Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Andanté Reviews: Heston’s Fantastical Feasts

Title:                             Heston’s Fantastical Feasts
General idea:              This is not a recipe book, it’s a detailed account of Heston’s quest to create 6 of the most creative and fantastical feasts ever.
Easy reading:               Once you accept the fact that you will probably never be able to cook like Heston or recreate any of the dishes, it’s really inspiring and easy to read – much like a story book.
Recipes:                       Unless you have easy access to liquid nitrogen and water baths, don’t even try!
Buy it if:                        You’d like to become inspired by a different way of thinking about food.
Don’t buy it if:             You’re looking for easy new recipes to prepare after work.
PS:                               Heston’s dad is South African, and he even makes a reference to Biltong in the book!


As I opened the tightly sealed box from Exclusive Books, I was secretly hoping they hadn’t sent us ‘just another recipe book’, and much to my delight it was exactly the opposite. Wrapped up snugly was the new offering by Heston Blumenthal – owner of one of the best restaurants in the world (The Fat Duck) and Culinary Alchemist. I love watching his shows: In Search of PerfectionBig Chef takes on Little Chef and Heston’s Feasts on BBC Lifestyle, so I was excited to see what he was up to this time…

The book is designed to look like an old Fairytale novel, complete with monochrome hard cover, gold foiling & scripty fonts. Usually when I buy a cook book I would look at the cover, the list of recipes and some of the pictures – and if I had not known who Heston Blumenthal was, and I had found this book in the cooking section I probably wouldn’t buy it. One of the first pictures I opened up on was of an eye ball on a table, and the second was of Heston setting something on fire… Doesn’t exactly make me want to hit the kitchen and start cooking! But that isn’t the point of this book.

In Heston’s own words: “This is not so much a cook book as a culinary adventure story with recipes.” Each chapter in the book represents a different feast: A Fairy Tale Feast; A Gothic Horror Feast; A Titanic Feast; A Chocolate Factory Feast; A Seventies Feast and An Eighties Feast. Each of these feasts is then served to a (very lucky) group of guests to experience.

Heston’s style is very scientific, technical and almost arrogant, but once you get used to it, he is actually quite charming and it becomes clear that he is very talented. In Heston’s Fantastical Feasts he uses much the same approach as he did in the previous ‘Feasts’ TV series. Essentially he decides on a theme and pushes it to its limits – delving into its history, travelling to its country of origin, meeting with experts on the topic; he literally does everything to really get to the crux of a theme. And then he starts cooking. Heston has a kitchen (or rather lab) with every imaginable gadget and cooking tool, and along with a team of dedicated chefs they put Heston’s wacky ideas into edible form.

What I appreciate about him is that he doesn’t profess to get everything right every time, and most importantly, it doesn’t matter how way out his concepts are, it always boils down to the taste and quality of the food. He won’t create something just for the sake of shock value that doesn’t taste great. (There is an incident with Leaches in the book that illustrates this perfectly…)

From Lickable Wallpaper, to flaming Pumpkin Carriages, to edible Graveyards – Heston takes dining to a whole new level. And although he does give you the recipes to his Fantastical dishes, they are not really meant to be recreated (unless you have a massive budget, some liquid nitrogen, a water bath and some other complicated gadgets), they are meant to inspire.

Heston makes you think about food in a way you never even considered, and even if it makes you add just a small touch of magic to your next dinner party, I think he did a job well done. All I can say is that I can’t wait for this series to air on BBC, even if it’s just to see the guest’s reactions to the dishes!

For some fun Top Ten weirdest creations from this book, click here.

Heston’s Fantastical Feasts will be screened on BBC Lifestyle through January and December - can't wait to see the feasts I read about! 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

3 Weeks to the Holidays!

There is electricity in the air as South Africans count the days to their annual December Holidays which are now only 3 weeks away!

We have been baking and packaging hundreds of gifts over the past few weeks – the house is filled with delicious smells of melted chocolate, vanilla cookies and pistachio biscotti. This jar filled with our scrumptious Gold Dust Cranberry Cookies is so nifty because you can write your own message on it – we like!

If you haven’t done your Festive Gift shopping yet, 
check out our selection of yummy goodies here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wild Mushroom Risotto with Truffle Oil

Joburg has been hit by a cold front and rainy weather like this just calls for comfort food!

Wild Mushroom Risotto with Truffle Oil
(Serves 4)

440g Arborio Rice
500g Mixed Mushrooms, sliced
60g Parmesan
60g Pecorini
2 Tbls Butter
2 Tbls Olive Oil
2 Cloves Garlic, chopped
1 Leek, finely sliced
1 L Chicken Stock
125 ml White Wine
Zest of 1 Lemon
2 Tbls Parsley, chopped

Truffle Oil (Optional)

How to make it

Before you start on the rice, shallow fry the mushrooms in some butter and set aside.

