A blade shines in the darkest of the nights
2 Great News to announce!
You can now install The Cooking Ninja free application on your Android phone (if you have one obviously) and access my blog & recipes easily from your phone. Just search for "cooking ninja" on the Android application market.
And we have finally decided on our love nest. It's only about 5 minutes walk to Little One's school. That means Little One gets to sleep for another hour before getting ready to go to school. The only down side of the deal is that we'll need to take a bus to the nearest train station (10 minutes away) to go down town. But hey, it's what is best for our kid that counts the most right? Boy, we are so ready to move in right away as Little One (not just her, us too) is exhausted from waking up like 6.30 am to take the train and bus (about an hour of commuting) to school every morning and back. Yesterday night, she was so tired that she hardly ate her dinner and went to bed at 7.30 pm. Anyway, the apartment isn't ready until next month and we don't have any furniture at all. So there are lots of things to sort out before we can settle down and feel home. And I hope to satisfy my baker & cook itch in me soon. Pierre (so do Little One), needlessly to say, is dying for a nice western (French) home cook meal.
Now today's recipe has very much to do with this month's book choice The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaeffer and Annie Barrows' for our « This Book Makes Me Cook » club. Read on and you will soon know why.
This book came highly recommended by my mother-in-law at the beginning of this year, who went on to buy a copy for her own library. Before I sat down and read it, she warned me that it is not written in the ordinary book way but in a form of series of letters and that if I can get it beyond that oddity, I would fall in love with book like she did. What can I say, this book is indeed a gem and how right she was!
Set in London and Guernsey Island, the story is about an author, Juliet, in search for a new inspiration and angle to write a new book, who became friends with the inhabitants of the island shortly after the end of World War II through correspondence. She was rather intrigued by the name of a book club 'The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society'. Least to say, not just her but us, the readers are rather curious about its name sake too. I love the way the author create each characters, giving them each an unique voice that endear themselves to the readers, making them so real and the depths of friendship and relationship that binds the characters in the story. This book evokes both happiness and sadness in the readers as if we were right there living with the inhabitants of Guernsey and making the reader sad that it has come to an end.
For this book, I would like to introduce a super simple French classic side dish called 'Pommes Rissolée' that is often present on the table in every French household with either steak, fish or pork. It's a big favourite among the young and old. Thank you Michèle (mom-in-law) for showing me how to make this.
It's unbelievable how such a simple dish like this can taste so good and full of aroma - crispy on the outside, tender on the inside. With or without the parsley, this dish still smell so good but of course the parsley bring it to another height in flavour.
Most of the time I only panfried it with olive oil but on the occasion when I have some duck fats (leftover oil from duck confit), I can't resist pan fry the potatoes with it. It's heavenly awesome. Try it and you'll know what I mean by it.
Some slice the potatoes instead and pan fry them the same way.
Last Sunday, all mothers and mothers-to-be celebrated Mother's Day in France. This year, Little One's class, together with their teacher, made a lovely heart-shaped card with a poem and a hanging mirror with crystals all around it. What a lovely surprise gifts! Little One had been so excited about it and couldn't wait for Mother's Day to give it to me. The poem says 'There are millions of bees in hives, there are millions of birds in trees but there's only only 1 mommy.' Although it's not written by her, still I can't help being all weepy about it. Yes, us women and our hormones...
To celebrate this special day, we decided to make a lovely strawberry tart with crème patissière as strawberries season has just began. They are still kind of expensive but heck, why not indulge ourselves?
This is a very simple yet tantalisingly delicious tart to put together. Definitely an all time family favourite.
Pâte Sablée (Sweet Shortcrust Pastry)
Making Crème Patissière
Assembling Strawberry Tart
This is one of Pierre's favorite dessert: it is sweet and provided you put it in the fridge before serving, very refreshing as the water and crème stay cool. All those components (crust, crème patissière and of course strawberries) actually can be eaten on their own, but together they also form an amazing combination!
