Saturday, October 29, 2005

Filial Duties

I will be going to Taipei, Taiwan, for the whole of next week (yay!) and spending my birthday away from home! Stay tuned for trip-related posts next week!

In the meantime, I had to perform my duties as a filial daughter and take care of my Dad's stomach while I am away. So I am making stuff to stock up and clear instructions have been given to my brother to feed Dad.

Cinnamon Raisin Muffins



These are simple breakfast muffins, with a recipe so versatile and adaptable to whatever ingredients I have to use up. This time, because I reasoned that raisins and cinnamon would keep longer, instead of fresh ingredients like apples or pears or even bananas, I made up a batch of them. I have to admit though, it is difficult to appreciate muffins after I started making cupcapkes because they just seem so much heavier and dry compared to their moist and rich counterpart.

Buttermilk Pound Cake



This one is a recipe from Alice Medrich's "Chocolate and the art of low fat desserts". I must admit that I really like this book because the recipes I have made thus far have not compromised too much in taste, despite being lower in fat. This particular one however, while still delicious, lacked the heavy-sort of feel normally associated with traditional pound cakes. But that could be because I slightly modified the recipe by using 2 whole eggs rather than 1 egg + 2 egg whites. I just hate discarding the yolks and at this moment, I have no use for them.

The resulting pound cake was very fragrant, all thanks to the vanilla extract. It tasted sort of like a slightly less rich vanilla cupcake; less rich because it was "drier" i.e. less moist and buttery but given my modification, I would probably try the recipe once more but using the exact recipe before I make a judgement. But as of now, I much prefer the texture and moisture-level from Ms Medrich's recipe for the Chocolate Marble Cake.

That should settle Dad's sweet-carbs for the week :)

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Strawberry Clafoutis



I never knew what a clafoutis is until I came into the food blogging world. But ever since I read about its existence as a sort of a cross between a custard and a crepe, I knew I had to taste it for myself soon.

Though black cherries are the classic addition, clafoutis is made today with all kinds of fruit (and a good way to use leftover fruit!). I made mine with strawberries that screamed "finish me up!". Alas, the perfect clafoutis, which should achieve a deep golden brown crust on both the bottom and the top, was not mine to be. There could be two possible reasons: 1) It could be a bad recipe or 2) it could be me. I tend to think the latter because I had followed a recipe by French chef Jacques Pepin and put it simply, I trust that man. So that leaves option 2) which could be an insufficiently hot oven because the flour seemed to have separated from the rest of the batter, settling at the bottom of the pan and leaving a pale custard behind.

Looks aside, the taste was mighty fine and nothing to complain about. But I was after all after that textural combination of doughy crepe and creamy custard but all I could taste was custard! Otherwise, as the strawberries turned out to be a bit tart, I needed something additional. That is another reason why I highly recommend for all to keep a bottle of Nutella at hand. Chocolate and strawberries, you just cannot beat that combination!


Strawberry Clafoutis

1/4 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
1-1/2 cups milk
1 pint strawberries (about 14 ounces), hulled (about 12 ounces hulled)
1 teaspoon confectioners' sugar

Method:

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).

2) Mix the granulated sugar and cornstarch in a bowl. Add the vanilla and eggs, and mix well with a whisk for 30 to 40 seconds. Add the milk, and mix until it is incorporated.

3) Quarter the berries, and distribute them evenly in a 4-to-6-cup gratin dish.

4) Pour the egg mixture over the berries, and place the gratin dish on a cookie sheet. Bake for about 40 minutes, until just set. Cool to room temperature.

5) Sprinkle the confectioners' sugar on top of the clafoutis, and serve it at room temperature.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Food from the Farmhouse

Living in the States for a few years led me to two conclusions: 1) when using fresh food ingredients, you do not require lots of seasonings and 2) Chinese food in the States, while authentic tasting (no doubt from the influence of the large Chinese population), is really unhealthy in many ways - in their portion size, their overuse of cornstarch, vegetable oil and seasonings. To put it simply, I was OD'd on Chinese food after my stay in the US and even now, I still prefer any other cuisine over Chinese.

