Thursday, November 28, 2013

Review: Burnt Ends



Ladies and Gentlemen, stop the presses, I'm crowning the new It restaurant of Singapore (the last It restaurant being The Naked Finn, sometime before that, Esquina and Mozza and before that still, Luke's and way before that, Artichoke) and it is Burnt Ends. Beyond a shadow of a doubt. An It restaurant, has to have certain characteristics- it has to have absolute attraction. That is, it has to have the je ne se qois of Disneyland- that special something, that life and buzz and pace of being somewhere special, a place where you are happy when you're there, and if you're unhappy before you're there, you're happier for being there. 

It isn't necessarily the structured beauty of a white-tablecloth high-end restaurant and it can be the quality of insouciance in straight-up great food, great ambience, great style, preferably in that order. It has to possess a personality, it has to be what people want. And often, I find, although you do find those rare special few places, it winds up being a restaurant that you can't eat at every day (just like how even though she is never short suitors, no one, really, can date an It girl every day, or at least, not for long). This isn't the local where you can go for a quiet dinner or a comforting meal, this is the girl-down-the-street-and-around-the-corner whom you go out with for a drink and a good time. 


The funny thing about living in Singapore is that I was starting to get really cynical about the new restaurants that were opening. You know, I heard a statistic that over 700 restaurants had opened in Singapore in the last year, on a base of over 4000 restaurants. That is a really high turnover and I was starting to bore of mismatched chairs and new concepts


A lot of them seemed to take their marketing material and billboard fonts more seriously than the substance of their food. Many of them probably couldn't turn out large volumes consistently, never mind elevate food at a global level, with new taste combinations and flair. After awhile, they were even starting to all sound alike as we went through seasons of one-word, half noun names and then moniker odds to colours and odd geographical legacies- Chop Suey, Morsels, Suprette, OCF, The Green Door, The Black Swan, The Market Grill, The Cajun Kings. 

And this is excluding the flood of Italian and semi-Italian eateries, pizzerias and wishful, wistful bakeries flooding each neighbourhood. Good grief! How is a blogger to keep up with it all? And have you seen the prices of food recently, especially food in hospitality? How can I justify paying $80 for a 200-gram steak when that is a month of commuting fare (and when I can smoke a far heavier and superior one at home for $35)? Most restaurants out there, except the dismally unsuccessful, are making a decent return from the new Singapore of free-wheeling youthful diners and free-spending expatriates and tourists, to the extent that restaurant groups have easily grown from one to five in half a decade and chefs are the new investors in eateries. 

The upside is, once in awhile, a place like Burnt Ends comes along. I want to tell you their provinance is different, but it really is not. The owners here are Loh Lik Peng (Majestic Hotel, 1927, Cocotte@Wanderlust Hotel) and Andre Chiang (Andre). The space is intimate and expertly crafted. From their eye-catching giant fig tart, to their uber-thick letterpressed kraft cardstock business card, this place could fit in in Soho in New York or Shoreditch in London, it is that contemporary in culinary standard and attention to detail. Is it creative? Yes, it is. Is there much service? No, there isn't.

I had been to Burnt Ends once with a friend for a boozy lunch and made a booking to go back on a public holiday. Thankfully, it was raining cats and dogs that day and pretty much no one else was out, except the party of 6 which had the best reserved seats in the house (that later turned out to be Andre Chiang, little surprise- he also mentions Burnt Ends in his FB posts, raving about the incredible food, haha). If you make the trip down, try to sit right in the middle of the bar, in front of the chefs, so that you can take in all the action and live theatre of the kitchen. Don't sit at the ends, where you have only the smoke of the giant coke fires and the surly gaze of their sommelier.


It's rare to find a place that even my mum thinks is fun and trendy, she has an even more particular palate that either C. or I and her dislikes run a mile long. Halfway in, when she said cheerfully, how I wish I could have a cold glass on white wine! I knew this concept was something that would please and impress most. We ordered a bottle of their cider, 4% alcohol, for those who are just looking for a touch of bubbly.


