Thursday, November 24, 2011

Creamy Lemon Risotto

I remembered an episode of Nigella Bites where she made lemon risotto.  Since the ingredients were at hand and having made vegetable stock yesterday, it was the perfect moment to cook it.  I love the creamy texture and the light tartness of the juice and zest of just half a lemon in this dish.
 What makes this risotto extra creamy is a mixture of heavy cream and an egg yolk, which is added at the last stage of cooking. 
Oh and the cheese.  Let's not forget about the cheese - freshly grated Parmesan.  The recipe calls for 60 grams but I like cheese so I definitely put more than that.
The only thing I dislike about making risotto is once you start ladling the stock, that's it - your feet are pretty much glued to the floor. You have to constantly stir the rice so they don't stick to the bottom of the pan.  This process takes at least 20 minutes so you're practically immobile save for your arm that stirs the rice.  Well, you could always switch to the other when you feel like it's going to fall off.

However, hard work from all that stirring and sweating won't be in vain.  What you'll get is a creamy, tangy goodness that would make you want to put your feet up while you eat.  

Lemon Risotto (adapted from Nigella Lawson):
  • 2 shallots
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 60g unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 300g risotto rice
  • 1 liter vegetable stock
  • Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Needles from 2 small sprigs of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 60ml (4 tablespoons) grated Parmesan cheese, plus more to sprinkle
  • 60ml (4 tablespoons) heavy cream
  • salt, to taste
  • Good grating pepper, preferably white   

Finely chop the shallots and celery.

Heat half the butter, the oil and the shallot and celery mixture in a wide saucepan, and cook to soften the mixture for about 5 minutes. Mix in the rice, stirring to give it a good coating of oil and butter. Meanwhile, heat the stock in another saucepan and keep it at simmering point.

Pour a ladleful of the stock into the rice and keep stirring until the stock is absorbed. Then add another ladleful and stir again. Continue doing this until the rice is al dente. You may not need all of the stock; equally, you may need to add hot water.

Mix the lemon zest and the rosemary into the risotto, and in a small bowl beat the egg yolk, lemon juice, Parmesan, cream and pepper. 

When the risotto is ready - when the rice is no longer chalky, but still has some bite - take it off the heat and add the bowl of eggy, lemony mixture, and the remaining butter and salt to taste. Check the seasoning, and serve with more grated Parmesan if you wish.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Home made treats by Mandarin Deli

Mandarin Oriental's deli has put up a kiosk at the Powerplant mall for the upcoming holiday season.  They sell chocolates, wines, fresh pasta, homemade jams, French macarons, cakes, and other delectable pastries.  I ended up buying a pack of flavored meringues, home made strawberry peppercorn jam, knacker bread, and fresh casarecce pasta.

I'm still thinking of a nice cream-based sauce that would go with the pasta, so I'll be deferring that feature in a later post. Until then, here are photos of the jam and meringues:
The peppercorns are a nice highlight to the sweetness of the jam.  They've been cooked long enough with the jam to be tender, so you can easily bite into a piece without all that heat and savor just a hint of spiciness.

 Look at these lovely, colorful meringues.  They do taste as good as they look!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Chocolate Cupcakes with Meringue Frosting

I had some leftover cake mix so I decided to make cupcakes and my favorite meringue frosting.  I finally found an online video from the guys at Outsider Tart on how to do this type of frosting without pouring boiling sugar while whisking egg whites, therefore saving myself from burning to death.  Just place the egg whites and sugar on a bain marie until you get a gloppy consistency then whip using an electric mixer until fluffy and sticky.  I love the light crunch of the frosting after it's been exposed to air for some time.  Plus, it's simple to do so here it is!

