Gourmandise?!
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Low Shu Min

Gourmand... a person who takes great pleasure in the enjoyment of good food.

Because good food ought to be shared ! :)

"Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian;
Wine and tarragon make it French.
Sour cream makes it Russian;
Lemon and cinnamon make it Greek.
Soy sauce makes it Chinese;

Garlic makes it good.”

- Alice May Brock

Cold dish of seared yellow fin tuna capellini, tossed in an aromatic sesame shoyu dressing with a drizzle of wasabi mayo!
Delish much?

Fine Palate Cafe51 Waterloo Street#01-04/05 Singapore 187969 Opening Hours: Tue–Sun, 11am – 6pm, Closed on Mondays Tel: (+65) 6336 5120 

Cold dish of seared yellow fin tuna capellini, tossed in an aromatic sesame shoyu dressing with a drizzle of wasabi mayo!

Delish much?


Fine Palate Cafe
51 Waterloo Street
#01-04/05 Singapore 187969 
Opening Hours: Tue–Sun, 11am – 6pm, Closed on Mondays 
Tel: (+65) 6336 5120 

Red Velvet Madness

I was down with a particularly nasty bout of Tonsillitis recently, and for the whole week all I had was either water or soup for breakfast, lunch and dinner because I couldn’t get anything else past my painfully, swollen throat. :((

Naturally, the minute it blew over, my food-deprived instincts kicked in, and I headed straight to the nearest supermarket to feast my eyes and the food cravings that had been left wanting too long. I ended up deciding on making some of Magnolia Bakery’s, as well as Hummingbird’s famous Red velvet cupcakes. You might probably remember Magnolia Bakery from Sex and the City as the girls’ favorite place for cupcakes, or maybe you’ve even been to Bleecker Street itself and seen the queues for these lovely little delights that stretch out onto the pavement despite the cold NY winter! That being said, I’m pretty happy with how my first try at Red Velvet turned out, texture and taste-wise :)) My dad was a happy camper too, the way he gobbled down most of the first batch after trying one:D

Still a n00b at baking though so the whole icing decorating business was really tricky for me:O I think I’ll leave that to the pros next time.

Now for the recipe! I adapted it from Magnolia Bakery’s Red velvet recipe here, but decided to replace the vanilla frosting with a cream cheese frosting instead (only because I have a serious weakness for anything cream cheese:O don’t you?!).


Magnolia Bakery’s Red Velvet Cupcakes 

 

3 1/2 cups cake flour

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2 1/2 cups sugar

3 large eggs, at room temperature (I used 4 normal-sized eggs instead)

6 tbsp red food coloring (this actually comes up to two of those little bottles of red food coloring!)

3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

 

Preheat your oven to about 175 degrees celsius. Grease and lightly flour your muffin/cupcake pans(it makes 24 muffin-sized cupcakes, or about 33 cupcakes in my case). Then line the pans with your cupcake wrappers.

To make the batter: In a small bowl, sift the cake flour and set aside. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy (important!), about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a small bowl, whisk together the red food coloring, cocoa, and vanilla. Add to the batter and beat well.

In a measuring cup, stir the salt into the buttermilk. Add to the batter in three parts alternating with the flour. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated, but do not overbeat (this could result in a dense cupcake!). 

In a small bowl, stir together the apple cider vinegar and baking soda. Add to the batter and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl, making sure the ingredients are well blended and the batter is smooth.

Now spoon the batter into your cupcake tins (what I did was use a piping bag so it would help the cupcakes look a little more standardized than if I spooned them in:))

Arrange the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and bake the cupcakes, switching positions of the pans halfway through baking, until a tester comes out clean (i.e. when you stick a toothpick into the center of the cupcake and it doesn’t come out with bits of moist/sticky inner-cupcake-whatevers stuck to it - if it does, they’re still not fully cooked), they should be in the oven for about 20 minutes in total. Once they’re done, cool the cupcakes in the pan for about 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool them completely on a rack before icing.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 pound (about 460 g) cream cheese softened

2 sticks of butter softened

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 cups sifted icing sugar

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth (if it’s still looking very dry and piece-y, add a little more butter and mix again). Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.

