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Four months of food in New Caledonia

June 5, 2012

A week ago today I found myself back in Denmark after spending four months in New Caledonia. Before leaving for my trip I had great plans for all the blogging I would do out there, especially because my ethnographic focus was on food most of the time. But no. Circumstances, like a dead computer and insanely expensive internet access 40 minutes from where I stayed, made me live more simply, sans blogging and internet fun. But what and where is this New Caledonia anyway and what are the brown things in the picture? you ask. Well, New Caledonia is a French colony in the Pacific, sort of on the Australian side. It consists of a big island and six small, inhabited ones (and countless uninhabited ones as well). I stayed in Lifou, a gorgeous island paradise with the nicest people I have ever met and the most fabulous beaches. Also it has lots of yams, which is the root in the picture above. And no, they are not like sweet potatoes. They are more like regular potatoes, just more stringy and starchy. I was out in New Caledonia to do anthropological fieldwork for my master’s thesis, and it all ended up being about the yams. Yams are SO important to the Kanaks (the Melanesian population)! They are sacred and pretty much the materialization of Kanak identity, hope for the future and a huge part of their daily lives. When you serve yams to someone, it is like giving a part of yourself away, like sharing yourself with the guest. Alright, I could go on and on, but I will leave it at that for now, and you can read my thesis when it is written. It will have much, much more on the yams!

I do want to show you one amazing dish that is made with yams, the bougna.

The bougna is a festive way of making yams. It has yams, coconut milk, chicken and bananas which are all wrapped up in banana leaves tied with vines, making a tight package that is cooked in an underground rock oven. The bougnas in the picture are made for a wedding, from the bride’s family to the groom’s, as a way of showing the new connection between the families. I got to join the groom’s family in eating this very symbolic feast.

The wedding lasted more than a full week and every day the village of the groom (which was where I lived) cooked up a storm.

We women sat around, cutting up vegetables and meat. The young men cooked the food in huge pots over open fires, and huge batches of rice salads with beets and egg were mixed and seasoned.

But I ate lots of stuff other than just yams and wedding food.  As New Caledonia is a part of France, Andy and I stuffed ourselves with foie gras and cheeses every time we got the chance. Beautiful fresh tuna was cheap as dirt at the market, and I ate so much sliced, raw tuna with just a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper. I wish it was affordable to do that here in Denmark!

Aside from all these wonderful foods, the garden of Lizie, the old lady I lived with, was teeming with beautiful stuff. I was there for avocado season, and every day we ate avocado and grapefruit salad. It was wonderful, but I was so sick of avocado by the end!

The last thing I want to show you is one of my favorite fruits, pomme cannelle. It is so weird looking, but when ripe it is one of the most aromatic and sweet fruits I have  tasted. If you ever find one in a market somewhere you must buy it! It is ripe when it feels like a perfectly ripe avocado. You just break it open and eat the soft, white flesh, leaving behind the black seeds.

All in all, New Caledonia was incredible. I don’t know if I loved it more for its people or for its beauty, but if you ever get a chance to go, do it! It has certainly enriched my life.

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My favorite carrot cake

January 17, 2012

Long time no see! I am very sorry it has been so long since my last post, but somehow November, December and now January just slipped away before my eyes. I have been very busy, and somewhat stressed over my upcoming four-month ethnographic fieldwork that I am doing all by my lonesome in New Caledonia. I am leaving in a little over a week now, and am starting to look forward. Maybe you will hear more about my (food) adventures while I’m away.

But first I want to introduce you to my favorite carrot cake recipe. I have been making it for the last five years, and every time I feel convinced that I will never find a carrot cake that I like better. I found the recipe some years ago on DR’s website, created by the Swedish chef Tina Nordström. It is not really showing up online anymore, though, and I also made several adjustments, so here is my version of Tinas carrot cake.

To make a pretty big batch (about 2 springforms) you need:

For the cake

3 eggs

3½ dl. /1.1 cup sugar

3 dl./1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1½ tablespoon ground cardemom

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

2½ teaspoons bakingpowder

½ teaspoon salt

4 dl./1.7 cups flour

4 dl./1.7 cups finely grated carrots

2½ dl./1.1 cups neutral oil

 

For the frosting

2 dl./0.9 cups powdered sugar

200 grams/7 oz. butter, melted and cooled

200 grams/7 oz. cream cheese

Finely grated peel and juice of one lemon or two limes

2 tablespoons vanilla sugar

How to:

Heat your oven to 200c/390F. Beat the eggs with the sugar until white and foamy. Add the walnuts, cardemom, cinnamon, bakingpowder, salt and flour to the sugar/egg mixture and combine. Add the carrots and oil to the mix and combine until smooth. Grease two springforms (or one  big ovenproof dish) and pour in the batter. Bake in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes (40 if you are making one big cake), or until a knife or pin comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely. Now you are ready to make the frosting. In a bowl, beat the powdered sugar with the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add the vanilla and the lemon/lime peel, and juice and beat until it is all combined. Now you can decorate the cake as you wish. To make a high cake, first frost the top of one cake. Then place the other one on top of it and frost the top and sides. Decorate with walnuts. And remember to have it with a glass of cold milk!

