Posts from February 2015

Mon Choux, 'Dix Blue Secret' Eclairs from Ms Marmite Lover 'Secret Tea Party' Cookbook

Not afraid of getting your fingers sticky, here's one of my pate de choux based favorite recipes from London based Ms Marmite Lover second book Ms Marmite Lover Secret Tea Party (Square Peg-Random House UK,  November 2014).

Eclairs from the Dix Blue Secret Tea Room

Makes 20

125 ml milk
125 ml water
100g unsalted butter
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp caster sugar
150g plain flour, sifted
4 eggs, beaten
1 beaten egg mixed with 1 tbsp milk, for glazing


4 large bananas
4 tbsp dark rum, white rum or brandy
65g caster sugar
1 tbsp unsalted butter
A heaped ½ tsp fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt
600ml double or whipping cream, whipped to firm peaks

130g good-quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces
250ml water
125ml double cream
70g caster sugar


250g icing sugar
A few tsp boiling water
A few drops of banana essence (optional)
A little yellow food colouring paste


3 piping bags, each fitted with a 2cm plain nozzle
1 piping bag, fitted with a large star-shaped nozzle


Have you made éclairs and struggled to make them look as professional as they do in cake shops? The glaze can look like a drippy mess. Shhh, I found out the secret: use the bottom for glazing. Yes, turn them over. You will have lovely straight lines.

I’ve made salted caramelized banana-filled éclairs here, inspired by Caroline Richardson who runs a secret tearoom called Dix Blue in Scotland. You can make them in the shape of bananas with a yellow glaze, or the classic shape, glazed with chocolate. Caroline says, ‘Think of these éclairs as banana boats, heavily laden with a cargo of fragrant, sweet and, not-unnervingly, slightly salty fruitiness. The saltiness in the filling comes from the caramelization of the bananas with the fleur de sel.’

For even baking, position two racks/shelves in the oven, one each in the upper and lower half, then preheat the oven to 180°C (gas 4). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

Bring the milk, water, butter, salt and caster sugar to the boil in a heavy-based pan over a medium high heat, then remove from the heat and immediately dump the flour into the mixture, all in one go, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon until all the flour is incorporated.

Gradually add the eggs, stirring rapidly until each addition is absorbed, then return the pan to a
medium heat and continue to stir until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan and starts to dry’ a little, but also becomes soft and smooth. Take the pan off the heat, leave the dough until it cools down, then transfer it into one of the piping bags with a plain nozzle. (The paste has to be warm to pipe well.)

(To save on elbow grease this step can be done in a stand mixer. Bring the milk, water, butter, salt and sugar to boil on the hob, then transfer the contents of the pan to the bowl of the mixer and quickly dump in the flour while the paddle is going. Then add the eggs one by one. Once the dough is smooth, soft and shiny, transfer it to the piping bag while still warm to the touch.)

Pipe the dough on to the prepared baking sheets in 10–15cm fingers. Or you can pipe curved banana shapes. Try to keep them even-sized so that they will look good once plated up. Once you’ve piped one out on the baking sheet, just follow that as your template. Remember to leave about 5cm space in between each éclair to give them room to expand. Finally, get a cold fork dipped in cold water and run it over the top of each éclair – for some reason this makes them rise evenly. Brush the éclairs with the egg/milk glaze.

Pop the éclairs in the oven. Your total baking time will be 15–20 minutes, but set your timer for 7 minutes, then rotate the sheets so that the éclairs bake evenly, close the door and continue baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are a lovely tan color and quite firm to the touch. Éclairs can turn from softly golden-topped to spray-tan Ibiza-bronze in literally seconds, so keep an eye on them.

Once baked, transfer them to a wire rack, pierce the side of each one with the tip of a sharp knife (to allow the steam to escape and prevent them from going soggy) and leave to cool.

For the caramelized banana filling, chop the bananas into a medium-sized bowl and toss them in the rum/brandy. Set aside.