Here's the original recipe from Outsider Tart, but I cut the measurements in half since my leftover mix yielded only 14 cupcakes:

1 1/2 cups of sugar
6 egg whites
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Fill saucepan with an inch or two of water and bring to a boil.  Meanwhile, combine sugar, egg whites, pinch of salt, and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl and whisk until incorporated.  When the water starts boiling, lower the heat so the water comes to just a simmer.  Place mixing bowl on top of the saucepan, making sure the bowl does not touch the water (otherwise the egg whites will cook).  Whisk mixture continuously until you get a gloppy consistency, or when the egg whites register a temperature of 160F on a candy thermometer, about 7 minutes.  Remove from heat.  In the same mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites using electric mixer until stiff and cool to the touch.  Pipe frosting on cupcakes.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Christmas Gift List Food Bazaar

I have been slacking with my posts for months, I know.  It's mostly due to lack of inspiration and not going out much to see what's out there lately.  My friend called last week to invite me to this food bazaar organized by the genius behind the food blog Dessert Comes First, Lori Baltazar.  But then again, I have never been a fan of bazaars.  Too many people, limited space, desert-like atmosphere, unsupervised children screaming and running around aimlessly.  What makes a food bazaar any different?  Well this one was.  And boy, was I happy I went.

There were 18 establishments - or purveyors, as Lori calls them - each and every one putting their game face on as they gave out samples of their specialties to all those relentless foodies present.  Here are some from yesterday's event:

TWG (The Wellness Group) is a Singapore-based company that makes one of if not the finest, teas in the world.  Their samples for the day were Crème Brûlée tea with milk and Moroccan Mint Iced tea.  I loved the Crème Brûlée, it was sweet and creamy and yes, it tasted like the real thing.  I was surprised by the Moroccan Mint, since I am not keen on mint teas because it's like drinking liquid toothpaste.  TWG's mint tea was not strong at all.  TWG Teas is distributed in the Philippines by Manila Global Brand Distributors (02-624-0838).

I hate it whenever I go to my favorite deli store to buy vanilla beans and they don't have any in stock.  Thanks to the Vanilla Company I can now get them anytime I want!  These superb quality beans and extracts will give your vanilla-flavored/infused recipes the extra mile.  The amount of vanilla extract or bean called for in your recipe may not be much, but the quality of what you use makes all the difference.  Skip the artificial ones you see in the supermarket aisles, please.  These flavor wonders are available at Terry Selection, Gourdo's, Cook's Exchange, to name a few.  Oh - they smell great, too!

Taza Platito
Their stall was conveniently located by the entrance, so I was immediately given a trio of their samples right away:  Dulce de Leche Crunch, Banana Cream Pie, and Date & Walnut Cake.  Judging by the looks of it, the generous portions of their samples were enough to keep me full and awake the entire afternoon.  Since there were 15 other purveyors to visit, I restrained myself from eating these scrumptious-looking sweets.  Okay, 2 minutes was enough.  I couldn't keep my hands to my sides so I took a bite of each.  They were all so good.  My favorite was the Date &Walnut Cake - super dense and not too sweet.
For orders, you may call: (02) 373-2732 / (02) 926-2501.

Deep Dips
Fact: bottled goodies are holiday gift-giving staples.  However, only less than a handful are worthy enough to be in our kitchen cupboards for personal consumption because they are too good to be given away as presents.  I really liked the Spicy Tinapa which was sandwiched in mantou bread.  Ditto the tomato-eggplant paté.  Perfect for canapés.  Chef Arnold Bernardo's creations, Deep Dips, are so good I want them all to myself.  (0917) 805-1188 / (02) 216-9495.

Cake Planet by John Sta. Cruz
Another generous purveyor at the bazaar, Cake Planet, makes probably the best Turtle Pies in the country.  The proportion of flavors was unbelievable; I could taste the caramel, walnuts, butter, chocolate in one sinful, decadent bite and not one ingredient overpowered the other.  Not wanting to be outshined by the turtle pie bite was the Chocolate-Macadamia Sans Rival.  Oh my oh my oh my, was all I can say.  I loved the chewy meringue in the middle!  Pictured below as well is the Santa Cruz (flourless chocolate cake with lemon cream and chocolate mousse - I love how the tanginess of the lemon cream cuts through the rich chocolate), and bite-sized Banoffee Pie.

91 Doña Soledad Ave., Better Living Subdivision, Parañaque City
(02) 621-2857 / (0915) 449-3119
Open 1:00 PM to 1:00 AM Monday-Saturday; 4pm – 12mn on Sundays.

