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Everything posted by lesliec

  1. I've been playing with a variant of an El Bulli cocktail. Theirs is a hot & cold gin fizz, with a cold liquid base and a hot foam on top (recipe here). This is a little too sour for me, so I thought I'd look at using St Germain with a similar technique. I can report considerable success - everybody who's had it (limited numbers so far, but still ...) has fallen deeply in lust with it. I'm not satisfied with the amount of contrast between the hot and cold yet, but I'll keep working on it - the cold is easy to get colder, of course, but I'd like the foam a bit hotter without cooking the egg whites. The recipe is still evolving, but here's the story so far (for four servings) ... Base: Three measures Bombay Sapphire gin Two measures St Germain Stir together and place in freezer until ready to serve Topping: Two measures Bombay Sapphire Just under two measures St Germain Four measures tonic Heat in microwave to about 60-65 degrees C - probably no more than 20 seconds Mix with two egg whites, whipped to the 'soft peaks' stage Strain into iSi Thermowhip (warm the Thermowhip first by filling with hot water) Charge the Thermowhip (one NO2 cartridge) and shake vigourously To serve, pour the chilled gin/StG mix into four Martini glasses and add an equal quantity of cold tonic. Squirt hot foam on top, sprinkle on a little fresh lemon zest and enjoy bliss immediately. Good luck trying this. As I say, I'm still working on it, but early signs are good. By all means vary the quantities according to taste - I find I like slightly less StG than gin in my usual G&T so I do the same in this, but your tastes may well differ. If you don't have a Thermowhip but a 'normal' iSi syphon, you can sit it in a hot water bath rather than using a microwave to heat the foam ingredients - this may even give you more control. I'll be interested in any feedback on your own experiments. Bye, Leslie
  2. lesliec

    On Potatoes ...

    Thanks, Nayan and Adam. All your links were useful (although the European database is slightly suspect in parts - looking at its lists of similar varieties, it seems that Maris Piper itself only matches 9 of 13 characteristics of Maris Piper!). I have two conclusions. First, the Agria is probably more floury than the MP and thus even better for my favourite uses (roasting, chips, mashing). Second, it doesn't look as though anybody's growing MP here anyway, so (1) is probably a good thing. Thanks again for your help. Bye, Leslie
  3. Afternoon, all. Down here in the wilds of New Zealand, I am very fond of a type of potato called the Agria. It has slightly yellowish flesh, and I find it the best I can get for pretty much everything - it roasts beautifully, makes fabulous chips, and my mashed spuds are beyond compare. However, I've never come across mention of it in eGullet or elsewhere. When English writers or TV shows mention good spuds, they always wax (a-hyuk!) lyrical about the Maris Piper, which I've never seen here. And I don't think I've come across Americans referring to either of them - if I had to name one 'American' type, it would be the King Edward. Which leads me to wonder ... like so many other things, do spud varieties have different names in different parts of the world, and are we maybe all using the same variety but confusing each other by calling it something different? If this is indeed the case, does anybody out there have a convenient 'conversion table' for types of taters, allowing all of us to be confident we're using the same sort when we try somebody else's recipe? Alternatively, can anybody tell me why each region seems to have its own top spud? Yours farinaceously, Leslie
  4. Hi, Poppy. A few months after your original post, but still ... Iberico fat is wonderful to put over a chicken or turkey, then roast. Keeps the bird nice and moist, and adds that subtle Spanish ham taste. Happy hamming, Leslie
  5. No, no luck yet. The Melbourne Food Depot mentioned above doesn't seem to have it, so I have no further ideas. (I was in Auckland last Friday afternoon and didn't think to knock in Kerry Ingredients' door, dammit!) Edited because my typing is awful ...
  6. I always thoroughly enjoy Gallopin in the 2nd (www.brasseriegallopin.com/). I've been there alone and in company and always been welcomed warmly and well looked after. Some friends on their honeymoon in Paris turned up at Gallopin, at my recommendation, after a hard, hot day's sightseeing and were also welcomed without a blink. It's a lovely place, very handy to the Bourse Metro stop. I'm jealous ... On the subject of Parisian specialties - others may correct me, but I feel Paris is where you go to enjoy the specialities of the rest of France. I remember Gallopin's foie gras, with a glass of Coteaux de Layon. Sigh. Enjoy your trip, Leslie
  7. lesliec

