The small supermarket had rack of lamb, buy 2 packets at 30% off. We don’t have room in the freezers for 2 packets so today’s lunch was rack of lamb #firstworldproblems.
From start to finish, 45mins. I seasoned with s&p and rosemary, browned in a pan then put in 180ºC oven for around 15mins. I almost overcooked them because I put the rested chops back in the oven (now off) to keep warm but luckily they were still pink inside. Making rack of lamb is straightforward for me, I consider it an easy staple. Occasionally I undercook or overcook slightly but I’ve always been happy with the results. Mostly, the lamb we get are frozen and from new zealand. I’ve also tried australian, welsh and scottish with good results.
It occurred to me that it may not be as simple to make for other people. How hard is it to ruin lamb? How hard is it to ruin good ingredients?
Which comes first, the ingredients or the cook. Difficult to answer. A good cook can make the most of poor quality ingredients: beef stew instead of steak, using vegetables wisely. But give a perfect wagyu to a cook who only knows how to boil meat or grill steak until well done and the meal is ruined.
Salt obviously adds saltiness. It also reduces bitterness, enhances sweetness and brings out aromas. There’s science involved.
There was a time when I undersalted everything, and my dad used little or no salt when cooking. I’ve changed it up a little now, and have stopped worrying about the amount of salt I use. Yes, I’m aware of all the health warnings about salt’s effect on blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease and all that. But as the NYT article says,
anything you cook for yourself is lower in sodium than restaurant food.
On average I eat out once or twice a week, so around 10% of my meals are higher in sodium and potassium. My theory is, the rest of the meals at home will balance it out. I enjoy eating out, but honestly I prefer cooking at home. Outside food is too salty, too oily and there are certain cuisines I rarely eat because I can cook it at home. Two lamb chops in a restaurant cost the same as two racks from the supermarket; most pasta we can cook ourselves; steak too, even though I will splurge out and go to Hawksmoor or a good steakhouse.
The trick to using salt is to use it better. There are so many different types of salt, it’s a poor excuse to use table salt. Table salt is the worst, a teaspoon of it is much saltier than, say, a teaspoon of sea salt or herbed salt. Here’s some of my salt collection:
Left, from back: plum salt from wakayama, japanese sea salt, korean sea salt, himalayan pink salt, good-with-everything salt, truffle salt, regular sea salt, french flavoured sea salt.
I don’t think I even have common table salt at home. If I need to use plain white salt, it’s from the mill. My day-to-day salt is the blue tub front left, lakeland’s good with everything salt that is mixed with herbs. This means if I take a pinch, it’s not all salt. I’m so used to flavouring with this that I know how much to use and what it will taste. The NYT article again:
what matters most is that you’re familiar with whichever salt you use.
I’m also keen to use other sources of salt. Soy sauce, cheese, bacon, duck fat. Anchovy is expensive here so I rarely use it. When I was around 10 years old my parents told me to marinade some pork. Young me discovered marinading with worcester sauce and I’ve been adding it to everything that needed flavour since then. Even at 10 I knew about umami? Probably not, but it’s a cute story.
I can’t remember which tv chef–I guess it’s all of the–who told us to season and taste each stage of cooking. I never add salt when I’m making stock and anything that needs to cook for a long time, I salt at the end. As for how to salt, Jamie Oliver tells us to sprinkle from a height; Emeril does his ‘bam’ routine. And of course there’s salt bae aka chef Nusret from turkey:
Been looking for a chef’s knife for a long time to replace the Le Creuset one I’ve had for more than 20 years. Even looked at them in Japan, but too expensive. Spotted via giz is a kickstarter for bulat knife.
Quite tempting. $100 is a reasonable price point, especially if the knife is as good as it says.
An alternative is the kytcho knife, which looks less elegant / more space-age and is half the price at €49.
Lunch today was duck breast which I cooked from frozen because there wasn’t enough time to defrost. I’m still not very good at getting the skin crispy although I managed to render a lot of the fat. Finished off in the oven for 10mins.
Served with leftover potato and carrots; added flavour by tossing them in a little duck fat. The green salad was fresh though. I added cherry tomato and cucumber.
Today it’s my day to teenager-sit my niece. Had a quick lunch with sis and went back to her place. Made lunch for my niece (pasta with tomato sauce and cheese) which she wolved down, it was good to see her eating.
She has taekwondo on fridays. We were very lucky to get a taxi quickly, although the traffic was horrendous due to an accident. She normally has one hour of lesson and the second hour she helps her teacher to teach younger kids. I followed sis’ routine while I waited for her: went to m&s to get snacks and drinks; the japanese supermarket to get sushi and waited at the bookstore until for a text. Grabbed a taxi, picked her up outside the library building and headed home.
Dinner was sushi, mainly salmon. They’ve been searing the salmon using a blowtorch so I tried the method out too. It’s so much fun. I tried to use the part of the flame just above the blue flame where it’s supposed to be hottest, but not always successful. That, and I had the blowtorch in one hand and the iphone in the other, hehehe.
Tasted very good. Sis says gis normally only eats about 4 pieces; she polished off a good 6 pieces, plus a piece of scallop sushi and half the portion of okra I bought as the veg component of the meal.
I used to have a blowtorch, when I wanted to try making crème brûlée. Never got round to doing it though. May be I’ll get another blowtorch and do some searing. Sis used safety goggles, I suppose I should have too, I still have mine from the lab.
Probably the last meal I’ll cook at home, at least for a while. If I end up selling the flat, it will be the last meal cooked at home forever.
I had to walk down to the station to sell something. I thought about going out for lunch, may be at the craft beer place. Decided against it. I had a bottle of beer at home, so I went to the market and got some fresh prawns and clams. Opened a can of tomatoes and cooked up some remaining pasta. Probably more expensive than lunch at the craft brewery, but it’s all homemade. I had a moment when I started cooking when I realised I’d packed away my salt, herbs, pasta and can opener; luckily I know which box they were in.
So, yeah. Last cooked meal at home. Going to sis’ for dinner and she’ll bring me lunch tomorrow when the movers are here. The end of an era.
This applesauce bread-cake recipe is from cooking on a bootstrap, formerly known as A Girl Called Jack. Jack Monroe is a writer, cook and activist who first came into the public eye as a blogger sharing recipes from trying to survive as a single parent on £10 a week. Now a media personality due to activism against poverty (and the Tory govt) and after coming out as non-binary transgender. Interesting person to follow on twitter, there are always good stories on politics, family and cooking.
