Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sardine tarts

Given that we usually pig out on the weekends with friends, weeknight meals are light and simple affairs for us (at least we try to keep it that way). After a long day at work, I don't fancy labouring over dinner as well. As such, our kitchen is well-stocked with items that are quick to put together - a hefty assortment of fresh veggies and fruit, eggs, canned items such as olives, fishes, chickpeas & black beans, pasta, frozen puff pastry sheets and a lovely mix of leftover cheeses. These have become pantry staples from which I know I can whip something tasty up in less than 30 minutes.

I am especially partial to puffed pastry - it is so versatile and makes everything taste better (as all things with butter do..naturellement). Even with these delightfully slick canned sardines. I adore the oily fishiness of sardines, but for people who don't, the soft onion base does help to cut it a bit. You can make a big tart for sharing, but I am smitten with these pretty miniature versions - they fit so neatly on to a plate!

These golden crusty tarts only take 10 minutes of prep time and another 20 minutes in the oven. Bon appetit!

Sardine tarts for two (or perhaps one)

You will need:

1 frozen puff pastry sheet
1 can of sardines in olive oil
Half of a large onion, diced / sliced (however you want it)
A tbsp or two of cream
Thyme (a sprig or two)
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Butter & olive oil for frying the onions
1 beaten egg for glazing puff pastry sheet

Preheat the oven to 220degC (as per the instructions for the puff pastry sheets). Take out puff pastry sheets from freezer and let thaw.
Onion Base:

Drizzle olive oil and melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Sautee the onions until soft and translucent. Add in thyme and fry for a couple more minutes; season with salt and pepper. Turn off heat (if throwing in sprigs, remember to take out sprigs before laying on puff pastry). Let cool completely before adding cream. Mix well.
Assembling the tarts

Cut thawed puff pastry sheets into desired size - I cut mine into 4 squares exactly. Using a knife, lightly trace a 1cm border around each section to allow the edges to puff up. Lay the sautéed onions in the centre square you just traced out. Cut each sardine into half lengthwise and layer on top of the onions. Sprinkle a bit more salt and pepper to taste.
Glaze the borders of the puff pastry sections with the beaten egg. Place tarts in the oven and bake until the edges are puffed and golden, ~ 20 minutes.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Homemade Yogurt - Attempt #1

Alright, almost all blogs that I have come across on homemade yogurt begin something like this:

"I don't know why it took me this long to try making my own yogurt...blah blah blah"

What can I say... *smacks forehead* I can't find a phrase more apt than this.

Between the both of us, we consume almost a kilo of Greek yogurt fortnightly, sometimes even weekly. Considering how a 2L bottle of milk costs half of that, that is quite a tidy little sum that we can save on yogurt!

For my first attempt, I used UHT full cream milk simply because we had some on hand and because some blogs seem to say it is perfectly okay to do so. I mixed in a bit of cream as well since most recipes seem to call for the addition of milk powder as a thickening agent and it's something I'd rather not use.

The recipe I've adapted is from Not Quite Nigella, whose blog I love and have been following since I was living in Sydney. What I've got from the UHT stuff is a thinner yogurt - which actually worked out a treat as it made for a refreshing icy salted drink on what seems like a bout hot, dry weather in Singapore. If this isn't your cuppa tea, apparently you can try taking it a step further by converting it to ricotta cheese. As for me, I'm happy just turning this lot into a pitcher of cold, cold concoction, perhaps jazzed up with a bit of fresh mint.

Can't wait to experiment with different types of milk. Watch this space!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

wow. it has literally been a couple of years since I last updated my blog! now that i've finally gotten my own place, i'm cooking a lot more and have been itching to get back to writing and posting. and what better time to kickstart this baby than a brand new year?

since living in Singapore entails eating out quite a fair bit (well, quite a lot really), i have decided i might as well join in the fun and also include posts about the places i patron. i spend what i must admit is an embarrassing amount of time browsing through restaurant reviews here and especially love looking through the food blogs. from the pros to the amateurs, they are informative at every level. so let's call this my way of giving something back to society?

isn't it gross how i'm able to make this sound almost noble? ha!

to start on a sweet note - been exploring the neighbourhood a bit and came across Alfero Artisan Gelato further up lorong kilat. the gelateria occupies a fairly large space and was mostly empty at that time...and the deco, well, I would call it uninspiring to say the least. but I do prefer the lightness of gelato over ice-cream any day, so we decided to try it out any way.

(left) dark chocolate on a waffle cone (right) double scoop of pistachio and milk
$4.50 per scoop now this is what i would call proper gelato! for me, a good dark chocolate could act as a replacement for my after-dinner coffee as it has some bitter quality to it. this was intense, luscious and definitely one for chocoholics. mmmm.

the pistachio flavour was another favourite of ours. it tasted like they tried to cram as many REAL pistachios as they could into one bite. i've had variants where the pistachio flavour tasted synthetic - this was definitely not one of those. heaven. but i do feel like the sweetness could be toned down a little. on the other hand, the milk gelato was rather blah - but it was probably overwhelmed by the stronger chocolate and pistachio flavours.

now i know where to go when i'm craving something cold and sweet. great that it's not that far away!

