jeudi, mai 03, 2012

Crème Anglaise

The sauce is Crème Anglaise

This is not about the cake (Fondant de Nathalie) but about the sauce - Crème Anglaise as I've always known it to be called.

When you have made a moist but bitter cake because you've changed your chocolate and it was too strong, you may need this delicately perfumed sweet silky sauce to save your day.

I had guests yesterday, ran out of my usual fondant chocolate and used an unsweetened 100% cocoa table to make dessert, didn't increase the amount of sugar used and ended up with 2 bitter cakes.

The cakes would normally have been eaten up in a jiffy, but the kids do not like dark chocolate. So I had to make a crème anglaise.

We managed to eat out in the garden even though it rained in the morning. They are really intent on waking up the mosquitoes with all that rain lately, Hub actually found mosquitoes and their eggs in the water tank of his Nespresso machine!

Our guests were Thai and German, the latter is also our neighbour and both have kids in the school where the Babies go to. I was just thinking to myself the other day about how where you live (in terms of country, city, school and residence) could determine the kind of people you know.

After more than a decade in expatriation, we have really met all sorts of people. As you may remember, back in Italy most of our friends were fellow top-level Ferrari professionals or top executives from important MNCs like Mercedes, Tetra Pak, Volvo, Audi etc. Here in Shanghai, through the international schools and especially our residence (the budget you have for your accommodation is often linked to your position in/and your company), we are really meeting even more important people both local and foreign e.g. Country Head of Pepsi, top brass from GM, Exxon Mobile, Dow Corning etc often in charge not only of their companies' operations in China but in the region...

But I am pleased to say that no matter how important their husbands' positions most of the ladies I've met are usually very nice and interesting, and our children play together all the time. I'm still trying to get the husbands to meet up and become friendly - but almost all of them travel a lot so it has not been easy thus far.

Crème Anglaise :

2 egg yolks
70g caster sugar
250ml full cream milk
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp grand marnier (optional)

Whisk the yolks with the sugar in a large bowl till white and creamy.

Bring the milk to the boil in a casserole and stir in the vanilla.

Whisk the hot milk bit by bit into the egg mixture.

Pour into the casserole and keep stirring over low heat till the mixture starts to boil (but remove from heat once the first bubbles appear). It should be around 85°C.

Strain the mixture through a sieve and put it into an ice bath to cool it down completely.

Keep in the fridge for 24 hours to stabilise the sauce and allow the aromas to mingle. Stir in some liqueur if so desired just before using the sauce.

Goes beautifully with chocolate cake or egg white islands (e.g. ile flottante). I would drink all of it on its own - but must practise restraint, of course. Really yummy.

mercredi, mai 02, 2012

Beef Lasagne

Beef Lasagne

I actually made Beef Lasagne the same evening I was preparing the sweet braised pork which probably contributed to our inability to stomach more food that day. I remember now that it was just after the weekly cooking class offered by our residence (we learnt a spring onion crab dish that morning) which set me off on a cooking frenzy 2 days in a row. Yes, I made black pepper crabs too in the same 2 days because the same cooking class got Judy into a similar frenzy and she bought crabs from the wholesale market and even killed them for us! Fei kept saying that she only got so plump because of me and my obsession with food.

My sage and rosemary plants

I didn't make the pasta for the lasagne myself this time and the packet of Barilla I got from Carrefour was really expensive. I just realised that I've never blogged properly about lasagne probably because it's one of those simple dishes that requires quite a bit of preparation and I've never managed to find enough natural light at the end to have a picture taken. I still haven't, but have decided to blog about it anyway.

Basically making lasagne is about making pasta, béchamel and bolognese/ragu and putting everything together. It's easy, but it does take quite a bit of time and organisation. There is however no need to go the Bologna Chamber of Commerce way and cook your meat in milk etc for the ragu because once you've mixed your meat sauce with the béchamel you wouldn't quite remember how it looked like before.

