Super-Sunday truffle pizzas

What do you do when a friend gives you a couple boxes of uni (sea urchin) and a jar filled with not one but two and a half summer truffles? Well, after whooping for joy for a good half an hour, you call some equally greedy friends and invite them over for a super-decadent Sunday lunch. It also turned out to be one of the longest lunches S and I have ever hosted. We started a little after 1pm and only served dessert (which was very kindly provided by the gorgeous, skillful and (annoyingly) skinny J of Kuidaore) a little after 5pm. Continue Reading →

Just peachy

I like simple old-fashioned desserts. One of my favorites is peach melba. Firstly, peaches are one of the few fruits I really enjoy eating. (It’s a really short list: peaches, mangosteens, clementines, berries, musk melon, and mangoes. Oddly enough, while I’m not a great fruit eater, I love drinking fresh juices.) Secondly, my mother use to make peach melba for my brother and me when we were really young.

A traditional peach melba, as invented by the great Escoffier in 1892, consists of peach halves, served with vanilla ice cream and topped with a sweet raspberry sauce. My mother’s version is a bit of a departure. She topped hers with vanilla ice cream, Hershey’s chocolate syrup, peanuts and whipped cream. Not especially authentic but delicious nonetheless, especially for a kid with a sweet tooth.

S and I picked up some lovely peaches from our favorite fruit seller this past weekend. I decided to use one of them to make my own easy-peasy-Japanesey peach melba. My plan was to simply slather S’s lovely vanilla ice cream over the peeled peach halves and devour it with some whipped cream while watching America’s Next Top Model (I know, I know… not really intellectual fodder, but it is fun!). However, when I told S my plans, she quickly convinced me that my dessert should be as beautiful as it is delicious.

She had some chocolate mayo cake leftover from her Bavarian timbale; amazingly, it was also still very fresh. She cut a small round from it with a metal ring. She then used the same metal ring to shape some vanilla ice cream, which she placed over a thin disk of the chocolate mayo cake. A peach half went on top of this and to really make me happy, she drizzled some chocolate sauce over the whole thing. I also made a small batch of whipped cream, which I liberally spread over the peach right before digging in. It was wonderful.


While totally unrelated to food, I’ve decided to include a photo I just took of our younger Golden Retriever Alix. After coming home from work last night, S–who likes to do this every 6 months or so–asked me to help her re-arrange the furniture in our living room. She likes the novelty of regularly changing the seating arrangements in and tweaking the look of our apartment. This way, she argues, we get the experience of new things without actually having to buy anything. Our most recent arrangement has resulted in our coffee table being taken out of the living room and parked in our store room. This has, in turn, opened up quite a bit of empty floor space, which Alix immediately decided was her territory and flopped down in. And stayed in for the next hour or so, all the time looking very pleased with herself. I just couldn’t resist snapping a picture of the pleased pooch and posting it.

Vanilla, vanilla, vanilla

Happy New Year!

I hope all of you had a wonderful, delicious and fun-filled New Year’s Eve feast. S and I had the pleasure of dining at a friend’s house. She had engaged the services of chef Jimmy Chok for the night. Jimmy whipped up an amazing 6 course feast for the 16 of us gathered together: seared scallop on a wakame tart; braised pork belly topped with a fried egg on a portobello mushroom; lobster ravioli in lobster bisque; Atlantic cod with vanilla leeks and salmon roe beurre blanc; lamb shank and porcini wrapped in phyllo pastry; and warm molten chocolate cake. It was a fantastic meal, enhanced by great company. Continue Reading →

Gingerbread tidings

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Building from my last post, here’s a bunch of gingerbread cookies that S had whipped up, but which I secretly–in the wee hours of the night/morning–adorned. I figured instead of the usual outlines of people, I’d have some fun. I do have to admit that I was somewhat inspired by contemporary artists Barbara Kruger–who was in town this past week–and Jenny Holzer, both of whom I admire and both of whom create art through text. I also really enjoyed the look on S’s face this morning when she saw what I had done–somewhere between mirth and annoyance. Heh heh… Happy Holidays and good eating!

