The Perfume of Food

porcini pasta

Since I embark on my cooking journey, I have discovered various ingredients that surprise me. Among them is a group which I refer them as the perfume of food. From lime, mint, pepper to porcini, saffron and truffles, these ingredients has the power to transform the flavor of a dish like magic!

I am fortunate to have the chance of using dried porcini in some of my dishes and today I would love to share this simple pasta recipe which most of you are familiar with.

Aglio Olio with Porcini

Dried porcini mushrooms

Your favorite pasta (I used spaghetti no.3)

Cherry tomatoes (optional)

Chopped garlic

Sea salt

Freshly crushed black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

Parmigiano

Chopped fresh basil

White wine

Soak porcini mushrooms in hot water for half an hour. Chop it into small pieces and set aside for later use. Keep the water as well.

Bring a pot of water to boil and add salt follow by pasta. Cook to al dente.

Heat up olive oil in a pan and fry garlic with whole cherry tomatoes. Put in salt and pepper. When the tomatoes become soft, put in porcini and saute till the mushroom’s flavor fills the air. Deglaze the pan with white wine, mushroom water and some pasta water. Throw in chopped basil. Drain pasta from water and toss them in the pan with rest of the ingredients.

Serve with grated parmigiano and more basil with a good bottle of bianco.

Can you share another ingredient that can create magic?

What a Year

hk skyline

2013 was a big year for me. Last night, as I flipped back the pages in my mind before the clock strikes twelve, some memories formed into paintings of joy and laughter while others displayed a sense of melancholy.  It was the year where I decide to make a drastic change in my life with a precious opportunity which I am actually not quite prepared for.

Leaving home to work in a foreign country for the first time, the move to Hong Kong itself was already an experience. Besides getting to know the ways of living in this new city, my taste buds are also being challenged to recipes, flavors and textures that I am not accustomed to.

While the new may be interesting, it is often the familiar that kept me settled.  I’m so glad that my tiny kitchen is now stocked with extra virgin olive oil, Italian canned tomatoes, balsamic and my favorite spices.

Here’s a simple recipe to share. Happy New Year my friends!

Drumsticks Baked with Balsamic Vinegar

baked chicken with balsamic

Drumsticks

Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

Crushed black pepper

Dried rosemary (fresh ones are too costly over here)

Sea salt

Paprika

Lemon juice

Marinate drumsticks with all other ingredients overnight. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200C for 45 minutes or until it looks good to the eye. Squeeze a wedge of lemon juice over before serving with your favorite greens or baked vegetables.

East Malaysia Cooking Trip – Part 1

brinjals

Hello my blogger friends, greetings from Hong Kong! For those who have been following my blog, I’ve finally settled down in this city that never sleeps. It’s been more than two months since my last post and I hope you will still get to see this in your reader or email 🙂

I am preparing to start cooking and baking soon but for now, I would love to share with you an amazing trip that I’ve made before my move. For this trip, I get to stay with my relative in Sarawak, East Malaysia who owns a little vegetable garden right in front of the house. Of course, you know my itchy hands wouldn’t leave those gorgeous plants alone. Hee hee!

chinese squash

These are oriental squash which are great for making clear soup with dried scallops and pork short ribs. Boil them together for an hour and all you need is just a little salt to flavor it.

be different

While most squash are long and straight, some just prefers to be different.

robot oven

dough in robot oven

I would like to introduce this powerful oven that looks more like an alien in scifi films which can pre-heat to 220C within 10minutes. The only thing to be careful is that the heating element is at the top so attention is needed to avoid the crust of my bread from getting burnt. Yes, I baked bread with it and the result is very satisfying.

foccacia

I made this foccacia bread with dried Italian herbs using that robot. It was really crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The bread was very well received and before I knew it, the pan was empty.

12 hour overnight poolish 

150g strong flour, 150g warm water, 1/8 teaspoon instant yeast

Mix everything together  and let it ferment overnight.

