vendredi, juillet 28, 2006

Little Pleasures : Fusion Samoussas (Curried Potatoes & Egg), Moroccan Briouates (Spiced Minced Meat) and Mini Tartelets (Tomatoes, Cheese, Bacon...)

By popular demand, I have decided to blog my recipes for 3 titbits that I've made recently for 3 different parties (2 for mothers and 1 for my son's class) : 1) Moroccan Briouates with Minced Meat, Spices and Herbs, 2) Mini Tartelets with Cherry Tomatoes, Cheese, Bacon and Onions and 3) Fusion Samoussas with Curried Potatoes and Eggs.

Moroccan Briouates

Filo pastry sheets (easily found in Greek groceries)
Melted Butter and Kitchen Brush
400g Minced Meat (Beef or Lamb)
1 Onion chopped
Fresh Coriander Leaves
Fresh Mint Leaves
Fresh Parsley Leaves
Raisins or Sultanas
1 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 Tsp Ground Coriander
1 Tsp Ground Cumin
1/2 Tsp Ground Ginger
1/2 Tsp Ground Paprika
2 Eggs beaten
Lime Juice
Icing Sugar and Ground Cinnamon mixed together (for icing the pastries)

First prepare the meat filling. In a hot pan, brown some chopped onions and the chopped herbs (coriander, mint and parsley), then add in the minced meat. Stir frequently to brown the meat evenly. Stir in the spices, raisins and cook for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the beaten eggs, stirring all the time. Squeeze some lime juice over it and set aside.

I usually make my pastries in cigar shapes as they are easier to handle. Triangles are easier with crescent-shaped pastry sheets but to save time I usually just use square ones.

Prepare the filo pastry sheets by cutting them up into e.g. 12 x 12 cm squares. With a brush, butter the surface of one sheet and then place another sheet over it. Place a little bit of the meat filling at the bottom part of the sheet, fold in the left and right sides of the sheet (over the meat) and just roll the whole thing from the bottom all the way to the top.

You could fry the pastries in hot oil to have a crispier shell, but I usually just put them in a hot oven (200ºC) for about 20 minutes. Sprinkle the icing sugar and ground cinnamon mix over them before serving.

Mini Tartelets

Puff Pastry
Grated Cheese (e.g. Emmental, Gruyere, Comte, Cheddar...)
Cherry Tomatoes cut into halves
Red Onions finely sliced
Bacon 3cm slices
Fresh Basilic Leaves
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil
Mini Tartelet baking tray and round biscuit cutter

Heat up the oven to 190ºC. Roll out some puff pastry and cut them with a round biscuit cutter (e.g. 8cm in diam.). Place each pastry sheet on a buttered mold. Fill it first with the cheese, then the bacon, place 2-3 cherry tomato halves on it, some of the sliced onions, a small Basilic leaf, a pinch of salt and pepper and finally pour some olive oil over it all. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. Serve hot.


Filo pastry sheets
Onions diced
Potatoes cubed and cooked in boiling water
Eggs hard boiled
Fresh Coriander Leaves
Fresh Mint Leaves
Curry powder (e.g. with ground turmeric, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, garam masala, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds, black onion seeds...)
Curry Leaves
Green Peas
Coconut cream

I would start by browning some diced onions in some oil in a frying pan. Followed by the curry spices (the 1st 4 are the most important, the rest is optional) and the herbes (chopped finely). Then add in the cooked potato cubes, give everything a good stir for a few minutes, add in some coconut cream (we're not making a curry, it's just to make sure that the potatoes are not too dry), the peas and the curry leaves.

When the potatoes are well-curried and just nicely moist, remove from the fire and fish out the curry leaves. Remove from the pan and put the potato filling in a mixing bowl. Add in the hard boiled eggs (roughly sliced) and mash up everything roughly. Roughly because we're not making a puree here, just a chunky mash with the pieces of potatoes, peas and eggs still visible.

