It is always fun to visit the local market during Chinese New Year period. This is when I can see a lot of rare ingredients that could not be found at other time of the year.
Bamboo shoot used to be a poor man’s food which had become an expensive delicacy. The traditional way of cooking uses boiling salt water to soften it before frying. This time, I fry it raw to retain its crunchiness. I was lucky it turns out well.
Bamboo shoot, remove the layers of outer skin (more than expected) and cut into bite size
Crushed black pepper
Fry garlic in olive oil over medium heat. Put in bamboo shoot follow by salt and pepper. Add in a glut of white wine and cook for 5 minutes. Squeeze a wedge of lemon juice over and serve immediately.
This recipe has been lingering in my head for a while. It is inspired from a popular local breakfast call “nasi lemak” in Malay language meaning creamy rice. “Nasi lemak” is cooked with coconut cream and pandan leaves (a plant that releases soothing mild fragrance) to go along with fried fish, anchovies, peanuts, thin omelet, cucumber and lots of tasty chili paste.
Honestly, I was quite afraid that this creation may not work but the compliments I received from my guests made me smile. I would love to turn it into a risotto soon.
Half an onion, finely chopped
Pumpkin, cut into small cubes
Curry leaves (I still can’t think of an alternative herb that is close to it)
Prawns, cut into small pieces (optional)
Chicken or vegetable stock
Crushed black pepper
Heat up a good amount of olive oil over high heat and cook prawns till tender. Remove and set aside for later use. Reduce to medium heat and using the same oil, sauté chopped onions till translucent then add in rice. Coat rice with oil and season with salt and pepper follow by white wine just enough for the rice to soak it up. Add enough stock and coconut cream. Stir and cover for 5 minutes. Add pumpkin and curry leaves. Stir and cover for another 15 minutes (most rice should be cooked by now. If not, continue cooking till it’s done). Add prawns, stir and serve immediately.
After trying the side dish for pan fried toman fillet with lemon cream sauce , I found out that rosemary and carrot are good friends. Then I got curious and wonder if their relationship can go any further. I discovered they are very much in love.
I have always wanted to make soup that does not need cream, butter or flour. I am glad this recipe works for me. The strong scent of rosemary infuses very well into the natural sweetness of the carrots and onion which combine to give a complex flavor.
Small onion, chopped
Sprig of rosemary, chopped
Milk, room temperature
Crushed black pepper
Fry onion in a pot with olive oil till it starts to caramelize. Put in carrots, rosemary, salt and black pepper. Continue cooking till carrots become soft. Leave to cool. Blend everything into puree and return to pot. Over a small fire, pour in milk by small amount and stir continuously until puree achieves desired thickness. Add in a handful of parmigiano cheese.
This is the first dish I cook in 2013.
Don’t laugh at me if I tell you that it was the lead character (yes, which would be the rat) in the animated feature film that has inspired me to go for my dreams.
In the film, this dish marks the success of the rat who embarks on an extraordinary journey to become one of the top chefs in Paris.
I am a rat in the Chinese zodiac and I love to cook so it all connects up. But what’s most important is the message that I’ve got from the film.
No matter who you are, as long as you dare to dream and work hard for it, you are probably going to make it.
The rat’s recipe is definitely much better than mine but I could not get hold of it.
1 aubergine or egg plant
1 green or yellow zucchini
1 yellow or red sweet pepper
Balsamic vinegar (optional)
1 canned Italian tomato
Few cloves of peeled whole garlic
Preheat oven to 400F. Cut aubergine, zucchini and pepper into big thick pieces and season with olive oil, salt, black pepper and vinegar. Bake for 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, fry garlic in olive oil till it starts to brown and add tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Add chopped basil and simmer over medium heat for an hour.
Serve vegetables with the sauce.
Toman fish is also called the giant snakehead or giant mudfish which is capable of growing to over 1 meter in length (3.3 feet) and a weight of over 20 kilograms (44 pounds). It is widely distributed in the freshwater of South East Asia.
In Singapore, this fish is less costly as compared to others like snapper or grouper. It is widely used to make into fish porridge or fish soup to go with rice or vermicelli.
I am always curious how it will taste like if I make it into a steak. This fish taste rather plain on its own so I made a rich sauce to go with it.
Chopped fresh basil
Shred carrots into long thin stripes and steam with some fresh rosemary.
Heat up olive oil in a pan over medium high heat. Marinate fillet with salt and pepper then coat with dry flour and fry for 3 minutes on each side. Put fillet aside.
Reduce to low heat and use the remaining oil to fry shallots with butter until shallots turn translucent. Add salt and pepper follow by a gulp of white wine to deglaze the pan. Add a teaspoon of lemon juice and zest follow by cooking cream. Add chopped basil and bring to the boil then turn off heat.
Carrots should be done by now. Remove rosemary, add butter and mix well.
Spoon lemon cream sauce over fillet, carrot and serve immediately.
There are not many happy moments in my life and that makes them too precious to be forgotten. Hence I decided to start a new category “happy moments” to collect them from now on and share my joy.
Today is Deepavali and it happens to be my first post for this category.
