Tag Archives: food

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.

Delectable Wanderings …

18 Jan

I have not blogged for two weeks now… and I have missed it so much. The discipline, the focus, and the energy that I get from blogging every day has been missing. Part of it was that I lost all my data – my hard drive crashed. I felt sad every time I looked at a computer. But part of it, I think, was that I was internalising my life as a cook, and embracing, fully, my new life.

Though I have not blogged, I have been immersed in cooking and eating.

I have had two photo shoots – one for O’Gourmet, with a Yee Sang Cake I created for Chinese New Year (which will be my next blog post!), and one for ReTale, with my delicious chili ice cream for Valentine’s Day. I was lucky enough to work with amazing artists, designers and photographers for both shoots, and the images are stunning.

AngelKitten and I have had an amazing time. I am so grateful to the generosity of the amazing baker, Mama Min. She introduced us to what has quickly become one of my favourite hangouts in KL – PastryPro. This is a shop for serious bakers. The first time we went, AngelKitten and I spent hours wandering the aisles. We were like little kids in a candy shop. AngelKitten was completely and utterly smitten by the sugarcraft supplies. We got gorgeous gum paste and fondant, and all sorts of tools for sugar flower making.

PastryPro also has a wonderful service. They will print any image (photograph or graphic) onto an A4 icing sheet (for RM15), which you can place atop a cake or cupcake. I used this to create a cake “plate” for my Yee Sang, and the results were gorgeous. If youre interested, email PastryPro with your image. Its that easy!

AngelKitten and I stocked up on basics – vanilla beans, almond flour, sugar, 74% cacao bittersweet chocolate, cream, butter, cake rounds, cake boxes and spices. We also splurged, on gold leaf, gold powder, beautiful ready made decorations, and glitters. All in all, a satisfying and enjoyable adventure.

AngelKitten and I were also lucky enough to catch a great cooking class by Manju Saigal and maestro Paul on roti chennai and dosa, as well as two stunningly good chutneys. Manju teaches wonderful cooking classes from her home – particularly focusing on Indian cuisine.

The class was such great fun. We learned how to make the dough for both roti chennai and dosa, and also the wrist technique for flipping and stretching the roti dough. We each got to try our hand at making various kinds of breads, and we loved eating our own creations. I am not sure either of us is ready to join the mamak stall quite yet, but it was a really enjoyable and interesting day.

If you want to be informed of new classes, email Manju and get put on her mailing list.

And finally, we have had some decadent and lovely meals in the past few weeks. The always good La Risata in Damansara served up a luscious pizza speck – caramelised onions, gorgonzola and mozzarella. And Vineria.it in Bangsar Shopping Centre produced a wonderful chili, tomato, and pesto pasta that left us sighing.

And I have done a lot of cooking – refining of old standards, and exploration of new dishes. I have cooked for friends, and also accepted a couple of orders for speciality dishes. I have also been planning a baby shower for Jobby, which is happening this coming weekend, and of course, I will be blogging it all.

Its been a food filled few weeks, and I am looking forward to getting back into the blogging cycle. I have missed this space, and I am excited to be back!

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.Β 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 πŸ˜‰

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!

Spicy Cheese Crackers

27 Dec

I really dont like the crackers that you can get at the stores. They taste like they are full of chemicals. And when the process of making crackers is so very simple, its a wonder that we buy them at all. This past Christmas, I was going to dinner at Jobby’s house. I wanted to bring some lovely but simple things, as I had been immersed in cooking these last few days. I decided on a raspberry-gooseberry fool, which is just whipped cream, scented with vanilla and a touch of icing sugar, folded into cooled stewed raspberries and gooseberries. That sweet tart cool creamy combination is beautiful – and it takes minutes to make.

