Category Archives: Favourites

Yorkshire pudding


My husband often catches me sitting in front of my oven as I watch my food bake. It’s certainly better than TV. Cookies brown, pork roast crackling goes crunchy, cakes rise. And Yorkshire puddings are one of the most satisfying rises of all, starting out bubbling around the edges, then blooming dramatically into wonderful bowls of crispy dough, the perfect vehicle for gravy.

I tested various recipes, with Jamie Oliver and Delia Smith’s recipes rendering suprisingly disappointing, heavy Yorkies. The recipe below follows Mary Berry’s. The batter is thin but this produces the lightest Yorkies, which work so well with the mandatory roast beef.

I also prefer to make one or two large Yorkshire puddings rather than trying to quickly and accurately pour equal amounts of batter in to 12 muffin tins.

Ingredients

Makes 12 muffin sized Yorkies or 1 greedy large one

  1. 3 eggs
  2. 115g/4oz flour
  3. 275ml/½ pint milk
  4. beef dripping or oil with a high smoking point
  5. salt

Royal China @ Raffles Hotel



Apparently part of the Royal China restaurants in London means that this is, I think, the only restaurant in Singapore that does crispy aromatic duck pancakes. I’m happy to be wrong so please let me know if you know otherwise. The good thing about Royal China being at the beautiful Raffles Hotel, means a duck that has been braised in aromatic spices like star anise and cinnamon and Szechuan peppercorns, then roasted till crispy crispiness, entirely shredded and eaten in a soft, thin, flour pancake, with hoisin sauce, sliced shallots and cucumber for freshness (unlike Peking duck where just the skin of a roasted duck is served in the pancakes) (which is also delicious but crispy aromatic duck is just super yum), is just a ten minute walk from my flat – yay!

We went this Chinese New Year to celebrate with friends and we also treated ourselves to lobster noodles, a Cantonese special – noodles are meant to represent longevity (but can be eaten and enjoyed any time) and lobster, well, it’s lobster 🙂 Braised noodles topped with lobster, shallots and ginger is just such a winning dish.

It’s an odd restaurant set up-wise. High ceilings make it feel like it’s a huge restaurant but there actually aren’t a lot of seats/tables available so best to book as it gets full quickly especially for dim sum on weekends.

Royal China
#03-09 Raffles Hotel Arcade

OPENING HOURS:
Mon – Sat: 12:00 – 15:00
Sun & PH: 11:00 – 15:00
Mon – Sun: 18:00 – 22:30

Tel: 6338 3363


More Marvellous Sainte Maxime

The best oysters I have ever had (fine de claire No3)

OK if you are ever in Sainte Maxime, in addition to La Maison Bleue, you mustmustmust go to La Reserve, on the main stretch facing the sea.

I went specifically because I wanted oysters (tick) and also a bouillabaisse (tick), which not many cafes served (they serve mostly the more simple soupe de poisson).

La Reserve is a restaurant, rather than a cafe, although everything in this town has that wonderful seaside-relaxed feel to it.

Oysters on the menu were Fine-de-Claire. I am a huge fan of oysters and try them almost every where they are offered. These, arguably, were THE best oysters I had ever tasted (backed up by the fact that the next night we tried the same oysters at another restaurant and they simply weren’t as good). Hard to describe why they were the best – the balance of the sweetness of the oyster and the saltiness of the sea was just PERFECT. I smile just thinking about them now (and my eyes have gone into a reminiscent blurriness).

Deboning the dazzling array of fish for my bouillabaisse

So, I had pretty high expectations for my main course – the bouillabaisse, and I was certainly not disappointed. The waitress appeared with multiple pieces of crockery, and then proceeded to debone an amazing array of local fresh fish, caught that day, onto a soup plate, before ladling a rich seafood broth from a tureen over the deboned fish.

ladling the rich seafood broth over the deboned seafood

I literally ate myself into a food coma. I simply had to eat as much of that dish as I could in one seating – it was, in a word, divine.

