PAN FRIED TOMAN FILLET WITH LEMON CREAM SAUCE

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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.

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Main

Toman fillet

Sea salt

Black pepper

flour

Olive oil

 

Side

Carrots

Rosemary

Butter

 

Sauce

Butter

Olive oil

Shallots

Cooking cream

Chopped fresh basil

Lemon juice

Lemon zest

White wine

Sea salt

Black pepper

 

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.

COOK FEEL LOVE

Some of my friends comment that my recipes are not precise. I did not include measurements for the amount of ingredients or seasoning used. The fact is I don’t do that when I am cooking.

I prefer to cook with feel instead of going by the ‘rules’. For a same dish, the amount of seasoning depends on the different quantity of main ingredients for that day. There are times when I may not get to buy enough beef for meatballs so I used more pork or maybe some chicken. Pork is cleaner while chicken is sweet so I got to adjust the amount of salt or pepper accordingly. A pinch of sea salt taste different from rock salt and their taste varies when it came from different regions.

The touch of seasoning will differ again depending on who you are cooking for. Everyone’s taste bud varies. And if I am cooking for my mum, I may stew the meat a little longer so that she won’t have to chew that much. But the sauce may be gluier because of the longer cooking time so I will need to add extra stock or wine to get it right. I have definitely not make the grade many times before I can sum up my experience to finally create it accurately for most dishes.

I always believe seasonings and herbs are meant to enhance the natural taste of the main ingredient. Not to overpower it. Love all ingredients and they will combine beauifully like magic to love you back.

portobello mushroom recipe

aglio olio

garlic, finely sliced or chopped

your favorite pasta

white wine

olive oil

dry herbs or fresh basil

sea salt

black pepper

parmigiano cheese

Bring a pot of water to boil. Add salt and put in pasta to cook till al dente. At the same time, heat up olive oil in a pan, put in garlic to infuse the oil. Add salt, pepper and herbs. When the aroma fills the kitchen, pour in white wine follow by some pasta water. Drain pasta, put into pan and mix well. Top it up with portobello mushroom and grated parmigiano.  

WINE FOOD MUSIC

I cook with music and it must be there from the moment I draw my knife. I normally keep my mini hi-fi tuned to our local station Class 95FM with non-stop love songs from the 80s and 90s. These are songs with the power to arouse my emotions and awaken all my senses  to create the right aroma, taste, texture and color for my dish with love.

Along with music, tasting a glass of wine when I am cooking increases the sensation to elevate the whole process to a different level. It keeps my momentum going when I need to take short breaks while waiting for the fragrance of the garlic to infuse into the olive oil or when my marinara sauce is simmering away with fresh basil, onions, garlic and Italian canned tomatoes.

Something that adds to the happiness is to appreciate all the ingredients in front of me. I give huge respect to the farmers who had put in hard work to plant, rear and cultivate all the beautiful produce that are able to help me create my dish. No ingredients are to be taken for granted. Every grain of rice, every dash of black pepper is precious and should be treated with great value.

When you cook with passion and love, people can taste it.

PESTO SAUCE

Finally after ten weeks, my sweet basil that I have planted from seed is ready for the first actual harvest and pruning. That adds another happy moment in my life. Immediately, I turned them into my long awaited pesto sauce.

Lots of fresh sweet basil

Pine nuts

2 cloves of garlic

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Freshly crushed black pepper

Grated parmigiano-reggiano

Wake pine nuts by toasting in a pan over medium heat without oil. Other than parmigiano-reggiano,combine all ingredients in a blender and mix using high speed. Add enough olive oil at different intervals during blending to create a smooth paste. In a bowl, blend in parmigiano-reggiano into paste with a fork and it’s done!

Bring water in a pot to boil and add salt. Add in pasta and cook to al dente, drain well and mix in pesto sauce.

You can store the excess sauce in the fridge for other use. To my surprise, it tastes extremely good when I use it to make ham sandwich.

PASTA MARINARA

I know this is one of the most basic recipes but this particular dish is special to me. Finally, after seven weeks, I get to use my fresh basil that I have planted from seed and this is not even the first actual harvest yet. Due to the lack of planting space along my small corridor in Singapore, I took the pain to remove these sprouts from my overcrowded pot to make way for those lucky ones which were left to blossom on.

Sauce

Fresh basil

Half an onion, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic

1 can of Italian tomato

Black pepper

Salt

Olive oil

Heat up olive oil in a pot with onions and garlic. The fragrance from the onion and garlic will infuse into the oil when heated up together. Add salt to avoid onions from burning. Sautee till onion turns translucent. Add black pepper, tomatoes and basil. Simmer for 30mins.

Cook pasta to al dente and drain away water. Add in enough sauce and stir to cover pasta. Serve immediately with extra sauce and parmigiano cheese. 

BASIL

A small handful of sweet basil can cost more than a plate of chicken rice in Singapore. When my hobby in Italian cooking takes me from using dried herbs to fresh basil and rosemary, I took the challenge to plant my own and start a little herbs corner along my corridor.

When I first started, I had a hard time finding sweet basil plants and I am not sure it can grow well in this hot and humid climate. There was no answer found on the internet. It is as if no one on this island is planting it or there are just too few of them wanting to post any tips.

My failure came after I tried to replant my first pot into more portions. The plant went dead with wrong soil and bad drainage. I didn’t even know I have to water it every day and that’s when I realized it shouldn’t be plant like a flower.

Unwilling to be defeated, I did more research and discover the right way of planting by putting pebbles in the pot and use compose instead of soil. The next few plants supplied me with good leaves over nine months. Yes, sweet basil can survive in Singapore.

When I want to create my first pesto sauce, I realized the supply from just a few stalks is not enough. I got greedy and went into another phase of research learning how to plant from seeds. That will allow me to have enough supply and create dishes that I long to try. 

After I gather enough knowledge to start, I am unable to find sweet basil seeds on the island until I chance upon it in Switzerland during my trip to Europe. I was overjoyed! Then luck came by when I met an experience gardener in a nursery who taught me how to harvest my own seeds. I’m all ready to take on this challenge.