The Bittersweet

It´s a bittersweet moment for me. Yesterday I signed various papers that would result in me being the former Executive Chef at the hotel. I found myself in an untenable situation at work, and after months of contemplating, I decided to finally do what was right for me.

I have had a wonderful 12 years in my former post, at two different hotels for the same company. I have met, and become friends with some great people. I have taught cooks and I have learnt from them too.

There is no use in rambling on about the negative aspects and the reasons why I decided to leave, that´s all in the past now. It´s time for a fresh start and a new future.

But first a break! I want to spend some time with my family and friends back in the UK.

There are a few projects in the pipeline for 2013.

I will be back!


Competition 8

Three main ingredients.

  • Squid
  • Shallots
  • Rice


What can you come up with?

That was the question that I asked my cooks for the “Concurso 8” (8th Competition).

Every now and again, I like to arrange an internal cooking competition, where any of my cooks can enter. The rules are simple, they have to come up with a dish that uses the three main ingredients, they can also use other ingredients, but the three main ingredients have to be prominent.

They need to present three dishes for a judging panel of 6. They are awarded a maximum of 50 points from each judge, 25 for the use and originality of the main ingredients, and 25 points for the presentation and gastronomic value (taste) of the dish.

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What´s Going On?

Firstly, a belated Happy Lao New Year to everyone!

Things have been pretty hectic around here lately, so many things to do, with so little time to do them in! However, the team and I did find time to enjoy a New Year Party and invited the rest of the hotel staff to join in too! (Crazy night!)

In the kitchens I have been working on a new menu and some new dishes. With the restaurant being fully booked every evening, its been a long and hard month, but the team and I are pleased with the results!

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Goi Pa, Laotian Fish Salad

Goi Pa. A Laotian ceviche of some sort? Or is ceviche a South American version of Goi Pa?

Who cares? Its yummy :biggrin: and easy to make!

Like many Laotian salads or “Larbs”, Goi Pa is raw, or almost raw, cured and briefly marinated, it must be served as soon as its made.

You need fresh fish, I find white fish is the best for this dish, but you could use salmon or tuna, it really doesn’t matter, as long as the fish is fresh.

There are different ways to prepare this dish, this is my way. The fish is ever so briefly heated, glazed in its own juices actually, this gives it a wonderful texture, semi raw if you like. You have to try it to appreciate it.
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Malt Brulee

Malt Brulee or to give it its full title, Malt Flavoured Crème Brûlée is a new dessert that is now a regular fixture on my small “Sweet Things I like” menu.

I love a good crème brûlée, and trust me, I have tried many! It´s essentially a rich custard with a crunchy caramel lid or topping. I love the smooth silky texture of the set custard and the sweet bitterness of the caramel.

The name Crème Brûlée is 100% French (though that does not mean it was invented in France, if you believe everything that you read it can either be British or Spanish in origin! 😯 ), in Spanish it can be called “Crema Quemada”, both translate to “Burnt Cream”.

It is similar to its culinary cousin “Crema Catalana”, which is sometimes incorrectly referred to the Spanish version of crème brûlée, when in fact it is a different dessert, flavoured differently and cooked differently. The similarity lies in the texture of the custard and the burnt sugar topping, which is achieved by using a hot iron for the crema catalana and a grill or blowtorch in the case of the crème brûlée.

Commonly the dessert is flavoured with vanilla, however it can also be found on menus flavoured with coffee, chocolate, mango, orange, jasmine etc…

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Lao Cook in Brick Lane, London.

It is cold here! That´s what you get by living in one of the “Casas Viejas”, or “Old Houses”, which this town is now named after. These typical white houses nestled in villages in southern Spain adorn picturesque postcards, they look so lovely and cosy, which they are, but what these pictures don´t tell is is that during the summer, they are hot as an oven (I am sure I can cook something Sous Vide by leaving it wrapped up and placed in a water bath throughout the night!), and during the winter they are hideously cold. All of my neighbours have chimneys, outside you can smell the wood smoke, sadly my house doesn’t have one, it just has gas powered heater that I sit next to, shivering… brrrrrr….

