Summer Colds - What helps?

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I have been lucky for nearly a whole year, and have not gotten sick. (I just rolled on wood). My immune system took a beating last week at work due to lots of wake up calls and early mornings. Also, combine that with a crazy gym challenge, and not much sleeping or napping at the weekend – I got a cold. On a scale of 1 - SHUT UP I'm dying....  I am probably a 5 and nowhere near “Shut-up i'm dying” but I felt close yesterday.

I am not a good patient. I view being sick as my body telling me to slow down, but there is so much to do and see and i battle with frustration of not being able to bounce around.  So I take a deep breath and resign myself to the fact that I need to get better and rest.

My goal is to create a cookbook on food for healing – that is where all my research now lies. On feeling sick I have do's and don'ts which some will not agree with. Do’s include: Vitamin C (Pure) every 3 hours, lots of water, sleep, sleep and more sleep, lemon tea or any good immune support teas, echinacea and Neti-pot to help clear out your sinus. Don't - Don't eat dairy as it’s bad for sinus and stay away from caffeine and alcohol. (So hard as I love coffee).  I personally don't use over the counter medicine if it's just a cold or virus because it’s pointless, it’s just masks the symptoms and you feel ok but the body is still run down. I may have broken that last one on Monday but for the most part I am focused on getting better.

My Naturopathic Dr - Dr Peter Bongiorno has been an amazing help in my 7 years in NYC, and even through my knee surgery I really focused on alternative medicine. If you live in New York city or Long Island, if I can give you any advice please check out his clinic, it honestly is one of the best finds in my life.

Anyway back to food for healing. I am finally able to cook and researched what foods are good for a cold and flu. Onion, Garlic, Tomatoes, Kidney beans...CHILI. So what is a good choice of food that has those things? CHILI CON CARNE ! (Here is top 10 reasons why this is good for you)

Eating chilli can help prevent colds and the flu if you make it with the right ingredients. The following recipe has an arsenal of immunity-boosters. All of the vegetables (including the onions and garlic) offer immunity-boosting phytochemicals, but the tomatoes are particularly powerful. In addition to the phytochemical lycopene, tomatoes contain potassium and vitamins A and C. The beans supply an immunity-boosting isoflavone called daidzein, and the hot chili will open up your nasal passages if you're congested.

What you need - Ingredients

  • 1 large onion or 2 banana shallots, chopped
  • 10 cloves garlic, finely chopped - The recipe calls for 2 but I really love garlic and want to get better.
  • 2 red chilli deseeded or keep half with seeds if you like it spicy (Again use 1 if you do not like hot as hell)
  • 2 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked and roughly chopped
  • Olive oil, for frying
  • 500g good quality beef mince
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 fresh tomatoes or 1 beef tomato, roughly chopped
  • 400g tinned chopped tomatoes
  • 100-200ml beef stock
  • 3 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 400g kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • Salt and pepper

 Chili - Lets learn how to make this ! 

1) Sweat the onion, garlic, chilli and thyme in 2 tablespoons oil in a large saucepan. At the same time, brown the mince in a separate pan over moderate heat in a little oil.

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2)  I threw in some extra turmeric and the bay leaves at this stage just because I wanted the flavor to be more impactful. Most recipes will recommend you to do this when you are adding the stock. You can decide what works best for your taste.

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2)  Add the all dried spices to the onion mixture and cook until they release their aroma. Then stir in the beef and mix well. Add the fresh and tinned tomatoes and leave to cook down a little for about 5 minutes.

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4) Pour in the beef stock and stir in tomato puree to taste. Drop the cinnamon in then bring to the boil and leave to simmer.

5) Once the sauce is beginning to thicken add the kidney beans and leave to cook for another 5-10 minutes to allow the beans to soak up the flavors. Taste, taste and taste and add in more chili, salt and pepper here if needed. Most recipes say to add chives and sour cream. If you are congested the worst thing you can do is eat dairy so I have skipped that step.

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Voila !!! The end product...and easy peasy chili recipe - Enjoy !!!!

Next post will be a great review of a Portuguese restaurant called Aldea !!

Have a great weekend of mischief, if you want good coffee and some treats ! Try Fika ! - A friend and I enjoyed the below from Fika yesterday to help cheer me up  ! 

Jeanette xx

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Lincoln - Food, Friends and Fanfare !

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New York is one of the most exciting cities in the world – colors, food, music and interesting people. You have days where you meet the most random quirky people and others when the city is filled with quiet.  We catch ourselves getting caught up in annoyance and frustration, and then something happens which makes us realized “WOW take this mood down a notch”. I caught myself doing that yesterday on the subway as I was so tired and a guy walked into the subway with a guitar.  My first reaction was “I just want 10 minutes of quiet” and then he started playing “My Girl” and I just started singing with him and my heart filled with happiness and I felt relaxed once more. It’s important to embrace little things that happen like that.

One of my favorite places in New York is Lincoln Center, and I had the pleasure of being on the Upper West Side twice this week. I had to attend an award ceremony with work and my goodness it was one of my most beautiful nights of the year. The pictures above show a night filled with music, food and great people.  The evening started off with a cocktail reception and it was nice wandering around discovering who from my company would be around. I haven’t done as much networking outside of work lately, and this night made me realize how I exciting it is being around people from different backgrounds, fields and perspectives.

I managed to sneak the beverage I wanted instead of the standard red/white wine.  I have a new-found love for bourbon, and if you haven’t been to the Brandy Library I highly recommend it – I love how they set the tone for the experience by saying “Hey we serve hard liquor, this isn’t a place for babies”.  Bourbon, soda and lime…..it tastes better than it sounds, believe me.

The table was blue on white with a gorgeous flower display in the centre. They started off the dinner service with a beautifully presented vegetarian dish – quinoa, avocado and tomato surrounded by a pumpkin jus. For the main course they served a fresh halibut  and then a berry tart for dessert. Given I am on this crazy gym challenge it was definitely my Day 20 treat.

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So Mozart, the program is called Mostly Mozart as they throw in some Beethoven. Three of Mozart's symphonies and 2 Beethoven were The table was blue on white with a gorgeous flower display in the centre, due to the waiter loving my “Despicable Me” cover. They started off the dinner service with a beautifully presented vegetarian dish – quinoa, avocado and tomato surrounded by a pumpkin jus. For the main course they served a fresh halibut  and then a berry tart for dessert. Given I am on this crazy gym challenge it was definitely my Day 20 treat.

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I also made it to Lincoln Ristorante, located right next to the Lincoln Center. The entire restaurant is surround by glass and the light within the main room enables great people watching, as all the locals and tourists rushing to catch a show. As the name suggests the inspiration is Italian. Chef Jonathan Benno has worked here since its inception. Jonathan worked before in Per Se and French Laundry, and given this is his first solo effort as a head chef he does not disappoint. The presentation of all plates and the colors were vibrant and the flavors reflected amazing seasonal choices.

The menu for dinner  had Antipasti and then a variety of fish, meats and chicken. We opted for a light antipasti of Salmon, Octopus, Rabbit sausage (not what I expected and the plate above with the orange swipe of color) and finally a beetroot salad.  I have to say the portion sizes were perfect and if you go pick the octopus salad for sure.  I would go back just for that.

If you do not have room for dessert do not worry as the Chef completes the service with a lovely plate of chocolate and toffees home-made in his kitchen. They do an amazing brunch also, so check it out!!!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend whatever you are doing!  I promise a recipe will follow!

Jeanette xx

Summer Loving - Had me a blast !

Feeling HOT

I am aware that my blog sometimes falls behind, but then I realize it's because I am trying to pack so many things into my day, and have traveled like a maniac. My most recent destinations included London, Bahamas and then back to NYC.

Despite my whirlwind schedule, there are three things that never change – my friends get cuter, my family gets more loving and I continue to be surprised and excited by food and all the great things that come along with sharing a meal with someone I love.

