Thursday, September 29, 2005

Just for fun....with Southpark

It's been such a tiring and stressful week....boy im glad its Friday tomorrow so i can kick back and relax and bake again for yet another dinner party this sunday! Having read Chubby Hubby's posting on SouthPark i was instantly addicted to the site and started layout out characters for some of my close friends and having a good laugh! Well, thought id share as well even though its nothing about food.

Me!


My buddy from Take a Deetour

i had most fun with this one...for GL

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Childhood Memories Meme

I have been tagged by Chef Doc from a Perfect Pear to share my childhood memories on food and how it has influenced my passion for food today.

It is actually rather strange how food has such an arousing and nostalgic effect on all of us and how it bacame so apparent is also very different for people from across the world.

My Mother-My Number One Culinary Role Model

I admire my mother for several reasons. She is a simple girl born in a pretty wealthy family in Malaysia and never had to lift a finger to do much around the house. And then she got married and had to learn the ropes towards being a professional home-maker. She was a seamstress by profession but studied accounting and is very good with her hands. She had to learn to cook from no experience, knowledge or skills. I grew up watching her make-merry in the kitchen creating several yummy dishes, pastries, cakes, dim sums, etc....through helping her in the kitchen before i attended Home Economics, i learnt the basics of how to make sushi, pizzas, cakes, chicken pies, char siew baos, baked meat baos....etc and many other stir-fried dishes. She is the reason i have developed a liking for cooking and maybe baking too! A few of my favourite dishes she created are: Pork Belly with Dark Soy, Steamed Chicken Rice Braised Five Spice Duck.

Restaurant Latour-Shangri-La Singapore

The one thing that further moulded my love and passion for food, wine and hospitality was when i started my Diploma in Tourism Management at a local Polytechnic and started my internship in a Classic French restaurant which has closed sometime in year 2001. My very first experience with Foie Gras and Dom Perignon Champagne was at this restaurant. After the restaurant is closed, we could try out some of the food and only during special occasions such as Christmas or NYE would we be allowed to hit the champers! I spent a fair bit of time watching the chefs in the kitchen and picked up bits and pieces of useful information. It truly opened my eyes to French food and i started to develop a yearning for more understanding for cuisines from other parts of the world. As most people in F&B would agree with me, that they work really hard and they play hard too.....i developed my tolerance for alcohol mostly after hours at the hotel!

Durians


Actually i did talk about how durians entered my life as a kid in my 2nd posting as a blogger. I used to love durians to death. Ate so much of them that i have seriously O.D. on them after i turned 21. During my early years visiting and living in my late grandparent's shophouse, i remember my uncle running the shopfront selling fruits. Needless to say, he would always pass us tons of fruits that were in season. My late grandparents loved durians and everytime we visited them, instead of any Hainanese sweets we had durians! I remember loving the durians with very yellow flesh with a slightly bitter after taste. This fruit is not for the faint hearted. It's rich, succulent flesh is filled with calories and seriously fills you up. It also smells pungent to some, awesome to majority of the Singaporeans. It was one of the fruits that was served at one of the episodes of the early seasons of fear factor i believe.

Soft-boiled Eggs for Breakfast

As a pampered school girl where mummy took care of all my meals, i had no choice on what i wanted for breakfast and dinner. I used to never like breakfast (in fact, i still dont eat anything for breakfast except for a glass of Milo or cup of tea) and hated soggy toast in the morning. My mum used to toast the bread too soon and by the time i got into my uniforms, my toast would have all gone wet & soft. (thus my anal retentiveness towards toasts). It HAS to be golden brown crispy on the outside and preferably white bread. BUT one thing i absolutely LOVE is a good old traditional half-boiled egg for breakfast with drops of dark soy sauce and pepper! I still go to Ya Kun Kaya Toast to have my soft boiled eggs to satisfy the occasional craving when i have 10min to sit down for breakfast! After living in Australia, there was another addiction i developed for breakfast.......vegemite and butter on toast!!