Make the caramel by heating a heavy-based pan over a medium-high heat. When it is warm and not too hot, sprinkle the caster sugar into the pan. Try to keep the sugar in an even layer so that it all caramelizes at the same time. As soon as you see the sugar begin to melt, start moving the pan about  you need to avoid burning the sugar. A good way to do this and make sure you get an even caramel is to tilt the pan from side to side so that the melted sugar runs over the unmelted sugar. Cook until all of the sugar is a light golden brown. Any darker and it turns into toffee so take care.

Move the pan off the heat, and then quickly stir in the butter and salt. Add the bananas and rum
mixture, very carefully, and spread evenly in the pan. Return the pan to a medium heat until almost all of the liquid has evaporated and the bananas are soft but not mushy. Tip the caramelized bananas on to a plate. Cover with cling film and leave to cool for about 20 minutes.

For the chocolate glaze, put all the ingredients into a separate heavy-based pan over a medium heat and wait until the sauce thickens, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool slightly, then pour it into another piping bag with a plain nozzle. Turn the éclairs over and pipe a thick line of chocolate glaze over the top of half of the éclairs. Leave to dry for an hour or so before filling.

Meanwhile, for the yellow glaze, tip the icing sugar into a bowl and add, one by one, a few teaspoons of boiling water. Mix well until it forms a thick paste that you can pipe easily, but that doesn’t run too much. Add a couple of drops of banana essence, if using, then the yellow coloring until it is the shade you desire. Pour the glaze into the remaining piping bag with a plain nozzle and pipe a thick line of yellow glaze over the top of the remaining éclairs. Leave to dry for an hour or so before filling.

When you are ready to serve, fold the cooled banana caramel into the whipped cream. Split the glazed éclairs and pipe in the banana cream.

Caroline suggests matching these with Orange Pekoe tea: ‘Those mamby-pamby green teas just can’t stand up to the full-frontal banana, boozy, sweet-salty flavor!’

 For alternative fillings, use plain whipped cream, or half whipped cream and half chocolate glaze (cooled) combined.
 If you have any leftover glazes, keep them in airtight containers in the fridge and use within a

(*Recipe reproduced from Ms Marmite Lover's Secret Tea Party by Kerstin Rogers- Square Peg/ Random House, November 2014- 

Kung Po Chicken Recipe by Ching-He-Huang for Year of the Goat or is it Sheep

To celebrate Chinese New Year 2015, i direct you to Kung Po (Palatial Guardian) Chicken Recipe from Sichuan by Ching-He-Huang for Year of the Goat or is it Sheep.

Kung po chicken

I originally shared this recipe from Ching's Everyday Easy Chinese (William Morrow) by Ching-He Huang, the host of Chinese Food Made Easy on Cooking Channel for 2012 Lunar New Year...

(* Recipe from Ching's Everyday Easy Chinese (William Morrow, October 4, 2011) byChing-He Huang, Photography by Jamie Cho, reproduced by permission of the publisher)

Before Clock Rings Midnight Buckwheat Crepes with Honeyed Ricotta from 'Whole Grain Mornings'

Before clock rings midnight on Shrove Tuesday 2015, here's a Buckwheat Crepes with Honeyed Ricotta recipe from Whole Grain Mornings (Ten Speed Press, December 2013) by Megan Gordon.

Buckwheat Crepes with Honeyed Ricotta and Sautéed Plums

My friend Keena lives less than a mile away and has a plum tree she can’t keep up with. In early fall, she makes jam with as many plums as she can and sends me home with a big grocery bag full of them every time I see her. I’m not much of a canner, so I began sautéing them and using them as a topping for yogurt and porridge, and as a filling for these simple buckwheat crepes. While buckwheat groats have a pretty distinct flavor and can be a hard sell for many folks, buckwheat flour is commonly used and adored in both sweet and savory crepes. For this recipe, use oval-shaped Italian plums (or prune plums) if you can; they’re nice and firm and lend themselves well to sautéing—or just plain snacking.

Makes about 12 crepes

Morning Notes: The crepe batter needs to rest for at least an hour, so plan accordingly or make the batter and refrigerate it overnight. If you go that route, the crepes cook best when the batter is at room temperature, so let it sit out for at least 30 minutes before cooking them.


