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.

Tagliatelle al ragù alla Bolognese

bolognese.jpg

What do you cook when the person you delight in sharing the pleasures of the table with most isn’t with you? Sardines on toast, baked beans on toast, cheese on toast—you get the idea. I actually lose my appetite when CH isn’t around. The only thing that inspires me to get into the kitchen when he’s away is the prospect of cooking the meals that we will share when he returns. This accounts for the supply of duck leg confit, pork prime rib and Italian sausage stew, and home made stocks crowding our refrigerator and freezer right now. This past week, I had a craving for home made pasta, but going through all that trouble for just one person didn’t make sense given that I was also juggling a bunch of projects at work.

Nonetheless, the prospect of having home made pasta some time in the near future kept me going. I decided to attempt Giuliano Bugialli’s tagliatelle al ragù alla Bolognese because I love tomato-based pasta sauces, but CH doesn’t (he prefers his sauces cream-laden). Bugialli’s ragù offers a happy marriage of both. It also reminds me of a similar sauce the original chefs at La Smorfia on Purvis Street served in their seafood spaghetti when they first opened (sadly, this great restaurant is now long gone). It also gave me the opportunity to pull out my new KitchenAid meat grinder for a spin. It is truly easy to use as long as you remember to cut the meat into long strips that will fit easily into the feeding chute. Semi-freezing the meat makes it easier to cut into strips and freezing the strips after that also makes grinding them easier.

It took significantly longer to prepare this dish than the spaghetti Bolognese I used to make as a university student (back then, my taste preferences were limited to Dolmio’s), but I must declare that it was well worth the effort. The blend of ground bacon (it was easier to find than pancetta and prosciutto), pork and beef provided a tasty mix of richness, smokiness and subtle meatiness. The long, slow-cooking made it tender and moist. And the inclusion of stock and cream tempered some of the astringency (if one can describe it as that) of the tomatoes in the sauce. In all, it tasted like an enthusiastic welcome home to me. I hope CH thinks so too! (He’s actually standing behind me, reading this over my shoulder, nodding vigorously; he had some for lunch today and he said it was “awesome!”)