One of the best decisions I have made over the past two years is to move from my old apartment to this new home surrounded by lovely neighbors and nice scenery. Since I shifted in, Deepavali has been a happy moment each year when my Indian neighbor Mr. Raju will bring over mouthwatering lunch to celebrate the occasion.
Many ideas came to my mind on how I should prepare the only packet of dried porcini mushroom which had followed me home from Rome. I have heard how great it is but its aroma was never known to me. Finally I decided that it should be a simple dish that is able to allow this king of mushroom to take center stage and show off its full flavor.
When I opened it, the aroma blew me away instantly. I have never come across any mushroom that has such exquisite flavor. It smells like oriental grilled cuttlefish to me. I almost wanted to taste it immediately like a snack.
It is pricy but now I regret not spending more euros to bring home a few more packets.
A small handful of dried porcini mushrooms (use more if you happen to have plenty and would like to make me jealous)
One cup of Risotto rice (for two servings)
One large bowl of chicken or vegetable stock
Half an onion, finely chopped
Desired amount of unsalted butter
Extra virgin olive oil
A quarter cup dry white wine
Fresh sweet basil
Parmigiano reggiano cheese
Soak mushroom in a bowl of simmering hot water for 30 minutes. Remove mushroom and chopped into small pieces. Keep the water for later use.
Heat up olive oil in a pan with onion over medium fire. Fry onion till translucent and add in rice follow by salt and pepper. When all grains are coated with oil, add white wine. Allow rice to soak up the wine. Put in mushrooms and mix well. Combine mushroom water with stock. With half a cup at a time, add in to rice and stir continuously until stock is being absorbed and repeat the process till rice is cooked to al dente. Add in butter, parmigiano reggiano cheese and sweet basil.
Ever since I discover my love for Italian food, I don’t think I can part with olive oil, tomatoes and basil anymore. Just these basic ingredients combine to create a simple dish can make me a very happy man.
It’s another lazy Sunday with a gentle November sun. After a fruitful run up the hill opposite my home followed by my favorite bowl of steaming hot tasty prawn noodle soup from the food center for breakfast, I simply refuse to move for the rest of the day. It was until my hungry stomach wake me up to lure me into the kitchen.
Bread is mostly available in my kitchen with cherry tomatoes chilling in the fridge and fresh basil along my corridor. I wanted some extra flavor so I took the trouble to blend some garlic with olive oil and spread onto pieces of French bread before grilling.
For some reason I just feel like tasting lots of olive oil and basil that day. So I tear up the basil into big pieces instead of chopping them fine.
Simply with crushed black pepper, sea salt and chopped cherry tomatoes, I indulge myself to a satisfying lunch accompanied with lemonade made from fresh lemon juice, salt, sugar and soda water.
Sunday afternoon. I remember there are prawns, squid, chicken, mussel meat and a quarter piece of Spanish chorizo in my freezer. When I open my spice cupboard, the red color of paprika and yellow turmeric stands out shining among the rest. Turned to my paper bag and saw onion smiling at me. Then an idea starts to form in my head. I found red pepper, garlic, shallots, cloves and rice. The ingredients are almost complete except I am missing a bay leaf. I thought fresh basil from my corridor may be a good substitute.
Tune radio to my favorite Class95 and poured myself a glass of Merlot from Australia.
Aware that I don’t have the right pan to make this dish, I changed the cooking method a little. Heat up some olive oil over medium fire and fry the chorizo for one minute on both sides. With the same oil, seal the chicken and put it aside. Continue to brown some chopped garlic and put in the rest of the seafood. Add sea salt and black pepper to taste and fry for three minutes before adding a gulp of white wine. Put seafood aside and save the sauce for later use. Heat up new olive oil and fry chopped onion, shallot, garlic and a few cloves. When you smell aroma fills the air, put in washed rice follow by paprika, turmeric powder and the seafood sauce. Stir fry for a while and add in red pepper. Add hot water or chicken stock to cover rice. Lay all other ingredients on top and cover the lid over small fire for 15 minutes. Squeeze a quarter of a lemon and throw in some chopped basil before stirring.
I’ve never liked brinjals or eggplants when I was young. Only much later than I realized it’s the way it was cooked in the old oriental style that makes it mushy. I am quite afraid of mushy food.
I learnt to enjoy it after I followed a chef on TV to fry it till caramelized and top it on pasta in crushed raw tomato sauce with basil, sea salt and lots of black pepper. That’s when I know that other than onions, brinjals and eggplants can be cooked till caramelized as well and it taste really good.
Grilling or pan fry works for me. This time, although it takes more effort, I pan fried it to avoid getting hard edges that results from grilling.
1 large brinjal cut into pieces about half a centimeter thick (egg plants are more expensive in Singapore)
Extra virgin olive oil
Chopped cherry tomatoes
Heat up enough olive oil in a non-stick pan over small-medium fire. Put in brinjals and add salt and pepper. Fry both sides till brown and caramelized. Remove from pan and cool it in the fridge for an hour. Squeeze a quarter lemon and serve with chopped cherry tomatoes.