jeudi, septembre 30, 2010

Pasta al Pomodoro Fresco

Pasta al Pomodoro Fresco

I was reminding the kids this morning when we were driving to school that they must remember to be polite and considerate no matter where they are and who they are with, meaning hang on to the basic please, thank you and excuse me. Then I arrived at Lidl just before they opened for the day (they are selling knitting needles this week) and stood behind a lady cross-stitching as she waited with more than a dozen people for the doors to open.

That needle looked dangerous seen from behind her so I decided to stand in front of her. That got her all upset and she pushed me so that she could stand in front of me. And she was around my age, so honestly I felt that she had no excuse for being low class.

Seriously, things in Lidl are cheaper than elsewhere, but they are not free. Why would anyone want to fight to get in there? Days like this, I get really pissed off mixing with the popular masses. They really do tend to disappoint and make me more snobbish than I ought to be. Goodness, I couldn't help thinking, if only she knew who I was...

Babinette is home today with a cough. She's quite fine except that she didn't sleep well because of the coughing and I knew that she wanted her share of staying at home when she's under the weather (her 2 brothers having had "their turns" a few weeks ago). She discreetly asked me last evening if I would be busy the next day and I knew she was really asking if I wouldn't be too busy to object to her staying at home...

First you boil the fresh pasta, drain it, stir-fry quickly in olive oil with garlic and dry chilli flakes

Serve with fresh cherry tomatoes that have been marinated for a few hours in olive oil, garlic and fresh herbs

To make it worth her while, I have made her a simple Pasta al Pomodoro Fresco for lunch. Remember the Bruschetta and Tomato Tart that I made not too long ago? It's basically just marinated fresh tomatoes that I added to fresh pasta that has been lightly cooked in garlic and chilli olive oil, served with fresh basil and rosemary leaves.

Version where you also cook the tomatoes - but quickly - delicious

Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tatin

I have been making Tarte Tatin for a long time though my first post about it took place in the early days and it shared space with a lamb dish - not exactly very nice of me, I suppose. I thought that since I am making this for Babinette's dessert after lunch, I could dedicate a short post to it on its own.

This is a dessert that usually pleases both children and adults and is easy to prepare. After all this time, I would need to invest in a shallow cast-iron dish that would allow me to cook the caramel and apples on a stove and then bake with the puff pastry in an oven. Lacking that, I do both steps in the oven which isn't too bad either.

I cook this French apple tart differently almost each time I do it, so there is really no one method for it. What you need to obtain at the end of the preparation though is a puffy and crispy tart base with a caramelised apple topping. That you could serve as it is or with vanilla ice cream or thick cream. Yummy...

Tarte Tatin (serves 4) :

1 roll round or square puff pastry
1 21-cm round oven-proof dish

2 granny smith, braeburn and/or reinette apples (sliced into 12 slices each)
4+1 tbsp mix of white and brown sugars
1 tbsp water
1/2-1 tsp ground cinnamon
a bit of butter

Heat the oven to 180/190°C.

One could prepare the caramel in a cast-iron pan on the stove with 4 tbsp of the sugars and the tbsp of water, or spread the sugar out on a round baking dish, sprinkle the water all over on it and bake in the hot oven. In either case, keep a tight eye on the caramel so that it doesn't carbonise. It should just turn golden brown.

Here, one can let the caramel turn very brown, or one could just let it turn brown. The former will allow you to skip one step in making the tatin (and the product will be more moist), while the latter will require you to return the tart to the oven at the end to finish caramelising the apples. I like the latter method as I prefer a more cooked crust.

Remove the dish from the oven and place the apple slices in the caramel. Sprinkle the extra tbsp of sugar all over them as well as the ground cinnamon. Cut a bit of butter into tiny cubes and place them on top of the apples. Return to the oven for 20 minutes.

Remove the dish from the oven once again and cover it with the puff pastry, tucking in (on top) any extra pastry. Bake for another 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and place a large plate over the baking dish. In one move, turn it over so that the apples are now on top.