The smell of Christmas

S and I love gingerbread. Nothing quite smells so much like Christmas as the smell of a batch of gingerbread cookies baking away in the oven. S likes hers naked. I prefer mine with icing. For me, it’s the combination of the sweet sugary icing and the rich, spicy cookie that makes my mouth water. S, never one for frills, argues that a well-made gingerbread cookie should be able to hold its own without any sweet adornment. For her, a good gingerbread cookie is about the texture and the interplay of various spices that meld together in one magical mouthful. Continue Reading →

A Truffle Menu

Sometimes it really pays off to have foodie friends who know you like to cook. This past Sunday, we had the most amazing feast, thanks entirely to the gift of a fantastically aromatic (and of course ridiculously expensive) white Alba truffle. The only caveat imposed by the friends who gave us this precious delicacy, of course, was that that they, in addition to ourselves and two others, be present at the ensuing truffle feast.

Inspired by the white truffle, S and I put together a whole truffle menu. Two of the four savory courses would use the white truffle, while the two others would call upon its black cousin. The dessert course would also be truffled, thanks to a wonderful white truffle-honey that S buys in a local gourmet store.

Given the grandeur of the occasion, S and I went all out, laying out a crisp, starched, white table cloth, pulling out plates and crystal we rarely use, and chilling several bottles of good Champagne–which we felt would match most of the dishes better than any other kind of wine. We also dimmed the lights rather dramatically, which while great for entertaining stinks for photography. I was forced to shoot the pictures at 1600 ISO, which exlains the graininess of the shots below. Truth be told, I wasn’t really that interested in shooting this meal. Just in eating it.

Continue Reading →

Tweaking tradition

We held another dinner party yesterday evening, hosting two friends from Singapore and two friends visiting from out of town–Washington DC and Bhutan. S and I planned a simple menu of 4 small courses, each a slight tweak of some of our favorite classic dishes.

Duo of Mentaiko Pasta and Prawns with a Salted Egg Crust
Our first course was a plated combination of two of my all-time faves. I’ve written about Mentaiko pasta in the past, so I won’t go into details here. For the prawns, I used a recipe from Jereme Leung’s New Shanghai Cuisine, a book that S helped to write. I love seafood cooked and coated in a salted duck egg yolk sauce. The sauce has a super-rich and utterly delicious umaminess that I can never get enough of. My favorite version of this prawn dish here in Singapore is the one served at Hu Cui, a fantastic Shanghainese restaurant in Ngee Ann City. Every time I have it, I can’t help but lean back in my chair and moan in pleasure. It’s that good. Understandably then, I was thrilled when I discovered a recipe for “crab claws and prawns with a salted egg crust” in Jereme’s book. I was even more excited when I realized how easy it was to make. Essentially, the egg yolks (separated from the whites) are steamed for 5-7 minutes and then allowed to cool. Once cooled, the yolks should be chopped up into tiny bits and set aside. The prawns need to be coated in potato flour and then fried over high heat in some (normal vegetable) oil. Once they’re just cooked, drain the oil and set aside the prawns. Then melt some salted butter in another fry pan. Once the butter begins to foam, toss in the chopped up egg yolk. Stir until it becomes a saucy paste. Then throw the prawns in, stirring everything gently until the egg yolk sauce coats the prawns thoroughly. For our dinner party, we used a long rectangular plate, setting a twirl of Mentaiko pasta, topped with nori, on one end. On the other end, we gave each person 4-5 prawns, topped with a small spoonful of tobiko.

Continue Reading →

Wagyu and fries

I’ll be getting back to my posts on Shanghai over the next week or so, but first I want to write about one of the best meals I’ve had recently. One of the great things about it is that I had it at home. Which to me is the best place to eat good food. Don’t get me wrong. I love going out to eat. I adore discovering small, hidden gems. I get a kick out of eating in dingy street stalls and coffee shops that, in defiance of their appearances, serve fantastic food. I also love the almost theatrical experience of going to a high-class restaurant, from dressing up for the occasion to service that operates at a smooth hum to the unveiling of delicious and artistically plated food. But nothing beats eating at home, simply because eating at home is completely relaxing. You don’t have to dress up. A pair of shorts and a T-shirt is fine, even with the fanciest food. You don’t have to put up with any snooty sommelier when choosing what wine you want to drink. Just get up, go to the wine fridge and pull out whatever you feel like. You don’t have to deal with noisy, annoying customers at the next table. The only people in the room are the ones you invite. And best of all, you choose exactly what you want to eat. There’s no chance of sitting down, looking at a menu which has nothing appealing on it, or ordering something only to hear that the dish you’ve asked for is sold out. You (or your loved one) buy the ingredients. You (or your loved one) cook the food.

