Sunday, September 28, 2008

Mad About Jaffa Cakes!

I don’t know where to buy Jaffa Cakes in Singapore, I’ve never seen any on the shelves of major British retailer Marks and Sparks over here (why?). But I love Jaffa Cakes, as appropriately befitting anyone who has spent some time living in the UK. To satisfy my cravings, I am utterly dependent upon the goodwill of others to buy some back when they visit the UK.
In this case, my very kind, understanding and lovely boss brought some back for me so that I can keep my productivity up at work (hah, hah). Here are some interesting Jaffa Cake-related facts and trivia:
They comprise 3 layers: a sponge base, an orange-flavoured jam in the middle, and a coating of plain (dark) chocolate.
They get their name from Jaffa oranges from Israel although it is doubtful if these oranges are now used for Jaffa Cakes.
They are officially classified as cakes, not biscuits. McVities the most well-known manufacturer of Jaffa Cakes went to court in 1991 to prove this point (read the hilarious writeup below from Wikipedia).

Cake or Biscuit?
Under UK law, no VAT is charged on biscuits and cakes — they are "zero rated". Chocolate covered biscuits, however, are subject to VAT at 17.5%. McVities classed its Jaffa Cakes as cakes, but in 1991, this was challenged by Her Majesty's Customs and Excise and the case ended up before the courts. This may have been because Jaffa Cakes are about the same size and shape as some types of biscuit. A question that the court asked itself was "what criteria should be used to class something as a cake?"
McVities defended its classification of Jaffa Cakes as cakes. In doing so it produced a giant Jaffa Cake to illustrate that its Jaffa Cakes were simply miniature cakes.
McVities argued that a distinction between cakes and biscuits is, inter alia, that biscuits would normally be expected to go soft when stale, whereas cakes would normally be expected to go hard. It was demonstrated to the Tribunal that Jaffa Cakes become hard when stale. Other factors taken into account by the Chairman, Mr Potter QC, included: name, ingredients, texture, size, packaging, marketing, presentation, appeal to children, and manufacturing process. Contrary to a commonly held belief, whether something is considered a 'luxury item' is not a test for VAT purposes.
Mr Potter ruled that the Jaffa Cake is a cake. McVities therefore won the case and VAT is not paid on Jaffa Cakes.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Wahiro, Katong Mall

There are Japanese restaurants like Inagiku, Nadaman, Zipangu, Kuriya - big, glamourous, finessed. And then then there are the others, like Wahiro - almost like a Japanese relative's home where you are served exceptionally good home-cooked food. This tiny little outlet tucked inside Katong Mall has now been serving up good food for a few years now and is steadily making a name for itself.

I last ate at Wahiro 1 and a half years ago, as a birthday treat (see previous posting here). This time round, we stuck to the kaiseki set - called the Wahiro course - for $68 per person. We had:

Kikka Kikuna Ohitashi: Chrysanthemum flower & crown daisy simply boiled, tossed in dashi dressing

Otsukuri: Chef’s daily selection of the freshest sashimi.

Yaki Anago: Grilled sweet sea eel accompanied with green peppers.

Yasai Tempura: Tempura bouquet of sweet potato, ginger shoot petal, pumpkin.

Kamo Roast: Tender roast duck slices on grilled eggplants stack.

Nagaimo Ankake: Quick fried Japanese yam, prawn & grilled fish in thickened vine sauce.

Yakionigiri Chazuke: Grilled rice ball in seaweed infused consommé.

Dessert: Traditional black sesame ice-cream.

All the dishes were very good, with a subtle lightness of flavour to them. I especially liked the boiled chrysanthem flower and crown daisy, the quick fired japanese yam, and the grilled rice ball. To be sure it's not as refined / polished as Nadaman or Inagiku but I love the good "home-cooking" and light style of the dishes served up here and the cosyness of this little nook.

Pictures taken from Wahiro's website since it was too dim to take any photos.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Urban Picnic

I chanced across this on the World Wide Web quite accidentally the other day. Behold, the ultimate in cool and stylish lunch boxes that make mouse-pad lunching seem suddenly desirable. Cleverly branded as takeaway gourmet food in a box, the company producing this, Urban Picnic (even the name is stylo-mylo!) is based in London, with lunches that change everyday inspired by a different world cuisine - the pictured option is an Italian Urban Picnic box.

