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Level Up- Learning to cook with constraints

This past weekend, I had four days off, so as I’m wont to do, I baked. A lot. I made puff pastry into a pithivier (a french pie made of two disks of puff pastry with frangipane in the middle, yes it is delicious), and I dipped my toe in the bread, making pretzels (super fun) and a loaf of white country bread.

With the podcast, and my general love of baking, I’ve been baking and cooking more lately. In the past month, I’ve made things I never imagined I’d make by hand- bretzels, bread, eggs benedict, so much else, and while it’s been really fun, with every more advanced food project I tackle, with my current kitchen and country situation, I inevitably run up against some sort of obstacle. With making hollandaise, it was a current lack of any lemons. Making any dish with meat means coming to terms with an extreme shortage of diverse cuts or good quality, especially when it comes to sausages. With baking, its an endless list- I lack proper supplies, some of which are too expensive to find, some of which just aren’t available here. My oven is small, which means I can’t bake too many things at once, and more annoyingly, it’s electric, which means it’s near impossible to get an even bake on things, and certain dishes almost inevitably are underbaked in the middle because the outsides are nearly burnt.

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My unevenly baked pithivier- slightly burnt edges and an underbaked center is a staple of anything baked in my oven.

The fact is I’m both poor and living outside the land of plenty, so there are very real obstacles I face whenever I make things. And while this is annoying, and it make my visits home a whirlwind of blissful ease in the kitchen, something else I’ve come to appreciate it is the ingenuity it forces on me. Given the very real restraints I have in both my pantry and my kitchen, I make some baller-ass stuff. And it almost always involves figuring out some sort of hack to get my kitchen or my dish to work for me.

A great example of this was when I macgyvered a proofing drawer for my bread baking this weekend. Both pretzels and bread require leaving your dough covered for an hour or so in a warm place for the yeast to work its magic (called proofing). Fancy ovens have proofing drawers, and barring this, most kitchens (at least in the states) are climate controlled and warm, so you can leave it on the counter and it’ll work out. But for me, right now? Its a chilly 15C in my house, with no heat whatsoever. What’s a novice breadmaker to do? I ended up putting it on top of my shitty electric oven, and turning on the oven to the lowest setting so it’d gently heat up

That sort of problem solving can wind up quite satisfying, and makes me feel at least as competent as the chefs on Top Chef when they inevitably need to cook in the middle of a desert or some such. These problems are also mostly quite easily solved- I’m gradually acquiring better equipment, and I’ve definitely started to learn about the particular quirks of my oven and how to counter the consequences. But the other annoyances- not being able to find certain produce or ingredients, that has had an effect of doing something really quite different and beautiful- it’s forced me to be creative.

Without english muffins or canadian bacon or indeed the availablity of any sort of good meat, when it came time to make eggs benedict, I had to actually put on a thinking cap. I came up with making a vegetarian benny with ginger sweet potato latkes and asparagus under the egg and hollandaise. It was fucking awesome. When I was craving a hot toddy in early February, and couldn’t afford to buy honey, and no lemons were to be found, I put together a cocktail that was fucking delicious and a great twist on the traditional hot toddy- grapefruit instead of lemon, maple syrup instead of honey and ginger for some extra spice.

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The ginger-maple grapefruit hot toddy. Super tasty, have since been informed that I put way too much water in it, but the tastiness stands.

Obviously sometimes the restraints lead to things that don’t turn out well. I once spent two hours making a genoise sponge (making sponge without a stand mixer is hell, don’t do it) only to have it ruined in the oven because electric ovens burn the shit out of the tops of genoise almost immediately because of their high egg content, but leave the inside raw. When my boyfriend and I couldn’t find sweet vermouth, we got white vermouth and still made Manhattans with it, and it was yuck. But for the most part, those restraints have really helped to grow my creativity.

It’s a beautiful thing to be able to rely on your knowledge of ingredients, your palette, your taste buds to make new things. When I think back to when I first started to cook, finding recipes online and being so meticulous about sticking to every measurement of every ingredient, worried that I’d screw it up. Now, several years on, I’ve built up enough instinct to be able to explore and play in the kitchen, not just strictly follow what a recipe says. I think up of dishes on my own. I taste and adjust the stuff I make and bake. And the constraints in my kitchen have definitely facilitated that.  So here’s to poorly stocked supermarkets and my shitty tiny kitchen. You’ve taught me a lot. Cheers.