When done, set aside in the refrigerator to solidify a bit more. Then frost the cupcakes with a butter knife or a piping bag! :) Btw, what I did was tear a few crumbs off the top of a couple of cupcakes to dust the icing with. It gives them a really nice contrast on the whole 

Bon appetit !

Sunday Alfresco brunch at The Dunearn:) Seafood linguine with Chardonnay and Japanese nori in Lobster olive oil, beef mignon with garlic herb mash and red wine reduction, and dessert of course!

Sunday Alfresco brunch at The Dunearn:) Seafood linguine with Chardonnay and Japanese nori in Lobster olive oil, beef mignon with garlic herb mash and red wine reduction, and dessert of course!

We had a craving for juicy calorie-laden, char-broiled bacon cheeseburgers… this is what we got :)!

Ingredients: 1kg of minced beef & pork, freshly-crushed and chopped garlic, dried onion bits, tomatoes, ketchup, tabasco, hot cajun pepper, english mustard, streaky bacon rashers, romaine lettuce, some nicely toasted focaccia bread, and loads and loads of gruyère cheese!

xxx

Truffle Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms and…. Parmesan Ice cream! ;)


Who would’ve thought it’d be possible to find ice cream and risotto together in the same dish… yet still end up with something edible AND wonderful?! And to compound your taste buds even further, this isn’t just plain old vanilla, but deliciously savoury Parmesan cheese ice cream:O! As they say… stranger things have happened. Especially, in the quest for food! :)


Surprisingly heavenly to the taste, the warm Porcini risotto is served with a dollop of cold home-made Parmesan gelato and a drizzle of fragrant Truffle jus/oil to top it all off. When prepared this way, the gelato melts perfectly into the hot risotto and runs down its sides like lava from a volcano, making it silky and creamy without overpowering the distinctive, woody taste of the Porcini:)! 



Porcini mushrooms, also known as Boletus mushrooms or “Cepes” in France, are one of the most sought after ingredients in italian cooking, wonderfully aromatic and almost melt-in-the-mouth - the other being Tartufo (Truffles), of course!;) Porcini actually means “Little piglet” in Italian, an early attempt to describe the little mushrooms’ rounded shape that resembles a piggy, although I myself see no resemblance other than the obvious size comparisons! 




So without further ado, here are the respective recipes for Risotto al Porcini and it’s Parmesan ice cream counterpart! -


Risotto al Porcini

Serves 6

  •  50g dried sliced porcini mushrooms (you can find these at Giant/Marketplace)
  •  800ml warm water
  •  800ml of good-quality vegetable stock/chicken stock
  •  2 tablespoons olive oil
  •  125g of butter
  •  120g of shallots/red onions, finely chopped
  •  2 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
  •  1/2 to 1 fresh/dried chilli
  •  A good pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper
  •  400g of risotto rice (Arborio or Carnaroli), make sure NOT to wash them as this removes the starch - which is what makes your risotto nice and creamy
  •  200ml white wine (Any white that you would be okay with drinking on its own is fine! Never use a wine in your food that you wouldn’t drink by itself! :))
  •  50g of shaved Parmesan  

1. First, put the mushrooms in a bowl with the warm water to soak for about 30 minutes. Then strain the water into a jug through the finest sieve you have - I used my coffee sieve - to remove any grit, and set the mushrooms aside. Normally, I reserve the mushroom soaked water for steeping the risotto in but if you prefer to use just the vegetable stock alone, that works fine too!

2. Put the vegetable/chicken stock into a saucepan over medium heat and keep it warm but not boiling. This is important, because adding stock that is colder than the hot rice during the cooking process causes the outer layer of the rice to flake easily, and also results in a hard, uncooked kernel in the center of the grain.

