Twiga – Revisited

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Earlier this year I  visited new South African restaurant Twiga, and had the best cheesecake of my life. 6 months later I was invited back to see how things had changed. As soon as we arrived owner Vanita greeted us warmly like long lost friends. She told me that things had changed a little since my last visit, including the chef. Her original head chef returned home due to a personal crisis and she now has French chef Gregory at the helm. Gregory being french wanted to inject his own flair and skills into the menu, so there is now a French and South African fusion going on. As well as offering their evening A La Carte menu, they now have a brunch menu too.

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Since it was a Friday night, it was right down to business with a vodka lemonade. Using a dash of chef Gregory’s homemade lemongrass infused vodka it was a rather nice tipple. I’d be interested to see if they can make a complete cocktail list, as this one was right up my ally.

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The menu is still fairly small, as they plan on having weekly specials to make use of in season produce. The bobotie is still there along with their fantastic lamb sausages. Gregory’s arrival has put quiche on the menu (8,500 per slice), and luckily for us they had three varieties  available. I of course thought it churlish not to try them all  There was a salmon and spinach quiche which the Fat Boyfriend devoured with gusto, a traditional bacon,  and a Boerwors South African quiche. With a French chef in the kitchen I had high hopes for the quiche and wasn’t disappointed. The pastry was so rich and buttery. The bacon quiche was rich and satisfying, though the bacon was possibly a tad too thick for me. Surprisingly we both favoured the boerwors quiche of the three, the lamb sausages paired rather well with the egg and pastry. Who would have thought French-South African fusion would be such a great match. the quiche also came with salad and new potatoes, making it perfect for lunch or dinner.

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The Lamb Chops (28,000) are still a star of the menu. Though the accompaniments have changed a little since my last visit. They are now served with a luxurious mashed potato, baked asparagus, and rich red wine sauce. The two succulent lamb chops were cooked to medium at my request, and were just as good as last time. The red wine sauce was so moreish I could have drank a pint of it! I just stopped short of licking the plate clean, but it was a close call.

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Thankfully Vanita’s famous cheesecake (6,500) is still on the menu, along with a few new desserts showcased in a brand spanking new glass cabinet, or dessert showcase if you will. I thought it prudent to try a piece of Gregory’s chocolate tart (6,500) too. Beautifully made with a sweet pastry, and a rich chocolate throughout. With a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side it would have been just perfect.

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As part of the new revamp they intend to start serving Sunday roast dinners, and I for one can’t wait. Reservations will be very necessary to get a a starter, plate of roast lamb or chicken served with all the usual accompaniments, and a dessert for 35,000. This will be a weekend event only so be sure to book your seat before they are all gone. I have a feeling this it’s going to be very popular indeed, as there really aren’t enough restaurants serving roast dinners in Korea.

Twiga is located on the 5th floor, 26-38 Noksapyeondae-ro, Itaewon, Seoul. To get there take a train to Noksapyeong station and come out of exit 3. Walk across the cross walk so you are outside Suji’s Deli and go right and walk  along the main road. Keep going straight until you see the over pass bridge and take the road turning left. Twiga is about halfway up the road on the right hand side, just opposite the Saudi Arabian Embassy. For more information or to make a reservation call 02-797-5011.

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Food Week Korea 2014 – Taste your way around the world!

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Tasting my way around the world is pretty much my mission in life. So doing it under one roof just bodes well with my laziness and lack of can do attitude. As luck would have it, it’s time again for Korea’s biggest and best food show, showcasing restaurants, vendors, franchises, and some of the best food in the world!

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This year’s exhibition has been divided among several themes, which will be presented in different sections. This year’s themes are ASEAN Local Food, Health & Healing, Solar Salt & Low Sodium, Desserts & Delicate, Trendy Traditional Korean Food, and Single & Simple Food. Hopefully that means there will be something for everyone to enjoy whether your interests lie in exotic world cuisine, health foods, or desserts. Personally I’m looking forward to seeing what’s in the Single and Simple department! It’s about time gourmet ready meals made it to Korea for those who are are too busy to cook. Or if you are like me, just enjoy eating a ready meal to keep your hunger at bay while you prepare a more time consuming feast.

