Another cool site

While typing my last post, something kept bugging me. No, it wasn’t the golden retriever sitting on my foot asking me if, by chance, I had any treats at hand. It was the fact that I was forgetting to do something. This morning, it hit me. In that post, I mentioned three blogs that I’ve come to enjoy over the past month or two. But I realized, in a fit of panic and sweat, that I forgot to mention the newish blog that has made me chuckle more than any of the others (in a good way). That blog is Jam Faced by a fellow male food blogger who calls himself Monkey Gland. So, if you get a chance, check out his site. His current post on eating at St John has left me drooling over my keyboard. I also like the fact that he’s even more obsessed with changing his site’s header than I am.

Back after a break…

It feels like years since I last posted. In reality, it’s only been a little more than a week. But it feels much longer. The past couple weeks have been really busy. My team at work has been involved in a huge project that’s taken up days, nights and even our weekends. But it’s now over, so it’s time to start eating and cooking again.

S and I did manage to squeeze one great meal in recently, on Sunday night. A friend of ours, food writer Kevin Gould (author of Dishy and Loving And Cooking With Reckless Abandon), was in town for the Singapore Writers Festival. We had him and a couple of other friends over for a home cooked meal. Because I’ve been so busy, S did most of the work. I made only the first course, Scallops with Herb Dressing, from a recipe from Jane Lawson’s Yoshoku. S made the rest of the delicious dinner: Roasted Duck Ravioli in a Sage and Butter Sauce; Oolong Tea Steeped Quail Egg and Pork Belly; and Sago Gula Melaka with Coconut Ice Cream. Unfortunately, I was too busy enjoying both the food and the company of good friends and I forgot to take any photographs until after dinner was over, which explains the picture above. (Actually, S claims that since I was seated next to and opposite two gorgeous young women I forgot myself entirely.)

S and I are slightly obsessive cookbook buyers. A good chunk of my monthly paycheck goes towards supporting both Border’s and Kinokuniya. One of our favorite recently acquired books has to be Jane Lawson’s Yoshoku. When S and I first saw it, I have to admit that we weren’t inclined to buy it. After all, it was “Japanese food western style” written by an Aussie whose work we weren’t too familiar with. But once we took a look inside, we knew we had to pick up this easy-to-use and gorgeous collection. Ms Lawson’s recipes looked both easy and delicious while Mikkel Vang’s pictures were both mouth-watering and clean.

Since picking up this book, we’ve made Ms Lawson’s Scallops with Herb Dressing and Shichimi Schnitzel. Tonight, we made her Pan-fried Pork Cutlets and Nashi. It was, as the other two dishes were, delicious. I’ve posted a rather large picture of it above. I’ve also flagged Ms Lawson’s Japanese Hambaagaa with Mushroom Sauce, Lamb Racks in Miso, Slow Roasted Duck with Yuzu Peaches, Soba with Sauteed Pork, Eggplant and Chillli, and Oysters with Japanese Flavours. I’m hoping that over the next few months we’ll have time to make all of these. And I’m sure that they’ll all be equally yummy.

On another, and slightly random, note, a number of wonderful fellow food bloggers kindly mentioned me and linked to me on Blogday (which was on 31 August). I just wanted to thank all of them and very, very belatedly do my own little part by mentioning three blogs that I only discovered a while ago and have been enjoying. Cupcake Bakeshop by Chockylit is a fun site by a very talented baker who specializes in, no surprise, cupcakes… which I love. Sweet Oven is a fun site by a fellow Singaporean who has decided to spend one night a week in one of Singapore’s fanciest French restaurants. I really enjoy reading Nosheteria. She knows her food and writes passionately and eloquently about it. Her site not only makes me hungry but always provides something to think about.

No IMBB; Kylie Kwong and Jimmy Chok

It’s been an amazingly busy week. So busy in fact that I wasn’t able to find any time to take part in this month’s Is My Blog Burning? challenge. Of course, J over at K

uidaore created enough amazing dishes for a half dozen eager bloggers, so I doubt my lack of participation will even be noticed. Despite my crazy schedule, I did find the time to attend a pretty amazing dinner on Saturday night.

