A little xmas treat Caramelized Spiced Apples♡ Merry Christmas to all!
Last weekend, I had a craving for french toast again. However, I did not wish to elicit a negative reaction form my kids, rolling their eyes and complaining about having french toast again (though its an in-house favourite). Therefore, I cracked my brains and turned it up a notch with last weekend’s french toast.
To be honest, I have not tasted a good french toast dish in the local cafes, the most memorable one was during our holiday on Moyo Island, Indonesia, The french toast was superb! It was thick yet not dense at all as the homemade bread still retained its fluffy buttery texture. The best part was they used locally harvested raw honey and honeycomb to dress the french toast! It couldn’t get any better than this especially when we were stranded on an almost deserted island with only one resort.
I had come across some really interesting ways of dressing up the french toasts especially in Japan, like this one which I attempted. I called it the Pandora’s French Toast….haha….. Its a dessert with a surprise. What I did was to mix and match some interesting sweet ingredients and stuffed them by layers into the french toast. I used an unsliced bread loaf for this, cut out 2 slices of bread, 1 thicker slice and a thinner slice as a base. I soaked them in egg mixture and panfried them like any normal french toast recipe. You can find the recipe in my previous post Stuffed French Toast . There after, I cut out a hollow section in the centre of the thicker slice, placed it on the thinner slice and filled it up with the ingredients. So from the exterior, one could only see the bread and the condiments on top. However, when you cut into the bread, the layers of fillings reveal themselves which include citrusy ricotta mascarpone cheese, mochi, mashed sweet Azuki red beans and finished off with freshly sliced plums and more mochi! It was so much fun to see the reactions on my family’s faces who had not tried french toast prepared this way before. My husband was super happy when he saw Azuki red bean and mochi, his favourites. My elder son was scrutinising the stuffings like conducting a lab test. I totally enjoyed mine. My youngest requested for vanilla ice-cream in his toast.
The addition of the mochi was the best. It was like eating a dorayaki pancake with mochi inside. I dressed the plate up with little droplets of minty cherry sauce, some dried preserved fruits (mikan and ume) and sliced banana.
I think this french toast was my best so far not because of the mix & match ingredients but the surprise element. You can literally hide anything inside, maybe even an engagement ring for those men wanting to propose to their wives-to-be!
Yesterday I baked some tarts with leftover chestnuts and canned figs for desserts. I tried googling for recipes combining these 2 fruits and I could only find one. Therefore, I decided to combine various tart recipes together and came up with this. I did not want to waste too much time making these tarts and it took me only about an hour from preparation to baking. I used the fig and chestnut tarts with jam filling recipe from http://www.thelovebite.com but changed the filling to mascarpone and ricotta cheeses. The outcome is a nice biscuity tart crust with a soft, light, fruity centre and a nutty chestnut flavour inside ლ(´ڡ`ლ)
Makes about 12 muffin size tarts (Use a muffin tray)
Ingredients for the tart crust
1 1/2 cups self raising flour
2oz / 60g shortening
grated zest 1/2 lemon
1/3 cup superfine sugar
2 tablespoons buttermilk
a pinch of salt
Ingredients for the filling
6-8 roasted chestnuts (breaks into small chunks)
4-5 Fresh figs or canned figs
150 grams ricotta cheese (room temperature)
200 grams mascarpone cheese (room temperature)
80gm castor sugar
1-2 tablespoons of desiccated coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
(You may have some leftover liquid filling. Keep it for a day or 2 for another tart!)
Pre-heat your oven to 375f or 190c
Place the tart crust dry ingredients except for buttermilk and egg into a food processor and pulse to fine crumbs. Then add in the buttermilk and egg and pulse, a dough will be formed. Add 1 teaspoon of water if its too dry for the dough to form. Roll the dough into a log 12 inches in a cling wrap and slice into 12 pieces. Hand roll each piece into a ball and press into a nicely greased muffin tray, gently press the pastry to spread evenly out to the sides of the muffin cups. Once done, put the tray into the refrigerator while you work on the filling.