Needs more tanning

If the caramel had been very dark earlier, this should be enough. Otherwise, gently slide the tart onto a paper-lined baking tray and return to the oven for another 10 minutes or till the top is caramelised. This way, the sides of the pastry will also be caramelised.

Serve hot with vanilla ice cream or cream.

mercredi, septembre 29, 2010

Grape Picking for Balsamic Vinegar

Grasparossa grapes

Modena is famous for its balsamic vinegar. Nowhere else will you be able to produce the same quality because nowhere else will you find the same soil, bacteria, climate (hot summers and cold winters), variety of grapes (e.g. trebbiano and grasparossa) and traditional (and specific) know-how to make this amazing vinegar.

Some of the vines

I know that I wouldn't be able to leave Modena without seeing for myself how the locals make the vinegar. Certo you can visit the balsamic vinegar museum or any of the numerous factories producing the vinegar to have an idea, but somehow I didn't feel that it would be the same.

The woman who owns all those grapes

LP's parents make their own balsamic vinegar. They even started growing their own grapes for it about 3 years ago. When I heard that they would be harvesting their first batch of grapes this year, I begged to come along to help out. I'm that city girl who finds it fun to spend the morning picking grapes and the afternoon cleaning out the muddy boots. Only if it happens once in a blue moon, of course.

The enthusiastic grape picker

It was fun. Lovely sunny morning, they had quite a large plot of land on several levels so the walk alone was tiring. And we didn't have enough garden shears to work with at the beginning and had to fight for the honour of using those available. There were 2 types of grapes to harvest : trebbiano bianco and grasparossa (the same that goes into making lambrusco) and both were delicious eaten as they were.

This cutie doesn't work, he only eats grapes

Babinou was particularly enthusiastic about the picking. Babinette, lazy as usual, spent her time looking after LP's little dog. I did my bit, cutting one finger without knowing it and was stung in another by a wasp hidden in a bunch of grapes. Proof of my hard work? :-)

I've really enjoyed the morning and look forward to being invited to the next step in the vinegar-making process : boiling the grapes.

And I am still waiting for some Modenese family to offer me a bottle of their precious vinegar...(hint hint)

New Bag

My Bikkembergs bathing in the morning sunlight

It is getting colder by the day, Summer is definitely over. This is depressing.

To mark my resistence to the coming period of shorter days and colder nights, I have bought myself a piece of sunshine.

A purple Bikkembergs bowling bag in suede and cotton. Colour...I heart it.

lundi, septembre 27, 2010

Visiting Teena

Mu and Teena

I am envious of people with passion. For a sport, a cause, music, art, an animal, even religion...Think of that line of men pedalling their bicycles up a steep hill rain or shine, skiing champions, humans who have conquered mountain peaks, who could play Bach on a violin, who locked themselves up for weeks to paint.

It has been my regret that I am not often given to extremes. I am fond of many things, but I lack the obsession, see passion, that would allow me to become very good in something. I dabble in this and that, and am master of nothing. Isn't that so sad?

When the men played golf on Sunday, I decided to bring Babinette to visit Mu's horse Teena. Mu was born with a passion for horses and is currently living it. I could not understand half of what she was telling me about those animals, but I can feel her love for them. And I envy her sometimes for that.

The entrance to the stables

It was a lovely morning and a wonderful day for visiting Teena. The stalls were tidy and I never had to use the perfumed handkerchief that I've prepared just in case it should get too smelly. Mu said that when you have a passion for the horses, you wouldn't smell anything or mind the flies. Since I certainly do not have a passion for horses (nor for anything else), I had to come prepared.

Mu walking towards her baby

It's a lot of work and responsibility looking after this magnificent animal. Teena had a lovely shiny coat (ok, it's chestnut, not light brown) and Mu cleaned and brushed her more often than I do my kids. We saw Teena eating grass (and a few carrots), Mu cleaned, massaged and brushed her all over, I got whipped by Teena's tail because I made the mistake of standing behind her, and Mu also cleaned her hoofs - a clear sign of love because it stank and it wasn't easy holding on to that horse. In the week, Teena would also need to be trained in the big arena, so to get to ride her you also have to look after her well first.

