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Bananas Foster on French Toast

(serves 6)
Bananas Foster is a version of Cherries Jubilee using Bananas instead. It’s actually a very easy dessert to make, requiring little in the way of expertise or special ingredients, and it doesn’t take too much time either. In this recipe I’ve added French Toast to the line up; the two are a great together if you don’t like your desserts too sweet.  

Ingredients

  1. Bananas (500g)
  2. Bread (Half a Loaf)
  3. Eggs (2)
  4. Butter (100g)
  5. Dark Rum (1/4 cup)
  6. Sugar (3T)
  7. Golden Syrup
  8. Vanilla Ice Cream
  9. Powdered Cinnamon

Preparation

  1. Beat 2 eggs in a shallow dish.
  2. Cut two 1.5 inch thick slices of bread from a whole loaf and further cut each slice into three equal portions. Soak the bread, on both sides, in the dish until all the egg is gone. This will take several minutes.
  3. Melt 1T of butter in a pan. Pan fry the soaked bread on very low heat, flipping occasionally until the egg is fully cooked. Leave the resulting French Toast on a wire rack to cool.
  4. Place 100g of butter, 3T white sugar and 1/2 t of salt in the same pan. Dissolve the sugar in the butter under low heat.
  5. In the meanwhile quickly slice your bananas. Cut diagonally across the banana to get oval shaped slices. The slices should be 1/2 inch thick.
  6. When the sugar has fully dissolved, add the banana slices and turn up the heat.
  7. Stir fry gingerly. When the butter and bananas begin to darken, drizzle on 1T of golden syrup followed by a sprinkle of 1t of powdered cinnamon. Finally pour in 1/4 cup of dark rum.
  8. Continue to stir fry. Stop and turn off the fire when the sauce thickens sufficiently.
  9.  Arrange the French Toast on one big plate or many small plates. Pour the banana caramel mixture over the French Toast and top off with small scoops of vanilla ice cream.

 Notes

  • There are many varieties of banana, and the one that you choose is important as it will determine the texture of the dessert you end up making. In my opinion small is better than big.The standard Cavendish (i.e. the big ones on the left in the photo below) get mushy more easily when cooked. I find smaller varieties like the Emperor Banana tend to retain their structural integrity better under heat. You’ll have a better chance of finding them at a fruit store as opposed to a supermarket. In all cases, the bananas should be at the threshold of getting ripe and definitely not over ripe with black spots. 500g is 3 large or 8 small bananas.
  • To add some flair you can serve your Bananas Foster as a flambé. The best way to do this is to preheat the rum in a metal ladle directly over the fire at the stove. Tip the ladle such that the rum is about to spill onto the fire to ignite it. Pour the burning rum over the rest of the dish at the dining table. While this is entertaining, it does impair your ability to control the viscosity of the resulting sauce, so be aware of this.  
  • Banana liqueur is one of the traditional ingredients of Bananas Foster but I find it is superfluous, and besides you’ll end up with a bottle lying the house for years with little other use. It’s infinitely more important to add the pinch of salt which is left out in many recipes. If you do decide to add it, just add 2T to the rum.
  • Most recipes specify brown sugar. I don’t because it burns more easily and I find caramelizing white sugar actually works better in exchanging flavour between the bananas and the sauce. I believe that’s why I haven’t a need for banana liqueur. 
  • To my knowledge, Bananas Fosters was first created in New Orleans, which makes sense since there are plenty of banana plantations in the Caribbean.
 
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Posted by on May 3, 2019 in American, Desserts, Recipe

 

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Classic Linguine alle Vongole

(serves 2)
Linguine Vongole is one of the pasta classics and it can be prepared in a short amount of time, without too much of a fuss. It is the pasta that should be part of the repertoire of every home cook. Linguine Vongole’s flavours may be simple and its ingredients are few, but it remains a favourite of one and all, which speaks volumes about what a perfect combination clams, garlic, oil and white wine make.  If you are just picking up cooking, this is the perfect dish for you to try your hand at. 

