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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Strawberry Cream Puff

Strawberry Puff 10

Strawberry Puff 3

Strawberry 2

Strawberry 7

Strawberry Puff 1

Strawberry Clan.... a term that is used in Taiwan to refer to those precious youth born in the 80's into small single child families. This is a generation that is born into a relatively affluent society where the pressure on survival and living is not as prevalent as during the more tumultous times experienced by our parents or grandparents. This generation generally demonstrates lower threshold for hardship and setbacks.. they bruise easily at the slightest pressure and wilt quickly in adverse conditions... fragile creatures that don't last well.... just like Strawberries!

I now fully appreciate the analogy. I had gushed about the strawberries I ate in Korea last week.... pretty, garnet ingots that were bursting with sweet flavours. When I raved about the strawberries to L over messenger, he was skeptical. I can't quite blame him, for indeed most of the imported strawberries we get in Singapore/ Malaysia are mild in taste at best and unappealingly sour as they get worse.... The Wednesday morning I was to leave for the airport, I bought 2 punnets of the ruby red fruit, taking care to choose the less ripened ones so that they would last a little longer. The store assistant was quite adamant that they wouldn't be able to last till Saturday - I foolishly chose to ignore her believing that my super intelligent Panasonic fridge would be able to preserve the fruits well. True enough, when I took them out today, I can already spot wilting signs on the pock-marked berries.... a touch of yellow on the calyx, a small smudgy bruise at the tip....
Now I understand why the strawberries we import are usually tasteless... to ensure that they travel well, they must have been harvested before they have a chance to fully develop the sweetness in them...

As I wondered what to do with the strawberries, I had been reluctant to pulp or puree these gorgeous fruits. I had wanted to keep the fruits intact without processing them too much. 2 options came into mind : a strawberry cheesecake topped with fresh strawberries and/or a strawberry choux cream puff. I woke up this morning knowing that I no longer have the luxury to dither and opted for the very basic choux puff pastry and vanilla pattiserie cream. The whole puff was light and refreshing. I had deliberately chosen the butter free pattiserie cream from Bourke Street Bakery's Berry Tart. This was easy to prepare and the simple vanilla custard allowed the strawberries to take center stage.

Strawberry Puff 7
As I looked at the cream puff photos, I realised there was something 'bare' about them... then it hit me... I should have dusted a little powder sugar over the puffs... well, nothing's perfect but I am contented.

Strawberry Puff 10(100)
Recipe :

Choux Puff Pastry
All Purpose Flour                 30g
Bread Flour                         30g
Unsalted Butter                    40g (cubed)
Water                                 100ml
Castor Sugar                       2g
Salt                                     1g
Eggs                                    2

Pastry Cream (Please refer here)

Method :
1. Preheat oven to 200C.
2. In a heavy saucepan, place water, sugar, salt and butter. Heat until butter is melted and mixture just starts to boil.
3. Remove from heat and add flour. Using a spatula blend flour with butter liquid until a dough is formed and is well mixed.
4. Return dough in saucepan to heat. Continue heating and stirring dough to evaporate moisture.
5. Continue heating dough until dough becomes sticky and forms a thin membrane at the bottom of saucepan.
6. Remove from heat and bit by bit , add beaten eggs into warm dough and mix until well combined.
7. Using a piping bag fitted with a 1cm round piping tip, pipe 3 small rounds side by side on to a baking sheet.
8. Lightly brush the dough mounds with egg wash. (or mist lightly with water spray)
9. Bake at 200C for 30mins. Cool completely and split 'eclair puff ' horizontally.
10. Pipe in custard (pastry cream) and garnish with strawberries.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Petit Fours : Lemon Meringue Tart

Lemon Meringue Tart 5

Lemon Meringue Tart 1

Lemon Meringue Tart 2

Psst... I am cheating with this one. Put together haphazardly before I left for Shanghai last week with the intention of finishing up my lemon curd from the Lemon Meringue Cupcakes. I then realised that it didn't quite help to clean out the clutter in my fridge because to get this, I found myself making up a huge batch of Pierrre Herme's  sweet tart pastry dough..... Consolation is that this keeps well for a couple months in the freezer and I suppose friends and colleagues will be happy to hear that I could potentially whip up an Apricot Chocolate/ Orange tart or 2 in the coming weeks for them.... or I could try to work on something gorgeous with strawberries... it is raining strawberries here in Seoul. I am lucky to be in the middle of what appears to be the peak season for strawberries in Korea. The fruits are a glossy garnet red (unlike the pale hue that I typically see for imported Korean strawberries in Singapore), sweet and flavourful with a tender bite. I am setting aside luggage space for 2 punnets to be brought home!