We began with the salmon skin roe that you see atop, thin morsels of flavour and briney eggs that were gone in a flash. Then their charred BBQ leeks with pasley and hazlenuts (titled Leek, Hazlenut and Brown Butter). The leek was literally black when it came out of the smoker, they peeled off the outside layer to reveal that deliciously soft and succulent interior. Ingenious and definitely something I will be trying in our own smoker. In terms of cost, this reminded me a little of Franny's in Brooklyn, that charged $16 for one similarly caramelized leek, cut into two. Although this was a huge fat Australian leek, it really is an awful mark up for something that is as cheap as chips in a wetmarket. The first time that I visited, we had bruschetta, or rather, sourdough bread slices rubbed with garlic, smoked and layered with fat italian tomatoes and a verdant green parsley basil reduction. It was excellent, no less because their sourdough bread is very good. As you can imagine, not many of the items on the menu are vegetarian but there are some small and simple vegetarian dishes like this, leeks or Cos lettuce salads to be had.


This was followed up with what I believe were duck hearts and fennel- as you can see, without a professional lens and reflector, the food doesn't look particularly appetizing but it is much more hearty and attractive in real life. Each dish was also cleverly balanced with watercress and salt, providing some sharp to help balance out the smokiness of the meats. We then had the beef tongue, with caramelized onions, followed by the grilled squid.

The beef tongues (Wagyu Tongue and Beer Pickled Onions)- I actually prefer the braised tongues at WOLF dining, because I think tongue tends to get tough when seared too quickly. The grilled squid is the most famous dish on the menu and although I liked the diversity of taste in the dish, with the corn and spring onions, the squid itself I felt was not really the right balance of bounce and chewiness. I think it was much better than ordinary squid but for an Asian palate used to some fantastic stir-fried baby octopus and sambal squids, this could have done better. All of it was well executed, just that some dishes were better than others.


The dish that followed is the second favourite in the restaurant, the pulled pork burger (Burnt Ends Sanger), with a heap of red lettuce and their spicy mayonnaise-tomato-horseradish based sauce. This is very good, succulent and juicy, I find the sauce overpoweringly hot and peppery but the others seemed to like it. I must say that because it was split in 4s, it was a lot less gelat than when I had it in a lunch of 2. The chefs were very gracious about splitting everything for us so that we could try more dishes, which I really appreciated. The pork is served atop a freshly baked and sliced bun, which was excellent, soft, warm and pillowy.


As far as the mainstay of the menu goes, this would be their beef (Flank, Burnt Onions and Bone Marrow). In the previous time that I had been at Burnt Ends, they had a fish dish, a flounder with crispy fried drippings, smooth, tender and probably my favourite dish of the day. If they had any fish when you go, that should definitely be one of your picks. The second time I went back, they had had a massive Friday night and sold out of all the several fish on the menu for the entire weekend (yes, they are doing that well). So we could only have the beef. 

The chef is very good about estimating how much space you might have after you submit your rolladex of dishes and will use that to estimate the cut of beef to proportion to your party. In our case, this has generally ranged from 130-160g. As someone used to smoking 1.4kg of prime rib or rib eye, it is almost laughable to think that you can get (read: pay for) the same effect with a thin little slice of 130g beef. Indeed, on both occasions, the beef was a little charred, a little bitter on the exterior and didn't have enough of the taste of smoke. But it was very juicy and sliced beautifully on the inside, still one of the better beefs in Singapore. 


Here's a second picture of the meat, so you can see what I mean. I'm all for charred surfaces it was a lovely pink inside but when there's only 130g of meat and the outside is that black, it's quite honestly, burnt. Again, I could have used more variety in their salad (watercress) but it's the beef marrow and onion reduction sauce that really makes the dish shine. 


Sometimes an It restaurant is where you can pinpoint exactly how they can improve (as oppose to something mediocre where there's almost nothing much to point out). So how could Burnt Ends have been better? It could have oysters, cold, fresh, sharp oysters to cut through the heaviness and grease of the food and meat. The steak could have been less bitter, the skin had been burnt to a charred and sour skin. The desserts could have been lighter and more elevated, similarly to give a bit of clean and astringent finish to the meal.

