Sunday, January 31, 2010

Harumi's Carrot and Tuna Salad

Just who is this "Harumi" whose name I have come across ever so often? Believe it or not, I've never bothered to find out. Until I saw this Carrot and Tuna Salad on Clare's blog. That was when I finally took the effort to google "Harumi" and learnt that she is Harumi Kurihara (栗原はるみ) - otherwise known as the Martha Stewart of Japan. Ooops.



Anyway, I was sold the moment I read Clare's glowing recommendation of this salad. Besides, it sounded so light and healthy ... exactly what I needed for a Sunday lunch. I've been going for one food tasting session after another for the past two weeks, with more to come, AND Chinese New Year is just around the corner! So, better reign myself in on weekends ... I do want to fit into my cheong sum, you know? ;)

Well, I am happy to say that this dish was as delicious as Clare described. Even better, it hardly needed any skill. My kind of dish!

All you need is some cutting and slicing and you're good to go. I am reproducing the recipe over here, with my own notes (in italics). Thanks Clare, for introducing this lovely salad to us and for finally opening up the world of Harumi to this frog in the well. ;P


Did you think all I had was that paltry portion in the first photo? No, no! I had a huge serving atop a bed of lettuce. All mine.

Recipe
(originally from Harumi Kurihara and adapted from Mrs Multitasker)
Serves 4
- 200g carrots, peeled
- 90g tinned tuna (I prefer using tuna chunks instead of flakes)
- 50g finely chopped onion (I used red onions, but I guess any type of onion will work. I also julienned them instead of finely chopping them for aesthetic reasons)
- 1 tsp chopped garlic (I minced this very finely)
- 1 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil

Dressing:
- 2 tbsp white wine vinegar (I used regular white vinegar)
- 1 tbsp mustard, preferably French grain mustard (I used Wasabi instead)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Soy sauce to taste
Note: I added a light drizzle of honey, for some sweetness. It balanced the tang of the vinegar nicely.

1. Cut the carrots into lengths of 5-6cm think juliennes.

2. Put them into a microwavable bowl and mix in the onions, garlic and sunflower oil. Cover and microwave for 1-1.5 minutes (600W).
Like Clare, I chose to stirfry instead, not because I don't have a microwave, but because I think it gives a more even distribution of heat. ;) Just cook to get rid of the raw taste of veggies, and stop. The veggies should remain crunchy.

3. Once the veggies are lightly cooked, put them onto a serving plate, add the drained tuna and then the dressing and toss to mix well.
I gave it a sprinkle of coarse black pepper. Next time, I will add toasted sesame seeds too, if I am not using whole grain mustard.

4. Serve hot or cold. I had it chilled.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

One On The Bund

Sometimes, I feel like a stranger in my own country. Last week must have been the first time in eons since I've set foot in Collyer Quay. To say the landscape has changed is an understatement. I was attending my second food tasting session organised by The Fullerton Heritage, and almost missed the place because I couldn't recognise the area!

The venue was One on the Bund, which occupies the now defunct Clifford Pier (红灯码头). This historical landmark, according to Wikipedia, was "built in 1933 ... and was a landing point for immigrants and other sea passengers."

What used to look like this:


Clifford Pier as I remember it.
(Photo courtesy of www.earthdocumentary.com)


... now looks like this:

The grand entrance of One on the Bund.

I couldn't believe my eyes. The entire place - and I mean, entire - has been converted into an upscale, fine dining Chinese restaurant. A cheongsum-clad waitress would stand poised at the towering glass doors, ready to welcome you. Step inside, and you are instantly transported back into a world of old Shanghai glamour. It was all terribly opulent and ostentatious, and the huge expanse of space, incredible. I must have uttered the word, "WOW!" a gazillion times.


The reception area, complete with giant warriors. Not your usual crowd-around-the-lectern set up. How's that for a first impression?


One of two waiting areas.



Big, bold, beautiful pieces of art adorn every nook ... every piece a creation of someone renowned. It's akin to dining in an art gallery, really. You'd see quirky touches like bird cages, firewood, lanterns and chinois-themed sculptures dotting the dining halls - a very eclectic collection. The interior concept and culinary direction are the brainchild of Calvin Yeung - owner, creative executive chef and designer extraordinaire.


Dining hall in front of the drinks bar.

At the far end of the main entrance is a drinks bar and another dining hall. The door opens out to an al fresco dining deck.


Here, you'll be able to dine with a view of the Marina Bay.



We were seated in a private dining room with a noodle bar. I found it a nightmare taking photos though, what with a reflective glass table and very dim lighting.


The three paintings which elicited three "WOWs!" from me.

I was struck by this series of paintings - so much fluidity and movement in them. At first glance, I thought the girl looked very familiar. Later, I had the privilege of meeting One on the Bund owner, Calvin, and when I commented how much I loved these paintings, he asked, "Don't you recognise her?"

"Well," I hesitated, "She does look a lot like Zhou Xun."

