Monday, June 20, 2011

The time has come for Modernist Cuisine
So, it's been a while since my husband and I discovered the object of our dreams - Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking. However, when we did, we took a while reading about the book and analyzing the kind of content we could foresee as the book is serious business, and serious bucks too. The book is written by Nathan Myhrvold - a genius considered the modern day Leonardo da Vinci for his successful incursions in various fields, from Quantum Physics and Mathematics to Culinary Art and Food Science; Chris Young - a graduate of Mathematics and Biochemistry turned chef and food scientist; and Maxime Billet - Creative writing and Literature graduate, Chef and food scientist. Enough read, we soon came to the conclusion that this book would revolutionize the world! In the form of cooking, eating and obviously how those two take place in our own little world. This book explains the chemistry and beauty of cooking processes and ingredients, giving us an understanding from a molecular level upwards of what is taking place and the critical path to achieve utter perfection!
As you can imagine, we wanted the book, but when the decision was made the book was out of stock and it has been since! Looking back and forth into it, we realized today that orders where allowed in the Amazon UK website (although the stock will only arrive in August and we can only expect to receive it in September) anyhow we bought it!! Ordered in advance and with a great deal of excitement and expectation, Modernist Cuisine is bound to become our formal and glorified cooking trainer and coach! 
I won't tell you much more about the book itself for now, as I want you to judge for yourselves, but I'm sure I'll tell you more when we get it and begin exploring it (all 6 volumes and 2400 pages of it!). Please visit their website for further info, videos and the full downloadable guides. I feel this book will give us all more understanding and tools to enjoy our food in a completely different level, like we never have before.

“This book will change the way we under stand the kitchen.” — Ferran AdriĆ 
“The most important book in the culinary arts since Escoffier.” — Tim Zagat
“A fascinating overview of the techniques of modern gastron­omy.” — Heston Blumenthal

Can't wait to get it!

Love, iSa

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A BBQ/BRAAI Grill in a Garden Pot?

WOW! This is quite inventive and very cool! As our living space gets smaller, this are the kind of inventions that we need to keep the up the quality of our food, no matter how big the space. Wish thy would sell this in South Africa! Visit the website to take a look for yourself: Grill in a pot: black + blum - Official website and shop

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Crispy Pork Belly Roast - EuropAsian style

Lazy Lunches by iSa

Type: Pork Mains
Prep Time: 20 min
Cooking Time: 2 Hours
Servings: 3 - 4 Portions (depending on portion size)

  • 1 kg Pork Belly (one piece)
  • 3 tsp Five spice
  • 2 tsp Cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Hot English mustard
  • 5 tbsp brown/treacle sugar
  • Juice of 1 Lemon
  • Juice of 1 Orange
  • 9 Cloves
  • Rosemary Sprigs
  • 1/2 onion
  • 4 Garlic cloves
  • Salt 
  • Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 Cider
  • Sauerkraut
  • Veggies of choice: Corn and Sweet Peas
  • Potato wedges or mashed potatoes
  • 1 tsp Bicarbonate of soda

How to make a mysterious Pork Belly Marinade: Start by pre-heating the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees celsius). Now, start getting your hands dirty by rubbing the skin side with the bicarbonate of soda, let it stand for about 2 minutes and then rinse it thoroughly. Place the meat cut on an oven tray (meat side down) and cut the skin on the top in diamond or cube shapes. Make sure you don't cut too deep, just enough to score the skin, not only will it look pretty, but it will allow the fat to cook down and the skin to turn crispy. Rub in throughout the meat the salt, pepper, five spice, cayenne pepper, paprika, mustard, soy sauce and sugar. Bathe the meat, trying to keep the skin dry, with the lemon and orange juices, followed by the cider while allowing all the liquids to flow into the oven tray. Chop the garlic and onion roughly and add to the oven tray juices. Next, place the meat in the tray, skin side up again, and stick the aromatic cloves and rosemary sprigs spread out in the incisions, rub the skin with a bit of salt and then pour some olive oil on top of the skin and through the cuts.

Stick it into the oven and let it cook away for approximately 2 hours, checking on it from time to time to make sure the skin doesn't burn and the juices don't dry or burn.

How to get the crackling right: Apart from the bicarbonate trick, keeping the skin dry from marinade and seasoning it with salt and olive oil, try to keep the skin dry form liquids and rather sprinkle it from time to time with a bit more olive oil. If towards the end of the 2 cooking hours the skin is not crispy, then take it out and let it rest outside the juices, while allowing these to keep reducing in the oven. Place a non-stick pan and some oil on the stove on low to medium heat and place the meat on top, skin side down. Be careful! the juices from the meat might roll down to the pan, causing the oil to burst out of the pan and getting you hurt. Please remember you only need to do this for a little while, and inly in the event that the skin doesn't get crispy. I made the mistake to bathe the entire piece of meat (skin included) and I take it that's why my skin didn't crispy up, so now I've included here the method to get crispy chicharrones, from a Colombian recipe to this one, it should work beautifully.
Serve with Hot english mustard and Sauerkraut on the side, as well as Potato wedges or mash. Veggies is a good inclusion as they help you keep it balanced and clean the palate between bites. I chose Corn on the cob, but would also taste very nice with grained corn and Sweet peas, simply boiled.


