Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Waiter! There's some pears in my topless tart!

Pear Bourdaloue in pan

Have I told you how much I miss my kitchen back home? If I haven't,


I miss my kitchen full of gadgets. My favourite measuring cups, my favourite measuring spoons, my new electronic scales which measures liquid and dry ingredients with a single touch of a finger, my "on its last legs" Kambrook food processor, Alv's mum's Sunbeam mixmaster (which she has never used), all my baking tins and even the not so favourite temperamental gas oven.

What's that I hear you say?

"Chill out dude, it's not like they're irreplaceable?!"

Well, I know they're not irreplaceable. In fact, I did consider bringing some of my "I can't live without you" gadgets with me to keep me company. But I have sooo many of them, I didn't know where to begin and then there was also luggage space to consider. I mean's not like it's forever...??

Sigh, I know I'm being really silly. But it's just that, I miss turning around knowing that I could just grab my Nuscup measuring cups stuck on the freezer door, rummaging through the utensil drawer for my favourite spatula and making tart pastry the quick and easy way. *sulk*

Now that I think about it, I can't believe how much kitchen gadgets I've accumulated since I moved out from home 5 years ago. (And this is from someone who has never cooked anything beyond instant noodles back when living at home with the parents!) They've all become a part of my kitchen routine - measuring spoons and pastry brush on the first drawer, Nuscup on the freezer door, the good spatula in the third drawer by the kitchen stove. I can almost recite the location of every piece of equipment that I have - except when it's been misplaced by someone...

Anyway, thank you for putting up with my kitchen rantings. With that out of the way, let us get down to some serious food talking. :)

Pear Bourdaloue

So, HOW on earth did I make that tart pictured above if I haven't got my tart pans and my precious food processor?? Hehehe.. The real question should be WHEN?! I actually made this 7 weeks ago in the midst of the final weeks panic in Melbourne. What a surprise it was to find that Jeanne has actually picked "tarts" to be the theme for the monthly "Waiter! There's something in my.. " event. I for one am thankful, because it means that I can join in the fun!

The above tart is the Pear Bourdaloue from The Cook's Book. It's one of the few recipes that I tagged when I first bought the book all those moons ago. When we made the decision to relocate to London, I made a list of recipes that I had to try before I left and this was at the top of the list. So I made sure I cleared my schedule for one of the weekends before I left, just so I can make this. :)

When I first saw the original recipe in the book it was made using pear halves in a 22cm round pan. For some reason, whenever I think of this particular recipe, the image morphs into the shape of a rectangular sized tart and it is topped with pear slices instead of pear halves. Since pears aren't exactly at the top of my favourite fruits list, I decided to take the suggestion as a sign and went ahead and made it the way it appeared in my head.

The recipe below is for the original tart of 22cm round pan. So if you're thinking of trying a different sized pan, you might find that you'll end up with some extra pastry and pear slices at hand. (Sorry, it's been a while since I made it and I can't quite remember the exact measure of ingredients left to give you a guide to my rectangular sized tart.)

The only other change I made to the recipe was to use the remainder of my cloudberry jam as the glaze instead of apricot jam.

A slice of pear bourdaloue

Pear Tart Bourdaloue
adapted from this book.

Original recipe makes a 22cm tart

Pre-preparation required for:-
1. Pears
2. Pâte Brisée or your favourite shortcrust pastry recipe

1.1kg firm, ripe pear
6 tbsp lemon juice
1 litre water
1/2 vanilla pod, halved and grated
300g quantity of Pâte Brisée
280g quantity of Almond cream
1/2 pot of Apricot/Quince jam (I used cloudberry jam)

Day 1: Pre-preparing the pears
  1. Peel pears and remove cores.
  2. Place the pears in a non-metallic bowl and coat them with 3 tbsp of lemon juice.
  3. In a large saucepan, bring to boil 1 litre water, 3 tbsp lemon juice and vanilla.
  4. Add in pears and place a cartouche on top.
  5. Simmer for 10 - 15mins.
  6. Cover and let cool/infuse over night.

