Panna cotta fail

“It’s like cold custard, no, porridge. It tastes like porridge.”

– My boyfriend of my attempt at panna cotta last night.

So my green tea and vanilla panna cotta wasn’t the best dessert I’ve ever made mostly because the consistently was completely off. I read here that panna cotta is meant to have the “quiver of a 17th century courtesan’s inner thigh”. Mine was more like the thighs of a heptathlete.

I followed Jamie Oliver’s recipe for green tea and vanilla panna cotta, which, might I add, is actually a really lovely combination of flavors, but instead of using gelatin, I opted for agar agar. It’s obviously not used in the same amounts as gelatin and from some research, I’ve found that agar agar sets quicker and stronger than gelatin. I used 1/2 teaspoon of agar agar and I think that was too much, given that it started setting before I’d even put it into the ramekins (I don’t actually know if that was the real reason it set so quickly but just hazarding a guess).

The taste was fine but the consistency did sort of resemble porridge. I’ve had panna cotta once and it was really smooth, whereas my one was a bit grainy.

Anyway, no pictures because it looked crap. I’ll try it again soon and hopefully get it right…

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Second attempt

In my last post I wrote about my enthusiastic use of lemon juice in making lemon herb chicken. I decided to try it again with a lot less lemon to see what it would taste like and not surprisingly, it went down with a lot less puckering. I used less than half the amount of lemon juice I used the first time but you could definitely still taste it.

It’s a keeper for sure but now that I’ve almost used up all the parsley, I’m keen to try something different next time.

Photo: Tao Lin

Photo: Tao Lin

 

A bit of a sour week

There’s a little lemon tree that grows in my backyard and it produces fruit just about every season. This year, it really went all out producing lemons, so much so that we didn’t know what to do with all of it. We hate letting stuff go to waste so we picked every last one off the tree, squeezed out the juice and froze it into mouth-puckering lemon juice ice cubes. I think we came towards the end of summer with about 5 large peanut butter jars full of them.

Since then we’ve been steadily getting through the lemon juice (lots of hot lemon and honey drinks!), sometimes at a struggle because we’re conscious of using it up before next season’s fruit, hopefully, grows. It’s actually not a bad idea to do the whole freeze em up thing because it’s so easy to just melt the juice for a recipe and boy, did I melt a lot of lemon juice last week.

Last Thursday I made lemon and herb roasted chicken breasts. I followed this recipe – it says Armenian herb marinade but it’s essentially a lemon and herb recipe, isn’t it. Instead of grilling the chicken like in the recipe, I pan fried it first and then baked it in the oven.

All the prep and stuff was fine until I got to the amount of lemon juice needed. I’m not the most accurate with quantities of ingredients when I cook because I like to go by taste. It usually works out quite well but I have to say, this time the lemon got me. It was deceptively light and I couldn’t taste it when I made the marinade.

About 7 cubes (one cube is equal to the juice of 1.5 to 2 small lemons) and 24 hours later, I had the chicken in the oven, some potato fries seasoned with salt and paprika in the oven too and was reducing the marinade to make a sauce. I taste the sauce and WOW, sour much?!

I served the meal with the sauce anyway, hoping that it would somehow not seem as sour when eaten together with some chicken and potato…Turned out that’s not quite how it works and I should have just gone without it.

The boyfriend started off saying it tasted good but I soon saw that it’s because he started eating where there was no sauce on the meat. Once he hit the sauce:

“I see what you mean about the sauce now.”

After the meal, I asked what he thought:

“The fries were good…”

Ouch? Not really because I knew it was true. The chicken was cooked nicely  and the herb flavours were really good but I guess I kind of ruined it by the sauce. Oh well, you win some and you lose some.

Photo: Tao Lin

Photo: Tao Lin

Lemon and herb chicken, potato fries seasoned with salt and paprika. Photo: Tao Lin

Lemon and herb chicken, potato fries seasoned with salt and paprika. Photo: Tao Lin

Carrying on with the theme of tangy-ness, I made up some sesame soy sauce for some steaks on Saturday and was a bit heavy-handed with the rice wine vinegar (there’s tahini, sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, sugar and vinegar), so the vinegar overpowered everything else. Oops, guess I just hadn’t had enough sourness for the week??

The other thing I made that day was a parsley, garlic, lemon and olive oil dressing for some basa fish fillets. Basically just whipped up chopped parsley, garlic, lemon juice and oil in the food processor. This turned out alright but I wouldn’t make it again. Basa is such a delightfully delicate tasting fish and I want to find something that really compliments it – this dressing really didn’t.

Also, I found this for some garlic and parsley roast potatoes (can you tell I really need to use up some parsley? :P) and I quite enjoyed not having to wait ages for the spuds to cook properly in the oven (for some reason they always seem to take forever and I’m forced to serve everything but the potatoes because everything else would go cold otherwise).