Love, iSa

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Bellinis Restaurant

Food: Cafe Mix (Light Meals - Salads, Burgers, etc) and some Bistro Mains

Wine: Limited but fair
Service: Exceptional. Intelligent, diligent, warm and caring.
Ambiance: Classic decor, Friendly and Vibey atmosphere.
In a Nutshell: Excellent food classics in a warm and welcoming environment with great energy and service. This restaurant lives up to its outstanding word-of-mouth reputation and everyone in the staff team does their part towards maintaining it! Don't miss: Chicken Livers Peri Peri and the Pepper Fillet.
Where: 18 Chaplin Rd, Illovo. Johannesburg, South Africa.
Tel: 011 880 9168

Dijon Beef Fillet

After innumerable recommendations we went for dinner to Bellinis in Illovo, and what a pleasant night it was! The restaurant looks always busy for lunch and dinner, and so that kept deterring us from trying our luck. I phoned to make a reservation for Friday evening, but they said they don't take bookings for dinner. Hence we decided to venture in early and off we went, right after work! 

It is a busy street, so keep in mind that finding parking, when arriving after 7 pm, can be tricky. Also, since they don't take 
bookings you might have to wait for a table, but they have cleverly organized a nice bar area where you can start with a round of drinks, and it didn't seem to us like anyone had to wait that long anyway. This time we got there early so we fortunately didn't have to deal with any of that. We were warmly welcomed by the manager who allowed us to choose our table, as there was only one other table sitting down at the time (6 pm). The place is very simply decorated, but the wooden tables and bar, all dressed in black and white, together with the polaroid B&W pictures help create a classic, yet cozy atmosphere. 

Ready for a drink, we decided to go for a red wine, they don't have an extensive wine menu, but the ones they have promise to be good. I was specially happy to see an Idiom blend in the Chalkboard menu but left that option for another time (budget allowing). This time around we tried the Vergeelegeen Cabernert Merlot which turned out to be quite a good choice. The Food Menu isn't very extensive either, or very fancy for that matter, but again, as long as what a restaurant serves is done very well, I would never be happier! For me, the purpose of a good restaurant should not be to serve food that pretends to be this or that, but simply good food, done right that you enjoy in every bite and if they don't make a particularly good ceasar salad or pasta napolitana (or any other of those dishes that seem to appear across many menus), then by all means please leave it out of the menu!
Chicken Livers Peri Peri

We started with one portion of chicken livers peri peri (perfectly enough to share) and they were magnificent! Medium cooked with lovely per peri (non-creamy) and seasoned with just the perfect touch of chilli with a splash of lemon! the best I've ever had!! Last minute we realized that the Livers needed some serious refreshment to follow, and so we ordered a Grolsch to share for this meal, which they were speedy to bring with a pair of Ice cold glasses! Excellent combination.

Almost everybody that has ever recommended Bellinis raved and praised about the fillet there and so we knew that we had no other choice for mains. I went for the Dijon Fillet while by husband chose the Pepper Fillet, for sides we went for the salad and the chips, so we could share. I have to say that the raving and praising was highly justified as the meals were VERY good. The meat was cooked to perfection and you could tell the quality of the butchery behind it for the tenderness of its flesh. The sauce bathed the fillet in what almost looked like a soup, it may seem excessive but the soft and buttery texture of the sauce (we liked the pepper one better), with that hot peppery taste and crackling finish were done just right and did not compete, but rather complimented, the grilled Fillet. The chips were thin and crispy and the salad, leafy but nicely dressed. I hate to sound biased, but I wasn't at all, everything was just that good!

Dijon Beef Fillet
Pepper Beef Fillet

Up to this point, I've failed to mention much about the service itself, but I have to say that it was exceptional! The waitress changed our tablecloth due to small spill; they were attentive, yet not in your face; great timing; they could explain meals and provide wine recommendations; and they seemed to genuinely care about our satisfaction and comfort. Now, that's what I call service! We were so happy that we tipped the waitress accordingly and she thanked us warmly for the gesture, no arrogant assumptions here. 

A glass of Drambuie later we walked out with a full tummy and a happy heart, wishing to return in the near future.

Love, iSa

Sunday, June 5, 2011

DW eleven 13 - Restaurant Review

Food: Bistro, Fusion.
Wine: Extensive list but pricey.
Service: Less than Average.
Ambiance: Modern, lacks Coziness and Vibe.
In a Nutshell: Highly overrated. The restaurant is OK, but the food and service do not come close to meeting the expectations one would have of a restaurant rated the top 5 in South Africa and to which an outing can turn out pretty pricey.  
City: Johannesburg, South Africa
Address: Dunkeld Shopping Centre, Cnr Jan Smuts Ave and Bompas St. Dunkeld, Sandton. 
Tel: 011 341 0663

The minute I read my Eat Out Magazine 1000 top restaurants in SA 2010 and realised that 2 Restaurants in the Johannesburg area had made it to the Top 10, I naturally became curious and eager to try them. On our second attempt to make a booking we landed a table at DW eleven 13 (DW 11-13) and thought we were heading for the stars. Being such food lovers as we are, we looked forward to trying the Chef's, Marthinus Ferreira, expertise, deriving from his experience at kitchens like that of The Fat Duck and the Boxwood Cafe, both in the UK. 