Break the chestnuts into small chunks (not too small, you want to be able to have some crunchiness in the filling.) and slice the figs. Combine mascarpone, ricotta, sugar, honey, vanilla, cinnamon powder, eggs, egg yolk and flour in a food processor and blend until smooth. Take out the muffin tray from the refigerator. Distribute the chestnut chunks evenly among the muffin cups before spooning the cheeses mix into the tart shell. Arrange sliced figs on top to finish off. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until filling is set but still slightly wobbly in the centre and golden. The crust should have a nice crunchy yet soft base. If you like chestnut flavour, add more in the muffin cup.
We drizzled some spiced blueberry cherry port sauce on the tarts which I made a week ago and it was very good together.
Try it yourself!
I was very fortunate to have celebrated my birthday this year at the 3 Michelin stars restaurant, Sushi Yoshitake in Tokyo. This is my first time in four years that I was away from my family and enjoying my birthday trip with my BFF. Therefore, its a short break of total self-indulgence! I have done my research thoroughly as to which restaurant to dine in on my big day and I must say Sushi Yoshitake surpassed my expectations. My girlfriend and I are still raving about the mind blowing experience. Sushi Yoshitake was highly recommended by my friend who has experienced many Michelin star and non Michelin star restaurants in Tokyo. I am not a big believer of Michelin-star restaurants as I had some not so impressive meals in some of them. However, Sushi Yoshitake ranked pretty high in Japanese local restaurants rating website, Tabelog (http://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1301/A130103/13024076/). The other sushi restaurant which I was able to patronise was Hashiguchi, worthy of Michelin star but the owner chef refused.
The main reason I settled on Sushi Yoshitake is because of one dish only, the awabi(abalone) liver paste. More about it later.
The omakase restaurant has only 7 counter seats and a table for 4. Its located in the bustling Ginza nightlife area packed with bars and restaurants in narrow buildings. Our reservation was at 8.20pm, so we thought we could arrive earlier to have a pre-dinner drink while waiting. We were shocked when we were greeted by an old industrial-like metal door locked, next to a narrow dark staircase with many empty grocery carton boxes stacked up on top on one another. It was not an inviting sight. We were obviously confused and wondered if we got the right address (its located on the 3rd floor of すずりゅうビル Suzuryu building). After a phonecall to the restaurant, we realised that the restaurant is only open at 8.20pm. So, we had to unglamorously sit by a small alley walkway on the ground flour in our dinner dresses and 3-inch heels, inhaling foul smells from the street drains. Ha ha… it was quite an hilarious experience, we kept laughing about it.
Well, the distasteful metal door finally opened to a quaint and cosy lobby before we entered into the main dinning area. Its common in Japan, especially in small restaurants, to be welcomed by the maître d’ who is coincidently the wife of the owner chef. We were presented with an English written welcome note explaining how we should enjoy our meal in proper Japanese way. This does not mean they are any less Japanese, it shows that they are doing their best to spread traditional Japanese culture to the world, especially when the Japan is hosting the 2020 Olympics. Moreover, the chef and the assistants cannot speak much English.
Chef Yoshitake is quite an easy-going tall gentleman, speaks a little English and entertains his guests pretty well. Obviously, I tried to use sign language with my elementary Japanese to ask him questions. I hope I did not get on his nerves as I was super curious.
I had specially brought along my camera with macro lens just to take photos of the dishes, unfortunately, only phone camera was allowed. So I apologise if the quality of the food pictures have been compromised.
This is the “piece de resistance” item in the restaurant. This is the reason why I was here. The rich beautifully seasoned awabi (abalone) liver paste 肝のソース makes french fois gras pales in comparison. My friend and I both mourned at the same time when we first savoured it and both agreed we have been elevated to “Heaven”! Seriously, after tasting this, our favourite uni (sea urchin) moved down in rankings on our must-eat list. So so yummy! The abalone liver paste was to be enjoyed in 2 ways. First, as a dip for steamed awabi 蒸し鮑 (abalone) meat and second, mix well with rice. Chef Yoshitake had to stop me from slurping up most of the paste before there is no paste left for the rice. I was eating it like a pudding. >x<
I love Chef Yoshitake’s creative ways of mixing the ingredients. This dish was very good too, packed with different textures and flavours.