Day 2: Pâte Brisée & Almond Cream
  1. Preheat oven to 180 deg C.
  2. Roll out pastry 3mm thick and line pan.
  3. Spread almond cream evenly onto the tart shell and place strained pears* on top.
  4. Bake tart for 30mins.
  5. Allow tart to cool to lukewarm and the remove from tart pan and let cool on rack.
  6. Before serving, warm jam in a pan or microwave and brush surface of tart with melted jam.
*I sliced my pears before placing them on top of the almond cream

Pâte Brisée
Makes 1 kg of pastry

375g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
2 scant tsp salt
1 egg yolk
2 scant tsp caster sugar
100ml full-fat milk, (at room temperature)
500g plain flour, sifted.
plus extra for dusting.

Using a food processor:
  1. Place butter, salt, egg yolk, sugar and milk into the food processor and process until the mixture becomes a smooth and cream like.
  2. Add the sifted flour into the mixture.
  3. Pulse until the mixture just starts to come together.
  4. Stop pulsing as soon as the pastry has formed a ball.
  5. Remove the mixture from the processor and wrap in cling film. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Almond Cream
makes 800g

135g butter
165g icing sugar
10g cornflour
165g ground almonds
2 eggs
1 tbsp dark rum (I used cognac)
200ml creme fraiche
  1. Cut butter into pieces and place in a bowl.
  2. Cream butter with with spatula to soften.
  3. Combine icing sugar, corn flour, almond in a bowl and sift into butter mixture and mix well
  4. Add the eggs into the mixture one at a time, ensuring that the first egg is well mixed before adding in the remaining egg.
  5. Add in the rum and creme fraiche and combine until smooth.
  6. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate. If not using within 36 - 48hrs freeze until required.
My verdict:

The recipe is a tiny bit complicated but it's do-able with good time management. The strangest thing was that this recipe did not require the tart shell to be blind baked. I was very intrigued by this as I have never made/eaten tarts that have never been blind baked. In fact the main reason tarts appeal to me is because of the crispy tart shell!

The pears were soft from poaching but it wasn't mushy after being baked which was good. Taste wise it had a hint of vanilla but other than that the pear taste remains and the cloudberry jam glaze didn't really over power the taste of the pear.

The pastry itself wasn't as crispy as your blind baked tarts, but as you can see from the photos the top was still quite crumbly and because it wasn't blind baked, the almond cream and the pastry sort of melted together (as it cooked in the oven) and so the first bite was as though the pastry and almond cream was the one layer.

I had a cold slice of the tart but I reckon if you actually warm it up a little before serving, it might just melt in your mouth!

Has this tart changed my perception of tarts with non-blind baked shells?

You bet!

Zig zagged Pear tart slices

Friday, November 23, 2007

New York City, USA

NYC New York

It is said that Americans love New York so much that they name the city and state twice - New York, New York or so says one of the many travel shows I remember watching during the 20+ hour the flight from Melbourne to New York.

I can’t quite remember the name of the show, but a little bit of googling later I found out that the famous New York, New York phrase was actually coined from a song by singer, song writer, composer Gerard Kenny who was born and raised in New York. So good, they named it twice. And they’re right about that. I love New York!

We only spent 4.5 days in New York, but in the short time that we were there, we managed to cover a fair bit of New York. Amongst the places that we visited were: Central Park, 5th Avenue and walked from Brooklyn Bridge all the way to (the wrong side of) the former World Trade Centre site to pay our respects. We also made a side trip to do some shopping at Woodbury Common Premium Shopping, walked the streets of SoHo, Times Square and did some last minute shopping at Macy’s.

Central Park 1
Central Park
Top, Left to Right: Strawberry Fields, View from Lake, Autumn in Central Park,
Bethesda Fountain and Terrace and Tricycle rides throughout Central Park.