If you have a food processor, to save time, process the dough ingredient with it. And if you can't bake your dough on the same day, wrap the raw dough pasty in a cling film and put it in the refrigerator - it can stay there for 2 or 3 days. It can also be kept frozen for up to 3 months. When required, simply defrost it slowly in the refrigerator.
Strawberries are very perishable, so only purchase them a few days prior to use. Choose those that are firm and have shiny deep red colour with attached green caps. When buying prepackaged strawberries, make sure they are not packed tightly and the container looks clean (no sign of stain or moisture). Before storing it in the refrigerator, check for any strawberries that are mouldy or damaged. Remove them from the the good ones or they will not contaminate others. Store them unwash in its container in the fridge.
Woohoo! It's about time! I'm back online again with my
spanking new hand-me down laptop (Pierre's new toy finally arrived). I was slowly withering away in withdrawal syndrome of not being able to write new entry on my blog and keeping in touch with my readers and friends for a month. However something good did come out of this, like Little One getting 110% of mommy's attention and the house too (yes, the dreaded housework got done faster). Being without a computer for a month taught me quite a few things but I'm not going to bore you with this right now (later, I promise). Ah... lots of news and recipes to share with all of you.
Before we dive into my new recipe, I want to draw your attention to some NEW features on the Blog (courtesy of Pierre's programming talents):
And the following recipes to look forward to:
Now just before my infamous laptop failed me, I joined a food blogger book club This Book Makes Me Cook - besides reading the nominated book of the month (of course), we also make a book inspired dish as the club is aptly named. I'm very late at this but hey, better late than never! Anyway, April book review was Can you keep a secret by Sophie Kinsella - a light hearted and humorous chick book with kind of predictable scenarios (sometimes a bit over-the-top) but a good read all the same. I enjoyed it thoroughly, even laughed out loud many times at some hilarious situations. The story begins with the heroine, Emma Corrigan, who is aviophobia (fear of flying) babbling out all her secrets to a total stranger seated next to her on flight during a very bad air turbulence, thinking the plane was going to crash. Unfortunately for her, that stranger unexpectedly become a permanent fixture in her life.
There was a company family picnic day scene in this book that inspired me to make this no-knead brioche. I figured that if it works on bread, no reason why I can't make a brioche the same way? Et voilà! It's as easy as 1, 2, 3. From now on, I don't have to knead my brioche anymore - makes my life a lot simpler (pssst... because I suck at kneading big time). Just stir everything in, let it rise, punch it down and let it rise over-night covered in the fridge or a very cool place. Bake it the next morning and you have a lovely delicious breakfast.
It really tastes as good as the kneaded brioche. Pierre suggested using M&M's instead of the traditional pralines: OK, so it looks like a clown that has been thrown into a carwash, but it actually taste great and the peanuts still give the same crunchy sensation as the pralines
If you are living in cool climate country like me, I let my dough rise overnight outside on my window sill in spring or autumn but the coolest part of the house during winter.
I'm sending this No Knead Brioche recipe to YeastSpotting!.
You might like this too:
Dear Readers, my apologies for not blogging anything new for a week. After my laptop died on me a few weeks ago, I started using my old PC (used to work on this PC before Little One was born) as an alternative but there were a few things I didn't quite bargain for. Like it used to have very weak Wifi signal that would most of the time prevent me from saving my post, but that was finally fixed by Pierre with a €69 plug. However it didn't fix the age of this PC - surfing or even typing something online is something else when we are also used to newer and faster PC. Just to give a general idea: I can type faster than it can print the letters on screen! I can take 40 winks while reading newspaper or blogs. Yep, it's that slow. So please do bear with me for a while until I get a new laptop.
Today, we are going to make a Verrine. I'm sure you have seen lots of cookbooks specialising on Verrine and even had it in the restaurants, as they have become very popular lately. You might be wondering like I did, what precisely is Verrines?