This is a vegan recipe that is supposed to cost 9p per serving. It’s always good to come across healthier recipes.
2 apples (whatever kind)
1 tsp lemon juice
100ml vegetable oil
225g plain flour
1.5tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp sugar (if using tart apples)
Dice apples and cook with lemon juice until soft. Leave the skin on for texture. Leave to cool. The recipe says to drain but I didn’t have any liquid in the pan.
Sift dry ingredients into a mixing bowl, add applesauce and oil. I found the mixture very dry so I added a little water to loosen it up.
Bake at 180ºC for 35-40mins.
The result was nothing like I expected. It was quite dry and almost like a crumble. I think it needed one more apple and lots more liquid. Or I hadn’t cooked the apples mushy enough. It was nice though, if I didn’t think of it as being like the apple equivalent of banana bread. I was missing the richness of butter; flavourless sunflower oil simply isn’t as good.
Served with vanilla ice cream, which was gave more sweetness and acted as sauce (took it out of vegan territory, but it’s not important for us). I’m thinking we can also use custard, jam, honey, fruit compote or coulis. It definitely needed a sauce or accompaniment.
It’s Shrove Tuesday, so I made pancakes for tea. Easy to remember ingredients:
100g flour + pinch of salt
1tsp vegetable oil
The recipe says to rest the batter for 30mins. I usually don’t, but this time I did. A little googling reveals that it’s to do with letting the starch absorb the liquid, the gluten to relax and the air bubbles to disperse evenly. The end result is supposed to be a thick, uniform batter and more delicate cooked product.
They do seem easier to cook, although we scoffed them down too quickly to really appreciate the texture or delicate taste. The first one never works properly–that’s an accepted fact. Cook’s perk.
Parents had them with maple syrup or peanut butter. I had mine with lemon and sugar. Simple is best.
25-Jan is Burns Night, celebrating Robert Burns’ birthday. Traditionally Burns Night supper has a particular order. The guests are piped in, the Selkirk Grace is said:
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.
Then the star of the meal, haggis, is piped in, welcomed by reciting the poem To A Haggis. The haggis is served with neeps & tatties, and the meal finishes with cranachan and a toast with whisky.
I like haggis, but we don’t have it readily available so it’s just normal meals today. But I did make cranachan for dessert. It’s the Scottish version of Eton Mess, really. The traditional recipe uses double cream, toasted oats, raspberries and whisky. Some chefs add their personal touches, folding a raspberry purée through the cream, macerating the fruit, substituting mascarpone, making fancy granola.
I didn’t want to use double cream. The smallest container I can buy is a 250ml carton, plus I don’t like plain cream. I substituted with vanilla ice cream instead.
The oats were, I’m ashamed to say, instant from a packet. This was flavoured with apple and cinnamon; the dried apple and cinnamon sugar gave a caramel-y fruity flavour when melted and mixed with the toasted oats. Quite nice.
It’s an assembly dessert. I put a few raspberries at the bottom of the glass, added ice cream, more raspberries then the oats. Poured over about 1tbsp whisky straight from my hip flask. Ate it with whisky. Washed down with whisky. More whisky afterwards, of course.
Christmas Day dinner was traditional and fairly straightforward. Mum and I went to the market in the morning to get potatoes, carrots, salad and other veg for the week. We even found a chicken carcass for the gravy.
Menu was turkey, lamb rack, roast potato & carrot, salad. As per our family tradition, the turkey was bought pre-cooked. It’s actually really nice, juicy and not dry at all. The problem was because it doesn’t come with giblets and we can’t use the bones for this meal there is nothing to make gravy with. Hence the chicken carcass from the market which I used to make stock together with mirepoix and some herbs. Two hours at a simmer, then use it to deglaze the lamb rack roasing tray before reducing to the proper consistency. I made the lamb a tad on the rare side so it’ll warm up with the gravy and the leftovers isn’t overcooked.
Sis’ family is in the UK, so she came over. We facetimed them and shared our dinner plans.
No room for dessert, we finished off a bottle of really nice gewurtz from the US and some non-alcoholic mulled wine.
It’s the start of baking season! I helped out by cutting the glacé (candied) fruits for fruitcake. There were 4 tubs of red & green cherries and pineapple. Sweet and sticky. And very colourful. Definitely Christmas-y. The fruitcake has lots of sugar, 2 cups of southern comfort, took around 2hrs to bake and will be soaked in more southern comfort until ready to eat. I had the honour of cleaning the mixing paddle and just that bit of batter had enough southern comfort to give an oomph.
Went out to the end of bowen road and back, 12km went by quite quickly. Since it’s a public holiday, there were tons and tons of people out walking and hiking. Glad it was only out and back once for me.
On the way back I stopped at the supermarket and bought some chicken drumsticks. Grabbed a butternut squash and was horrified at the price tag at the till, so had to exchange for another type of pumpkin at a more reasonable price. Cooked it all with okra and israeli couscous. Found a small tin of olives that dated from chicago, so added to the roasting tray for flavour. There are leftovers, which ended up proving problematic as I have no fridge. Had to leave the aircon and wrap the food tightly in a box then foil.
Met mm for drinks then dinner. Many places were closed so we just went to a nearby pub and then a small diner. We’ll meet again tomorrow for lunch, so nice.
Dinner with friends a few weeks ago and someone mentioned party venues with kitchen facilities where we can have a dinner party. I think those places are mainly for people who want to have a birthday party and bring in drinks and snacks. Some of them seem to have kitchens with microwave, oven and hob. I bet the ‘oven’ is a small electric countertop one. Then again if rachel khoo can run a restaurant in her tiny paris flat with a small electric oven, I can manage too.
I played around an online menu generator for the menu. They make you sign up and pay to save the graphic so I just took a screenshot.
I figured, we can munch on something before dinner, and I like the idea of small profiteroles with a mushroom filling. On second thoughts, I may need to find an amuse bouche recipe that doesn’t need an oven, or one that only takes a few minutes to make. May be the salmon egg rolls from Donna Hay.
