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Easter Sunday. The time of the year when eating chocolate, instead of just a pure personal indulgence, becomes a serious social affair.

We’re not just munching on chocolate eggs or exchanging chocolate baskets anymore, there are chocolate making workshops to attend with the kids, visits to the chocolate factories and even chocolate-themed educational trails in the park.

Over three millennia, chocolate has evolved from the sacred Mayan religious drink, an Aztec traded currency, and later a luxurious beverage of the European upper classes, to the billion-dollar candy industry it is today. But what hadn’t changed is how chocolate is still as prized and sought after as ever - £500m worth of chocolate bunnies and Easter eggs are estimated to be sold in the UK each year.

Today we want to encourage even more chocolaty hedonism by giving tips on how to pair it with wine. It will certainly add an exciting twist to your Easter brunch party this Sunday.

But first of all, why do we think it’s a great match?


 
 
Beautiful Béchamel in Minutes
Béchamel ("bay-sha-mel") - one of the 5 classical French "mother sauces" - is commonly known as the white sauce. It is a milk-based sauce consisting of 3 main ingredients: butter, flour, milk. Largely used in lasagne, moussaka, macaroni cheese, pie fillings and croque monsieur, its also great with fish, eggs, steamed vegetables, pastas and poultry dishes.

In a nutshell, equal quantities (by weight) of flour and butter are cooked together to form a white roux, of which then milk is added in gradually while whisking to obtain a smooth velvety texture. Then, it is seasoned with salt, white pepper and sometimes ground nutmeg to finish.

Amongst the "mother sauces", this is my recommended sauce to master first given its vast application and relative ease of execution. Here's a tried and tested recipe with a few tips for a successful first go at making your own Béchamel.



 
 
Pasta Need To Knows
Pasta is one of the most satisfying dishes to whip up. Of course they can be as elaborate as you want them to be, but very often, with a few simple ingredients and a quick toss in the pan, a lip-smackingly wholesome meal is created.   

While they are very versatile, purists on the other hand will insist on certain sauces going with certain pasta shapes. There are however, something like 350 types of dried pasta in Italy, so it can feel like marching straight into a labyrinth.

The general rule of the thumb is that delicate and lightly accented sauces are best with thin pasta, as sauces slide easily over smooth pasta surfaces. Whereas rich, buttery and cheese based sauces, go particularly well with pastas with flat and thick surfaces. Pasta with many folds and ridges serve to capture chunky and meaty bits in the sauce.

Here we have roughly grouped five categories with their relevant sauce pairings.


 
 
In the spirit of spring, we are advocating serving food with attitude and colour. This month’s food moodboard brings you bold dining accessories to welcome the season.

 
 
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I nearly chopped off my right pinkie 2 years ago.

That moment of excruciating pain is unforgettable. It happened while I was cutting a piece of courgette. That tough, green, unwavering skin refused to give way despite the increasing pressure from my chef's knife. 

And of course, the inevitable happened. 

The knife skidded off the courgette and went straight for my right pinkie, making a mark so deep (a third of my fingertip) that I  swore like a sailor. In the midst of the chaos, panic and dizziness, my legs went Jell-o and all I could do is lean against the wall and breathe deeply for a minute or so. 

Out of the blue, I suddenly remembered a First Aid teaching in school that the injured finger should be first treated under running cold water - and so I did, and felt better immediately. After slumping near the sink for 15 minutes, the bleeding slowed and the pain subsided. There's something soothing about cold, hard water putting out the fire of a burning wound. I turned around - the kitchen looked like a mini battlefield with blood drips everywhere.

All that saga due to a blunt knife. 

I lived with a bright blue bandaged pinkie for a month, but that scar still serves as a reminder till today. Since then, I've read and learnt more about knives, never wanting to mess with it again. In the spirit of sharing, here's my ultimate guide to kitchen knives.


 
 
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Credit: quincesandthepea.com
Migas is a delightfully dense Spanish dish that hits all the right spots on a cold rainy, wintery night. It is made by stirring stale bread crumbs in a pan of olive oil, sautéed garlic, chorizo, jamón and bacon rashers, and then served up with a fried egg and some grapes.  

The other day I had mine served with sections of oranges instead and I was pleasantly surprised by how well the oranges featured, cutting through the rich flavours with its citrusy sweetness.

This triggered me think about recipes using oranges, as they are in their peak season from late winter to spring, and  a whole bag load of them just costs a Euro. I’d love to do more with them besides having them as an out-of-hand snack or OJ.

Traditionally associated with marmalades, compotes and sorbets, orange and sugary treats go hand-in-hand. But what if you told yourself that Christmas is done and it’s about time to work on the beach body, to cut back on the sweet stuffs?  Here are a few suggestions on how to incorporate oranges in your meals.


 
 
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Tomate ("toe-maht") is a tomato-based sauce usually served as part of a dish, rather than a condiment (i.e. it's not ketchup!). Part of the French mother sauces, it pairs well with grilled vegetables, fish, poultry, bread, beef and pasta. 

The classical French recipes tend to use roux as thickener, but nowadays chefs prepare this sauce just with tomato reductions or purées as it's sufficient to thicken the sauce.

Once you master this, secondary sauces such as Spanish, Creole, Provencal and Portuguese are all easy as pie. Here's a modern recipe of tomate sauce (without roux) using streaky bacon as flavouring.


 
 
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I love how Parisians are graciously reviving a horse-meat-eating trend due to the latest scandal whereas ministerial attempts to console the horrified public had to be carried out in UK and Ireland.

For the past few weeks, a shockwave broke out when horse meat had been found sneaking around masquerading as beef, mainly found in pre-prepared meals such as lasagna and raw ground beef. Largely sold by food giants such as Nestle and Bird’s Eye, as well as by a string of supermarket chains such as Tesco, ALDI, ASDA, Auchan, Carrefour, Casino, Iglo and Makro.  

Fast food chains like Taco Bell and Burger King also declared having found traces of horse DNA in their burgers. The furniture magnate Ikea too has also been desperately issuing statements and putting off serving their popular kottbullar meatballs in stores worldwide.

Is horsemeat consumption such a foreign concept though?


 
 
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I've always likened cooking to conjuring magic – turning raw ingredients, things you wouldn't have imagined putting into your mouth, to something you crave direly.

Today we’ll analyse the scientific interactions that goes on when cooking a beefsteak: looking first the chemical composition of the raw ingredients we work with, what happens during the cooking process, and why certain steps are followed when cooking a nice hunk of steak.  

Such knowledge will stand you in good stead in the strive towards cooking the perfect steak, especially for the important dinner date