I had chosen to make these into petit fours, tiny bite sized treats that can be devoured in one single mouthful. I am a fan of miniature sized sweet treats. Sweets, I feel, are best enjoyed in small doses. Their ability to delight is indirectly proportional to their sizes. A fist sized cupcake or a 2"  macaron has little appeal for me.

Hence, I leave you this for now... my next teleconference's calling.

Lemon Meringue Tart 5(100)


Lemon Curd and Meringue : Please refer to recipe for Lemon Meringue Cupcake
Sweet Tart Dough : Please refer to recipe for Orange Tartlet

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Herbed Crumbed Sutchi Fillet

Baked Fish 3

Baked Fish 2

Baked Fish collage 1

Fish & Co,as many in Singapore and Malaysia would know, is a popular local western seafood restaurant chain. Their fish and chips is outstanding and has a loyal following in Singapore. Since their establishment in 1998, the company has expanded their business to include a Teochew Restaurant(Chaozhou Inn) , a Mediteranean Fusion  western restaurant (F.I.S.H) and now, as I have just learnt, a quality seafood wholesaling and distribution business.

The food & beverage business is a very competitive industry in Singapore. Not only has Fish & Co. made their business sustainable, I am impressed that they have actually identified market needs and opportunities and found ways to bring additional value to the market. Specialising in processed seafood with longer, more economical shelf life, Oceana Seafood, Fish & Co Group's distribution arm, distributes a range of Black Tiger Shrimp, Fish Fillet, Mussel, Sea Bass and Squid.
When I was asked to develop a recipe with their frozen Sutchi Fillet, I was keen but had my reservations. The Sutchi fish, a specie of the shark catfish is primarily fished from the big rivers in Asia . The flesh of the Sutchi is flaky and tender making it very suitable for a battered or breaded fry... and yes, Fish & Co. uses this for their famous Fish & Chip dish. I don't normally cook with frozen fish, with the exception to the cod and I have never really liked river fish due to their muddy odour. As much as I was tempted to just deep fry it to mask any possible fishy staleness and muddy smell, I decided to take a chance and work with a more healthy recipe that would call for baking it with herb infused bread crumbs.

Baked Fish1

Baked Fish 8
The bread crumbs gave the fish a lot of structural stability,making it easy to handle. The use of fresh bread crumbs needs to be stressed. I pulverised some lightly toasted baguettes for my crumbs but you can use practically any kind of bread you have. The fresh crumbs bring a whole new dimension of texture to the dish. Upon baking, the crisp bite from the herbed crumbs contrasted beautifully with the tender flaky flesh of the Sutchi fillet. Served with a light squirt of fresh lemon juice, I am not coy to proclaim that this is one the tastiest fish dish I have ever prepared. I would gladly order this in a restaurant or serve it at a formal dinner.

Available at NTUC Fairprice and priced at S$3.30 per packet of 3 long fillets, this, I feel is one of the most economical way to enjoy a fish dish.

So, share with me if you will - have you ever prepared Sutchi fillets? How did you prepare it?

Baked Fish 6(100)

Recipe :
1 cup (70g) Fresh bread crumbs
1 tbsp Chopped dill
1 tbsp Chopped flat leaf parsley
Dash Salt & Pepper
50g Melted butter
2 fillets Oceana Sutchi Fillet (thawed)

Preparation :
1. Preheat oven to 200C.
2. Mix bread crumbs, chopped dill and parsely together with salt and pepper. Add melted butter to bread crumbs and mix well.
3. Season fillet with salt and pepper on both sides.
4. Pack (2) onto the top of fillet and bake in the oven at 200C for 20mins or until fish is cooked.
5. Serve with lemon wedge and salad.

Monday, February 14, 2011

White Peaches In Rose-Water Syrup

Poached Peach 8
Poached Peach 1
Poached Pear 5
Poached Pear 3
Food blogging started out as a curious little hobby but it is morphing into a very timing consuming affair. The essential 3 components : cooking,photographing and writing can take up a inordinate amount of my time. I have to be honest and admit that I am truly struggling to sustain the momentum while continuing to complete my work datelines. (the one that pays the bills!!) I continue to marvel at prolific bloggers who demonstrate clock-work regularity in their posting - some of whom have chocked up an enviable stash of back log which allows them to do auto-scheduled posting.... One and half years into blogging and I am still at below 150 posts to date! Such snail pace!

