Wednesday, December 07, 2011

TWG Teas at Sheraton Imperial

That institution known as afternoon tea cannot be more British than the queen herself, I feel. (As in Queen Elizabeth). So much so, everytime I am invited for an ahfternoon tee, I will feel compelled to polish up my English speaking skills and find myself reciting Henry Higgin's "How kind of yooo tooo let me come". When Evelyn of Sheraton Imperial invited me for a Tiers of Heaven Afternoon Tea at the Pavilion Lounge with TWG Teas, I first reaction was to say, "Why, how kind of yooo to let me come".

A vast spread of sweets lay before us, but not before some fun and games.

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TWG as actually stands for THE WELLNESS GROUP, and they have a wide array of teas...one of which I misread as the Geisha's Bosom, but it's actually Geisha's Blossom.

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Did I mention fun and games? Yeah, we were given a treat on how to make your own Chocolate Christmas tree using just rice crispies and melted chocolate. An ingenious idea really. And you can actually use other things like corn flakes or anything that will hold the melted chocolate together. By creating panels, you can assemble the panels by stacking them into any shape.

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My personal favourite was Cumi's creation, of Santa on a skateboard, atop a chocolate mountain. Strangely, that creation did not win one of the 5 prizes.

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That nice French mademoiselle from TWG Teas had rushed in from the airport after a delayed flight, to brief us on TWG Teas. For that evenings tea party, we were treated to three particular blends, specially commissioned for Sheraton Imperial. A Creme Caramel, which actually had a sweet taste without the sweetness, an interesting concept actually, if one can infuse sweetness into one's brain without actually having to ingest sugar, which we all know is bad for you. A Grand Wedding black tea, which is more traditional, and strong. And finally, the Alexandria, more a herbaceous kind of tea, with a strong minty scent. Needless to say, after all that tea, one had to look for a pee stop.

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If you enjoy your teas, do head over to Sheraton Imperial's Pavilion lounge for some sweet treats coupled with lovely teas.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

The Perfect Cut With Adrian Richardson

Let's get the Press Release stuff out of the way first:
Excerpts:

Chef Adrian Richardson is the owner and head chef of the successful and bustling La Luna, one of Melbourne’s best Mediterranean bistros in North Carlton, where he has been serving up clean, fresh and innovative food since 1999.

Chef Richardson’s passion for cooking and belief in “homemade and home-grown” is attributed to his upbringing from his family. His father was trained as a chef in England and France, and ran the Balzac, a legendary restaurant in East Melbourne. Similarly, his uncles were also chefs. He grew up eating Italian-Middle Eastern-North African cuisine dished up in an Italian household in Melbourne, with vegetables and fruits growing in the garden.

A regular face on television, Chef Richardson has appeared alongside Tobie Puttock and Jamie Oliver in Jamie’s Kitchen Australia. He is also one of the team of regular chefs on Ready Steady Cook, Fresh, Switching Lives and Good Morning Australia. The Asian Food Channel recently aired his hit television programme, Secret Meat Business between April to July 2011. In November, AFC will also air his latest show, Good Chef Bad Chef, which sees him playing the devil next to co-host Janella Purcell, a nutritionist.

Chef Richardson also has two cookbooks under his publishing belt, Meat and The Good Life, both of which are paeans to the virtues and benefits of knowing where your food comes from, as well as home cooking.

End Of Official Biodata

I love a good cut of steak, which was what made me excited at the thought of attending this AFC Event at the JW Marriott, with Celebrity Chef Adrian Richardson, invitation courtesy of Alice George PR. To be honest, I was not really a follower of his programs on TV, so I wasn't sure what to expect. Suffice to say, it was an afternoon well spent.

Adrian is exceedingly proud to be Australian, as we were reminded probably two hundred times through the show. He sounds distinctly Aussie, despite his very mixed ancestry, ranging from Egyptian to Italy. Sounds like some exotic fabric. He also spent a short time in Penang as a child, and regaled us with tales of how his job was to count satay sticks. (to the un-informed youth of today, in my youth, you paid for the satays that you ate, so that involved the counting of the sticks at the end of the meal, unlike today, where you order upfront by the number....ah good times, good times).

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He tells us that he likes to keep his cuisine simple, because of the extraordinarily fresh produce available in Australia, and that his cooking was akin to a home cooked meal. Which is true. Simplicity did indeed rule the day.

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To start off, we had Sauteed Calamari. Blink and you would have missed the entire thing. The secret to a fresh squid is its translucence. The more translucent it is, the fresher it is.

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Quite similar to what we would do in a chinese tai chow actually. Hot flames, garlic, chilli, spinach leaves, (local spinach, aka Yuen Choi)

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I love the way he tosses his thing.

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Ta dah. Dish no 1 is served. Actually, it is delightfully simple, and rather tasty, IF you are a squid fan. Which I am. Then again, there isn't a lot that I don't eat.