So, all in all an okay week for food but maybe a little sweetness next time?

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Steak seasoned with salt, pepper and too-tangy sesame soy dressing. Photo: Tao Lin

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Doesn’t look too bad, does it? Photo: Tao Lin

What’s this cronuts business?

Just came into work 5 minutes ago, opened my Twitter feed and the first thing that catches my eye is the word “cronuts”. What the heck are cronuts??

Well, apparently I’m a little slow on this bandwagon (but then again, I do live way down near the bottom of the southern hemisphere) but they’re half croissant, half donut creations of Dominique Ansel.

As I Google “cronuts”, I discover that they were first released in May 2013 and not only are these pastry-licious creations incredibly popular, they are so popular that there is now a scalping problem.

I’ve had a look through Mr Ansel’s other creations and they all look incredibly delicious – worth a trip to NY for sure!

Hummus, hummous, humos, hommus, hoummos

Whichever way you spell it, hummus tastes damn good and I can’t believe how simple it is to make. You’ll probably either laugh or roll your eyes when I say that the main reason I hadn’t made my own hummus until now is because I wasn’t sure whether the food processor at home worked or not. I remember trying it out once a while ago but it didn’t turn on so I thought it was broken. I probably didn’t turn it on properly because it worked like a noisy wonder yesterday.

There are so many different hummus recipes out there on the interwebs but I chose this one mainly because of the pictures and also the dedication they’ve put into getting the hummus nice and smooth. I’ve never really had “fancy” hummus (spinach-garlic-edamame hummus!) so I guess I wanted to stick with something more simple, too.

There isn’t really anything else I can think of to comment about making hummus except that it’s dead easy. I guess the hardest part is cleaning the food processor afterwards but I managed to weasel my way out of that one with the help of my boyfriend 😛

Blend tahini and lemon juice first. Photo: Tao Lin

Blend tahini and lemon juice first. Photo: Tao Lin

Add cumin, kosher salt, garlic. Photo: Tao Lin

Add cumin, kosher salt, garlic. Photo: Tao Lin

Chickpeas in and blend it all up. Photo: Tao Lin

Chickpeas in and blend it all up. Photo: Tao Lin

My not-very-pretty attempt serving up of hummus drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with paprika. Photo: Tao Lin

My not-very-pretty attempt serving up of hummus drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with paprika. Photo: Tao Lin

Also, this:

Photo: Tao Lin

Photo: Tao Lin

…is delicious!!! I know it’s very high in sugar and probably not that good for you but it’s really one of the tastiest drinks I’ve had. Just need a Turkish tea set now 😀

Getting a little bit fancy

The authors of one of my cookbooks say that there is a great sense of achievement when you master creme caramel and while I don’t think I’ve quite “mastered” it, I now know what they mean. I was elated when I turned out my first creme caramel and the custard held its shape as all that lovely caramel ran down the sides. It looks so elegant and tastes quite delicate but actually, if you’re able to get the caramel right and the custard at the perfect consistency, it’s quite straightforward.

For me, the caramel was a no-brainer: don’t let the sugar burn. The slight issue I had was that I used palm sugar, which is brown already so I had to just keep a really close eye and nose on it.

Found out that it was a lot easier to chop up palm sugar than grate it, which was what I had been doing - silly! Photo: Tao Lin

Found out that it was a lot easier to chop up palm sugar than grate it, which was what I had been doing – silly! Photo: Tao Lin

The custard was trickier. I don’t think I whisked it enough because there were little bits of cream still floating about when I went to pour it into the ramekins. I also overcooked it a bit because it was very firm and I’m pretty sure it was meant to still wobble when I moved it. No matter, just some points to remember for next time!

Before the oven. Photo: Tao Lin

Before the oven. Photo: Tao Lin

After the oven. Photo: Tao Lin

After the oven. Photo: Tao Lin

What I find interesting with this dessert is the breakdown of the caramel. It sets pretty solidly very quickly after being made but when you turn it out after it’s been refrigerated, it’s runny. I’d have thought it would go really hard sitting in the fridge for hours. This is probably really simple science, as is most, if not all, of baking, but I’m not really one for thinking about science in any sort of depth; I just follow instructions. Anyone care to explain?

I kind of made a wee bit of a mess when getting them out of the ramekins but just pretend you don’t see the ragged edges 😉 I toasted some desiccated coconut and sprinkled it on top for serving.

The recipe I followed was mostly based on one for a coconut creme caramel that I saw being made on My Kitchen Rules. 

Ignore the messy edges! Photo: Tao Lin

Ignore the messy edges! Photo: Tao Lin