Hence, it helps tremendously when once in a while a simple but pretty recipe like this pops up to offer a very welcome concession.
Poached Peach 2
Poached pear 4
Easy to prepare and awfully practical. I don't know about the rest of you but I normally don't buy peaches in Singapore because very often the peaches I get here are not juicy or sweet. The only time I had a good peach was when I bought an air flown Japanese peach at $16/piece. Hence, poaching this in Rose Syrup helps to tenderise and sweeten the otherwise bland fruit- awfully practical! The dash of Rose Water and the sprinkle of chopped pistachios instantly transform this otherwise simple and uninteresting recipe into an exotic treat with a delicate middle eastern touch.
If you are looking for a break from stirring and mixing in the kitchen, this would be a sweet change.

Poached Peach 8(100)
500g    castor sugar
1 tbsp rose-water
4 White peaches

To serve
plain yoghurt
90g chopped pistachios

1. In a heavy saucepan, mix the sugar and rose water with 2000ml of water. Bring the water to boil.
2. Using a sharp knife, lightly draw a cross at the top of the peaches. Place the peaches in the boil water and simmer for 5-10mins or until softened.
3. Remove the peaches from the water and peel off the skin. Place the peeled skin back into the boiling water and continue to reduce the syrup until volume is reduced by half.
4. Toast some pistachios in the oven at 150C for about 5-10mins. Chop the pistachios into small pieces.
5. Serve the peaches by ladeling a little Rose Water Syrup over the peaches and sprinkle with pistachios.
6. Alternatively, the peaches can also be served with a scoop of yogurt.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Bad Breakfast Breed Dumb Kids?... Crumpets with Blueberry Butter

Crumpet 4
Crumpet 5

Crumpet 7

I sometimes truly think that in this scientific age of ours, we analyse too much. I am guilty as charged. We whine at the calories counter, fearing that we will get fat and become unattractive. I have seen health freaks grimace at the sight of oil and salt, preferring instead to partake in bland and parched food.Also spotted were  parents who would deprive their toddlers of the tiniest grain of sugar, for reasons that I am still unclear about.

Just a couple of days ago, the headline of an article in the papers caught my eye... Bad Breakfast Breed Dumb Kids. It went on to recount how we Singaporeans or for that matter, Asians in general would eat and feed their children all kinds of food for breakfast. 5 kinds of food were identified as being especially bad for a child's breakfast :
1. Left over food from the previous night - because aged food will produce sodium nitrate which can be carcinogenic.
2. Fried dough with soya milk. (a popular breakfast choice for most Chinese in China and Taiwan) - because it is too oily.
3. Biscuits and snacks - because these are too dry.
4. Continental breakfast like sausage or bacon - because they tend to be too oily and contain little nutrient.
5. Eating on the go, in a hurry - the poor child will not be able to digest his food properly.

I rolled my eyes and wondered if the whole Asian community has bred hoards of dumb people because of the type breakfast we typically eat.

I have never liked eating cereals and bread for breakfast because they are too bland and unflavourful for me. My favourite breakfast includes Wonton Noodle, Nasi Lemak (coconut rice) , Fried Carrot Cake and congee with fried dough...  In Asia, breakfast is always colourful and can get very diverse. My colleagues in America have learnt to look forward to mouth watering hotel breakfast buffet spread when they travel to Asia. They marvel at how our buffet breakfast could double up as a very good lunch spread...An average 4-5 star hotel in Asia will normally, in addition to the boring continental spread, offer fried noodles, fried rice, congee, miso soup with rice and some meat or fish dishes.

By contrast, whenever we Asians, travel to the US / Europe, we feel gravely deprived at breakfast. What we normally get are bread, pastries (muffins, danish) and cereal. One would be lucky if the hotel has a hot food station where you can get your eggs and bacon/ham.

It is very rare that I would enjoy a Western/Intercontinental style breakfast when I travel. I eat it because I need to.  The only exception so far, is possibly Sydney where I found it thrilling to sit on the bench outside Bourke Street Bakery with my cup of coffee and a tart or sausage roll.

Bills Collage
Equally satisfying was sitting at the communal table in Bills, celebrated Australian chef, Bill Granger's hip neighbourbood restaurant, savouring his famous breakfast menu which includes the popular corn fritters with bacon, the to-die-for (according to my distributor) ricotta hotcakes and what I see alot, the simple scrambled eggs on sourdough toast.
Will these breed smarter kids? I have no idea and am not interested to find out. The photos in Bill Granger's Bills Sydney Food look so tentalising and accessible that I feel compelled to give some of them a go.
I chose to try out these Crumpets with Blueberry Butter  (Blackberry Butter in the cookbook) because I was suitably curious about what Bill Granger meant by :
"The difference between store-bought and home-made crumpets has to be experienced at least once. "
In addition, I had also wanted to try a berry butter...