He broke into a wide smile and nodded.


Double-boiled mushroom soup.

Our first dish was a vegetarian soup - a medley of mushrooms. No seasoning ... just pure, unadulterated soup. You either like it or you don't, especially if you prefer rich, hearty ones. I quite enjoyed it. The mushrooms were meaty and succulent.



Next to our room, a fire was started to roast our Peking Duck. The wood chips - apple wood, if I remember correctly - are imported from Beijing.


The signature Peking Duck (order in advance).
Top left: The chef carving the duck.
Top right: The Peking Duck platter.
Bottom left: First time I tried dipping the skin in sugar. It was lovely!
Bottom right: The conventional way of eating Peking Duck.


In the meantime, the chefs were busy preparing our Red Thread Noodles (the colour comes from carrots). I thought they should be called Golden Thread Noodles, since they looked more golden than red. I must have been very hungry because I wolfed them down in a jiffy.


Top left: Preparing the hot water.
Top right: Making and cooking the noodles.
Bottom left: Ready to serve!
Bottom right: Freshly made noodles which were deliciously light and springy.



Eastern Sea Dragon (Braised Fish Fillets in a Chilli Broth).

Cooked on the spot, the fish was really fresh and firm to the bite. Just don't bite into the peppercorns like I accidentally did. :( Well, nothing a cup of Jin Sang Zi (Golden Throat) chinese tea (bottom right photo) cannot soothe. My only gripe is, since we weren't served any rice, two slices of fish is hardly filling, especially as a main dish.


The signature Crispy Lamb Ribs (order in advance).

I am not a fan of lamb, but I managed one rib. The skin was really crispy, and was the only part I could stomach. I've never fancied lamb because of the musky, gamey smell. I know lamb connoisseurs would say that the best lamb dishes have absolutely no smell. But I could smell this one the moment it was plonked in front of me.


Dessert was a blend of east and west.

There is a wide array of pastries available. Macarons, truffles, tiramisu, traditional Chinese pastries - you name it. I particularly enjoyed the Chinese pastries (top photo, in yellow) which had red bean and lotus paste centres, and were served warm. Equally enjoyable was the tiramisu, which came in a huge slab and generously drenched in liquer.



Overall, this is the place to come to if you want to impress. The posh interior will take care of that. You do need deep pockets though, for the prices are as extravagant as the decor. I can see myself coming here again, as long as I am not picking up the tab. ;) And this time, I would order rice.

One on the Bund
80 Collyer Quay
Clifford Pier
Tel: 6221 0004
For more information on their special menu offerings, visit One on the Bund's website here.

Much thanks to One on the Bund for this food-tasting session, and The Fullerton Heritage for facilitating it.

Related post:
FORLINO

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sugee Cake

Sugee Cake is a cake commonly served during festive occasions by the Chinese, Malay and Eurasian communities alike. Good thing too, for this is one heck of a calorie-laden, artery-clogging, heart attack-inducing cake. It's such a sweet and rich treat, you could get diabetic just looking at it. It is therefore imperative that you eat this cake sparingly ... and share! ;)



When I was little, I spent a lot of time at my grandparents' home. They lived right across the street from Chin Mee Chin Confectionary, a corner coffeeshop in Katong. This little piece of history has stood the test of time, with nary a change to its interior or menu. In fact, this is where many would agree, serves up the best kaya toast - a reputation formidably upheld since the 1950s.

My maternal grandparents, being Hainanese, were well-acquainted with the people at Chin Mee Chin, who were/are fellow Hainanese. In fact, they go way back to the time when my mother and her siblings were still youngsters.

My grandfather used to frequent the coffeeshop everyday, for years. He would sit and chat with his buddies till evening. Each time he returned, he would bring back bags of tasty cake ends or leftover pastries for us children to eat. Sugee Cake never failed to be included because it was, and still is, one of the signature cakes. You could say I grew up eating the best. Lucky me, I know.

Sadly, after my grandparents moved, they kept in touch less and less. Years later, my grandfather passed on, as did all his contemporaries, and it spelt the end of an era. But my grandmother is still alive, and for sure, she would get a superstar reception if she went back for a cuppa. The second generation at Chin Mee Chin still recognise my mom and her siblings, so all is not lost, I guess.


Crumbly and nutty!

Anyway, I wanted to try making Sugee Cake for Chinese New Year. I know it'll never be as good as the one I grew up eating, but I had to try it at least once. Some of the recipes I saw online were plain scary: FIFTEEN yolks! I almost fell off my chair. But then, that's why the best Sugee Cakes are so tender, because of the high proportion of yolks to whites.

So then I thought, why not try asking people I know? Someone might have a tried and tested recipe I could use. The first person I asked was Zurin, and not surprisingly, she had one on hand. In fact, it was her late aunt's recipe, one which her aunt had used to bake for sale. How generous is that?! I have the most wonderful blog friends. Ever.

