Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Dining at St. Regis Bangkok

Hi there,

tonight I took my young niece out for dinner. She never had Italian food outside of Italy or an "Italian" kitchen.
I really wanted her to experience what it is like to eat familiar food abroad.
We went to the newly Italian restaurant, Jojo, at the St Regis on Rajadamri rd for those who live in Bangkok or are about to come here for a vacation.
We had two very family style dishes as éntrées, 2 great hits that are always succesful if well executed: Carbonara and Arrabbiata.
For us Italians, when we say Carbonara we always mean Spaghetti alla Carbonara and Arrabbiata is Penne all'Arrabbiata but she was surprised to see that the waiter gave us the possibility to choose the type of pasta with these two sauces.
I never eat Carbonara abroad. I know that 99% of the times this is made with cream. What to do? It's our problem, Italians always want to please everybody and so we have started long time ago to mangle our cuisine in favour of a universal acceptance of our food.
But this time I read on the menu "Traditional way" so I decided to try and we were both very happy, well done chef Fabrizio, well done Executive chef, proud and difficult choice to remove the cream from the Carbonara in order to be authentic!
Also I must add that this gave us the trust to taste an Arrabbiata and although the tomato sauce is suffering from the lack of flavour of the tomatoes here in Thailand, the dish was pretty good and everything perfectly "al dente".
As Main course we chose a Caciucco (seafood soup) and a Oven baked Seabass with bok choy and lemon jam.
The first is clearly a tipycal dish from Tuscany but the second is more part of a creative and modern style Italian cuisine (bit of Fusion also I would say because of the bok choy) where Italian is the way to treat the ingredients and Creative is the way to associate them.
Anyway, they were both pretty good.
Maybe the Caciucco suffered from the same problem than Arrabbiata since tomato sauce is the other main ingredient other than sea food.
Finally, when we were already pretty full, we decided to continue for a "sweet" experience and we deactivated the calories counting meter installed in any woman head and went directly for the best of the best among all the sublime sweets: Chocolate.

I got a Gobino Gianduiotto carving and my niece a Salame di cioccolato (chocolate salami) that is much more than its title.

All the guests stopped talking and set their eyes on the maitre while he was surgically cutting in front of us a giant Gobino Gianduiotto that fell gently on an already decorated dish. Next to us a gentleman swap by mistake the Gianduiotto for an ordinary Milk chocolate. Well, let me tell you it is not. Giuanduiotto is one of the more representative product of Italy and it is made with a balanced mixing of dark chocolate, milk chocolate and hazelnuts paste.
Thanks Napoleone! If you had not imposed a Continental block in 1806, Piedmont would have never answered to the lack of cacao powder by adding their delicious hazelnut Tonda delle Langhe toasted and made into a paste: marvellous blend that became a legend!

Chocolate salami is a pretty good but simple dessert that everyone can make at home. I have to say they were too modest to call it like this. It was much more.
First of all it was made with Modica chocolate and for those who know this type of raw chocolate, it's easy to understand my enthusiasm. Second it was filled with thousands of crunchy crumbled hazelnut  from Piedmont...Yuummm!

A very well blended green mint tea was absolutely the best way to end our meal and prepare us to a good night sleep.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

A very healthy and yummy breakfast: biscotti ubriachi/ drunken biscuits (vegan recipe)

This was originally my mother's recipee that I have turned into a slightly healthier version in the sense that I have dramatically reduced the quantity of sugar and replaced a white flour with few interesting flour mixing. Here is one of the many possible.

500 gr of total flour that you may split into
  • 350 gr plain white wheat flour
  • 150 gr oats or spelt or kamut or barely flour
but you may also choose to go healthier if put the white wheat flour down to 200 gr and add 150 gr of whole wheat flour. In this case it would be:
  •  200 gr plaine white wheat flour
  • 150 gr whole wheat flour
  • 150 gr oats or spelt or kamut or barely flour
I always suggest to use organic ingredients when possible and it goes by itself that a bodied stone ground organic flour is 100 times better than a chemically refined white flour.

