I like to think that when you have only 90-120 minutes of screen time, every frame has to count. There’s no point in showing someone peeling potatoes, or sitting down to a steak dinner, if it doesn’t also serve the plot or characters in some way. That’s why I like these–they’re all enjoyable and don’t waste any details. It helps that a couple of these, like In the Mood for Love and I am Love, are also very beautifully shot.
Bonnie and Clyde: Just looking at this still, it’s easy to see the connection between passion, physicality and violence in this movie. Gangsters and food are made for each other; someone has even written a dissertation on the subject.
Estomago: Things are looking good for drifter Nonato when he gets himself a place to stay, a job as a cook and a girlfriend…of sorts. But his passion turns sour, the knives come out, and you don’t even want to know what he ends up cooking for dinner.
I am Love: Emma, a Russian housewife living in Milan, longs to leave her dull husband for her restauranteur lover. Ukha, the traditional fish soup, plays a role.
In the Mood for Love: Every day would-be lovers Su Li-zhen and Chow Mo-wan meet at the noodle shop, forever crossing paths but never to be together.
Waitress: Jenna is pregnant, poor, and living in the South with her dreadful husband. But every time things get really bad, she thinks up a new pie to bake.
Shanghai: My last summer stop before Korea. I got clothes made, stayed in an industrial-chic hotel, ate Häagen-Dazs, went to Belgian beer bars with French staff, had spicy hot pot, and ate dumplings. Far too many dumplings. One of the best things I did in China was take a dumpling tour of Shanghai with Untour, a company I had actually bookmarked (and almost forgotten about) a couple of years prior. Yes, a dumpling tour is a real thing, and indeed, it is the best idea ever. There we were, walking around the city eating steaming hot dumplings while Shanghai had its hottest July in 140 years. Here’s the rundown:
1. Street Hawker Potstickers on Gao’an Lu, between Jianguo Xi Lu and Zhaojiabang Lu. Wheat dumplings stuffed with pork. Fried.
2. Harbin Dumpling House on 645 Jianguo Xi Lu, near Gao’an Lu. Steamed wheat-based dumplings, one kind filled with pork, the other filled with seafood (see photo at top).
3. Hengshan Café on 290 Wanping Lu, inside Xujiahui Park. Lighter rice dumplings and shredded bean curd. Rice (not wheat) dumplings are more common in Cantonese cuisine; rice needs the intense rains of the southern Canton region, but wheat grows better in the hardy North. Hong Kong, too, is a part of Canton, so those of us who have had dim sum will be most familiar with rice dumplings.
4. Heng Yue Xuan Dim Sum, 290 Wanping Lu, inside Xujiahui Park. This restaurant was beautiful and, crucially, air-conditioned. Tasty, tasty sesame rice balls and watermelon juice. So refreshing on a hot day.
5. Qin Huai Fang on 196 Guangyuan Lu, near Tianping Lu. I cannot remember what this one was about, but I am positive it was delicious.
6. Nanjing Soup Dumplings on 641 Jianguo Xi Lu, near Gao’an Lu. Classic wonton soup. As the sixth round of dumplings I could barely finish my soup. But finish I did.
And after all this food, we went on a tour of one of the wet markets: frozen dumplings, pickled eggs, fresh eggplant, greens and swimming fish. This is why it’s fun to go on tours, I think–to find out about places we never would’ve discovered otherwise, and to have a guide help us out when those five words of Mandarin just won’t cut it.
If you’re in Ottawa, The Urban Element holds very nice, high-quality cooking classes set in a beautiful converted fire station. There’s pretty much nothing I love more than a cooking class (which you will have noticed here, here and here). I love the spaces, the expert cooking equipment, the chefs, the like-minded nerds. True to form, this bread-baking class was a lovely mix of bearded stay-at-home dads, public servants, and the woman who casually mentioned that she hand made eight dozen croissants over Christmas.
This class was five hours long, so we made a lot: iced lemon loaf, herbed biscuits, gingerbread waffles, challah, raisin bread, grissini (aka breadsticks), lavash, and these dougnuts. It took three whole hours before I could think about carbs again. I was almost sure that my leftover doughnut dough was going to waste away in my freezer, like deep frying was “hard,” but need I remind you that it is January and outdoor temperatures have been hovering around -20. The dough is a little precious, yes, but it mostly just involves waiting and using your stand mixer. And yes, a stand mixer is probably going to be necessary, for reasons you shall see in a second…
Brioche Doughnuts (adapted from Anna March at The Urban Element)
The measurements look a bit loopy because they had been converted back from grams. Just know that if you have to choose between dough that is slightly too dry or slightly too wet, choose to keep it on the wetter side. Oh, and one of the most interesting discoveries from this class was that flour can be quite different even between Canada and the U.S., especially with pastry flour. So you needn’t bother with any special bread flour here, all-purpose is fine.
