Wednesday, April 16, 2014
I'm here to admit that I am a pie crust stealer.
Especially if the crust is awesome. I know you may now think less of me but hey, that's the bit of the pie with all the 'bad' things in it; so how can it not be the star of the show? Rest assured though, I'm no pie crust snob. Having not grown up with pies, there's no inclination in my blood to go around trying out 20 crust recipes before finding the 'perfect' one. There just has to be enough butter and flavor in it. Baking up flaky and rustically golden brown helps too.
For some time now I have been ever so slightly infatuated with Maggie Beer's admirable sour cream pastry since the day I saw her make this pheasant pie on Masterchef Australia. I love that this crust recipe is fuss free - just three ingredients, yet just by looking at how it was so easily handled and cooked so beautifully, I was convinced it will deliver in both taste and texture the day I get off my chair to try it. The ratio of butter:flour is almost 1:1 and she even let out that this is the only pie crust she uses for everything, sweet or savory.
And so it was perfect.
So perfect, it may possibly be my only pie crust, ever. But let's not forget the filling. While I may nick your crust when you're not looking, I place no less importance in heart and center of the pie. For several strawberry lovers at the cafe's kitchen, I looked to Deb and her strawberry rhubarb pie version two did not disappoint. If you can get hold of tapioca flour where you are, do use it in place of other thickening options. It does yield a hearty, smooth filling without affecting the intended flavor of the main ingredients.
As for the filling recipe, may I suggest you to be free-spirited with it?
I made the second (smaller) pie without following exact quantities and it turn out just as it should. Give your fruits of choice a taste. Adjust the sugars according to their tartness and tapioca to the mixture's moisture. I believe the way of going by feel makes the best pie - one that my fellow kitchen mate insisted she must have another slice after a long night of dinner service and another for breakfast next day, without the need for any vanilla ice cream.
Adapted barely from Maggie Beer's Sour Cream Pastry and Deb Perelman's Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, Improved.
Yield: one 8 or 9-inch pie.
- 200 grams unsalted butter chilled, diced
- 250 grams plain flour
- 125 milliliters sour cream
- 2 pounds strawberries, hulled and sliced/quartered if big, halved if tiny
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup tapioca flour
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 large egg yolk beaten to blend with 1 teaspoon water (for glaze)
To make the pastry, dice the butter, then pulse with the flour in a food processor until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the sour cream and continue to pulse until the dough starts to incorporate into a ball. Wrap the dough in cling film and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400°F. On a well-floured counter, roll half of the pastry 3 mm thick, about 11 to 12-inch circle and carefully transfer to an 8 or 9-inch pie plate. (I normally roll the flat pastry over my rolling pin, then unroll it over the pie dish.)
Stir together strawberries, sugars, lemon, salt and tapioca flour in a large bowl. Mound filling inside bottom pie crust and dot with bits of unsalted butter, keeping the center with more filling than the sides. Roll out the other half of the pastry into a 10 to 11-inch circle. From here on, you can cut slits into it, do the lattice work or use pie cutters. Cover the pie with your choice of pastry decoration. Tuck the rim of pastry underneath itself and crimp decoratively.
Transfer pie to a baking sheet and brush egg yolk mixture over the pastry. Bake for 20 minutes then reduce temperature to 350°F and bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, until the pie is golden and the juices bubble visibly. Transfer pie to wire rack to cool. When fully cooled (several hours later), the pie juices will gel and cut nicely.
Do ahead: Pie keeps for up to three days at room temperature, usually mine will be gone on day two.
Continue reading Strawberry Pie
Friday, April 04, 2014
Comfort food, it provides a nostalgic or sentimental feeling to the person eating it. Wiki says many are flavorful. It doesn't solve problems but for that short moment while savoring its warmth, the heart feels fuzzy. Memories of being tucked away at our childhood dining table come flooding and we relish in this state of assurance that the worries of the world can wait.
For you it may be your mother's apple pie or a steaming bowl of chicken soup. For Anton Ego it is the humble ratatouille, albeit made just slightly fancy by a tiny chef with four legs. On a rainy afternoon, I would slap together butter and kaya on two pieces of Benggali white bread, toast the assembly till smoke comes puffing out of the grill and enjoy the sweet, savory crisp simplicity, perhaps with a cup of hot Milo.
Then there's always rice because we grew up with it. Sardines in tomato sauce cooked with browned onions, a pinch of curry powder, Sriracha and sambal with a bowl of steamed Japanese gohan makes Vijay happy. As for me, I can eat chicken rice every day, perhaps I eat too much of it. How do I say no to a piece of tenderly cooked thigh flavored with just some good soy, rice wine and sesame oil, just like a scene re-enacted from my parent's kitchen?
With this one pot solution crafted by Sherie, I made this way too often and am still not stopping. The chook and rice cooks at the same time together in one vessel, from which you can straight away serve, without fuss or hours slaving by the stove. I've made it for two, four and 15 people, using both the pot and rice cooker. This is one of those things brilliant, busy mothers come up with to save the entire world... okay, at the very least, mine.
What's your comfort food?
One Pot Chicken Rice
Adapted barely from Maameemoomoo's Chicken Rice: The Cheat's Way
- a handful of chopped garlic
- 6-8 shallots, sliced
- 12-15 slices ginger
- 5-6 pandan leaves, washed and knotted
- 2 cups long grain rice, rinsed and washed
- 3-4 tablespoons peanut oil
- sea salt to taste
- 1/4 cup Shaoxing rice wine
- 1 1/2 cups chicken stock (if using rice cooker, follow the marked measurements)
- 60 grams Chinese sausages, steamed and sliced (optional)
- 4-5 chicken thighs or drumsticks, marinated with few pinches of salt, good light soy sauce, some oil and Shaoxing rice wine for at least 30 minutes
- few dashes of sesame oil (optional for sauce)
- 1-2 tablespoons good light soy sauce (optional for sauce)
- cilantro or spring onion (optional garnishes)
Heat up oil in the designated cooking pot or frying pan (if using rice cooker). Stir in chopped garlic, ginger slices and shallot. Sautee on medium high heat till fragrant and almost golden brown. Add in the rinsed rice. Mix well and coat it with the garlic, ginger and shallot oil.
