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Foodie Days

4 Feb

Since I first started this blog, life has changed for me. I have become more and more immersed in the pleasures of food and cooking. Its been a wonderful journey, at first taken with little steps, but it has now moved into joyful leaping bounds. I cook most every day, and often I am too tired to blog about it!

So much has happened, in such a short time. I am humbled and awed at this simple truth: if you live your passion, your true self, then everything falls into place. Every day is joy, every moment is a pleasure. In recognising that which resonates inside, happiness becomes normal. And opportunities (and wonderful people) come to you.

So what have I been doing, rather than blogging?

I did a photo shoot with the magificent Lascheersco for Retale magazine – O’Gourmet Food Hall’s Chili Ice Cream for their Valentine’s day issue. It turned out gorgeously (as you can see here), and it was wonderful to work with such creative people. The image is really beautiful, and the process was yet another education in food presentation.

I was given so many good food things! Two of my favourites … The amazing GoddessMoments brought back a tub of dulce de leche from Argentina, which was devoured and savoured… I wish I had been less greedy, and put it in an ice cream, but so it goes. And I recently, GoldenOro gave me a little tub of mastic – the very particularly Greek herbal sweet gum paste. I am currently meditating on how to use it. Perhaps in an almond honey cake – the tart herbal hit an antidote to the sweet unctuous honey richness. Or in an ice cream – refreshing and creamy at the same time. Decisions, decisions!

Our foodie crew had dinner at Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio again to celebrate ZaZa’s and Adi’s birthdays. Nathalie is cooking with beautiful precision and artistry. This meal was absolutely phenomenal from start to finish. And, she is continuing the menu into the month of February, so if you havent tried her food (or are aching to go back), now is a good time! They are open for lunch, and two nights this month for dinner – the 11th and 25th. Go, if you can!

The deconstructed french onion soup was so beautifully presented, and delicious. Rich, without being heavy. And the vegetarian main course – an emmental and parmesan custard, topped with darkly sweet and bitter caramelised endive, and a endive and cream foam – I dont have words for how it made me think, and reevaluate, and abandon myself to the pleasure of that dish. And the carnivores were raving about the lamb, the beef cheeks, the fish, the prawns. I fell in love with the pureed peas. I wanted to slather it all over myself it was that good. Each dish was presented with such care and elegance, and yet it never felt artificial or forced. It felt like you could taste the passion of the woman cooking for you … and that kind of experience is soul deep satisfying.

On the way home, Adi and I talked about the joy of that meal, and how strong and confident the food is, and yet utterly feminine. There is an elegance and a grace, a female beauty to the presentation and the taste, which is often missing in the peacocking of some (very good) male cooks. I am a fan of Nathalie’s food (obviously) … but there is a power in a woman’s touch, and a great pleasure in being one of her lucky customers.

The following photos from that night are courtesy of Adi 🙂

Sauteed Endive and Cheese Custard

 

Prawns with a Milk Foam

Lamb

Prettiest Peas Ever (and most delicious)

Lemon Cake with a Cherry Sorbet - Stunning

I also cooked, and helped to host, more than 50 people for Jobby’s baby shower. Ive detailed the menu in a previous post, and will definitely be writing up a few of the recipes – the truffled potato salad, and the fresh ginger cake were particularly lovely. It was overwhelming, and exhausting, to cook for that many people. But the challenge was a wonderful one. It made me stretch myself in a different way, and demanded I plan and consider what to cook, when, and how.

I was so pleased to see how much everyone enjoyed themselves, and ate and ate and ate!  And I was so very lucky, to have once again, the invaluable assistance of AngelKitten. She has a grace, a quiet strength and a wonderful eye. She made the food look good. And MsTK made the whole space look professionally designed and put together – in less than 24 hours!

Here are a few of the things we enjoyed…

Mini Cheese Scones - Served with Fresh Herb Cream Cheese

Chili Spinach Artichoke Bake

Truffled Potato Salad

Cakes! A dark chocolate cake with mint chocolate chip frosting and a fresh ginger cake with vanilla cream cheese frosting

Mini Baked Truffle Cookies (Starry Starry Nights)

And I have cooked, on request, for many friends. And even found it within myself to price and sell what I cook. This was unimaginable for me just a few short months ago. But as I immerse myself more and more in cooking, I recognise that I need to put a value on the time and energy I spend cooking. Its part of valuing myself as a cook. Its been a challenge, but its also been a learning and growing experience.

I made more Yee Sang cakes than I can count in the last week or so for Chinese New Year. They were such wonderful fun – and I still have a few more to make! People really enjoyed the quirky nature of these cakes – a traditional yee sang, it is not. But its a delicious dessert, that holds much symbolism and joy for the New Year of the Rabbit.

I made two versions. The first batch, with the assistance of AngelKitten, were corporate gifts. They had their own bespoke design, and were very beautiful.

Making the World Beautiful Yee Sang Cake

 

And this week, I did a series of cakes based on the original O’Gourmet Food Hall version. I do love that blue porcelain against all that red. Dramatic and gorgeous.

Yee Sang Cake for the Year of the Rabbit

I have also been cooking regularly for friends and loved ones. A hazelnut chocolate cake. The same cake, made into a big birthday cake, stuffed with raspberry cream cheese, and iced with vanilla whipped cream. An easy pasta with tomatoes, spinach, white wine and onions. My semolina white chocolate pudding, with raspberry sauce. A simple bread pudding, elevated with bittersweet chocolate and raspberries.

Each of these moments, these events, these experiences, have consolidated a celebration of myself as a cook. As I near my 40th birthday, I am thankful to have found such happiness. I am looking forward to what life will bring me. And I promise… I will blog regularly!

 

Please note that the photographs from Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio are copyright bigeyesentertainment@gmail.com and the second photograph of yee sang cake is copyright GoddessMoments. None of these images may be used without express permission from their authors.

O’Gourmet Food Hall Truffled Gnocchi

29 Jan

I have always been fascinated by gnocchi – those delicate, pillowy little Italian dumplings made from flour and potato. They seem so simple, and yet they are intimidating. It seems that there could be so many ways to stuff it all up. Because the key to making gnocchi is in the simplicity – some recipes call for just potato and flour and a bit of seasoning – you need to follow directions really closely, and you need to have top grade ingredients.

You can play around with gnocchi, but you really should try a basic recipe first. This one actually is quite simple and quick.  It includes the addition of an egg (for richness and flavour) and some diced truffles, but actually, you can forgo them if you want to. Or add other ingredients – parmesan and butternut come to mind, or spinach and garlic. But do try a basic version first. You need to get the feel of the dough, and the lightness of the handling.

Basically gnocchi have a base of potato that needs to be as dry as possible. There are a few ways to ensure that this happens. First of all, ensure you use starchy, not waxy potatoes. Russet are excellent. Next, bake the potato, dont boil it. Peel the potato after it has been baked, and then mash it lightly with a fork or put it through a potato ricer. Treat it very gently. Add the egg / seasoning if you are using, and salt and pepper. And finally, toss in the flour, a tablespoon at a time. This will ensure that you use the bare minimum of flour, which will avoid thick, heavy gnocchi, and a smooth supple dough.

It sounds like a lot to remember, but really its common sense. Gnocchi are delicate, therefore you need to treat them delicately. Use your hands, so you can feel the dough coming together, and go slow, and soft. It will work out, I promise. Plus, a home made gnocchi, even if it is a little tough, is a thousand times better than a store bought one, any day!