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Next up was lamb & spinach filo pie with labne, inspired by his Meditteranean and Middle Eastern roots.

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The all essential olive oil. Tip : A good olive oil should be green.

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He swears that the best lamb is from Australia, though I am SURE New Zealanders would beg to differ.

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Again, he demonstrates his tossing skills...

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This filo is like fabric, he says, to which someone said, "You can make edible underwear out of it". Oh, did I mention that the event was very entertaining? Gotta hand it to the Aussie, he certainly knows how to enrapture the audience.

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A few tosses of the filling, a few brushes of butter onto the filo, tah dah, lamb pie. Oh, I got to sample some of the filling, which comprised Danish feta (supposedly the best fetah evah), currants, pine nuts, coriander leaves and mint leaves. It is a YUMMY combination. I got to preview it as I had the privilege of sprinkling salt and pepper into it for the the chef. [glazed starry eyed look of idolizing]

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Actually, I loved this dish. The labne (a kind of yoghurt paste) complements the pie and the whole feta lamb combination works well.

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Yummy insides

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The next sequence of events was the most entertaining, and I am sure must have made some women blush. What is he blowing? Lamb's intestines, believe it or not. Care to kiss him afterwards?

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He makes his own sausages this guy does. He said this, and I quote, "It's not a sausage unless you put it into something". I ask you, how can he NOT be entertaining.

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He uses a caulking gun to fill his sausages, and calls upon two volunteers to demonstrate. The intestine is places on the head of the caulking gun, "not unlike the way you put something else onto you know what", he says.

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The race is on, for the longest and thickest sausage. Pair no 1 had kinks and chunks of uneven sausage, whereas Pair no 2, which was Adrian and this hot chick, had lovely thick weiners, which led Adrian to declare to the other gentleman, "Mine is longer and thicker than yours, though you are taller".

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But in the end, he cooks these tiny fellas.

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The sausages are served with Tabbouleh, and aioli. Tabbouleh is a tangy refreshing middle eastern salad comprising mint leaves, parsley, cous cous in this case (or burgul wheat).

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And for the main star, the PERFECT CUT.... he shows of his meat, a slab of Rib Eye, and a slab of Rump
Did he mention that he's from Australia?

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Apparently that's the size of a typical steak he would serve in his restaurant.

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Seared to perfection. There are various methods of ascertaining the done-ness of the steak, but the most fool proof way is to get one of Adrian's meat probes. It's available online.

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Basically a meat thermometer, it's 35°C for rare, 45° for medium rare and 55° for medium...as you can see on the probe packaging.

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This is SOOOOOOOOO GOOOOD, he proclaims. (Enter basket lift self)

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Although he demo-ed rib eye, we were served fillets, or tenderloins, which are far less fat. :(
Sobs!
Nevertheless, it WAS perfectly done, and very tender. And most importantly, not drowned in sauce. I always believe that a nice cut of meat should not be encumbered by overpowering sauces.

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Contrast our Jack Sprats cut with his wife's piece of Rib Eye here.

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And finally, Creme Brulee, the definitive comfort dessert, He made it look so easy. The few times I've tried making it, it was like eating badly curdled sweet eggs. Drat.

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Sigh, it was a choice of either bad white balance, and clear flame, or white balance with no flame.

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Well, it did look rather perfect.

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The one we got served wasnt caramelized enough. But tasted good and went well with the chocolate ice cream that was served.

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That's Adrian and the celebrity chef. Hahahah. Oops, I mean me and Adrian. (no harm dreaming right)

Anyway, do watch out for his new program currently on AFC Channel 703 on Astro, Good Chef Bad Chef.

I am an Adrian Richardson fan now.

Thanks AFC and AGPR.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Le Cordon Bleu, Malaysia-Sunway, Institute Of Culinary Arts

I guess if I wanted to apply to be a judge on a reality cooking show, I could theoretically say, "Ahem, I am Le Cordon Bleu trained". Thanks to Ming, who extended an invite to me for an afternoon workshop, with Chef Franck Bruwier who is a creative Chef who favors innovative classic French cuisine.

[Verbatim from the press release]
Through his international experience in U.S.A, Mexico, France ( a 3-Star Michelin restaurant) & and as chef instructor in le Cordon Bleu London, his last posting, he easily integrates different food cultures and traditions whilst maintaining the distinct feature of each recipe. He will be covering recipe such as, ‘Soupe a l’oignon gratinee - French Onion Soup and Magret de canard roti, pommes cocottes au lard et champignons a la graisse d’oie - Roast duck breast, potatoes with bacon and mushrooms cooked in goose fat’.and cakes for this coming festive period.

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Okay, usually we show the certificate at the end, but this time, I shall show it at the beginning, and treat the rest of the post as a flashback....

