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Strawberry and Champagne Risotto

vm i risotto world championship copenhagen torvehallerne københavn recipe

On August 24th 2014 Torvehallerne in Copenhagen hosted the "VM i Risotto", a world championship of risotto for it's second consecutive year. This year featured 8 selected participants - including me! Each of us had 30 minutes to prepare and present our individual risotto creations to a panel of judges, in front of an enthusiastic crowd of onlookers.
                                                   This years participants and their risotto creations were:

vm i risotto world championship copenhagen torvhallerne
Photos from VM i Risotto

 Alessandro Jacoponi - risotto al nero di seppia con scampi e pisello

 Lasse Angus - risotto with beetroot and a crumble of pork cheeks

 Jesper Emil Gøtz - vegetable risotto with foie gras

 Mikkel Schandorff - butternut squash risotto with roasted scallops

 Matteo Ugolotti - quail risotto

 Anders Halskov Jensen - risotto inspired by Japan with raw tuna  

 Nicholas Hansen - risotto a'la marinieres with mussels and clams.

adventurefood - strawberry and champagne risotto with  jamón and manchego

vm i risotto world championship copenhagen torvehallerne recipeWe cooked our risottos in 2 heats, and the best four went to the final. I was in heat one, so quickly got my things together and started cooking. I had 30 minutes to complete 5 perfectly cooked examples of my strawberry and champagne risotto. Gorm Wisweh a Danish TV personality interviewed us while we cooked, and tried to give a play by play of the risotto action. The spectators were crowded around each table, asking questions and taking pictures. People were very interested in the stock I was using, which was made from the leg bone of a jamón ibérico de recebo that Deli Del Toro had given me the previous day. It had a rich salty flavour, which perfectly offset the sweetness of the strawberries I had oven-dried a few weeks before. Opening a bottle of Moët & Chandon champagne to finish the risotto was an extravagant flourish that the crowd enjoyed along with Gorm and I, who had a couple of swigs as well.
vm i risotto world championship copenhagen torvehallerne

I topped the finished risotto with thin slices of jamón , shaved Manchego cheese, deep fried basil leaves, and a syrup I had made of strawberries and reduced champagne. The risotto was ready to present to the judges.

vm i risotto world championship copenhagen torvehallerne københavn recipevm i risotto world championship copenhagen torvehallerne københavn

vm i risotto world championship copenhagen torvehallerne københavnAfter much tasting and deliberation my risotto was declared one of the finalists, but Matteo Ugolotti and his quail risotto won the day. Matteo is a Michelin Star Chef from Parma, so losing out to him isn't that bad at all. Congratulations to Matteo and all the participants in this years risotto championship. I look forward to seeing what risotto creations the chefs come up with next year!

Thanks to Mia Hargreave for her help photographing the event

Strawberry and Champagne Risotto with Jamon and Manchego

I'm not going to give a detailed description of how to make risotto. Every chef has their own style and you should use the method you are most comfortable with. this is more of a list of ingredients I used in mine.

Cook your risotto as you normally would using the following:

   -Arborio rice
   -chopped shallots
   -rich stock from the bone of a  jamón ibérico or a proscuitto crudo
   -a touch of salt

when the risotto is 3/4 done add the following:

   -oven-dried strawberries (here's a simple recipe)
   -lots of fresh cracked pepper 

Once the risotto is creamy and ready garnish with:

   -thin sliced jamón ibérico or a proscuitto crudo
   -Grated manchego cheese
   -fried basil leaves
   -a drizzle of syrup made by boiling strawberries in champagne with a spoon of sugar and straining
This dish is all about balancing salty and sweet. experiment until you find the right amounts for you.

vm i risotto world championship copenhagen torvehallerne københavn adventurefood

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What is Phad Thai Anyway?