Mu scraping dirt etc from Teena's hoofs

No passion for horses was suddenly revealed during the visit so I'm back to my mundane existence. Right now I spend alot of my time looking for my schoolmates from Primary school on facebook. Do you think that there will still be time and/or a chance that I may discover a passion for something in the years to come?

The covered arena on the left and more stalls on the right

Thank you, Mu, for bringing me to visit your baby. She's a lovely and very nice girl and I have enjoyed this little outing very much. Even meeting that old thin Italian was interesting. Don't worry, I'm not having a complex about my eyes after that. That's part and parcel of being Chinese :-). And we populate the earth.

dimanche, septembre 26, 2010

Herbal Chicken Soup

Herbal Chicken Soup

I was thinking of Selena. We were in the same class in Primary school (P2 or 3) and I still remember her head full of tight curls and her tendancy to walk with her tummy up, like a pregnant little girl. She had marked me where curls are concerned. Told me that hers came from twirling them tightly with a pencil all the time, and I believed her - for at least 2 decades.

I could never look at any head with short tight curls without thinking of Selena. And wondering if they too got their curls from twirling them tightly with a pencil all the time. When I finally had to accept that most curls like that had to be natural, I was already a woman in my late 20s with recurring nostalgic dreams about little girls from my past.

Actually Selena probably was the "pregnant" little girl with dark skin and a straight bob, while X (couldn't remember her name, but could vaguely see her face) was another classmate with the short tight curls, but somehow in my memories today they often roll into one and the same person...If you were from Balestier Girls' School (Singapore) in the late-1970s/early-1980s when Ms Han (always dressed in a cheongsam) was the Principal, drop me a note. I started out in Primary 1B and was then in 2A, 3A, 4A...BGS was also my mother's alma mater, if I am not mistaken.

I searched Facebook today and found the Primary school that I was transferred to in 1983 when Balestier Girls was demolished. There was a discussion thread started by someone from the pioneer batch and I probably knew her. Funny enough, she also knew 2 of my former colleagues from MND. She mentioned a boy whom I also knew and I realised that he went to junior college with one of my cousins. What a small world...

Ah...nostalgia. Anyway, to celebrate Alonso's/Ferrari's win at the Singapore Grand Prix, I've decided to make Herbal Chicken Soup and Hainanese Chicken Rice for dinner. Now we're on track for at least the Driver's Title, it's always nice to have hope again.

Herbal Chicken Soup is delicious and at the same time nourishing. Chinese soups contain herbs balancing yin and yang properties and are meant to help you improve your health e.g. aid digestion, absorption of nutrients, improve the heart, aid blood circulation, improve sleep, reduce irritability...

qizi, dangshen, yuzhu, huaishan, beiqi, danggui...

Used judiciously, for example by adding dried fruit for sweetness, they even add a pleasant taste to your soup and can become quite addictive with time. My European husband and children love it and were wondering why I didn't make these soups more often. I didn't want to feed them too much tonics, lest they become too healthy. :-)

White-boiled chicken

I have bought a few packets of Chinese herbs when I was in Singapore last year and use them sparingly to make the occasional herbal chicken soup. Basically one could boil the chicken with the herbs (I put them in 2 large teabag filters) in a few bowls of water for 2 hours till you get a reduced, rather dark and dense soup; or one could add alot of water and get a lighter, more subtle soup. I dislike eating very boiled chicken so I basically cook my chicken in the herbal soup the way I would when making Hainanese chicken rice, remove the meat from the chicken and then return the carcass to the soup to be boiled for another 2 hours.

Chopped up and brushed with soy sauce and sesame oil

I served the soup with rice (boiled in chicken stock, garlic and pandan leaves) and the chicken. Hub caught Babinette in the kitchen at 10 in the evening trying to finish the meat on the carcass (from the soup), which goes to show how much she had enjoyed her dinner.

vendredi, septembre 24, 2010

Iceberg Lettuce with Hot Oil and Oyster Sauce

Iceberg Lettuce with Hot Oil

When I was a student in Paris, I hung out quite a bit with a group of Cantonese from mainland China who worked for one of the Chinese nuclear power authorities. They were living in Paris mostly on a 2-3 year basis, collaborating with either France's EDF or with some European nuclear safety organisation.