Ingredients

  1. Baby Neck Clams in Shell (2 dozen)
  2. Linguine (200g) or Spaghetti
  3. Garlic (1 bulb = 12 cloves)
  4. Onion (1/2)
  5. White Wine (1/3 cup)
  6. Olive Oil
  7. Italian Parsley
  8. Basil
  9. Coriander Seed Powder

Preparation

  1. Soak your clams in water ahead of time. If you are using frozen clams like I often do, rinse the clams briefly under running water before soaking.
  2. Slice the cloves of garlic into thin slices. Cut the half onion into thin half rings. (peel them both first of course)
  3. Decant the clam water into a pot top up as necessary. Add a dash of olive oil and 1/2 t of salt. Bring to a boil and put the pasta into the pot.
  4. In a pan heat up a few T of olive oil with the garlic slices. Stir fry until the garlic begins to darken, then add the onion. Continue to stir fry.
  5. When the onion breaks into individual half rings from the hear, add the clams.
  6. Stir fry for a about minute and then add 1/3 cup of white wine followed by 1t of coriander seed powder. Cover the pan and bring to a boil, then turn off the heat immediately.
  7. When the pasta is no longer stiff but not quite cooked yet, transfer it to the pan.
  8. Stir 1.5t of salt and 0.5t of sugar into 1/5 cup of olive oil. Pour the oil over the pasta in the pan. Sprinkle on 1T chopped basil and 1T chopped parsley.
  9. Turn on the heat and toss the pasta in the sauce until it is cooked to the desired hardness.
  10. Plate and garnish with a bit more chopped parsley and some black pepper.

Notes

  • The right number of clams will of course depend on the size of the clams. The clams I used are quite large. You should use more than two dozen clams if you use smaller clams. As a rule of thumb, the weight of the clams for this recipe (with shell) should be around 500g. 
  • If you prefer the soupy type vongole sauce, add 4T of the pasta water right before the final toss.
  • You will notice I did not specify extra-virgin olive oil. I don’t think that a strong olive oil taste goes well with ‘fresh’ clams.  If you don’t have light cooking olive oil, any kind of mild vegetable oil will do.
  • The type of white wine matters too. I use chardonnay because I don’t want my sauce to be too sour. Some people like it a bit tart in which case sauvignon blanc would be the wine to use.
  • If you plan to use canned clams, consider my Linguine with Clams and Pesto Recipe instead.
  • You may have noticed a few slices of scallops in the picture. That’s just a little bonus I added for myself and not part of the official recipe.  
 
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Posted by on April 7, 2019 in Italian, Main Courses, Pasta, Recipe, Seafood

 

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Roasted Spatchcock a.k.a. Butterflied Chicken

(serves 4, or more depending on size of bird)
Spatchcock is a fancy word for butterflying the whole chicken. It sounds hard, but its quite the opposite. There are many advantages to spatchcocking. First and foremost a flattened chicken roasts more evenly, resolving a major issue with roasting chickens for those without a rotisserie; the thighs take longer to cook than the breast, but ironically when you roast a whole bird it is the breast that is more exposed to heat. Spatchcocking exposes the legs more and brings the breast down, saving the day. In addition, a spatchcocked chicken cooks in half the time and is in a more convenient shape for fitting on a fridge shelf.      

Ingredients

  1. Chicken, whole (1)
  2. Onion (1)
  3. Potatoes (2)
  4. Yam (1)
  5. Carrot (1)
  6. Salt
  7. Brown Sugar
  8. Butter
  9. Rosemary
  10. Fennel Seeds

Preparation Part I

  1. You have to begin preparation the night before.
  2. Starting on either side of the bishop’s nose, cut towards the corresponding side of the chicken’s neck (as per the picture below). This is best accomplished using a pair of kitchen shears. You will need to cut through the ribs, but not to worry, these are pretty flimsy in a chicken.
  3. From the inside of the chicken, snip an incision along the cartilage of the breast bone (it is white) top to bottom to weaken it. Be careful not to pierce the skin on the other side.
  4. Flip the bird over and press down on the breast with both hands to flatten it. You should end up with the iconic cartoon heart shape chicken breast.
  5. Prepare a brining solution using 1T salt, 1t brown sugar for every two cups of water. Make enough brine to ensure the entire chicken is submerged. Brine the chicken for 8 hours. If the weather is warm, either add a some ice every once in a while or leave the brining bird in the fridge.

