Author Archives: thecookingcity

Salted Caramel Apple Pie

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So in the midst of post-exam delirium and idleness I have decided to cook/bake as many different things as I can until all my friends tire of trying my creations.  

My friend saw this recipe for a salted caramel apple pie on a foodie website and we decided to give it a go, and here’s what we used:

  • Short crust pastry x2 sheets/blocks, big enough to cover a loose-based fluted pie tin as well as make a cover for the pie (we used shop bought ones, don’t judge, it’s just so much easier)
  • Egg x1, beaten (for brushing top of pastry with)
  • Filling:
    Pink lady apples x6 (as recommended by the original recipe, I think the point here is any crunchy apple will do, as this gives more texture than the traditional cooking apple)
    2 tbsp flour
    1/3 cup granulated sugar 
  • Caramel:
    2 tbsp unsalted butter
    1 tsp salt
    2/3 cup granulated sugar
    2 tbsp water 
    2 tbsp syrup
    1/2 cup heavy cream 

And here’s how we did it:

  1. Preheat oven to 190C.  
  2. Prepare a pie tin.  I only cut a circle piece of grease proof paper for the base, the sides come off relatively easily.
  3. If you’re making your own pastry, make it well in advance and let it sit in the fridge for about 2 hours before doing this.  If you’re using shop bought ready-rolled pastry, make sure you take it out of the fridge for at least 15 minutes before starting, or the pastry will crack and tear when you try to roll it out.  As for pastry blocks, same as above but just soft enough to roll out!
  4. Line the pie tin with the first sheet of pastry, making sure that you press in the sides tightly so the baked pie will get the nice fluted pattern.  Trim off excess pastry with a butter knife.  Put this in the fridge for now.
  5. Peel, core and slice all the apples (honestly, this took a while, so I think it’s worth considering investing in an apple corer).  Place them in a big bowl and add in the flour and sugar, and toss to mix lightly.  Set aside.
  6. Now the exciting bit, the caramel.  The original recipe actually made it in two parts, but having the usual disregard for important instructions in recipes, I dunked everything listed in a saucepan in one go.  It’s worth mentioning I have this silicon spoon with an in-built thermometer from Lakeland, it is definitely worth getting if you don’t have a cooking thermometer that goes up to 250F.  Anyway, the original salted caramel recipe is on www.tastespotting.com (search for salted caramel apple pie).  All you have to do now is stir everything around to make sure there are no lumps and then leave it to get to 250F.  I would advice turning it to a low heat as my caramel started to burn a bit at the bottom and we ended up having to sieve it before using.  Once made, set in a bowl and let it cool for a bit.
  7. Finally it’s time to put everything together!  With the second pastry sheet for the cover, make sure it’s big enough to cover the biggest area of the tin.  Cut out any shapes you like (we did leaves), it’s more for ventilation purposes when the caramel boils in the oven.  Take out the pie tin from the fridge, add in about one quarter of the apples (there may be liquid at the bottom of the bowl, try to avoid it), then drizzle over one quarter of the caramel.  Repeat three more times until everything’s used up.  Place the second pastry sheet on top, again trim off excess bits.  Try to press the edges of the top and bottom pastry sheets together so it’s a nice tidy edge (unlike our slightly wonky one).  Crimp the edges with a fork.  Brush all over with an egg wash and pop it in the oven for 35 minutes until the top is nice and golden brown.  Then cover loosely with foil to prevent burning pastry and cook in the oven for another 15 minutes.  Please still be reading at this stage if you don’t want a sticky and burnt oven floor — put a sheet of aluminium foil on the oven shelf before putting the pie on it, the caramel tends to overflow when the pie is cooking.

I hope whoever reads this will give it a go, it’s absolutely delicious!

Roast Duck with Roast Sweet Potatoes *& 2 pasta sauces* (Serves 4)

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Okay.  Seeing as I haven’t done a proper recipe for quite some time, I’ve decided to do this extra detailed one with illustrations 🙂

What you need:

[For the duck]

  • 2 pieces of duck breasts
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tbsp honey

[For the pasta sauce]

  • 6 large tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 pack chestnut mushrooms
  • 1 onion
  • plenty of olive oil

What you do:

