Classic Eggs Benedict
Eggs benedict is one of my favourite dishes to have whenever I'm at a restaurant
that specializes in brunch. I never thought of making it at home because the hollandaise
sauce sounds like a real pain to make, with a high risk of not getting it right. But then my chef
showed me how to make an easy hollandaise sauce and told me that very few restaurants will actually go
out of their way to make it with a vinegar reduction and clarified butter. This is an easy and wonderful dish to
make on the morning after a romantic evening. Also great if you're nursing a hangover.
Pistachio Crusted Rack of Lamb with Pomegranate Reduction
One New Years Eve, when I was in elementary school, my parents brought my sisters and I to a fancy restaurant
for a special dinner. I was more annoyed than excited, due to the fact that I had to dress up in a little suit
and wear uncomfortably stiff dress shoes. But I remember looking at the Maitre D', in his tuxedo, and wondered how
he could wear that all night long. After letting him know of our reservations, we were taken to a linen covered
table with real candles and fresh roses in the vase. It was a promising outlook on what would be a fantastic meal.
The first time I ate this dessert, I was visiting a local Lebanese bakery that specialized in baklava.
It tickled my curiosity because I haven't before seen an Arabic dessert that has cheese baked into it.
It turns out that the bakery had two kinds of kanafeh: One made with akkawi cheese and the other with
kashta cream. I ordered the cheese one and the cashier asked me if I wanted it heated. I said yes, of course,
and sat down at a table to unbox this delight. The first bite was nothing short of amazing! The slightly salty, melted
cheese was a great contrast to the very sweet, floral crust. I suddenly felt compelled to learn how to make this dessert
at home. After talking to Lebanese friends and plenty of trial and error, this is my simple recipe for making kanafeh.
Sun-dried Tomato and Olive Tapenade
I first made this tapenade for my sourdough bread class in Chef school. It was the end of the term
and the students were asked to bring in a dish as part of a Smörgåsbord to pair with the breads. A lot of
people opted for various cold cuts and cheeses, but I wanted to make something vegan to be inclusive to all
of the students in the class. I pretty much looked in my pantry to see what ingredients I had available and
thought of this tapenade. At first I didn't think I was creating much, but it tasted amazing after I made it and it has
been a staple at my dinner parties ever since.
Chinese Roast Pork (Siu Yuk)
A Chinese BBQ shop is a place of wonder and one of my favourite places to go to as part of my grocery shopping trips.
When I was a child, I would stare in awe at all of the different meats, hanging and glistening in the display case. Does the mahogany
coloured duck look plump and juicy today? But the pièce de résistance is the golden pig, with its crispy, salty skin and juicy, tender meat.
During my time living in a small town, without any Chinese BBQ shops, I would be experimenting in the kitchen to
get my roast pork fix. Luckily there were plenty of farms nearby and pork belly was very economical.
How to Get the Perfect Pork Crackling
A crispy and puffed skin is the main attraction in roast pork dishes such as Chinese Roast Pork, German
Schweinshaxe or Italian Porchetta. Many recipes will say to score the skin in a lattice pattern, but I find that this just creates
flat "scales" that are crispy but lack volume. Pricking the skin several times with the tip of the knife will give you a better result,
but I find it to be more labour intensive and very prone to accidentally pricking too far and hitting the meat.
So what's the secret then?
Thai Grilled Lemongrass Chicken
A very popular crowd pleaser, this is another dish that I created during my Thai food phase. The flavours are
very similar to Tom Yum Soup which are sweet, savoury, spicy and
packed with lemongrass. This is a great dish to have at summer house parties where I'm firing up the charcoal bbq.
Matcha Melon Pan
Melon Pan, also known as Pineapple Bun, is not named for their fruity flavours or filling.
But rather their surface texture and shape that resemble a melon or a pineapple. The base bread
is soft, pillowy and slightly sweet. It can be filled with savoury fillings, such as Chinese BBQ pork,
or with sweet fillings, such as custard. Adding the cookie topping gives the bun a contrasting, sweet crunch.
Indian Lamb Curry
Indian cuisine is one of my guilty pleasures for comfort foods. Very few things will beat a nice bowl of
freshly made lamb curry with a side of Jeera Pulao.
A lot of recipes look very intimidating with a plethora of ingredients, but I promise you that once you've
laid out your mise en place, the preparation and cooking will be very easy.