New York

Let’s start with new and exciting things in New York City! This weekend I nearly had a coffee orgasm (if those exist). You know in the movies when you see a housewife on top of a washing machine... Well somewhere along those lines, but in this case I had a cup of coffee in my hand. I documented evidence above - . Their purpose "We want great coffee to be revered, yet democratic, approachable and accessible. By illuminating what is possible with coffee, we hope to change forever how you think about it. And that would be something." I can honestly say it was the best coffee I have drunk in a long time. Check out Intelligentsia Café at the Highline Hotel !

I have a confession to make – before Sandy happened (for those not in NYC, Sandy is the hurricane that removed me from my apartment for nearly a month) I really didn’t explore South Street Sea Port as I ignorantly assumed it was a tourist trap. Months later, it’s now one of my new favorite places to hang out. Firstly I nearly had a heart attack because it’s not just in Williamsburg, it’s live and loud in Manhattan. Endless stalls of great food and adult beverages. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. The other new place for brunch is called Tiny's - they have to be the sweetest little family and do a mean Kale Salad. Check out Fika also for great coffee on stone street, and amazing chocolate !

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Anyone who knows me, knows I LOVE black, so this summer I have tried to add some color to my wardrobe. This was spurred by an insane bet at work I have going which I have named GYM CHALLENGE. I am lucky as my close friends have coached me, and I have not been letting my evil knee recovery get in the way. I have to train every day and  the winner with the biggest % weight lost is the winner. Sometimes I wish I wasn't so competitive but the truth of the matter is I am :) and honestly doing a food journal really has opened my eyes to the types of things I eat and what my body loves and doesn't love. The coaches recommend only protein and greens in the morning as they believe that is what sets your metabolism until noon. So yes that’s right.... I am eating chicken salad, omelet (NO CHEESE or anything other than greens) and nuts, strange but I love it. Noon-3pm - Go wild if you want to eat carbs, rice etc and at night-time it’s fish/salad etc. Not rocket science but it’s a habit changing challenge. Try a food journal for a week, it will really shock and surprise you!

 Regarding adding color my new Newton running shoes and Bike helmet were a good step in the right direction. A great site to get cool exercise clothes is called Running warehouse and if you search for coupons you can get up to 20% off your first buy - Enjoy !

"I'd rather stay inside, just sipping coffee...Yuna - Coffee" is the song that matches my mood this afternoon. After a busy morning, I decided to spend a day in my apartment, and it’s amazing how organizing, buying flowers, planning recipes and throwing out old items - really makes you feel re energized.

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The pictures above involves a sleepy little town called Woodstock! I hit up this place with a few close friends for a weekend filled of Gatsby, relaxing and wine. I decided to own the kitchen and with my best friend we designed a menu for everyone, not that we were control freaks or anything...ok maybe we were BUT we wanted to make sure our country adventure had some culinary flair. If you ever want to test how strong your friendship is, buy a game called Mexican Train, it has the ability to turn the best of friends into mortal enemies lol It looks like dominos, gives you the feel of a friendly innocent game and then due to all the rules and regulations will cause a Mexican standoff. Thank God for sunlight and coffee because the day after everyone emerged back to our former non competitive selves. I believe my ability to cook the perfect steak saved me from having no best friend the next day. (Thank you Gordon Ramsey for teaching me that life skill.)

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London was mostly work and helping a friend, but I managed to get some fun times in with all my best friends and their mini me's. It's pretty crazy watching your friends kids grow up into little people, I think the biggest thing I learnt from this trip is that once you have a kid there is no sacred time anymore. While staying with my best friend, his son would just walk into the bathroom while I was showering SCREAMING Auntie Jeanette hurry up we need to build, and a kid of 3 doesn't recognize or care that you are showering or that you want some ME time, they just care about you getting your ass out of the shower to complete a building operation. My little god-daughter Amaya is well advanced in the art of high-fiving now which makes me extremely happy and Isaac who is 4 months old loves me the most as he always saves the most awesome nappies for me and even mastered the art of peeing so big he hit me right in eye. I had to give him street cred for his aim and determination. Finlay has to be my trendiest friend mini me, he is always dressed to kill and is probably the most chilled little boy I have ever met. I am worried my mini me is going to bounce of the walls.

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If you are in the Bahama's and want a memorable eating experience you MUST go to Dune.  It is described as a "Christian Liaigre wenge version of a British colonial dining room."  It is Jean-Georges Vongerichten's first Caribbean restaurant, and walking in you see a blue glass wall into the kitchen and an open-air terrace overlooking the ocean and pristine beach. The food and the service was better than I had experienced in a while. The menu featured many fresh fish and seafood dishes such as spice-crusted snapper with sweet-and-sour jus, local tomatoes, and oregano, and a lobster sandwich spiced with Bahamian goat pepper. The cocktail menu was also extensive. I tried the crab salad and Lobster tacos – something I really want to try to recreate. The lobster taco had coriander, salsa and a spicy guacamole, but felt light and really delicate. Vongerichten's second restaurant is Café Martinique, which was tucked away in the middle of chaos, nasty chain restaurants and a casino but worth hunting down.

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We are getting to the age where everyone is starting to settle down and tie the knot! What I love about my friends is none of them will ever make me endure a traditional hen or bachelorette party and I know it’s going to be something with food and beverages that will be amazing. Addie's friends organized a great event run by The Artful Bachelorette. The event was sponsored by Verve C Champagne of course and had a great find - Prohibition CupCakes. 2 great things unite to make an amazing treat. Hard Liquor in a CUPCAKE? I may have eaten a few too many of these. Some folks would think that drawing a fully butt naked amazingly handsome man would be distracting, but given how competitive my friends were we quickly averted our eyes from what was a very well endowed package to make sure we had THE BEST pictures of any group. You can see from above that we didn't mess around, and considering I never took much drawing, I picked it up pretty quickly. I wonder if while at University I had been followed around by an attractive naked man, if my grades would have improved. Hrm, I would love to hope so?

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The last place I have fallen in love with is a place called "All Good Things". The whole concept is local companies coming together under one roof in a form of a market.  You can have brunch and they have an amazing restaurant called "Le Restaurant" downstairs in a hidden cave, giving a speakeasy feel. I normally head there on Sunday to have some blue-bottle coffee and have developed a slight crush on the chef purely on the basis that he makes the BEST omelets I have ever tasted in my life. Check it out!

My last thought is around free education, one area in food that has exploded understanding Food Chemistry and the approach to new and inventive ways to cook food based on the chemical processes and interactions of all biological and non-biological components of foods. If you are interested in this topic, MIT are offering amazing free lectures online and it is not just short snippets but the real lectures from full-time chemistry majors.

Next time will all be about new juice recipes. My new juicer has landed and I am pretty excited to throw heaps of veg randomly in the machine that is bigger than a space craft and see what happens !!!

Enjoy the Sun, Enjoy Food, Enjoy Friendship and Enjoy life ! Kisses Jeanette

Smoked Bacon & Tomato Pasta

The last few months have been a world wind of travel. India gave me some great insights into spices and the west coast of fresh produce and farm to table. While I enjoy travel it has done 2 things, ensured that I have not written my blog in a while and it has been a while since I just pottered around my kitchen. The thing I love to do is understand what to do with things left in my fridge and see how many items I can get into my dish. Given the limited ingredients , it was my only option to do a nice rich tomato sauce and pasta, the secret weapon was the Irish bacon my friend had given me !! Why is Irish bacon so good well its little Irish Piggies that we feed with golden grass and frosted lucky charms AND its back bacon and that means the cut  includes one piece of the pork loin and one piece of the pork belly on the same cut ! The rich smokey flavor lends itself well to a nice tomato base ! I was tempted this morning to use it for an Irish breakfast and may need to bribe someone to smuggle in some more !

I feel that I should make up some lie that I got this recipe from an old Italian grandma I met along the way, like the grandma below but alas nothing that fancy. It was just me in my kitchen on a Sunday afternoon and as simple as this dish is, it really is delicious ! Enjoy !

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Ingredients for Smoked Bacon and Tomato Sauce

  • 10 chopped plum tomatoes or any tomatoes you have left over
  • 1 red onion, roughly diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 large carrot
  • 10+ cloves of garlic roughly chopped
  • Small bunch basil
  • 1 pack of smoked bacon
  • 1 pack of gluten-free linguine
  • Some chili flakes
  • Parmasen
  • Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, oregano (pinch)_ and Olive oil

1) Grill/Broil the bacon to make sure the healthiest of cooking. When 1/2 cooked on both sides, take out and roughly chop

2) Tomato Sauce

    • Pre Heat the oven to 400
    • If the tomatoes are large boil water, deep drop the tomato and then shock them in cold water. This will help you peel the tomato and take the skin off

getting tomato pealed

    • Put all tomatoes, garlic on a baking tray with some basil and cook for around 30 minutes.

roasting

      • After the garlic and tomato are soft, blend in food processor and take them and put them through a mesh colander to avoid having the seeds or too much pulp.

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    • Warm olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Once you see the oil shimmering, add the chopped onion and sauté for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Add the minced garlic, roughly chopped carrots, some baby tomatoes and pinch of red pepper flake then continue to sauté until onions are soft and translucent, stirring occasionally.
    • Add roughly chopped bacon and stir.

Coming together

    • Add in the tomato puree and pop on low heat and let simmer for 1.5 hours slowly

Final sauce

    • Boil some water and cook pasta

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    • Serve and add basil and parmesan to taste.

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Final product

Indian Lamb "Love" Curry

For Valentines days I have busted out some India Lamb Curry for my best friend ! This time I decided to make the curry from scratch and it is a labor of love let me tell you. There was sweat (not great ventilation in my kitchen) , blood (when I cut my finger trying to act all samurai with my knife) and tears (when I touched my eye after chopping a chili). Enjoy and have a cute valentines day !

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Masala” is a very generic term used to describe any blend of spices in Indian cooking. Masala can be dry or wet, chunky or smooth, hot or mild, thick or brothy. In curry making it is a pasty, spice mixture, which forms the base. You add water or broth to the masala and make a ‘sauce’ or ‘curry’. Curry is not a dish by itself in India, it is a sauce. You prefix the name of meat or vegetable before “curry” to derive the name of the dish…chicken curry, potato curry, cauliflower etc.

To make the curry base here is a good video Curry Base

Ingredients

  • 1lb boneless Lamb - Cut into pieces

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Curry paste: 

  • Two cloves garlic, 2 pieces ginger and 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/2 tsp of the following: cumin seeds, salt, turmeric powder, red chili powder, fennel, cloves, paprika, garam masala, fenugreek, black gram, nutmeg,
  • 1 tbsp. black peppercorns
  • four bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp. coriander seeds and 4 tsp. coriander powder
  • cinnamon stick

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Other ingredients

  • 2 large spanish onion - Finely chop as small as you can
  • 1 Tin ground or crushed tomatoes canned. I think ground worked really well
  • 1/1 tsp tamarind paste and 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp cilantro finely chopped for garnish
  • For the Garam Masala mix JUST to garnish To make - 1 tbsp Cumin Powder, 1 tbsp Coriander powder, 1 tsp salt to taste, 1 tsp garlic crush to a paste, 1 tsp ginger crushed into a paste, 1/2 tsp mustard seeds finely crushed, 1/2 tsp Chili powder and 1/2 tsp turmeric powder

Ingredients

1) How to prepare the Madras Curry mix

  • In a food processor, combine , chilies, garlic and ginger together until you get a smooth paste.
  • Toast the coriander, fennel, peppercorns, cardamoms, fenugreek, black gram, nutmeg, and cloves and grind them in a coffee grinder until a powder is formed.
  • Heat the oil on medium heat in a saucepan until the consistency of the oil is like water. Add the cumin seeds, bay leaves, and cinnamon.
  • When the cumin seeds begin to pop, add the onion, chili, garlic and ginger mixture and lower the heat to medium low. Stir the mixture occasionally while it cooks for about 20 min, or until the onions begin to brown. Add in the spice powder you made in step 2.
  • Add the remaining ingredients specified in the ingredients list mix together.
  • In a separate pan take ghee (See ghee above) and get it hot (ish) you don't want to discolor it. Turn to a low heat and cook onions until golden brown, about 20 minutes. You can see from the video attached you want to cook the onions on a really low heat so they slowly caramelize.

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2) I threw in some extra turmeric and some curry leaves at this stage just because !

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2) Add ground tomatoes and fry for 5 minutes again on a low heat, you want to make sure all the tomato is cooked through so keep stirring the mixture.

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3) On a low heat combine the mixture with the Madras masala paste and mix well. Cook for 10 minutes.

5) Get your Lamb and add to the mixture, you want to get it fully covered fully with the Madras Masala curry mix. Cover the lid and let it simmer (low) for 20 minutes.  Just keep watching it and stirring until you get a nice mixture as below:

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6) Add the sugar and tamarind and lemon and mix well. Add the water slowly, keep staring. Get that lid back on and leave it to cook for 20-30 minutes so the meat is melt in your mouth. I actually left mine cooking for 2 hours to make sure the lamb was really tender and just kept adding a little more water to moisten.

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8) Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with cilantro and Garam Masala.  (My dish looked like a train wreck at the end so I transferred it into this nice crock pot to serve !!)

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T is for Tijuana, Tacos and Tequila !

tijuana Firstly happy new year and what a start to the New Year ! I have embarked on a 7 week, work adventure that of course will involve a food adventure.

If you know me then you will know I am a sucker for a good Taco maybe not so much Tequila and it normally involves waking up with the shakes and unable to keep any food down for a good few hours !

During a trip to San Diego after much research I decided to go on search to the Land O Taco mostly commonly known as Tijuana. Located a mere 30 minutes away by bus ! San Diego Scenic Tours - was recommended to me by the hotel I was staying at. On entering the site my first reaction was holy hell this website is something from the 70's and then the best part was calling to book the tour, which took a short 20 (minutes). The only thing that kept me going was the happy smiles on the Brady family on the home page and my dream of the best Taco !

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It's always awesome to have a tour guide who argues with the driver, shouts at the tour helper and the best part was the fact he was born in San Diego and he really didn't have a clue about anything to do with any of the major landmarks and kept saying "oh come on kids, just google it" . After the amazing education we had 10 minutes of party tunes which consisted of Bonnie Tyler - Total eclipse of the heart, followed by various other classics. Another one of these romantic oldies and I was ready to commit a crime on the bus.

The driver and guide warmed me to not go off the main strip...but I had taco's to find. I wore a hooded jumper, with sunglasses and had minimal cash with only a phone to take pictures and dial 1-800-Kidnapped-in-Mexico if needed. My friends had me on speed dial, I am not sure I have such a mass worried response to a facebook post in my life but I assured them I would be on my best Irish behavior.

I learnt a special piece of foodie information on this trip.Cesar Salad originated from Tijuana - See recipe and information. I entered the restaurant that looked like it hadn't changed since the 1920's. The waiters were very polite and 100% assumed I was there for the salad. Made table site it was hilarious and listened to the men banter at each other while making it for me. I was so full at this point from tacos that I am not sure i fully appreciated it but I gave it a good going. It was probably one of the best I have had in a while. perfect amount of dressing.

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My first Taco stop was Fito's. You can choose Tacos Birria de Res,Tacos Tripa de Res, or Birria consommé. This is probably the best taco on the list. I decided to pick the Birria de Res, no clue what it was but its in a taco shell right? Luckily my trip to Cuba many years ago helped as I could walk in and order in Spanish and then smile and make out I actually understood the rest of the conversation.

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You wonder if it is actually juicy beef chopped up, and mixed with their special broth and then you bite into it and you really don't care. The Taco is finally tipped with salsa and garnished with chopped onion and cilantro. Given how much I love lime a final squeeze before the first bite is mandatory. I managed to pay a tip to a lady working there to teach me how to roll the taco shell out, using their amazing machine. The locals were slightly confused by what a blonde haired girl was doing behind the counter ! You live in New York or any major city and you go to a smaller place and get frustrated with how slow things are..right? not at Fito's,  the taquero ninjas were on fire and it was the fastest line I have ever seen !!

