A weblog about my food creation and addiction!

recipes

A great 2013 to come!

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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!

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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.

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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

pecan-pie1If 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.

Filling:

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


Another chestnut - dark chocolate truffle cake–a more elegant take on a simple rustic recipe

chestnut-chocolate truffle cakeDark chocolate & chestnut truffle cake encased in a chocolate pastry shell, bitter sweet chocolate ganache, chestnut glace, Earl Grey cream & cocoa dusted meringue sticks

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, I’m sure you’ve come across the same cake I posted quite a while ago. This one, is essentially the same thing, yet with bit of more elegant presentation. and instead of plain pastry, a chocolate sable crust was used this time. Oh, and it’s also topped with ganache.

I wouldn’t include a redundant recipe for the truffle cake here, but I would love to add a little note on the decorative meringue stick and the chocolate pastry here. The meringue’s so simple to make, yet with a little twist on the shape and tiny dust of cocoa powder, they definitely add a note of elegance to the cake, and little extra crunch too.

The chocolate pastry is not only good for any tart shell, but also good on it’s own. I baked off the scratches, they’re wonderful little snacks, and so you have something to munch on while making the cake=)

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Recipe for meringue sticks:

50g egg whites

100g white sugar

Whip the egg white with 1/3 of the sugar until thick and foamy, add the second part of sugar, continue to whip, finally, add the rest of the sugar till stiff peak. Place the meringue into piping bag with a 4mm tip, pipe straight lines onto parchment lined baking sheet. Dust with sifted cocoa powder. Bake at preheated oven at 85C for 4 hours, the meringue sticks should retain their white color and dried thoroughly. And they’ll stay crisp for weeks in air tight container.

Recipe for chocolate tart pastry:

(makes about 300g, enough for a 10″ tart)

ingredients:

125g plain flour

60g unsalted butter, softened

60g caster sugar

30g dark chocolate, melted and cooled

3 Tbs. light cream

15g cocoa powder

1/2 tsp. fine sea salt

1 free range egg yolk

extra flour for dusting while rolling

How to:

Sift the flour, cocoa powder and salt together.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the softened butter with sugar until pale and creamy, (but not fluffy, which would result in greasy pastry.) Then beat in the cooled melted chocolate.

Add the flour mixture, egg yolk and cream, and mix to a smooth soft dough. Shape into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap, let it rest in fridge for at least 30 minutes before rolling out to relax the gluten.

Preheat the oven to 190C.

Roll the dough into a 1/4″ round large enough to cover the bottom and sides of a 10″ tart pan, leave the extra dough overhang around the side. Prick the dough using a folk, line it with foil, and fill with baking weights, or, just use dried beans or rice like what I do. (and you can reuse them for many many times.)

Blind bake the shell for 15 minutes, remove the weights and foil, neatly trim the pastry edge level with the top of the tart pan, and continue to bake for another 10 minutes until it’s cooked all the way through and crisp. Cool the shell completely on a cooling rack before fill with the truffle cake batter.

Just click below to get the truffle cake recipe:

http://www.katspatisserie.com/?p=840

I like to serve the truffle cake with my favorite earl grey infused cream.


Early season’s greetings–vanilla marshmallow, mulled cider and sweet wine, Christmas stollen

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I know it’s only early November, there’s still a bit more wait till Christmas’ around the corner, but since we’re doing a photo shooting featuring a Christmas-y recipe for South China Morning Post, I thought it’s indeed a sweet thing to share this early festive spirit with you all!

The Christmas stollen was made by the former pastry chef, Susan, the food and wine editor of South China Morning Post, so I’m not including the recipe for the stollen here. As the food stylist, my job is to make the scene beautiful and festive, and I thought it would be great to make some vanilla marshmallow and mulled cider to complete the picture. And what could be better than marshmallow in pretty snowflake and little star shapes, and  hot cider infused with the warmth of cinnamon, start anise and clove accent.

Speaking of mulled cider and marshmallow, I was never a big fan of neither one of them, but I remember I was once doing my  Christmas shopping at Williams-Sonoma years ago, and sampled their hot cider–in a unique way–with a marshmallow floating on top the steamy cider creating a think layer of creamy, foamy marshmallow froth–and that, changed my perception of both! They’re just so meant together. And that was the first time I put a pack of marshmallow and can of mull spice and cider into my shopping basket. So this time, I want to recreate that little memory at home.

