It’s been a very tiring yet meaningful, fruitful Christmas this year, with so many restless working days and sleepless working nights. Yet, it reenforced me again that I love what I do knowing that many people (a crowd of picky, demanding foodies in HK) were eating my cakes to celebrate the festive season; knowing my pastries filled with labor-intensive love were delivered as lovely holiday gifts to ones beloved families and friends. I’m honored to be the one who made people happy and more merry on festivals like this.
Classics like red velvet cake, pecan pies, cranberry upside down cakes and chocolate tarts are always a hit during Christmas. And as usual, I love to add some of my own twists into those classic staples. My recent fave include red velvet chiffon cake with candied pecan Bavarian, and the sugary nutty gooey pecan pie with an extra touch of caramelized banana tucked underneath. I know, it’s totally against the trend of being light and healthy. But hey, it’s Christmas! And it’s not so wrong with the nutrition packed wholesomeness of pecan and banana, right? Well, not too bad of a perfect excuse to indulge some real comfort dessert I guess
There’re so many other things I love making lately, and my fave of the fave must be the lusciously creamy lime tart. (I think i’ve lost count how many of lime tarts I’ve made in the past couple months:P and hope people who’re close to me have not got sick of them yet:p) The recipe is based on the Tartine’s cookbook with a few adjustments and modifications. I would proudly say that it’s my own recipe now!
One of my dearest friends got married in 2012, we all made a trip to Sydney to be part of the warm, cozy and intimate wedding gathering and celebration. Definitely one of my highlight in 2012 as well, words can’t describe the words and blessing I have for her.
Sorry for the cheesy quality for the pecan pie (absolutely no time for taking any good picture before having them delivered on time…not to mention styling before shooting… this is a last minute shot of a mini one as a little gift for my friend
If you are a fan of this heavenly sticky rich pie, do try this recipe out! I always use the Chez Panisse recipe for my flaky tart dough, filling is adapted and adjusted from David Lebovitz’s recipe (who worked for Chez Panisse as well) then my favourite caramelised banana to add something extra in terms of both aroma and texture, in this case, creaminess that is. Of course, the banana part is totally optional, but I personally do love it in my pecan pie A typical pecan pie filling calls for corn syrup or golden syrup, I sometimes use agave nectar in mine if I’m in the ‘make myself feel less guilty’ mood for its low glycemic index or grade B maple syrup for its unrefined nutritions with its charming deep, complex sweetness and aroma. And use coocnut flower sugar in place of the dark brown sugar. Those much healthy alternatives would just work as beautifully as the regular old sugar and syrup. It might sound a little redundant, but I like my pecan lightly toasted with a drizzle of clove honey and sprinkle of cinnamon and Fleur De Sel before going to the pre-baked pastry shell — yes, pre-baked! Some bakers prefer not to have the pastry blind-baked as they like the filling to fuse into the shell during baking; yet, I like my pastry to be perfectly cooked through, even to a point where it’s almost too dark brown before I put the filling in, so the pastry would stay crispy after it’s done, or even after it’s been sitting on the cake stand for a night
So here’s the recipe…once you have the pastry done, this is actually something pretty easy and quick to whip up as the perfect festive dessert. And definitely, a crowd pleaser.
Flaky pastry: (I usually make more than I need, so I can use half, and save the rest in my freezer for later use! Talking about convenience!) (makes two 9″ inch pie or tart or galette)
2 cups of all purpose flour
12 tablespoons butter, unsalted, diced and keep it very chilled
1/4 cup iced water
1/4 tsp. sea salt, I still use Fleur De Sel here
1. scatter the chilled diced butter over the flour. (Using a food processor works best for this) Pulse the flour , salt and butter a few times or until it’s become a sandy mass with pea sized butter-flour chunks. Sprinkle the iced water in, pulse couple more times, or until the dough just start to come together. Do not over work, or the dough will be tough.
2. Gather the sandy dough together, divide into two. Shape each into a flat disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and let it rest in fridge for at least couple hours befre rolling.
3. When it’s ready to roll. lightly dust the counter top, the rolling pin and both sides of the dough. Before rolling, use even pressure to pound the dough a few times with the rolling pin. So now, it’s nice and pliable. Start to roll from centre, keep turning the dough from time to time to make sure it doesn’t get stuck with the rolling surface.
4. Roll into a even 1/8″ disk, large enough to cover the tart tin with over hang. Carefully brush away the extra flour using a pastry brush. Then transfer the dough onto the baking tin without stretching the dough. Pleat the overhang around the edge of the tin, make it as neat and nice as pssible.
5. Prick the bottom all over. Place back into freezer for at least 15 minutes to firm up before baking.
3 medium eggs, preferably Japanese free range
120g brown sugar, or coconut flower sugar
180g corn syrup or golden syrup, or agave nectar, or maple surup
200g toasted pecan,(toasted with honey, cinnamon and Fleur De Sel in an preheated 180C oven for about 7-8 minutes), half very roughly chopped, and half whole
120 g finely chopped bitter-sweet chocolate, (I use 61% Valhrona, and I do not like using chocolate buttons)
2 tablespoons of melted unsalted butter
1/2 tsp fleur de sel
1 tsp. vanilla paste
1 banana, sliced, caramelised in a non-stick pan with a little sugar
*rum raisin is another good extra something that marry well with the others in this pie if you do use them, simply add two tablespoonful each of rum and water with 1/4 cup of golden raisins in a small sauce pan, bring to a boil and simmer for couple minutes, off heat. Let it sit overnight allowing the raisins to macerate. (Sounds a little time-consuming, but when you do, you’ll find it super simple and easy
1. Preheat the oven to 190C.
2. Bake the crust for about 35 minutes or until dark brown. Let it cool.
3. Prepare the filling: simply whisk all the ingredients for filling altogether until well mixed.
4. Pour the filling into the cooled pastry shell, bake for 35-45 minutes until filling is lightly puffed but the centre still looks moist. Let cool.