However, I do crave for one thing very Chinese sometimes - dumplings, particularly steamed or boiled ones to be dipped in black vinegar. Why? You may wonder. If you think about it, dumplings are minimally processed after they are made. A boil in stock is all they need. That's why I like them. Not being a meat-eater do not help matters though, when cravings kick in. Vegetarian or seafood versions are difficult to hunt down. I know I can make my own but it is too much work kills the joy of eating out. When I heard about Farmhouse Family Restaurant, reputed to be serving good and honest Northern Chinese food including dumplings, I made a mental note to go when the craving struck again.

Finally it did and I dragged J there for dinner there a couple of weeks ago. It turned out that reviews were more or less right on the dot. The location and decor were nothing to shout about. In fact, if not for the reviews, I would not have stepped into the restaurant, largely empty, sans a few table occupied cleary by PRCs.

The menu was simple and non-pretentious. Our orders turned out to be comforting, home-style cooking. I particularly enjoyed the homemade silk noodles (main picture), soft and slightly chewy and wonderfully dressed with a brown braising liquid. It was slightly salty but that's why I guess the generous slivers of cucumbers were tossed in there for, to add a refreshing crunchy dimension.

The braising liquid, I reckoned, came from the braised beef. Served cold and sliced thinly, there were gelatinous layers said to be good for our joints. It was good as it is, better, I think, with a glass of cold beer, if only I knew how to appreciate that. At last, the guo tie (pan fried dumplings), or what I was after, arrived. Bite-size and pan-fried to a crisp, they looked oily but not at all, especially after a dip in the vinegar. I mean, it's a natural pair, vinegar and dumplings. Surprisingly, the crunch remained but these babies could do with more filling though, as I bit through pockets of air piece after piece. But that did not stop me from finishing them all; they were addictive. What is a meal without greens? Unbalanced I say, so the obligatory baby bok choy, lightly sauteed with garlic, made its appearance. Refreshing I must admit, to try Chinese for a change.

Farmhouse Family Restaurant
72 Tanjong Pagar Road

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A California Experience - The California Fruit and Nut Loaf



My mother loves fruitcake, especially one with lots of fruit and a good dose of alcohol. Alas, she is ever the cook but not the baker. Still she got a periodical fix from an occasional wedding dinner where a piece of fruitcake was given to guests as a “wedding souvenir”. I personally detested those freebies - I think they were the roots to my distaste for fruitcake til this day. Of course I am more tolerable now but I would not go out of my way to eat it. The freebies are often too sweet and not to mention, slightly disturbing seeing the artificial colors of red and green specked throughout. And as I grew older and wiser, I also discovered that those bits of colors were basically sugar-packed things disguised as fruit! I was and still amazed at my mother's simple taste buds.

Well, always better late than never. So it is definitely a good thing I came across this recipe for California Fruit and Nut Loaf. The recipe comes from Ms Medrich's book, “Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts”. Surprisingly this recipe contains no form of chocolate whatsoever. Everything from this book delivered thus far and this loaf was no exception. It was thus not surprising, my mother fell in love with it. Filled with loads of dried fruit (not candied fruit!) and nuts, flour was merely a secondary player, a binder of all the parties. Making the loaf was simply putting together all the ingredients I had on hand (I used cashews and pistachios while the original recipe called for walnuts) then into a rather long but well-worth-the-time baking process!

Since it was more nutty than usual fruitcake, I actually enjoyed it too. It was just the perfect snack on hand with my cup of hot vanilla tea. A whole lot of ideas for variations of this recipe came to mind as I was putting the loaf together. The one I am most hung up on is the brandied version. I would think it to be the perfect treat for Christmas and a good opportunity to share the experience of California with others, don't you agree?

Monday, October 24, 2005

Weekend Foodie


Weekends are generally a good time to be a foodie. Most times, I try to go for recommendations to try old favorites at new places or visit interesting food fairs. At the same time, I also forgot to take pictures most of the time so I thought I will make it official. From henceforth, dear readers, you will have to endure through a weekly report of my weekend foodie escapades. So what are some of the food I ate over the past couple of days?

