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Miss J

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  1. Hey Miss J--there are lots of other professional bakers and pastry chefs--and home hobbyists--that post and lurk here--let's give everyone a chance to weigh in on this.  This is expanding into several issues and I do have a few thoughts about diets,lowcarb, chocolate, "flourless" cakes and sugar substitutes, too--anyone else?

    Absolutely - the more thoughts on this topic, the better. I like finding enlightenment wherever it happens to present itself.  :biggrin:

    Miss J

  2. Usually when I plan a big meal it involves getting our butcher to get us a large hunk of good pork for the weber.

    Dammit, I'm jealous again. We don't have a Weber, mainly because my SO is very British and therefore not only thinks that a grill is a barbeque but also thinks that inviting people over for barbeque means offering them an endless parade of sausages, burgers, chicken legs and satay from Marks & Spencer. I pine for a barbeque big enough to...well, barbeque.  :smile:

    Actually, that raises a question in my mind that's so off topic I think I'll rush off and post it elsewhere.

    Miss J

  3. Alas Simon, my cake recipes have all included a smidgen of flour and a bit more sugar, which seem to play havoc with your food plan. I tend to be a bit wary of substituting ingredients wholesale in baking, as the chemical reactions required to make cakes rise/tenderise/brown can be a little persnickity.

    :non-professional baker warning follows:

    When you're already dealing with a low amount of flour and sugar in relation to your eggs, you need to be careful about messing around with them or it could really affect the cake's finished height & texture. If you're not too bothered and are just pining for something sweet and cake-y, this might not be a problem. And I may be a bit too cautious. Personally I've never baked with Splenda or any other sugar substitute, so I don't know how it behaves in relation to sugar.

    This is a really good point for Steve Klc to jump in an enlighten us with his wisdom...

    Miss J

  4. We've had a lot of success using cake flour for homemade pasta. It turns out incredibly silky and pliable. I'm hoping they have some of that in Scotland?

    If they have cake flour in Scotland, I'll be pretty bloody jealous down here in London!  I've been searching fruitlessly for a source of decent, softwheat cake & pastry flour for AGES (for cakes, not for pasta) and have finally resorting to bribing my friends to bring it back for me whenever they go to North America.

    Back on topic: I use Italian OO flour OR Waitrose's Canadian bread flour to make pasta, and I've never had any problems. Could the rollers on your pasta machine be the culprit?

    Miss J

  5. Hmmm - that's an interesting one. Most of the completely flourless cake recipes I've seen have used cocoa to replace some or all of the dry mass of the flour, which is why chocolate is such a ubiquitous example of the genre. That said, I think I have something that relies mainly on ground almonds to give it a bit of heft. I'll have a look and see if they sneak any flour in that I'm not remembering.

    Miss J

  6. That would have been when my girlfriend decided what we were cooking for 12 people for christmas dinner last year.... She decided that it would be fun to have a degustation, with small quantities of each course for everyone...

    Wow. I am suitably impressed. Just to frighten/entertain myself, I've just been sitting here trying to imagine what trying to prepare a menu like that would do to my tiny kitchen.


    Put me out of my misery, Niall - how big is your kitchen? What kind of storage do you have? I have this terrible feeling that you're going to turn out to be like my Japanese hostmother (back in 1989), who prepared incredible meals in a galley kitchen barely three feet long.   :wow:

    Miss J

  7. This is really quite a little war story in the grand scheme of today's eating habits, but I one had a whole pile of people coming over and one of them - a friend I hadn't seen in ages - had forgotten to let me know that she'd been on an elimination diet to discover the triggers for her migrane headaches. Slightly more than 24 hours before kick-off, she rang me up to let me know that as well as being vegetarian (which I'd taken into account), she'd also discovered that she couldn't consume any wheat, wine, chocolate, lemon and cheese of any kind.

    The menu I'd planned was Italian. It featured homemade pasta, a cheese course, a lemon-ricotta tart, and wines carefully matched to each course.

    I ended up grilling a whole slew of veg to replace her starter (baby artichokes, courgettes, peppers, aubergines, etc) and pitching out my dessert idea altogether and replacing it with  individual passionfruit mousses. It all ended reasonably well, but the heart attack I experienced as I mentally compared her 'forbidden' list to my lovingly compiled menu still gives me nightmares.  ;-)

    Miss J

  8. I realise that this is a little last minute, but I'm hoping someone can help...

    I'm hosting a dinner party on Saturday night, and I've been so busy merrily planning my courses that I haven't given enough thought to the cheese. I'd like to offer a troika of Italian cheeses, and I'd be VERY happy if they're not all super-obvious. (I don't mind offering one obvious cheese, but three's a bit much.)

    Can anyone recommend a good and slightly out-of-the-ordinary combo, as well as a (London-based) supplier? I'm going to be doing a last minute shop on Saturday morning.

    Huge thanks,

    Miss J

  9. I know I've brought it up earlier in this thread, but I REALLY have to recommend Fuschia Dunlop's Sichuan Cookery book again. She goes into great detail about cutting & pounding techniques, cleaver skills, marinades and meat cuts. Really, she's revolutionised my efforts at Chinese cooking.

    Miss J

  10. Can someone with an appropriate background speak about the regional differences in Mexican food?

    I know some, but I'd like to hear some expert info on this.

