Monday, 30 June 2008

Fine cakes

Here is a truly old recipe from "The Good Husewife's Jewell" published in 1596:

Take fine flowre and good Damaske water you must have no other liqueur but that, then take sweet butter, two or three yolkes of egges and a good quantity of Suger, and a few cloves, and mace, as your Cookes mouth shall serve him, and a lyttle saffron, and a little Gods good about a sponfull if you put in too much they shall arise, cutte them in squares lyke unto trenchers, and pricke them well, and let your oven be well swept and lay them uppon papers and so set them into the oven. Do not burne them if they be three or foure days old they bee the better.

My redaction:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 175g butter
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1tsp saffron, ground
  • ½ tsp cloves
  • 2 tsp mace, ground
  • 3 tablespoons rosewater
  • 1 tsp baking powder
Mix dry ingredients, and rub in the butter to make something resembling fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolks and rosewater, and mix to make a dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for an hour or so to settle. Roll out to 5mm and cut out shapes. Bake for about 20 minutes at 175 degrees until lightly golden.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

When the chemistry is right part 2

Tamara and I went through the Alkimi menu and chose a simple lunch of 3 savoury dishes and 1 dessert.

First arrival was rather elegant - tall grissini, looking like a modern decoration.

Then a wee glass with a deconstructed dish. There is a spanish speciality which is made of toasted bread with fresh tomato rubbed on to it, and olive oil drizzled on top.

Instead... a shot glass with a cold tomato essence, cool olive oil and crisp bread cubes floating in it. On top was a piece of Spanish salami. The tomato had a taste like lemony cucumber and was very refreshing.

To accompany it, a piece of soft bread with sundried tomatoes and olives. The next amuse-bouche was foie gras. The dish looked like it just had a jelly in the bottom, but in fact below that was super soft foie gras. To accompany its creamy, rich texture was quinoa, which I guess was fried so that it was lovely and crisp. (Must try doing that)

Then finally the first dish that we ordered: a sort of soup/salad, with salmon, roe and coconut. It was gorgeous looking, with beautiful flower petals and leaves draped over the fish. The waiter then poured the coconut fluff over the top. This was an exquisite concoction. Somehow the coconut was not oily, the salmon delicious with little salty bursts of flavour from the roe. I am not really a huge fish fan but this was pretty damn good nosh.

At this point, Tamara and my choices parted. She was presented with a sort of inverted ham and eggs: a creamy ham "white" and a yolk made of ...? with golden runny yolk inside.
My dish was a sort of canneloni elegant platter with a built in dip for a sort of, served on an dressing, and with a pretty looking salad on the side, which included a strip of apple and cucumber - doesn't it look charming?

Tamara and I had chosen differently for the next dish too. Tamara chose a fish dish, while I indulged in a rich dish of pork cheek with mushrooms.

The mushrooms were incredibly garlicky and yummy and the cheek all crunchy on the outside and well done on the inside; thats one of the five major foodgroups taken care of (I will have to explain my version of the five major foodgroups in another post).

Time to wind up the meal, with dessert, chocolate brownie with chocolate and yoghurt icecreams. This was probably the most ordinary part of the meal, with the brownie being tasty but unexceptional. The yoghurt icecream was lovely though, creamy and just a little bit tart.

Tamara persuaded me that we simply MUST order tea or coffee, just to get the petit fours. So a nice cup of mint tea later, we were presented with one of the most difficult dishes to photograph that I have ever been presented.

There were 2 sweet little macaroons with raspberries, strawberries and cream, financiers and two sort of chocolate lollipops filled with what we think was a blackcurrant icecream. I don't know how we managed to squeeze them in, but a girls gotta do what a girls gotta do.

All in all Alkimia was great. Very reasonably priced at 32 euros a head the presentation of the food was excellent, and the quality far outstripped my other Michelin star experiences so far. The service was slightly odd, as there was a sort of serving table beside us, and food was brought to that table, then distributed to... well, other people actually! Our food was placed on a side table beside someone else and then brought over to us. It was a little bizarre and at times a little cruel, as we got to see all sorts of delicious dishes that we didn't get to eat. But I would definitely recommend this restaurant and go back again in a heartbeat.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

When the chemistry is right

A trip to Barcelona for three days to visit a friend who was down, became a bit of a gastronomic adventure. Tamara and I met through a mutual interest in illuminated manuscripts, but it was a love of cooking that really drew us together and made us fast friends.

