopped
7 oz canned tuna, drained
14 oz canned cannellini beans, drained and roughly chopped
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Salt & black pepper
4 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy-based, deep-sided pan and sauté the onion with the garlic and thyme until soft.

Turn up the heat, add the canned tomatoes with their juice and cook until the sauce thickens, stirring occasionally.

Turn down the heat, stir in the sun-dried tomatoes, olives, peppercorns, tuna, beans and lemon zest and cook for a further 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Toss with hot pasta, sprinkle with parsley. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Chocolate or Caramel? Maple Syrup Pouding Chomeur

Apparently there’s a saying that says people are either chocolate or caramel. What does it mean? It means you’re more inclined towards one taste or the other. So what are you? Personally, I’m caramel! Yep… I’m one of those people who won’t flip over and go berserk for a bar of chocolate, but who will eat anything remotely close to caramel right out of the jug. And this stands for Maple Syrup.

Oh my!! If you don’t live in Canada, then your access to the sweet brownish liquid is probably either impossible or simply damn expensive. Over here, in Quebec, the sweet syrup is not only easy to find and not that expensive, it gets even cheaper at this time of the year (I just bought some on sale at Provigo). It’s not only easily accessible, but we’re totally encouraged and pushed into buying/eating/indulging on the sweet stuff. A lot of people even escape to the cabane à sucre to indulge on all sorts of greasy fatty foods cooked in Maple Syrup. It’s traditional over here and, somehow, it’s one of the last traditions French Canadians are keeping alive these days.

As I’m a big Maple Syrup fan (I can drink it as if it was a glass of water… not something I’m very proud of…), and as we are entering the season, I just HAD to make something out of Maple Syrup. So when my sister invited us to dinner last night and asked me if I could make some kind of a dessert, I knew exactly what I was going to make… I had this one lined up for quite a long time: Pouding chomeur.

Makes about 9 servings

2 cups Maple Syrup
2 cups 35% cream
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
¾ cups milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat your oven at 400˚F.

In a saucepan, bring the maple syrup and cream to a boil. Pour the mixture into a large Pyrex baking dish. Set aside.

In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar using an electric mixer. Add the eggs, one at a time, until the mixture is homogenous. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternating with the milk and vanilla.

Gently poor the mixture on top of the syrup mixture. Put in the oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the centre of a ball comes out clean (about 35-40 minutes).

You can serve warm or cold. Personally, I prefer it warm! Enjoy the weekend!!! 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Getting Closer To Summer: Cream of Carrot and Ginger Soup

Ah! The smell of summer; there’s nothing nicer after a long, arduous Quebec winter. Ok, so it doesn’t exactly smell like summer just yet… I can still see a whole lot of snow in my backyard. But still, with 5˚C outside, we can just about say that winter is over. Unless… One final snowstorm decides to hit us all on the head. But that won’t happen, right?

With summer just around the corner, I’m dreaming of fresh vegetables from the garden. Big juicy tomatoes, basil, fresh corn on the cob… Name it, I’ll dream of it. I think nothing tastes better than something grown in your own backyard (or bought at the local farm market... I don't grow my own food yet)!

The following dish is such a simple one to prepare, and such a teaser for what’s to come. And I'm not trying to invent anything! Make it as a starter to your dinner tonight. It’ll take you 20 minutes to make and you’ll get good vitamins out of it! Plus, if you’ve got a little leftover of a winter flu, ginger is a great cleanser for your system and will get you right back on your feet, ready for even warmer temperatures.

Makes 6 servings

2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
6 carrots, ideally bio
½ fennel, diced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, thinly diced
1 garlic clove
4 cups chicken broth
Salt & pepper
½ cup 15% cream

In a large saucepan, cook the onion in the olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrots, fennel, ginger and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth. Cover and cook for about 20 minutes or until the carrots are soft. Let cool.

Transfer to a blender and purée until smooth. Add the cream. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Reheat over low heat just before serving.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Green Tea Infused Gravlax; When You've Got A Piece of Fish To Spare

Just the other day I bought a huge piece of salmon fillet thinking I would cook it for a group of friends. But then the happening didn’t happen. So I was left with my fresh piece of fish not knowing what to do with it. I could’ve cut it into pieces and frozen it, but I find it sad to freeze a nice piece of fish or meat… because it’s never as good as when it’s fresh! Since I’m pregnant and about to burst, I can’t get into the tartar thing (raw fish is sadly forbidden to pregnant women), which is normally what I would’ve done. So I got a flash genius (so I believe!) and decided I would make a nice big piece of gravlax.

