Showstoppers

When It Rains Non-Stop

Do you know that you can make a fresh pasta dough with KitchenAid in 5 mins flat?  I kid you not. Flour, eggs and if needed, a little water (if dough is too dry) or more flour (too wet), that’s it. The machine does all the kneading. How come I only know about it, like, now??? I was so ready to get my hands dirty, but hey, had I known it’s this simple, I would have made one sooner! Btw, Jamie Oliver does one with food processor, you can watch it here.

KitchenAid Pasta
Don’t worry about les grumeaux, i.e. the lumps, they will disappear as soon as you pass them through the pasta attachment. But it helps if you use the finer flour possible. I used Type 45, under MasterChef brand. Ha!

Fresh Pasta Dough
Homemade Lasagna
Voila. Boil them in a pot of hot water before using.
Lasagna a la napoletanaLasagna a la napoletana 2 Lasagna a la napoletana 3

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Expectations Are The Most Evil of Them All

Baked Clams

When I first imagined my life in Paris, the first thing that crossed my mind was how much fun I would have in the kitchen, when all the ingredients would readily be available on my finger tips. My childhood food would no longer feel like a dream. But after weeks trying to fill my kitchen with my usual stuff, it has proven much more difficult than I had originally thought.

Clams

So I learn to change my diet a little. I love everything Asian food but I learn it’s far easier to cook non-Asian cuisine. I come to enjoy my Sunday morning market. Some faces have become regular and at times, I get more than I paid for… You’re cooking clams today, Madame? French style, with wine? Then here’s some parsley for you. Just this rocket salad? I will give the mesclun salad as well, pour vous.

Parsley Bread Garlic

Anyway, here’s a baked clam recipe that is pretty awesome, but really, really easy to prepare. If you know moules marinière, you’ll be familiar with this. The difference is that I use clams, instead of mussels and instead of serving them in a cocotte, I bake them. This would make a wonderful first course meal or like we did, a full meal. I also want to emphasize that this is pretty fail proof, I’ll tell you why.. (more…)

Courage, Ma Cherie.

My family doesn’t have many traditions, but celebration usually means seafood for dinner. For my parents’ wedding anniversary, my mom used to cook chili crabs. On other special occasion, mom would either steam fresh prawns or blood cockles. You see, I grew up eating food with my fingers, not really utensils. So as soon as I know we’re staying in Angola for Christmas, I know we’re going to have squid (calamari) for our Christmas menu.

Stuffed Calamari 2Everyone have their own versions of stuffed calamari. I’ve stuffed calamari with rice, bell peppers and sundried tomatoes – it was good. But this one.. this is creme de la creme.

Stuffed Calamari Collage 2Making stuffed calamari isn’t difficult at all. But it does take quite a bit of work. Cleaning the calamari. Chopping the tentacles. Cooking the stuffing. Stuffing the calamari and sealing them close. And cooking them. Courage, ma cherie. Anything worth doing is worth doing well.

Ideally stuffed calamari is made with fresh calamari. But alas, the supermarkets only sell octopus. This is so typical of life, isn’t it? So I made this with frozen calamari which are smaller than the fresh ones.

STUFFED CALAMARI (Calamari Ripieni)
(adapted from Apron and Sneakers)
serve 4-6

12 calamaris
40 gr bread crumbs
1 tbsp dried parsley
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
100 gr bacon, chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
1 C (250 ml) tomato sauce
300 ml dry white wine, divided
Salt
Pepper
A pinch sugar – optional
A splash of water – optional

[Preparation, can be done a day in advance]

  • Clean the calamari. Separate tentacles from bodies. Chop tentacles finely or use food processor.
  • Using food processor as well to finely chop the bacon.
  • Saute onion in a pan with 1 tablespoon OO for few minutes before adding the garlic. When the onions are transparent, add bacon, bread crumbs and parsley.
  • Saute for additional 2 minutes. Add tentacles and cook until they are dry.
  • Add 200 ml white wine on medium-high flame. Cook until wine evaporates and sauce thickens. Set aside to let it cool down to room temperature.
  • Using piping bag if you have, stuff the calamari. Close the seam with tooth picks. Cover with cling wrap and put in the fridge if you’re not cooking them immediately.