Heat stock and keep on the boil.
Fry leek and garlic in the oil for 5-6min.
Add Arborio rice and stir until coated.
Add 125 ml stock and stir until absorbed.
Add wine stir until absorbed.
Add the rest of stock 125 ml at a time stir until absorbed and rice is tender and creamy
(Once you start cooking the rice, you can’t leave it unattended, it may become dry and sticky if you don’t keep an eye on it.)
* Taste the rice, it should be soft but still offer some resistance when you bite into it. If you feel that it is still too undercooked and your liquid is finished just add some boiling water until it reaches the right consistency. 

Stir in mushrooms, and cheese (you can use less if you’d like).
Stir in lemon zest and parsley or
Add little cream or mascarpone for a more indulgent version.

Drizzle with Truffle Oil for a superb flavour.

  • Wild mushrooms are in season, so you should be able to buy some from most greengrocers (Impala Fruitiers on Beyers Naude has a fantastic selection). Woolworths also sells punnets of mixed exotic mushrooms.
  • Truffle Oil can be bought at delicatessens and some specialist stores.
  • Wild mushrooms are expensive, so use portabelinni and big brown mushrooms with one punnet of wild mushrooms instead.
  • For a more intense mushroom flavour, soak dried Porchini mushrooms in 500ml hot water and combine with 500ml chicken stock.
  • If you can get fresh Porchini (considered the marrow of the mushroom world), shallow fry thick slices in butter and some garlic, and use as garnish on the risotto.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Andanté’s longing for exotic fresh food markets…

Over the weekend the fiancé and I served up a three course meal for my soon to be sister in law and her husband. The entire feast was inspired by dishes we learnt to cook or tasted while touring the East. We made deep fried Thai prawn and chicken golden bags as a starter, a Vietnamese beef fillet Hot Pot (with stock made from scratch and cooked for 8 hours!) for mains and grilled bananas in coconut milk for dessert.

The evening was wonderful and the food really tasted much like we’d remembered. The only problem with exotic dishes like these is finding the right ingredients (the Chinese Supermarket at The Wedge shopping center on Rivonia Road in Jhb was very useful), and that just made me long for the markets we’d visited, especially in Vietnam. All the produce is super fresh – most of the seafood is still alive when you buy it and we even saw a couple of prawns jump out of the buckets while we were walking around! The variety of fresh vegetables, noodles, rice, meat and fish is endless – I just wish we had something so inspiring here in Johannesburg!

Check out some of our pics from the Ben Than Market in Ho Chi Minh City:

They keep everything alive with air pumps

A snail escaped!

Beautiful crayfish 

Fresh herbs & spices

Live crabs all tied up

Variety of shellfish

Live Prawns

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Like chocolate? Then you will LOVE these!

This must be one of the yummiest things to come out of the LekkerBek kitchen yet! Real dark chocolate smothering sugared orange peel, pecan nuts & raisins… Delish!

We liked it so much that we've added it to our 2010 Festive Gift Range – check it out here!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Leisure Options 'Best of Joburg' – We’re in it!

We were voted one of the best local websites by Leisure Options readers! Check it out:

or get you hands on the latest copy.

Thanks Leisure Options readers!! 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Thai Chillies

Andanté recently returned from a culinary adventure to South East Asia, and for the next couple of weeks you can expect a lot of Thai, Vietnamese and Malay inspired foodie blogs. Here is her first story…

Endless selections of chillies in the Thai markets.

We really love chillies - we’ve blogged about them, used them in recipes and grow them ourselves, but the trip to Thailand just inspired us even more!

Chillies are a central ingredient in Thai cooking, ranging from large decorative peppers to small (and very powerfull) Thai or bird’s eye chillies. They use them in pastes, fresh, as garnish, marinated and cooked in – adding a distinctive punch and flavour to dishes. The Thai chilli measures around 50,000 to 100,000 units on the Scoville scale (the measurement of the spicy heat in peppers), compared to the hottest pepper, Naga Jolokia or Ghost chilli, that measures a potent 855,000 to 1,075,000 units (Tabasco Sauce averages about 2500). Locally it is called Prik Kee Noo, or ‘Mouse Poo Peppers’ because of its small size and appearance. We attended a cooking class in Bangkok where the chef didn’t even touch the chillies with his bare hands, but rather used two knives to handle them to avoid contact with his skin.

We were mesmerised by all the chillies on offer in the local markets, and couldn’t resist bringing home a selection to cultivate ourselves!

Chillies that we bought in Thailand and are going to try and grow.  (The small ones are the Thai Chillies)

A display of hot peppers and a humorous board explaining the Scoville Scale at the HEB Central Market location in Houston, Texas.