Fresh out of the oven

Beef Lasagne :

rectangular pasta dough (9-12 sheets depending on how many layers you'll be making)
boiling water
100g grated parmesan cheese
200g grated emmenthal, cheddar, gruyere or mozzarella cheese
6-8 fresh sage leaves

The Béchamel :

1 l milk
a pinch of nutmeg
2 bay leaves
1 tsp crushed black pepper
80g butter
65g plain flour
150g grated parmesan cheese
salt to taste

The Meat Sauce :

500g minced beef
olive oil
3 cloves garlic (chopped)
1 small onion (chopped)
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
a few basil leaves
400ml tomato purée
400g tin of ripe peeled plum tomatoes
1 bird's eye chilli (chopped)
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the meat sauce first. Hand form the beef into patties and grill them till they are brown on the outside. Chop roughly and set aside.

Heat up some olive oil and fry the onions and garlic till fragrant. Add in the fresh herbs, the tomato purée and tinned tomatoes, chilli, salt and pepper. Gently add the meat into the sauce. Cover and simmer while you prepare the white sauce.

Gently boil the milk with the bay leaves, nutmeg and pepper. Remove the bay leaves and set aside.

Melt the butter in a small pot and stir in the flour. Pour in the milk bit by bit taking care to stir all the time. The flour needs to be cooked or the sauce will taste horrible. Bring the sauce to the boil gently, remove from the fire and stir in the parmesan cheese. Salt to taste.

Bring a pot of water to boil and blanch the pasta sheets. Even if they tell you there's no need to pre-cook them, I'd still do it because the taste of raw pasta is not fabulous.

Olive oil your lasagne dish and heat your oven to 220°C/425°F.

Place a layer of pasta sheets in the dish and spread the meat sauce over them. Pour some béchamel over the meat sauce, sprinkle over some parmesan cheese and cover with another layer of pasta sheets.

Repeat till you've reached the top of the lasagne dish. The final layer should be pasta, béchamel, parmesan cheese, sage leaves and a layer of cheese good for melting like emmenthal or mozzarella.

Before going into the oven

Bake for between 30 and 45 minutes - watch that the cheese doesn't burn.

I was hoping to get a daylight shot of just a serving of lasagne the next day but the kids took the remaining 2 portions with them in their lunch bags so the plan couldn't come to fruition. A German kid also had 2 servings actually, he happened to pass by the house and invited himself to dinner when he saw the lasagne.

Vedas - Eating Indian in Shanghai


We love eating Indian and are lucky that there is a pretty good one (Face : Indonesian-owned but managed by a bunch of Singaporeans) just within our residence. Unfortunately it's only open for dinner and is very costly, besides, it's good to try a different curry sometimes. The sauces tend to taste the same after a while, you wouldn't be able to tell a korma, makhani, rogan josh, vindaloo or doo piazza apart.

I read somewhere that Vedas has moved to new premises near Jing'an Temple in Puxi which was where we needed to be 2 Sundays ago for the French Presidential elections. It was a lovely day which made it a pity to have to eat indoors, but the restaurant was bright enough to make it ok and the food was better than we had expected it to be.

Tandoori chicken

Butter naan and garlic naan

I often judge Indian cuisine by its naan and Vedas makes pretty good ones. The different curries have different coloured sauces and you can still taste the ground spices on the tandoori chicken which also happened not to be red in colour.

Bhindi masala

fish curry

The okra was tender and came with a few other vegetables which was a nice touch and for once the fish in the fish curry didn't taste fishy nor was it rubbery. The food was very spicy in general the way we've asked for it to be and the rice came in decent portions for the price.

Butter chicken - so so

Lamb doo piazza

It's not the best Indian I've eaten, but it's pretty decent for Shanghai. We would be back.

83 changshu lu
Tel : 021 6445 8100

Sweet Soy Braised Pork Belly 红烧五花肉


It took me hours to prepare this Sweet Soy Braised Pork Belly, I ate a few pieces when it was ready, gave a few more to the neighbour's cat and offered the rest (about 1 kg) to the cleaners working outside in the garden. It must have made their day because they usually do not get to eat much meat in their very poor and simple diets. Tant mieux.