I take some of my annual holiday in November or December when the hotel is less busy. I tend to return to London, another cold place, to visit family and friends.

Obviously there are many, many places to visit in London. Once you are done with “all that tourist stuff”, Brick Lane is a great place to visit and unwind.

Famous for its Sunday Market, the place is teaming with the trendy set, the arty types and the bargain hunters.

There is a huge amount of street art and installations to be found on every corner. Its one of my favourite places in London, away from the hustle and bustle of the West End and it´s “tourist stuff”.

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Autumn Begins

Autumn is one of my favourite seasons. The weather is still great and the beaches are less busy. However, there are some draw backs. It´s the busiest time at the hotel! Therefore I only get to enjoy the beach for a few days at the beginning of September before the hotel gets fully booked, however I have my November holidays to look forward to. :biggrin:

With all the restaurants at the resort fully booked for every lunch and dinner service, there is little time to take photos and research new recipes or improve old ones. However, with my trusty iPhone to hand I can still take the odd photo now and again then upload them to my Facebook page.

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Summer Ends

Summer has officially ended and Autumn has arrived. And what a busy summer it was!!

The great news is that the charity event that I catered for in London in June managed to raise 5768GBP (that’s 6612Euro or 8880USD!!).

The sell out dinner saw my team and I cook for 100 guests at a riverside restaurant. Other activities that evening included a grand raffle, fashion show and crafts market.

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Like a lot of my recipes, ideas come from things that “I miss”.

I remember (back in the old days) my mother warming up some steamed rice and placing a few pieces of smoked mackerel on top. The heat of the rice would warm the smoked fish through. That resulted in smokey and fatty tasting flakes of fish, best enjoyed with some “Jeow Bong”. A remedy for a quick fix when you were hungry, or in our case, living on a tight budget.

Mackerel is much underrated. In my opinion it should get more attention on restaurant menus. It is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids which can reduce cholesterol levels, but above all, its tasty and cheap.

When we think of smoking (no, not cigarettes, pipes or weed!), there are two techniques. Hot and Cold. Not only is smoking a way of preserving foods, it also imparts a wonderful aroma and taste.

Cold smoking basically involves applying smoke to food without heat. Hot smoking, as the name suggests, involves applying smoke and heat, thereby cooking the food.

Many types of ingredients can be smoked, meats, fowl, vegetables, fish etc.. Mackerel is a great protagonist because of its oiliness.

Smoking foods at home is pretty easy, just make sure that you have enough ventilation to avoid setting off your smoke alarms!

I use rice and a few other ingredients to generate the smoke, but if you can get your hands on some wood chips, even better!.

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From Honeybees to Pepperwood

From Honeybees to Pepperwood, Creative Lao Cooking with Friends is the cookbook from Makphet Restaurant in Vientiane, Laos.

I have mentioned the restaurant in a few of my previous posts because I think that it is an important place. It´s not only a place that serves good clean food, it´s also a training restaurant.

The restaurant is part of the Friends-International Peuan Mit (meaning “friends” in Lao) Project. As well as the restaurant they also have the Peuan Mit Garage. Free training is provided for young people in both these outlets and graduates are supported to find employment once they have completed their training.

The organisation also runs a mobile school which provides classes in Vientiane and its suburbs. There is also a Centre (provided by the Lao Government) which provides remedial classes, hygiene facilities, recreational workshops (art, dance, drama, sport) emergency shelter, life-skills education and counselling sessions to children and youth.

You can tell from the front cover that the contents inside will be colourful. Indeed the pages are adorned with colourful paintings and photographs.

The recipes are not just a collection of dishes from the restaurant, in fact the team led by Gustav Auer (himself also a chef, so you definitely know there’s a “labour of love” involved), travelled across Laos, from the northern tip to the southern boarders, visiting various regions and provinces to capture and record food from diverse ethnic groups.

Apart from the photographs of the dishes, there is also an array of photos from their travels through Laos depicting glorious shots of the countryside, markets and people, especially smiling happy children.

The recipes are divided in to 6 sections. there is also a short illustrated guide to herbs and spices.

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