The salad is easy to make, and I can get around the limitations of small ovens by making lamb rack. If the oven is too small, I’ll probably switch to mashed or sautéed potatoes. The apple crumble was what everyone voted to have, it can bake in the oven while we’re having our mains.
It’s not exactly what I want to cook for a 3-course menu, but I have to take into account the limitations of an unknown kitchen. Anyway, this is all a fantasy right now, I’m not that close with those friends who suggested the gathering, I’d go only for the opportunity to cook.
Seems like forever since I cooked a meal for myself. Still coughing badly so I kept it simple and made salmon with grilled tomatoes. Clams were on the shelf next to the salmon so I added a handful for additional flavour. Took 10mins to make and less than that to eat.
Cough is still bad, so stayed in all day. After lunch, mm came over to visit me to exchange souvenirs—from my trip to nola and her pilgrimage trip. She got me a fridge magnet from la verna, a shot glass from sicily and a cute holy family decoration from assisi, in addition to biscotti and my order of parma ham. I’d reminded her of directions to get to the friendly deli we visited in assisi to get the ham. She also brought me a mug from the book fair and a jar of manuka honey from her place. I got her a nola fridge magnet, big bag of popcorn from costco and biscotti from rubino’s. Naturally we will share my whisky and bourbon; total currently is 78 bottles.
We watched a dvd of Chiara di Dio, a musical dedicated to the life of St Clare, filmed at a performance at San Damiano itself. We loved that we were able to identify the location and rooms at San Damiano. A very moving story and fantastic performances from the young cast. It starts with Chiara on her deathbed, asking for a cherry, It’s August and cherries are out of season so how will the sisters get a cherry, unless with a miracle? With flashbacks, we see her story, from her life as a young girl in a rich family to her meeting with St Francis, her escape from her father’s home on the eve of her wedding, her consecration and the spectacular encounter with invading Saracens. In the words of the writer/director Carlos Tedeschi, the musical
brings out the humanity and the modernity of these two young people, Chiara and Francesco, an example for the youth of today despite eight centuries having passed. A model of how to break the mold, with the power and passion of youth without compromising its integrity
She cooked me dinner of pork ribs congee made with oatmeal in place of rice, what a great idea. We watched food and travel programs on tv and had a great time laughing and making fun of the inept presenters. How do these people get presenting gigs? One girl was cooking Indian food and seemed to be reciting a script: “add a little sugar, some flour” with a complete lack of passion for food and cooking. Yes, she was wearing a bright red cocktail dress and was a pretty face. Another one visited a safari park in Japan and her vocabulary seemed to be limited to amazing and interesting. “Oh the giraffe is so tall!” she’s definitely no David Attenborough.
We were watching a cookery competition program where one of the sets of contestants made salmon with potato stacks and asparagus with lime vinaigrette. Mum turned to me and said, “can you make this tomorrow?” So I did.
First time I made potato stack, I wonder why it took me so long? I normally bake or sautée my potatoes, but this will definitely be part of my repertoire. Thinly slice the potatoes, toss in s&p, rosemary and olive oil. Stack on a lined baking tray and bake at 200ºC for about 45mins, until golden brown on the outside and soft inside.
Didn’t have asparagus, so I made some carrot and cucumber disks that mirrored the round potato stacks. The downside was I slightly overcooked the salmon, sigh.
Standard salmon fillet from Ikea—the best value and best tasting salmon available to me. I had a head of fennel but I didn’t want to turn the oven on for just one head, so I looked for pan-frying recipes. The one from Delia at bbc goodfood looks great, but like most Delia recipes, seemed a bit fiddly. My simplified method was to slice the fennel and blanch in boiling water for 3 minutes, then brown in a pan with apple balsamic, worcestershire sauce and honey. Took around 10-15mins. Pushed the fennel to the side of the pan then cooked the salmon, which is why it looks so burnt on top, it absorbed the fennel debris.
Sigh, I’ve come to realise that the vegetables I love to cook with like fennel, kale, savoy cabbage, I have limited access to. They are also extremely expensive. The salmon (frozen) was also twice the price of fresh salmon in the UK.
I realised I don’t have searchable recipe for chilled cheesecake. It’s hidden on an old page that was part of v1.0 of the website and no longer linked. And it’s so old it’s in ounces, so I need to update it. I’ve also based the new recipe on the packaging of ingredients available to me; the recipe converts to 350g cream cheese, but cream cheese packets are 200g, so I used 2 packets.
400g cream cheese
75g caster sugar
zest and juice of 1 lemon
gelatine — about 1 tbsp in 3 tbsp hot water, this is powdered
250ml double cream
3 egg whites
1 punnet blueberries, or other fruit
make base using butter and digestives, chill until set
break up cheese, add sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice
dissolve gelatine in water, add to cheese mixture
whisk cream until soft peaks, fold into mixture
whisk egg whites until firm peaks, fold into mixture
Task #97 of 101.1001 is to stop using as much salt and substitute with herbs & spices.
One of the biggest advantages of staying at an airbnb is home comforts like a kitchen. The flat we stayed in London had a nice kitchen with proper hob, oven and utensils. The downside is that you’re limited to what is already present, unless you buy or bring your own flavourings. I was making roast lamb shoulder. There were olive oil, salt and pepper. Although half a drawer was full of herbs & spices it was chilli, curry powder, star anise and the like. I could use them, of course, but what I really wanted was rosemary, which wasn’t available. I didn’t get any fresh sprigs when I bought the lamb, so I improvised with other dried and fresh ingredients.
I used some italian seasoning, s&p. The side dishes with the lamb were roasted fennel and asparagus. I finely chopped bits of fennel and asparagus offcuts, and used those as the fresh herbs.
It’s definitely the quality of lamb, but I’m hoping the improvised seasoning helped too. The lamb was roasted to perfection and the side vegetables were really good.
Mum felt like onion soup so she bought a ton of onions. I don’t like onions so I usually relegate it to a flavouring as a component in mirepoix. Although IIRC I never made onion soup, I don’t think it’s something that requires a recipe. I mean, cook the onions, add liquid and simmer, right?
There’s a good discussion about the various methods for making onion soup. The type of onions to use, how long to caramelise the onions (from Michel Roux Jr’s 30-40mins to Thomas Keller’s 5 hours), the type of stock, additional seasoning (balsamic) and even what alcohol to add (cider, brandy).
