Monthly Archives: May 2011

Pan-fried sea bream with fresh tomatoes and cauliflower mash

I hate low carb. I hate the fact that they have taken the joy out of enjoying warm crusty bread rolls fresh from the oven. And biting into perfectly al dente pasta. And loving the fact that the rice absorbs all the flavours of curries on your plate. And creamy, fluffy, buttery mashed potatoes filling my mouth. I wish they would tell us that starchy carbs are not the enemy. But enemy they are. And as we get older, we have found that we need to watch what we eat, just that little bit more.

One of our favourite fish dishes (apart from my salmon, corn and herb salad) is pan-fried fillet of fish with fresh tomatoes on mashed potatoes. I tried something today which, surely does not replace potato mash, but manages to have the same consistency – sort of fooling my brain – with the mild taste of cauliflower, which we luckily happen to love.

The mash of course is not the hero of the dish.  The hero is pan-fried fillet of fish (tonight we had sea bream) with a fresh tomatoes, flash fried in butter, and poured over the fish almost like a dressing, or sauce.  You can, of course, go nuts with potatoes instead of cauliflower – just don’t tell me about it. (I’m even being cheeky and categorising this under “healthy”)

Ingredients (for two)

  1. 2 fillets firm white fish fillets – snapper, bream whatever you have access to
  2. handful cherry tomatoes, chopped
  3. 1 tbs butter plus a nob extra for the mash
  4. half a small head of cauliflower
  5. salt and pepper

Method

  1. Start the mash first.  Cut the cauliflower into pieces and cook till very soft.  You can either boil or microwave – I boiled mine but I’d imagine microwaving it might make for a dryer, firmer mash
  2. While the cauliflower is cooking, season the fish fillets with salt and pepper, and pan fry in some olive oil until crispy on the outside and still tender inside.  Depending on the thickness of the fillets, this usually takes about 3-4 minutes on each side of a hot pan
  3. Once the cauliflower is soft, mash or use a stick blender and whizz till creamy.  Add butter, salt and pepper to taste.  You could even add in grated cheese or cream for a richer flavour
  4. Take the fish out of the pan and in the same pan, melt the tablespoon of butter until frothy and toss the tomatoes in for 30 seconds until they release their juices and mix with the butter to make a silky sauce
  5. Serve the fish with the mash, topped with the buttery tomato mix
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Oooh…Kinki…@ Customs House

Snapper carpaccio with truffle oil 

Having a drink at Oyster Bar on a Monday night, a friend and I decided to try our luck at Kinki without a reservation.

It’s at Customs House with entry via an elevator at street level. A hostess greeted us, asking us if we had a reservation and then escorted us up to the second floor where another waiter asked if we had a reservation.  A bit of overkill ?  Perhaps, but then Kinki isn’t the sort of establishment that is understated, starting from the crazy Japanese graffiti on the floor and walls as you enter, to the grand view of Marina Bay Sands as you walk to your table.

We had prime position at the counter, and the friendly chefs recommended what was a stunning dish – thinly sliced snapper carpaccio with ponzu sauce and drizzled with truffle oil.  He actually asked “do you like truffle oil” – is there anyone that doesn’t ??? 🙂

The snapper came sliced so thin you could see the glass plate it was served on.  Wonderfully fragranced with the truffle oil, the fish was sweet and delicious.

As for the rest of the meal…I have to say that they do try hard in terms of presentation, but for the price that you are paying, I have come to expect a much higher standard.

Sashimi plate – kingfish, sea urchin, salmon, swordfish and tuna

We started with a selection of sashimi – what sort of fish we left to the chef, which usually means you get the best of what they have that day. There was kingfish, uni (sea urchin), salmon, swordfish and tuna (which was hidden behind the shiso leaf) and whilst the uni, salmon and kingfish were freshly firm and sweet, the swordfish and tuna, which I expect to taste rich and almost creamy, had a disappointingly watery texture.

Perhaps then the dish we had after was poorly ordered but we ordered a dragon roll and a spicy tuna roll, and I almost felt like I could have ordered the same thing from a sushi chain like Sushi Tei.  Nothing special at all about it, and the rolls were very loosely rolled so everything fell as you tried to navigate it from plate to mouth.

