Sunday, March 30, 2008

White Chocolate Brownies with Chocolate Hazelnut Cream

Category: Dessert
Style: Western
Difficulty: Easy
Portion: Makes 1 9-inch square cake

1/3 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
6 oz white chocolate, chopped
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup walnut pieces, lightly toasted
Chocolate Hazelnut Cream
1/2 cup chocolate hazelnut spread
2 tbsp sugar
3/4 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350F
Line a 9 inch square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving overhang on all sides.
Melt chocolate and butter in a microwave, stirring every 20 seconds. Let cool to room temperature.
In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip eggs, sugar and vanilla until pale and thick, about 10 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add chocolate mixture.
In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Stir into egg mixture by hand. Stir in dried cranberries and walnuts. Spoon into prepared pan.
Bake 45 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool completely before removing from pan and cutting.
Making Chocolate Hazelnut Cream: Cream chocolate hazelnut spread in a bowl with sugar. Add sour cream and mix until combined.
To serve, cut brownies into small squares. Garnish with a dollop of hazelnut cream. Dust with icing sugar if desired.

White Chocolate Brownies is also known as "Blondies".
The brownies will crumble if cut before it is completely cooled.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Dark Chocolate Walnut Torte

苦黑巧克力合桃派 配薰衣草蜂蜜奶油蛋汁
Category: Dessert
Style: French, Western
Difficulty: Medium
Portion: Yields 1 pie

5 tbsp unsalted butter
1.5 cup graham-cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup walnut
9 oz dark chocolate, chopped
2/3 cup whipping cream
3/8 cup unsalted butter
3 large eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
lavender honey crème anglais
1 cup half-and half cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp dried lavender
2 egg yolks, large
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp sugar

To make pie crust:
Preheat oven to 350F. Melt butter in a large bowl. Mix in cracker crumbs and sugar. Press into the bottom of a 8-inch spring form pan lined with parchment paper on bottom and side. Bake for 15 minutes. Let cool.
To make filling:
Spread walnut on a baking sheet. Bake in an 350F oven for 5 minutes or until fragrant. Let cool.
Lower oven temperature to 225F
Place chopped chocolate in a large bowl. Heat cream and butter together just to a simmer. Pour cream over chocolate and let sit 1 minute. Whisk the mixture until smooth.
Whisk together eggs, salt, sugar and vanilla in another bowl. Slowly pour chocolate mixture into egg mixture while whisking continuously. Gently fold in walnuts until just combined.
Pour into prepared spring form pan. Bake until edges are set and centre is still slightly soft, about 2 hours. Allow torte to cool completely in the pan at room temperature. Remove from pan and serve with crème anglaise and honey.
To make crème anglaise:
Add cream, lavender and vanilla to a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat until just before boiling. Remove from heat. Cover and let steep 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk together egg yolks, honey and sugar in a large bowl. While whisking the mixture, slowly add the hot cream into the egg mixture through a strain (to remove lavender). Transfer back to saucepan over low heat. Stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, cook until mixture coats the back of a spoon, about 5 to 10 minutes. Strain again and chill.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Risotto with Zucchini

Category: Pasta, Entree
Style: Italian
Difficulty: Medium
Portion: Serves 8 as a main dish, 12 as a starter

2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 large zucchini, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
3 litres chicken stock
6 tbsp unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
shaved Parmesan cheese for garnish

Melt 2 tbsp butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini, and season with salt and pepper. Cook until zucchini is just tender and bright green, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Place stock in a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and keep warm.
Melt 6 tbsp butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, and cook, stirring constantly, until they are soft and translucent, about 4 minutes.
Add rice, cook, stirring constantly, until grains are glossy and make a sound like glass beads clicking, 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the wine to rice mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until wine is completely absorbed by the rice.
Using a ladle, add about 3/4 cup hot stock to the rice. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon at moderate speed until liquid is almost absorbed completely.
Continue adding hot stock 3/4 cup at a time, stirring constantly, until rice is mostly translucent but still opague in the centre, a total of 18 to 25 minutes. As rice nears doneness, watch carefully to make sure it does not overcook.
Remove from heat, and stir in reserved zucchini. You can also add more butter (about 2 tbsp) if you want to. Season with salt and pepper, and garnish with shaved Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Be careful not to stir too vigorously, or mixture may become gluey.
You may not need to use all of the stock and can add smaller amounts as you go along.
You can also taste test to check the doneness of the rice.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Mustard Roast Pork with Balsamic Reduction

Category: Meat, Entree, Main Course
Style: Western
Difficulty: Easy
Portion: Serves 8

2 pieces Pork shoulder butt, about 4 to 4.5 lb
4 tbsp mustard, yellow or Dijon
1.5 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp brown sugar

Preheat oven to 450F
Wash and pat dry pork. Season with salt and pepper. Spread mustard over pork.
Roast pork on a rack until done, about 35 minutes. (Tips: Use a meat thermometer)
While pork is roasting, bring vinegar and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat to low, and simmer until vinegar is reduced by half and is thick.
Rest pork for at least 5 minutes before slicing. Serve pork slices on a plate, and drizzle with balsamic vinegar reduction.

This is a very comforting dish. The taste is fresh and mellow. To add more punch, try adding some wasabi or mint to either the sauce or the marinade.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Baked Caramel Pears

Category: dessert
Style: french
Difficulty: Easy
Portion: Serves 6

3 pears, like Barlett or Anjou
2 tbsp butter
6 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp brandy

Preheat oven to 400F. Peel pears, and cut in half lengthwise, leaving stems on. Cut out core. Trim off a little flesh on the round side so that halves will lie nicely on a plate.
In a large sauté pan over medium heat, melt butter. Add 2 tbsp sugar, and stir until melted. Add pears, cut side down, and cook until brown, shaking pan occasionally. As the pears are cooking, sprinkle the rest of the sugar into the pan. Turn over, and cook a few minutes more. Transfer to a baking dish, and pour caramel syrup in the pan over pears.
Bake until soft and tender, about 30 minutes, depending on ripeness of pears. Serve hot or warm.

