Thursday, December 15, 2011

My Top Ten readers come from...

1. Singapore
2. USA

3. Malaysia
4. The Philippines
5. United Kingdom
6. Australia

7. Canada
8. Germany
9. India
10. Italy

It feels good to be so connected to the world through a simple food blog. I'm always delighted to hear from strangers who visit my blog, so drop me a note anytime. Tell me more about the type of food you grew up with. Educate me. Or just say hello!



Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Word of the Week: Carpaccio

Salmon carpaccio
Carpaccio, pronounced Ka-pa-show, is raw meat, usually beef or fish, thinly sliced and served as an appetizer. It is named after a 15th century painter called Vittore Carpaccio by a chef who was reminded of the painter on seeing the colour of raw beef.


"Dream of St Ursula" by Vittore Carpaccio

See my Beef Carpaccio, done Vietnamese Style and done Western style. Here are some preview photos.

New here? Find out more about the author of this post.





Word of the Week features a culinary term each week, usually on a Wednesday. I picked up this practice from the culinary school and have continued with this learning journey after I graduated. See previous Word of the Week:-

Mirepoix
Chiffonade
Confit



New to this site? Read more about the author behind this post.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Planning a pig-out in Europe


Munich last week - photo credit to my daughter who's already there.

Hi guys, I am planning to be in Germany and Italy soon and will be posting pictures of e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. I will be eating. So, stay tuned. It will include a big cook-out with friends there. They have promised to teach me how to cook German food for Christmas! Here's how the menu looks now written by my dear friend Sandy. Also, if you know of any good places to eat there, please write to me. Guten abend!


Roasted duck filled with apples
Brussel sprouts in cream
Kohlrabi (do you know this vegetable?)
Potato dumplings (if we dare. They are difficult to make but also yummy)
Mashed potatoes (for the Singaporean kids)
Red cabbage with spices
Chestnuts in butter and orange sauce
Beetroot with orange salad
Fennel with lemon and extra virgin olive oil (raw)

And for dessert
Rote Grütze - this is loads of red berries with spices - a typical german thing and so yummy.
With vanilla sauce and ice cream. 
Homemade Christmas cookies, coffee and tea




Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Word of the Week: Sous Vide

Some chefs believe sous-vide cooking will become as common as microwaving.

It's Wednesday and it's Word of the Week again. I want to introduce you to this Sous Vide machine that I saw in the culinary school. Sous Vide, pronounced su'vid, means "under vacuum" when literally translated from French. The machine vacuum-seals food which is then placed in a hot water bath at below-boiling temperatures for an extended period of time. This allows food to be completely cooked while retaining moisture and flavors. The results are shockingly tender and perfectly cooked food. 

The real magic in sous vide is the evenness of the cooking, and you can get a medium-rare steak with top-to-bottom sexy pink that melts in the mouth. 

Because the machine is expensive and used only in professional kitchens, many people with some creativity have developed their own home version and are enjoying some good success.

Since I first learned about sous vide, I know I am going to succumb to it one day. Check videos on YouTube if you are interested. "Anyone can do it" is the line that struck a big chord with me. Click here to see my home-made sous vide duck breast, also featured on Asian Food Channel Facebook page.

All you need is a ziploc, a slow cooker or cast iron pot and an accurate thermometer.

Credit to Foodwishes.com


Word of the Week features a culinary term each week, usually on a Wednesday. I picked up this practice from the culinary school and have continued with this learning journey after I graduated. See previous Word of the Week:


Mirepoix
Chiffonade
Confit

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I had John Denver with me in the kitchen today



Alone in my thoughts as I cut onions and sauté mushrooms today, I whipped this up in my head. It was good personal entertainment amidst menial tasks and brainless work. 


Sung to the tune of "Leaving on a Jet Plane"


The pace is fast, the tension is high
I'm standin' here doing mise en place
Finger burns and small cuts are daily norm


But the pots and pans, they're heavy for me
Sous chef is yelling', he's blowin' his top
Already I'm so stinky I could die


So kiss me and smile for me
Tell me that you like my food
Eat it like you've not eaten before
Cause I'm a-cookin' in a restaurant
Don't know what I am doing here
O baby, I love to learn

Monday, December 5, 2011

Home-cured Pancetta - Part III


Click here for - Home-cured Pancetta Part I (This took about 10 days)
Click here for - Home-cured Pancetta Part II (This is supposed to take 30 days but I can't wait!)
Click here to find out what a pancetta is - Word of the Week: Pancetta

OK, it hasn't been a month yet since Part II but I am giving in to my impatience and utmost curiosity on how this is going to turn out. Besides thinking about duck fat, my mind also keeps wandering to this thing that has been sitting in my fridge for the past 2 weeks. To be quite honest, my expectations range from "I could get botulism from this" to "At worst, just junk the whole thing."

So, this is how it looks right now. Completely dry by now. The bottom part has darkened considerably.


I slice them open to find this. OK, looks kinda promising but I am still totally wary. It smells good in a herby way.


Not sure of what to do next, I cut them into a typical pancetta look. It looks like lard with layers of fat interspersed with meat of different shades. I decide to take the risk and pop one in my mouth. It tastes salty and rubbery and I spit it out!! Oopsy. What am I going to do with this thing? I need some advice here. Hello, anybody there? Houston, we have a problem.


OK, think!

OK. I cling-wrap them back and I'm going to use it as if it already works as a pancetta. I'll add them to my pizza or pasta tomorrow. Or I could pan-fry them to see what happens.

Anyone has any better ideas?

Now, while I have little to boast of this culinary experiment, I can't help but notice how interesting this shot looks. Does it look like something out of a magazine? I can't take my eyes off it!




Friday, December 2, 2011

Bringing you ishots from the restaurant, kitchen and pastry today


You get this if you order the baked seafood rice.


I'm making the Kaffir Lime Mayo...
 in case you choose this for your burger, remember I sweat blood and tears to bring this to you.
I tasted the BBQ sauce - if smoky-oaky is your kind of thing, go for this.
They put this up today on the wall. My locker room is close-by behind this wall. 
Remember people like me working real hard behind these walls so you can enjoy every bite.
The restaurant aims to build a community for families to hang out at its place over good food.
Tells the venue as well, this one.
I honestly hope you will like the food when you get to it.

And the pastry spying and spotting continues...






Thursday, December 1, 2011

Speed-cooking in 8 hours

A new ingredient that caught my eye.
Another interesting day spent in the kitchen today on what feels like speed-cooking lessons. Every half an hour or so, the chef calls out, Come over, everybody! and gives a quick demo on a particular dish on the menu. We are all assigned our tasting spoons that we stuff into our apron pockets and whip it up every now and then to taste the different foods. We tried tomato paste, bolognaise, minestrone, baked seafood rice, burger patty, calamari, mushroom soup, and many more. The pace is hectic, everyone seems to be in everyone's way, and tension is high. All that without customers yet! 

A completely different environment from the culinary school kitchen which now seems so unreal. It was comfortable, peaceful and quiet back there, and there was always room and time for good photography. Now, either I don't have the time, the energy, the space, or my hands are full. Still, I managed a few shots with the iPhone today to share with you. Apologies for bad photography.

Pilaf rice - sautée garlic with butter, add bay leaves, then onions, then small diced celery and carrots,
add rice grains and sauté further, then pop into the combi oven to steam. I think! It was all too quick and rushed and I had to get back to my own station to do my stuff. Tasted rather buttery to me.
Popped my head in the pastry department every now and then.
Wish I could make these. Must try to get my hands on the recipe!
Someone got injured...
.. And so did I again today.
At 11am, we were told to stop all work as the directors of the company were going to give a speech. I thought, What fun to hear "management speak" from this side of the fence now. I sat down together with my chefs and 20 questions in my head.  It opened with a "We understand your pains" empathy line, followed quickly by "Now, understand ours" and ended clumsily with "Beware of consequences if you don't behave." It lasted 12 minutes, about the time I take to small-dice a few carrots. And we strolled back to the kitchen. No Q&A? 

I was curious to know what my fellow crew members thought and stayed tuned to any comments from them. You know, I didn't hear one single person talk about the meeting. It did not seem to strike any chord with them, nothing positive, negative, just nothing. Could that be worse than getting negative comments? Before the day ended, I too had completely forgotten all about the meeting. Perhaps that is totally acceptable, even expected, as a cook.

Click here to see more ishots of the restaurant.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

An important day for the restaurant

New toys for the kitchen crew

Today marks a key milestone in the food-related social enterprise I'm volunteering my time at. Everyone worked real hard and in particular the past 24 hours to ensure the restaurant is ready to be inspected by the regulators and fire safety bureau. Well, the management team was delighted to receive the news today that all is well and it's all systems go from now. 

The kitchen crew got all excited and we unwrapped all equipment like we were opening Christmas presents. We lost no further time to start preparing our mise en place. The time it took me to julienne a carrot, the chef next to me finished 5! I'm one of the most inexperienced in the whole team, so everyone is kind and they try to encourage me. Every cook and chef has his own way of doing things and I got more than my fair share of advice. They work magic with the knives, these guys. In the past 10 days in the classroom training with them, they have been so unimpressive with pens and keyboards but now, the knives seem to be like their extended hands. It was truly impressive and a sight to behold. The chef giving me instructions didn't even know the word 'chiffonade' but his chiffonade cut was to textbook perfection. 

Conscious of my lack of knifing skills, I was careful not to cut myself. No, I didn't want to bleed - literally - for this cause, and I certainly didn't want to be the first. So, I cut real slow. But I did hurt myself today..