5. Garnish with dollops of whipped cream and extra candied pecans.
It’s a very rich pie. It’s good on it’s own with a cup of tea to cut the sweetness. But I like it served with generous mount of softly whipped cream. Call me cream fanatic:P
It’s already 30th of December, it’s a bit late, but still, bet everyone’s got a very merry Christmas with lots lots of fun with family and friends, and of course, with abundance of good food!
It almost has become a tradition that I would cook up a fancy Christmas dinner for the family instead of dining out. And this year, the menu’s getting even more elaborate, which almost drove me crazy for several days just getting all the menu components ready before the 24th. Along with cooking and baking, getting the table set up, getting the centerpiece done, getting candles, chinaware, and place cards ready…would just take up so much time and thought, yet I had so much fun! And after all, everything got paid off after the lovely smooth dinner service=) It was really a lovely night with great food.
Part 1: ingredients and the making–
Part 2: The menu and the scene–
Part three: The deliciousness on plates–
Dungeness crab salad. cucumber gelee. avocado
Cauliflower panna cotta. oyster gelee. Sturgeon caviar
glittering pickled Bing cherry to go with the foie gras torchon
Foie gras torchon. pickled Bing cherry-mango-pearl onion. Muscat grape jam. sweet wine gelee. toasted homemade brioche
seafood-crab meat mousse. Dungeness crab bisque reduction. Sturgeon caviar
Seafood-crab meat mousse. sweet carrot emulsion. Dungeness crab essence foam. Sturgeon caviar
Roast organic French chicken. pumpkin cream. cornbread-chestnut-tart cherry stuffing. jus with cranberry jam
Roast Spanish Iberian pork loin rack. apples. sweet parsnip cream. beetroot emulsion
leafy salad. Iberian ham. figs. pomegranate. toasted hazelnuts, pecans. Parmesan. aged Balsamic
whipped ripe French brie. homemade Muscat grape jam. green figs. toasted homemade brioche
Yogurt charlotte. cream of blueberry soup
Christmas chocolate roulade
Seasonal fruits from Japan and France
Needless to say, everyone’s super stuffed and happy! And no one needed much food on the Christmas day…just some light sandwich with left over brioche and crab meat, some French oyster, some salad, cheese and proscuitto. Life’s good with good food and wine=)
And a little warmth in the chill from a cup of soothing aromatic Egyptian rose tea.
Time flies, a brand new year’s just around the corner, with just 2 days to go. Mom’s gonna cook the New Year’s Eve dinner, so I instead, just need to lay back and enjoy her cooking=)
Everyone, happy new year! And have a wonderful wonderful year to come!!
Technically, it’s not an opera, but it’s obviously inspired by the elaborate layered delicate classic. I’ve been thinking about caramel a lot lately, if you know me, I have a soft spot for this heavenly sweet gooey liquid…especially its bitter character and deep amber hue. And to me, salted caramel always sounds tempting, but I couldn’t remember how many disappointments that name brought me–a distinctive saltiness from fine sea salt could never be detected from the intense sweetness. I guess it’s time for me to give a try and be brave enough to put enough salt into the sponge, the ganache, so the complex saltiness will be clearly pronounced. Everything starts with the caramel: I’m so used to making caramel by combining a little water to moisturize the water first, and then slowly heat it up until every grain of sugar dissolved. But this time, I finally tried to make a caramel from plain sugar, adding no water. And the result is amazing…yes, i might have discovered this way too late=p This method leads to a perfect deep amber caramel without any chance of getting sugar crystal formation! Yes, it would take a longer time for all sugar gets dissolved into its own syrup, but it’s definitely worth the time.
The opera consists a rich salted caramel almond sponge, caramel-chocolate ganache, orange chocolate mousse with candied orange zests and coffee cream, finished with chocolate glaze made of cocoa, not chocolate, and a final glaze hued with a bit orange dye.
The pictures I had in this post might look a bit different as I just started playing with a Nikon D60 instead of my old Cannon for dummies…but I guess I’m still more comfortable with using the old macro mode for my food shooting, there’s so much to learn and experiment with the new one, even it’s just another entry level gadget=)
The recipe for the caramel sponge is adapted from a Japanese cook book, written by talented Hiroshi Fujikawa. The sugar content was adjusted tremendously for a less sweet version, although it is definitely still for the sweet-toothed ones! Even if you’re intimidated by the layers of labor, do try out the sponge. It’s very flavorful on its own, could be a perfect tea cake with a cup of coffee to lighten up an afternoon.
lovely cheering yellows
Sun choke, or my preferable name Jerusalem artichoke, is definitely not one of those eye catching ingredients in the culinary world–but only, only when they are raw, with dirt on and often times with irregular little bumps sticking out which makes them such a pain to peel. But then if you’re comfortable with the skin, you can just leave it on since the skin’s actually packed with flavor. I was once watching Gordon Ramsey’s TV show, and he’s like: you must be insane if you ever peel the skin off the choke. You know, it’s probably the same thing when Jamie Oliver said one must be nuts if he throws the celery heart to the bin…sorry I do. No offence, but I guess the skin’s just got too much of a strong earthy and dominent note, that put me off a bit even I’m definitely crazy about sunchoke. Yes, every time I see sunchokes in the grocery store, my eyes would literally lit up, like a girl sees a princess dress or something. The choke season’s really short in HK, or I should say it’s not too often that I would come across these little ugly guys here, so whenever i’m lucky enough to see them, I’ll grab them home, yes, to me, they are charming=)
I’ve been on the lemonade master cleanse for a while, all I’m allowed to eat, or should I say drink…is lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper, so spending much less time in grocery shopping has led huge consequence–I ‘m sure I’ve missed out many of my choke chances this year. And the season’s almost gone! Luckily, I still managed to get some on Mother’s day…must be the present from mom in return=D So even having been accused of ‘being too lenient’ on my cleanse, I made a little something from the precious final three packs of sunchokes on the shelf.