We wound up going across the street to Keong Siak Street for their molton chocolate cake and fresh-fried doughnuts with cinammon cream, as we weren't tempted by the heavy fig tart at Burnt Ends, but what I would have really loved would be a simple lemon sorbet or a fluffy sticky date pudding with cinammon cream, or even a sharp lemon and raspberry cake. The meal could have been cheaper (we averaged about $50 a person by sharing but if you pig out with alcohol, it would be more like $130 a person) but then, hey, it won't be, because it's Singapore. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Recipe: Four-Angled Winged Bean Salad



I have two really awesome salad recipes to share, for those of you who want to eat a little healthier in preparation for the year-end binge. I've been trying to increase the amount of veggies that make up our meals (much in vain, I must say) and this has been part of that effort. 

This bean was first introduced to me by the wife of one of our senior management when I was putting together a cookbook for work. She was an elderly, firm yet fun lady, exactly what you would expect for an erudite English literature professor and an alumnus of Stanford. She explained that this vegetable, otherwise known as kacang botol, is something quite particular to South East Asia even though it can be grown in similar climates and you will rarely find someone not of Malay or Peranakan descent who enjoys cooking and eating these. 

Since then, I've always looked out for this vegetable at the markets and have made some tweaks to the recipe each time I've made it. The vegetable is easy to spot, it's a verdant green long bean, and has the most odd four-angled shape, a bit like a four-pointed star, when you cut it across. Reminiscent of a long, skinny, crunchy starfruit. The trick is, you should only buy them when they are fresh and bright, for they do not last long and taste something special when you find really springy, feathery beans. 

Slice them cross-wise and if you don't like the taste of fresh bean, blanche them for two minutes in hot water. I prefer to blanche them in water that has already been pulled off the stove, and really quickly, for they will otherwise turn a darker foresty green. Or else, don't blanche them at all, it's probably better for you raw anyway.


Finely slice three or four shallots, the skin of a red chilli (discarding the seeds), dice the base of a stick of young lemongrass, two cloves garlic and halve five or six fresh prawns. Fry them together in a bit of onion oil, or any oil you have- the mixture of the garlic, lemongrass and shallots is so fragrant, I think of it as the East Asian trinity, every time I smell this sharp, savoury combination (usually with some red chilli), I immediately think of humidity and street markets. Toss these into the beans and mix. 

For the salad dressing, juice five small limes (limau kasturi), again this is something specific to the tropics. I'm not sure what these limes are properly called, is it kaffir lime? These are baby limes which have a deep yellow juice and fruit, with a sweet smell, very unlike the larger key limes that are green inside and out. Mix this with 1 tsp of salt and 2 tsp of sugar and pour over the beans and prawn. 

I like to crumble in some crispy rice crackers. This is something that has been showing up in our supermarkets and is originally from Thailand. I like the textural difference between the bean, prawn and crackly rice and because the rice grains are thicker they hold their crunch for longer than if you were to use, say papadums. If you don't have any, you can omit it, or use other kinds of rice crackers.

I like that this salad is so easy and quick to throw together (especially if you don't blanche the greens) and utilises things that are so common to markets here. It also goes well with all kinds of Asian food, it complements heavy, earthy dishes like salmon curry or beef shank buakaluak, or you can eat it with a light lunch of porridge or kuay teow soup noodles. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Recipe: An Easy-Peasy Best Baklava Recipe!


Baklava is a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup and honey. I think one reason that this dessert is so popular and accepted, is that it has roots in many old civilizations of the former Ottoman Empire, in places like Mesopotamia and in the Byzantine era, spread across Central and Southwest Asia. The word baklava is first attested in English in 1650, and may come from the Mongolian root 'bayla' which means 'to tie, wrap up, pile up'. Although the history of baklava is not well documented, it is suggested that it's current form was developed based on a Central Asian tradition of layered breads.


