Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Can you see my duck face?

Busy making 20 duck breast home sous vide style for 20 very special people!

Skin scored to render maximum duck fat
Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and coriander

I hope they will like it!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Vodka Jello

Tried to make gourmet jello (or adult jello) with vodka and gourmet blueberries today. It's a recipe adapted from the LA Times. It tasted way too bitter for me. Maybe I should stick with Hello Kitty jelly.

Monday, February 20, 2012

My Banana Tree

After nine months of waiting, my banana tree finally flowered last week and today, the flower starts to split into something resembling a bunch of bananas! What a miraculous process from God. He is so creative and imaginative! This is no less miraculous as foetal development, and I am now one more step closer to home organic bananas. 

This is definitely one way to get as close to my food source as possible without becoming a farmer's wife!

See my pictures over the past 9 months at different stages. 

Thanks to my dear friend EK for giving me the sapling last year. 

See how they looked after one year - here. And how they looked when I harvested them - here.

Maple-Garlic Marinated Pork Tenderloin

A baby dollop of truffle cream on the baby spinach

The pork tenderloin is the major muscle along the central spine of the animal. It is the most tender part as well, since the muscle is used for posture and not locomotion.

This is the "aggregate marinade" I used after combing through the internet for several recipes, that is to say, I aggregated all the knowledge I culled from the net and came up with my own not-chef-certified concoction. There is no real magic in this - just put more of your favourites!

I roasted pumpkins, yellow zucchini and carrots to give an orange glow to the dish.

Tenderloin marinade

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2/3 olive oil
3 Tbsp minced garlic (can be more if you like it strong)
1 tsp pepper
3/4 tsp ground ginger
3 Tbsp worchestershire sauce
4 Tbsp pure maple syrup (I would add one more Tbsp next round)

Taste? It was alright. No big deal. Pork was tender. Marinade was not too strong. But I got myself and the family a pretty plate of sunshine and real food on the table.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Word of the Week: Bamboo Charcoal

This is NOT a black and white photo!

Have you seen and tasted black bread? I had my first encounter with this just yesterday and was told they're commonly found in Malaysia. Such a novelty bread. It drew curiosity and apprehension at the same time from me. I had to find out more about it.

Apparently, it's baked with bamboo charcoal, an ingredient that dates back to the Ming Dynasty in China! It is made from bamboo plants that are more than five years old and burnt in an oven of more than 1000 degrees. It has high absorptive capabilities, can be used to purify water and eliminate organic impurities and smells. 

In an episode of the famous Japanese anime show Yakitate Japan, bamboo charcoal is focused as an ingredient mixed into breads. Now, since "pan" means bread, have you considered that Ja-pan is a bread nation? 

Google the health benefits of bamboo charcoal and you can find loads, from clearing chemical impurities in the air to promoting metabolism and so on. 

Do they look like skin grafts from Gorilla?

By the way, the bread tasted yummy, no burnt taste or carcenogenic risk! I suppose one could get used to it, what with squid ink pasta. So now, how about a bamboo charcoal croissant?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

No-bake cheese cake with strawberry hearts

I made this no-bake cheese cake on Valentine's Day. Strawberry hearts. You can't get more cheesy than this!

Recipe (adapted from Foodista)), method and some photos to share here. You need to do this a day earlier as the cake needs time to chill and form at different layers.


1. For the crust

300g digestive biscuits
150g melted butter

2. For the cheesecake layer

500g cream cheese (softened at room temperature)
1.5 Tbsp gelatin powder
1.25 cup boiling water
2/3 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
12 strawberries

3. For the top jelly layer

160g strawberry flavoured jelly
1.5 cups boiling water
1.5 cups cold water

Here goes:- Break digestive biscuits into fine crumbs, mix with melted butter, stir well to combine and pack mixture tightly into a pan. Chill in the fridge for at least half an hour or until it is hard and tight and not crumbly. You're done with first layer.

