Friday, July 28, 2006

Culture? you mean Cheese?

I am glad that I have started this blog; it has provided me an opportunity to talk about my passion in cooking and baking and to muse over my adventures and experiences in this city. However, most importantly and rewardingly, I have since met some great people; many live in other corners of the world and share my passion, others are settlers in BA who have taken the trouble to write to me to share their personal experiences. I am moved by their passion and their stories.

Today, I have received two such touching emails, this time, both from food bloggers. One is a fellow Aussie, a lovely girl, living in Cambridge, England. We email each other often and chat about baking and life in general. She is going to follow a chocolate cake recipe I sent her and blog about the process and result after the weekend. It is a great recipe I dug out from The National Trust archive no less. I'm glad that this old but good recipe is going to enjoy a little publicity in the food blogging universe.

I love cooking from recipes passed on to me by friends or even better, by their mother or grandmother. There is a sense of heritage, provenance; a form of culture being passed on from generation to generation. I love that.

The other email is from a wonderfully knowledgeable and able home cook in Hong Kong who has just posted, on her blog "Toast & Butter", photos and recipes for a six-course dinner she cooked single-handedly and served up at home: it started with two courses of amuse bouche using French foie gras, then a seafood course of New Zealand green-lipped mussels cooked in white wine, finished with a sprinkle of Fleur de Sel (French sea salt harvested by hand off the village of Guerande in Brittany).

After the first three courses, their palates were cleansed by a home-made sorbet, an ingenious combination of fresh blueberries and thyme. The meat course then followed; it was a spectacular venison rack, paired with mushroom risotto. The main meal was completed with a goat's cheese from Valençay, France accompanied by freshly baked bread with dried wild raspberries.

Espressi (pl. strong black Italian coffee) were then served with hand-crafted chocolates from Le Gôuter Bernardaud. Wow, I'm impressed; not so much by the ingredients but her knowledge and ease in using them to turn out course after course of top restaurant quality food!

What was even more impressive was how she still spared the time to send me an email. I had asked this expert of multi-tasking who can count fluent Japanese as one of her many skills, if she had come across an Earl Grey tea mousse. I had read in food blog "Nordljus" that a stunning Earl Grey and Kumquat mousse cake was an adaptation from a Japanese recipe. Kumquat being chinotto (kinoto in Spanish), is in season so I had wanted to try my hand in making it.

What I didn't expect was her touching and clever email with photo attachments – she had photographed every page of a similar recipe in her translated cookbook! She had made sure the words were readable from the photos. I was rendered speechless by her generosity of spirit in indulging my wish.

As I said, I feel fortunate that I have started this blog and it has connected me with wonderful people. It fills me with hope that there are nice places out there in this world where bitterness and aggression have no place.

This is the perfect opportunity to share the result of my treasure hunt. I had thought that The National Trust was only concerned about preserving period architecture but I am so glad that they actually do a lot more and this is one of their preservations:

The National Trust Chocolate Beetroot Cake:

You can double the quantity below to make a 27cm cake or use this quantity in a medium loaf tin to make a loaf cake. The top can get a little crusty so if your oven is powerful, add a foil cover in the last 15min. of cooking.
I usually make a citrus cream cheese icing to go with it. Just add icing sugar to cream cheese, then a little zest and juice, lime is the most refreshing but sometimes they are hard to find in this city. In that case, orange or lemon would do.

100g butter
100g dark chocolate
100g raw beetroot, grated
100g sugar
pinch of salt
2 large eggs, beaten
225g SR flour
1 tsp baking powder
25g cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease the cake tin.

Melt butter and stir in chocolate. Leave for a moment until both are melted. Now add sugar, salt and eggs. Stir well. Then add flour, cocoa and baking powder. Fold in beetroot. It is a fairly stiff batter but it should not be dry.
Pour into cake tin and bake for 50min. To serve, dust top with icing sugar or top with cream cheese icing and maybe some walnut halves.

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