Thursday, 28 February 2013

Say Yes to the Wonky Carrot!

Hello everyone! If you're read Tristram Stuart's book 'Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal' then you probably know that a lot of fruit and vegetables get thrown away because they aren't 'perfect'. In his book he documents a trip to a carrot producer where he tries a carrot and asks if they are part of the premium range. He is shocked when he is told that they won't be sold by retailers as they have a slight curve. The wonky carrot is in my opinion sort of a symbol for the movement to reduce food waste so it was about time I did some pictures with wonky carrots. Here they are:

Not as fancy as an artichoke sceptre but still good fun!

Christina, x

Artichoke Queen

Hello everyone, today I did a new picture for my food photography project. While shopping in my local organic food shop today I saw this beautiful purple artichoke and just thought it could be a really cool thing to photograph. I had the idea of using it as a sceptre and I think this worked out really well. I also added a touch of class by turning a necklace into a crown, also it was fun pretending to be a princess....

I then cooked the artichoke by placing some water at the end of a pot with a bay leaf, a slice of lemon and a clove of garlic. Then I put a steaming basket in and placed the artichoke on that.

 It took about forty minutes to cook, you know when it's done when you can take the leaves off easily. I then rinsed it under cold water. I served it with some homemade mayonnaise (which I'll talk about in another post).

It was my first time having artichoke and if I'm honest I'm still not sure how I feel about it, it had a nice rich flavour but just wasn't sure if I would be mad to have it again. Have you had artichoke before? Did I do something wrong? What should it taste like? Either way it's always nice to try something different :)

Christina, x

Beautiful Beetroot

Hello everyone, today I made a vegetarian feast with my mom for dinner (a vegetarian feast is a nice way of saying we got rid of all the vegetables that we had hanging around the kitchen) . The best thing we made was a goats cheese tart topped with a beetroot mousse. It was really flavoursome and quite indulgent.

For the mousse we started by boiling the beetroots. You have to boil them until they become soft enough that you can easily jab them with a knife. It took us about 45 minutes but depends on the beetroots really. When the beetroots are soft enough run them under cold water and rub away the skin with your fingers:

Then leave the beetroots to cool. Once they are cool, put them in a food processor with a garlic clove, the juice of half a lemon and some cream. You are supposed to add some cream cheese but due to some miscommunication my mom put the cream cheese in the tart mixture so I used some greek yogurt and it was fine. Whip it all up until you get a nice fluffy texture. Isn't it pretty? I must say I absolutely love the colour of beetroots.

For the tarts we made the mixture by mixing goats cheese, cream cheese, a few chives, some maldon salt and a drop of truffle oil. We used ready made shortcrust pastry and blind baked the mini tarts in a cupcake tray. We carmelised some onions with sugar in a frying pan for the base of the tart. Once the base for the tarts were ready we put in the onions, followed by mixture and put it in the oven for about 10 minutes. Then we just put a dot of mousse on each-delicious.

These would actually be very nice as a unique canape at a party as they would be really nice cold as well. Do try them :)

Christina, x

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Potato Loving

Most people think Irish people love potatoes and that it's all we eat and while that be true for some I am actually not a massive fan and actually only eat potato about once a week. However I fell in love with this heart shaped potato that my grandmother found and kept for me.

Christina, x

Inspiration from Cafe Paradiso

Hello everyone, in Cork where I live there is an amazing vegetarian restaurant called 'Cafe Paradiso'-website here. It is so so good and if I could eat form there all the time I would be pretty happy to never eat meat again. I decided to try and replicate some of their amazing food this week for Meatless Mondays. So I flipped through one of their books for inspiration. If you are trying to eat less meat I would really recommend this book, the recipes can be a little complicated and oftentimes require lots of ingredients but even if you don't follow the recipes to the letter it is really good for getting ideas.