    Infused Olive Oil

    Hi, Vision. The most important thing is to get the oil hot enough to kill any bugs. 90 celsius is the target. My experience so far is limited to rosemary and sage, but the technique is simplicity itself. Use a good-quality oil - whether European or local for me depends largely on how much I want to spend. Heat the oil (small batches - 500ml or so - are probably easiest to control) and a good sprig of whichever herb you're using gently until it reaches the target temperature. At this point, after letting it cool a little, I fished my herb out of the oil, forced it into a bottle and poured the oil in on top. However, somebody in another thread suggested discarding the original herb and filtering the oil into a bottle containing a fresh sprig. This has three advantages; it's MUCH easier to get a fresh, cold piece of something to cooperate in going into a narrow bottle-mouth (the 'cooked' sprig will be crunchy and its leaves will break), it's easier to get the herb staying pretty once it's in, and you'll almost certainly get a slightly stronger infusion of flavour. I haven't tried this technique yet, but it's how I'll be doing my next batch. It's also nice to attach a personalised label to the finished bottle - mine has a background image of the relevant herb, with its name (in both English and Italian - you choose your languages!) and a line to the effect that the final product comes from my kitchen and my wife's garden. If you're making this for your own enjoyment or for gifts and not to sell, I don't believe there would be any regulations about labelling you'd have to comply with. Good luck - I'll look forward to hearing how yours turns out. Bye, Leslie
  8. I had some success with my own herb-infused olive oils last Christmas. I've seen a couple of recipes (even followed one!) but the basic thing is to get the oil above 90 Celsius to kill, or at least annoy, any bugs on the herbs (which you've already washed to get rid of the bigger ones). You'll need a selection of bottles (250ml is about right), some oil of your choice and sprigs of fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, tarragon, bay, ...). The first method I used was to heat the herbs in the oil, but you may then have problems getting them into the bottle - they may be slightly crunchy and tend to fall apart. I think the way I'll do it next time is to put the herbs in their bottles and pour the heated oil on top. I may not get quite as much flavour (need to prove this one way or the other), but I expect to have less trouble getting the herbs to stay herby-looking.
  9. Hi all. I'd certainly vote for Microplanes - I have three - but I think my favourite not-quite-gadget would have to be my oven (Fisher & Paykel Titan). It's huge, it's amazingly self-cleaning and it delivers all the temperatures I want, from dough-proving 30°C through 24-hour steak 50° to a searing 300° or so if I want it. It's lovely. The only question is: why didn't I get the double one ...
  10. Hi Rojerk. We were there a couple of years ago and Roberts was a highlight for lunch. Can't remember what we had, but it was the best meal we had in the Hunter by a long way. Lovely building, too. Can't say too much about wineries - none of them really stood out (the Barossa has better wines, to my taste, in a more concentrated area). Have a great trip. -Leslie
  11. Hi Daniel. That is indeed a good list - knowing what you need is more than half the battle. Just a couple of comments: forget the salad spinner! You can get great results by putting your washed greens in a (clean) tea towel and whirling it around (possibly best to step away from any electronics, cats and guests while you're doing it, though). And while I'm a great believer in cast iron, Lodge in particular, having an roommate with unknown habits is a risk - I'd be upset if I came home to find my carefully-seasoned beautiful black pan had been put through the dishwasher, for example. It may be safer to get a good stainless nonstick for now and move to cast iron later when you have your own place and control of the kitchen. Good luck with your move. - Leslie
  12. lesliec