pad thai bangkok noodle restaurant

If you do a Phad Thai image search you will be amazed at how many variations there are. Type "ผัดไทยกุ้งสด" the Thai script for phad thai into google images and again and you will see that even Thai people don't appear to have any definitive concept of what phad thai is. If you look up "authentic phad thai recipe", again various "experts" will tell you their version is "just like in Thailand" or whatever. Most recipes do have some ingredients in common, such as tamarind, palm sugar, and fish sauce, but otherwise it seems to be a free for all.

world's best phad thai
I've been making phad thai professionally for 25 years in various restaurants,bars and cafes. I first learned to make it from a hippy guy when I worked at a place called Zooey's on Queen West in Toronto in 1990. Since then I've been slowly perfecting it over the years and I've got it down. Everyone loves it, but I'll tell you a secret, it's not phad thai.
Recently I had a Phad Thai Showdown against my friend and accomplished Thai chef Joey in Copenhagen. Both were good, but ultimately most people thought mine was better. I watched Joey make his and it seemed very authentic, and that's the problem. By nature, phad thai is a pretty boring dish. People who love Thai Cuisine expect certain things. Big bold flavours like you get in Tom Yum or Massaman Curry . Phad thai doesn't traditionally have those things. I know what the punters want. I threw the kitchen sink of Thai flavours into my version. Besides the necessary tamarind, fish sauce and palm sugar, I put lemongrass, kaffir, galangal, red curry paste, oyster sauce, sriracha, rice vinegar, and yes, even the dreaded ketchup! Joey's very nice traditional version didn't stand a chance against the Thai food bomb that exploded on my plate.
 I've pulled this stunt against Italian chefs and Caribbean cooks as well, sneaking nontraditional things into their cherished national dishes and coming out on top. There's a lesson to be learned. You don't cook for yourself, or some sacred ideal of what a dish should be. You cook for your customers, and you need to understand what their expectations are. I learned this the hard way from the famous "sheppard's pie incident" in Scotland, which I will relate to you another time. Believe me, you can slave in the kitchen over technique, sourcing the best ingredients, use your grandma's best recipe and put all your love and soul into a dish, but If doesn't match what the customer imagines, or what they are used to eating, the work will not pay off.

 I don't eat phad thai very often in Thailand. There are just way too many more interesting things to eat. Often I hear backpackers and expats scoff at the tourists eating phad thai on Khao San Road. I've eaten it there, and yeah it's not so great. I've also had it at road stands in other parts on Bangkok, like the photo above, that are very specifically not for tourists, and you know what? It's the same. Not so great. In Thailand for the most part, phad thai is a cheap filling dish that will get you by until your next meal. It's like a cheap hotdog, or one of those Jamaican patties you get in a corner store. If you are hungry and want to eat then eat it. The motto cabbie thinks it's alright.

Thip Samai
On my last trip to Bangkok I finally made it to Mahachai Road to eat at the famous Thip Samai restaurant where they have been making phad thai for 50 years. There are actually two phad thai places almost side by side. I tried both, and although they were similar, I think the smaller lesser known place was superior, and I'm not just saying that to be some kind of hipster. It really was better. I think the place next to Thip Samai is called Pad Thai Loong Pha, but I'm not positive. It's about 3 doors down towards Democracy Monument. You can't miss it

bangkok thailand
Pad Thai Loong Pha
bangkok noodles
The red stuff in the pot is pure shrimp goodness
The thing that makes these two places unique is the sauce. A bright red stock made of shrimp heads. The other ingredients seem to be the standards, plus preserved radish, and the tiny dried shrimps for extra punch. The phad thai are made in quite large batches, then divided up for both takeaway and the sit down customers. Most people order Pad Thai Haw Kai Goong Sot. This is phad thai with shrimp wrapped in an omelette. It's a great presentation and no matter what recipe for phad thai you use, if you can learn the technique, you are bound to impress. I watched the woman at Pad Thai Loong Pha wrap about 20 portions. I'm going to practice when I get back to Copenhagen.
bangkok cooking thai
Learn to do this!
bangkok phad thai
How it is presented
When you cut into the omelette, steam and the smell of rich shrimp essence rushes out. Lime,bean sprouts,chili, and peanuts are on the side to garnish as I did in the lead photo. It very interesting to sit and watch the dozens of phad thais being made and wrapped. The versions of phad thai i had on Mahachai Road were unlike any phad thai I have ever tasted, but although the sauce was as rich as bisque at both Thip Samai and Loong Pha, they were a little bland compared to the dozens of amazing things you can eat in Thailand on almost any corner. That's ok though, because that's what phad thai is meant to be. So what is phad thai? It's pleasant, and a little bit boring. Like a sweater vest, or trip hop music