I heard making your own marshmallow could be daunting…oh, yes, everything seemed so easy until you’re ready to cut the set marshmallow into desired shapes–they’re just deadly sticky to work with! But your patience would certainly be rewarded as they just look absolutely beautiful at the end. Plus, during the making process, it’s truly amazing to see the transformation from the boiling sugar syrup to a thick glossy and fluffy white foam with the whisk running and whipping. I had great fun by just watching that color and texture change happening.

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If homemade marshmallow sounds fancy to you, here’s the recipe you might want to try. But be warned: it’s sweet, it’s really sweet, and it’s just that sweet!

Recipe for Vanilla marshmallow snowflakes:

Ingredients:

A: 1 & 3/4 cup caster sugar (385 g)

2/3 cup light vanilla corn syrup

1/4 cup filtered water

1 & 1/2 Tbs. vanilla bean paste

B: 1 & 1/2 Tbs. powered gelatin

1/2 cup filtered water

C: confectioner’s sugar for dusting (you really need loads of it during cutting, shaping and dusting…as it’s super sticky!)

Special equipment:

*candy thermometer (it’s essential to use one for sweet-making, the corn syrup mixture needS to be boiled and reach the precise temperature (250F/120C) in order to have the right consistency of the final product)

How to:

Well grease a 20cm x 30cm cake pan with neutral flavor oil, such as vegetable oil. I used almond oil this time.

Place ingredient B, the gelatin and water in the mixing bowl of your stand mixer, set aside for at least 5 minutes for the gelatin to bloom.

Place ingredient A, the sugar, corn syrup and water in a heavy saucepan over high heat and stir until sugar’s dissolved. Bring to a boil and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 250F (120C) on the candy thermometer. Keep an very close eye on the temperature as you want to turn off the heat precisely at that temperature. Remove from the heat, carefully stir in the vanilla bean paste. With the motor running at low speed, gradually (little by little) pour the cooked syrup into the gelatin mixture. Then turn up the speed to high, whisk for about 5-7 minutes, or until the mixture is light and fluffy and beginning to cool. Immediately pour the marshmallow into the greased pan, cover with plastic wrap or foil, and leave it to set, which takes about 8-12 hours.

When it’s all set, turn it out, and use snowflake and star shaped cookie cutters to cut out the marshmallow. Dust with confectioner’s sugar to serve. Oh, and make sure you dip the cookie cutters in hot water and wipe dry before cutting the marshmallow, to prevent it from sticking to the cutters! Dip and wipe between each cut!

Have fun in marshmallow making to get the festive spirit beginning!!


Cheesecake–inspired by the Cheesecake Factory

Fresh banana cream cheesecake

Fresh banana cream cheesecake with caramelized banana bavarian & soft whipped vanilla cream

I’ve been longing for the fresh banana cream cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory for quite awhile…or should I say I’ve been missing it ever since I left California. I guess there’s some kind of sentimental reasons behind the cheesecake itself, but still, I do love their fresh banana cream, absolutely, to the point that we’d drive 50 miles to SF and spend another hour in that insanely long line just for that slice of cake, quite big of a slice though. Funny thing is that when they opened another shop in Valley Fair, where we could get to in no time, we rarely go to get the same thing…funny, isn’t it. Maybe that’s our nature that things are always more precious when they’re not that easy to get.

So now, I’m like thousand miles away from the fresh banana cream cheesecake, and I really really miss it. Although yes I know, the slice from the Cheesecake Factory is often times not that good–previously frozen, with a soggy, sometimes even freaking looking crust and icy topping…I still like it! I could imagine its original taste when it’s just freshly done. But, at the end of day, it is a mass production, what can we ask for?

I’ve been crazy about cheesecake lately again, have been thinking about making all different kinds of them all day long…and of course, I have to make my comfort food–fresh banana cream cheesecake! I couldn’t really figure out what exactly that top layer is on their baked banana cheesecake, so I thought I’ll just make some banana bavarian cream to top it off, and no bavarian cream beats the Gorgon Ramsey one! And my version of banana cheesecake is here: fresh banana cream cheesecake with caramelized banana bavarian and soft whipped vanilla cream.