I find baklava one of the easiest and possibly cheapest, desserts to make, even though if you buy it in Singapore, it is usually quite expensive (I'm told up to $8 a slice at Suntec City, which seems an extravagant mark-up). In fact, I keep a pack of frozen filo pastry in my freezer just for the purpose of throwing together a last minute dessert should we have a group over for dinner or if we are invited to someone's home. The ingredients are merely filo pastry, pistachios, butter, sugar, orange peel and heat. The odd thing about baklava is that it tends to attract a polarisation of views, some people dislike it intensely for it's sickly sweetness and buttery texture, some people just love it and are fanactical about the proper way to make baklava. For example, there are a few recipes that mix different nuts, like walnuts, hazlenuts and pistachios in fractions, but purists say that only pistachios should be used. Also, I cook my syrup with orange peel, which isn't as strong, but many people will attest to using only orange blossom water, for a more flowery and scented taste. 


Ingredients:

1 pack of frozen filo pastry
3.5 cups pistachios, finely chopped
1 cup melted butter
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
Pistachios for garnish

Ingredients for syrup:

1 1/2 cup sugar
½ cup honey
3/4 cup water
1 strip of orange peel
1 vanilla pod



Method:
1. Preheat oven to 150 degrees C. Pulse the nuts, cinnamon & sugar in a food processor until you
reach a slightly coarse consistency.
2. With a pastry brush begin by brushing the bottom of a 9X13, or similar pan. The size of the pan is not too important, it will affect the height of your baklava but the process is still the same.
3. Layer 8 sheets of phyllo dough, making sure to brush butter between each one. I like to lay my sheets in both directions, as shown by the picture above. This is to make sure that there is less spillage of the nuts between the layers. I also try to save the beautiful, untorn sheets for the top of the baklava and to use up any more mangled sheets in the middle. Lastly, when forming the baklava, I tuck the sides of the top most sheets under those below, again, so that the nuts are trapped inside.
4. Spread half of the nut mixture on top of the 8 sheets.
5. Layer 8 more sheets of phyllo dough. (If your pack of pastry has fewer sheets, just divide the number by three, as essentially we are making three sections of dough, in-filled with two layers of nuts).
6. Spread the remaining half of the nut mixture.
7. Top with the remaining 8 sheets of phyllo, making sure to brush the top layer with butter as well.
8. Slice the baklava into small diamonds (approx 24-32) then bake for at least 2 hours until slightly golden brown on top.
9. While baklava is baking, make the syrup by bringing all the syrup ingredients to a simmer over medium heat. Continue cooking over low heat until mixture becomes syrupy (approximately 10 minutes), then remove from heat and allow to cool.
10. Pour cooled syrup over the baklava as soon as it comes out of the oven and allow to come to room temperature again before serving. The important thing is that either the baklava or the syrup has to be hot for the syrup to be easily absorbed, if not, you will wind up with a sticky mess.



Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Review: WOLF nose-to-tail dining


This past weekend, we were very fortunate to be part of a small group that tested some of the dishes that came out of WOLF, a nose-to-tail restaurant, the latest project by Yuan Oeij of the The Prive Group. The restaurant is heavily influenced by London restaurant St John and is helmed by Alysia Chan, the owner's niece.

Nose-to-tail eating is centered on restoring respect for the whole animal and appreciation for the lesser known parts. Because the whole animal is consumed, it is considered ecologically sound and a no-waste approach to dining that has of late, been really popular in London and Manhattan.



Personally, I am not a fan of offal, which probably makes me a fairly good barometer of nose-to-tail cooking and I want to put it out there that I have not enjoyed my experiences at all nose-to-tail restaurants, neither do I think it is an easy form of cooking to execute well. Like the very concept on which it is founded, I tend to find that nose-to-tail restaurants sound and look better than they actually taste. I travel a lot to obscure Asian destinations where eating the odd ends of a rabbit or a cow, isn't really by choice but by poverty, so paying more, to eat the bits which we've already ascertained aren't as prime, just seems very unappetising to me, though not for the normal reasons. Also, somehow this idea that they are doing something 'groundbreaking' (although it's no longer a new commercial idea anymore), means that the lighting is invariably dim, the service pretentious (because really, how many diners know what pig's ears are supposed to be called?) and the decor plays with glorifying motifs of cute or sympatico animals.