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Next on the Agenda was El Mazateno ! I had to take a local cab ride 8 mins north to taste the delights of this place. This place makes you break out into a cold sweat as its like a record scratches when I walk in. I order a beer and things calm down. All the blogs had talked about Mazatena but due to the evil reaction to shrimp mine were going to have to be Pescado - Local fish of the day ! I really wanted to try Tosada super especial but I felt that it would not be super especial to spend 24 hours on the toilet.

Mazateno was popping and once my beer arrived the server kindly also brought me a bag of some tostaditas, salsa fresca, limes and randomly cabbage. Then the taco arrived, the fish was fresh and moist and regardless of the type of fish they were top-notch.

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The journey involved maybe 4 more taco's and then I couldn't physically eat anymore. The rain started coming down pretty heavy so I headed back to the bus. One the border crossing on the way back we all walked through and the bus got stuck in the check, so the organizer and tour guide was so confused on what they should do. Sometimes I hate being organized but in this instance I asked everyone to follow me to a place I found with shelter and told them to maybe let the bus driver know we are there, given it's not 1800 and cell phones were invented.

New York City is fast becoming a hot spot for Taco's, whilst I do not totally agree with their choice for New York, the tasting table published some hot tips for tacos - tasting table !

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For me La Esquina has the best Tacos I have tried in New York City, their Margaritas and servers are also out of this world. You walk in and are transported into an under ground cave, through the kitchen. It's always my tradition to shout Hola on the way in and thank them on the way out !

If you go take the Cochinta Pibill  - pulled Pork pulled pork, shredded cabbage, habanero pickled onions finally topped with jalapeño and the Bistec - steak, onions, cilantro, salsa verde !

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Well that is all for now ! Hope you enjoy some Tacos in the near future !!

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Thai Monday - Recipe Thai Basil with a twist

Welcome to my Thai adventure !

Over the last few months my I've enjoyed a journey through Thai cooking. The ICE Culinary Institute offers reasonable classes to learn specific technic from around the world, so I decided to sign up with a friend who also loves cooking. The classes were small and had people of all ages. Over the next few weeks I will share some of the recipes from the class !! For classes see ICE

Thai dishes fall into two categories: Kaeng dishes which include foods served in liquid like soup or curries, these normally goes with rice and Krueng Kieng, side dishes of dry cooked food. The blends of contrasts: spicy, sweet, sour, hot and salty with wet, dry, crisp, smooth and chunky are some of the words used for this awesome dish. The word that draws me is SPICE.

Below is a picture of some Thai Yellow chicken curry from the class ! - Recipe to come !

To see some wonderful pictures from my Thai cooking class, pop on to my Facebook page with the following link and you can sign up for JGAMBLE-FOOD on Facebook !! Thai Pictures.

Now for the recipe !! - THAI HOLY BASIL CHICKEN: PUD GA-PRAO GAI SAP

Ingredients

  • lb boneless Chicken - Cut into pieces
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup of sliced mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Thai chile pepper (3 if you like it spicy)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 tablespoon Thai soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup Thai holy basil (Ga-Prao) and 1 cup spinach (first twist)
  • The second twist is I added Broccoli
  • 1/3 cup chicken stock
  • salt to taste

1) How to prepare the dish !

  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan or wok at high heat. Stir in the chopped garlic and cook until it is golden brown. Add the Thai chile pepper and stir well.

  • Add in the chicken until cooked half way through.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and add the mushrooms, fish sauce, oyster sauce, sugar and chicken stock. Mix well.

  • Add the sweet Thai soy sauce. This brand is one of the best and costs $3 from China town.

  • When all the ingredients are cooked, add the spinach and the Thai holy basil. Mix well and season to taste with salt.

  • The last point is to add the broccoli, you blanch it while the other items are cooking in water and add in near the end so it doesnt turn to mush

That's it !!! Your dish should take maybe 25 minutes !!!

Been around the world and I....I...I.....I cant eat anymore food !!!

What a difference a day makes!  The summer is almost over and the wind is starting to blow its way through the city. The summer saw trips to Ireland for my brothers Wedding and then London, San Diego, San Francisco for work ! I realized that I needed to actually see more of the cities really close to me so Atlantic City and Boston were also on the hit list ! One post is too much for all the delicious food experienced along the way so this post is about my home and my home away from home. London and New York !

My first stop was to the Riding House Cafe. The menu is a mixture of small plates, large sharing plates. These fit well around their large communal seating (See above). You have a choice to share seating or have a private table like any other restaurant. My favorite choice on the small plates has to be the spicy lamb meatballs with a hollandaise type sauce. The Halibut was pan-fried in Orange butter which is a change from Lemon and was fresh and vibrant. They also do a great round of non alcoholic drinks which is really considerate for women having a baby :) folks driving and those of us who are over 30 and have discovered finally that hangovers do exist and the option to not get plastered is starting to become more appealing each time we wake up feeling like someone is playing drums on your head!! This would definitely be a Sunday local of mine if I was in London.

The Town hall Hotel in London was a little Diamond to find. The entrance is pretty crazy and the reviews from Viajante came in boat loads, however with any good review means it's a nightmare to get into. We settled for their step child restaurant "The Corner Room". The place is definitely the step child that got shunned to make sure Viajante gets the spot light. The staff reminded me of the people you meet when you walk into Prada in casual clothes, who look you up and down and wonder why your there. You just want to bust out the pretty woman theme tune and storm out but of course you don't. They forget they are sales assistants working for Prada and not millionaires but somehow they made me feel like I didn't belong. The dishes shown below came out on beautiful circular plates and visually looked amazing, but they were really disappointing. We tried the rump of lamb with wild garlic, which was fatty and over cooked. I could go on but is a waste of both our times. The thing you can do is steer clear, it's not worth the money and London has much better to offer.

NEW YORK !! - Brooklyn !

What's the worst thing about going to Brooklyn? Answer - It's over trendy? The fact it feels physiologically like going to a different state? Nope its the fact on the weekend the subways are a joke and its quicker to fly to London. You have 2 options, do you get upset by this and shake your fist in the air and vow never to go to BK again? No :) You work around it. There are 2 traveling ways that I have fallen in love with and the first is the Pier 11 East River water way and walking over the Brooklyn bridge. Both gives you amazing views of the city and a nice walk !! Which is important as the food in Brooklyn is off the hook and if didn't walk it off I would probably be 300 pounds.

The one word that has brightened up my summer - SMORGASBURG :) The amazing Williamsburg food market ! Its near the historical Tobacco building which is fun to wander around.

My first love is the Milk Truck - When I first moved to America I was pretty disgusted by what was being passed as a grilled cheese sandwich, the last thing I want to do is be rude to folks child hood dreams but sorry Kraft cheese slices in white bread is not what a grilled cheese was when I was growing up. I praise Jeez-us that the Milk Truck came along. They use Balthazar bread and the most amazing cheeses from all over the world, you could eat 50 of them and the best comes with caramelized onions !

The next truck is called Piggies, when I moved to NYC I had no idea what a pig in a blanket was :) true story. In the UK I had eaten sausage roll which is kind of pig in a house, but these mini sausages are covered in amazing pastry keeping those delicious sausages warm ! You can get a heap of different flavors and well worth checking out.