When it’s raw, sunchoke has a refreshing taste and crunchy texture like a Jicama does. If you don’t know what Jicama is, maybe think of the texture of a crisp Asian pear or apple. The flesh is translucently white, yet would turn into brownish in no time when meets Mr. air. I wouldn’t even bother soaking them in lemoned water as they’re supposed to look a little gray-ish after cooking in my perception–the color itself is another charm for me. In fact, sunchoke tastes really good when they are raw, and shaved thin, one of them was swallowed down while I were preparing…shhh…don’t tell=p
I truly think the flavor of sunchoke is so subtle and delicate, too much flavoring would just take its character away, so simple approach would be enough to transform them into a beautiful little dish, and its earthy sweetness would speak up.
So this is what’s on the plate in the end: sunchoke puree, roasted sunchoke chips with its own jus.
Jerusalem artichoke two ways: puree and chip, with its own jus
If you wonder how it’s done, here’s how. But I wouldn’t even call it a recipe. Everything’s eye balled and casual plating at the end.
For the puree, simply slice your chokes into thins shaves, work quickly so they don’t turn into a overly gray hue. Heat up little olive oil (with nice aroma) in a small pot, saute the choke slices briefly till their earthy fragrance is released, add enough liquid to barely cover them, (I used 1/3 chicken broth and 2/3 plain water), season with pinch of sea salt and pepper, simmer for about 25 minutes until they’re very soft, and you should have a shallow pool of syrupy jus left in the pot. Drain the cooked sunchoke, reserve the jus, and blend the soft slices into puree using an immersion blender, or do it in a small food processor. Rewarm the puree a bit before serving.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375F, cut the sunchoke into about 1/8 inch slices, dress with a little olive oil and touch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, arrange them in a single layer and roast till soft and edges are golden brown, about 25 minutes.
I used a ring mold to shape the puree, a ring of the kinda crispy chips on top, drizzle of the reserved jus. Or, make a quenelle, garnish with parsley and pink pepper. And bon appetit!
Here’s some of the other salads I had last week…you know stick with the cleanse spirit=)
Simple baby spinach salad with buffalo Mozzarella-&-Green leafy salad with pancetta, cantaloupe, roasted yellow bell pepper, toasted pecans and ripe blackberries
Poached chicken salad with raw fennel and turnip shaves, raspberry mustard dressing
I always have a thing for chestnut, especially during winter time. I guess one of the most sweet childhood memories would be getting roast chestnuts from the street carts: glistering chestnuts in brown bag with rising steam, air was filled with that sweet nutty aroma that you’d smell from blocks away. Not sure from when, vacuum packed cooked peeled chestnuts replaced the ones from the street…yes, they are convenient and you don’t have to come across those bad ones in shell, but they are just different.
I particularly like Italian or French chestnut, they’re more starchy and yummier and nuttier when roasted. I’ve enjoyed loads of roasted French chestnuts this year…of course at home=) And the leftovers were gone into this delicious cake. Oh, what’s better than the marriage between my favourite chestnut and bittersweet chocolate?
So finally, after quite a while, there’s a recipe here=) The recipe’s adapted and modified from Gordon Ramsey’s ‘Sunday Lunch’ cook book. I added some Sauternes poached French Bosc pear in the batter…so there are three of my favorite things in one, and a bit less sugar was used.
Chestnut and bittersweet chocolate truffle cake Recipe:
250 bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
250 organic unsalted butter, plus extra to grease the cake tin
250 cooked, peeled chestnuts
125 ml whole milk
4 large organic eggs, seperated
105 g caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 350F (170C) and grease the 10″ springform cake tin with softened butter.
Melt the bittersweet chocolate and butter together over a pot of barely simmering water. Take off the heat and cool slightly.
In another heavy-based pan, heat the chestnuts , milk and cream until just boiling, then use a hand immersion blender to whiz it to a rough puree.
Beat the egg yolks and caster sugar till pale in color and creamy. Stir in the melted chocolate and chocolate puree, you’ll have a smooth and well blended mixture.
Whisk the egg whites in a grease free metal bowl until stiff. Carefully fold 1/3 of the whites to the chocolate mixture to loosen the texture a bit, then gently fold in the rest until just combined. Then gently fold in the poached pear cubes. Spoon the batter into the prepared cake tin, bake for 25-35 minutes. You might want to cover the top of the cake loosely with foil to prevent the cake getting too browned. Don’t worry about the cracks formed on top during baking, it’s totally normal and adds to it’s character.
The cake could be served warm or cold. When it’s warm, it’s light, soft, moosse-y, almost souffle like. Alan is definitely a fan of the warm version, 1/6 of the cake was gone right after freshly out of the oven. I like it cold though: completely set and perfectly dense. You don’t need any fancy embellishment for this cake, with just a dollop of softly whipped cream, it’s devive.
Rhubarb is one of my favorute ingredients to cook with, too bad that I don’t often come across them here in Hong Kong. They’re so lovely when baked with orange juice, a little sugar and a touch of aged Balsamic vinegar, served with old custard and British shortbread crumble, which came out so wonderful with the buttery aroma from sweet butter and an incredible texture. And the leftover baked rhubarb is pureed in a food processor and turned into the bavarian for the cupcakes. Brilliant!
British short bread
It was meant to be a little gift made along with some other treats for a friend of mine, who’s leaving HK. But by the time she got to taste it, it’s already not as good as it just come out of oven with that warm flaky pastry. She’s one of the few here share the great passion and love for food. I’m gonna miss her.
I usually make this kind of galette with just a mixed variety of apples: honey crisp or Fuji for flavor, and granny smith for some tartness. This time, I made three petite ones with two different flavors instead of one fat round: Japanese yellow flesh peach galette and another with apple and rhubarb. And frankly, I admit that using Japanese peach in this might have been a bit waste, I still prefer to savor its delicately aromatic flesh on its own, with the skin on. I guess nectarine would be perfect for this tart as it’s got stronger flavor plus much more reasonable in price. But the rhubarb does add a very nice depth and the right amount of tartness to the apple galette, not to mention that vivid deep red scattering around the apple slices with rosy edge. I adore the irregular shape of a galette: rustic and homey. Always finish your galette off with a light wash of heated, strained apricot jam, or in this case, I used warmed honey with a drop of water, to give the galette an irresistable sheen.
Macaron is another thing that I’m never particularly fond of, reason being that they are often times nothing more than sugar loaded egg whites. But after having tried macarons from Robouchon, my perception towards those tiny desserts completely changed. And I made my first move creating my own flavor. Of course, first try with passion fruit! And some with Earl Grey tea. Are they still authentic?…I wouldn’t say, but they’re definitely delicious!
Still cooking up a storm in my kitchen testing ‘chiffon in a cup’ recipes. So far, I’ve tried chocolate chiffon with passion fruit bavarois, white chocolate with tangerine, banana with caramel, green tea chiffon with green tea bavarois. My personal favorite is the banana one, absolutely darling with the cute looking of the caramelized banana slice on top. I have tons of new flavor combination in my mind waiting to be made and tasted, I wish I had 48 hours a day.
banana chiffon with caramel bavarois
green tea chiffon with green tea bavarois
Remember I whined about not being able to get heirloom tomatoes in HK? For the first time, I found it here! Although they are not from California, they flew from France instead. They were not as colorful and flavorful, which was a bit disappointing. (the ones from California have an amazing array of colors: white…or I should say cream; yellow, orange, red, green, sometimes red that is so dark that it almost looks black, which has the most intense flavor; or strips of different shades of one or two colors on one tomato, and often times they have funny irregular shapes–I guess that’s the charm of being heirloom.
Summer, it’s the season of peach! And this one in the picture happens to be the best peach of the year! Super sweet, super juicy with sugary liquid oozing out once run your knife into the pinky flesh. Oh, boy, that’s just a gorgeous looking peach there, looks like a pinky cheek.
As you know, I really like salmon. Especially with the fact that it’s one of the most healthy protein you can put into your body and packed with omega 3 fatty acid. This time, on top of the usual pan roasted fillet itself, it’s served with caramelized organic avocado, fried lime shaves, crunchy grilled bread and Mediterranean dressing made with Luqous olive, anchovy, capers, shallots, basil, Champaign vinegar and olive oil.
Pan roasted organic salmon with caramelized avocado, fried lime shaves and olive-anchovy vinegraitte
Ok, once again, I gave in for their appealing look–yes, they look sensationally pretty, but they don’t give you the same level of sensation on your taste bud. I always use dark chocolate from this brand to make my cakes, but when it comes to fancy chocolate with ganache filling, I have to say: I heart Agnes b.!
pretty chocolate just for the eyes…
I always adore veggies. I’m that kind of girl who can munch on salad leaves without any dressing…but I’ve never been this crazy about veggies, or I should say I’ve never been this much into raw food. I think this 20 day detox program almost turn me into a vegetarian!=)
Almost a cliche: tomato and buffalo Mozzarella tort with basil and little thyme blossom in pastel purple–so classic, yet feels like new with the refreshing basil, touch of dried wild oregano and violet petite flowers.
tomato and buffalo Mozzarella tort with basil and thyme blossom
Again, simplicity speaks for itself. A perfect salad with julliened zucchini, light dressed with French walnut oil, extra virgin olive oil, Fluer De Sel and fresh ground pepper.
Simple zucchini salad
Another great way to utilize your organic zucchini: shaved lengthwise, roll into pretty green florets rimmed with charming dark green topped with white creamy Mozzarella. Such a treat to the eye as well as to the palate.
zucchini ribbon with Mozzarella
Ok, ok, if you are those like Kai, who’s like: ‘no, I just don’t like it raw, I want mine to be cooked and soft.’ Alright, then here’s the version you’ll like: simply blanch zucchini rounds in boiling water till almost cooked, refresh them, then saute them in olive oil until they get that yummy looking golden brown on both sides.
sauted zucchini with fried egg
Nothing beats a refreshing summer salad to cool down the heat of a super warm late afternoon. The tartness from lime, the sweetness from pineapple chutney, the kick from a touch of red chili meandering around your taste buds while the bright green from edamame, the yellow from the baby corn and perfectly ripe mango, the red from the sweet pepper, and the speckled green from the basil pleasantly play with your other senses.
Thai salad with baby corn-sweet pepper-edamame-mango in a lime-y pineapple chutney dressing
Finally I could have my bread back…oh, yeah, I’ve been missing them badly during the past 20 days for getting away any white flour. So this is one of my favorite bread–pita–this one is so soft, airy yet chewy. I made a dip to go with it–eggplant caviar, or you can call it: the poor man’s caviar. Simply roast a whole eggplant in a 200F oven for about 30 minutes until soft, scoop out the flesh, and use a fork to make it into a puree. (you can discard the skin, but I just couldn’t bring myself throwing it away, which literally packed with nutrients, so I peeled it, and put it into my stomach instead of the trash can.) Add about one table spoon of fresh lemon juice, two table spoons of good olive oil, one clove of garlic, pounded into puree using mortar and pestle, couple table spoons of chopped flat leaf parsley, of course, your essential Fluer De Sel and fresh ground pepper. I also added 1/4 tea spoon of coriander powder to give it a nice exotic note.
