SPICY TOMATO BASIL SOUP

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I have always wanted to make this soup using big fresh sweet juicy tomatoes only to realize it is not going to happen. Such tomatoes don’t exist here. They are all sour. So I tried using Italian canned tomatoes which turn out great!

canned tomatoes

Italian canned tomatoes

Loads of fresh basil

The hottest chili you can find, chopped

One onion, chopped

Fresh milk (use cream if preferred)

Olive oil

Sea salt

Freshly crushed black pepper

In a pot, fry onions and chili in olive oil till onions starts to brown. Pour in tomatoes and simmer for 15 minutes. Add in all the basil, pepper and salt. Simmer for another 15 minutes. Blend everything in a food processor till smooth. Return to pot and add milk. Bring to boil and serve immediately with crusty bread.

CIABATTA BREAD

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I survived three weeks of hectic schedule at work and finally had a chance to return to my kitchen and play with a 70% hydration ciabatta dough. It turns out alright with the crumb I wanted. This time I used a poolish (overnight starter) to give the unique flavor a bread should have.

This recipe makes one loaf.

Poolish:

150g warm water

150g bread flour or all purpose flour with 10%-12% protein

1/8 teaspoon dried yeast

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Cover well with plastic sheet and leave it for 12 hours. I always prepare it the night before.

Dough:

150g warm water

280g flour

1/2 + 1/8 teaspoon dried yeast

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

green olives (optional)

Mix all ingredients (including poolish) and work the dough for 10-15 minutes. It is a sticky dough but avoid adding more flour while working on it. 

Let it rest in a covered bowl for 45 mins.

Stretch and fold the dough from 4 sides and let it rest in a covered bowl for 45 mins.

Sprinkle enough flour on a baking tray and shape the dough into a ciabatta. Cover with plastic bag and let it rest for a good 2 hours.

Add sliced olives on top. (optional)

Preheat oven to 425F and bake for 30 minutes.

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This bread can stay soft on the inside for 3 days before it starts to become stale.

SPICY GARLIC MUSHROOM

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It’s been a busy week at work. Today I decide to take a breather and left office before the stars starts to glitter. Not that I can admire them through the gaps between those skyscrapers.

Returning to my kitchen always makes me happy. With music and a sip of chardonnay, I made this Spanish tapas to go with homemade crusty bread (click here for recipe) which is now always available on the dining table.

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Your favorite mushrooms

Chopped garlic

Chopped red chili

Hot paprika

Tobasco sauce

Olive oil

Freshly crushed black pepper

Sea salt

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Fry mushrooms in olive oil over medium heat till they start to shrink. Put in garlic, paprika, pepper, salt and fry till fully cooked. Sprinkle a good amount of Tobasco sauce over and top it up with chili. Serve immediately.

The best part comes after you have finished the mushrooms and use crusty bread to wipe up all the garlicky chili oil.

You might want to get ready a large glass of lemonade. 

BAMBOO SHOOT IN OLIVE OIL

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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.  

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Bamboo shoot, remove the layers of outer skin (more than expected) and cut into bite size

Garlic

White wine

Olive oil

Sea salt

Crushed black pepper

Lemon juice

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.

RATATOUILLE

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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.

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1 aubergine or egg plant

1 green or yellow zucchini

1 yellow or red sweet pepper

Olive oil

Sea salt

Black pepper

Balsamic vinegar (optional)

 

Sauce

1 canned Italian tomato

Few cloves of peeled whole garlic

Fresh basil

Sea salt

Black pepper

 

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.

PORCINI MUSHROOM RISOTTO

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.

Ingredients

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

Sea salt

Black pepper

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.

BASIC BRUSCHETTA

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.

PAN FRIED BRINJAL

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)

Sea salt

Black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

Chopped cherry tomatoes

Lemon juice

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.  

 

PAN ROASTED POTATOES

I saw how Marche does it and tried at home. It turns out well.

Ingredients

Baby potatoes, cut into bite size (if skin is good, leave it on)

Chopped fresh rosemary

Shallots

Sea salt

Freshly crushed black pepper

Olive oil

Bring a pot of water to the boil.

Steam potatoes till creamy (about 15 minutes). Put aside for later use.

Heat up a pan (better results with non-stick pan) with enough olive oil. Saute shallots, rosemary and black pepper till aroma fills your kitchen. Throw in potatoes and sprinkle with sea salt. Fry till most sides turn golden brown.

Serve with grated parmigiano cheese for extra flavor.   

ASPARAGUS RECIPE

Australian asparagus, peel off skin at bottom area and cut into bite size

one small piece of butter

pure olive oil

extra virgin olive oil

garlic, chopped

freshly crushed black peppercorn

sea salt

white wine, half a cup

Prepare asparagus

Bring a pot of water to boil, add salt and throw in asparagus. Cook for about 2 minutes. Transfer asparagus into a pot of ice water. Drain away ice water and put asparagus aside for later use. 

Frying

Put a pan over high heat. Throw in butter and pure olive oil. Fry garlic till golden brown. Put in asparagus, add salt and pepper. Stir fry for 2 minutes and add in white wine. Fry for another one minute to let the alcohol evaporate and serve immediately with extra virgin olive oil. Personally i like to squeeze a small piece of lemon to add extra flavor.

I would love to know more asparagus recipes. Share your views.