Living in Australia

I honestly think that living and studying in Australia has changed my perception towards food preparation as well. The appeal of cooking with fresh produce easily accessible is a healthy addiction i readily would subject myself to for 3 years....wish it was longer. I would spend loads on groceries and good cuts of meats, fresh seafood and veggies. Insisting on the freshest actually makes the dish taste so much better; for instance, i would much rather pay more for roman tomatoes than the regular tomates when cooking pasta sauce as the flesh is much sweeter, crunchy, less watery pulp that might dilute my sauce while simmering. My entire perspective towards different cuts of meat, variations of cheeses was enhanced and brought to a different level. Same goes for my appreciation of wines. Had i not lived in Australia on my own, i would not have become so passionate about creating my own dishes and be that wiling to be in the kitchen today.

OK....here are another 4 people i choose to tag to keep the meme going...(if they have not already participated)

Deetour Guide from Take a Deetour in Singapore

Saffron from Food Palate in Sydney

Nic from Baking Sheet in LA

Joe from Foodie in NYC

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Baked Saffron Chicken

This recipe i thought was interesting and had a crispy crust due to the use of flour. Combined with the floral taste of saffron, when i tasted it, i thought it was unusual, simple and fragrant. It is unlike other conventional roast chicken recipes that combine much stronger flavours. I adapted the recipe from Cuisine Magazine but made some alterations as well.



Baked Saffron Chicken

Ingredients:

6 chicken drumsticks
pinch of saffron threads (approx 15 threads)
6 tbsp flour
salt (i used McCormick's Spicy Season All instead)
ground black pepper
Olive Oil

Method:

Marinate the drumsticks with salt and pepper overnight
Pound the saffront threads (if pounding is difficult, use a sharp sissors and cut threads into fine bits)
Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C.
Combine flour and saffront in a big bowl and rub this mixture over the surface of the chicken.
Heat oil in a frying pan and brown chicken evenly on all sides.
Tranfer to an oven proof dish and bake for 30min until cooked through.
Serve with asparagus & butter beans.

Roast Chicken with Soy & Honey

It has been a truly busy 2 weeks, filled with events and parties involving endless supply of wines and martinis. Having said that, i never complain when good alcohol is in abundance combined with awesome company! Although i do miss hanging out in my kitchen and trying my hand at recipes i find ever so tempting.

It was Koko's hubby's farewell today and yes, another pot luck party at an apartment along Pasir Panjang road that faces the sentosa island. The breeze was blowing, the view was absolutely captivating!

I decided to prepare 2 chicken dishes. One of which is a recipe i previously posted as one of my all-time favourite roast chicken dish and another, a baked chicken dish using the most expensive spice in the world...Saffron. I wanted to find out for myself what the appeal and hype is all about towards this amazingly fragrant spice.It's wonderfully floral aromas and flavour enhanced the taste of the chicken.



Roast Chicken with Dark Soy and Honey

Ingredients:
1 whole chicken
McCormick's Spicy Season
All Five Spices SALT (see pic)
Dark soy Sauce
2 tbsp Honey

Method:
Wash and cut chicken into a half just on one side (through the breast bone) and spread chicken out on roasting pan.
Pour dark soy sauce over chicken to give the chicken a nice dark colour. Marinate with McCormick's Spicy Season All and Five Spices Salt both inside and outside the chicken not too much as it may become too salty. Cling wrap and allow it to marinate overnight. (very important!)
Pre-heat over to 180 degrees celcius.
Before roasting, baste the chicken with marinade then into the oven it goes for about 35-45min (depending on how hot your oven is) or when it starts getting slightly burnt on the skin. (thats the charm about roasting this chicken...does not taste good if it aint slightly charred on the skin!!!) 5 min before the chicken is ready, remove from oven.
Brush generous amounts of honey over the entire chicken.
Put it back into the oven for another 5min. This gives the chicken skin a nice crispy taste to it!
I guarantee an absolute charmer at any pot luck party you host or attend!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

L'Orange Torte


It has been a warm, humid but rainy weekend...great time to stay in and try out recipes from my new cookbooks. Apart from the truffles that kept me busy all of Saturday (and wee hours of Sunday morning), i also decided on making a cake from Fran Bigelow's Pure Chocolate. I chose the L'Orange Torte which she recommends as one of the easiest among all her other recipes.

I did not follow the recipe to the finest detail as the first mixture i made following every step of the recipe did not work out and i threw it out. Ahhh...the joys of baking, its all a big suspense till your cake comes out of the oven.