When friends come to NYC the one thing they must try is DOUGH ! Dough is owned by Chef Fany Gerson. She moved from Mexico City and studied the same school I went to - International Culinary Institute. She is definitely not a one trick pony of doughnuts. She has worked in Eleven Madison, Akelarre and a number of others. Before tasting this I had only had 1 other doughnut in my life and I am not sure I will have any other. She makes this dark chocolate and passion fruit glaze doughnut, you take a bite and feel like laying on the ground and crying with happiness. YES it's that good !! There are other places which are great ! The Blue Bottle coffee shop will give you what you need to wake up and skip all over that food market. Finally We Rub You not only has an awesome name but the Korean BBQ has amazing sandwiches "Pork Belly Sandwich Marinated in We Rub You Spicy Sauce with kimchi, cucumber and perilla chimichurr"

My last posting is about the cutest little brunch place called "Egg". We went there for my 2 friends birthday brunch and what a great idea. What's makes a place every adults happy place? Acting like a kid - YES. When we sat down we had white placements in paper and jars of crayola crayons. I have one regret about my childhood I was a hoarder and never used my stationary as I wanted to keep it all nice in the boxes? WHAT WAS I THINKING? Did I think there going to be some sort of stationary war and I would have the most crayons to go into battle or that I would keep them and sell them on the antiques roadshow? I missed a childhood of fun just because I didn't want to open and wreck the boxes :) Thanks to Egg I got to let my inner child come out and we spent 30 mins drawing. The prize for the cutest picture below has to go to my cute friend Henrik who drew this picture as a birthday treat for my best friend Stephanie ! What about the food? There is only one place so far that can rival the breakfast I get from Malinna and Richard and that is EGG. Home-made chorizo with poached eggs, salsa verde, pickled jalapeños. You could not beat it with a big stick ! The house coffee isn't bad either !!

Big thanks to Chris Ritter who gave me a Guide to Graphic Design class to put the photos together. To learn more about her amazing talents see - http://ChrisRitterDesignWorks.com

Well that is London and Brooklyn, next week San Francisco is up and what a food extravaganza that was !!

Have a great Labor weekend !

x

Spicy Italian Meatball

All over the world each country makes their claim to own the infamous meatball ! Growing up in Ireland my mother always made us dishes with ground beef, pork and even chicken and I loved the idea that you could immerse these little bundles of joy with various sauces and spices to make completely different dishes. Tonight I decided to make a Mediterranean Italian spicy spin on a recipe my mother taught me ! Through the centuries, meatballs became so commonplace in Italy that Pellegrino Artusi (1820 - 1911) was inspired to write over a meatball recipe - "Do not think for a moment that I would be so pretentious as to tell you how to make meatballs this is a dish that everyone knows how to make, including absolute donkeys Indeed it was probably the donkey who first suggested the basic shape of the meatball to humans. My sole intention is to tell you how to prepare them when you have leftover boiled meat."

I have tried to take that quote and prepare a simple dish with the richest tomato vegetable sauce ! The traditional recipe had white wine, breadcrumbs and milk. I have removed those from this because I really wanted it as healthy as possible. I added in Mushrooms, Courgette and extra garlic instead !!

Ingredients for the Meatballs

    • minced beef. Really seek out a good butcher, the more juices and oil that seep out the more fat is ground into the meat so aim to get as lean as possible
    • 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
    • 1/2 red onion, REALLY finely diced
    • 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped

Ingredients for the Marinara Sauce

    • 2 tins chopped tomatoes
    • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
    • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
    • 1 green chilli, finely diced
    • As many pitted green olives as you want, drained
    • Small bunch basil
    • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and Olive oil

1) While preparing put your oven around 350

2) How to prepare Marinara

      • Lightly fry the onion, garlic and chilli for 2-3 minutes until soft. Add the courgette and cook for 2 additional minutes
      • Cook the mushroom in a small frying pan alone as you want to sweat out all the water/juice. Once cooked add to the other pan with the other ingredients
      • Add the tomatoes along with the basil and finally the olives. Simmer for 5-10 minutes. Then pour the mixture into a baking dish

3) On to the meatballs

    • While the tomato sauce is cooking, make up the meatballs. To the mince add parmesan, garlic. Season with a little salt and pepper and mix well
    • Shape into walnut sized balls and fry in hot olive oil until golden.

    • Add the meatballs to the tomato sauce and bake in the oven for 30 minutes

    • You can serve with some rice or pasta, I preferred it alone with a little sprinkle of Parmesan on top !

Enjoy !

Chicken Madras Masala

We are back in India with another tasty recipe that will not enough leave your mouth feeling like its been on an amazing adventure and has spices and herbs that are really healing. Moving from spring into summer or summer into spring, I always have one crash and burn sickness and yes I never learn ! Coming out of a week of not feeling great I decided to get back into the kitchen and cook something full of spices and herbs. I always know I am feeling better once I want to get back into the kitchen. Some of the paste and garnish take a bit of effort but you can freeze or store them so make a big batch !

You will see some reference to ghee. This is clarified butter and is used in a lot of India recipe. It's supposed to be a much healthier alternative to butter as its easier to digest among other reasons. To learn how to make Ghee - Ghee Recipe

To make the curry base here is a good video Curry Base

Ingredients

  • 1lb boneless Chicken - Cut into pieces
  • 2-3 tbsp of Masala Madras (To make -8 tbsp coriander seeds, 4 tbsp cumin seeds, 1 tbsp black peppercorns, 1 tbsp black mustard seeds, 11 tbsp ground turmeric, 4 tbsp chili powder, 1 tbsp salt, 8 garlic cloves, crush 3 inches piece fresh ginger (ground), tbsp cider vinegar and 3/4 cup sunflower oil
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 2 tbsp Ghee
  • 1 large spanish onion - Finely chop as small as you can
  • 1/2 cup ground or crushed tomatoes canned. I think ground worked really well
  • 1/1 tsp tamarind paste and 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp cilantro finely chopped for garnish
  • Masala Madras Mix 2-3 tbsp of Masala Madras - To make -8 tbsp coriander seeds, 4 tbsp cumin seeds, 1 tbsp black peppercorns, 1 tbsp mustard seeds, 11 tbsp ground turmeric, 4 tbsp chili powder, 1 tbsp salt, 8 garlic cloves, crushed, 3 inches piece fresh ginger chopped, 1 tsp cider vinegar and 3/4 cup sunflower oil
  • For the Garam Masala mix JUST to garnish To make - 1 tbsp Cumin Powder, 1 tbsp Coriander powder, 1 tsp salt to taste, 1 tsp garlic crush to a paste, 1 tsp ginger crushed into a paste, 1/2 tsp mustard seeds finely crushed, 1/2 tsp Chili powder and 1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1) How to prepare the Madras Masala mix

  • Heat up wok and dry stir-fry the coriander, cumin, and peppercorns for 1-2 minutes on medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Add the black mustard seeds and toss constantly until they start to pop. Do watch the spices carefully that they don't get too dark or burnt.
  • Transfer the spices to cool on a plate. (The spices will continue to cook if you leave them in the wok to cool). Grind the cooled spices into a fine powder.
  • Add the turmeric, chili powder and salt, garlic, ginger and stir in enough vinegar to make a paste.
  • Heat the oil in a frying pan at medium heat, fry the paste, stirring constantly until the oil begins to separate. Remove pan from heat and let the paste cool completely.
  • Keep the paste in a clean airtight container. Store in fridge and use it within 3 weeks.

Once you have all your spices ready, lets move and make the Chicken Madras Masala

2) Start with a good non stick pot that has a lid. Take ghee (See ghee above) and get it hot (ish) you don't want to discolor it. Turn to a low heat and cook onions until golden brown, approximately 20 minutes. You can see from the video attached you want to cook the onions on a really low heat so they slowly caramelize. As in my previous recipe this is a true test of patience and I am not that patient but somehow with cooking its actually a nice game to go slow and take your time to explore all the flavors !

3) Add ground tomatoes and fry for 5 minutes again on a low heat, you want to make sure all the tomato is cooked through so keep stirring the mixture.

4) On a low heat combine the mixture with the Madras masala paste and mix well. Cook for 10 minutes. You should end up with something that looks like below:

5) Get your chicken and add to the mixture, you want to get the chicken covered fully with the Madras Masala. Cover the lid and let it simmer (low) for 15 minutes. Make the chunks of chicken big to absorb the flavor. Just keep watching it and stiring until you get a nice mixture as below:

6) Add the sugar and tamarind and lemon and mix well. Add the water slowly, keep stiring. Get that lid back on and leave it to cook for 20-30 minutes so the meat is melt in your mouth. You can serve with Roti OR rice !! For me I love it just by itself !

8) Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with cilantro and Garam Masala. I threw in some broccoli and corn roti to save eating with Rice or heavy wheat roti !