My amazing bouillabaisse at La Reserve

We also watched as other French classics such as beef tartare was prepared tableside to each person’s liking. I think the other testimony to La Reserve is that we went probably at the tail end of “the season” – not a lot of tourists were around, yet La Reserve was at full capacity with locals. Lots of cheek kisses and friendly conversation surrounded us. Happiness !

Restaurant La Reserve
8 Place Victor Hugo, 83120 Sainte-Maxime, France
Tel:+33 4 94 96 18 32


La Maison Bleue, Sainte Maxime, Cote D’Azur

 

Moules mariniere 

Last year we spent our vacation in France – in the French Riviera and Paris. This is the first time that we have been to the South of France and we were looking forward to indulging in their famous hospitality and wonderful produce and food.

One of our favourite places to eat was in Sainte Maxime, where we were staying a quiet seaside town across the gulf from the glitz and glamour of St Tropez.

La Maison Bleue is charming and bustling at the same time, with sun-dappled seating, just behind the main street of Sainte Maxime. The few waitstaff are busybusybusy – but still are able to say “bon appetite” with a smile, and pause long enough to explain what was on their cheese plate that day (and why they loved it).

They have a limited menu of simple dishes, spectacularly made.

The standout of our visits – we loved it so much we went every few days for a light snack (and maybe a bottle or two of the local rosé wine) between meals – was the moules mariniere. A big steaming bowl of mussels in white wine, served with (what else in France) a deliciously crusty baguette to mop up the sauce at the bottom of the bowl.

I have made moules marinere before – but they have NEVER tasted this amazingly good. The mussels are much smaller than ones I am accustomed to. Around Australia and Singapore we have easy access to the much larger New Zealand mussels. And as with a lot of shellfish, I find a lot of times the smaller they are, the sweeter their flavour. Even D, who usually immediately zooms in on the meat part of the menu, favourited this dish. Each small mussel filled your mouth with their juicy sweetness.

La Maison Bleue’s fish soup, served with the traditional rouille, croutons and cheese, was also superb. Make sure you book, as this gem fills up quickly.

La Maison Bleue
48 Rue Paul Bert
Sainte Maxime, France

Tel: +33 4 94 96 51 92


Salt Tapas & Bar

Dukkah crusted Tasmanian trout with Israeli couscous in a cucumber, tomato and dill broth

Salt Tapas & Bar at Raffles City is a place to sit back and relax and enjoy lots of little (or larger) plates of tapas with a modern Australian influence. They have a lunch menu on weekdays – where you have a selection of entrees, larger plates and sides.

I started with slow-cooked octopus with celeriac, apple, saffron rouille and dried black olive. The octopus was sweet and tender with no hint of toughness that can sometimes come with octopus (I watched a Greek cooking show where they tenderise the octopus first by bashing it repeatedly on a rock until its “soapiness” is released on the rock. Apparently in commercial kitchens they do this in a cement mixer !). The celeriac and apple were finely julienned and provided a crisp freshness to the rich saffron rouille.

Slow-cooked octopus with celeriac, apple, saffron rouille and dried black olive

For my main I had dukkah crusted Tasmanian trout, Israeli couscous, cucumber, tomato and dill broth. This is the first time I’ve had Israeli couscous and it’s delicious. It has a very satisfying springy, chewy texture that I equated to the tapioca balls in the Taiwanese “bubble teas”.

The trout was perfectly cooked so it was still pink in the centre and that broth it came swimming in – absolutely divine. It really brought that entire dish together with the acidity from the tomatoes and was so fragrant from the dill. And the dukkah crust on the trout gave the dish a lovely nutty flavour and texture.

You can also order a la carte during lunch but I was in a “can’t decide” mood and the only thing I ordered off the lunch menu was a side order of Jamon Iberico. Not because I felt I needed it because the portion sizes are pretty generous here. Just because I could.

