Friday, February 17, 2006

Paper Chef #15 - The Round Up!

The paper chef round up! This is my favourite part of the Paper Chef “contest” and I am glad to be able to write this Valentine’s Day special edition round up. We had a total of 12 ½ entries this month all proving that food and love are intimately related to each other. However, the way each of us link the two varies greatly and this diversity in interpretation is what makes Paper Chef such a great event.

Each month, a series of ingredients are chosen by our ‘chairman’, Owen, at Tomatilla, and food bloggers from around the world are invited to share their creations based on these same ingredients. This month’s ingredients are:

  1. Lime

  2. Beets

  3. Pears

  4. Aphrodisiacs

While the first three ingredients are fairly straightforward, the fourth one is open to interpretations. This ultimately translated into a wide variety of interesting aphrodisiac candidates: pomegranate seeds, vanilla, honey, caviar, Barry White (Oooh yeah baby!), chocolate, black beans, ginger, pine nuts, carrots, asparagus and beef tongue! Well, there are more aphrodisiacs in all the wonderful entries, but you’ll have to find them by yourselves.

This element of interpretation seems to be an characteristic of the most recent Paper Chef events. It is a feature that I personally find quite fitting for a competition celebrating a diversity of dishes made from the same ingredients. This restricted creativity is what makes this event so interesting. It reminds me a bit of some of the literature produced by a group of mostly French authors whose works now forms the core of the OuLiPo movement, but I digress and might even be exaggerating a little bit here.

Anyway, we are here to celebrate inventiveness, but it is this same inventiveness that makes judging so difficult. Not only do we have to judge food without smelling and tasting it, but we are to judge very different creations. If all of us were making the same apple pie, it would be easier to establish a clear grading scheme; alas it is not the case with Paper Chef. This makes judging Paper Chef quite complicated and this is why you will have to wait a few more days before the Paper Chef #15 award ceremony. In the meantime, let’s all have a look at all the contenders.

First we have an audacious entry by Tankeduptaco, of Food for Thought: Pickled Tongue with Lentils, Beetroot, Cucumbers and Pears. This remarkable dish features a great variety of textures: crunchiness from cucumber, chewiness from the tongue, the silkiness of lentils... An interesting combination of flavours is also exhibited here: Sichuan pepper, horseradish, thyme, lime… A very international approach to our four ingredients combining flavours from Eastern Europe and Asia through the talent of Tankeduptaco.

Also from Australia, Noodle Cook, from the unique Electronic Restaurant, offers an elaborate Lime jelly and oyster avocado mousse using French techniques and Chinese ingredients. Although the result was not as good as Noodle cook expected it to be, the visual aspect of the dish is simply stunning. Noodle cook also used unusual ingredients in equally unusual ways; for instance, as aphrodisiac, Noodle cook chose dried Chinese oysters and turned it into a mousse. Finally, is you visit the Electronic Restaurant, you might come across a picture which can turn out to be very pornographic for people with a slightly twisted mind… No wonder oysters are believed to be aphrodisiac!

With her always humorous approach, Alanna, of A Veggie Venture, prepared a 1960’s church cookbook inspired Jelly Fruit salad for grownups. Her Wine & Fruit Salad is definitively not the usual clear dessert jelly; first of all, it contains a huge amount of pureed beets as well as an equally impressive amount of fruits and it comes with a delicious aphrodisiac sour cream sauce.

Also using gelatine, Emma, the Laughing Gastronome, proposes another dessert: Beetroot and Carrot Jelly with Pear and Lime Sauté. Who would have thought that roots could look so sexy? A light and delicious jelly for a Valentine’s Day dessert is a sure way to ensure that the celebration could continue after dinner.

Another contestant also made good use of gelatine in her dessert (what is it with jelly and love?). Ilva, of Lucullian Delights, prepared a visually spectacular pasta dish making full use of the coloring power of beets. Her Pink pasta with Asparagus, pear, pine nuts and lime is so tempting that it is already being emulated by others.