I knew Jobby would probably make her wonderful hummus. So crackers were a good addition – and they are delicious enough to eat on their own. Unfortunately I did not get a photograph because Nana chowed down more than half before we even left the house! But suffice to say, these crackers are wonderful – such a complex blend of flavour. You could spice them up with anything you like, but I used chili powder, mustard seeds, and English mustard powder. The combination is divine, spicy and cheese-y all at the same time. The crackers are crisp and flaky and can be cut into rounds, squares, or whatever your heart desires. Poke a few holes in them, pop them in a hot oven, and watch them brown up and puff a little. Beautiful.

These crackers will keep, in an air tight box, for about a week, but if you have a Nana around the house they wont last!

Makes about 100 crackers, depending on how you cut them

  • 1 cup bread flour (OO flour)
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp English mustard powder
  • 1 cup cheese – cheddar/parmesan mix
  • 3 tbsp cold butter
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 190 C (375F).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, polenta, salt, baking soda, chili powder, mustard seeds and English mustard powder. Toss to combine.

Grate the cheese over the flour mixture, and stir well.

Grate over the cold butter, and stir again, gently.

Pour over the buttermilk, and combine. Turn the dough out onto a working surface and knead, gently until it all comes together.

Form the dough into a ball, and refrigerate, covered for about half an hour.

Once the dough has rested and cooled, divide it into quarters.

You can now roll the dough out very thin, and cut it into shapes, or roll the dough into a log, and slice very thinly.

Arrange on the baking sheet, and using the tines of a fork, poke a few holes in each cracker. This is optional, but it will help keep the crackers flat and less puffy.

Bake for about 8 – 10 minutes, or until the crackers are golden and cheesy.

Let cool for at least 10 minutes before gobbling up!

 

Candied Caramelised Oranges

21 Dec

Are you stuck for a Christmas dessert that you can make without much thought, and which will taste as if you have put in hours of work? These candied, caramelised oranges might just be the thing. I love their jewel-like colour – a deep dark citrine or amber … glistening with orangey caramel syrup that they make themselves. Theyre blowsily sexy – soft, sticky, totally decadent and delectable. They taste like the holidays… and believe me, theyre so simple, its almost embarrassing!

I decided to make them because I am working on a Chinese New Year cake that uses candied and dried fruits. I love those little tiny oranges you can get this time of year Β – mini mandarins from China. You could also use kumquats. They are the main component of the recipe, so make sure you get good ones. Everything else you need, you probably have in your pantry. Its really up to you what flavourings and essences you use – most of the time, I just add sugar, water and a touch of juice.

How I can call this a recipe, Im not sure. Its so simple, but its gorgeous. Lush with the oranges’ own caramel, the little tiny orange balls go translucent, and then a deep dark hue that has a richness and beauty all its own. Serve warm (you can make ahead and reheat, or just stick it on the stove in the morning, and let it go) with some vanilla ice cream or a dollop of heavy cream, and youre done. Heaven. Sweet, bitter, astringent, caramel, citrus, smoke – such a complexity of flavour, and so so easy. In the stress and mess of the holidays, sometimes that is a gift in and of itself.

To serve 4 – 6 people, you will need:

  • 2 cups light brown or caster sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup juice (or even wine)
  • Spices if you want – cinnamon is great here, as are cloves, star anise, nutmeg – but be gentle!
  • 4 cups of tiny mandarin oranges

Place a large pot, with lid, on stove top. Add sugar, water, juice and any spices. Bring gently to the boil, over low-medium heat, stirring every so often to dissolve the sugar. The sugar will boil up eventually, and then become clear. Turn the heat right down so the sugar syrup is just bubbling – little tiny plops.

Wash the little oranges well, ensuring that the little stem is removed, if needed. Poke each orange several times with a toothpick.

Place the oranges in the sugar syrup, gently gently. Give everything a stir, make sure the heat is very very low, and cover.

Simmer the oranges in the syrup for at least 1 – 2 hours, longer if you like. They will turn translucent and go very dark. Its almost like youre making marmalade, but with whole oranges.