5th Avenue
Top, Left to Right: 5th Avenue, Atlas Statue at the Rockefeller Centre,
The Apple Store and New York City Times Square

If you ever visit New York, you must make a trip to the Empire State Building. The New York city view from the top of the Empire State Building is amazing. A friend suggested that we go in the day and at night, unfortunately, due to time constrains we only manage a visit in the night time. We still managed to get some really great shots but I so wish I had my tripod with me that day..

New York
Top, Left to Right: New York City Skyline from
Empire State Building, GE Building at the Rockefeller Centre and M&M's World

When we told our friends that we would be stopping by New York on the way to London, we received loads of suggestions from friends who had been there about places to eat, places to visit etc. Seeing that it was our first trip to New York, we decided against packing our schedule with touristy things that everyone suggested and instead took an easy approach and just went with the flow.

I did manage to tick off a few things off my “To Eat” list:
I know I know… it’s a pretty lame “To Eat” list, but I love bagels and fresh blueberry bagels with pinkish hue on the bread, not purply grey hue due to the use of frozen blueberries and I can't go past a street side hot dog that seems to make an appearance in every cop series on tv that is based in New York. ;)

I even managed to convince Alv that we should have Bagels for breakfast twice during our stay in New York, so I got my Blueberry Bagels TWICE! :D

We mostly ate on the go during our trip but we did make sure we ate a proper dinner. W took us to dinner at a nice little Italian restaurant called Celeste on Amsterdam where Alv ‘reckons’ we saw Milena Govich from Law & Order a few tables from us.

The menu suggests traditional Italian fare where the pasta sauces are primarily tomato based sauces with a rare creamy sauce on the daily special. If I remembered correctly, Alv had their mussels and tagliatelle special with a creamy tomato based sauce, W had their ribbon pasta with a ricotta and tomato sauce and I had the Penne with a classic tomato sauce and little chunks of torn fresh mozzarella. (I got suckered in by the mozzarella). One thing I did notice was that if you asked for parmesan cheese, they would bring out the knob of cheese and freshly grate it on the spot! How awesome is that! Not the stinky parmesan powder that you get at some of the restaurants in Melbourne. Eech!

Anyway, it’s an excellent little spot that is always packed with customers queuing for a table even at 9:30pm – which I’ve been told is quite standard for dinner time in New York. Service wise, it was a little rushed, almost as if they are trying to turnover as many table as they could in the hour and we did have to wait for a while for table service but other than that it was a nice meal.

That unfortunately, was pretty much the highlight of our meals in New York. On the other nights, when we were exhausted from a big day of walking, we dragged ourselves home and ordered take-out (delivered) Thai from Land Thai Kitchen and a huge medium sized pizza delivered from Caesar’s Palace pizza.

For our last dinner in New York, on W’s recommendation, we took a quick stroll in the rain to the nearby Vietnamese joint, Saigon Grill. The eatery proved quite popular with the locals too as the restaurant was packed! Luckily, we didn’t have to wait long to be seated. Saigon Grill has an extensive menu ranging from your favourite little spring roll and pork kebab appetisers to your favourite fried rice and main dishes. I can’t quite remember what we ordered, according to Alv, he thinks we shared an appetiser for one between the two of us and ordered a stir fried prawns and lemon grass pork chop for mains.

And what would travel eating be if we did not indulge in some junk food eating at McDonald's and Subway. Yep, my junk food junkie boy even wanted his dose of KFC but unfortunately, we ran out of time.

To complete our eating experience in America we lunched on our last day at a little diner called the Three Star Coffee Shop. It’s a small little diner on Columbus between 86th and 87th Street in the Upper West. It’s what a diner should be, with small booths and classic diner décor – the blue (or was it red?) seats and brown/parquet walls. The menu is atypical of diner meals - burgers, salads, triple deckers, sandwiches, bagels, spaghetti, parmigiana, steaks and breakfast served all day.