To go with the pita and dip, I made my version of creamy soup of fennel, raw style–which is inspired by the cream of celery soup that I had at a raw food demo and tasting at Simply Organic by chef ManKei–the only certified gourmet raw food chef and instructor in Hong Kong. To accentuate the licorice-y flavor of the fennel, I toasted up some fennel seeds and pound into powder, which made it officially double fennel soup. The ingredients include one medium bulb of French fennel, two stalks of organic celery, one Hass avocado (reserve some chunky dices for both texture and garnishing), two table spoon of olive oil, half tea spoon of fennel powder, handful of Italian parsley, season with Fluer De Sel and pepper. Just put everything into a blender and whiz until smooth and just combined. garnish with reserved avocado and little creme fraiche (add bit of warm water to make it a dropping consistency.)
poor man’s caviar on toasted pita
Pita is versatile, could be savory, could be sweet. next morning, I put smeared some sweet butter, and my homemade blueberry jam (which is absolutely lovely with the minimal amount of sugar) on the same toasted pita–breakfast is served! You know what, swirl some jam in creme fraiche, your instant dessert’s fixed.
homemade blueberry jam on pita
The only non-vegetarian thing I cooked up is some scallop, they were very yummy on toasted brioche rounds, with a scallop jus reduction and French shallots.
seared scallops on toasted brioche rounds with French shallots and scallop jus reduction
I also made couple more lovely vegetarian dishes. Below is a Moroccan carrot salad spiced up with ginger, cumin, coriander.
beetroot curry with black rice
celeriac ramoulade, a French classic
I planned to make a sandwich with grilled veggie (with an array of bell peppers, eggplants, zucchini and fennel) and artichoke paste, but the first thing I cooked which was the roasted peppers, was so good that I snacked on them right away, so no sandwich at the end of day.
After roasted, and peeled, marinade those glistering flesh in its own juice and little aged Balsamic vinegar. Make sure you make abundance at a time, or you’ll end up having nothing left for whatever you’re about to make, they are just too good .
Here’s the recipe for the beetroot curry: (more…
Sorry for the waiting, guys, if you’re looking for vegetarian recipes here as I promised to give you inspiration on the 20-day-no-meat meal plan, I’ve been cooking, and took tons of pix for them, but I’ve been having technical problems with my Photoshop application, (problem still not solved yet though…
So the food this week are pretty wholesome, most of them are prepared in the simplest way to retain their maximum nutrition, that means most served raw as salad–yes, raw is the best!
Breakfast usually is oatmeal, ether Irish steel cut oatmeal with banana, dried apricot, raisins and cinnamon, or jumbo barley flake with banana, honey and touch of creme fraiche, and of course, lots lots of fruits.
Ratatuille’s being on my cook list for ages after having seen the movie Ratatuille, I’d love to try out Thomas Keller’s intricate version of this poor man’s veggies stew, but looks like time is a issue this week, so I made a poor man’s hearty and robust version of it. To make it more of a filling dish, I served it with black rice. It’s so good with a lovely vivid display of colors.
Chickpea is a very good source for protein and fiber, spiced up with cumin, coriander, and cardamon. Serve with basil yogurt sauce.
Couscous could be a quick meal in 10 minutes, just covered by hot water or stock, let sit for a little while, then fluff it up by fork, add seasoning and veggies–done. But if you do have time, please do the way the Moroccans do: steam your couscous twice, and sprinkle water, small nob of butter and fluff them out with your fingers. Yes, it’s a bit time consuming, but once you taste the difference, you’ll never go back to the instant version.
Couscous is indeed African staple food, and often served with harisa, which, I made myself a super easy one this time, mainly because I lack some of the ingredients like dried ancho chili and red bell pepper, but surprisingly my two-minute quick harisa made with tomato sauce, cumin, garlic, olive oil and chili powder is just so good!
Sweet corn = summer! I’m a major corn lover, and I got couple really good organic sweet corn, and made a trio of them. The one from Australia is the best–I can’t think of any better way to eccentrate its natural intense and refreshing sweetness, so have it raw is the best way–tender, crunchy…only a touch of Fluer De Sel, fresh ground pepper, and chiffonade of sweet basil–truely a gift from the mother nature!
The ones from Thailand are not as tender and sweet, so I had one sauted with butter and basil, the other with red chili, lime juice and zest, and parsley, which easily turned into my new favorite: the heat from the chili, the sourness from the lime, the sweetness from the corn, they just complement each other in the most beautiful way.
The buttered corn is served with poached egg, see the heart on the yolk, how lovely things that sunlight can bring us!
See, now I have fennel so often, especially with the fact that they’re great detoxifying your whole system!
Eggs have been my major source of protein lately, the now I really like them poached!
Oh, can you believe how a poached egg could be this pretty and elegant?
Below is how food comes in a package can get as good as it gets…organic oat crackers with zucchini and mint pate.
I made a creamy leek and brussel sprouts soup yesterday, served with herbed creme fraiche for lunch, and with another poached egg for late supper.
Some other great things I had over the past week: lovely Japanese taro, Australian jumbo chestnuts. Simply steamed to enjoy their natural flavor. Robust, earthy and so yummy.
Sweets without white sugar? Um…fresh fruits make perfect guilty free desserts, or plain Greek yogurt with my favorite Spanish blossom honey. Or, sweetened by rasberries and its puree. So while you’re pampering yourself with satisfying sweets, you’re also getting your body truck load of nutritious goodies.
Finally the long waited Tartine cook book is in the store, thanks to the two sweet ladies at the Dymocks specially ordered the book for me!
I can’t wait making the passion fruit and lime bavarian cake which we absolutely adore and can’t have enough of it from the famous neighborhood bakery and cafe–Tartine in San Francisco. The line there is always long, people just go crazy about their morning bun made of croissant dough and touch of orange zest, cinnamon and lots and lots of brown sugar. And that could be the next good thing churned out from my kitchen.
So for this passion fruit bavarian cake, I’m lucky enough to get hold on to some really special Japanese ones, they’re double the size, almost triple the juice, (you know usually how little precious juice is in each of the purple wrinkled fruit, the recipe calls 12, and with the Japanese ones, only five of them would do the job!) Plus, they got a richer, brighter flavor. And of course, triple the price too.