50 gr good sugar cane (I think of the organic dark one that smells like liquorice but not the crystals.
1 glass of extra virgin olive oil (ok, any oil will do but do you want to compare extra virgin olive oil?)
1 glass of Vin Santo
50 gr of raisin
30 gr of pineseeds
yeast: I use Organic yeast coming from raisin skin, or cream of tartar sometimes  that was used by my mother in law but 2 teaspoon of Soda carbonate will also do.

Let me add that if you can't find the Vin Santo (a sweet white wine from Tuscany), you can use any other wine. Of course you will not have this characteristic smell maybe but I can ensure it will still be good. For those who are non drinkers there should not be any problem because the alchool evaporates in the oven and you only gets the aroma of the wine but if you are not feeling safe, try using gree tea instaed, or light coffe or any fruit juice.

We are done: no butter, no eggs that's why they can also be called vegan biscuits.

Once you have mixed very well the different flours in a bowl, add all the other ingredients and mix very well till you get a pasty consistency. It will not be neither too liquid nor too dry but smooth and you should be able to easily turn the dough into 50 gr tablets that you will bake in your convenction oven at 180 ° Celsius for about 25-30 minutes (everyone knows his oven).
Switch the oven on and set the temperature while you are still making the 50 gr biscuits (keep a scale next to you) and try to hide as much as possible the raisin and the pinenuts in order not to expose them directly to the hit of the oven.
When the 25-30 minutes are gone, open the oven and check them out. Stab a toothpick in and if it comes out dry, it means the biscuits are ok and the oven can be swithced off but keep it closed for another 5 minutes, then open for another 15 minutes at least of since they cool down.
Don't store them in anywhere before they are perfectly cooled down.
Enjoy them and let me know.

Food is Love

I introduce myself

I am an Italian woman with a great passion for food. I was blessed with this passion since ever and sometimes I wonder if it is just a coincidence that I married a chef.
I have been travelling the world with him because of his career for the past 20 years, so wherever I go, I am always an expatriate wife and as such, I have done by best to find my way around and express my skills according to what was possible or requested in the market.
So despite my Italian Degree in French Literature and my first profession in Italy as Tour Operator, I was also a journalist for a Government Radio Broadcasting service, Italian teacher for English speakers, proofreader for a Publisher house, Retail Manager for Gucci, translator for the Italian Embassy, Restaurant manager, Importer of fresh vegetables for large distributors.
In the meantime my husband has become a highly regarded chef who runs the kitchens of super de luxe hotels all over the world. The people I meet is usually very enticed by his profession and it is quite common to assume that whatever I cook, I was taught by him.
But this is not true for a chef usually doesn't cook at home and when he is at home (seldom), the last thing he wants to do is spending time in the kitchen.
One day after a dinner, some guests were stressing yet again, how beneficial it would be to have a chef as a husband who can teach you everything!
So, a friend of mine, who knows the story,  came out with "the chef's wife" while trying ironically to unfold the relation between me, the restaurant I should open according to general opinion just because I can cook few things, and my husband's profession.
It goes without saying that I share a lot with him. On the other side though it actually happens more often that he uses my ideas or tips and transforms them in elaborated dishes that blossom in his structured menus rather than the other way round because he has no time to teach and there is nothing I could copy from him without a proper training.
I am generally not attracted by the use of already made recipes although I love reading them because this gives me a kind of cue for something else.
When I do my shopping, I seldom have a recipe in mind, I rather like buying what I find beautiful and fresh. It will be fun, once at home, be inspired by what I see on my table.
Same time, I adore opening the fridge and inventing my recipe according to what is available. This is how I prepare my food on a daily base. 
I learnt cooking by watching my mum and like her, most of my recipes go "ad occhio" (roughly), which basically means to add your ingredient as required.