Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Daring Bakers' Challenge: Traditional British Pudding - Spotted Dick

The April 2010 Daring Bakers' Challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding, using, if possible a very traditional British ingredient: suet.
...and this is what turned out! ^_^

I decided to go for a traditional English spotted dick, though in a not so traditional shape. It actually turned out very very pretty, though in all seriousness, I don't think I would go out of my way to bake this again. It wasn't bad and I actually had a british friend to come over and have a taste and according to him, this one actually beats most of the ones you'll find in England by miles. 
I'm not yet convinced. 
The warm custard did improve this pudding a lot in my opinion. 
Here are more pictures of the event...
...take a look at the inside.

I will post all the recipe's details this weekend, for all of you out there brave enough!
Ps: Dear Daring Baker's staff, this is my first try at a DB's challenge and just realized I was one day late... oups. 

As many of you pointed out, I have yet to post the recipe for my spotted dick and well, this is embarrassing in two ways. First, I wish this tasted as good as it looked, which it didn't, except for the yummy custard (whose recipe was published in another post). Second, the recipe wasn't altogether mine and now that I'm looking back to find it's author, it seems to have vanished from the web. So I'm stuck with a beautiful pudding, albeit not so tasty and no one to give credit for (though I'm not sure if I would be doing it a favor). My deepest apologies, I hope to be back soon with the recipe!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Toto Restaurant, Tel Aviv

There's a game called the association game, you take a word, draw a circle around it and then, like the sun, draw rays out with associated words. Today's word is: Toto. First things that come to mind are, mmm... Dorothy's dog in the Wizard of Oz, that successful 80's band (Africa!) and Japanese toilets (those that warm your rump and even wash it).
Toto toilet in Japan, not at the T.A restaurant.

But enough with the good things, today's association is a dreadful one, a horror one would believe to exist only in the Grimm brothers' tales.
Ok, that's a tad much! ;-)
Toto Restaurant is a lauded restaurant sitting in Tel Aviv, so lauded it's often mentioned as one of Israel's top ten restaurants. Or is that so...?

As you might have guessed, I'm disgusted, furious and offended by the - for lack of better word - poor excuse of something pretending to be an Italian restaurant. While I thought of writing this review in the morning, I decided to be sure not one detail would slip away and let you know, dear Israeli readers, that Toto is most probably the most overrated restaurant in Israel. 
I am writing this post, sucking on a Tums and literally in pain. Because I love food and respect so much those who pour their heart into it, I feel violated. It's like someone farted in a pan and called it ermm... Green Pasta with Shrimps and mussels. Ohh wait, that's one of the dishes I ate. 
Lets start.
After we were given a menu, we were pretty much left on our own. And let me tell you, whoever wrote that menu should be kicked in the rear. No clear description, no methods of confection, no ingredients, just silly empty meaningless names. Me and my P.I.C called our waiter three times before he came, nonchalantly. Unfortunately, he didn't seem to know anything of what was written in the menu and stared at us (and at the menu) blankly, like a dead fish. We asked what pizza was there on the menu and he said... erm... there's ermm... pizza, with cheese... and additions. 
We had pretty much picked our dishes but decided to ask anyways what he recommended and again, he nodded vaguely and said we had already picked the most recommended dishes. How convenient.
Five minutes later, they brought us a plate of sliced bread, which was nice and served with a variety of olives, olive oil and a tomato sauce, very much like the type served with jachnun.

 Good bread, nice olives, bitter olive oil and jachnun tomato sauce

We decided to order 4 dishes and a pizza, so we could get a good sampling of food. We politely asked that it should be brought 2 dishes at the time, so that it would not all go cold. This was completely ignored.
The first dish, Shrimp Calamari and Octopus Bisque tasted alright, but it was no bisque at all. Bisque is supposed to be a creamy seafood flavored soup (you'll soon realize there is a pattern here). This was just a mess of different things, tossed in a random sauce. Ohh, and there wasn't any octopus there either.

 This was probably the best dish, though it wasn't a bisque at all.
That's basil on top.

Then came the pizza... while our first reaction was a "ohhhh nice", it quickly faded into a "errmm... something's wrong here". The crust was neither crispy or chewy... it just felt like a dense tasteless wet cookie. The tomato sauce was good though, otherwise, if you really feel like getting ripped, just spare yourself the trouble and go straight to Pizzahut.

Pizza: Salami, aged Parmesan, old and wilted arugula and basil on top.

