Wednesday, 31 January 2007

le cordon bleu - day 3

It seems like most of us are starting to find our way around the kitchen, make less mistakes and generally know what we need to do without being told repeatedly or even being told at all. There's a few of us who are on the slow side but I suppose that arises from the fact that we have students in our class who previously studied Cuisine (and basically know the kitchen back to front) and another who's actually a chef/baker. The rest of us are a mix of baking and cake enthusiasts who've had varying degrees of baking experience in the home environment but I think it's a lot different to bake at home compared to baking in a commercial kitchen.

I seem to be doing alright; coming up just behind the fast few and fortunately not too near the slowest in the class. I seem to have also developed my own habits; preferring to keep my work space nice and tidy as opposed to some of my classmates who have stuff everywhere and every now and then, I'm cleaning some of the person's stuff next to me just so I can work properly in my own space. I seem to be learning a lot from watching the chef demonstrate as well as taking tips from my classmates around me. I got a bit annoyed at a girl today who stole my pot of bowling water whilst I ducked back to my bench to get my cloth; seriously! I don't mind sharing but if I'm actually in the middle of using something, I'd prefer it that I got my turn first.

On the menu today were a Genoise Sponge Cake and a Bundt Cake, complete with decorations. We were meant to make two Genoise Sponge Cakes but owing to the fact that I collapsed a bit of the air in my batter, I could only get enough for a 3-tiered cake (it actually turned out really well though if you can see in the photo :D) But I've really got to practice and perfect this one; very likely that it will be an assessed product in later weeks. Tried both cakes in class (given that some extra ones were made - combination of recoveries and the teacher's one for the class); both are quite good - maybe a tad sweet. Justin's taking one of them for his work afternoon tea with his team - hope it goes well. I've been looking lostly at the the Genoise with the cream all sandwiched in between that's sitting in my fridge at the moment; not sure exactly how and when I'm going to eat it.

Awfully grateful for a sleep-in tomorrow (even if it might not be a long one). I'm really not a morning person...

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

le cordon bleu - day 2

Once again, I was up nice and early. I think mum will be impressed when she sees how disciplined I am with waking up in the morning; it takes me as little as 15 minutes to wake up, get dressed, brush my teeth, eat breakfast and move all the things I need to get to class. We already had a few latecomers today; it seems the course is already taking its toll on a few of us. I'm a bit worried too: I'm not denying that it's hard to wake up in the morning.

On the agenda today were more scones (Date as well as Cheese Scones), Madelines and Friands (also known as Financiers). I must say, I could definitely see the improvement since yesterday. My scones came out fluffy and moist as opposed to the slight hardness I got with yesterdays. The friands turned out well too (a shame that we didn't get to put some blueberries in it). The madelines didn't tickle my fancy; the French call them soft, moist cakes but it ended up tasting crunchy and considerably drier compared to the Friands. I asked Chef Karen about this and even she agrees that the Madeline is ill-defined. By the same token, a classmate asked about the Gateau Weekend which we're making tomorrow; turns out the name originates from the fact that people usually eat this cake on the weekends in France. Basically, a Gateau Weekend would be equivalent to a Sponge or Pound Cake in America. So really, one cake can have more than one name; bizarre.

I'm also starting to find my way around the kitchen and learn where everything is. Remember also how I said we had kitchenhands who help us clean up? Well today, I just said thank you to the lady (Lily) everytime I dropped off my dirty bowls and when we finished our Madelines (and were meant to wash the tray ourselves), Lily offered to wash mine for me. So nice! Chef Karen later pointed out how politeness to your kitchenhands really pays off when you're working in the kitchen (and I totally believe in it!) Anyway, that more or less sums up my day. Bit annoying how we have to wait for ages to get our ingredients measured out; I need to get my own digital scale like some of my classmates have already. More from me tomorrow!

Monday, 29 January 2007

le cordon bleu - day 1

It seemed that both the nervousness and excitement was shared by all of us who commenced Basic Patisserie at Le Cordon Bleu today. There were 14 of us (some previous culinary students, a baker/chef, with the majority of us being fresh-faced, dessert eating - love baking students who were still getting the hang of all the tools in our toolkit and cautiously pulling at tools in the hope of not being the first casualty of the day). Turns out I have a pretty smart class; we all managed to stay safe and by the end of the class, everyone had managed to complete their tasks for the first lesson without any major dramas.

Personally, I found there was a lot to take in for the first day. From remembering to address the teacher as chef, to finding my way around the college, to remembering each step in the cooking process as we watched the chef demonstrate, and finally, to get through a day of being up on my feet, to remember my classmates names and just to stay awake during theory class. For the first time, I think I'm actually understanding why people say baking is a tough profession. It's definitely not for the faint-hearted and despite my passion for Patisserie, I think there will be hurdles ahead for me to cross. Working towards my idea of a cafe has become more realistic than ever and really, it's going to be a tough one.