The place is buzzy and fun, and the chefs behind the counter are all friendly and chatty but I got a feeling that this place lacked authenticity – perhaps I am more accustomed to Japanese sushi chefs who are almost sombre when they are preparing their food – their concentration is so great.  Add that with the sashimi dish, I am glad I finally went, but think it will be a once off for me.


Quinoea Salad

Attempting to try to eat a little healthier of late, I decided to make a quinoea salad. High in protein, quinoea is also high in dietary fibre, phosphorous, magnesium and iron, and is also gluten-free. Preparation is similar to cooking rice or couscous and it has a mild, slightly nutty flavour. I also like the slightly “crunchy” texture it has.

Ingredients (makes a huge big bowl of salad)

  1. 3/4 cup quinoea
  2. 2-3 cups vegetable or chicken stock – I used a shitake concentrate
  3. 1/2 punnet baby roma tomatoes (or cherry) cut into quarters
  4. 1 small red onion, finely diced
  5. 1 small cucumber, peeled, deseeded and finely diced
  6. handful of parsley leaves, roughly chopped – you can use any herbs you like, I also added coriander and basil
  7. half block feta, cubed
  8. 4-6 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  9. 2-3 tbs red wine vinegar
  10. juice of half a lemon
  11. salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Bring the stock to boil and add the quinoea, covering at a low simmer and cooking for aournd 15 minutes or until the germ separates from the seed (the cooked germ looks like a tiny curl and should have a slight bite to it (like al dente pasta)
  2. Once cooked, set aside and allow to cool
  3. Mix all the other ingredients together, add the cooked and cooled quinoea and mix well
  4. Allow to sit in the fridge for at least an hour to allow the quinoea to absorb all the yummy flavours
  5. Serve as a main or as a side.  It would go well with pretty much anything.

Ginger and Lemongrass cordial

Home made ginger and lemongrass cordial with sparkling mineral water

In an effort to try to reduce the amount of soft drinks consumed at home, D found a delicious ginger and lemongrass cordial that he used to mix with sparkling mineral water.  It was good because it meant that he could control (to a certain extent) the amount of sugar in his drinks, and the bonus was that it was a wonderfully refreshing drink with lots of heat and bite from the ginger.

Sadly, the supermarkets in Singapore seem to have stopped purchasing this – supplies have more or less dwindled out in the past few months, and so I decided to try to make some at home.

Being a staple ingredient in a lot of Asian cooking, ginger and lemongrass are easily found in Singapore and also very cheap.

I made my first glass with my own cordial, and used a lemongrass stick as a stirrer.  I’m so happy that we have our ginger and lemongrass drink again, and this time without all the bottles to recycle !

Ingredients:

  1. Enough old ginger that you can fit on your palm – about 175g for me
  2. 1-2 sticks lemongrass
  3. 1 1/2 cups of sugar (you can add more or less according to your own taste)
  4. 2 cups water
  5. juice of 1 lemon

Method:

  1. Peel and finely slice the ginger
  2. Remove the tops of the lemongrass – you want the white part at the base of the stalk
  3. Bash the base of the lemongrass in your mortar and pestle, or with the back of a knife if you do not have one.  This helps to loosed the fibres and release the essential oils from the woody stem.  Slice finely
  4. Add everything into a saucepan and bring to the boil
  5. Let simmer for 20 minutes and then turn off the heat and let cool
  6. Strain and keep the liquid in a bottle in the fridge
  7. Enjoy over ice with sparkling mineral water

Panzanella

Panzanella – Italian tomato and bread salad

After last night’s decadent cheese fondue, we had leftover bread which I thought would be perfect for making panzanella – a Florentine salad of bread and tomatoes.

Deliciously fresh and tasty, it made a perfect, and filling, lunch.  It’s important that the tomatoes you buy smell of tomatoes when you buy them. Tasteless tomatoes = tasteless salad.  Equally important is olive oil that you like.  There’s no hiding poor quality produce in this salad.