Enjoy !

Yo Shorty.....(or Irish) it's your Birth-Month

The last few weeks have been classified as “The Birth Month”. If you know me then you know that the one time of the year I treasure most of all is my birthday and what an extravaganza it has been! The thing that makes me fall in love with cooking is that no matter what race, gender, job, status or city you live in, the one thing that will bring you together to laugh, cry or just be merry is: FOOD.

When I look at the last few weeks whether it was grabbing a sandwich at the distillery in Toronto, a surprise restaurant for my birthday, the champagne tasting at a random winery in the middle of nowhere miles from Toronto OR drinks at a Guns N Roses concert…I realized that a common theme and where I feel my happiest is usually when I am eating food or appreciating great drinks with old friends, new friends or even strangers. You can have a baby, go through a break up, lose your job or get a new job and what do you do? You call someone you love and you share some good food to celebrate or commiserate. We argue, we fight, we get confused...but when we come together with food and drinks all is right with the world! You would think in Ireland they could have just had a potato food festival mixed with Whiskey tasting in each town a few times a year and that probably could have solved half the troubles (To the right is a sculpture from the Distillery in Toronto)

February has been about adventures and enjoying life and I’m thinking you’ll want to hear about some of the adventures! I pride myself on my Irish story telling however I sometimes get in trouble. There is no doubt I embellish and add twists and turns for amusement. Some may say embellishing isn’t telling the truth but to see my friends’ faces light up or laugh makes it worth it.

We took a trip to Lady Gaga’s parent’s restaurant on the upper west side. I didn’t have high hopes after many failed reviews BUT I feel the reviewers were overly harsh. Given it’s the parents of Lady Gaga you would think she could have used her connections to hire them a good web developer. You can see from the website - awful frames and pictures. Honestly? It gets a 0 out of 100. That being said the restaurant is just finding its groove. The food wasn’t up to par but the price also wasn’t that of a top restaurant. Don’t get me wrong I think they need some work and timing issues to avoid disappointment but the staff and chefs were adorable. We met Lady Gaga’s mum and the head chef and it turned out one of the sous chef’s trained at FCI so we chatted them up for a good long time. It wasn’t food that made me “Gag” (a) that’s for sure but what it lacked in the food department, it made up for in service and charm. The wine list left a lot to be desired and honestly I will probably eave it for another year before going back to try again. I have added some pictures below of the food we enjoyed during the trip to Joanne Trattoria. above is some great focaccia, the family meatballs and a sea food dish.

The next adventure: Japanese chef serving Italian food (See above for some pics). My surprise birthday dinner took me to Basta Pasta, 37 W.17th street On entering the restaurant I noticed that each food station is an open mini kitchen, and the guest can see everything as it’s made. If you go there, you MUST try the Parmigiano Reggiano with Parma ham served table side from the real Parmigiano Reggiano wheel ! (See picture below). The highlight of the trip was when the Japanese waiter who considered himself a bit of an Elvis busted out a Ukulele and sang happy birthday with all his friends. Some things are priceless !

We continue the adventure with the Birthday Celebrations at my cooking school. What would you expect an Irish persons FAVOURITE food to be? Potato, right? I follow ever cliché there is on the planet and I love, love, love the potato. As Irish luck would have it, the weekend of my birthday, I flipped my French culinary book open and we were learning “POTATO”.

At this point I would like to thank the Spaniards for introducing the potato in the 16th Century to Europe and maybe not the Mexicans for the disease that caused the famine. To be honest, the Mexican’s gave me Tequila for amazing Margaritas and mole, so I think they redeemed their country since the famine.

I walked into cooking school and got a warm welcome with fresh coffee, Lamington birthday presents and share cake and croissant’s with my newly found cooking friends. Chef David explains today’s foods, which range from Potato Puree to Dauphin. One word – heaven. Whilst others left the end of the session saying “OMG I cannot eat another potato for a year,” I left saying, “Jesus, I cannot wait to get home to finish those potatoes!” I will aim to post the potato class to the FCI section asap so you can all learn about the techniques used in Potatoes week!

My friends are all pretty similar: Type A women with great jobs, very opinionated and they all LOVE wine and champagne. Take that personality and give them wine and you get VERY LOUD women who become very animated.

The trip to Toronto last Thursday kicked off with a trip to Jamie Kennedy's - Gilead as it is important to eat before the consumption of alcohol ! Jamie Kennedy has created a café that invites me back again and again. He sources all his food locally and if you meet him you can see he is laid back and no drama. I specifically go there to indulge on the yogurt and granola; if you make it Toronto it’s a MUST. For anyone looking for a romantic getaway from NY, he will be opening a new restaurant near Niagara called Windows. It’s funny that although he is considering Canada’s top chef that he still potters around the Gilead as if he was a farmer grabbing a coffee on his way to dig up some veg. He gets my vote.

5 over-caffeinated Ladies (OK, maybe I was the only one over-caffeinated) + a car + a map and what do you get? No, not 5 girls lost BUT 5 Ladies HYPER and on a mission to taste wine. (OK, some of us *cough* may not be the “best” at map reading but that is what GPS IS FOR). It does annoy me sometimes that women are projected to be bad map readers, esp when they only thing they have is an iPhone with shitty AT+T signal that craps out at the most crucial decision points for turning left or right….yup there’s a nerve hit right there haha.

Prince Edward Wine Countryin Ontario is a larger area than I expected and the ranges and types of wines produced are vast. The folks we met take much more care about the process, chemistry and love needed to produce good wine. It’s not about mass producing but locally providing good Canadian wine, being proud of that and enjoying life. One good article I read lately was around decanting…to decant or not to decant…Interesting

We aimed to hit 4 wineries and you will soon learn why 2 was the most we could get to. I kept saying all February, “It ALWAYS snows on my birthday!” but in NYC I was disappointed with no snow. We left Toronto to head to the Prince Edward Country and the snow got heavier and heavier! Our first winery was called “Sand Banks” . We decided to go to this specific vineyard after we had tasted this full-bodied wine at Christmas and had fallen in love. Normally when you go to taste you get to taste maybe 3 types, however, after we kicked snow like a kid outside we burst into the winery full of energy. It's amazing how the sentence “It’s my birthday,” invokes love in everyone. The kind server laid out 5 wine glasses and proceeded to take us on a trip of all their red and white wines. From the light and fresh Cabernet Franc to the full-bodied Baco Noir Reserve. We left with 10 bottles of wine and had a little more merriment than when we walked in.

Our next stop was the champagne vineyard – Hinterland Wine. Sometimes when you walk into a place and feel the energy of the people and their space you just know you will love them. Our adventure at Hinterland lasted 3 ½ hours, and let’s just say that I was slightly slurring my words after our visit here. What makes small businesses so great is that the owners know every little detail of the process from picking the soil, the grapes and the space to every detail of production.

My favorite sparking joy was the Les Etoiles 2008 – Its made with 50% chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir. The taste is a fruity explosion of flower and fruit! The 2nd was the Riesling 2009. They took a Riesling and completed secondary fermentation in the bottle, and then the wine is aged on the Lees (The yeast cells fermented in the bottle). They wait 14 months, remove the Lees and voila ! Light apple-y wine on the nose with a strong red apple fruit taste on the palate.

The couple gave us a guided tour through the process and the highlight was when someone in our group asked for the Dressage …..hrm, well, I think we all quickly realized she meant ‘dosage’ not dressage as it would be slightly weird for the champagne house to dress horses.

We finished the day enjoying homepage veal burgers and amazing homemade Pavlova thanks to Steph !. If you want some good links try BBC Food its one of my favorite sources for recipes. Also Gordon Ramsey posted some good tips fordesserts

One gift I received was both tasty and beautiful. If you live in NYC you must go to Marie Belle. The signature chocolates are topped with cute, eccentric, colorful designs of women on bicycle’s, or drinking champagne, you hardly want to bite into it…well for maybe a second and then you enjoy pure taste of Chocolate ganache. Each one comes with a unique flavor and taste of spices, like the cardamom and cinnamon and several fruit-based choices like mango, coconut, and lemon.