[The Day]

  • Heat up the remaining OO in a pan. Put the stuffed calamari in the pan when the oil is hot. Brown all sides.
  • Pour the remaining 100 ml white wine on medium to high fire. Let it evaporate.
  • Pour tomato sauce into the saucepan. Let it boil then simmer, covered, for about 20 mins till sauce thicken considerably.
  • Fish out the calamari and set aside.
  • If you have any extra stuffing, add into the tomato sauce and cook together.
  • Taste the sauce. Add a pinch of sugar if the sauce is too tart, or a splash of water if it’s too thick.
  • Put back the calamari and serve immediately.

Troubleshooting stuffed calamari that exploded during cooking time:

  • My friend, you’ve probably stuffed the calamari too much. But no worries, I do too. Every single time actually. Likely, your calamari is running on the small size, like mine. So fish out the calamaris after 10-15 mins of cooking and set aside.
  • Continue to simmer the tomato sauce. Adjust the seasoning if needed.
  • Put back the calamari for the last 3-4 mins before serving.

I serve them with creamy polenta.

*** I hope you had a nice Christmas and whatever kitchen failure you had, you’re surrounded by people who see your efforts more than anything. We had couple surprise phone calls from Serbia and Melbourne that completed our day. We’re far but not that far 🙂 H is back to work today and I’m nursing some gorgeous sun burn. God is good.

Summer Bouquet

Since we’re spending Christmas Day outdoor, under the sun at 35 degree C, I thought this summer bouquet will be an appropriate appetizer.

Fresh Summer Rolls 3

It’s not difficult to make, but it does take quite some time. A couple spring rolls until you get the hang of it, until you can roll one nicely and tightly. Until you know how to cheat a little.

Summer Rolls Collage 2H insisted that I broadcasted to everyone that it was he who made most of these summer bouquets.

Fresh Summer Rolls 5
FRESH SUMMER ROLLS

  • I used small version of Vietnamese (rice) spring roll wrapper, about 16 cm in diameter. Soaked in warm water until soft, about 10 seconds or so.
  • The glass noodle is soaked in hot water for about 10 mins till soft, then drained.
  • Bell peppers are sliced.
  • Carrots are julienned.
  • I boiled the chicken breast. Then sliced about the same size as the bell peppers, then browned with garlic — I do this because I like garlic chicken, but you don’t have to.
  • Use the freshest lettuce you can find.
  • To assemble: lay all your ingredients in the top half, fold up the bottom to create half moon. Wrap the sides around, snugly.

For the dipping sauce, I didn’t make the usual Nuoc Cham, too fishy for non-Asian palates. So this is the sweeter version with just a tinge of umami.

SWEET FISH SAUCE
(adapted from Thai Fresh)

1/4 C (60 ml) water
1/2 C (113 gr) sugar
1/2 C (120 ml) white vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp fish sauce
a pinch of grated carrots
a pinch red pepper flakes

  • Mix everything in a pot. Boil until the sugars have melted.
  • Taste, and adjust seasoning if needed.

Another Tick on My Kitchen To Dos

For our wedding in Portugal, my mom-in-law arranged for croquembouche as our wedding cake. Croquembouche simply is profiteroles strung with caramel spun sugar, mounted into a structural center piece of a cone shape, typically served in important celebrations in French culture, such as weddings or baptism. I’m sure many of you know what profiterole is, even if you’re not familiar with its french name. It’s also known as cream puff or in Indonesia, kue sus. These days, you can easily find a croquembouche done with macaroons, instead of profiteroles.

My success rate in making profiteroles are 1 out of 3. Not so bad: two grand failures out of three attempts. But at least I think I know where my pain points are now. I think I have figured it all out. And I think four might be my lucky number.


