Monthly Archives: August 2013

Beets | Brother’s Birthday

I’ve been tweaking this dish for a few weeks before my brother’s birthday. I first saw beets and feta put together a few months ago while browsing through Pinterest. One day I gave it a shot and it turned out brilliantly. Feta and beets do indeed work well together. Shortly after discovering what is now one of my favourite summer combinations, I was given my first catering gig. It was here I decided to test the combination again to see if it could stand up to paying customers. After seeing that it was being extremely well received, I decided to run with it.

Beets

 

This is what I ended up serving for my brother’s birthday salad. Beets are not something that is commonly consumed in a Vietnamese household so I knew that it would be a special experience for him. Again, it was well received. One would expect something that is so universally enjoyed to be something simple and conservative and you would be right. This salad is simply a cooked beet with some embellishments.

Beets

 

The sliced blanched beets sit atop a whipped feta cheese. This is the focus of the dish so I was rather generous with the portions of both the cheese and the beats. I then sprinkle on some pine nuts however most nuts will do. Personally, my favourite nuts I have used with this dish have been pistachios. Afterwards, I place some radishes around the dish and on top of the beets. Next, I place a generous hand full of pea shoots which I’ve been growing in my garden. I must admit that another scoop of whipped feta on top of the beets (as shown here) before the hand full of pea shoots never hurts (can you really ever have too much feta?). Last, I finish the dish with some olive oil and some crushed black pepper.

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Chocolate Mousse

I seldom take the time to make desserts. I suppose when one is trying to save money and lead a healthy lifestyle, the dessert is the first course to be omitted. However, there are occasions that call for desserts. One of the easiest possible dessert that takes the least amount of time to make is whipped chocolate mousse. There are only 3 ingredients; chocolate, whipping cream, and icing sugar.

Chocolate Mousse

 

The ratio to remember is 1:2:6. For every 1 part of icing sugar, remember to add 2 parts of melted dark chocolate (I like anything in between 70-80%) and 6 parts of whipping cream. You can serve this right away or make it in advance and let it set in the fridge. This makes it a convenient dessert to serve as it can be made in advance which takes the pressure off when hosting a nice dinner.

Above you can see that I’ve chosen to serve the mousse with a mint vodka raspberry sauce. I find that even though the mousse is light, it is still rich and sweet and it is best enjoyed with some acidity to brighten up the dish. I’ve chosen to go with raspberries this time. Simply heat up some raspberries in a bit of reduced vodka infused with mint. I like to take the mint out before blending the raspberries into a purée.

The longer one reduces the raspberries, the more water is taken out of the raspberry sauce. Less water in the sauce means that the raspberry flavour will be intensified. Overdoing the reduction may lead to a very tart raspberry sauce. Seeing as how the mousse is not overly heavy, I just like to warm the raspberries a bit instead of taking a lot of water out of them as I might do if I were serving the sauce with a dense chocolate cake.

Chocolate Mousse

 

I serve the mousse on top of the raspberry sauce and I garnish with some fresh raspberries, mint, and some grated leftover dark chocolate which I saved from being melted.

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Pho pt. 1

After my first ever contribution to this blog, some of my friends demanded that I do a post on Pho. I’m sorry it took so long but alas, here it is. I truly believe that in order to reinvent a classic, one must first understand exactly why it is a classic in the first place. Therefore, what you see below is a pretty classic execution of Pho. Eventually I’ll attempt to modernize this classic.

Pho

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Pho is essentially just beef noodle soup. However it tastes more magical than my inadequate mastery of the English language can describe. The secret is in the broth. It is packed with umami and other compounds that boost the flavour of meat proteins making the beef taste better than it does elsewhere. One can find many different recipes for Pho however the two key steps that will separate your Pho from everyone else’s are easy to remember.

The first trick is to use dried sea worms when making the broth. This may seem unappetizing to some people however dried sea worms are some of the most umami dense foods. Adding this to the broth will make your beef taste that much better without having to use MSG. Another trick is to stab the onions with star anise before roasting them in the oven. When onions and star anise are cooked together they produce compounds that further boost the meaty flavours of the dish. Adding this to the broth will take the soup to new heights.

The beef used in the dish above are beef tenderloin, chuck beef balls, and oxtail. Traditionally, the Vietnamese eat Pho with many herbs including mint, basil, and coriander however I’ve just finished it with some thai basil and thinly sliced red onion here.

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Pork Chops

For this dish I decided to stick to classic flavour combinations. Pork and sweet potato are a common combination on many blogs I’ve been sifting through. The same can be said about balsamic vinegar. The apples and sage however have been paired up with pork since before internet blogs existed.

Pork Chops

 

The pork itself is cooked simply with just a touch of salt before it was thrown on the BBQ. The cucumber and apple are just tossed in some pork juices I collected in the resting process. The sweet potato is just mashed sweet potato with some crushed garlic.

Pork Chops

 

The black sauce is probably the only element to the dish that would appear uncommon to most people however I assure you that it is, like the other elements, also very simple. To make the black sauce one just gently cooks diced onions until translucent. Then, one reduces some balsamic vinegar and mixes it into the onions. An optional touch of Worchestershire sauce (for some added Umami) can also be added at this point. Finish the sauce with some chopped basil before blending it into a Purée. I think it goes delightfully with pork chops.

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