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Amuse-bouches: "a bite-sized hors d’oeuvre sent out at the whim of the chef, to whet diners’ appetites (or “amuse the mouth”) for the meal ahead. ... this immaculate finger food involves a lot of work." Yotam Ottolenghi

I'm running out of words for oddments, so I'm moving in a slightly different direction with amuse-bouches, although the overall sense is of small things. I haven't done one of these posts for a while so here I go.

Another thing that made me think of the word was our meal out last night with younger son and wife, at our local fine diner Mercer's. Apparently the amuse-bouche at left comes from the Ritz somewhere. (There are Ritzes here there and everywhere), but it is a good example of the kind of thing that you might get at a fancy restaurant. Often they are amazing, sometimes the tastiest thing in the whole meal. Which does indeed whet your appetite, but might lead to ultimate disappointment. So it's a fine balance that the chef has to strike, really good, but not so good that everything else pales into comparison. But yes a lot of work and thought goes into them.

Ottolenghi  incidentally, whose quote I used as my lead in this time, offered, by contrast - a nibble of Roast padrón peppers with caramelized garlic, a nibble being, as he says - less formal.

Anyway - it's a start, and it's small, and hopefully the following little bits and pieces will amuse and maybe make you hope for more wonders, or even make you want to explore further or have a go yourself. I could attempt Ottolenghi's peppers, but those fancy restaurant bites are perhaps beyond my reach.

Though mind you, sometimes it's something as simple as a shot glass of some really intense soup. You could have a go at that. But would you? They are a wonderful thing in a restaurant but really rather fussy for a home dinner party aren't they?

No you've got to let the restaurants hang on to these things. It makes them special. You don't go to a restaurant to eat what you can eat at home do you? Surely you go for something special.

Affogato and maple syrup

I love affogato - coffee, ice-cream, liqueur - what's not to love? And super easy.

As is this version which uses maple syrup instead of the liqueur, which is good if you've already drunk too much alcohol.

I also love maple syrup which I first encountered in America - of course. And this little non recipe did give me the idea of doing a post on maple syrup and maybe I still will, but not today. So this is just a little idea we could all try next time we're feeling down.

The Tornado omelette

I'm not sure where I came across this one now. It's one of those Instagram TikTok things. The latest in a long line of eggy videos according to Kitchn:

"few genres are so consistently, beautifully mesmerizing as watching the different ways eggs are made around the world. Previously we’ve ooh-ed and aah-ed over the Indian bread omelette, the ramen-omelette hybrid called “ramlet,” and omelettes made in a mug, a microwave, and a plastic bag."

Well actuallythe tornado omelet is apparently a Korean street food speciality. It sort of looks like fun. Fundamentally you make a thin omelette - and just as it's beginning to set you poke two chopsticks in the middle and twirl until it's all almost set, then slide over your rice - which is what they do in Korea.

The picture above is from a Korean Tornado omelet Master so of course it looks easy. So also have a look at a video from ChefSteps where a non-Korean white chef has a go - with rather less success. He seemed to think you had to twirl the frying pan quicker and quicker, but I have to say the Korean didn't seem to be swirling the pan very fast.

As Kitchn says:

"Like so many of these dishes, it looks simple at first glance, but watching closely reveals a practiced hand knowing exactly how to draw the chopsticks from across the pan to just an inch apart before twisting, when to jiggle the pan, and how to rotate it. It seems as if the pan does almost as much moving as the chopsticks when it comes to creating the egg vortex."

Yes I know we aren't going to try this at home, but it's sort of fun to watch others do these weird things. I wonder who thought it up? Well briefly. In the early twentieth century the Japanese brought their omurice - shown here - to Korea. The Koreans then put their own spin on it with the tornado omelet. (Oh dear I've just noticed the awful pun - or whatever that was.) Which to me does not really explain the origins of the truly unique thing - the swirling. The Japanese thing is just the idea of an omelet over rice. Who thought of the swirling nobody seems to know, although they seem to think it began in the 70s.

Whipped brie

Whilst we are on TikTok and "it's not as easy as it looks" here is another supposedly quick and easy thing to make as an amuse bouche. It even began with a celebrity chef - Thomas Keller - his version is shown here. Here he is serving the cheese with a syrupy looking fig, but I gather it's also served with honeycomb.

"Chef Keller’s recipe is undeniably gourmet: He uses Brie de Meux and tops it with a port and fig compote and fleur de sel (which is fancy, flaky sea salt)" Ain't Too Proud to Meg

It became so popular that the TikTokers of the world dived in and made all sorts of variations, including this one from Michelle Southan - whose recipe can also be found on Taste. I think it's actually from the Coles Magazine because some prominence is given to the fact that the Brie used here is from Coles. This is a savoury version - with bacon and honey.