Comes in an understated biodegradable, recyclable brown box, and priced at £6 each which is reasonable by London standards. Lucky Londoners! Perhaps my ex-roomie YL who is now doing post-grad studies over there can check it out.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Twelve+One, Rochester Park

Another wonderful find. Twelve+One is a bakery/patisserie hidden in the Rochester Park area - it has just opened and sells a good range of jams, breads, sweets, macarons, and Ice-Creams!! I quickly grabbed a huge country walnut bread for SGD3.50 (a mere bagatelle if you know what good bread sells for over here in Singapore) and a jar of home-made strawberry jam for SGD15 (with the lumpy strawberry slices still clearly visible) and had them for a great breakfast this morning. Why can't all weekends be like this? :-)
(The ice-creams are a must-try, especially the strawberry and pear sorbets, and the brandy ice-cream. The fruit sorbets taste intensely of the fruit, and not at all artificial. Cassis serves them for dessert too. )

Pinchos, Rochester Park

There has been a veritable drought of posts here on this blog, as I've been very busy and experiencing some emotional stresses this month. Anyway, one seeks refuge in good food and I decided to check out Pinchos, a spanish wine and tapas bar at Rochester Park, yesterday seeing that it was a Friday.
Pinchos is owned by the same group as Cassis (see my previous post here) and I had always walked past it to its more glamourous and seductive sister when deciding on what to eat. So imagine how I kicked myself for not checking it out sooner, when I did finally lunch there. My friend and I had the Tapas Platters A (SGD21) and B (SGD28) to share, and gratinated french snails in parsley butter SGD18 for twelve snails).
Here's the run-down of what we ate:
Tapas Platter A
Toasted Homemade Country Bread Topped with Fresh Tomato
Grilled Pork Sausage with dijon mustard
Handmade Duck Rillette served with cornichon on walntu bread
Deep-fried red snapper and caper croquettes served with tartar sauce
Tortilla espanola - classic spanish omelette
Tapas Platter B
Toasted Homemade Country Bread Topped with Fresh Tomato
Pan-seared pork and pistachio meatballs in an almond sauce
Sliced ballotine of foie gras on homemade brioche
Sizzling prawns in olive oil, garlic and dried hot chilli peppers
Spinach salad with pine nuts and raisins drizzled with madeira vinaigrette
Delicate caramelized spanish torrijas with homemade brandy ice cream
Everything was very good (well - Pinchos does share the same one Michelin star chef as Cassis), but the clear runaway hero of the meal was the gratinated french snails. Perfectly succulent, savoury, and with a lovely crisp coating of breadcrumbs, this had me gulping up six with ease and slurping up the juices in the shell (very unglamourous, I know, but one has to sacrifice some things for good food). I love foie gras and duck rillettes too so I was most happy when my friend passed on those to me (and it's cold foie gras which is the best way to really appreciate this delicacy).
Love the ambience there too - there were only two other tables that were occupied while we were there - and we had the super-comfy couch to lounge on, having arrived early. Warm, maroon theme and outdoor rattan armchairs are the order of the day. Pity I had to skip the wine though, since it was far too early to start drinking.
Still hestitating? Why wait? Go to Pinchos - it is a hidden gem. From there, it's a mere hop, skip and jump over to the bakery Twelve+One which is another wonderful discovery (but more on that in my next post).
N.B. I am sorry about the quality of the pictures. It does not do justice to the restaurant or the food, but I forgot to bring the camera along yesterday, so the handphone camera was all I had.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Chicken Braised in Brand's Chicken Essence

E doesn't like Brand's Chicken Essence but he actually ate up most of this including the stock and said it tasted good (before I told him what went into it). This is a really simple recipe that I found on the Internet while trying to find ideas for a left-over bottle of Brand's Chicken Essence:
Apart from the chicken essence, the only other ingredients you would need are ginger and chinese cooking wine (shaoxing or huadiao, they are the same thing). I assembled this in 5 min flat.