Gordon Ramsay’s Authentic Asian Cuisine

Lucky Cat

This spring Gordon Ramsay opened a new restaurant in London: the Lucky Cat. Offering Asian food in a restaurant inspired by Tokyo’s 1930s teahouses and Shanghai’s drinking dens. A pre-view opening night for critics and journalists triggered a debate about authenticity. Could Gordon Ramsey claim to offer ‘authentic Asian food’ or should he stick to mashed potatoes, fish and chips? Was Ramsay guilty of Cultural Appropriation (dominant cultures profiting from the preparations and traditions of other cultures while those cultures are unable to do the same)?

Which brings us to Authenticity. Can a country, a city, a culture claim ownership of food? Can Nice claim the Salade Niçoise, can France claim French Fries? Can Japan claim udon and soba?

Unfortunately the debate derailed because of the aggressive way people started to contribute (or contributed right from the start Gordon would say). A pity because it’s interesting to study the origin and background of food. Why do we eat the food we eat? Why do we cook the way we do? Why do we add certain herbs? What’s the origin?

Udon Noodles

Earlier this year we visited the inspiring city of Hakata, also to see the monument dedicated to Udon and Soba. There are not many food-related monuments, so this was special. The story is that Shoichi Kokushi (a Japanese Buddhist monk) returned from China in 1241 to Hakata where he founded the Joten-Ji temple. He introduced udon and soba (amongst other products) to Japan, notably to Hakata. People in Hakata claim to produce udon noodles based on Shoichi Kokushi‘s recipe. Authentic Udon Noodles.

Back to Gordon Ramsay

Cultural Appropriation is a nasty concept. It’s culinary theft based on perceived ownership. But in reality culinary traditions evolve and continue to evolve, for better and for worse. That’s how Udon became Japanese, that’s why you can order a Hawaiian pizza, that why some people prepare a Salade Niçoise with balsamic vinegar, cucumber, basil, croutons or even red bell pepper.

In the mean time Gordon Ramsay made a clever move: he dropped the tag ‘authentic’ and simply opened the doors of his restaurant.

(This week’s recipe: Caesar’s Mushrooms with Udon)

 

Orange Flan

Such a nice small dessert! It combines the gentle taste of a classic flan with the fruity orange. The fun is that the orange is in the flan itself, in the gel and of course in the zest. We’re sure you and your guests will appreciate the lightness and long taste.

We love to combine this dish with Rivesalte Ambré. If you can’t get hold of the Ambré, then go for another Rivesalte. The Ambré has a long, deep taste that supports the taste of the flan very well; it lifts it to an exquisite level. The Ambré comes with a hint of citrus; if it’s clementine even better.

 Here is what you need

  • For the flan
    • 8 small Coddlers (so-called standard size)
    • 2 Eggs
    • 2 Egg Yolks
    • 200 ml fresh Orange Juice
    • 20 grams of Sugar (depending on the sweetness of the orange juice)
    • butter
  • For the gel
    • 200 ml fresh Orange Juice
    • Grand Marnier or Cointreau
    • 1 gram of Agar Agar
  • And also
    • Orange Zest
    • Edible Flower

In a bowl mix the eggs and the egg yolks using a spoon. Make sure to do this very gently; we don’t want any bubbles in the mixture. Now add 20 gram of sugar to the orange juice and make sure it’s totally absorbed. Combine the juice and the egg and stir gently. Pass through a sieve. It’s important that the mixture is very smooth, so no bits of egg, sugar and orange. If not, pass through a finer sieve. If you have bubbles in the mixture then let rest in the refrigerator.
Apply a very thin layer of butter to the coddlers, just enough to cover the inside. Pour the mixture in the coddlers, but nor more than 2/3. The mixture will set but not raise (or only a little bit). Close the coddlers, but not too tight. You want to test one during the cooking process and you don’t want to burn your hands.
Set your oven to ‘classic’ and to 170° Celsius or 340° Fahrenheit . Put the coddlers in a large oven tray and add boiling water. The water should reach ¾ of the coddler, leaving ¼ free. Once in the oven reduce the temperature to 120° Celsius or 250° Fahrenheit and cook for 30 minutes. The flans are done when a metal pen comes out clean.
Remove the coddlers from the oven and allow to cool. You can do this by putting them in cold water, but you can also give it a bit of time. When cool, dry the inside of the metal lid (condense). Transfer to the refrigerator.
Reduce 200 ml orange juice and the Grand Marnier or Cointreau. When nearly reduced by 50% add the agar agar. Allow to simmer for a few minutes. You may want to test the consistency. Simply put some reduced liquid on a saucer, transfer to the freezer and wait for 2 minutes. The consistency will be a good indication of the final result.
Now for the zest: most citrus fruit is waxed, so you may need to rub the orange. Put a bit of very thin orange zest on top of the flan and finish by pouring some (still warm) gel over it. Ideally this will cover the top (and the zest) and flow between the coddler and the flan.
Put the coddlers in the refrigerator and let cool. Half an hour before serving, take them out of the refrigerator, remove the lid, dry the inside and put it back on again.
If you can get hold of a nice edible flower, then put it on top of the gel, just before serving.
You can serve them with a slice of confit of orange. And if you have made these anyway, why not dip them in deepest, darkest chocolate?