To work on second layer, start by mixing gelatin powder and water. Stir well till all gelatin has dissolved. Set aside to cool.

 Mix cream cheese and caster sugar into a mixing bowl and whisk  till mixture is light and fluffy. Add vanilla extract, then add the cooled gelatin mixture gradually. The gelatin mixture should be in liquid form. Whisk well to combine. The finished mixture should be a runny smooth liquid like milkshake. You should be pouring it into the crust rather than scooping it!

Next, remove crust pan from the fridge and prick holes all over biscuit base. Pour cream cheese mixture onto the base. Let it rest for 10 minutes at room temperature.

Mine was a bit harder than milkshake. It should be more runny than this.

Next, cut deep V-shape strawberries and press them into the cream cheese mixture. Cover pan with cling wrap and chill at least 4 hours or overnight.

And now for the third layer. Mix strawberry jelly powder into a bowl. Dissolve with hot water, then add cold water and mix well. Ensure the mixture has cooled before pouring it over the cream cheese layer. Pour enough to cover the strawberries.

Look at this very telling picture. I was afraid it may turn out too sweet so I didn't use all the jelly mixture and did not fully cover my strawberries! It's a mistake you must not repeat! This recipe is not too sweet at all.

Chill for at least 4 hours before cutting into individual jelly hearts. You need a sharp knife dipped into a large jar of boiling water to get clean lines of each cake piece. Clean your knife thoroughly after each slice or you get crumbs sticking at the side and strawberry stains on the white cheesecake.

Nom nom, yum yum. I like the taste! Even my mom who doesn't fancy cheese had a piece all to herself! My son's friend came over and gobbled one piece in record seconds and gave me a score of 10/10, LOL.

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Home-made ciabatta

Home-made ciabatta with lemon curd from Christmas from a dear friend

I made some ciabatta this morning based on a recipe by Bakerzin Artisan Bread.

Here's the recipe:
500g bread flour plus extra for dusting
2 tsp salt
2 g instant yeast
1 g bread improver (I omitted this because I suspect this is a form of preservative or additive which I don't prefer to use)
350 ml water
25 g olive oil (I used extra virgin. But of course.)

1. Add flour, salt, yeast and bread improver into mixing bowl, then add about 230 ml of water and start mixing at low speed. Mix for about 3 minutes.
2. Add remaining water and oil gradually, and increase speeed to medium and mix for 10 min. Increase to medium-high speed and mix for another 10 min; and finally, to high speed for 5 min. Mix until the dough is well developed, does not stick to the wall of the bowl and can be stretched without resistance.
3. Place dough in container that has been oiled and floured. Allow dough to rest and double in size, about 1 hour or more. Then turn it out onto a floured top and spread it gently. Fold dough in half from left to right, and top to bottom. Place proofed dough in another container and allow to proof a second time for another hour or so.
4. When dough has doubled in volume, turn it out onto a floured top and flip it over.
5. Gently spread the dough out to form a square about 3cm thick. Careful not to break air pockets when handling.
6. Trim dough sides to neaten, then halve it into 2 rectangular loaves, 20x10cm
7. Lightly flour a baking sheet and bake loaves in a pre-heated oven at 230 degrees Celsius for 18-20 minutes, until the loaves have risen and turned a nice golden brown. Remove and allow to cool on wire rack. 

Have fun, if you dare.

Click here to read What is Ciabatta?

Word of the Week: Ciabatta

Some people pronounce Ciabatta as Sha-ba-ta, some say Cha-ba-ta, still others call it Car-bia-ta. Even amongst the Italians, the pronunciation differs although no one argues on its meaning of "slipper bread". It is a somewhat elongated flat bread made from wheat flour.  Crisp on the outside and moist and chewy (and holy!) on the inside, it is one of the loveliest breads to have with a soup or a lemon curd.