After tasted simmered or cooked dishes, we were served 11 types of sushi with Chef Yoshitake’s amazing “shari” sushi rice.
Chef Yoshitake prepared an extra tall uni sushi for my birthday, I felt so privileged and I could not contain my excitement! He said this was his first time making such a tall uni sushi with 2 types uni 海栗 (Hokkaido and Miyagi Prefecture). The rest of the patrons were eyeing at it with jealousy that one of them ordered 2 uni towers for himself!
While the assistant chef was cutting and peeling the Kuruma ebi, I was eyeing intently at the prawn heads. I casually asked the chef what happened to all the ingredients not served on the table like the prawn heads and shells, abalone skirts, etc. He said they would all go to his italian restaurant’s kitchen, Osteria da K.[Káppa] www.dakappa.co.jp. Thats what so wonderful about Japanese cuisine, nothing goes to waste! So I requested for the prawn heads to be served to me instead and he surprised me with them being deep-fried! So tasty!
Other dishes that were served in this meal (sorry, forgot to take photos for some) were otoro 大トロ (fatty tuna sushi), Anago 穴子 sushi (Sea eel), Temaki Tuna hand roll, sweet tamago egg custard 玉子焼き and Miso Shiru (Light miso soup infused with myōga 茗荷)
I am so thankful for this meal. I hope to come back again even sooner to savour the omakase again may be in the next season.
3F, Suzuryu Building,
8-7-19 Ginza Chuo-ku Tokyo,
To make reservations, get your hotel concierge to reserve for you. They only accept reservations one month ahead.
I am quite hooked on french toasts these days, kept making them for weekend brunch, and everyone in my family has sweet tooth, so its popular. My teenage son usually sleeps in however, if its french toast day, he will be up “ΟεΟ∴” instantaneously. This time, I stuffed the pain de mie with mixed mascarpone, cream cheese and blackberries before I soak them in egg mixture and panfry them. I would normally drizzle homemade buttery cherry sauce, a little squeeze of lime and top with lots of fruits and BACON!!!! The symphony of different tastes and texture is just fabulous.
Ingredients for the stuffing (for 4 thick slices of bread): 1/3 cup cream cheese (room temperature), 1/2 cup mascarpone (cold), rind of 1 lemon, 3 tablespoons icing sugar, a dust of cinnamon powder and 8-10 black berries.
Mix everything well except the black berries which are lightly tossed in the end before filling 2 slices of bread with the stuffing.
Just use any french toast egg mixture recipe you are comfortable with. Mine is adapted from recipe by Robert Irvine on Food Network website, http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/robert-irvine/french-toast-recipe.html , simple and delicious.
I prepared a little thai feast for my family last Sunday following our little escape to Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand. I chose Chiang Mai because I am a big fan of Northern Thai food. There are Burmese, Northeastern Isaan thai and Chinese influences in their cuisine. Tasted many amazing dishes such as stewed chicken feet and blood noodle soup, beef soup noodles, burmese pork curry, sweet leaves soup with ant’s eggs, laab pig liver spicy salad (my favourite), tamarind leaves spicy salad, fermented blue crab som tum papaya salad, etc.
Chiang Mai is not only rich with food and history, it has a thriving coffee culture too with many talented baristas showing off their brewing skills in many interesting cafes littered around the town. You don’t need Starbucks or Costa Coffee there. Its a pretty competitive cafe market there.