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Clafoutis: A Summer Classic

Cherries, cherries, cherries! We love them! The rich, sweet taste in combination with the right texture! They just want to be eaten, one after the other. So what better summer dessert than Clafoutis?
Small, black or dark red cherries are the best for Clafoutis. We used very taste Dutch cherries, but these can be a bit oversized (but so tasty!). Don’t use candied cherries, Maraschino or anything canned or jarred.
Clafoutis is made with milk and eggs, so in a way familiar to Crè­me Brûlée and Far Breton. But in case of Clafoutis you only need to whisk and wait for it to bake in the oven. That’s all.
There are many recipes for Clafoutis, some with cold milk, some with hot. Some use milk and cream, others just milk. We use warm milk because you get a better feel for the consistency, but cold milk will also do the job.

Some add Kirsch and others add Vanilla. We can’t see the benefit of adding Kirsch when using tasty cherries. Vanilla is distracting, so not recommended.

Another decision to make: use whole cherries or pitted ones? Not removing the pits is less work (obviously) and it reduces the risk of a soggy Clafoutis. The pits contain amygdalin, a toxic compound that can also be found in almonds, apple seeds and apricot stones. Amygdalin has the taste of almonds. In this recipe we pit the cherries and compensate for the lack of almond taste by using some almond flour.
If you decide to pit the cherries, make sure you remove all of them!

Finally, yes, you can replace the cherries with fresh apricots, berries, peaches or prunes. Then it’s called a Flaugnarde. But nothing as tasty as Clafoutis made with fresh cherries!

Here is what you need:

  • 2,5 dl of regular Milk
  • 2 Eggs
  • 30 grams of plain Flour
  • 10 grams of Almond Flour
  • 20 grams of Sugar
  • 500 grams of Cherries, pitted
  • 10 grams of Butter

Pre heat the oven to 180° Celsius or 350° Fahrenheit. Whisk together the eggs, plain flour, almond flour and sugar. Bring the milk almost to a boil. Stir the milk into the mixture. Butter a large, shallow baking dish, add cherries to the dish and make sure the bottom is nicely covered with cherries. No need to have two layers of cherries. Pour the mixture over the cherries. Bake (lower third of the oven) for 20 minutes, add a few dots of butter, continue baking for another 20 minutes or until the Clafoutis is golden. Leave to cool for 60 minutes or so, this will enhance the taste. Clafoutis should be served luke-warm. You could decorate the clafoutis with icing sugar, but it’s not essential.

Last Week’s Specials – 33

Cooking fast and slow

This could be this week’s motto. But before diving into detail, let’s talk about cooking. Or better: preparing food.

Starting point is that most things are not digestible. They need to be transformed in order to become digestible. Think about a potato, an olive, a cow. So the goal of preparing food is to change the structure of the material in such a way that it becomes digestible, becomes food. Right?

Basically there are two ways of changing the structure: increasing (and possibly decreasing) the temperature of the material and fermentation (think wine, beer, yoghurt, fish sauce (garum), soy sauce, choucroute and many other products).

Fermentation is controlled rotting. A simple, natural way of transforming the original into something derived and edible. Fermentation is something that happens in your own body, so why not use the same process outside your body?

Cooking is more advanced because it requires warmth. It could be cooking in hot, volcanic soil (works amazingly well by the way), it could be roasting over a fire, it could be boiling in water.

Fermentation may be a recent invention according to some foodies; it’s actually the oldest way of preparing food. Plus the origin of umami. Yet another re-invented invention.

Let’s focus on cooking fast and slow. This week’s recipe offers both.

Gieser Wildeman

The Gieser Wildeman pear was created by Mr. Gieser Wildeman around 1850. For some odd reason he created a pear that is not very edible. It’s hard, full of tannins and its texture is granulated. Not nice at all. However when cooked slowly and long, the unappealing pear turns into a red, sweet, refined and tasty pear.
If it’s not a true Gieser Wildeman then you need to add port or red wine to get a red pear. A true Gieser Wildeman will become red (through and through) without any problem, provided it’s ripe and cooked slowly.

