Chocolate

IMG_1839I like chocolate. I also like receiving parcels, and I like trying new things. Therefore, a chocolate subscription box seems like an excellent idea, and there’s an Australian one I have just signed up for: Bean Bar You. Each month it’s four bars from different manufacturers around the world – with one from Australia each time. Since I didn’t know there were that many Australian chocolate makers, I am intrigued! It is on the slightly pricey side, thanks to postage and all, but these are chocolates made usually by small businesses, using (so far; I’ve only had one box) less than industrial processes – so it’s artisanal, right, and you pay for that. And for the moment I’m really enjoying it.

For each of the chocolates, you get one of these: img_1836.jpg

… which is intriguing and almost confronting for me, because I’m not very good at IMG_1835thinking about smell (“it smells like dark chocolate”) and the difference between texture and creaminess isn’t always easy for me to enunciate, or even notice. But I really enjoyed thinking about those different aspects, actually, and it certainly forced me to stop and think about what I was eating. The first time I had some of each, anyway. I wasn’t always concentrating that hard, don’t worry.

img_1838.jpgAnd it has been worth it, even for just one box. I didn’t love every single one, although there were certainly none that I rejected! I opted for dark chocolate only and it was intriguing to see how different even dark chocolate can be. Of course there were differences in just how dark each was, which contributed, as well as the source of the beans etc. My favourite was the Origin, which is convenient because they’re the Australian brand. I can see myself buying some of their chocolate in future, given the range of dark chocolate they appear to have.

img_1837.jpgBean Bar You asks you to rate and review the chocolate you receive in order to keep refining what they send you, and I’m interested to see how this ends up working. I also got to opt out of chocolate with coffee in it, which made me happy.

 

Acts of Kitchen: Mt Zero Olives

AoK_logo_v2 In which I discuss exciting new things in my breakfast world (weird, right?) and two new cookbooks I’ve received to review, and Richard talks about Mount Zero Olives.

Thai Food Made Easy (with a link to Indian Made 51zOv8lLFgLEasy too)

Apple fridge oats (not the exact recipe I used but I can’t find that…)

Mount Zero Olives! 

Thai Food Made Easy: the food

51zOv8lLFgL

This book was sent to me by the publisher at no cost.

In the last post I discussed the appearance of the book (overall, very easy to use). This post is about the food. I’ve only cooked a few dishes so far, but each one has worked as advertised. The short version is that everything has had an interesting balance of flavours, and most of them I would happily cook again.

Sesame chicken salad: blanched celery, poached chicken, a dressing of chilli and garlic and ginger and spring onion and fish sauce and vinegar. So easy, so fresh, so lovely.

Pork and pickled cucumber salad: well, the cucumber doesn’t pickle that much, but look: I’m trying pork! This was delicious, with peanuts and coriander and mint and chilli and lime.

Prawn noodle salad (it hasn’t even been that warm here but I’m on salads anyway): more ginger! and coriander and peanuts. Again, so tasty. Would make a good starter at a fancy-pants dinner party.

Barbecued pork and herb salad: more pork! This marinade was ace: coriander seed, fennel seed, garlic, ginger, turmeric, five-spice, chilli, pepper… nom.

Massaman curry: look, I cheated and bought massaman paste. Whatever. This was fantastic. Slow cook the beef and THEN turn it into a curry with coconut cream and potato… definitely making this again.

Braised chicken with rice, turmeric and spices: like the label says. Easy and tasty.

… these are just a small example of what the book has to offer. I am dead keen to try the variation of chicken satay with lemongrass, turmeric and ginger, and the Thai fish cakes; pork belly may be in my future, and I may yet make a curry paste from scratch (again, I did do it a million years ago).

The one sad thing is that, as with Indian Made Easy, there have been a couple of instances where instructions did not entirely make sense: not making it clear how long to cook something (fortunately, that was common sense) or instructions to add a dressing at step 3… and then again at step 6. None of these are make or break, but they do surprise me in a book that should be more closely edited.

Thai Food Made Easy

51zOv8lLFgLThis book was sent to me by the publisher, Murdoch Books, at no cost. It’s available now: RRP $39.99.

As with my other book reviews, this will be in two parts. This post is about the book itself; the other will be about the cooking.