I have this theory that when you walk into a restaurant and you see a $8000 Mooi lamp or commissioned mural, then the food is at best, tiny and pretty and at worst, not going to be the straightforward, punchy, confident cooking that you hope. This restaurant was 'influenced' by The Spotted Pig in Gramercy and The Breslin in Chelsea also does nose-to-tail dinners- I have to say, the food here reminded me very little of both and I wasn't a huge fan of either The Spotted Pig nor The Breslin, although I understand their renown.



That being said, WOLF is an absolutely beautiful restaurant, the 40-seater is handsome and complete with a full wine list. The all-glass fa├žade leads into a warm space of leather banquettes and timber tables with brass inlays of flying pigs and the attention to detail is carried through in the ceiling, covered with circular copper plates and moulding.

The centerpiece has to be a huge, roughly hewn, beautiful and masculine wall carving of a wolf. The decor is a testament to the love and effort that has gone into the restaurant and is perfection for a swanky first date or a photo shoot, the Gemill Lane stretch has become so hip and insouciant that you can't go wrong with the location. The prices are comparable to similar eateries, a 300gram rib-eye steak will set you back $68 and $38 for the beef tongue entree.

I don't want to spend too much time on the dishes, as what we tasted was a work in progress and will presumably be re-worked over the coming weeks, except to say there were many dishes that we really enjoyed on the menu. I would highly recommend the ox-tail tongue with lentils de puy, salsa verde and mint. The tongue had an exquisite texture, too often, it can become grainy and taste slightly mouldy, this meat was firm, yet pliable, had a melting and chewy mouth-feel and was perfectly offset by the slightly tart salsa verde and the rich and hearty lentils. One of the best beef tongues I have tried anywhere.
We also tried the chicken hearts in parsley, the beef lips with potato, the chorizo and octopus stew and the sweetbreads, which were all good. There were also some dishes that taste-wise, probably should not even have made it onto any tasting menu. The fennel salad with goat's cheese sounded very promising, but came out as two large, barely cooked halves of a fennel bulb, drizzled in oil and balsamic and the pear tartin, blackened to a caramel perfection at Yuan's previous restaurants Brown Sugar, unfortunately came off puffy and pallid here.
One of the weak points of the restaurant is that I don't get a sense that each member of the kitchen and service staff are seamlessly competent in what they are doing (unlike, say, blistering and tight restaurants like Esquina or Burnt Ends or Luke's, which is right next door on Gemill Lane). On the other hand, I think that might be too high a standard to hold and compared to many restaurants, certainly places like Pollen or Cataluyna, WOLF gets top marks for a more cohesive theme and taste.

Part of this is perhaps the lack of experience as they are just getting started and the chef is fresh off her Sunrice training, having then been a sous-chef at Cocotte and completed a two-week stage at St John's. It can be challenging to micro-manage a large kitchen staff and control the standard of every single plate of food that comes out, which may be why there were hits and misses in the more mainstream dishes.

I am not sure that the taste experience here elevated the food to a new level for me, but overall, I am really happy that local restaurants and groups can be competitive and successful in Singapore's intense but frequently hollow restaurant and restaurant marketing scene, and introduce diners in Singapore to new food concepts and culinary experiences. I would definitely encourage you to wander down Gemmill Lane and step in to enjoy the buzz when WOLF is up and running. 

WOLF
18 Gemmill Lane
Tel: 65572224
* Pictures used are taken from the restaurant website and Facebook page.

Miscellaneous: Ombre cake


It was a friend's birthday this past weekend and we thought to make a surprise cake. I made ombre layers in graduated shades of pink, she's a very pink girl. I was debating between making a rosette cake or an ombre buttercream cake. 