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Co-hosting Food Week is the Seoul International Bakery Fair! So that means there will be a huge host of baked goodies, and chefs showing off their cool skills in the baking competition. It’s also a great chance to pick up any baking or cookware, so if you have your heart set on a Vitamix, or an 18 inch cake tin this is the place to get it!

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Also involved are the GKBF, although they sound like a political activist group, the GBKF is actually The Great Korean Beer Fest. They will be offering samples for people to savor the large variety of awesome craft beers. As it happens they are also running a festival this weekend at the war memorial. For more info about it and to buy tickets check out their facebook page.

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So if your ideal Saturday involves walking around a supermarket devouring as many free samples as possible, and let’s face it who doesn’t enjoy that. Then the food show is definitely the place for you. I had a great time at the Coffee Expo  hosted here earlier in the year, so am looking forward to seeing what the Food Expo has to offer too!

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Food Week Korea will be taking place at Coex, Seoul. On November 12th -15th 2014. If you would like to get free tickets you can sign up on the Food Week Website before October 31st.

Dominic Brunch

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As a brunch aficionado I am always desperately on the look out for new places to go. Probably because I’m prone to getting rather drunk and am not always welcomed back. I had a wonderful dinner at Dominic a few months ago, so I thought it would be prudent to check out what’s on the brunch menu too. It’s such a great space with their large floor to ceiling windows, so brunch is the perfect time to enjoy the view.

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For me the best part of brunch is the fact you can drink, and not be the least bit frowned upon. I don’t think brunch can be considered brunch without a few cocktails and luckily Dominic doesn’t disappoint on that front. They have a fab range of brunch special cocktails for only 6,000 each! As you can see we all indulged in a mimosa or two, possibly three, after so many it really is hard to keep track.

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As well as the mimosas they also have a few autumn cocktail specials. We tried the Apple Pisco Sour, and Pear and Vanilla martini. Both are 12,000 each or half price during brunch and happy hour. They are both exceptionally well made drinks. The balance of flavours paired with the alcohol makes for a great harmony. I enjoyed both but would have to give the edge to the apple pisco sour, despite the fact I’m not usually a fan of apple flavoured things, this was a delight and The Fat Boyfriend agreed too.

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After all those drinks, I needed something to soak it all up with. I was rather ravenous, so opted for the Dominic Burger (17,000). Served on chewy ciabatta bread and topped with a slice of cream cheese, this homemade burger was delightful. The beef patty was well seasoned  and full of flavopur. Topped with a big wedge of cream cheese, and salad  it seemed like a classier version of a regular burger. It also came with cajun french fries. 20140813-151028-54628797.jpg

We also ordered The French Toast Crunch (12,000) Rice Krispie crusted French Toast, served with bacon and fig jam. This is the perfect treat for sweet toothed people with a serious hangover. The french toast will seriously cure what ails you. An interesting take, made with their buttery brioche bread. The fig jam that was paired with it also worked well and was a great compliment to the bacon. A real winner, considering the price.

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My dining companion ordered the Prosciutto, Eggplant, and Brie sandwich (17,000). It looked pretty well stuffed with freshly roasted vegeatables, cheese and pesto. Although I think it was a bit on the pricey side as there wasn’t much prosciutto in it. He let me have a bite but I’m not a great fan of brie, so I guess this one is a matter of taste for me. The vegetables and pesto were tasty though. I think it would be nicer if I tried it with fresh mozzarella instead.

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I also couldn’t resist ordering the California Cobb salad again. It’s just so fresh and tasty, and fast becoming my favourite salad.

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With their half price cocktails during brunch I think Dominic is definitely in my top five. The food is great, and the restaurant has a lovely atmosphere. Well worth checking out on a weekend if you enjoy day drinking!

Dominic is located at 683-133 hanam-dong, yongsan-gu, Seoul. to get there take a train to Hangangjin Station (line6) Come out of exit 3 and walk straight for about 200 meters. It’s located next to the Kolon Series Multi Shop and just across from Woori bank. For more information you can call them on 02-790-7588 or check out their facebook page.