For about 60 – 80 gnocchi (serving 4 – 6 people, depending on greed and hunger)

  • 2 large russet potatoes (approximately 2 kg)
  • 1 large organic egg
  • 1 small truffle, grated or finely diced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 scant cup 00 flour (bread or pasta flour with high gluten content)

Preheat the oven to 200C (400F).

Pierce the potatoes with a fork, and bake in the oven for about 30 – 45 minutes, or until a skewer or knife goes all the way through with little resistance.

Peel the potatoes while they are still hot. Put the potatoes through a ricer or mash very gently, in a large bowl. You dont want the potatoes gluey – fluffy is what you are looking for. A ricer is the best way to ensure this – and they are relatively cheap (I bought one from Ikea for less than RM50).

Break the egg into a small separate bowl, and finely grate the truffle over. I use a Microplane lemon zester to get very fine strips of truffle, but you can even chop the truffle finely if needed. Add a generous pinch of salt and peper, and whisk. You could add half a teaspoon of truffle oil if you like, but the entire point of gnocchi is to ensure the dough is not too wet, and not handled too much.

Make a well in the centre of the mixture, and pour in the egg/truffle concoction. Toss lightly with your fingers. The egg will not make the potatoes gluey if you have treated them properly to start with, but will definitely make them wet.

Measure out your flour. You will probably only use about half a cup of flour, but its useful to have extra if needed. Add the flour to the warm potatoes and egg by the tablespoonful. Toss gently after each addition with the tips of your fingers. You will see the flour slowly incorporating into the potatoes. After about a half a cup of flour, knead lightly and bring the dough together. Add a little more flour, a tablespoon at a time, to get a smooth mixture that is not too sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work space, and let it rest for a few minutes. Place some wax paper on a large baking tin or cookie tray.

Divide the dough into four equal portions, and work with one portion at a time. Roll the portion out into a long thin sausage, and dust lightly with flour. Using a sharp knife, slice into small gnocchi sized portions. I usually cut about 1 – 1 1/2 inches. Using the tines of a fork, mark the gnocchi on one side, and place gently onto the cookie tray.

Let the gnocchi air dry for at least 10 – 15 minutes. You can store them in a ziploc baggie and freeze them, for up to six months. Or you can use immediately.

To cook gnocchi: Bring a large saucepan of water to a rolling boil. Work quickly, and be ready to serve immediately. Gnocchi are not good cold! Have a warm bowl at the ready. Work with about 20 gnocchi at a time (or more depending on the size of your saucepan). Once the water is boiling, tip the gnocchi in, and allow them to bob to the top. This should take less than 3 minutes. Using a sieve, fish the gnocchi out, and place in the warmed bowl with a touch of olive oil or butter. Continue with the remaining gnocchi. Once all the gnocchi has been prepared, toss gently with warm sauce and serve immediately.

I served a very simple sauce of spinach, wine, garlic and a touch of cream with these gnocchi. It was sublime!

O’Gourmet Food Hall Yee Sang Cake

18 Jan

One of the things I love about working with O’Gourmet Food Hall is that I am constantly challenged to think differently. Creating new recipes is intense, focused and fulfilling work, but the pleasure is multiplied when one has inspiring ingredients, and people, to work with.

I have enjoyed getting to know the various characters who work at O’Gourmet, and I am always interested in the new products which come in. Its wonderful to be the first to know about the sublime chili brought by hand from Kashmir, or to be introduced to an intriguing cheese.

About a month or so ago, LingCat came to me and told me that O’Gourmet was working on a Chinese New Year booklet, highlighting some of the unique food and drink of the season. She asked me to think outside the box, and come up with an special New Year dish. I love this kind of challenge, and it reflects, for me, the philosophy of O’Gourmet – unique, interesting and tasty, with a twist!

AngelKitten and I had lunch and threw around lots of different ideas, but we kept coming back to the traditional Yee Sang salad. Usually served as an appetiser, the Yee Sang is a very symbolic savoury dish, with each ingredient representing a wish for the new year. Tossed together at the table, the Yee Sang is a communal wishing for good luck and abundance.

However, Yee Sang is almost always served with raw fish – not very vegetarian! So AngelKitten and I decided to up-end this salad, and turn it from savoury to sweet. What would a Yee Sang dessert look like? We wandered through O’Gourmet Food Hall and were inspired by the dried fruits and nuts, and the gorgeous miniature apples and oranges. We decided that we would create a cake that looked like a plate, upon which a “salad” of symbolic fruit and nuts would be tossed. Each element of the dish needed to represent a different hope for the new year, and after some research (and much tasting), we had our ingredients.

We were lucky enough to have the wisdom and generosity of Mama Min (an amazing baker), who introduced us to PastryPro. This professional baker’s paradise was able to print a graphic image of a blue and white china plate on a sheet of icing for us. As we are entering the Year of the Rabbit, we found a beautiful image of an old china plate, with a rabbit front and centre. And of course, since rabbits love carrots, we decided that the base for the cake “plate” would be carrot cake, with a twist. We added a scant amount of 5 spice powder (a common element in the traditional Yee Sang), and came up with a unique and delicious cake which embodied the Chinese New Year.

We chose our “salad” ingredients with care. Dried pomelo, mango, lychee and strawberries, as well as caramelised cashews, chocolate almonds, winter melon, pumpkin and sesame seeds. I also candied some tiny Japanese apples, and caramelised some beautiful little oranges. AngelKitten spent ages painstakingly painting the dried fruits and nuts with gold powder, and I baked, candied and caramelised. We rolled fondant, applied our beautiful printed icing sheet, and sat back and sighed with happiness.

We brought our Yee Sang Cake to the brilliant Ping and Partner whose photographs grace this page. And when we finally saw the recipe in print, it was a feeling that cant be described … pride, happiness, satisfaction. In the end, we created a stunningly beautiful (and very delicious) version of the traditional Yee Sang.

Both AngelKitten and I would like to wish everyone a prosperous and happy Year of the Rabbit!

If you would like the recipe, please pick up a copy of O’Gourmet Food Hall’s “Traditions and Reunions” booklet at Bangsar Shopping Centre, or download the pdf by clicking on this link.

Please note that all images on this post are copyright O’Gourmet Food Hall, and may not be reproduced without written permission.

Chili Ice Cream

4 Jan

I have had a thing for ice cream for as long as I can remember. The cool, smooth texture, melting as it meets the heat of your mouth. The happiness contained in that one complex, and yet simple bite. Its comfort food, and yet it can be incredibly sensual. I love imagining different ice cream flavours, and when I found the amazing Kashmir chili powder at O’Gourmet, my senses went into overdrive. What would happen, I wondered, if the cool of ice cream met the deep dusky heat of chili?

As it turns out, very very good things. I made a basic vanilla ice cream – heavy on the vanilla – and added the chili powder at the end. The interesting part for me is that when you first taste it, you dont really feel the heat of the chili. It seems subtle … nuanced … just a hint. The overarching flavour and scent, at first, is vanilla. And then, the chili wraps itself around your throat, your taste buds, and you get a flash of heat. Amazing. When people taste this ice cream, they mmmm at the flavour of the vanilla, and say they cannot taste the chili. Seconds later, their eyes light up, they smile, and they go ohhhhh. There it is!