I call this Fusion Samoussas because I have chosen to use filo pastry and will bake them in the oven instead of the traditional thicker pastry that goes into the oil for frying. The latter is tastier, but the former finer (and less oily). The filo sheets are prepared as for the Briouates above, filled the same way (just make sure that there are potatoes, eggs and peas in each portion) and goes into the oven for a similar amount of time. And as the result will be drier than the traditional fried samoussas, I have also decided to go the Moroccan way and sprinkle an icing sugar-ground cinammon mix over them before serving. A chilli sweet and sour dip could also be made to go with the Fusion Samoussas. The result was surprisingly tasty.

I have quite a bit of backlog where blogging my recipes is concerned and will have to try to catch up after my return from Florence. In the meantime, happy Summer holidays!

vendredi, juillet 21, 2006

@Sunrice Culinary Academy in Singapore : Thai Cooking

Eating is what we do lots of in Singapore, but before there is anything to eat, someone has to do the cooking. Cuisine is therefore big on the island and they are finally going to capitalise on it, coming up with a few culinary institutes, teaching not only local fare, but also cuisines from our neighbours, the usual French, Italian etc. At @Sunrice Culinary Academy, we met a French Chef who has worked with a few big names in France now here in Singapore to help the cooking school acquire Fusion Cooking instruction expertise. This is all so exciting.

So one morning when we were last in Singapore, Hubby and I decided to sign up for a Thai Cooking class at @Sunrice Culinary Academy situated in a restored old colonial building at Fort Canning Hill, surrounded by forests, a beautiful spice garden, a royal Malay tomb, an archeological excavation site...all in the heart of town, believe it or not.

We were 8 in the class that morning. When we arrived for Part 2 (it was held in 3 parts), the 2 women (Australian and Russian) before us had already visited the Spice Garden, had lemongrass tea and a few savory snacks and were learning how to pound spices to make a paste. A pungent, delicious and eye-watering aroma filled the air as we joined the class.

We watched a cooking demonstration of 2 dishes (Roasted Duck Red Curry and Pandan Chicken) in Part 2 of the class and then prepared 3 dishes (Green Papaya Salad, Hot Basil Stir Fry Noodle, Crispy Ruby) on our own. In Part 3, we ate everything for lunch :-).

Roasted Duck Red Curry

Pandan Chicken (our instructor who's from China)

een Papaya Salad

Hot Basil Stir Fry Noodle

Crispy Ruby

The dishes were really quite simple to prepare. But we were interested in learning better cooking techniques and in gaining a better understanding of the ingredients used in Thai cooking - which explained why we attended the class. We will certainly attend another cooking class the next time we return to Singapore. The class was well-organised, the facilities good and the surroundings were just lovely. We were pleasantly surprised by what Fort Canning Park had to offer.

jeudi, juillet 20, 2006

Singapore : Makan Makan

I mentioned in an earlier posting that I would be publishing a few pictures of food that I've eaten on my last trip to Singapore. I have not been able to download my photos onto Blogger from my computer for more than a month now and have just discovered that I could do so from a friend's computer (all the way in Singapore), so that's the way my photos are getting onto my Blog for now. And thanks to YL for the help!

Singapore is Makan City (Makan = Eat in the Malay language). Forget the Lion, we do not even know for sure if it ever existed on the island before they bought a few of them for our world-class zoo :-).

In 3 weeks, I had of course eaten more dishes than I could ever post. Not forgetting the fact that 90% of the time, I was so excited seeing the food that I usually forgot to take a picture of it and would have gobbled it up before I remembered. As such, you wouldn't get to see the delicious White Pepper Crabs at No Signboard Seafood Restaurant in Geylang, the Peking Duck and Sharks Fin Soup in some kind of Chinese wine at LaoBeijing Chinese Restaurant at Plaza Singapura, the Fried Sotong Mee people queue up hours for at the new foodcourt in Wisma Atria (I was the 1st customer on the day I was there so heh heh), the Beef Rendang at Rendezvous Nasi Padang Restaurant, the Samsui Chicken at the Soup Restaurant, the Spinach Tofu at Club Chinois, alamak the list goes on. Then of course there are those photos that I had taken badly and couldn't post e.g. Rahim's Bee Hoon Soto and Mixed Satay (the very best), the Seafood Yam Pot at Lai Wah Chinese Restaurant...