1⁄2 cup / 65 g buckwheat flour

1⁄2 cup / 60 g unbleached all-purpose flour

1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup / 240 ml milk

3⁄4 cup / 180 ml buttermilk

2 tablespoons butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan

2 large eggs

1 tablespoons coconut oil or butter

1⁄2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoon honey

1 pound / 450 g Italian plums (6 to 7 plums), each sliced into 6 wedges

WGMN Buckwheat Crepes with Honeyed Ricotta and Sauteed Plums image p 119

Honeyed Ricotta (page 131)

Honey, for serving

To make the crepes: Whisk the flours, salt, milk, buttermilk, butter, and eggs together in a large bowl until very smooth. To save arm power, you can blend the ingredients in a blender instead. Let the batter sit for at least 1 hour at room temperature and up to 1 day in the refrigerator.

Rub a small dab of butter (1⁄2 tablespoon or so) onto the bottom of a 9- or 10-inch nonstick crepe pan or sauté pan over medium heat and wait until it melts completely. (Too much butter will make for a soggy crepe.) Pour 1⁄4 cup of the batter into the hot pan and tilt it in a circular motion to ensure the batter spreads out into an even layer. Cook over low heat until the edges start to pull away from the pan, about 2 minutes. Using a nonstick spatula, carefully flip and cook the other side until golden brown, about 1 minute. Lay the crepe on a large plate and repeat until you’ve gone through all of the batter (it’s okay to stack the crepes on the plate). If the crepe pan starts to get too dry, add another little dab of butter. I tend to cook these quickly while the plums are sautéing and assemble them right then, but if you’re chatting with friends and taking your time, keep the finished, unfilled crepes warm in a 200°F oven until ready to assemble.

To sauté the plums: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the coconut oil. Add the vanilla and honey, swirl the pan so they combine with the coconut oil, and then add the plums. Sauté until juicy and warm, 2 to 3 minutes.

To assemble: For each crepe, gently fold the crepe in fourths (fold in half, then in half again) and dollop 1 to 2 tablespoons of the Honeyed Ricotta and a few sautéed plums on top. Finish with a generous drizzle of honey.

Make It Your Own: These crepes work in any season. Swap out the plums for stone fruit in the summer or pears and cranberries in the winter. For a more decadent brunch, I’ve used mascarpone thinned with just a little Greek yogurt as a topping instead of the ricotta. Alternatively, try a spoonful of Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Spread (page 133) or, for a jammy filling, try Apricot Cherry Compote (page 98) or Strawberry Rhubarb Quick Jam (page 71). For a savory option, make wraps filled with the Greens and Grains Scramble (page 140).

Make Ahead: You can cook the crepes and store them in the refrigerator, stacked between pieces of waxed or parchment paper, for up to 3 days. You can also freeze them for up to
3 months by allowing the crepes to cool completely, wrapping them well in plastic wrap, and placing them in an airtight container. To reheat, place them in a glass baking dish or a pie
plate covered with aluminum foil. Heat in a 250°F oven until just warmed through.

Honeyed Ricotta

This may be my favorite accompaniment in the book. It’s wonderful on pretty much everything, especially Buckwheat Crepes (page 118) or Whole-Grain Buttermilk Pancakes (page 36), or stirred into The Very Best Oatmeal (page 30). Ricotta is traditionally made from the whey that’s left over from the cheese-making process, and it’s often extremely mild. This recipe brightens the simple cheese with a combination of honey, vanilla, and lemon zest—transforming it into a light morning topping that could rival any high-end yogurt or jam.

Makes about 2 cups

15 ounces / 425 g part-skim ricotta

2 tablespoons honey

1⁄4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1⁄4 teaspoon grated lemon zest 

In a small bowl, use a whisk to whip all the ingredients together until light and creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

(Reprinted with permission from Whole-Grain Mornings: New Breakfast Recipes to Span the Seasons by Megan Gordon- Ten Speed Press, © 2013).

