Thursday, May 31, 2007

Father's Day Gifts for the Gourmet Dad

is just around the corner but there is still time to order Dad something online, so here's a selection of from the Gourmet Fusion store to suit every pocket and taste.

If Dad is a whizz at making , check out this stainless steel ribbed design cocktail shaker (that also has a matching ice bucket), and team it with his favorite vodka or gin and you have a sure winner. For the wine connoisseur these sophisticated stainless steel and black silicon wine stoppers ready to give in a wooden gift box are great as a gift by themselves or with his favorite bottle of wine, and if Dad enjoys , going to the beach or camping, our red neoprene six pack tote by Built NY will keep his favorite drinks icy cold.

Talking of barbecuing, what Father's Day list of gifts would be complete without including something to make his grilling even more perfect than usual? We have a selection of gifts for the barbecuing Dad in mind.

Not only do we have all the cool tools, but there's the Chef's Apron for the real pro who takes his art seriously, and the gauntlet/mitt for those times when that food comes off the grill sizzling hot. Check out these and more in our Barbecue section.

If relaxing is on his mind, we have a great selection of tea and coffee mugs, and tea infusers in our Tea and Coffee Products.

The fun mug shown here is a Mind The Gap London Underground mug by Blues, and it has the complete route takes around London. It is one of our newer items and is sure to become a collector's favorite.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Tagine Cooking

A is a staple cooking tool of Moroccan cuisine. It is used to slow-cook many different types of dishes both sweet and savory. Made in earthenware, the traditional Tagine comprises two parts - a wide base which is about 2-3 inches deep, and on top of this is the tent shaped lid. The same design has been used for centuries in kitchens to cook meat, poultry, vegetables, fruits and spices and the slow cooking method allows the subtleties of all the different flavors to meld together, resulting in the succulent, flavorful and fragrant dishes for which the region is known.

Earthenware tagines are still in use in North Africa today, and have a slightly rounded base so that they fit firmly into slow burning charcoal. The shape of the lid allows very little water to be used (which has always been useful in a desert region) in the base of the tagine, and as the food heats up the steam that forms in the tall lid does not evaporate but re-condenses when it hits the cool sides and keeps the food moist whilst cooking. Also the tall shape of the lid keeps the top of the lid cool enough to handle without a cloth.

As well as the earthenware tagines used widely in North Africa, many adaptations have been made to suit modern kitchens, such as the Le Creuset tagine pictured here which has a glazed earthenware lid, but an enamelled cast iron base. In this way the firm, flat base can easily be used on any modern heat source, but the advantages of the earthenware lid are still retained.

and hospitality are an integral part of life in North Africa and the tagine below is typical of the wonderful combinations of flavor that can be produced with tagine cooking, yet the dish is relatively simple to make. You don't have to own a traditional tagine to prepare good food. If you have an enameled casserole dish with a lid, a crockpot or a small Dutch oven, these will substitute for the tagine, and you can still enjoy the mouthwatering flavors of North Africa in your own home.

Recipe - Lemon Chicken Tagine

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4 chicken quarters
  • 1 level teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 4 quarters preserved lemons
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • fresh coriander to garnish
  1. Heat the oil in the tagine base, fry the onion and garlic gently for 3-4 minutes without coloring.
  2. Cut the chicken quarters into two pieces. Add these to the tagine, raise the heat slightly and brown evenly, turning the pieces frequently.
  3. Add the turmeric, coriander and stock with some seasoning, bring to a simmer.
  4. Rinse the pieces of lemon thoroughly in cold running water. Cut away and discard the fruit flesh then cut the softened peel into thin strips, stir these into the chicken.
  5. Cover and cook very slowly for 2 - 2 1/2 hours. Remove the lid and boil the liquid rapidly for a few minutes to thicken the consistency.
  6. Garnish liberally with the chopped coriander before serving.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Herb Steak Rub

This weekend was when the grilling season really got underway, and like most people we fired up the and tried to remember our grill skills from last year. We decided to make our own , rather than open a jar of store bought rub, and whatever you decide to put in the steak rub, it is really a simple task. The main tool, of course, is a and then it's just a case of putting everything in, and mixing.