Preparation Part II

  1. When the brining is done (presumably the next day), place the bird on a wire tray to dry (as shown below). This will take several hours and again is best done in the fridge. Alternatively you can use a portable fan.
  2. You must dry the bird properly for it is the key prerequisite to a properly roasted chicken. The chicken is considered sufficiently dry when you put a piece of kitchen towel on it and the paper remains dry but sticks to the skin like a second skin.
  3. In a small pan, heat 1 heaped t of dried rosemary, 1 heaped t of fennel seeds in 4T of oil until you can smell a strong aroma. Turn off the heat before the herbs get burnt. Leave the pan on the stove while the chicken is drying; more herb flavour will be infused into the oil.

Preparation Part III

  1. Cut the potatoes and the yam into chunks. Depending on the variety you may want to peel them first. The yams should be double the size of the potatoes as they cook faster.
  2. Cut the carrot into discs and the onion into small wedges. Place all the vegetables on a baking tray.
  3. Preheat the oven to 205oC (400oF).
  4. Reheat the infused oil. When the oil becomes less viscous, strain the oil into a container. Add a large knob of butter to the oil. Next dissolve half a t of salt in the butter-oil mixture. Drizzle half of this mixture over the vegetables using a spoon.
  5. Position the chicken over the vegetables on the tray. Make sure all the vegetables end up under the chicken as any piece left exposed will become burnt beyond recognition.
  6. Paint the remainder of the oil-butter mixture on the chicken with a brush.
  7. Place the chicken in the oven for 45 minutes, 50 minutes if it is a bigger bird.
  8. When the chicken is golden brown, remove the pan from the oven without turning it off. Place the chicken on a large serving plate to rest after giving it a light dusting of pepper.
  9. Roll the vegetables about in the tray to cover them with drippings, space them evenly and place the tray back in the oven for around 10 minutes. When the vegetables have caramelized sufficiently, arrange them around the chicken on the plate. Pour any remaining drippings over the chicken and serve.

Notes

  • As you can see from the pictures, the legs were open at an angle while drying but became parallel to each other after cooking as the meat contracted. Purists will secure the chicken with 2 long metal skewers in an X pattern, from the left thigh through to the right breast and vice versa to keep the chicken completely flat. This also helps all the skin brown more evenly. I think its a bit of an overkill, but skewers are definitely a good idea when BBQing.
  • My brining mixture is a relatively weak one as we are brining the whole chicken and not just the breast. If you like your roast chicken on the salty side, you can double the salt in the butter-oil mixture to a full teaspoon.  
  • The back and spine that is cut out is good for boiling stock. If you don’t need it concurrently, you can wrap it in cling film and freeze if for later.
 
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Posted by on February 8, 2019 in English, Main Courses, Poultry, Recipe

 

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Oven Baked Nonya Otak-otak

(serves 8)
Otak-otak is a terrine-like grilled fish delicacy from South-east Asia, an exotic spicy dish that works as a western appetizer. There are many varieties of Otak-otak from Thailand all the way down to Indonesia; this version is of the Straits Chinese style featuring coconut milk, popular in Singapore and Penang. Otak-otak is usually grilled in banana leaves and contains other ingredients uncommon in the Western kitchen, but I have worked out a modified recipe that resolves these issues.  

Ingredients

  1. White Fish Fillets (500g)
  2. Yeo’s Minced Prawns in Spices (2x160g tins)
  3. Coconut Milk (160 ml)
  4. Onion (0.5)
  5. Egg (1)
  6. White Sandwich Bread
  7. Lemon
  8. Cucumber
  9. Sherry
  10. Lemongrass
  11. Tarragon