Crumpet 3
For those who are wondering, the crumpet is really a sweet or savoury bread snack made with flour and yeast. The texture, unlike fluffy pancakes, is half spongy and half chewy. Characterised by the numerous pore structure throughout the little bread, this is best eaten while it is hot, with a generous slather of butter.
This is the first time I have tried a fruit flavoured butter and I must say, eaten together with the slightly salty crumpet, the combination was quite delightful. Serve this on pretty bone china with English tea and you would have a lovely breakfast fit for a Queen... but I doubt that children's food police would approve.... and if you would, pray share - what is your favourite breakfast item?

Crumpet 7 (100)
1 1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp sugar
7g           sachet dried yeast
375g       plan flour
a pinch of salt
1/2 tsp    baking soda

1. Pour the milk into a saucepan and heat until just warm. Remove from heat. Add yeast and sugar and allow to sit for 10mins until milk starts to froth.
2. Sift flour and salt into a bowl and make a well in the middle.Gradually add the milk to the flour and beat with electric beaters until completely smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at a warm place for 2 hours, until double in volume and full of air bubbles.
3. Mix the baking soda with 200ml of water and using a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, combine water with dough.
4. In a griddle pan oiled with melted butter, place a lightly oiled metal ring/s . Scoop 3 tbsp of batter into metal ring and cook over very low heat until big bubbles appear on the surface and a skin is formed.
5. Dislodge ring carefully and turn over to cook the other side.
6. Serve the crumpets fresh or toasted, spread with lashings of blueberry butter.

Blueberry Butter
1 cup blueberries
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
 1/2 cup(115g) butter

1. Place berries, sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan over high heat and heat until boiling.
2. Lower heat and simmer for 5 mins or until syrupy. Cool down completely.
3. Place butter in a bowl and whip with a wooden spoon until light. Fold in berries to create ripple effect. Spoon butter into a ramekin and refrigerate.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Isabella's Lemon Meringue Cupcake

LM Cupcake7
LM Cupcake2
LM Cupcake 13

At last! Star World is screening Australia's first Junior Masterchef here in Singapore! When I was in Sydney last November, practically everyone I met was talking about it. My Australian colleagues were raving in disbelief about how 12 year old kids were cooking snails and  11 year old boy was making lamb wellington.

When this started screening 3 weeks ago,I was shocked and amazed by what the children could do.The skeptic in me wondered if this is all preconceived...that the producers had put the kids in some perversely dark boot camp where they had to practice all the dishes before hand. There was something incongruent about watching the kids hovering and fussing over a real stove when one has been more used to see them molding  playdough over kitchen play kits.

Nevertheless, the kids were amazing and it was pure delight to watch them. Stripped of the ugliness, the politics and the sacarsm that usually accompany competitive reality TV, Junior Masterchef was sweet, endearing and inspiring.

The judges were always encouraging and it was wonderful to see the children's faces light up when they were praised. The camaraderie they showed for each other was also refreshingly sweet when compared to the conniving behaviour normally seen in the adult version of the same. Just yesterday, Pierre, the challenge winner from last week was asked to pick a leader for the opposing team for their new challenge.He picked Anthony (the goofiest of all contestants and my favourite!) because they are good friends.... how I wish the adult world can be as simple as this.

LM Cupcake10
Today I share with you Isabella's Lemon Meringue Cupcake which won her the first mystery box challenge. In the challenge,the children were given a mystery box with a collection of ingredients with which they had to create a dish in 40mins... without a recipe in sight. When it came to judging time, Isabella's cupcakes were so luscious that it literally had the judges swooning over them.
LM Cupcake6
When I saw the recipe in the Masterchef magazine, I knew that I had to recreate 40mins. With enough focus, 40 mins is sufficient to create this 3 component cupcake which includes the cake, the tangy lemon curd and the meringue. The cake made with pouring cream instead of butter, is a breeze to make and yields a beautiful even dome shaped cupcake.

The verdict? I burnt the tip of the meringue a little but these cupcakes were GORGEOUS! The combination of fluffy meringue, tangy lemon curd and soft crumbly cake was an absolute winner. I now understand why judge Gary Mehigan almost melted when he tasted the cupcake.