We then tasted the green pasta with shrimps and mussels. Ok, seriously, I never really liked dill that much, except in my chicken soup and pickles, but they really went bananas on this one. The pasta was made with dill, the sauce was made with dill and the whole dish had... you guessed, dill sauce! I'm done with dill for the next few years. Pun intended... I could not dill with it. I would love to meet the guy who came up with this brilliant dish and slap him sideways, up and down.

 Dill, dill, dill and basil.

Thought that was all? Ohh no... this is only going down from here.
Blue Crab with Wassabi Cream (yes, they can't even spell "Wasabi"). Four tiny crabs, hidden under a goo pile of over powering wasabi cream. I bravely started to crack the little beast open and pry anything I could from its tiny body, but I mostly just ate wasabi.

I usually enjoy wasabi, but not as a main dish. 
More basil, purple this time.

Did I mention that every single dish was garnished with basil? If I was Italian, I guess that was supposed to make me feel right at home.
We also had ordered the black pasta, but, thank goodness, it didn't make it and we never got to see the likes of it. We didn't complain about it.
Time for the desserts. I must say we had high hopes and wished deep in our hearts that this could somehow redeem Toto... after all, it wasn't going too well.We looked liked two bloated wales, washed ashore, determined to live long enough to tell about the desserts. We had nothing else to hope for.
I'll take the cake, thank you.

Cannoli with Mascarpone for my friend and Tarte Tatin with Whiskey ice cream for me.
Ok, it's just getting late now... I'm tired, my stomach aches and I don't even know how to start with this one.
I ate cannoli in my days, I grew up in Canada in a Italian neighborhood, so cannoli is as much part of my childhood as were Popsicle. What they presented us with was a rolled piece of cardboard. Thick, dry, flavorless and over fried. While I still hoped for a sign of crunch, there's was nothing but an old cookie and within whatever was left of its cavity, they managed to shove some cream. I can't even say if it was good, it was just cookie all over. It was served over a strawberry and cherry salad. But the truth is, it was simply preserved supermarket sour cherries with sliced strawberry and orange zest. They added some pieces of broken meringue on top and that was it. It was sickeningly sweet.

 Rock hard cannoli anyone? The color you see is actually because the thing was overfried.

My Tarte Tatin, which my waiter naively called "tatine", was just sad. The tarte tatin was simply an apple crumble that didn't even taste very fresh, was served with a ball of whiskey ice cream, but all I could feel was the horrible taste of rum extract, the bad one that tastes like medicine. Some whipped cream around to make it pretty and there you have it.

 Deceivingly pretty.

11:00 pm, 500 shekels later and an empty bottle of Tums, thanks Toto.

Did you have a bad experience too? 
Don't get mad, get even. Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Adenda: I just realized that the chef, Yaron Shalev, was someone I actually worked with when I was at Raphael. Though he probably would not remember me, since he was mostly busy giving hell to anyone below him. If I knew he was the chef behind this restaurant, I would have never ever consider eating there. He was  thoroughly unpleasant and had that holier-than-thou attitude which is the hallmark of a snotty little brat. 
If you wondered, yes, it just became personal.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

"1929 Gateau au Chocolat" aka Depression Cake by Chef Lida M. Touzalin

Like many of you foodies out there, I own more cookbooks than I can actually keep up with and wonder if I am the only one to fantasize about actually buying a book and making each and every recipe in it. Either for the sheer challenge of it or because well, some of those cookbooks turned out pretty expensive and I'm just feeling guilty for only making a couple of recipes from them... all the while planning my next buy.  

Today, I picked one of my oldest cookbooks that was given to me by my grandmother, who, in her youth, lived in the Belgian Congo, and mingled with the partying local Belgian/Jewish community. It was by then that she acquired a french cookbook called "L'Art Culinaire Français" (The French Culinary Art, 1950). A must in those days. 
It is a huge fat brick, full of not so well explained recipes and quite honestly, some are just enigmatic, both technically and linguistically. The book is filled with recipes from the greatest chefs like Brillat-Savarin, Escoffier, Pellaprat and many many others, so there we have an amazing compilation that spread from how to cook "cuisse de grenouille" (frog legs) up to... the most simple chocolate cake. That was more up my alley.

The Chocolate Cake recipe I picked was from a chef called Touzalin's, author of the book "L'Amérique À Table" (America at the Table). A quick search on the internet turned out that this was actually a lady called Lida Miller Touzalin, who was not only an accomplished cook, she also happened to be the daughter of Justice Samuel Freeman Miller. a very powerful court man. 
It also turned out that the book she wrote was published in 1929, the year of the Great Depression
Going back to the my big book, I then understood why there was a small reference at the bottom of the recipe (which was written by Touzalin herself) that the recipe is very cheap to make.
I don't know about you, but I love a recipe to which I can tie a story, a mood. 