Aussie celeb chef Kylie Kwong is in town to take part in the Singapore Writers Festival. One of her events, and the quickest sell-out event in the Festival, was a dinner at Poppi, a Modern Australian restaurant in Legends (the former Fort Canning Country Club). The menu was a collaboration between Ms Kwong and Poppi’s head chef, Chris Millar. For starters, we were served 3 sharing platters of Sashimi of Kingfish and Ocean Trout; Salad of Squid, Chinese Pork, Baby Herbs and Nolans Rd Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil; and Tasmanian Spiced Chicken and Prawn Salad with Pomegranate, Figs and Cinnamon Spiced Almonds. For mains, we first had a Coconut and Lime Crusted Garoupa in a Smoky Coconut Broth with Asian Herbs. This was followed with a Crisp Skinned Magret of Duck with Fresh Ruby Grapefruit Sauce and Sauteed Asian Greens. This second main was particularly exciting because it was a variation of the amazing crispy duck that Ms Kwong serves up in Billy Kwong, her restaurant in Sydney. For dessert, we had Poached Stone Fruits with Creme de Framboise, Lime Curd and Vanilla Bean Anglaise. It was a good dinner with great company. I was fortunate enough to get seats at the table Ms Kwong herself was at. Other dining companions turned out to be famed New York Times writer RW Apple Jr and Makansutra founder KF Seetoh.

My luck only got better because Sunday, S and I had the great fortune of attending a private lunch in honor of RW Apple Jr (“Johnny” to his friends), prepared by one of Singapore’s best but often underrated chefs, Jimmy Chok. Here’s a picture of Jimmy explaining our menu to Johnny.

The menu, and the food, I have to say, was amazing. I’ve eaten Jimmy’s cooking many, many times. And I’ve always enjoyed his food. But it was never like it was today. Today, perhaps because he wasn’t cooking in a busy restaurant or perhaps because he was hoping to impress Johnny and then get written up favorably and famously in the New York Times or perhaps because he was just in a good mood, the food was particularly inspired. It was both terrific and inspiring. Here’s our menu:


Hot Seared Scallops with Prawn Ravioli and Clam Laksa Leaf Nage


Marinated Angel Hair with Australian Abalone


Tian of Lobster with Mango and Pea Puree, Lobster Bisque Emulsion and White Truffle Oil


Slow Cooked Chilean Sea Bass with Roast Duck Dumpling, Terrine of Duck Liver and Soy Mirin Reduction


Coriander Crusted Rack of Lamb

For dessert, we had a rather modern take on ‘goreng pisang’ (fried bananas). And to help wash down all this yummy food, we enjoyed some Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 1996 and then some Torbrecks The Steading 2002. Jimmy is currently the executive chef of The Academy Bistro, which is on level 1 of the new Supreme Court building and just opened a couple of weeks ago. The Bistro is open every weekday for lunch and open Fridays for lunch and dinner. On weekends and on weeknights from Monday to Thursday, Jimmy is available for private catering. To reach him, you can email him at jimmy_chok@sal.org.sg.

SHF #11: vanilla coffee madeleines and warm mocha tarts

I’ve never been much of a baker. Baking requires precision. It requires having the patience to measure ingredients properly, which I’ve never actually had. I’ve always been one of those cooks who enjoys eyeballing his measurements. Terms like “salt to taste” were written for over-confident lazy guys like me (of course, some gals would argue that all us guys are over-confident and lazy). The theory is that with enough experience, one instinctively knows how much of each ingredient to add to one’s dish. Of course, it’s just a theory, which as soon as I pull out our lemon-curd colored Kitchenaid mixer is often proved wrong.

Let’s just say that my wife S, who is obsessively precise, is the baker in the family. Which means that, while we share kitchen duties, desserts are her domain. Which further explains why I’ve never taken part in Sugar High Friday before. Until now.

This month’s SHF is being hosted by Ronald of Love Sicily and is a coffee themed challenge.

