Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cooking Competition! Bacon-wrapped Chicken Leg Roulade

My nephew is joining a cooking competition in a tertiary institution and he asked me for some help. I thought, what a great way to bond with him, and readily agreed. First, I have to say, I admire his guts for even daring to sign up for the competition. I would have been frightened to death! I like to continue to believe that cooking need not come with stress.

The must-use ingredients are 3 boneless chicken legs, one 300g turkey breast and 4 eggs. Is this even normal to cook 2 poultry meats in one dish?? We cracked our heads to think of a recipe that would work. Together with his cooking partner, we spent the afternoon discussing recipes and deciding on cooking techniques that would yield a good dish in 90 minutes. Here's what we came up with - Bacon-wrapped Chicken Leg Roulade - a rather sophisticated dish to my mind.

We cut the turkey breast into thin long strips and butterflied the chicken legs, meaning, slicing it horizontally so it opens like a book to get a nice flat slab of meat. After marinating them with salt, pepper and freshly chopped rosemary, we barded it. We laid out bacon strips on a piece of aluminium foil, each overlapping the other, placed the butterflied chicken leg across at the bottom of the strips and of the foil, arranged the turkey strips on top of the legs, and basically rolled everything in, with the foil.

Next, we poached the rolled up meat for 25 minutes at medium high heat.

How gorgeous is this!

We chilled the meat in the freezer for 20 minutes, then took them out to pan-sear till brown and aromatic.

We cut up the rolls and were greeted with these moist, juicy, pink-blushies. I suggested they poach another 5 minutes during the competition so as not to risk an uncooked meat which would mean an immediate elimination.

The boys did a Baked Sunny with the eggs, and presented this to family members for food tasting. Every single one said it was delish, from fussy eaters to those not particularly fond of meat. The bacon gave a salty, smoky crunch and offered a good contrast to the soft, moist poached meat.

I was impressed with the boys' efforts and their enthusiasm and was delighted to have been a part of it. I call this a good day in the office for myself.

Don't know if they have cleared the Qualifying Round but they are already winners in my mind.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Duck FAQ Page

I started a new "Page" in this blog today called Duck FAQ. You can find it at the top banner of the Main Page - tell me if you don't!

It captures questions I've received from readers in the past months and my responses based on my own research and culinary experiments. 

Click here to read the Duck FAQ Page. Enjoy my new quack page!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Braised Purple Cabbage - No word in English rhymes with purple

I read on the internet that no word in English rhymes with purple. How can that be true? I had thought every word had its corresponding rhyming word/s. Circle? Riddle? Cradle? Title?

In the context of food, purple food is a good thing. The purple cabbage is a highly nutritious vegetable, full of Vitamins C and A. It can be eaten raw or added to a coleslaw - did I just form a culinary rhyme?

Here's another easy peasy recipe for you to try as a side dish. This 5-minute quick braise is one easy way to cook the cabbage if you don't like it raw.

Recipe adapted from Food Wishes

Ingredient (serves 2-3 as a side dish)
- 2 Tbsp duck fat or olive oil or butter
- Half a cabbage head
- 1/4 cup red wine (optional)
- 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar (optional, and only if you like a tangy taste)
- 1 Tbsp honey or a handful of raisins, if you like it sweet (healthier replacement to sugar)
- 1 cup of stock or water
- Salt and pepper to taste

1. In a heated pan, add oil, then add shredded cabbage. Stir till cabbage is slightly soft.
2. Add liquids and allow to simmer for a few minutes.
3. Add raisins or honey if you like a sweeter taste.
4. Add salt and pepper, taste and adjust.
5. Cook till it reaches the softness you like. Done.