3. Whilst the stock is simmering, heat the olive oil and 100g of the butter in another large saucepan, when it is hot enough, add the shallots and sauté for a few minutes before throwing in the rest of the mushrooms, garlic, chilli and salt&pepper. Fry until everything has softened and the aroma fills the air.

4. Add the rice to the mixture and stir it such that it is well-coated in olive oil/butter, this outer coating of oil helps to slow down the liquid (wine and broth) absorption rate of the grains so as to prevent it from becoming soggy too fast. This is called “Toasting the Rice.” - which will begin to fry a little, so it is important to keep stirring it with a large wooden spatula till it turns slightly translucent (~1-2mins depending on your heat), and to keep it from burning! This step also ensures that it absorbs the flavours of the other ingredients while it is toasting.


5. When the grains take on a pearly-white (not brown!) sheen, it is time to add the white wine, all the whilst stirring, and allow it to evaporate, leaving the rice with the concentrated essence and flavours of the ingredients. Bear in mind (!!), the wine should be HOT or at least warmed as well, before addition! 

6. Now the important step, add about 1/4-1/2 of your liquid stock to the rice, or enough to cover about 1-2inches more than the leveled surface of the rice. Stir the whole thing every 5-10 mins to prevent the rice from sticking to the pan, till the broth is mostly absorbed by the grains, i.e. when you can actually see the rice again. When this happens, just top it up again little by little/add enough broth till the tops of the rice grains are just about completely covered such that you can’t see the rice anymore (usually the practice is to top up with about 1/4- 1/2 of your broth at the beginning, and tapering it down to 1/4 or less afterwards). (Note:- The stirring in this step actually breaks down the outer shell of the rice grains, releasing the starch and thus giving you that creamy risotto you so desire! However, over-stirring will leave you with a mushy coagulated-looking risotto, so don’t stir it more than you have to!)

7. Repeat the additions of broth/mushroom water with the stirring process a couple more times whenever the stock falls below the surface level of the rice, over a period of 16-18 mins. Around the 14-16th minute or so, taste the rice and if it’s still very hard on the whole leave it to cook some more, and keep tasting them every minute from then onwards. When the rice is sufficiently al dente (with a bit of resistance to the bite but not mushy on the outside), take it off the heat. (p.s. It isn’t necessary for you to use up all of the stock, so don’t worry if you have some leftover when the rice is already al dente)

8. Salt and pepper to taste. Then add the remaining butter and parmesan while the rice is still hot and stir vigorously to make the risotto creamy. Cover the pan with the lid for no more than 3 minutes before serving as risotto is best eaten while it is still hot and satisfying, any longer and the whole thing starts to get all mushy and cold:)!

9. Add a dollop of cold parmesan ice cream (see below) to the top of your warm risotto when serving, and drizzle some truffle oil over it while it melts decadently into the rice, then mix the whole thing together and tuck in! 

10. If you have any leftover risotto, put it in a container in the fridge and leave it overnight, the next day the taste of the risotto should be even stronger and more concentrated in flavour than it was on the first day. 

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Parmesan Gelato

Makes 500ml, serves 8-10

  • 250ml milk
  • 100ml double cream
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 125g Parmesan, shaved
  • 4 tablespoons Marsala dolce wine (It took me awhile to find a bottle of this as it’s a sweet Sicilian fortified wine, vaguely reminiscent of Port, but used mostly as a cooking wine in desserts like Tiramisu and other italian dishes. I finally found a bottle of Florio Superiore in the Cold Storage outlet at Great World City, but had been to a number of other places before that to no avail! - It honestly didn’t make much of a difference to me in the overall taste, but if you’d like to replace it adding sherry and sweet vermouth, that could work too. Honey might even suffice! Although it might change the consistency of the whole thing)
  • 250g packet of ricotta cheese (Also from Great World’s CS outlet, at the cold cheese/dairy section)
  • Sea Salt or normal salt! (if necessary)


1. Put the milk, cream and bay leaves in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil.

2. Remove from heat and add the shavings of Parmesan, stirring to melt them into the milk.


3. Add the Marsala wine and then transfer the whole thing to a container to cool. Remove the bay leaves and add the ricotta, whisking it in to smooth out any lumps.