On Saturday night, we had to go to a popular mall to get a camera. Hunger struck just about when every other shopper was hungry too so J and I decided to go target one restaurant and wait it out. It was destined to be Lerk Thai, a Thai-food chain that is growing steadily in numbers of restaurants as well as in foodcourts. Their Phad Thai and Tom Yum Kway Teow soup we tried a while ago rendered another visit. But alas, our choices this time around were not too great. The Green Beef Curry while acceptable, was watery and lacked the "oohmp!". And I could have overlooked the stingy portion of Beancurd with Seafood, Mushroom and Vegetables soup had it not been so bland and tasteless. In fact, the seafood tasted so "clean" (a.k.a all flavour had been washed away) I would have left it unfinished if not to satisfy my small but hungry stomach. Left unsatisfied, J went on to have an order of chili cheese fries from Carl's Junior and I had a double scoop (rum raisin and fruit of the forest) of New Zealand Natural Ice Cream.

On Sunday, I was in the mood for brunch so we headed to a bakery off the city center and spent a couple of hours multi-tasking (eating and reading!). It was a little joy on my part but I was glad to find my sunny-side-ups just the way I wanted - yolks still unbroken so I could dip my toast in them later! The accompanying sourdough toast was good - crunchy on the outside and full of bite within. It was good bread, albeit a bit saltish. I was happy til J's "everything sandwich" arrived, together with my neighbour's order of a ploughman sandwich. They looked and smelled so scrumptious, I almost regretted my choice from the breakfast menu. Oh well, I guess that would be my excuse to return again soon!

Soon the afternoon sun got to us and made us sleepy and that's when I decided to take a leisure walk over to the Japanese supermarket over a few blocks yonder. You should have seen J's face when I made my suggestion! He was not so keen to walk in the sun. Haha, as a reward for the longish walk, we got ourselves some yummilicious Japanese gelato - macha with azuki beans for the ever-health-conscious me, and mixed fruit yogurt for J. I mentioned "Japanese gelato" because that gelato counter was manned by Pokka and was adapted to the Japanese's preference for clean taste. The gelatos were noticeably not as sweet as the many others I have tried and of course, I loved it (though J had his views)! The "sweet potato, honey & chestnut" flavour sounds too tempting. I will be be back very soon!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

IMBB 20: (Intentional) Fallen Soufflé

I do not claim to be an expert on soufflés but thus far, I enjoyed the ones I have eaten. Light and puffy, each bite seemed guilt free like I was just eating air. Thus far, all were the sweet sort. Given my liking for souffle, even I wonder why I do not attempt to make them at home. It is truly not because I am afraid of failure but rather, I believe souffles should be eaten a la minute and I am just not motivated enough to make it for myself. But now the challenge is set before me, to make and blog about my experience with making a soufflé, all in the name of another blogging event, Is My Blog Burning #20.

Fallen Chocolate Soufflé Torte



I did toy with the idea of a savory version for a minute but discarded that knowing that the sweet one would probably be more appropriate for anytime-snacking. This recipe came from Alice Medrich's Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts (yes, again). There is a couple of tempting recipes but I decided to go for this one for portability's sake. It turned out beautifully, with the sunken look developing a few minutes after it came out of the oven to cool.

Since Ms Medrich did not specify the percentage of chocolate, I used my 61% dark chocolate. Perfect! The sweetness was just the right level; the cake was very moist, up to the point of being mushy and I think the cake could do with a few more minutes in the oven. Nonetheless, it was very light and the cake was devoured in minutes.

Thanks to Kitchen Chick for choosing yet another challenging theme. Check out the round-up there!

