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Wonton soup

My Totally Fabulous (if I do say so myself) Wonton Soup

Wonton soup

Wonton soup

Ingredients for about 30 wontons

Packet of circular wonton wrappers (square will do)
100g pork fillet very finely chopped
6 king prawns very finely chopped – keep the shell heads for the stock (see later)
2 more prawns per serve of soup, peeled and left whole
dash of Tamari soy sauce
“ “ rice vinegar
“ “ sake
“ “ chilli oil
“ “ sesame oil
generous pinch caster sugar
crushed/very finely chopped ginger
2 spring onion whites very finely chopped
a little cornflour

Options: coriander, waterchestnuts, dried soaked shitake mushrooms

Wonton soup ingredients

Wonton soup ingredients

Method:

The idea is to make this a very fine, but not minced mixture. I guess if you are the sort of person who’d rather whack it all in a food processor and hope for the best, so be it. Mix all the above ingredients thoroughly.

I trim the wonton wrappers so they are somewhat smaller than the original size. You want them to be one-mouthful size. Place one small teaspoon of mixture in the middle of the wrapper. Wet the inside edges with water and twist shut. Place on greaseproof paper on a flat oven tray. Freeze flat on tray before storing in a bag – they won’t stick once frozen. Don’t forget to move them from the tray, they don’t take long to freeze enough to move. Of course, you may wish to use some or all of them fresh. I like to make a lot and freeze them as the basis of a number of great soups where the lion’s share of the work is already done.

Stock:

To chicken stock, either your own or good shop bought, add the prawn heads, boil for a few minutes, strain, put the strained stock back in the pot and add some tamari, sesame oil, a couple of slices of ginger and some bruised lemon grass. Simmer for a while and then strain.

Elegant soup, or do as I say, not as I do:

About 6 wontons, 6 baby bok choy leaves left whole, a small quantity of udon noodles. Garnish with the whole prawns. In Japanese fashion, make the soup bowls look neat. Having brought the stock to a simmer, add the noodles and they really need only to be heated through. Take out, place on the bottom of each bowl. Now add the wontons to the stock, which will take maybe a couple of minutes to cook if fresh, longer if frozen. Like dumplings, when they rise to the surface they are cooked. Place neatly on top of the noodles, quickly blanch the green leaves, neatly place on one side of the wontons, and then a couple of minutes for the prawns. Place them, perhaps as the centre piece, and gently add stock to each bowl taking care to keep everything neat.

This is a lovely soup, an every day soup – hard to tire of. And, once the wontons are made, which takes an hour or more, the rewards pay off over a number of meals. It’s a no-brainer. It’s fun making your own and MUCH nicer than shop bought, even hand-made shop bought.

I serve this in large Chinese/Japanese bowls with chopsticks and ceramic spoons.

Swiss Post

Switzerland has a reputation for efficiency and good business practice based, as far as I can tell, on its excellent public transport system. Nothing else I have observed here could be said to be bound by the same principles.

Take, for instance, Swiss Post, an institution which, being privatised, seems to have no duty of care. It is grossly inefficient, incompetent and unpleasant in its dealings. It is expensive and slow and delivers not much for its high price. In fact, apparently its services are going to deterioriate even further now, according to this report from a local newspaper.

But of all the deficiencies of this laughable service, the one that particularly staggers me is this. I am quoted a price on my shipping. I give them my Swiss bank card. They do not accept Swiss debit cards. It is the only place I’ve ever been into which fails to accept this card. Even the dodgiest little shop in the bad part of town will accept this card. I give them my Australian credit card. They do not accept credit cards. Other than cash, they accept exactly one form of payment: their OWN credit card. If you are unwilling to acquire one of those, cash is the only payment taken.

I’d end by saying WTF, but really I want to spell that out. What the fuck?

Everyday Cardigan II

A followup to this post where I discussed the various versions of this I made. This one is in Sapphire Jade cashmere-silk two ply, and was ordered as red, but is clearly quite orange. Never mind, I like it. It is super-fragile yarn and I’ve done it no favours knitting it at a very loose gauge. But while it holds up, I love it. The original pattern is from Taiga Hilliard Designs

Manny took some pictures today. This is Geneva in early October. Beautiful!

Everyday cardi in Jade Sapphire  (14)

Everyday cardi inJade Sapphire  (10)

Everyday cardi inJade Sapphire  (9)

Everyday cardi inJade Sapphire  (8)

Everyday cardi inJade Sapphire  (7)

Everyday cardi inJade Sapphire  (6)

Everyday cardi inJade Sapphire  (5)

Everyday cardi inJade Sapphire  (4)

Everyday cardi inJade Sapphire  (2)

Everyday cardi inJade Sapphire  (1)
Everyday cardi inJade Sapphire  (13)

Everyday cardi inJade Sapphire  (12)

Everyday cardi inJade Sapphire  (11)

How to see Stockholm.

(I am so behind, this should have been posted ages ago.)