    Dinner! 2009

    Saturday was our slightly-belated midwinter Christmas (yep, we Southern Hemisphereans sometimes feel the need to indulge in such things - 'real' Christmas is in summer for us). I started with a collection from A Day at El Bulli - OK, nothing to do with Christmas but I like to play with my food. First was Pinenut Marshmallow; not difficult to do, once I'd got past accidentally making 'pinenut butter' from my first batch of nuts. All I wanted was crumbs ... anyway, the marshmallow is just gelatin, milk and pinenut oil, whisked comprehensively and, just before serving, rolled in toasted pinenut crumbs. It's quite a light, toasty taste and the recipe makes plenty. One guest decided it was a nice palate refresher and wanted some more before dessert. Second, Pumpkin Oil Caramels. In principal, very simple; melt Isomalt, pick some up in a small pastry cutter or similar (as if you were going to blow a soap bubble with it) then drop a teaspooonful of oil in, forming a lovely shiny parcel. The successes were beautiful and delicious; the failures were many - they're very delicate. Maybe more practice needed. Third, spherified olives. If you've seen anything about El Bulli you will have heard of these. They're great fun and the most intense 'oliveness' you're ever likely to taste. I did a mix of black and green. Why? Why not? About the same time, I served Unbloody Mary (from Playing with Fire and Water). Not totally successful - I didn't get as much clarified base out of the gelatin matrix as I expected and when I added a touch of Xanthan to thicken it the mixture went cloudy. I did notice later the small amount remaining had settled into layers; maybe the answer would be to skim the surface. Never mind; it tasted fine, with some spheres made from the un-clarified base floating in it. Main course was roast turkey, of course. I tried Heston Blumenthal's roast chicken technique from In Search of Perfection; soaked in brine, rinsed well, blasted with boiling water then cooked eight hours or so at 60 degrees (Celsius) until the internal temperature also reached 60. I finished it off in a very hot oven for a few minutes to brown it (Heston uses a frying pan, but I think my way's less stressful!). Not quite as tender and juicy as I'd hoped, but still a pretty nice bit of turkey. My roast potatoes were the best I've ever done, I think (thank you, duck fat) and silver beet (Swiss chard, for you foreign types) with Bechamel and baby carrots and beans completed the plate. To finish off, traditional Christmas Plum Pudding. I've been making mine for years from a recipe I discovered in New Zealand Home and Garden. It has pretty much everything you might imagine in it (except plums, interestingly) and it's never failed. It's actually much lighter than it has any right to be, given the quantity of fruit and stuff in it - I don't have an electronic copy of the recipe, but if you ask nicely I'll create one and either post in EG or send it to you. It's fabulous! With a nice NZ methode traditionelle to start with and a juicy Yalumba Shiraz with the main (and a glass of Marsala with the pud), a very congenial time was had by all. Now I'm hungry ...
  13. It's not only the spoken word. My wife and I are recently back (sigh) from Spain. The 'English' menus didn't always inspire me with confidence - I'm sure they (or their translator) knew what they meant, but it was often more satisfactory to get the Spanish or Catalan versions and work it out for myself. After all, most of us Hispanophiles know what 'jamon' is without needing it translated, right? - Leslie
  14. Do you have to do anything with the bones? Wouldn't they soften to edibility (that may be a new word I've just invented) through the curing process and rest in oil?
  15. Hi people. I'm keen to play with 'meat glue' (transglutaminase/Activa). Has anybody found a source of it in NZ (or Aussie; importing some may be an option - "What's this white powder you're trying to bring in, Sir?" "Just some meat glue." "I see. If you'll just come with me ...")? I emailed Ajinomoto, who make the stuff, and a nice man in Malaysia referred me to Kerry Ingredients in Otahuhu. However, Kerry Ingredients doesn't seem to respond to emails. Has anybody had more success? Thanks, Leslie
  16. Hi Jamsie. Yeah, the dry ice would have been good ... and when you introduce the ceiling dessert thing at your restaurant, let me know! I think you're right about expectations - if you go to a new restaurant with none you can be very pleasantly surprised - but my naive belief was that 3*/best in the world restaurants couldn't afford to have off-nights. I feel older and wiser. Something I didn't mention was that we were still on last year's menu, which we found surprising. They opened a couple of months later this year, so they've had eight months in the lab and they still haven't got the new stuff sorted out? Come on, guys ... Anyway. Over it now. I wanna go to the Fat Duck.