Friday, October 21, 2005

The 13th Episode: The Dark Side

Started by Jennifer a.k.a Domestic Goddess, Sugar High Friday has grown and flourished into a mainstay and now, into its 13th episode. This time, Kelli from the lovely blog, Lovescool, is kindly hosting the round-up with her theme, aptly chosen (by chance or not!), chocolate as dark as the image that the number 13 conjures, in honor of the inaugural theme of white chocolate. How lovely! I have a personal preference over dark chocolates. Eating them makes me feel good about all the antioxidants I am consuming! Kelli's challenge to us, is to find something new and interesting to make. I decided to make good use of all the chocolate-themed recipe books I acquired recently as a source of inspiration.

Tribute Cake



This recipe came from Alice Medrich's Bittersweet, the book I am currently in love with because reading it makes me feel as though Alice is talking to me personally and I really appreciate that sort of connection! Yes, that's the tribute cake on the cover of the book.

I made this in honor of J's mom, for her 57th birthday. My intention was to go all fancy with chocolate fans decor and all. But alas, my first attempt at making chocolate fans did not turn out too well, so I conveniently skipped it. I also halved the recipe for the sponge because having made American chocolate-layered cake before, I knew a entire recipe would probably make too much. Lastly, I also prepared brandied cherries to add an additional element to the middle layer. I am happy to report that despite all the little changes and adaptations, there was absolutely no compromise on the taste! Each slice revealed the true glory of the cake and tasted exactly as Alice described. There was the sponge akin to a devil's cake, so very springy and moist. In the middle was the thick, creamy layer of bittersweet ganache, which one would first assume to be too rich if looking at its individual components. But actually it was just the opposite; it looked rich, yes, but each forkful remained so light, not at all sickening but surprisingly addictive.


Bittersweet Decadent Cookies



This recipe also came from the same book. I immediately thought of Rainey's cookies when I read about the promise of "slightly crunchy outside with a ultrachocolatey and soft center". These bittersweet cookies were truely good. This may sound unbelievable but these cookies truely are my absolute favourite now. There was hardly any flour used and each cookie was binded together primarily with melted bittersweet chocolate. Hence I would advise against using compound chocolate. I used a rather good quality bittersweet chocolate which led to a bittersweet jolt from the first bite. The cookies were exactly as I had imagined them to be, mounds of dark temptation, shiny and decorated with random yet artisic cracks. Subsequent bites would reveal a perfect marriage between all the remaining individual components - walnuts and more chocolate chunks. The amount of walnuts called for did seem overwhelming initially but really, it turned out just perfect. I could not help but eat a couple of them soon after they came out of the oven. How can I forget their perfect accompaniment? Yes, a glass of cold milk joined them cookies in my tummy too.

It wasn't me; it was the goat cheese I ate!

Image hosted by Photobucket.com



I confess; I love the stinky goat cheese. Growing up, I was never a dairy girl. Yes, I loved milk but that's it. The only form of cheese I knew came prepacked in slices. Going overseas to study really enlarged my experiences in so many ways. Food is obviously one key area and I learnt about other forms of cheese, more in their natural states, though I did not transform into a cheese-lover overnight. But I grew more tolerant and more willing to try new ones.

I remember my first time eating goat cheese at The Cheese Board, a Berkeley pizza establishment that deserves its own post. Little pea-size chunks of white dotted my crispy thin pizza. I wondered what they were but ate them anyway, as hunger beckoned stronger than curiousity. I was surprised by their creamy texture and detected a slightly disturbing smell. I found out what they were, as I casually asked the guy sitting across. "Oh, I ate goat!", was the first thought that popped to mind.

From then on, goat cheese became a regular rotation on my favorite food list. Most people, especially Asians, find the smell offensive but I love it! Back in Singapore for the past 2 years, I never found an opportunity to eat it but then, I also did not miss it. Well, until a couple days ago that is. For no particular reason, I wanted some goat cheese, devoured in its simple state with thick slices of tomato on good bread. So that was what I did. I was reminded of my love for goat cheese all over again.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Satowa Kitchen



I was finally able to go through the Joo Chiat area en route to Geylang Serai for the Malay Ramadan festival last Friday. Ever the foodie, I planned for dinner at Satowa Kitchen, a restaurant said to be specialising in Hokkaido fare. Of course, that caught my interest since I have not had any Hokkaido food ever so it went onto my "to-try" list.