The cake base for this cake is a chiffon cake instead of sponge cake, and it’s moistened with lime syrup (simple syrup flavored with lime zest and juice,) with generous layers of passion fruit bavarian, and finish off with large shaves of coconut. I’m never a huge fan of dried coconut shaves, but they works perfect in this tropical themed cake, and once the coconut shaves absorbed the moisture from the whipped cream, it almost taste like freshly shaved young coconut.
And really, nothing beats the joy from sharing good food with friends.
This is another lengthy recipe from Thomas Keller’s French Laundry cookbook, It’s light, it’s refreshing, it’s the perfect finishing course to end a rich meal, like the lobster feast we had last week. The dish is layered with warm sweetened vanilla creme fraiche, buttermilk shortcake, lightly sweetened fresh diced strawberries, honeyed strawberry sorbet and topped with the other buttermilk shortcake half, and shakes of snowy powdered sugar. I really have to praise the versatility of creme fraiche again! There’s no need to say how wonderful it goes with savory dishes, but so far, nothing beats this simple warm sauce utilizing creme fraiche! You’ll be amazed how this lovely flavor complements the strawberries…all you have to do is splitting half of a vanilla pod, and flavor the creme fraiche with thousands of it’s little black seeds blistering with aroma, with a touch of caster sugar and warm it up in a small sauce pan.
The picture of this dessert in the French Laundry cookbook is seriously pretty and elegant with the sorbet in a perfect quennel. This is something still frustrates me–I still cannot make a perfect quennel! Maybe I just have to keep on practicing!
It’s pork chop again, but with a different sauce which made a whole new experience to the taste bud–a snow marbled piece of Japanese black pork, and a super easy apple sauce, which looks just amazing with the grill marked meat on a plain white Apilco plate…
It proves it right again that sometimes simple is the best. The apple sauce goes perfect with the pork. To make the sauce, simply grate an small Fuji apple with a cheese grater, microwave with 1/2 tbs. sugar, 2 Tbs. white wine, (I used Riesling this time,) Fluer de sel and pepper for two minutes. Bon Appetite!
This is my quick lunch with grilled pork loin and beetroot salad. Wait, maybe not that quick…looks like there’s this new obsession taking too much time taking pix of my food, I was running super late because of this. But I think the picture of the beetroot salad came out to be my favorite one: the color, the composition, the contrast…and of course, the flavor. whole beetroot is slow roasted in oven (yes, it’s gonna take time for the sweetness of the dark burgandy root to get concentrated and intensified. Just drizzle a little olive oil and sprinkle of salt and pepper on whole, unpeeled beetroot, wrap in foil, roast in 375F oven for about one hour, or until a knife can easily pierce through.) When cool enough to handle, peel carefully, slice thinly horizontally to reveal its beautiful different shades of burgandy in spiral pattern. Toss with more extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar, season with Fluer de sel and pepper. Marinade for at least 30 minutes allowing flavor to marry. Arrange beet slices on plate, scatter some buffalo Mozzarella cheese on top and around, add some lightly dressed leafy greens and chopped toasted hazelnut. Drizzle some of the balsamic vinaigrette around. When you arrange the different elements, keep in mind to create white negative space, let the red and white really stands out and complement each other.
Sea bass for dinner: Pan roasted with basil foam. Sea bass is a bit too greasy though, that’s why I usually use this particular kind of fish to make my red miso marinated sea bass–Nobu style, which is still being marinated by the time I have this piece of sea bass. Yes, it takes three to four days to marinade your fish to let the color and flavor to penetrate the white flesh.
There’re abundant ripe bananas left again…figured maybe a banana tatin cake would be a good move to use up at least five of them. Bananas are caramelized with some light brown sugar first before going to the bottom of the cake. The cake itself is the same one as the plum upside down cake I made last week, there’s a little variation for the whipped cream this time: there’s always some crunchy toffee like bits got stuck at the bottom of the cake pan after the cake is turned out, which makes instant burnt caramel whipped cream. How sweet!
The extra caramelized banana half turned into my dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. There’s also one Brazil fig left, it’s also caramelized with brown sugar and a little honey, here came my second dessert that night.
Brussel sprouts, pancetta, chestnuts, German Riesling–all my all time favorite, four in one? Best eats!
A super light dinner–a bowl of natto with spring onion. I guess natto is not something for everyone, most of the people I know think it as stinky fermented beans. But I love it, and it’s also very good for you. Although I do prefer the extra petite ones. And this pack in particular has a nice smoky aroma from the charcoal.
Finally, after three days of marinating, my miso sea bass and black cod–Nobu style is ready to be broiled! With a bowl of the best Japanese rice. Can you see that every single grain of the cooked rice is just perfect–sweet and chewy. I have to say, the Japanese really should be proud of their rice. It’s simply the best on planet!
We’re doing Asian fried rice with the kids at school, and why not have the same for dinner at home. Asian fried rice with BBQ pork, fluffy scrambled eggs, green veggie with pretty yellow blossom, touch of soy, and lots and lots of spring onion.
This is an intricate dessert with many elements going on, but all banana oriented.
hazelnut macarron, banana mousse, home made banana ice-cream (yes, I finally got my ice-cream maker in HK kitchen…I’ve been missing my old one for a long time and longing for making some fresh velvety ice-cream,) home made banana chips, caramel-chocolate sauce, coconut scented cream and toasted almond flakes. Recipe’s adapted from Hachi san’s banana glace.
Sunday dinner: grilled rib-eye steak with herbed creme fraiche, braised savory cabbage, french fingerling potato fries.
And some random shots of the week.