L'Orange

Ingredients:

6 oz semi sweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 oranges, pref large navels with dark, rough-textured skin
12 tbsp butter/240g
1 cup sugar, set aside 1 tbsp for beating egg whites (i find icing sugar gives the best result to the fluffiness of the butter)
4 large eggs, room temp; seperate yolks and whites.
1 2/3 cup almond flour
1 recipe Chocolate Butter Glaze (recipe to follow)

Method:

Pre-heat oven with a middle rack in the oven at 150 degrees C
Butter a 9-inch round cake pan (pref flared) and line with a parchment paper at the bottom
In a double boiler melt the chocolate over low heat. (I turned off the heat and used the heat from the steam to melt chocolate. I find if i had the heat on, it will over cook the chocolate)
Remove when nearly melted and continue stirring until smooth. Briefly return to the double boiler if it begins to thicken.
Wash the oranges. Using a fine grater or microplaner, finely grate the zest onto a plate and set aside.
Add butter and sugar in a mixing bowl. Beat with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until pale cream in colour.
When butter is sufficiently white and fluffy, lower speed slightly and add in yolks one at a time. Mix well for about 2-3 min.
In another bowl, add in 1 tbsp of icing sugar with the 4 egg whites. Beat on high speed until its white, fluffy and doubled in size.
With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, fold in the egg whites into the butter mixture swiftly, do not stir as you want to maintain as much of the air bubbles as possible. This should only take about 1-2 min.
Fold in the almond flour little by little. You will notice mixture slowly thickens and has more body.
Slowly fold in the chocolate. Make sure that the chocolate is not too warm else it will cook the eggs.
Fold in grated orange at the very end as adding it too early (as recommended by Fran together with butter and sugar caused mixture to seperate due to the juice still within the grated skin.)
Quickly pour mixture into lined pan and bake for about 40min until puffed and domed in the center with a slight fracture 1 inch from the rim. Test with cake tester and it should have a few moist crumbs.
Allow cake to cool for 15min in the pan.
To remove from pan, run a thin-bladed knife around the edges of the cake and invert onto a metal tart-pan bottom. Chill in fridge for a few hours or overnight.

To finish Torte
Bring torte to room temp, trim any uneven edges. While torte is warming up in room temp, prepare chocolate butter glaze.
Have ready chocolate butter glaze.

To make glaze:

Ingredients:
4 oz semi sweet chocolate finely chopped
8tbsp/160g butter

Method:
In a double boiler or bowl over simmering water, melt the chocolate. Remove the top of the boiler or bowl when chocolate is nearly melted and continue stirring until smooth. Add the softened butter, slowly stirring with a spatula until no visible traces of butter remaining. (if butter starts to liquify, stop and let the chocolate cool slightly.)
The glaze should be glossy and smooth with a temperature of 26-29 degrees C. When stirred, it will hold a line on the surface for about 10sec before disappearing. If the glaze is starting to set up, return briefly to the double boiler.

Place torte (on tart bottom) on a cooling rack positioned over a rimmed baking sheet. Beginning 1 1/2 inches from the edge of the torte, slowly and evenly pour the glaze around the torte layer, making sure that the sides are sufficiently covered. Then pour remaining glaze onto the center.
Working quickly, using a metal offset spatula, spread the glaze evenly over the top, letting excess run down the sides.
Let set at room temp until the glaze is slightly firm. Once set, slide torte onto serving plate. Can be stored at room temp up to 3 days.

My final product!

Chocolate Truffles Overdose

I made another visit to Kinokuniya this week and picked up a beautiful book by Fran Bigelow called Pure Chocolate. Most of my friends know im not a person with much of a sweet tooth but for chocolate, i make a special exception especially after my visit to Koko Black.

On my trips to Melbourne this year, i came across a glorious hand-made chocolate shop called Koko Black along Lygon Street in Carlton. It is beautifully decorated and had endless trays of decadent chocolates. The best thing is, they open till late and have a bar that served alcohol as well! From a person who only ate chocolate once in a rare blue moon, i was weak in the knees and am converted instantly after my visit there! What I felt was most interesting are their drinks selection, with a wide variety of chocolate or caramel infused coffees and teas. For those who love Hot Chocolates, make sure you try their hot chocolate....it is the BEST hot chocolate i have ever tasted. I believe i have tried almost all of their chocolates retailed there in under 3 weeks in Melbourne!

