Thursday, 21 February 2013

The Early Bird Catches The View!

The tallest building in the European Union, rising 1016 ft above London is now open. Renzo Piano's Shard is the latest iconic landmark to change the skyline of the big smoke. We took a little looky-looky at The View from The Shard, a few days after it's official opening. 

Click Images to Enlarge 

The 72nd floor is open to the elements, here you can enjoy what felt like a breath of fresher London air and the wind in your hair, accompanied by an ethereal soundtrack.

As London's evolving silhouette gets evermore adventurous and exciting, it feels a step nearer to the futuristic cityscape I dreamed of in my youth. All that's missing is a population clad in silver catsuits....EEK!

Sunday, 10 February 2013

A Flaming Hot Dish!

I'm a huge fan of the classic retro dessert crêpes Suzette. The dish that left no fine dining experience complete in the 1970s without someone singeing their eyebrows mid-flambé in an effort to wow their dining guests with pyromaniac prowess and sophistication.
 No Food is quite so debonair,
Nor so imbedded with savoir-faire.
It goes with pearls 'round swan like necks,
With limousines, five figure checks.
It matches coats of mink and sable,
And priceless silver on the table.
And yet with all it's rich appeal,
So fitting for a Prince's meal,
The fact remains- and what a shame!- Its only
Pancakes set aflame!
Source: Gourmet Magazine Feb 1945

The origin of the recipe has been the subject of much debate and batter slinging throughout its history.
Henri Charpentier (not aged 14!)
It is claimed that in 1895 the dish was inadvertently invented for Edward VII by 14 year old Henri Charpentier. At the time he was an assistant waiter at The Café de Paris in Monte Carlo. He went on to introduce crêpes Suzette to the USA later writing in his autobiography that his recipe “would reform a cannibal into a civilised gentleman”.

Suzanne Reichenberg
Another claim is that of Monsiuer Joseph, the owner of the Restaurant Marivaux. He is said to have been the first provide the crêpes for the actress Suzanne Reichenberg (known as Suzette) in 1897 to flambé on stage in the Comedie Francaise in order to grab the audience’s attention whilst simultaneously keeping the food warm for the actors to eat later.

In 1907 Georges Auguste Escoffier, the ‘King of Chefs’ claims the title of the recipe in Le Guide Culinaire, disputing Charpentier’s story but allowing him the addition of the flambé whilst viciously referring to him as Rockefeller’s ‘cook’!
Louis XIV showing some leg!
The earliest source by far names Jean Reboux, author of Parfait Confiturier in 1667 as the inventor of the crêpes Suzette by order of Princesse Suzette de Carignan to be served for afternoon tea at Fontainebleau for Louis XIV. 
Whenever I hear the words crêpes Suzette the image that immediately springs to mind is the unforgettable rendition of ‘Ma crêpes Suzette' by the inimitable Kenneth Williams.
With Shrove Tuesday just around the corner I set about playing chef du jour with the pancake’s French cousin. When I’ve cooked crêpes Suzette before it often resembles a trio of wet flannels dunked in orange squash. So I had to improve my old version with a new experimental trio.
Countless hours of banging and crashing pots, parfait making, creating a satsuma caviar from scratch, trialing various flavour combinations, nearly burning the kitchen down and several expletives later I swaggered, as if unfazed into the dining room to present a trio of miniature desserts inspired by crêpes Suzette :

Cardamom crêpes mille-feuille with a Cointreau marmalade.
Dill beggars purse filled with honey ricotta and a satsuma caviar.
Bitter orange crêpe with iced orange & lemon parfait and a biscuit crumb.
The outright winner was the Bitter orange crepe and parfait which will be served this coming Tuesday. In the words of Kenneth Williams “It’s a knockout innit!”
Happy Pancake day!

Monday, 4 February 2013

Year of the Snake

My tastebuds were calling for Dim Sum and Chinese cakery this week. Getting ahead of this weekends Chinese New Year celebrations was key, so I called out to Hercules to cease bench pressing the armoire, fire up the silver lady and get us to Chinatown pronto!

As usual, we whizzed into town at lightning speed where I proceeded to spend an hour stuffing my face with all manner of steamed yummery. We then got high on sugary Chinese pastries, followed up with a little window gazing at Harrods and several hours of high voltage shopping.

For those of you that I missed in January while I've been off galavanting, here's my second chance to say Happy New Year!
Xīn Nián Kuài Lè