Here’s the recipe for the miso black cod-Nobu style: (more…
I remember there are quite a number of veggies that I absolutely hated when I was a kid. Ginger, green onion, celery, garlic…you know, things with pungent flavor. Now, there’s pretty much no veg that I don’t like, but fennel is one of those I stubbornly have a negative feeling with, but odd enough, its sculptural appearance always allure me to grab one in my shopping cart. This beautiful looking fennel’s been sitting in my fridge for a week, and I haven’t done anything with it yet, so I decided to give it one more try–this time, raw–shaved thin, paired with Granny Smith apple, with a creamy vanilla dressing made out of 2 tbs. of creme fraiche, 1 tbs. champaign vinegar, 1 tbs. extra virgine olive oil, 1 tbs. honey, 1 tsp. vanilla paste, freshly ground pepper, Fluer de sel and a little dried red chili flakes to add a subtle kick and contrast color. Raw shaved fennel’s got a crisp clean flavor with a lovely licorice-y taste. I think I fall for fennel now=) Plus, fennel thorns make perfectly beautiful garnish!
Life’s being as busy as it gets, but food still being served on time even after a long day, although sometimes it’s just a simple sandwich along with a bowl of hearty soup.
I found this precious cooking ingredient on the other day–Spanish Iberico pork loin–of course it’s something you will only treat yourself once in a while, but it’s definitely worth every single penny and it almost brings you a whole different sensation. To me, it’s gone beyond the taste of pork, should we call it something else then? I’ve never had a piece of fresh Iberico pork before, Spanish cured Iberico ham is all I know about this kind of pig, and I always wonder how ham could possibly be this delicious with a melt-in-mouth texture, and a rich intense flavor that will meandering on your taste bud after a while. Now, I get it. Start with ingredient this good, it just wouldn’t go wrong. Lucky Spanish!
I made an elaborate dish to celebrate this gorgeous piece of meat. Pan fried Iberico pork loin with French fingerling mash, puree of young peas, and grape-port reduction. The vibrant green, the deep burgandy pan sauce, the scattered dressed raw young peas…made the dish so scrumptious.
Life is a celebration with a plate of Spanish Iberico pork loin and a glass of Sauterns.
Having said that, the second batch of our Iberico meat is truly a celebration of its pure sensation: plainly grilled to perfection with a pale pinky center, just a touch of Fleur De Sel and freshly ground pepper to season. No fancy embellishment–five minutes on a sizzling Le Creuset grill mark pan is all it needs–it just could be the best thing on its own!
A good sandwich is always satisfying and comforting. I made mine this time with spinach puree, (blanch your baby greens in boiling water for 5 to 10 seconds, refresh under cold water, then squeeze all the water out of it, add enough good extra virgin olive oil, Fleur De Sel and pepper and whiz it into a fine puree in a small food processor.) Sear some seasoned chicken tenders till just cooked through, keep warm. I could never bring myself wasting any sticky brown essence of the chicken left on the bottom of the pan, so I deglazed it with a good splash of good white wine (keep it in mind that you’re concentrating the flavor of the wine, always use wine that you will drink out of a glass!) Let it bubble away until syrupy, add a little chicken broth, reduce a little, whisk in a spoonful of creme fraiche. Now you have your creamy sauce. You’re not gonna get much of it, but the flavor is so rich and concentrated. I built up my sandwich using the basic of my favorite Pain de Champagne, which is lightly brushed with good olive oil and toasted, then a layer of the spinach puree, chicken tenders torn in pieces, the thick pan sauce, and generous chunks of creamy Camembert cheese.
To go with the sandwich, I made a spiced pumpkin soup with honeyed cream and toasted almonds. Dry toasted fennel seeds, cumin seeds and caraway seeds are pounded into fine powder (use you pestle and mortar) and added into the base of the soup. It’s perfectly fine to leave out the spices, but they do give a lovely warm, sweet and exotic note to the soup. The honeyed cream is actually the leftover from the plum upside down cake, but guess what? I think I just found another perfect marriage!
I got an array of great stuff enough to make an elegant display of antipasti, plus I really want to show off the two-tier cake stand I just got. Fennel salami, Brazil figs, Parmigiano Reggiano, green olives, soft Camembert, and of course, good crusty country bread. (God, I’m crying out for California black mission figs!! They’re always super sweet with syrupy juice bursting out of the soft purple skin. The Brazil one is the only kind available in Hong Kong, it’s not sweet at all, rather tough skin, and it almost has a grassy herbal taste to it. I had to give it a big drizzle of Spanish blossom honey to make it a bit more pleasant to eat.)
I was clearing up my fridge, and found a little bowl of leftover artichoke risotto from last week, so I made myself a little snack–crispy risotto cake, and it’s surprisingly good!
My brother is a picky eater when it comes to veggies, is it a guy thing? I wonder. So here’s the fix for him to get the daily dose of fiber: stir fried green bean with minced pork and cured olive leaves. And he finished the entire plate!
Too busy to squeeze out any dessert the past week, all I managed to make is a hazelnut-ricotta crumble cake with rasberry and blood plum.
There’s this sudden itch for curry, but looking into the pantry, no luck getting any ingredients for an authentic curry, so here comes my sole creation without a recipe, and without the quitessential ingredients like curry leaves and lemongrass. I made a quick curry paste using pestle and mortar pounding up the following long list of stuff that I gathered: fennel seed and cumin seed, (both toasted till fragrant) ground coriander, ground cinnamon, graham masala, green cardamon pod, couple table spoon of long grain rice (gives an ultra creaminess to the final sauce,) ginger, shallots, a little store bought red curry paste.
Brown your protein piece in a heavy pot to sear all the meaty juice, I used pork and my favorite Le Creuset this time. You may have to do this in several batches. Set the seared meat aside.
Use the same pot you browned your meats in, saute chopped onion with the paste until onion gets a golden color, deglaze the pot with a big splash of white wine scraping all the sticky brown bits into the syrupy liquid. Now add potato chunks, saute again till they all get a sheen from the liquid, then add all the seared meats along with any meat juice back to the pot, also add couple table spoon of almond meal and little light brown sugar, add enough chicken broth to just cover everything in the pot. Bring to a boil, skim any scum and foam. Put the lid on, simmer for a good hour, add couple tablespoon of creme fraiche and coconut cream, large handfuls raisins, simmer for another 20 minutes. the meats should be really tender by now. right before serving, add little more coconut cream to finish off.
