Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Vegan Salted Caramel Cupcakes

Happy Valentine's Day! ❤

Today is said to be a day we celebrate love or, it is said to be a day for exploiting consumerism. Regardless of our view of what the day is about, we're still all always happy to love and to be loved; love makes the world go round. What's a better way to show your love than with a sweet treat?
These cupcakes are the perfect shareable treat for Valentine's day. It's super simple to make and can be shared with both carnivore and herbivore friends alike. It's a soft and fluffy cupcake with a perfectly balanced sweet and salty frosting. Just sprinkle some cute little hearts on top and you can already feel the love.
Salted Caramel Cupcakes 
from Chloe's Vegan Desserts by Chloe Coscarelli
Makes 12 Cupcakes 

Make-Ahead Tip: Cupcakes can be made in advance and frozen, unfrosted, for up to 1 month. Frosting should be made fresh. Thaw cupcakes and frost before serving. 

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
3/4 cup soy, almond, or rice milk 
1/2 cup canola oil 
2 tablespoons white or apple-cider vinegar 
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract 
1/2 cup vegan margarine 
1 cup dark brown sugar 
1/4 cup soy, almond, or rice milk, plus more as needed 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
3 cups powdered sugar 
Fleur de sel, for sprinkling 

To make the cupcakes: 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup cupcake pan with cupcake liners. 
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. 
In a separate bowl, whisk together nondairy milk, oil, vinegar, and vanilla. 
Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and whisk until just combined. Do not overmix. 
Fill the cupcake liners about two-thirds full with batter. 
Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out dry with a few crumbs clinging to it. 
Let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting. 
To make the frosting: 
In a medium saucepan, melt margarine and whisk in brown sugar, nondairy milk, and salt. 
Bring to a gentle boil, and let boil for 3 to 4 minutes. 
Remove from heat, stir in vanilla, and let cool. 
Using a stand or hand mixer, slowly beat the caramel mixture with powdered sugar. 
If frosting is too thick, add 1 tablespoon nondairy milk at a time, until frosting reaches a spreadable consistency. Beat on high until smooth. 
To assemble the cupcakes: 
Spread a thin layer of frosting on the cupcakes and sprinkle with a few flakes of fleur de sel.

By the way, if you don't have any of Chloe's books yet, get on it ASAP! She has crazy delicious and easy vegan recipes that will please anyone. And when I say easy, I mean easier than traditional eggs + butter baking easy. The best part is that her recipes don't require any weird or hard to find ingredients. Now you can cook for all your friends and impress them without breaking a sweat! Take a sneak peak below!

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Internship Week 4: Dinner Shift

Time flies when you're having fun. Unfortunately, four weeks have flown by and our internship has come to an end. This week was different from all the others in a really good way. Our classes have become smaller as several groups of students have completed their internship and were no longer required to return. We had all become familiar with our new work, our groups and our duties, and as such, the running of the kitchen became smoother, faster, smarter and inevitably more fun. Of course, conflict still existed, but on a very small level that was quickly resolved.

Avocado Tartar, Mixed Baby Greens &
Herb Oil, Pickled Cauliflower, Garlic-
roasted Tomatoes, Carrot Reduction and
Balsamic Reduction

Cream of Provision & Chive Soup with Jerk-flavoured
Dumpling and Pineapple Oil

Pan-seared Mahi Mahi atop Red Curry Risotto, Melange of
Vegetables and Five Finger Chutney

Cilantro-coconut crusted Rack of Lamb atop Cous Cous,
Vegetables and Apple-rum Sauce

Cinnamon-roasted Chicken stuffed with Cumin Rice Pilaf,
Roasted Vegetables and Orange-beet Sauce

Olive Oil Cake (below sorbet), Passion Fruit Sorbet, Ginger
Snaps and Marinated Fruits

For our dinner shift this week, we were once again privileged to have Chef Ottley Alexis as our facilitator. My favourite part of working under him was his sharing of his vast knowledge on almost every type of cuisine you can imagine. Dishes and ingredients did not seem to exist independently to Chef Ottley and he was always able to describe its background, culture, origin or at least some interesting fact about each of them. He taught us new ways of doing familiar things and easy ways to master new things. He readily and thoroughly addressed any questions or issues we had and and taught us how to make errors work to our benefit. We worked in stations rather than dishes for the greater part of the week, and emphasis was placed on us conquering our stations and continuously improving. Time management was of utmost importance this week, particularly because it was our last week and we were expected to be familiar with the running and timing of the kitchen. Another important task for the week was ensuring minimal wastage and optimizing usage of ingredients. Unfortunately, after doing preparations for dinner, especially for the buffet, many reservations were cancelled and therefore there was a large amount of leftover food.
Being familiar with our group and becoming comfortable with our work resulted in better teamwork and higher team spirit. Asking for and offering help where needed became more natural and easy. Working together not only during preparation but "on the line" to prepare and plate dishes in their entirety was far less chaotic and disorganized than the past weeks.