Everything will caramelise, the oranges will leak their juice and essence, and the syrup will also turn a gorgeous burnt sticky orange.

Serve warm, with a bit of ice cream, mascarpone, or heavy cream. Heaven.

A Meal to Remember @ Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio

13 Dec

Sometimes a meal is a symphony of taste and texture and colour … and sometimes, its even more than that. A divine merging of friends and loved ones, family and comfort, intermingled with sublime food, cooked by an artist, with a sense of love and presence and drama. Last Friday night at Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio was like that – just pure joy. With Adi, Goddess, GoddessSpouse, AngelKitten, GoldenOro and Bubby, and MsTina… laughter flowed around us, wrapped us in warmth and happiness, and the food was a beautiful counterpoint to the joy in the room.

You cannot plan that kind of a night, you cant buy it or make it happen by force of will. It is an alchemical merging of all that is good and joyous. Thank you to Goddess + GoddessSpouse for hosting us. And thank you for Nathalie for welcoming us, yet again, with open arms and brilliant skill. We will be back next month! Meanwhile, feast on our memories πŸ™‚

Joy

A potato galette with sauteed mushrooms, and a porcini foam. Simple, sensuous, lively flavours. Not too much, not too little. Just right to start with. This was the vegetarian choice and it made me happy.

A new take on duck liver with brioche – the brioche made into an apple tart tatin. A clever merging of two very French tastes.

Tuna Tartare with blini and chive cream… and a fresh green salad.

Snail napoleon – earthy, rich, beautifully presented. I tasted the accompanying sauces, and they were beautiful. Balanced, imbued with vegetable essence, gorgeous.

The vegetarian main course. Home made egg tagliatelle with green capsicum and a perfect parmesan porcini foam. Subtle and luxurious, elegant and beautiful. Incredibly satisfying.

The duck main course. According to those who ate it, it tasted truly of duck … gamey and wild and delicious. Served with a stunning hazelnut polenta and a blueberry stuffing. Clever and thoughtful all in one go.

Steak. Apparently, it was perfectly cooked. With a stuffed potato on the side. I like how this looks, the juxtaposition of the meat and the potato… Smart.

An intense caramel custard creme brulee – perfectly burnt crispy sugar crust, with a lime and thyme sorbet. What an interesting combination.

Trio of desserts – a pineapple foam, an incandescently good salted caramel macaroon, and a vanilla spoon biscuit, holding chocolate mousse, and a chocolate truffle. Mine!

Frozen chocolate mousse “gift” with a liquid river of raspberries running through it. So so so good. I could have buried myself in this plate and just whuffled.

A dramatic and architectural Mont Blanc – pureed chestnuts, whipped cream and crisp meringue. So beautiful!

Dried fruit croquant – crisp, caramelised, sticky, delectable.

Mangoes Poached in Wine With Pink Peppercorns

11 Dec

with Pink PeppercornsYou know how a sense memory sometimes stays with you long after the remembrance of when or where it was, or even with whom you shared that memory? Or sometimes a sense memory – a smell, a taste, a touch, a sound becomes the touchstone of a time and place in your life. I have that with food. Foufou to me is Ghana – the slave forts, the colours of the women’s dresses, the covered markets – all can be conjoured simply by the taste of that dish. My late father is white toast, butter and sugar. South Africa is Appeltizer, thick brown bread, and snoek pate.

And sometimes, a taste memory just lingers because it was that good. Recently, I had dinner with a dear friend at the new Chinoz in Bangsar Shopping Centre (try their pumpkin and parmesan gnocchi if you go – truly sublime!). And I realised that it was at another restaurant by the Chinoz group, the late lamented Q*doz, where I had fresh mangoes poached in sweet wine with peppercorns. This was probably one of the most powerful taste memories I have ever had. I tucked it away, and carried it with me wherever I went.