Serve with pilaf spiced with cardamon, cumin seeds, cinnamon bark and clove.
No time for making dessert today, a bowl of blood orange segments makes the perfect end for the meal.
We also had a salad before dinner: tomato with fresh Mozzarella. I was never fond of Mozzarella until we dined in a local restaurant in Vegas back in February this year, (btw, they fame for their osso bucco,) it was their house made buffalo Mozzarella changed my perception of it, and now I plan to make my own ‘house made Mozzarella.’ This fresh buffalo Mozzarella I got from City’ super is very creamy and tasty. The dressing for the salad is simply one part of Champaign vinegar with three parts of your best extra virgin olive oil. With a good pinch of dried oregano, freshly ground pepper and Fleur De Sel. And of course, can’t have tomato salad without basil!
It’s been a hella busy week with my mom being out of town–work, training, housework, grocery shopping, plants, cats at home, stray cats…it’s eating me up…hey, but dinner still needs to be served. And here comes our dinner at nine–some simple just like a salad, some more elaborate with a appetizer and main. I’m actually pretty proud of what I could pull out at the end of the day=)
Above is a pretty dish with many different elements complement each other: Pan roasted salmon with spiced avocado, roasted tomato with anchovy, fried capers, burnt orange vinaigrette. The savory saltiness of the anchovy gives depth to the tomato, which almost burst into tender puree when fork pierced in; the avocado is spiced with a touch of cumin seed (toasted and pound into fine powder with pestle and mortar,) the salmon itself is pan fried to perfection with a super crispy skin and coral tender center.
Creamy risotto with purple artichoke and pile high of Parmigiano Reggiano.
A properly cooked egg–crispy edge with yolk oozing out…I call it good eats.
The pan seared scallops with cauliflower puree is sooo good, and it’s only the appetizer on Thursday night. What the main? Pan roasted chicken breast with spring fava bean and morel-porcini ragu, and French fingerling potato puree. The rosy color of the baby potato is just irresistible.
Simple spaghetti in home made tomato sauce and sweet Italian sausage meal balls, with basil and thick shave of my favorite Parmesan
Other amazing ingredient I got this week: asparagus from Japan and fennel from France.
I’m a huge fan of fruits, any perfectly ripe one would be utterly delicious as it is and makes the perfect dessert without doing anything to it, say…a pear with juice oozing out when cutting into its flesh; a wedge of sweet and crisp watermelon; just-picked tenderly juicy rasberries with the right tartness; a sunset hued Rainer cherry…the list is endless, but when it comes to baking, I have this fever for Meyer lemon and passion fruit. it’s sad that I can’t get hold to any Meyer lemon in HK where I live now, so I brought with me–yes, hand carried, a bag full of Meyer lemons from the States this time, I remembered how regret I was when I only brought one jar of homemade Meyer lemon curd back to HK last year. Truth is I just can’t have enough of Meyer lemon! I’ve made two batches of curd out of them; I’ve made a whole jar of candied Meyer lemon and some lemon and Riesling gelee, which would probably gonna feed me quite a while (to go with toasted brioche on top of a thin shave of sweet butter); I’ve made a warm shrimp salad with it as if it’s been preserved since it’s so mildly tart, even the pith is not as bitter. Today, I managed to make three things out of them: lace tuile, semifreddo and souffle.
And now, only two little yellow gems left, sitting in my fridge, screaming…that’s me screaming…wish I could grow a Meyer lemon tree here.
This recipe for Meyer lemon curd is my favorite. It calls for much less sugar when you usually would see a recipe use equal parts of sugar and Meyer lemon juice. It’s perfect to substitute the Meyer lemon juice to regular lemon juice, orange juice or blood orange juice. I even use the same recipe for making passion fruit curd.
1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice (from about 4 juicy ones)
1/3 caster sugar (I prefer caster than granulate sugar as it’s finer and get dissolved more easily, but granulate sugar works just fine)
pinch sea salt
zest from 2 of the lemons (more zest doesn’t hurt, and a microplane is your best friend for this task)
1 Tbs. milk (whole or low fat doesn’t matter since it’s just that little)
3 egg yolk (use the best egg you can get hold on to! The deeper sunset hue the yolk is, the brighter yellow your curd will be. Plus, the eggs would not be fully cooked, it makes sense to preferably use organic ones for the sake of your health!)
6 Tbs. of unsalted sweet butter, cut into small cubes (I prefer Clover’s organic butter)
It’s a dummy proved one-pot treat. (may be you will need to use another mixing bowl to lightly beat the whole eggs and yolks together first) Just put all the ingredients in a heavy saucepan, (use a small pot– so that the runny mixture doesn’t form a shallow pool on a large surface–so that it would not cook up too fast and ended up being scrambles eggs.)
Cook the mixture on medium heat, vigorously whisking it all the way through–it is quite a workout for your arm though…good news is it doesn’t take long, the transformation from runny liquid to thick, silky curd happens pretty fast, so, keep a close eye on it. If it feels getting too hot before achieving the right consistency, just move your pot away from the stove top for a second, keep whisking though, then go back continuing to cook. The key is not to let it boil! Or it would lose its smoothness with grainy bits of cooked egg. Once you get the right consistency, off the heat, continue to whisk until the heat at bottom dissipated and transfer the curd into a container, let it cool. It stays fresh and nice for a week in the fridge.
If you have concern having tiny bits of cooked eggs, or you just want it perfectly smooth, you can press your curd through a fine strainer. But in this case, you want to mix the zest in after straining, so the fragrant zests don’t get clogged in the strainer and be wasted.
This curd is very versatile. I used it to make lemon curd tart, as filling for sponge cake; it makes perfect frosting for cakes when mixed with equal amount of whipped cream; or just eat it straight out of the jar like me.