Power Breakfasts: Basic Whole Wheat Waffles

On lazy weekends or holiday mornings, I like to make my family a more indulgent breakfast. Something they don’t get to enjoy everyday, but a recipe that’s still quick and easy to put together. When my cheeky son, A, gets a choice, he very often asks for waffles. Continue Reading →

Family Food: Steamed Savoury Custard Master Recipe

zheng shui dan

Whether I’m making chawanmushi (茶碗蒸しwhich broadly means ‘steamed in a teacup’ but specifically refers to Japanese steamed savoury custard), zheng shui dan (蒸水蛋 or steamed eggs), egg tofu or a savoury custard of my own invention, my base ratio for the custard ingredients is 1 egg to 100ml liquid. With this master recipe, the custard consistently retains a meltingly delicate quiver that possibly accounts for its comforting, nursery-food like qualities. And it takes just 20 minutes to steam. Continue Reading →

Getting the kids to eat fish: broccoli mash with white fish crumble

When I was pregnant, people were constantly asking me to imagine what kind of child I was going to have. “What if he doesn’t have all of his limbs?” my fellow pregnant friends would worry. “What if he is ugly?” others would wonder. But for me, the most troublesome and scary thought of all was: “what if he doesn’t like food?!”

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An easy but impressive looking dessert: roasted pineapple with pistachios and yogurt

My wife S and I used to entertain a lot. In the old days, before we had our first child, we had no problem dedicating several days (or nights) preparing to wow our friends with an amazing multi-course feast. But these days, time is scarce. We need recipes that can either be thrown together pretty quickly the evening of, or whose components can be prepped way in advance, ready to be combined à la minute. Recently, I’ve come across a really delicious, quick and easy dessert that I simply adore. A little artful plating and this dish of honey-roasted pineapple with pistachios and yogurt looks like something you’d get in a fancy restaurant. Which is perfect for capping off an evening of entertaining. Continue Reading →

A light but flavourful crab pasta with an aromatic shellfish broth

crab pasta

Over the years, my gorgeous and svelte wife S has continuously pressured me to make lighter and healthier pasta dishes. You see, my default, when it comes to pasta, has always been rich and creamy. That’s just the way I like’m. But as I’ve aged and the pounds have become harder and harder to keep off, I have to admit that I’m finally seeing the wisdom in my beloved’s request. My favourite non-creamy, light, but still flavour-packed pasta recipe right now is a crab tagliatelle with an aromatic shellfish broth.   Continue Reading →

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 →

The taste of Spring

S’s phone beeped. The text message read, “Are you in town?” Just a few seconds after she replied in the affirmative, her phone rang. It was M. He’d just come back from a business trip to Germany and was brimming with enthusiasm. “I have something for you and your hubby. But you have to pick it up today or tomorrow.” Not wanting to spoil the surprise, he wouldn’t tell her much more than that. “Come pick it up as soon as possible.”

So, after picking me up from work just a few hours later, I found myself walking into the building where M’s office is located. Coincidentally, I ran into the mystery man himself, waiting for an elevator. With a huge smile (and I could have sworn a couple of chuckles), he very energetically shook my hand and ushered me into his office. “I have something really special for you. Better than truffles.” He strode straight to a large, gleaming refrigerator, opened it, reached inside and pulled out a small, long package, wrapped in paper and plastic. Grinning from ear to ear, he told me, “I got these fresh from a farm for you and S.”

White asparagus. No other vegetable connotes a beautiful European Spring than white asparagus. Delicate when steamed to perfection and delicious with just about anything–although many purists will argue that it’s best with nothing more than a spot of freshly made Hollandaise–this lovely vegetable is very hard to find fresh in my part of the world and when it is available, it’s ludicrously expensive. Being given a whole bundle was certainly a rare treat.

The asparagus M gave us were beautiful. They were big, firm, and full of flavor. S and I decided to cook them that same night. We quickly came up with 4 small courses. The first was the simplest and in some ways the best. It was a simple plate of steamed asparagus, served ice cold with some Japanese mayonnaise and some Hollandaise sauce. Our second course was steamed asparagus served under some grilled and oozing Tallegio. Our third course was steamed asparagus plated with some wonderful, slightly spicy, deboned oxtail stew that an Indonesian chef-friend of S’s had given us. The last course was a pasta with asparagus that was first steamed then sautéed in brown butter, served with truffle oil and freshly grated Parmesan.

It was a wonderful and delicious gift. I doubt I’ll ever be as thoughtful as M. I just can’t imagine hand carrying back such delicate treats for anyone other than myself. But you can bet I’m extremely thankful S and I have friends who will.

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STICKY

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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.

Chiva Som Part 3

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Over the weekend, my wife and I took a Thai Spa Cuisine cooking class at Chiva-Som. It was, for me, an important part of the research I needed to conduct in order to be able to contribute intelligently to the resort’s forthcoming Thai Spa Cuisine cookbook.

I won’t go too much into the details of the course, nor will I divulge most of the cooking techniques or any recipes here. (For that, you’ll have to buy the book when it hits the shelves in September 2005). But I will say that as someone going into the course a tad sceptical of making Thai food healthy, the course really was an eye-opener.

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The food we prepared was delicious, despite being made with close to no salt and sugar, and no oil. In fact, I found that there was a clarity in flavour that is often missing in the Thai cuisine you find in most restaurants.

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The one method that I found most interesting was the substitution of cooking oil with vegetable stock, a technique which sounded a little odd at first but worked beautifully with the various dishes we made (pictured throughout this post). We made a clear and spicy mushroom soup, a spicy pomelo salad with prawns, a fish dish (they called it simply fish with Thai sauce), and a beef with red curry.

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The only substitution that I am sure some purists would object to might be the swapping of coconut milk for a combination of young coconut juice and skim milk. I thought it worked well but I am sure a lot of others won’t find the taste fatty or authentic enough. Anyway, to make a long post short, the experience was really enlightening and ever since returning to Singapore, my wife and I have been experimenting with some of the techniques learnt at Chiva-Som in order to make our dinners a whole lot healthier. That, of course, doesn’t mean I won’t be indulging in some delicious sinful foods from time to time, just that I can feel less guilty about doing so.