4. Afterwards, put the container in the freezer leaving the whisk in it for easy mixing later on. After 30minutes, whisk the cream again to make the consistency lighter and fluffier. 





5. Repeat this process of freezing and whisking a couple of times, for about 2.5-3hours depending on how the ice cream is starting to turn out. Then on the final bout, remove the whisk and move the ice cream to the fridge if you are planning on using it the same day. Otherwise, freeze the ice cream completely and remember to bring it out of the freezer and put it into the fridge half an hour to an hour before you need it. (I tend to stick with the latter even if I’m using it on the same day). It shouldn’t be too melty but hard enough to scoop out with a spoon.


6. You might also find it easier to freeze the ice cream separately as little oval-shaped quenelles or balls using two spoons to shape them while they’re still slightly soft, and then placing these individual portions onto a baking sheet-lined tray before freezing them all. These are perfect and ready to be dropped onto hot risotto straight from the freezer without any defrosting time needed!;) Other than serving them in scoops over risotto, Parmesan gelato goes well in soups, hot toast or over mashed potato as well! :)


Buon Appetito !!! ;)

Mentaiko Egg Pasta with Pan-seared Hokkaido Scallops

I’ve always been a sucker for anything with the words “Mentaiko” or “Scallops” in it. Better still, put them together and I’d be well on my way to one of the few tangible slices of heaven! Mentaiko, also known as “spicy cod roe”, is actually delightfully flavored, marinated roe of pollock that previously originated from Korea and only gained popularity in Japan in the wake of World War Two. They are commonly sold intact in whole sacs (membrane and all) that contain millions of tiny, little bright reddish eggs (see below), which can be found in any decent Japanese supermarket - Meidiya at the basement of Liang Court stocks them, and so does Giant (at the sushi section). Do not be deceived by their individual, minuscule sizes - with their powers combined (anything involving a whole sac at the very least) these little translucent eggs deliver an extremely light, not-quite-there creaminess on one’s tongue, that’s slightly spicy with an overall subtle, lingering taste of the sea in all it’s savory glory!

Often served as an accompaniment to rice and pasta, Mentaiko has become the dish of choice for me whenever I find myself in a fusion japanese restaurant, or the comfort of my own home craving those gratifying bundles of flavour:) 


And so here is the adapted recipe I use for Mentaiko Egg Pasta with Pan-seared scallops - the original recipe didn’t involve any scallops but I being the glutton that I am, instantly imagined it tasting all the better with some succulent hokkaido scallops topped with slivers of caramelized shallots on the side. :)

 

Mentaiko Egg Pasta with Pan-seared scallops:

Serves 4

  • 150g angelhair pasta
  • Fresh, large scallops enough for 4 person-serving (I used ones from Hokkaido but any large sufficiently mouth-watering ones are fine;))
  • A handful of thinly sliced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 onion, diced very finely
  • 3-5 tablespoons of dry white wine
  • 4 tablespoons chicken jus (or reduced stock)
  • 1 teaspoon Japanese mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup thickened cream
  • 3 sacs of mentaiko
  • 4 eggs
  • A handful of nori seaweed (packets of already shredded seaweed, or you can cut them into thin slivers yourself like what I did)

1) To start off, make the chicken stock reduction by combining one cube of chicken stock with its requisite amount of water stated on the box (e.g. the typical Maggi stock cubes), but make sure NOT to use the already liquified chicken broth stocks that come in cartons like milk, as these take longer to reduce and do not pack as much taste as the cubes do. After the cube has been diluted in its portion of hot water, put the whole concoction on the boil in a pot with a large surface area of exposure so the liquid stock will evaporate faster :) Keep stirring it intermittently so that the stock doesn’t solidify on the sides of the pot, and this whole process will probably take you about 20mins or more before the stock is finally reduced to a dark brown, thick, gluey, gelatinous syrup enough for at least one or two very thick tablespoonfuls (even four at times, depending!). You can use less if you want your pasta to be less salty. Ideally, ratio the tablespoons to the number of persons eating. 

