Category Archives: Tips and Tricks

Tribute to Egg Yolk

In the magical world of baking, Egg Yolk is a golden element, without which custards and mousses wouldn’t be the same. Not to undermine Egg White, I think I just like Egg Yolk better. In the savouries, Egg Yolk helps Mayonnaise and Hollandaise. But above all, Egg Yolk is simply best when runny, be it soft-boiled in an egg cup, or poached in simmering liquid.

NOMZ.

Sausage, Egg & Spinach


Humous vs. Scrambled Eggs

The first time I’d ever heard of humous was in the movie Don’t Mess with the Zohan, starring Adam Sandler being a complete hairdressing-sex predator. Not the best way to encounter food I know. Apart from wrecking my brains trying to figure out what that gloppy mushy substance might be, I came to London a couple of years back and took a leap of faith, buying a pack of humous at the store.

Made of mainly chickpeas and tahini, there’s an amazing variety of that stuff these days. I got the dodgiest looking pack though, plain and uninspiring, and had it alongside Scrambled Eggs on Toast for breakfast yesterday morning.

WOWZAH!

Still can’t figure out which creamy gloopy mush wins at breakfast.

Humous vs. Scrambled Eggs


Home Mayonnaise

I got real sick of sitting at my desk doing readings, and it wasn’t long before I found myself thinking about food again. Story of my life. Then, I started thinking about making mayonnaise. I was craving some egg mayo that day but didn’t have any mayo, so why not make my own?

This was so easy to do, I’m never looking back at store-bought mayo again.

  1. In a DRY bowl with a whisk, beat a single egg yolk till it’s creamy and pale yellow.
  2. Then beat in a small amount of oil (any will do: vegetable, olive, rapeseed, go crazy experimenting) until the mixture starts resembling mayonnaise.
  3. At this point, you can add oil at a steady pace till you have the desired amount.
  4. Flavour and season with lemon juice/white vinegar, mustard, salt and white pepper powder. Dilute with drops of water if necessary.
  5. Bottle it up and eat potato salad and egg mayo non-stop till there’s no more. Then, repeat from step 1.

Sausages.

I don’t know how people feel about sausages in particular but I do know having a piece done well is never a bad thing. Sausages should be browned with a nice tan, but not burned; when you sink your teeth into a one, it should be toasty but not shrivelled, succulent and not dry. This morning, I’ve just discovered the best way to cook sausages, so that you get that crispy exterior enveloping juicy mince. Here’s how I did it:

  1. Place your sausages into a pot with a small drizzle of oil.
  2. Turn up the heat to medium and put the lid on, keeping any steam released within the pot.
  3. Let the sausages fry about by rolling them about in the pot with the lid still on. Check occasionally.
  4. Once the sausages are nicely browned, turn down the heat to the lowest setting and let them steam slowly for a couple of brief minutes before serving.

Remember, crispy yet juicy.


Heart-y Breakfast

They always say, ‘Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.’ I’ve never actually taken that to heart, until recently when I realised that having a good breakfast in the morning is not only a healthy thing to do, it also and almost always will set you up well for the day’s challenges and tasks.

Yes, we’re all really busy people and sometimes breakfasts are the last thing you’d wanna think about when the sun comes up. It’s always either rushing to head out to work or school, or plain just paying off those sleep debts, hitting the snooze button, again and again, and again.

In any case, when you do get time, please do sit down and have a hearty breakfast, because it’s good for your heart, in more ways than one.

Perfect scrambled eggs recipe here.


Breakfast Tomatoes

There’s word of this fifth basic taste going round, a taste alongside salty, sweet, sour or bitter; it’s called umami. According to Wikipedia, it means ‘pleasant savoury taste’ in Japanese. It’s the taste most common in Japanese food, which makes it so well-loved. ‘The human tongue has receptors for L-glutamate, which is the source of umami flavour. As such, scientists consider umami to be distinct from saltiness.’ So you ask? How and where do you get umami from? Tomatoes.

I believe having tomatoes at breakfast is a great way to start your day, awakening your belly with wholesome savoury goodness, not just salty ham or bacon.

Have them with your sausages today.


Tomato Tartlets

Puff pastry sold in supermarkets is a genius intervention. I know some people believe firmly in making everything from scratch. but puff pastry is one of those things which the homemade handmade version is no different from the ones sold ready-made in supermarkets. In fact, sometimes the former falls short of the latter. So with making your own puff pastry being so time-consuming, why not just pay a little and make your life easier?

Then again, that’s just me.

Well then, back to topic, these little babies are so easy to make, you’d be smiling from ear to ear by the time they’re on your dining table. They’re also one of them quick treats you can whip up if you’ve got guests coming round on short notice. Here’s how:

  1. If your pastry is already pre-rolled, that’s good. If not, roll it out till it’s about 5mm thick.
  2. Cut them into little rectangles and score a border around all four sides of each piece.
  3. You can brush them with an egg wash, if you want. Then, lay pieces of sliced tomatoes atop, fitting them within the scored borders.
  4. Crack a little sea salt on each and pop them into the pre-heated oven, top rack at 200ªC for about 10 minutes before lowering to 180ªC for another 10 minutes or so. Remove once the pastry is nicely browned.
  5. When fresh out of the oven, drizzle with good extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle a small pinch of dried basil.
  6. Let them cool on a cooling rack and serve when no longer piping hot.