Once in a while, I would be invited to their place(s) for lunch or dinner which was a real treat when you were a poor student who couldn't cook living in Paris. I remember that one of the girls liked to prepare a plate of vegetables to go with the meal (usually involving quite a number of dishes) and not being able to find Chinese vegetables at times, she would cook fresh salad leaves (e.g. batavia) Chinese-style. And it was delicious.

I was thinking of this group of (now lost) friends and this got me all nostalgic for those simple days. I also came home after a whole morning shopping at Armani and was wondering what I could whip up for a solo lunch. How about fresh and crunchy Iceberg Lettuce with Hot Oil and Oyster Sauce?

Iceberg Lettuce Chinese-style :

1 small head of iceberg lettuce (rinsed and dried)
a pinch of ground black pepper
1 bird's eye chilli (crushed)

1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp light soy sauce
1/2 Tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp dry sherry
2 tsp sugar

2 tbsp peanut oil

Slice the iceberg into smaller pieces and arrange them on a plate. Season with pepper and chilli if desired.

Mix the oyster, soy sauces, sesame oil, sherry and sugar in a bowl and microwave for 20 seconds to dissolve the sugar. Pour over the salad leaves.

Heat up the peanut oil till very hot in a small pan and pour over the salad leaves. Serve immediately. I ate mine with a few breaded prawn skewers.

mercredi, septembre 22, 2010

Homemade Silken Egg Tofu

Homemade Silken Egg Tofu

I am sick of driving almost an hour to Reggio Emilia to buy silken tofu when it's possible to make one myself. Especially when you can easily, since about a year or 2 ago, find soy bean milk in the organic sections of most supermarkets here. No need to make soy bean milk oneself like I used to. And since I am into making steamed egg custards lately, steaming my own Silken Egg Tofu follows quite naturally.

Left JW's lovely coffee morning earlier than the other ladies because I've eaten up almost all of her yummy cheese scones and wanted to return home to make my tofu. There was a really good turnout as usual and it was nice catching up with so many friends whom I've not seen since the end of the last school year. And eat those yummy cheese scones, of course.

KB was at the coffee morning with her pooris (I ate at least 3 of them). And may I announce to the whole world the happy news that she's pregnant? There are so many pregnant mums at the school this year, I'm trying to remember which animal's year it would be in 2011...and so it'll be the year of the lucky rabbit. I personally hope that it'll be a girl. She'll be gorgeous with her mum's enormous light-colored eyes. Maybe India's future Miss World? Fancy me being able to tell the whole world then that I knew her mum...OK, I'm off daydreaming as usual.

I also spent the afternoon shopping on the Net. Bought a set of pots from BergHoff with Hub's permission (he was surprised that I asked him though) and some clothes and accessories from a few different websites. I'm trying to save the bulk of my shopping for when we go to London in October, but you can imagine that I'm having some difficulty stopping myself. Will go check Bologna out tomorrow and meet Margi at the same time. So long no see...

Homemade Silken Egg Tofu (1 portion) :

1 egg
120ml unsweetened soy bean milk (choose the one with the highest percentage of soy beans)
a pinch of salt***

Bring some water to a boil in a wok.

In the meantime, beat the egg in a large bowl and pour in the soy milk. Add the salt. Mix well.

Filter the egg mixture into a porcelain ramequin and set it on a rack in the wok to be steamed. Make sure that the boiling water doesn't touch the ramequin.

Lower the heat and cover the wok, leaving a small gap for some steam to escape.

Steam for 7-20 minutes depending on the heat and the number of ramequins in the wok. Remember that if the heat is too high you will get a pockmarked egg tofu.

The egg tofu should be smooth, silky but firm.

