Archive for April, 2008

Mango Madness

April 27, 2008

I had a weird dream last night.

I dreamt that while I was boiling my mango puree for mango mousse, I neglected to squeeze some lemon juice into the pot, as instructed by my dad. And lo and behold, before I could say, mango oh oh, the concoction took an unsavoury hue of gray!

Jolted out of that nightmare, I climbed out of bed, in good time to start the preparation for my mango mousse cake. The wonderful J, ever so supportive of my pastry interest, ordered a cake from me for her dad’s birthday.

I learnt to make this gorgeous cake at The Patissier Kitchen, the cooking school branch of the wonderful pastry boutique, The Patissier. It was a simple mousse cake at its best – light sponge, honey-scented mango mousse dotted with juicy mango cubes. To give the cake some texture, coconut discs, made out of egg white, sugar and dessicated coconut, were used to decorate the cake. A nice touch that is in line with the tropical fruitiness of the cake!

A Lovely Pierre Herme Weekend (The Overdue Part 2)

April 27, 2008

It was the Friday evening before this when I first tasted French pasrty demi-god, Pierre Herme’s sweet creations at Mezza9 in The Grand Hyatt.

It had been some time before this entry, but no, I have not forgotten the exquisite taste of the desserts. And the experience, of course, of meeting the Picasso of Pastry. It was quite funny when CH bumped into the man while he was exploring the restaurant. The hubby, usually quiet and calm, gestured wildly to me to catch a glimpse of the man whose books I read before drifting to slumberland every night. So… the love for pastry, and the fine art of pastry is indeed infectious!  😉

Unfortunately both L and I have forgotten to bring our cameras that evening, hence the grainy pics that do unspeakable injustice to the fine, edible pieces of art.

These were what we’ve tasted:

Variation Autour du Marron, du Fruit de la Passion at du The Vert Matcha (Variation of chestnut, passion fruit and matcha green tea)  – A light dessert featuring some of my favourite flavours – green tea, chestnut and passion fruit – together! While I enjoy the flavours individually, who knew they complemented one another so well.

Revelation (Puff pastry with tomato, mascarpone cream, olive oil, pieces of black olives, tomato and strawberry compote) – I love the combination of sweet and savoury in the mascarpone olive oil cream that is dotted with black olives. Not sure about the tomato… I think it must have been the humidity, the puff pastry sticks which I expected to be crisp, were a little on the dense side.

Creme Brulee au Foie Gras, Compote d’Airelles et Poire (Creme brulee with foie gras, cranberries and pear) – The only dessert which I wasn’t sure of. I love foie gras, in all its greasy pan-fried glory, but it is much too rich in a dessert. The cranberry-pear compote definitely saved the day, but I prefer creme brulee in its original eggy, vanilla scented state. I think L agreed with me on this one.

Tarte Magador (shortcrust pastry, milk chocolate and passion fruit ganache, roasted pineapple, flourless chocolate cake) – Passion fruit ganache? Oh yes, please! This is a beautiful and rich tart, with lovely roasted pineapples balancing the richness. Pierre Herme demonstrated this one in his masterclass. I am looking forward to my dad’s version.

Emotion Satine (Compote of passion fruit, seasoned orange segments, crean cheese cream, shortbread cubes) – My second favourite of the desserts. This is the perfect example of the balance in taste and richness – the slight savoury taste of the cream cheese cream complemented the tart fruit compote wonderfully. The creamy texture of the cheese was balanced with juicy, refreshing burst of flavour from the passion fruit and orange segments. Absolutely love this one! 

Dessert Ispahan (Ispahan rose-flavoured macaron biscuit, rose petal cream with raspberry and lychees, sorbet ispahan – lychee, rose petal aromas and raspberry sorbet) – The menu said it all. I just CANNOT describe this one. It is perfect. Even CH loves this lovely plated dessert.

Comfort… in Food

April 26, 2008

You can take a boy out of Sarawak but you can never take Sarawak out of the boy. Having been in Singapore for the past decade or more of his life, CH is still very much a Malaysian boy at heart.

While comfort food for me comes in the form of a slice of rich chocolate cake, a scoop of vanilla ice cream or my dad’s luscious, unbeatable butter cake, CH would go for a steaming plate of noodles. Not just any noodles, mind you. He frowns upon the noodles served here – either the yellow noodles tastes too strongly of alkaline, or the noodles are over/under cooked, or too drenched in chilli oil and lard which conceal the taste of the badly cooked, or simply bad, noodles.