Preparation

  1. Dice half an onion and pan fry the pieces on low heat in a pan with a dash of oil. When the onion begins to get limp turn up the heat and add the two cans of minced prawn to the pan and continue frying until you see bubbling. Sprinkle on 2t lemongrass and 1t tarragon and transfer the contents of the pan to a large mixing bowl when it has cooled down.
  2. Make a brine out of 1T salt, 1t sugar, 1T of lemon juice and 2 cups of water. Cut the fish into chunks and put them in the brine them for 20 minutes (and no more). Rinse and place the fish pieces on a tea towel to dry. You can do this concurrently with step 1.
  3. Cut 2 slices of plain bread into small cubes. If the bread is fresh and the crust is still soft you can keep the crust, otherwise trim the crust off. Pour in 160 ml of coconut milk over the diced bread followed by 1 egg, 1T of sherry and 1t of sugar. Mix well, then add the fish.
  4. Place a quarter of the fish and bread mixture in a food processor and give it a 2 second pulse (and no more) on low power. Transfer the resulting fish paste to the mixing bowl with the shrimp and onion. You want the fish paste to be coarse but even, so you cannot blend too much at a time. Repeat another three times to use up all the fish and bread. Stir  everything in the mixing bowl until you get an even colour.
  5. Preheat your oven to 150oC (300oF).
  6. Pour the seafood mixture into a medium sized casserole dish. The casserole dish should be big enough such that the thickness of the seafood is no more than one inch. Cover the casserole dish, if it doesn’t have a cover you can use aluminium foil snugly crimped over the top.
  7. Place the casserole in the oven. The idea is not so much to bake the fish but to steam it. After 40 minutes, remove from the oven and allow to cool. There will be bulge in the centre initially but this will flatten over time. What you have now is a seafood terrine of sorts.
  8. When the terrine is cold, and this can be several hours later or even overnight (in the fridge), put it back in the oven, this time uncovered, for twenty minutes at 200oC (390oF). This will boil off most of the free liquid, refine the aroma and give the Otak-otak a nice crust – as shown here.
  9. While still hot, cut the Otak-otak into slices and serve on untoasted plain white bread with some thin cucumber slices.

Notes

Yeo’s Minced Prawns in Spices

  • As the fish is cooked for an extended time, there is no point in using fresh fish. I typically use frozen pangasius fillets myself , they are cheap and readily available, but really any kind of white fish is fine.
  • Yeo’s Minced Prawn in Spices a.k.a. Prawn Sambal is a key ingredient that contains in a single tin every ingredient you need for cooking Otak you won’t find in your kitchen larder. Last time I checked, you can order it from Amazon. Its not the perfect solution, but its better than looking for ingredients like candlenut and galangal.
  • If you don’t like your food spicy, you can use just one tin of minced prawn instead of two, but you’ll probably have to add salt and sugar to compensate.
  • To bring your Otak-otak to the next level, you can add chunks of whole seafood to your otak-otak. For example you could brine a few scallops along with the fish, dice them and add them in step 6. Canned or bottled clams would work well also. 
  • Instead of bread, you can also serve Otak-otak with some white rice cooked with coconut milk.
  • The Thai version of Otak-otak has a different name, which is Hor Mok Pla.  
 
 

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Seared Scallops with a Duxelles Wine Sauce

(serves 4 – 6)
This recipe pairs Scallops with its traditional complimentary ingredients, such as mushrooms, wine and cream,  a combination that is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Searing on a flavoursome crust is a great enhancement to pleasant but somewhat monotonous scallop flesh, but somehow when you sear scallops at home it never turns out quite right. To make seared scallops to restaurant standard there is no complicated technique involved. All you need is the right ingredients and the proper procedure ….     

Ingredients

  1. Large Scallops (18)
  2. Onion (1)
  3. Mushrooms (200g)
  4. Garlic (1T minced)
  5. Mustard
  6. Coriander Seed Powder
  7. White Wine (0.33 cup)
  8. Cream (0.5 cup)
  9. Tarragon
  10. Butter
  11. Lemon

Preparation

  1. Defrost your scallops ahead of time.
  2. Prepare a brine of 1T salt, 1t sugar, the juice of a wedge of lemon in two cups of water. Place the scallops in the brine for twenty minutes. Do not go beyond twenty minutes or the scallop flesh will become too salty.
  3. Rinse the scallops and wrap them in a tea towel to dry them as much as possible. Leave them there until step 7.
  4. Julienne the onion and dice the mushrooms into 1cm pieces. Mince a few cloves of garlic.
  5. Fry the onion pieces in a pan on a low fire with a dash of oil until they are limp, but not caramelized. Add 1T of minced garlic and stir fry for 1 minute further.
  6. Turn the heat up and add the wine, followed by the cream and 1t mustard, 1t coriander seed powder and 0.5t sugar. Stir till the mustard melts away and then add the mushrooms. Simmer until the liquid dries off enough to produce a thick sauce. Sprinkle on black pepper and salt to taste to complete your duxelles sauce.
  7. In a different pan melt a large knob of butter on high heat. When the pan is really hot and the butter darkens a bit, place half the scallops in the pan, and keep them cooking on the same side. Move the scallops around in a circular motion one at a time with tongs but do not flip them. Add more butter if the pan begins to dry. When you notice the searing along the bottom edges flip each scallop over and repeat the procedure until the other side gets seared too, then remove the scallops onto a plate temporarily.
  8. Sprinkle a pinch of tarragon on to the mushroom duxelles and begin reheating it.
  9. Do the same as step 7 for the second batch of scallops after adding a new knob of butter. When this lot is done, turn the fire off and add the first batch of scallops back into the pan. Stir fry for a short while with the fire off to coat the sides of the scallops. This will also serve to warm up the first batch.
  10. Spoon some of the duxelles sauce on each plate to form a bed for the scallops and then arrange three (or four for four servings) scallops on each bed. Serve immediately.