And I was also inspired by a beautiful gift from my dearest Adi – cocoa nibs that she brought back from her journeying. Cocoa nibs are the bean of the cocoa plant, before its made into chocolate. Roasted, to bring out the oils and the flavour, and then crushed, the nibs have a deep, intense and complex chocolate flavour without any added sweetness. I added the nibs to the ice cream right at the end – to give texture, almost like a chocolate chip ice cream, and also because chocolate and chili are such lush and symbiotic bed mates.

Such an amazing contrast. And such a wonderful aphrodisiac. Capsaicin, the compound which gives chili its heat, is considered an aphrodisiac the world over. It stimulates our nerve endings, gives us a rush of endorphins and makes our pulse beat faster. Pretty sexy, I would say. And combining the chili with chocolate, another well known aphrodisiac, is like a partnership made in heaven. You could serve this ice cream unadorned, and it would be a revelation. Combined with hot fudge sauce and port pear chili jam, it becomes a sundae that over takes the sense, strokes the fires and makes people melt. It really is that good.

And to be honest, its preparation is pretty simple. You need to make it at least a day before serving, to allow the ice cream to ripen in the freezer. Get the absolute best quality chili powder you can find – and add it to the vanilla ice cream base carefully. Not all chili powders pack the same punch. Some are much more complex than others, and some have significantly more fire. In total, I added about 1 and a half tablespoons of chili powder, but you may need much more or much less. Add by the quarter teaspoon, and taste and adjust as you go. You will know its right when after the first flush of vanilla and cream have abated, your mouth is aflame with the heat of chili – for one brief, beautiful, blazing moment. And then, as it dissipates, you get that urge and you want it to start all over again 😉

Makes about 1 quart

  • 3 cups milk / cream – I used 1 cup milk + 2 cups cream. You can certainly change the ratio, but the more cream you use, the smoother the finished product
  • 2 vanilla beans or 2 tbsp vanilla essence or 2 tbsp vanilla paste
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup caster or light brown sugar
  • 5 egg yolks (whites reserved for another use)
  • 1 – 2 tbsp chili powder, added in increments of 1/4 tsp at a time – to your taste
  • 2 – 3 tbsp cocoa nibs (optional, but wonderful)

Pour the milk / cream into a large saucepan. Split the vanilla beans, and scrape out the seeds into the milk / cream. Add the beans to the milk as well. Add the salt and half a cup of the sugar, and stir to combine.

Place the milk mixture on low heat, and bring to about 170F (77C). The mixture will start to steam. Stir to ensure all the sugar has been absorbed, and set aside.

Whisk together the egg yolks and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, until the yolks are thick and lemon coloured. When you lift the whisk, the yolks should form a ribbon.

Temper the yolks by pouring about 1/4 of the hot milk mixture into the yolks and whisk well. Pour the yolk/milk mixture back into the saucepan, and stir. Place back on low heat, and bring the mixture back up to 170F (77C), stirring all the while. The mixture should coat the back of a spoon.

Strain the custard through a fine sieve. Discard the vanilla beans (or wash and dry them, and pop them in a canister of sugar) and allow the custard to cool to room temperature.

Refrigerate the cooled custard for at least 1 – 2 hours.

Once the custard has cooled, begin to add the chili powder, 1/4 teaspoon at a time, whisking well after each addition. It helps to sieve the custard back and forth between two large bowls, as you add each 1/4 teaspoon of chili powder. This ensures that the chili powder really gets integrated into the vanilla custard, and allows you to taste its heat.

Once you have reached your optimum chili level, add the custard to an ice cream maker, and process according to the maker’s directions.

As soon as the ice cream has been processed, scoop it out into a container (it will be very soft, and you will need to work quickly), and fold in the cocoa nibs, if using. Sprinkle a few cocoa nibs on top, and freeze overnight to allow the ice cream to ripen.

Serve as is, or with hot fudge sauce and pear port chili jam for a wicked and decadent sundae.

Enjoy!

Hot Fudge + Port Pear Chili Jam

30 Dec

So yes, I am in a saucy mood. I have been cooking a lot recently, but not new recipes. And its been one of those weeks (months?) – first my phone died, and then my hardrive on my laptop got fried. I am lucky in that I have the means to deal with these issues (new phone on the one hand, and my old laptop on the other). But its been a frustrating time, and I havent felt a whole lot of inspiration.

But a stroll through O’Gourmet certainly helped! Mr. Kumar (the manager) was so excited to show me some chili powder from Kashmir – hand carried back to KL. It was like nothing I had ever seen before – rich, deep burnt orange red, and almost wet … with a scent that had so many layers to it I cannot even begin to describe, but I will try. Soft, mellow, with a sharp tinge… hauntingly musky with a long profound beat of heat and sun and spice. Gorgeous. Stunningly sensual. I had to cook with it – and suddenly, inspiration arrived!

I decided to make a chili ice cream (the recipe for which I will post tomorrow). But this was to be not just a singular ice cream, but an ice cream sundae. Hot fudge sauce (with dark bittersweet chocolate and melted Scottish fudge) and a chili jam – with a base of port and pears – at once sweet, hot and boozily beautiful. I felt that these sauces would elevate and intrigue – and would provide the perfect foil for the cold creamy ice cream. AngelKitten suggested we get some caramelised pistachios to top the sundae. What a combination of flavours and tastes! I couldnt wait to get started.

These two sauces would of course be just as magical on their own (the hot fudge sauce is particularly simple to put together) or combined over chocolate or vanilla ice cream. If you can, though, try the whole package. Its quite a few pieces of cooking work – but if you break it all down, and prepare in advance, its actually a doddle!

Hot Fudge Sauce

Makes about 2 cups of hot fudge. This can be served warm, or made in advance and reheated just before serving. Use the best quality chocolate and fudge you can find.

  • 450 – 500 g (1 lb) vanilla fudge
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 250 – 300 g bittersweet (at least 70%) chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon Maldon or other sea salt

Grate the fudge into a large saucepan. Add the cream and stir a little.

Add the chopped chocolate, stir, and add the Maldon salt.

Place the saucepan over a low heat, and melt the chocolate into the fudge, stirring all the while. Make sure that the fudge too has been completely melted into the sauce.

Serve warm, or store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Reheat before serving.

Port Pear Chili Jam

Makes about 2 cups of jam.

This jam is quite loose. It pours like a sauce, but it also depends on how long you cook it – the less liquid left, the more “jammy” and thick it becomes.  If you do not want to use port or another alcohol, substitute with grape juice.

  • 9 pears (I used 3 each of D’Anjou, Bosc and Conference), peeled, pared and roughly chopped
  • 1 + 1 tbsp pear balsamic vinegar (if you cannot find this, try using pear or apple juice or even some apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 cup port wine (or grape juice)
  • 1 tsp best quality (Kashmir if you can find it) chili
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 3 – 6 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp best quality (25 year old) balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp honey (I used leatherwood honey)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla essence

Peel, core and chop the pears. As you work, place the pears in a large saucepan, and toss them with 1 tbsp of the pear vinegar.

Measure out the pour wine and add to it the remaining 1 tbsp pear vinegar, chili, chili flakes, mustard seed, 3 tbsp of brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and balsamic vinegar. Stir well to combine, and pour over the pears.

Place the saucepan over high heat, and bring the mixture to the boil, stirring well.

Once the mixture comes to the boil, lower the heat to medium, and add the honey and the vanilla. Allow the mixture to simmer, uncovered for at least an hour. The jam will thicken and become much darker in colour. Taste and add a little more brown sugar if you feel you need to up the sweetness of the jam.