I could not have done this trip more perfectly. I went with a native level Swedish speaker who had lived in Stockholm, but it isn’t a place where you need such a headstart. English is everywhere, it’s easy to find your way around, the underground rail system is simple to navigate. If you are fairly central you can also walk to a lot of places. Stockholm is more spread out than I expected, however, so after a while I found I was wanting to catch trains to places and then start a jaunt.

One of the things Anglo-Saxons find fascinating about Sweden is the sense of style and the obvious way of experiencing that is to rent an apartment. Being a compulsive researcher, I promise I looked at every single possible place to stay in Stockholm before settling on a small organisation called C/O Stockholm

Although it’s the world’s fashion to eliminate the middleman at the moment, I’m all for a person who does that job well and I’m more than happy to pay for it. I don’t want a world without bookshops, or black cabs. Nor do I want a world where I can’t consult an expert for advice on where to stay. I’d rather one reliable expert than all the flies on Trip Advisor. I also like small independent businesses and here is one I’m very happy to have found.

Kenneth who runs it was the perfect consultant. We were being really fussy about what we wanted – not just location, but layout of the apartment and even what sort of bed we’d get – and we got just what we wanted. A beautiful, archetypal old Swedish apartment. It’s hard for pictures to give the whole story: the kitchen was wonderfully equipped – not that we used it for much as there are so many good places to eat in Stockholm – and the place, including the bathroom, was full of those design elements that make Sweden famous for that sort of thing.

The compact bathroom was a work of design genius.

The compact bathroom was a work of design genius.

Part of the gorgeous kitchen.

Part of the gorgeous kitchen.

I have a natural distaste for those huge accommodation sites that dominate the market, where one negotiates directly with the owner – hel-lo, thanks for getting back to me about your apartment, but it is two months after the trip now – and my travelling life is spent seeking out people like Kenneth to help me realise what I want to do. And you can see from looking at the pictures of the apartments that he has a good range in price, location, size and they are quality controlled.

Mind you, there are better places to live in Stockholm, I was to discover. One of the highlights of the trip was going to Drottningholm Palace It’s where the King and Queen live.

No, that's not the King and Queen. Or their children.

No, that’s not the King and Queen. Or their children.

You can wander around inside the palace, but the grounds are beautiful and it was the perfect day for being outside. Highly recommend this trip if you are looking for an outing to take most of a day.

Drottingholm Palace: in the gardens

Drottingholm Palace: in the gardens

View from the ferry as we left to come back to Stockholm.

View from the ferry as we left to come back to Stockholm.

It’s interesting to consider that two things which are no good on their own can combine to make something worthy of recording.

In this case I had some tomatoes sitting on the bench for a long time, decidedly unwanted as it’s been a lousy season, but despite that I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away. Eventually I gently fried some onion and garlic, added the tomatoes roughly chopped and let that stew away until I gave up on the process improving them. They were still no good.

Earlier in the week I’d made a complete hash of a roast lamb. My idea had been to slow roast it with garlic, rosemary, olive oil and lots of white wine, adding potatoes at some point which were going to soak up all the lovely liquids I envisaged their sitting in. In practice, I had the heat up way too high and I guess I also should have done all this with a cover over the pan, as the liquids kept evaporating at a devilish rate, the quicker I threw in more wine, the quicker it seemed to disappear. Nonetheless, at the end of proceedings there was a combination of fat and cooking liquids which I popped in the fridge.

Neither of these two things was worthy of being kept, but realising the fridge had to be cleared as we were going to Singapore the next day, I made our guests Thomas and Genia the subjects of an experiment.

While frying some risotto rice – about a coffee cup full – in olive oil, in a separate saucepan the tomatoes and lamb sauce were heating up; then the rice went into the pot. Stirring this on a low heat from time to time, I prepared baby leaf spinach – lots of it. When the rice was close to cooked (I winged this, and I didn’t need to add more stock/water, but was prepared to if necessary), the spinach went in, once it collapsed I put the lid on the pan and let it all sit for five minutes. Grated parmesan was stirred in just before serving. We had a rocket and parmesan salad on the side.

I loved it, but as you can see, it is a dish that will never be cooked again!

While not being vegetarian, I eat a lot less meat than I used to and dishes like this which have no more than a hint of meat in them are perfect for me.

How can you mess up duck?

Mary and I were in Montreux recently and stopped to have lunch on the water at Cafe Bellagio. The setting was worth the entire price of the fixed price lunch. The food wasn’t dire, but Mary ordered the duck and they really messed it up. It was breast, extremely rare with skin on. The thing is, the skin had been cooked all of about 10 seconds. It’s one thing for the meat to be almost bloody rare, but the skin needs to be crisp – isn’t that the point of duck? – and the process of doing that melts away that thick layer of fat that otherwise you have also served up, raw, to the diner. What she got served was impossible to cut and would have been disgusting to eat.