*wipes tear*

If you want to read about the history behind this recipe, please hop over to Cherry on a Cake. Thank you so much, Zurin! It was a lovely, nutty, aromatic cake indeed.

Recipe
(as adapted from Cherry on a Cake)

- 250 gm butter, softened
- 250 castor sugar
- 125 self-raising flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 125 gm semolina flour
- 50 gm cashews, ground
- 1/3 cup evaporated milk
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tsp buttercream essence
- 5 eggs plus 1 yolk, the whole eggs separated

1. Preheat oven to 150 C,

2. Stir semolina flour, self-raising flour, baking powder and nuts together in a bowl and leave aside.

3. Separate all the eggs. Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time. Add cold milk, vanilla extract and buttercream essence and mix well.

4. In another bowl beat egg whites till stiff. Fold in flour mixture into creamed mixture. Then fold in beaten egg whites gently until well mixed.

5. Bake 150 C for 50-60 mins until skewer comes out clean.

Notes from The Little Teochew
~ I used a rectangular 6x9x3 inch pan.

~ I reduced sugar from 250 gm to 220 gm.

~ I did not beat the eggs separately and it still turned out ok.

~I used ground almonds instead of ground cashews.

~If you don't have buttercream essence use brandy instead or rose essence.

~ I increased the vanilla extract from 1 teaspoon to 1 1/2 teaspoons.

~ I have seen recipes where a pinch of cinnamon is added. Just a thought.

~ Tent the cake batter with foil because the high sugar content makes the cake brown too quickly.

~ For topping I used almond slivers. Gently sprinkle them over the cake batter before putting it in the oven.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Zaobao Interview (25 Jan 2010)

Would you believe it? Never in my life did I ever think I would be fielding interview questions as a food blogger, much less in a CHINESE language newspaper! Life's ironies, really.

The interview focused on how new immigrants change the food landscape of Singapore. Go to the end of this post if you want to read the full article in Chinese. Here are the snippets where I gave my 2-cents worth.


Zaobao Now (Crossroads section, page 1), Monday, 25 Jan 2010.
A loose translation of what I said in the top paragraph:
Like Ju of The Little Teochew said, "Food transcends barriers. Food brings people to together. Food is often the entry point to learning about a new culture."

And the bottom paragraph:
Ju, The Little Teochew, is a stayhome mom to 3 children, who blogs as a hobby. She said, New immigrants, by bringing their food (and culture) to Singapore, will invariably change the local dining landscape. We become more cosmopolitan as a result of having more food choices. As time goes on, these different food and flavours become uniquely Singaporean.


Just in case you think I did the interview in Chinese, I didn't. I gave my answers in English, via email. My Chinese needs all the help it can get.

So here's the shocker: I was a SAP school student. *runs and hides*

I studied Chinese as first language and scored nothing less than an A2 and B3 for my 'O' and 'A' level papers respectively. Heck, I even took Chinese Literature in Year 1 of Junior College. And look at me now. :( Sure, I can speak Chinese to save my life, but I can't express myself as fluently as I can in English. That's sad.

I'm a classic example of "use it or lose it" when it comes to languages. My teacher would kill me if he knew the dismal state my Chinese is in. That is, if he only knew how easy it is.

You see, he's my neighbour.

Nightmare, I tell you. To this day, he has no clue that I was his student (I no longer look geeky, yay!). We just smile and say hello when we meet. I don't have the heart to tell him. How would a teacher feel when he learns that his student has clean forgotten everything he has taught? He'll be so disappointed! So.

Sorry Mr L. It's not you. It's me. Let's just remain neighbours, OK?

Full article:
饮食博客寻寻觅觅 看“美味移民” 改变本地餐饮景观

赵琬仪 (2010-01-25)

  美食的价值在新加坡,不单纯是满足口腹之欲,也是对本地多元文化的礼赞。

  如果我们去追溯本地每一道美味菜肴的源头,不难发现,无论是100多年前莱佛士时代的狮城,或是踏入21世纪第二个10年的新加坡,这些奠定新加坡作为国际都会形象的美食,其中有不少最初蕴含的是移民的乡愁,以及融入新土地新生活所发挥的智慧。

  这些年来,来自四面八方的新移民,不仅将他们的家乡菜肴带入本地的酒店、餐馆,也走进深入民心的咖啡店、小贩中心和食阁。现在连网络世界也遍布这些“美味移民”的踪迹。《新汇点》邀请了3名在网上分享寻访美食、品尝美食经验的博客作者,谈谈新移民如何改变本地的餐饮景观。

  “我们习惯了不好的服务态度,觉得‘两块钱的食物,就不能嫌弃(服务差)’。但是新移民把家乡的服务文化带进来,他们多数会强调亲切周到的服务态度,让人感到宾至如归。”——美食博客黄宏安

