Mock Chicken

The Judge Dredd comics are an interesting artefact of the 1980s: it’s what British comic writers thought how the US urban landscape would develop into a full-on distopia. I own the old, first-edition RPG books. The rules are uninspiring (as most rule-sets were in the late 80’s were) but there is a treasure trove of info on the world of Judge Dredd. And one of the things that exist in this distopia, where even coffee is forbidden, is “mock chicken”.

I know, what a horrible concept, right? What kind of messed-up future has ‘mock chicken’ instead of real chicken?

So when this video about vegan fried ‘chicken’ turned up on my YouTube feed, I was interested and we tried it out. We did use normal buttermilk instead of a vegan alternative, simply because klik drinks the stuff so we had a box of it in the fridge and so it was more convenient. We also used panko flakes instead of cornflakes (also based on the fact that we had that in our pantry) and substituted some of the herbs and spices in the batter.

And it worked out pretty well! We made a big batch, enough for three times.

We ate it with Japanese curry.

It’s a bit of work (especially the freeze-thaw cycle two times takes some time!) but the texture is really good. It needed a few more spices, but nothing that a dollop of tonkatsu sauce did not fix.

We since re-heated one batch in our airfryer, but the coating got a bit tough, so that needs a bit of experimentation to get right.


I have been making chocolates with flexible silicone molds, because those are easy to get the chocolate out of once it’s been set. I did try an experiment with filled chocolates: applying the chocolate with a brush to the edge of the mold, let that set, then pour in the filling (I used caramel sauce) and then fill it off with more chocolate. However, the edges were too thin and we did not get the chocolates out of the mold in one piece!

Still delicious though, but sticky and messy!

Another attempt was to fill the molds with (white) chocolate, then scrape a hollow with a spoon when it had set for a bit, fill that with the sauce and then fill that up again with (bitter) chocolate. It just wasn’t what I was looking for.

Still delicious, but didn’t have that ‘wow’ factor!

There is another style of chocolate molds: the stiff polycarbonate ones. I did some research (on YouTube, where else?) and the videos make it seem really easy to make filled chocolates with these molds: just pour in your chocolate, then pour it all out, put in the filling in the hollow shells, fill them off and then gently tap them out of the mold when they’ve completely set. So I got a set of molds in, and…
…it was a total disaster. It was really, really disappointing, and it took me some time to get over that. But we did try again and managed to produce a batch of really nice chocolates. I don’t have photos of the results, completely forgot…

So I ordered another set of molds, with some of the birthday money I got from my parents in advance!

Most of our YouTube viewing is centered around people making lots of really intricate cakes, so when a new, less complicated recipe for macarons turned up on our homepage, I was intrigued. So I tried it out, and apart from some experimenting with the needed cooking time in our oven, it works really well! In the video, the cook suggests using a ganache as filling — I’ve seen that suggested before, but I had been using the buttercream recipe I learned at the macaron workshop so far. But the drawback of that one is that it gets quite soft at room temperature, so if you press down too hard on the macaron, you’ll make a mess!
So I made some coffee ganache (with white chocolate and instant coffee mixed in the cream), and it works really well too — it’s nicely firm, so you can serve them at room temperature.

We made smallish shells, they were pretty cute! Klik took some to her mother, and she was pleased with them too.

But of course, we now had yolks left because the macarons only use the egg whites.

So I made mayonaise for the first time ever. I knew it was easy, but I had just never bothered to search for a recipe. Now, I don’t think I’ll ever buy mayonaise again.