Pad Thai Loong Pha bangkok thailand
This woman loves her job

restaurant bangkok phad thai
Menu at Pad Thai Loong Pha
pad thai cooking wok bangkok

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American Fried Rice- A Thai Dish

Newlight coffee house Bangkok Thailand

I'm not sure if this is a post about a dish or a place, or an excuse to get all retro and instagrammy with my photos, so let's start with the place.
Newlight Coffee House in Siam Square in Bangkok is not only a restaurant that I go to every time I'm in Thailand, but a place I try to take as many people to as I can possibly convince. I came across it one morning in 1999 waiting for MBK plaza to open. I had never been to Thailand before, but just assumed everyone got up at dawn and the city would be open for business and busy. Not Siam Square. It's a dead zone until 11. I went looking for a coffee and stumbled across The Newlight. I'm very glad I did.

Inside is a place lost in the 60's, The restaurant doesn't appear to have changed in 40 years. The decor, the uniforms, the menu, and maybe even the woman at the cashier! Everyone loves it, because most people expect me to take them to some dark alley and make them eat bugs or something, but here they have a dish even more bizarre and unique. American Fried Rice. A dish that was meant to please American palates during the Vietnam war, it consists of rice fried in ketchup and maybe a bit of soy, that is topped with ham, hotdogs, crispy onions, little pineapple pieces a fried egg and raisins! I'm not sure who decided this was a delicious combo, but it can be found in other old school places throughout Thailand. The blog LoLo-EatableThai has an interesting Chinese take on the place with more info  on the history
Newlight has a large menu and has many other items. Pancakes, burgers chicken and eggs with frozen mix veg squares, and my favourite the American Club Sandwich are some of the items you can enjoy with your coffee or strawberry milkshake. If you dig old American style diners, or ever ate in one of those restaurants at the back of K-Marts in the 70's check this place out. You won't be disappointed, especially if your a bit hung over and need a break from crazy Bangkok and spicy food. I can't say that you will love the American Fried Rice, but in a way it's more authentic then gnawing on a scorpion on Khao San Road and probably better as well.
Open Kitchen
Banquet Seating

Great Uniforms Photo from lolo-eatablethai
Groovy Lighting

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Khao Soi in Chiang Mai

Khao soi noodle soup chiang mai thailand

After experiencing the Loi Krathong celebrations in Sukhothai , we took the bus to Chiang Mai on the 17th of November to see the Northern Thai version Yi Peng. The standard advice during these high tourist times is to book a place to stay ahead of time, which I always ignore. There's always a place right? Not this time. I went to Soi 9 where there are many cheap guesthouses and they were all full. We dropped our bags at a guesthouse cafe, and I went searching for a room. Two hours later after going up and down every Soi we still had no place to stay. I even checked more unusual spots like laundry places and tattoo parlours that had little "we rent room" signs. Eventually I found a quite expensive hotel in the Nimmanhemin area. By that time it was 11pm and we had missed this:

photo from
Remember if you want to be in Chiang Mai for Yee Peng Book Ahead! 