But I was lucky that my delicious Nonya dinner at the Straits Inn and another (this time vegetarian) one at Greenland Buddhist Vegetarian Restaurant (both at Upper Serangoon Rd) turned out a few decent photos. So here goes :
Straits Chinese Satay Chicken
Assam Fish Head Curry

Tofu with "Salted Fish"

Vege-tarian Crispy "Fish" in Soya Sauce

"Spare Rib" King

Kangkong Belachan (real veggie :-) )

Hong Kong-style "Roast Meats"

Sweet and Sour "Pork"

I love Buddhist Vegetarian food in Singapore. They are very good, not cheap, taste like the real thing (e.g. meat), does not contain garlic and onions and you can't find it in Europe. So Vegetarians elsewhere just eat vegetables, but in Singapore (and in Taiwan, Hong Kong...), they get to eat "fish" and "meat" too without offending the Goddess of Mercy :-).

Nonya food too is one of my favourites. Hot, sour, sweet, shiok and sublime when downed with a few glasses of freshly-squeezed lime juice. I managed only to take 2 pictures from the meal because I had gobbled up the rest before I remembered that I have a blog...

To end this posting, here are pictures of 2 classic hawker fare - Roast chicken rice and another one with char siu and sauce added.

Sigh, feel like returning home again...

Singapore Laksa

A few months ago, I went to lunch at a nice Singapore girl's place here in Stuttgart. And came home with a branch from her laksa plant.

Being a plant killer, I wasn't too convinced that this branch would survive. But it did. It's now a big plant, with lots of branches. It must be one of those hard-to-die kind of plant. And I have so many laksa leaves I do not know if I'll ever be able to eat them all.

Last night I made a Singapore Laksa with the leaves from MY plant :-). Needless to say, it was good. (All measurements aga-aga kind, I'm a feeling kind of cook...)

The spice paste :

1 thumb-sized Turmeric
3-4 pieces Galangal
1 stalk Lemongrass
Lots of Laksa leaves
10 Dried chillies
2 Red chillies
2 Candlenuts
2 Tbsp Shrimp paste
5-6 Shallots
4 Garlic cloves
1 Tbsp ground Coriander seeds
1 Tbsp Palm sugar

Pound or ground all of the above into a fine paste.

In a pot, brown some sliced onions, a fistfull of pounded dried shrimps and heads from about 20 raw and fresh Tiger prawns. Fry the paste till fragrant. Add in 6-10 laksa leaves shredded. Stir in 1 can of Coconut milk. Stir in 3 cups of chicken or seafood stock. Add salt and pepper to taste. Adjust liquid amount before serving (I usually add more milk to have more soup).

Serve the soup piping hot with fresh coriander leaves, slices of fish cake, tau pok, thick rice vermicelli and thick yellow noodles (or like in my case, Spaghetti), bean sprouts, more chilli and of course the prawns. These prawns can be cooked in the soup just before being served (so as not to overcook them), or you could do it like me, I had them grilled in my heavy-iron grill with olive oil, salt and pepper because I like to lick the salt off the shells before I peel them :-).

PS : This is an improved version I made a few weeks later with pan-seared scallops, codfish, tiger prawns, zucchini...

mercredi, juillet 19, 2006

Navarin d'agneau, Tarte Tatin

I am a com-pulsive buyer, this is no secret to those who know me (and some of those who don't :-)). One of my recent acquisitions was a set of expensive porcelain oven cookware from Emile Henry. And with it I have also acquired a desire for pot-cooking in the oven :-).

So this morning I hunted high and low for my kg of leg of lamb, a few types of mushrooms, NEW onions, garlic and potatoes, sweet peas, Dutch peas (haricots mange-tout), baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, red peppers, fresh thyme...