Im not sure why it affected me so powerfully, but it was amazing. I usually order chocolate desserts wheresoever I go … Believe you me, I could make a life size model of myself with all the chocolate I have eaten at restaurants over the years! But this night, I was convinced to try the poached mangoes… and what a revelation! Warm, soft, perfumed, the mangoes were rich and gorgeous in their own juices and the sweet seductiveness of the wine. I adore mango, but thought I only liked it fresh until that night. Gently poached in wine, the essence of the fruit was stroked and encouraged to blossom. I wish I could describe the layers of taste. The acidic spark of the wine, the voluptuous sensuality of the mango, and suddenly, the fire of the peppercorns. It was a joyous dish which made my soul sing.

And, as I said, I have carried that memory with me through many other experiences and lives πŸ™‚ And when I encountered the sweet smelling, ripe mangoes at O’Gourmet, I suddenly had the urge to recreate, if not the exact dish, the memory of those flavours. I found beautiful pink peppercorns from Kashmir, treasured like gold, and my absolute favourite Leatherwood honey from Tasmania. I had more than half a bottle of De Matino Sauvignon Blanc left after making my fig and mangosteen ripple, and thus this dish was born.

Its such a simple preparation, and I think one could really be flexible in terms of ingredients. Use a good wine, though, because that taste comes through very strongly. And if possible, try and use pink peppercorns. Their flavour – musky, sweet, faded fire – is unique and wonderful and it perfumes the flesh of the mango, and the deep complexity of the reduced wine in a subtle nuanced way that is a total joy. Black peppercorns tend to be a tad more forthright in my opinion, but they can be used (may be a little more judiciously) here too.

I served this with my goat’s milk cheese ice cream but almost all my tasters said that each dish on its own was so complex, they needed to be served individually. These mangoes, warm from the pan, would do very well with some first class vanilla ice cream. Or, just on their own, with the gorgeous shiny sauce drizzled over. Beautiful!

Serves 6 pax

  • 1 + 1 + 1 tbsp pink peppercorns
  • 1/2 + 1 1/2 + 1/2 cup crisp white wine (I used a De Martino Sauvignon Blanc) – 2 1/2 cups in total
  • 1 large mango, peeled and sliced
  • 1 – 2 tbsp honey

With peppercornsCrush 1 tablespoon of pink peppercorns, and leave the other two tablespoons whole.

In a large pan, over high heat, combine 1/2 cup of white wine and the crushed peppercorns, and 1 tablespoon of the whole. Allow to come to the boil and reduce until you have a very thick wine reduction and the peppercorns.

Lower the heat, pour in 1 1/2 cups of wine, and add the peeled and sliced mangoes to the pan. Simmer the mangoes at the lowest heat for about five minutes, and then drizzle over the honey and sprinkle over the final tablespoon of peppercorns.

Continue to poach, for a further 10 – 15 minutes, or until the wine has reduced a little, and the mangoes have become slightly translucent.

Using a spoon, flip the mangoes over gently, and poach for a further few minutes. Taste and adjust the sauce – you might want to add another tablespoon of honey.

Remove from heat, and pour over final 1/2 cup of white wine.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. The mangoes will keep, covered, in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Comfort Food

5 Dec

Angel Kitten has taken a 1 month vow of vegetarianism. I am so proud of her, I just cant even begin to tell you. She was so moved by information she found on the PETA website, that she took a pledge to be a vegetarian for a month. I think thats amazing, and I truly believe she will feel wonderful after that month is over – so much so, that may be it will inspire her to eat vegetarian once a week or so. We have had several discussions about the choice to live a vegetarian life. I dont really try and “convert” people, but I do strongly believe that living a life of love and gentleness often includes making a choice not to eat animals.