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ovum easy · recipe

Ovum Easy: Eggs Benedict, Taipei Style

For those of you that listen to our podcast, you know that this month was eggs benedict. One of the dishes I conceived of was a vegetarian eggs benny, that used asparagus instead of any meat, and latkes instead of an english muffin, since good bread and english muffins are both hard to come by in Taipei.

I started with this:

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Spices included: salt and pepper (duh doi) as well as chili powder and ginger root in the latkes, and jerk seasoning (shoutout to my neighbour who gave it to me).

 

Continue reading “Ovum Easy: Eggs Benedict, Taipei Style”

food review · travel

Indonesian Travel: Rendong

Everyone please proceed to go to Indonesia immediately. Alternatively petition your government to bring Indonesian restaurateurs to country so that this very delicious cuisine can catch on and become popular worldwide. Either way, it is very important that more people eat this very tasty food.

I spent my Chinese New Year holiday in Java, splitting time between Jakarta and Yogyakarta, and it was a very lovely trip. As a tourist destination, or simply a place to visit, Indonesia is wonderful. It is beautiful!

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Countryside and farming fields to the east of Yogyakarta

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recipe

So you want to make a penis out of caramel…

Today, I undertook a relatively simple baking project- making Tessa Huff’s London Fog layer cake as a thank you for my boyfriend, who very kindly took me with him to Indonesia over Chinese New Year.

The cake itself is a chocolate cake, with earl grey flavoured butter cream and salted caramel sauce. I think the final product is okay- the buttercream is a bit weird, flavour wise (boiling tea in butter is a strange process) and the salted caramel a little burnt, but the chocolate cake is really nice. And once I got on that caramel tip, I had a thought. A beautiful thought- WHAT IF I MADE A LITTLE PENIS TOPPER FOR THE CAKE OUT OF CARAMEL??

Continue reading “So you want to make a penis out of caramel…”

podcast, hungryhungryhipgirls

Official Podcast Launch!

Well guys, the time has finally come… “Hungry Hungry Hip Girls” has OFFICIALLY LAUNCHED!!! Tuning in to our first episode (“The First Egg is the Jankiest”) is super simple:

1. Search for “Hungry Hungry Hipgirls” at the iTunes store, and subscribe! Alternately, click here!

2. If iTunes isn’t an option, you can easily download/stream our show here. (Or click on our RSS feed in our sidebar.)

We’re currently working on setting up shop with Google Play as well if that’s more your speed, so please stay tuned! Don’t forget to follow us on instagram @hungryhungryhipgirls! Please, please feel free to leave us any comment or critique. This is a work in progress and collaborative effort, and we wouldn’t be here without all of your support, so we appreciate your input.

Stay hungry, and happy eating!

podcast, hungryhungryhipgirls

Some day-off baking.

I had a day off today, so I opted to make one of my favourite recipes, some choux puffs!

Pate a choux is a classic french batter- quite wet, made on a stove with a BUNCH of eggs. The baking in the hot oven releases steam from the choux, making it puff up. They are traditionally filled with pastry cream. If you’ve ever had an eclair, you’ve had pate a choux.

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(a testament to my baking: these are the nicest looking cream puffs I’ve ever made)

Continue reading “Some day-off baking.”

podcast, hungryhungryhipgirls

Welcome, foodie friends!

Hey guys!

First and foremost, thank you so much for taking an interest in our podcast, and for joining us on this path of food discovery! This was an idea that started percolating about two months ago, and now that we’re so close to launching our first episode, it finally feels like a dream actually realized. We couldn’t have done it without the inspiration and encouragement from our family and friends.

Both Mary and I can attest that food has become a very integral part of not only our personal lives, but our friendship as a whole. “Food and friendship” is not an unfamiliar adage, and I know many people who relate. I mean, food is fantastic! It nourishes. It brings us close. It challenges us. It strengthens, it weakens, it gives us the will to move on. It is the backbone of culture, heritage, tradition; it can be gorgeous, and it can be grotesque, and we want to explore all of the ways that food exists for people, subjectively and not. Creating this podcast has become a very new and exciting platform for us to engage with food in a new way, and strengthen our relationship with it.

Again, we really could not have done this without all of your support. Our podcast officially launches on January 26th/27th! We’ll keep you updated on where you can stream and download once the date arrives.

Stay hungry, and happy eating!