Back to my Sunday Thai post, the dishes I prepared here are served on some of the beautiful handmade tableware I purchased in Chiangmai. That was my other motive going there, not to visit touristy sites but to hunt down some nice ceramics. You can find big established factories making handmade ceramics, silver, wood items, etc, and small artisans selling their items in lifestyle shops and cafes. I was quite lucky to locate some artisans by searching through instagram. I hope show more of my collection on my future posts soon. Keep a lookout! 😉
Here are the dishes:
Moo Yang (Grilled Hungarian Pork Shoulder) with Jaew Prik Pon (Spicy) Dip (recipe below)
Goya, salted duck egg salad with Somtum spicy dressing. (recipe below)
Prawn salad with fish sauce, lime, urap urap dressing. (recipe below)
Grilled Pandan Chicken
Crayfish & squid with lemon basil dressing
Moo Yang (Grilled Hungarian Pork Shoulder)
This dish is popular in Thailand. Other similar grilled meats are neua yang (grilled beef), gai yang (grilled chicken). My kids love them and its pretty easy to make.
500-600 pork shoulders or neck or collar (so long the meat has some fats contents)
Paste Ingredients: 2 coriander root stems (chopped), 5-6 cloves garlic, 10 white peppercorn, 1/4 cup Maggi seasoning sauce (I use Golden Mountain brand from Thailand), 1/2 teaspoon of palm sugar. If you don’t have Maggi seasoning, you can use fish sauce or soya sauce.
Pound the dry marinate ingredients first, then add the wet ingredients. Massage the paste well in the meat and let it marinate overnight. The next day, just grill it over a medium fire til done.
Jaew Prik Pon Spicy Dip
This is a common Isaan dip for many thai dishes.
Ingredients: 3-4 dry red chillies, 2 coriander roots, 2-3 slices of galangal, 2 tablespoon fish sauce,1 teaspoon palm sugar, some mint leaves, 2-3 tablespoons lime juice, some chopped shallots, 1 teaspoon roasted raw thai glutinous rice.
Put the chillies and raw glutinous rice in the oven or toaster and roast them til the colour of the chillies turn deep burnt red and the rice turn crispy but not browned. Just pound all the hard ingredients first with a pestle & mortar except the rice and then the wet ingredients. The rice should be finely pounded separately and then toss in the sauce in the end.
Goya, Salted Duck Egg Salad with Somtum Spicy Dressing
This is my own concoction of goya (bitter gourd) thai salad. Bitter gourd stir-fried with salted egg is a popular Chinese dish. I did a spicy salad version with bitter, sweet, spicy, sour and salty taste notes.
Salad ingredients : 1/2 of a goya or bitter gourd, cherry tomatoes, 1 cooked salted egg (roughly chopped, you can purchased from Chinese grocery stores), cashew nuts (roughly chopped), 4-5 dried shrimps (lightly toasted)
Somtum Spicy Sauce ingredients :
4 garlic cloves, 3-4 small chillies, 3 tablespoons lime juice, 1-2 tablespoons fish sauce, 2-3 tablespoons palm sugar, 1 cooked salted egg yolk, coriander leaves
Remove the white centre flesh of the goya and cut into slices. Remove the bitterness by lightly rubbing the goya slices 1-2 tablespoons of sea salt and let it stand for 20 minutes. Rinse away the salt as much as possible and then boil the goya slices in water for about 3-5 minutes. Make sure they are still crunchy since we are making a salad with it.
Cook the cherry tomatoes in some oil and salt for about 4-5 minutes to release the sugars. Set aside.
Start pounding the garlic and chillies, then palm sugar and salted egg yolk. Add in the cherry tomatoes in the mortar and crush them lightly to release the juice into the mixture. Add in the rest of the wet ingredients.
Toss the salad ingredients well with the spicy sauce and sprinkle the chopped cashew nuts. Add more palm sugar if you find it a little salty since its salted egg based.
Prawn & bean salad with fish sauce, lime, urap urap dressing
The urap urap dressing is Indonesia Javanese based dressing for steamed vegetables but I adapted with more fish sauce and lime juice to give this dish a thai flavour. It turned out to be very good. The urap urap recipe can be found in the post Hubby Bento #22
Salad ingredients: cooked prawns, cucumber, cooked long beans, some mint leaves, some chopped cashew nuts, fried lemongrass slices
Sauce ingredients: 1 1/2 tablespoon fish sauce, 1 1/2 -2 tablespoon lime juice, 2 heapful tablespoons of urap urap, 2-3 lime leaves roughly torn. (You can increase the spiciness here by adding some small chillies.)