Wild Rice Enchilada Bake

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On my last iHerb shop, I treated myself to a bag of wild rice. Frivolous I know, but I just thought what the hell, treat yourself!  It’s so much healthier that its white counterpart, and it has a nuttiness and flavour you just don’t get with white. I was in somewhat of a quandary on how best to use it when I hit upon an enchilada bake. I quickly whipped up my own tasty enchilada sauce, and threw in some leftover Costco rotisserie chicken (which I am obsessed with by the way), black beans, extra veg, and leftover cheese and bing bam boom, dinner was served. Both the Fat Boyfriend and I agreed it was one of the best dinners we had had in ages. With some sliced avocado on top, and a wedge of lime it was a damn good Wednesday night dinner. There were also plenty of leftovers for the next night too, which I find a highly desirable quality in a weeknight dinner!

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Ingredients

2 cups of rice

4 cups of water

400g of tomatoes (or 1 can)

1 tablespoon of cumin

1 tablespoon of oregano

1 teaspoon of paprika

1 teaspoon of garlic powder

1 teaspoon of onion powder

1/2 a teaspoon of chili powder

2 peppers (any colour)

5 spring onions

3 cloves of garlic

A handful of cilantro (고수)

1-2 cups of leftover cooked chicken (or 2 breasts)

1 cup of black beans (cooked)

A great big handful of cheese

Directions

1. If you are using dried beans you will need to soak them the night before then simmer them for about an hour. If you are using canned, you can just add them in step three. Cook your rice, using the 1 cup of rice, to two cups of water method. I find this works perfectly with brown or wild rice. The rice shouldn’t be mushy, but cooked until it has still got a tiny bite, as it will cook a little more in the oven.

2. While the rice is cooking, make the enchilada sauce by roasting you tomatoes with the garlic for 10 minutes with a little olive oil then blending your tomatoes with the herbs and spices.

3. Finely chops your spring onions, peppers, cilantro, and any other vegetables you wish to throw in. When the rice is cooked, mix in with the vegetables, shredded chicken, beans and enchilada sauce. Put the whole lot in an oven proof dish and top with cheese. Then bake at 200 degrees Celsius for another 10 -15 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown. If you have it,  serve with avocado, lime, and sour cream.

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i-Herb Online shopping

Cooking in Korea isn’t always easy. Fresh meat, fruit, and vegetables are plentiful at even the smallest supermarkets, but all those extra bits that go into making meals so often aren’t. People always ask me where I manage to find so many western ingredients for my recipes. And to be honest it comes from a host of places. I often shop at the foreign food mart in Itaewon, and go to Costco once a month, but aside from that it all comes from iHerb. About a year or so ago I discovered i-Herb and quite frankly it changed my life here. Not in a big way, but it made eating healthy so much easier. It also opened me up to whole host of ingredients that I could get easily with the minimum amount of effort. The site is very easy to use and completely in English or various other languages like Korean. Once you register you only have to add your address and card details once then you are good to go. It saves them for the next time and from then on its just a click of a button to place your orders. If you are a first timer you can use this code MRV792 to get $10 off your first order, which will cover the $4.00 shipping costs and give you a whopping $6.00 worth of free goodies. They also run other promotions and for this month they are offering an extra 10% off if you spend over $40.00. The prices are similar to those you would expect in the states, and even with shipping costs I think it works out cheaper than buying things from the foreign food mart or other Korean online establishments.

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The first thing I want to talk about is health supplements, there are 1000s of different vitamins and such, but the two things I now include in my daily diet, and couldn’t live without, are spirulina and chia seeds. Mixed in with a green smoothie I barely taste them, but they have so many benefits for my health I couldn’t imagine not taking them. They are both excellent for cleaning the liver and riding your body of toxins which come from eating fast food and drinking too much soju. I also often order coconut water too, to help revive me during my many hangovers.

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If you have seen my recipes you will know that I’m an avid baker and finding anything but regular white flour can be tricky here. iHerb has every kind of flour you could imagine and more whole wheat, rye, grain, gluten free, corn, coconut, and other alternatives. They also have healthy oils and fats like coconut oil. This is still currently the cheapest price you will find it.

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There are also lots of other supplementary ingredients like chocolate chips, vanilla extract, dried fruit, raw nuts, and natural flavourings that can supplement your baking or provide healthy snacks. The Ghirardelli chocolate chips are always an integral part of my chocolate brownies. And I’m absolutely obsessed with pecans!

