Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Mad about Ice Cream

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

              Empty Glasses

This particular ice cream journey began with a spur-of-the-moment decision to visit Island Creamery after a less-than-satisfactory dinner. I was particularly impressed by the burnt caramel and apple pie ice cream that my brother had chosen and wondered if I could reproduce those same delicious flavours at home.

I was a little apprehensive since I’d made ice cream only twice previously, both attempts which produced less-than-ideal results. My very first attempt was made without an ice cream maker. On top of that, I didn’t freeze-then-churn the custard sufficiently. resulting in a slightly icy texture and vanilla specks that sunk to the bottom of the tub. My second atttempt saw a custard recipe that called for double cream. While the ice cream wasn’t as icy as before, it wasn’t sweet enough and left an unpleasant coating on the tongue, presumably from too high a fat content. It was a pretty disappointing waste of very expensive dairy ingredients.

I was determined to make my third attempt a success.

Burnt Caramel Ice Cream

              Home Churned Burnt Caramel Ice Cream

I turned to Michael Recchiuti’s Chocolate Obsession for the burnt caramel ice cream recipe. Having read his instructions very carefully, especially the part about turning on a kitchen fan if I had one, I had this vision of my kitchen filling up with acrid smoke while caramel turned black in my pot. Fortunately, it was nothing like that. Yes, there was some smoking, but just a few wisps and the caramel wasn’t ebony black, but a very dark amber instead.

Burnt Caramel & Vanilla Pods

The truth be told, I began to have doubts about the chosen flavour when I tasted the burnt caramel base on its own; it was bitter and tasted … well, burnt. But once dissolved into the creamy custard, the taste was absolutely fantastic and even better after churning and ripening! The ice cream had a deep caramel taste with mild burnt overtones. The best part was that it was completely smooth and the vanilla specks stayed happily suspended in the frozen ice cream.

Cocoa Nib Ice Cream with Caramelised Cocoa Nibs

Cocoa Nibs

Emboldened by my success with this ice cream recipe, I moved on to another from the same book. The 1-kg bag of Valrhona cocoa nibs, delivered right to my doorstep a couple months ago, was still untouched. The second I’d cut the bag open, the most wonderful chocolate fragrance filled the air. It was just like opening up a bag of roasted coffee beans, except that the smell was that of pure chocolate heaven.

              Cocoa Nibs Caramelised

Oh, how I regret not having ripped open the package the moment it arrived! All this time a heavenly culinary moment was just sitting in a corner of my kitchen, waiting to happen! I had no idea that cocoa nibs smelt this good. I’m not entirely sure how to describe it; somehow I keep thinking the words “pure” and “clean”, certainly not adjectives one usually associates with chocolate, but that was exactly what I felt it was: a very pure and clean chocolate aroma.

Home Churned Cocoa Nibs Ice Cream

The cocoa nib ice cream reminded me very vaguely of Milo and Ovaltine, but there was something different about it. I don’t think it’s a taste I can describe acurately. You’ll just have to try it yourself to find out!

The caramelised nibs mixed into the churned custard tasted slightly bitter as I’d messed up the caramelising process and ended up with small chunks of unmelted sugar and some burnt nibs in the mix. I’ll probably leave the caramelised nibs out of the custard in the future and just sprinkle it over the ice cream.

I’m thinking apple pie ice cream next!

Old School Blackforest Cake

              Old School Blackforest Cake

The photograph here is of the blackforest cake I’d made for my brother’s 30th birthday. It was a little daunting to make since this was the most frequently requested cake in my mum’s cake business while we were growing up. Fortunately, I had my mum’s recipe on hand and some carefully written notes on the side. Still, I wasn’t sure if the cake I’d made would live up to our memories of what it’d tasted like before.

But I’m glad to report that the cake turned out well and mum actually thought it tasted fine, just that I’d been a little too generous cream-wise!

              Old School Blackforest Cake

After having the cake, my brother confessed that he’d never really liked blackforest cake (and I’d thought it was his favourite!) and to be completely honest, neither had I! But I was glad that I gave my mum’s recipe a shot because my dad and hubby thoroughly enjoyed it.

Mad about Meatballs

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

              Meatballs

Just in case you were wondering, I haven’t disappeared from the surface of this earth. :D

Once again, I apologize for my tardiness in answering emails and posting replies to your comments and questions! It’s just that work hasn’t left me much time for anything else these past few months.