"A verrine is a confection, originally from France, made by layering ingredients in a small glass. It can be either sweet or savoury, making a dessert or snack." (Wikipedia)
So what has today's 'Verrine' got to do with The 4 Velveteers? Well, after our great adventure at making au naturel Red Velvet Cake (hence our name sake - Aparna, Asha, Alessio & I) and enjoyed it thoroughly, we decided to make it into a monthly event to spur each of us to great heights in our cooking/baking arena. For this month, we decided to make a savoury Verrine. To make it more challenging, we decided to do a blind concoction: each of us picked a secret ingredient and the 4 ingredients were revealed at the same time. I picked Salmon, Aparna chose Cheese while Asha decided on Squash/Pumpkin. Now, of course, Alessio being Al, has to throw all of us out of the loop with his pick of Chocolates. Yes you read it correctly. CHOCOLATES!
This month challenge is quite a difficult one for me as I'm not a great cook like Aparna, Alessio, or Asha. I still have a lot to learn. To be honest with you, I have never made anything with pumpkin or made a verrine before. The last time I tried to make a pumpkin tart, it turned out to be a disaster but my in laws and Pierre bravely ate it all the same. (Well that's another story) Anyway, I toyed with different mix and layers in my head for weeks. At first I wanted to make a curried pumpkin version to go with fresh salmon like sashmi but my curried pumpkin turned out awful. (had to dump it in the bin) so I stroke off that idea. Smoked salmon came to my mind a little bit too late as we have already done our grocery shopping for the week, so I had to stick to original idea of using fresh salmon. Then my mind was roused by the delicious fragrance of steamed gingered salmon with nice crunchy refreshing cucumber. Now how to pair it with cheese, pumpkin & chocolates was another challenge. Soon the idea of chived mixed with cottage cheese with small bits of dark chocolates started playing in my mind - then came the idea of having something crispy like chips ...voilà pumpkin chips was born. So with all that in mind, I finally set out to make my very special verrine. Hope you'll like it too.
Preparing Salmon layer
Making Pumpkin Chips
Preparing Cheese layer
Assembling Velveteers Verrine
To my great surprise, it actually turned out good. The ingredients really blends well. The crushed layer of pumpkin chips gives a good flavour and texture to the chived cheese. The introduction of dark chocolate bits in the cheese was kinda odd at first but once we get over the surprise, we start to enjoy this new taste and find that it actually fits. The gingered salmon turned out really good. Overall, you have a very fragrant taste with a crunchy yet springy and refreshing savour all at once.
On the hindsight, I think mozzarella cheese would have been more ideal than cottage cheese as mozzarella is more firm and springy in taste which would go better with the soft textured salmon. For the salmon, perhaps it might have been better to steam it as a whole instead of in small pieces, to make it firmer. And also a more generous layer of roughly crushed pumpkin chips on top. I would like to make this again with this adjustment and experiment with making one with fresh raw salmon with a squeeze of lemon juice (perhaps).
When making pumpkin chips, it is best to wipe the plate now and then or else oil accumulates and your chips will turn out to be very oily.
The 4 Velveteers (as we called ourselves) are hosting a monthly event that explores food, cuisine or our passion about something that catches our interests. All of us shares our recipes, experiences and verdicts on our blogs. Every month will be a surprise - we never know what we'll make next. So if you're interested in joining the Velveteers, please feel free to drop by our food blogs and leave a comment and we will get back to you.
Do check out what the other Velveteers have come up with:
Dear Readers, immediately after I rejoiced blantantly to all that Spring is finally here in my post last Friday, winter slapped me hard on my face the next day with freezing cold below zero temperatures. As if that was not enough, winter threw in some snow on us last Sunday, as if to make sure that we understood that it was here to stay for a while longer and to stop dreaming about spring. Since last Sunday, the temperature stayed -3°C with snow fall now and then. On such cold days, the best way to warm ourselves up is to cook a pot of spicy hot curry like chicken curry or mutton curry or soup like tomato or leek & potato.
