The Mind of a Chef [Chef]

For millions of Christians around the world, Easter is a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. And if you’re wondering why Easter eggs are a prominent feature in the celebration, it is because the egg represents the stone tomb where Jesus was buried as well as his rebirth, just like a bird hatches from an egg.

While chocolate eggs are popular gifts in many European communities during this festival, I prefer to stick with the real thing, celebrating the very symbol itself of life and nourishment.

Today, it’s all about the humble yet infinitely transformable egg. It’s one of my absolute favorites to eat. Hot, cold, runny, sturdy — it doesn’t matter how you cook it, as long as it’s cooked well, I’ll likely eat it.

Below is a chart that illustrates how egg behaves in different temperatures. Chefs are infinitely obsessed with eggs. I share the same obsession, although mine almost always involves the consumption of eggs rather than the creation of something gastronomically mind-blowing.

The Egg Chart by Dave Arnold | Excerpt from Lucky Peach Magazine

A Feast of Ice and Fire | Photo Credit :: Kristin Teig

Yes, I am one of them. I like medieval art and stories. Especially when rich in mythical creatures like witches and vampires and dragons . So naturally, I fell in love with George R.R. Martin’s books and the series that took the TV-viewing public by storm.

Today marks the return of the Kingslayer and all of the beloved members of his house to the small screen. I can’t wait to passionately hate Joffrey again, applaud Tyrion’s witty jabs at Cersei and marvel at the genius, evil schemes of the Hand of the King.

While I patiently wait for our local network to air the first episode, I’m delving deep into the kitchens of the Lannisters (and later, of the Starks, the Tyrells and the Brotherhood of the Night’s Watch) and put myself in the shoes of their cooks. How was it like to prepare dinner for the current occupants of King’s Landing, I wonder. Luckily, we can get this book.

Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Lehrer co-penned what is known as the Official Game of Thrones Companion Cookbook, a compilation of recipes from their blog The Inn at the Crossroads. Yes, they’re one of us, massive fans of the books. What began as a culinary exploration of GRRM’s fantastical world gradually became a collection of cleverly-tweaked historical recipes, echoing the richness of the Westerosi landscape.

Chelsea and Sariann take you by the hand and serve as your culinary guides through the icy terrains of the North, where the tables are laden with roasted fowl, root vegetables and meat pies; the bountiful lands of the South, where meals often include fresh bread, fruit tarts and sweet biscuits; the scorching dunes of Dorne, where the daily diet features fiery peppers and desert-dwelling creatures; and of course the capital, King’s Landing, where a typical highborn dines on cheese tarts, roasted boar, honeyed fruits and various birds drowned in butter.

This book is a great read for food enthusiasts and followers of the series, as well as an amazing source of inspiration should anyone decide to host a GoT-themed party. If you are adventurous enough to stock up your pantry with medieval ingredients (assuming you can find them), there shouldn’t be any problem recreating the lemon cakes that Sansa so loved or blood pies that a Dothraki might prefer over rape. If you’d rather steer clear of exotic ingredients, you’d be glad to know that the authors have provided a modern version of each recipe so you can still prepare a spread that resembles those during the Dark Ages.

In any case, leaf through this gem of a book, feast your senses and worry not. No King Joffrey nor any Lannister will put your head on a spike for being a nerd.

Valar ipradis. (All men must eat.)

P.S. If you can’t get hold of the book, visit the following links below for other recipes and ideas. Enjoy!

10 Royal Recipes for a ‘Game of Thrones’ Feast
Game of Thrones Banquet
A ‘Game of Thrones’ Feast Fit for Kings

A friend’s recent visit to Vietnam made me reminisce about the time I spent there a few years ago. Somehow, images of that freshly-baked baguette, that addictively-wonderful pho and that lip-smacking caramel pork are still beautifully etched in my memories. Vietnam came as a solace at a time when I was going through an emotional storm. And its coffee was one that instantly brightened up my day. Strong, thick and syrupy from the condensed milk, it captures your attention like a stunning dessert. Deliciously reminding you that no matter how complicated life can get, often the simple things (when you do care to notice) are quite enough to make you happy.

Today, in the absence of Vietnamese grounds and coffee filter, I salute my day with a little shot of café bombón, Spain’s answer to Vietnam’s cà phê sua nong. Originally half strong espresso and half condensed milk, it may very well be the epitome of yin and yang in a cup. As well as a reminder that whenever the universe throws you a bitter tempest here and there, you must never forget to pause and notice the sweet beauty that still surrounds you everyday. For where there is turmoil, there is also peace. Where there is revulsion, there is enchantment. Where there is darkness, light.

(Pardon my prolonged absence since Yolanda. I’m back.)

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Skull Sugar by Snow Violent

I have friends who don’t like spending the night at mine. All because of the demon masks on my walls and skull ashtrays on my coffee table.

It is a known fact in my circle that I am not exactly one to scamper away from the gory, the morbid or the gruesome. On the contrary, I am actually fascinated by how images of death can engender extreme anxiety and fear in some people.

I will probably thrive in cultures that celebrate death as much as life. Like amongst the Bolivians, who keep the mortal remains of their dearly departed and pay tribute to them during La Festividad de las Ñatitas. Or amongst the Haitians, who worship the voodoo spirit Baron Samedi, the master of death as well as the giver of life. And of course, amongst the Mexicans, who honor their deceased loved ones during El Dia de los Muertos with offerings of their favorite foods as well as intricately-decorated sugar skulls. Which probably inspired the creative minds of Snow Violent to design these incredibly-detailed sugar ‘cubes.’

Right up my alley. Never mind if I can’t host sleepovers. I’ll invite my friends for a nice Halloween morning java. They can imagine their own skull and bones dissolving into their espresso!

Note: All photography by Olesya Turchuk for Snow Violent.

Schwarzwälder Schinken Tartine

Time check: 5 a.m. The alarm clock hollers. What to do:

1. Search for snooze button.
2. Press, then sleep till next ring.
3. Repeat 1 & 2 ten times.
4. Check the hour.
5. Scream bloody murder.

Is this how you typically greet your mornings? Looks like a page straight out of the guidebook on “How to Lead a Stressful Life.”

Don’t you think it’s much nicer to begin your day by sipping your favorite brew perhaps, eating something tasty, lingering a bit?

Go back to the list above. If you’re like me who can’t get up as soon as the alarm goes off, do until #2. Then rise and forget that there used to be #’s 3-5. Do that and you have an extra hour and a half to spend before hitting the road.

Next, head for the pantry and fix yourself a tartine. A what??

A tartine is the French version of an open-faced sandwich that is usually served at breakfast. Essentially, it’s a slice of bread topped with either just a spread or more substantial ingredients. Why a tartine? Because it takes no time to prepare and the selection can go as far as you can stretch your imagination.

What you need, though, is a well-stocked pantry and a willingness to widen your culinary horizons.

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