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
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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.

 

 

 

French markets … an institution!

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To understand a country’s people and culture, you need to get a glimpse of their cuisine. And to get to the bottom of it is to head to the local market. Visiting French markets when we are on holidays, is a must for me. Just like many foreign visitors might tell you, the market day is in itself an institution, it is not to be missed at any cost. We tend to collect the markets’ list from the various Tourist Offices across the small and big towns we pass by or stay close to. Now, that we have our ‘own’ market in Fontenay le Comte, our Saturday mornings are never dull.
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If you don’t know Fontenay, then the first thing I need to explain (apart from the fact that it’s a beautiful historic town with lots of intriguing places to explore), is that the large square which doubles up as a car park, boule pitch and all round shady retreat, sits at the top of the town, affording great views of the long, straight high street as it stretches away and which is home to some of its twice weekly market. And the square, like the town, is quintessentially French in every way with the ubiquitous Plane trees, water fountains and the higgledy, piggledy kind of parking which would torment any English parking inspector.

And as we squeezed our car into the shade of a tree and into the last inch of space left amongst the packed cars in the upper parking area, our gentle stroll down past the 10th century church, we are  greeted by the sounds of a French accordeon drifting up from the streets below along and the smell of  paella and baking and all things nice to eat, we instantly knew it was going to be a morning of heady indulgence.

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The guilty pleasure of every Francophile

The French market is a thoroughly sensory experience as you all know. There’s the African traders who have a charm of their own with their cheap trinkets and leather belts and the queue of mature ladies at the “unfeasibly  elasticated pant” and inside garb stall which will never cease to amaze me. Then there’s the compulsory tour of the inside market, with its hushed bustle, fish hall stacked high with langoustine, escaping snails and yawning fish, eyeing you from a stack of ice. While downstairs, sweet pastries, local breads and an eye startling array of cheese and cold meats quietly call you to take them home. Just outside is parked the lone fresh goat cheese seller. My husband never misses a chance to stock his alrealdy high stock at home. Probably, it makes him feel so ‘French’ to buy the quintessential goat cheese to feel he has done his bit of shopping!

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Outside, the stalls mingle with the pavement cafés, there are vegetables with more charisma than their British counterpart, spoons dripping with honey and vast vats of steaming delights which you can’t avoid lusting after, the Canbodian and Vietnamese sellers are getting bolder by their offerings, all swathed in late summer sunshine and a heady rush of bright colours, from fruits to scarves, spices, bright pottery, flowers to hand woven baskets from Madagascar.

The basket or panier is very French, one has to have one on the arm when you go to the market. Any other bag, least a supermarket plastic shopping bag would be simply sacrilege. Women and men carried or pulled them with the practiced air that comes from shopping for food at the peak of freshness, season after season. Staples are rows of traditional baskets with leather handles. Fancier styles come in bright colors of various sizes and shapes. Some have cloth drawstrings inside – perfect for use as a summer purse. I have added several of both types to my collection over the years and love how each one reminds me of a wonderful trip or of the marvelous market goods that were carried in it. Being in Dar es Salaam these days, I have not refrained myself from buying more …

Not far are some Brits quietly displaying the Indian spices, bottled pickles, ready made Indian sauces, Roghan Ghosh, Dopiaza, Tikka Masala, Marmite, Mustard and others, while large packets of Popaddums get crisper under the French sun, aligned are also some home baked cakes and muffins which say why the lady is not present at the stall. Too early labour, she is now catching up on her sleep.

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Timor Leste … Christ’s beach

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Staying in Dili, Timor Leste working for the UN after the referendum was an eye opener for me. I discovered what a ravaged country by conflict looks like, I realised that each child I saw was an orphan. Beach shacks were not fanciful dwellings but real homes. I understood that the sea we take for granted gives the only food the local people could find apart from foraging. I became friends with childrens who practically spend all their time on the beach with some lucky dogs who wee alive, and some bold pigs who crossed roads with their cute tiny piglets.

Life came to a stall, we lived in a different bubble from the outside world.

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In front of the hotel we stayed in, was the beach. My first cognition with a black sand one. It felt strange, unreal. Me, so used to my native island’s fine white sandy beaches.

However, we built our days over challenges and had our delightful time going to the white sandy stretches by Jesus, as everybody calls it. It became our Sunday R&R spot.

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Now, where do you find white sandy beaches in Dili?

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Heading east out of Dili you can either go over the hill and far away or you can continue on the Metiaut road until it falls into the ocean at the feet of Jesus.