Gravlax, for the unfamiliar, is a Swedish way of preserving and infusing taste to fish by curing it into a mixture of salt and sugar. Dill is the usual flavor used for such a method but you can try to be creative and add a few flavors such as orange or lemon and, as such is the case here, tea!
I personally can’t get enough of salmon. It’s like chicken, I’m never sick of it. Any way you serve it it’s bound to be tasty… unless you overcook the poor thing. The good thing about gravlax is that you can keep it for a good week in the fridge and add it to anything you like, any way you like it. Be creative. And get your dose of Omega-3 at the same time!


500 g salmon fillet, skin on
4 tbsp coarse sea salt
4 tbsp sugar
1 ½ tbsp fresh dill
2 tbsp black pepper
2 tbsp green tea leaves
Grated zest of 2 lemons
2 tbsp vodka

In a small bowl, mix together the salt, sugar, pepper, tealeaves, lemon zest and vodka. On a baking sheet covered with cheesecloth, evenly spread half of the mixture.

Place the salmon filet on the mixture, skin side down. Cover the salmon with the rest of the mixture.

Wrap the salmon tightly in the cheesecloth and press down with a heavy pan or a cutting board. Cover and refrigerate for 48 hours, flipping the salmon every 12 hours.

Unwrap the fish and rinse well under cold water. Dry with Scott towels.

Placing the fish skin side down, cut thin slices, diagonally. You can serve it as you like… Here are a few ideas: for brunch, in a bagel with cream cheese; for cocktail, on small blinis with sour cream; as a snack, on rye bread with goat cheese, for lunch, in a salad, etc!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

One Pot Meal: Herb and Lemon Roasted Chicken

This super easy, simple yet succulent recipe is perfect for weeknights. It doesn’t take much time to prepare and you just have to stick it in the oven for it to get ready… or almost!

Sick babies tend to want to be in their mother’s arms a lot more than usual when they’re sick. My daughter has a cold these days so my free hands are a luxury, and my time is limited… Which is what average people go through when they work and they have to prepare dinner for the family (or for themselves). So during the week, I try to make some simple recipes; ones that don’t require much skills nor do they take more than 30 minutes to prepare (unless cooking time is slightly longer). The following recipe is the perfect example of stuff I cook during the week, when I want to cook but I’m not necessarily in the mood to spend a lot of time doing it. If you relate to the lack of time, than this one is for you.

Herb and Lemon Roasted Chicken
Makes 2 servings

1 tbsp olive oil
2 chicken thighs
400 g yellow potatoes
2 tbsp capers, rinsed and drained
5 garlic cloves, cut in 4
Juice of 1 lemon
2 lemons, cut in quarters
1 bunch rosemary
8 sage leaves
1/3 cup dry white wine or Vermouth
¾ cup chicken stock
Salt & pepper

Preheat oven at 400˚F.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over high heat. Cook the chicken for 2-3 minutes each side or until browned.

Add the potatoes, capers, garlic, rosemary, sage, lemon juice, lemon quarters, wine and stock. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Remove lid and roast for a further 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and the chicken is cooked through.  

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lamb Shanks For The Snow Digger In You

Lets hope we had our last snowstorm yesterday. Montreal was pretty much spared since we were covered by only 15 cm of snow… but the Eastern townships? They got 70cm! WOW! Now that’s a lot of snow. What do you do when it snows that much? You dig. You dig your way out of your house; you dig your car out of the snow bank; you dig, dig, and dig. Your car gets stuck in the snow; your boots are filled with snow; you’re hair is white from all the snow! Although you think it looks beautiful, you curse at Mother Nature for such a crappy Monday morning. So what does all that digging, cursing and swearing do to you? They open up your appetite!!

