01 September 2014

a taste of Cuba in London...with Nespresso

Today Nespresso launches a new coffee capsule. The limited edition Cubania. 

As a coffee lover and a fan of Nespresso I was invited to taste the new Limited Edition coffee blend at the launch event in East London. Although we never left London, Nespresso wanted us to feel like we had been transported to Cuba. We were taken to a warehouse hidden down a deserted alley that was decorated down to the smallest detail.  There was Cuban food, Cuban actors, Cuban décor, Cuban music and Nespresso’s Cubania. We learned the details of the new blend and the story behind its creation, tasted it (several times) and tried it in a few unique ways.

Part of the inspiration behind creating a Cuban coffee blend was the Cubano-style of coffee drinking. In Cuba, coffee is a way of life. 

This blend doesn't actually use Cuban coffee beans but blends together a specially selected combination of mild Columbian and high-end Indian Robusta beans with a number of other coffees to achieve a powerful and flavourful blend. Cubania breaks Nespresso’s intensity record. Previously their most intense coffee was a 12 and Cubania has been given a 13. This scale is defined by a combination of roastiness, bitterness and body. 

At the event we compared Cubania coffee extracted from a french press, a industrial espresso machine and a Nespresso capsule. The comparison revealed the the pressed coffee is significantly diluted compared to the other extraction methods. I was impressed that the Nespresso machine extracts the intensity from the capsule almost as well as a professional espresso machine extracts from the freshly ground coffee.

To drink Cubania Cuban-style it is recommended to extract one capsule and mix this with a measure of cane sugar (1 teaspoons or an individual sugar packet, brown preferred). Then extract a second capsule and pour it over the creamy coffee/sugar mixture. I have to say I love this recipe. To me it’s a perfect cup of coffee. Intense, sweet and delicious. Add a bit of hot milk to this and you get a delicious velvety caramel-y sweet coffee…reminiscent of dulce de leche.  

Being perfectly happy with one of these cuban style Cubania coffees I was relunctant to try a Cubania Mojito. But I did and I was amazed that it’s actually delicious. The perfect way to end (or start) a meal- cocktail + coffee in one! 

Definitely try it.

Cubania Mojito Café

1-2 limes quartered
2 t brown sugar
large pinch of mint
5 T spoons of crushes ice
45 mL rum
2 ice cubes
1 capsule Cubania
2 T sparkling water

In your glass, mash the mint, lime quarters and sugar with a pestle then add the rum and crushed ice. Extract a capsule of Cubania and add to a shaker with 2 ice cubes and stir or shake. Add the cooled coffee to the glass (straining out the ice cubes) and then top with 2 T of sparking water and a sprig of mint.

The rest of the evening involved food, music and dancing. 

I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing this London-made version of Cuba while tasting Cubania, and I think it pushed the real Cuba closer to the top of my travel list.

If you love intense caramelly, nutty coffee like I do, then I recommend you head to your nearest Nespresso store and taste Cubania! It is available in the UK from today, 1 September 2014.

*Full disclosure. I was invited to this event as a guest of Nespresso, but I was not paid to write this review.

27 November 2012

Frozen Butternut Squash Chocolate Terrine

In preparation for my Thanksgiving Supper Club, I was toying with the idea of serving multiple desserts. I always serve traditional pumpkin pie, but I thought it might be fun to showcase pumpkin in another way. I tested this recipe with butternut squash as that was easier to get a hold of for the test session and really once you have added spices the flavour of butternut squash and pumpkin is very similar.  This recipe fits in perfect with Kavey's Blogger's Scream for Ice Cream November Challenge, which requires using a savoury ingredient (butternut squash) in a frozen dessert.

250 ml double cream, divided
400g condensed milk, divided
400g puréed butternut squash (or pumpkin)*
1 cup dark chocolate chips
2 teaspoons vanilla, divided
1 teaspoon cinnamon, divided
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon crushed chile flakes

* To prepare the butternut squash or pumpkin purée cut the squash into large pieces and roast with butter until tender. Scoop from skin and drain in the fridge overnight (this is more important with pumpkin as it is very watery). The next day blend until smooth or mash with a potato masher. I always do this, but buying canned pumpkin is also an option.

Line a loaf pan with cling film and put in the freezer to chill. 

Melt the chocolate in a pan set over water (but not touching the water) and combine with half of the condensed milk. Add a teaspoon of vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. Set aside to cool slightly, stirring occasionally to keep the mixture smooth.

In one a mixing bowl combine the puréed pumpkin, the other half of the condensed milk, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of ginger and a 1/4 teaspoon of crushed chile flakes. Whisk to combine.

In another mixing bowl, whip the cream to stiff peaks. Fold half of the whipped cream into the pumpkin mixture and half into the chocolate mixture. Since the warm chocolate will quickly start to melt the cream fold it in and put the mixture in the freezer.