Lavender and lemon pound cake

October 29, 2011

I am having a bit of a weird obsession these days. I have this compulsion to cook with (and eat) everything lavender. I made a honey/lavender ice cream a while back which came out great and I brought home an amazing lavender salami from a recent visit to Amsterdam which was also so, so delicious. Well, today is an extremely grey day here in Copenhagen, and I felt the need to spice it up with some cake baking, and eating. I settled on this lemon/lavender pound cake, and it came out perfect! It is moist, perfumy from the lavender and deliciously lemony. I found the recipe here, and adapted it to fit my temper.

For one beautiful cake you need

For the batter

190 grams soft butter

3/4 cups sugar

1/6 cup milk

3 eggs

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla (essence, vanilla sugar or the seeds of a pod)

1,5 cups flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/6 cup dried lavender flowers

For the frosting

Juice and zest of half a lemon

70 grams powdered sugar

Start by turning the oven to 175C/350F. Beat the soft butter with the sugar until creamy. Add all the dry ingredients except the lavender and mix until combined. In another bowl mix the wet ingredients. With an electric mixer (or in a stand mixer) mix in 1/3 of the milk/egg mixture to the  butter/sugar/flour mix. Mix for 1 minute, then add another third of the liquid to the mix. Again beat for a minute until adding the rest of the wet ingredients to the mixing bowl. Beat it all for another minute until it is a beautiful batter. Mix in the lavender. Butter a round cake pan (or loaf pan if you like) and add the batter to it.

Bake it for about 35 minutes, or until a pin comes out clean. Let it cool completely. Then mix the lemon juice, zest and powdered sugar to make the glaze. Dress the cake with the lemony frosting and sprinkle some lavender flowers over the cake to make it pretty. Let the frosting dry, and enjoy!

Great places to eat in Singapore

September 10, 2011

Before I got back to Denmark, Andy and I spent 4 days in Singapore, dealing with the Indonesian embassy, getting Andy’s research permit ready to go. Maybe I haven’t said before, but Andy is still in Indonesia now, doing ornithological fieldwork in the jungles of Flores for the next two months. So before we parted, we enjoyed ourselves with lots of good food in Singapore. I had done quite a bit of research on restaurants beforehand, because of some major food cravings while in Indonesia, after eating rice every day for over a month. I am sorry for the lack of pictures, but I decided to dress up for most of the meals bringing only a small purse with me which wouldn’t fit my camera.

Au Petit Salut

We went to Au Petit Salut for lunch because it was supposed to have a very good, and relatively cheap lunch menu priced at 32 S$. Andy and I ordered different things, and I was definitely the one who lucked out. Andy’s niçoise salad and braised beef cheeks were good, but not great, whereas my snails were the best I ever had, and my pork in mustard on polenta equally amazing. Both the strawberry shortcake and the choux buns were delicious desserts. I would definitely go back! It is a popular spot so call ahead.

40C Harding Road

Tel: 6475 1976

Pizzeria Mozza

Pizzeria Mozza is owned by the pretty famous Mario Batali (in the US anyway) and is attached to the fancier Osteria Mozza right next door. I went to Pizzeria Mozza alone before my flight out of Singapore for a quick dinner. I had  a nice glass of Valpolicella and the pizza with burrata (a home made cheese, sort of like mozzarella but with double the fat), slow roasted tomato and oregano. It was absolutely divine! It was one of the best pizzas I have ever had, and I will go to great lengths to try to replicate it. There is a picture of it above, and here is a picture of the restaurant:

I went to Mozza on a random Sunday evening at 6pm and they were fully booked, so it is a good idea to call ahead if you don’t want to dine at the bar (as I did, and it was fine).

2 Bayfront Avenue (inside the Marina Bay Sands shopping centre)

6688 8522

Iggy’s

I went to Iggy’s all by my lonesome and pretty impulsively right after Andy had left for Jakarta. Iggy’s is currently 27th on the S. Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants list. I was amazed that they had a table available on very short notice, and I went power shopping for something decent to wear half an hour before my reservation.

