Saturday, March 21, 2009

St Patrick's Day cooking with Miele

Busy in the kitchen

Last Tuesday a lucky group of food bloggers was treated to a day in Miele's Experience Centre, to cook some St Patrick's Day fare and test out the technology. I travelled down to Oxfordshire along with Joanna of Joanna's Food, Joy of Almanzo's Belly, Sam of Antics of a Cycling Cook, and my namesake Alex from Just Cook It.

The theme of the day was, of course, Irish recipes. After some coffee and pastries, we split into four teams and got cracking on the cooking, with the chance to play with some of Miele's toys at the same time.

Leek & watercress soup

I tried out the integrated steam oven and the Tepan-Yaki hotplate. Steaming rhubarb to make a Roscommon Pudding meant that the fruit really kept its colour and shape. We also made a really simple leek and watercress soup and I was surprised to find that it didn't need any seasoning. Steaming the vegetables kept the flavours fresh and vibrant. It's a very healthy way of cooking too.

Oriental prawns

The Tepan hotplate was lots of fun. If you haven't seen one before, it's a flat, smooth hob that lets you cook directly on the surface, Japanese style. It took a while to heat up, but once it was searing we grilled some prawns on it with the minimum of oil. You could just as easily use it for a full English (or should that be Irish?) breakfast.

Prawns on the tepan

After a few hours of toil in the kitchen we had the chance to taste our just desserts. It was quite a spread, with soda bread, beef in Guinness and Roscommon rhubarb pudding amongst the dishes on the table.

We were then shown around the centre to learn more about Miele. The technology was innovative to say the least. I was particularly keen on the dishwasher that opens its own door when it has finished (no more nasty water marks on my glasses!), the fridge that keeps a cabbage fresh for 6 whole months, and the wireless meat probe that lets you cook your meat to medium-rare perfection.

The Miele Experience Centre isn't just for food bloggers either; Miele run regular Let's Do Lunch events to help prospective purchasers test out the products. So if you're thinking of decking your kitchen out with some top end gadgetry (can I come and live with you?), why not try it out first?

My favourite dish of the day was this Bailey's chocolate cheesecake. It's too good to eat just one day a year, and although it takes a little bit of effort it can easily be made ahead and is very impressive.

Bailey's & choc cheesecake

Bailey's Chocolate Cheesecake


For the base:
150g digestive biscuits
110g butter
3 tbsps cocoa powder
2 tbsps caster sugar

For the filling:
300g cream cheese
120ml double cream
1 egg
75g icing sugar
120g plain chocolate chips
4tbsps Baileys liqueur (plus extra if you like a tipple whilst you're baking)

For the topping:
75g plain chocolate
2 tbsps golden syrup
30g butter

1) Preheat the oven to 150c

2) First make the base. Crush the digestive biscuits. Melt the butter in a saucepan or the microwave. Mix the melted butter into the crushed biscuits, cocoa and sugar. Press the mixture into the base of a 22cm springform tin.

2) Bake the base for 15 minutes. Remove and let cool. Leave the oven on as you'll be using it again later.

3) Now for the filling. Beat together the cream cheese, cream, egg and icing sugar until smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips and slug of Baileys.

4) Pour the mixture over the base and return the tin to the oven for 35 minutes or until the filling is just set. We used the Miele oven's Moisture Plus setting, which injects an automatic burst of steam to keep the cheesecake moist and lovely. If you're not lucky enough to have one of these then just bake it at 150c. If you're feeling brave then you could try using a bain marie, but my Leith's Bible doesn't seem to think it's necessary so I didn't bother.

5) Cool the cheesecake in the tin and then pop it in the fridge overnight.

6) Finally, you need to make the chocolate topping. Break the chocolate into small pieces and put it into a small saucepan with the golden syrup and butter. Gently melt the ingredients together. Give it a stir and then pour the topping over the cheesecake. Chill again to set the topping.

The Princess

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Yauatcha, Soho

Yauatcha, Broadwick St

Tucked away in the heart of Soho lies London's second Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant. Formerly part of Alan Yau's empire, Yauatcha takes dim sum to a chic new level. Luxe ingredients like caviar, scallops and even gold leaf add some bling to the traditional Cantonese "little pieces of heart".

The decor is sleek and sexy, with low tables lit by candles, fish tanks and plenty of blue glass. It's not a typical fine dining restaurant, in fact it feels more like a glamorous cocktail bar.

We start by ordering some cocktails from our elegant waitress. I am not in the least bit elegant, so I can't resist the kitsch Lady Penelope, a startlingly alcoholic pink concoction. It slips down nicely, as fruity cocktails tend to do. I order another.

After reading reviews I am expecting the worst, but service is good. Not great, but good. Our waitress knows the menu, and although her politeness errs on the cool side, she is pleasant, courteous and, of course, perfectly turned out.

The dim sum at Yauatcha are things of beauty. They taste great too, and the dumpling casings are some the lightest and least obtrusive I have tasted. Highlights are the scallop shumai, decorated with pearls of roe, the crisp Mongolian lamb in flaky pastry and the Salt & Pepper Quail, crispy and delicious.

Scallop dim sum
Scallop dim sum
Mongolian lamb
Mongolian crispy lamb
Salt & pepper quail
Salt & pepper quail

Pre-dessert, I try one of Yauatcha's much vaunted teas. There is a dizzying array, but once I have eventually chosen I find it is a disappointment. Green tea always tastes a bit like water that you've boiled the vegetables in, and this is no exception. My advice would be to stick with the cocktails.

Cola & Citron Tart
Cola & lemon tart

I usually skip dessert when I'm eating in Chinese restaurants. Not here though. Yauatcha has a French style patisserie counter where you can choose from an array of delicate delights. In fact, when we arrive for our early dinner there are still several groups taking afternoon tea, and feasting on tiers of elegant French pastries. I sample a citron & cola cube tart, which was equal parts sour and sweet, traditional and modern. Just like Yauatcha itself.

15-17 Broadwick Street, W1F 0DL

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