Category Archives: Tips and Tricks

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.
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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!


Bitter Chocolate Raspberry Tart

It’s probably about time I shared this recipe. Even though I haven’t quite perfected it, I think it comes out pretty lovely each time. Also, while I think it’s a French dessert, I wouldn’t dare.

Made from three main components, this tart comprising sweet shortcrust pastry, glossy chocolate ganache and fresh raspberries will rock your socks off. I hope. I guess you’d probably find better recipes for the perfect pastry out there, but I’m pretty pleased with my chocolate ganache.

These numbers are for approximately two 6-inch tart tins:

Pastry

  1. In a 150g heap of plain sifted flour, make a hole in the middle so the flour is now in a ring.
  2. Add in, tiny cubes of soft unsalted butter, about 80g in total.
  3. And about 40g of caster sugar.
  4. Using your fingertips, incorporate the sugar with the butter until there are no more big lumps.
  5. Then, add in an egg yolk, and mix with the butter and sugar, until creamy.
  6. Finally, bring in the flour gradually, until it sits as a single ball.
  7. Wrap it in cling film and let it rest in the fridge for at least 15-20 minutes. Apparently, you can keep it at this stage for up to a day in the fridge.
  8. When ready to use, TIP! roll the pastry out between two sheets of cling film. This makes it way easier to handle. Roll it out till it’s 2mm thick.
  9. Transfer the pastry layer onto a well-greased tart tin and gently but surely, press it well against the tin walls.
  10. Blind-bake it with ceramic beads on baking paper (or if you’re daring enough, copper coins), for about 20 minutes at 180ªC. It must be fully cooked, but not overdone.

Chocolate Ganache

  1. In the meantime, with a tablespoon of liquid glucose in a pot, add 150ml of single cream (or double cream if it tickles your fancy).
  2. Once the sweet cream mixture comes to a boil, take it off the heat.
  3. Immediately, add in 200g of dark chocolate chunks (70% cocoa), and about 80g of unsalted butter.
  4. Stir well until smooth, and set it aside for use later.

Raspberries

  1. As much as possible, using only the larger raspberries, half them vertically with a small knife.

Combining

  1. Once the pastry is baked and done, let it cool.
  2. Then, put in the raspberries. Don’t just throw them in, arrange them radially cut side down. You will be duly rewarded when you cut into the tart later.
  3. Pour the chocolate ganache in and make sure it sits evenly.
  4. Chill in the fridge for about an hour, or till the ganache is no longer runny, but yet still slightly gooey.
  5. If you’re extravagant, serve with sifted icing sugar atop, and a fancy chocolate decoration. If not, JUST DIG IN.

Photography: Sarah Lee


Pizza: Olives, Capers, Tomatoes & Feta

I’ve stopped using recipes for pizza doughs because I enjoy the thrill of having a different bread dough each time round. But of course, if you’re looking for a splendid thin crust pizza dough, use this recipe.

So after tossing flour, yeast, salt, oil and water into a bowl, and kneading away for at least 5 minutes, I had a dough ready for pizza. The routine here is to let the dough sit and rise in a bowl under a damp towel or cling film for at least 40 minutes, before rolling it out and laying your toppings on.

In this case, I made a quick tomatoey sauce base, and put on green olives, capers, and chopped cherry tomatoes, sent it into the oven till it was done and crumbled chunks of Greek Feta on. Then, serve with a variety of fresh salad leaves e.g. arugula, spinach, mixed lettuce and frills, etc.

Go crazy with the greens, if you wish.


Rice Cooker Meal

Before coming to London, my mother feared for my lack of cooking knowledge, and she mentioned in brief this trick I could do with a rice cooker. It basically just involves dumping everything into a rice cooker, vegetables towards the last five minutes so they maintain their crunch. It’s funny how I’m only doing this after two years away from home.

Some vital seasonings would be:

  • slice of ginger
  • garlic
  • white pepper
  • salt and/or soy sauce
  • sesame oil
  • dark soy sauce
  • pinch of sugar
  • mirin

I guess the best part is that you’re allowed to experiment. Don’t worry, any error should be rectifiable with an addition of salt or soy sauce after.


Basic Quiche Pastry Recipe

Recently, I’ve been having this urge to learn to make pastry, so what better kind to start with than shortcrust pastry. Being a huge fan of the savoury, making a quiche therefore, was the desired result. The learning adventure called for a small bunch of research before embarking onward the unknown trail of crumbly crispy wonderment.

These were the proportions I used:

  • 125g sifted plain flour
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 55g salted butter, cubed
  • 2-3 tbsp cold water
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  1. In a mixing bowl, put in the flour and salt, then add the cubes of butter.
  2. With your fingertips, integrate the butter into the flour-salt mixture by gently pressing the lumps in, pinching and lifting as you go along. Do this until you have a coarse sand-like mixture. Don’t take too long or everything’ll get greasy.
  3. Add 2 tbsp of the cold water first and combine the flour by pressing the mixture together. Note: You want to be pressing and not kneading. If necessary, add the third tbsp of water in small amount until the dough has combined nicely. (It should not be a sticky lump.)
  4. Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes before using.
  5. TIP! When ready to use, roll the dough out between two sheets of clingfilm. This makes the job easier and less messy.
  6. Line the oiled pie dish and blind-bake it till almost done before putting in the filling for more baking.

This time, I made a spinach and feta quiche. It tasted much better after it had time to set, but I was too greedy to wait.

Nom.