From finding this treasure, we headed to the Marie Belle tea room and in back—the Cacao Bar has their famed hot chocolate. You can order this in either the European (made with water) or American (with milk) variations. The spicy hot chocolate is spiked with cinnamon and chipotle chile—piquant, though not as fiery as Jacques Torres's "wicked" hot chocolate but packing 72 percent pure Colombian cacao and thick enough to lick like sauce from your spoon.

One great new link I stumbled upon was Pepin’s blog, really great find !!!!

Apologies for the lack of posts lately! I am hoping to get caught up and give you all the restaurant reviews, cooking techniques and updates soon.

To see some of the photos in larger image click here - also "Friend" jgamble-food on Facebook

If Joe Bastianich says to go drink wine...then lets go !!

Has America really taken over France in wine drinking? Given my European roots I just can't bring myself to think that. I am no wine connoisseur but $40 and 60+ Italian wine booths...by booth 20...you can easily call me a connoisseur. Tonight was an adventure to the "Slow Wine 2012 event" , with a year in the life of Italian wine.

I know my French wines, even my south American wines...but Italian...Non capisco.

Anyone can speak Italian after 14 sips of wine, who spits? Jesus what a waste of amazingly beautiful wine. I had drunk so much that I was resorted to picking the last booths I would try based on whether the wine dealer looked a) like Mario b) was Female and passionate about wine or c) Italian male and attractive...thats a good even spread to be diverse right?

The event was packed full of an eclectic group of people all eager to learn more about wine. I was shocked how little I knew about Italian wine and how great French and Italian mixes were.

Sorelle Bronca - www.sorellebronca.com - Colli Di Conegliano Roosa Ser Bele 2008, which took me longer to write out than actually drink the wine was an amazing full body wine with a blend of Cab franc, cab Sauvignon, Merlot and here is the mix...Marzemino. Marzemino is a late-ripening dark-skinned grape variety grown mainly in Trentino-Alto Adige but also in Veneto, Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna wine regions of Italy. 94% of these grapes are found in Italy and it gave the wine a rich peppery taste.

My other top wine was from www.bertani.net and the wine was called Amerone Della Valpolicella CL 2004 The blend was Corvina and Molinara. The passionate wine seller describe how although expensive the reason is that this grape is difficult to cultivate, but is sought for its amazing flavor, he was right !! The grape is smaller but I guess the saying is true that good things come in small packages. Its partner in crime Molinara..... again a red Italian wine grape grown in the Veneto region of north-eastern Italy. This is where the wine gets its acidity and balance when it blends.

There were lots of white wines but to be honest, me and white wine are not great friends and I end up with hiccups and potentially tripping over things if I drink too much. After a few glasses of wine and great conversation, the cheese area became my favorite home.

Other great links to wines that I love include: www.conternofantino.it for their Nebbiolo, www.librandi.it for their gaglioppo/cab mix and finally www.marotticampi.it for their Lacrima !

If you are interested in more of the "slow" themed events go to - http://www.slowfoodnyc.org/

I ended my day a little slower than normal thanks to the great wine and electric atmosphere !!!

Jgamble !

FCI - Fish talk !

Lets talk about Fish Before this class I always dreaded the day where I would take a fish knife, and hack off a fish head, pull out its guts and then make a dainty dish of fish yumminess.

Going into the class I didn't know a great deal about fish...Who does? I know sushi tastes good and that with Sea Bass you can make a mean dish. Who knew that fish are 70% water, 10-20% protein...hrm I am not that great at math but the rest are vitamins and carbohydrates.

I was telling my close friend that I got to cook with a "round fish" and a "Flat Fish" to which she joked and said "They are not called round fish". Check out the sea food academy of MORE THAN you will ever need to know about fish.

Round fish is anything that appears rounded and have eyes on either side of its head. They swim and feed vertically. Sea bass, salmon and tuna are my favorite examples of round fish. A flat fish are those fishes that live on the bottom the water and both eyes are on one side of their body.

When I got to the super market I really have no clue how to tell if a Fish is fresh or not and so we learnt that the following things are important to note when purchasing your Nemo.

1) Shiny bright appearance 2) Bright eyes and convex eyes that fill the eye socket. If they have sunken eyes that's a no no 3) Bright colored gills that are moist and full of blood. 4) A firm stomach 5) Clean fresh order, they should smell of the ocean or river but not have a fish smell, again that's a no no .

When you get fish make sure you make an ice bath, protect the fish and set on the ice, this keeps it fresh for longer.

This is the fun part...we learnt how to "dress" a fish. That doesn't mean putting it in its sunday best, quite the opposite. This is the process to get it ready for eating.

Wash the fish

You can remove any fins with scissors and then you need to get the fish ready for a little bath. Before you take the fish to water, open the belly from its ass to its gills and remove the gills and the entire intestinal tract. (Definitely make sure you eat breakfast before doing this, I had to down 2 lamingtons and coffee before I was ready for this) Then make sure to give it a good rinse on the inside and in the gills to make sure all blood and gore is removed.

Cut the Fish

The easiest way to get at the fish to start thinking about filleting it is to cut of its head. When doing this I had a flash back to kill bill and imagined myself with a samurai sword in a yellow track suit...but alas I was in chef whites with a Chef's knife. You track around the gills and just chop the thing off through the Bone.

Next you lay the fish on a chopping board beheaded, and make a cut about 1/4 inch deep from the head to the tail and it must be along the fishes backbone under the dorsal fin. You insert the tip of the knife and use gentle force to start pealing the fillet away from the skeletal structure. You then can clean the fish up and remove all the excess fat and make sure the edges are clean cuts.

We then need to take the skin off, I learnt that you need to keep the filet near the edge of the chopping board and make an incision in the tail end, using the fish knife you hold onto the skin and cut along to the end. The first picture below is my Chef demonstrating and the second is the fish that I skinned.

Voila...My fillets

In the recipes I will show you what I made with this lovely fish !! The key to all this was DO NOT be afraid of guts and gore, get yourself a good fish knife and wear an apron !!!

If you want to see more photos just "like" JGamble-Food on Facebook. See here for more photos !

Have some fish fun !

Tournage

The FCI section will give you tips and techniques for cooking, cutting and interesting websites. Week 1 

Starting off cooking school with only 3 hours sleep due to work was not the easiest day but I was brimming with excitement and eager to start.

The first day was Kitchen Basics, Hygiene and Knife Skills. Being in French school all the terms are....yes in French. Makes for an interesting lesson.

For anyone who has recently taken any form of cooking class you will agree you appreciate uncut hands so much more because with each class you apparently turn into Edward Scissor hands and shred your hands to death. I think since I have started school I am up to 15 cuts and 2 nails lost.

Basics included chopping and all the different methods of chopping. The only method I knew before hand really was Julienne. One website I found quite useful was the BBC Food Technique site - Here.

TOURNAGE

The first lesson seemed pretty simple but required a lot of technique. Tournage means to turn, derives from the French verb tourner. Using a pairing knife we turned many different vegetables into seven sides and blunt ends, the shape is similar to an American football.

Tournage

We created a recipe called "Pommes Rissolées", most recipes you will see have the potato cut into cubes...not really correct but the cooking technique is the same. The potatoes are blanched in water, than sautéed in oil, and finally roasted in the oven with butter and seasoning.

The next recipe was called "Garniture bouquetière" (a vegetable platter). We used the carrots and turnips and cooked them by using a glazing technique (water, butter, salt, sugar). They were cooked glacer à blanc, which simply means to cook to a colorless glaze. Then cooked pearl onions, which were cooked glacer à brun, which means to cook the vegetable long enough so that the sugar will caramelize the vegetable and achieve a darker glaze. The final ingredients were string beans and peas that were cooked à l’anglaise (cooked in boiling salty water, then shocked in ice water, later cooked in butter and seasoning at the time of service).

The final Product.......

Final Dish

The next few weeks lesson....Stocks and Sauces !