Main dough

278g strong flour, 150g warm water, 1 & 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast, dried Italian herbs, 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, 2 tablespoon olive oil, poolish

Mix everything together and work your dough till it is smooth. Let it rest for 45 mins. Stretch and fold the dough and let it rest for another 45mins. Pre-heat oven to 200C and bake for 20mins. Sprinkle with grated parmigiano if desired.

harvesting egg plant

I just can’t keep my hands off these gorgeous brinjals or long eggplants. I’m so lucky that they are at their best when I was there. Green on the inside with no seeds yet.

pasta with brinjals

With limited ingredients, I turned the brinjals into this pasta dish.

brinjals, cut into circles

red chili, chopped

1 onion, chopped

italian herbs

1 big lime juice

olive oil

sea salt

black pepper

your favorite pasta

Fry brinjals in olive oil till caramelized and set aside for later use. With the same oil, saute onions till caramelized and put in red chili, sea salt and pepper. On another burner, cook pasta to al dente and keep some pasta water. Back to the frying pan, add in lime juice and pasta water follow by a good handful of italian herbs. Put in pasta, brinjal and toss well. Serve with grated parmigiano and perhaps more chili.

It’s been a great trip. I’ll share more recipes in part 2 okay?

Kitchen Emotions

My profession in identifying and creating core emotions for tv promotion enables me to also connect up all the different emotions that leads me into cooking and baking.

It all begins when I often walk out from a restaurant feeling dissatisfied along with ANGER for paying high bills for lousy food and bad service in this city. And most of the time, what disappoints me is the way good ingredients are being treated poorly.

That is when the temptation and CURIOSITY of wondering if I can cook better food arouse my desire to take up the challenge and re-look at the function of my kitchen with a whole new perspective.

After numerous failures that eventually leads to a few good attempts with some recipes, the feeling of SUCCESS encourage me to create more to share with friends and neighbours which increases HUMAN CONNECTIONS without even noticing it. The reward is enormous.

Here’s a really simple recipe that makes me happy.

marinara w scallops

Pasta Marinara with Canadian Scallops

Canadian scallops

Sea salt

Black pepper

All-purpose flour

Olive oil

Heat up olive oil in a pan. Season scallops with salt, pepper and coat lightly with flour. Fry scallops for 2 minutes on one side and another minute on the other side.

For the 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 30 mins.

Serve with your favourite pasta and top it up with the gorgeous scallops.

hk loaf 4

Now comes to baking. My FEAR of sending something into the oven and hoping it will come out good stays with me for many years ever since I failed terribly trying to bake a basic sponge cake.

It was until early this year when Anto from relaxingcooking encouraged me to bake my first bread. It is a big emotion of DARING to take up the challenge to start a bumpy journey which I am glad I did and to discover the many secrets of baking along the way.

hk loaf 2

I got to admit I am quite obsessed with bread baking for now and I just can’t wait to log this recipe in that uses ‘tangzhong’ mentioned to me by Jean from bentodays. This method creates a super soft loaf with a long lost flavor which brings me all the way back to my childhood days. Yum!

Soft white bread using ‘Tangzhong’

TangZhong:

50g bread flour

250g water

Cook on low heat and keep stirring continuously until it becomes sticky.

Main dough:

270g bread flour

30g sugar

4g salt

1 egg

90g tangzhong

60g milk

5g yeast

30g butter (soften)hk loaf 3

Mix all ingredients except butter. Put in butter when rest of ingredients is well mixed.

Knead the dough till it passes the window pane test. Form it into a ball and put it into a greased bowl.

Sprinkle some water on dough and cover. Let it proof for 45mins to an hour.

Pre-shape dough into three round loaves and let it sit for 15mins.

For the final shaping, roll the dough to resemble soft rolls and put them side by side in a loaf tin.

Sprinkle some water on top and proof for 45mins to an hour.

Brush with egg wash and bake at 170C in a pre-heated oven for 30mins.

hk loaf 5

Chicken Salad with mango avocado dressing

photo (19)_graded

This sweet and creamy dressing was created when Thai mangoes are in season. I thought it will work well with chicken.

photo (21)_graded

Here are the ingredients for the dressing.

mangoes

avocado

yogurt

olive oil

lemon juice

salt

pepper

photo (22)_graded

Blend all ingredients until smooth and creamy. Feel free to adjust the amount of ingredients to your liking.

photo (24)_graded

For this recipe, I am using:

chicken breast

carrots

celery

parsley

rosemary (1 sprig)

salt

pepper

photo (20)_graded

Marinate chicken breast with salt and pepper. I am so used to steaming chicken and carrots with a sprig of rosemary that it has become my second nature. I love how the scent of the herb can infuse into the food like magic. The celery was kept raw to have a crunch in the overall texture of this dish. And the last step is to coat all ingredients evenly with the dressing and serve.

