Rougaille, Mauritian Provencal Tomato stew

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Mauritius, where I grew up, spells stretches of beautiful beaches in the Indian Ocean. But what you probably do not know is that the islander’s staple foods  run into two : rice, and rougaille, a delicious tomato stew in Provencal herbs and garlic. It is the base for many sauces, carrying meat, sausage, salted fish, paneer, octopus, peas, crabs and even ‘gateaux piments’ … you name it, rougaille is game !

92950915 So, tomatoes hold high estime to me and my basket never runs empty of them. Seasonal tomatoes, and recent Vintage varieties turns me into a compulsive buyer when they peak at the local green grocer. Chillies is part of the rougaille, the hotter the better.

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This is a typical ‘Mauritian Creole’ sauce using plum tomatoes, garlic, thyme and chilli, completely compliments the delicate flavours of the prawns.
Recipe: 1 medium white onion finely chopped
1 red birds eye chilli finely chopped
2cm of peeled and grated ginger
2 cloves of garlic peeled and grated
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 400g tin of plum tomatoes, the best quality you can afford
200g of king prawns de shelled and de-veined

Method

In a big frying pan, heat some vegetable oil on a medium heat. Add the white onions and cook until you get a slight colour on them, add the ginger, garlic, chilli and thyme and cook and stir for approximately 3-4 minutes, then finally add the chopped coriander stalk. Add the tin of plum tomatoes including the juice and cook down for around 10 – 15 minutes until the tomatoes are cooked all the way through. At this point season with salt.. Add the king prawns and let them rest on top of the rougaille, do not stir, cook for approximately 1 minutes, turn the heat off and let it steam for about 5 minutes in the pan. This prevents the prawns from over-cooking and drying out. Serve with hot steam rice and a broth of greens

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Lemon Drizzle Cake

This Lemon Drizzle Cake comes from Nigella Lawson, whose recipes  I have been cooking from for over 10 years. Some of the recipes are so good that I have made them over and over repeatedly to the detriment of trying out new recipes, asking friends who are more successful than me. But I was happy to have had a greedy excuse to try this Lemon Syrup Loaf Cake. I love this cake probably because it reminds me of my childhood favourite “Massepin,”  a shy cousin from Mauritius.  A couple of years ago, I was given a birthday cake by an ace baker friend of mine who never misses to surprise her clients by her pretty creations, Alicia Aslett ( luxurycakecreations ), and she made this most sumptious Lemon Drizzle cake. A close reminder of the one I like from Nigella.

The cake itself is very simple to put together and stays deliciously moist from the syrup which soaks into the cake. And due to the lovely moistness of this cake, it keeps for quite some time, staying fresh for even up to a week. (I think hubby was on a self-imposed diet which meant I was the only one tucking into this cake for morning tea each day.) I actually think the cake tastes best after a few days once the syrup has had time to do its work.

And if I were to make this cake again (which is very likely), I think I would reduce the amount of icing sugar in the syrup next time; I found the syrup to be a little too sweet for my liking and would prefer something a bit more tart. Or, as Nigella suggests, I might try a version with limes or even grapefruit next time.

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Cannelés, Bordeaux style

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I recall one Summer in France, we bought loads of these dainty little cake, a speciality of Bordeaux, and we chomped non stop on them driving across the countryside. It is a compelling pick me again taste which border a sticky gummy muffin like but tastes like a baba-au-rhum.

A few years ago, I came across this blog by Chez Pim, who recounts the complexity of making cannelés at home and gives her insider tips on how to make the perfect cannelés, such as using the right amount of beeswax to coat the moulds, freezing the copper moulds before use, and adjusting the oven temperature three times during the baking process. Despite feeling better informed about these finicky cakes, when I was done reading Pim’s post, I was exhausted and couldn’t face the idea of actually attempting the recipe; there were too many variables and I didn’t feel confident with a recipe which was so fraught with failure.

So not only was I surprised to find a recipe for cannelés in Rachel Khoo’s latest cookbook, My Little French Kitchen, but she claimed to have a foolproof recipe using … cheap silicone moulds.

