Thursday, 22 October 2009

The Bubble bar

Preparation of the pho

I picked up aLeaflet at one my local chinese supermarkets, It was about the bubble bar - I love bubble drinks - and decided to visit it as it is 500 yards from my home (no excuse not to go is there??)

The bar is up some stairs, just above the red chilli restaurant, a brilliant northern cuisine chinese. It is a small place, but well lit and fresh, modern and clean looking.great combinations of colours make it pleasant. The background music is not too loud either.

Friendly bar


I had a look at the bubble drink menu, which is rather extensive, and I opted without hesitation for the Durian bubble (see below). It is the first bar I can indulge in my durian obsession sins....
Durian Bubble drink
For those who don't know about bubble drinks, they are beverages made with milk or soya, either with tea or fruits, served with tapioca black pearls, gelatinous balls of the size of a marble (hence the mega size for the straw). The drink was perfect and looking further on the menu, I realise there was some great common vietnamese snacks/food, bahn mi and pho... How could I resist?? I had a pho, freshly prepared in front of me like it should be. Possibly not as tasty as Marjolaine's, but I suspect that's asking for too much. It was nevertheless very healthy and tasty. I had not planned to eat in the bar, I just got very excited about the food offered there...


Being of french origin, I had to finish the meal on a cafe, and o joy, I could get a vietnamese coffee!

Vietnamese coffee

At the moment there is an offer I was told by the owner, and I got a n extra frozen yoghurt - I was already full by then though.
Frozen yoghurt

The bar is an excellent alternative for a healthy lunch or for hanging out for all the other cafe places, since it has the great advantage to close at 9pm - two hours after the others....

So thumbs up for this little bar that offers something new in town!

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Cherry Bakewell pudding

homemade bakewell pudding

I have always disliked the Kipling's Bakewell tarts, too sweet, no flavour, and I don't really like the thick icing that tops it. So how did I get to make a Bakewell tart you'll ask?
Well, I saw a brief explanation of what a Bakewell tart was on the 'Economy, Gastronomy' programme on BBC TV (great series by the way...), and I decided to implement the idea (my way of course).

I checked up on the internet and discovered that t
he name comes from a town called Bakewell in Derbyshire in the Peak District, and [Wikipedia] 'The name is believed to have come from a customer who decided that the tart was "baked well" thus the inn called it their "Bakewell" tart, a pun on the town of Bakewell and a well baked tart. Two shops in Bakewell offer what they both claim is the original recipe pasty :
- The Bakewell Tart Shop & Coffee House sells a "Bakewell Tart", while
- The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop sells a "Bakewell Pudding"'

I also discovered the difference between a Bakewell tart , a Bakewell cake and a Bakewell Pudding which according to Wikipedia is the following:
Bakewell tart: a shortcrust pastry shell, spread with jam and covered with frangipane.
Bakewell Cake: also known as a Cherry Bakewell is a variation of the tart where the frangipane is covered with a top layer of icing and a single half glacé cherry.

Bakewell Pudding: The recipe still used in The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop consists of a puff pastry shell with a layer of jam, covered with a filling of eggs, sugar, butter and almonds.

So here is My version of the cake:
homemade bakewell pudding

- The pastry: I decided to use puff pastry as I think it lighter than shortcrust pastry, also less sweet (I am definitely not a sweet tooth..). I used a ready made one (the best ones are the ones sold as squares in the frozen section, and yes you have to roll it yourself, but it's worth it).
- The frangipane: I used the recipe I am used to making for the French 'Galette des rois' (See my previous post) as I know it to be fluffy, moist and light:
  • 150g ground almond
  • 75g soften butter
  • 80g sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • a few drops of orange blossom water
Mix the butter and the sugar until the mix whitens, then add the beaten eggs and the ground almond, mix well.

-The filling: I used a canned fruit filling, since getting hold of fresh cherries at this time of year and at a reasonable price is not an option here (and jam is way too sweet for me):
This filling is again, not too sweet and tastes nicely of cherries.
- The decoration: icing sugar and a few glace cherries.

Lay the puff pastry in a tart mould, place in the oven at 180 degrees for 8-10 minutes (less if you use a metal mould as opposed to silicone), in order to pre-cook it (it prevents the pastry to go soggy with the filling.