Lightly pound and mix the sauce ingredients and toss it with the salad ingredients. The crunchy sweet dried coconut bits coat the prawn and its a great combination.
Crayfish & Squid with Lemon Basil Dressing
Make the dressing by using some fruity olive oil, 1 spoonful of fish sauce, some lemon juice and basil leaves (pounded into the oil to release the flavours). Just drizzle them over the salad. I did not show the dressing on the picture above. (I forgot, oops…)
As for the pandan chicken, I am not very satisfied with the recipe, so I won’t post it. I will post it once I modify it to meet my expectations.
Hope you enjoy my little post! ^x^
In Japan, these animals donuts are very popular, my kid fell in love with them instantly. Who wouldn’t? However I can’t find any donut shops selling these in my country. He has been asking for them so I decided to try making them myself. I used Japanese Confectionary brand Morinaga pancake mix. The mix can be tweeted to make donuts by adding egg, butter and sugar, the packaging’s recipe recommended frying them. I baked them instead in the oven(about 11-12 minutes at 180ºC), and it worked well too. The texture is fluffy like a cake yet with mild chewiness of a pancake.
I used Candy Melts colours, dark chocolate chips and vegetable shortening for the coating of the donuts. By heating the candy melts in the microwave for about 1 minute, its easier to mix with the shortening. The shortening helps to dilute the candy melts and chocolate to a nice near fluid consistency which will give a smooth coating to the donuts (the consistency of the coating is similar to chocolate glaze on cakes). After 2 coatings each, I put them into the fridge to chill for a few minutes before I start decorating them with white and dark chocolate chips, marshmallows and cookies.
We couldn’t stop ourselves from grabbing them after I took this photo, especially my young customer who had been waiting patiently for 2 hours.
I have been trying to find time to write reviews on some of the restaurants I have visited when I travel but kept pushing it back to the last of the to-do list on the blog.(ashamed…) I am going to try to clear some of the backlog a step at a time. I hope the readers will enjoy or benefit from these short reviews. I will try to improve on them overtime as I am new to restaurant reviews. I only know how to eat and enjoy for now….=∩∨∩=
During April 2015, a few months back, my family travelled to Kanazawa Japan to enjoy the Spring Cherry Blossom season. We drove down to Kaga, a city located in southwestern Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan. Therefore, there is bountiful seafood from the Sea of Japan. Kaga is also a well-know onsen region too. I managed to soak in the local onsen culture at the main sentō in Yamanaka Onsen (a beautiful riverside onsen village) and then drove to Yamahshiro Onsen (about 20 minutes away) to enjoy great sushi at this quaint little restaurant, Kame-Sushi.
Its a corner eatery perched on the downward gentle slope of a side street. The only way we could spot the restaurant at night is the bright glowing light box in front of the restaurant. There is parking diagonally opposite. Its a kappa-style sushi place but there are 3 or 4 tatami style table sitting for bigger groups. The owner chef (taisho) is quite a young tall gentleman, always smiling. Its a good thing he speaks a little English. We sat at the counter and ordered omakase sets since we have no idea what’s in season and good. As expected, the seafood we tasted here is really fresh and sweet, better than one we visited in Kanazwa (recommended by our hotel, quite expensive too). At Kame-sushi, we paid much less, enjoying the omakase with extra orders and a big bottle of local sake. The biggest highlight of the meal is the deep sea prawns, Gasu ebi (humpback prawns). They are the sweetest and juiciest prawns I have tasted so far. They are quite big too. They were the special of the day besides the Nodoguro. I wanted extra serve but 1 hour later, all the prawns were gone x∩x . Below are some of the delicious sushi served to us by the chef. Forgive me if I did not list all the names of the sushi we ate, can’t recall some of them, was high on seafood and sake!
