26 March 2008

And the winner is...

Okay, I normally don't toot my own horn, but as this isn't exactly my horn to toot, I am going for it. What am I going on about you ask? Well, a while back I worked on a cookbook by Anne Willan called The Country Cooking of France. That book was published end of last year and has now been nominated for 3 awards, I'm so excited ;-) !!!

The awards are:

“Deemed “the Oscars of the food world,” by Time magazine, The James Beard Foundation Awards are the USA’s most coveted honour for chefs; food and beverage professionals; broadcast media, journalists, and authors working on food; and restaurant architects and designers. “ The awards ceremony will be in NYC in June.

IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) awards for BEST INTERNATIONAL COOKBOOK. The winner will be announced at the 2008 IACP Awards Ceremony in New Orleans in April.

I did research, editing and recipe testing for the book and if you pull out your magnifying glass, you can find my name somewhere on the acknowledgement page. I'm teeny tiny, but there!

Yes, I did work on it for over a year and yes, it is near and dear to my heart, but it's a great cookbook nevertheless. Great recipes (which I know work as they have all been tested countless times!) and beautiful photography/design. I think it is set to become THE resource for regional French cuisine so check it out for yourself...

23 March 2008

Happy Bunny Day!

Ah, springtime is nigh (for those of you who live in places with seasons that is) and the Easter Bunny has come bearing goodies. As we ended up not going away as originally planned, we decided to have an Easter lunch for a few friends. Which then turned into about 20 friends, not including kiddies! Ah well, what's a few more mouths to feed eh?

I decided to make my own ham (okay I must confess I didn't brine it myself, but I did cook it from raw), a leg of lamb and other suitable accompanying comestibles. The menu as follows:

- White trash ham (in case the party turned out to be too highbrow, this would bring it down a few notches) with cranberry relish
- Roast leg of lamb with Salsa Verde
- Gratin dauphinois
- Orzo salad with basil, feta and cherry tomatoes
- Buttered peas (a token gesture for those worried about getting their quota of greens)
- Tart au citron
- Gâteau CocoFramboise
- Cheese platter (chèvre, St Nectaire, Gorgonzola, triple cream Brie)
- Homemade hot cross buns

Chubby Hubby and his missus, S, were gracious enough to accept our invitation and they wanted to do a post on the luncheon. As they are infinitely better equipped to do this, I have the honour of gracing their fab blog in all my glorious, post-cooking marathon gorgeousness (NOT!).

Lessons learned from this party:
- 500g of orzo is plenty for 20 people if there is other food. As "never knowingly under-cater" is my motto, 1kg of orzo went in the pot and I think we shall be eating it till summer, ahem.
- Yeast dough takes twice as long to rise here contrary to what I thought. The humidity must win out over the heat and delay everything as I found out at 2am the night before, ugh.
- Putting the gratin dauphinois under the grill and then going out to greet guests/have a drink is not recommended (see photo on CH's site, a tad beyond golden brown)
- Don't pull faces at the camera, you never know where it might appear!

Lots of eating and drinking happened regardless of course and we got some lovely Easter chocolates to boot (look at the hand decorated chocolate egg above that was hand carried by a friend in from London that morning!). It's worth all the work in the end, just going to put my feet up now, zzzzz....

22 March 2008

I'm baaaack... and beefy!

It's been so long since I posted that I feel like a born again virgi.. I mean blogger. But I have a REALLY good excuse this time. Not only did I move to Singapore, I had baby! I've been having a great time with her, but she's been keeping me extremely busy. Anyway, that's my story and I'm sticking to it ;-).

I've still been eating and cooking lots though. I've had some great experiences in the past year or so and I'll do some posts on them later. But for some immediate gratification, I'll share a recent Wagyu indulgence. I'm sure most of you know about this most luscious food stuff, but for those who have been in a coma, here's a brief blurb.

Wagyu literally means "Japanese (Wa) cow (Gyu)". Also called Kobe beef, this type of meat refers to certain breeds of cattle that are predisposed to having highly marbled flesh (their diet and reputed frequent massages are also helpful to this end). Yup, they're extremely fatty. And we all know that fat = flavour. However, we also know that not all fat is bad (think avocados, olive oil). Wagyu beef has a higher percentage of unsaturated fat than any other breed of cattle known in the world so eating this God's gift to carnivores need not be guilt-stricken. I'm not going to get any more technical than that, there are other sites more knowledgeable than mine by a long shot. Instead, I'll just show you my goodies...

No Pulitzer winning photo here, but you get the idea. This folly happened when, in preparation for my Easter feast, I picked up some meat from Huber's Butchery at the NTUC Fairprice Finest, Bukit Timah Plaza. They were having a promo on Wagyu and as I am one bargain-loving gal, I let them twist my rubber arm. I've had Wagyu before in restaurants, but this is my first home effort and I can recommend it highly.

Like when cooking any good piece of meat, the rule of thumb is “less is more”. In this case, all I did was rub the steaks with a bit of vegetable oil, season them with salt and pepper, heated my pan till smoking and threw the meat in. I wanted a nice seared, crusty exterior quickly as these weren’t very thick steaks (all my budget would allow) and I didn’t want all that lovely fat to melt away. A few minutes on each side did the trick, I removed them to a plate, left them to rest a bit, and served up with some fleur de sel and a wedge of lemon. I did try it first as is, but I think the the salt crystals boosted the whole umaminess of it all and the lemon added a nice twang and helped to cut through the fat a bit, not that I minded it. The meat did all but melt in the mouth and not one scrap went to waste, yes I actually ate every last bit of fat. In fact, I had to slow myself down and was so greedy, I didn’t remember to take a picture of the finished product until I had already had a few satiating bites. Sorry! How did it taste? Think of a cross between meat and butter, a beefy savoury butter, yum.

While this is not an everyday indulgence, I do think we will do it on a semi-regular basis. Yes it is significantly more expensive than a regular steak at home, but not that much more than if you have a mediocre steak in a restaurant. I think it’s worth it and it’s hardly difficult. Try it and I think you’ll agree…