Not familiar with that area, we passed the building's car park but luck was with us as we managed to find parking adjacent to the restaurant. I was happy because my growling stomach was asking to be satisfied!

The entrance of the restaurant was simple; the typical Japanese 2-cloth entrance with restaurant's name printed on it. We had a choice of seats as there was just a couple of patrons (Japanese!) sitting by the sushi counter. I wasn't worried about the lack of crowd given the restaurant's location. In any case, fellow Singaporean foodies had already given tried and tested reviews so I was confident.


The menu was neatly organised into appetizers and ala carte mains, with an option to make it a set meal (you also get a miso soup, pickles, rice, small side dish). We made our order rather quickly; each got an appetizers and a main to share.

The omelette (S$6), chosen by J, ever the egg lover, came first. It turned out to be different from what we had thought; we expected an American-style aka pan-fried omelette but it turned out to be tamago-style. It was less sweet than the usual ones I tried but I thought it was really plain. It was served with a large mound of grated daikon and I really don't know how else to eat it and I only had a couple of obligatory bites. It was a rather large portion given it cost $6! But I wouldn't order it again; nothing wrong with it but it was really nothing spectacular.

Up next was my choice of pumpkin and french bean salad (S$7). All the vegetables were fried a.k.a tempura-style but despite the frying, there was hardly any batter and hence, not at all oily or greasy-tasting. The accompanying dressing was rather unique; I couldn't really tell what it comprised of, but it was slightly sweet and really complimented the vegetables. I thoroughly enjoyed the salad and I think J did too, as he was constantly picking up the green beans (and he is not a veggie lover at all!).

I recommended the beef sashimi; J commented that the beef was fresh so it wasn't tough to chew despite being seared only on the outer 2mm. There was an accompanying soy sauce dip to give it some seasoning.

Finally, the grilled gindara in sweet sake and soy sauce came. Overally, it turned out to be a familiar dish and was only average. I thought either the fish was either 1) overcooked because it was not "oily" tasting (aka how I always associate cod to be) or 2) it could be a different variety of cod.

If you are in the Joo Chiat/Katong area and want something different, do give Satowa a try. It is not fine cuisine but for a slightly uncommon Hokkaido fare and also satisfy your craving for homely and comforting foods, Satowa is worth a visit.

Satowa Kitchen
451 Joo Chiat Road
#01-04
Tel : 64400092

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Kept awake by Espresso Cupcakes


After a heavy dinner at a buffet last night, I was feeling a bit too stuffed to go to bed right away. What else is there to do but bake especially when my lonely kitchen was beckoning me. Besides it was my colleagues' birthday so I decided to stay awake and make everyone cupcakes for breakfast.
I had a new recipe to try and of course, I tried to modify it, using a white chocolate ganache instead of milk chocolate. But as good of a baker as I would like to think myself to be, the butter refused to blend into the white chocolate to become a ganache. I ended up with a soft, toothpaste like white chocolate paste. But I can't waste good chocolate (ok, I know I am not using the right term; white chocolate has technically no cocoa content at all!) so I dug out a portion of the cake and stuffed a good chunk of white chocolate into the cupcakes, followed by a bittersweet ganache made with mocha-flavoured bittersweet chocolate. Yumm! Just had one and it was sooo good! My day has started off on a sweet note!
Espresso Cupcakes
(makes 12)
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp fine espresso powder
2 large eggs
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup milk
Espresso Ganache
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 oz unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp fine espresso powder
Method:
1. Line 12 muffin tins with paper. Preheat oven to 170C or 350F.
2. Sift the flour, baking powder, soda and salt together. Add in the espresso powder towards the end. Then cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
3. Add in 1 egg at a time, blending in each one, until just incorporated.
4. Add in flour and milk alternatively, in 2 additions (so it's flour, milk, flour, milk). Mix each addition until just blended.
5. Batter will be thick; fill each of the muffin liners evenly.
6. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool overnight.
7. Prepare ganache by melting chocolate over a pot of simmering hot water. Add in butter when it's all melted and mix to blend. Leave to cool.
8. Cut out a good portion of the cupcake in the middle, and scoop a couple tsp of ganache into the cavity. Put back the cut-out portion. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

In the Pink!