What he craves for is the noodles – gan pan mian, found only in his hometown. I first tasted this noodles three years ago when I went back to Sarawak with him. Being brought up on Singaporean style minced pork noodles, I was pleasantly surprised by the taste of gan pan mian, which literally means dry noodles.

What defines gan pan mian is the noodles –  it takes centrestage. I had never tasted noodles like this. The noodles tasted… well, like noodles, without the strong taste of alkaline. The colour of the noodles is pale and the taste is clean. The texture is wonderful, with the right amount of chewiness. Best of all, gan pan mian is dressed with just fried shallot oil and a dash of soy sauce, so you can really taste the noodles.

The closest we have in Singapore that resembles gan pan mian is Kuching Kolo Mee, but most of the versions sold here have been dressed up to suit the Singaporean taste.  So when my mother-in-law is coming to Singapore, CH would usually request for her to bring a kilogram of dried, uncooked gan pan mian noodles here.

My mum-in-law’s version of gan pan mian is a slight variation of what is found on the streets of their hometown. She would would toss the noodles with lots of fried shallot oil, fried shallots and a pinch of salt. The noodles is then garnished simply with fried ikan bilis and topped with a sunny-side up. And that, to my dear Malaysian boy, is a plate of heaven.

You would be surprised how fast we would exhaust our supply of a kilogram of noodles. Fortunately, CH found a brand of Taiwan-made dried noodles which resembles the taste and bite of his hometown noodles. I could still remember the gleam in his eyes when he found that it tasted a little like home!  🙂

We had cooked the noodles several times at home and for lunch today, I made a version of his mum’s gan pan mian. It is the easiest thing in the world, simply tossed noodles garnished with some leftover rocket leaves for that addictive peppery zing.

Simple but no less satisfying. THIS is what comfort food is all about.

A Lovely Pierre Herme Weekend (Part 1)

April 20, 2008

Now, just how many ladies out there would fight tooth and nail (okay…  😉 … an exaggeration) to spend an afternoon with a plump French man who seemed to be nursing a flu?

Well, at least 70! And a handful of gentlemen, one of whom was my dad who I half dragged and half coaxed into coming with me!

Yesterday afternoon, the lovely L, my dad and I joined at least 80 other pastry enthusiasts at the Singapore Tourism Board for an hour-long masterclass with the Picasso pf Pastry, Pierre Herme.

The classes were organised in conjunction with the World Gourmet Summit 2008. The pastry maestro was here to present some of his delectable desserts at Mezzanine at the Grand Hyatt (of course we went… more on that later) and conduct two masterclasses.

With the aid of an interpreter, he demonstrated the preparation and construction of two of his desserts, Tarte Magador, a chocolate tart with passion fruit scented ganache, served with spiced roasted pineapples, and Revelation, a dessert with an interesting tomato and strawberry compote and mascarpone olive oil cream dotted with black olives.

We’ve tasted both desserts the evening before at Mezzanine. I am just a tad disappointed that he did not demonstrate making Ispahan – I absolutely love the ingenious combination of flavours in that one and would love to have the recipe to the fantastic lychee cream.

Anyway… Though down with a runny nose, Pierre Herme conducted the class with good humour, fair amount of enthusiasm, and I appreciated that he took the time to dispense practical tips and hints (now I know how to make my chocolate ganache with a less greasy mouth-feel).

I also like it that he didn’t compromise on the recipes and had given us the professional recipes used in his kitchen. The vanilla and olive oil mascarpone cream has three (!) types of vanilla bean in it – Madagascar, Tahiti and Mexican. Some ingredients are also not commonly available for homebakers. Even so, I am looking forward to the challenge of making the desserts.

 A tasting session followed the demonstration. Maybe it’s because we had been given a look at the painstaking process of constructing the desserts and the story behind the combination of flavours, they tasted much better than they did the evening before. The flavours seemed to come to life and complemented one another perfectly. In the case of Tarte Magador, the passion fruit scented ganache tasted more intensely of the fruit and the spiciness of the roasted pineapples was refreshing and at the same time, so robust with all the lovely spices! And I really like the saltiness of the black olives with the dreamily light mascarpone olive oil cream in Revelation. It’s a bold combination that works. However, I am still quite undecided about the tomato strawberry compote.