Give it a stir every so often. Allow to simmer until it is a thickness that you prefer. I like it a little liquid because I am using it as an ice cream topping … but! If you want to make it into a proper jam, just cook it for a little longer.

This can be served warm or at room temperature, and will keep, uncovered in the fridge for up to 2 – 3 weeks.

Apologies for lack of photos – still dealing with loss of hardrive!

O’Gourmet Food Hall Asparagus & Mushroom Tart

19 Dec

The other day, I bumped into my friend, MsTina, as I was wandering the halls of O’Gourmet. She took one look at my face, and just laughed. I was wandering in a haze of sensual delight, in one hand a spoon, from tasting the oils and vinegars at Vom Fass, and the other hand rubbing together together a bit of Betong ginger – fresh, organic and local and with a scent that has to be experienced to be believed.

I am truly enjoying my weekly sojourns to O’Gourmet because of the quality and variety of ingredients. Inspiration seems to be everywhere. I love all the gorgeous glass bottles of sauce and spice and everything nice. I could just stand and look at all the enticing spices and nuts, tasting this and that, for ages. And dont even get me started on the vegetables! They are so beautiful! Displayed as if in a museum, with the choicest and most perfectly chosen pieces offered up for your pleasure. The woman in charge of the fruits and vegetables, Miss Heng, is a master at knifework, and so she prepares all the produce with an eye to pleasing the visual palate. When I am there, I can be inspired in an instant!

This week, my eye was caught by the most beautiful trio of asparagus – white, green and purple. Asparagus is an fascinating vegetable. Grown above ground, in full sunshine, it turns green, but cover it a little, so that only heads peek above, and the limited amount of chlorophyll it consumes means that the asparagus turns out purple. And grown completely underground, and harvested in the early dawn, so that very little light affects its growing, asparagus is clean pure white. Each tastes different – the white can be very sweet, the purple a kind of calm middle ground, and the green has that traditional nutty lemony flavour.

I decided I wanted to make an asparagus tart – but then I was captured by the gorgeous leeks and the creamy and fresh mushrooms – both white button and portobello. So I decided that I was going to make a tart which incorporated everything. I thought I would use phyllo pastry dough so it would be a rough, freeform tart, and I would place the asparagus and the mushrooms in alternating blocks of intensity on the pastry. From Vom Fass, I sourced gorgeous scented truffle oil for the mushrooms, and a bright, brilliant lemon oil to finish off the asparagus.

Now the only decision was what would form the cushion upon which the veggies would sit in splendour. I wanted the process to be simple – as complex as these tastes are, putting together this tart only takes a few minutes. So, of course, a consultation with M. Sebastien at the cheese room was in order (along with a few heavenly tastings of cheese!). He decided on a Crottin de Chavignol to pair with the asparagus. It was a master step. Crottin de Chavignol is perhaps the most famous of the goat cheeses. Its created, to strict standards, in a tiny village in the Loire valley. Its creamy, nutty, slightly tart – and perfectly balances the delicacy of the asparagus. For the mushrooms, we decided on a Pecorino al Tartufo – a young pecorino, stuffed to the gills with truffles. The scent was overwhelmingly blowsily lush, and I could have purred with happiness right then and there. To bind them together, I decided on using a little cream cheese (and in a bold move), some Delice de Bourgogne – a gorgeous cow’s milk cheese which tastes like organic cream imbued with sunshine and hay. Its like a brie, but less strong – its centre was crumbly and yet yeilding, and the edges were thickly creamy. What a cheese!

I would suggest, if you have a good cheese shop, to go, taste, and consult. There are few experiences quite so lovely as the careful contemplation of beautiful cheese. And a cheese master can help you pair cheese – particularly if you tell them exactly how you will use it – with various vegetables and foods. If you are making this tart from what you can find in the market, I would look for a good parmesan or pecorino, some goat’s cheese and a great cream cheese. This recipe is definitely adaptable – use your own cooking intelligence, your sense of taste and balance, and it will be gorgeous!

While this recipe is simple, there are a few steps to be followed. Because of the phyllo pastry, you want to make sure that the ingredients are not wet, otherwise the pastry will be soggy. Most, if not all, of the work can be done before hand. Prebake the pastry for ten minutes – it can be kept in the fridge up to 2 days. Mix and mash the cheeses, and keep covered in the fridge until ready to use. And blanch the asparagus (they live longer in the fridge if slightly blanched) and prep the mushrooms up to three days in advance. Assembly of the tart takes minutes (particularly if youve already baked the shell), and once baked, the tart can be kept in the fridge, for up to two days, reheated in a low oven, covered, just before serving.

Serves 8 – 10 people as a starter, 4 – 6 people as a main course

Balsamic mushrooms

  • 1/2 cup dried mushrooms – I used black trumpet
  • 1 – 2 tbsp truffle oil or olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 leek, finely diced
  • 2 cups mixed mushrooms – about 4 – 6 portobello and 4 – 6 button – peeled and finely sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup red wine (or Fre red alcohol removed wine)
  • 2 – 4 tbsp best quality, aged balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl, and cover completely with boiling water. Let stand for ten minutes while you prep all the vegetables. Once the mushrooms have softened, remove from the water with a sieve in a scooping motion. I dont drain the mushrooms because the silt from the mushrooms tends to come with them, so I simply scoop them out of the water they have been softening in.

Place the softened mushrooms in a saucepan, cover with water, and simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes. Drain and chop roughly. Set aside.

In a large frying pan, over medium heat, melt the butter into the oil. Add the leek, and saute for about 5 minutes, or until the leek has softened, and turned glossy.

Add the fresh mushrooms, half a cup at a time. You want them to saute, and quickly lose their water without becoming soggy. Stir well after every addition, and season with salt and pepper.

About half way through your mushrooms, add the red wine, increase the heat to high, and let the mushrooms absorb the wine and bubble away. It shouldnt take too long for the wine to almost completely evaporate.

Add the rest of the fresh mushrooms, adjusting seasoning, and stirring well. Allow them to saute till almost dry, and then add the balsamic. This will caramelise the mushrooms and bring out their dark sweet quality.

Add the reserved chopped dried mushrooms, adjust seasoning, and allow to cook for about 5 minutes on medium high heat. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed, and set aside until at room temperature.

These mushrooms can be used in pasta, salad, sandwiches – whatever strikes your fancy! They will keep for 3 – 5 days in the fridge, well covered.

Asparagus

  • 1 bunch of asparagus – 6 – 9 stalks if large – if you can get a mixed colour variety, do so – it looks dramatically gorgeous!
  • 1 tbsp lemon oil or olive oil to finish

Prepare the asparagus. Wash clean in running water, and then take each stalk, and snap near the base. It will snap naturally – the base bits can be frozen and used for soup or a pasta sauce base at another time.

Place the asparagus in a large bowl, and cover completely with boiling water. Allow to sit for a few minutes, until the asparagus has turned bright green. This really depends on the thickness of your asparagus – if you are using the thin delicate type, this may only be a few seconds, thicker varieties will need 3 minutes or so.

Remove the asparagus from the boiling water with tongs, and place in an ice water bath immediately. Or place in another bowl, and run very cold water over.