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I also tend to shop for my beans and grains online too. The cans you get here are so expensive, and having a few different beans in the cupboard is always a great way to rustle up a quick and easy dinner like my mixed bean salad. It’s also the cheapest place to get quinoa, couscous, and an abundance of other gluten free, or whole grain rice and pastas.

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The cheapest and best ingredients on here are probably the herbs and spices. Everything you could imagine and more is here, if it’s not it probably doesn’t exist! The best part is they have the small jars for a few dollars, but they also sell in pounds for about $7 . It’s amazing, if it’s something you use regularly it really is way cheaper, you could even split one with a friend. Things I buy in bulk are Italian herbs, paprika, cumin, celery salt, and Mexican seasoning. They also have lots of nice BBQ seasoning and rubs.

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For homemade muesli or granola makers it’s a dream. Rye flakes, wheat flakes, oats, bran, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. You can also get organic varieties of pretty much everything.

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As an English person I’m a big fan of drinking tea and there really is a wonderful selection online. Chai, mango, pomegranate, lemon, peppermint, caffeine free to name just a few. They have tea bags in spades.

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It’s just healthy snacks either, there are lots of fun things like white chocolate peanut butter, kettle chips, and fair trade chocolate bars. So many delicious ingredients that make life a little more bearable when you are away from home, like BBQ and Honey Dijon crisps!

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So if you are still an iHerb virgin, have a look and see what’s there. You might be surprised at what you find and it will save you trekking to Seoul next time you are desperate for that elusive component for your latest concoction. Again you can use this code MRV792 to get $10 off your first order. Happy shopping!

Bar Rouge

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Last week things got classy when we ventured to Rouge at the JW Marriott Hotel in Gangnam. We went there in celebration of my wonderful friend’s birthday. 5 nights a week Bar Rouge operates a wine buffet (really a buffet of wine). For a paltry sum of  45,000 you can eat and drink as much as your heart desires between the hours of 6pm – 9pm. That’s 3 hours of unadulterated drinking and gorging. Of course I lived up to my name and made sure I got my money’s worth.

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First things first, you can’t start a night off without a glass of bubbly! They have four different kinds of sparkling wine, a Brut, a Cava, a Mascato and an Australian something or other. More than enough choices to keep everyone happy. No actual champagne but at that price I wouldn’t really expect there to be any.

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As well as the sparkling, there were 4 whites on offer, three different kinds of chardonnay and a sauvignon blanc. I’ve nothing against chardonnay, but it did seem somewhat redundant to have a wine buffet featuring three chardonnays out of four white wines.

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Red lovers fared better with 8 different varieties. You could also upgrade for an extra 20,000 per person which opened you up to whole other array of wine, but personally we were all happy with the selection we got.

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On to the food!  To start there is a cold salad buffet from which you can help yourself. All the regular salad ingredients are there and are sure to please the size zero second wives that plan on consuming as few calories as possible.

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There are also olives, and anti pasto style vegetables. It’s so nice to have a bowl of olives and a glass of wine again, it’s been far too long since I enjoyed my favourite pre-starter combination. One really doesn’t get to enjoy as many high class dinners as one would like these days.

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As well as the salad there is also a sushi bar, not a mind blowing selection, but decent enough with 4 different types. Pickled ginger, wasabi, and soy sauce are also all available for your dipping needs.

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Rather than having a hot buffet, they bring you over these adorable trays of food whenever you request them. On this you get mini burgers, onion rings, battered salmon and tartar sauce, and two kinds of chicken kebabs. You can get as many of these as you like, but we found that two was plenty between the 5 of us. Everything on the plate was pretty good, and apparently the selection changes regularly.

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Next is the pièce de résistance, the cheese room!!! A room of cheese and wine (but you can’t drink the wine). You can, however, eat the cheese, as much as you like. Five different varieties are showcased as well as prunes and nuts and the like.

 

 

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There is also ham, lots of it, and some bread rolls. You could make yourself a ham sandwich and pop it into your pocket for later!

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For those that like to finish on a sweet note there were pieces of fruit, and a cheesecake, but I was far too drunk at that point to take any more pictures. But I’m sure you have all seen watermelon, pineapple and cheesecake before.

 

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They also offer a makgeolli cocktail, it was very sweet with a fruity taste, nice until you let them settle at the end, and they were just pure sugar. Also when we went to pay, they tried to charge us for them, so maybe they were part of the expensive wine buffet. They let it slide, but if you are part of the bargain club it might be worth checking first.