So, dear readers, will you challenge yourself to complete this in 40mins? I hope you would.

LM Cupcake 11(250)
Recipe (from Masterchef website )

250ml /1 cup pure cream
220g /1 cup caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
225g/ 1 1/2 cups self raising flour
Finely grated rind of 1 lemon

Lemon curd
125ml/ 1/2 cup lemon juice
100g butter
110g/ 1/2 cup caster sugar
1 egg
3 egg yolks

3 egg whites
110g/ 1/2 cup caster sugar

1. Preheat oven to 180'C. Place 12 patty cake liners in a 12 hole 1/2-cup capacity muffin pan.

2. Place cream, sugar and eggs in a large mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. Gradually add flour and zest and continue whisking until mixture is thick and smooth.
3. Divide mixture between prepared liners and bake for 15-20 minutes or until cakes spring back to touch. Cool in muffin pan.
4. For lemon curd, heat lemon juice and butter in a small saucepan and simmer until butter has melted. Add sugar, egg and yolks and cook, whisking continuously until mixture becomes thick and glossy. Pour into a shallow oven tray to cool.
5. For meringue, beat egg whites in an electric mixer until firm peaks form, gradually add sugar, a tablespoon at a time, beating until sugar has dissolved between each addition. Spoon meringue mixture into a piping bag.
6. To serve, preheat grill to medium-high. Cut a small hole in the top of each cupcake and fill with 1-2 teaspoons of lemon curd. Pipe a swirl of meringue mixture on the top of each cupcake and place under heated grill for 60-90 seconds or until golden. Arrange on a serving plate with spoonfuls of lemon curd if desired.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Mandarin Friands - 金吉蛋糕

Mandarin Friands 5

Mandarin Friands 4

Mandarin Friand 10

春到堂前添瑞气  日临庭上增吉祥
To all those who are celebrating the Lunar New Year, (and that includes all Chinese in China, Taiwan, SE Asia, the rest of the world and not forgetting the Koreans) here's wishing every one a very prosperous and successful Rabbit year ahead. ( And I learnt that for the Vietnamese, it is the year of the cat!!?)

While Christmas is a time for religion,parties, pretty dresses and presents, Chinese New Year is a time for spring cleaning, tradition, family get together and non-stop feasting. For many, this is a time, where we literally hop from one family to another, visiting some relatives whom we would only see once a year...
L was complaining to me how he has been eating every 2 hours and gorging himself to surfeited lethargy...
I made matters worse for him when I faithfully regurgitated what I heard over the news yesterday... a pineapple tart contains 180-200 calories, a slice of barbeque pork (bak kua) carries with it 300-400 calories and a couple of egg rolls/love letters will throw in another 150-200 calories... Should I feel stressed? Yes, definitely! To think that popping 10 pineapple tarts would already have completed one's calorie intake required for the whole day, I must have consumed at least 3X of what I need for the day, binging on the variety of Chinese New Year treats.
Friand 9
I choose to share this Mandarin Friand treat because it does not contain any oil or butter. Nevertheless, the little cake is still amazingly moist and tender because of the generous amount of pureed Mandarins. The Friand, for those who are not familiar, is a traditional French cake which is based on nut meal. Most commonly baked with almond meal, I chose to make mine with Macadamia nut meal instead. It is not unsimilar to the Financier but this version does not contain any melted butter. Instead, seasonal Mandarin Oranges are boiled ,pureed and added into the cake to impart an exceptional burst of citrusy moistness. With the auspicious Mandarin Oranges as the staple ingredient, the aptness of this treat for the festival is impeccable.Served with orange flavoured Chantilly cream, this would also be a perfect treat for afternoon tea...

Mandarin Friands (100)
Recipe :
2          Mandarin Oranges, washed and scrubbed clean.
55g      All purpose flour
1 tsp    Doubel baking powder
3         Eggs
150g   Castor sugar
250g    Macadamia Nut meal
1tsp     Orange extract
Candied orange peel for garnishing.

Method :
1. Place oranges in a small saucepan. Cover with water and  bring to boil. Lower heat and simmer for 1hour. Cool down. Cut the oranges in half and remove the pith and pips. Puree the oranges with skin in  food processor and set aside.
2. Heat oven to 180C.
3. Mix flour and baking powder in a small bowl.  In a mixing bowl, mix Eggs and sugar until well combined. Whisk in flour, macadamia nut meal , orange puree and orange extract.
4. Grease mold with butter and pour batter into mold. Garnish with a strip of orange peel.
5. Bake at 180C for 20mins.
6. Cool down and serve.


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