Asparagus blanched in this manner can be dried well, and then frozen until ready to use (up to 3 months), or refrigerated up to 3 days

Cheese Base

  • 100 g + 100 g cream cheese
  • 75 g + 75 g Delice de Bourgogne or other soft white delicate cheese (or cream cheese)
  • 2 x 6 g rounds Crottin de Chavignol (or other good goat’s cheese crottin)
  • 100 g Pecorino al Tartufo (truffled pecorino – or other good pecorino or parmesan)
  • 1 tsp lemon oil (or olive oil)
  • 1 tsp truffle oil (or olive oil)

For the asparagus cheese: Place 100 g cream cheese in a small bowl. Cut the rind off the Delice de Bourgogne (if using), and mash into the cream cheese using a fork. Cut the rinds off the Crottin de Chavignol, and mash the cheese in as well. Add 1 tsp lemon oil or olive oil, and taste. Cover and reserve in the fridge for up to two days.

For the mushroom cheese: Place 100 g cream cheese in a small bowl. Cut the rind off the Delice de Bourgogne (if using), and mash into the cream cheese using a fork. Grate or crumble the Pecorino al Tartufo into the bowl, and mash to combine. Add the truffle oil and taste. Cover and reserve in the fridge for up to two days.

Phyllo Tart Case

  • 1 package phyllo pastry
  • 3 – 5 tbsp butter, browned and melted
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Phyllo pastry is very difficult to make by hand because its so thin and delicate. Purchase a good quality phyllo from the store, and treat it well, and you will be fine. Defrost in the fridge for a day before use, or for 2 hours at room temperature. When you unroll the phyllo, place on a board or in a jelly roll pan, and cover with a damp cloth.

Preheat the oven to 170C (350F), and line a baking sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment paper.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan, and allow it to just brown a bit. This will add immeasurably to the flavour of the finished product. Add the olive oil and mix well. Let come to room temperature.

Place one or two sheets of phyllo pastry on the parchment lined sheet, and brush gently with the butter/oil mixture. Gently place another layer of phyllo over and brush with the butter/oil mixture. Continue until the entire package of phyllo pastry has been finished – usually about 15 – 20 layers. Sometimes I double the layers of pastry between brushes of butter and oil.

Create edges along the sides of the tart by folding inward about an inch, along all four sides. Prick the internal pastry with a fork, gently – otherwise the phyllo will puff up.

Bake in the oven for about 10 – 12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool to room temperature, and reserve, for up to 2 days, tightly wrapped in the fridge.

Assembly

  • Pre-baked Phyllo Pastry Tart case
  • Asparagus Cheese Mix
  • Mushroom Cheese Mix
  • Asparagus
  • Balsamic Mushrooms
  • Olive oil to finish – or lemon oil (for asparagus) and truffle oil (for mushrooms)

Preheat oven to 170C (350F). Make sure everything is at room temperature.

Look at the tart case. It should be a large rectangle. In your mind’s eye, divide the rectangle up into four quarters. Working from the bottom up, spoon asparagus cheese in the left lower quarter, mushroom cheese in the right lower quarter, asparagus cheese in the upper right quarter, and finish off with mushroom cheese in the upper left quarter.

Layer the asparagus over the quarters which hold the asparagus cheese, and spoon the mushrooms over the mushroom cheese. Finish off with just a little dribble of oil.

Bake for 35 – 45 minutes in the oven, until the cheese is bubbling and burnished, and the pastry is a dark golden brown.

Allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving, or serve at room temperature.

Will keep in the fridge, fully baked, tightly covered, for up to 2 days. Reheat in a gentle oven, covered in tin foil to avoid burning, for about 20 minutes.

Enjoy!

O’ Gourmet Goat’s Milk Cheese Ice Cream (with a Fig Mangosteen Ripple!)

9 Dec

I love goat’s milk cheese. It has an incredible, lush richness, and a particular ripe tang that comes from the flavour of the milk. Its made in a huge variety of forms, from soft spreadable cheese to firm cheese that melts beautifully. It is one of the earliest known forms of dairy products, and there is something very intense and primal for me about goat’s cheese. From Greek feta to the multiple varieties of French chevre, goat’s milk cheese is always intriguing and wonderful to cook with. I particularly love a good soft chevre, accompanied by dried of fresh figs, spread on toasted french bread. This woman can definitely live on cheese alone!

Given my adoration of goat’s milk cheese, it shouldnt be surprising that I have been wanting to make a goat’s milk cheese ice cream for ages. Ice cream is a pretty simple recipe – eggs, milk, sugar – and the addition of whatever flavourings you wish. I had an intense conversation with M. Sebastien of O’Gourmet Food Hall, and he suggested a Pave de Jadis – a soft chevre, with a thick, fudgy consistency. A tad sweet, slightly tangy, with a hint of lemon, pave de jadis literally translates as “paving stone” and gets its name from the ash which covers the brick of cheese. Its a French cheese, made in the Loire valley, and it tastes of springtime, of green grass pastures and sunshine. Its gorgeous and bright, and its soft texture is perfect for making ice cream.

As I spoke with M. Sebastien, I decided that I wanted to elevate this ice cream by adding a ripple of contrasting flavour through it. I decided on dried fruit that had been poached in white wine. I first thought of a Sauternes or other sweet wine, but M. Sebastien suggested a very beautiful, light and crisp De Martino Sauvignon Blanc from the Maipo Valley of Chile. This is an organic wine, and it was perfect. It paired perfectly with the cheese as well as the fruit, and brought out the lemony notes in the ice cream. I am going to use it to poach mango with peppercorns as well (but that is for tomorrow…).

Meanwhile, I needed to find my fruit. I decided to use dried fruit because the sugar in dried fruit would add a sweet note, and confirm that this is a dessert ice cream rather than a savoury one. Dried figs from Turkey seemed to be perfect, voluptuous and golden, bursting with jammy honeyed ripeness… but then my interest was caught. O’Gourmet has a large and amazingly exciting selection of dried organic fruits that are very Malaysian – rambutan, lychee… and mangosteen! I tasted everything, and fell in love at first bite with the mangosteen. Dried mangosteen. Have you ever heard of such a gorgeous idea? All the honey mango peach tastes of the mangosteen are highlighted and intensified. Its totally delicious, and I decided then and there to mix the fig and mangosteen into the ripple.

Because I wanted a taste testing that was as broad as possible, I decided to make two batches of the ice cream – one with a fig mangosteen ripple that had been poached in the De Martino wine, and the other a ripple in which the dried fruits had been poached in a Pear and Elderflower Presse by Belvoir Fruit Farms. This sparkling juice had the same crispness and brightness as the wine, though it was a little sweeter. It gave me the chance to make a non-alcholic version of the ice cream for those who choose not to consume alcohol. Lovely!

This recipe is actually incredibly easy to make, its just that the ingredients are exotic and beautiful. Treat them with a lot of care and respect, and plan ahead. The ripple can be made up to a week ahead and stored in the fridge. The ice cream custard needs to be made at least four hours before you decide to churn the ice cream, and the ice cream must be churned at least 12 hours before you serve it to give the flavours time to ripen and bloom in the freezer. It is a dramatic and gorgeous presentation, and will intrigue and challenge your guests. I will be serving it with fresh mango lightly poached in white wine and peppercorns, which is a memory from one of my favourite restaurants from long ago… but more on that next time.

Meanwhile, enjoy this ice cream. I think its a wonderful introduction to the seductive goodness, the natural deliciousness of goat’s milk. It has an almost cheesecake flavour, and is very dense, rich and thick. Its not too sweet, and definitely reflects the quality of the cheese you choose to use – so choose well! Enjoy!