Cut a V-shape to remove the core
Slice into ribbons. Size is not important, just make sure they
are of the same size so they cook evenly
Don't they look pretty?
I used duck fat, but you can use butter or olive oil
Raisin is a healthier replacement to sugar
Colour turns darker when cooked

Friday, May 25, 2012

Home-cured Gravlax (Smoked Salmon) on a Toasted Baguette

Curing salmon at home is now a monthly affair for me - I just can't get enough of this wonderful creation called gravlax. Today, I cubed it and served on a toasted baguette with creamy scrambled eggs and sprinkled fresh chopped dill all over. Cubed ones seem to taste much better than the usual strips that twirl into a flower.

This was how I cured it at home with no special tools whatsoever. A reputed cookbook that I had read cautioned that smoking salmon should be left only to professional chefs. What the heaven. Tell me, how elitist can you get and still breathe.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Whole Fish Baked, Meditteranean Style - Rest in Peas, Fish

I organised the burial service of this Spanish Seabass last night. It was a beautiful memorial for everyone present. Tomato and Onion, along with Lemon, showed their ardent support. We decided on a Meditteranean theme to pay tribute to the Spaniard's birthplace. He's a long way from home and having no relatives here can be such a lonely affair.

After washing and drying Seabass with a kitchen towel, I embalmed him by rubbing sea salt all over, and stuffed thin slices of garlic into the lashes on the body. With bacon strips, I barded him following the ritual of an Egyptian mummification process to prevent dehydration and drying out.

As in all funeral wakes, you get a much better idea of the deceased when everyone shares memories about their dead pal. I found out Seabass had an uncanny versatility to be baked, fried, steamed, poached - filleted or whole. There was some confusion on the scene as to how we should pronounce his name. But call him sea-bus, sea-bes or sea-base, it was clear he was a much respected creature amongst his species and beyond. 

More details about him emerged from the deep seas as emotions ran high. As it turned out, Seabass was only 1% Carbohydrate and 37% Fats. Everyone was impressed, in a poignant sort of way. But you hear the oohs and ahhs when it was revealed he was 68% Protein. Lemon was crushed and let out its tears. It was more than we could stomach.

He was finally incinerated at 180 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes, with a bouquet of fresh dill on top. 

Thank you for being a blessing to us. Now rest in peas, fish.

This ends my Yu-logy ("Yu" is fish in Chinese).

Read my Open Letter to the Macarons.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Guest Post - You Gotta Luv the Pulled Pork

Introduction by Extra Virgin Chef: Today's post is an unusual one. In the blogosphere, it's known as a Guest Post, where you invite a fellow food blogger to post a recipe on your blog. I got to know Quay Po recently and, charmed by her warmth and sincerity, I decided it would be fun to work on this little assignment with her. I got excited on hearing that she would share about Pulled Pork, a dish I had learned at the Social Enterprise, but now I would learn about it from someone who had tasted it where it originated. Check out the recipe she concocted below and do leave a nice comment if you like it. 

For readers popping over from QPC, a warm welcome! If you're new to this site, check out the Author and her First Anniversary Blog.

Quay Po Writes:
When my blogger friends ask me to do a guest post for them, I am always delighted to do so.  It is a nice feeling to know that you are regarded as a friend and they trust your presence in their space. 

When my Quay Lo (husband) and I returned to the US three years ago for our family reunion, we had lunch in a little cafĂ© in his hometown that was unforgettable. The dish that stood out was called Pulled Pork. I have been searching for a good recipe to replicate that particular  pulled pork  I had. The meat was extremely flavorful and just melted in my mouth. I could not find one that I thought would yield the same taste that I remember based on the ingredients used. Finally, I thought I would create my own recipe and BINGO!! I nailed the taste as well as the texture and I was SO happy. So here it is, my pulled pork recipe, which I am going to share with you here in Extra Virgin Chef as a guest post.

This is a versatile item to have around. So, make a big batch and deep freeze the balance. On days that you just want a simple but satisfying and hearty lunch or dinner, you can use it to make a scrumptious sandwich or a burger. 