I got the set 4 course lunch menu for 85S$. First I got an amuse bouche of smoked eel parfait with caviar and a citrus gel. It was amazing, and definitely the best dish I had at Iggy’s. As my first real course I had their version of the classic niçoise salad. It was very good, and especially the truffle mayo and olive sphere made it amazing. Second dish was spaghettini with smoked mullet roe and zucchini. This dish I actualy disliked. I had four bites, trying all I could to see the genius in the dish, but I did not succeed. I left the rest, and considered it as a blessing in disguise because it meant that I could eat more of the delicious bread and smoked butter with parmesan. Third dish was confit of duck with mashed potatoes. It was good, but I could have made it just as delicious in my own kitchen. I expected more of one of the best restaurants in the world! For dessert I had caramel, brown butter ice cream, grapefruit, miso and pecan. It was very delicious!

So all in all I was pretty disappointed by Iggy’s. Two of the four dishes were nothing special and one of them I actually disliked. I had a glass of 2006 Meursault Les Meix Chavaux Blanc to drink though, and it was probably the best wine I ever had! If anyone knows where to find this wine, please give me a hint as I haven’t been able to find it on the internet. Service was good at Iggy’s, but the staff seemed to find it weird that I was there all by myself. I guess my conclusion is that I would not go back to Iggy’s for lunch. I am not sorry I went, but I would not do it again. Maybe dinner is better though.

581 Orchard Road, 3rd floor @ The Hilton

6732 2234

Royal China

Andy and I had our sunday lunch at Royal China. I had done some research and it sounded like Royal China was the best bet for stand out dim sum in Singapore. We had some excellent dim sum when we traveled around Hong Kong and China some years ago, and I was eager to have some again. Royal China is located at the Raffles hotel, and looks pretty fancy, but we had (lots of) dim sum, and I thought it was a very good deal as the were about 3S$ each. We had a pot of jasmine tea and 7 different dim sum and got very full. The best were the scallop dumplings and the crispy shrimp rolls. The other dishes were great as well though. I love dim sum and Royal China did not disappoint! Again, call ahead for reservations.

1 Beach Road @ The Raffles hotel arcade

6338 3363

Maxwell Road Food Centre

Singapore has tons of wonderful food courts, and Maxwell road food centre was my favorite one. It is famous for the stall called Tian Tian which connoisseurs say makes the best Hainan chicken rice in all of Singapore. Just look for the long line, and you will find Tian Tian. The chicken rice was wonderful, but I think the real gem is this one:

It is the stall with the writing fried sweet potato dumpling on the bright yellow sign. I still dream of the coconut dumpling, which had the most amazing texture and sweetness. So good!

Well, the centre is packed full of  cheap and interesting food, and it is pretty much a paradise for a food lover like myself.

Where Maxwell Road meets South Bridge Road

New Asia Bar

The New Asia Bar is located on the 71st floor, high above Singapore with an amazing view of the city. Andy and I had cocktails there, and despite the expensive drinks, it was worth it for the view. We just sat there for hours with our cocktails, holding hands, and had a great time. The food looked pretty bad though (from what other people were having).

2 Stamford Road 

71st floor of the Swissôtel The Stamford

Cocotte

After drinks at the New Asia Bar we went to a late dinner at Cocotte in the middle of Little India. I had read that their whole roast chicken which was supposed to be out of this world tender and delicious. And it really was! I think Andy said it best: It’s like it is not even chicken. It is like if a chicken and a pack of butter had a baby. It really was like no chicken I ever tasted before, and I would go back in a heartbeat for it. We also shared a crème brûlée for dessert, which was also perfect.

2 Dickson Road

6298 1188

The best sate in Jakarta

September 5, 2011

A week ago I got back to Denmark after two months of travelling around Sumatra, Java, Flores and Komodo. I had a great time but was generally not blown away by the food in Indonesia. This one particular hole-in-the-wall sate  (also sometimes called satay) place in Jakarta was absolutely amazing though. So if you ever find yourself in the dreadful city of Jakarta, take a taxi to where Jalan Haji Agus Salim and Jalan Kyai Haji Wahid Hasyim meet for the most tender marinated chicken skewers, perfect peanut sauce, pickled vegetables and ice cold coca cola. And it is dirt cheap too! Here are some more pictures:

It is right where the two streets meet (like I wrote above), but it is located on Jalan Kyai Haji Wahid Hasyim on the northern side of the street. The guys working there wear red shirts, and at meal times it is absolutely packed with locals. Order the sate ayam with nasi putih (white rice). The Sate kambing (goat) is also good, but doesn’t hold a candle to the chicken.