However, I also believe strongly that if one chooses a carnivorous life, then thats OK too — especially if the choices about what meats one eats are made with care and forethought. For example, choosing to eat at the Golden Arches or the like, where the meat and chicken have lived largely painful lives, and been processed in a way that is wholesale, rather than respectful, is very different from choosing to occasionally eat meat that is free range and fed organic, non steriod, non hormone food. I would posit that the latter is much more delicious, even if much more expensive. I think if one wants to or has to eat a carnivorous diet, the logical, kind and respectful choice is to eat meat that has been treated with kindness and respect. May be not as often as highly processed meats and chickens, unless one is rich beyond the need to consider such things, but with much more satisfaction and enjoyment.

Anyway, thats me off my hobbyhorse πŸ˜‰ As part of my support of AngelKitten’s choice, I really wanted to make her food that will encourage her to see how satisfying eating a vegetarian diet is. This meal is one of her all time favourites, and we often order it in restaurants together, as a conglomeration of side dishes which we share. It could be completely vegan if you mashed the potatoes with olive oil instead of butter and cream… but I leave that choice to you πŸ˜‰ For us, we used organic cream and butter and were very happy with that choice.

For dinner last night, we had sauteed spinach and french beans with garlic, roasted broccoli with soy and balsamic (which Ezril said tasted meaty and immensely satisfying), and mashed potatoes with roasted garlic. It was sublime. So simple, so easy, so delicious. It was ultimate comfort food for us, and got me to thinking about what comfort food really is. Its not fancy, overly thought through, complex food. Rather, its simple, well cooked, well sourced ingredients that are cooked so their essential deliciousness shines through. We used organic spinach, french beans and broccoli – and organic milk and cream in the potatoes. If you wanted more protein in this meal, you could add some toasted almonds to the vegetables, but I dont think its necessary. I think that if you eat a balance of food through a week or so, high in protein sometimes, high in greens others, youre fine. Balance is as much about listening to what your body wants and needs at a given time as following strictures and formulas.

And by the way, these are not so much recipes, as memories of what we ate that night, in celebration of AngelKitten’s pledge. We love the juxtaposition of the clean bright freshness of the spinach and beans, the roasted dark stickiness of the broccoli, and the pure decadence of the potatoes. Its all about balance isnt it? πŸ™‚Β So here are the three recipes we put together for our comfort dinner. I am glad to say that AngelKitten took the leftovers home, and hopefully, they will nurture her and feed her for a few days more to come πŸ™‚

Serves 4 – 6 people (with leftovers of the potatoes, most definitely)

with Garlic!

Sauteed Spinach and French Beans

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter (or additional olive oil for vegan)
  • 3 + 3 minced garlic cloves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 – 2 cups washed, topped and tailed and chopped French beans
  • 2 – 3 cups washed and roughly chopped spinach

In a large saucepan or frying pan, over medium low heat, combine the olive oil and butter, and gently heat until the butter melts. Add 3 minced garlic cloves, and cook, stirring gently, until the garlic releases its unique scent, and goes glossy and soft. Add a bit of salt and pepper to the garlic, and toss in your prepared French beans.

Stir the beans until completely coated with garlic and oil, and continue cooking until the beans change colour – they will go bright green. Taste and adjust salt and pepper.

Throw in the spinach. Its OK if a little water still clings to the leaves, but you dont want the spinach to be soaking wet. I usually squeeze it to dry it, then chop it and add it to the pan.

Stir until the spinach wilts and turns bright green, which should finish cooking the beans perfectly. Add the remaining 3 cloves of minced garlic, stir and taste for salt and pepper.

Place in a large serving bowl, and set aside. Can be served hot or at room temperature. Its even delicious, in large spoonfuls, straight from the fridge.

Mmmmmmm

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs or herbes de Provence
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cloves from 3 heads of garlic (about 30 – 35 cloves)
  • 8 – 10 large potatoes (I usually use a mix)
  • 1 stick of butter (or 4 – 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1/2 cup cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 200C (400F). Line a baking sheet or pan with parchment paper.