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Cristo Rei is a giant statue of Christ on top of the hill at Cape Fatucama (the furthest point north of Dili’s bay). He stands with open arms on top of a globe. It was given to Timor by the Indonesians during occupation. Not wanting to lose the chance to squeeze some symbolism in, the 27m of the statue’s height was supposed to represent the 27 provinces of Indonesia, including what was then East Timor and now Timor-Leste. Also noted symbolically is the fact that Christ holds his arms open towards Jakarta rather than Timor.

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At the base of the hill there is a car park, amphitheatre and small shelters for picnics and gatherings. The initial path climbs past the 14 Stations of the Cross in long gradual steps. You reach the saddle of the hill where you can see west to the Cristo Rei beach and east to what most people call ‘back beach’. There is another wide set of stairs that takes you to a level area with an altar for public masses. The final climb is up a series of short steep steps that may require a pause in conversation to hide any shortness of breath.

At the top there is an observation area with 360 degree views and the copper height of Christ watching down on you. You’ll see tourists taking photos, joggers stretching, walkers wiping sweat from their brows and highly pregnant women hoping to get things started. At the right time of year you can see whales and every day you can watch the show-off sunset that doesn’t lose any of its beauty, no matter how many times you see it.

This strip has a coastal walkway, some sun shelters, trees, a few cafes and even accommodation. The water is warm and shallow for 10-15m before it drops off to become darker, cooler and occasionally corralled. The water is full of people swimming, splashing and paddling surf skis. The shore is lined with forts, sandcastles, younger siblings and watchful parents. Most people head home around 5pm but those who stay reposition their seats so that nothing comes between them and another perfect sunset.

On a clear night the changing reds, oranges and pinks glow on and on. Then for a moment you turn away and when you look back the show is over for another day.

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Migration .. a crisis?

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Migration barriers have complex effects, among which is a cost to global economic efficiency. A recent research literature has asserted that, far from having an economic cost, migration barriers may in fact enrich the world economy. It is claimed that barriers do this by stopping the spread of impoverishing ‘culture’ or ‘institutions’ from poor to rich countries. This is the new economic case for migration restrictions. We assess the economy theory and evidence behind this claim. While it is possible in principle for such effects to arise, they would occur at orders of magnitude higher migration rates than presently observed. That is, the new efficiency case for some migration restrictions is empirically a case against the stringency of current restrictions.

Globalisation is not just for goods, services and capital. It is also for people. High-income countries are not only richer, but also less corrupt and more stable than others. Nothing is less surprising than the desire to emigrate to the West.

A few argue that gaps in real wages across the world are the biggest of all economic distortions. Movement of people, they say, should be seen as identical to trade; humanity would benefit from the elimination of barriers. The movement of people might be vast and the impact on high-income economies, with only one-seventh of the world’s population, correspondingly huge. But it would maximise wealth.

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Yet such cosmopolitanism is incompatible with the organisation of our politics into self-governing territorial jurisdictions. It is incompatible, too, with the right of citizens to decide who may share the benefits of living alongside them.

If countries are entitled to control immigration, the criterion for immigration becomes the benefits to existing citizens and their descendants. Benefits to would-be immigrants, which are the bulk of those generated by migration, count for less.

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What then are the benefits of immigration to citizens and their descendants? The arguments divide into those relating to the numbers and, more importantly, those relating to the differing characteristics.

Is it important to increase population? The answer surely is no. Merely increasing the population of a prosperous small country, such as Denmark, would not increase the standard of living of its citizens. But it would impose sizeable investment and congestion costs. The argument for size can only be that it makes defence cheaper.

Last year, there were 29 dependants aged 65 and over for every 100 people of working age. According to the United Nations, keeping this ratio below a third would require immigration of 154 million between 1995 and 2050, with far more thereafter: Immigrants age, too, after all.

Consequently, a big reduction in dependency ratios demands huge inflows. One might argue that a continent with so few children must accept such a transformation of its population.

Finally, the main beneficiaries are always the immigrants themselves.

Yet migration is not just about economics. Immigrants are people. They bring in families, for example. Over time, large-scale immigration will transform the cultures of recipient countries in complex ways. Immigrants bring diversity and cultural dynamism. At the same time, as Nobel laureate Thomas Schelling notes, substantial segregation might naturally emerge. People might then live quite separately, without many shared loyalties.

Immigration has economic effects. But it also affects the current and future values of a country, including its concern for foreigners. People may legitimately differ on the correct policies.