It was a great experience hearing it from the maestro himself. I am looking forward to three weeks later when L comes back from her vacation, so we can try the recipes. Meanwhile, I will bake my way through my Chocolate Desserts By Pierre Herme… signed by the man!  

🙂    But of course! 

I am a BIG boy now…

April 13, 2008

…but not as big as Daddy!

Tea and Sympathty

April 13, 2008

There are some friends in life whom I see once a year, or maybe even once in two years. However, that does not make us any less familiar with each other.

Maybe it is because we share the common history of working in the media (Oh, the pain we suffered as pawns of a monopoly! Oh, and the guilty pleasure of gossiping about ex-colleagues! Ha!). Or maybe it is because we are at the same point of our lives now – fussing over the husbands, grumbling about the in-laws and complaining about some idiot neighbours. Or maybe – I would like to think that this is the case – we are just fated to be great friends!  

Whatever it is, I had such a great time when QH and the ever so busy, and may I say, increasingly elusive S, came to visit last evening. QH had a request to make Black Forest cake and of course, who could say no to a sweet request.

QH already knows how to make simple butter cake but would like to learn how to make cream and mousse based cake. Black Forest cake is her choice and my choice of the recipe came from Pierre Herme.

Our version of the cake is a wonderfully rich cake with unbelieveably rich chocolate sponges (trust the French to put 18 egg yolks and 150g of butter into the sponge to make just one cake! But what the heck, we are sharing the cakes and the taste is AMAZING!) and luscious whipped cream. Too bad, as usual, I factored too little time to complete the cake, so when we cut it, it wasn’t chilled enough and the chocolate cream came oozing out. And… hence the lack of a good pic.

It was like the good old times again when we were single, as we chatted over steaming cups of tea (Mariage Freres’ – my latest obsession! More on that later) and enjoying the Black Forest cake. Never mind, the last time we met was months and even years ago, nothing beats old friends. We offered each other a sympathetic ear (career development, or the lack of it in my case, in-laws and dumb neighbours) and cheered each other on (my slow-to-pick-up cake business). It was fantastic catching up!

I hope to see both the girls soon again. In the meanwhile, let’s keep in touch regularly through emails and SMSes.

And QH, I hope your hubby is impressed with your maiden effort of a cream-based cake!  🙂  You are welcomed to come anytime for another cuppa and cake!

 

To Brisbane, With Love!

April 13, 2008

Time flies, no matter which part of the globe we are in. Cousin YX was all apprehensive about her internship to Brisbane in January. With a blink of the eye, it is already mid April now and she is having one hell of a time there!   :

I can tell from my conversation with her that the experience has given her new perspectives on certain issues, and best of all, cooking is no longer a mystery to her (I am going to get it from her for writing this! Haha!).

I had wanted to travel to visit her but work and my little one have prevented me from doing so. Frankly, I cannot bring myself to be away from the little monster… Well, it’s okay. YX will be back sometime in May, so we will have more than enough time to catch up. Meanwhile, here’s some pics of Rui, for the aunty who dotes on him so much!

Take great care of yourself, YX!

Steamed squash is the worst thing in the world!

The porridge Granny feeds me now is more agreeable!

I play on my own in the study while daddy is fussing over some numbers on the computer.

I always try to stay awake to wait for Daddy and Mummy but sometimes the ZZZ monster catches me before I can runaway…

Poor Rui!

April 5, 2008

I was pregnant when I had this conversation with one of L’s friends whose name I cannot remember. He just had a baby and his wife was carrying the little boy the whole evening. He told me, and I remembered so vividly, that the most sickening sound in the whole world is that of the baby falling off the bed.

Alas, I had the misfortune of hearing that sound this morning. My poor Rui!

I was busy with my cupcake orders and handed Rui to CH. Well, normally CH is an attentive dad WHEN he’s not tired. I guess he wasn’t in his top form today! But still… My poor boy fell off our bed as CH was trying to dress him. I heard a thump and a loud cry. That was when I really understood what the phrase “my heart stopped” meant. The little boy was screaming and heaving, tears streaming down his face.

CH said he fell face up from the bed, but on examination, I believe he fell on his right.

Thank goodness, after some coaxing, he calmed down and is now taking his afternoon nap. Rui seems alright but we will observe his behavior for the next 24 hours.

Not that this statement really need validation, but it is true, when the baby hurts himself, a little crack will form on Mummy’s heart. Oh, the little changes motherhood does to a person.