A few weeks back, thanks to famed-Nonya cookbook author and cooking instructor Shermay Lee, my wife S and I were contacted by a guy named Steve Loh. Steve is fronting a new company called The Upper Cut, which is bringing in top quality Australian Wagyu beef and selling it to both individuals and restaurants. The Upper Cut claims that most “Wagyu” on the market is actually beef from cows that have been cross-bred between Japanese Wagyu and Angus or a similar breed. Their Wagyu, they state, is genetically pure. And therefore much, much better, with better marbling and fuller flavor.

For those who don’t know, Wagyu (or Kobe) beef is famed for its marbling (which in layman’s terms refers to the wonderful streaks of fat running throughout the meat). It’s equally well-known for its ridiculously high prices. To put it really simply, the more marbled the meat, the more you pay.

After a few emails and a couple of phone calls, Steve generously offered to let us try some of his Wagyu, hoping that we’d like it and then tell friends and chefs about his company. He sent over two steaks each (each weighing about 220g) of 450 day aged grain-fed Wagyu Striploin and 450 day aged grain-fed Wagyu Ribeye. Each had a marbling grade of 7. For reference, a top USDA Ribeye would have a grade of between 4 and 5. Wagyu, on the other hand and at the top end, can have a grade of up to 12. Here’s a picture of two of the 4 steaks we were sent. The one on the left is the the Ribeye; the other the Striploin. As you can see, even at grade 7, these steaks are beautifully marbled.

We decided to invite two friends who we knew would really appreciate these gorgeous hunks of meat to join us. We also went out the day before our meal and splurged a bit, buying a brand-new Tefal deep fryer (model 4008002 pro-fryer). Both S and I are big fans of pommes frites. And while we’ve tried making them at home in the past, we’ve never been satisfied with our efforts. Frying them in a wok is just too messy. And oven-baking frozen ones has never really produced fries with the right texture. I’d been advocating for a deep fryer in order to make and serve better chips for quite a while, but S had always resisted. Buying a deep fryer to my darling and very health-conscious wife was the surest way to ensure that we’d never eat healthily again. (Oddly enough, the same idea never crossed her mind when she bought an industrial ice cream maker a few years ago–not that I’m complaining, her ice creams are out of this world.) So, I was slightly amazed when she (finally) agreed to buy one. I guess the prospect of eating a beautiful steak with substandard fries finally got to her. Here’s a (press) picture of our new baby.

To complement the steak and fries, I made a mushroom sauce and S whipped up a fresh batch of Bernaise. We also set out some mustard and some organic plum tomato relish. We seasoned the steaks with a little salt and pepper–meat this good doesn’t really need anything else–and seared them over high heat. I had been told by a chef-friend that I trust that this was the best way to eat Wagyu, seared almost to the point of crispy on the outside, but as rare or as raw as possible inside. After cooking, we let the meat rest for a good 5 minutes before serving it with a final sprinkle of Fleur de Sel.

The steaks were excellent. Full of flavor. Soft but not too soft. All of us preferred the Ribeye more than the Striploin. It seemed to melt in our mouths just that much more than the Striploin. But that’s kind of like saying, “I liked the Porsche and the Ferrari, but I prefer the Ferrari; it had more zip.” Quite frankly, we were damn happy to have both kinds of steaks and would have been equally ecstatic with either–just like I’d be happy with either the Porsche or the Ferrari. Of course, the problem with eating the Wagyu is that now, any other steak is not going to match up.

The pommes frites, I should also add, were exceptional. I can’t believe we hadn’t bought a deep fryer sooner. They were perfect, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. And easy to cook. We sprinkled them with some of the Murray River Lake Salt that I love and devoured them with the Bernaise and the tomato relish.

With the meal, we enjoyed a gorgeous wine, a Joseph Phelps’ 1999 Insignia (red table wine). This wine was rated by Robb Report in 2003 as the best domestic (American) wine released that year. It’s a beautiful, fruit-driven and jammy wine, soft and not too tannic.

As I said at the beginning of this post, this was a fantastic meal. Great company, beautiful ingredients, the perfect bottle of wine and all of it without leaving my home.