Pour in chicken stock and rice wine. Mix briefly, then add in the salt and mix well. If using rice cooker, transfer the prepared rice to the cooker pot. Arrange the knotted pandan leaves and chicken pieces on top of the rice, making sure not to overlap any of the chicken. If using stove top, bring to a boil and cover. Using the lowest heat, let the rice cook for at least 15-20 minutes until the rice has absorbed all the liquid. If using rice cooker, set to cook till rice is done.
Meanwhile, mix your sauce. Once rice and chicken are cooked, let stand for 10-15 minutes covered. Serve with sauce and garnishes.
Continue reading One Pot Chicken Rice
Monday, March 10, 2014
I have been cooking, quite a fair bit.
The weeklong Lunar New Year break was filled with my mother's hearty simplicities, a batch of compulsory pineapple tarts, my new favorite Japanese rice spread with a raw egg - Tamago Kake Gohan (卵かけご飯), and Vijay's undivided obsession in the form of Hakka stewed pork belly.
Meanwhile, at the cafe, dinner service is getting busier during week nights. We're excited to see new customers discovering our comforting, hearty menu after a long day's work. On weekends the kitchen crew can hardly eat our own meals without either gobbling them down or go halfway before returning to stone cold leftovers later.
Despite this constant busyness, staff meals are never compromised on. The cafe's kitchen believes in taking care of the crew, for without them being we will not be able to service our customers. So with every bit of our strength, we indulge our team with the best ingredients and flavors as much as we can.
I've been trying out new things, using ingredients already in the kitchen, at times bringing my own finds from the market. I try to savage what is usually thrown away and made bottles of flavorful prawn oil for future applications. I cooked nasi lemak in a pot over the stove for the first time in my life, almost burned it and got it perfect the second time. There's no shortage of ideas between my kitchen mate and I. We learn from each other and surprise our staff with things not on the menu to their delight.
This version of Bak Chor Mee is albeit my own interpretation. The minced pork is marinated and stir fried instead of just blanched. The mushrooms are simply sautéed and seasoned instead of stewed. I made the chili sambal using a raw sambal blend we put in the cafe's sambal fried rice, cooked down with prawn oil and some shallots. There's no pork lard and just a dash of Sherry vinegar in the sauce.
If you want to make this following the authentic Singaporean method, I strongly suggest reference to this recipe by Shu Han. It is done similar to those sold at the stalls, the way would eat at least once a month.
Bak Chor Mee (肉脞面 - Minced Pork Noodle)
- 350 grams good quality hand minced pork (meat marbled with fat is best)
- 2 tablespoons good quality soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon good quality oyster sauce
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil
- 250 grams shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3-4 shallots, thinly sliced
- peanut oil for frying
- 2 tablespoons good quality soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon good quality oyster sauce
- 1 tablespoon chili sambal
- 1-2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 2 portions of thin egg noddles (mee kia)
- scallions to serve, thinly sliced
- Romaine lettuce (or other greens) to serve
Marinate the minced pork with soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil and peanut oil for at least 30 minutes. In a wok or large frying pan, sauté the mince over high heat till cooked, then set aside, discarding most of the liquid released from the pork.
Wipe down the wok/pan, then sauté the mushrooms over high heat in some oil. Season accordingly with salt and pepper, set aside. Add oil to the pan to about 4 tablespoons worth, then fry the sliced shallots till just golden brown. Remove the shallots and pour the shallot oil into a medium mixing bowl. Add to the bowl the ingredients for the sauce - soy and oyster sauces, sambal, vinegar and sesame oil.
Bring a medium pot of water to boil and cook the egg noddles according to the level of doneness preferred. Drain and immediately toss the hot noodles in the bowl of sauce ingredients. Divide the dressed noodles into serving bowls lined with a few pieces of lettuce or your choice of greens. Top with minced pork, mushrooms, fried shallots and scallions to serve. Add more sambal on the side as desired.
Continue reading Bak Chor Mee (肉脞面 - Minced Pork Noodle)
Life Is Great explores the incredible world of food and cooking. We hope to share with you our most delicious moments and inspirations.
“Just like becoming an expert in wine–you learn by drinking it, the best you can afford–you learn about great food by finding the best there is, whether simply or luxurious. The you savor it, analyze it, and discuss it with your companions, and you compare it with other experiences.”
Julia Child (Mastering the Art of French Cooking)
“Life is short. Live your dream and share your passion.”
- Strawberry Pie
- One Pot Chicken Rice
- Bak Chor Mee (肉脞面 - Minced Pork Noodle)
- Hakka Salted Egg Steamed Pork (咸蛋蒸猪肉)
- Best Egg Salad
- Blood Orange Chiffon Cake
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake
- Rose Levy Beranbaum's Basic Brioche
- Meyer Lemon Bars
- (A Better) Chocolate Chiffon Cake
- Tiramisu Cake (Encore)
- Hong Kong Part III
- Hong Kong Part II: Zongzi/Bakchang (粽子/肉粽)
- Caffè HABITŪ (the table) at G.O.D. Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
- Hong Kong Part I
- Australia 2010 Part 1: Melbourne
- Bourke Street Bakery, Sydney
- Il Fornaio, St Kilda
- Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne