Category Archives: Tips and Tricks

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
•••
  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.


Fish Spaghetti in Cream Sauce

Alright, so maybe it’s not really cream. But it’s pretty close I reckon, and less heartstopping, I think.

  1. Get your quick-cook spaghetti boiling together with the chopped carrots in a pot on the hob.
  2. In a skillet on medium low heat, melt a hunk of butter, then add in a splash of wine, a squeeze of lemon, a small amount of garlic puree and a thin slice of ginger. Crack in some salt and pepper too. Make sure you’ve got enough liquid to baste the fish.
  3. Once everything has combined, remove the slice of ginger, it has done its job.
  4. Make sure the fillet of fish has been pat dry, gently place it in the pan and baste it away on medium heat.
  5. Remove as soon as the fish is cooked. Take care not overdo it.
  6. Drain your spaghetti if it’s done.
  7. With the remaining butter and fish liquid rendered, add equal volumes of milk and flour. TIP! Usually, I add the milk to determine the amount of sauce I want, then add a little more milk, before adding flour in small quantities till the desired consistency.
  8. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning accordingly. Squeeze more lemon juice if necessary.
  9. Serve the sauce drizzled over the fish and spaghetti.

Waste No Gravy!

Here’s help get every bit of gravy out of the pan whenever you make Melt-In-Your-Mouth Pork or Black Pepper Beef. You need to be doing two things: 1) Making Melt-In-Your-Mouth Pork or Black Pepper Beef. 2) Having it with steamed rice.

After you’re done with the meat dishes and have gotten them out of the pan, add in a couple of scoops of your steamed rice. Turn on the heat and toss everything about. Let the immaculate grains of fragrant starch slip into the bronze coats of savoury delight.

No gravy wasted, flavoured rice, and your pan’s now easier to wash.


Rosemary(ed) Pork Spaghetti

It’s been a busy busy week. Here’s one of the hasty but hefty meals I made during the course of the past seven days.

Stir-fried and real quick to make.

Almost Asian, use a fork to rake.

  • 1 portion quick cook spaghetti
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 80g lean pork, or pork shoulder, thinly sliced
  • 2 inches carrot, cut into small 1-inch slices
  • 1 brown mushroom, sliced
  • 1 handful young spinach leaves
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • sea salt and black pepper, freshly ground

•••

  1. As always, set your pasta away in a pot of boiling water. Carrots go in there as well.
  2. In a hot wok, heat up the oil. Dip the sprigs of rosemary into the pasta pot for 5 seconds, before tossing into the wok. TIP! This exposure to hot water for such a short time make a world of a difference; the herb begins to release its fragrant oils.
  3. Just before the rosemary starts getting too happy in there, toss in the garlic and fry till fragrant.
  4. Then add in the pork. Stir about and add water from the pasta pot in small quantities, to aid to cooking of the meat.
  5. The pasta should be done soon. So toss in the mushrooms to the wok now.
  6. Drain the pasta when al dente and add to the wok. Turn off the heat.
  7. Spinach goes in as well. Mix well.
  8. Season accordingly with sea salt and black pepper.
  9. Once spinach has wilted, serve.

Couscous, Cheat

This is a great lazy cheat for awesome slurpy food when you’ve got some soup leftovers. (Note: This only works for clear soups, mostly the Asian sort. And of course, minestrone soup.)

I know I’ve sorta made a post about this before but hey, this is specifically for Coucous in Chinese Chicken Soup. You might say it’s a level up from Couscous, Stocked.

  1. Get your chicken soup leftover into a bowl and chuck it into the microwave for 2 minutes.
  2. Yes, that’s TWO minutes on high heat; you want it piping hot.
  3. And then in goes the couscous, right into the blistering hot bowl of soup. TIP! The ratio for this a little tricky. But basically, you need enough liquid to cover the coucous. Since you’re doing the reverse i.e. adding couscous to liquid, add the grains just so that there’s still enough water to cover the coucous. In this case, it’s okay to put less than more. (When the couscous is done, the grains would have been completely swollen with tasty goodness.)
  4. Cover with a plate or lid for 5-7 minutes.
  5. Have it hot, like you would with chunky soup.

Lush.

Photography: Sarah Lee


Yorkshire Paradise

It’s tragic how I had my first Yorkshire Pudding only when I came to London some months back. It was about the size of my palm, and carried a scoopful of lovely roast beef, white onions and gravy. Definitely love at first bite. I always thought they were difficult to make until I came across Jamie’s Oliver’s Mini Yorkies recipe. Literally, a piece of cake.

Long story short, the versatile Yorkshire Puddings or Mini Yorkies: with a couple of tweaks, and some true advice from Yorkshireman Niall, here’s how I like mine done:

  • 1 large egg
  • half a mug of plain flour
  • half a mug of fresh milk
  1. Into a shallow 12-hole muffin tray, liberally drizzle olive oil in one swift motion, from hole to hole without stopping. Stick into the oven and preheat to 180°C on the top rack. While that’s in there, prepare your pudding mix. It’s real similar to pancakes, so pay attention.
  2. Get the ingredients in a big bowl and mix away, till smooth.
  3. When the oil’s all hot (and maybe bubbly), get the tray out. Then, with the pudding mix, fill each hole to about half, give or take. At this stage, you’d be horrified to see the rings of oil surrounding the pudding mixture. Don’t worry, it beats using butter, hands down. (The amount should be just about right for 12 holes. Work out everything else in between.) Don’t take too long or the tray will cool down. Chuck it back into the oven for about 15 minutes.
  4. In the meantime, you can prepare a beef gravy or whatever you fancy in a yorkshire pudding. Personally, I think yorkies were created to caress beef.
  5. Keep an eye on them yorkies and you’ll see that they rise beautifully at the sides first, forming a little well of goodness. Done till golden. Brilliant. It’s plain physics, or so Sarah explains. If you forget to preheat the tray and oil till hot, the sides won’t rise.

This is what you’ll get:

I had this with a pork belly stew. More on that here.

******

A coupla months back, here’s how I had them:

After I’d gotten them out of the oven and out of the tray, this is what I stuck into each hole, and back into the heat:

  • a slice of tomato, as the base.
  • beef mince, marinated the way I like, with thyme and sage.
  • half rings of white onion.
  • cheddar, as the ‘glue’.

When the toppings were ready, on a chopping board, I plopped them onto the individual yorkies. Then, top off finally with a couple of leaves of arugula and a sprinkle of paprika.

With a snack looking this delish, you’d be a fool not to smile. (:


Bandung

This is slowly being forgotten and washed away from the childhood’s of little kids here in Singapore. When I was young enough to barely peep over the kitchen counter, this pink drink rocked my world. It’s called Bandung, pronounced as bahn-doong, not band-dung. I emphasis on how to say it right, but I’ve no idea what that word means, or what language it is either. I just know it’s happiness in a cup. So easy to make, so cheap, and yet incredibly satisfying. Especially since this sunny island never enjoys temperatures lower than 20ªC, you can savour this beverage all year round!

  • 3 tbsp rose syrup
  • 200ml water
  • 4 tbsp fresh milk
  • 5 cubes of ice
  1. Put the syrup in the glass first, then add water. Have a taste, to see if it’s sweet enough or too sweet for you. Tweak it accordingly with more rose syrup or more water. TIP! It should be slightly sweeter since you’re gonna be adding ice.
  2. Now add the ice and add the milk. TIP! Add the milk in small quantities, stopping when you think it’s getting too milky for your liking. Some people I know like their Bandung a sexy pink, as opposed to baby pink.

Happy days, cool afternoons.