I made some this morning - see my pictures here plus recipe and method.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Hot pan-seared meat on cold salad

Yes, I'm still on a duck roll. Today, I sliced up my pan-seared duck breast and tugged it snugly onto a pile of fresh greens. No carbo meal. I like the hot and cold in my mouth. 

Check my other duck posts:

3. Pink-blush duck breast with crispy, crackling top, done home sous-vide style. This is a clear winner and was featured in the Asian Food Channel Official FB Page on 06 February 2012. It is now the most popular post on my blog.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Slow-roasted Duck Legs

Prodded on by the relatively good success I've enjoyed so far with ducks, today, I ventured into duck legs, and again was similarly rewarded with a stunning outcome.

I used a dry mixture of minced garlic, shallots and thyme and left it in the fridge overnight.

Next day, preheat oven to 200 degrees C/400 degrees F. Remove dry mixture and place duck legs in a roasting pan. Add preferred vegetables like carrots or onions. I had some baby potatoes to get rid of so I plonked them in hoping I could call them potato confit, which by the way seems to be a favourite in gourmet magazines.

Cover loosely with aluminium foil and pop it in the oven for 45 minutes. You don't need to oil this baby. It's full of good animal fats in it and you can render more duck fat!

After 45 min, remove foil, drop temperature to 170 degrees C and roast skin side up in the oven for another 45 minutes.

And wahla, this is how it looks at the end - nicely browned crispy skin duck legs with meat shreddable by a fork.

Check my other duck posts:

1. Roasting a whole duck in 4 hours
2. Roasting ducks in Munich
3. Pink-blush duck breast with crispy, crackling top, done home sous-vide style. This is a clear winner and was featured in the Asian Food Channel Official FB Page on 06 February 2012. It is now the most popular post on my blog.

My duck breast featured on Asian Food Channel

I was thrilled to find my blog post on the sous vide duck breast featured on Asian Food Channel's Official Facebook Page yesterday! It garnered almost 400 Likes in half a day before it got lost amongst the other food posts. And I experienced a sudden spike in my viewership yesterday. Not bad for an Extra Virgin Blogger. Well, my duck breast post is now my most popular post, thanks to AFC! 

Click here to read the entire post. Now ducks and I are one!

How to cut without getting cut, anyone?

Roasted tomatoes with sea salt, black pepper and sprigs of fresh thyme.
Snapped in the restaurant kitchen with an iPhone.

OK, here's a confession. The more I use the knife, the more fearful I am of it. Too many horror stories seen and heard, and a few near-misses of my own have kept me pretty much on my toes. When I hold a knife in my hands, it has my full attention and I don't allow myself to get distracted. I will also not allow anyone in the commercial kitchen to rush me. The customer can always wait, but I want to leave this place with my ten fingers intact. There is no one I want to impress with my (lack of) knife skills so I'm quite happy to be perceived as the snail in the kitchen. 

This is how much tomatoes I cut today with Chef giving me several tips and guidance for which I am so grateful. An Extra Virgin Chef needs all the help she can get!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The best duck breast in the world!

How wicked does this look??!!


I knew it was a matter of time before I would succumb to sous vide. I've been thinking about it for as long as about 6 months. Today, I yielded to the temptation and attempted my first home sous vide duck breast. The effort was worth every minute of my time and attention! 

In the absence of a commercial sous vide machine, I did a home version consisting of a cast iron pot, ziploc, water and a meat thermometer and maintained the temperature at 55 degrees Celsius for an hour.

Then, I pan-seared the meat for 5 minutes on the skin and 1 minute on the other side. This golden glow got me wildly ecstatic!

Pan-searing the duck breast ensures the fat is rendered, leaving a nice crisp skin that encases the moist flesh beneath.

A big thumbs-up from my man. "Fine dining domesticated," he says.

This costs a fraction of what you will have to pay in a restaurant. Ducks, duck fats and I have a lot of chemistry going. I've roasted a whole duck in 4 hours - click here to see the photos. But this little duck breast project has got to be my most exciting and rewarding culinary experiment. Rated a close second is my home-cured smoked salmon. I will definitely be making this again, and very soon too!