Yee Peng Chiang Mai ThailandAs it turned out the next day was also part of the festival and we spent a nice time down by the river participating in the lantern lighting and general party atmosphere. Really fun stuff. I highly recommend if you plan on visiting Chiang Mai, time it to coincide with this important Thai festival.
 There is lots to do and see in Chiang Mai and we ended up spending a week walking around, sitting in cafes, and going to see live bands at night. My focus is to always try to find a unique regional dish to try, and in Chiang mai it's khao soi.

Khao soi is a coconut milk based curry noodle soup usually containing chicken or beef. Unlike most thai noodle dishes the noodles are made of wheat, not rice. The noodles are served both in the broth and fried crispy and placed on top as a garnish. A side of spicy pickled vegetables, raw shallots, and lime always accompanies the soup.

I tried khao soi in several places. The lead photo is from Kao Soi Fueng Fah, a Muslim restaurant near the night bazaar. It offers some other dishes you might not get to try, like Thai style biryani and nice samosas. I had the chicken version it was quite mild in spice but the pickled veg really kicked it up.

 My favourite spot was a place that came recommended on Travelfish. It's a very unassuming place between the temples of Wat Monthian and Wat Kuan Kama near the North Gate. It's not properly signed and is only open until 2pm. Look for this entrance:

khao soi chiang mai Thailand

This time I had the beef khao soi. It was much richer and spicier than the other versions I tried, and even though the "pickles" were kind of lame the dish stood out, and "grandma" was really sweet.

 khao soi is not a particularity difficult dish to find. You see it on menus all over Thailand, but in Chiang Mai it's worth seeking out and finding your favourite spot.

Austin Bush, a quite well known food writer based in Thailand, seems to have an obsession with khao soi. He has a recipe on his blog, and if you wish to make this yourself, try his "How to Make Khao Soi" recipe. It looks like a winner.

khao soi noodle soup Chiang Mai Thailand
"Grandma's" Beef Khao Soi

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Sukhothai Noodles

Thailand noodle dish

My girlfriend and I went to Sukhothai, Thailand for Loi Krathong. It's a Thai festival which takes place around the 12th full moon. This year it was the weekend of November 17th. The festival supposedly started in Sukhothai when it was the capital of Thailand about 600 years ago. Loi means 'to float', while krathong refers to a container which floats on the water.

Lighting Krathongs
A krathong is decorated with  banana leaves, flowers, incense sticks, and a candle. A small coin is sometimes included as an offering to the river spirits. On the night of the full moon, Thais launch their krathong on a river, and make a wish. The krathong floats away taking the misfortune and sin of the owner with it.
 At Sukhothai Historical Park there were also fireworks, martial arts displays, dances, and a great selection of different regional Thai foods to try. you can see more photos of our trip in Sukhothai at my photo blog.
Krathong Vendors

Krathongs can be made of many things including banana stalks, wood, lotus, and bread. The key is that the components are edible or bio-degradable as to reduce waste in the rivers and ponds. We saw many elaborate and beautiful ones for sale on the streets, as well as at the Sukhothai historical park. There seems to be 100's of different types. If you would like to make your own krathongs you can learn how at this website:

No.4 guesthouse
We arrived a couple of days before and checked in to a cool place called No.4 Guesthouse. Very atmospheric and secluded but close enough to the centre of town that you could easily walk. It was kind of a hassle to get to, because the taxi drivers will insist it doesn't exist. We persevered and they finally drove us there. I think it's a payola thing. The pancakes with mango were so delicious we had them for breakfast everyday.
 One of the things I wanted to try in Sukhothai was Kuaytiaw Sukhothai. A noodle dish that is supposed to originate in this town. So after a bit of sight seeing we walked about 1km or so out of town to Jay Hae a roadside restaurant that is famous for the dish. It's not much to look at, but judging by the size of the parking lot many people must stop here. There's no English menu, but the servers assume you want kuaytiaw sukhothai, Mia and I both ordered it naam, which means with broth.