Makes 1 quart

with De Martino Wine

Fig Mangosteen Ripple

Obviously, if you cannot find dried mangosteen, you could just add more figs, or think up your own decadent combination. Dried cranberries and blueberries might be gorgeous here. Sun dried tomatoes would also be pretty wonderfully wild.

  • 1/2 cup (about 100 g) dried figs
  • 1/2 cup (about 100 g) dried mangosteen
  • 1 1/2 cups white wine (I used De Martino Sauvignon Blanc) – for the non alcoholic version, use 1 cup of sparkling juice (I used Pear & Elderflower Presse by Belvoir Fruit Farms)

Chop the dried fruit into small chunks. I used a scissors, and just cut the fruit into small bits right over the saucepan.

Place the fruit and the wine in a small saucepan, and on the lowest heat possible, poach the fruit in the wine. You want the liquid to be just simmering, never boiling. The liquid will plump up the fruit, and the fruit will absorb almost all of the wine. When the mixture becomes a sticky, gooey paste (about 10 – 15 minutes depending on your heat source), let cool and store covered until you are ready to ripple it into the ice cream.

This also makes an amazing topping for ice cream on its own. Very seasonally apt too!

Churned

Goat’s Cheese Ice Cream

  • 2 1/2 cups milk/cream mixture. I used 1 cup of goat’s milk to 1 1/2 cups of cream. But you be the judge on how rich you want it! I also keep an additional 1/2 cup milk/cream for thinning out the mixture just before it goes into the ice cream maker – sometimes, the custard can be just a tad too cheesy
  • 1/3 + 1/3 cup of caster sugar
  • 6 egg yolks (reserve the whites for other uses – making macaroons may be?)
  • 7 oz (about 200 g) soft fresh goat’s milk cheese (I used Pave de Jadis) – make sure it is a soft, fudgy, fresh cheese
  • Pinch of sea salt

Place the milk/cream and 1/3 cup of caster sugar in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Whisk together to combine, and heat the mixture, stirring occasionally, until it reaches 175F on a thermometer, or until it just begins to steam, and bubbles begin to form on the edges of the pan.

Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks and the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar. I always use an electric stand mixer for this because I really want to incorporate the eggs and the sugar into a creamy whole. Use whatever youve got though, but make sure to beat for at least 3 – 5 minutes, until the eggs are light and lemony coloured, and thick in consistency.

Take the milk mixture off the heat, and add about 1/3 to the egg mixture, stirring well all the while. Once you have tempered the eggs, add the rest of the milk, slowly, stirring constantly.

Crumble the goat’s milk cheese into a large bowl and set aside.

Place the egg/milk mixture back into the pan, and cook for a further few minutes, until the mixture becomes a custard. It will thicken and coat the back of a spoon. When you draw a line through the custard on the spoon, the line will hold. The temperature will be about 175F.

Have two bowls ready, one with the crumbled goat’s milk cheese at the bottom, and a good sieve.

Take the custard off the heat, and pour through the sieve onto the crumbled goat’s milk cheese. Once all the custard has been sieved, allow the mixture to sit for a few minutes, while the heat of the custard softens and melts the cheese. Mix well, using the edge of your spatula to break up the chunks of cheese.

Sieve a second time into a second bowl, ensuring that the cheese has incorporated into the custard. Taste and adjust the level of milk/cream. Sometimes I add a further 1/2 cup of cream at this stage if the cheese is too tangy and overwhelming.

Sieve a third and final time to ensure total smoothness of the mixture. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

When you are ready to make ice cream, taste the cold custard. I usually will stir in a pinch of fleur de sel (or Maldon) to just highlight all the different flavours – the sweet, tangy, creamy all benefit from just a pinch of salt. Pour the custard into the ice cream maker, and follow manufacturers instructions.

With Fig Mangosteen Ripple

Goat’s Milk Cheese Ice Cream with a Fig Mangosteen Ripple

  • 1 quart goat’s milk cheese ice cream
  • Fig mangosteen ripple

Once the ice cream has been churned, you need to work very quickly. Have clean containers ready, a good spatula, a spoon, and the dried fruit ripple.

Scoop out about half of the churned ice cream into the container. Spoon over the dried fruit ripple, going right to the edge, and then scoop over the remaining ice cream. Smooth over the top with the spatula and freeze for about 1 – 2 hours until semi-firm.

Using a knife, ripple the ice cream so that the dried fruit is swirled throughout. You choose if you want it really mixed in or you want large chunks of fruit ripple sitting in the immaculate pale white ice cream.

Freeze overnight to allow the flavours and depth of contrast to blossom.

Enjoy this elegant, unique creation with those you adore 🙂

O’Gourmet Truffled Macaroni and Cheese

6 Dec

I love macaroni and cheese, the beautiful pasta, coated with a creamy blanket of cheesy indulgence. The crispy top, making way for a melting interior. Whats not to love? Well, some varieties of mac and cheese are plainly unappetising, made from over processed, pasturised ingredients that have all the life and soul taken out of them (once youve seen that orange glow, you will never forget it!). I wanted to make a different kind of macaroni and cheese – a sensuous, indulgent meal, ripe with scent, taste, texture and balance. This macaroni and cheese is slightly wicked, a tad naughty, and very memorable. It can be served at a celebration – birthday, New Years, holidays of every kind – or just because you want to say I love you. Honestly, they will get the message!

A dish like this needs to be in part based on thought and consideration, and in part on pure inspiration. So I wandered the O’Gourmet Food Hall to see what might present itself. First under consideration was the pasta. I decided on La Collina Toscana pasta, made in Italy, and rather than macaroni, a conchiglie shape – like a small conch or sea shell. Gorgeous, naturally dried, hand crafted pasta, with a shape that has the same benefits of macaroni (the curved tubular shape catches and holds sauce well), and yet has a more elegant look to it. But of course, I dont want to be proscriptive, so use whichever pasta strikes your fancy!

I feel that macaroni and cheese can sometimes be a tad overwhelmingly rich, and I noted some gorgeously fresh organic baby spinach, so I decided to include a surprise nestled in the depths of the pasta – bright clean spinach, sauteed with white onion, and candied, caramelised garlic. I wanted to make the garlic a little differently from the original Ottolenghi recipe I used, and so decided that instead of water, I would use wine! But then, I saw Fre wines – alcohol-removed wine. Yes, honestly!

I read the taste tests, and while there is definitely something missing (the alcohol!), there is a unanimous agreement that the taste is still there… somewhat! I thought that it might be very interesting to try cooking with this non-alcoholic wine. Would you get the same taste, roundness of flavour, haunting notes of fruit and honey and sunshine, as with regular wine? I decided I would use the Fre premium white wine in the sauce, and the Fre premium red wine in creating the caramelised garlic (in place of water in the original recipe). I found that there was certainly a hint of winey flavour to the sauce and garlic, but that depth of flavour, the resonance of the wine, the layers of scent and taste, were not as fully realised. I think the next time I make this pasta, I will use regular wine, but when I am cooking for those who have issues with alcohol in their food, I would most certainly go back to the Fre. And again, if you prefer cooking with wine, please, go ahead and give in to the urge 😉

And finally, truffles. I felt that truffles added to the cheese sauce would elevate this dish into a celebratory, special meal. I looked around, and decided to layer the different truffle tastes – starting with the amazingly hedonistic truffle oil from Vom Fass, which I used to permeate everything from the spinach to the garlic to the cheese sauce. I seasoned everything with truffle sea salt, and finally, I found Himalayan truffles (tuber indicum), an inexpensive (relatively) jar of black truffles from the Himalayas. I loved these truffles. They were easy to work with, and imbued the pasta with their own truffled scent – not quite as all inclusive as European truffles, which seem to have the reach and depth of durian, but with their own nutty, dark, rich flavour.

