Wednesday, December 22, 2010

All-In-One White Sauce & Seasons Greetings

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Panfried Cream Snapper Fillet with Delia Smith's All-In-One White Sauce.

Among all the female TV chefs, I admire Delia Smith most. I remember watching her shows a long time ago, and being captivated by her posh British accent, her shiny kitchen utensils and that bright airy kitchen. Plus, she had a way of making everything look effortless.

Back then, my young self knew we were kindred spirits when she said, in an episode on Eggs, that she liked to leave sunny side-ups in the pan slightly longer, because she liked "the sides to be a little crusty". Exactly how I like my eggs done. ;) I never quite forgot that episode, you know.

Then came the explosion of TV chefs on the small screen and while I loved seeing new faces like ahem, David Rocco and Tyler Florence (is it just me or is it getting hot in here?), I always had Delia at the back of my mind. So in what could possibly be my last recipe of 2010, I decided to go back to my first love, and to basics, and made a versatile All-in-one White Sauce.

Thank you Delia. You will always be the ultimate Domestic Goddess to me.

(taken entirely from Delia Online and to be read out loud in your poshest British accent, thank you very much!)

1. This speeded-up version is even easier than using a packet. The quantities given will make enough for 4 people. You will need 15 fl oz (425 ml) milk, which can be infused to give a subtle background flavour to the sauce (you just need to place a bay leaf, a blade of mace, 10 whole black peppercorns, a slice of onion, and a few chopped parsley stalks in a saucepan with the milk). Bring the milk up slowly to simmering point, remove from the heat and leave it to infuse until the milk is cold.

Note fom The Little Teochew: You can be creative and infuse the milk with pretty much anything you like! I used a bay leaf, a wedge of onion, and a light sprinkling of organic Herbes de Provence. The herbs are 100% organic and come courtesy of Honest Vanilla.

I just had to show you these ... herb jars that stick to my refrigerator door!

2. It is very important to ensure that the milk is absolutely cold, because if it isn't the sauce will go lumpy, so leave it to cool completely. Strain it back into the saucepan, discarding any flavourings you have used, and add ¾ oz (20 g) flour and 1½ oz (40 g) butter. Always use plain or sauce flour and not self-raising.

3. Bring the sauce gradually up to simmering point, whisking continuously with a balloon whisk. The starch grains in the flour burst and collapse at boiling point, and become gelatinous. If a good deal of vigorous whisking is going on, these collapsed granules get distributed evenly throughout resulting in a smooth, thickened sauce, exactly the same as a traditional roux method sauce. There's only one other rule apart from determined whisking, and that is the fat content: it's the flour blended with the fat that ensures lump-free results, so never attempt to blend hot liquid and flour without the presence of fat, as this is what causes lumps. It is all quite straightforward, a case of once you understand the rules, lumps should never occur. But so what? If you do happen to slip up on the rules or get distracted, then don't forget why sieves were invented.

4. The sauce never looks thick enough when it first comes up to simmering point. Do not panic but be patient, as it will continue to thicken as the raw taste of the flour is cooked out over the gentlest possible heat for 5 minutes. So remember when you use flour in a sauce, although it will thicken to a smooth creaminess very quickly, it then has to be cooked. The only exception is if you're going to continue to cook the sauce in the oven, as in a lasagne, for example, which means you can cut this initial cooking to 2 or 3 minutes.
Note from The Little Teochew: Taste test here. At this point, I decided a dash of sea salt would be nice.

5. If you want to make the sauce in advance, the best way to prevent a skin from forming, place some cling film directly over the surface, then either keep it warm by placing it over a pan of barely simmering water or, if you want to make it a long way ahead, re-heat it using the same method and don't remove the cling film until you are ready to serve. If you find it has thickened a little, this is easy to rectify by adding a little more liquid – milk, stock, or cream – to bring it back to the right consistency.

6. Now that you have a basic sauce it opens the doors to many variations such as adding a squeeze of lemon juice and some chopped fresh dill to be served with fish, or chopped fresh parsley to accompany fish cakes. Alternatively you can make a lighter sauce by not using all milk but instead using half stock – or even half wine or cider. Also if you were poaching or baking smoked haddock or any other fish in milk for instance, you could halve the quantity of milk in the recipe and replace the other half with the fish poaching liquid – provided it's completely cold.

Sauce ready, now on to my main dish. I used cream snapper fillets.

These fillets were defrosted, patted dry, lightly salted and panfried in butter and oil.