The recipe: for a 7″ round cake

Ingredients:

Crust:

70g graham crackers (I used milk chocolate covered ones this time)

35g unsalted butter

Cream cheese filling:

250g cream cheese (I use Organic Valley)

45g granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 large ripe banana

3 Tbs. heavy cream

2 tsp. corn flour

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Caramelized banana bavarian:

50 ml cream

50 ml whole milk

1/4 vanilla pod

2 egg yolk (preferably organic, or Japanese free range)

25g granulated sugar

1 gelatin sheet

1 medium ripe banana

25g granulated sugar (to coat the banana)

50 ml heavy cream, very cold

vanilla whipped cream:

1/2 cup heavy vream

1 pump vanilla paste

3/4 tsp. granulated sugar

How to:

For the crust:

Place crackers in a zip lock bag, crush into fine powder with a rolling pin, add the melted butter to evenly moisten all the crumbs. Press the mixture into the bottom of the loose bottom spring pan. Bake at 350F for about 8 minutes, cool and set aside.

For the filling:

Use a spatula or whisk, stir the cream cheese till light and creamy, add in the sugar, mix well. Followed by corn flour, egg, mashed banana, cream and vanilla extract, mix well at each addition. Now, you should have a creamy, smooth mixture. Fill the cooled crust with the filling. Bake at 350F for 10 mins, then reduce the temperature to 100F, and bake for another hour. Cool completely before transferring to fridge.

While baking, prepare the bavarian:

1: make the pate bombe:

Bloom the gelatin sheet in cold water.

Heat the milk and cream to just under a boil with the vanilla pod (and it’s seed) in a small sauce pan, remove from heat. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until creamy and pale in color,  carefully add 1/3 of the hot cream mixture to temper the egg mixture, pour it back to the pan with the remaining hot liquid, cook over low heat while stirring constantly until thickened, thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Add the soaked gelatin sheet, mix well and set aside to cool.

2: make caramelized banana puree:

quarter one ripe banana lengthwise, coat with sugar. Heat a dry heavy pan over medium-high heat, when you can feel heat rise from the bottom of the pan, place the sugar coated banana in, they should start to caramelize right away. Once one side is nicely caramelized, flip the banana over, and caramelize the other side. Off heat, puree the caramelized bananas and let it cool.

Mix the banana puree into the cooled pate bombe.

When the pate bombe mixture starts to set around the edge, whip the cold cream to soft peak, and gently fold into the banana-pate bombe.

To assemble, spread the banana bavarian on top of the cooled cheesecake, then soft whip the 50ml cold cream with vanilla paste and sugar, spread on top of the bavarian. Chill for at least 4 hours before serving.

This is indeed heavenly good, if you are a fan of cheesecake, you probably won’t go back to Cheesecake factory anymore, unless there’re sentimental reasons=) or even for those cheesecake is not your thing, this might just change your mind=)


Salted caramel opera

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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=)

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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.


The ugly sunchoke…

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lovely cheering yellows

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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.

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Jerusalem artichoke two ways: puree and chip, with its own jus

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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=)

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Simple baby spinach salad with buffalo Mozzarella-&-Green leafy salad with pancetta, cantaloupe, roasted yellow bell pepper, toasted pecans and ripe blackberries

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Poached chicken salad with raw fennel and turnip shaves, raspberry mustard dressing


Chestnut and bittersweet chocolate truffle cake

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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:

Ingredients:

250 bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

250 organic unsalted butter, plus extra to grease the cake tin

250 cooked, peeled chestnuts

125 ml whole milk

125 cream

4 large organic eggs, seperated

105 g caster sugar

How to:

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.


The wedding series continues…the macarons!

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There are still tons of pictures waiting to be sorted, edited and posted, I definitely left so much behind schedule..and I seriously need to devote a bit more time in this place meant to share every single bit of my cooking life.

These are the wedding favors made for one of my dearest friends. One hundred and twenty macarons in two flavors: chestnut with chestnut cream, and hazelnut with Earl Grey tea ganache. I have to admit that I’m not yet an expert in making macarons as you probably know I got into these little treats just a little while ago, but I’m actually pretty proud of what I came up with at the end of the day, although I put way too many hours into them, including couple batches in failure.

So here’s the ultimate tip that i think would yield a perfect macaron, you know those macarons with clean raised edge, the perfectly thin crispy skin which cracks into almost crumbs once you bite into it, and the nicely chewy moist inner layer separates from the outer crispness with a gap of air pocket. It’s just amazing that a batter could bake into these magical three layers, the heat, the air trapped in the meringue, the skin formed on the surface of the batter…transformed into the delicate goodness–that we call macarons. Ok, back to the tips: the most essential point is that you have to be patient enough to leave the piped macarons at room temperature until it really dries out and there’s a skin formed on the surface–this is crutial! If it still sticks to your finger when you touch it by the time you slide the baking tray into the oven, the air would expand to any crack it would find…which mostly would lead to puffing up from the top other than the formation of the foot with a lifted cap. Having said that, of course the consistency of the batter also largely determines the success of the final product–too much of folding leads to runny batter, and you will end up with flat macarons; but being too scared of the risk of over folding, will result in thick batter baked into footless ones. So for this particular pastry, I will say, practice makes perfection. You do have to go through failure to really get the click.