I decided to try imitate a recipe that involved stuffing aubergine with kale as we had some aubergine that was going off and as you know I  hate waste and well I have a slight obsession with kale. First I sliced the aubergine down the centre and then roasted them in the oven at 180 Celsius for around 20 minutes, you just need to leave them in until they go golden brown. For the stuffing I mixed kale (that I had blanched in hot water), panko breadcrumbs, stilton cheese and parsley. The recipe called for sundried tomatoes as well but I didn't have any so I used cherry tomatoes and just lashed in some sun dried tomato paste. I can't give exact quantities as I didn't have enough aubergine as was in the recipe so I just judged it by what I thought looked like a good mixture. So just do that, trust yourself and it will be grand.

I then made a sauce to add to the stuffing to make it moist. I finely chopped some garlic and onion in my new baby blender (check previous post to learn all about my baby blender). I then fried these till soft and lashed in a little Dijon mustard and cream. I let the sauce cool a little and then added it to the mixture. Then I spooned my stuffing on top of my aubergines and put it back in the oven for another 15 minutes. The recipe used a roasted pepper sauce but I didn't have peppers so I made a tomato and chill sauce. To make the sauce I used my baby blender to make a puree out of the tomatoes and chilli. I then heated some cream in a frying pan and added the puree to that, I seasoned it with a little cumin and salt but feel free to season it however you like. This dish was really good and bursting with flavour even though I may have made the sauce a little too spicy, ah well we learn as we go :)

Christina, x

My New Baby Blender

I love flea markets and I love miniature products and this weekend I got a mini blender at a flea market so obviously this made me pretty happy-also it's yellow so that gets extra happiness points.I was delightfully calling it my new baby blender until a friend rightfully pointed out that this made it sound like a tool for blending babies...oops. However, now I still kinda want to call it that just because it's funny to see people's reactions. Anyway I may just have bought it for its cuteness but it's actually really great for finely chopping vegetables and making purees and was a bargain at €8 :)

Christina, x

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Vegetarian Street Art

Hello everyone. Just thought I would share some cool vegetarian street art that I saw in Valencia last summer.

Also who doesn't love the simpsons?

Christina, x

More Vegetarian Cooking

So yesterday I had a meaty day, I had my fair share of meat at a housewarming  so to stick to my three portions a week meat pact I had to have a veggie day today. My obsession with kale is rivaled by my obsession with wild mushrooms. We got some beautiful oyster mushrooms at a farmers market during the week.

Wild Oyster Mushrooms

 So what better to do on a quite cold Irish day than make a nice comforting wild mushroom risotto. However   stemming from my Molecular Gastronomy workshop I wanted to try inject a bit of colour and improve the presentation. To do this we made beetroot crisps. To make the crisps just slice beetroot thinly and then put it in the oven at 175 celsius for around an hour. Once they are done it is best to let them cool down a bit so the earlier you make them the better.

Beetroot Crisps

For the risotto I just fried off a little garlic then added some arborio rice. Fry the rice until it becomes translucent and then lash in some white wine. Then you need to add some stock, you are supposed to add the stock ladle by ladle but I just lash in quite a good bit and when that's evaporated add more until the rice is soft. You can also serve the rice 'al dente' with a bit of a bite to it. I seasoned mine with maldon salt, some pepper and a tiny drop of white truffle oil. Then stir in some parmesan and you're all set. For this dish I fried the mushrooms separately as I wanted to present them on top but you could also fry them with the garlic and the rice at the start. 

Here is how the finish dish looked, I was pretty pleased :)

This would be a nice dish if you're thinking of trying a Meatless Monday tomorrow, the oyster mushrooms are quite meaty so definitely worth a try if you are trying to eat less meat. If you try a Meatless Monday let me know how you get on :)

Christina, x

Surprise Vegan Chocolate Cake

Hello Everyone! So after my vegan day was a relative success (despite the egg pasta incident...) I decided to try more vegan cooking. I love baking and one of my favourite things to bake are chocolate brownies (I must say I make some pretty good ones). So I decided to try some vegan baking and saw a recipe advertised as the best chocolate cake ever that just happened to be vegan (recipe here). I was intrigued, could a chocolate cake with no chocolate in it be any good? Also what about the butter and the eggs?

