Monthly Archives: October 2010

Chewy chocolate chip cookies

I love a bit of alliteration.  As much as I love a good cookie.  And there’s something just so satisfying having your flat smell of baking cookies and just so damn good about breaking a just-out-of-the-oven-warm cookie in half, inhaling the cookie goodness and having that with a nice big cup of tea.

It’s been a while since I baked cookies and I had a craving for them over the weekend.  Luckily my pantry always has all the basic ingredients – all I had to do was pop down to Sun Lik on Seah Street to pick up some dark chocolate drops.

Mix up double quantities of this cookie dough, roll the excess into a log and keep in plastic wrap and foil in the freezer.  To prepare, thaw slightly and slice into rounds 1 cm thick before baking.  I have also been toying with the idea of mixing the raw dough (perhaps minus the chocolate drops) into some good quality vanilla ice-cream for cookie dough dynamo ice-cream which Haagen Daaz I swear used to make but which I cannot find anymore 😦

Ingredients
125g unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups tightly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 eggs lightly beaten
1 1/4 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups chocolate bits

How
Preheat oven to 180C (350F).  Place butter and sugar in a bowl and beat untol light and creamy.  Add vanilla and egg and stir to combine,  Stir in the sifted flour, baking powder and salt until just combined.  Fold through chocolate chips.

Place spoonfuls of cookie mix on a greased and lined baking tray, allowing for room to spread.  Cook for 15 minutes or until they turn pale gold.

Allow to cool on the tray for 5 minutes before placing on a wire rack to cool further.

Makes 16.

Sun Lik Trading
33 Seah Street
6338 0980


Kitchen gadget of the day – the potato ricer

There are times when you feel like mashed potatoes with lumps for texture, and others when you feel like smooth, almost whipped potatoes. I pulled out the potato ricer from the back of my cupboard to make the mash for bangers and mash tonight, and forgot just how wonderfully creamy and fluffy potatoes can get with the ricer.

And there’s also something very satisfying about watching the ribbons of mash come out of the ricer – perhaps a throwback from growing up and making Vegemite and butter “worms” squiggle out of the holes from between two Vita Wheat biscuits.

Add a generous dollop of butter and season to taste with salt and you can’t get much better than that as part of your Sunday dinner.


Ho Chi Minh in a few days…

Why isn’t there more good Vietnamese cuisine found outside of Vietnam ?  It’s so similar to the ubiquitous Thai but it is full of fresh herbs and uses a lot less sugar which surely must be better for you… ?

I digress from my rant to say that I was lucky enough to go to Ho Chi Minh City on a work trip where I managed to squeeze in some local food not served in a high-end restaurant and/or hotel.  Certainly not enough, but enough to satisfy my love of pho for a while, anyway.

We stayed at the Sheraton, which is smack bang in the tourist area of what is a relatively small city where on the 23rd floor there is a rooftop bar which boasts the “best view of the city” according to the Lonely Planet Guide.

Being on a work trip, we basically ate at and around the hotel, which wasn’t bad, for sure, but the surroundings were so high end that it lacked a lot of authenticity that I like to experience when I am travelling to new places.

During one of the activity sessions we had to scour the Ben Thanh market for trinkets and while my teammates were furiously trying to get the best deal in the shortest amount of time, I got to stare longingly at the little noodle stalls surrounding us where locals slurped.

We did get to eat at what isn’t authentically Vietnamese, but at strikingly beautiful Cham Charm, in District 7.  A restaurant/gallery devoted to Champa ancient arts and culture,  you dine buffet style surrounded by Champa artifacts and sculptural works, in a chilled ambiance, with perfect mood lighting and music piped throughout.

The dessert station at Cham Charm

The cuisine is what they call “world cuisine”,  what I would call Asian cuisine, as they serve a vast variety of specialty dishes from India, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Japan at different stations around the large restaurant.  There seemed to be a new section that someone from our group discovered each time they looked.  Food-wise, I wouldn’t say that it was bad, it’s just that it wasn’t great.  After eating at the likes of the Raffles Bar & Billiard Room Sunday buffet, my standards are pretty high, but for first impressions, the 30 minute ride out of the main part of Ho Chi Minh is worth it.