Salt Tapas and Bar
#01-22A, Raffles City Shopping Centre
No 252, North Bridge Road

Tel: +65 6837 0995


Pasar Bella

Giant paella being cooked

Hurrah for Pasar Bella ! It’s been open for a few months now, and we finally went yesterday to our utter delight. Finally Singapore has a selection of good food purveyors, offering beautiful cuts of meat, deliciously smelly cheeses, organic vegetables, fresh seafood and yummy bites – all under one airconditioned roof.

Despite the fact that most of the produce is imported – it still gives me the same feeling as a true farmers market where everything is sourced locally. Or one of the European markets like the Mercato Central in Florence where you have the similar stall after stall of everything good to eat.

Bone-in Rib-eye Steak

We found James’ Butchery & Co where we bought a ridiculously large bone-in rib-eye steak. And after chatting with James, ended up buying lamb chops, thick rib-eye and striploin steaks, beef brisket, and osso bucco with the intent of going back next time to try the pork and chicken that he has to offer. Amazing. James also gave us advice on how long to finish the bone-in rib-eye in the oven, after searing well on the stove first (15-20 minutes for medium rare).

The Cheese Ark is a dark cavernous room where four obviously cheese-loving women will tell you anything and everything about the cheese they offer. We bought cheeses that we’ve never even heard about and enjoyed them last night after dinner.

Vibrant green and purple kale

Of course every market needs to have organic produce and at the Organic Grocer I was delighted to finally find the elusive-in-Singapore, kale ! That’s been pan-fried and served with the steak last night, been added to a soup today, and currently baking in the oven to make kale chips. Yes, I’ve been waiting eagerly for a long time to get my hands on this delicious leafy vegetable.

The AMAZING roast pork belly at Roast & Host

By this stage we had our hands literally full and we will happily make the trek to Turf City again, but an honourable mention needs to go out to Roast & Host by Keith and Kin. We’d worked up quite an appetite after all that shopping and we followed our nose to Roast & Host. Ribbons of crispy crackling greeted us. It was so popular that they couldn’t cook the pork quickly enough for demand and we had to wait a while before we went back and were rewarded with the most awesome roast pork.

Happy happy happy is all I can say – well done and THANK YOU to the organisers of Pasar Bella !

Pasar Bella
PasarBella @ The Grandstand Bukit Timah Singapore
200 Turf Club Road Singapore 287994
Tel: +65 6887 0077

Open daily from 9.30am – 7.00pm


Mag’s Wine Kitchen (again)

I’ve said it twice already now, I honestly have to say it again, Mag’s Wine Kitchen on Circular Road really is a fabulous place for an intimate meal. Perfect for a small group, and D and I regularly go there on our date nights. We just love it. It’s just reassuringly and consistently great.

The menu changes seasonally and also depending on what Mag brings back from her various travels. The last meal she had just flown in that morning Canadian oysters, which were served with a cucumber mignonette. That lovely fresh salty flavour of the oysters worked so well with the cucumber mignonette – an Japanese-inspired dressing using rice wine vinegar, shallots, freshly grated ginger and finely diced cucumbers.

 

That evening I stayed on the “surf” and also ordered the scallops, which are a regular on the menu. As always, cooked to order and to perfection with a beautiful char on the outside and juuuuuust cooked inside.

Add a fantastic selection of wines, and you have a perfect meal.

Mag’s Wine Kitchen
86 Circular Road
Singapore 049438
Tel: 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


Luke’s Oyster Bar and Chophouse

The amazing shellfish plateau

Nestled in Gemmil Lane, Luke’s Oyster Bar and Chophouse welcomes you in with its clean lines of decor, high ceilings, and flooded with natural light.

The menu is clean and simple, and sticks to it’s “chop house” roots. We decided to go with the two specialties of the house, starting with the seafood platter, and then Luke’s bone-in tenderloin au poivre.

The shellfish plateau is one of the best we have ever had. And we’ve had our fair share of seafood platters in Sydney, which has access to the most amazingly fresh and delicious seafood.

Chilled whole lobster, giant shrimp, two varieties of oysters, tuna tartare and fresh crab salad. There were dipping sauces for the the lobster, shrimp and oysters but honestly all they needed was a good squeeze of lemon to appreciate the delicate sweetness of each. Absolutely divine.