- 3 1/2 cups + 3 tbsp flour
- 1 tbsp instant yeast (quick-rise)
- 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp salt
- 3/4 cup + 1 1/2 tbsp milk, warmed to 75°F
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, or 1 vanilla pod, scraped
- 2 ounces soft butter, cut into small cubes
- canola oil, for frying
- cinnamon sugar/powdered sugar for tossing your doughnuts
- Place the flour and yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix for about 15 seconds to distribute the yeast. Add all remaining ingredients except for the butter and mix for about four minutes.
- Increase the speed a bit and slowly start adding the cubes of butter one piece of a time, waiting until one piece is incorporated into the dough before adding another. Mix for another 15-20 minutes (see?) until the dough is smooth and soft.
- Scrape the dough onto a very lightly floured surface, shape it into a rectangle and fold it in like a letter.
- Grease a glass or plastic bowl and put your dough into it, seam side down. Spread with a bit more oil, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for an hour at cool room temperature (ideally 20-22°C).
- Using a spatula, release the dough from the bowl and again pat it into a rectangle and fold it like an envelope.
- Now you want to proof the dough by putting it back into the bowl, covering it and letting it rest in the fridge overnight.
- The next day take it out and roll the dough out into an 11-inch round, which should be a couple centimetres thick.
- If it’s hard to work with, put it in the freezer for 10 minutes. I had no problems, though, so I just went on to slicing. With a round cutter, stamp out as many doughnuts as you can. If you’re going to fill them after (with jam, custard, lemon curd, you name it), leave as is. If you want your doughnuts to have little holes, then you can find a smaller cutter or do as I did and just use a sharp knife.
The final stages:
- Put your formed doughnuts onto baking trays greased with canola oil and set aside to proof for 60-90 minutes. They should be roughly doubled in size. Now, you can cheat with the first proof, but not this. They will puff up quite a bit in the oil, but you do want to make sure they’re looking risen and fluffy at this stage.
- Now heat your oil to around 300°C. Conventional wisdom is to go to around 350-375, but that was making my doughnuts burn, so 300 seemed to work better. Keep in mind that frying in oil on the stove is never going to be as fool-proof as with a deep-fryer; on the stove the temperature regulation just isn’t there.
- Keep a wire cooling rack and your powdered sugar nearby and start frying! You’re looking at about 30 seconds each side, depending on how big your doughnuts are. When they’re browned, take them out and put onto your cooling rack. You want to roll the doughnuts in the sugar while they’re still hot. As you may have gathered, these are best eaten soon after frying.
Excuse me while I go drop half a month’s salary on cookware. No, but seriously, are you going to a Christmas wedding for your very best friend, or do you think you’re going to need to atone for something REALLY stupid this holiday season? Look no further! Or just trawl through some eye candy, baby.
KitchenAid Stand Mixer ($349): OK, yes, we begin with something that “I” already have! My sister just got one and it is a thing of beauty. It will also let you make otherwise-annoying recipes with ease: think croissants, brioche, meringues and jelly rolls. Hoorah!
Mauviel Fondue Pot ($981.64): Haha just kidding except NOT. I’m sorry, this is almost one. thousand. dollars. But it requires no explanation. Gruyere was made for this.
Champagne Saucers ($100): We all need champagne saucers in our life–for birthdays, breakups, Christmas, weddings, engagements, showers, bachelor parties, movie nights, company picnics and New Year’s! There’s something about saucers that makes them a bit more chic than flutes. Very Gatsby.
Vitamix ($579): I have never used one, but they are apparently the most awesome of blenders. They turn kale into pulp in seconds. Want! True, they look like they belong in the year 1982, but they do their thing better than anything else. Cooks illustrated said so.
Espresso Machine ($2,400): In an age of boring old Nespresso pods, this Rocket Espresso Evoluzione Cellini is so “authentic” haha. Whatever, but it’s got this retro-future gleam, right? Can you imagine walking into someone’s house and they’re all, “can I make you a capuccino,” pointing subtly to this? YES.
Vosges Travel the World through Chocolate Steamer Trunk ($1,045): Say whaaat? Eee this is the most amazing gift ever, no need to thank me. It comes with pretty much every chocolate ever made, and in a vintage steamer trunk.
Think about how much your life could be enhanced with all these goodies, and how many people you could impress! Happy shopping!
This is a thing! I loved having pen pals as a kid, and now I love it even more because it comes with food. Let me explain: every month that you choose to participate, you’re matched with another blogger/reader, and you send them some foodstuff, to about the $15 mark. If you’re interested, in Canada and the States you can check it out at The Lean Green Bean. Or, in Europe, at Rock Salt.
This week I got a lovely set of stuff from Kathy in Calgary. It was all beautifully homemade and thoughtful–delicious huckleberry jam, coconut cookies, and this lovely jewelry pouch and onion bag. Hee! Also, sour candies, which I will definitely be bringing to work for the boring days.
Also, check this array of stamps. You are awesome, Kathy. Merci!