              Meatball Ingredients

The good news is, while I haven’t been able to bake cakes, cookies or macarons, my oven hasn’t been completely neglected. After all, a gal has got to eat some time, not to mention, feed her hungry hubby! :D

These days, our meals of choice have been spaghetti with meatballs and the occasional meatball sandwich. While meatballs are certainly eaten in Italy (and many other parts of the world), I’ve been told that neither of these 2 dishes are traditional Italian fare and are really more part of Italian-American cuisine. Either way, both dishes are, in my opinion, completely scrumptious, although I’m definitely more partial to pasta.

Meatballs

I opted to go with the more “heart-friendly” method of baking the meatballs under the grill / broiler instead of frying. I’ve also used lean meat here, but feel free to substitute with your favourite cuts.

Meatball Recipe (Makes 80 small meatballs, about 2″)

Ingredients
300g pork loin, minced
400g topside beef, minced
1 large egg
1/2 large yellow onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup fresh coriander, minced (substitute with parsley if you don’t like coriander)
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 cup dried Italian style breadcrumbs
3 tbsp water
700g bottled marinara sauce (or make your own if you have the time)
2/3 can whole tomatoes, roughly chopped
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated for topping

Method
1. Line baking tray with aluminium foil.
2. Grind meat further in food processor (unless meat is already finely minced).
3. Preheat oven using grill setting.
4. In a large bowl, thoroughly mix minced meat, onion, garlic, coriander, basil, pepper, breadcrumbs and water. Shape meat mixture into 2″ diameter meatballs.
5. Place meatballs on the lined baking tray, spacing them evenly apart.
6. Bake under grill for 12 minutes, turning the meatballs halfway through the baking time to ensure browning on all sides.
7. In a large saucepan, heat marinara sauce, tomatoes and meatballs. Simmer on low heat for about 15 minutes.
8. Serve with spaghetti or on a lightly toasted baguette and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Meatballs

Mad about Purple Macarons

Monday, May 12th, 2008

              Inside the macarons

First of all, I’d like to apologize for my tardiness in replying emails the past few weeks. There’s been a sudden influx of requests and enquiries and I haven’t had the chance to sort through all my emails. Please bear with me for the moment!

This post is about another batch of macarons (and a local dessert). The common theme here is the colour purple (or lavender, if you like).

Lavender Macarons

Flavour #4: Lavender macarons with honey vanilla buttercream. I’ve seen lavender used in macarons on several blogs, but haven’t tried it out myself. I wasn’t too sure about this flavour since lavender isn’t commonly used in food around these parts.

The macaron shells gave off a lovely floral scent and I loved the honey vanilla buttercream. But I was definitely too generous with the lavender flowers. Don’t get me wrong; I loved the scent, but once I’d bitten into the macaron, I found the taste too floral. Don’t be fooled by those pretty, tiny lavender buds; they pact a powerful punch flavour-wise. If I ever make these again, I’d definitely be more conservative.

Violette Macaron

Flavour #5: Violette macarons with cassis buttercream. I was more than happy to finally have an excuse to splurge on some Sevarome natural violette paste, although I wonder if I’ll ever be able to finish the entire 1kg tub. The cassis buttercream, made with pure blackcurrant purée, was wonderfully tart and completely delicious with the violette flavoured macaron shells. This flavour is a definite keeper!

              Ubi Macaron with Ubi Paste

Flavour #6: Ubi (yam) macarons with ubi paste. This flavour was first suggested by one of my students, Maggie. Thank you so much for the idea, Maggie! I hope your macaron adventure is going well. :)

This flavour is, without any doubt, my favourite of the lot. The yam paste filling was wonderfully fragrant and smooth. But it does have its “issues”.

First, there’s the extra step of preparing the yam paste. This same yam paste turned the macarons shells soft after a day. The filling is also a lot heavier than buttercream and one runs the risk of the delicate shells collapsing under the weight of the filling if they aren’t consumed within a day of being filled.

Still, I find these macarons irresistable and will certainly be making them again. :) Besides, I have another excusereason for making ubi macarons. I could never use up an entire yam for the macaron filling, which leads me to the perfect solution for all that leftover root: “or-ni” (dialect pronunciation) or yu4 ni2, 蓣 泥!

              Yam Paste Dessert

“Or-ni” is a local Teochew yam paste dessert. It’s made with yam, sugar and oil. The original version of this dessert is served with gingko nuts, pumpkin slices and sugar syrup, although I’ve also seen the paste served with creamy coconut milk.

The raw yam is first steamed and mashed up. It is then combined with sugar, cooked with oil in a wok or large pan until all the ingredients are well combined. By this time, the paste is completely smooth and no longer sticky. The yam paste is then steamed together with pumpkin slices and gingko nuts. Lastly, sugar syrup (boiled optionally with crushed water chestnuts) is poured generously over the paste and served hot. It’s definitely one of my favourite local desserts!