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CANNELÉS
Prep time
20 mins
Cook time
1 hour 15 mins
Total time
1 hour 35 mins
Recipe adapted from My Little French Kitchen by Rachel Khoo
Serves: 16 cakes
Method

Hong Kong … city of millionaires!

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According to Forbes,  12% of Hong Kong’s adult population are millionaires, with HK$1 million or more in liquid assets, such as stocks and bonds.Most of Hong Kong’s super-rich earned his or her first million at the age of 33. “These investment-savvy people, with diversified investment portfolios, regard stocks as the most preferred investment vehicle and are willing to take relatively bigger risks than those in the lower tier of affluence”.

Hong Kong is endlessly fascinating — it’s impossible to get bored here.

Our first trip there was not eventless. It started with my fainting during the flight on board of Virgin Atlantic (our first ever) … followed by my husband’s one, which I discovered an hour later, passing him by on teh way to the ladies, when I saw him sat flanked by two gorgeous cabin crew girls. I didn’t stop to ask him why he suddenly was letting out his dark fancy, as I thought, Well, … let him enjoy it … Surely something must have been wrong with that ultra sleek and comfortable flight as it has never happened to us before to faint during a flight. And we do fly a lot!

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Hong Kong came as a mirage of skyscrapers, congested roads, an Asian counter part of Geneva with its multitude of Neon hoardings with shimmering lights over its sheltered bay instead of Lake Leman. But here, it all seemed smog gloomy compared to the Swiss clear azure sky. Afetr a sudden cold which threw us both in shivers and high temperature, we braved the winds blowing over the city to search for a place to eat. None gave us a place. Vegetarians have a rough time in Hong Kong. Do not forget this, if you are one of the breed. Unless, you cross to the mega crowded, noisy Indian quarter of Kowloon for a roti and curry. We saw more pig trotters and hanging roast ducks in a square mile than any other place in SE Asia. If you are a meat eater, you will be in food heaven, sampling many varieties of noodles and other delicacies you would not outside of the country. Somehow, in my head I kept thinking where is the British influence ? I found my answer in a Egg Waffle, also known as Eggette or Gai Daan Jai, is a unique egg-based waffle popular in Hong Kong and Macao area. It is ranked as one of the most popular “street snacks” in the city.

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With juice, pour in the middle of the two pieces of special metal honeycomb template, baked on the fire. Pour the eggs are golden, there is the fragrance of the cake, and the middle is half empty, bite when special taste. The making of egg waffle is quite simple. Batter leavened by eggs, sugar, flour and evaporated milk is baked between two plates of semi-spherical cells. When is finished, Egg Waffle looks in golden color with flavor of cake. Now some shops may add chocolate, coconut, sesame, etc. in the batter to create different taste. They are best served hot, and often eaten plain. They can also be served with fruit and flavors such as strawberry, coconut or chocolate.

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Egg Tart is a kind of food influenced by British culture. It is a must-have in Hong Kong’s bakery. Authentic Hong Kong egg tarts are divided into two kinds according to the crispy outer crust. One is Puff pastry and the other is shortcrust pastry. They are traditionally made with lard rather than butter or shortening. They are both filled with rich custard that is much eggier and less creamy than English custard tarts.

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But I found a dessert almost each country in SE Asia has its own version of, it is the Chilled Mango Sago Cream with Pomelo, also known as Mango Pomelo Sago, is a Hong Kong style dessert. It is composed of mango, pomelo, sago, coconut milk, cream and sugar. It is not only a dessert or drink, it is also a flavor for cake, ice-cream, ice pop and mooncake. It is said that it invented in 1984 by the Hong Kong Lee Yuan Restaurant.

The making process of it is not complicate. Puree the mango in a food processor; boil the water with rock sugar to make a syrup, tear the pomelo segments into small pieces, mix all the ingredients together and chill in the refrigerator. Then finally serve cold in a bowl.

Another desser which caught our attention after a long walk with a cold, wasthe delicate velvety ginger milk curd at Yee Shun Dairy Company, 506 Lockhart Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. In a cool breezy city, when you just want to plonk yourself in a cosy place and have a nice hot comforting delight. We found just the right thing there!   