1 cup garlic spice rub (see recipe below)

1 (2 lbs) boneless pork shoulder 

2 cans of beer

2 Tbsp duck fat

Ingredient for spice rub:

1 head roasted minced garlic

1 Tbsp sea salt

1 Tbsp ground coriander

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp chopped thyme

1 tsp chopped rosemary

1 tbs lemon zest

1 tsp ground black pepper

Combine well all ingredients in a food processor or by hand.


Preheat oven to 150 degrees C.
Spread garlic spice rub all over pork. Let it marinate for 1 hour.
Heat duck fat in dutch oven. Sear the pork shoulder till all sides are browned.
Remove pork shoulder and add beer. When the beer is boiling, return the pork shoulder into the dutch oven.
Put the dutch oven in the oven and let the meat braise for 4 hours. Turn the meat after 2 hours.
Transfer braised pork to cutting board and let stand for 15 minutes.  Shred the meat and serve with your favourite steamed or roasted vegetables.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Hainanese Chicken Rice, in 5 Terrifyingly Easy Steps. No fuss. No kidding.


I'm a fan of Jamie Oliver and totally support his Food Revolution Day which happens to be today. But he put out this strange recipe on Daily Mail just 10 days ago on Singapore's iconic Hainanese Chicken Rice - here's the link to the article. I suspect you may end up with porridge instead of rice if you follow the recipe.

I have a much simpler solution for you. Here's calling all busy executives, lazy cooks, virgin cooks, and students living overseas who miss our beloved dish. I have combed the internet and found a short-cut way to make this fuss-free. But it gets better. My version is a short-cut of the short-cut I found. You can't find a shorter short-cut than this. It's called Extra Virgin Super Short-Cut, with very little compromise on authenticity and taste. The bonus is it's also a healthier version. Done in five terrifyingly easy steps. Check this out.

Step One: Prick chicken thighs with a fork and rub salt all over. Set aside.  

Step Two: Heat up empty rice cooker. Pour 2 Tbsp oil into cooker.

Step Three: Saute minced shallot, garlic and ginger in cooker till fragrant.

Step Four: Add rice and water as you would normally cook your rice.

Step Five: Place chicken thighs in a single layer on top of uncooked rice. Cover lid, and don't open till 10 minutes after rice is cooked. Done!

Recipe (heavily adapted from Lydia)
Serves 3

3 Free-range Chicken Thighs and Drumsticks
2 Cups Jasmine Rice with 2 Cups Water
1/2 tsp Salt to rub on meat
1-2 tsp each of Minced Shallot, Garlic and Ginger
2 Tbsp Oil
A Pinch of Turmeric Powder for colour (optional)

Method in more detail
1. Prick chicken with a fork and rub salt all over. Set aside for half an hour.
2. Wash and soak rice for 15 minutes.
3. Heat up empty cooker, pour oil in and saute minced shallot, garlic and ginger till fragrant.
4. Add rice and water. If you're using turmeric powder, mix it into the water.
5. Place chicken on top of uncooked rice in a single layer. Cover lid.
6. Don't open the lid so heat and moisture will not escape. Wait another 10 minutes after rice is cooked.
7. Remove chicken and fluff up rice gently so as not to break each grain.

Each grain is maintained whole here - gorgeous. Animal fat is released into the rice as the chicken cooks, giving it a deep flavour and aroma.

Chicken are cooked through and they taste soft and moist as if they are poached or steamed.

Serve this with a vegetable dish for more nutritional balance.

A must-try for anyone who can't cook or want to use only one pot for everything. It's much healthier than those on the streets since there is no MSG or other suspicious ingredients, and it may be the only free-range chicken rice you get.

Between Jamie Oliver and I on this dish, who will you choose to trust? Try both and tell me. Remember to give credit to my post if you like this.

P/S: I blogged about this before - check out the slightly longer version here. Some day, I'll post the super long very traditional and authentic full monty version.

See also how we learned to steam chicken leg, Chinese-style, in the culinary school.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Happy 1st birthday, Extra Virgin Chef.

Today marks the end of my first year as a blogger, and I've often mused about why I blog.