It is definitely good news to us kitchen enthusiasts, who wish to enhance our culinary skills with french sounding credentials, as Le Cordon Bleu has now reached our shores, in Sunway University College. I felt young again, as I waded through the sea of young adults, all in pursuit of a higher education. Oh, hangon, I am young, what am I talking about.

Participants are given a goodie bag that include a chef's toque, an apron (that requires a phD to assemble), and recipes for day. Actually, it's not so much a recipe as an ingredient sheet, for you really have to be there to know what to do with 1kg of onions, 500ml chicken stock etc .

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We were ushered into the swanky new kitchens, with warnings as we entered, DO NOT TOUCH THE HOT PLATE. Actually, it's a good thing they did warn us, for some reason, that hot plate was just calling out my name to place my hands on.

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The ladies preparing to do battle, as they don on their armor.

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Chef Franck Bruwier is animated, and captivates the audience with his instructions...we are assigned into teams of two, at each work station, and I am teamed with Cumi, or rather, I quickly sidled up to him, as I didn't really know anyone else, and I'm terribly shy.

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The arrival of some VIPs who make a grand entrance...

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As I mentioned, the apron really is quite complicated, and that gentleman in the front is still struggling with it.

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Our first task was French Onion soup. Did not sound too difficult, and Chef demonstrates how to slice onions without looking, not something I'd recommend you do at home.

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Next he demonstrates how to use a MANDOLIN. Innocuous looking enough, but can render quite bad cuts if not careful...

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Cumi cautiously rolls his potato over the razor sharp blades of the mandolin. I have to say, Ciki is one lucky lady. Cumi is exceedingly organised and neat, and made me feel like a slob, with all my vegetables and peel all over the place.

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This is the end result of using the mandolin...I think we forgot to use these potatoes, as at the end, I dont remember doing anything with it.

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Check out the lethal weapon..

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Datin Paulene is cut for the very first time, as you can see from the stained sheets. Actually, Cheffing (is there such a word?) can be quite dangerous. You're surrounded by sharp knives, hot flames, almost like fighting dragons.

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Next was pan seared duck breast in goose fat. Look at that GLORIOUS BREAST!!! Plump, fat and makes you just want to sink your teeth in.

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To accompany the breast, we also used some smoked duck, which is a remarkably close substitute for bacon.

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Mmmm, so good, I could eat it on its own. One thing you have to give the French, the ingredients used are always excellent.

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Cumi here is multi skilled, as he can photograph and do something else at the same time. Assisting our station was the tattooed east malaysian Chef Allan, who looks like he doubles up as a shaolin fighter in his spare time. You do NOT want to get into his bad books alone in a dark alley I swear. In addition to being well trained with the use of knives, as I said, he also looks like some martial arts proponent.

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The breasts fits snugly into the pan....

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As I was saying, he is very multitalented. Frying and shooting at the same time...

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The seared breast resting on a grill, as the juices flow.

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Magret de canard roti, pommes cocottes au lard et champignons a la graisse d’oie is the name of the dish we were preparing. These vegetables are sauteeing to make a sauce for the duck.

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This is one instant when too many cooks do not spoilt the broth, but rather, enhance it.

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Allan, me and Cumi. Actually Allan recognised me from the last issue of Flavours, and asked me if I was fattyboy...close nuff...

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Champignons sauteeing in my favourite ingredient, butter.

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And tah dah, our finished product. As time was running out, we did not have the time to plate our creations onto fine bone china, and dine there with a glass of wine. Instead, we were allowed to "ta pau" our duck and soup home. Sigh, there goes the glamour.

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However, it did make a LOVELY dinner at home....the duck was juicy and tender, though I am sure it would have been much nicer when it was hot.

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The French onion soup is REALLLY good, if I may say so myself. The sweetness from the caramelized onions is amazing, and its not a difficult dish to make, although time consuming. And honestly, quite economical as well.

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Just look at that!

Read my workstation mate's account HERE.

Upcoming courses include:

7thDec 2011, Wednesday, and 9thDec 2011, Friday
10.00am- 12.30pm
RM300.00/Per day

Sweet temptations. Let your sweet tooth take you on a journey. It’s time to bake!
Financiers, Gateau Et Gateaux De Voyage “Financiers, Cakes and Pound Cakes”
.Quatrequart the vertet aux pamplemoussesconfits
Green tea pound cake with comfit grapefruit
.Weekend au citron
Lemon pound cake
.Pain d’├ępices
Ginger bread
.Financiers
Small almond cakes

CONTACT:
Sunway Le Cordon Bleu
Institute of Culinary Arts
Mail: 5, JalanUniversiti,
Bandar Sunway,
46150 PetalingJaya,
Selangor DarulEhsan,
Malaysia

Email:lecordonbleu@sunway.edu.my
Phone: +603 5632 1188