However I also saw a recipe from Lorraine Elliot of Not Quite Nigella a blogger with many, many readers - I think possibly second after Nagi Maehashi of Recipe Tin Eats in Australia. And she wasn't as enthusiastic:

"I returned home with my double brie (I didn't spring for the triple). They instructed using a knife to cut off the rind. It's not as easy as you think and you don't end up with that much cheese after you do that. ... I waited for 10 minutes while my mixer did all the work. What resulted was a gooey mess. It wasn't whipped, it was sloppy."

I actually can confirm the bit about slicing off the rind and being left with nothing. I did that recently - the brie is soft, so it's hard not to slice just the very outside. You take the slightly more solid brie with the rind. However she then found another recipe which shaved the rind off the brie - when cold - added a bit of butter and cream, and used the whisk attachment of the mixer - not the paddle.

Who to believe? After all there are heaps of bloggers and TikTokers who do like the Coles video and it works. Maybe the problem is not the whisk or the lack of butter and cream, cutting or shaving off the rind. Maybe cheap Coles brie is actually better than the genuine expensive Brie de Meaux! Maybe it needs to be almost frozen. Worth a try for your next party dip though.

Baklava cheesecake - This, however, I am definitely going to have a go at some time in the not too distant future. I saw it in a Guardian piece which was promoting the latest book from Georgina Hayden called Greekish. She seemed very proud of it:

"I’ll never forget the first time I made it and presented it to my family, my harshest critics. First there were intrigued looks, then lots of nodding. My yiayia, usually the first to dish out constructive criticism, was speechless – she had nothing. Nothing but smiles. That was it, that was when I knew I’d hit peak baklava."

You make the shell with filo pastry, butter and walnuts basically and then fill with an unbaked cheesecake, so that you get: "flavours (honey, nuts, rose, cinnamon) and textures (crunchy, creamy, chewy)." And it's got feta cheese and white chocolate in it too.

Next time I host the book group perhaps. Or have the family round for dinner. The other recipes that The Guardian chose to promote the book looked fabulous too. Might be a cookbook to look out for.

Mushrooms - two things

This week when I have been walking I have noticed several - at least half a dozen, large clumps of mushrooms along the way. There must be kilograms of them. It's probably a sign of how far from our hunter gatherer roots we have come that the mushrooms have not been collected by anyone. Maybe it's the wealthy area in which we live. I confess I thought about it - they look like ordinary field mushrooms. I even scraped one of them with a fingernail to see if they oozed yellow juice. They didn't. Why did I do this? Well once I read that there is a very similar mushroom that is poisonous and that oozes yellow juice. But I still wasn't game to pick them and it's not because of all those recent mushroom poisonings. I just don't know if they are OK. If they were I would pick them straight away and cook something delicious with them. I really must find a quick course that would tell me.

Number two - I watched a few minutes of Adam Liaw doing his thing on The Cook Up. I can't quite remember what he was cooking now but it involved mushrooms. And he microwaved them before frying them. Because doing that:

"concentrate[s] the flavour and reduce[s] the amount of oil they are often required to cook, creating a silky and less greasy result."

You microwave on high for 5 minutes. He cut them into wedges first. Who knew?

Mean with ravioli

My Smitten Kitchen newsletter arrived this week with a link to an article in Jezebel which was an amusing but absolutely spot on moan about how few ravioli you usually get in a serve in a restaurant. Like this example here - very amuse-bouche don't you think? Makes you want more.

The writer talked about an expensive meal out in New York - her father was paying:

"I recently split two pasta entrées with my mom for her birthday dinner at Union Square Café. The mafaldine arrived piled high on a large plate, with several thick squiggly noodles drenched in duck ragú and pistachios. The second entrée sat dwarfed in its shadow: a single flat ravioli in herb butter that we were forced to cut down the middle in order to share."

So true isn't it? I do sometimes order ravioli because they are such a faff to make at home, but yes, you never get many. And as she also says:

"Most ravioli contain a teaspoon of ricotta and some butternut squash at most. There isn’t enough sage butter in the world to make up for the fact that I’m still hungry at the bottom of my elegantly shallow bowl so cavernous it only highlights the need for more ravioli."

So let's finish with something more substantial from a recent Coles Magazine. 'Tis the season for cauliflower and leek after all. You roast the vegetables with herbs and spices, make a cheese sauce, stuff some filo strips with a mix of the two, wind your strips around in a tin, pour over the rest of the sauce and bake. People are doing interesting things with filo these days aren't they. Vegetables too. I mean this is dinner. Definitely not an amuse-bouche and it looks just as beautiful. Next week's vegetarian day perhaps.

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