Cham Charm
02 Phan Van Chuong, Dist. 7
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
PHONE: (84-8) 5410 9999


Chalk

Tuna carpaccio

On a rare decision to go out to eat on a Sunday night, D and I were surprised to find a lot of the places we wanted to eat at were closed on Sundays. Fortunately we found Chalk to be open and so off we went to the top of Mount Sophia at the Old School.

Surprised at the size of the restaurant (big), we were also pleasantly surprised by the friendly, attentive and competent staff. There’s a lovely outdoor area for those who like alfresco dining with a great view of the Dhoby Ghaut which D and I always think would be nice if it weren’t for the humidity that would ultimately spoil an evening for us.

For starters D had a tuna carpaccio and I had a rocket rolled in prosciutto with fresh fig salad. Both were very well done, with delicate and strong flavours perfectly complementing each other. The tuna was wafer thin, and the prosciutto, rocket and fig were a wonderful combination of salt and sweet with a touch of peppery sharpness.

Mains were equally as delicious – nothing remarkable but solidly good.  I had the ribeye steak, D, the lamb chops.  Big servings – enough to fill us up to not have any space for dessert.   Very nice place for a cosy dinner.

Chalk
The Old School 11 Mt Sophia
#01-03
6883 2120


Nantsuttei Ramen

On a recommendation from a ramen-obsessed friend, D and I went to Millenia Parco to visit Nantsuttei Ramen.  On the third floor of the department store, there is a section of just Japanese restaurants, amongst which is Nantsuttei.  It’s abuzz with activity once you get inside.  Staff greet you with the customary “Irasshaimase!” and shown to your seat (in our case, the counter).  Nantsuttei serves Kumamoto-style ramen, which means the broth is tonkotsu based and flavored with a slick of fried garlic oil.

You can feel the heat from the kitchen as the soup stock boils and the ramen cooks, but the chefs behind the counter are cool and organised.  Towels wrapped around their heads to catch forehead sweat and another wrapped around their necks and tucked neatly inside their T-shirts.  One strains the soup stock – a rich and gelatinous dark pork broth.  The other prepares to blanche the ramen – which go in and out of the boiling water in precise automated machines (as only the Japanese can do).

D and both ordered the maru-toku negi chasumen – which has simmered strips of pork belly, and extra finely shredded scallions.  I asked for extra garlic (I’m a garlic fiend) which was presented to me as a plate of whole cloves of garlic and a garlic mincer.

Our bowls of ramen arrived, almost full to the brim (the bowls are quite small to start with) with a mountain of the scallions – there is almost no room to mix all that goodness together.  You are encouraged from the menu – the “eating ;ecture” –  to put your face directly over the bowl to really savour the smell and aroma of the ingredients before tucking in.  Eating Japanese is really a ritual intended to stimulate all the senses.

That first mouthful of the noodles and broth really hits your mouth with a bang.  The thickness of the soup as well as its super rich flavour definitely benefits from the fresh biting “heat” from the shredded scallions.

We drank Oolong tea (which weirdly came from a can) with our ramen – and like the scallions, the tea helps to cut through the richness of the broth.

I really expected to have post-ramen haze, but surprisingly, there was none of the usual intense thirst – which I really have to take my hat off to, and means that all that flavour comes purely from the ingredients rather than seasoning in the broth.

For ramen lovers – definitely give this a go.  And go hungry !

Nantsuttei Ramen
Private House No.P3-06, #03-02 Millenia Walk 9 Raffles Boulevard, Singapore 039596
On the 3F of PARCO  Marina  Bay

Tel : (65) 6337 7166
Open 11:00am – Closes 10:30pm


Mag’s Wine Kitchen

Behind the hustle and bustle of Boat Quay, on Circular Road, is Mag’s Wine Kitchen.  Run by Mag, the woman who never forgets a name or face, this tiny wine bar/kitchen is another little gem of a find in Singapore.  The fact that it’s still around more than ten years after it has opened, I think, is also testimony to how good it is, in the city where food and eating is a national pastime and choices abound.