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Overall I think the buffet was amazing value for money. If you have a birthday or an occasion to celebrate it’s the perfect spot if you want to do something a bit fancier without breaking the bank. They also have live music on weekends and will even even sing happy birthday for you. It’s just all round a lovely setting, plus the wine (so much wine!)

 

Bar Rouge is located at the The JW Marriot Hotel, Sinbanpo-ro, Seocho-gu, Seoul. It is open Tuesday-Saturday. To get there take a train to the Express bus terminal (line 3, 7,9) and follow the signs leading to the hotel. For more information you can call on 02-6282-6763 or check out the website.

Chocolate Eclairs

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To anyone who reads this blog often (which is mostly my immediate family), it’s always staggeringly obvious when the Great British Bake Off is on TV as I can’t stop baking things! My sweet tooth goes on a rampage craving all kinds of baked delights. Cookies, cakes, breads and pastries, every week I get urges I can’t control. This week I was inspired to make choux pastry. I love chocolate eclairs, they are one of my absolute favorite foods, but for some reason it’s been years since I last made them. They also aren’t all that prevalent in Korea and when they are, they are staggeringly expensive. The ones at Éclair, beautiful as they may be, are 6,000 a pop. I can bake about 12 for not much more. So it seemed churlish not to whip of a batch myself. I used the Silver Fox’s recipe as I figured I couldn’t go wrong, and do you know what I didn’t. My old recipe used more eggs, and I occasionally found they collapsed a bit after baking, so I’ll stick with Paul Hollywood’s from now on.

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Ingredients

Choux pastry (I used Paul Hollywood’s recipe):

65g strong white flour (sifted)

50g butter (diced)

120ml water

2 eggs

pinch of salt

Filling

300ml of Cream

2 tabelspoons sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla

 Ganache 

200g of Chocolate

100ml of cream

 

1. The first step is to make the pastry, start by pouring the water, salt, and butter into a pot and heat it up. You don’t want it to boil at this stage, you only want the butter to melt. Once the butter has melted quickly bring the mixture to the boil. Once it starts to boil remove it from the heat and quickly add all the flour. Whisk this together for about a minute and it should form a kind of sticky dough. Put this back on a low heat for a minute or two, just to cook the dough a little bit, beating as you go. It should all come away from the sides and form a glossy ball of dough.

2. Transfer the dough into a large mixing bowl and leave aside to cool. Meanwhile in a separate bowl beat your two eggs. Once your dough has cooled a bit you can gradually beat in the eggs using an electric mixer (if you have one), or by hand. Keep beating it until your mixture gets to the correct consistency, you may not need all the egg. A tip I picked up from watching the bake off was that you should be left with a V shape of mixture hanging from your beaters when you remove them from the mixture.

3. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Now your mixture is ready to go, prepare a flat baking tray. You can grease it with butter or put down a sheet of baking paper (I recommend the latter!). Put your mixture into a piping bag with a large nozzle and pipe out twelve 4 inch long lines a little bit apart. Depending on the size of your oven you may have to use two trays. Sprinkle a little bit of water on the trays around the pastry, taking care to avoid getting the pastry itself wet.

4. Put your eclairs into the oven for 15 minutes. After the 15 minutes is done, reduce the temperature to 170 degrees and continue baking for another 10 minutes. Do not open the oven at this stage under any circumstances unless you want flat choux pastry! After this 10 minute period remove your eclairs from the oven and quickly poke a hole in the end of each one, to allow steam to escape. Then put them back into the oven to dry out the inside for another five minutes. Finally remove them from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

5. To make the filling, whip the cream, vanilla and sugar until thick, and set aside until the eclairs have cooled. Once the eclairs have cooled use a piping bag and a thin nozzle to pipe the filling inside the pastry. You may need to make the holes slightly bigger to do this. or if you don’t have a piping bag, make a slit in the side and fill them with cream.

6.  To make the ganache, melt the chocolate over a double broiler, then stir in the cream. It should be thick and glossy. You can then dip the eclairs in the ganache and allow them to set. But if you are anything like me, it will really test your willpower. Once the ganache has cooled, devour with gusto!

 

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