  针对本地餐饮的“美味移民”,本地著名的饮食博客“ieatishootipost.sg”的作者郑春茂医生,一针见血地指出两个现象。

  郑春茂说:“新移民在本地开餐馆或担任厨师,有的是为了讨生活,而饮食业门槛低,容易入行,所以很多新移民从事餐饮行业。另外,有的是因为喜欢自己家乡的美味,也擅长烹煮,希望在陌生城市推广自己的所爱。谈论外来的美食,必须将这两个类别区分开。有些人会搞不清楚,以为日本人、意大利人掌厨,烹调出来的就必定味道道地,一定好吃,其实我们那些受过严格训练的专业厨师一样能烹调出外地菜肴的美味。”

  郑春茂(40岁)的正职是家庭诊所医生,他2006年开始设立博客,发表食物摄影作品及撰写寻访美食的发现。他喜欢在小贩中心寻找美食。问他喜欢哪些本地美食,他细数的都是多数新加坡人成长记忆中熟悉的蚵煎、炒粿条、虾面等。

  他举了个例子,假设有个新加坡人在外国开餐馆,来补充说明他对一些所谓“美味移民”的看法:“如果这个新加坡人和一般的新加坡人一样,平时都是在外用餐或吃家里人煮的饭菜,然后,他到了外国,就想尝试把自己平时吃的食品做给外国人吃,并称它们为道地的新加坡口味,你说那会有多好吃?”

  郑春茂还提出另一个观察。近年,本地出现很多标榜价廉物美的火锅店,以数目之众,形容为一股由新移民带来的火锅新热浪一点也不夸张。他认为这些由新移民开设的火锅店,照顾的是和他们一样是新移民“同乡”,本地顾客群并不是最初锁定的对象。它们用的一些食材,如家禽的内脏、脖子、舌头等,不一定合本地人口味,但却是新移民在家乡时平常不过的食品。换句话说,一些新移民把家乡味道带到异乡,最初极可能是为了迎合同乡对家乡味道的思念。他觉得,越是地道的味道,更需要时间融入新环境,被陌生的味蕾接受。

  从小笼包想起先辈移民故事

  然而,正如“The Little Teochew”(小潮州)博客作者Ju通过电邮受访时所说的:“美食无疆界。美食使陌生人聚集起来。品尝他人的家乡美味,也是学习一个新文化的起点。” 也有一些地道美食,具备“大众甜心”的特质,在家乡深受欢迎,离乡后一样容易受到外地人的喜爱。

  中国北方新移民在本地最深入民心的食品,可以说是十多年前带来的板面,以及近年的小笼包。

  郑春茂多次在他的博客介绍小笼包这北方小点,认为它已逐渐成为狮城常见的平民美食,不用上餐馆,在熟食中心一样能找到5元10个,皮薄汁甜,水平可媲美餐馆的小笼包。

  他在介绍牛车水熟食中心的小笼包时,联想到自己祖父辈的移民故事。这摊售卖北方食品的移民小贩,似乎在重复着新加坡早期移民的故事——离乡背井到陌生城市讨生活,赚了钱寄回家乡贴补家用,适应新环境后决定在此落地生根,把家人接过来,共享天伦,开创新天地。

  谈到新移民小贩除了带来美食,还带来了什么,郑春茂不假思索地说:“新移民令人赞叹的是,他们刻苦耐劳,有着和我们先辈一样的拼搏精神。我们新加坡人现在太安逸了,总想着轻松容易地完成一件事。”

  新移民精益求精的精神除了用在厨房功夫上,也发挥在待客之道上。

  在美食搜寻网站“HungryGoWhere.com”负责到处试菜的黄宏安(31岁),从开设餐馆的新移民所提供的亲切友善服务看到,他们对本地餐饮文化有了新刺激,让习惯了“比上不足比下有余”的 bad service(坏服务态度)的消费者多了具有素质的选择。

  黄宏安在新加坡出生,但有多年在外国生活,先后在印尼、法国、美国(包括夏威夷)生活学习。他说:“我们习惯了不好的服务态度,觉得‘两块钱的食物,就不能嫌弃(服务差)’。但是新移民把家乡的服务文化带进来,他们多数会强调亲切周到的服务态度,让人感到宾至如归。”

郑春茂在博客里写品尝美食的发现。

  对美食文化的执著

  不过,真正令美食家留下味蕾享受以外的深刻体会的是,一些新移民对于美食文化的坚持。通过他们对美食的热情,以及文化上的执著,食客品尝菜肴的同时,也在体验另一个文化、另一种生活的智慧。

  黄宏安举出克拉码头的印度餐馆”IVORY“为例,这家餐馆的特色,不是以南北分界的印度地方菜肴,而是印度南方海岸的特色烹调。通过食材、调味料的选择,烹调方式,让客人体验到印度文化的丰富多样,对“authentic”(原味)一词有更开阔的认识。