Season the egg tofu as you wish, eat it in the ramequin or tip the tofu onto a plate to be served as you wish : steamed, in soups, stir-fried or fried. Yes, it's firm enough to be fried unlike most silken tofus.

***You can also substitute some of the soy bean milk with some chicken stock. Or heat the soy milk beforehand with some chicken stock granules. But cool it before mixing with the egg to make the tofu.

mardi, septembre 21, 2010

Eating Jiaozi at BL's

Chinese Dumplings with Garlic-Chilli-Vinegar Sauce

Despite having chewed two jasmine tea-scented chewing gums for dear life, I still smelt of garlic. Luckily I sat between LS and JoW during this afternoon's PTA meeting and those girls are used to me turning up in some form of disarray if not trouble, hence they were mentally prepared for me, if you wish.

I haven't visited BL in a looong time. Not that I hadn't wanted to, but I was in a period in my life when I hated driving into Modena and spent most of my time growing fat at home instead. I finally moved my arse this morning and went to see her as promised and was greeted with a packet of flour, a huge dough and a big bowl of meat filling : it's jiaozi-making time, folks! Very lucky me.

Rolling out the dough to make the wrappers

I'm too lazy to make Chinese dumplings. I've done that occasionally and usually got bored by the time I had to wrap up the filling. You take quite a while to make it, and you just pop them into the mouth so quickly. I ate at least 2 dozens of those yummy dumplings by the way. Dipping them into a home-made garlic, chilli, oil and vinegar dip. You understand why I had garlic in my breath.

She made everything look so easy, but of course you need some practice to reach that stage. Very lucky kid and Hub in that family.

We had a good chat, I haven't spoken Mandarin in a while and am never particularly fluent nor at ease in the language. But I'd better get used to it since it may just be the language of the future. Though BL had been very kind insisting that I spoke good Mandarin for a Singaporean. I guess hanging out with a guy from Beijing when I was a student in Paris helped alot.

Chef at work

Voilà, I'm stuffed. But it was so good. Thank you, BL, for the special treat!

dimanche, septembre 19, 2010

Stinco di Maiale al Forno

Stinco di Maiale al Forno

One of our favourite main courses when we eat in a typical restaurant here in Modena is the Stinco di Maiale al Forno or Oven-baked Pork Shank. When I saw them selling fresh pork legs at the Coop the other day I knew that I just had to make this dish myself.

I've given some thought to how I would roast the meat without drying it out and decided to first cook it slowly in my heavy Le Creuset pot before roasting it in a hot oven.

Hub and the Teenager have been invited to stay for dinner at the golf club after today's competition. They came in 1st and 2nd respectively in yesterday's Tortelloni d'Argento competition and were 6th and 3rd (among the non-classifieds) in this morning's Tortelloni d'Oro competition. They were even introduced by the club manager to all present as a father-and-son team from Ferrari...:-)

I had to eat dinner alone with the Babies, so I re-heated some leftover shank and served it on rice vermicelli which was just yummy. My appetite was only slightly affected by the sight of a frog staring at a small snake just outside my door as I went out to collect the children's PE shirts from the laundry line. We really do have everything here in this house. It's disgusting. I can't believe we have snakes here too!

Stinco di Maiale al Forno (serves 4) :

2 whole fresh pork shanks (I had suino leggero)
olive oil
3 garlic cloves (bashed)
bay leaves, rosemary, sage, thyme
1 celery and carrot (sliced)
1 cup dry white wine
salt and black pepper

Marinate the pork shanks overnight with some pepper, olive oil, garlic, fresh herbs and white wine. But do not salt it or the juices will drain out of the meat.


The next day, heat up a bit of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot and brown the marinated meat on all sides. Pour the marinade into the pot together with the herbs, celery and carrots, cover it and lower the heat. Simmer the shanks for an hour. Add more wine during the cooking if necessary. I poured in a bit of dry red wine.

After an hour in the cocotte

In the meantime heat the oven to 200°C and prepare the sides to go with the meat. Some mashed, roast or pan-fried potatoes would go nicely with it.