For Alv’s benefit - because he loves "You've Got Mail" and "Serendipity", we were intending to try out Café Lalo and Serendipity 3 too! But unfortunately, due to renovations at Café Lalo and the lack of time, we had to give the 2 café’s a miss.

Cafe Lalo

To summarise, New York, my favourite spot would have to be Central Park. I really enjoyed the walk we had through the park. It was serene amidst the chaos of New York City and I just love seeing autumn leaving its touch throughout the park.

Central Park 2

I also really enjoyed our walk from Brooklyn Bridge back to Manhattan. It was just unfortunate that the day we chose to visit the Brooklyn Bridge was a rainy and over cast day, hence our terrible photos. Before getting there, I had this image of Brooklyn Bridge at sunset, with the orange blue sky in the background but alas, all I have to show is grossly grey skies which I turned into black and whites to suppress the gloominess of the entire experience. : (

Clockwise: Manhattan Bridge, Brooklyn Bridge & Staten Island Ferry
Top, Left to Right: Manhattan Bridge, Staten Island Ferry and Brooklyn Bridge.

All in all, New York’s fantastic, we’ll definitely be back again next time for a better view of the Brooklyn Bridge if not just for the shopping!! :)

Halloween and M&Ms
Top, Left to Right: Remnants of Halloween and M&M's! all 10,000 different colours of them!

Ed: OH! and I think we saw Seal at B&H. Could be wrong. But if it was him, we were only about 1m away!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Goodbye summer days and Hello Autumn in New York!

Apologies for the severe lack of posts. We've had a fairly hectic schedule in the last 6 weeks: tidying up things at work - handover and all, baking and cooking all my favourite foods/recipes, catching up with friends, families and eating out at all our favourite places. It's not all done without reason (well, maybe the eating out bit), for you see, as I write this we are no longer in Melbourne and will be 'homeless' and living out of our suitcases for the next few months.

We're joining the flock of expat Aussies in London, trying to make do on a Working Holiday Maker visa and relishing the opportunity to travel around Europe for the next year or so. Hence, the post title, "Goodbye summer days" - for it is now approaching summer in the southern hemisphere and "Hello Autumn in New York!" - for we are now in New York, or will be until tomorrow anyway.

Puddle of water @ Central Park
(Central Park, New York)

Rockerfeller centre
(The Rockefeller Centre, New York)

The last 2 months has been a race against time, documenting my job, organising our visas and tickets and me, baking/cooking all my favourite recipes from my large collection of cookbooks (all of which I will sorely miss) that won't be coming with me to London. The idea was that I would cook/bake them and then create a post for it on my blog for future references. The only problem with that now is that, I have cooked/baked them, photographed them and ate them. BUT forgot to type up the recipe for them. Argh... silly me.

I'm so going to miss summer. I love summer because it reminds me of my childhood home in Malaysia. Sure, summer in Melbourne is a bit harsher and dry compared to the sunny tropical weather in Malaysia, but it does have it's plusses - longer days, thongs/sandals, skirts, ice creams and my favourite part of summer - stone fruits. To cut a long story short, I found some early season peaches and apricots at the grocers the weekend before I left. I looovee stone fruits and couldn't resist snapping up a few of each even though I knew they were early season fruits.

Apricots and peaches

I've never been a big fan of apricots but as a last summer hurrah, I convinced myself that I should give it another go since it will be at least another 6 months before I will be able to gorge on any stone fruits :(

With the pantry and fridge all cleared out for our impending departure, I decided against making anything fancy with them and just melted the remaining bars of chocolate that I had in the pantry. Served with some strawberries and melted dark chocolate, it was a perfect farewell to the upcoming summer... for me anyway. (The peaches, on the other hand, were far too ripe and didn't make it to the platter)

Fruits and chocolate dip