  郑春茂谈到自己所欣赏的新移民餐馆或熟食摊,有感而发地说:“他们是把自己文化带来给我们。”他名单中的“他们”,包括在德福巷 (Defu Lane)的印度煎饼熟食摊“Riyadh Muslim Food”;客纳街(Club St)的意大利餐馆Cugini,以及西海岸丰隆花园购物中心的日本料理食店Chako。

  他说,Chako的厨师是一名典型的日本家庭主妇奥川久子。她喜欢烹饪,即使开店做生意,仍坚持保持home cooking的慢工细货。“吃我煮的菜就是要等的。”到Chako用餐,客满时你便会听到这一句话。食物送到眼前,亲切的奥川久子还会细细叮咛,食物要慢慢吃,才好吃。

  Cugini则让他了解到pizza没有所谓的皮薄还是皮厚之分,食物的原汁原味来自厨师钻研厨艺的热情,以及材料的新鲜。

  “小潮州”的Ju是个全职家庭主妇,育有3个小孩,以撰写美食博客为兴趣,她说,新移民将他们的食物(文化)带来新加坡,必然会改变本地的餐饮景观。“更多的饮食选择使我们变得更加都市化。随着时间演进,这些不同的食物、味道将逐渐融入新加坡的特色。”

  近年,本地出现越来越多讲究地方特色的菜馆、食店。对美食爱好者来说,新移民不仅带来了丰富的选择,也促进饮食文化的细致化,推动新加坡餐饮景观更上一层楼。

  “如果客人要求我们改变食物风味,那么我觉得他们不是真的喜欢意大利食物。”——Gerri Sottile

  外来食品不应迁就本地口味

  何谓“新移民”?受访博客作者不约而同提出同样问题。郑春茂定义广泛,反映“新移民”身份多重的可能性。他认为“新移民是任何来到新加坡,决定无限期在此居住生活的外国人。”

  《新汇点》特别走访两户坚持发扬家乡口味的新移民,了解他们将外来口味介绍给本地人的经验,以此观照新加坡饮食文化特色。称之为“户”,因为每一户分别是由家庭成员,或是由青梅竹马的好朋友所组成的团队。

  贾利(Gerri Sottile,37岁)和茂罗(Mauro Muroni,37岁),同样来自意大利南部岛屿,前者生于西西里岛,后者在撒丁岛成长。他们2007年在本地罗拔申码头开设意大利餐馆,去年8月转移阵地,来到令他们缅怀家乡小镇氛围的客纳街,开设了Cugini意大利家庭料理餐馆。

  两人在意大利体验过摄氏45度的酷热夏天,所以认为新加坡常温气候其实非常舒适,即使以脚车代步也不觉得热。他们异口同声地说,已有申请成为永久居民的打算。

  这对从小一起长大,和贾利的祖母一起学习厨艺的好朋友,来新加坡前,在伦敦开设餐馆长达10年。后来经朋友引荐,才来到这里。

  贾利认为,新加坡人热爱美食,所以在此开设餐馆,引荐家乡味道,能够遇到“知音”。

  他相信喜欢美食的客人会尊重食物原味。有人主张外来食品应迁就当地口味,调整咸辣浓淡,他说:“如果客人要求我们改变食物风味,那么我觉得他们不是真的喜欢意大利食物。”

  Cugini的客人,外国人和本地人各占一半。有本地客人尝过他们自家调制的酱料,和新鲜制造的pasta及pizza后,一个星期光顾5次。贾利说,客人的行动是最有力的赞美。他们所坚持的意大利南部味道,让人尝过后意犹未尽。

  Cugini的菜肴特色,重视家庭料理讲究材料新鲜优质的传统,除了推荐意大利南方菜肴风味,也烹调没有南北之分的意式经典。

  茂罗指出,意大利南部菜肴在食材方面偏爱橄榄油及辣椒香料,北部则用较多牛油乳酪。

《联合早报》
(编辑:梁嘉芪)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

FORLINO

I have heard many rave reviews about FORLINO, so when the nice people at The Fullerton Heritage invited us bloggers for a food tasting session, I licked my chops and said, "Si, per favore!" For a mommy like me who is always cooking for others, it's nice to have someone else cook for me for a change. Especially when that someone is talented Chef Giuliano Dacasto.


To get to FORLINO, you first meander through a short flight of stairs and corridor. You'll find gleaming checkered marble flooring and ornate blue paneled walls all the way. Very palatial and luxe.


There's a small drinks area where you can sit back, relax and watch the world go by. That's The Fullerton Hotel across the street. See the lamp stand on the right? It has a machine gun for its stand. Very quirky!


Here's one of the two private function rooms.


A quick shot before other guests arrived. The decor of the restaurant was surprisingly staid compared to the theatrical stairway entrance. But when you notice the panoramic view in front of your eyes, you quickly realise the wisdom in keeping thing understated.


I spied tourists buying ice-cream along the promenade. :)


From where I was seated, I had an unblocked view of the soon-to-be complete Marina Bay Sands.