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Pretty little favors in lacy bags

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Cherry and almond clafoutis

Cherry and almond clafoutis

Cherry and almond Clafoutis

I like the name of this classic French egg-y dessert, but never really particular fond of it, reason being the first time I came across it in a restaurant wasn’t quite a memorable one, and haven’t bothered to make my attempt to make it at home until yesterday…have loads of cherries in the fridge with the right timing leafing through Gordon Ramsey’s ‘Just Desserts’ and spotted this Clafoutis recipe. Turned out it’s such a hit–one recipe that serves six was shared by three in a flash as soon as it’s out of the oven. And it surprised me that Clafoutis is even fragile than souffle! It collapsed way faster than I got a nice shot of its puffy look.

The recipe is super simple, just blend everything in a blender, then pop it in the fridge for 24 hours, that’s why I started the batter yesterday as the batter benefits from resting. The cherries I put in the batter were briefly cooked and marinated in simple syrup overnight, I do think they taste better in the Clafoutis this way than using raw cherries. And the almond meal makes the final product exceptionally moist and nutty.

clafouti-1-combo

Cherry and almond clafoutis

Cherry and almond Clafoutis recipe: serves 6 (or serves 3 greedy ones=p)

Ingredients:

50 grams almond meal

15 grams strong plain flour

100 grams caster sugar

2 eggs (preferably organic)

3 egg yolks

250 ml whipping cream

a good pinch of salt

250 grams marinated cherries (recipe follows)

(or 350 grams fresh cherries, pitted)

Note: you have to prepare the batter one day in advance, and also the marinated cherries if you’re not using fresh ones. It makes it a perfect party dessert so you can have everything done in advance, and just bake it on the day you’re serving it!

For the batter: Put all ingredients except the cherries in a small food processor, whiz until smooth, scrape the sides down using a spatula in between once or twice, then transfer the batter to a container, leave it in the fridge for 24 hours.

For the cherries, prepare simple syrup by combining 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar in a small pot, use low heat to dissolve all the sugar first, then turn up the heat to high, add 3 strips of lemon peel, let it boil for about 5 minutes. Off heat. Stir in 1-2 tablespoons of Kirsch to taste. Now, your poaching liquid for the cherries is done. (This is more than what you need for the cherries though, I found simple syrup pretty convenient if you keep some handy in the fridge.) Meanwhile, stone the cherries (over a plate to catch  its juice.)

Bring about 1 cup of simple syrup to boil again, then pop in the stoned cherries, let it boil for another 2 minutes. turn off the heat. Let the cherries sit in the poaching liquid overnight, and drain before use for the Clafoutis.

Preheat the oven to 190C, grease the baking dish using softened butter, scatter the drained cherries on the bottom of the dishes, give the rested batter a good stir, then pour on the cherries till barely cover them. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes until puffed up and golden. Dust with powdered sugar, serve immediately.

It’s a very rich custard-y dessert, you don’t really need anything to accompany it.

It’s so good…and if I know it would be this good, I would have made double the recipe!

Blueberry is definitely at its peak at this time of year. I also made jars of jam out of it.  Sweet!

blueberry-jam-combo


More chiffon in a cup…

banana-caramel chiffon cupcakes

banana-caramel chiffon cupcakes

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-caramel-chiffon-cupcakes-combo
banana chiffon with caramel bavarois
green-tea-grean-tea-cupcake-combo
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.

heirloom-tomato-combo

heirloom tomatoes

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.

peach-copy

Japanese peach

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 shave and anchovy-olive dressing

Pan roasted organic salmon with caramelized avocado, fried lime shaves and olive-anchovy vinegraitte

salmon-with-olive-dressing-olive-combo

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.!

