Aisybee written, photographed & pasted together by Aisling.

Comptoir Libanais: The Book!

Posted on November 23, 2014 under Food, Photos, Reviews

comptoir-book

Ever since my exquisite visit to Comptoir Libanais, I have been fairly obsessed with the idea of going back. While I do try to visit London frequently, I can’t realistically go there every weekend. Another downside to loving a restaurant is that, although Comptoir labelled their gluten free food appropriately, there is always going to be so much off limits to me! And I want to try everything!

So imagine how excited I was to find the Comptoir Libanais book in Homesense the other day. I simply had to get it, so I could make some of my favourites at home, and be able to experiment with the Lebanese flavours in a safe, contamination free environment.

I decided the best way to test the recipe book and give a thorough review was 1)  to make one of the dishes I had never tried, and 2) to try and re-create the meal I had in London that made me love the place so much.

Meal One: Tomato Crust Potatoes

The book describes this as a “naked moussaka” with potato rather that eggplant/aubergine. It also says it is a “hassle-free supper.” Well, I’ve never actually had moussaka, so I cannot speak much for the first claim. As for the second…. yes, I suppose so! It wasn’t particularly difficult to prepare, or assemble, but I did make the mistake of starting a bit too late, and with a total of an hour in the oven (and more for prep time), it did see me eating at 9pm.

Also, I halved the recipe, because I am only one person, and it still turned out to be a load of food. At least that was dinner for the night, and lunch and dinner for the next day sorted!

tomato-crust-ingredientstomato-crust-layers

(Er, I forgot to take a photo of the final result, so that is pre-oven.)

The verdict: really nice. I had to cook it about 15 minutes longer than the recipe told me to, which meant I was fairly ravenous by the time it was ready. But, even still, it was a nice, simple dish, with good flavours. It has cinnamon, which is probably my favourite spice, even for savoury foods, however I almost never make a savoury dish with cinnamon, so it made for a nice change! It made me really look forward to incorporating flavours that are new to me into my dinners, rather than having the same old pasta dish.

Meal Two: Grilled halloumi salad, jawaneh chicken &  batatas harras.

Given how long the easy meal took me to make, I decided to wait until Sunday to take on this massive meal. Obviously, it is my own fault for ordering so many dishes rather than one main entrée, but that’s life. In the morning, I whipped up the ingredients for the marinade for the chicken. Well, “whipped up” is a bit misleading… it took a while. Not because I just had to make the marinade, but also because I had to make the chili paste. Making food from scratch is great, but sometimes you see why people don’t do it as often anymore!

This evening, I set to work, beginning with the potatoes. Again, none of these dishes take a ton of effort, really, but they do take time. At Comptoir the potatoes are deep fried, but in my kitchen they are not, so I kind of cleaned some dishes while I waited (yes, that’s how bored I was).

potatoes

I popped that into the oven to keep warm while I fried the chicken. The recipe calls to marinade it for an hour, but I thought “why not all day?” so that’s what I did, and it was flavourful and delicious, fried up with a lemon for even MORE flavour.

chicken

When the chicken was cooked thoroughly, I added it to the tray of potatoes which I popped under the broiler to keep warm while I threw together the halloumi salad. In retrospect, I would have done this for longer, because I think it would have added a little extra to have the potatoes ad chicken as crispy as they are at Comptoir. In fact, tomorrow, when I have leftovers, I will be broiling them.

Finally, I threw some halloumi slices into the chicken pan because I am inherently lazy and dirty dishes are my greatest nemesis. Since the oil was already hot, they crisped up quite quickly. Then I layered them with some tomatoes and threw some fresh mint on top (I skipped the olives requested by the recipe because I do not like olives). Mmmm. The tomato and mint taste great with the halloumi which can be a bit salty on its own. I must remember this quick salad for snacks and lunches in the future!

meal

Overall, everything was really delicious. Was it as delicious as the real thing, though? Probably not. They are the experts for a reason! Still, this book will be a great resource for when I have a craving, and it was fantastic for allowing me to try flavours that I wouldn’t normally experiment with on my own. Obviously the long times in cooking are a bit of a mark against this in terms of every day use, but the next time I need to impress a lady who likes slightly more exotic food, I will know where to look!

 

Gearing Up for Christmas in Brighton + Taj’s Tea Parlour

Posted on November 15, 2014 under Brighton, British Things, Food, Photos

It’s mid-November, and therefore I am allowing myself to start to celebrate Christmas. Slowly. I love Christmas a lot, but I kind of need to ease myself into it, lest I explode into a cloud of magical sparkles.

This will be my second Christmas season in Brighton (although I will be spending Christmas proper in Rome this year), and I have these conflicting feelings about the affair. On the one hand, it feels familiar to me this time, whereas last year it was all brand new. On the other, I’m still not used to it being this mild at this time of year. It is very difficult for my brain to get into the Christmas spirit when I am often having to remove my coat because it is 14 degrees, and much too stuffy to wear it.

Everything is still a bit on the cusp, in Brighton. But bits of Christmas are beginning to pop up here and there, as I saw while I was out for a bit of a stroll earlier.

lanes

choccywoccy

shopwindow

I ended up in Brighton Square, which has some Christmas lights that I definitely need to go back to see when it is dark outside.

brightonsquare

Currently in Brighton Square is the Brighton Etsy pop up shop! I had a bit of a browse and got a few great ideas for gifts for some of my friends. I would tell you more but 1) I don’t want to risk spoiling anything and 2) my friend Rosie went to the launch of the Etsy pop up shop told us all about it on her blog!

etsyshop

Finally, we all know how I love a good tea shop. I was lured into Taj’s Tea Parlour (which I have always wanted to try) by a combination of vintage Christmas songs, adorable decor, and a sign that proclaimed gluten free goodies to be available! Those, my friends, are words that are so special to me.