Just to make sure I was on firm ground here, since I haven’t cooked duck for a few years, I bought a duck breast and cooked it for lunch today. I put it skin up in a non-stick pan at medium-high heat and kept an eye on it while making a salad. Turned it over now and again, cut it in half at some point and stood the middle, quite raw parts so they sat down in the pan to sear them, then back on the skin side. The fat melts into the pan, the skin becomes crisp and it is up to you to decide how well done you want the meat. The skin will be happy with about any amount of cooking. I ended up with something the common side of rare, which was just what I wanted.

As well as the salad, I’d mixed together a bowl of fig chutney, sweet chilli sauce, a teasp of honey and some old but nonetheless extremely sharp Spanish sherry vinegar. When the duck was done, I added this concoction to the pan, mixed it into the duck fat (latest advice is that it’s good for you) and then served it as a sauce next to the duck pieces. Precise quantities to taste. This was a random collection of ingredients, just what came out of the cupboard when I put my hand in, but it was good. Sweet, hot and sour – a bit of all these and you can’t go wrong.

So, let me reword that question. I can see from this restaurant experience how you can mess up duck. But why would you mess up duck? That is a mystery to me.

After a traumatic encounter with a monstrosity at The Plate which they have mistakenly labelled ‘laksa’, I needed to be on safe ground for my next Singapore experiment. Hence I dropped in on The Lokal.

Originally of Tetsuya’s team, Darren Farr has both impeccable experience and a mature attitude:

I’ve reached a stage in my career where I just want to keep things simple, and let the produce speak for itself.

That could certainly be the motto of Lokal in Neil Road. It was one of two places we visited more than once in our brief time in Singapore. I guess the highest accolade one could give any cafe of this type is that it would survive in the Melbourne-Adelaide-Sydney scene and Lokal does everything right. Reflecting the philosophy quoted above, much of the stepping stones of a cafe meal is made on the premises including butter, ricotta, yoghurt and the bacon/fish are cured/smoked onsite.

How much could we sample in the course of three days in a city of food? We did our best is all I can say. Coffee and tea were excellent. The milk, to my relief, after an unfortunate encounter with UHT at my hotel, was fresh. Tea drinkers will be pleased to hear that extra hot water came on demand. The granola was good enough to tempt me.

Granola with goji & berries, chia & seeds, pumpkin & sunflower seeds,
walnuts, almonds with homemade vanilla yogurt $14
Choose poached fruit or fruit salad

Mostly I find granola to be one of those things cafes think if they’ve made themselves, that in itself is sufficient, it doesn’t have to pass a taste test. Sort of like that disaster of cafe breakfasts ‘Our Baked Beans’. Well, I reckon if The Lokal ever turned its attention to this tortured food stuff it would get that right too.

Unfortunately I was a bit sick the first breakfast here. I had

Toasted banana bread, home-made vanilla yogurt, toasted macadamias, caramelised banana $12

It was okay, but the lack of enthusiasm in putting it that way was of my own making, not the fault of the dish. No, I’m going to blame the godawful laksa from the day before which was still casting its shadow. Next day I tried:

Smashed avocado, pomelo, our own ricotta, toasted almonds on sourdough $18

Such is the fashion for ‘smashed avocado’ in any number of permutations in Australia, that this can be used as The Coffeeshop Benchmark at the moment. Lokal’s passed with flying colours. The house ricotta was mild and thick and I have never seen as much attention paid to the preparation of fruit as was given to the pomelo which was broken down to its tiniest shard-like form sitting atop the avocado and ricotta along with some toasted almonds. The picture is on the indifferent side, but please note the pomelo (you can click on the picture to make it bigger):

Smashed avocado Lokal style

Smashed avocado Lokal style

It was no more than a hint of pomelo but that was just as it should be. The bacon was unique in my experience, a generous serve of crisp slices which had a gentleness coming, no doubt, from being prepared onsite.

We went back twice for afternoon tea. A white chocolate cake was as good as it could be – as I’m a milk chocolate addict I can’t really give white chocolate higher praise. NZ icecream was mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I regretted only getting the three scoops once Manny decided to assist me with its demolition. An apricot and pear muffin was perfectly nice, but it isn’t the something I will miss when I think back longingly to my time here. (I’m back in Geneva. Sigh.) Given the opportunity I would have been happy to try everything on the menu.

Staff were great, even when things were frenetic. Music was not too loud – I HOPE it stays this way. Please, Lokal, don’t make this a place where everybody has to shout. It would really detract from the atmosphere you have going now.

Bottom line: I agreed to queue on Saturday morning to go here and this is right up the top of my list-of-things-life’s-too-short-for. Things like don’t go swimming with crocodiles: I’m serious about not queuing. But then, we were in Singapore, a country where it is a national hobby to queue for food. It even occupies blog posts. What would you queue for? How long would you queue? Is two hours too long to queue? So I’ve queued. I survived. I’m practically a local. Or should that be Lokal?

There are lots of reports/reviews of Lokal online with much better pictures than mine! Try here and here

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