Notes

  • There is no point in buying fresh scallops, the frozen ones will do nicely. You should however buy the more expensive ‘dry’ (not to be confused with dried) variety that are frozen without additional processing. You can identify these by their colour, which is ivory white. ‘Wet’ scallops are those that have been soaked in sodium tripolyphosphate to bloat their size. Thus type of scallop is toothpaste white because of the bleaching effect of the phosphates, and they shrink when cooked anyway. If you are unsure, you can’t go wrong with scallops from japan that come in a paper box.
  • Do not skip the brining. This is essential for two reasons. Firstly, it is the only way to put taste inside the scallop instead of on its surface; this is very important for big scallops. Secondly this removes extra water from scallops; if there is too much internal water, the scallops will get fully cooked and rubbery before they even start searing.
  • You cannot use vegetable oil to sear the scallops. Butter contains impurities which starts the browning process.
  • I did not specify a cooking time because this will vary with the thickness of the scallops and how well you like them cooked. I like to cook my scallops medium like steak so they don’t shrivel up, but its up to you. Use a lower fire and pan fry for longer if you like your scallops more cooked.
  • I made the diced potatoes in the photo separately, and they are not part of the recipe per se.
 
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Posted by on November 14, 2018 in Appetizers, French, Recipe, Seafood

 

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Miso-Cured Chicken Wings

(makes 2 dozen wings)
Chicken wings are a party staple and a favourite among children, and the unique blend of Miso and honey will make your wings all the more popular. I have yet to meet a person who didn’t like my Miso-cured wings. The vast majority of Miso-flavoured wing recipes make you cook the wings twice, the second time after painting on a miso glaze. My method does away with this troublesome glazing procedure and cooks the wings in one go. Furthermore, curing allows the flavour of miso to penetrates all the way into the meat. 

Ingredients

  1. Mid-joint Chicken Wings (1 kilo)
  2. Red Miso
  3. Mirin
  4. Honey
  5. Turmeric
  6. Tahini
  7. Sesame Oil
  8. Soya Sauce
  9. Liquid Smoke (optional)

If you are unfamiliar with Miso, refer to this page. Similarly for information on Mirin, refer to this page.

Preparation

  1. You need to begin the day before. Defrost and rinse your wings.
  2. Leave the wings to drain in a colander or strainer for at least 5 minutes.
  3. Arrange the wings on half of a large dish cloth. Fold the empty portion over and press down gently to dry the wings as best you can. Unfold and allow the chicken to dry further while you make the marinade. You can place a sheet of paper towel between the chicken and the cloth to make the cloth easier to wash, but don’t try using paper towels alone or you end up using half a roll.
             
  4. In a ceramic bowl mix the following: 2T red miso, 2T honey, 1T mirin, 1T tahini, 1T sesame oil, 1t soya sauce and 1t turmeric. You can also add 1t of liquid smoke if that is your preference. (nb. the T’s for the pastes are heaped ones)
  5. As many of these ingredients are from the fridge you will need to microwave the mixture for about 15 seconds before they will can mix well. Alternatively, put the bowl in a larger bowl of hot water for a while. Stir and mash down with the bottom of a table spoon until all the lumps are gone and you end up with a smooth paste.
  6. Place the wings in a gallon zip lock and add the marinade. Squeeze out most of the air and then massage the bag and roll it around to get the marinade evenly over all the wings.
  7. Place the bag flat in the fridge overnight. Some water will be drawn out from the wings making the marinade a bit more watery, that is normal. Flip the bag over once every 6 hours or so to ensure the curing is even.
  8. The next day the wings will be cured. Arrange them on a wire rack in a tray(s) and allow the wings to warm to room temperature. The wings should not be touching each other. Don’t leave any splotches of marinade on the wings as these will become black patches of burnt skin as the excess sugar carbonizes in the oven.
  9. Preheat your oven to 180oC (350oF). Place the tray(s) in the oven for 20 minutes. The time may vary a bit from oven to oven, so decide when the wings are ready by visual inspection.

