Monday, April 24, 2006

Labour of Love

There are a few things in life i am addicted to from being on vacation.
1. Bring able to escape briefly from my hectic lifestyle here just to recharge and revitalise
2. Catching up with friends i love so dearly but see so little of
3. Being inspired and learning new things on every single vacation
4. Dining out in a totally different country and pampering my palate and eating with zero guilt

However, my latest trip away was outstandingly divine! It not only involved fabulous time away on the mountains where the silence was deafening but sublime; where sitting out on the veranda in the freezing cold made star-gazing all the more romantic. It was time dedicated to each other , tucked away from civilisation with a beautiful room complete with a spa, fireplace and a kitchen. I was estatic when we checked in!!

As usual, i was "Ms Dorky Food Geek" according to B and the day before, i carefully planned out our daily menu during our stay and both B and i had gone shopping for groceries. Only problem is, there was no oven in the kitchen (something i love using esp for my meats) but i have had to improvise which added to the fun!

Day 1

Dinner: Spinach and Cheese Ravioli with Roasted Garlic tomato sauce with egg plant and olives

Day 2

Brunch: Banana Pancakes with Maple syrup

Dinner: Pan-fried Lamb Cutlets marinated in thyme and garlic served on a bed of creamy mash and asparagus

Day 3:

Brunch: Spinach, Mushroom and Roman tomatoes omelette with Mozzarella Cheese

Dinner: Pan-Seared Salmon Fillet served on a bed of stir-fried spinach in garlic and sauteed mushrooms in white wine

B, these are for you!

Recipes:

Spinach and Cheese Ravioli in Roasted Garlic tomato sauce with chicken, egg plant and olives

Ingredients:

1 pack fresh spinach & cheese ravioli
2 small pieces chicken breast; thinly sliced against the grain
1 medium sized egg plant; sliced into quarters
about 15 pitted black olives; halfed
1 bottle Roasted Garlic tomato-based pasta sauce
2 cloves garlic; finely chopped
1/4 green onions, finely chopped
1/4 red onions; finely chopped
3/4 cup good red wine (dont stinge, it makes a difference to the quality of the sauce if you use a good red for the sauce)
olive oil
1 tbsp butter
sea salt
black pepper
2-4 tbsp sugar

Method:
Marinate sliced chicken in chinese soy and pepper for about 3 hours.
In a hot pan, add some olive oil and lightly stir-fry egg plant for about 2 min. I love pre-frying egg plant as i want the flavours of the olive oil to soak into the egg plant before adding into the sauce. Dish out and set aside.
In the same pan; on high heat, add 2 tbsp oil then 1 tbsp butter in. Do take it off the heat for 2 sec when melting the butter as it burns easily.
Add chopped onions and stir-fry for about 3min then add garlic and fry till fragrant.
Whilst onions are cooking, boil a saucepan of water to cook the ravioli. When water has boiled, add in salt and cook till al dente according to packet instructions. Drain and toss in some olive oil and keep warm.

To the onions, add chicken and fry for about 4min, then add egg plant, olives and stir-fry for another minute before adding the pasta sauce.
Depending on your preference, i love my pasta to be more saucy hence, i added the entire bottle of sauce plus the red wine, on low heat, simmer for about 6-8min.
Do not rush through a pasta sauce, the love and patience in the sauce is crucial to its success as it allows the ingredients to soak in the flavours from the sauce.
Taste to determine how sour the sauce is; i usually add about 2-3 tsp of sugar to take away some of the sourness. Salt and pepper to taste.
Serve immediately with shaved parmesan cheese. YUM!



Pan-fried Lamb Cutlets marinated in rosemary, thyme & garlic served on a bed of creamy mash and asparagus drizzled with Balsamic Reduction

Ingredients:

6 pieces lamb cutlets
handful of rosemary & thyme; chopped
4 cloves garlic; chopped
6-8 small potatoes
8 sprigs baby asparagus
full cream milk
4 tbsp butter
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
olive oil
sea salt & pepper

Method:

To make marinade, mix chopped chopped thyme, garlic, olive oil, salt & pepper and spread it over lamb cutlets. Wrap in cling wrap and marinate overnight in a fridge to allow flavour to soak right into meat.

To make Balsamic reduction (first thing to start on cos it takes a while to reduce; should not rush a reduction); in a small saucepan, bring to boil 3/4 cup of balsamic vinegar. Once it starts to boil, lower heat and allow it to reduce to about 1/4 cup. Be careful not to over boil as it will become a paste too quickly and burn. Once you notice that the balsamic is starting to thicken, remove from heat and allow to cool for 2min. Whisk in 1 tbsp of butter and set aside.

To prepare asparagus; i always like to shave the outer skin of the asparagus to ensure that they are not chewy due to the skin.