How gorgeous are these fluffy thin sponge layers? I love it. I saved them to make a pink strawberry trifle but guess what- they had only been in my fridge a couple days when they were all pillaged for supper, with ice cream, by a hungry large mouse. Somehow, trimmed cake layers never last long in my kitchen!
 


I love photographing rounds of cake, there is something so soothing, unerring and symmetrical, in their circular shapes. I made a 6 layer, 6 inch diameter cake, then iced it in between the layers and did a crumb coat of pale pink buttercream icing. I also sliced the layers just using a serrated knife this time because I didn't want to get out the cake leveller. Big mistake. I guess I'm not at Buddy Valextro level yet, where I can just eyeball the cake and slice in a straight line with the cake knives. Although they were still fine, my layers were a little chipped in the side and some hollower in the middle, which doesn't produce the even, perfect layers within the cake. This is particularly important, if you are planning to leave the edges of the cake unpiped, you really need a clean and even finish.

 

There is a good technique to make ombre cakes, which I was learning as I went along. It is important to know that when you ice these cakes, there is actually a lot of spare icing and the icing layer is fairly thick. What is required are three shaded bowls of buttercream, I chose a coral orange shade of pink on the bottom, a sweet pink for the middle and a very light pink tint for the top surface. 

What I discovered is that your three shades can't be too close together in the colour family. If you look at the cake above, it's clear that my medium pink and light pink colours were too similar. After I frosted the top of the cake, then infilled the medium pink, the colours just swirled together and weren't that distinct. I was also really worried about the colour gradation being messy between the darkest layers- turns out that isn't really an issue, nor is it difficult to swirl it together into an even finish.
 
Lastly, along the top, I wish that I had some coloured crystal sugar, wish takes some colour planning, as it makes a nice counterpart to the sugar dragees. Overall, I was pretty happy with the ombre cake, although the next time I make one, it will definitely be with more distinct colours.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Recipe: Red Kale Salad and Warm Brussel Sprouts Salad



One thing that I've learnt over many years of food writing and tasting, is to appreciate my vegetables. Some people learn this as adults, either as result of a vegetable food that they particularly discover and like, or out of necessity and health reasons. This appreciation though, comes a lot easier if it is inculcated young. I recently had the misfortune of having several dinners with children who had the worst attitude toward vegetables, "Mum, I don't want to eat any of this Green Stuff" they howled, about the tiny bits of green herb on their buttered buns (they were eating burgers, for crying out loud) and I made the mistake of assuming most mothers would swiftly if gently correct this behavior. I was even prepared for a lecture. But, lo, they proceeded to find a knife and scraped off the green for their children! 


I don't know if they were politely trying to avoid a tantrum or if they deliberately allow and encourage poor eating habits, but some mothers tell me their children have their greens blended, their favourite foods are meat and carbohydrate-heavy or that they themselves don't eat vegetables. Which is a bit sad because apart from being truly good for you and generally a fat-free food, they are missing out on an experience of food, cooking techniques and flavour that is so essential and varied. That keen sense of healthy nutrition and subtlety of flavour is, especially in today's world, one of the best gifts you can teach. 

As you know, we have been using our smoker fairly often (more on this later) and while we've been branching out to try different kinds of meats, such as pulled and crispy pork, prawns, salmon and the variations of beef provenance and feed, from jamon iberico pork jowl to Argentinian grass fed or USDA prime rib, it has also given us the opportunity to experiment with sides. At first, I just prepared steamed sides, I love this because it's simple and quick to do and it makes use of the new variety of vegetables that we have in Singapore. I remember when I was growing up, we had local vegetables with local names- chye sim, kang kong, kacang botol and there wasn't a brussel sprout to be had for love or money. How far we've come since! Even though vegetables, like all food, have been going up in price, the volume and availability is still relatively good, especially if you shop at a wet market or a wholesaler.


Waking early would reward us with steamed platters that I particularly enjoyed, tri-coloured carrots (the purple ones are available in supermarkets, for the same price as washed packaged carrots) and broccolini. I would also make a simply, garlicky bruschetta, drizzled with vinegar, olive oil, sea salt and thinly sliced stripes of basil, to take advantage of the different types and colours tomatoes available.