Which is why I believe slow cooked lamb shanks were perfect for a day like yesterday. Lets keep the healthy salads for summer meals and indulge in some insanely good meat that simply melts in your mouth. Go ahead. Don’t be shy and dig into the last bits of winter. Soon enough, it’ll be summer with its heat waves and you’ll be begging me to try out some “fresh and refreshing” recipes; you’ll be begging me to stay away from the oven and the heavy-duty meats.

Makes 8 servings

2 tbsp olive oil
8 lamb shanks
2 leeks, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly diced
6 cloves garlic
6 sprigs thyme
6 sprigs rosemary
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups red wine
1 liter lamb stock (or beef)
Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan over high heat. Cook the shanks in batches, for 1-2 minutes each side or until browned. Remove from pan and place in a baking dish. Set Aside.

Add the leeks, onion, garlic, thyme and rosemary to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the wine and stock and bring to a boil. Pour over the shanks, cover and roast for 2 ½ hours, turning the meat every 30 minutes.

Serve with polenta or mashed potatoes.

Note: When browning the shanks, be careful! The mix of the oil and the meat’s natural fat can be dangerous, as it will spout over high heat.  

Saturday, March 5, 2011

For the Food Geek In You: Foodies

What is a Foodie, really? According to Wikipedia, a foodie is an informal term for a particular class of aficionado of food  and drink . What’s an aficionado? It’s basically a fan; one who has a liking and enthusiasm for something. A BIG enthusiasm! Digging deeper into my research, I question myself on the difference between a Gourmet and a Foodie. Still according to Wikipedia, although the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, foodies differ from gourmets  in that gourmets are epicures of refined taste who may or may not be professionals in the food industry, whereas foodies are amateurs who simply love food for consumption, study, preparation, and news. Gourmets simply want to eat the best food, whereas foodies want to learn everything about food, both the best and the ordinary, and about the science, industry, and personalities surrounding food.

Now. Where do you stand? What are you?

I think I’m a foodie… And as a foodie, I have to admit we can sometimes be real geeks. A true boredom for people who are not interested in food; a true snobs to the ones who simply eat for survival purposes. Whether you’re a foodie or not, and if you can laugh a little and be sarcastic about things, there’s a new show coming to the web. I’ve only seen the trailer but it looks intriguing. I’m curious to see how this web series will be. If you’re curious like me, go to the following website and watch it!

Watch the trailer and get teased!! Foodies Trailer


Friday, March 4, 2011

My Own Personal Salmon Bite (Of Heaven)

This is one of my favorite bites. It’s fancy and it looks really amazing. I usually keep it for the big occasions and the special people. Salmon is such a sexy fish. Yes, you read me well: sexy!!! It’s my favorite ‘accessible’ fish (Bar and Black Cod being my ultimate favorites… but they are extremely expensive fish so I try to stay away from them!). I like salmon especially when it’s raw. Because it’s a fat fish, it melts in your mouth when you eat it raw. These days I can’t indulge on one of my favorite dishes, tartar (my pregnant self not allowing it), so I cheat by eating tiny pieces of the raw flesh I love so much! Of course, if you eat your fish raw, it has to be really fresh (or just unfrozen… but that doesn’t sound too sexy!).

I usually make this as a first course, in a larger size, which you could too. But this time, I decided to make it into bite size little gems. A Montreal Japanese chef, who makes a similar salad, inspired me for this recipe. I tried to interpret what he made and gave it my own personal twist. I highly recommend that you try to make this if you’re looking to impress someone. It never fails!

Makes 12 bites
100 g fresh salmon, thinly sliced (more if you make it as a full dish)
12 thin slices of English cucumber, skin on
2 tbsp salmon roe
1 green apple, skin only, thinly sliced
12 Shiso leaves (optional)
Black sesame for decoration

Japanese Vinaigrette
1 shallot, thinly diced
4 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp Japanese mustard powder (or English mustard powder)
Black pepper
4 tsp water
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp grapeseed oil

Thinly dice the shallot. In a mixing bowl, mix together the shallot, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, mustard powder, pepper and water. When the sugar has dissolved, mix in the sesame and grapeseed oils.

Note: This dressing tastes even better if you make it a day ahead.

You can find Shiso leaves at an asian market or a Japanese specialized store. Here in Montreal you can find them at Miyamoto on Victoria in Westmount. 