Here’s what I did. I chopped 6 large onions and cooked them in butter for about 1.5hrs. I stirred like crazy towards the end, and left the lid off to reduce the liquid and break down the onion further. Most recipes call for beef stock which I didn’t have, I compromised by adding about 100g total of cubed beef with the onions.
After 1.5hrs the onions were soft and mushy and turned a nice medium brown. I then added vegetable stock I had in the freezer. Brought the whole lot to a boil and kept at a rolling boil for 20mins. Seasoned with s&p, thyme, worcestershire sauce, a dash of balsamic and soy sauce. Recipes tend not to include worcestershire or soy sauce, but they are my secret ingredients for adding umami to soups.
The cheese toast was made from baguette and shredded cheese. Proper cheeses like gruyere or comteé are simply too expensive and difficult to find so I used processed, sigh. I toasted the croutons on both sides before melting the cheese on top. Sprinkled more cheese onto the soup.
I was fairly pleased with the results. A tad too watery, I could have done with another 10-15mins reduction at the end, or taken half the soup and blitzed it. Still not a fan of onions.
a type of pancake found in Australia and New Zealand
stage name of Australian musician Evelyn Morris
a North Staffordshire delicacy, a thicker form of oatcake with raisins added
all of the above
The answer is (5). Most commonly the recipes I see are either (1) or (2). Complicated ones like this from Bake-off’s Ruby Tandoh that makes flat crumpets, I want to try this one day because, well, Ruby! and crumpets!!
What I used was a simple pancake-like recipe. I added blueberries because I felt like it.
150g SR flour
pinch of salt
1 punnet blueberries
Make a well in the dry ingredients, add egg and milk. Whisk slightly until no lumps, add blueberries. Drop 1 dessertspoon of the batter into olive oil/butter and cook till bubbles appear on top, flip and continue cooking till golden. Serve with blueberries and maple syrup.
Makes around 25 pikelets around 6cm (2.5in) in diameter.
So easy, and very tasty. They are small, so it’s easy to portion control. A combination of drop scones (with holes) and crumpets (less thick). Unlike pancakes, which go soggy when refridgerated, these are small enough to keep in the fridge as snacks, reheated in the microwave or eaten cold.
And because it’s pancake day, I made mushroom crêpes for dinner and served them with Ikea meatballs.
Saturday was Valentine’s Day. What I did: running, market then teenager-sitting my niece whilst Sis and BIL went for dinner. I made poached salmon, carrots, mashed potato and purple sweet potatoes. My niece approved, the salmon was just cooked, still a little pink in the middle. She ate it all, including all the veg and potatoes, so there were no leftovers. I’m particularly pleased about this, becuase she is a picky eater.
What mm did: went to a seminar on St Francis. I guess I could have gone with her if I didn’t have to spend time with my niece. Hmm, thinking about it, nope I wouldn’t.
This banana bread recipe from the Mary Berry era is so old that the measurements are in oz. It is so tried and tested that I didn’t convert to grams—113g butter sounds funny.
2 large eggs
8oz plain flour
3 bananas, crushed
handful dried cranberries
1 vanilla pod
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Whisk in eggs one at a time. Add bananas, cranberries and scrape vanilla beans from pod. Fold in flour, bp, add a splash of milk to loosen the mixture. Bake at 180°C for 45-50mins until a skewer comes out clean.
Traditionally it’s banana & walnut bread but I’ve never used walnuts because I don’t like them. For a slightly modern twist I added a handful of dried cranberries, taking inspiration from chocolat et zucchini—if Ms Dusoulier can do it, so can I. The cranberries added a tart taste and made the whole thing less stodgy.
We had it straight out of the oven so it was extra nice. Everybody liked it because it wasn’t too sweet.
Tasks #49-58 of 101.1001 are to try 10 new recipes. It’s great that the 10th one turned out so nice.
I’ve mentioned before that even though I’ve been baking for a long time, it’s usually cakes and biscuits. I only tried bread a few months ago and choux is the only pastry I’m comfortable with. I rarely work with the most basic pastry of them all: shortcrust.
So we were watching MKR4 repeat and I decided to try the double chocolate tart one team made, because it looked so indulgent.
for the pastry:
150g cold butter
185g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
50g icing sugar
1 egg yolk
for the filling:
50g brown sugar
2 eggs + 4 egg yolks
Sift the flour, cocoa and icing sugar into a large bowl, mix butter until resembling breadcrumbs. In the recipe they use a food processor but I couldn’t find mine, and besides I’m not sure it works anymore. Takes longer using hands but it’s not too bad. Put the mixture back in the fridge for 5mins to cool, then add the egg yolk. Combine into a dough. Initially I thought one egg yolk surely wasn’t enough to bind so much dry ingredients, but it worked after a bit of elbow grease. Knead on a flat surface briefly. Chill dough in fridge for 30mins.
Roll out dough to a tart tin. Well, I don’t have a tart tin, so I used half the dough and rolled out into a regular small cake tin, mending gaps where necessary. I tried to trim the side so it was flat. Cool the pastry in the fridge for 5mins, then blind bake at 180°C for 15mins with baking beans, followed by 10mins without. Didn’t have baking beans at parents’ place, so substituted with rice.
While the baked pastry case cools, make the filling. Melt chocolate and cream in a bain marie. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, egg yolk and sugar until frothy. Combine with melted chocolate carefully then pour into pastry case. Bake at 160°C for 30mins. Cool at room temperature, then in fridge until set.
The pastry was quite short, may be a tad too short, but I like it. The filling was rich and, yes, indulgent. Should have served it with strawberries or raspberries but didn’t have it. Added to the richness by pouring a little cream over. I’ll have to buy a proper tart tin, it’s one of those desserts I’m going to add to my repertoire.
Totally unexpected but a pleasant surprise, we had another gathering with Uncle Wong’s family. He took us to the market and bought lots of fresh seafood again. The dinner banquet had winkles, clams, abalone, prawns, chicken and vegetables. We bought him a chestnut chocolate cake to celebrate his 70th birthday, which was last time but it didn’t matter that it was a couple of weeks late, everyone enjoyed it. Uncle Wong is the most generous, most optimistic and thoughtful person. He is going back to Canada soon and due to his health, we’re not sure when we will see him again. I wish him the best of health.