Place olive oil, balsamic vinegar, white wine vinegar, herbs, salt and pepper to taste and garlic cloves in a bowl. Toss to combine.

Place the garlic on the baking sheet in a single layer, and pour over any remaining liquid.

Roast the garlic in the oven until it is soft, burnt, glossy and slightly caramelised, about 20 minutes or so. Remove from the oven, and set aside.

Peel and chop the potatoes roughly. Place in a large saucepan or pot, and just cover with water. Over medium high heat, bring the water to a boil, and simmer until the potatoes are soft. Depending on your potatoes, and how small the chop is, this will take between 20 – 40 minutes.

Drain the potatoes, and place back in the pot. Slice butter over the potatoes, and pour over cream. Using a hand masher, ricer, or immersion blender (as I do), mash the potatoes. Taste for salt and pepper, and adjust.

Add all the garlic, and mash into the potatoes. Use a spoon or spatula to combine thoroughly, and taste and adjust for seasonings.

This can be prepared a few hours ahead, and reheated over a very low flame. It can keep warm, covered for an hour or two.

Sticky Green Goodness

Roasted Broccoli

  • 3 – 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 – 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 – 2 tbsp roasted sesame oil (or olive oil if you dont have it)
  • Pepper (and salt if you wish to taste, but the soy should make it salty enough)
  • 1 head of broccoli, broken down into small florets, with the larger stalk peeled and chopped into batons – about 3 – 4 cups total

Preheat oven to 200C (400F). Line a baking sheet or pan with parchment paper.

Combine the soy, balsamic, oil, and pepper in a large bowl. Toss in the prepared broccoli, and using your hands, toss well to combine. Taste the mixture and adjust seasonings if you wish.

Place the broccoli in an even layer on the baking sheet and reserve any additional liquid for later. Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes. Remove, and flip each piece of broccoli over, dipping the broccoli in the remaining liquid. Pour over any additional liquid and continue roasting in the oven for another 5 – 10 minutes or until the broccoli is sticky, browny-green and delicious.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

4 Dec

Deep Dark DelectableSome days, you just need chocolate. For happy, for sad, for good and for bad, chocolate has a remarkable complexity and depth to it which just eases you on your way. I have a real deep affinity for chocolate, and I always try and have some in the house at all times. There is something so essentially sexy about chocolate. Its the stuff of lovely naughty imaginings, and it is unabashedly decadent and delightful.

And I am a serious chocolate snob. Cheapo chocolate made with vegetable fats (like those overly sweet sugary candy bars) is not something I crave regularly. Admittedly, sometimes it just hits the spot, but its obvious junk food. Deep, dark bittersweet chocolate though, preferably Valhrona or Callebut … now there, my dears, is something to get excited about.

Bittersweet chocolate is real chocolate in my book (though you will never see me turning down milk or white Valhrona or Callebut) … it has such deep notes, so much going on in each bite. It resonates with the sunshine and the earth where it was grown, it has notes of coffee, caramel, plum, tobacco, dusk. A small mouthful of bittersweet chocolate brings me straight into the now. I cannot think of anything but that melting bass pounding taste. Its amazing.

And I am a chocolate snob in other ways as well. Chocolate and fruits, meh. Well, chocolate and bananas and chocolate and some berries are okay, but Im not a huge fan of astringent orange or lemon and chocolate. It just doesnt do it for me. Though I do love a good mint and chocolate combo. And chocolate and nuts is a combination which I have generally stayed away from… Again, some nuts, for me, are okay with chocolate (almonds, hazelnuts and peanut butter), but the dairy nut tins were never my first choice.

However, I have been gradually re-evaluating this stance. Gesine Bullock-Prado’s Starry Starry Night cookies introduced me to the wonders of baked almonds and chocolate, and I have recently been fiddling with a combination of hazelnuts and chocolate. The most famous hazelnut and chocolate combo is that sweet treat from all our childhoods – Nutella spread. But there is a lovely grace to the pairing, the round, rich, caramel notes of the nuts gentling the intensity of bittersweet chocolate.