And when I spoke to M. Sebastien in the cheese room, he suggested that I use a Brillat-Savarin (a triple cream, soft, brie-like cheese) which had been layered, and thus completely permeated, with truffles. I used organic white cheddar and a beautiful aged crumbly parmesan as well, but I promise you, when I sliced open that Brillat-Savarin, and saw the thick soft melting consistency, and smelled that unique combination of cheese and truffle… well, I wanted to rub it all over me! Incredibly luxurious and such a beautiful addition to the pasta.

This dish looks like a lot of work, and it certainly will take a couple of hours of cooking. But a lot can be done ahead of time – the garlic can be candied and caramelised in about half an hour or so, and can be stored in the fridge for about 2 weeks. The spinach can be sauteed and kept, covered, in the fridge for 3 days. Even the cheese sauce can be made the day before (though I would whisk in the egg at the last minute), and combined with the pasta just before baking. I served the dish with a simple salad of bitter arugula (rocket) and ribboned organic carrots, with a dressing of balsamic, truffle oil and soy sauce. It was a bright counterpoint to the luxury of the main course.

This truffled macaroni and cheese is worth the work and the care, the loving sourcing of beautiful ingredients. The result is a gift to the people you love, and to yourself.

Serves 6 – 8 people

Candied Caramelised Garlic (adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty)

  • 2 cups Fre premium red wine (or a good red wine)
  • 1 1/2 cups garlic cloves (about 2 heads – 30 cloves or so)
  • 2 tbsp + 1 tsp truffle oil
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar or light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp best quality balsamic vinegar (I used a 25 year old balsamic from Vom Fass – it was astonishing!)
  • 1 tsp herbes de Provence or mixed Italian/French herbs
  • 1/2 tsp truffle salt (if you have it – otherwise a good sea salt is fine)

Combine the red wine and garlic cloves in a medium saucepan. Bring to the boil over medium low heat, and simmer for about 5 minutes.

Drain the red wine from the garlic cloves, reserving the red wine for later. Clean the saucepan well and dry it, and place the garlic cloves and the truffle oil into the saucepan together.

Saute the garlic in the oil for about 5 minutes or so, on medium high heat, or until the garlic has softened, released its intrinsic garlic scent, and become lightly browned.

Measure out about 1 1/2 cups of the red wine, and combine with the sugar, balsamic, herbs and salt. Pour over the garlic in the saucepan. Be careful, because it will splatter a bit.

Simmer on medium high heat for about 15 – 20 minutes, or until the liquid has almost completely reduced, and the garlic is dark red, sticky, candied and caramelised. Take off the heat, and pour over the remaining 1 tsp of truffle oil.

This candied garlic will keep in the fridge, covered for at least 2 weeks, but you will probably eat it before then! It can be an astonishing addition to salads, soups, risottos, pastas, sandwiches – just about anything you can imagine!

Sauteed Spinach

  • 2 tbsp + 1 tsp truffle oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped white onion (1 small onion or 1/2 large)
  • Truffle salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 – 4 cups organic baby spinach, washed and roughly chopped

In a medium sized pan, over medium heat, combine the 2 tbsp of truffle oil and the white onion. Saute for 5 – 10 minutes, or until the onion goes glossy, soft and shiny. You dont want it to burn, but you do want it to reach that moment just before it caramelises!

Season with truffle salt and pepper, and add the baby spinach. Raise the heat a little, and saute quickly. The spinach will turn bright green, and will release some of its liquid. This is perfect. Remove from heat, taste and adjust seasonings, and pour over the final teaspoon of truffle oil.

You can reserve this spinach for up to 3 days, covered in the fridge. It also makes a sublime side dish!

Truffled Three Cheese Sauce

  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • Truffles – as much as you want or can afford! I used a 100 g jar of Himalayan truffles plus 2 tbsp of truffle oil plus 1/2 tsp of truffle salt
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp truffle oil
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 + 1 cup Fre premium white wine (or regular white wine – or even sparkling wine!)
  • 1/2 tsp (or less – to your taste) English mustard powder or Dijon mustard
  • 8 oz (about 2 cups) grated white organic cheddar
  • 200 g (about 7 oz) truffled Brillat Savarin
  • 1/2 cup grated best quality parmesan
  • Truffle salt and pepper to taste

In a medium large saucepan, combine the cream and milk. Grate over the truffles (I used a Microplane zester to shave the truffles very small and fine), and add the truffle oil and truffle salt, if using. Over low heat, warm the cream/milk/truffle mixture until it is just steaming – about 75C or 165F. Stir often. Once the mixture reaches the steaming stage, remove from heat, and let steep for at least an hour. This infusion step is important! It makes sure that the taste of the truffles is all over that sauce.

In a medium large saucepan, melt the butter and truffle oil over medium low heat. Once the butter has melted completely, add the flour, and stir well. This roux will form the basis of your sauce, so make sure that you take your time and cook it well. You want it the colour of light teak – keep your nerve. Dont burn it, but dont let it stay too pale either. I would cook for at least 5 minutes, up to 10, depending on the heat source.

Once the roux has cooked to your liking, lower the heat a bit, and add 1 cup of the white wine, whisking constantly. The mixture will immediately seize up and become very thick. Whisk in all of the steeped milk/cream/truffle mixture, and continue to whisk well. Taste. Add the remaining 1 cup of white wine, tasting every 1/4th cup or so. You dont need to add it all if the mixture becomes too heavily winey.

Sprinkle over the mustard powder or the Dijon mustard, and whisk well to combine.

Bring the heat up to medium low, and sprinkle over the cheddar. Continue whisking the sauce as you incorporate the cheddar into the mix. Taste and adjust seasonings again.

Slice the bottom rind off the Brillat Savarin, and using a teaspoon, scoop it out of its rind. Add to the sauce, and whisk well to combine.

Sprinkle over the parmesan, and whisk well, until the cheese is melted and well mixed.

Remove the sauce from the heat and allow to cool to tepid bathwater heat. Whisk in the egg yolks to enrich the sauce, and adjust for seasoning.

The cheese sauce can be made up to a day of time, before adding the egg yolks. Keep tightly covered in the fridge, and bring to room temperature before whisking in the egg yolks and assembling the main dish.

This sauce would be wonderful served as is, not baked, with angel hair pasta or linguine!

Truffled Macaroni and Cheese – Assembly

You can serve this in individual small ceramic baking pots, bake it in loaf tins (it will fill three tins), or a large enameled baking dish. Your choice – I think it depends on how and who you are going to serve! Individual pots are a very elegant presentation, but loaf tins or a large baking dish bring a casual luxury to the meal.

  • 500 g macaroni, elbow, conchiglie, or other tubular pasta
  • Truffled Three Cheese Sauce
  • Caramelised Garlic
  • Sauteed Spinach
  • Handful of Italian parsley, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I used Panko)
  • 1/2 cup parmesan
  • A few teaspoons of truffle oil to finish

Preheat the oven to 160C (325F), and have your baking pans ready.