One of the reasons why i bought Frans's Pure Chocolate is because of her concise explanation on understanding chocolate, preparation and cooking chocolate as well. And most of all, her recipe on making Chocolate Truffles! I have been wanting to learn how to make my own chocolates but just never knew how and if it is at all possible in a climate like Singapore's. I tried making chocolate truffles for the first time and am overjoyed that it worked out....took me an entire day though. As Fran advises, "Patience is a virtue....especially with Chocolate". I also decided to practice more on my baking as advised by S from Chubby Hubby, more practice is the best way to conquer my fear towards baking and master some important skills through trial and error. Thus, i have also made a L'orange Torte also from Fran's Pure Chocolate.




Pure Dark-Chocolate Truffles
With variations of coatings:
- Roasted chopped almonds
- Desicated coconut
- Valhorna Cocoa power

Ingredients:
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped (i picked up a huge block of Swiss chocolate from Sun Lik along Seah St as you will need loads for tempering the chocolate centers later)
1 cup heavy cream (whipping cream with at least 36% milk fat is ideal)
3 tbsp/60g unsalted butter, room temp.
1 recipe tempered semisweet chocolate (recipe to follow)

Method:
Place the finely chopped chocolate in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
In a small pot, bring the cream to boil. Pour over the chocolate in the bowl. Let sit for approx. 30sec without disturbing.
With a rubber/soft plastec spatula, beginning in a small area in the middle of the bowl, start stirring with small, gentle strokes. As the puddle in the center turns dark and smooth, begin making broader strokes, moving out to the edges and gredually incorporating more of the cream and chocolate.
Continue stirring until mixture is smooth and dark. The emulsion should be very smooth.
Cover with plastic wrap touching the surface of the ganache. Let set at room temp 8-12 hours allowing flavours to develop and the consistency to firm up. (According to Fran, her room temperature is between 20-24 degrees Celsius, in Singapore climate, place ganache in the fridge, lowest shelf)

To form the Truffles

Have ready two 9 x 13 inch baking sheets pan-lined with parchment.
To form the centers, the butter must be soft enough to blend easily with a spatula. Place softened butter in a bowl and beat with rubber spatula until the consistency is similar to the chocolate ganache. (Now because i have placed ganache in the fridge, allow it to sit in out for about 5min before working on butter.)
With the rubber spatula, fold the butter into the ganache until smooth, glossy and homogeneous. The mixture is ready when it mounds in the bowl and holds the shape when piped. (If you feel your mixture is too moist and cant be piped to shape, place it into the fridge again for about 5min.)
Spoon into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch round tip (#2A if using Wilton bag from Sun Lik). Pipe about fifty to sixty 1-inch rounds onto a lined baking sheet. Transfer to fridge for at least 1 hour.
(I had a few mishaps during this stage, as its really hard to get the right consistency during piping. Our warm hands and warm climate melts the mixture rather quickly. I find its easier if my mixture is more solid than too moist as the mixture does get warm while piping and you have to pipe really fast to ensure the chocolate stays in its desired temperature. Tip is: while piping, work in an air-conditioned room at 17 degrees Celsius pref in evening when the temp has lowered somewhat. Pipe 1/2 the mixture and fridge the other half of the remaining mixture while piping the first batch.)
According to Fran, if you dont wish to use the pastry bag, a teaspoon or small round scoop can be used to portion out the centers. Then fridge them to set for about 20min and roll them with hands into balls.
When set, trim any tails on top to make it a perfect round. The centers are ready for dipping.

Tempering dark chocolate

Ingredients:
2 pounds high quality semisweet chocolate (pref. 56% cacao), finely chopped

Equipment needed:
a double boiler or simply a bigger saucepan with boiling water and a stainless steel bowl or smaller saucepan over the top to melt the chocolate
wooden spatula
thermometer if you have, it helps you maintain the chocolate int he right temperature.

