Pantry Basics: A quick pickle recipe—Japanese pikurusu

Pikurusu

Two months ago, when we happened to have some extra Japanese cucumbers and carrots in the fridge, I thought I’d take advantage of T’s nap time to try out this quick Japanese pickle recipe. CH’s mom—who’d hung up her apron decades ago, long before I’d first met CH, and adamantly declines to cook—happened to be spending the day with T and offered to help. It was to be the first time in over a decade of marriage that I got the chance to cook alongside my mother-in-law.

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Pantry Basics: How to make shortbread at home

cloud cookie cutter and shortbread

Sometimes, less is truly more. When I’m pressed for time but would like to be able to offer a homemade treat, I remind myself to keep things super simple. After all, a distracted mind tends to make mistakes. I’d rather be able to present a small, unembellished morsel successfully executed rather than an overambitious, spectacular flop. This shortbread recipe from Claire Clark, who was head pastry chef at The French Laundry, fits the bill perfectly. Continue Reading →

Pantry Basics: The Ultimate Lemon Curd – Pierre Hermé’s Lemon Cream

Meyer lemons

In all honesty, this post was prompted by the fact that I’ve finally found Meyer lemons in Singapore. For years, the Meyer lemon was one of those elusive culinary treasures that I’d read so much about but never tasted. And I never would’ve recognized the lemons as Meyers (given that they were only labeled with their country of origin, Australia) if I hadn’t happened to taste my first one just weeks before at the Noosa International Food and Wine Festival.

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Pantry Basics: Homemade Yoghurt

Homemade Yoghurt with Persimmon

I didn’t attempt to make my own yoghurt until I had our son, T. We always had some in our fridge, but I guess it never occurred to me that it would be worth the effort to make my own. Prompted by a desire to minimize T’s exposure to additives as he started on his first solids, I tried a recipe I found in a baby food cookbook that was unfortunately a dismal failure. But Google, combined with a mother’s obsessive compulsion can be a powerful thing. The outcome: the unearthing of a recipe from Harold McGee—master of culinary science and precision. A version of it (see below) now resides in my mobile phone. Continue Reading →

Pantry Basics: Homemade Granola Master Recipe

Maple & Olive Oil Granola

Since T has come along, I spend significantly less time in the kitchen. The elaborate, time-consuming recipes requiring a fully sentient being to execute have taken a backseat. In fact, I have a roster of quick recipes I keep on my mobile phone that I keep returning to. Some of them are just notes or lists of ingredients that help remind me of what I usually put into a dish; others are full recipes replete with my tweaks and adaptations. Having them always on hand makes it easier for me to throw something together when my head is stuck in a cloud of sleep deprivation. This granola recipe based on Molly’s adaptation of Nekisia Davis’ is one of them. Continue Reading →

Puppy Treats: Sweet Potato Balls

Dog Treats Sweet Potato BallsOn August 9, 2010 our first dog, Sascha, passed away. We were in Sri Lanka for a wedding at the time and received the news just as we checked onto our flight home. Her departure was sudden. I can still remember my disbelief. After all, she had been full of energy and vitality. As we left for the airport just days earlier, she had gazed down at us from the top of the stairs with that mix of imperious aloofness and doleful sweetness that made her special in our eyes. She was 11, but had not shown any signs of slowing down. Continue Reading →

An entremets primer: Japanese cult pastry chef Hidemi Sugino’s Fruits Rouges

Hidemi Sugino Fruits Rouge mousse cake

I first discovered Japanese mousse cake savant, Hidemi Sugino (along with many of his other fans within the blogosphere, it seems) through Keiko’s gorgeous blog. I found myself repeatedly returning to her beautifully precise renditions of his recipes in Le goût authentique retrouvé. And when I finally had the opportunity to taste the master’s work in Tokyo, I was enthralled by the lightness of his creations, as well as the subtle and sophisticated layering of complementary and contrasting flavours. They were simply the best mousse cakes I’d ever tasted (here’s Nick’s superb dissection of some of Sugino’s entremets). I promptly bought a copy of Le goût authentique retrouvé on that fateful first visit in 2007—disregarding the fact that the recipes were all in Japanese. I somehow figured that I would be able to decipher them based upon the ingredients listed in French despite the fact that I don’t speak French either! Continue Reading →

Family Food: Savoury Rosemary-Parmesan Mini Madeleines

Family Food: Savoury Rosemary Madeleines

This is one of those recipes that I reckon works for both papa and toddler. I’m constantly trying to find snacks for T (and CH) that aren’t packed with sugar. These savoury madeleines from Patricia Wells—inspired by Anne-Sophie Pic of the century-old Maison Pic in Valence, no less—fit the bill. They are an easy-to-make treat that T can’t get enough of.