chocolate-1

pretty chocolate just for the eyes…


Shrimp in garlicy wine sauce and paella de camerones

I was watching Nigella’s bite–entertaining a crowd with no fuss, no stress simple food takes up no time, one of them is this succulent shrimp flavored with tons of garlic, with a kick from chili flakes, and a quick sauce from generous splash of white wine and small nob of butter. Literally done in a flash.
And as always I could never bring myself dumping shrimp heads and shells into the trash can–why? Simply because they’re just packed with flavor, and they are actually the essence of the shrimps. So with that little heads, shells and leftover sauce (yes, I do not have any bread to mop it up on that day,) I made myself another ‘main course.’ Just diced up half carrot, quarter of an onion and half of a tomato, sweat with little olive oil, add the shrimp heads, shells and the garlic-y sauce, add water just to barely cover the whole thing in the pot, let it simmer for thirty minutes, strain well, extracting as much as the liquid by squeezing the solids, now you have the stock of the shrimp essence ready.
For making the paella, saute another quarter of onion, (finely diced,) half of tomato, (finely diced,) with generous amount of olive oil, add little tomato paste, teaspoonful of cayan, cook until the tomato reduced to almost nothing, (the mixture looks very dark in color.) Yes, you would have so little in your pan at this point.  Now, add two small handful of rice, (I only had risotto rice handy, it’s best to use Bomba rice for making traditional Spanish paella though.) Give a quick stir to let every rice kernel coated with little oil from the pan, add most of the stock, maybe a little water too if the stock appears too little, (the liquid should cover the rice by about half inch higher,) let it boil hard for the first three minutes, then turn the heat down to low, let it simmer for about another 13 minutes until it’s cooked with a bite. (the simmer should’t be too gentle, you will see slow bubbles.)
Note, I made so little because I just used the scratches from 9 medium shrimps, you definitely have to scale this thing up when you make it.
Remember, we are not making risotto here, it should be no liquid left in the pot when it’s done, to the very opposite way, the rice should be almost caramelized at the bottom of the pan, (the crunchy bits around the edge and bottom is the best part of it!) And it should’t be yellow in color as the usual paella you see in restaurants, it’s supposed to be this dark, almost brown as the way the Spanish make them.
I remember I watched an episode of ‘The chef’s story’ long time ago, and chef Andres demonstrated this paella dish that I so wanted to try it. It’s definitely not exactly his version of the perfect paella, but it’s the best rice dish I had in the past few years. Yes, it is time consuming to make the stock, extracting the stock, then make the paella, but if you have time, do try it out, you’ll never go back to most of the so called yellow paella.
Do make a big pot of stock though if you are going to put that much time in it, the stock can be put into the freezer for later use, and it’s so versatile, one of my favorite ways to use it is making shrimp bisque–reduce the stock down to concentrate the flavor (in this case, you have to strain the stock twice in a fine strainer,)  add cream, bring to a simmer. Froth with immersion blender–rich, silky, creamy– my absolute favorite soup. (The same method also applies to making other shellfish stock and bisque, like lobster, Crayfish, Dungeness crab…

Some more random things I made in the past few weeks

 Thai beetroot soup

Thai beetroot soup

This is actually a soup ‘featuring’ the old left over beetroot curry. Just warm it up with some milk, give it a whiz using your handy Bamix immersion blend. Serve with a little swirl of cream–pretty pink soup’s done!=)

Homemade pineapple sorbet is nothing more than frozen perfectly ripe pineapple, no sugar needed.

pineapple sorbetpineapple sorbet

A refreshing summer drink made with my homemade pineapple sorbet (this time with vanilla bean and fresh lychee) and milk.

Pineapple slush and minted water

The green one is minted water. Yes, I recently fell in love with mint, such a perfect thing to cool down a bit in steaming hot summer.

I made a truck load of petite strawberry cheesecakes a while ago when long stem strawberries are in season and abundant in my nearby grocery store.

strawberry cheesecake strawberry cheesecake

Haven’t had mash for a long time, this time, it’s organic German turnip and potato mash, simple, hearty and delicious.

simple German turnip and potato mash

Turnip and potato mash

Go for organic! My pan seared organic salmon with spiced yogurt sauce is so flavorful.

organic salmon with spiced yogurt sauce

I love good white wine, especially those fruity ones on the sweet side. Never too keen on red though, but recently I found this one–it’s red, it’s sweet, and sooo good.

sweet red wine


Summery strawberry and champaign jelly and more refreshing treats…

I’m not a jello fan even when I was a kid, but looks like jello is really a guy thing…Kai always stocks up packs of jello powder in out pantry, my brother loves them too…I just don’t quite get it…for me they’re nothing more than artificial flavoring and food coloring. But I am a huge fan of gelee, the intense vivid color from the pure fruit puree and the natural essence of the fruity sweetness with a little help of sugar–so intriguing. This simple gelling method transforms fruits into this sophisticated elegant summer dessert, light and refreshing, such a lovely treat pleasing your eyes too.