Classes have definitely exceeded my expectations. Teachers are prepared and not one bit of class-time is wasted doing nothing. It seems to me that classes are structured in a way that gives you the freedom to work at your own pace. Today, we made scones and for those that had a bit of extra time, were given the option of doing another batch. For myself, I just made the one; not because I was slow but for the fact that I presently have 16 scones in my kitchen which I'm quite unable to eat. It looks like two more different types of scones tomorrow in addition to some other baked goodies. I start to wonder about my waistline. My friend from class was already sighing about her thighs which she was convinced had grown in the course of class time. Yay, we also have a kitchenhand to help us clean up!

In addition to scones, we also made royal icing and practiced piping. It took me awhile to get the icing to the right consistency (after a couple of burst piping bags due to me putting pressure on a blob of really gluggy icing). Probably need more practice on piping. We piped cream onto the scones; that was relatively easy.

On the whole, an awesome day. I think I'll still need to get my classmate to do up my necktie; I think it's similar to how guys do up their tie. Not the best baker in the world yet but definitely training to become one; got lots more to learn but in the meantime, will require some sleep. Ciao!

todam village @ chatswood

Amidst the various tennis finals, a failed attempt at a chocolate cake, a pet frog and a frog that died, it was Andy's 22nd birthday dinner on Saturday which was celebrated with great fanfare. The location - Korean Hot Pot in Chatswood (just near the Vodafone tower although tucked away which can make it hard to find). I just noticed Charissa's already beat me to a post on her blog so head over to check it out. As we were sitting on different tables, I have a slightly abridged version of her post to tell.

About half of us simultaneously pulled into the local council carpark near the restaurant to arrive just a tad past the appointed hour (we had the birthday boy with us so in that case, were legitimately late for the evening). I think there must've been over 20 of us which made us well occupy over half the restaurant; so many people I haven't seen for so long and really, too little time to catch up with everyone. As we were also seated on two long tables, it meant that conversations were generally limited to those sitting around us. Nonetheless, I felt the restaurant offered a nice atmosphere for catching up (as well as eating!) and well, like I said, the noise in the restaurant was probably caused by the 20 odd of us talking and chatting away.

Dinner consisted of a most scrumptious selection of Korean Hotpots, Spicy Noodles, Braised Pork Wraps and a Kimchi Pancake that was on the house. On our table, we ordered to share between the 10 of us and well let's say, the people that were on my end of the table got the better end of the deal. Food kept being placed at our end cause the waitresses couldn't quite move into the other. As go all Korean meals, this was accompanied by a selection of korean side dishes/tapas. On the whole, the food I ate, I enjoyed. I didn't get to try the Seafood Hotpot which was placed down the other end but by the sound of the kafuffle going on about its contents, it didn't seem that I missed out. On the whole, our meal consisted of a lot of chilli. Whilst I'm a big fan of chilli, I think it would be advisable to limit this ingredient to one or two dishes otherwise the entire meal ends up tasting quite the same.

On the service side, I actually found the waiters and waitresses extremely friendly and polite. The owner looked after our table and she gave us plenty of advice when it came to ordering. Her suggestion saw our table have just the right amount of food with everyone paying $20 for the night's meal. During the night, there happened to be a slight argument between the owners and a customer. Straight afterwards, the owner sent her daughter to apologise to us for the disruption. Yet for many of us, we failed to even notice there being a disruption and really, I have rarely seen a restaurant show that much concern for its guests. As we left, we received the same friendly smile from its owner; I am definitely going back.

So all in all, Happy 22nd Birthday Andy! Enjoy your present and I look forward to the next food crawl you organise!

Thursday, 25 January 2007

sushi-ya (chatswood)

The search for dinner took J and I to Chatswood. Having originally planned on Don Cafe where I've been told by the guys houses a rather 'good' selection of adult magazines, we ended changing our minds and heading just a bit further down the road to a place neither of us had been before - still keeping our choice of Japanese. The name actually rung a bell but it wasn't till much later after the meal that I realised it was the same one that K was talking about that's in Atarmon.

Despite it being the eve of Australia Day, coinciding also with night shopping, we managed to find parking quite easy; just outside Nando's which is part of the same block. The restaurant wasn't full yet but should we have gone in another 5-10 minutes later, we probably would've been waiting for a little while or tucked at the dodgy seats in a corridor at the back. Quite a neat little place but you get the feeling also that you're packed in tightly with everyone else. You'll notice a nice collage of fish on the wall as you walk in (although as we were sitting under it, they looked more like daggers and sashimi knives hanging above our heads). Where we sat in the front corner, there was perhaps a 30cm to the next table. Where you hear most of the conversation going on around you, the scariest thing was that our table nearly collapsed as a fellow patron struggled to get out of his seat next to me (so glad that didn't happen!)