Raspberry Pink Zelda from 'Cocktails on Tap' by Jacob Grier, Ransom Gin Preferred

As author puts it 'Beer cocktails and pink drinks, who says they're mutually exclusive?' 

Pink Zelda from Cocktails on Tap, The Art of Mixing Spirits and Beer (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, March 2015) by Jacob Grier proves they can work it done.



1 egg white

2 oz. (60 ml) gin, preferably Small’s

3/4 oz. fresh lime juice

3/4 oz. Kriek Syrup, see recipe below

Raspberries, for garnish




Combine the ingredients in a shaker and shake without ice to aerate the egg white.

Add ice and shake again. Strain the drink into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with the raspberries. Serves 1

Kriek Syrup

1 cup (240 ml) Kriek Lambic Reduction, see page 104

1 cup (200 g) sugar

Combine the kriek reduction and sugar in a pot and heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Store the syrup in a sealed bottle in the refrigerator. It will keep for several weeks. Makes about 1 3/4 cups (420 ml)

(* Recipe reproduced with permission from 'Cocktails on Tap' by Jacob Grier - Stewart, Tabori and Chang, March 2015- Photographs: David L. Reamer)

Sweet and Bright, Dazzle Your Valentine with Lemon Chiffon Strawberry Cake' by Gesine Bullock-Prado

Want to dazzle your Valentine? Here's a recipe that will make her/him melt, from Let Them Eat CakeClassic, Decadent Desserts with Vegan, Gluten-Free & Healthy Variations (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, March 2015) by Gesine Bullock-Prado...


{Makes one 12-inch-long (30.5-cm-long) rectangular cake}

This cake is springtime in your mouth. The combination of strawberries and lemon is sweet and bright, and there’s just enough mint in the pastry cream to refresh without overwhelming the fruit. The almond paste that drapes over this cake adds a richness and balance with every bite. Everything in this cake works in symmetry, so why not build the cake to look symmetrical? I did and it’s gorgeous.


For the Mint and Almond Pastry Cream 

¾ cup (180 ml) whole milk
¾ cup (180 ml) heavy cream
3 large fresh mint leaves, cut into thin strips
4 large egg yolks
⅓ cup (65 g) sugar
¼ cup (30 g) cornstarch
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
½ teaspoon almond extract

For the Strawberry Coulis

¼ cup (50 g) finely chopped strawberries
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice

For the Lemon Chiffon Cake 

4 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
½ cup (120 ml) lemon juice
¼ cup (60 ml) plus 2 tablespoons organic grapeseed oil
Grated zest of 2 lemons
1 cup (120 g) pastry flour
1 cup (200 g) sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cream of tartar

To Finish

3 cups (720 ml) cold heavy cream
1 pound (455 g) small strawberries, hulled (about 30)
7 ounces (200 g) almond paste
A few fresh mint leaves

Lemon Chiffon Strawberry Cake


Make the mint and almond pastry cream:

Combine the milk, cream, and mint in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer.
In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk until the mixture ribbons thickly. Slowly add the hot milk mixture to the egg yolk mixture, whisking all the while so that the eggs don’t curdle. Continue whisking until smooth.

Transfer the mixture back to the saucepan and whisk over medium heat until the mixture thickens to the consistency of mayonnaise. Remove from the heat and add the butter and almond extract, whisking until combined. Pour the pastry cream through a fine sieve into a large bowl. Cover the pastry cream with plastic wrap, making sure to press the plastic wrap onto the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until completely cool, about 2 hours.

Make the Strawberry Coulis:

In a small saucepan, combine the strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice and simmer over low heat until the strawberries are very soft and all the sugar has dissolved, about 10 minutes.

Transfer the coulis to a blender and process until smooth. Pour through a sieve into a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge until cool, about 30 minutes.

Make the Lemon Chiffon Cake

Preheat the oven to 325°F (165°C). Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, lemon juice, oil, and lemon zest. Sift the flour, ½ cup (100 g) of the sugar, the baking powder, and salt over the egg yolk mixture and whisk until
very smooth.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar. Whisk on high until the egg whites turn white and increase slightly in volume.