Along with millions of others, I publicise my thoughts and invite everyone and anyone in the world to read what I write and peep into my kitchen on what I'm learning to cook that day. I post on my blog a few times a week or as and when I'm inspired by a dish, a food picture or an ingredient. 
My blog posts tend to be short due to attention span. Yours and mine. Personally, I always prefer a quick read and adopt a "get-to-the-point" approach. And sometimes I just run out of words or am too busy munching on my food or being a culinary paparazzi.

A couple of my posts got some good hits and were featured on official food channels but most of them are ignored.  I don't do all the things I've been advised to do in order to drive more traffic and viewership to the blog so I don't expect a huge following. Now I get just enough attention to stay motivated.

Sometimes when I meet a friend for a coffee or bump into an acquaintance or an ex-colleague from the corporate days, someone will tell me that they enjoy my blog and are inspired to try my recipes. That’s the best compliment of all. It’s even better than hearing that my food tastes good. Well, almost.
A third of my readers are from Singapore, which is not a surprise. Almost a third are from the US which is a big surprise. Who are these silent readers reading my blog so faithfully but hardly dropping comments on the site? 
If you’re a blogger like me, it’s exciting to discover that someone in the Ukraine, Taiwan and Vladisvostok looked at your site. My reach, thanks to the power of the internet, goes to countries whose names I can't even pronounce.
I intend to enter my second year as a blogger and keep this site going.  If nothing else, it will help reduce my anxiety over this transient stage of life.
Then, if I get into some business of my own, I’ll have plenty to write about. 
And if I don't, well, hopefully you will see a more learned cook emerging from the apron of an extra virgin chef.

Follow me on Facebook or Twitter as I continue to cross the kitchen chasm. If you have enjoyed my blog or somehow benefitted from reading it, do share my public page with your friends

In case you're new here, these are some of my food highlights from the the last 12 months. Every picture brings back memories ranging from panic in the kitchen to pure exhilaration when the dish is a success. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Authentic, inspiring, home-cooked Israeli dinner for Sabbath

Today is Israel's Independence Day and an opportune time for me to share these pictures with you. Eli, my classmate from the culinary school, invited us over for an Israeli dinner and educated us on some of the Jewish Sabbath practices. See my last post on Eli when he gave us a basic introduction to Middle Eastern cuisine. The last time, I also shared Eli's chocolate cake recipe. I really do like that recipe - it's my go-to recipe for choc cakes now.

I arrived early to help Eli with some prep work and to take pictures before the dinner proper began so I wouldn't appear rude to the other guests as well. I have to be discreet about being a culinary paparazzi at the dinner table!

We were greeted by the aroma of these beautiful Callah bread, traditionally baked every Friday in time for Sabbath. Under Jewish practices, milk is not a permitted ingredient if you are baking Callah for Sabbath. It's unethical to serve lamb and milk at the same table, according to Eli's grandfather.

Look at Eli's overloaded fridge, the mark of a real home cook. This is only half of his fridge.

Beautifully roasted assorted peppers. Sweet on their own when caramelized and added so much colour to the table.

Aubergines roasted and burnt directly over open stove fire....

...resulting in this smoky, oaky, flavourful eggplant dip.

Humuus, a traditional Middle Eastern dip, with good quality EVOO, toasted pine nuts and torn parsley.

Of course, there's freshly baked pita bread at every Sabbath.

Eli and his baking stone lugged from Tel Aviv.

Green and brown olives from Damascus.

Cucumber yoghurt dip.

Beets, another powerful anti-oxidant.

Hyssop, or Za'ata, one of my past Word of the Week.

Pickled cucumber from Tel Aviv.

Ah, the Israeli sambal, I forget the actual name. So cute that he would use a Chinese bowl. So Eli.

Spread on pita dough before baking.

It was such a lovely evening getting to know and experience another cuisine, another culture, and to experience Sabbath over some good wine with new buddies from Israel, Morocco, France and Vladivostok.