I learned that if my batter, when piped into little mounds, can stand on its own means they are at the right denseness. I learned that the water/butter mixture needs to be really boiling. I learned that profiteroles and pronto are like oxymorons. This is not a recipe for when you are in a rush. But if you have a mixer and the due diligence to follow the recipe, this is extremely easy to do.

Profiteroles and eclairs are done with the same dough, pâte à choux. The difference, according to H, is that eclairs are long, dipped/ covered with chocolate, while profiteroles are typically round and doused with caramel. Both are traditionally filled with cream custard, though it is becoming more common to have profiteroles stuffed with vanilla ice cream in the middle of snowing winter.

If H can conjure up his version of profiterole, this would be it. Thick custard cream and caramel sauce.

Forenote: The dough can be done and baked a day in advance. Kept in a ziplock, it will stay crisp for a day. The custard cream can be done in advance and can stay in fridge up to 3 days. The caramel has to be done on the day. It is said that once filled, the profiteroles stay crisp for up to 4 hours on room temperature, before they turn soggy.

PROFITEROLES FILLED WITH CUSTARD CREAM AND CARAMEL GLAZE
yield 20 profiteroles

(a) The dough: Choux Pastry (pâte à choux)
(source: Joy of Baking)

1/2 C (65 grams) all purpose flour
1/2 tsp white sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 C (57 grams) unsalted butter
1/2 C (120 ml) water
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

  • Preheat oven to 205 C (400 F) and place rack in center of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a bowl sift together the flour, sugar and salt. Set aside.
  • Place the butter and water in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and, with a wooden spoon or spatula, quickly add the flour mixture. Return to heat and stir constantly until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan and forms a thick smooth ball (about a minute or two).
  • Transfer the dough to your electric mixer, and beat on low speed a minute or two to release the steam from the dough.
  • Once the dough is lukewarm start adding the lightly beaten eggs and continue to mix until you have a smooth thick sticky paste.
  • Spoon or pipe to 20 mounds (or 12 mounds for a larger version). Bake for 15 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 177 C (350 F). Bake for a further 30 to 40 minutes or until the shells are a nice amber color and when split, are dry inside.
  • Turn the oven off and, with the oven door slightly ajar, let the shells dry out for a further 10 – 15 minutes. Cool before filling.

(b) The Custard Cream
(source: Casa Veneracion)

1/2 C white sugar
2 tbsp corn starch + enough all-purpose flour to make 1/3 C.
a generous pinch of salt
2 C milk
4 egg yolks, beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  • In a pan, mix together the first four ingredients. Stir until smooth. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, reaching all edges and bottom until thickened.
  • In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Once the milk liquid has thickened, ladle some liquid into the egg yolk to temper it.
  • Pour the egg yolk mixture back into the pan, mix, and continue cooking for about 10 minutes, stirring and scraping the bottom constantly, until the mixture is thick and coats the back of a spoon.
  • Let it cool down and press a cling wrap onto the surface and keep in the fridge up to 3 days.
  • Pipe or scoop onto the cooled choux pastry.

(c) The (Dry) Caramel

120 gr white sugar

  • In a heavy bottom pan, spread out the white sugar to cover all surface and heat it over low heat.
  • Once the edges starts to turn liquid, using spatula to draw a line from the melting edge towards center.
  • Once it turns amber and the sugar has all melted, transfer to a bowl to stop the heating. The caramel is ready to be used.

Note: It took only a split second from ready-to-be used caramel to burnt caramel. You’ll know because they taste and smell burnt. They are darker than normal caramel should be. Making caramel isn’t difficult, but it does take practice and lots of patience. The good news is sugar is cheap!!