First injury. (No, I'm not counting.)
The butcher chopping board which weighs an elephant, measures 6-7 times the length and breath of the home version, and is sharp and slippery when wet. I'd never held one before and it slipped off my arm when I was trying to wash it causing a big bump on my left hand. I'm quite the 'gu-niang' type (meaning, cannot take the slightest cut or pain breed!) and so I decided it was TIME-OUT! I wandered off to the pastry side and sneaked around. 


The pastry chef and I got off on a good start and she has agreed for me to come over whenever I am free. Yippee!

It's full-on tomorrow with the entire crew on duty. It's not your Joel Robuchon restaurant, in fact, it's not even a restaurant, more like a cafeteria, or some people jokingly call it a "high class kopi-tiam" (coffeeshop).  It does not offer the culinary arts which is what I really wish to learn. But I am exactly where I need to be right now. I am so happy to be a part of this journey and will keep raising my hand to thank God for it. 


Word of the Week: Ramekin



As readers of this blog are from different continents, I can't assume that everyone uses the same terminology. I was asked this week what a ramekin is when I posted the Baked Sunny Eggs with Roasted Tomatoes in Ramekins. Maybe it sounds like a form of napkin, I don't know.

Anyway, a ramekin is a small, round (usually about 3-4 inches in diameter), straight sided soufflé dish made of ovenproof porcelain. It is used to cook individual portions of food.

Most ramekins I see in restaurants are the boring white ones. Yawn. I got these rainbow ramekins from Totts and they certainly add immediate cheer to the kitchen and the dining table. Go out and get some of these if you don't have them. They'll surely inspire you to try this dish for a leisurely Sunday breakfast - here's the link again.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Tandoori roti and naan


I have been asked a few times for the roti and naan recipe since I first blogged about it - click here for my Tandoor post. It's taken a while but here it is finally.

Recipe A

Tandoori roti (Tandoor bread with whole wheat flour)
Origin: North India
Serves: 2

180gm Whole wheat flour/ Atta
1/2 tsp Baking powder
2 Tbs Oil
100 ml Water
Salt to taste


Method:
1. Combine flour, salt and water to make a dough that is very soft yet not too sticky. Let rest for about 10 minutes, cover with damp cloth. Dimple the dough to catch the oil. Then add oil and turn the mixture out onto a floured board and knead by hand for 5 minutes.
2. Roll the whole dough into a ball and cover with a damp cloth and set aside for about an hour.
3. Knead the dough again for a few minutes and break it into 4 even pieces.
4. Flatten each ball with hands while dabbing with a little flour. Using a rolling pin, create circles about 6 inches in diameter
5. Using a pad stick the rolled out bread on the wall of a hot tandoor.
6. Cook for a minute and take out using the special skewer.
7. Brush with butter and cut into two before serving.

You can see which ones are done by Chef, and the one done by me!

I have not tried doing this in my home oven. Temperature in the tandoor is about 500C so if I try, I would set to the highest possible temperature in my own oven, the same way I would do for pita bread and pizzas. 

Special skewers to remove bread from the tandoor.


Recipe B
Naan (Tandoor bread with plain flour)
Origin: North India
Serves: 2

225gm Refined wheat flour/plain flour
25 ml Oil
80 ml Water
30 ml Yoghurt
5 gm Sugar
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
60 ml Melted butter for brushing
Salt to taste



You have to watch an Indian knead his dough. Some things are taught and some things are caught!


Method:
1. Combine flour, baking soda, yoghurt, salt, sugar and water to make a dough that is very soft yet not too sticky. Let rest, cover. Dimple. Then add oil and turn the mixture out onto a floured board and knead by hand for 5 minutes.
2. Roll the whole dough into a ball and cover with a damp cloth and set aside for about an hour.
3. Knead the dough again for a few minutes and break it into 4 even pieces.
4. Flatten each ball with hands while dabbing with a little flour. Using a rolling pin, create circles about 8 inches in diameter
5. Using a pad stick the rolled out bread on the wall of a hot tandoor.
6. Cook for a minute and take out using the special skewer.
7. Brush with butter and cut into two before serving.

As I'm on a low carbo track, I have not come back to try this recipe since graduating from the culinary school. I'm posting this specially for readers who are keen on trying. Please come back and tell me if you try this. Good luck!





Baked Sunny Eggs in Ramekin


It takes some skills to spoil a breakfast. Even an extra virgin chef can't do it.

This dish is great nutrition all packed into one little ramekin - Baked Sunny Eggs with roasted tomatoes and garlic sautéed spinach. What better way to start off your Sunday. Food to get you in the mood.




This one took a bit longer and you can see the eggs are firmer.
If you like this post, please share it with your friends.  A little Like goes a long way.

Ready to take one step further? Fancy trying to make your own burger? Click here to see my McVirgin burger.


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