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2) Carefully cut open the mentaiko sacs from the top of the thin, sticky membrane to the bottom in the middle with a very sharp knife, and scrape the roe into a large mixing bowl. Make sure not to do the cutting when the mentaiko sacs have been out in room temperature too long, or 90% of the eggs will end up sticking to your palms and knife. I’ve found that taking these sacs out of the freezer (where they are usually stored for freshness), and letting them thaw only slightly in the refrigerator before slicing them open helps LOTS. They should be firm and still slightly frozen to the touch so you will be able to remove the eggs as a whole chunk after making the cut by pushing them out from the membrane easily.

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3) In a sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and cook slowly, stirring, for a few minutes. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the white wine. Cook until the wine is reduced by half. Then add the chicken jus. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then turn the heat off. Add the cream and stir it into the onion sauce vigorously. Then add this to the mentaiko and mix everything together. Add a small handful of shredded nori into the mentaiko sauce.

//

4) In a medium heat pan, add in some butter and shallots. How hot? You should hear the butter sizzle when it hits the surface, but the shallots shouldn’t brown, you want to cook them gently till they turn translucent. Then take them off the heat and set aside. While that pan’s going, start on your pasta.

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5) Cook the pasta until it is al dente. Drain it and set aside in individual portions next to the mentaiko sauce. Do not mix them until you are ready to eat, so that if the sauce is cold at the end of the cooking, you can still reheat it in a pot/pan and it’ll be ready to go!

//

6) In another much hotter pan, add a swig of olive oil (alternatively, you can use a huge dollop of butter here) enough to coat the surface well, and lay down your scallops with spaces in between them to get a good sear. Remember to pat your scallops dry first with a paper towel before searing them so as to remove excess moisture that might seep out and prevent the scallops from forming that flavorful crust on the outside while they cook. After laying them down, don’t touch them! Let them cook almost 80 percent each on one side to get caramelized with that golden crust. If you have itchy fingers, and keep checking on them by lifting them up partway or moving them around, you won’t get the perfect, nice brown sear that you want because you’ll be interrupting the process. So refrain from prodding!! Leave the scallops to sear on each side for about 45-50 seconds, depending on your level of heat, do NOT overcook them! Best is to make sure the pan is extremely hot before laying them out, and that once you flip them you turn off the heat (the residual heat from the pan will cook the rest of that side). Once they’re done, remove and slide them onto the side of the pasta portions whilst topping them with the caramelized shallots.

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7) Lastly, poach your eggs in a pot of boiling water such that the whites are set but the yolks still runny, and then place them gently atop each portion of your plated pasta, whilst sprinkling a bit of sliced nori seaweed over it. Serve!

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…..Yes, it does seem like a long process, but the mouth-watering dish at the end of it all more than makes up for all the sweat involved! ;) Hope yours turns out as good!

… I miss Nice and all the lazy afternoons spent under the sun with our endless supply of amazing home-cooked food and wine, and evenings by the pool with home-made limoncello….

This is life !

Ramen Fix

Marutama Ramen at Central mall in Clarke Quay is still my to-go place for ramen in Sg.