Tom Yum Soup
Tom Yum soup is a perfect harmony of sweet, sour, bitter, salty and spicy. It is packed with
umami, which makes it very savoury and hard to resist. I went through a Thai food phase
when a Thai friend introduced me to authentic Thai food. She would introduce me to ingredients
I have never seen before, from pickled green peppercorns to a spice that is extacted from an insect.
I was mesmerized when I finally tasted Tom Yum Goong at a restaurant, and knew that this was going
to be the first Thai dish that I wanted to learn.
The sushi burrito is something of an enigma to me. Because it looked like a
futo maki roll that wasn't sliced into individual pieces. When I was in university, I made
an uncut sushi roll as part of my brown bag lunch. It became a mess to eat when the filling
kept squeezing out of the bottom everytime I took a bite. Since then I never thought of trying
to make it again. But now that the sushi burrito has become popular, I decided to try my hand at it again
but this time wrapping the burrito so that it won't leak everywhere.
I was captivated by sushi when I was a child and tried a California Roll, for the first time, from a mall vendor.
After that, I went through a sushi making phase. The recipes that I followed were the
ones found on the back of the seaweed sheet packages. Since my parents frowned upon raw fish, my maki rolls
would contain a combination of avocado, cucumber and canned bbq eel. I also leaned towards making the rice
sweeter than usual. These days, I follow this recipe and depending on my mood, I might add a touch more salt
Sweet Potato Pizza
Sweet potato pizza was first introduced to me by a colleague of mine while we were brainstorming
workshop ideas. From her description, it did not seem very appealing since I am not a person to
reach for sweet potatoes unless they're fries. She also mentioned that the leavening agent is baking
soda, which gave me the impression of a cake-like texture. I can't think of any reason not to use yeast,
other than it just takes a bit more patience. After a bit of experimenting, I was able to create
a crust with a light, airy texture and a mild sweetness from the sweet potatoes.
Whenever I talk to my friends about eating gnocchi, they think of the local Italian restaurants that
make their own gnocchi. Cause the fresh ones we can buy at the supermarket are chewy, gummy masses that
are not particularly appealing. And who has the time to make their own these days? But what if I told you,
there's an easier way of making fresh gnocchi at home? Making ricotta gnocchi is a fairly simple ordeal compared to the potato version. Simply
mix together some ricotta with eggs, flour and aromatics. Shape them and drop them in boiling water
to cook. And then toss it with a sauce, such as sage brown butter. If you want to make a large batch
and freeze it ahead of time, place the gnocchi on a floured tray, spaced apart, and place it in the freezer until they
are frozen solid. Transfer them to a container or freezer bag to store in the freezer.
Chinese Pork & Chive Dumplings
Chinese dumplings, specifically jiaozi, hold a special place in my heart. They would invoke memories
of an early childhood, where my grandmother would make the dough from scratch and meticulously pleat
each dumpling. Most of the time she would boil the dumplings, but every now and then she would also pan fry them
to make guotie. As I grew older, I would experiment with different dipping sauces such as toasted sesame oil,
chili oil or black rice vinegar. But my goto is just a basic, light soy sauce dip. The predominant flavour in these dumplings
will come from the Chinese chives, which I absolutely love. We had these chives growing in our backyard and I transferred some bulbs over to my own
garden after moving into my first house. And when it was time to harvest these chives, it meant time to host a dumpling party.
Bacon Wrapped Cheese & Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breast
The stuffed chicken breast is probably one of my earliest attempts at haute cuisine, without
knowing what haute cuisine meant. I was a teenager visiting my sisters during their university days
at their off-campus apartment. They requested that I prepare dinner, while they were attending classes,
and the ingredients they gave me were chicken breasts and spinach. Normally this would become a simple stir
fry of some sort, but I had an image in my mind of something different. So I looked in the fridge and found
the stash of cheeses (Wensleydale, Cheddar and Sage Derby) and grabbed the box of crackers in the cupboard.
I whipped up a stuffing of crushed crackers, diced cheese and chopped spinach and stuffed the chicken breast
as best as I could. Gave the outside of the chicken a good dusting with the remaining crackers to give it a crust and
then baked it in the oven. It was quite the crowd pleaser, until they realized that they didn't have any
cheese and crackers to snack on anymore.
How to Slice Chicken Breast for Stuffing
This is a great way of slicing a pocket into the chicken breast in such a way that your filling will not
leak out. The key is to use the attached tenderloin as a flap to cover the incision. We'll be using boneless, skinless
chicken breasts here.