Choose pears that are ripe but still firm. Anjou pears are more tender and juicy. Barlett pears are more crispy.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Chicken In Milk

Category: Main Course, Meat, Entree
Style: Western
Difficulty: Easy
Portion: Serves 6

4.5 lb whole chicken, or 6 legs and thighs
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp ground sage
zest of 2 lemons
juice of 1 lemon
10 cloves garlic, peeled
2 cups milk
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat over to 375F.
Wash and pat dry chicken. Season with salt and pepper.
Add olive oil and butter to a large frying pan over medium heat. Fry chicken until golden on both sides. May need to do this in batches.
Discard oil and butter in pan. Add milk and heat until boil. Using a wooden spoon, scrap the bottom of the pan until all the bits and pieces loosen. Remove from heat.
In a deep roasting pan, arrange chicken skin side up. Place garlic cloves in between chicken pieces. Mix cinnamon, sage and lemon zest with milk, and pour over chicken. Bake for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, baste chicken with pan juice every 5-10 minutes.
When done, pour lemon juice over chicken and continue to bake for another 5 minutes. The lemon juice will split the milk and make a curd like sauce.
Serve chicken immediately with pan juice and garlic.

The flavour of this dish is sort of mild but delicate and complicated. If you like stronger flavour, consider using a more generous amount of herbs and spices. Adding cayenne pepper or pepper sauce will bring the heat up too.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Cream of Roasted Garlic Soup

Category: Soup
Style: Western
Difficulty: Easy
Portion: Makes 6 servings

2 bulbs garlic, unpeeled
2 medium brown onions, diced
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, or use 2 tbsp dried
1 kg russett potatoes
5 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup whipping cream

Preheat oven to 350F.
Separate garlic into cloves. Place unpeeled cloves on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil. Roast for at least 20 minutes or until garlic is soft. Remove from oven and let cool. Squeeze garlic flesh into a small bowl, discard skins.
Meanwhile, heat a little olive oil in a large pot, cook onion and thyme, stirring, until onion softens. Add potato; cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add stock, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, uncovered, about 20 minutes or until potato is just tender. Stir in garlic, and simmer for another 5 minutes.
Blend or process soup until smooth. You may need to do this in batches. Return soup to pot, and reheat until hot.
Just before serving, stir in cream. Divide into serving bowls, and garnish with extra cream and thyme.

The longer you cook garlic, the more creamy in texture and subtly nutty flavour it becomes.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Dorayaki (Japanese Red Bean Pancake Sandwich

Category: Snack or Dessert
Style: Japanese
Difficulty: Medium
Portion: Makes 8 to 12

3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp honey
1 tbsp mirin
1/3 tsp baking soda, mixed with 1/2 tbsp water
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tbsp skim milk powder or coffee whitener
1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 tbsp water
1 package sweetened coarse red bean paste (tsubu an), about 300-500g

Put egg and sugar in a mixing bowl, whisk until combine. Add honey, mirin and baking soda, whisk before adding another new ingredient. Sift flour and milk powder into batter, whisk until all lumps disappear. Whisk in melted butter, cover with plastic wrap and let rest in fridge for 30 minutes.
Place non-stick frying pan over high heat. Whisk 2 tbsp water into batter to adjust consistency. Turn down heat to low, pour a scoop of batter in the pan and make a small pancake about 3 inches in diameter. Turn over when bubbles appear on the surface. Fry until the other side is also golden. Repeat until all batter is used, makes about 16 to 24 pancakes. Put pancakes on a rack to cool.
Spread red bean paste on the less smooth side of a pancake, and cover with another one to make a sandwich. Repeat until all pancakes are used.

You can make the pancakes smaller (like 1.5 inch in diameter) for a more elegant look.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Mussels with Chilli-Lime Sauce

Category: Appetizer
Style: Fusion
Difficulty: Easy
Portion: Makes 32

32 cooked mussels on the half shell
1/4 cup sweet chili sauce
1 tbsp vodka
1/3 cup lime juice
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp finely chopped cilantro

If you are using frozen mussels, clean and cook mussel in boiling water, drain and let cool.
Loosen mussels in shell.
Whisk all ingredients for sauce together in a small bowl. Brush sauce onto mussels.
Serve cold.

Sauce can be made a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate until used.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Roast Pumpkin Soup with Spiced Baguette Toast

烤南瓜湯 配 法式香料吐司
Category: Soup
Style: Western
Difficulty: Easy
Portion: Makes 6 to 8 servings

2 kg Japanese pumpkin, cut into halves, skin on
7 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp honey
salt and pepper to taste
Spiced Baguette Toast
1/2 baguette, sliced into very thin slices on an angle
olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 400F. Place pumpkin halves in a baking dish lined with parchment paper, cut side down. Bake for 45 minutes or until very tender.
Scrape the pumpkin from the skin. Place the flesh in a blender in two batches, with 1 cup of stock and 1/2 tbsp of mustard in each batch and blend until smooth.
Place the pumpkin puree, remaining stock, honey, salt and pepper in a large pot and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes for until hot.
In the mean time, put baguette slices on a foil lined cookie sheet. Brush both sides of bread slices with olive oil. Combine salt, nutmeg and pepper in a small bowl, and sprinkle mixture on top of bread slices. Bake in the oven until browned.
Serve soup with spiced toasts.