A mortar and pestle is useful for creaming garlic or herbs and grinding spice and mastic (gum arabic). Always sprinkle a little salt over herbs and garlic before crushing and pound gently and rub against the mortar base. The below for a herb steak rub can be used with any cut of steak or burgers.

Ingredients for Steak Rub

1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme or 1 tablespoon dried
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  1. Mix together the paprika, garlic powder, thyme, salt and pepper in the mortar and pestle.
  2. If using on steak, slash the edges of the steaks in 2 or 3 places to prevent curling.
  3. Rub the mixture all over the steaks or hamburgers and let stand at room temperature for at least 15 minutes or up to 1 hour, or cover and refrigerate overnight.
  4. Bring to room temperature, if necessary, before grilling.
Porcelain mortars and pestles are now available at the Gourmet Fusion store.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Strawberry Kirsch Delight

If you are trying to come up with a dessert that is super easy and makes use of the large, ripe that are available everywhere now, this simple dessert is the answer. It is basically strawberries soaked in Brandy and served with vanilla ice cream. If you are not familiar with Kirsch, it is a colorless fruit distilled from black cherries, which brings out the sweetness of the strawberries and adds a zing to the flavor. Hiram Walker is a relatively inexpensive brand which is ideal for this recipe. It is not necessary to use sugar in this recipe, but some may prefer a sweeter dessert, so I have included it in the ingredients below.


1 1/2 pounds firm, ripe strawberries
2 tablespoons Kirsch
2 teaspoons Sugar (if desired)
Vanilla Ice Cream
Mint Leaves for Garnish

  1. Rinse and hull the strawberries and cut them lengthwise.
  2. Place cut strawberries in a glass bowl and sprinkle with the sugar (if using) and pour the Kirsch over the top. Stir the mixture until all the fruit is coated. Do not worry if the sugar is grainy.
  3. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 2 - 4 hours until thoroughly chilled.
  4. Spoon the strawberry mixture into 4 serving dishes, and spoon the syrup that has formed over the top.
  5. Serve with vanilla ice cream and garnish with mint leaves.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Non-Alcoholic Cocktails

I thought I would include some drinks for a change, as the holiday weekend is just around the corner, and if for some reason you or your guests can't drink, there are still some great concoctions to be made without alcohol.

So put away the Lipton's Iced Tea and Diet Coke, and try some of these fun drinks - they look so good that even the alcohol crowd will want to try them!

1. Cinderella

1/2 cup Fresh
1/2 cup Juice
Lemon Juice to taste

Pour all ingredients into shaker, shake, then pour into serving glass (makes 1 serving).

2. Fruit Fantasy

1/2 cup Fresh Orange Juice
1/2 cup Pineapple Juice
Small Slice Honeydew Melon
Small Slice Cantaloupe Melon

Pour all ingredients into blender, blend until smooth, pour into serving glass (makes 1 serving).

3. Blueberry Limeade

1 Cup Sugar
6 Cups Water
1 2-inch Piece Fresh Ginger, Peeled and Sliced
2 Cups
1 Cup Fresh Lime Juice (about 8 limes)
Ice Cubes for serving
Mint Sprigs or Twists of Lime for Garnish (makes 8 servings)

Combine sugar, water and ginger in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and let cool. Pour into a heatproof pitcher and refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.