Walking in to Mags is like walking in to someone’s house.  The place is small – it only seats maybe 25 people – with the kitchen in full view at the back of the room.  The menu on the chalkboard is simple – never more than 5-6 starters and mains with usually a very limited special (we once enjoyed fresh umi from a dive trip that Mag just came back from – lightly steamed chawanmushi style).  Mag buys her produce from Huber’s, so you know what’s coming is going to be good from the get go.

And she very wisely keeps it simple, letting the produce speak for itself.  Last night I had wagyu beef tataki, flash seared on the outside, raw in the middle, wafer thin so that it melted in your mouth, simply dressed with a light vinaigrette and finely chopped chives with a delicate salad of cress and alfalfa.  D had the foie gras terrine – a generous block of creamy foie gras.  The boys had the lamb rack, which rendered them speechless while they tucked in.

I opted for a cheese platter – I have to say that I do not love everything so French – the three cheeses were … I can only describe them as “ripe” where I felt the acid strip the lining from the inside of my mouth.  A true cheese lover would probably have waxed lyrical about it but for me, the plate was left largely untouched.

Not to complain as they had a Masi Amarone 2006 for me to enjoy while I watched the boys tuck into their lamb.

Mag’s Wine Kitchen
86 Circular Road
Singapore 049438
General: 6438-3836

Lunch
Monday to Friday
12noon to 2pm
Dinner
Monday to Friday
6pm to 10pm

Saturday
6pm to 10pm only
(Closed for lunch)

Closed on Sunday


Kazu Sumi-Yaki Restaurant

A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it restaurant, I’d recommend this gem of a place only for couples, and only if you can get seats at the counter.

We’ve previously tried two people and four people in the dining area, and I truly think that it lacks that magic and fun that you always get when you’re seated at the counter.  And it’s a cosy counter – only space for four people.  Here, you get to see what yakitori others in the restaurant are ordering, talk to the chef, ask questions, and get adventurous trying new things.

D and I went on Saturday night to Kazu – it’s one of our favourite places, I think because of the weird intimacy you get whilst surrounded by busy, shouting and laughing strangers seated around you.  And of course, for the food.

We ordered our usual fare – pork and apple, wagyu steak with shimijei mushrooms, pork belly wrapped asparagus, shishito and garlic fried rice and while watching what other people ordered, we also tried the bbq stingray fin, which I have to admit probably wasn’t one of my favourite dishes – it was very chewy – almost like it was already dried before it was bbqd so turned out like jerky.  Additionally we tried the okonomiyaki balls which were lovely and the winner for me was the ginger tsukune, which was finely minced chicken and ginger balls with a teriyaki sauce. Winning dish for D was the lamb chop – cooked perfectly rare on the inside.

Kazu also has a wide selection of sakes and the staff are knowledgeable enough to be able to recommend dry sakes or ones which are a lot smoother.  I can’t recall the one we ordered but it was so smooth we polished off a 720ml bottle in an hour.  Needless to say we were pretty happy about everything after that.

Definitely book ahead for this place and don’t forget – request the counter.

Kazu Sumiyaki Restaurant
5 Koek Road #04-05 Cuppage Plaza
Tel: +65 6734 2492

Open daily 6-10


Traditional Spaghetti Bolognaise – Genaro-style

In the need of more comfort food I made spaghetti bolognaise for dinner tonight – inspired by a program where Genaro Contaldo shared this traditional recipe.

It’s a very simple, no-nonsense recipe  – you just need to make sure you’ve got a good 3 hours from start to finish so that the meat has time to slowly simmer to bring out the depth in the few ingredients.  I’d even consider doing this in the slow cooker – I might give it a go on a weekday just so that I can walk through the door and be enveloped in that wonderful aroma.