One thing that I have been keen to do is to increase the proportion of vegetables in the meals (which would require more than steaming) and widen our repetoire of vegetable sides, in particular, create some innovative combinations for salads that will complement the meats while showcasing unique ingredients of their own.


One salad that I tried in San Francisco (also more on this later) was a beautiful local kale salad at Frances Restaurant. I had never really had kale before, here and there, in juices, soups and mixed salads but never in a single bowl that made the ingredient shine. Kale is all the rage across the US and UK, it's as if chefs have suddenly decided that this menu item is hip. I didn't realize for example that there are different types of kale, lacinato or black kale, red kale and green kale.

Lacinato is the type of kale that is commonly found in Tuscany and this is what the salad was originally made with. This I found in Singapore at Supernature ($14.50) and when it ran out, as it often does, I picked up a more asian variety of kale at Eat Organic ($11.50). While this variety was cheaper, it had a thick stem (like kailan), which meant quite a lot of wastage. Of late, I have found Cold Storage muscling in on the twice-a-week delivery of kale to the organic stores and red and green Australian kale has popped up on their shelves ($10). So this vegetable is a luxury in Singapore, but this does make an entire, large salad that easily feeds more than 10 people.

Red kale should really be called purple kale. It's beautiful to photograph. 


I washed out the leaves and flicked them, then towelled them dry (no need for a spinner here). Lining them up, I sliced the leaves finely from top downward, stopping when I reached the central stems. I reserved the last parts of the kale for juicing the next morning, it goes well with and balances out the sweet of pineapple and green apple juice. 

The salad is simplicity itself to make. Thinly slice a half cup of toasted almonds, a small piece of pecorino romano and 4 small, baby radishes with a mandolin. Slice up two peaches or two plums into thin layers. Layer the salad leaves with all the ingredients. See, so simple a child can assemble it.


To make the salad dressing, thinly slice two red onions and caramelize them by heating them in a pan until softened, then adding two tablespoon of white sugar, waiting for it to melt and then two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Swirl through to cook thoroughly, then remove from heat. Add olive oil and white vinegar to the mixture in the pan to form a thin dressing with the carmelized onions and pour over the kale salad when cooled or ready to serve, keep refrigerated otherwise  so the kale remains crisp.



I try to make a warm salad and a cold salad, so I sliced three handfuls of brussel sprouts finely. I probably used 30 sprouts for a huge bowl of salad, there was excess from 10 people. There are several ways to cook brussel sprouts, for years I thought people ate them only in their full green glory, boiled and so I was never a fan. Then I discovered that the sulphuric smell comes from defensive chemicals contained in the sprouts that are activated when they are over-cooked. This and the complex sugar raffinose, also contained within cabbage, sprouts and leafy vegetables, will create flatulence (just saying..). My favourite way to cook these is to stir-fry them just until they are soft and then to roast them in the oven. If you stir-fry them for too long, I find it really brings out that bitter note in the sprouts, whereas roasting them makes them caramelize to a more balanced sweetness.


Slice up some bacon, I like to use thick chunks of bacon and then cube or julienne the slices. Slice kernels of corn off two cobs. Another highlight of weekend morning marketing, I picked up these beautiful full ears of corn, still in their husks. Peeling off the husks always makes me feel like a prairie woman- poor deluded urbanite! You can really tell the difference between these ears and the skinny ones that I find in the regular supermarket, the kernels are so much larger, juicier, sweeter and plumper. I fried the bacon in some oil then added the brussel sprouts and corn, and about 100ml of water, frying just until the corn plumps up.



Then I tipped the mixture into an oven tray and roasted until the sprouts were cooked. While ladling them back into the bowl, I added fresh chopped cilantro. I like my salads rather plain, because I associate that with home-cooking, if you need more salt or oil, you can add fried shallots, or pepper, or even a dash of sour cream and slices of red peppers.

If you have a favourite salad recipe, send it along to me, I would love to try it!