I love coffee. When I was in university in the USA, I was a total coffee addict, drinking an average of 12 cups a day. Back then, I was a tad silly; my java of choice was made from those frou-frou flavored beans… you know, “vanilla hazelnut” or “chocolate peppermint”, things like that. Fortunately, a study stint in Vienna and an internship in Paris introduced me to proper coffee. Good, strong, small cups of coffee. My cuppa of choice these days is espresso. I like that it’s small, thick, and powerful. I also like mine sweet. I’m still not enough of a purist to take my espresso black. At home, we make ours with the most wonderful wedding present, a day-glo orange Illy Francis Francis.

For this month’s SHF, I decided to make one of the few baked goods that I’m good at, madeleines, this time flavored with espresso and vanilla. I’m a bit of a madeleine nut. I don’t get any Proustian flashbacks when eating them, no early childhood warm fuzzies. I just like, no, love the way they taste. The crisp surface, the buttery cakey insides. I particularly like mini-madeleines; not only is there more of that wonderful crunch, they’re also small enough to dunk in a small coffee cup. Plus they’re just plain more fun to eat.

For these delectable treats, I adapted a recipe from Patricia Wells’ Paris Cookbook, adding 3 tablespoons of espresso and a half teaspoon of pure vanilla essence instead of the lemon rind Mrs Wells asks for as well as a tad more flour to the mix. I made the batter last night, letting it sit in the fridge overnight in order to bake up this batch for breakfast this morning. There’s nothing more wonderful than the smell of baked goods early in the morning except the smell of baked goods combined with the aromas of a good, strong cup of coffee–which as you can see, I enjoyed with my madeleines.

Let’s just say that I had a really good morning.

To compliment my rather limited baking skills, S decided to surprise me after work with a coffee themed treat–something she knew I’d enjoy but also want to boast, er… blog about. Using a recipe from Bittersweet by Alice Medrich, she made a batch of Warm Mocha Tarts. Ms Medrich’s recipe is for one large tart. For ease of eating, S made me 8 small ones. She must have baked them in the late afternoon because they were still a little warm when I got home. The sweet smells of chocolate, coffee, sugar and butter still hung in the air. The dogs, greedy little beasts that they are, were definitely turned on by the tarts. They sat, refusing to move, by the dining room table, where S had left the tarts to cool. A puddle of drool had even begun to collect by Alix’s mouth. Ignoring them (for their own good of course–chocolate being toxic for dogs), I grabbed one of the tarts and quickly bit into it. The filling was warm, velvety and decadently delicious. The crust, made from sweet cookie dough, offered a delightfully light, crumbly, buttery contrast to the thick rich coffee-enhanced chocolate custard. While I would have been more than happy to eat my way through the lot of them, I managed to exercise enough restraint to stop long enough to take a quick photo. After which, of course, I ate another one.

Two great flavors… x2

Today’s post is about two sets of flavors that I (and I’m sure others) love pairing. The first is fish with green curry. Specifically, I love pan-roasting or frying filets of what Rick Stein calls “large round fish” (obviously for want of a more inventive way of describing them)–like cod or butterfish–and saucing them with a sort of green curry pesto that S and I came up with. In the past, we always served this delicious duo with cous-cous. Because I’ve been trying to cut down on carbs in the evening, tonight we plated the dish with some sautéed eggplant.

The dish is pretty simple to make. Just get some really good quality filets of cod or another similar fish. Cook them as you prefer–fry, bake, pan-roast, pan-braise, etc. My favorite way is to sear the fish skin side down in a hot pan. Then when the skin is nice and crisp, flip the fish over and add beurre monté into the pan until the fish are half-covered. Let them simmer for 5-10 minutes, depending on how thick the filets are.

For the green curry pesto, you can either make it from scratch or, if you’re lazy like me, buy a good quality paste and start from there. Chop up an onion and 4-5 cloves of garlic. Fry them up in a tablespoon of oil in a hot sauce pan. Then add the curry paste and cook, stirring, for a few minutes. Chop up a small chili pepper and toss it in the pan. Pour in a half cup of chicken stock and add 4 tablespoons of coconut milk. Heat this but don’t let it come to a boil. Pour the curry into a blender, add all of a small packet of basil (around two handfuls), and blend until smooth. Pour the sauce back into your pan and add more coconut milk or stock according to your tastes.