Happy days.


Gratin Dauphinois

Apart from its fancy French name, Potato Gratin, or baked potatoes, is real smart dish to make if you’ve got guests coming round to dine on short notice. While the dish is cooking by itself in the oven, you’re free to make other kinds of food.

  1. Using medium-sized potatoes, place them all in the baking dish of choice. TIP! This gives you a rough estimate of how many potatoes you need to fill the entire dish.
  2. Peel the potatoes and cut them into 5mm thick disks. Place the potato disks into a mixing bowl as you go along. TIP! If you’re using sweet potatoes, you can choose to leave the skin on, just make sure you scrub them well clean.
  3. Season with minced garlic, thyme, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a good lug of olive oil. If you’re extravagant, use melted butter in place of olive oil.
  4. After ensuring that all disks are coated with the seasoning well, arrange the pieces nicely in the (buttered) baking dish, either in rows or in a round (as in picture above).
  5. Drizzle a round of cream (double cream, if you want), making sure every disk has a little lick of cream.
  6. Cover with foil and chuck it in the oven for 20 minutes at 180ªC.
  7. While that’s happening, you can prepare a lovely gravy and/or glazed vegetables.
  8. After 20 minutes, the potatoes should be almost done, if not already soft. Remove the foil and taste a piece, adjust seasoning accordingly, bearing in mind that the cheese you are about to add can be salty.
  9. Drizzle another round of cream.
  10. Grate Parmesan over the top. Cheddar or any other hard cheese works as well.
  11. Finally, put it back in the oven uncovered, for another 10 minutes, or until the top is gently browned.

Fried Rice Noodles

Back home, I remember having this on only two different kinds of occasions. One, during morning breakfasts at the local hawker centre before heading to the grocers’ market, and two, while having a BBQ, as a carbohydrate accompaniment for the lead-acting chicken wings.

In any case, last week, I managed to get hold of some dried rice noodles (affectionately known as bee hoon back home), courtesy of my friend and neighbour Joanna. In attempt to recreate the subliminal dining experience of Fried Bee Hoon, I’m clueless about the proportionate and quantities of the ingredients. But I’d like to highlight the important processes around getting the right noodle-texture – not too soft and not too stringy.

 

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  1. Before getting down to doing anything, put the kettle on. Then, submerge the desired quantity of dried rice noodles with hot hot water, letting them soften until they are soft but still firm. If unsure, make a guess, what you’re aiming for is that the noodles feel about 5-10 minutes away from being cooked (in a pot). This is absolutely crucial.
  2. While that’s going on, prepare all your ingredients e.g. carrots sticks, sliced onions, minced garlic, slices of ginger, beansprouts, etc.
  3. Next, stir-fry all the ingredients in a large wok with an appropriate amount of vegetable oil. Garlic, onions and ginger going in first, frying till fragrant, then the rest of the veggies. Once they’re done, turn the heat down low.
  4. In a small bowl, make a mixture of fish sauce, light soy sauce, white pepper, dark soy sauce, sugar and sesame oil. (TIP! I’m not certain of the quantities at all, but as a guideline, fish sauce is VERY salty, and sesame oil can be overpowering in flavour so don’t use too much. Also, dark soy sauce is to give the lovely deep brown colour to the noodles but using too much can be overwhelming as well. A peppery kick is essential so don’t skimp on the white pepper.)
  5. Dump the drained rice noodles into the wok together with the cooked veggies, and then pour in the sauce mixture.
  6. With CHOPSTICKS or tongs, toss continuously till the end of the cooking time, gently but surely, from the bottom up.
  7. For the texture of the noodles, add water in small quantities, bringing to the boil first with a higher heat before steaming the noodles with a low heat. Do this continuously until you get the perfect texture – not too soft and clumpy yet not stringy and wire-like at all.
  8. For the flavour, taste and adjust the seasonings accordingly until you’ve got what you think is right for you.
  9. Serve it up with a fried egg sunny side-up, and with sliced red chilli. Or if you’ve thought ahead, pickled green chilli.

Don’t be afraid that of cooking too much at a go, saving it in the fridge overnight and having it the next day makes it more moist, and some say taste better.


Fluting Mushrooms

A couple of days ago, I came across this like fancy trick to make mushrooms look pretty, and so I learnt that it’s called fluting. I think brown cap mushrooms are best for this so you see the design better with the difference in colours.

With a small sharp knife in hand, press the cap of the mushroom gently but surely against the knife. Note that the mushroom is cut by being pressed towards the knife; while the knife stays rather still throughout. Of course, this is done before the mushroom is cooked.

I think before this, mushrooms never looked more presentable.

Try it today!