    I know very little indeed, but hopefully once I get back from Playa I'll have a better idea. I'm staying with a friend who's living with a nice restaurant-owning Mexican boy, which I'm hoping will mean that I'll get a guided tour of real Mexican food. (Hopefully he won't be so used to cooking for tourists that he starts giving me the "you won't like that" treatment...)

    At the very least, I want to learn how to make tamales well enough to duplicate them back in the UK!

    Miss J

  11. The food I've had from stadium concessions, specially in the USA, borders on the disgusting. My view is that if that's the best they can provide, I am under no moral obligation to buy.

    I don't know what the food in American stadiums is like, but it really can't be worse than the food available at English football games. The club I support offers the following menu choices:

    - overcooked, slightly flabby hot dogs (the pink frankfurter-style kind, not sausages) in stale plastic buns

    - dull, bagel-shaped bread rolls (the kind they've forgotten to boil) smeared with paltry fillings

    - the most outrageous excuse for a hamburger you've ever seen in your life (and they're unimaginably worse from the stalls outside the grounds)

    - and last (but possibly least) small packaged pies filled with a few scraps from the abattoir floor and a gravy made from Bisto and water

    I've never taken food in with me, but I do always make arrangements to eat in a nearby restaurant either before or after. Unsurprisingly.  ;-)

    Miss J

  12. I've made a snap decision to head off to Yucatan next month, and I'm now in the contradictory position of trying to coax my body into bikini-ready shape whilst dreaming of Mexican seafood extravaganzas. :biggrin:

    Can anyone recommend a few 'must-go' eateries around the Yucatan peninsula? I'll be starting off in Playa del Carmen, but travelling down to Belize so anything in that area would be brilliant.

    Miss J

  13. Quote: from Majumdarathome

    I can second the recommendation of La fromagerie  the best place for French cheeses in the UK


    I agree, but a friend of mine's French boyfriend was apparently very sniffy about the way La Fromagerie stores its cheeses and refuses to go there. I'm afraid I don't know exactly what methods he was referring to. Can anyone comment on this?

    Miss J

  14. At the moment, my kitchen shelf is groaning with the weight of my cookbook collection. A few past favs have included How to Eat (much loved, food stained and dog-eared), Marcella Hazan's Italian Cooking, The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Bernanbaum, Rick Stein's Seafood, Madhur Jaffey's Introduction to Indian Cookery, Das Sreedharan's Keralan Fresh Flavours of India and Claudia Roden's Book of Jewish Food.

    However, the hands-down winner has to be Sichuan Cookery by Fushcia Dunlop. In the foreword, it explains how Dunlop (then a Chinese Studies student from the UK) went to Sichuan University during her degree and ended up taking a few cooking courses at Sichuan's premier cooking school. When she came to the end of her degree, the cooking school was so impressed by her obvious love for the cuisine that they asked her to join the professional course, and in so doing allowed her to become the first foreigner ever to study there.

    Basically, I've never found such a comprehensive book on Chinese regional cookery. Dunlop explains everything from cutting techniques (very, very, very important, and often overlooked in Western cookery books), ingredients and acceptable substitutes, cooking techniques and flavour/texture combinations. There's cold dishes, stir-fries, street food, dumplings, drinks and sweets. Nothing is 'softened' for the Western palette, although Dunlop gives instructions on how to do so. The recipes range from straightforward and seemingly familiar (Gung Pao Chicken and Mae Po Dofu make an appearance, although they really show up the pitiful versions available Western takeaways) to the undeniably exotic. Personally, I can't wait to make the "Fire-Exploded Kidney Flowers," if for no other reason but that they look great.  :-)

    Apparently, there are only three definitive texts on Sichuan cookery in the world, and Dunlop's is the only one in English - now that's a recommendation!

    Miss J

  15. At risk of drawing the wrath of every UK poster down upon me, I have to confess that I want to strangle Delia Smith. She was broadcasting her Winter Collection at the time I arrived in London, and I happened to find myself in a house share which included a rabid Delia-fan.

    Every meal was punctuated by this woman leaning over my chopping board and offering 'Delia tips'. To make matters worse, my tormentor seemed to be of the impression that being able to quote Delia verbatim somehow qualified her as a member of the English welly-wearing upper middle class. (The fact that she was a fellow Canadian didn't seem to cross her mind.)

    So, in spite of a strong showing from Jamie Oliver and Ainsley Harriot, my 'most annoying chef ever' award must go to the newest noun in the OED.

    Miss J

  16. Know the Caesar? I LOVE the Caesar. As a Canadian expat in London, I pine for Caesars in spite of the perfectly serviceable Bloody Marys on offer. The BM's are very nice, but they lack a few key characteristics:

    1. A Caesar is mellower. That horrible-sounding 'clam juice' manifests as a smooth, slightly brine-y background note that supports the cocktail's spices beautifully.

    2. Caesars have a lighter texture than Bloody Marys due to the clam juice. You can drink a Caesar before brunch without feeling like you've just devoured your first course.

    3. You can make a Caesar very, very spicy indeed. It's okay. In fact, it's preferred.

    The only downside of Caesars is that you can't just spring them on your guests. (I'm a firm believer in the 'just try it before you say you don't like it' school of eating.) You always have to ask about shellfish allergies first, and of course as soon as people find out what the 'Cl' in 'Clamato' stands for, they start running before you've even started mixing.

    Wimps.  ;-)

    By the way, if there's anyone out there you can point me in the direction of a Clamato supplier in London, I'd be deeply grateful!

    Miss J

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