After 30 minutes in the oven

Transfer the pork shanks to an oven-proof dish, salt and roast them on each side for 30 minutes (1 hour total), pouring the marinade over them from time to time to prevent the meat from drying out. Serve the pork shanks with the potatoes and the roasting juices.

Jemput-jemput Pisang (Fried Banana Balls)

Jemput-jemput Pisang

My bananas are starting to be very ripe. Their skins are now turning black and Babinette wouldn't have anything to do with them any more. Looking at them, I started having visions of...Jemput-jemput Pisang (Fried Banana Balls), I've really eaten quite a number of them in my youth.

Brown, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Tastes of bananas and sugar. Rich, full of calories. Just eat it once in a blue moon.

Babinou is freaking out trying to do his homework or not wanting to. I have told the school on different occasions that I am quite sick of having to do my kids' homework with/for them. Under this IBO-PYP system they don't get the classic English and Maths homework that would logically be a reinforcement of what they've learnt at school. They do all kinds of stuff on pieces of paper (that's another issue) that at first look at least doesn't have anything to do with improving their spelling, grammar or Maths. And very often it'll just end up as competition among the parents on who is best at helping his child do his homework. I told LP the other day that I hate her huge posters with the huge photos and colourful stick-ons. I only provide plain A4 paper and wherever possible photos in black and white. Ink is very expensive as we all know.

But believe it or not, to every parent who has come up to me in the last 2 years to whinge about the system (and especially the homework), I've the Dalai Lama, yin-yang comforting piece of advice that more or less resumes in : it's a different system, give it a chance. Attend the PYP workshop. And have a life, forget the homework. Let's do coffee/lunch/play date.

As such I found myself quite booked for coffee or lunch till at least next week. And I'm not even joking. I've also found myself fielding (private) questions on expat forums about schools, housing etc in Modena. And it's only the relocation company who gets paid.

Jemput-jemput Pisang (makes about 20) :

300g (about 2-3) ripe bananas
120g self-raising flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
60g cane sugar
a good pinch of salt
100ml thick coconut milk

Mash the bananas and mix everything together in a big bowl, making sure that there are no lumps.

Leave aside for 20-30 minutes.

Heat up a small pot of oil for deep frying. Make sure that it's very hot or your fritters will be soggy, soaking up the oil.

Using preferably a Chinese soup spoon, drop a spoonful of batter into the hot oil. I'll fry just 2-3 balls at a time so that they wouldn't stick to each other. Turn the balls over onto the other side when one side is browned.

Drain on paper towels and eat them hot. To re-heat, bake in a hot oven for 5-7 minutes. But they are actually quite good eaten cold.

Grilled Gambas on Raw Fresh Porcini Mushrooms

Grilled Gambas on Raw Fresh Porcini Mushrooms

Porcini season seems to be here again, time certainly flies! When we were in William's the other evening, they served us warm octopus with raw fresh porcini and it was delicious. I always buy porcini and chanterelles when I see them, so when I needed something quick for lunch solo yesterday I whipped up a simple plate of Grilled Gambas on Raw Fresh Porcini Mushrooms.

I was right not to have stuffed myself at noon as dinner was an English BBQ at JoW's...with English people...complete with lots of booze and bad weather in the form of cloudy skies and finally rain. An authentic experience that deserves to be repeated, if I may say so.

The company was great (with some of my favourite ladies, the kind you want to hug) and I've stuffed myself so much I couldn't sit down. We had (chilli) beef burgers, turkey sausages, really yummy pork ribs, chicken satay (with homemade peanut sauce), chicken kebabs, zuchini and black olive clafoutis, apple crumble, brownies and tiramisu. KF brought some sbrisolona from Mantova that I refused to buy the last time I was there, so I finally got to try out this dry-looking specialty. It's a huge shortbread with almonds, not too bad actually.

You know why you need to invite the husbands when you do a BBQ because somebody has to cook the meat. And men who usually do not cook somehow will always know how to barbecue better than you. Maybe it brings out their stone-age instincts, starting and lording over a fire, "providing" the meat. Anyway I think we've done the food justice, because there wasn't anything left at the end of the evening.