I got to meet 2 popular food bloggers - Catherine of Camemberu and Brad of ladyironchef. We shared the table with our dinner companions, as well as the lovely executives who hosted us.


Our menu for the evening was a preview of Forlino's Valentine's Day Set Menu. This will be available from 12-14 February, at the cost of S$128++ per person.

But first, something to drink.


(Note: drinks not included in the set menu). FORLINO has a cellar which houses a collection of very fine wines. I spotted in the Vino menu, a Château Mouton Rothschild (2000 Pauillac), which can be all yours for S$3300. I had a Dulcis (centre glass) - a syrupy, warming wine in the colour of deep copper. It came recommended per my preference for "something sweet". I also managed to sample the Moscato d'Asti (glass on the right) which I found to be a refreshing, sparkly drink. I liked it better than my own Dulcis, actually. Thankfully, and miraculously, I managed to stay sober despite being a pathetic (non)drinker. Cin cin, everyone! Hic.


~ Apertura ~
Amuse Bouche
This arrived quite quickly. Sashimi grade scallop, filleted paper thin. Sweet and smooth, with a sharp salty edge from the caviar. Delectable. Certainly, a precursor of even better things to come.


~ Insalata di Granchio Reale con Infiorescenze di Piselli Rucola Selvattica e Salsa di Melone ~
Jumbo Crab Salad with Sweet Pea & Wild Rucola Sprouts and Cantaloupe Sauce
The crab was meaty, sweet and superbly fresh. How I relished every bite. The cantaloupe sauce - whipped to a frothy foam - added a nice summery dimension.


~ Tortino di Barbabietole su Fonduta di Robiola ~
Beetroot Cake with Robiola Cheese Fondue
Unfortunately, this didn't get the popular vote. It was rich and heavy - probably from the potent combination of cow, goat and sheep cheeses ... a tad too much after a few bites. It also strangely reminded us of luncheon meat. None of us managed to finish it. Perhaps a smaller portion might be the answer?


~ Tagliolini al Nero con Zabaione ai Ricci di Mare e Pomodorini Semi Caniti ~
Homemade Squid Ink Taglionlini with Sea Urchin Sabayon and Semi Dried Cherry Tomatoes
Oh, this was beautiful. What a difference fresh pasta makes. The tagliolini had a slight chewy bite, not found in commercially made versions. The sea urchin sabayon was superb. The sabayon was tempered to a perfect velvety consistency and coated each strand of pasta like a dream. Every mouthful had hints of sweet, salty and spicy. Delish!

Next, came the mains. For the set menu, you'd have to choose between Cod or Beef Tenderloin. But since this was a food tasting session, lucky us got to sample both.


~ Merluzzo Nero con Asparagi, Salsa di Arance Sanguinelle e Olive Disidratate ~
Black Cod Filet with Asparagus and Sicilian Blood Orange Sauce
Fresh, firm Black Cod from the Atlantic ... it was as fresh as fresh can be. Lightly pan seared, with the skin blistered to a crisp, and paired with a delicate, citrusy sauce. My kind of sauce ... loved it. I was short of licking the platter clean.


~ Filetto di Angus Prime con Radicchio Candito e Salsa di Fegato Grasso al Porto ~
Angus Prime Beef Tenderloin with Goose Liver & Port Wine Sauce and Radicchio
Everyone unanimously agreed that this dish was outstanding. Except me. I don't eat beef, so the chef prepared something special for me. Here it is:


~ Terrina di Melanzane e Scamorza con Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale ~
Eggplant and Smoked Scamorza Terrine with Aged Balsamic Vinegar

Pretty as a picture. The scamorza was meaty, savoury and smoky ... a perfect complement to the eggplant. I almost (I said, almost) couldn't bear to destroy this lovely creation. Just look at the plating! Balsamic vinegar dotted along like thread stitches. And the flowers! Almost every dish had some sort of floral embellishment. Exquisite presentation.


~ Mousse Bicolore di Yogurt e Fragole con Salsa di Menta e Cioccolato ~
Strawberry & Yogurt Mousse with Peppermint Chocolate Sauce
I finished this with gusto. I usually don't order yogurt mousse if I can help it, because if done wrongly (too much sour, too little sweet), it could taste like puke. But this one had the right balance. I couldn't detect the peppermint in the chocolate sauce though. And I thought the scattered pop rocks was such a cute, clever idea. Brought back many childhood memories there!


~ Caffe e Piccola Pasticceria ~
Coffee & Petit Fours
These were a nice way to end the meal. The meringues were my favourite. I could have eaten another plate if it was offered to me. I washed them down with a cup of freshly-brewed, unsweetened tea.

And so ended a meal most memorable. For the 3.5 hours that we wined, dined and chatted at FORLINO, it was truly, la dolce vita.