Once panfried to a golden brown, leave it to cool. The trick to getting this slightly charred, crisp-around-the-edges result is to ensure you have a very hot pan, and avoid - at all costs - moving the fillets for at least 4 to 5 mins (depending on thickness). You should only touch the fillets once, and that is when you flip them over. The total cooking time for these fillets took me 8 or 9 mins. About 2 mins before taking them out of the pan, I added a tiny splash of Chardonnay. As the alcohol cooks off, the sweetness of the wine will linger on the fish. Just remember to temporarily remove the pan from the stove as you are adding the alcohol. You don't want to start a fire!

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Plate your dish and add the white sauce when ready to serve. I had a tray of potatoes roasting in the oven, but they couldn't make it for this photo shoot because the sun was setting. Haha!

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So there. My recommendation on how to serve this All-In-One White Sauce. Do you like it? :) My daughter certainly did. She had sauce with everything, even the roasted potatoes!

And on a side note, look what I have here - Moscato d'Asti! I was doing groceries when I came face to face with bottles of these. My heart skipped a beat. Oh, I remember drinking this at Forlino, and although I bought Australian Moscato to try, they were just not the same as the Italian version. I promptly grabbed a bottle ... this would be perfect for my Christmas Eve dinner. There will be a sushi platter, cheeses and fruit with crackers, a vegetable curry, noodles, finger food, and other things I haven't quite decided yet.

Well, I do believe I will eat, drink and make merry for whatever's left of 2010 ... so this blog will be on a holiday too. I want to take this chance to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. If you have been a silent reader all these while, come out and say hello already! :D

Finally, thank you for coming along on my kitchen, dining and travel adventures. 2010 has been a fabulous year for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed journaling and photographing every single post. And through it all, I hope I have, in one way or another, brought some inspiration and cheer to you.

Happiness & Peace to all!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tapau With Tupperware (3)

For this third and final instalment of my Tapau With Tupperware review, I experimented using the Noodle Holder for my breaded fish. The coffeeshop near my home sells really good western-style dishes, and I would often buy back a couple of their fish fillets on days I don't feel like cooking.

The challenge in buying back breaded fish is that you want to keep it warm but still crispy. This was what I did:

I placed the fish fillet in the Noodle Holder and put on the cover ...

... but opened the vent cap. So, even though the cover was on, the steam from the piping hot fish could escape. This prevented the breaded fish from becoming soft and soggy. Similarly, the perforated Noodle Holder allowed circulation within the container, so that the bottom of the fillet also kept crispy. Pretty nifty, huh?

I tore a few chunks to try after taking these photos, and indeed, it really was warm and crisp. Taste test: Pass!

On the whole, I had a favourable experience using this Tupperware Tapau Set. The Noodle Holder, in particular, is a brainwave. Me like! Do check out my previous 2 Tupperware posts here and here. Remember, BYO is ECO!

This post is sponsored by Tupperware Singapore. The opinions expressed are 100% mine. No photos or text may be reproduced without seeking prior permission. For more information on the Tupperware Tapau Set, please visit their website here. All information provided is accurate as of press time.

The Tupperware Tapau Set retails at S$49. Here are contacts if you want to purchase it in Singapore:
Bedok 98237122
Bukit Batok 93685252
City, Maxwell Road 98420690
Jurong East 96172683
Tampines 67898133
Toa Payoh 96335008
Woodlands 92711406
Yishun 97816521

Saturday, December 18, 2010


I'll be honest ... I hesitated coming to KINKI for this invited food review. I was nervous eating local Japanese food again. The dining experience I had in Japan was precious and I did not want to sully those memories with food (and service) that could possibly disappoint.

But LeRoy (yes, that Hungry Cow) of FoodNews promised a small, cosy gathering with fellow blogger friends who I really wanted to touch base with. So I went. And I am thankful I did.

Two things struck me instantly when I stepped into KINKI.

One, the graffiti on the walls. Edgy, funky, quirky. Very Harajuku, no?

Two, the magnificent view.

But it was when I saw the sushi bar that I really got excited. I immediately had a good feeling about the meal ahead.

I later learnt that they fly in their seafood not once, not twice, not thrice, but FOUR times a week! Impressive (and very assuring for nervous me).

Fresh, fresh, fresh!

That red, glistening one is the Kinki fish キンキ (you can do a Google translate here). Kinki is also a region in Japan - commonly known as Kansai - of which the prefectures of Osaka, Kyoto and Nara belong to. My favourite region. :)

Here's what we had:

(Included in Christmas Eve set menu) Appetiser: Foie Gras on toastlet with ginger & yuzu. I don't eat meat, so they very kindly did a substitute.