The ingredients for the cake are:

1 1/4 cups flour
1 cup sugar1/3 cup  cocoa powder1 tsp baking soda1/2 tsp salt1 cup warm water1 tsp vanilla extract1/3 cup sunflower/vegetable1 tsp white vinegar

To make the cake you just mix the dry ingredients well, then add in the wet ingredients and bake it in the oven at 200 degrees Celsius for around twenty minutes. 

I am happy to say that it actually turned out really well, maybe not as good as the chocolate brownies but still yummy. Look at how it turned out:

Nice & Shiny

Rich & Moist

 To test how good the cake was I played a little trick on my dad I told him it was just a new chocolate cake recipe I was trying out and left the vegan part out of it. I thought that if I told people it was vegan they would think it wasn't going to taste great before they even tried it, I did a lot of work on this priming effect in relation to food during my food psychology internship at Cornell University last summer which I will blog about soon. Anyway, my dad was suitably impressed and once I revealed the vegan surprise he said he honestly wouldn't have thought there was no chocolate in it-yay! If you want to make this cake I would recommend making it a day in advance as it was definitely richer after it had settled for a day. Happy vegan baking!

Christina, x

The Kale Obsession Grows

Hello everyone, this week I did another picture for my food photography project. If you read my blog you will know that I have a slight obsession with kale and since the start of the project have always envisioned kale featuring somewhere along the way. A few weeks ago I bought some beautiful kale at a farmer's market, it was a really rich and vivid green and really great value at only a euro. Just look at how pretty it was:

It wasn't curly kale and it was beautiful and long, I had the idea of making an elegant kale choker from this but alas when I ventured back to the farmers market this week they didn't have any so I had to settle for regular curly kale. I made a necklace out of it and a small headpiece and I was pretty happy with how it turned out. I wanted it to look quite regal and I think we kind of got that effect. Unfortunately we couldn't spend too much time outside taking pictures as it is awfully cold in Ireland at the moment but here are some we got anyway....

Christina, x

My First Attempt at Molecular Gastronomy

Hello everyone, so after my Molecular Gastronomy workshop I was inspired to try be more creative in my cooking particularly in how I present food. So while thinking about what I could make I was drawn to two things I love-kale and oeufs en cocotte (eggs in ramekins). I have a slight obsession with kale which you may have realised if you follow my blog. I was trying to think of how to make the perfect ouef en cocotte and I had a brainwave and thought 'what about an egg baked in a kale basket'. I love presenting things in bowls made out of food like ice cream in tuile baskets. This seems to be a current trend as can be seen here

First I pre-heated the over to 180 Celsius . Then I blanched the kale (well actually first I made a necklace out of the kale but more about that in the next post....).I just put it in some hot water for a few minutes. I used curly kale but you could probably use any type.

Then you need to melt some butter and use it to grease a ramekin. Then place the kale leaves along the inside of the ramekin. Try not to leave any gaps-think of it like a jigsaw and it's infinitely more fun. Then add a dot of cream or cheese to the bottom (or both). Then crack an egg on top. I also sprinkle some cheese on top as it gives it a nice golden effect. You can add whatever seasoning you like I put a little maldon salt on top, some black pepper and some little bits of chopped up kale (and a little truffle oil as I was feeling quite indulgent). Then bake in the oven for around 10-15 minutes. Most oeufs en cocotte recipes will say to put the ramekin in a bain marie but I have tried doing that and just putting the ramekin in on its own and I prefer the latter and fuck it this is my take on molecular gastronomy I am making the rules! You should leave the egg in the oven  until it is pretty much set in general I like my eggs soft but I wanted to make sure the kale basket would hold up.

This is what it looked like when I took it out of the oven:

To take it out of the ramekin I used two spoons and in a crafty move scooped it out and to my absolute delight it didn't break! Not only did it not break it looked beautiful! I was genuinely so proud which may be kinda sad but in my current state of unemployment you have to take the victories when they come.

One of the main things I took from my molecular gastornomy workshop is that eating is a multi-sensory experience and we first taste with out eyes. I obviously knew this already but I think it was really reinforced at the workshop and has inspired me to be more creative and not just make food that tastes good but also looks beautiful, wish me luck!

Christina, x