Notes

  • The issue with most marinades is they are too watery and they drip off when they heat up in the oven, hence the need to paint on a layer of glaze at the end. That’s why this recipe emphasizes keeping the wings dry, so do not skip steps for 2 and 3. The tahini and turmeric play an important role in keeping the marinade thick so do not substitute them for something else. Also do not add any additional liquid to the marinade.
  • You can also use a toaster oven. Set it to 200oC (390oF) and bake each batch for 25 minutes – the toaster oven is weaker than a regular oven, but can do the job – 8 wings at a time as shown in the photo.
  • You can also skewer the wings and cook them over a BBQ.
  • You can also use white miso, but you will need 3T instead of 2T as it is less salty. The white miso version is milder and sweeter. I typically use 2T white and 1T red when I make my wings.
 
 

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Caviar Egg Salad Amuse-Bouche

(serves 8)
The combination of the intense savoury flavour and crunchy explosion of caviar just can’t be beat, but caviar can be a tad salty. In this recipe, this saltiness is perfectly balanced by the mild taste of egg salad to make the perfect amuse-bouche. There are just 5 simple ingredients, making this little package of tastiness incredibly easy to make. You can easily scale it up to serve several dozen guests if you need a dazzling canapé for a party.       
 

Ingredients

  1. Caviar (1 bottle, 80g)
  2. Eggs (4)
  3. Shallots (1)
  4. Brioche (8 mini slices)
  5. Mayonnaise

Preparation

  1. Hard boil 4 eggs (i.e. 12 minutes or more). Allow the eggs to cool in cold water and then de-shell them. You can boil the eggs anytime before and keep them in the fridge.
  2. Put the each egg through a wire egg slicer three times. On the first pass, slice the egg as per normal but hold on to the ends of the eggs to keep the egg together.
  3. On the second pass slice the eggs lengthwise. It will be harder to keep the eggs together so do the slicing carefully.
  4. For the third pass you also slice the egg lengthwise but after rotating them 90 degrees. Hold the slicer over a large bowl to catch the falling bits as the egg will basically fall apart after you are done. The idea is to end up with little cubes of egg white. The yolk will disintegrate but that’s fine.
  5. Finely (and I mean finely) dice one shallot. You can use a quarter of an onion if you don’t have shallots.
  6. Add 2 heaped T of mayonnaise, the diced shallot, 0.5t sugar and a generous sprinkle of pepper to the diced egg and mix until the yolk has melted into the mayonnaise.
  7. Add half the caviar to the egg salad and mix some more. Place the bowl into the fridge for about an hour.
  8. Divide the caviar egg mixture onto the brioche. The brioche can be lightly toasted, or left untoasted if fresh.
  9. Decorate each amuse-bouche with the remaining caviar and serve while cold.

Notes

  • Caviar is not as expensive a delicacy as you might think, all you need to do is use a caviar made from a fish other than sturgeon. The cheaper varieties taste perfectly fine and in any case you might not want to use top grade caviar as a flavouring ingredient. The bottle I used (pictured right) was made from herring roe and has a retail price of under ten dollars, as will many other varieties.   
  • Besides brioche you can use any number of other things as the base. Be it a pastry or bread, just make sure it is not of the salty type. The Blini (essentially a mini pancake, second photo) or a Yorkshire Pudding are some alternatives.
  • The amount of caviar you reserve for decoration will determine the colour of your amuse bouche. If you mix the whole bottle of caviar in you will get a darker look as per the Blini photo.
  • For some colour you can add some chopped chives. The stark green specks will make the amuse-bouche look even more attractive. I really should have done that for the photo.
  • In case you were wondering, no that is not a giant ball of caviar in the top photo. It’s an optical illusion. It looks like a large slice of bread on a regular plate but its actually a slice of a mini brioche loaf on a small plate.
  •  
 

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