Strawberry compote and summer vacation

June 30, 2011

I am very sorry for the silence on the blog lately! And I am even more sorry to say that it won’t be looking up any time soon. I am off to Indonesia later today for two months of adventure which I don’t think will leave much time for blogging (or cooking for that matter). I wish you all a wonderful summer of strawberries, sunshine and fun, and despite being crazily busy today, I will leave you with a recipe for wonderful Danish strawberry dessert.

A couple of weekends ago I spent some days with my Dad. I had a cold and was feeling pretty bad, and among other things he pampered me with this homemade strawberry compote.

For 6 servings you need

1 kg/2 lbs fresh strawberries

200 g/7 oz sugar

1 tablespoon water

An empty vanilla pod

1 tablespoon potato starch (which I think can be substituted by corn starch)

Whole milk or cream to serve

Start by cleaning the berries, cutting off the green tops. Dump them in a pot, adding the sugar, vanilla pod and water. Bring it to a boil and if it looks to dry, add a bit more water to prevent it from burning. Let it simmer until the sugar has dissolved, and the berries have the texture you like. I like the berries to still have a little bite so I would let it simmer for about 10 minutes, but if you want a smooth compote, just let it simmer longer. When this is done, take the pot off the heat. Quickly mix the potato flour with a bit of cold water until there are no lumps. Then pour it into the warm compote while stirring. It varies how much starch you need for the right texture, so just stop pouring when you think it looks and feels right. It is important that the compote does not boil after the starch has been added since it messes up the texture.

 Pour the compote into a big glass bowl and sprinkle a thin layer of sugar over the surface. Let it rest until it is completely cool, and serve with cold whole milk or cream (and more sugar on top if you like things to be really sweet).

Enjoy! And if you end up with leftovers, they can be used very nicely in a trifle.

Myseost parfait and a birthday party

June 4, 2011

Wednesday the 1st of June was my 26th birthday, and for the occation I had invited 20 of my favorite people over for dinner. It was a wonderful evening with good people, wine and tons of food. Food that I spent pretty much two days cooking. I served 5 courses, starting with a noma favorite of flower pots filled with an herb cream made from sheep’s milk yoghurt, sprinkled with edible soil (made from malt, hazlenuts etc.) and beautiful radishes sticking out of the soil. Just a nice and very pretty little snack. Second course was a tomato and carrot soup with fresh basil. The main course was porchetta, caramelized whole onions, slow baked tomatoes and barley with parmesan.

After the porchetta followed two desserts. First a rhubarb compote with a vanilla/marscapone cream and fresh Danish strawberries on top. Second was the myseost parfait with crushed up macaroons, sprinkled with freeze dried raspberries. And that, my dear friends, is the recipe I will share with you today.

 

But before you say, “yuck, I hate myseost,” I have to tell you that you will love this parfait no matter what. It tastes nothing like cheese. It is all creamy, caramelly, vanilla goodness! I didn’t tell my guests what was in the parfait before they had tasted it, and they all loved it, even the ones who hate the brown Norwegian cheese. Myseost, or brunost as it is sometimes called, is a Norwegian whey cheese made from  goat’s and cow’s milk. It is brown, and very creamy.

Recipe for vanilla parfait is from Claus Meyer, that I wrote down ages ago. 

What you need:

125 g./4,5 oz. Myseost (brunost), shaved or cut into chunks

5 dl./2,1 cups cream

5 egg yolks

75 g./2,7 oz. sugar

Seeds from half of one fat vanilla bean

A couple grains of salt

How you do:

First you add a dash of cream and the cheese to a small pot. Over low heat you gently melt the cheese in the cream while stirring. It takes a while for it to get smooth, but if you are patient it will happen. When the mixture is smooth, pour it into a bowl and place in the fridge or freezer depending on how long you want to wait. It has to be completely chilled before you proceed. That applies for all the other ingredients, as well. So place everything, even the sugar and the bowl you are planning to use, in the fridge until you are ready. When everything is cool, add all the ingredients to the bowl and whisk it with an electric mixer until it is a pretty loose whipped cream. Pour it into a container and place in the freezer until it is thoroughly frozen.

 

And there you have it. A wonderful caramelly parfait. Remember to take it out about 20 minutes before you want to serve it though, since it is very firm otherwise. The great thing with this recipe is that there is not an ice crystal in sight. Don’t ask me why, but it is perfectly creamy and delicious. As I said, I served mine on top of some crushed up (store bought) macaroons, and sprinkled with freeze dried raspberries, but it is great on it’s own too!

And that was the story of my birthday and my (at the moment) favorite ice cream. It was a very nice party, and luckily I have tons of left over parfait left to munch on this sunny weekend.

 

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