I had some cream in the fridge I needed to use up, so I made pannacotta. Four ingredients: 500ml double cream, heated with 50g sugar and the seeds from one vanilla pod. When almost boiling, remove from heat and add to 2tsp gelatin powder already soaking in 3tbsp water.
A little too set, due to unfamiliar gelatin. But so rich, and so vanilla-y, can see all the seeds in the dessert. There was some discussion on a Paul Hollywood Pies & Puds program about the colour of pannacotta, whether it should be white or yellow. The chefs say white, but he had guest dairy farmers who brought in the richest, creamiest clotted cream from Devon and the pannacotta he made was yellow. It depends on the cream. The cream I used was good double cream, and the result was defiantly creamy yellow.
Ideally I would have liked to serve it with mixed berries or at the very least strawberries. Alas, the strawberries at the market were expensive and looked terrible. So mum opened a can of peaches. Heh, we’re not running a michelin star establishment here.
Original plan was to visit mm’s family friends for a bit, then do our own thing. We ended up visiting with them all day. It was uncle wong’s 70th birthday, and he was preparing his own birthday dinner. He took us all over the place to shop—specific shops for chicken, roasted meat and seafood. It was a veritable feast that was better and healthier than what you’d get at a restaurant. Lots of seafood, mostly steamed and the chicken and meat were from outside.
He made steamed sea prawns, steamed abalone, winter pickle steamed lion fish, steamed lung dun fish, scallops with vermicelli, vegetables, chicken, chicken feet, roast suckling pig. Delicioius, the sign of someone who loves cooking.
I saw diced lamb flap at the supermarket the other day. Lamb flap is belly, or sometimes called breast. It’s not a cut of meat I see very often—lamb comes in leg, shank or shoulder, occasionally neck fillet. Looks very much like any other belly cut—layers of meat and fat with some bones. Cheaper than shank and looks perfect for braising.
I used the standard braising method and ingredients. Brown the meat, remove. Sweat mirepoix in browning juices, return meat to pan. Add chopped tomatoes, red wine and seasoning. I splashed out and got fresh rosemary this time.
Instead of braising for 3hrs in the oven, I used my dad’s thermal pot. This is a device that is made up of an inner cooking pot and an outer insulated container. The idea is a vacuum is created around the cooking pot, keeping it hot and the food slow cooking for a long time. Apart from the initial heating no other energy source is needed. A good video demo by one of the manufacturers showing how to cook lamb shanks:
I brought everything to a rolling boil for 20mins. Then it was simply a matter of leaving the stew overnight, total around 15hrs. It was still hot when I took it out, apparently the food can be kept at around 60˚C for 12hrs. I returned it to the hob, brought it to boiling for about 10mins to reduce the gravy a little. Cooking in a sealed device meant no evaporation.
Served the braised lamb flap with grilled okra and rosemary flatbread. Everything homemade and economical. Success all round.
Tasks #49-58 of 101 in 1001 are 10 new recipes. This is #9, and the first bread recipe.
I’ve been baking since I was 11 or 12, but I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve made bread. I’ve been watching too many GBBO and masterchef episodes and I want to have a bread recipe I can master and keep in my back pocket. This is based on a jamie recipe.
500g strong bread flour
15g (or 1.5 packet) yeast
1/2 tbsp salt
Mix the dry ingredients with about half the water, add more water to get to a sticky consistency. Knead until a silky, elastic dough is formed. Leave in a covered bowl for 30mins to prove, until doubled in size.
Knock the air out and knead a little more. Tear off chunks of the dough, add fresh rosemary leaves and roll into small balls. Pat between palms into flat shapes about 0.5cm thick.
Pan fry in olive oil until golden. Sprinkle sea salt and drizzle rosemary & oil.
I’m very pleased with the results. A little yeasty, I think I added too much yeast. They fluffed up nicely during cooking and had a wonderful golden brown colour. Slightly crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. I’ll definitely make them again.
My scales broke, or rather, the scales I had at parents’ place broke and I can’t be bothered to a) go get the ones at my place or b) go buy new ones. Sales start in november, so I want to wait a few weeks. That said, for some reason I felt like making chocolate cake. So I did some random googling and found a recipe that uses cup measurements.
First of, I know many, many, many bakers use cup measurements — all American recipes are in cups as well as some NZ and Aussie recipes. But I’m uncomfortable with it, as we can see from the results. The recipe didn’t specify what type of cup so I used a proper ones from a professional cooking shop.
3 cups SR flour — that looked like A LOT! Must be something like 300-400g
2 tsp bicarb
pinch of salt
2 cups sugar — I used less, about 1.75 cups
3/4 cup cocoa powder — I used a combo of cocoa powder and chocolate pieces
2 eggs — didn’t seem enough
1 cup oil — I used a combo of soft butter and canola oil
1 cup milk
1 cup hot water
Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl, add wet ingredients and mix well.
That’s it. No creaming, no beating, no getting lots of air into the mixture.
Bake at 180˚C for 45mins. The recipe said 200˚C but I was slow cooking ribs in the oven so I couldn’t bring the temp that high. The rib roasting tray also meant I had room for a rectangular cake tin as opposed to a regular round cake tin. I had enough mixture for 2 cakes—I thought that was a lot of flour and sugar.
The result was, surprisingly, good. We liked the reduced sugar, so it’s not sickly sweet. Light and fluffy inside (bicarb+SR flour?), perhaps a tad too crumbly and a really nice crust outside. I normally don’t go for the end bits but this time I was super glad I did.
So, using a cup to gram conversion table:
350g SR flour
2 tsp bicarb
pinch of salt
2 eggs — I still think it’s not enough, may be increase to 3 eggs
250ml hot water
When I was still working and living on my own, my staple was roast chicken. Usually thighs or legs. I’d roast a batch at the weekend and it’d be my lunch for 2-3 days. For some reason, parents don’t roast chicken a lot — questionable quality of chicken? Or they prefer lamb.
Well, I felt like roast chicken, so I dragged mum to the market and bought a fresh chicken and some vegetables. Spatchcocked and seasoned with lemon zest, italian seasoning and butter rubbed between the skin and the meat. 40mins at 180ºC roasted British style with carrots in the tray (we forgot potatoes).
I had par boiled the carrots before hand so the water together with pan juices made a simple gravy. I was well impressed, the breast was soft and juicy and not dry at all. I don’t eat chicken breast when I’m eating out because of dryness, this time I preferred the breast.