In a blender, combine the blueberries and the lime juice. Puree until smooth. Remove the ginger from the sugar syrup and discard. Pour the blueberry puree into the sugar syrup. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any blueberry skins. Serve over lots of ice and garnish with mint or lime.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Grill Friends at the Gourmet Fusion Store

The Gourmet Fusion Store now has a selection of barbecue tools and ceramics from the Grill Friends range of products by . All Elizabeth's designs and products are created to address situations she has encountered in 15 years of and outdoor entertaining and combine fun colors with functional designs. The Super Silicone Multi-Use Tongs shown here made from stainless steel and heat resistant black silicone and the black and silver design goes well with any dining style. We are also carrying the fabulous Everyday Silicone Basting Brush and Glow-in-the-Dark heat resistant thermometer.

Elizabeth has also produced a range of cool hand painted ceramics to go with your grilling activities. They come in two colors Summer and Flame. Summer is a combination of blues and greens to make you think of lazy summer days and blue skies, and Flame is a combination of oranges, yellows and reds and conjures up the flames and burning coals on the grill.

The "Anything Bowl" is great for serving up sauces, chips, candy and more, and the "Grilling Trilogy" has a striped tray with three indents to hold the co-ordinating dipping bowls to hold olive oil, sauce, salt and pepper while you barbecue or dine. The set comes complete with a natural bristle basting brush.

We have teamed them with our co-ordinating Egyptian Cotton Seafood Dish Towels for a great summer look!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Grilling Tips and Tools

We all know it's grilling time, and I keep reading articles with tips that every griller should know, so here's a summary of the points that all of them mention.

The Tips

  1. Gas or Charcoal? Obviously, the gas grill is more convenient, and definitely quicker. emit more carbon monoxide, contributing to pollution in the atmosphere, so if that is one of your worries, go for gas. However, most people agree that the food tastes smokier and richer when grilled over charcoal - so I guess it's down to personal preference on this one.
  2. There is no debate over this issue. All agree that the grill must be HOT. For charcoal , light up 30-40 minutes before you want to start grilling. This gives the coals time to reach the correct temperature for a hot fire. For gas grills, allow 10-15 minutes to preheat the lava rocks to the desired temperature. For cast iron grill pans, set over a medium high heat 3 minutes before grilling. To see if it is hot enough, splash a few drops of water on the surface, they should sizzle and evaporate immediately. For broilers, allow 5-10 minutes to preheat an electric broiler, and 3-5 minutes for a gas broiler before you want to start.
  3. Get organized. Be sure to have everything on hand. Outdoor grilling is high speed, high heat cooking. You don't want to have to run back to the kitchen for tongs, salt, pepper and plates.
  4. Even on a clean grill, food will stick. Reduce sticking by oiling the hot grill rack with a vegetable oil soaked paper towel. Hold it with tongs and rub it over the rack. Never spray cooking spray on the grill. Don't prod, poke or attempt to turn the food during the first minute of cooking. Once a crisp crust has formed it can be turned with ease.
  5. Don't overcrowd the grill. If it is too crowded it will steam, rather than sear.
  6. Don't wander off. Be safe, as you are dealing with fire, and accidents can happen. Also, from the food perspective, food cooks quickly over hot coals and you may return to charred, rather than grilled steak!
  7. Check for doneness. The best way to know if food is done is to use an instant thermometer and follow a food guide for the right temperature for the food you are cooking. Most thermometers include one, or you can see our guidelines below.
  8. Clean up. Brush the grill rack with a stiff wire brush while it is still hot, to loosen any charred remains.
The Tools
Always have on hand the following items to make grilling as safe and easy as possible.
  1. Long-handled tongs
  2. Long metal spatula
  3. Skewers (bamboo and metal)
  4. Natural bristle basting brush
  5. Instant-read thermometer
  6. Stiff wire brush for cleaning grill
  7. Heat resistant gloves/mitt
  8. Grill Baskets for fish and vegetables that might fall through the rack
  9. Chimney starter - this makes easy work of starting a charcoal fire
Guide to Grilling Times and Temperatures
  • Shrimp: 2-3 minutes per side
  • Scallops: 3-4 minutes per side
  • Salmon Fillet: 3-5 minutes per side
  • Mahi-Mahi: 5-6 minutes per side
  • Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast: 6-8 minutes per side, 165° F
  • Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs: 15-25 minutes, turning occasionally, 165° F
  • Bone-In Skinless Chicken Thighs: 15-25 minutes, turning occasionally, 165° F
  • Pork Chops, Bone-In, 3/4" thick: 3-4 minutes per side, 145° F
  • Pork Tenderloin: 14-16 minutes turning occasionally, 145° F
  • Flank Steak: 6-8 minutes per side, 140° F for medium
  • Strip Steak: 4-5 minutes per side, 140° F for medium
  • Lamb Loin Chops: 5-6 minutes per side, 145° F for medium