I have to admit, I never really paid attention to the sprouting of little pink bows most often seen during the month of October. Well, until a few days ago at least because I have since changed my attitude. A couple weeks ago, I discovered a golf-sized lump on myself and although it was nowhere near my boobies and has since miraculously disappeared by grace of God, I am now more aware of cancer and its silent killer instincts. So now, I not only remind myself but also my mom, to check our bodies thoroughly. This post is dedicated to all the women in the world suffering from breast cancer - be strong and fight the disease!

Because of my personal experience as described above, I felt strongly when I read about Emily's initiation to raise breast cancer awareness through (what else) a food blogging event, aptly termed as In the Pink!, whereby we can show our support through the creation of a pink-colored food.

What you see above is a single-serving azuki mousse cake, also a first attempt at individual portions. I played with the texture by layering first, azuki mousse made by mashing the beans and folding it into whipped cream, followed by a deconstructed version made by spreading a layer of whipped cream and then topping whole beans all over and then covered nicely by whipped cream again. I would probably not deconstruct again, because the buttery flavour from the cream was a bit overpowering. I wonder if a little bit of vanilla essence could solve the problem. Because the mousse turned out to be more of a brownish-red tinge, instead of the pink I had hoped for, I decided to whip up a bit of pink-colored cream and piped the classic logo instead.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Alaturka Mediterranean & Turkish Restaurant

Not many people I know either enjoy (citing that "it's too mushy!" or "bread is not dinner!") or ever encountered Mediterranean food. But living in the States for 5 years not only exposed me to the culture but also made me a fan of its food. Needless to say, I was waiting for an opportunity to visit the newly opened Alaturka Mediterranean & Turkish Restaurant. Waiting for the right time to go was a tricky business because I believe J associates Mediterranean food with “vegetarian” and he needs his meat! But anyhow, we managed to go there last Friday.


Sometimes it is hard ordering or trying new food with just the two of us and I was feeling that way. The menu, though not huge, but was extensive enough to create a dilemma. I found myself wanting to sample so many different things so I just chose the mezza plate (S$14) instead. It promised a variety of dips, which I absolutely love, love, love, and accompanied by a freshly baked lavash. The lavash was piping hot when it arrived and nicely puffed up. There was a lack of aroma associated with yeast-leavened bread but nothing to penalise Alaturka for lavash is afterall an unleavened bread!

I enjoyed the hummus the best, followed by the tomato-based roasted eggplant. The baba ganoush was slightly sour on first taste but got better as the meal went along. The dolma I did not try but J thought it was a little bland.

The other recommended dish is alinazik (S$15), which features bite-sized chunks of lamb kebab cooked and simmered in a rich eggplant stew, with slight tomato overtones. The dish took a longer time to prepare but came in a vessel kept hot by a small fire at the bottom. The whole effect was very appetizing, and even though I told myself I would not eat it, the aromatic flavours from the lab and the eggplant stew proved to be too tempting. As you can see, we had already tucked it before I realised I should take a shot! This dish alone was not only well worth the wait but the visit.

The décor was really quite Turkish – filled with rugs and the “eye”. The service was good though I would have welcomed a refill of my water. He was quite chatty and offered to take a picture of us when he saw me picturing my food. Just at the moment, our food came and was served personally by the cook himself. The cook spontaneously stooped down, lifted the food in front of him and posed for another picture! I like that! Anyway, if you are the adventurous sort, do give Mediterranean food a chance and I believe Alaturka would be a good place to ease you into loving yet another wonderful cuisine.

Alaturka Mediterranean & Turkish Restaurant
16 Bussorah Street
Tel: 6294-0304