Bean and Baker
Next to Cake Planet was Bean and Baker, serving Chocolate Madeleines and Chunky Chocolate Reese, which is their pastry version of the annoyingly addictive Hershey peanut butter cups.  It's basically a chocolate cake with peanut butter buttercream (try typing that as fast as you can for some finger exercises) and roasted peanuts.  Mmmmm....peanut butter.  Eating the madeleine was like eating a bomb, and I felt like I was going to explode after eating it - one small chocolate biscuit with chocolate filling.  Chocolate.  Overload.

SM Hypermarket in Tiendesitas, Pasig
(02) 913-9875 / (02) 439-3069

Sugarbee
For me, the Florentines were the best of their lot.  It's a concoction of chocolate, almonds, dried mangoes rolled into paper-thin cookies drizzled with gooey caramel.  They reminded me of Cake Planet's turtle pie but these were crunchy.  Very dangerous, these cookies, as I kept on popping them (almost) unconsciously in my mouth.  They also had Alfajores, a shortbread and sweet cream cookie sandwich with icing sugar dusted on top.  I loved the soft crisp and slightly flaky texture of the cookies.  Also pictured below are Sugarbee's Toblerone and Carrot cupcakes.  Last but definitely not least, is the Valrhona Torte made of....guess what?  Yes.

Jenny Silayan of Sugarbee
(02)852-0557 / (02)502-1150


Oh my, the side of my face was already tingling from all the sweet stuff I was consuming.  Then I passed by Melbourne Prime's spot.  Huzzah!  Savory food at last.  Companies like Melbourne Prime make me so proud to be a meat eater.  Having tasted their meat inspired me to fire up the oven today to make a good Sunday roast.  Good quality meat is not easy to find here in Manila but thanks to Melbourne Prime, I won't have that problem anymore.  I very much enjoyed sinking my teeth into the Ribeye roast cut, which was served on sliced french bread.  The Wagyu burgers were equally good.

4362 Valdez Street corner Makati Ave. (behind Barrio Fiesta)
(02)403-4273 / (02)899-3344

Sebastian's by Ian Carandang  
I saved the last entry of this post for the one that really blew my mind at yesterday's event.  I wanted to kick myself for not minding Sebastian's ice cream kiosk whenever I'd go to The Podium.  How could I have done such a thing (or not)?  If it weren't for this food bazaar, I probably would have missed out on having one of the best ice creams in the world.  Oh well, now I know and to the people at Sebastian's Podium branch: beware.  Humanda kayo.  Anyway, I was so pleased I got to try not only one, but FIVE flavors of this artisan ice cream: 

Sapin-sapin:  who would have thought that this local delicacy could be catapulted to gourmet status?  From the flavors down to the colors and texture (the texture, I tell you!) of the sticky rice cake, Ian Carandang freaking nailed it perfectly in his ice cream.  He even sprinkled latik on top!

NYC Special:  Vanilla bean ice cream drizzled with olive oil and sea salt.  This is his newest flavor, which debuted only yesterday.  Simply amazing.  I never knew that vanilla ice cream, olive oil and salt can go together.  It really is a must to have an open mind in the culinary industry.  But -- not so fast, dear reader.  You might want to try and experiment at home using regular vanilla ice cream and olive oil - it's not as simple as that.  Sebastian's uses a fruity type of olive oil.  There's a world of a difference between that and the ever-popular extra virgin olive oil, so hold yourself back.  But if you must insist, then you have been warned.

Quezo de Bola:  I love quezo de bola because of its sharp taste and Sebastian's did a good job because the cheese retained its sharpness even though it has been mixed with milk, cream, etc. and frozen to make ice cream.

Snack Attack:  this flavor is just insane.  Vanilla ice cream, chocolate covered potato chips, peanut butter coated pretzels, honey roasted peanuts, salted butter caramel swirl.  Come on!  This will make you want to pop a disc on your DVD player or watch whatever's lined up on your download list.

Once in a Blue Moon:  Vanilla ice cream with chunks of gorgonzola cheese topped with walnuts and drizzled with honey.  LOVED. IT.

Branches:
The Podium
Mall of Asia
The Block, SM North Edsa



I really had a blast going to this food event.  Does this mean it has changed my mind about what I think of bazaars?  Probably not.  But if it's organized by Lori Baltazar, then I am so there even if I have to stand, without a single chair in sight, for at least four hours.
My sweet stash - it was like trick or treating!