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, finely chopped
  • 300g minced pork
  • 300g minced beef
  • 2 glasses red wine
  • 1 tin tomato paste
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 3 sprigs of rosemary
  • Method:

  • Soften the onion and celery in a large saucepan
  • Mix the pork and beef mince (loosen with a splash of olive oil)
  • Add the mince in small batches and brown, make sure you’ve got plenty of space in the saucepan or the meat will boil rather than brown and caramelise
  • Add the red wine and reduce to half on medium heat
  • Add the stock, rosemary and tomato paste and cover and simmer for 2 – 2 1/2 hours until the sauce becomes rich and thick
  • Serve over freshly cooked pasta so that the pasta will absorb the yummy juices
  • Grate some parmesan and pepper

  • Cauliflower cheese

    Wanting to use up the leftover cauliflower, potatoes and gruyere cheese from our decadent fondue night, I roasted a chicken the next night over the potatoes (so they roasted in the chicken fat) and made cauliflower cheese as a side.  This was perfect Sunday evening comfort food for me.

    Again I referred to my trusty Cooks Companion by Stephanie Alexander for the recipe (it strangely referred to a cheese sauce from “fennel with simple cheese sauce” from the cauliflower cheese recipe though).  I did tweak the cheese sauce recipe to make it a bit thicker, but here’s the recipe:

    Ingredients:

    • 1/2 head of medium Cauliflower cut into florets, blanched in boiling water (I basically add the cauliflower to boiling water and once it comes back to boil, I strain and run under cold water because the cauliflower will bake for another 30-40 minutes in the oven and I want to keep some texture so it’s not mushy)
    • 40g butter
    • 1 Tbl flour
    • 1 cup warm milk
    • 125g freshly grated gruyere
    • white pepper
    • salt
    • freshly grated nutmeg

    Method:

    1. Melt butter in saucepan over gentle heat, stir in flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly
    2. Gradually incorporate milk, still stirring constantly and bring to boil
    3. Add cheese and stir until melted
    4. Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg
    5. Pour over blanched cauliflower (you can also use broccoli but I find that it overcooks and loses any texture).  Top with breadcrumbs and pop in 180C oven for 30 minutes, until the edges are bubbling and the top is golden brown.

    For the love of cheese.

    Who doesn’t love cheese ?  Well I definitely know the six people around my dining table last night sure did.

    It’s a bit of a throwback to the 70s, and every time I do a cheese fondue I wonder to myself why I don’t do it more often.  Then I have think a bit more about exactly what we’re consuming, and then I think it’s time to stop thinking, and just enjoy the molten cheesy goodness.

    Certainly not for the fainthearted (or those who are watching their weight), I was lucky enough to work with a Swiss who shared his own recipe with me – according to him, where in Australia the BBQ is the man’s domain, in Switzerland, because the weather is too cold to be outdoors, it is the fondue – it’s apparently all about the fire.  Very caveman.  Anyway, every Swiss man has his own recipe, and this is the one he shared with me.

    I have a proper cheese fondue set and I would actually highly recommend it just because of the fact that it’s made of heavy cast-iron that is super easy to clean at the end of the night – the cheese simply wipes off (or if you’re lucky, the crust of cheese from the end of the night just comes off in one cheesy biscuit).

    Ingredients:
    1 clove garlic
    1 glass dry white wine
    1 tsp lemon juice
    50/50 mix of gruyere and raclette/appenzeller cheese grated (250g per boy 200g per girl)
    1/4 cup brandy
    2 tbls cornflour
    nutmeg, white pepper, paprika

    Method:

    1. Smash the clove of garlic and rub on the inside of the fondue bowl.  Discard.
    2. Place the bowl on a stove on medium.  Add the wine and lemon juice.  When the wine is bubbling around the edges, slowly incorporate the cheese, stirring constantly.
    3. Once all the cheese is melted, add the cornflour mixed with brandy and stir for 2 minutes.  The mixture will thicken.
    4. Season with pepper, nutmeg and paprika.
    5. Serve with cubes of chewy bread (sourdough works well), cauliflower florets and boiled waxy potatoes.
    6. I also like serving it with parma ham and salami.
    7. To cut through all that cheese, I also serve with cornichons, pickled onions, fresh tomatoes and slices of red and yellow capsicum and also apple slices.
    8. An optional addition to cut through the heaviness is kirsch (if you can’t get that, we substitute with vodka or limoncello).
    9. At the end of the evening, the cheese that is left (if there is any) should be crispy and apparently should be shared amongst guests as a delicacy !

    Thanks Reto !