Why this waste? The meat was delicious and I've been having such a craving for it. But it's fattening and I've been to quite a number of buffets lately with another one scheduled for tomorrow. Nobody else in the family likes to eat their meat sweet and this fat, so better it went to the poor folks' stomachs than mine.

五花肉fresh from the supermarket

I've been dying to buy the pork belly they were selling in my supermarket as I find the Chinese name 五花肉 (5-flower meat) so enticing. Then I've been reading Ken Hom's A Taste of China cook book and have been dying to try out his pork dishes. So I combined 2 different recipes and cooked this dish, using the method from recipe 1 (liangban rou) and the ingredients from recipe 2 (dongpo rou).

I didn't throw away the stock in which the pork had simmered for an hour and a half, using it to make a hot and sour soup the next day (after I've removed the fat, of course). Didn't answer Hub when he asked me why the soup was particularly tasty that evening, he probably would have had a heart attack if he had known.

Sweet Soy Braised Pork Belly (loosely adapted from Ken Hom's A Taste of China) :

1 kg pork belly
1 small onion or 6 whole spring onions
half a leek
a large piece of fresh ginger (sliced largely)
1 tbsp salt

peanut oil
3 cloves garlic (chopped)
one piece fresh ginger (chopped)
125g rock sugar
125ml dark soy sauce
2 tbsp light soy sauce
125ml rice wine
125ml water

Simmering in a pot of water

Bring a big pot of water to boil and put in the pork belly (either whole piece or sliced into large pieces), onion, leek, ginger and salt. Cover and simmer for an hour and a half. Remove the pork belly and set aside, allowing it to cool before slicing it into smaller pieces.

Cooked pork belly

In another pot, heat up a little peanut oil and fry the ginger and garlic till fragrant. Stir in the sugar and sauce ingredients and add the pork belly into the pan. Cover and simmer for another 30 minutes or more. Make sure that the meat doesn't dry out due to exposure to the air. It should be very tender, sweet, slightly salty and make you want to eat a lot of rice or mantous with it.

I wouldn't replace the rock sugar with normal sugar as the former gives a glaze to the meat that the latter wouldn't be able to.

Serve hot or at room temperature with the braising liquid over the meat. Goes really well with above-mentioned white rice or steamed buns.

mardi, mai 01, 2012

本家 -Fine Korean Restaurant in Shanghai

Hot charcoal for the BBQ

I must admit that I'm not usually hot about Korean food. I don't eat kimchi and that most of their dishes tend to be red or brown in colour puts me off quite a bit.

I did get into Korean food frenzy when I was following Dae Jang Geum a few years back, but the ubiquitous consumption of horrible-looking zhajiang mian (炸酱面) in another Korean series soon killed it. I haven't thought much about eating Korean until Fei and Judy brought me to eat Korean each time we went to Changning to have cashmere sweaters made (to order) a few weeks ago.

But it was Tina bringing me to eat Korean at 本家 last week that allowed me to see Korean cuisine in another light. She was introduced to the restaurant by Korean friends and was suitably impressed herself to keep returning since.

little side dishes

The restaurant is part of a chain that could be found in Beijing, Qingdao and Shaoxing. The one we went to was in Pudong. We only ordered one type of beef to be cooked over a charcoal stove - but it was sufficient. Because a typical Korean meal usually comes with lots of other little dishes and a lot of fresh salad.

a long tray of salad leaves

The meat was very good and was expertly prepared by the waitress and you get 2 dipping sauces to go with it. We also ordered a beef soup with sweet potato vermicelli that was nice if a little sweet for my liking (am referring to the broth). But the meal on the whole was lovely (and healthy) and I would definitely return with the friends and especially the Teenager who's currently in a Korean phase (due to having many Korean friends at school).

grainy beef that would have cost a bomb in Korea

The bill for the 2 of us was 300 rmb for lunch.

2F, Qianjiang Tower
971 Dongfang Lu
Shanghai Pudong
Tel : 021 5081 9377