Leek & Potato Soup is one of the greatest classics of French homemade soups. I can easily understand why, for it is not only delicious, aromatic, nutritious but also inexpensive and filling. Leeks belongs to a vegetable family called the Allium vegetables like garlic and onions. Leeks are a very good source of manganese, vitamin C, iron, folate and vitamin B6.
Choose leeks that are firm, straight with dark green leaves and white necks. It should not be yellowed or wilted, nor have bulbs that have cracks or bruises. Buy only leeks with a diameter of 1 1/2 inch or less, as large leeks are generally more fibrous in texture. Store fresh leeks unwashed and untrimmed in the refrigerator in a loosely wrapped plastic bag : this will help to retain moisture and keep them fresh for 1 - 2 weeks. Cooked leeks will only stay fresh in the refrigerator for about 2 days.
Here's the simple version of the Leek & Potato soup that my mom-in-law and sis-in-law often cook at home. Hope you will like it as well. Enjoy!
This soup is simply delicious - creamy, full of flavour and tasty. Little One loves this soup, even Pierre who dislikes leeks likes it. It's an all occasion soup: as comfort soup or under the weather or just to warm us up on a cold day. It's simple, quick & easy to make and healthy too.
The above recipe is the base. You can add other herbs to it or any other ingredients like bacons, mushrooms, chicken or fish, etc if you want. You can also freeze the soup but it must not have milk or cream in it.
Canada is buzzing with excitment... an euphoria so different from the sombre mood that kicked off the Winter Olympic 2010 on 12 February, with the loss of life of a 21 year old Georgian luger, Nodar Kumaritashvili during a training run a few days earlier. For the first time in Canadian history, an olympic gold medal was won on home soil by Canadian mogul skier Alexandre Bilodeau. This is the 3rd Olympics held in Canada but the Canadians never won a gold in any of those Olympics. What a big celebration that must be for them!
We too, at BloggerAid, are buzzing with excitment of our own kind, cheering alongside all the athletes who have trained so vigorously and represent their respective countries. No, we aren't putting on our skiis or skates. Our sport is FOOD, so we'll be woking & whisking along with them in BloggerAid-CFF Culinary Olympics - an excellent idea by Val and Giz, the founders of BloggerAid :
« In many ways BloggerAid-Changing the Face of Famine (BACFF) members are also athletes. We represent over 60 international countries who have created and developed a communication and friendship that has brought our world a little closer together with a mission to raise awareness. What better way to come together than to create a Culinary Olympics where we can share our pride for our nations cuisine. »
Did we say FOOD? Now, you are talking to the right person. We, Singaporeans pride ourselves in knowing our food - it's sort of a National pride and past-time. Oh, an advice: never start a food conversation with a Singaporean. Go down that road if you dare but don't say I never warned you. Cuisine of almost all cultures can be found on this tiny island called Singapore. Hence we earn ourselves the name 'Food Paradise'. Bon! Today, we aren't going to talk about Singapore but France - the country of LOVE and its haute cuisine - as it is the place that I call my home today.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn some interesting facts about the country I'm representing, like:
All these calories burning winter sports commands a good winter dish to energize us back in form like Cheese Fondue or the Poulet à la crème (creamy chicken) that I'm going to introduce to you today. This recipe is traditional of the Bresse region and is particularly simple to dish up - created by Eliza Blanc, a very talented cook famously known as la mère Blanc who cooked exclusively with only simple and fresh products found in Bresse. In 1929, She was awarded a Star by the Guide of Michelin. In 1930, she was bestowed 1st prize in le Touring Club de France's culinary competition. And in 1933, the Prince of Gastronomy, Curnonsky declared that la mère Blanc is the best cook in the world. She was also the grandmother of great French chef Georges Blanc.
(from Ma Cuisine Des Saisons by Georges Blanc)
This dish is very rich, creamy and deliciously aromatic. The chicken has to be top quality here, you'll taste the difference. I would highly recommend to add in morsels of mushrooms (morilles is my favorite with this dish).