Alfero Artisan Gelato
21 Lorong Kilat #01-01
Singapore 598123
Tel: +65 64633835
Sunday to Thursday 12:00 to 23:00
Friday and Saturday 12:00 to midnight

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Steamed egg cake (kueh neng kueh)

I can't remember exactly what triggered me off to make this traditional steamed chinese cake or when it actually happened, but all I know is that this has become very much a staple in my house now. The traditional style is denser with a tighter crumb, but we like ours softer and fluffier. This cake is ridiculously good, held high by a simple concoction of eggs and sugar, whipped into a cloud-like dream and softly bound together by flour gently folded in.

We normally have this cake for breakfast or it makes for a great tea-time snack too. Whichever style you prefer, you definitely need to have this cake with a strong, steaming cup of filtered black coffee. (Coffee just goes so well with anything that has eggs, sugar and flour in it, doesn't it?)

Steamed egg cake (kueh neng kueh in teochew)
What you need:
A traditional cane basket(I haven't tried it with a normal baking pan but it might work)
Cellophane lining (normal baking paper works too)to line the cane basket

5 eggs
1 bowl of sugar (I normally use slightly less than 1 bowl)
2 bowls of plain flour, sifted
1 tsp vanilla essence (optional)

Place eggs and sugar into a clean bowl. Using an electric egg-beater, whip the eggs and sugar until almost quadrupled in volume, around 30 mins. Add vanilla essence if desired and mix well.

Gently fold in sifted flour until just combined (careful not to overmix). Pour in the batter into the lined cane basket and steam for 1 hour.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

raspberry and litchi jelly

i love memories. you may never be able to relive them again, but you can certainly play them back as and when you wish and as many times as you like.

and sometimes, you may even be able to savour a little bit of them once more.

like these raspberry jellies that my mum used to make. whenever any of us opened the frigo and spotted the blushing red liquids setting in their little glasses, it will start a process of 15-minute interval sprints to the fridge to check if the little rubies have settled. we will carefully hold a glass, shake and tilt it around a bit to inspect if it is ready. much to my mum's chagrin i must imagine.

it was only with that same childhood anticipation that i mixed up a batch of these raspberry jellies one sweltering hot arvo, this time dotting the jellies with some sweet canned litchis and perfuming them slightly with crushed tangerine juice (leftovers from chinese new year).

and it looks like some habits never die. *grin* wobble, shake, tilt. every half hour this time, thankfully. only takes 2-3 hours to set before i got to walk 25 years down memory lane again. heaven in a spoonful.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Orange-zested mexican wedding halloween spiders

29 years on, we still find ourselves getting all excited over halloween and costumes. Heck, there was even a theme this year with some of us honing in on our long-forgotten art & crafts skills to make insect wings, flower headgears and what not. We also tried downing shots of a wonderfully-scented vanilla vodka, but only 2 managed to finish that vile liquid. Foie gras is indeed very toothsome but not when you own one ya know.

Well, here's to that special bunch of never-say-die besties who just know how to keep you on your toes and young @ heart always. Love you guys.

These are mexican wedding cakes made with orange zest and almond meal. I stuck raisins for the eyes and Pocky chocolate sticks for the legs when the cookies were still warm.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A boule to call my own

i can only imagine that the smell of fresh bread baking in the oven evokes warm, comforting, cozy thoughts for most people. the promise of a crusty, soft loaf is enough to make anyone go weak in the knees, no? or maybe more so for bread people like me. i love 'em all - flat, leavened lebanese rounds, puffy golden brioche, baguettes, ciabattas, chinese-style mantous, japanese an-pans, wholewheat name it, i eat it!

it is an unfortunate thing that breads are getting taken over by substandard supermarket toasts that are designed for maximum shelf life and which really don't do much good for your insides i reckon. enriched with omega 3 and iron (read: reduced iron powder)? um, no thanks, shouldn't bread be made up of just water, yeast, salt and sugar? what's more in singapore, loaves like those i used to buy at harris farm in sydney are either not so readily available or are eye-poppingly expensive.

so, the most obvious next step would be to bake my own bread. eeaassy, right?

my first baguette was solid enough for a baseball bat that will make any burglar think thrice about stepping into our place. the second loaf i made was only slightly softer, but the only happy camper ended up being my dog. so when i finally decided to give jamie oliver's white bread recipe a last chance, boy was i glad i did.

mmm mmm MMMm. this actually turned out pretty darn nice. i cut myself a nice thick slab, slid it into the toaster and 2 minutes later, i was thoughtfully chewing through a lightly crusted, yeasty slice. i know this might sound awful for most people, but i think there's something rather earthy about the taste of yeast in bread. absolutely divine.

now i just got to figure a way not to polish off the loaf too quickly...*chuckle*