I’ve been on a manga-reading spree these days. It all started out with Dungeon Meshi, which merges my interest in RPGs and dungeon delving with my interest in cooking and eating. From there, I branched out to other manga, with a specific focus on manga featuring cooking and food. One of the manga that I came across with and really liked was Isekai Izakaya Nobu, about an izakaya (a pub that also serves food) whose front door connects to a fantasy world! So their customers are inhabitants of this vaguely European-styled fantasy world (most of the ‘foreign’ terms are German inspired) that learn to appreciate Japanese cuisine. It’s a fun manga, and while I know quite a few ingredients and dishes, it’s fun to learn alongside the customers about them.
And then I found out that there is an anime made from the manga. It has a bit of a weird set-up, with the first part of every episode is an anime version of a chapter of the manga. The second part is the live-action “Nobu Plus” segment, which alternates between a cook showing how to cook the dish featured in the anime and a washed-up folk singer visiting all kinds of bars to sample the same food as was served in the anime.

One of the recipes featured was Kakiage, kind of a large tempura with smaller ingredients stuck together in batter. This inspired me, and I wanted to try it! Instead of small shrimps, I substituted smaller cubes of cooked ham, but I kept the onion and carrot.
shallow-frying kakiage
Shallow-frying the kakiage. I used a bit more egg in the batter, so it wasn’t that crispy — I will need to experiment a bit more.
draining the oil
It was more pancake-y because of the eggs, but still they fried up really good.
We ate the kakiage with Japanese curry, with carrot, sweet potato and bell pepper as ingredients. Instead of rice we used ‘cauliflower rice’ — it’s almost as delicious as normal rice and has much fewer carbohydrates. (Though I think that was handily offset by the sheer volume of kakiage and how fat those were…)

Certainly a meal I’ll be making more often!


Every evening we re-group and watch a few videos on YouTube. I’ve built up quite a nice bubble with travel videos (mostly in Japan…), cooking, architecture and history, so it’s not hard to find interesting stuff to watch.
Since mid-September, there were some videos popping up about moon cakes, the traditional sweets to eat during the Chinese mid-autumn festival — which follows the lunar calendar and was mid-September this year. And… I got kind of obsessed with the variety of fillings and the beautiful designs. Baking/patisserie is a bit of a hobby of mine, as anyone who has been following me for a while knows — and I just couldn’t let it go. So I ordered a moon cake press for 50 gram moon cakes. Last Saturday it came in, and Sunday we went to the Asian supermarket to get the ingredients.
(Pro-tip: if the lady in the video is handling the glutinous rice dough with plastic gloves, this is not for show…)

At the end of the day, we had twelve snow-skin moon cakes: six with a home-made sweet red bean filling and six with a pre-made lotus bean paste filling around an almond! It’s a bit too much, because the shells dried out as the week progressed. Maybe we need to make smaller batches. And of course we still need to try out the more traditional baked-shell moon cakes too!

We have some silicon molds for chocolates, which we use to make the occasional sweet. You know, melting chocolate, making ganache, pouring it in, etc.
But one thing I never learned was to temper chocolate. Just like steel, chocolate forms crystals as it cools down. And if you cool it down slowly from the right temperature (a process called “tempering”), then it will form harder, bigger crystals than when you just heat it up and let it cool down again — also just like steel. These harder crystals is what give a chocolate bonbon it’s “crunch”.
So upto now, all of our chocolate work was kind of mushy and sticky.

Just like with every skill, you can learn it from YouTube videos, so that’s where we turned. There are many videos about tempering chocolate, and some offer contradictory advice. So we decided to stick with the advice from this video and just try it out. And lo and behold, it’s so much easier with this method than I had thought! (This is a recurring theme: something that seems intimidating at first turns out to be pretty easy once you dive into it and try it out.)
So we were able to make really nice chocolate bonbons, with that delicious crunch! I don’t think I’ll ever go back.

For many pastry recipes, you need sugar syrup at a specific temperature. We have two digital thermometers for that purpose, but we’ve been having a lot of trouble with them: they just wouldn’t stay on and switched off immediately. After some research (and a failed attempt at making nougat), we found that these digital ones use some kind of metal sensors — and it makes sense that these get all messed up because of our induction stovetop. After all, it’s not a big stretch to posit that a powerful chaotic magnetic field would interfere with a delicate sensor made of metal!
So after some research, we found an analogue thermometer to use. And using that, we were able to get the sugar syrup and the honey the right temperature to make Nougat de Montelimar! It’s delicious, and I’m sure we’ll make it again some time.