Spread the filling at the bottom of the mould, then top and cover with the frangipane. cook for 10 min at 200degrees then 10 more minutes at 180degrees approx.

When the pudding has browned, take it out of the oven, sprinkle icing sugar on it and arrange a few glace cherries cut in half.
homemade bakewell pudding

The texture was absolutely superb, the frangipane was moist with a delicately cracking surface under the tooth. It was not too sweet, and very easy to make, very flavoursome too. The puff pastry made it lighter and added to the texture, softly crackly. Nothing comparable to the awful Kiplings Bakewell tartelettes, and a recipe I will make again and again and again....

Bon Apetit!
A slice of Bakewell pudding
Source: Info from Wikipedia articles, photos from myself, and recipe a British traditional favorite interpreted by myself.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Traditional Iranian bread

Today as I was walking through the Satwa quarter in Dubai, I came across an Iranian Bakery, intrigued I approached, and the two bakers invited me in the shop, to see how the bread was made, They were really kind and wanted me to discover the process.
You bet, I was up for it! I only had my telephone on me at the time (I know, I did not carry my camera. Shame on me!) so all the photos were taken with my Sony Ericsson. I will return with my SLR, I promised myself!
The balls of dough prepared are flattened,
Then the flat disc of dough is flapped between the hands very quickly,
Then stretched in an instant on a convex shape covered with the cloth.
Then the bread is thrown very abruptly on the inside of the oven where it will stick and cook, forming bubbles. It is then taken on and reserved under a cloth.

The result tastes like a gorgeous crispy crepe! The guys wanted to give me a few of them, and refused that I pay them, so I definitely need to go back to pay for a second lot!

I found that on this stretch of road, people were incredibly kind and interactive, and they are very happy to have their picture taken, I asked every time and they all thought it was crazy but posed for me nonetheless!
I’ll definitely have to come back next week! (my last week in Dubai)…

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

About a vegetarian wedding meal

Red Champagne
Two Saturdays ago I was invited to a wedding that had the particularity to feature a vegetarian meal and an evening vegetarian buffet: the bride is vegan, and it was a great compromise between omnivore and vegan. As you probably know, I am not a vegetarian, but I thoroughly enjoyed the food.On top of being of great quality and very healthy, the quantities were perfect, the presentation was superb and everybody enjoyed it. The meals were nicely balanced and I don't think anybody missed the meat.
I'll take you through the menu
(I chose the first option of each choice presented)

For starter we had the choice between:

Asparagus, duck egg, Roquette and parmesan salad:
Asparagus, duck egg, Roquette and parmesan salad

Assiette of tomato (mozarella salad, gazpacho, bloody Mary jelly)
Assiette of tomato (mozarella salad, gazpacho, bloody Mary jelly)

Forest mushroom Risotto, parmesan crisp & truffle vinaigrette
Forest mushroom Risotto, parmesan crisp & truffle vinaigrette

For the main course we could either have:

Pithiviers of English rosary goat cheese, provencal vegetables & butternut squash sauce
Pithiviers of English rosary goat cheese, provencal vegetables & butternut squash sauce

Leek, cherry tomato &blue cheese 'cannellonis' with olive potato cake and carrot 'spagetthi'
Leek, cherry tomato &blue cheese 'cannellonis' with olive potato cake and carrot 'spagetthi'

Fragrant courgette&tomato curry with wilted spinach, quinoa and leek Bahji
Fragrant courgette&tomato curry with wilted spinach, quinoa and leek Bahji

and for the desert there was:

Dark Chocolate creme brulee hazelnut sable & vanilla marshmallow
Dark Chocolate creme brulee hazelnut sable & vanilla marshmallow

Baked white chocolate cheesecake, passion fruit
Baked white chocolate cheesecake, passion fruit

Glazed lemon tart creme fraiche raspberry puree
Glazed lemon tart creme fraiche raspberry puree

So a good vegetarian mean can satisfy everybody, only rarely have I had such great vegetarian food...