After several tries, and several versions, I have decided this is the chocolate hazelnut cake that I love. Its not so much a cake as a fallen souffle, a thick gooey almost brownie like pudding, with a crackling crust. It must be served with a generous blowsy dollop of whipped cream, and can be made completely gluten free by removing all the flour and using only ground hazelnuts instead. Though if you can, keep the flour in – it gives it some structure, and helps to pull everything together in a beautiful whole.

Bake this cake in a springform tin, and do make it the day before you will serve it. It really benefits from sitting, well wrapped, in the fridge overnight. Something about that pause between baking and eating allows all its flavours to blossom. And, if you can source it, use hazelnut oil. I find that it really adds to this cake, both in texture and flavour. Its unctuous smokey caramel tone embraces the chocolate beautifully.

Serves 8 – 10 (even 12 if you serve really thin slices). Best baked the day before, though you could refrigerate for up to 3 days, easily.

  • 1/2 cup ground hazelnuts
  • 1/4 cup flour (you can substitute additional hazelnuts here if you need a gluten free version)
  • 3 heaping tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 oz bittersweet chocolate
  • 10 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp hazelnut oil
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 + 1/4 cup light brown sugar + additional for whipped cream
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tsp agar agar
  • Vanilla paste or essence (I used a remarkable vanilla, cacao nib and chili paste) – to taste

Preheat your oven to 325F (165 F). Line a spring form cake pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Combine the ground hazelnuts, flour, cocoa powder and salt in a large bowl, tossing well to make sure the mixture is smooth and integrated. Set aside.

Place the chocolate and butter in a small bowl that fits over the rim of a small to medium sized pot or saucepan. Boil a kettle of water, and pour into the pot. Place the bowl containing the chocolate and butter over the pot, and allow to sit, stirring occaisionally until the butter and chocolate have melted completely. Once the chocolate and butter are liquid, add the hazelnut oil and stir well. Set aside.

While the chocolate is melting, combine the egg yolks and 1/2 cup of sugar, and beat well with an electric stand mixer or hand held beaters. You want the egg yolk mixture to be fluffy, thick and golden in colour. When you lift the beaters from the yolk, a thick ribbon will fall back into the bowl. This should take you 3 – 5 minutes or so. Beat in the vanilla once you have the consistency you like.

Pur the melted chocolate/butter/hazelnut oil into the ground hazelnut mixture, and stir exceedingly well. Make sure any lumps or clumps are smoothed out.

Pour in the beaten egg yolks and sugar, and using a spatula, stir well to combine. Set aside.

Clean the beaters and bowl (or use new ones!), and beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until the whites hold soft peaks. Continue beating, adding the remaining 1/4 cup sugar gradually, until the whites hold stiff, glossy peaks. The egg whites should look like foamy marshmallow.

Fold about 1/4 of the egg whites into the batter, stirring quickly and strongly to lighten the batter. Add the rest of the egg whites in two batches, stirring firmly, yet gently. Stir in a folding motion, making sure to completely integrate the egg whites with the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared spring form pan, and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the top has risen and cracked, and a tester inserted into the cake comes out with crumbs attached.

Allow the cake to cool in the pan.

Prepare the whipped cream. Measure out the cream, and take 2 tbsp and pour into a small bowl or container. Sprinkle the agar agar into this set aside cream, and allow to melt into the cream. You could assist by whisking gently with a fork. You want the agar agar to be completely absorbed by the cream, and to melt away into the cream.

Whisk the remaining cream until it holds soft peaks. Add the reserved cream and agar agar, along with the sugar and vanilla paste. Whisk until the cream holds stiff peaks. Reserve, covered until you are ready to serve, up to three days.

When serving, remove the cold cake from the fridge, and ice the top with the whipped cream. Serve in gentle slices, and enjoy!

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:Β 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!