We had our annual apple picking event at a local orchard yesterday! Every Saturday in September, the orchard is open for people to pick their own — and while they sell the apples really cheap, they are even cheaper when you pick them yourself! And of course, apples fresh off the tree are delicious!
We were joined by friends B & J and their dog. We finished up picking just in time before the rain set in in earnest, and then retired home to start baking apple pie.

Dressed for rain, enjoying an apple fresh off the tree.

We got two bags like these: one with Goudreinet (which goes all mushy when cooked) and one with Wellant. The bags were sponsored by the market leader for baking products, and you got a free package of their apple pie mix with every bag of apples. That was a first, but perhaps that was to mark the occasion of the national fruit picking day. I don’t think we’ve had that before, but I don’t think we’ve been there at the ‘main’ day before. It wasn’t extra busy, but that must have also been because of the bad weather that was

First pie. It fell apart after cutting it up, but that didn’t really detract from the taste!


Half an hour drive away is the city of Den Bosch. Their regional speciality is Bossche Bollen, a choux filled with heavy whipped cream and coated with chocolate. They are also called ‘chocoladebollen’ (‘chocolate balls’) or, phonetically, sjekladebollen.
All throughout my teenage years, I rode horses at a pony club tucked away in the village where I lived, and they had a rule: if you fell off the pony, you had to treat everyone in your lesson the next week. The ‘default’ treat was a Bossche Bol (though very few people actually brought them, because they are expensive for a teenage budget — often it was just a bag of mixed candy). Many a time, in that split second between feeling you lost contact with the saddle and actually landing on the ground — in that moment of airtime — you’d hear people shout “Chocoladebollen!” in celebration of the treat they’d get next week! (Also to make it more lighthearted: you don’t want your pupils to fall and be afraid of horses afterwards!)

We got discount tickets for a workshop to make these, and yesterday was the day! We met up with babarage, gertvr and xaviar_nl, and after catching up for a bit, it was time for the workshop.
The whole room was filled, but we had the best seats in the house. A little downer was that we didn’t get to make the choux ourselves — it would take too long and the process is too finnicky. In fact, the baker told us that the four bakeries that make the real thing get their choux made together in a central bakery! So we would make the chocolate layer — on the way there, I had speculated with xaviar_nl whether the chocolate would be tempered or not, but it turned out that we were both wrong. It’s fondant: chocolate molten in sugar syrup, so it sticks well to the pastry and still has that shine. We mixed those together and dipped the choux into the chocolate, after which they were put in the cooler. (Normally you’d let them harden out for at least half a day at room temperature so they’d get that shiny gloss, but again, in the interest of time, they were put in the cooler.)

Melting the chocolate into the hot syrup.

Dipping the choux into the fondant: take the choux by the underside, because that gives you the best grip.

Meanwhile, we whipped the cream (by hand!). They use 40% fat cream, which makes for a bit of a heavier cream.

The choux with the chocolate layer, ready to be filled!

Use a knife to make a little ‘cross’ at the bottom of the choux, and just fill it all up with cream! You know the choux is full when it starts to expand! 😉

Done! You present them with the chocolate side up, of course, but you eat them upside down, because otherwise every bite would force out the whipped cream down the underside, and that just makes a mess.

And if you eat them correctly, you’ll get whipped cream at the tip of your nose. 😉

Everyone had two: one we ate there, and one to take home. They’re delicious, and I think we might make them at home every once in a while, for special occasions…

More spaghetti

The cooking store in town has the molecular cooking kits on stock, so we swung by yesterday to get an additional spaghetti kit: twice as many tubes means that producing the spaghetti is twice as fast! Turns out they had a sale, and the kits were 50% off. So we got two! (When we got home, we found out why: the kits had a best-by date of mid-2016… I guess they’re not the big moves in the store.)
I had also been thinking about the bland taste of the white chocolate spaghetti. Adding all that water just diluted the taste of the chocolate (which doesn’t have a strong taste to begin with) — so what would happen if we’d make spaghetti from something that’s a liquid itself? Then we wouldn’t have to add water as a ‘carrier’ for the agar-agar, and we wouldn’t be diluting the taste.