Luke’s bone-in tenderloin with a peppercorn crust and mustard cognac jus 

We ended up sharing the tenderloin for our main, cooked on the bone for added flavour. Unfortunately I didn’t read that it came with a peppercorn crust & mustard cognac jus. It’s not at all that it tasted bad, but both seemed to challenge the bold flavour of the tenderloin. But kudos to the selection of meat. Tender and absolutely delicious.

I’d like to try other the other items they had on their menu but to be honest, I’d find it hard to go past that shellfish plateau again. And again. And again 🙂

Luke’s Oyster Bar and Chophouse
20 Gemmill Lane, Singapore
Tel: 6221 4468

 Open: Mon-Sat 12.00 – 24.00 (closed Sundays)

41 Degrees, Barcelona, Spain

Hands down, the best meal I have had. Ever.

41 Degrees started off as a cocktail lounge, attached to the tapas bar, Tickets, by Adrià brothers, Ferran and Albert. The intimate 16-seater bar then started serving a 41 “course” dinner of amuse bouches.

The meal is a totally immersive experience that I don’t want to spoil for anyone who has not yet been. Suffice to say if you’ve been, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, then it’s an absolute must-visit if you are in Barcelona.

It’s also the closest thing to El Bulli, with owners, cooks and many staff from the famed, now-closed legendary restaurant. (Albert Adrià himself has referred to 41 Degrees as a “mini Bulli”).

Make no other plans for the evening – our dinner started at 8 and we left after midnight. And with an almost ridiculous attention to detail, we didn’t stop grinning at each other the entire evening. Every thing is intended to (and does) surprise and delight every one of your senses.

I heard that Albert is planning to return the space to its cocktail roots, and moving the dining experience somewhere nearby in Barcelon’s theatre district, but bookings can only be made via their website.


Restaurant Cal Pep, Barcelona

Assorted fried seafood – crispy deliciousness

An absolute must-go for tapas when in Barcelona. Get to Cal Pep early – you can’t book, and the word is out – the 20 stools in the front room were full as soon as the doors opened for lunch at 1.

We chatted to the waiter at the counter, asked for our favourites (pimentos, clams) and then left it to him to recommend, based on what produce they had that day. There didn’t seem to be an enormous range – the waiter explaining that ingredients are kept to a minimum, with the emphasis on freshness. Just the way we like it.

Every dish was a stunner. Josep Manubens Figueres, the chef and owner (“Pep” is a common Catalan nickname for Josep), ensures the seafood at his tapas bar is the freshest that is available every morning at the fish auctions along the nearby Costa Brava every morning.

Cooks wait patiently until the first order comes in, and then they come in flying, thick and fast, with no reprieve, and what I can only describe as “organised chaos” ensues.

Chick peas with fried spinach and jamon

The dish of deep-fried seafood – lightly floured small fish, squid, calamari rings and small prawns – came out crispy and tasted of each individual piece of seafood, not just randomly of oil. The chick peas and vibrantly green spinach (not at all overcooked or gloppy) had bits of fried jamon, imparting the dish with its flavour and providing a nice contrast in texture.

There was just one meat dish – a speciality of the house – botifarra de porc amb foie d’ànec fresc, pork sausage with foie gras and port wine, served in inch-long slices over white beans.

Saffron milk cap mushrooms cooked on the grill

We also tried for the first time some mushrooms we saw at the Boqueria, the saffron milk cap. Bright orange in colour with deep green stains (which apparently appear when the mushrooms have been handled) – the flavour is mild and the texture is almost “crunchy”.

Simplicity is the key to the beauty of each dish – with every plate, there was nothing that didn’t absolutely have to be there.

Remember to get there early – or be prepared to stand impatiently behind diners like us. Their schedule is complicated, so check their website to find when they are open.

Cal Pep
Plaça de les Olles, 8, Barcelona
Tel: 011-34-93-310-7961