If you’re interested in trying Steve’s delicious Wagyu for yourself, please click over to the link below. While expensive, it really is worth it.
The Upper Cut

DMBLGIT #10 WINNERS ANNOUNCED

Greetings and salutations! I’ve just returned from a fantastic eating and shopping holiday in Shanghai. I’ll try and post about some of the great food I, my wife and 2 traveling companions consumed over the past week. But, first, something so many of you have been waiting for… the results of Does My Blog Look Good In This #10.

First, for those of you who emailed me on the 27th (October) or later, I apologize for not being able to sneak you into the judging. I had, before leaving town, emailed the judges the entries and while traveling could not add new pictures to the list.

And so, the best food shot posted by a food blogger in the month of September is a beautiful shot of apples taken by Andrew of SpittoonExtra.

Andrew is also our Aesthetics Champ this month. The first runner-up in that category is a shot taken by Cookie Crumb of I’m Mad and I Eat. It’s a great, slightly zen shot.

This month’s Eatability Champ was taken by Stephen of Stephencooks.

It’s a mouth-watering shot of some delicious-looking pear bread pudding.

Our Originality Champ is a delightful picture taken by Shauna of Gluten-free Girl.

Congrats to all the winners and many thanks to the 46 bloggers whose entries we evaluated and the few extras that came in a tad too late to take part. Also, huge thanks go to this month’s judges:

Laura from Cucina Testa Rossa
Michele from Oswego Tea
Monkey Gland from Jam Faced
Tara from Seven Spoons
Lynn from To Short Term Memories

All the best to all food bloggers, friends and readers. Stay tuned for my super-yummy Shanghai report.

DMBLGIT 10th Edition

Greetings from Cheltenham, England, where, while travelling, I’ve just been reminded (thanks Stephen) that I have agreed to host the 10th Edition of “Does My Blog Look Good in This”. It’s quite an honor to host this event and I am really looking forward to putting together a great team of judges and looking at all your yummy pictures.

Please send the URL to the image you are entering from your September posts to me at aun@chubbyhubby.net. Also, please include:

1. the name of your blog
2. where you are located
3. your name (or how you’d like to be referred)

As in all things, there are a few rules:

* You may only submit one photo
* The photo must be food/drink related
* The photo must have been taken by you
* The photo must have appeared on your blog in the month of September

The photo with the highest score based on the following criteria will be selected as the “Grand Champion”.

* Aesthetics – “Would it look good on the cover of Gourmet?”
* Eatability – “Do we drool just looking at it?”
* Originality – “Damn! I wish I had thought of that!”

The highest scoring photos for each category will be given the “Aesthetics Champ”, “Eatability Champ”, and “Originality Champ” awards.

Because I’m travelling, I haven’t had time to finalize judges but will be trying to do so in the next few days and will post who they are asap.

And the info you’ve been waiting for, the deadline for submissions will be October 25th. I will try and post the results by the end of October.

Many thanks and I look forward to seeing the pix.

SHF #12: Old-Fashioned Pumpkin Custard Pie

I rarely take part in Sugar High Friday. Unlike über-dessert chef-bloggers like Keiko or J, I’m much more comfortable cooking savory entrées and main courses. As I’ve written before, dessert is the domain of my darling wife S.

This month’s challenge is being hosted by Elise of Simply Recipes. Elise has asked us to make custard-based desserts. Digging out a recipe from Susan G Purdy’s The Perfect Pie, S prepared a really yummy Old-Fashioned Pumpkin Custard Pie.

I like pies a lot and pumpkin pies especially. It could be partly because of what it represents–wonderfully crisp Fall days and holidays. But it’s also because they just taste so durned good. I love the smooth creamy filling, not too sweet, slightly spiced, contrasted with a good, flaky crust.

S made the pie with a can of organic pumpkin purée that I had bought eons ago. Since then, every so often–only once or twice each week (yah, I know, I can be annoyingly persistent)–I’d drop a hint to S that it would be wonderful if she were to make a pumpkin pie from it.

The pie was delicious. And I think S is happy to have finally fulfilled my (repeated) request. In other words, I have a suspicion that she’s satisfied to have finally shut me up.

P.S. Elise’s round-up is up. Please click here to check it out.