Oh yes, not forgetting a glass of white and perhaps some crusty bread plus more olive oil.

I hope you will like this recipe.

Zucchini Pasta

photo (27)_1

 

This is undoubtedly a classic dish in many parts of the world but it is hard to find on menus here in Singapore. I was encouraged and inspired to create this recipe by the beautiful blogger Gabriela Blandy who is able to paint pictures with words in her popular blog thesenseofajourney . I sincerely hope that she will come round with her unforeseen transition in life and start writing again.

Gabriela suggested a recipe using fresh mint when she was visiting my post Pecorino Romano . As I could not get hold of mint while making, I adjusted the recipe into this.

Serves Three (my mom was here to taste it :))

2 big zucchinis

3 small bowls of penne

Chopped tomatoes

1 small chopped chili

Chopped Garlic

Dry Italian herbs

Half cup of cooking cream

Grated pecorino cheese

White wine

Balsamic vinegar

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Freshly crushed black pepper

A wedge of lemon

Cut 6 thick slices of zucchini with skin on. Marinate with lots of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, black pepper and salt. Bake at 200 degrees C for 50 minutes. I started with a cold oven and it still came out well.

Chop the rest of zucchini into small pieces with skin on and blend with cream into a puree. Set aside for later use. Meanwhile, boil a pot of water. Add salt and start to cook penne till al dente. In a frying pan, heat up olive oil and fry garlic and chili till garlic starts to brown. Pour in white wine and continue cooking till the liquid is reduced by half. Pour in zucchini and cream puree. Add salt, pepper and a handful of Italian herbs to taste.  Cook for 20 minutes stirring occasionally. Add in grated pecorino cheese and penne. Squeeze some lemon juice over and serve immediately with baked zucchini and chopped tomatoes. Complete the meal with crusty bread and a glass of white.

Thanks for stopping by and please tell me how you like this.

Rosemary Chicken

rosemary chicken

This is one of those moments where I know that I can take cooking as a hobby for life.

It is amazing to discover how a few simple ingredients can work together with temperature and time to create magic

and produce wonderful flavor and texture least expected.

This is an impromptu recipe when my mom came over to stay for an enjoyable two weeks

left me with some frozen chicken pieces in the fridge.

I am glad I have made it right.

Chicken pieces (fresh ones are even better)

Lots of paprika

Lots of fresh rosemary

Sea salt

Crushed black pepper

Lemon

Season the chicken pieces with all ingredients except lemon.

Bake at a temperature of 200C for 45 minutes.

It works even when I start from a cold oven.

Squeeze over some lemon juice and serve while it is still hot and crispy.

Pumpkin Risotto

pumpkin risotto 2

After making pumpkin-rice-with-coconut-milk, I have longed to turn it into a risotto.

Pumpkin, cut into cubes

Risotto rice

White wine

Onions, finely chopped

Olive oil

Butter

Chicken stock

Coconut milk

Sea salt

Black pepper

pumpkin risotto 1

Finely chop onions and fry half of it in olive oil till the air in your kitchen is filled with fragrance.

Put in pumpkin cubes and cook till tender. Add salt and pepper.

Keep one third of it and blend the rest into puree.

Fry rest of the onions in olive oil and add rice.

Pour in half a cup of white wine and let the rice soak in it for three minutes.

Cover rice with pumpkin puree and chicken stock and cook till al dente.

Add in butter and coconut milk.

Follow by salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with pumpkin cubes.

ASPARAGUS WRAP WITH BACON

photo (53)

This recipe is too common and simple for most but it is my first time making it.

I would have to agree that these two ingredients are a match-made in heaven

after broiling them together with some olive oil and basic seasoning.

Fat asparagus

Streaky bacon

Olive oil

Black pepper

Your favorite chili sauce (optional)

A wedge of lemon juice

Wrap asparagus evenly with bacon from bottom to top. Brush bacon with chili sauce.

Grease a baking pan with olive oil to prevent sticking.

Place asparagus evenly on pan and season with crushed black pepper.

Broil till bacon turns crispy.

Squeeze a wedge of lemon juice over it before serving with a glass of chardonnay.