Turkey Satay

Roasted Lamb

Braised Lamb

Soup Station

Soup Station

Dessert Table



Our last day of internship was bittersweet. We all have become more familiar, closer and built better relationships with our peers, not just in our own group but with many from other groups, during the past month. We learned a lot about our strengths and weaknesses in the kitchen and helped eachother to improve our skills in those weaker areas. We developed a greater understanding of how the kitchen works and an appreciation for the importance of teamwork and being a team player. Though it was stressful at times, we all worked through the hardships and had a successful internship. Some of us gained a new perspective and decided that they preferred Food & Beverage rather than Culinary and some liked neither area. For me, I thoroughly enjoyed working in the kitchen with my peers. Despite the inevitable confusion almost every week (particularly at the end of the day for clean up), working with my teammates was enjoyable and I can see myself having fun, cooking and learning in a kitchen for a very long time to come.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Internship Week 3: Food and Beverage

What a fun week this has been! As I mentioned before, this week we switched things up a bit and I was required to work Front of the House (Food and Beverage) department. My positions included bartender, hostess and server. Our facilitator this week was Mr. Ashmeed Abass. He stressed on the importance of service to a dining experience and taught us several very little gestures which can make a big difference. Ensuring that the guests were happy and well taken care of were the top priorities for him, as he reiterated to us that his teaching style and service style is more new school but still very professional. However, he allowed us the liberty of not only learning through experience but for us to teach one another. Peer teaching is a great way to learn as it is comfortable and you may feel as though they are more on your level. Some of our co-workers this week included some Food and Beverage students who taught us a lot along with our facilitator. Table settings, identifying cutlery, napkin folding, replacing tablecloths and doing lots and lots of dishes were among some of the things we learned and did. Bartending was an important part of our duties; unfortunately, we did not have many customers and especially not many who ordered cocktails and mocktails.

Being able to see the restaurant operations from the other side was enlightening and exciting. Working and communicating with the kitchen is important to be able to properly serve guests and ensure a problem free dining experience. It was interesting to see in what ways the kitchen can improve its service to the front staff and vice versa. On one of the days, there was a miscommunication between front and back staff with the menu which caused some problems with guests ordering and receiving different items. However, the problem was eventually rectified but could have been easily avoided with proper communication. The pace of the front of the house is a bit slower than in the kitchen and a bit more laid back. However, it is very important to maintain professionalism when the guests arrive. Interacting with guests and being able to see them enjoy the dining experience was definitely one of the best parts of the week. For me, when I dine out, and for many other guests, regardless of the quality of food, service can make or break a restaurant. With this knowledge and being able to see it firsthand, it became even more important to us to provide exceptional service to our guests, regardless of who they were. I say this because many of our guests are usually school staff or students but it was important to treat every single one of them with utmost respect and professionalism. I can see myself working in this department if necessary in the future and it was definitely a very good experience, but I'm excited for my last week in the kitchen for our dinner shift that's coming.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Back at Jaffa for Tea!

This time last week I was just finishing up my scones and tea with my sister and friend. After almost a year, I finally returned to Jaffa to indulge in a little afternoon tea treat. As always, service and atmosphere was lovely. It was exciting to see their new, more elaborate selection of desserts that was offered compared to my last visit. There was a lot more variety and almost everything looked mouth-wateringly good. I wish I had room to try everything but it seems that my stomach isn't as good at buffets as it used to be.

Now, I must take the time to give Jaffa a little praise for service excellence. When I made the reservation, I told them that my friend was vegetarian and I wanted to ensure that she would be well provided for. As soon as she arrived, they inquired about her diet and prepared a special platter of vegetarian goodies just for her! And they were quite good. I was very pleased and impressed by this gesture and it definitely earned them some points!