250g dark chocolate
250ml double cream
knob of butter
Break chocolate into small pieces in a bowl. Heat cream and butter until almost boiling, then pour onto the chocolate pieces. Stir until chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth and glossy. Leave in fridge overnight to set.
Use a small spoon and hands to shape gently then roll in cocoa powder or chopped nuts. I also made a small batch that had a splash of highland park added. It was quite strong. Made around 30 truffles in total.
Tasks #49-58 of 101 in 1001 are to try 10 new recipes. This is #8, the third savoury and only the second meat recipe.
One of the classics in cooking history is Jacques Pepin deboning a whole chicken, stuffing it and making a galantine, a truly amazing demonstration of butchery and cooking skills. Nowadays I see chefs on masterchef and cookery competition programs making ballotine of chicken, duck, veal or another meat. There are many names, Pepin’s galantine, Americans favour roulade and ballotine seems to be used in the UK and commonwealth. It all comes down to the same concept: meat swiss roll with some stuffing (meat, vegetables or a combination) rolled up in an outer layer of meat.
This is a recipe I worked out myself, inspired by bonappetit. Serves 4 with sides, or 2 very hungry adults:
pan fry 2 chicken thighs, season and dice to small bite-size pieces
dice mushroom into small pieces, cook with chopped reconstituted dried porcini and sun-dried tomato, season
combine thigh with mushroom mixture to make the filling and leave to cool
butterfly 2 chicken breasts, cover with clingfilm and flatten slightly — not as flat as an escalope, around 1cm thick, season with s&p
layer jamon, fresh basil, emmental slices on top of the chicken breast — jamon because the packet I bought was from spain, I was initially aiming for prosciutto; emmental because that’s what I found in the fridge, mozzarella or provolone will work just as well
spoon on filling and roll carefully, secure with toothpick if necessary — it was difficult to roll so I used another slice of jamon on the outside
sear in a pan until golden brown
transfer to oven and bake at 180°C for 10mins
rest for 5mins then slice
Served the ballotine with roast potatoes, mushroom and cherry tomato. I made some sauce by combining the mushroom cooking liquid with the water from the porcini and sun-dried tomato. It tasted really good, I only cooked the chicken breast for 10mins so it was still juicy.
Tasks #49-58 of 101 in 1001 are to try 10 new recipes. This is #7 and the 5th baking recipe so far.
Mum went to lunch at the restaurant of a training hotel the other day. She had chocolate mousse (“like really bad ice cream”) and tried her friend’s key lime pie (“it was good”). Sis and gis had key lime pie recently and liked it. It’s my dad’s birthday. So all these events combined mean I should make key lime pie.
Yes, it’s quintessentially American, but the recipe I trusted was from bbc good food because: a) hob nobs!! and b) grams not cups.
300g hob nobs
3 egg yolks (I used 4 because the eggs were small)
1 can (397g) condensed milk
zest and juice from 4 limes (these were tiny limes so I used 5)
Make the base from crushed hob nobs and melted butter. Allow to cool. Whisk egg yolks for about 1min, add the condensed milk and whisk for 3mins. Add lime zest and juice, whisk for another 3mins. Pour over base, bake at 160°C for 15-20mins. Leave in tin to cool overnight in fridge.
I tried to make candied lime peel. Blanched lime slices in hot water then simmered in a simple syrup made from equal quantities of sugar and water for 15mins. Was still quite bitter (from peel, not pith) so I didn’t use it to decorate. Instead I whipped up some cream and used strawberries. Couldn’t be bothered to break out the piping bag so I just quenelled the cream.
Everyone seemed to like it and no complaints. I thought it was an extremely simple recipe, I liked that it was loaded with lime flavour and wasn’t too sweet. Next time I’ll make mixed citrus peel, may be that’ll work. Or just grate lime zest over a heap of cream.
Woke up at 5am, ugh, couldn’t go back to sleep so I read for a bit. Around 9-ish we headed out, got drive-thru mcdonalds breakfast then went to the cemetery. Costco, mall and grocery store followed. I bought some cute small ice cream makers, a towel and red velvet cheesecake to go.
Made several batches of pound cakes to take to Portland with us. The type of ingredients are similar to what I use for fairy cakes and regular cake but the actual ingredients were different — different butter/margarine, a special cake flour and the eggs were beaten before adding. The proportions were a little different too, so for me it was learning a rew recipe. At the end I was able to make the batches all by myself. Made plain and chocolate flavoured ones.
Went over to mm’s after her piano lesson to hang out. Pretty much doing nothing, I read travel and food magazines while she practiced then we watched sherlock holmes. Up to season 3 now. We could both have downloaded or streamed it but preferred to watch the dvds together, it’s more fun.
She requested lamb rack so I marinated it overnight in olive oil and rosemary. She has a small oven and initially I forgot to switch to upper and lower mode, but in the end it was all good. Succulent and nicely seasoned.
We were both tired, and we must have been tired because neither of us felt like or mentioned alcohol all evening.
Mum’s birthday coincides with US Mother’s Day quite often, and this year for added bonus it’s on a Sunday. The disadvantage is that many restaurants bump up their prices or force people to order set meals so traditionally we never go out on Mother’s Day.
For lunch I made some of Mum’s favourites: rack of lamb with carrot, parsnips and sautéed potatoes and mushroom. This particular rack wasn’t trimmed, which is fine because I can French trim it; but for some reason untrimmed racks still have the central bone which makes it very hard to cut when done. I was struggling with it and the presentation suffered. I got it nice and pink though.
For dinner we did find a restaurant that didn’t have any mother’s day special. It’s the yakitori place we go to regularly for happy hour. We reserved a private room last time I was there with sis and we all had loads of yakitori and sake. For dessert I brought the cake I made earlier—the restaurant didn’t charge us extra for plates and forks.
I saw a pretty picture of pancake cake and it reminded me of the cake we had in Hokkaido which was cream cake wrapped in a pancake. There’s a different taste and texture with the addition of the pancake. Instead of doing layers of pancake, I made a standard victoria sponge and alternated layers of cake with pancake. The filling is melted chocolate mixed with hazelnuts and whipped cream. Topped with shaved chocolate and strawberries. Looking at the picture I guess I should have sliced it in three instead of two so it doesn’t loook so uneven. Tasted good, everybody seemed to enjoy it.