This book is in the same series as Indian Made Easy. The cover isn’t quite as pretty but as you can see it’s still very attractive. This is a fairly hefty book, at roughly A4 and about 250 pages. It’s presented with a recipe per page spread, with a colourful picture opposite. Most of these pictures aren’t too intimidating. Sometimes they are suggestions for how to present the food; other times they’re just of ingredients, or steps along the way of preparation. The recipes themselves are easy to follow, although as with Indian it still throws me to have the ingredients put into fresh/pantry/spices categories. It makes it easier when planning a shopping list, but not when I’m trying to find the quantity of something while cooking.

The book opens with an introduction claiming Thai food is “electrifying and invigorating” which can be true of course but I get eye-roll-y when these sorts of claims are made for a cuisine, as if to the exclusion of others. What I do like is the emphasis on the “rot chart” – proper/unified/balanced taste: hot and sweet, sour and salt. Thinking back on the recipes I’ve cooked from the book so far, that sounds right.

Next up is a “Top 12 star Experiences in Thailand”. I am not a huge fan, to be honest; it’s all a bit too tourist-y squirmy. No, I don’t know what the alternatives are for UK and Australian readers either.

What I do like is the section outlining what the different ingredients are that are essential to Thai cuisine, from lemongrass to tamarind pulp. This is a very useful little section to get your head around the different flavours. I also like the “15 must-have herbs and spices”, mostly because it lists some of the prime recipes that use each one, so if you buy a good knob of ginger you know there’s at least five recipes you could use it in (there’s way more).

The recipe sections themselves are divided into snacks and finger food (several spring rolls); salads; slow roast, smoking grill and hot wok; fish and seafood; curries and soups; rice, noodles and sides; desserts and drinks. I like the way that this suggests the range of recipes and types of food that Thai offers, and makes it easier to pick what sort of food you’re wanting to make. And then I really, really like the ‘menu planner’ section at the end. It has seven suggestions for what sort of meal components to put together, and although I m dubious of their ‘midweek dinners’ with five courses (some courses not a lot of effort, but still!) I deeply appreciate examples of how to balance different flavours and components across a whole meal and will probably get terribly ambitious some time and actually follow one of the suggestions.

Overall this book is pleasant to look at and easy to use. I anticipate using it a lot in the future.

Acts of Kitchen: Sam from Art of Tea

AoK_logo_v2In which I talk to the wonderful Sam, who runs and manages and does all sorts of interesting things with the Tasmanian business Art of Tea, and she talks about buying the business, the new(ish) Bouteaque… and nudi-tea

Also, a little sneak peak, if you listen closely, about a project I’ve got lined up for next year…

 

Challenge accepted! Walnut cake

Over on Patreon, patrons at a certain level get to challenge me twice a year to make something… interesting. My mum challenged me to make a walnut cake that she adores. Challenge accepted! And since I am currently visiting said maternal figure, and we’ve got people coming over for dinner tomorrow, what better timing could there be?

IMG_1802.JPGAs a rule I am the one helping out in the kitchen when I come to visit, but today Mum decided to let me do stuff myself… except for some of the cleaning up. That she insisted on doing before I could get to it.

Torta di Noci
2 cups walnuts, toasted
125g butter
150g caster sugar
1 egg
3 teaspoons grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons brandy
50g plain flour
50g SR flour
SYRUP
60ml lemon juice
55g caster sugar
  • Grease springform tin, line base with baking paper. Process nuts until finely chopped.
  • Beat butter, sugar, and egg in small bowl till light and fluffy. Transfer to large bowl (but really? who does that? even Mum said she doesn’t do that), stir in rind and brandy.
  • Stir in nuts and sifted flours.
  • Spread into prepared tin, bake in moderately slow oven for about an hour.
  • Meanwhile, SYRUP: Combine ingredients in small pan. Stir ovIMG_1804.JPGer heat without boiling, until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat.
  • Pour hot syrup over hot cake. Cover with foil, cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for several hours. Serve dusted with sifted icing sugar if desired.

Between you and me, I think this was more of a “I think you’ll like this cake” rather than a challenge – not that I’m complaining. I’m certainly looking forward to eating it, and it was nice to actually cook something for the first time in ages!