Alternatively, you can simply chop up the chicken pieces with bones on it and cook as per above but just add water instead of chicken stock. If you use a good quality chicken for this recipe, you won't need any commercial chicken stock to make this dish taste good. I didn't take out the chicken and sieve to filter out the spices from the sauce.
The members of BloggerAid-Changing the Face of Famine have published a cookbook BloggerAid CookBook where 100% of the proceeds target children and education through the World Food Programme called School Meals. The highly successful BloggerAid-Changing the Face of Famine Cookbook continues to be available through the Create Space e-store. The e-store is a direct connection of Amazon but the book cannot be found directly on the Amazon.com site. We have chosen to deal exclusively with Create Space where our children in the School Meals Programme will benefit the most! This professional cookbook makes an excellent gift for family and friends. So let's keep the momentum going. Tell your friends, who will tell 2 friends, who will tell another 2 friends...
Have you ever been served by rude waitress, cashiers or customer service people? I did, not just once or twice, but many times and I'm sure you did too. Sometimes they were so bad that you'd think they are suffering from a bad case of constipation. Perhaps they are lacking prunes or dried plums in their diet!
Prunes or dried plums? What is the difference? None at all. Dried plums is just a new name for an old classic name of prunes. I'm sure not many of us know that they are also high in antioxidants. The fruit and its juice are well-known for its natural laxative effect, thus making it a common home remedies for constipation. So next time if you get bad service, give them a packet of prunes. Maybe that will help them give better service and look less constipated. LOL!
As for me, whenever I get bad services, I always remember the stories from my ex-Management professor on how he dealt with such situations. First he would kindly enquire after the well-being of the said person, much to the said person's surprise and unease, then he would ask if he/she had a rough day at work or is having some personal problems, etc. And if all answers came to a 'NO', he would then politely tell that person: 'If you aren't happy with your job, QUIT. Why make yourself and others miserable? If it's not the case, then why the bad mood?' I can assure you that teacher was truly capable of it. LOL! Would I dare do it like he did? To this date, I haven't mustered that kind of courage. Perhaps I'm a product of how my parents brought me up - the old fashion Asian culture way. So how would you react to such bad treatments? Do you remain quiet and suffer it through or do you tell them off?
Like many, Pierre and I aren't a big fan of dried prunes but what if I tell you there is a way to encourage the young and old to eat it? Eight years ago, when I first arrived in France, my mom-in-law served me this delicious French classic appetizer made of bacon wrapped prune, baked to a nice crisp. Pop one in your mouth, you will be sent on a delicious taste trip. Try this appetizer today, you will love it. Everything taste better with bacon, right?
I never thought that this combination would this oh-heavenly-delicious. The taste of sweet-slightly sourish flavour of prune mix with salty crispy taste of bacon all rolled in one bite. Once you starts eating them, it's hard to stop as we are forever chasing after that 4 flavour, bite after bite. And it's obviously super-easy to make, which doesn't hurt.
You can also cook them under grill mode of your oven or pan-fry them without oil if you don't have an oven.
La galette des rois (kings' cake) is sold all over in France starting from 1st January until end of January to celebrate the Epiphany on January 6. There are traditionaly two versions - in the South, it is a brioche covered with sugar and some fruit paste while the northern part of the country, it is a richer pie made with frangipane (a sort of almond paste) filled puff-pastry. Besides the paper crown that comes with the cake, there is also a hidden porcelain figurine 'la fève' (a charm) in the paste and the person who finds it in their slice will be crowned king or queen for the day. Traditionally, to distribute the slices randomly, the youngest member of the family will go under the table and calls out the name of the person around the table whom she wants the next slice to be served until everyone has their slice on their plate. Then that's where the fun begins, everyone looking at each other wondering who got the lucky 'fève'... and chewing carefuly as not to end up at the dentist!