FORLINO will be offering the above Valentine's Day Set Menu from 12-14 February, at the cost of $128++ per person. For reservations, contact:
FORLINO
One Fullerton
1 Fullerton Road
#02-06

Singapore 049213
Tel: (65) 66877-6995


Much thanks to Fulvia & Merissa (from The Fullerton Heritage/The Fullerton Hotel) and Lyla (Ate Communications) for hosting us, as well as FORLINO, for the beautiful dining experience.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Pandan Roasted Chicken

Roast chicken was the reason why I bought an oven in the first place. It was in 2006, I think, when I bought this tiny 21L Tefal oven. My first oven! I wanted to cook more oven-roasted meals to save time and energy (washing up). But oftentimes, I would see it sitting idle, and I would try baking cakes and cookies to maximise its usage. That's how I started baking. But that's another story for another day.

Anyway, my sister came over during the weekend to see my kids. I made oven-roasted chicken, one of her favourite dishes. For the longest time, I have been roasting chicken using only salt and (stuffed with) garlic. See the recipe here. It's delicious, but experience has emboldened me, and I've since tweaked this trusty recipe to seek new flavours.



Once, when I had an abundance of pandan leaves leftover from a failed baking project, I used them as stuffing for the chicken. Two huge bunches, stuffed into the cavity and sealed shut with a toothpick. The aroma was out of this world. The best moment was when the roasting was done and it was time to undo the toothpick. As I removed the leaves, the sudden release of intense, intoxicating pandan just hit me ... sweet-scented, swirling, spirally, steaming ... incredible.

That's what I made today - Pandan Roasted Chicken. You do need a lot of leaves, though. Make sure you stuff in as many leaves as you possibly can, for they soften and wilt during cooking. Salt the chicken (1 level tbsp salt) and you're good to go.

One thing that I discovered was that you don't need to pat the chicken dry prior to baking. I always thought this was a crucial step in getting crispy skin. It's not.

Initially, I would diligently pat and pat dry using serviette after serviette. I felt this was terribly environmentally unfriendly. So, I switched to air drying (like making cured hams) before roasting.



One day, I decided enough was enough, and I should see if I could get the same results without all this drying. If it was marginally less crispy, heck, I could live with it. Surprise, surprise! It was no different than before. Crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside. So, ditch the paper serviettes, ditch the drying, save the trees! You heard it from me first. :) Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Since then, I have always roasted chicken without any fuss. And I still get a golden crackling crisp, as you can see from these photos. :)



Recipe
For the chicken
- Preheat the oven to 240 degree celsius (I heat to 260 for my cranky oven)
- Wash the chicken, set aside.
- Wash pandan leaves and bundle them. Stuff as many as you can into the cavity of the chicken.
- Seal with a toothpick.
- Rub the entire chicken using 1 level tbsp of salt.
- Place it breast side up on a lightly oiled tray (I use 2 drops of oil and rub all over the surface). It prevents sticking since I don't use teflon.
- Roast for about 1 hour.
- If your oven does not have a rotisserie function like mine, you have to turn the bird the other side up to get even browning both sides. I do this 6-8 mins before the timer goes off, just for the skin on the underside to brown.
- Take the bird out of the oven and allow it to rest, for the juices to redistribute - about 15mins.

For the gravy
- Through a sieve, pour whatever juices and oils collected from roasting into a saucepan. This will remove the charred bits.
- Add some flour to it (about 2 tsps or more if you want it thicker) and whisk everything into a roux. Let the roux bubble for about 15 seconds just to get rid of the flour-y taste.
- Add some chicken stock and bring everything to a boil, till the gravy thickens. Sometimes I add cream, if I have it.
- Optional: add a dash of sherry or cognac.
- Ready to serve!


Pan-roasted Brastagi potatoes, sautéed Buna Shimeji mushrooms and gravy.

I made a side serving of roasted potatoes and Buna Shimeji mushrooms. Everything was cleaned out. :) I'm glad everyone enjoyed their Sunday brunch.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Pineapple Tarts (Buttery Melt-In-Your-Mouth Pastry)

If you have read my posts here and here, you will know that I was on the quest to find a buttery, flaky, melt-in-your-mouth Pineapple Tart pastry. I scoured the Internet for recipes based on your wonderful recommendations, took what I liked, omitted what I didn't, and concocted a recipe that worked for me.



I love butter. God knows how much. I wanted my pineapple tarts to have a distinct, unadulterated flavour of butter. I didn't want any other ingredients like cream, milk powder, margarine or cream cheese to distract me from real butter. Many recipes use these additional ingredients to achieve a melt-in-the-mouth texture. Don't get me wrong, they DO work. I have tried them myself. But. I wanted only butter.

Brands like Golden Churn, SCS and Lurpak came highly recommended, in that order. I chose SCS because it had an unsalted version which I couldn't find in Golden Churn. I still prefer using unsalted butter for baking. As for Lurpak, I agree it is a good brand of butter, but but but ... SCS was on offer! 'Nuff said.