Method:
Set aside 7 oz of finely chopped chocolate
Place the remaining chocolate in a large stainless steel bowl over simmering water or in a double boiler over low heat. (Keeping in mind the temp in Singapore, i turned off the heat once the water in the saucepan has boiled. It is impt NOT to overheat the chocolate)
When about half the chocolate is melted, remove from heat. Stir with a dry wooden spatula until smooth. Return to the heat and continue stirring until the chocolate reaches 46 degrees C. Do not let temp exceed 48.8 degrees C.
Remove from the heat and add in 7oz reserved chocolate. Stir with spatula until all the chocolate is melted and smooth.
Continue stirring every few min until the chocolate cools to a temp of 30 degrees C. Depending on the temp of your kitchen and size of the bowl, this could be anywhere betw 15-30min (5-10min in Singapore climate.)
Once the chocolate is cooled, return over simmering water very briefly to gently warm back to 31-32 degrees C. This should take no more than 10 seconds. if you overheat, the chocolate will lose its temper and you will have to repeat the entire process.
The perfect temp for fluid dark chocolate for dipping is betw 31-32.2 degrees C.
To test for temper, smear a teaspoon on a sheet of parchment or plate. If its dries within 2min to a glossy, smooth finish, it is in temper. If it doesnt set properly and looks dull and streaked, it probably needs more time to cool. Continue stirring and testing. Once the chocolate is in temper, have your centers ready for dipping and work quickly. (again, dipping is best done in cool room about 17 degrees C)
If the chocolate starts firming around the edges, briefly return to double boiler to keep it fluid enough for dipping. Should not be more than a min if water is still steaming.

To dip chocolate centers

You need clean hands, one for picking up centers and other one to very gently pick up centers submerged in tempered chocolate using index and center fingers only. Make sure its evenly coated throughout. Gently shake off excess chocolate and place on parchment or Silpat-lined sheet to set in fridge for about 5-8min. (I made a few variations, i coated it with Valhorna cocoa powder for its dark brown colour, desicated coconut and roasted chopped almonds. They not only looked pretty but tasted just divine! So, after dipping the centers into tempered chocolate, i immediately dropped them in small bowls containing the various coatings. Cover them evenly and then place on lined tray and fridge to set.)

Remaining tempered chocolate can be kept and used for baking or dessert making. Simply pour onto a parchment lined sheet and fridge to harden. Break into chunks and store for future use.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Wholesome Food: Risotto



I love Italian food! What do i like about it......gee where do i start. Perhaps its my innate love for carbohydrates (despite what it does to my waistline), combined with my weakness for cheese and salty food....it is a cuisine i cannot see myself ever disliking.

Since University days, i have cooked pasta to death. To me, pasta is my definition of "fast-food", simple, easy and wholesome, an "All-in-one meal". The strangest thing is, i have never tried cooking a Risotto. As i was explaining to my buddy Deetour chick, it is probably because of how the italians cook their risotto, to me its usually too rich and creamy for me to finish the entire plate, thus, i avoid risotto in general. But it does not stop me from attempting a risotto of my own. I adapted my recipe from Delia Smith. I was salivating when i first read that recipe and told myself i HAD to give it a shot!

Tiger Prawns Risotto with Prawn Stock

Ingredients:

6 tiger prawns; peeled leaving tail, de-veined
175g Arborio Rice
780g lobster bisque (i couldnt find lobster bisque, i chanced upon a jewel in Deetour chick's fridge; Home-made Prawn Stock!)
40g butter
75ml sherry
50g Gruyere cheese; i didnt have that, i substitued it with good-old Parmesan cheese, shredded
2 tbsp whipping cream
sea salt & black pepper

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 150 degrees C; place baking dish in oven to warm
in a medium-sized saucepan, melt butter over medium heat, saute onions for 7-8min until soft.
Stir in rice into the buttery juices so that it gets a good coating then pour in the prawn stock and sherry and bring it to simmering point. Season with 1 tsp sea salt and ground black pepper.
Pour in whole lot into the baking dish that has been warming in the oven and return to the oven uncovered for 35min.
After 35mins, remove dish from oven and change settings to grill on the highest setting.
Taste the risotto to check on seasoning then drizzle cream over, place prawns on top and sprinkle shredded cheese over.
Place the dish under the grill for 2 mins or until cheese is brown and bubbling.
Serve immediately.

Risotto: Fresh out of the oven!!


Here i served it with Deetour chick's wondefully yummy Baby Spinach Salad with Tomato & Olive Pesto and Red Pesto. The recipe can be found on our group blog, Dias Deliciosos.