I have decided to make a Navarin d'agneau. It's a kind of lamb pot with vegetables. Something you put into an Emile Henry pot and cook for 2 hours in an oven :-).

As usual, it's a simple dish. Just heat up some olive oil in a frying pan and brown the lamb cut into big cubes in it. As the meat is browning, add in the chopped new onions, garlic and thyme. Cook for another 10 minutes and then sprinkle in 2 Tbsps of flour. Stir and let it brown a little.

Pour everything into a pot with a cover that can go into an oven. Add in about 3/4 l of chicken stock, a bay leaf and the tomatoes, cover the pot, put it into the oven and cook for 1h30 at 180ºC.

At the end of the 1.5 hours, add in everything else, cover and cook for another 30 minutes. As you like it, you can make it very saucy or with thicker gravy. Serve hot with rice, fresh tagliatelles, or if you didn't add in potatoes in the first place, with some pan-fried potatoes. This kind of dishes are often even better heated up again the next day. So I've made a big pot to last 2-3 days (to be served to different audience, of course).

So this dish I'll be serving first of all to my Colombian girlfriend and a new French friend I've recently made through her for lunch. And for dessert, I'll follow through with a Tarte Tartin, having seen lovely apples for sale in the open market in Stuttgart this morning. It would have been ideal if I could find la Reine des Reinettes, but having failed to do so, a few Braeburns will do quite nicely.

It would be adviseable to make the puff pastry oneself, but since I'm quite lazy and as I would already have hosted 10 women and their assorted offspring from my German class for tea in the morning (it's our last class, we're having an International tea party), I'm going to use ready-made puff pastry from the supermarket.

First peel and cut about 3-4 apples into slices (thickness etc as you wish). Heat up the oven to 180ºC. Put 4-5 Tbsps of sugar and 2 Tbsps of water into a pie baking tin and when the oven is hot, put it in near the grill to make a caramel. Watch over it to make sure that it does not burn. When the caramel is ready, take the tin out of the oven, spread the apple slices nicely all over, sprinkle in some ground cinnamon, more sugar (to taste), a few slices of butter (normal or salted). Put the tin back into the oven for 10 minutes. Take it out and let the apples cool for a few minutes.

Cover the apples with the puff pastry (use a fork to poke some holes in it so that it doesn't fluff up weirdly) and put the tin back into the oven (middle shelf). It should cook for between 20 and 30 minutes.

When the tart is ready, take it out of the oven, let it cool for a little while and then flip it over with the help of a big plate. The caramelised apples are on top of the puff pastry. Serve it hot with some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream and why not both?


They say that a picture speaks a thousand words. When I made my Tiramisu a few weeks back I was therefore counting on a few photos to explain the process and save me some typing. As it is, I am still having no success publishing my photos in the Blog :-(.

In any case, in anticipation of our coming trip to Florence in Italy, I have been working up an Italian appetite, unfortunately a little marred by France's loss to Italy in the World Cup and the ensuing hear-say that many Italians are not very happy with the French and will be giving them a hard time if ever they should come across any (according to a few crazy Italians on the forum I was participating in). We'll be spending 3 weeks there in August, of which 2 weeks will include my MIL and one week my own dear mother. Would that still be a holiday? I'll let you know.

The Tiramisu is a really simple dessert, I made it in under 30 minutes, though to have it really good, one'll need to refrigerate it for a few hours if not overnight. You'll just need to get all your ingredients ready, keeping the milk products cold and the cake mixer on the table top.