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Click here also to see my Top 7 Links.

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Mom's 10-minute Whole Fish Dish

A dish so humble it doesn't even have a name.
Millions of housewives in Chinese households have prepared this dish for their families a zillion times. I've eaten it myself for years yet the curiosity on how it's prepared only dawned on me today. Duh!

Duh, because it is so Chinese, so easy to prepare and so yummy. This is definitely one of the most common dishes you can find in a Chinese family. And one you'll never find in a Chinese restaurant in the US or Europe. It is too authentic and too home-cooked to be commercialised! It is right where it belongs - at home. 

Again, I used my duck fat but you can use any type of cooking oil. So here are the ingredients and methods, the first time I'm documenting my mom's food.

One big onion, sliced
One whole fish (can be almost any type of fish really. And if the fish eye or head grosses you out, try a fish fillet. I'm sure it'll work just as well.)
Plum sauce (see picture)
Dark soy sauce (see picture)
Spring onions and tomatoes (for garnishing)

1. Clean and pat dry fish. Rub salt all over fish. 

2. Heat oil in wok. Saute onions till fragrant. Add some water, just a cup or so.

3. Add plum sauce, about 1-2 TBS (no scientific calculations for true Chinese cooking!). Use less if you don't like the sauce too sweet. Plum sauce is sour-sweet in nature. Look for a brand with no additives, no flavour enhancers and no preservatives. Between us, DO NOT use Woh-Hup brand.

4. Add dark soya sauce (only to darken the colour of the sauce, not for taste, so as long as the liquid turns dark, it's enough. About 2-3 tsp, I think. No hard and fast rules here either.)

5. Bring liquid to the boil. Taste and adjust seasoning. Then add fish.

See, the dead fish is smiling. When you cook out of love, even the ingredients conspire with you!

6. Let it simmer for a while. Heat is transferred to the fish via the liquid. Turn the fish about every few minutes so it cooks evenly. (Don't stain your kitchen walls trying to turn the fish like I did!) Baste the top with the sauce occasionally. Cover with a lid for a few minutes if you like. Remember, "simmer" means small bubbles. If you are getting big bubbles, that's "boiling", which means you need to turn down the heat.

7. It's done when the eye protrudes! My mom also uses a chopstick to check readiness - if it pokes through the thickest part easily, it's done. If you feel some resistance, stop poking. It's not ready.

8. Garnish with some colours like spring onions and tomatoes, and serve with steamed brown rice.

We are taking less and less rice in this household. What about yours?

Easy peasy daily Chinese. You can't get more authentic than this. Ten minutes was all it took. I spent more time taking photos of it and documenting it!

I'm creating a new category in my blog called Mom's Recipes to start documenting her very simple, yet yummy dishes that have fed us all these years. Authentically home-cooked Chinese food that don't make it to restaurants. You can't find these in recipe books and you certainly don't get to eat them in Chinese restaurants in Western countries. 

If you like this post, please share it with your friends.  A small Like goes a long way. Or consider leaving a comment here. Meanwhile, look out for more in this category!

Click here to see Mom's Chap-Chye (very traditional Chinese mixed vegetables) or her Braised Pork Belly with Preserved Mustard Cabbage/Mui Choy.

Or click here to find other Whole Fish recipes.

My recipe collection book

My daughter got this for me for Christmas from Munich and gave it to me during our Europe pig-out which means this book travelled with us to Austria and Italy. I've found it so practical in helping me to organise my thoughts and notes and loose clippings.

There are coloured pockets for me to insert the occasional news clips of recipes that I would want to try my hands on when I feel like it.

There are also clear folder pages so I can see the pictures and be allured by them to want to try them out.

Yes, beef carpaccio is also very high in my To-Try List. 

Coloured tabs for me to categorise and label - should I label them Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner or Must-try, I-dare-you, and Dream-on?