strawberry-and-champaign-jellystrawberry-and-champaign-jelly-combo2

The recipe is adapted from Thomas Keller’s French Laundry Cookbook, (speaking of Thomas Keller, a friend of mine was in Vegas couple days ago going for a book signing event at Palazzo, and Thomas Keller was there! I just envy to death!!) alright, back to the jelly–the picture appears in his book is ten times better than what I put up here, I blame this largely on the hot weather here in Hong Kong, as soon as I slice the wobbling delicate thing, it starts to melt, it’s just not possible to make a clean cut and transfer onto a plate. Well, I tried my best, it doesn’t look too bad, the flavor is darn good though=) With the tiny dollop of whipped creme fraiche–totally addictive.

The jelly came with a price though, I used Rose Imperial, Moet and Chandon thinking the rest of the bottle could be enjoyed by the glass since only a bit more than one cups is needed for making the jelly, but unexpected disaster happened–probably because the room was too warm, too much pressure built up in the bottle, the moment I uncorked it, my kitchen floor was flooded with the precious pink liquid. And what left in the bottle was just the right amount for the recipe. So, literally, the whole bottle was gone because of this jelly. Wow,  that makes every single bite of jelly is so precious.

Another recipe from the Tartine cookbook was tested in my kitchen last week. I made truck load of chocolate friands with an extra topping of homemade caramel. They’re very petite, and so they’re intended to be extra decadent and rich since you’re only eating small mouthful each. (friand means small mouthful in French.)

chocolate-friands-combo-2

The recipe for the chocolate friands: (makes 24 petite ones)

(Adapted from the Tartine, with courtesy to Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson.)

for the batter, you’ll need :

170 g (6oz) Bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped  (note: really use the best chocolate you can find as the flavor of the friands largely depends on the quality of your chocolate, look for at least 60% cocoa mass on the packaging, I used Valrhona, my new found favorite brand)

225 g (1 cup) unsalted butter

310 g  (1 1/2 cup + 1 Tbs.) sugar

105 g (3/4) all purpose flour

2 Tbs. cornstarch

1/4 tsp. salt (I still use my Fluer De Sel, necessary?…I personally think it makes anything taste better.)

4 large eggs, roughly beaten

For the Ganache:

115 g (4 oz) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (again, use the best possible)

2/3 cup heavy cream

Now, preheat your oven to 350F (180C), line up 24 mini-muffin-cup paper liners on a baking sheet or butter and flour 24 mini-muffin pan wells.

To make the batter, put the chopped chocolate in a metal mixing bowl. In a small sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat until very hot, pour the hot liquid butter over the chocolate, let it stand and partial melt, then whisk until smooth. In another mixing bowl, sift in the flour, cornstarch, add the sugar and salt, whisk to mix them well. Add the flour mixture to the chocolate in three batches, mix well after each addition. Whisk in two eggs first until combined, add the other two eggs and whisk until just incorporated. Take care not to over mix the batter.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups to three-quarters full, bake until the cake just start to crack on top, about 15 minutes. Let them cool on wire rack. Then unmold them to cool completely if you bake the in muffin tin; if they are in paper liners as what I did, just leave them in the cups.

For the ganache, place the finely chopped chocolate in a small mixing bowl, bring the cream to just under a boil in a small sauce pan, then pour onto the chocolate, don’t stir first, just leave it to sit for couple minutes, then gently stir until all melted and velvety smooth.

By the time you are ready to dip your friands in ganache, make sure the friands are cool completely. Hold the side of the the friands, dip it in the ganache, then shake gently to let the excess run off the sides.

To be even more indulgent, I coated the already-heavenly friands with another thin layer of caramel–nope, it’s certainly not diet food=)…worth while the calorie killer? oh, sure yes.

Oh, almost forgot the recipe for the best ever caramel with the extra touch of vanilla bean and lemon juice.

This makes about 1 1/2 cups

2/3 heavy cream

1/4 vanilla bean

1 1/4 cups sugar

1/4 cup water

1/4 tsp. salt (Fluer De Sel)

2 Tbs. honey

3/4 tsp. lemon juice

4 Tbs. (55 g) unsalted butter

Pour the cream into a small sauce pan, split the vanilla seed and use the tip of knife to scrape the seeds from the vanilla halves into the cream, (I also throw the vanilla pod  to the milk to infuse it with deeper vanilla aroma.) bring the cream to just under a boil. turn off the heat, and keep it warm.