Check out more photos on the popular Japanese restaurants review site: http://tabelog.com/en/ishikawa/A1702/A170201/17000513/
Ever since my first wagashi (Namagashi, to be specific) class in Kanazawa in April, I have been spellbound by the beautiful creations made by wagashi masters, the meaning behind different wagashi for each season and their purpose in festivals and tea ceremonies. Many designs created are usually inspired by Haiku poems.
I finally took up the courage to make wagashi again after my second class in Singapore with ABC cooking studio. However, both classes, the wagashi pastes were pre-prepared. I had to do some research on my own to create the paste from scratch without the original white bean (or navy bean) which is found only in Japan. I used lima beans as a substitute. Its a long process but through this, I learnt to appreciate the art of making wagashi even more. So here are some of my humble creations for summer.
Making a great crispy pork dish has been a daunting task for me for quite some time. Each attempt had always been a gamble as I tried many techniques to get the skin crackling successfully. I think I have found the right formula of achieving the perfect crackling effect. This is my second trial using a combination of 2 different techniques, and it turned out great both times. So I am confident now to share the recipe with you. It takes 2 days for this recipe.
1.5-2 kilo piece of pork belly, with skin on
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sea salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 big cubes of fermented bean curd
1 tablespoon five spice powder or any other spices you prefer (cumin or coriander, etc)
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
The first technique I adopted is from this website http://chubbyhubby.net/recipes/crispy-roast-pork-belly/ . First clean the pork and then poke many holes in the skin using a BBQ skewer.
Then lay the slab of pork on a rack over a big pan and blanch it with about a litre of hot water. The slab is then immediately transferred into a tub of icy cold water to cool. This will shock the skin. After it cools down, pat it dry. At this point, the pork needs to be properly dried, I used the drying technique from this website http://www.gastronomydomine.com/?p=93 where a hairdryer is needed. Yup, a hairdryer ≥ω∂. Blow dry the pork skin together with a table fan (optional) until the skin is thoroughly skin deep dry. Lay a piece of paper napkin over the skin and press down with your hands, if no water soaks the paper, then its ready to be covered and put in the fridge for the second drying process. Leave it in the fridge for at least 6 hours.
Once the pork is completely dried out, take it out of the fridge. Have your marinade ready by mixing and mashing them.
Lay the pork belly skin side up and score the cold skin with a craft knife in lines about half a centimetre apart.
Then turn the pork belly skin side down, use a knife to make lots of small incisions into the flesh, or score it.
Spread the marinade into the flesh and give it a good rub and massage. Treat it with utmost care and don’t let the marinade get on the skin though.
Flip the pork belly back skin side up on the rack and pop it back into the fridge. Let it marinate overnight.
Ah… the final test. I followed the cooking process from Chubby Hubby’s website with a little tweeting.
When ready to cook, preheat your oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Place the pork on a rack set over a roasting pan that is filled up between a third to half with water.
Brush some rice vinegar and sea salt over the skin before poping the pork in the oven for 20 minutes.
Lower the heat to 180 degrees Celsius and roast for another 40 minutes. Make sure the water does not dry out at all, add more water if necessary. After 40 minutes, take the pork out, turn the heat up to 240 – 250 degrees C. Brush more rice wine vinegar and sea salt over the top of your pork.(Be careful not to over salt the skin as it may become too salty, a sprinkle will do each time) Then pop it back in the oven for 15-20 minutes or so, until the top skin layer has bubbled up and looks all puffy, crispy and actually even a little charred. Please be vigilant at this point that the skin does not get burned, a little charred is fine. When ready, take it out and let it cool on a rack. If charred, use a knife to “brush” off the charred bits. Mine turned out great with the skin really crispy like craters forming on top and the meat was very moist, lightly pink and juicy. I do not want to overcook it as I am using them for the next few days for bento lunches where I need to warm them up again in the oven.
Try my technique and let me know if its equally successful for you. You can change the marinade according to your liking but the drying process is extremely crucial step. Don’t take short cuts or you will be crying over the bad outcome ΠÔΠ