This was my substitute for the foie gras - Tai Carpaccio with truffle dressing and shio konbu. Made in heaven. That autumn leaf ... Memories. Flooding. Back.

(Not included in set menu) Momotaro tomato with ginger sesame dressing for everyone to share. {$16}

(Included in Christmas Eve set menu) Appetiser: Assorted Sashimi (what's shown here is a portion for 2). Again, superb. Fresh as fresh can be!

(Not included in set menu) An extra plate of Tai Carpaccio with truffle dressing and shio konbu for sharing. They do this dish incredibly well. I couldn't get enough of it. {$30}

(Included in Christmas Eve set menu) Appetiser: Sushi of Kajiki, Salmon, Hiramasa, Hirame. You can't go wrong ordering the raw items here. Note that the sushi on the left is Foie Gras & Scallop Sushi, and is not part of the set. It comes at $22 per 2 pieces.

(Included in Christmas Eve set menu) Appetiser: Soft shell crab maki & pork floss maki (what's shown here is a portion for 2).

(Not included in set menu) Kinki Style Okonomiyaki. Basically, a pizza of Hokkaido scallops, prawns, apple wood smoked bacon, sweet onions and mozzarella. Portion for sharing. {$24}

Now the mains! You can choose between Ginger Teriyaki of US prime beef ribeye OR Hokkaido milk poached white cod with crispy ginger. Both come with a serving of steamed rice.

(Included in Christmas Eve set menu) Hokkaido milk poached white cod with crispy ginger. Cod as white as snow! I almost thought it was a piece of tofu at first. It was exquisite - loved it!

This was the delectable sauce the chef whipped up for me - balsamic vinegar with truffle oil. Heady, syrupy and to-die-for.

(Not included in set menu) We all sampled different drinks, and these were the ones I tried - all refreshingly good.
(Left) Doraemon Cream - a tropical combo of Blue Curacao, coconut syrup, pineapple juice and fresh milk. {$10}
(Centre) Japanese Pear Martini - an lovely drink indeed! Ladies will like this. Belvedere, orange liqueur and pear syrup. {$20}
(Right) Specially mixed upon my request - a citrusy concoction of yuzu, apricot and peaches! It was a wonderful palate cleanser in between courses.

Here's KINKI as the evening passed ... packed on a Wednesday night (and I hear, for lunch too). I would highly recommend reservations. There was happy chatter everywhere, and ever so often, you would hear people from different tables burst into infectious laughter. Such was the laidback, friendly vibe.

And finally, dessert!

(Included in Christmas Eve set menu) Black sesame ice-cream, yuzu sorbet, mochi and candied azuki beans. As always, for me, black sesame ice-cream ... bliss. Note: For the actual set, it's a black sesame and mochi parfait.

Afterward, we took a peek upstairs, at the rooftop. They were putting on the finishing touches - to simulate the streets of Japan - in time for the festive season. This is where you can come up for drinks and snacks, and take in the amazing view of Marina Bay.

They er, raised the red lanterns for us.

More graffiti! I think they add a lot of character to the place.

The view across. Look to the left of this photo. It's the Fullerton Bay Hotel, and I believe, that's someone's room. Draw the curtains, already! ;)

70 Collyer Quay
#02-02 Customs House
Singapore 049323
T: +65 6533 3471
F: +65 6533 3473

For Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve respectively, the menus are priced as follows:
* 24 Dec ~ 3-course set dinner @ $128++ with a glass of wine;
* 31 Dec ~ 3-course set dinner @ $168++ with a glass of champagne.
To take a look at the menus, click here.

Opening hours for both festive nights:
Kitchen opens from 6pm to 11pm (last order for food);
Bar Opens (restaurant and rooftop) from 6pm to 3am.

Huge thanks to Ivy and LeRoy of
FoodNews and Germaine of Refinery Concepts, for your amazing hospitality, and to KINKI for the impeccable, first-rate dinner (and service).

Do hop over to my friends' blogs - a 1/2 Food Blog, Camemberu and Keropokman - for their take on KINKI.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Chocolate Cupcake "Ice-creams"

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I've been spending a lot of time on myself. The time I spent in Japan forced me to stay away from the Internet and I loved the separation. It was refreshing - liberating, even - and it was high time. Life shouldn't revolve around Blogging, Tweeting and Facebooking (in that order).

Since the school hols are not going to last forever, I am taking the chance to live it up! I have been reading, exercising, taking my children out, chilling with friends, pampering myself with all the beauty stuff I bought from Japan, and yes, SLEEPING! La dolce vita. :)

But the other day, my daughter suddenly asked for cake. Cake? Why the sudden request? Well, she said, you haven't baked any in a while.