Place the sugar, water, honey, salt in a good sized saucepan (since once you add the hot cream into the caramel, it would splash fiercely on you, so having a deep good sized pan can be a life saver on this task, I myself have gone through a disaster when the pan was too small and too shallow, and half of the caramel ended up bubbling away outside the pan.) Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stir to dissolve the sugar. Then cook, without stirring, until it reaches a dark amber, take care not to let it burn as caramelization can happen really fast. Off heat, and carefully and slowly add the hot cream to the caramel, it would boil vigorously at first even it’s off the heat. Let it simmer down, and whisk until smooth. Add the lemon juice, let it cool for ten minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the butter into 1-inch cubes, then add to the caramel one at a time, whisk constantly after each addition.

The caramel will keep well in the refrigerator for a month. And it’s such a versatile complement to just about anything from ice-cream, fruits to cakes and tarts. I also make my shake using milk, banana and spoonful of this deep golden gooey caramel with speckles of vanilla seeds.


you just have to try this! Avocado and banana soup

cream of celery-avocado-banana soup

Have you ever put bananas into your savory soup? I’ve got my bold try on the other day, when I have literally nothing to cook with except two left over celery stalks, one banana that’s almost gone bad, (but you know, truth is that’s at its peak flavor actually) and one avocado.  I know what you’re thinking: what the …?? banana? No, it’s not gonna taste banana-y, it just gives a wonderfully mellow sweetness to the soup, and makes it more creamy.

So same idea taken from the raw cream of celery soup, I put the celery stalks, half avocado, maybe 2/3 of a medium banana (of course I ate the other one third, you know how much I reply on bananas=)) Add water to barely cover everything, then add a splash of Champaign vinegar (cuz I ran out of lemon also), one heaping table spoon of olive oil, good pinch of dried tarragon, small handful of Italian parsley, two heaping teaspoon of creme fraiche, Fluer De Sel and lots of fresh ground pepper . (I basically just eyeballed everything, doesn’t need to be exact.)  Whiz all together until smooth, serve in a pretty soup bowl, float two tiny quenelle of artichoke heart pate in center, drizzle more olive oil to finish off. Fancy soup in ten minutes.

Make yourself a little avocado salad with the other half avocado, spiced up with diced French shallot, olive oil, juice of half lime, (yes, I found one last lime after making the soup… and touch of Cayan pepper, fry up an organic egg–along with the soup, it’s your light lunch already. Neat, uh?=)


The beauty of being raw…a feast of veggies in its purest taste

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-combotomato 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.

raw zucchini salad

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 shave salad

zucchini shave salad

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

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 baby corn-sweet pepper-mango-edamame salad

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.)

eggplant caviar

poor man’s caviar on toasted pita

raw cream of fennel soup cream of double fennel soup

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

homemade blueberry jam on pita

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.

scallop on brioche

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.

moroccan carrot salad spiced pan fried chickpeas


Spiced chickpeas

beetroot curry with black ricebeetroot curry with black rice

beetroot curry with black rice



celeriac remoulade

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.

roasted pepper

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…


20 day detox program continues…

flower-and-cherry

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.

oatmeal-combo

oat-flakes-with-banana-honey

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.

ratatuille with black rice

Chickpea is a very good source for protein and fiber, spiced up with cumin, coriander, and cardamon. Serve with basil yogurt sauce.

warm-eggplant-chickpea-salad-combo

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!

couscous-combo

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!

raw-corn-salad-comboThe 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.

buttered-corn-with-poached-egg

The buttered corn is served with poached egg, see the heart on the yolk, how lovely things that sunlight can bring us!

chilli-lime-cornfennel-salad

See, now I have fennel so often, especially with the fact that they’re great detoxifying your whole  system!

raw-fennel-salad-combo

Eggs have been my major source of protein lately, the now I really like them poached!

poached-egg-combo

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.

oat cracker with zucchini 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.leek-brussel-sprout-soup

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.

chestnut-combo

taro-combo

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.

honeyed-yogurt-combo

yogurt-with-rasberry-copy1


Devil’s cake

devil's cake

Odd enough, I’ve got sweet tooth, but never a huge fan of chocolate. Especially when it comes to cakes,  I almost never order a chocolate cake from cake shops, chocolate pave is the only variety I would make at home, and even that is after having had that amazing slice of bitter sweet chocolate pave at Chez Panisse. Pave is rich and dense as it’s made without flour, the chocolate cake base this time is one with large amount of flour, but surprisingly rich and moist! And with the generous layers of gooey nutty caramel and velvety bitter sweet chocolate ganache, it’s just the perfect chocolate cake. Devil’s cake–irresistible.