Ingredients: (for two)

  1. Day-old bread – we had ciabatta
  2. 1 punnet baby roma tomatoes or 2 large tomatoes but into bite sized pieces
  3. 1 clove garlic, minced
  4. 1 small red onion, finely sliced
  5. 1 small cucumber, peeled and diced
  6. 1 ball buffalo mozzarella cheese (I don’t think this is traditional but we fancied some cheese in the salad)
  7. handful of freshly basil leaves
  8. 2 tbs red wine vinegar
  9. 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  10. Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Cut or tear the bread and place on a wide, shallow bowl in one layer
  2. In another bowl, mix all the other ingredients together.  Adjust the vinegar and salt and pepper to taste if required
  3. If you have time, pop the tomato mixture in the fridge for an hour to allow the flavours to combine
  4. If your bread is really dry, then spoon some of the juices from the tomato mix over it first, otherwise just ladle the tomato mix over the bread
  5. Toss the salad after the bread has had some time to absorb some of those delicious juices
  6. Serve with a cold glass of white wine

Meatball and tomato soup

Rich and hearty, this soup satisfied my want of a vegetable soup that had some substance. I always make big pots of soup to freeze as a convenient mid-week dinner but I think this soup would even improve in taste the next day. The meaty flavor would intensify overnight in the fridge.

Ingredients: (for 6-8 servings)
For the meatballs

  1. 300g mince beef
  2. 1 clove garlic, minced
  3. 1 egg
  4. Handful bread crumbs
  5. 2 tbl Worcester sauce
  6. Salt and pepper

For the soup

  1. 1 onion, finely chopped
  2. 1 carrot finely chopped
  3. 2 sticks celery finely chopped
  4. Splash white wine
  5. 1 tin tomato paste
  6. 800g tinned tomatoes
  7. Handful torn basil
  8. 1-2 cups chicken or beef stock, depending how thick you like it
  9. Cauliflower florets
  10. Broccoli florets

Method

  1. Make the meatballs first. Mix all the ingredients together well and shape into bite sized balls
  2. Heat some oil in a large heavy-based pot and brown the balls in small batches. Don’t overcrowd the pan or you’ll end up boiling the meat instead of browning them
  3. Set browned meatballs aside in a bowl
  4. In the same pan that you cooked the meatballs in, add the white wine and bring to the boil to release the yummy bits left behind from the meatballs.  Then reduce the heat and add the onions, carrots and celery and gently sweat until softened.
  5. Add the tomato paste and stir to coat the vegetables
  6. Add the tinned tomatoes, stock and half the basil and simmer for 30-40 minutes
  7. Add the cauliflower and broccoli and season to taste
  8. Serve piping hot with some freshly torn basil on top

Crêperie des Arts

Classic Crêpe Suzette

On Prinsep Street there is a charming little row of shop houses where one of our favourite French bistrot is.  We noticed the last time that there were a few French eateries next door, and last night we visited Crêperie des Arts.

The menu is limited (especially their drinks menu) and the friendly, competent staff know everything on that menu well.

We shared three savoury galettes (open crêpe) between the four of us – starting with Saint Caradec – crêpe with seared scallops and creamy leeks.  The sweetness of the leeks and the scallops were delicious.  The crêpe batter for the galettes is made of buckwheat flour, a traditional Breton recipe (Chef Johan Aubertin – master “crepier” is from Brittany).

The second and third crêpeCrêpe Complete with smoked ham, Savoy Reblochon cheese, egg and mushroom,  and the Aiguebelette, a gratin of potatoes with reblonchon cheese, onions and bacon bits.  All three were absolutely delicious with just the right amount of crispiness from the edges of the crepe, with just enough filling to coat each mouthful with delicious cheesy creaminess.

The dessert crepes are made of plain flour and we ordered the crepe Suzette (flambeed at the table), and the crepe Keroch which was just a simple crispy crepe that was drizzled with a salted caramel butter.  It really is true that the simple things in life are often the best.

Crêperie des Arts
44 Prinsep Street
Tel: 6333 5330

Open: Tues – Sun : 17:30 – 23:00, Fri – Sun: 12:00 – 14:00


Salmon pasta

A deliciously creamy pasta that is freshened by a good squeeze of lemon.