Hence: coffee spaghetti. I made a cup of really, really strong coffee, we added some sugar and a packet of agar-agar powder. With our tripled capacity, it took only three “runs” to use all of the liquid for spaghetti.

And with the second syringe we could work in parallel: one of us would pump air through the tubes to get the strands out of the tube, the other could then immediately fill that tube up again.

This is all of the coffee spaghetti that we made. We tasted a single strand, and it was really bitter (like strong coffee). So we needed something to go with it…

We also wanted to experiment with spherification. We had bought honey to make honey caviar.

This is our honey-with-agar-agar at the bottom of a cup of cold vegetable oil. Next time, we need to let the liquid cool down before dripping it into the oil. The spheres were still so warm that they got stuck together. Not everything, but it was noticable.

Spoon of honey caviar! We had to add some water to the honey, but it still had that delicious honey taste with no discernable dilution.

So we thought of a way to build up a dessert of four layers. This is the bottom layer: vanilla custard.

The bitter coffee spaghetti on top of that.

On top of that, baked whipped egg whites (that we had left from making the custard) with a little sugar.

Honey caviar on top of that. The uneven surface of the baked eggwhites makes little ‘nooks’ that the caviar can collect in.

A cross-section of all the different flavours and textures. Next time, we’ll make the baked eggwhites proper merengues, so that they are crunchy instead of the marshmallow-like consistency they had, to add a more pronounced texture to the mix.

Interesting experiments, and I can see us using this as a ‘grand dessert’ in the future.

So of course I had to test out the molecular cooking kit! I decided to go for the chocolate spaghetti, to make a dessert for four, to be served at the new year’s eve festivities at our home.
I followed the recipe in the video I linked to in my previous entry. I had some reservations on just throwing chocolate into hot water: the two don’t mix, and chocolate ‘seizes up’ when it comes into contact with water. But whether it was because of the agar-agar that had already been dissolved into the water or because white chocolate is not ‘proper’ chocolate and thus has a different composition I do not know — but it worked out nicely. We are lacking in coconut liqueur, so I substituted Drambuie for that.

The mixture.

Then you have to suck up the warm liquid into the syringe, attach one silicon tube, squeeze, put into a bath of cold water, and repeat with the second and third tube. The kit came with only three tubes, so you can do only three ‘strands’ at a time, and each ‘batch’ (if you can call it that) takes three minutes…

The three tubes in the bath of cold water.

In the end, this is (part of) a single portion. It took about an hour, and you had to be in the kitchen every three minutes! It looks cool though, but because there is a lot of water added to support the agar-agar, the taste of whatever you’re using is diluted too! And white chocolate doesn’t have a strong taste of itself to begin with… In part this should have been compensated by the booze, but that was only partially. Next time, I think I’d add a generous splurge of vanilla extract or something like that to give the otherwise bland taste a bit of a kick.

With that first batch done, we got some more white chocolate and did three batches in one go. This took us the better part of a day! Of course, if you have more tubes (and we will look into getting more!) you can do bigger batches. But we didn’t have such narrow tubes of food-grade(!) silicon lying around…
Because the going is so slow, the liquid will also cool and solidify. This can, of course, be easily remedied by cooking it up again: agar-agar is solid when cool, but liquid when heated.

Of course, this spaghetti should come with a red sauce! We cooked up a batch of “summer fruits” and ran that through the blender. The slight sour note of the fruit complements the taste of the white chocolate quite nicely.

We served individual portions in lacquerware Japanese-style soup bowls, with whipped cream and a blackberry on top!

I’m really pleased with the end result, but it’s too much work to do casually. And the tastes have to be improved too. Still, fun to do, and I’m sure we’ll experiment with this again!