The recipe is adapted from Tartine’s cook book, it’s probably the most well spent culinary book I’ve ever bought! All recipes are so attempting and kitchen notes are so helpful! No wonder this book’s got the gold metal from James Beard Board, and hearted by Alice Waters.

devil's cake

devil's cake

devil's cake


omg…my long waited recipe…

passion-fruit-and-lime-bavarian-cake-1841

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.

passion-fruit-bavarian-cake1

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Strawberries…

strawberry-short-cake

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!

strawberry-short-cake-combo2


The final countdown of delicious chaos

lobster ravioli

It’s the final week of me spending enormous amount of hours in my tiny kitchen cooking up a storm before mom’s back. From next week, I’ll be mainly making desserts again. But I guess I’ll miss the days of delicious chaos.

I always have this fever for lobster, whenever there’s lobster dish on menu, I find myself ordering that nine out of ten times when dining out. Lobster itself is just luxurious, of course that doesn’t include the lousy ones at ‘Red lobster,’ although we still have occasional craving having lobster there when lobster pizza is available. The most intricate and delicious lobster creation I’ve ever had is from Thomas Keller’s French Laundry, and I do have his cook book on hand. Can you believe I served this wonderful delicacy on my own dining table? I really proud of the way it turned out!
Pure indulgence–all lobster meat filling with creamy Marscapone and chive, encased in a buttery chive crepe, served with rich, intense carrot, ginger emulsion, which started out from two pounds of carrots, and reduced down to no more than couple tablespoons of essence, enriched with tons of sweet butter.

lobster-ravioli-combo1

It’s a lobster feast indeed, I made three lobster courses in a row, the second one is luscious butter poached lobster with orzo in creamy lobster broth, Parmasan crisp and coral oil. The next day, I assemble a dish with all elements together: crepe ravioli, buttery lobster claw, carrot emulsion and lobster cream reduction–heaven, that is.
butter-poached-lobster

lobster-combo

parmasan-crisp

Oh, and more pix for the smoked salmon tartar on homemade buckwheat blini, with creme fraiche.

smoked-salmon-on-blini-combosmoked-salmon-on-blini-combo-2

we also had a simple smoked salmon crepe as a snack.

smoked-salmon-with-crepe

Sometimes, intensive labor of love make the best tasting food, but sometimes, simple rustic food is just as good as it gets. Like this super sweet starchy baked Japanese sweet potato we had on the other day.

baked Japanese sweet potato

This Sonoma chicken salad is my another all time favorite. I remember back in the States, it could easily be my lunch and dinner, and I just have to buy it from WholeFoods Market, but now, when I have the craving, I’ll have to make my own, luckily, it tastes even better!

sonoma-chicken-salad-combo

This is the most amazing Spanish Iberico ham I was talking about before…with salty and nutty Parmagiano Reggiano.

Spanish Iberico ham and Parmagiano Reggiano

I made my first roast pork with crackling this week, I used Gordon Ramsey’s recipe, and it’s such a lovely perfect dish.

pork loin with crackling

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Not much sweets this week, this is the one–green tea sheet cake roll with red bean cream.

red-bean-roll


Too much pork? Nah…

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!

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Easter week…without the bunny

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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.

grilled-pork-loin-and-tomato

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.

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Brussel sprouts, pancetta, chestnuts, German Riesling–all my all time favorite, four in one? Best eats!
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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!

best-japanese-ricemiso-cod-nobu-style

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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.

fried-rice-combo

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.

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.
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Here’s the recipe for the miso black cod-Nobu style: (more…


Shaved fennel salad with apple, creamy vanilla dressing

Shaved fennel salad with apple, creamy vanilla dressing

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!


Second week of me in charge of the kitchen!

red flower in sunlight

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!

Spanish Iberico pork chop

simple grilled Spanish Iberico pork chop

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.

sandwich with chicken, Spinach puree and Camembert

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!

Spiced pumpkin soup with honeyed cream

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.)

antipastI

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!

crispy risotto cake

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!

Simple stir fried green bean with cured olive leaves

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.

Hazelnut-ricotta crumble cake with blood plum and rasberry