The other flavor combination that I adore is chocolate and lemon. The above was my dessert this evening, and I gotta thank Melissa of The Traveler’s Lunchbox for inspiring S to make this SUPER-AMAZING chocolate gelato (It’s recipe #2 in case you too want to make this for a loved one). The gelato is paired with a simple lemon cookie, made from a recipe from Carole Walter’s Great Cookies. Years ago, a once-amazing French restaurant here in Singapore used to make the most delicious chocolate-lemon soufflé. I was obsessed with it, and despite the ridiculously expensive price (seriously, soufflés and coffee for two was around S$50), I had it as often as I could. I have to say that no matter how good that soufflé was, the above combo–a scoop of gelato and a cookie–simple as it is, was better by far. Come to think of it, perhaps it’s the simplicity that makes it so much more appealing.

Steak haché and a great gift

Ever since S and I first noticed that Isetan, one of the local Japanese supermarkets, began carrying minced wagyu, I’ve been dying to get some and make my own steak haché—which, unless you happen to wish you were living in Paris (like me!), or are Frasier or Niles (who don’t exist anyway), you’d probably call a “burger”. Last night, I mixed up two trays with an egg, an onion (diced), some Worcestershire sauce, some plum tomato relish we had picked up at Bunalun, bread crumbs, a bit of salt and a sprinkle of pepper and made two generous wagyu burger patties. Under the patties we mixed some rocket and spinach with some toasted pine nuts, all dressed lightly with a Champagne vinaigrette. Over the burger, we spooned a super-tasty truffle mayonnaise that S made from combining a recipe from the Balthazar cookbook with Tetsuya’s truffle salsa. It was a lovely, mostly carb-free, dinner and one of the more elegant burger meals I’ve ever had or made.

On another note, I was pleasantly surprised today by a package from a friend who has just returned from London. Inside were these gorgeous Nigella Lawson Serving Hands. S was especially thrilled; she’s slightly obsessed with all of Nigella’s beautiful products. And since we haven’t yet seen any of her products for sale in Singapore, getting anything from her range is a real treat. Isn’t it wonderful when friends get you great gifts that you’ve been coveting for a long time?

Fried Food

This week’s Friday Food Fiesta on Flickr is on fried foods. In order to submit something both yummy and homemade, my fabulously sexy gourmand of a wife, S, whipped up a plate of calamari (fried squid) as well as some beer-battered flathead, served with a simple side salad. Truth be told, we both enjoyed the calamari better—the squid had been tossed in seasoned flour (salt and pepper) and then sifted to remove the excess flour. The beer-batter (from a recipe from Neil Perry’s new book, The Food I Love) was tasty but was also a tad heavy for our taste. It was, though, a great way to get rid of a can of Asahi that my brother had left in our house the last time he came over for a meal. Neither S nor I are beer lovers, so it was either a beer batter, a carbonnade (a la flamande), or this can was gonna be in our fridge forever.

My wife’s dumplings

I love dumplings. My all-time favourite would have to be xiao long bao, the Shanghainese steamed, soupy pork dumplings that explode with warm broth when bitten into. Gyoza, the pan-fried Japanese dumplings, come in second.

About a year ago, my wife (S) spent an afternoon with a Japanese friend learning to make them. Essentially, it was a matter of learning how to make the filling (a combination minced pork, cabbage, spring onions, ginger, garlic, salt, sake, sesame oil, soya sauce, and some chilli bean paste), learning to wrap the dumplings, and then the right technique in cooking them up. While I have to admit, I don’t really contribute in the filling-making process—unless you count peering over someone’s shoulder while making lip-smacking munchy sounds a contribution (which S certainly does not)—I do enjoy helping S wrap the dumplings. The first couple of times I tried this, I made a bit of a mess of things. Creating evenly spaced folds in the edges is not as simple as it sounds. And instead of picture perfect gyoza, my initial creations looked more like some poor Tokyo citizen that had been trampled by Godzilla. But after some practice, I can happily say that when I offer my help, S doesn’t swat me away but instead pulls out a chair for me to join her.