With the mixer still running, slowly add the remaining ½ cup (100 g) sugar and continue whisking on high speed until you achieve smooth, stiff peaks (don't whisk so much that they become dry and chunky). Gently fold the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture until a smooth batter forms and no white streaks remain.

Transfer the batter to the prepared sheet pan and gently spread it into an even layer with a large offset spatula. Bake until the cake gently springs back when gently poked and just begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely.

Run a sharp knife along the edge of the cake to fully release it. Place a piece of parchment on top of the cake and place a second sheet pan on top of that parchment. Flip the cake and turn the cake out onto the second sheet pan. Cut the cake into three long, even strips, 5⅓ by 12 inches (13.5 by 30.5 cm).

To Finish:

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream to stiff peaks. Whisk one third of the whipped cream into the pastry cream. With a large rubber spatula, gently fold the remaining whipped cream into the pastry cream. Transfer the lightened pastry cream to a large pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip.

Place a strip of cake on a cake platter. Place 15 strawberries hulled side down onto the cake. Pipe half of the lightened pastry cream in between and over the strawberries, using a small offset to smooth the cream over the strawberries. Place a second layer of cake atop the cream-laced strawberries and arrange the remaining 15 strawberries atop the second layer. Pipe the remaining pastry cream among the strawberries and smooth the top with an offset spatula. Place the final layer of cake on top and place in the freezer to set, about 2 hours.

Meanwhile, roll out the almond paste to measure slightly larger than 5⅓ by 12 inches (13.5 by 30.5 cm) and punch a random pattern of hearts into the almond paste using a 2-inch (5-cm) heart cookie cutter.

Once the cake has set (test the cream to see if it feels very firm; it should not be fully frozen),
remove from the freezer. Place the almond paste sheet on top of the cake. Dip a very sharp
serrated knife into hot water and wipe dry. Trim the sides of the cake, gently sawing to keep the
cream from spurting out the sides of the cake. The firmer the cake is, the cleaner the trimmed
sides will be, but it will be much harder to cut. So take your time in your gentle sawing and keep
the knife hot and clean throughout the process.

Gently spoon the coulis into the holes in the almond paste. Serve immediately or cover the sides of the cake with parchment, cover with plastic wrap to keep the cake moist. Keep refrigerated.

If you want the Vegan or Gluten Free version of this recipe email us.

(* Recipe reproduced with permission from Let Them Eat CakeClassic, Decadent Desserts with Vegan, Gluten-Free & Healthy Variations -Stewart, Tabori and Chang, March 2015- by Gesine Bullock-Prado, Photos by Tina Rupp)

17 Craft Brewers, 44 Sakes, One Evening, February 17, Astor Center, New York

17 Craft Brewers, 44 Sakes, One Evening

What to expect:

"With something for enthusiasts and beginners alike, The Color of Sake will host 17 of Japan’s best sake brewers, representing different regions, brewing techniques and taste experiences. Guests will have the chance to sip, savor and learn about as many as 44 of the most sought-after and highly decorated sakes available to the U.S. market.  While many of these Sakes are available in New York, some brewers and Sakes will be making their U.S. debut."


The Color of Sake takes place at Astor Center in New York on Tuesday, February 17 from 6:30 to 9:00 pm.

'Serge the Concierge' Readers can Purchase Tickets Here and get 20% Discount at checkout by entering Code : SAKESERGE

Toasting Tuesday for Tokyo Thursdays # 303

Aomori, Hokkaido and Sakhalin, To the North from Here Photo Exhibit at Watari-Um, Tokyo

For To the North from Here exhibit at Watari-Um museum in Tokyo world traveler and photographer Naoki Ishikawa partnered with artist Yoshitomo Nara and headed north to Aomori, Hokkaido, and Sakhalin....

To the north from here

Places they visited are known for still having some speakers of Ainu language.

Exhibit runs until May 10, 2015.

Heading to north of Japan for Tokyo Thursdays # 303