Wednesday, 15 July 2015

My Food Filled Weekend: Chocolate, Bread and Dim Sum

This weekend just past my Mum came up to visit and I had arranged a few things for us to get up to. I bought her the chocolate tour for Mother's Day and we finally got around to doing it last weekend! We started at The Old Algerian Coffee House on Old Compton Street with chocolate covered coffee beans, which weirdly, even though I don't like coffee were rather delicious.

We then moved on to Hotel Chocolat, where we tried their Mojito Chocolate, which was delicious, just the right amount of rum mixed with the sweetness of the chocolate. They also now do cocoa infused beauty products and cocoa infused gin.


Following that we went to Paul A Young, which was one of the highlights of the tour. We each got a salated caramel chocolate and then got to choose one. He is famous for weird flavours such a marmite and malt loaf and butter, some of the chocolates change each season. I went with a goat's cheese chocolate, which worked surprisingly well. The chocolates are not cheap though at £7 for a box of 4! Below is the dazzling array of flavours he has.

We walked on to Carpo on Piccadilly, which I must have walked past hundreds of times and never noticed. It is a Greek company and sells fruit and nuts as well as coffee and of course chocolate. We tried a dark chocolate with chilli and also chocolate covered fruit and nut.
Our next stop was Prestat, chocolatier to the Royal family. The inside of the shop is much like a sweetbox and was apparently the inspiration for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. They are also the creators of the truffle, so we of course tried a truffle. We then got one free choice and I went for a ginger and saffron fudge, which was delicious, my Mum had a pink champagne truffle.
We then moved onto Fortnum and Mason, where we had, the Queen's favourite chocolate, a rose cream, which to me was way too floral. We ended at the East India Company, where there are plenty of samples out to try! All in all it was a good tour and our guide Alan, was engaging and interactive, which made the tour much better than the Cupcake tour of a few weeks ago.
On Sunday morning we got up early and trundled off to the e5 Bakehouse in Hackney for a tour and tasting. The bakery was set up about 5 years trying to be a sustainable as possible and the owner showed us round. We looked at how the bread was made using traditional leven, and the picture below is of baguettes being made.

We were also shown their big industrial ovens, which seal in the heat and moisture to create a crispier crust.

They also have an area out the back, where they keep chickens and have a small garden. They deliver all of their bread to restaurants by bike, keeping with the sustainable idea.

They bake cakes and patisserie everyday to sell in their shop and this is one of their patisserie chefs making eclairs.

We then sat down for a bread tasting, where we tried several different breads including Hackney Wild, their most popular bread, rugbrot and a swedish inspired loaf amongst others.

They try to use as much british wheat as possible,but this isn't always easy and so the bakery's new project is to mill their own flour and they currently mill about 700kgs a week. Including white, wholemeal and spelt.

This was a really educational visit and definitely gave me a lot of food for thought.
Our last food related activity was a Dim Sum Cookery Class at The London Cookery School in Caledonian Road. We made three different sorts of dumplings, Har Gaw, Sui Mai and Chiu Chow Fun Gwor.
We started off by making the fillings, one was prawn, one was pork and the other was prawn and pork! The filling for the Sui Mai had to be thrown into the bowl several times to soften the meat.
We then made a simple dough for two of our dumplings. Below is my Mum with her ball of dough.

We tried different shapes and I found it very theraputic and relaxing shaping the dumplings. These are some of the ones I made.

And these are what they look like steamed. The dough is magic as it is self healing so even if you have cracks they heal over. We decided that we prefered the prawn ones and the dough we made was definitely better than the store bought sui mai dough.

I really enjoyed this course, we didn't do any of the chopping but we did make dough and mix the fillings together. for £35 it was really good.

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