Cooking the gyoza is something I enjoy. Essentially, you pan-fry them over pretty high heat until the bottoms are browned. Then you add a little bit of water and cover the pan, allowing the dumplings to steam through. After a couple of minutes you can uncover and cook until the water evaporates.

The above pictured gyoza were made by S for a mid-week meal for me and her father. Incidentally, they are plated on a Staub cast iron plate, given to me by the local distributor. The plate is not only sexy and hardy, but because it is cast iron, retains heat beautifully.

A Birthday Dinner

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For Christmas last year, my wife and I gave my mother a dinner voucher. More specifically, we offered to cook a dinner party for her and her friends whenever she wanted. This past weekend, she cashed in the voucher in order to celebrate her best friend’s birthday.

We hosted 7 people and cooked them a 5 course meal. We started with a Thai Pomelo Salad with Prawns that we learnt how to make at Chiva-Som. Next, we served what I like to call a Deconstructed California Roll, a dish inspired by a visit to an amazing restaurant in Melbourne called Yuu. This was followed with a dish my wife and I came up with this past week, Pan-fried Butterfish Medallions with Noodles served in a Laksa Broth. Our last main was an Oven-roasted Rack of Lamb plated with Lentils Du Puy. The lentils recipe came from the Balthazar cookbook. For dessert, we had homemade Carrot Cake, pictured up top.

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Pictured here are the “California Roll” course and the Butterfish. Both are actually pretty easy to make, with the right ingredients. The former is composed of fresh crabmeat mixed with wakame, ikura, tobiko, and avocado. It’s tossed in a sauce made from mirin, white miso, mustard, Japanese mayonnaise, and wasabi. The latter course depends on the quality of the fish (which we bought at Swiss Butchery) and the broth. We used a store-bought laksa paste, but the broth was homemade. My wonderful wife whipped up the stock using crab shells, prawn heads and fish bones. The dinner was complimented with a 2003 Madfish Premium White and a 1999 Reserve de la Comtesse.

Duck Season? Rabbit Season? No, Mango Season!

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Every April, a close friend of ours goes a little nuts. She’s usually a great gal. Beautiful, funny, sweet, generous, and, of course, as you might expect as a criterion of our friendship, wonderfully gluttonous. But April marks the beginning of the all too brief Alfonso mango season. And this gal, L, is mad about mangos, especially the Alfonso (also spelled “Alphonso”).

The Alfonso is easily the most expensive mango varietal out there, as well as universally considered to be the best. It hails from India, from states like Goa and Tamil Nadu. Goa, it should be noted, once produced some 77 varieties of mango. Other top Goan varieties include the Musarad and the Mancurado. The Alfonso, though, thanks especially to international demand, is the world’s most coveted mango.

The season lasts for only 6 weeks and in order to ensure a supply of good quality Alfonsos, L has taken to bypassing the fruit markets and sellers—who she contends only sells second rate cast-offs to the public anyway—and goes direct to the source. Using some f&b contacts, she’s managed to establish a relationship with a rather dependable Indian fruit importer (not that I’m implying most Indian fruit importers are undependable). So now, thanks to her “hook-up”, our lovely lass orders her Alfonsos, direct and by the box. Frighteningly, she also consumes them by the box, mainlining them like there’s no tomorrow.

As mentioned, she’s a generous gal-pal and she not only allows friends to order through her, she also shares her booty (um… meaning the mangos, of course). Here’s a picture of my wife enjoying one.

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On a final note, a mango, while high in fibre, is also highly nutritious. It’s high in beta-carotene, and contains all four recognised anti-oxidants (Vitamin A, C, E and Selenium) that prevent heart disease, cancer and diabetes. One mango contains three times the recommended daily intake of beta carotene and vitamin A.