Cooking fast is a similar joy: change something okayish into something lovely in just a few minutes. That’s how we make our favourite ice cream.

Here is what you need (Gieser Wildeman)

  • One pear per person
  • Cinnamon
  • Water

Peel the pear, put in a pan with a bit of water and add the cinnamon. Allow to cook on low heat for at least 6 hours. (We cooked ours for 8 hours). Cool and serve.

Here is what you need (ice cream)

  • 250 ml of Cream (single will do)
  • A bit of Sugar

Add the sugar to the cream, mix and whip but not too long. It should be thick but not whipped like a topping. Transfer to your ice-making machine or to the fridge. If it’s the fridge, make sure you stir it every 5 or 10 minutes.

Per person you serve one pear and one scoop of ice cream. Add a bit of sauce and taste the natural sweetness of the pear in combination with the rich and velvety ice cream.

Panna Cotta

Panna Cotta

Such a lovely and simple dessert provided it’s made the right way. So no milk, no yoghurt, no cream cheese, no whipped cream and most certainly no whipped egg white! Just cream. And preferable use cream with lots of fat because then you will need less gelatine.

Here is what you need:

  • 500 ml fresh Cream
  • 3,5 leaves of Gelatine
  • 1 Vanilla Bean
  • 25 gram Sugar
  • Candied Orange

Slowly bring the cream to the boil. Add the seeds of the vanilla but also add the remainder of the bean. Now keep close to boiling for 15 minutes. Stir when necessary. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar until totally resolved. Now pass through a sieve to make sure you have removed all the bits you don’t want. Follow the instruction of the gelatine and add (in our case) 3,5 leaves. Stir well until homogenous. Cool the liquid somewhat before filling the forms. We used a silicone mold. Nice and easy! The only thing you need to do is to make the mold a bit moist with water. Let the panna cotta’s cool and then store in the refrigerator. Maybe you need to stir a few times to make sure the vanilla seeds don’t and up on the bottom (later on top) of your panna cotta. Don’t forget to seal with cling foil, otherwise your panna cotta’s will absorb aromas from other food in the refrigerator.
You can serve the panna cotta after a few hours (or the next day) with a rich strawberry or raspberry sauce, but we prefer to enjoy the panna cotta with a bit of candied orange zest, simply because we want to balance the sweetness and richness of the panna cotta with the acidity and bitterness of the orange. Home made is preferred, see the recipe for an Orange Flan.

Panna Cotta © cadwu
Panna Cotta © cadwu

A Classic for You – spring

Clafoutis

Cherries, cherries, cherries! We love them! The rich, sweet taste in combination with the right texture, it just wants you to eat one after the other. So what better summer dessert than Clafoutis?
Small, black, dark red cherries are the best for Clafoutis. We used very tasty Belgian cherries, but these are actually a bit oversized (but so tasty!). Don’t use Bigarreau (not the right sweetness), Maraschino or anything canned or jarred.
Clafoutis is a pudding with milk and eggs, so in a way familiar to Crè­me Brûlée and Far Breton. But in case of Clafoutis you only need to whisk and wait for it to bake in the oven. That’s all.
There are many recipes for Clafoutis, some with cold milk, some with hot. Some use milk and cream, others just milk. Some add Kirsch, others add vanilla and we add a touch of almond. We use warm milk because you get a better feel for the consistency, but cold milk will also do the job. We can’t see the benefit of adding Kirsch when using tasty cherries. Vanilla is distracting, so not recommended. The slight bitterness of the almond works really well, provided it’s one or two drops only. And finally, yes, you could try replacing the cherries with apricots or prunes. But no Clafoutis is as tasty as a Clafoutis with cherries!

Here is what you need:

  • 0,4 – 0,5 liter of regular Milk
  • 3 Eggs
  • 30 grams of Flower
  • 15 grams of Sugar
  • 500 – 750 grams of Cherries, pitted
  • A touch of Almond Extract
  • 15 grams of Butter

Pre heat the oven to 220° Celsius. Whisk together the eggs, flower, sugar and the almond extract. Bring the milk almost to a boil. Stir the milk into the mixture. Butter a large, shallow baking dish, add cherries to the dish and make sure the bottom is fully covered with cherries. No need to have two layers. Pour the mixture over the cherries and add a few dots of butter. Bake for 20 minutes or until the mixture is set and the Clafoutis golden/brown. Leave to cool for 30 minutes or so, this will enhance the taste. Clafoutis should be warm, but not hot.