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?

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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

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.

CREAMY CHICKEN PASTA CARBONARA

This is my first attempt on carbonara. Instead of bacon, I crave for chicken that day.

Pasta

Italian spaghetti no.3

sea salt

Chicken

300g chicken fillet

chopped onions

sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

olive oil

1/4 cup white wine

chopped fresh tomatoes for garnish

Sauce

2 eggs

1/2 cup fresh cream

big handful of grated parmigiano cheese

pinch of sea salt

good amount of freshly ground black pepper

 

Bring a pot of water to boil and add salt. Put in spaghetti and cook to al dente.

While spaghetti is cooking, heat up olive oil in a pan and fry onions till it turns translucent. Put in chicken fillet and season with salt and pepper. Fry chicken fillet till slightly brown. Add in white wine.

Mix all sauce ingredients in a bowl.

Remove pan with chicken away from heat, put in spaghetti follow by sauce mixture and stir well till sauce becomes silky. Sprinkle chopped tomatoes.

AL DENTE

Pasta should be cooked till firm to the bite.

I knew about this word Al Dente only in recent years. Before this, I have been overcooking my pasta. Oops!

There are many ways to describe Al Dente. I found this description from busycooks.about.com to be most appropriate – Al Dente refers to the desired texture of cooked pasta in Italian cooking. It literally means “to the tooth”. When the pasta is cooked al dente, there should be a slight resistance in the center when the pasta is chewed.

There are many recipes out there to help us achieve it but the problem is cooking time varies for different types of pasta. For example spaghetti no.3 and no.5 needs different timings to cook. It also depends if the pasta will be thrown into sauce over fire and continue the cooking process or is it going to be mix into raw egg sauce.

As a start, an easy way is to follow the suggested timing on the cooking instruction of the pack which turns out to be rather accurate. What’s important is to bring enough salt water to the boil before putting in the pasta.

AGLIO OLIO

Just like creating a program promo, if you try to include too many selling points and messages in one spot, you will probably end up with a messy trailer that has too many things to say and lack focus.

Same as many beginners, when I first start to cook pasta, I like to put a lot of ingredients into one dish so that it won’t look pathetic. It took me some time before I learn to appreciate the noodle itself with olive oil and garlic.

Aglio (ah-lio – garlic) Olio (o-lio – oil) is the most basic pasta you can make in minutes. Life can’t get any better than to enjoy home pasta cooked to “al dente” toss in extra virgin olive oil with golden crispy garlic. I like to add some shallots as well.

Once done, it’s up to you to add in appropriate ingredients from fresh red chilli or cherry tomatoes to ham or even seafood.