I think I’m ready to make coffee eclairs for my dad-in-law 😉

Little Big Pleasures


Living in the second most expensive city in the world after Tokyo, often I heemm and hummm when it comes to buying meat or seafood. So I often find myself in the meat section where cheaper cuts are sold. Ears, tongues, tails and legs (or shanks). After my experience in Lyon, I found that I have no love for ears and tongues but I can make do with tails and legs. After all Osso Buco is typically made with lamb or veal shanks. I can do one with beef shanks. Tougher means longer cooking time, right?


This osso buco is cooked in pretty much the same way as cooking a beef stew, though white wine is employed, instead of say.. beer or red wine. The meat is also browned in fats of pancetta, which I substitute with bacon. If you have a wide heavy-bottom pan, use that. It would reduce the time spent in browning the meat in batches.

This is so delicious. You can never see life the same way again knowing there are great pleasures in the cheaper cuts.

BEEF OSSO BUCO
(adapted from Simply Recipes)
serve 3-4

50-70 gr bacon, diced
600 – 700 gr beef shanks
1/2 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup diced celery
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 tsp. dried)
2/3 cup white wine
1-2 cups beef stock
Flour for dusting the meat before browning
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper


GREMOLATA

(adapted from Simply Recipes)

1 tbsp minced parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp lime juice

  • Rub the beef shanks with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  • In a wide surface heavy-bottom pan (preferably with a cover), brown the bacon over low-medium fire. Fish the bacon out and set aside. If there’s not enough fats, add in olive oil or 1 tbsp butter.
  • Dredge the shanks with flour, shake off any excess flour and carefully lay on the pan. Increase the fire to medium-high and cook each sides till brown. Fish out the shanks and set aside.
  • Add in the onions, celery and carrots. Stir and cook till the onions have turned translucent and soft. Add in garlic and thyme, and stir well.
  • Add in the wine and scrape any grits sticking to the bottom. Add in the meat and the beef stock just until it’s about to cover the meat.
  • Cover the pan and let it cook for about 1.5 hr till meat is tender. From time to time, check the pot and stir a bit, add a little water if needed.
  • Serve with creamy polenta and top with gremolata.

Rice Gone Wild

I’ve got some questions for you. Be honest.

Those who own a bundt cake mold, please raise your hand.
Those who use bundt cake mold for making bundt cake only, please raise your hand.
Those who cannot think the last time you make a bundt cake, please also raise your hand.

I raise my hands to all those three questions.

I will also say aye, aye, AH-YE to food that will become a talking point, especially one to bring to events like Bastille or 4th of July or any BBQ hosted by a Texan. The one day where men deem women unfit to be standing behind the BBQ pit. Fine. I will bring crazy-looking food.

RICE GONE WILD
(inspired by The Delicious Miss Dahl)
serve 3-4 as main dish, 6-8 as side dish

2 cups of wild rice
4 cups of vegetable broth
½ large courgette, grated
3 large carrots, grated
2-3 tbsp diced bacons
1 medium onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 glass white wine
1/2 cup Grana padano or Parmesan, grated
1 tbsp minced cilantro, to garnish
Shredded chicken breast, optional

  • In a wok or skillet, heat up some oil over medium heat and add in the onions. Cook till turns translucent. Then add the mince garlic and bacon, stir fry awhile till fragrant.
  • In another pot, heat up the broth. The idea is to cook this like how you would cook a risotto.
  • Add the wild rice, courgette and carrots. Stir to coat them with oil. Then add the white wine. Cook till the wine has evaporated, then ladle in the broth little by little.
  • Once the rice is fully cooked, turn off the fire. Dump most of the grated cheese, while keeping aside some for garnishing. Stir and mix well. Add more cheese, if you prefer.
  • Grease the bundt mold, then put in the rice into it. Let the mold sit upside down for about 10-15 mins or leave it till serving time.
  • Turn the mold over your serving plate, carefully loosen the mold and garnish with remaining of the cheese and cilantro.


Add leftover roasted chicken or any meat of your choice, if this is the main dish. Else, go vegetarian. Skip the bacon all together. This is how I fooled my man (any man, to be honest) into eating more veggies.