Put half of the pumpkin mixture in the loaf pan and freeze for 30min to an hour or until partially set so the chocolate layer doesn't mix in. Add the chocolate layer and spoon the final pumpkin layer on top. Freeze it overnight.

Take out of the freezer and allow to soften slightly before serving (unless your freezer isn't as cold as mine!).

Slice and serve.

It was very good and my housemates loved it...particularly my gluten-free housemate that cannot enjoy my pumpkin pie! I thought the chocolate overpowered the pumpkin a bit but the kick of the chile and the spices really added something special. Ultimately, I decided it was too rich to serve alongside the pumpkin pie so it did not make it to my Thanksgiving menu...but it is still worth trying...especially if you are looking for something egg and/or gluten-free!

29 August 2012

Global Feast 2012...Latin American Night!

Global Feast 2012 was an awesome event and I contributed to the cooking...twice!

What was it?
Global Feast was a feasting event held around an amazing 15 meter table...well not just a table... more like a table shaped flattened globe. An incredible artistic feat created by Alex Haw of Latitudinal Cuisine. Latitudinal Cuisine hosts meals year round based on the local cuisine of a particular Longitude. The summer finds them in the middle of the ocean so to fill in the gap Alex came up with Global Feast.

Global Feast coincided with the Olympics and was held just down the road from the Olympic Park at Stratford Town Hall. It included twenty meals each with guest chef representing a different cuisine for up to 80 guests. The first night showcased British cuisine while guests viewed the Opening ceremony and sipped Cava. The last evening was a Brazilian feast held the night after the closing ceremony symbolising the hand-off of the torch to the new hosts in Rio. Kerstin Rodgers (aka MsMarmiteLover) food blogger for The English Can Cook and a well-known London supper club host curated the event by coordinating supper club hosts as guest chefs and sourcing the ingredients for their exotic menus.

I got involved because Cherry of FedByTang supper club invited me along as helper for her Chinese Night. It was incredible...have a look at the details here. While there, I discovered Kerstin herself was guest chef for Mexican/Latin American night. As you can imagine, her task of curating this 20 day eating extravaganza was massive, so she asked if I would help her for Mexican night. My task? Prepare dessert for 80 (Yes 80) the night before...lug it to Stratford and then help her prepare canapes, starter and main. Thursday night I was up to the wee hours baking chile chocolate cake and preparing custard for cinnamon ice cream. A taxi ride took me, my 6 cakes and 16 pints of custard to Stratford at 9am Friday morning where cooking commenced.

What an ambitious menu to prepare on the day...80 tamales were part of the starter and then freshly seared tuna for the main. I recently had a tamale cooking practice session in Arizona (blog coming soon)...the practice definitely came in handy. We prepared the tamales and then we steamed them for 2 hours. The time involved in this meant we realistically could not prepare 80 corn tortillas as well so we sent someone to purchase fresh corn tortillas from Casa Mexico.

**All photos by Kerstin Rodgers**

Several boxes of extra spring onions were grilled to accompany the vegetarian tacos. The tacos were filled with sweet corn cooked with poblano and new mexican chile powder, and topped with huitlacoche (mexican corn fungus) and a sprig of corinader.

For the main, Kerstin took control with her special black bean recipe, freshly seared tuna steaks and tomatillo salsa made from fresh tomatillos that she had bent over backwards to track down that morning. An amazing feat to source tomatillos in London the morning of!! 

A crazy day of cooking but definitely worth it and a fun way to get in the Mexican cooking spirit for the launch of my Mexican Supper Club in September.

This is what we served... 

Nibbles: guacamole and salsa served with watermelon margaritas.

Canape: Jalapeno Poppers (recipe in Kerstin's book, Supper Club

Starter: Green Chile, cheese tamales with veggie tacos and grilled spring onions

Main: Grilled tuna steak with tomatillo salsa on black beans...and steamed rice
Veggie option: Portobello mushroom steak (prepared by Celia Brooks)

Dessert: Chipotle-Chile Chocolate Cake with Mexican Cinnamon Ice Cream
*this will be served at my Mexican Supper Club

Entertainment: Havana Barbie

**Photo credit to Kerstin Rodgers**

29 July 2012

Tortillas...some corn, some flour

One of the food items I miss most from life in Arizona is tortillas...proper, fresh, delicious tortillas. Sooo good! Here in the UK, the tortillas you get at the shop have a plastically shiny look to them, a different texture and a bit of an acidic taste? PLUS it is impossible to get corn tortillas without going to a speciality shop like the Cool Chile UK stand at Borough Market. Fortunately, they are SUPER easy to make.