Stephen, of Stephen Cooks, is exhibiting, once again, his incredible talent at making jaw dropping works of culinary art. His Salad of Pears, Roasted Beets and Three Aphrodisiacs is a delight to the eyes and I am sure the palate as well. The pears and beets certainly shine in this dish, but the cheese and vinaigrette play an important supporting role here too.

Louise of Pâté Chinois and Co. decided to use black bean in her recipe after attending a lecture called “Beat the winter blues and boost your libido” at her local natural food store. The result was a hearty black bean pear and lime salad served with home made beet and potato chips. I don’t know about you, but a recipe that includes black beans, cayenne pepper and cilantro is more than just appealing to me.

Pille, our favourite Estonian foodie in Edinburgh, at Nami-Nami offers us a beautiful Mascarpone mousse with white chocolate and lime juice, topped with candied pear and beetroot. Following cues from different bloggers, she was able to create a dessert of her own which screams to be eaten. Hummm, I am still salivating!

Haalo, who seems willing to Cook Anything at least Once, propose a faux nigiri sushi served with equally faux soy sauce and faux wasabi and made with her beautiful Beetroot Cured Salmon. This dish would certainly make a high impression even at top restaurants such as the Fat Duck, the French Laundry or El Bulli.

Chopper Dave and Mrs D, of Belly-Timber, decided to go for luxury by using caviar, truffles and snails (among other things) in their multi courses meal which includes: Snails in beet cups with truffle butter, Salmon and beet mousse barquettes and Poached pears with agave caramel sauce. Let’s just say for now that we agree with them that they have no chance of winning the Paper Chef Super Saver award… but all the other categories are still open to them!

Marie-Laure, of the web site Ô Délices, took the extra time to translate her entry from French to English. Also inspired by other bloggers, her ‘Muffins à la betterave et aux poires’ are very “light and moist” and would probably make a fabulous breakfast or afternoon snack. The French version of the recipe can be found here.

Surfindaave does not own a blog, but his contribution was published here on Slurp and Burp. After some serious thinking and experiments in the kitchen, a few brilliant ideas were brought to fruition in his kitchen including a Proseco cocktail with pear and lime ice balls, and candied beet stem swizzle stick, a Roasted golden beet and ruby pear salad on arugula with lime vinaigrette, pomegranate seeds and parmesan shavings, Seared diver scallops on beet and pear risotto with lime mango salsa, served with sautéed beet greens and port reduction and Beet ice cream with kiwi-lime and thyme-pear sorbets on dark chocolate sauce with pistachio powder. I am not the only one to hope to be able to read the eventual Surfindaave’s blog in a near future.

Finally, Sam of Becks & Posh, sent us this beautiful picture of Dark chocolate lime and honey truffles served with pink heart pear crisps which were coloured with beet juice. She did not have the time to complete her post (yet?), but at least we can enjoy her work through the picture.

As for myself, I presented my own Paper Chef non-entry: Beet root carpaccio with a warm pear and walnut compote and pieces of grilled pig heart. I thought it was bold and delicious looking but reading all the other entries has been quite humbling… especially for someone who had world dominance ambitions

Fufu and I will now examine each of these entries one by one and make our final decision. It might take us a few days, but rest assured that we will be back soon with details on our finalists and winners for each categories as well as our grand winner.


ilva said...

Thanks for this wonderful presentation! What an abundance of creative and interesting dishes, your task is not an easy one...

Marie-Laure said...

Thank you MagicTofu !
My english isn't very good... I hope my recipe is ok ;o)

Kalyn said...

What a wonderful collection of good looking foods. I was a bit occupied this time, but I hope to participate again soon.

Alanna said...

Oulipo -- I love it, it SO works, it's so true!

MagicTofu said...

Talking about Oulipo... this link might be more appropriate:

Pille said...

Thank you for the great round-up, Magic Tofu!