The restaurant is very centrally located in the back alley of a small and old shopping centre in the Dunkeld area, but don't get me wrong, they have done the facade nicely and so it takes on a bit of a secretive and retro feel. we ordered some water and looked at the Menu for our food choices first, so we could then choose just the perfect wine to go with. As I tend to do, when I go to a restaurant of this nature I figure the Chef must have wine pairing recommendations, so I enquired about the suggestion of wine for our meals but was answered with an empty smile. I tried by taking on another approach and explaining to the waiter that we were having the Lamb and Pork for mains and we weren't sure which wine would go best, so I even asked which varietal was a safer choice, again the waiter smiled and completely dodged the question. I gave up on his understanding of the subject and went on to order a Paradyskloof Pinot Noir, which I thought would be soft enough for our starter, yet with enough body to take on our mains. 

We were greeted with a small appetizer compliments of the house, a crostini topped with a nice dullop of Duck Liver Pate, which to me seemed like a great start to our food experience at DW eleven 13. Hence we begun our journey choices, for Starter we chose to share the scallops, since I'm a fan and hadn't had them for such a long time. Also, the waiter mentioned that it was a signature dish of the restaurant. I also ordered one of the signature dishes for main, the Duo of Lamb, and my husband went for the Marinated Pork. The Menu is not extensive, but a short menu in a restaurant with a fame to live up to, usually means that everything in the menu is a specialty, hence we were comfortable with our choices, thinking we couldn't go wrong. 

While waiting for our order, we were offered a choice of bread between Olive, Halloumi and Plain. We went for the Halloumi and the Olive respectively, but when we gave each other a try I was so blown away by the Olive loaf I had to ask for a piece for myself! Then our wine came, and upon tasting it, I realized it would probably do well with the starter, but might then be crashed by the mains as it was very young and lacked body and complexity in flavor. I regretted the waiter's lack of advise and hoped for the best.

The Scallops were beautifully presented, and came with a complex mix of flavors, served with Horseradish cream, Porcini mushrooms and some other concoctions. The Scallops themselves were cooked to perfection with a tender fleshy centre, but then we found the sauce completely overpowered the delicate texture and taste of the Scallops. So much for the first Signature dish!

Time passed a bit slowly as our mains took a while to come out, but the excitement, now slightly reduced but still persistent, kept us eager to try some more. Finally the mains arrived, looking rather dashing. However once we started digging in, the strength of the mix of flavors hit us with full force. My Duo of Lamb consisted of extremely tender braised lamb shoulder and Lamb rack on a bed of mashed minted peas, cubed potatoes and drizzled with gravy. Both lamb preparations were cooked beautifully, but each carried a strong flavor of its own, which matched with the minty bite of the peas and the saltiness of the gravy, built with each bite a bit of palate resistance. The dish as a whole, however, was good enough, but did not blow me away for being a signature dish.

My husband, as you may recall, ordered the Marinated Pork, but to his huge regret, it was nothing like what he expected. He carries the belief that Pork meat is underrated and hence, tries to prove his point by giving it a chance from time to time, usually bearing positive outcomes. He also often ends up ordering the nicer meal of the two of us, since my adventurous palate chooses to go for risky options time and time again. This time around though, it wasn't his lucky night. The pork's marinade was certainly overbearing, killing any chance of giving the pork's meat a chance to shine by itself. Full of lemon and salt, the marinade tasted more like salad dressing. Additionally, The pork chop was topped by a huge pile of Borlotti Beans which took full control of the meal, making it excessively earthy flavored. My husband usually does not complain much about his food, but this time, he disliked it so much he stopped eating, and since I wasn't completely unhappy about the flavor, we switched meals. Normally, when we're not happy simply return it, but in an effort to keep our cool, we opted to let it go. We really cannot recall the last time we had to switch meals because one of us hated the food we were served so much! I mean, my husband even said something like "just because they're trying to pull off an earthy flavor, does not mean the meal should literally taste like earth!" The funniest part of it all is that the waiter asked how our meals were, I told him we weren't happy and he just smiled and turned away! More importantly though, we were determined not let the restaurant's performance ruin our evening and still had a good time.

We were there celebrating my husband's birthday and it was really quite disappointing that the DW eleven 13 restaurant, together with its food and its staff, did not live up to its fame, nor to it's prices, and left us feeling like we should not even risk dessert!

Please feel free to share your experience at this restaurant, comments are welcome!

Love, iSa