So, I cleared the cobwebs from my poor, neglected oven (I haven't been in the kitchen in a long, long time) and baked these adorable Chocolate Cupcake Ice-creams. Thankfully, they turned out fine. I haven't lost it. Not yet.

(by Donna Hay)

For the chocolate cupcakes
- 125g butter, softened
- 1/2 cup (125ml) milk
- 3/4 cup (165g) caster (superfine) sugar
- 100g dark chocolate, melted
- 2 eggs
- 16 storebought flat base ice-cream cones*
- 1 1/4 cups (190g) plain (all-purpose) flour
- 80g dark chocolate, extra, chopped
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 16 glace cherries (I opted for raspberries)
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder

For the chocolate butter cream icing
- 250g butter, softened
- 2 cups (320g) icing (confectioner's) sugar mixture, sifted
- 1/2 cup (50g) cocoa powder, sifted
- 2 tablespoons milk

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I deliberately made this one with less frosting, so that you can see a hint of cake peeking out.

1. Preheat oven to 160°C (320°F). Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until light and creamy. Gradually add the eggs and beat well after each addition. Sift over the flour, baking powder and cocoa and beat until combined. Fold through the milk and stir in the chocolate. Place the ice-cream cones on a baking tray and place a piece of the extra chocolate in the base of each cone. Spoon the cupcake mixture into the cones* and bake for 20–25 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Allow to cool.
* You need to fill the cones up quite a bit. Leave about 1cm to 1.5cm gap from the rim. Be careful not to have any batter drip onto the outside or it will burn.

Strictly NO sprinkles for me, and I am glad Donna Hay's recipe called for glacé cherries. Just because they are baked in ice-cream cones doesn't mean they have to look juvenile. I used Valrhona chocolate for these cupcakes, for crying out loud, and I have got to be NUTS to ruin it all with s-p-r-i-n-k-l-e-s. Good grief, no. Raspberries it will be.

2. To make the chocolate butter cream icing, place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 6–8 minutes or until pale and creamy. Add the icing sugar mixture, cocoa powder and milk and beat for a further 6 minutes or until light and creamy. Pipe the icing onto the cupcakes using a star-shaped nozzle and top with the glacé cherries to serve. Makes 16.

Oh, and speaking of raspberries ... every time I see them, I think of the Ispahan. :) I can't help but share this gorgeous Ladurée 2011 calendar I got from Japan. It came as a free gift with a fashion magazine.

Pretty, right?

This is my favourite page (and month) - December! I am going to keep it as a momento.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Tapau With Tupperware (2)

Following my previous Tupperware post, I decided to put to test the unique Noodle Holder on something else - chee cheong fun (steamed rice flour rolls).

I used to crave this a lot when I was pregnant with my third child, and would often polish some for breakfast with hot soya milk. Usually, I would eat this fresh at the market, because I hate diving into a packet of clumpy, soggy chee cheong fun that has soaked up all the brown sauce. No, thank you.

This morning, armed with my new Tupperware Tapau Set, I asked the nice lady at the stall to place the chee cheong fun on the Noodle Holder, and ladle the brown sauce in the Crystalwave bowl below.

Here's how it looked when I got home:

The rolls were still springy and slightly warm. However, if I really wanted to reheat them, all I needed to do was chuck the entire dish into the microwave for a quick zap (yes, the set is microwave safe).

I mixed the sauce in only when I was ready to eat. Taste test: Pass! It tasted exactly as it would have, if I had eaten at the market.

One thing I noticed was that the containers get "seasoned" the more I use. Initially, I found the covers rather stiff, and had some trouble pressing them shut. But now that I am into my second week of using this set, they are a lot more manageable. Even the Grip n Go Cariolier is easier to snap on and off. Happy things to note!

This post is sponsored by Tupperware Singapore. The opinions expressed are 100% mine. No photos or text may be reproduced without seeking prior permission. For more information on the Tupperware Tapau Set, please visit their website here. All information provided is accurate as of press time.

The Tupperware Tapau Set retails at S$49. Here are contacts if you want to purchase it in Singapore:
Bedok 98237122
Bukit Batok 93685252
City, Maxwell Road 98420690
Jurong East 96172683
Tampines 67898133
Toa Payoh 96335008
Woodlands 92711406
Yishun 97816521

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Japan 2010 - A Meal To Remember

The evening air was turning chilly as we made our way back to the serviced apartment. It had been a long day of sightseeing and the children were visibly tired. We decided that the best option would be to eat in for dinner.