Hub and the Teenager played in a 9-hole golf competition yesterday, seeking that elusive golf handicap. They have dreams of playing in some of the most beautiful golf courses in the world - but most clubs only allow golfers with a handicap to play, thereby the quest. Hub missed getting his by just one point - though he turned out to be first in the competition and has won himself the Tortellino d'Argento. Plus an invitation to play for free this morning in the reserved 18-hole Tortellino d'Oro competition. Want to bet that I'd have to do all the work this week in bed? He'll be whinging about a backache for at least a week.

Grilled Gambas on Raw Fresh Porchini Mushrooms (serves 1) :

7-8 raw gambas (shell-on)
1 garlic clove (finely sliced)
1 small fresh porcini mushroom (sliced)
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
lime juice (optional)

Heat a bit of olive oil in a frying pan and fry the garlic till fragrant (but not brown). Grill the gambas in the oil. Remove and peel them.

Arrange the sliced porcini mushrooms on a plate and drizzle olive oil over them. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place the peeled gambas on the porcini and drizzle olive oil etc on them. Add the roasted garlic slices as well if you wish, but not too many of them or they'll overpower the delicate fragrance of the porcini.

samedi, septembre 18, 2010

Steamed Egg Custard with Fried Salted Fish

Steamed Egg Custard with Fried Salted Fish

A week ago I blogged about my Chawan Mushi aux Girolles that was really quite yummy except for the fact that as usual I was distracted and didn't watch the heat that day. Holes appeared on my egg custard. I've posted a photo of it anyway so that it would serve as a reminder to all egg custard makers to watch the heat.

In the same week, 2 blogs that I'm a fan of blogged about their very smooth steamed egg custards :-). No, I'm not envious since the wonderful thing about blogging is that you get to learn from and be inspired by so many people. But I certainly am embarrassed. I felt that it was a gentle reminder of how I tend to be so légère about getting a job done properly, how whether it comes to my person or my food I do not bother enough to work on the presentation. I usually am in a hurry to get ready/get it done and just go/eat. How many times has Hub complained about that?

When I had a craving yesterday for salted fish, I made my favourite Steamed Egg Custard with Fried Salted Fish. When Hub wasn't around, of course. He hates the smell of salted fish.

This time, I made it a point to watch the heat. Custard turned out smooth, firm and silky. Whew. The only blemishes you see came from the salted fish, oil and black pepper. I allowed the water to come to a boil after which I lowered the heat and put in the egg mixture to steam. Left a small gap for the steam to escape and watched the custard from to time to make sure that it was becoming firm.

We went out for dinner just Hub and I last evening. We had a few things to discuss and wanted to dine on fish. So we went to William's in Maranello. We had Octopus with raw Porcini mushrooms (excellent), grilled Scampi, Fish fritters and a Salt-baked Sea Bass. One of the best meals that we've eaten in the restaurant.

Steamed Egg Custard with Fried Salted Fish :

3 eggs (beaten)
360ml filtered tap water
a pinch of ground black pepper

a piece of good-quality salted fish

1 tsp light soy sauce
a few drops of toasted sesame oil
3 tbsp light chicken stock
1 bird's eye chilli (crushed)

Fry the salted fish till crispy and pungent. Remove and slice into tiny pieces.

Beat the eggs and mix with the water. I didn't season it (except for the pepper) or use chicken stock as the salted fish will be very salty already. Sieve through twice.

Bring some water to a boil in a large wok.

In a shallow dish add half the salted fish and pour the egg custard mixture over.

No holes, custard is smooth, firm and silky

Lower the heat and place the dish on a metal rack in the wok, making sure that the water doesn't touch the dish. Cover the wok leaving a small gap so that some of the steam may escape. Steam for around 20 minutes or until the egg custard is firm. If the temperature's right, there will be no holes in the custard.

Prepare the sauce. When the egg custard is cooked, sprinkle the remaining salted fish on it and pour the sauce over. Serve hot.