kuaytiaw sukhothai noodles
Jay Hae Restaurant in Sukhothai
The Sukhothai noodles came with slices of roast pork, little meatballs, pork rind, thinly sliced green beans and herbs, as well as peanuts and ground chili. The noodles themselves are the very thin rice noodles called sen lek,
The first thing you notice is the sweetness. Palm sugar is one of the main flavourings. Lime juice, tamarind and the chili balance the dish out. I didn't add any of the standard table condiments because the dish stood on its own. The noodles are nice and chewy and you can't really go wrong with roast pork!

kuaytiaw sukhothai noodles
Kuaytiaw Sukhothai at Somsong Pochana

When I got back to Bangkok and started writing this article, I wanted to try kuaytiaw sukhothai again. I found a place people recommended called Somsong Pochana and coincidentally it was about 20m down the same small soi my guesthouse was on in Phra Nakhon. I stayed at Donkey Dude Guesthouse for almost 2 weeks and Somsong Pochana became my go-to breakfast spot. I got to try the dish both "wet" and "dry" several times. Sukhothai noodles have really grown on me and I hope to make it back in Copenhagen when I return. 

Bangkok Glutton has produced a nice little video of Sukhothai noodles being made at Somsong Pochana:

It seems pretty simple and the ingredients are easily available so I'll try it out at home. When I get the taste down I'll add my recipe to the post.
Thailand Noodle dish

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Butter Tarts- An Ontario Original

butter tarts Canadian recipe

Butter tarts are delicious. If you haven't tried one you need to. I've been eating them my whole life, and have just assumed everyone knew what they were. A mixture of butter, brown sugar, corn syrup,  maple syrup, and egg are poured into a flaky pastry and baked. There very sweet and addictive. Butter tarts are considered one of the few recipes that originates in Ontario. They are similar to the American pecan pie, the French tarte au sucre, and the Scottish Ecclefechan tart. So much so, that I find it hard to see what makes the butter tart a unique Canadian recipe, except that they are incredibly popular here, and are found everywhere. Some families even put butter tarts out for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve in place of cookies.
Even in Ontario there doesn't appear to be any specific recipe that people can agree on as authentic. Some tarts have a firm filling, while others are runny. Many people add raisins, others add nuts, and some add both. The crusts vary from family to family and some recipes use a crumbly shortbread style crust, while others use a more firm and flaky pâte brisée. Here is a CBC Radio show that has a panel of guests discuss what a butter tart is.

butter tart Canadian recipeWellington County in Southwestern Ontario has a Butter Tart Trail where you can travel on a self guided tour of the area's most popular places to try butter tarts. Personally I like my butter tarts to have a translucent softness that barely holds it's shape,with some nuts on top. The toasted nuts help cut some of the sweetness. The recipe I use is from Canadian Living Magazine with the addition of maple syrup and pecans in place of raisins.

Butter Tart Recipe

  • 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) cold butter, cubed
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) lard or butter, cubed
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) vinegar
  • Ice water
 1/2 cup (125 mL) packed  brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) corn syrup
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) butter, softened
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) vinegar
  • 1 pinch salt
 In large bowl, whisk flour with salt. With pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in butter and lard until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few larger pieces.

In liquid measure, whisk egg yolk with vinegar; add enough ice water to make 1/3 cup (75 mL). Sprinkle over flour mixture, stirring briskly with fork until pastry holds together. Press into disc; wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. Make-ahead: Refrigerate for up to 3 days.

In bowl, whisk together brown sugar, corn syrup, egg, butter, vanilla, vinegar and salt until blended; set aside.