Monday, May 21, 2007

Forget the Vodka, Bring out the Gin

I read with interest recently in Bon Appetit that Is In. I am from England, so the classic Gin and has always been one of my favorite drinks, and one that we would always offer to guests, although most would usually go for a vodka martini. Apparently, gin are now starting to outnumber vodka-based drinks in the trendsetting bars across the US - from the Pegu Club in New York to Zig Zag Cafe in Seattle - so there has never been a better time to be a gin drinker.

Gin, distilled from corn, barley and flavored with juniper berries and other aromatics has been associated with London since the William of Orange from Holland took over the throne from King James II in 1688. Drinking Jenever, the early Dutch gin, became a symbol of patriotism. Britain banned the import of wine and brandy from Catholic France and encouraged the wholesale distillation of gin. Some time later the great London Gin distillers emerged such as Alexander Gordon, Charles Tanqueray and James Burroughs (known for Beefeater Gin). They developed what became known as the London style of gin, using pure water from the outlying villages and a continuous still to produce a light, dry gin.
The flavors from botanicals such as angelica root, coriander, star anise, juniper berries, licorice root, bergamot and cassia bark add a taste and complexity to drinks that vodka does not, and each brand of gin produces a different flavored cocktail, depending on the variety of botanicals used in the production of the gin. Below are Pegu Club's Audry Saunders' recommended brands for five classic gin cocktails.
  • Classic Martini - Tanqueray (94.6 proof)
  • Gin and Tonic - Gordon's (80 proof)
  • Aviation - Plymouth (82.4 proof)
  • Negroni - Beefeater (94 proof)
  • Tom Collins - Beefeater (94 proof)
The ingredients and recipes for the cool drinks can be found in the New Classic Cocktails book, available in the Gourmet Fusion Store.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Tea and Coffee Month at the Gourmet Fusion Store

May is month at my Gourmet Fusion store and we have just added these white ceramic stackable I really like these because they have a modern look, and if you are short of cupboard space, they are attractive enough to leave on display. They don't take up a lot of room on your counter top because they stack in the chrome stand - the cups fit in the middle chute, and the saucers fit neatly into the bottom part of the stand.

May is also the month for receiving a free $5.00 Starbucks Gift Card when you buy anything valued at $5.00 or more from the Tea and Coffee Products range. The espresso cups shown here can be purchased online for $15.99 and shipped to anywhere in the US.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Cool New Products at The Gourmet Fusion Store

It has been an exciting week at my Gourmet Fusion store as more new home decor products have arrived, and they are from my favorite supplier, Shiraleah. Based in Chicago, they have a Hanoi office that works directly with local who make products designed by their in-house design team. The resulting products are a blend of traditional skills fused into beautiful contemporary designs for modern lifestyles.

The condiment bowls shown here are from their range and are available in bronze, red or orange with a glossy black exterior. These look great with the rice bowls or wing serving bowls also available. These items can be sold gift wrapped and make wonderful hostess or wedding , and would please the hip Mom on Mother's Day.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Afternoon Tea

Since arriving in the US from England some years ago, I am still surprised at how interested Americans are in the , and English traditions and customs.