        What with their slabs of char shu that melt oh-so-languidly in one’s mouth, a rich not-too-salty chicken broth (Santouka’s broth has me downing glass after glass of water minutes after I’m done!) that hits the umami spot just right, and a soy-sauce egg with a yolk that’s HEAVEN - not too runny (as per Santouka or the soft-boiled eggs you get at a Kopitiam) and yet not one of those many slightly over-cooked (Tampopo, Baikohken, and Ippudo) or completely crumbly powdery ones. 

        I’ve been to practically every single ramen spot in Singapore worth trying, and most places are obvious misses (i.e. terrible noodle texture, broth that tastes like a chockful of MSG, slices of pork that are so tough they resemble beef jerky, etc.) however, there are the select few like Ippudo and Santouka that are definite hits because of their specialty: amazing slices of pork in their ramen that slide down your throat like butter… Their sho-yu tamago (soy-sauce steeped eggs), however, are another thing. Getting the consistency of the yolk right is the hardest thing to find in most ramen stalls here, with only Marutama thus far having actually mastered the technique of making sinfully, soft, oozy (for the lack of a better word) yolks, as seen below. Not only do they possess the most drool-worthy egg in SG, they also have tender, fall-to-pieces slices of braised porkcheek that will leave you craving for more (seeing that each bowl of ramen only comes with one slice of it :(( !). 

        Fortunately for those with bigger, and well, more indulgent appetites i.e. me!, the best thing to do would be to order their normal chicken ramen or their Nama-Karashi Ramen (spicy chicken broth) with an extra serving of char shu on the side as well as the indomitable sho-yu tamago of course! On a sidenote, the Spicy chicken broth actually isn’t very spicy on the whole - more like a tinge of spice towards the end, very unlike some of the previous ramen I’ve tried that were practically soaking in chilli oil if it stated “Spicy tonkotsu broth” etc. on the menu - so chilli-haters, there’s no need to hate on this one! ;) (Note: Marutama’s other outlet at Liang Court is lacking in standard compared to the Clarke Quay Central one sadly, so I would recommend only this outlet if you’ve got discerning tastes!)

        For those who are keen, here’s a recipe for how to make the perfect Ramen egg (adapted from Chubby Hubby), that you can attempt at home, if you’re as obsessed with these little packages of oozing, yolky joy as I am! ;)

Sho-yu Tamago Recipe:

- Medium-sized chicken eggs, stored in refrigerator to ensure that they’re cold to the touch

- Malt Vinegar

- Bowl filled with ice for soaking the eggs

Marinade ingredients:

- 1 cup light soy sauce, 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce, 1 cup water, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 10 ginger slices


1) To prepare these, your eggs should be cold, i.e. used directly from the refrigerator.


2) Boil some water. Gently place the eggs in the boiling water, lowering the heat just a tad so that the water is bubbling but not so strong that the eggs are kicking around inside your pot.


3) If you’re using quail eggs, boil for 3 minutes. If you’re using chicken eggs, boil them for 6-8 minutes depending on the size of the eggs.


4) I used medium-sized eggs and boiled them for 7 minutes, which yielded a soft, squishy yolk. If you want a really runny yolk, go for 6.


5) Prepare a malted vinegar ice bath (simply malted vinegar + lots of ice).


6) Transfer the eggs directly from the boiling water into the ice bath. Make sure they’re completely covered. Leave them in the ice bath for between 3-4 hours. (Note: The addition of vinegar is to make it easier for you to peel off the shells of the eggs later, whilst the ice-bath stops the cooking immediately, so you’ll have a nice bright yellow yolk when they’re done.:))


7) Take them out and carefully peel the shells off the eggs. Then place the eggs into whatever liquid you want to steep them in. If you want to make a typical soy sauce egg marinade for example, you can combine the marinade ingredients listed above in a pot and bring all of it to a boil and then cool.


8) Leave the eggs in the liquid marinade for at least 3-5 hours. You can store the eggs and the liquid in the fridge. But when eating, bring the eggs back to room temperature.


And that’s it for home-made soy sauce eggs! :) Sounds easy dunnit?

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