In Pierre's family, this tradition of slice distribution used to fall onto my sister-in-law until Little One was born. So when she turned 2½ years old last January, she took over that important role. Being a little chipmunk, the idea of going under the table and commanding who gets the first slice greatly appeals to her. That being said, she couldn't help and keep peeping out of the table just to make sure that we didn't cheat. Needless to say, she wants to be crowned PRINCESS of the day regardless who got the fève. LOL!
January has always been my special and favourite month of the year. Do you know why? Have a guess! But now there's another reason to like this month even more - I get to eat my favourite Galette des Rois through out the whole month. YEAH! Last year I made my very first attempted to make this galette and much to my surprise it was so easy to make. One simply can't go wrong except maybe if you are half as distracted as me while making it, in which case you'll ended up with a very brown galette (as shown in picture below). LOL!
Mmm... sorry to say that it tastes even better than the ones from the bakery. Yes, I'm conceited. I love the mixed taste of sweet mingled with just a tint of salt (salted butter!) and the almond flavour is just right with the crispy puff pastry... mmm... Simply yummilicious!
For those who have a very sweet tooth, do increase the quantity of sugar as sweetness of this recipe is just nice. If you don't have almond extract, you can replace it with vanilla essence.
Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas!
This Christmas, Santa is bringing lots of presents for everyone as they have been good through out the whole year, especially Little One who has been sleeping through the night for the past month. Her mommy told her every night before she sleeps 'If you sleep through the night every night, Santa will bring you lots of presents but if you don't, Santa will know and will not bring you any presents'. To my surprise, she whispered secretly to my ear: 'Shh! Mommy, don't tell Santa if I didn't sleep through the night. It stays a secret between us.' LOL! I told her 'Mommy can't lie to Santa. He knows everything and can see straight away if I lied. Now be good and sleep through the night like a big girl' Sleep through the night she did except for a few times where she was woken up by noises made by the radiators or some storm.
This year like every other year, we celebrate Christmas and New Year with traditional dishes like foie gras, scalop sautée with butter vinegared onion sauce (delicious!), good wine and desserts like home-made chocolate truffles, orangettes etc. However this year, together with my sister-in-law, we got a little zealous a bit earlier and made a classic Italian cookie, amaretti and a great French classic, îles flottantes.
Îles flottantes, literally translated as floating islands, is one of the great desserts of classic French cuisine. It's basically a lightly cooked meringue floating in custard sauce, crème anglaise. This dessert is a prominant feature on the menu of many French restaurants (along with crème brûlée) and tourists like you and me (well before I came to live in France) who don't know any better pay an indecent amount of money just for the taste of it. Well, now you don't have to travel all the way to France to savour it, you can do so at home - it's a rather easy dessert to make.
It's one of the funniest dessert: it's like sweet clouds floating on a lake of vanilla! The meringue is light and fluffy and goes well with the cream.
Alternatively, you either poach spoonfuls of the egg white in boiling water, or in microwave oven on low power for 45 seconds (I haven't tried this out) or in a pot of hot milk for 2 minutes.
Crème Anglaise, literally translated as "English cream" is a French (!) dessert sauce (liquid custard) with vanilla flavour. Why it is called Crème Anglaise - I have no idea! This sauce is classicly used in a French classic dessert called îles flottantes (floating islands), but it is also frequently served along with cakes and pastries. It can also used as a base for ice cream or crème patissère or as a sauce for some dry cakes, dark chocolate cakes etc.
This sauce is easy to make at home. So why get one from the shelf of a supermarket when you can easily make a delicious one without preservatives or coloring?
This is a great way of enjoying vanilla, as the flavor stands alone in giving taste to this sauce. This is a dish where a real vanilla pod will clearly make a big difference against artificial vanilla flavoring. This traditionnaly is great along with a strong chocolate cake, something with raspeberries or a cake too dry to eat without some sauce.
The sweetness of this version is just right and to our liking. However, if you like it sweeter or serve it with something light in sugar, you can probably increase the sugar amount a bit.
Don't throw away the vanilla pod after removing it from the milk. Dry it and store it in a container with some sugar to get natural vanilla flavoured sugar.