In the coming semester, we'll see what my schedule looks like but I'm definitely hoping that I'll be able to find some time for a mid-week afternoon tea. It honestly was one of my favourite ways to unwind during the week and get my mind off of everything. If you haven't been to afternoon tea at Jaffa (Wednesdays) yet, make a reservation this week. You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Internship Week 2: Breakfast Shift

Another week has so quickly gone by. This week was different from what I've experienced thus far but fun, and quite a learning experience as most of our breakfast was a la carte. Before this week, we have focused mainly on table d'hote and buffet menus. Chef Cheryl-Ann Shortt-Charles was the facilitator for our breakfast shift group. Learning from her was a pleasure as she is very meticulous with her work (and ours) as well as organized, two qualities that are very important to me and what I strive to be. The new menu type emphasized teamwork, something that's important in the industry and something we definitely needed practice with. Previously, we were all assigned to individual dishes so teamwork was limited except for our familiar peers assisting us when necessary. With an a la carte menu, especially for breakfast, it was important for us to cooperate and work on different elements of each dish, then putting it together in a timely manner. Breakfast is usually even more fast-paced than lunch because not many people have the privilege of enjoying a leisurely breakfast. We were timed with our delivery of each order so that we were able to increase our speed while still producing a quality dish. Our facilitator also stressed the importance of mise en place. While we appreciated mise en place as useful for producing table d'hote items, I found that proper mise en place was a necessity for effective production of a la carte menu dishes. Mise en place literally translates to "everything in its place" and is used to describe organizing ones work station and having all the necessary ingredients, mixtures and tools at hand for working efficiently and creating dishes.
Breakfast Wellington with perfect pastry dough!
Not the most beautiful dish but definitely delicious!
On the Friday of our breakfast week, we were part of the team for producing the weekly brunch. We were responsible for all of the breads and breakfast items while the lunch shift was responsible for the soup, hot items and salads. Both the lunch shift group and the pastry students were responsible for producing the desserts. I was appointed "chef of the day" along with one other classmate for the brunch day. I was responsible for the organizing and setting up of our brunch station. Once again, I was appreciative of my facilitator's meticulousness as she assisted and directed me on how to approach organizing the buffet. The event turned out to be very successful, as brunch usually is sold out and all three groups - breakfast, lunch and pastry - produced delicious items.

Egg/Omelette Station

Pancakes and Spinach & Feta Quiches

Savoury Crepe Station

Choka Variety: (top left, clockwise:
eggplantpumpkin, tomato and bodi.




The a la carte menu was very useful to us as our groups needed training and practice working as a team. There were a few misunderstandings that occurred as a result of us being forced to work so closely together but they were all eventually resolved. More teamwork for practical classes is definitely a necessity and we were all shown a different perspective in having to work this shift.
As part of the internship, we are required to work one week in the Food and Beverage department (Front of the House) which I will be doing in the coming week. I look forward to working in a different environment from the past two weeks and learning some new things!

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Internship Week 1: Lunch Shift

And just like that, my first week of internship at my school's restaurant has flown by. For my first week, my group had the honour of having Chef Jeremy Lovell as our facilitator for the lunch shift. As we all got to know him, he seemed to be a very good teacher and leader. He directed us on the basic elements of the menu while still allowing us to be creative and make each of our dishes our own. He was there to monitor our progress and able to address any question we had. We learned quite a lot from him, particularly time management, technique and plating skills. His plating style, from what he taught us, is simple yet elegant and sophisticated. He showed us the value in minimalism while also appreciating grandeur. Lunch platings are usually simpler than the dinner platings as the lunch period for most persons are short and service needs to be fast. Dinner allows for slower dining and therefore more elaborate meals and platings.

Vegetable fritters on a carrot crema topped with pickled vegetables.

Mushroom-cream soup with rice and spinach.

Untraditional Caprese salad.

Rosemary lamb loin with tomato concasse, Italian-roasted garlic
parmesan potatoes and garlic tossed string beans.

Each day, we were each assigned individual dishes (or one dish per two-three persons depending on its complexity or weight) rather than working by stations, for preparation. However, we worked in a station-type setting during service time. We were given a different menu each day and assigned our duties each morning during our briefing. On the Friday, we collaborated with the breakfast shift group to create a buffet brunch that turned out to be quite successful. Needless to say, our feet were killing us at the end of shift but it was quite enjoyable.

Muffins and breads.


Smoked salmon on cucumber and cream cheese with dill.

Roasted beef and braised pork for the carvery.

Pasta station.

The dessert selection for brunch.

The first week has passed by quickly but successfully. Some persons say it's just for a month (i.e. the internship) and it will be over faster than you know it. However, I have not felt that way about it; this is something we all enjoy and, at the beginning of the journey, said we have a passion for. It's not about getting it over with but learning and gaining experience - we should all take delight in every day of this period, and decide if this is what we truly love and would like to spend the rest of our lives doing. Of course, sometimes we change our minds about what we want, and that's okay. But for now, the journey is ever incredible and learning more every day is wonderful.

Curried lobster with gnocchi dumplings in a coconut-spinach sauce.

Fish broth.

Apple, Walnut and Feta Salad

Chicken roulade with beetroot gastrique, sauteed potatoes,
thyme infused broccoli and baby carrots.

Traditional flan with toasted genoise cubes and fresh fruit.