When I found out she was feeling a bit down, I decided that it was my solemn duty to get my butt over to Barcelona to see her. And if, during the weekend, I managed to get a bit of shopping done, and maybe even eat some good food...

Maybe? HA! I arrived at 7.50pm on Friday night and by the time I wound my way through the public transport system to meet up with Tamara it was 9pm. But the Spanish are late night people so the late hour was no reason not to eat, and Tamara had made a booking at a restaurant called "Les 11 Virtuits" for 10pm with two of her girlfriends. We took the degustation menu (with a bit of fiddling because of my sensitivities to shellfish and Tamara's dislike of chicken), and settled ourselves down for some eating. I won't share with you the full menu just yet, as the photos are in Tamara's camera (I will do something a bit more comprehensive once she emails them to me), but it wasn't bad at all, and the company was, of course, superb. Tamara's friends were kind enough to try to speak mostly in English because I have absolutely no Spanish, and we had a few good giggles together.

Saturday started with brunch of lovely fresh bread, spanish ham, fresh cheese and matured cheeses. My kinda start to the day!

After returning from the hunt (shopping bag in hand) we decided to have a quick tapas to give us the energy to survive until dinner. Tamara produced some anchovies from the depths of the fridge and brought out the toaster.

I had brought for her a little gift from Geneva, some of my dried strawberries, and in a moment of brilliance (I admit inspired by something I had seen on the net but I hasten to add not the same thing), suggested that we combine the two. Now I can just tell that some of you, dear readers, will be reeling in horror at the concept of this combination, but have faith... they were great! The sweetness of the strawberries was a great foil to the citric saltiness of the anchovies and together they were sublime.

That evening, we met with another girlfriend of Tamara (all her friends seem to be ridiculously intelligent, charming and nice) at a spot called Inopia for a bite to eat. Sadly since we were all dressed up to go out dancing, I didn't have a camera with me, but you will just have to take it on faith that the crunchy lemon battered anchovies were divine, the mixed olives were a gastronomic adventure and the patatas bravas were so good we just had to have seconds. The fact that the waiter was more than a little decorative didn't do any harm to the atmosphere of the evening too. ;-)

The next night Tamara cooked up a lovely vegetable risotto, and while she bemoaned the fact that the transport strike meant that there was no fresh asparagus to be had anywhere in Barcelona, it was still very tasty.

We followed that up with fish cooked on top of potatoes and garlic, and topped with ever so sweet tomatoes.

I can't tell you how we managed to fit in after that (she cooked a WHOLE fish each!) a local speciality of sweet cheese flan, but you know, I felt that it would be rude of me to refuse.

Monday, my last day in Barcelona got off to a late start. Well actually every day did, because I slept in. Late nights, big comfy bed, very dark room and earplugs will do that for a girl. But the quick snack we grabbed at a tapas bar was only a brief breakfast to keep us going until we got to the main event... Alkimi.

One of the many Michelin starred restaurants in Barcelona, Alkimia is actually very reasonably priced. The amuse bouche+three course+dessert menu is only 32 euro, making it about the price of an average restaurant in Geneva.

and believe me, there is nothing average about Alkimia.

To be continued....

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Happy girl

I am a very happy girl. Way back in March I bought a gorgeous little milk jug and sugar bowl, which I first used when I had my friends over for brunch.

I fell for them, because they remind me of the purple sea urchin shells I used to find at the beach back in Australia.

I did love the teapot as well, but it was 50francs, and considering I don't actually drink tea, I wasn't willing to spend that much money on a teapot! So ever since I have been searching for a teapot that would not clash with the others in the set, and was a halfway reasonable price, to no avail. All the inexpensive pots I could find were horrid or the wrong colour or...

But tonight I dropped in to the shop where I bought my stuff originally, and much to my joy and surprise there was my teapot. Half price!! And to add to the surprise, candleholders as well, also half price.

So I am a happy Kiriel, and all I need is to have friends over for afternoon tea to enjoy it.