This is a combination of task #54.6 of 101 in 1001 and task #17 in 30 in 30 is to try a new sweet recipe.
This is a recipe for no-bake blueberry truffle tart that has been bookmarked for a while. I made some adjustments, mainly in the ingredients and making of the base. The idea remains the same, make a biscuit base, make a ganache, top with blueberries.
225g crushed biscuits — I used half oreos and half hob-nobs, the recipe used just oreos
225g dark chocolate
250ml cream — should be 300ml but the carton was 250ml
1 punnet blueberries
Crush the biscuits, I put them in a ziploc bag and whacked them with a pestle but a rolling pin or food processor will work. Melt butter in pan, add biscuit crumbs and transfer to lined tin. The recipe used individual fairy cake tins but mum didn’t have that tin so I improvised and used a square tin. Allow to set in fridge (around 20-30mins).
Melt the chocolate on a bain marie and stir in the cream. Can do it the other way round, heat cream and pour over chocolate. Either way, stir until chocolate has melted and the mixture glossy and smooth.
I sprinkled half the punnet of blueberries on the biscuit base and added the ganache. Set in fridge for about 10mins, then sprinkle the rest on top. Return to fridge so the ganache sets. I left mine overnight.
Usually we combine chocolate with raspberries or strawberries but blueberries work very well too. The ganache was extremely rich, and the fruitiness of the blueberries in every bite was a good contrast. A small slice is more than enough.
Task #16 in 30 in 30 is to try a new savoury recipe. I made skordalia, a greek styled potato and garlic dip that is halfway between regular mashed potato and hummus.
The first time I heard of skordalia was when Torode cooked it on masterchef. It seemed to be an interesting alternative to mashed potato, a good source of starch for a dish. Based on the recipe I found at the guardian.
Roughly chopped 4 potatoes and boil until soft. I don’t have a potato ricer so I passed the cooked potato pieces through a sieve, which proved harder to do than I expected. Made a paste of 2 cloves garlic, salt and pepper and mixed into the potato. Added olive oil, juice of 1/2 a lemon and further seasoning. Topped with crushed peanut for decoration.
It sort of looked like a cross between mashed potato and hummus, erring to the side of potatoes. At first I didn’t add enough olive oil and the bitter-sourness of the lemon juice was too overwhelming. It was better when I added more oil and more seasoning. Although it’s described as a dip, I served it with braised lamb shanks, which technically we shouldn’t be having since it’s Good Friday. Ah well.
Task #18 in 30 in 30 is to plan a three course menu. Note, it’s plan not execute. Two reasons: I had wanted to do a homecooked 3-course meal for my birthday but a) it was met with general skeptism (“are you sure you don’t want to go out for a meal? So much trouble”) and b) I was on vacation. But I still want to plan this, because I think it’d be fun and it’s a task in 101 in 1001. Which means I have until 2016.
In thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that there are at least 2 different menus. One is the menu I want to cook and the second is the one I will end up cooking because of time, skill and also to fit the tastes of other people in my family.
starter — salmon three ways
salmon sashimi with ikura (salmon roe), grilled teriyaki salmon bites, salmon egg roll
Salmon with ikura is pretty standard sashimi fare, I’m thinking of dicing the salmon and serving it with the ikura on a spoon. The teriyaki recipe I haven’t tried, but sounds straightforward. The salmon roll is a Donna Hay recipe from one of her books: smoked salmon and crunchy greens rolled in a thin omelette. I made it for an office pot luck it was very popular and it’s an easy recipe to follow. The good thing about all three salmon dishes is that they can be served cold.
main — ballotine of duck with roasted beetroot, sautéed potatoes, pumpkin purée and red wine jus
I’ve made poached chicken using the ballotine, or roll, method. I’ve also cooked with duck. Found a recipe for duck ballotine that involves rolling it in pancetta. Sounds good. Instead of duck trimmings and assorted herbs for the filling, I think using a combination of smoked duck and duck offal will work. Hopefully it’ll look like the three birds ballotine from m&s I bought a couple of christmases ago.
I’d like to use red and yellow mini beets, but I know I won’t be able to get them, sigh. Duck goes with fruit like orange or plum or berries. I think though that with the beets and pumpkin there is enough sweetness in the dish and just a normal red wine reduction will work better. May be a squeeze of orange juice.
dessert — queen of puddings
This is one of the great british puddings I haven’t tried yet. It’s basically a breadcrumb custard topped with meringue. I’m looking at a couple of recipes, one by Mary Berry who is the queen of puddings and baking, and one for manchester pudding which is the same as queen of puddings.
I rather like the idea of serving in individual glass ramekins, except I don’t have any. My ramekins are ceramic for soufflés, and my glass dishes can’t be used in an oven. Ah well.
starter — salmon three ways
I think I can stick with the salmon three ways starter. I do need to find myself a rectangular plate though.
main — surf and turf
If I’m making something for the family, or for a birthday, it’s better to make crowd-pleasing items. What’s better than surf and turf? I used to have a tradition of making it for my birthday, back when I was in Chicago or London and can actually get good quality steak at reasonable prices. The surf part can be either lobster or prawns, to be honest I prefer the latter.
dessert — baked cheesecake
Another crowdpleaser and something I made before. Again, suitable for birthdays and family gatherings. Best thing is, it has to be made the day before.
Very common in Malaysia, Singapore and other parts of SE Asia is food flavoured with pandan leaves. It imparts a bright green colour and a gentle coconuty fragrant. They use it mainly with desserts and curries.
You can get pandan cake even at Singapore airport. The shop is right next to the departure gate so you check your luggage, go get your cake and then go through immigration. Easy peasy.
Pandan cake is basically a chiffon cake flavoured with pandan. I spotted a packet of pandan sugar at an indonesian store the other day and thought i should give it a try. They have a recipe at the back, although not completely clear (they don’t tell people to whisk the egg white and no oven time or temperature specified).
5 eggs, separated
2 tbsp cooking oil — i used grapeseed
4 tbsp coconut milk
150g SR flour
120g pandan sugar
Mix egg yolks with half the sugar until thick. Normally the mixture turns pale but with the green sugar I had to use texture and experience—took about 10mins vigorous hand beating. Add ccoking oil, coconut milk and fold in flour.