Lamb Madras Curry

Spicy, delicious and amazing Indian food. As you may have read on my home page the adventure to Oakville was filled with spices and smells. Nothing beats a hangover like Indian food and nothing goes better with Indian food than beer. If you live in NYC, take a bus/path out to Hoboken (Yes scary I know) and go to Karma cafe, some of the best Indian food I have eaten. I decided to please all my American friends and put this recipe in a metric they can understand...ah the usage of the word "cup". I got this recipe from Arivinda's amazing lesson. The recipes are fresh, healthy and do not need much oil and fattening ingredients. What they do need is patience, some time and love. You will see some reference to ghee. This is clarified butter and is used in a lot of India recipe. It's supposed to be a much healthier alternative to butter as its easier to digest among other reasons. To learn how to make Ghee - Ghee Recipe

The ingredient list is very off-putting when making Indian food as it's as LONG as my arm but the good news is you can make a good madras masala mixture of spices and keep it in a container for a year to save having to make over and over (use the instructions below but do not add the vinegar). Also the base of every Indian curry is the same, and Preena and her mother told me they make this base in batch and store it in the freezer, that way it cuts down future curries to around 30 minutes. This recipe will feed 4 people !!

Ingredients

  • 1lb boneless Lamb - Cut into pieces
  • For the Garam Masala mix 1 tbsp Cumin Powder, 1 tbsp Coriander powder, 1 tsp salt to taste, 1 tsp garlic crush to a paste, 1 tsp ginger crushed into a paste, 1/2 tsp mustard seeds finely crushed, 1/2 tsp Chili powder and 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tbsp oil (You can use a Canola or sunflower oil or any other light oil to avoid strong taste)
  • 1 large spanish onion - Finely chop as small as you can
  • 6 curry leaves
  • 1/4 cup ground or crushed tomatoes canned. I think Ground worked really well
  • 1/2 tap tamarind paste
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp cilantro finely chopped for garnish
  • 1/2 tsp of the Masala mixture about for garnish
  • 1 cup of water
  • Optional some cardamom pods and extra mustard seeds

How to prepare the Garam Masala mix

1) Take all the ingredients and get a pestle and mortar, pestle and mortar is one of my favorite kitchen tools especially when I have had a crazy day at work.

  • Take the peppercorns and mustard seeds and crush them to death
  • Get a bowl and combine with cumin powder, coriander powder, salt, garlic paste, ginger paste, chili powder and turmeric powder. Stir well in the bowl and this will make your Garam Masala.
  • You want to get to a nice paste, combine the Garam Masala with the vinegar until it forms a paste ! This will be the base for your tasty curry.

Take your mix and get ready to make your Lamb Madras Curry

2) In the recipe it says to use a large pot first BUT I think for the first part you should use a good non stick frying pan (You should try to use All-Clad to avoid sticking and you may end up having it on a low heat for a while). Take the oil or ghee (See ghee above) and get it hot (ish) you don't want to discolor it. Turn to a low heat fry the curry leaves for 3-4 minutes. (You can throw in some cardamom seeds and a few mustard seeds that have been crushed as an optional extra).

2) Add the onions, this is the hard part, keep that heat on low and you will need to cook the onions until golden brown, about 10-15 minutes. You would be surprised HOW long it takes to really get to looking like the picture below. I never used to have much patience but you will need to call all the strength of the bear to make sure you don't over cook or burn. If there is any black on the onion you will have to start again as it really spoils the taste.

3) Add ground tomatoes and fry for 2-3 minutes again on a low heat, you want to make sure all the tomato is cooked through so keep stirring the mixture.

4) Get a massive pot with a lid (again should be non stick) on a low heat combine the mixture with the masala paste and mix well. Cook for 2-3 minutes. You should end up with something that looks like below:

5) Now is where things get messy, it's for a good cause !!. Get your meat and you want to add it to the pot, you need to make sure all the meat is covered and well coated with masala. If that means using your hands then so be it !! Cover the lid and let it simmer (low) for 15 minutes. Just keep watching it and storing to make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom and the goal is to get it looking like below:

6) Add the sugar and tamarind paste mix well. Now start adding the water slowly, and storing, let it simmer and keep doing this until all the water is added. You may need more than a cup. Cover and simmer on low heat until meat is tender and cooked (15-20 minutes), stirring occasionally.

7) Add salt to taste and you can add in more sugar here depending on the spice level you want OR some more Garam Masala spices powder.

8) Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with cilantro and Garam Masala.

I hate to show you a picture of much more than my Lamb Madras Curry but those recipes are coming soon !!!

Enjoy !

Veal/Steak Ragu

Veal/Steak Ragu If you end up following my recipes you will see how I will off-road and change them up to suit my taste and style. I will be kind and add the original recipe and then show you the differences.

This recipe is Inspired by a Beef Ragu Recipe from BBC Food

  • 50g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
  • 1.5 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 200g pancetta, finely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves picked and finely chopped
  • 0.5kg beef chuck steak, finely chopped
  • 1kg Veal steaks, finely chopping
  • 4 tbsp tomato purée
  • Good pinch of dried chili flakes
  • Bottle of Malbec or Shiraz red wine
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 300ml fresh beef stock, hot

METHOD

1. Soak the porcini mushrooms in 200ml boiling water for 30 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid. Chop and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a casserole over a medium heat. The pan is really important, you want enough surface area at the bottom of the pan to really enable the ingredients to sweat. I use a large All-Clad pan as when you leave this for 5+ hours to cook you don't have to worry about it sticking to the bottom of the pan.

3. Add the carrots, celery, onion, pancetta, garlic and rosemary and cook for 5-10 minutes, making sure you keep stirring and transferring the juices around the pan.

4. Make a well in the middle of the pan and add the puree, make sure you let this sweat off the puree at the bottom of the pan as it takes the sour taste away. Increase the heat to high and brown the steak for 10-15 minutes.

5. Add the chili and cook for 1 minute. You will see I have added 1 bottle of wine which is a lot more than the original recipe. This isn't because I am the stereotype of a drunken alcoholic....but it is because we will add this gradually for 5+ hours to make the meat melt in your mouth. Add in mushroom liquid and 1/4 bottle of the wine, tomatoes, stock and porcini. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer over a very low heat for 2 hours.

6. After 2 hours..make sure you keep an eye during those hours and stir then add in another 1/4 bottle of the wine. Continue doing this until all the wine has been added and the Ragu is consistency as the picture below.

7. Finally boil some pappardelle pasta Al Dente and serve with some Parmesan cheese.

Irish people CAN cook, we are not just red haired leprechauns who dance on demand.

Welcome to Jgamble-Food ! I left home at the age of 16 years old and lived all around the world, my family really never saw me cook and no matter what dishes I make now for them they still make cracks at me that I cannot boil water, that my house must be a pig sty and wonder how I have lasted in Technology for 12 years. I guess thats the price you pay for packing a "wee" suitcase and leaving your family for bright lights and a big city.

When I meet people for the first time and they ask where I come from, they do things like try and fake my accent, talk to me about how their mother's sister's dog is Irish so they must be Irish also, and cap it all off with how awful the food is where I come from. I will be the first to admit that Irish people cook meat TO DEATH, I actually feel sorry for the poor animal, as chefs in Ireland feel they have to cook using the smoke alarm as a cooking timer. You probably wanted to know my motivation for becoming a good cook, and there you have it.

Through the middle ages to 21st Century French Cuisine, French techniques and French Chefs have been a dominating force. From Guillaume TirelGeorges Auguste Escoffier to the modern-day Jacques Pepinthere are endless reviews, articles and cook books showing techniques that bring anyone to cooking perfection.

The French Culinary Institute has been something I have dreamed about for over 2 years. In the FCI section I will share some of my lessons, tips, techniques, videos and pictures with you !!! My dream is not to be a "Chef De Cuisine" but more use food to enjoy life. Most of my ideas for shows are either un-pc involving the little people (kinda like leprechauns) or may not cater to a broad enough audience (Like Karaoke cook along). I am still working on the next big thing.

I hope if you follow my blog you will enjoy cooking as much as I do !