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Pierre Herme’s Sweet Tart Dough

Pierre Herme needs no introduction. He is one of France’s preeminent pastry chefs and possibly one of the most recognized names in the business. I wouldn’t imagine myself ever coming close to replicating the lovely creations he stocks his eponymous boutiques with, but when we plan our dinner party menus, I frequently find myself dipping into Desserts by Pierre Herme and Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme, the two books he co-authored with Dorie Greenspan. The recipes range from simple to elaborate, with flavours that are accessible, yet sophisticated. But what I love most is the fact that the recipes are detailed and precise. They work. They reflect Pierre Herme’s innovations, tweaks and personal preferences as a pastry chef. Personally, they exhibit a flavour profile that also appeals to me. The bitterness of chocolate (Pierre prefers Valrhona) isn’t masked with too much sugar. His pastry dough celebrates the glorious flavour of good butter. His simple lemon cream is irresistible when paired with his sweet tart dough. Yet, he doesn’t take himself so seriously as to eschew the use of Nutella in a tart.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been working my way through a series of his tarts. Each successful attempt has made me an ever bigger fan. Most recently, for a group of chocolate lovers (including a friend who retails the stuff himself), I picked the Tarte Grenobloise. Pierre’s rethinking of this classic, as Dorie explains it, is influenced by the all-American pecan pie. A chocolate-almond pate sable tart shell is filled with chocolate ganache and topped with pecans enrobed with caramel. It was rich and heavy, but I certainly relished the tiny, cold wedge of leftovers I polished off the following day! It actually benefitted from chilling and would’ve been perfect washed down with a cold glass of milk. (Keep reading)

Julia Child’s braised goose with chestnut and sausage stuffing

On Christmas Eve last year, as we were picking up a prime rib at Huber’s for the lunch we were hosting the following day, I espied a goose in the poultry section. For some inexplicable reason, I decided that I had to have it and that at some point between Christmas and New Year’s, I would prepare a menu with goose as its centerpiece. Mind you, up to that point, I’d never cooked goose. I didn’t even have a recipe in mind. CH looked at me as if I was insane and must have put it down to jetlag. Nonetheless, accommodating as he usually is when it comes to matters of the belly, he made no objection as I hauled the just-under-5kilogram bird into our shopping basket.

Cooking the goose turned out to be an enterprise of epic proportions, but it was a delightful indulgence spread over a number of days which was well worth the effort. It is by no means a dish to be prepared on a whim (despite the fact that I acquired said bird on a whim). You need to have the luxury of time–especially if you plan on serving other dishes with it. I’d liken the process to reading War and Peace. Fortunately, I actually take great pleasure in wading through epic novels. (Keep Reading)

Mango sorbet & coconut ice cream

When we were in Jakarta two weeks ago, some lovely friends of ours gave us a boxful of mangga gedong (which happened to be in season) to take home with us. While mangga harum manis is famously sweet, the relatively smaller mangga gedong packs a heady punch. It is not only sweet and juicy, but irresistibly perfumed. The ripe fruit has vibrant, orange skin and flesh, and smells simply heavenly. We shared the bulk of our stash with friends and ate as many as we could just chilled and sliced. But at the end of a week, we were still left with over half a dozen delightfully ripe fruit. Inspired by Keiko’s gorgeous post (and the blistering heat), I decided to use our mangoes in a sorbet.

David Lebovitz’s recipe in The Perfect Scoop (a tome I have raved about previously) is fabulously simple. I will give an adapted and abbreviated description of it below, but I highly recommend buying the book — especially since the toasted coconut ice cream he suggests that we pair the sorbet with is absolutely divine. I can’t think of a better way of capturing the gastronomic glory of ripe mangga gedong. The sorbet tastes like smooth spoonfuls of frozen fruit and dazzles with its brazen tropical hue. I’m tempted to serve it in a glass of icy cold Prosecco or with a shot of kaffir lime-infused vodka.

As for the coconut ice cream, its subtle coconut flavour comes from infusing milk and cream with toasted, unsweetened dried shredded coconut (I used some from Bob’s Red Mill). A vanilla pod and splashes of homemade vanilla extract (a treasured gift from our dear friend Melissa) give it an added depth and dimension. Best of all, the French style (or custard-based) ice cream doesn’t taste overly rich or heavy. It is now my favourite coconut ice cream recipe! Now, if I can locate a website that will deliver a wooden cone-rolling form to Singapore, I’ll try out David’s ice cream cone recipe.

Mango Sorbet
Adapted from A Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz
Makes 1 litre

1kilogram peeled and deseeded ripe mangoes, roughly diced
130grams sugar
160millilitres water (I used Fiji Water because it tastes so clean)
8 teaspoons freshly squeezed kalamansi juice (This is a lime indigenous to the Philippines. It has a distinct sweet tartness to it.)
2 tablespoons dark rum
Pinch of salt

Combine the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth (add more lime juice and/or rum to taste). Chill the mixture then freeze it in your ice cream machine.