I am trying to perfect my tortilla making skills so that I can make them in bulk for my upcoming Mexican Supper Club events. Today was a sporadically rainy, thundery day and I stupidly cancelled an amazing Singaporean/Malaysian pop-up meal to spend the day with an Italian-Paris man who buggered off to visit someone else. Plus, I couldn't manage to get the Olympics on our TV, so it made sense to make tortillas. Corn and flour tortillas.

Flour Tortillas
Flour tortillas are not traditionally Mexican and are mostly found in northern Mexico or in southwestern USA... They vary slightly from region to region. In Arizona and California they are thinner than in New Mexico. You can play with the recipe by varying the amount of baking powder and shortening to find your preference. I like them thin, light and airy.

I only wanted to make a few (about 8) so here is a small recipe...sorry for the cups but that's how I make tortillas...anyway all measurements are approximate and should really depend on feel and texture.

2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 Tablespoons vegetable shortening.
1 teaspoon sea salt
about 1 cup of warm water

Use a fork to mix the shortening into the dry ingredients. Slowly mix in lukewarm water to make a soft dough. Flour your hands and knead the dough a few times. This is where I am careful. I like my dough soft for soft tortillas...working it more gives them a stiffer texture. Flour your work surface and break off a small piece of dough. Practice will help you learn how big you need for the size tortilla you want...Roll it out with a rolling pin. Adding flour if the dough is sticky. I try to get mine very thin and I don't worry too much about how circular they are.

Heat a skillet on medium high...keep it dry NO OIL. Once hot put in the tortilla. You'll hear a little sizzle. After about 10-15 seconds it will bubble. This is good! After about 45-60 seconds flip and cook on the other side.  Then put it in a tea towel (or a tortilla warmer if you have all the props) to keep warm while you cook the rest. Eat as fresh as possible. Plain or with a bit of cheese, or some red chile sauce, or some beans or guacamole...yum!

Corn Tortillas
Corn tortillas are an essential ingredient to any Mexican meal.  You name it...tacos, enchiladas, flautas, gorditas... I could go on and on...they are ALL made with corn tortillas. I am very picky about corn tortillas and very judgemental of my own. I HATE them when they are too thick. Today I made a bit of a break through, they were the best corn tortillas I have ever made!

1 cup masa harina (ground dry corn kernels...can be purchased from Cool Chile UK, Mex Grocer or Casa Mexico in Bethnal Green)
1/2 t salt
about 3/4 cup warm water

Mix dry ingredients together and slowly add water stirring with a fork. Do this slowly as you don't want it to get too wet. Once all the dry masa is incorporated, stop. Gently roll into a log about 2 inches in diameter, wrap in cling film and let it sit for about 30 minutes.


Pre-heat the skillet to medium high heat with NO oil...just dry. Cut the log into about 8 slices. Here it would be ideal to have a tortilla press (a purchase I am now ready to make), but if you don't then find something to improvise with... I used a coffee thingy...so my tortillas were a bit small! Place a slice of dough between two sheets of cling film and flatten with tortilla press or whatever you decide to use. Rolling pins really don't work here. You need to flatten it uniformly or the dough just falls apart. Carefully peel the tortilla off the cling film and place on the skillet (you might ruin 2-3 before you get this right). Give it 1-2 minutes on each side. They are perfect if they are flecked with brown...the sign of a homemade corn tortilla :) As you finish each one, stack it in a tea towel to keep warm. Try not to eat them all as you go!

Once I was finished. I made a green chile, tomato omelette to enjoy with a couple of flour tortillas!

If you aren't quite ready to make your own or you just want to taste mine...come over for dinner...details here.

19 June 2012

ramen in soho. spicy ramen. and beer

I have blogged about them twice before while they tested their recipes and looked for a venue.  First, the fabulous spicy ramen and then the beautiful seafood ramen... I also went along for the signature tonkotsu ramen. This week Tonkotsu finally opened its doors in Soho. I was there for the pre-opening. They served the Spicy Ramen...just as delicious as last time. Actually, quite possibly better. I don't want to repeat myself, but the perfect soft boiled egg, the flavourful broth they've put so much effort into perfecting, the noodles just slightly chewy like they should be, and the crunchy, spicy bits. Plus, the venue is lovely. The chefs are on view at the front and there is a bar toward the back. Simple, modern Asian décor. I didn't take pictures because my phone broke, but also because you should go see it yourself.

I also tried a starter I hadn't had before...Tofu Hiya Yakko. Soft tofu topped with spring onion and dried tuna flakes. I topped it with a bit of soy sauce as suggested. It was soft and creamy...perfect for summer. Nice and light and tasty. I loved it. But don't forget I also love the Chicken Karaage, and the gyoza is great too. Try it all.

I was recommended Punk IPA...a very good match. I had two. Silly idea since I was there alone and my iphone was broken, but it was really good. I people-watched while I quickly drank my second beer. I recommend taking a friend to avoid this.