Prepare macaroni or other tubular pasta according to the packet directions, in a large saucepan or pot, over high heat, in heavily salted boiling water, but taste a few minutes shy of the time indicated on the packaging. I cooked conchiglie pasta, and the packet said 15 minutes. I cooked it for 11 minutes, to just before al dente.

Drain the pasta, and place in a large mixing bowl. Pour over about three quarters of the cheese sauce and stir well to combine. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust.

Place about half of the pasta in your baking pots/tin/dish. Press down to ensure that the pasta is snug. Ladle about half of the remaining sauce over the pasta. Using your hands, squeeze out the liquid from the reserved spinach, and place it in an even layer over the pasta, leaving about 1/2 inch rim free around the edge of the dish. Stud the spinach with the caramelised garlic – as much or as little as you wish, though i went easy on it. I wanted a spark of intense flavour, but I did not want to overwhelm the delicacy of the pasta. Add the rest of the pasta to the dish, and ladle over the remaining sauce.

In a small bowl, mix together the Italian parsley, breadcrumbs and parmesan, and sprinkle evenly over the pasta.

Bake in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the pasta is bubbling and hot, and a crisp, golden crust has formed.

Just before serving, sprinkle lightly with the truffle oil to really bring out the scent.

Enjoy the love.

O’Gourmet Food Hall

2 Dec

As a passionate cook and a foodie, I am always on the lookout for places where I can source the best of the best. I truly believe that ingredients matter: the olive oil you use impacts hugely on the final taste of your dish; the nuts, spices and flavourings, if fresh and carefully sourced, can deepen and embolden a meal so much more than wan supermarket choices; and fruits and vegetables of sublime quality are not only a joy to work with, but their colours, textures and flavours make everything just taste better.

I will drive an extra mile to find food of extraordinary quality, to be able to speak with knowledgeable purveyors about their wares, and to sample different and new items. I am lucky though, because I live within a few minutes of what I consider one of the most wonderful collections of food and ingredients in Kuala Lumpur – the O’Gourmet Food Hall at Bangsar Shopping Centre. O’Gourmet has it all – a decadent and seductive cheese room; a bright and stunningly beautiful fruit and vegetable stand; fresh nuts, spices and herbs; the astonishing variety of Vom Fass vinegars and oils; pastas, flours, and grains of just about every description; a thoughtfully curated wine selection; chocolates, cookies, candies and cakes; and prepared foods that are made with care and quality.

O’Gourmet reminds me of a Malaysianised combination of Dean and Delucca, Chelsea Market and Zabars in New York with Harrods and Harvey Nichols in London. Its a Food Hall of quality, with resources from around the world. I have been deeply impressed by the way the way the people at O’Gourmet know their food. For example, Sebastien Le Francois, the resident sommelier and cheese guru, is not only deeply knowledgeable, but happy to make time to talk through selections, options, ideas, pairings. He tells you what he thinks, he explains the relative merits of different cheeses and wines, he talks recipes, combinations, flavours. Wonderful!

Its like a gourmet wonderland of food and ingredients, and I have always regarded a visit to O’Gourmet Food Hall as a thrill, a moment of inspiration and joy – a truly happy day. I can wander the aisles of O’Gourmet for hours. In fact, AngelKitten and I did so just yesterday, marveling at everything we saw. I love the food conversations she and I have together – we inspire each other, fantasise how different ingredients can be put together, find hidden gems and share our excitement. Our day at O’Gourmet Foodhall was pure happy – we marveled at the careful way in which each item is chosen, tasted the oils, sampled the cheeses and imagined different pairings of ingredients… from a gingerbread house with candied and sugared fruits to a hazelnut torte to a truffled macaroni and cheese. O’Gourmet has the resources to provide for all these imaginings and more.

First we stopped at the fruit and vegetable stand. Amazing! Such colour and texture. Such a wide variety to choose from, and so fresh, so luscious, completely delectable. Those fruits, oh my goodness. Tiny perfect apples (we want to candy them for our gingerbread house), comice pears at their peak of ripeness, a beautiful array of berries, tomatoes on the vine, voluptuous dragon fruit, and lettuce leaves so fresh their roots are still attached.

O'Gourmet Foodhall

Such a great selection – and so intrinsically sexy. Onions, cabbage, fennel and mushrooms so perfect that I couldnt wait to get my hands on them, to touch and tease them into recipes and meals. I felt like the little old lady in the movie Tampopo, who gets chased away from the produce section for touching and stroking and feeling the vegetables a little too much!

Luckily there were other things to mark our attention. We wandered through the herbs and spices, dried pastas and grains…Everything is lovingly laid out, like art, and easily accessible. You can sample, sniff, and consider to your hearts content.

O'Gourmet Foodhall

I love the fact that you can look and choose exactly what – and how much – you want – bay leaves, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, mustard seed, mace, cinnamon, fennel, chili, nutmeg, dried pulses, and so much more – all arrayed temptingly, their colours a symphony of choice, and each pretty bottle a really exciting possibility of flavour and illumination. A spark of possibility every where you turn.

O'Gourmet Foodhall

From there, we wandered over to the oils and vinegars. Alongside carefully chosen bottled oils and vinegars, O’Gourmet has brought in Vom Fass – a German company that supplies artisanal vinegars and oils of the absolute highest quality. You can sample everything at the Vom Fass section because of how the oils and vinegars are presented in earthenware casks – and we did! From a stunning wild raspberry vinegar to the sharp brightness of calimansi vinegar to the syrupy dusky wonder of a 25 year old balsamico. From extra virgin olive oils that tasted like sunshine and light to hazelnut oil that was rounded and rich and wild to a truffle oil that was totally imbued with the haunting notes of truffle. Each oil and vinegar can be sampled, and they can be bottled in 100ml and up glass bottles of your choice. We were like kids in a candy shop!

O'Gourmet Foodhall

We wanted to bring all that we sampled home with us, but we tried to be restrained (!) and so we chose three – the hazelnut and truffle oils and the 25 year old balsamic vinegar. I have to admit, when we got home, we unwrapped the oils, and tasted them again. Tonight, I will make a hazelnut torte using some of that hazelnut oil. So beautiful!

O'Gourmet Foodhall

And finally, we went to the cheese room. We stood and sniffed that pungent enticing wild aroma of cheese, we tasted, we looked, and we chatted with the accommodating M. Sebastien. I am so pleased that Kuala Lumpur has a cheese shop of such high quality, beautifully curated and totally tempting.

O'Gourmet Foodhall

And we chose – a triple cream Brilliat Savarin, imbued with truffles. I looked at it and I could feel myself purrrrrr.

O'Gourmet Foodhall

I have been a customer of O’Gourmet for a while now. Each time I am at Bangsar Shopping Centre, I make time to wander and look and touch, to consider some special cheese or a prime flavour ingredient that will brighten the food I am cooking that day. I love that there is always something different, something unique, something deeply tempting.

Because I am so enamoured of the quality ingredients available at O’Gourmet Foodhall, and so inspired to creativity every time I visit, I have decided that I am going to do a weekly O’Gourmet recipe for the next few months. I hope these recipes will excite you with the possibilities inherent in ingredients of perfect quality, and will spark a passion for prime ingredients, treated with love and respect.

O’Gourmet Food Hall is at the East Wing, Ground Floor of Bangsar Shopping Centre, Jalan Maarof, Kuala Lumpur. Tel: +60.3.2094.9966

Visit their website and their Facebook page to be inspired!