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download   10895309_1544189612514423_1961328792_n.jpgSettled for French Cuisine, we were not disappointed at Caprice, three Michelin stars for a few seasons running, making it arguably the hottest (European) spot in town. A particular highlight is the restaurant’s selection of cheeses and its cheese trolley, which brings diners back on a frequent basis. Its wine list is also of note, as is the restaurant’s famed silver service. Beautiful”décor feutré“.

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During our wanderings, we discovered the unmissable  public library, which is one of its kind. Hong Kong Central library is pretty amazing. The Library was open to the public on 17 May 2001 and it is now the largest public library in Hong Kong with a capacity of holding 2 million items of library materials. Equipped with state-of-the-art technologies and digital library facilities so really none of the books are very old and they have an extensive travel section in English. In fact they have quite a large selection of books in English. The most interesting thing about it is the type of people who are here and how into the books they are. People are so involved in their books that they hardly look up during loud distractions. The children are in quantity and seem ready to soak up what ever the white little pages have to offer, they even bring carts from home in which to wheel the books around behind them. It really is a breath of fresh air to find such a relaxing place with a great ambiance and an amazing view of the skyline!

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Apart from all the corners which got our views, treading on some touristy spots like Mount Victoria, I found magnificent antique shops on Hollywood street and Antique and Cat streets. It can be quite daunting an area though, we found it wet, stinky, slippery slopes which gives to untidy shops selling Mao memorabilia, posters…Walking along we observed there were also funky looking movie posters, starring Bruce Lee amongst other Asian stars. I did not recognize most of them except for the martial arts instructor himself, although I was delighted to see them on display. It reminded me of the China Town back home, close to which I grew up. I noticed the row shops selling more expensive antiques on the sidewalk. Imprisoned behind lighted glass shelves were collector’s items from various dynasties, whereas more affordable goods of teapots and jade pieces were displayed out in the open. A close up of a shop’s display, some lovely looking hand painted blue and white vases on the top row, intricately carved wooden sculptures amidst glazed porcelain.

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All crowded together they all demanded equal attention, which one should I bring home? … I did not know.

 

 

 

Breton Delicious pastries

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Gâteau Breton

The moment we arrive in Brittany, we look for the next pâtisserie to pick up a local delicacy, which usually sums up in the round Gâteau Breton. ‘It makes the coffee speak’ says my husband whose sweet tooth is known to one and all. Pretending to be like an Ostrich is the best way to handle the gateau, as it is ladden with the highest load of butter next to the Gache of Vendee, I suppose. I don’t count the kilos I could gain on my hips, as it makes me feel like a plump goose ready for the ‘confit’.  Glad to find the beloved ‘Becassine’ of my childhood, Brittany and Butter rhyme an endearing tune to me…amidst the Celtic ‘cornemuse‘.

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In Brittany, local salted butter is used for absolutely everything including patisserie. A way of extolling how well fed the cows are and the quality of their milk can only win them a ‘Label Rouge’. Respect. Bow. It is exceptional.

The butter follows suit, another set of ‘Label Rouge’ again. I like my Breton butter with the ‘sel de Guerande’, smothered over a fresh baguette tradi slice with a hot cuppa. Nothing can beak that savouring those simple pleasures of life. But that this one is one of the highest quality. When you are in Brittany, you have to appreciate butter. Forget what the media pumps to us, butter is bad for us. On a high quantity, anything is disastrous. I take my butter with an appreciative attitude, thanking nature  and feeding my brain of one food, it likes best – fat. A happy and healthy brain makes a happy and smart man!

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Just savvy shopping for the best salted butter you can find – the resulting flavour depends on it and is well worth the extra expense and effort – is all that’s required for making the hands-down, will-make-you-weep, most butter-rich, splendidly short, shortbread. Ever.

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Kouign Amann

The literal meaning of the name in Breton is “butter cake” (kouign is “cake” and amann is “butter”). When made properly, the kouign amann’s seemingly simple and humble appearance belies sensational flavour and texture. Deeply caramelized and buttery, crisp without and tenderly flaky within, it is utterly addictive.