Today I was reminded of this when the and the Duke of Edinburgh visited Virginia and I read an article on MSN about how worried everyone was because they were unsure of the correct protocol with regard to dress and behavior when receiving the Queen of England. A crowd of an estimated 5,000 people were told through a PA system "The Queen has landed", and all state workers in Virginia were given the day off.

The Queen's last visit to the US was in 1991 when President George Bush's father was in power, and before that they also visited Ronald Reagan in 1983. Apparently Ronald Reagan wrote in his diaries how the Prince was served a cup of tea with the teabag left in it. Now I am not sure whether this was a mistake, or simply the tradition here in America of leaving the teabag in the cup, complete with string and label, in order for the teabag to steep to the drinker's desired flavor. Obviously, tea drinking is still strongly associated with the English, and many people I speak to here have asked me about the famous Afternoon Tea, which really is no longer a tradition in England, as most people are working and even if you are not, it is generally accepted that eating many of the goodies that go with this long lost ceremony is a bad idea. However, if you are in London and want to treat yourself to something special, you can still have at The Ritz, or Harrods of London.

What is Afternoon Tea?
Well, it usually consisted of a plate of dainty sandwiches, scones, sponge cake, and fruit cake, and hot buttered crumpets. Homemade jam and clotted cream would accompany the scones, and politeness dictated that you start with the savory items before moving on to the sweet. The table was always laid with a white lace tablecloth, lace-edged linen napkins, fine bone china and a silver tea service, so this was no casual affair! Afternoon tea became fashionable during Edwardian times, and when the tango arrived in Britain in 1910, London's large hotels began to host tea dances. The tea dance continued to be an important social event right up until World War II. The Savoy Hotel and Waldorf Astoria still hold these dances today, which recently have had something of a revival due to the new interest in ballroom dancing.

Below is the typical way Cucumber Sandwiches would have been made for the Edwardian upper classes (taken from the book, the Duchess of Duke Street Entertains).

Salad Oil
Lemon Juice
Salt and Pepper

For the Creamed Butter:
2 ounces Softened Butter
1 tablespoon Thick Cream
Tip of Teaspoon of Mustard
1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice
Salt and Pepper

  1. The cucumber must be cut as thinly as possible, ideally using a mandoline.
  2. Very lightly salt the slices and leave them to drain in a colander lightly weighted with a plate for 2 hours or so, pressing firmly from time to time to get rid of excess juices.
  3. Dress the sliced and drained cucumber with a little oil, lemon juice and a dredge of freshly ground white pepper.
  4. Make up the creamed butter by blending all the ingredients together.
  5. Butter thin slices of white or brown bread; fill in the usual way, but at the last possible moment - as there is a tendency for this sandwich to give all sandwiches the reputation of being soggy!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Blueberry Martini

I am sure that by now anyone who takes an interest in food and drink has heard the news that a fruity is not only fun to drink, but could also be considered as a health food. Researchers in the US and Thailand discovered that by adding ethanol (the found in rum, vodka, tequila and other spirits) to any colored fruit or vegetable rich in antioxidants (such as strawberries, blackberries and blueberries) increased their antioxidant capacity. They discovered this accidentally when trying to keep strawberries fresh during storage and treated them with alcohol. The in these colored fruits and vegetables can cancel out the cell-damaging effects of compounds called free radicals. Berries contain compounds known as polyphenols and anthocyanins, and people who eat more of these fruits and vegetables have a documented lower risk of cancer, heart disease and some neurological diseases.

So next time you throw a party or invite friends round for drinks, why not serve them a stylish and sophisticated cocktail, the Blueberry Martini.

Blueberry Martini Ingredients (Makes 1)

8-10 blueberries
1/4 cup vodka
2 tablespoons creme de cassis
Ice cubes, for shaking

A cocktail shaker

  1. Put the blueberries in the shaker and crush them with a pestle or the back of a spoon.
  2. Fill the shaker with the ice and add the vodka and creme de cassis.
  3. Shake until well blended and chilled. Use a fine sieve to strain the mixture into a cocktail glass and serve.