On lightly floured surface, roll out pastry to 1/8-inch (3 mm) thickness. Using 4-inch (10 cm) round cookie cutter (or empty 28 oz/796 mL can), cut out 12 circles, re-rolling scraps once if necessary. Fit into 2-3/4- x 1-1/4-inch (7 x 3 cm) muffin cups. Spoon in filling until three-quarters full. Top each tart with 2 or 3 pecans

Bake in bottom third of 450 F (230 C) oven until filling is puffed and bubbly and pastry is golden, about 12 minutes. Let stand on rack for 1 minute. Run metal spatula around tarts to loosen; carefully slide spatula under tarts and transfer to rack to let cool.

butter tarts Canadian recipe

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Cullen Skink in Ullapool

cullen skink,soup,scottish,recipe

Sometimes when you travel as a chef you end up in places you never expected. I had never heard of Ullapool before I took a job as the sous chef of a small boutique hotel there in 1989. I found the job posting in an employment office in Glasgow, and took the position on a whim. A week later I was in the west highlands of Scotland, working in a town with less than 1000 people.
Ullapool is a pretty little place with quite a large fishing port, and is a popular tourist stop in the summer.

I can't believe I lived here once
After spending a couple of days settling in and figuring out what my job entailed, I set out to explore Ullapool's nightlife. I wasn't the only foreigner in town, but a new face is immediately noticed and I was soon drinking and chatting with locals at the "Calley". I eventually ended up on a pub crawl of every place in town. After last call I made my way home along the main street and came across a group of teenagers drinking and playing guitar around a fire on the beach.
I joined in and had a great time for a while, when one of the girls asked me if I knew how to swim. I bragged a lot and told her I used to be a top swimmer in Toronto in high school, so she challenged me to a race across to the nearby pier. I accepted and we stripped down to our underwear and ran into the loch. I swam about 20 feet before the over powering smell of diesel and fish stopped me and I looked back to see everyone standing on the shore laughing! Despite how beautiful Loch Broom is, it's still a fishing port and not a place to go swimming near the pier. I was covered in a thin coating on oil that stung my eyes and I smelled of gas for 2 days. Needless to say, I was well known in town by the next morning.

One of the dishes we made at the hotel was cullen skink, a traditional smoked haddock, leek and potato chowder which is popular all over north Scotland. It is a great flavoured hearty soup that I recently used as the base for a fish special in my restaurant. Baked cod is placed on a thick cullen skink sauce and topped with a poached egg and horseradish mousseline. The smokiness of the soup works great with the cod, with the egg making the dish richer, and the horseradish adding sharpness.
There are many variations of cullen skink, but this is the recipe as I remember we made it in Ullapool.

Recipe for Cullen Skink

This makes about 4 portions of soup or enough for 6 as a base for my cod dish.
500g smoked haddock or other smoked oily fish like mackerel , skinned and deboned
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
1 leek, washed and cut into pieces
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
500ml water
200ml 35% cream
1. Make a quick stock with the water and the skin and bones of the fish simmered for 10 minutes
2. Sweat the onions and leek in some butter until softened.
3. Add strained fish stock, potatoes, bay, and thyme and simmer until potatoes start to dissolve.
4. Add broken up pieces of smoked fish and the cream. Simmer for about 5 minutes
5. using a hand blender, pulse soup until it is incorporated, but still has some potato and fish chunks
6. Add cracked pepper and test for salt.

Painting by Ann-Cathrine Loo 1990
Working in a small hotel is hard work and usually requires split shifts. I worked breakfast from 6am until noon, and then came back for dinner service from 5 until 9pm six days a week. I was pretty tired on my first day off, but one of the staff suggested I take a walk into the surrounding hills. He gave me a pre-rolled joint and I set out with my walkman and some snacks. The north highlands are truly beautiful, and soon I felt far from the town, walking by a stream in a misty valley between the mossy hills. I sat on a big rock and smoked the joint. I heard some noises and out of the mist came 3 wild horses, slowly walking down the riverbed grazing on grass as they went. They didn't seem to take much notice of my presence, and continued by, passing just a few feet in front of me before disappearing into the mist again. It was magical. One of those perfect moments you remember vividly for a lifetime. I walked up one of the hills and looked out over the fjord towards the open sea. My walkman started busting out "Xanadu" by Rush and as the heavy guitars crescendoed and the wind blew in my face, I knew it was going to be a special summer.

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