Next, the recipes which spoke to me. I liked what I saw at Delicious Asian Food. The moment I read the first sentence, "My mother-in-law bakes awesomely delicious pineapple tarts ..." I was sold. I am terribly partial to any recipe that has been handed down from someone's mother-in-law, mother, aunt or grandmother. Besides, the recipe was extremely basic - flour, butter, eggs, sugar and water. Exactly what I was looking for.

Another recipe which caught my eye was from Do What I Like, for the simple reason that it called for 1/2 tsp of brandy (or pure vanilla extract). Why didn't I think of it?! Brandy always enhances the taste of baked goods.

Now, if you have made shortbread pastry, you will know that the handling of the dough is key. Overworking the dough will ruin everything, even if you have the best recipe. So remember, work the dough gently, and you can achieve a wonderful buttery, flaky texture with the most basic of ingredients.



Recipe for Pastry
(adapted mainly from Delicious Asian Food)
- 400g plain flour*
- 50g corn flour
- 1/4 (heaped) tsp salt
- 280g cold, unsalted butter (do not allow it to soften)
- 3 egg yolks, beaten
- 3 tbsp cold water (or iced water)
- 6 tbsp icing sugar**
- 1/2 tsp cognac or pure vanilla extract
- For glaze, mix 1 egg yolk + 1 tbsp water

* Note that the original recipe called for 450g plain flour. I changed it to 400g plain flour + 50g corn flour to make the dough more "melty".

** The recipe called for 4 tsp castor sugar. I used 6 tbsp icing sugar in its stead. I read somewhere that icing sugar helps soft pastry dough keep their shape during baking.


1. Sift the flours, icing sugar and salt. Mix well to combine.

2. Using the pointed ends of a fork, rub the butter into the flour until it looks like fine bread crumbs. If necessary, use fingertips to continue rubbing lightly the bigger pieces into finer pieces. Basically, just scrape / flake the butter with your forks. You essentially want to coat the butter crumbs in flour. Using forks prevents the cold butter from melting since there is no contact with heat. If you want to rub the butter into the flour using your hands, make sure you use only your fingertips.



3. Beat together egg yolks, cold water and cognac (or vanilla extract). Add it into the butter-flour mixture. Using your finger tips, gently coax all the crumbs into one large dough ball. Do not knead. As long as all the crumbs come together, stop. Chill in the fridge for about 10mins, covered.



4. Roll out to desired thickness (mine was about 8mm thick). Cut out dough using cutter. Arrange neatly onto baking tray, with at least 1.5cm apart. Since this is a very buttery, oily pastry, it would be good to use a small portion at a time. Keep the rest covered in the fridge, otherwise it will ooze oil.

5. Once you have arranged the tart shells on your tray, glaze them (the entire surface, not just the rims).

6. Place the pre-rolled pineapple jam balls onto the centre of each tart shell.

7. Bake at 160°C for 20 minutes, turning the tray halfway through baking. According to the original recipe, when placing jam onto the pastry, take caution not to smear jam onto the sides as this will easily “burn” and render the sides of the pastry (the flowery design) darker. I did not have a problem with this because I used a very sticky, dry jam.

More notes from The Little Teochew:
~ This recipe yields about 96 tarts.

~ I tried baking 2 batches - one using cognac, the other using pure vanilla extract. They were both equally aromatic. So, no real need to use cognac. But do use a good quality vanilla extract.

~ I decided to be hardworking and glazed all the tarts. The egg wash helped make the pastry "studier" during baking. This pastry has a tendency to puff and expand a little. Also, glazing makes the colour a little more golden, a little more festive. ;)

~ Always pre-roll your pineapple jam before making the pastry. I like to pre-roll the day before.



~ Chill your pastry. It's much easier to work with it. I chill my pastry dough, always. The only time it didn't do a thing for me was the Kue Nastar episode. Maybe it was the addition of margarine.

~ If you are not averse to lard, you can try adding some lard oil. Lard always gives that additional oomph to pastries. Someone left a comment to say that the best Pineapple Tarts he/she has ever eaten was made using lard. I have heard this many times and I believe this 100%.

~ I mentioned in previous posts that I buy ready-made pineapple jam. For my readers in Singapore, buy the one from Red Man. It costs $4.60 at Phoon Huat, as compared to the generic house brands which cost $3.40. The difference is that for Red Man, only ripe pineapples are used. The cheaper brands mix both ripe and unripe ones together. Hence the difference in price. I got this bit of information when I queried the staff. A friend told me that she got her jam from Ailin Bakery House. Apparently, they use Sarawak pineapples.

~ As to the question a few people asked: "What happened to all the tarts that were made as experiments? Where did they go?" Well, some of them were eaten by us (mostly my kids). The others, I packed and gave them to close friends and neighbours, who I know wouldn't mind eating my cast-offs. LOL.



I hope you like this recipe. If it works for you, I'm happy. If it doesn't, there are tons of other recipes out there. You're bound to find something you'll like! :)

Happy baking!