  1. I would definitely start with the duck first as it takes much longer to cook. First score the duck breasts, diamond patterned — remember NOT to cut through to the meat as this will make the duck dry out easily.
  2. Season the duck with salt and pepper on both sides.  Make a marinade with the soy sauce, vinegar and honey and rub it into the duck breasts.
  3. While you let the duck sit in the marinade for a bit, cut up the sweet potato into medium-sized chunks and boil for about 8-10 minutes or until they are just cooked (poke a piece with a skewer and it should have no resistance but make sure the chunks aren’t crumbling)
  4. Preheat the oven to about 200C.  In the meantime, heat up a little olive oil in a griddle pan and sear the duck breasts skin-side down first then the other side.  I would say it takes about 1-2 min on the skin side and a little less on the other side, until golden brown.
  5. Place the duck breasts into a lined baking tray. At this point they should be just cooked on the outside but still tender to the touch, like this:
  6. Place the cooked sweet potato chunks into the baking tray and drizzle over the duck fat from the griddle pan to give it flavour and crispness, and chuck it into the oven for about 15-20 minutes.
  7. Next move on to the pasta sauces.  Dice the onion and tomatoes.
  8. In a large saucepan, sauté the diced onion in about 100mL olive oil (about 2cm deep in my saucepan).  Add in the diced tomatoes.  Season well and add in the tomato purée.  Let it simmer until it thickens.
  9. Next slice the mushrooms thinly and sautée in olive oil, seasoning well.
  10. Take the duck out of the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes.  Slice thinly (about 1 inch) and serve.

Manzo @ Times Square

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Went to Manzo at Times Square, Causeway Bay with a dear friend for lunch. It was a rather hurried lunch but I enjoyed the food and service there. The waiting staff were all very friendly and even offered me free dessert! I ordered a braised beef ravioli and it came with complementary bread with a delicious roast whole garlic.

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Simple Delights – Part 1

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I’m going to be honest and admit that I have not had the time for culinary explorations recently, but I have had the opportunity to sample quite a few simple delicious foods that I think everyone should try at least once..

This is Japanese Obanyaki.  Now the texture is sort of like spongy pancake, but inside of an obanyaki can be filled with a variety of fillings, e.g. custard (as shown), red bean paste, black sesame paste, ham and cheese, green tea paste, etc etc. and they are SO tasty.

Jamie’s Fifteen

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Parents came to visit and in our little shot at famous restaurants we went for Jamie’s Fifteen, the trattoria side of the restaurant.

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This is what we had:

  1. Fifteen’s Signature Antipasti
  2. Mozarella
  3. Radiatori with a rich pork and beef ragu, flat leaf parsley and Fontodi Estate olive oil
  4. Roast pork loin
  5. Black pepper tagliatelli with carbonara
  6. Vegetable filled ravioli

When we arrived we were invited to sit at the bar tables and have a drink as the trattoria hasn’t really opened yet (we arrived about 5-10 minutes before 6pm).  We ended up ordering our drinks at the table as by the time we had decided on what to get the table was ready. We ordered their version of Pimm’s, which is made with Tanqueray gin instead of Pimm’s No. 1, it was delicious. (I will most probably put up a recipe on here at some point)  The waitress for our table was wonderful, she was born to be a waitress — friendly, bubbly, knew what to recommend and knew all the answers to our questions.  We had quite a nice time and despite hearing different things about Jamie Oliver, this restaurant proved to be a decent one and I would recommend it to anyone who wants a relaxed, casual dinner place.

Veggie Bean Burritos and Guacamole

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Inspired by the recent visit to Wahaca, I decided to make a Mexican-style dinner.  Many of you meat eaters may agree with me in that mince meat is often chewy and not tender enough unless you cook it for hours.  For a quick, easy and meat-free dinner, try this recipe:

Veggie Bean Burritos

[Enough for 12 burritos, but you can always freeze the leftover once it’s cooled]

Ingredients:

  • 1 x large tin kidney beans, drained
  • 1 x large tin black beans, drained
  • 1 x small tin spicy refried beans, including congealed liquid in tin
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 1 x tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 x chillies, chopped
  • Sprinkling of cocoa powder (optional)
  • Plain flour/corn tortillas
  • Soured cream
  • Tomato salsa (on this occasion I’ve bought a burrito set from the supermarket so it was ready-made salsa)
  • Handful of shredded lettuce (about half a pack of prepared lettuce leaves)
  • 100g cheddar cheese, grated

Method

  1. Heat a little oil in a large saucepan.  Add in the three types of beans, chopped tomatoes, tomato purée, chillies and water.  Bring to a boil then down to a simmer.  Season and reduce until thick and gooey.  (I find cocoa powder helps with thickening and colouring so if you don’t mind this tasting just slightly of cocoa go ahead and add some in)
  2. Make guacamole while beans reduce (see guacamole recipe below)
  3. Heat up tortilla wraps (pierce the plastic bag and heat in microwave on full power for 35-40 seconds)
  4. Dish out the soured cream, salsa, lettuce and cheese in separate plates/bowls.

Guacamole

[enough for 1 meal of burritos; you can of course make more and store some in jars but it’s such an easy recipe I would advice against doing so as the tomatoes water a lot and the avocados will go brown]

Ingredients:

  • 1 x tomato, finely chopped
  • 1 x green chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 x ripe avocado, cut in cubes
  • 1/2 x lime

Method:

  1. Mash the avocado cubes until mostly gooey but slightly chunky (you can food process it if you want a smoother texture)
  2. Mix in tomatoes and chillies and squeeze in half the juice of the 1/2 lime and add in some zest.
  3. Season with salt and pepper, mix well.