This would have come to about £22...but it was the pre-opening so I only paid £10. The soft opening lasts from tomorrow 20th June to the 25th with 50% off food. Get in there. Hurry. Go.

Tonkotsu Bar and Ramen

63 Dean Street

06 June 2012

Filipino cooking...some puppy love

I know very little...OK I know nothing about Filipino food. That was the featured cuisine at the most recent London Cooking Club event hosted by Luiz Hara, The London Foodie. These events are held at Luiz’s house and co-hosted by an expert in the cuisine. This time the expert was Tina, she designed an amazing menu highlighting a selection of dishes. We each signed up to prepare one and I prepared The Kinilaw na Tuna – vinegar cured tuna. Here is the full menu:

Discovering the Cuisine of the Phillipines
Kinilaw na Tuna - Vinegar-cured Tuna
Pork Barbecue - Grilled Skewered Pork
Lumpiang Shanghai - Fried Spring Rolls with pineapple sweet and sour sauce
Pancit Molo - Pork Dumpling Soup
Adobong Kangkong - Braised Water Spinach
Lechon Kawali - Deep Fried Pork Belly

Guinataang Sugpo - Prawns in Coconut Milk and Vinegar
Kare Kare - Ox Tail Stewed in Peanut Sauce
Chicken Adobo - Stewed Chicken in Vinegar and Soy Sauce
Turron - Crisp Banana Rolls
Leche Flan - Milk Custard

The event was held on Sunday at lunch time so I went to find my tuna Saturday late afternoon (lucky I got to the fishmonger 15 minutes before closing)!

I purchased a lovely 750g chunk of tuna from The Fishmonger in Greenwich.

Sunday morning I cut the tuna into chunks and prepared the ingredients at home and packaged them for assembly at Luiz's house.

Kinilaw na Tuna
Vinegar-cured Tuna
Serves 12

6 pcs / 60 g shallots
1 thumb sized piece / 25 g ginger
3 pcs / 40 g green finger chilies
1 small / 50 g red bell pepper
3 Spring onions
725 grams tuna fillets, skin and bones removed
1 cup white vinegar
¾ cup coconut milk
2 tsp / 10 g salt
½ tsp / 2 g ground black pepper

  1. Peel and slice the shallots finely.
  2. Peel and chop the ginger finely.
  3. Seed and chop the green finger chilies finely
  4. Cut bell pepper in half lengthwise. Remove and discard the stem and white membranes. Slice red pepper into fine strips.
  5. Chop the spring onion.
  6. Cut the fish into 2 cm / ¾ inch cubes.
  7. Marinate the fish cubes with half of the vinegar (1/2 cup). When fish turns opaque, strain and discard the vinegar, then set fish aside. Washing the fish with vinegar cures the raw fish.
  8. In a non-reactive bowl, combine the coconut milk and the remaining vinegar.

  1. To the bowl with coconut milk and vinegar, add the fish cubes, shallots, ginger, chilies, salt and pepper. Toss gently but thoroughly.
  2. Chill in the refrigerator.
  3. Before serving, garnish with chopped onion and red bell pepper.

Tips: Use only the freshest fish, thoroughly cleaned. Prepare only in non-reactive bowls and dishes such as glass or ceramic. Assemble the dish no more than 30 minutes before serving.

When I arrived at Luiz's house, I marinated the fish cubes and combined them with the vegetables...I think my shallots were larger than the recipe intended as they seemed to take over!

I arranged the red pepper and chopped green onion on the serving dishes...

I topped each with a portion of tuna...I served my dish with a glass of Rose

Then we headed downstairs for the other two starters... Sarah made the pork skewers and Mae made the spring rolls

May of Malaysian by May made the delicious pork dumpling soup...

Everyone's favourite...Deep Fried Pork Belly was made by Luiz...it was cooked three times!!

The next two mains: Prawns (oops not sure who made this!) and Stewed Chicken by Frederico were served with rice

Then Oxtail stewed in Peanut Sauce made by Natalie

Finally dessert...a very simple but delicious milk custard and crispy banana rolls

As these events always are, it was an incredible afternoon!! So much fabulous food and great company. Tina planned an amazing menu and Luiz was, as always, a perfect host. It was great to learn a little bit about the Phillipines. Four of the guests were Filipino so their input on each dish and how similar it is to what they do at home was really interesting. 

If you are interested have a look at Luiz's blog for upcoming cooking club dates. I might be co-hosting a Mexican one in the very near future! Or if you would rather not cook, you should sign up for his amazing Japanese Home Cooking Supper Club which I have reviewed here

This time Luiz provided some additional entertainment... His dog had recently had puppies and I fell in love with this one :)  

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