  17. The Big Fat Duck book is amaaaazing. A couple of my everyday favourites are The French Kitchen and The French Market by Joanne Harris (author of Chocolat) and Fran Warde. With most cookboks I buy there's a small number of recipes which tempt me to buy the book in the first place. With these two, it's most of the book. Another really good one with lots of basic techniques (I can do El Bulli-style spheres but until I got this one I'd never scrambled eggs - work that out!) is The Cook's Bible from Cordon Bleu. Beware - Cordon Bleu's Complete Cooking Techniques looks like exactly the same book but costs more. Share and enjoy ... - Leslie
  18. Morning, all. In this post and a couple of following ones, Josh described his recent meal at El Bulli. My wife and I were there a few days later and I'd like to talk about some parts of the experience which DIDN'T add up to the best restaurant in the world for us. There is no question that getting a 'yes' email back from the restaurant feels like (I imagine) winning the lottery. Ferran's going to prepare a menu just for me? Wow! With this, and from almost everything we've seen about El Bulli, we had, it's fair to say, heightened expectations. But then, isn't a 3-star rating very much about expectations? To start with, they were late opening the gate! Our booking very clearly said 7.30 and our taxi from Cadaqués dropped us off in good time, but the gate to the parking area wasn't opened until some 10 minutes after our booking. The 'pedestrian' gate remained padlocked, so my wife was forced to negotiate the rough slope down to, and the gravel surface of, the car park in high heels. I'm told this wasn't much fun. How hard would it have been to open the other gate for those who hadn't planned to drive themselves? Once we got to the door we were welcomed warmly, taken through to have our photos taken with Ferran and ushered out to the terrace. This part was probably the highlight; it was a lovely evening, our table overlooked the bay and we had a veritable swarm of people looking after us. The first seven or so courses were served out there and fully met our expectations - where else might we have got to try and enjoy rabbit ears (sorry, Peter)? However, once this first part was over and we were shown through to the main dining room, things went somewhat downhill. We find the interaction with the waiting staff to be a major contributor towards our enjoyment of a restaurant and this is where El Bulli fell down severely. Our waiter was very young and very severe. Granted, bringing out 30-something courses in a reasonable timeframe ensures the waiting staff can't afford to linger too much, but we would have hoped to have at least a brief conversation about some of the dishes. No; 'Prawn. Two bites. Eat' was about as talkative as she got. We put this down, perhaps, to inexperience and/or nervousness; at one stage an older staff member saw us looking at the 'family photos' of bulldogs and came over to tell us a bit about them, which was better. The food was, I'm sorry to say, variable. Some was brilliant - I have no idea how they did the 'fake peanuts' which were one of the early courses outside on the terrace, but they were fabulous. We enjoyed the twice-cooked prawn very much; the parmesan air with muesli was hilarious and I don't expect ever to eat a better bit of fish than the mackerel belly. But we were slightly insulted by 'aguaciete'. Imagine a small glass bowl. Into this, with due ceremony, some water is poured. Over the top, a similar quantity of hazelnut oil. Then a flake of salt is placed precisely (with tweezers) here, here and here. The instruction is to drink it while turning the bowl - this mixes the contents. So we did that, put the bowl down and for the next few minutes could think of little but 'I've just had a bowl of oil and water'. And the 'Water Lily' (actually, the waiter called it 'lily water' which somehow seems more accurate). Have you ever poured out the water from a vase you've had flowers in for a few weeks? This dish tasted like that smells. (Tastes vary, of course - in the review linked at the beginning of this post, Josh liked it.) There were unexplained 10-minute gaps between some courses - we amused ourselves by improvising with the wrappers from the parmesan air. And although we knew what to expect, we found 30something courses was just too much to process - sensory overload was setting in after 20 or so. Having said all that, it was an amazing experience, particularly since it was our 30th wedding anniversary. But we feel once is enough. We had the distinct feeling of being simply elements of a production line, and that's not a feeling I like to have at a restaurant. Having unburdened myself - apologies for the length - has anybody else got stories to share of where the expectation was sadly different to the reality? - Leslie
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