Ingredients: (for two)

  1. 1 onion, diced
  2. 1 glass of white wine
  3. 200g hot smoked salmon, flaked (you can also use normal smoked salmon)
  4. 150g dried pasta – I like to use spaghetti
  5. 200ml cream
  6. Salt and pepper to taste
  7. Juice of 1/2 lemon, plus extra to serve
  8. Handful fresh dill, chopped – other herbs that would work if you can’t get fresh dill would be chervil or flat leaf parsley and you can also use dried dill if your supermarket is like mine and always seems to have the fresh herbs you don’t need that night

Method:

  1. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the pack
  2. While the pasta is cooking, sweat the onions until translucent
  3. Turn the heat to high, add the white wine and cook for 3-4 minutes to cook off the alchohol
  4. Add the cream and cook on medium heat for another few minutes until thickened
  5. Season to taste – remember that the salmon will add salt
  6. Add the salmon
  7. Add the lemon juice and herbs
  8. Add the cooked pasta (should be juust al dente as it will continue to cook a little in the sauce).  Reserve some of the salted water that you cooked the pasta in and you can add that to thin out the cream sauce to make it silky and coat the pasta.
  9. Serve with lemon wedges and a sprinkle of chopped fresh dill

Banana Bread

I bought some bananas last week that I didn’t get around to eating, and so decided to keep them till they were really ripe (ie black) and make banana bread.

I’ve made banana breads before using various recipes and the last one I made had so much butter in it that when I toasted a slice, to my horror, you could hear it sizzling. Needless to say that loaf went into the bin, and so this time I went in search of a healthier version that was still moist without so much butter, and also tasty.  I found one on joy of baking and it uses oil instead of butter and yoghurt to keep the bread moist.  I also cut down the sugar because the super ripe bananas give added natural sweetness.

You can add walnuts for added good fats as well as a nice nutty flavour that works well with bananas, and a slice with a cup of tea would be a great healthy way to start the day.

Ingredients:

  1. 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 large bananas – the blacker the better)
  2. 1 tsp baking soda
  3. 1/2 cup low fat yoghurt
  4. 1/4 olive oil
  5. 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  6. 1 large egg
  7. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  8. 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (you can substitute 1/2 cup wholemeal flour or add wheat germ for added fibre and nutrients)
  9. 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  10. 1 tsp baking powder
  11. pinch salt

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180C
  2. Line a 20cm x 10cm loaf pan with baking paper
  3. In a large bowl, mix the mashed bananas with the baking soda and yoghurt.  Allow to sit while you prepare the rest of the batter
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar, egg and vanilla
  5. In another large bowl, sift the flours, baking powder, ground cinnamon and salt
  6. Combine the banana mixture with the oil mixture and then add to the flour mixture.
  7. Stir until all ingredients are just combined.  This is important so you don’t release the gluten in the flour which will make your bread heavy.  You want to keep it light so that it will rise.
  8. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 45-50 mins until the top is golden brown and a toothpick (or uncooked spaghetti stick) comes out clean.
  9. Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool.

Chuen Chuen Chicken Rice

Roasted chicken rice with bean sprouts

We used to have one of those stores just downstairs from our apartment that sells everything.  For those in Asia, you know the ones I mean – mountains of takeaway containers, rolls of kitchen paper, party decorations – a real mish mash or wholesale goodness that I used to love poking around in.

It recently closed down and we have passed it each day for the past two weeks, watching the renovations come together and finally two days ago it was “revealed” that the store was to become another outlet for Bugis Street Chuen Chuen Chicken Rice.

I’ve been trying to find the history/background of the chain, but all I can find is that there are two other outlets – a store at Longhouse Food Centre on Upper Thompson Road, and one at Lorong Sarina.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with chicken rice, it’s a dish of succulent chicken, steamed until it is just cooked with a little pink remaining on the flesh near the bones. Alternatively, dark brown roasted chicken can also be served with specially cooked rice.  The rich flavour of the rice comes from the grains that have been pre-fried in chicken fat and then cooked in chicken broth.  The dish is accompanied with a chilli sauce made up of chillies, chicken broth, garlic, and ginger.  Additional kecap manis a thick sweet soya sauce, can also be added. A broth of chicken stock garnished with a sprinkle of spring onions is a must.

Anyway, D and I went downstairs to have lunch there yesterday.  I ordered the steamed chicken and D had the roast chicken.  Both types of chicken were tender and sweet – we had breast meat (for an extra 50c you could have drumstick meat which has more flavour) and the rice tasty and not too oily.

Chicken rice is everywhere in Singapore – many often claiming to be “the best”.  For us, the one downstairs, that we can enjoy in air conditioned comfort, that’s also delicious, works out the best for us.  We just have to exercise self-control as chicken rice is Chinese fast food at its best.

Chuen Chuen Chicken Rice
21 Tan Quee Lan Street
Near Bugis Junction