Enough Sponge Fingers/Boudoirs to make up 2 layers of a square cake tin or any other container

Strong Expresso coffee with sugar added

Italian Marsala wine (or rhum or cognac if you don't have any)

2 tubs (400g) of Mascarpone cheese

1 tub (200g) of Crème fraîche

Half a bottle (250g) of ready-to-whip Cream (crème chantilly)

Sugar (to add in the cream)

Dehydrated Espresso (to add in the cream)

Unsweetened chocolate powder (e.g. Van Houten's)

First, prepare the coffee and add sugar to taste plus 2-3 Tbsps of Marsala wine. Then prepare the filling by whipping up the liquid cream till it's stiff, adding in the mascarpone, crème fraîche, 2 Tsps of dehydrated Expresso, sugar to taste and a touch of marsala wine at the end and giving the all a quick whip (too much whipping will cause the cream mixture to lose its stiffness and volume). Set aside.

Dip the boudoirs in the coffee and wine mixture and coat both sides quickly with the liquid (too much time in the liquid will cause the sponge fingers to disintegrate). Line the cake tin with one layer of the coffee boudoirs.

Spread a generous amount of the cream filling over the layer of boudoirs and sprinkle the unsweetened chocolate powder over it. Repeat the operation so that you have 2 layers of boudoir-cream filling-chocolate powder.

Cover with a plastic food film and keep the dessert refrigerated for a few hours. Easy, n'est-ce pas?

A few modern cooks have come up with Tiramisu with its different ingredients served separately e.g. coffee-dipped boudoir, mascarpone-marsala cream, chocolate served in a cocktail glass...It's not too bad, and you can also play around with the dessert by adding fruits etc.

(PS : Though with a friend's help, I just managed to publish the photos today 21/07/06)

mardi, juillet 11, 2006

Racism in FIFA 2006

Yes, we all know that France lost the Final match of FIFA 2006. A pity since they dominated the second half of the match. But congratulations to Italy for their 4th victory!

But the worse thing to have happened as far as I’m concerned is Zidane’s headbutting Mazeratti and earning himself a red card for that. Such a horrible way to end his international career.

I have spent 24 hours on the Net trying to find out what different people in the world had to say about it. We all agree that it was wrong of him to give in to provocation no matter how bad it may be. And he has been punished for that, and will always be punished for it with no way to redeem himself.

What disheartened me though is to see, especially in American-dominated forums, the degradation of the discussion about the World Cup into French-bashing (needless to say, also soccer-bashing since most Americans do not like the sport :-)). Serves the “arrogant”, “cowardly”, "ungrateful" etc Frenchies right blah blah. Why these adjectives? Why bring national, racial and religious rivalries into a discussion about soccer?

However wrong his action, what Zidane did brought huge attention to the racism and other trash/foul talk that reigned in this World Cup and in those before it. FIFA 2006 had for goal that of overcoming racism, so if Mazeratti did provoke Zidane with racist slurs, then he had also broken the FIFA spirit and should be taken to task for it. Not Italy, just him. And what has foul talk to do with playing football? After all you play with your feet, not with your mouth.

But at the moment all is just speculation. Hopefully both will care to shed some light on the incident soon.

So I am quite surprised to see so much hatred for the French aboard. I am not French but I have lived in this country and I love it. And no matter how badly they have been fulfilling their principles of Liberté Egalité Fraternité, I know that most in the country hold them dear.

I have also come across many journalists and individuals around the world attempting to dissect Zidane’s Muslim origins (including his given name!), pretending that even though he is a non-practicing Muslim, he is a symbol for the Muslim world and that his action is therefore a shame to all Muslims!

That is horrifying. Zidane is French. Full stop. And it is pathetic trying to use him to make another slur against the Muslims.

Zidane has done much for French soccer, for young people living in sensitive neighbourhoods, for France rich, poor, white or coloured. And for me, one bad mistake among a few others will not erase all the far greater things that he had done.

And no, I do not see why all the time we have to turn the other cheek for someone who slapped us on the 1st one. But that’s just me.

Vive Zidane, you’re a hero!
PS : For those who are fans of Zidane, enjoy this video

lundi, juillet 03, 2006

Poulet à la Crème et aux Girolles, Lamb Biryani

Poulet aux Girolles

I have been a little demoralised lately being unable to download my photos to Blogger ever since I started using my new Sony Cybershot. My photography skills leave much to be desired but at least you'll be able to see the food I've been talking about.