This chocolate cake is indeed very cheap to make, extremely easy and while I was a bit reluctant about it's simplicity, it was delicious, airy, moist and... gone a couple of hours later. 


 "1929 Gateau au Chocolat" aka Depression Cake 
by Chef Lida M. Touzalin

1 egg
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of milk
1 1/2 cup of flour
10 g of baking soda
70 g of bittersweet chocolate
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter

Separate the egg yolk from the egg white.
Beat the egg white to stiff peaks, set a aside for a moment.

Beat the yolk with the sugar for a couple of minutes, add the milk and keep beating.

Mix the flour with the baking soda and add to the previous mixture.
Beat until the batter is nice and smooth.
Meanwhile, melt the butter with the chocolate (I did it in the microwave, 30 seconds at the time and stirring) and mix until the chocolate is perfectly melted and blended with the butter.

 You'll need less than a tablet
Now add the chocolate to the previous batter and mix well. 

Fold the egg whites into the batter, carefully.
Pour into a well buttered mold and cook at 180 degrees Celsius for about 35 minutes.

Et Voilá! 

 Light, moist and delicious

Cheers all!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

April's 2010 Humble Giveaway!

I have been taking more or less of a break this week as it is Passover and well, flourless cooking is not really my thing. I would gladly put up some recipes of matzoh meal cakes, matzoh ball soup (kneidlach) and chocolate covered matzoh crackers, but lets be honest, we have all been there already... and pssstt... matzoh meal cakes are pretty urghh. I made matzo brei just this morning and while it was good, I can't help but remember when a friend of mine once said that matzo brei could be cut into blocks and used as bricks. 
Just imagine turning saltines into flour and using that instead of flour in your favorite cake. Right.

So this was the perfect time for taking care of the garden, take out the weeds and just lay down on grass, enjoying  the warmer days...

I also prepared more than my average rice dishes and one that particularly hit the spot, was the Arroz Doce, or more simply, portuguese style rice pudding.The kids just went nuts over it!

Here's Irene, digging in, under mom's watchful eye. She usually isn't allowed anywhere near the stove.

I also made some wonderful hummus and masabacha, pictured below.
Masabacha is a wonderful dish that resembles hummus, but has much more tehina and isn't as consistent. It is usually served warm, mixed with whole tender chickpeas, plenty of olive oil, a splash of tehina, chopped parsley and a hard boiled egg.

Take a fresh pita and start scooping!

Masabacha with Gina's Pita... perfect.

So, getting back to the giveaway...
I wanted to thank all of you who came by my humble blog. Each and every one of you!
Many of you left me wonderful comments and it truly made my day! This has been the driving force behind this blog and it has helped me break off those "not so easy days" when I have to take care of my two toddlers. God bless them, they keep me on my toes every moment of the day and have been sampling each and every one of the recipes here. If they don't like it, it isn't blog worthy.

This passover hiatus brought on two things. One was a much needed clean up and the second was the realization that I had too many cook books that had served their purpose. It was time to give them a new purpose other than accumulating dust. One is a particularly wonderful book by Elaine Corn, appropriately called "Chicken 150 Great Recipes for All Seasons". It is a wonderful selection of a 150 recipes with lots of interesting tidbits and techniques on just about everything regarding chicken. If you love chicken, this will likely become your chicken bible! 

 April's 2010 Humble Giveaway 

I'm also throwing in this cute little gadget, the Chef 'n GarlicZoom!

This little garlic chopper has been receiving some mixed reviews and though I haven't tried it myself, I thought it looked kind of cute! I actually own a Chef 'n Dual Grinder and have been really happy with it.  So here goes nothing! ^_^

To enter the April's 2010 Humble Giveaway, all you have to do is:
1. Follow the blog
2. Leave a comment on this post in which you let me know which is your favorite cook book right now.
That's it!

A month is a long time, so chances are, I might be adding new items to this giveaway. Stay tuned!
This giveaway is open worldwide.
The winner will be announced on the 1st of May 2010 and I will accept entries until the 30th of April 2010!

Cheers all and good luck!


And we have a winner! ^_^
True Random Number Generator 12 Powered by RANDOM.ORG
After I skipped a number (which was my own comment), number 12 was the lucky winner of this April's 2010 Humble Giveaway!