Beat egg whites until soft peak stage, add rest of sugar and beat until stiff. Fold into egg yolk mixture.
Bake at 180°C for about 1hr until a skewer comes out clean.
Very light, fluffy and the pandan flavour was subtle. Some people may be put off by the strange green colour but it really was very good.
Didn’t make any plans with mm. How I spent the day? Errands. Got train ticket for trip next week, picked up stuff I ordered with expiring airmiles. Went to market. Made salmon fish cakes from some cheap salmon filets I had in the freezer. Grilled the fish then spent forever getting the bones out, including small fiddly pin bones. Will never buy fish so poorly prepped again.
Mixed the salmon flakes with mashed potatoes, dipped in flour, egg and panko then pan-fried for about 5mins each side. Didn’t have time to rest them in the fridge prior to frying so they had to be carefully handled otherwise they would fall apart. Drizzled over some sriracha and a dollop of mayo. Not bad, primary taste was potatoes. At least it was a way to use up salmon I would have probably given up and thrown away.
I was making honey soy chicken wings (strictly speaking, also a new recipe — marinade chicken wings in soy sauce, honey, worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, mustard, olive oil and roast at 180°C for 30mins) and was looking in the fridge for vegetables. Found a small cabbage, perfect. Normally I’d be boring and just boil it, but anyone who has ever suffered school lunches will have dire recollections of overboiled cabbage and brussels sprouts. Speaking of brussels sprouts, my favourite method is to roast them at high heat with olive oil and lots of salt so the edges of the leaves are almost charred. I was sure this method also works for cabbage.
Yep. Recipe from thekitchn, who recommended roasting cabbage wedges with bacon. They were positively gushing about the end result,
the high-heat roasting gets rid of any cabbage funk and makes the cabbage sweet and flavorful — all that bacon grease certainly adds to the irresistible aroma. The bacon pieces were crispy and chewy, and the bacon fat seeped into the cabbage, making it tender and juicy in the middle and crispy and browned on the outside
Wash cabbage and remove any outer leaves that have wilted. Cut the whole cabbage in to quarters, remove some of the core and cut in half again, ending up with 8 wedges. Roughly cut up 4 bacon rashers and sprinkle on cabbage wedges. Drizzle olive oil and season with pepper and mixed herbs (no salt). Roast at 180°C for about 30mins until slightly charred.
I now know the reason behind the gushing. It was crunchy on the outside and sweet on the inside, none of the boiled cabbage smell or flavour. The bacon was a perfect accompaniment — the bacon I found in the fridge wasn’t crispy American bacon or meaty British back bacon but something in between that is ham-like and didn’t render a lot of fat — still worked okay with the dish.
I don’t think I’ll ever make boiled cabbage again, roasting was so simple and so delicious. Served it with the equally successful chicken wings and some cheese grits I found in the cupboard. See, I don’t always eat strange food.
Task #52 of 101 in 1001 challenge: 4 of 10 new recipes.
The actual recipe for making roast belly pork is straightforward, it’s the execution that is difficult. This is sort of based on a jamie recipe.
Score the skin of the belly in a criss-cross pattern. Dry vigorously with kitchen towel, I actually went as far as blow drying it. Rub in lots of garlic salt, some thyme, a few peppercorns and about 2 tbsp olive oil. Place on top of sliced garlic, carrot and celery pieces.
Preheat oven to its highest setting, in this case it was 240°C. Supposed to blast the skin in the hot oven for 10-15mins until it starts to blister and turn golden brown. After 25mins, mine turned golden brown with just a little bubbling. Pretty pathetic. I turned the oven down to 170°C and roasted for 1hr. After 1hr, time to some liquid for the slow cooking. The recipe uses white wine, I used some bitter beer that we reserve for cooking because it’s a bit undrinkable. Continue slow cooking for 1.5hrs.
Supposed to turn the oven back up for the last 30mins to finish the crackling. I did that, but no crackling. Disappointing.
I ended up having to take off the skin and fry in a frying pan to finally get crackling. It gave a satisfying crunch all right. The meat was tender and easy to pull apart. Next time, take the skin off and poach the whole joint in milk or cider.
Normally for CNY people eat certain traditional foods because they sound like certain lucky words, or with stuff like abalone is to show how prosperous they are, or with chicken because there’s always chicken in festive meals. These are good examples from Singapore, but don’t believe everything online: these are ridiculous and inaccurate examples.
For our CNY meal, we had…roast lamb, potatoes and carrots. Hahaha, definitely not traditional. But who cares, it’s cooking and eating food we like. It was a boneless leg of lamb that I roasted for 2hrs with the vegs. A little overdone, but still juicy. The gravy from the roasting tray and water that was used to parboil the vegs. There’s enough to serve 12 people, lots of yummy leftovers.
Been watching reruns of my kitchen rules australia, sort of masterchef in teams. At first I was a bit meh, but I’m not addicted. The competitors are all home cooks and what I like is that they never stray from that — no trying to be nouvelle cuisine, no trying to make them into Hestons. May be it’s because they are Aussies too, that their food is fresh, honest and multi-cultural. No fighting or nastiness like US cookery program competitors. There is competitiveness, and some manufactured bitchiness, but in general these people are a joy to watch.
Sometimes when they are set a task I think about what I would do if I were in the competition. Half an hour to make a herb sing — I’d pick mint, do mint crusted lamb, minty potatoes or pea & mint purée and mint pesto. Will be very pushed for time, but worth the risk.
Competition is also in teams of two, they have married couples, family members, friends. Then it occurred to me that I’ve never cooked extensively with other people. A lifetime ago when mm and I were living together, she made most of our meals of simple student-y food. We would sometimes cook together, mainly baking and making jams.
We hadn’t lived together since 1995. I’ve lived on my own for so long, and cooked for just one person for so long that I don’t think I know how to cook with another person on a day-to-day or competition basis.
At my parents’ my dad does the cooking. Whenever I take over the cooking I prefer doing it all myself and people aren’t allowed in the kitchen. The nearest was at Christmas when Sis came to help. But then it was a special holiday meal, I had an organised plan and set tasks for her, she was definitely sous chef, and a good one at that.
I can just imagine if mm and I cooked together now. Either we will get along fine, or we will fight and fight and fight. May be I’ll ask her if we should try it one day, ha.