In a small plate, lay a shiso leaf, a cucumber slice and a salmon slice. Top it with a spoonful of vinaigrette. Finish it off with a few apple skin slices, salmon row and black sesame. Indulge! 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Battle of Chocolate and Caramel: A Banoffee And A Macaroon

Ok. I promised to tell you what desert I cooked this weekend so this is the big moment you’ve all been waiting for! Really, I believe that this time I nailed my desert. No more cake disaster! Even my friends said I could win a prize with this one. What a great compliment!! But really, this isn’t for the faint. It’s a really sugary desert and if you can’t handle sugar, then you certainly won’t handle this!

I’m more of a caramel person than a chocolate one… but I know that most people are more chocolate than me. So I decided to create a battle between salty caramel and chocolate; a total drama in the plate. It’s a dish where both flavors come to mend and end up exploding in your mouth as if they were always meant to be together. And believe me, my friends and I were awe struck with the perfect match… shouldn’t both flavors always be together? They taste soooooo good together!!!

So this plate consisted of two main deserts, the first one being a small Banoffee whish is a very popular English pastry made from bananas, cream and toffee (dulce de leche). The second one was a chocolate caramel macaroon. I made both with a salty touch to balance out the intense presence of sugar. To decorate, I made candied kumquats, which resembles a tiny orange.

If you’ve got time on your hands and are game enough to try to make the whole thing, than go for it. And please let me know of what you thought of it… I want to know if my friends and I were simply delusional from all the food we ate that night!

Makes 8 servings

200 g of Digestive cookies
2 bananas, sliced
1 lemon juice
1 can of condensed milk
50g salted butter
200g milk chocolate
Whipped cream for decoration

Make a small whole in the condensed milk can (or open slightly). Place it in a small saucepan filled with boiling water. Let boil at low heat for 2 hours. Take the can out and let cool.

In a large bowl crunch the cookies. In a small bowl, melt the butter. Add the butter to the crushed cookies and press the mixture into a muffin pan.

Cut the bananas into slices and roll them into the lemon juice so they don’t oxidize. Place them on top of the cookie mixture. Pour the caramel mixture on top of the bananas. 

In a small bowl, melt the chocolate in the microwave. Be careful not to overcook. Pour the chocolate on top of the caramel. Put in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 hours.

When ready to serve, unmold the circles by simply pressing on the chocolate. Garnish with whipped cream and let the caramel spread onto the plate.

Note: If you have small round rings (8cm diameter), you can use them instead of the muffin pan. Then the recipe should make 6 Banoffee.

Makes about 20 macaroons
3 eggs
240g icing sugar
40g granulated sugar
135g almond powder
10g cocoa powder
230g granulated sugar
80g 35% cream
100g salted butter

In a bowl, mix the almond powder, icing sugar and cocoa to obtain a fine dry powder. Sift and set aside.

Separate the egg whites from the egg yolks. In a bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add 40 g of sugar and continue beating until the peaks are firm.

Slowly incorporate the dry mix to the egg whites, blending delicately until you obtain a shiny and homogenous mixture. Preheat your oven at 300˚F (ideally convection).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. With the help of a pastry bag, pipe the meringue onto the baking sheet in round shapes (3cm diameter) keeping them well spaced. Let them rest for 20 minutes. The macaroons are ready for baking when your finger doesn’t stick to it. Put in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes (depending on the size). Let cool.

For the caramel, melt 230 g of sugar in a small saucepan over low heat and without blending. Once the sugar starts boiling, immediately take off the heat and let the caramel become a darker brown. Heat the cream and incorporate to the caramel. Add the butter and mix well.

For the assembly, stick 2 macaroons together with a little bit of salted caramel in between.

Notes: If you have a hard time taking your macaroons off the parchment paper without destroying them, you can put a little bit of water underneath the paper. But be careful, if there is too much water or if you leave it for too long, it will melt your macaroons!

The macaroons will keep in an airtight container for about 1 month without the caramel. They also freeze well.


250 g sugar
9 Kumquats (or orange or lemon peel)
500 ml water

In a medium saucepan, mix the water and the sugar. Over low heat, let the sugar dissolve and bring to a boil. Add the kumquats. Slowly let boil for about 20 minutes. Take the fruits out and let them cool.