The Buffet was also light, tasty and exciting with wild mushroom canapes, pine nut rice, vegetable kebabs and so on...:
Evening vegetarian buffet
Evening vegetarian buffet

Also the bride had decided to avoid the traditionnal British iced fruit cake to replace it with beautiful and colourful cupcakes:
Cupcake galore

Cupcake galoreCupcake galore

Cupcake galore

To top it up, the meal took place in a conservatory, flooded with light, with a view on the peak district, the tables were garnished with fresh decorations, and the atmosphere was assured to be light nd happy.
It was great wedding, and whether the guests were vegetarian or not, the meal was enjoyed without any question...I hope that reassures the vegetarians amongst my readers who would like to plan a vegetarian theme for their wedding food...

Red Champagne
BreadWaiterTable decoration centerpiece
Table decorationPeak district scenery
Guests present

Friday, 17 July 2009

A stretch of France in New York

A French corner in NY

How strange, I found this little bit of france, with all the important details, like the 'tabac' sign, the names, New York, it's quite distcrete really. And the spookiest of all is that just around the corner, there is a huge Newcastle Brown ale sign. it was like a micro jump in my own world, between France and Britain...

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

The Jing Fong Restaurant in Elizabeth Street, NY

Jing Fong Restaurant
This restaurant was the only one we chose with the travel guide, my travel companion: I usually have a good flair and we don't rely on travel guides for food. I had a bit of a bad feeling in the entrance as there was an escalator, for some reason an escalator in the entrance of restaurant sounds wrong (you need the exercise when you come out!) Anyway, inside the restaurant, the space was huge, seemingly the place is used for big family events. The dishes were similar to those I can get in the UK, only they were presented differently on the menu, with complicated formula. The waiters found it difficult to understand us as their English was not too good, although I don't find this an issue. A glance in the room told me that nobody amongst the customers was chinese. Huh ho... The place was well lit at least..

Jing Fong RestaurantJing Fong Restaurant
Anyway, we order some duck tongues: We’d expected the tongues to be pan fried but they came in a thick batter which spoiled it a bit for us.
Duck tongues
My companion ordered hairy taro balls which she liked although they weren't the best she'd ever eaten. I am not very much into deep fried so again that was a bit heavy for me.
Hairy taro balls
Then we got the steamed scallop dumpling I'd order which were rather nice and fresh.
Scallop dumplings and duck tongues
Of course I'd asked the waiter if they had Xiao long bao, and they did! They were ok, but definitely not freshly made, and the dough was to thick, with not enough soup inside.
Xiao long bao
The shark fin dumplings were quite interesting, i'd never seen them made that way. Not my favorite, but good.
Shark fin dumplings
There was no egg tarts for dessert (ohhhhh noooo!) so I ordered the only dessert that seemed healthy enough, which turned out to be coconut jelly with canned fruits, not very exciting really.

Coconut jelly dessert

I suppose the fun bit came at the end since in Britain, we rarely get a fortune cookie at the end of the meal; orange quarter and mini desserts during the new year, but no cookie indeed, for it's an american invention. I must say I rather like it (the message, not the biscuit!)

Fortune cookie

It was interesting to note that in American restaurants, you don't need to order water, tea, they are brought to the table automatically as part of the service. The odd bit come with the bill, as you never know what you will have to pay: you have to calculate the tax on top then the service from 15-20% upwards. I don't like counting so I found that rather painful, and remain attached to the European way where everything is included and you don't have to worry about it. Also, the dollars come in small bills so you have to put plenty of them!

Fortune cookieThe dollar bill

So the verdict: we should have followed our instinct and gone to the little restaurant at the corner of Elisabeth and Pell Street with all the pigs heads and ducks hanging in the window which emitted such a gorgeous smell. The standard in Manchester Chinese restaurants is rather high as I discovered when I went to HongKong, so I am a bit demanding. However, we don't have any Vietnamese restaurant and I was very pleased to find many of them in New York, even though they -again - tasted different frrom the ones in France. The other funny thing is New York is that when you come out of restaurants in the evenings, the pavement is full of bin bags! which conforted us in our thoughts we hadn't expressed them till then: the meal had been a bit rubbish really... (it might well be a British expression hum...).
Jing Fong Restaurant
But well, that was the only failed food experience in NY, the rest was awesome, I just wanted say like everywhere else, after all, it's a lot down to how one choses the restaurant. And our lesson that night was: do not believe the travel guides for food!!