Taj's Tea Parlour

taj2

Taj is so lovely and friendly! She had a sample of the gluten free brownie with white chocolate and raspberry available, and I simply had to have it. It was moist, chocolatey without being overpowering, and the blend of raspberry and white chocolate was perfect. While I was there, she was actually working on a few bakes, and got quite excited over a Baileys filling that, quite frankly, must be amazing if her other food is anything to go on (I also heard exclamations over a particularly delicious sandwich, from a fellow customer).

taj4

taj3

I am such a sucker for mismatched floral china patterns! So adorable.

Now I feel as though I am fully prepared to take Christmas on and make the most of this busy, sparkly season! Now I am off to curate a special holiday playlist and figure out how I wish to decorate my flat!

Cinnamon Sugar Doughnuts

Posted on November 09, 2014 under Food, Gluten Free, Photos

doughtnuts finished

I have not had a doughnut in over a year. Canadians love doughnuts. Doughnuts with coffee (or hot chocolate for me!) is one of our “things.” We have an entire section of our cultural identity based around one doughnut chain in particular. Both times I’ve been home since moving to the UK I have been unable to eat one of these delicious national treasures (I miss you, maple dip!).

Lately it’s been bothering me. Last night, I dreamt about making doughnuts. So, today, I did it. I took another step in my quest to relearn baking.

The recipe I based this on is from a great blog called I Am Gluten Free. Linnaea is seventeen and has been baking gluten free goods for nearly a decade, so she has really taken the time to perfect her recipes, and if you’re going to follow one, I would suggest hers. For that reason, I’m not going to list out a recipe or method, because she should take the credit! Although I did make some substitutions and have some general thoughts for how I, personally, would improve upon the recipe to suit to my tastes. We’ll get to that.

ingredients

These are the ingredients I used, apart from the maple syrup which I forgot to put in the photo (but I did put into the dough). My recipe deviates from the original in a few ways. 1) I used xanthan gum as my stabilizer rather than guar gum. This was just a supply issue. 2) Rather than buying a rice flour, I decided to use a flour blend that I already had on hand. 3) The molasses vs. treacle thing.

Basically, molasses is not a term used in England. A quick google search while in the baking aisle at Sainsbury’s suggested that the British equivalent of this is treacle. This seems right. They seem similar in concept. But I would guess the darker treacle would be a closer match and in my haste I just went for the regular one.

treacle

In any case, I love treacle. Have you ever had a treacle tart? It was new to me last year, but suffice to say, I am on board! I am not as on board with the name though. “You’re slower than treacle in January!” does not have the same ring to it.

However, I wonder if there is a difference in sweetness between treacle and molasses because I did end up hoping the dough would have been a bit sweeter. In the future, since it was a rather wet dough, I would probably add a little more granulated sugar to the mix, just because I like my baked goods to put me into some kind of sugar coma.

dough

For some reason my hand mixer is TURBO CHARGED. I have no idea why, but seriously the lowest setting is SO fast I find it difficult to handle. It’s like my arm is going to come right off. For this reason, I think the dough was a little overworked and stickier than it should have been, which resulted in not getting the rise that I would have liked. It still rose, I just think it could have done better!

hands

Time to get my hands dirty…

To make the doughnut shapes, I flattened dough on to a counter covered in hella cornstarch, using my hands that were also covered in hella cornstarch. Then I had to check the next step in the recipe on my phone, and also I responded to a message on Facebook, so my phone is now also covered in hella cornstarch. Life of an amateur baker.

circles

I used some pretty high tech baking tools to make the doughnut shapes. First I used a glass from Ikea that I turned over for the outer edge. Then I used my 1/4 teaspoon to sort of dig a hole in the centre, which I reinforced by patting more cornstarch in the circle.

Next, everyone got to have a break! These guys went into an oven that I had warmed up a bit, then turned off, so they could try to get a bit of rise (which kind of happened, but kind of didn’t. Oh well!). And I diligently cleaned up my workspace and did all of the dishes and… hahaha, just kidding. I went on the Internet. The dishes are still alive and well in my kitchen, covered in cornstarch.

unrisen

After an hour, or so, came the most fun part of this sort of thing for me… frying! I became fairly obsessed with frying things after making Algerian borek over the summer. I am a frying nerd. I was happy that the doughnuts seemed to have a lot of structural integrity, because I was able to pick them up with tongs! I am pretty bad at using a spatula. I’m sure if I had it would have resulted in many burns. Using tongs, I only got one burn! Woooo.

fry

As I removed each pair from the pan, I returned them to their original baking sheets, and then sprinkled each of them with cinnamon sugar. I looove cinnamon, so I actually just keep a shaker of cinnamon sugar around because you never know when you might need it.

doughnuts looking gr8

Yum! These taste really great, I must say. As I mentioned, I probably would prefer them a bit sweeter, but the cinnamon sugar does help. And if I get a bit more desperate to add a bit more sweetness, I could always whip up a bit of a glaze to drizzle on top!

doughtnuts finished

In any case, it’s safe to say that I will never go a year without a doughnut again. I can’t wait to curl up with a mug of Timmy’s hot chocolate and one of these bad boys tonight!