Anyway, I've been really busy lately trying to clean up the house. The landlord is dropping by on Saturday afternoon to pay us a visit and we therefore have to at least clean the windows and shampoo the (formerly) white carpet in his honour. As it is, I really dislike doing housework, but to have the Hubby chicken out on me once the carpet-cleaning machine was rented was a pain : "I have to prepare a presentation for Monday..."

I spent the whole weekend shampooing the stupid carpet. And you've just finished one section when everybody turned up to leave black footprints on it. And it's really quite gross picking up spiders, dead flies and whatever here and there. It's a chore living in a house.

Not having much time, meals had to be simple. I made a Poulet à la Crème et aux Girolles one day and a Lamb Biryani on another. The Briyani on the evening France beat Brazil in the quarter finals of the World Cup :-).

In the pan

The chicken's really simple and very good. Just need a few chicken breasts (400g), 2-3 shallots (sliced), 1 garlic clove (bashed and sliced), 400g of Girolles (mushrooms) washed and sliced into 2, some white wine, 100ml of crème fraiche, salt, pepper (can use szechuan red peppercorns for deco), some herbs like thyme and estragon.

First, heat up some olive oil in a frying pan and grill the chicken breasts (that you have marinated in some salt, pepper, a pinch of ground turmeric and some lemon juice) till golden brown. Remove the chicken and set aside. In the same oil, fry the shallots. When they start turning translucent, add in the garlic. Add salt, pepper and the herbs. When garlic is fragrant but not brown (or it'll turn bitter), add in the girolles. Cook for 5 minutes, add in the wine and cover the pan and cook over medium heat for another 10 minutes. Uncover the pan, add in the grilled chicken breasts, stir in the crème fraiche and adjust the salt and pepper. Cover and let everything cook in its own steam for another 5 minutes. Before serving, squeeze in some lime or lemon juice if you like it a little more acidic. Serve hot with rice or pasta.

As for the Lamb Biryani, I had chosen to make the simple version as I had to get it out in under 1.5 hours so that hubby could eat it in front of the TV.

The important thing is to get the cubes of lamb well-marinated (at least 2 hours if not half a day) with a mixture of salt, pepper, ground ginger (2 Tsps), fresh garlic (minced, 5 cloves), mustard seeds (1 Tsp), yoghurt (1 cup), fresh green chillies, lime juice, fresh coriander and mint leaves.

I didn't want to risk my rice not being cooked so I washed it and then poured hot water over it and left it standing like that for about 30 minutes. Otherwise, half cook the rice.

In a heavy-bottomed pot, fry 5 sliced onions till they turn brown and then remove them from the oil and drain on some kitchen towel. Set aside. In the same oil, brown the meat with its marinade. Add in a cinnamon stick, a few whole cloves, some black cumin seeds, 1 Tsp of ground coriander, a pinch of nutmeg and a bay leaf. Then add in about 300ml of boiling water, half a cube of meat stock (optional), cover the pot and cook over medium heat till the meat is tender (about 30 minutes if it's young lamb).

When the meat is cooked, add in 1 Tbsp of Garam Masala and pour the rice over it. Add a few bashed cardamoms to the rice and dribble a milk and saffron mixture (just add saffron to about 50ml of milk) over it in such a way that only parts of the rice turn yellow. Cover and cook over low heat till rice is cooked (not overcooked or it'll become sticky). Add in a bit of butter, raisins and cashew nuts or sliced almonds, more fresh mint and coriander leaves and the fried onions and squeeze in some lemon juice before serving.

Mine wasn't very pretty as hubby doesn't like his rice dry and so I made a saucy Biryani. The better compromise could be the bryanis served in Singapore where they make the rice with the lamb and then a curry separately, laddling the latter onto the rice when serving it. And better still, think of layering the dish, making a rice-meat-rice-meat-rice combination topping it with the fresh herbs and almonds before you finish off the cooking.