On the whole, I really enjoyed the food. When the bill came back, it was a most reasonable one (save for the beer they added onto bill from the next table - that beer was equivalent to a quarter of our meal). Beef tataki was definitely awesome, the Karage chicken pieces could've been smaller but they still tasted great anyhow, the Agedashi Tofu could've been more well cooked on the inside and perhaps, the best salmon sushi in the world - I could eat that salmon all day. For a bill that came just over $40, we were more than well fed. I looked around as to what else was on offer and from what I could see, they were certainly most decent servings in a ravishing display of colours. Definitely a worthwhile place to go back. The place seems to draw in a crowd of all different backgrounds and group sizes; from families, couples, friends, dinner parties, you name it! No room for dessert tonight but I was tempted by the Green Tea Tiramisu!

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

pho @ flemington

When it comes to food, I find that my friends are actually the ones who tell me what's good to eat and what is actually worth spending my money on. It helps also that I've had the opportunity to meet a large cross-section of individuals from different cultures and backgrounds so there's actually always people to turn to for advice and for the occasional free meal at their homes. In a sense, this has also made me a bit of a picky eater but really, my knowledge of food has grown because of my circle of friends and I can't thank each and everyone enough for it.

Speaking to P in the early hours of the morning, we decided to head to Flemington for pho - a place known for a good bowl of Vietnamese beef noodles at very affordable prices. I've been a couple of times before - my friends tell me that this is the place to go to if you want a good bowl of Viet noodles and I agree with them completely. There's something quite unexplainable about how a bowl of pho at Flemington differs to your local Viet eatery; I've been told it's the soup and how the soup is made. Many of your food court pho noodles use stock and hence makes the soup unnaturally sweet but it's not just that, the temperature of the soup also affects how it tastes (I think a number of us would've experienced a time when the raw beef they add to the soup just doesn't seem to cook and you're left eating raw meat). It's really an art and it amazes me how something so simple keeps pulling me and others back for more.

There's actually a number of shops selling pho at Flemington but my friends and I always seem to go to the one in the alleyway next to the carpark. Here, you'll find a good mix of locals, office workers, the young and the aged, couples and groups; most of whom usually settle for the Pho or the various other infamous Viet dishes including tomato rice, vermicelli noodles, spring rolls and the three coloured drink. The food comes fast and service is generally friendly. Occasionally, you might see a trail of soup on the ground as the waitress stacks bowl upon bowl of noodles as she clears a table. My only advice is to keep your table reasonably clean; previously we had a waitress who was verbally abusive as to our eating habits (although that time, she didn't realise that some of us at the table actually understood Cantonese). A good feed and thanks P for the shout!


I found this a couple of days ago whilst I was doing my usual browsing in the bookstore. At first I didn't think much of it and having turned the first page or two, noticed that half the book was actually written in French and speaking no French myself, I actually went and slotted the book back in its spot. Not sure for whatever reason but I actually ended up picking this book up again and flicked through the pages. The outcome was that I poured through the book page by page (making me late as I was on the way to meet J) and now that it's a couple of days since, I can still vividly remember the images that were captured in this book.

As I was to find tonight as I googled the word 'laduree', the name speaks for itself as one of the leading Parisian teahouses dating back to 1862. Founded by Louis Ernest Laduree, the name is recognised for its pastry craftmanship, shop decor, cute little gift boxes, macaroons, tradition French cakes and pastries; of all things sweet and nice. I've done my best to summarise it in a sentence but head over to their website and all will be revealed ( ) - I clicked on the English translated version. I'm craving a French holiday right now.

Monday, 22 January 2007

Hello there!

For those of you who’ve found your way over here from Xanga, I hope you will like my new home. 2007 is definitely a year of fresh starts and new adventures, and I endeavour to use this new blog to share with you all the things in the year ahead and beyond.

Some of you may know that I like to bake and cook. For the most part, I bake and this year I endeavour to grow my baking repertoire and share with you the stories of my successes and failures. I hope you will find these useful and entertaining. In addition, I’ll keep everyone up to date with my latest food finds and hopefully, there’ll be more of an opportunity now for everyone to leave your comments and put up questions on the website as opposed to before (I’m not sure why Xanga makes you sign up – so stupid)

Expect to hear from me regularly also. I’m just in the middle of a few things right now so just give me two secs, and I’ll be with you again :D