We made a quick stop at the noodle place around the corner, where the Husband bought bowls of hot, soupy soba to take away. I immediately decided that since everyone was happy staying in, I would venture out for sushi on my own. :) Yes, it would be the perfect opportunity to look for that traditional, tiny sushi restaurant ... the type Anthony Bourdain searched for in No Reservations Japan.

As my brood noisily slurped on their soba, I slipped on my coat and made my exit. I was going out alone ... and I was thrilled to bits!

The sky had visibly darkened by then. I looked at my watch - 6.45pm. I had to find a place fast, before the hungry, office crowd descended upon the eateries. I was, after all, in bustling Shinjuku.

I knew from our previous walkabouts in the area, that there were no sushi bars ... so I decided to look where we usually didn't go. Luck was with me. Shortly after I took a new turn, I spotted the words 寿司 (sushi) on a bright signboard. Oh yes!

My heart raced as I stood on the outside. There was nothing to give an indication of who or what was in there. What if - heaven forbid - it was actually a rowdy, male-dominated eatery?! Well then, I would just not go in.

I took a deep breath and pushed the old wooden sliding door ajar. In there stood an elderly couple - a sushi chef and his wife.

"Irasshaimase!" they chorused, looking slightly startled.

Momentarily, my mind went blank. The place was devoid of customers, and the couple looked like they were still doing last minute prepping. Oh dear, was I too early? But it was almost 7pm!

"Err ... c a n - I - e a t - n o w?" I blurted, fully aware that it was not the most elegant way of expressing myself. *face palm*

"Hai! Hai!" they beckoned for me to sit at the counter, and like an obedient child, I did.

I took a furtive glance around. The place was old, cramped and reeked of stale tobacco ... exactly the type of sushi bar I wanted to be in.

"Menu!" chirped the lady boss, as she handed me a tattered booklet. Thank god they understood and spoke a smattering of English. I turned the page and was relieved to see photos. Yes, photos! That would spare me some painful charades.

A quick browse through, and I was ready to do my usual point-and-order. The chef nodded, and got down to work.

"Sumimasen ... c a n - I - t a k e - p h o t o s?" I asked, hopeful he wouldn't mind.

"Dozo!" he replied with a smile.

And quick as lighting, I leaped out of my chair and whipped out my camera.

I watched in fascination as the chef prepared my dinner with deft fingers, caressing shapeless lumps of rice into perfect mounds.

I couldn't wait to eat!

My platter started to take shape very quickly. Oh yum yum yum. I was transfixed on the thick slabs of sashimi.

Finally ...

... finally, I could eat!

I uttered itadakimasu and ate my first piece of sushi (the one with the hotate). Utterly. Delicious.

"Oishii!" I mumbled with my mouth full, nodding my head in contentment. I just couldn't help it. It was melt-in-the-mouth delectable.

As I ate, the chef and his wife queried where I came from, why I was in Japan, and guffawed when I told them I had left my family eating takeaway soba to have this meal at their restaurant. :) In turn, I found out that their place was 60 years old.

By then, more diners had streamed in steadily, and I watched how they all bantered - cigarette in one hand, sake in the other - with the chef, like regulars. It was as authentic as it could get.

Out of the blue, the chef gestured toward me and introduced me to everyone as "yada yada yada SINGAPORE".

All eyes turned to look at the Singapore specimen. I choked on my miso soup. Then I looked up ... only to see kindly smiles and friendly nods. For the rest of the evening, all I heard was "yada yada yada SINGAPORE" and "yada yada yada MERLION". Some diners attempted to converse with me in English, and when they got stuck, the rest would join in and help figure out the right word. Most of it got lost in translation, but it was so sweet of them to involve me in their chatter. :)

Settling in nicely, I decided to order more sushi, just to stay a little longer. I surveyed the counter ...

and settled for these:

The chef said they were Kampachi, and they were amazing. They tasted very much like my all-time favourite Hamachi, but a little firmer.

Next thing I knew, glasses of Beaujolais Nouveau were brought out for all of us, on the house. How lovely! And so I ate, and drank, and completely immersed myself in the moment.

I was in Tokyo. In a 60-year old sushi joint. Eating unpretentious, good food with the locals, without a clue or care. It was perfect, and it was wonderful to be me. Undoubtedly, this would be a meal I will remember for a long, long time.

Taken from an overhead bridge, on my walk back. :)

And so concludes my JAPAN 2010 instalments. I decided not to blog about sights and places of interests because you can do a google for those. And get better quality photos too! Anyhow, I hope everyone enjoyed reading about my time in The Land of the Rising Sun.