Peel potatoes, cut into quarters and add in boiling water till just soft enough to mash. Remove from water and start mashing in a big bowl. Add about 2 tbsp of butter, 1/2 to 3/4 cup milk, salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm.

Using the water from cooking the potatoes, steam the asparagus for about 2min, grind some sea salt over for taste . In a small frying pan, stir in some olive oil and chopped garlic. When garlic is almost golden, toss in the asparagus to infuse the garlic oil. Keep warm.

To cook lamb cutlets, on medium high heat, add oil to hot pan and pan-fry lamb cutlets for 2 min each side for a medium rare doners.

To serve:

Place mash in the center of the plate.
Arrange 3 cutlets per person onto mash accompanied with garlic infused asparagus.
Drizzle some balsamic reduction over and serve.


Pan-Seared Salmon Fillet served on a bed of stir-fried spinach in garlic and sauteed mushrooms in white wine

Ingredients:

2 medium-sized salmon fillet (remove bones if you chose the stomach portion which is the best cut)
handful of gourmet spinach
3 cloves garlic; chopped
2 portabello mushrooms, quartered
6 white button mushrooms, quartered
1/2 cup good quality white wine (Sauvignon Blanc or unwooded chardonnay would be my preference)
Chinese light soy sauce
salt & pepper
olive oil
1/2 tbsp butter

Method:

To marinate salmon, drizzle some soy over evenly and allow to marinate for minimum 2 hours in a fridge. Allow salmon to stand in room temperature for 10-15 min before cooking.

To prepare mushrooms: in a pan; heat some olive oil over medium high heat then add the butter. Stir fry 1 tsp garlic till fragrant. Add quartered mushrooms and stir fry for about 1-2min. Add wine and lower heat to allow wine to slowly reduce and the mushrooms to soak in the flavours from the garlic and wine. Musrooms are ready when the sauce is reduced by half.

To prepare the spinach; over medium high heat in a deeper pan, add olive oil and stir fry the remaining garlic till fragrant. Add in the spinach and stir fry till soft. Set aside and keep warm.

To cook salmon; in a pan on medium high heat, add olive oil. When pan and oil is hot, sear the salmon for 2 min each side.

To serve:

Pile the spinach in the middle of the plate. Rest salmon on spinach and add mushrooms on the side. Serve immediately as salmon is best eaten hot!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Salmon!!

Two weeks ago, A and myself decided over drinks on a saturday night that we should do a cook up, to at least get me started again in the kitchen! We decided on a theme and it was to be seafood. Since the both of us love Salmon, it was a Salmon luncheon!

My choice of recipe was one that was cooked for me by a charming aussie bloke years ago and i have kept the recipe since!


Baked Salmon in mapel syrup

Ingredients:

3 pieces Salmon Fillets
150ml Mapel Syrup
2 garlic cloves; slightly crushed
1 tbsp Djon mustard
salt & pepper

Method:

Mix all ingredients in a baking dish and marinate salmon fillets overnight.
Remove salmon from fridge and baking dish and allow it to sit out in room temperature for about 20min.
Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees C.
Over high heat, pan-sear salmon fillets 10sec each side.
Place fillets back into baking dish and bake for 5min for a medium rare doners.
Serve either with salad or mash potatoes and asparagus.



The wonderful A made this lovely Valentine's day "food for love" Smoked Salmon recipe which not only impressed me but her food-nerd other half DS. ;)

Forgive me guys, couldn't help myself!

Confessions of a serial diner!

Looking at the last post i made (dated 27 February 2006), I realised how unbelievably fast time has somehow past and it sent an instant shiver down my spine!

It has been such a spectacular year so far! Met an amazing new group of foodies (better known as Food Nerds by the lovely A; trained chef and gourmand i truly respect & adore!) that has not only allowed me to interact with like-minded nerds but kept my schedules pretty packed up with social get togethers! In addition, having started work with a brand new gourmet magazine late last year; a bulk of my time is now dedicated to attending gourmet events and tastings. At the envy of many, it is great to be able to enjoy food & wines as often as me and the team at work; but like all things, it comes with a price. The shortfalls; well, i have less time at home (to blog) and i definitely have less of an urge to potter around in the kitchen cooking up a storm as all i feel like lately is just a salad. Nothing fancy.

BUT the best part about dining out is to be able to savour the beautiful creations of several talented local or visiting chefs and be inspired and pick up some tricks in terms of taste, menu planning and creativity in plating.

I am feeling terribly guilty for neglecting my blog for almost 2 months now......i used to blog recipes every week!! Guess perhaps from now on, i should start documenting my dining adventures more regularly and document recipes at least once or twice a month instead....my desperate attempt to redeem myself right now!

Lots of exciting gourmet events happening in the next week......more updates to come for sure!