Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Recipe: Tiramisu

My sister and I were tasked to provide dessert for a family dinner on Sunday, and since she hadn't done it for a while, my sister decided to make tiramisu. This recipe makes a lot of tiramisu, and though I don't usually like it, this produces a very delightful version that is rich without being suffocating.

If you don't count the calories then you won't scare yourself.

This is not my recipe, so don't blame me if it doesn't work. But since I personally tasted the result, I'd say it does. Tiramisu requires refrigeration time, so don't expect to make this in the afternoon for dinner.

Tiramisu (Serves 10 - 12)

4 packets (60) ladies' fingers (not the vegetables)
1 cup coffee powder
2 cups hot water
1/2 cup kahlua or coffee liquer
7 eggs
500g mascarpone cheese
1½ cup sugar
1½ tsp vanilla
200ml whipping cream
Cocoa powder

Tiramisu Meez

It's a lot of ingredients, but tiramisu is one of those things that are hard to make in small amounts. You might as well go the whole hog and whip up a batch to take with you to a party.

Dissolving Coffee Powder

Dissolve the coffee powder in the hot water, and pour in the kahlua. Mix well and try not to breathe in the fumes - you won't be able to sleep for a week. Obviously for more of a caffeine fix you can always up the dosage, but this is quite enough for me.

Lady's Fingers

Soak the ladies' fingers in the coffee mixture for just a few seconds, enough to get them completely drenched, and lay them out in a layer on the base of a large glass dish.

Egg Whites 1

Beat 7 egg whites with 1/4 cup sugar at high speed...

Egg Whites 2

Until they become foamy. This shouldn't take long, since the added sugar will make the egg whites rise extremely quickly.

Egg Whites 3

Then reduce speed to moderate and continue beating until the egg whites are really stiff and can be inverted over your head. This very conveniently avoids the problem of having to decide whether you've reached "soft peaks" or "stiff peaks". Of course, if you haven't quite reached the right amount of stiffness, you'll just get egg whites all over you. Still, I think that's a risk worth taking.

Stuff 034

Beat the egg yolks with the mascarpone cheese until they're well-mixed, then add the remaining sugar and beat till the sugar has dissolved.

Stuff 036

Add in the vanilla and mix it in. Your yolks and cheese mix should have a consistency approximating churned butter.

Stuff 039

Beat the cream till it's fairly stiff. You could do this with a whisk, I suppose, if you had arms of steel. Otherwise just use an electric beater. Once that's done, mix the cream and the egg yolk mixture together, making sure they're well incorporated.

Stuff 041

Fold in the egg whites. Usually you would do this with a spatula, but my sister claims using a whisk makes no difference. Such unorthodoxy appeals to me.

Stuff 043

Anyway, once your egg whites have been nicely folded into your cream mixture, you should have a big bowl of something that looks remarkably like porridge.

Stuff 044

Spoon a layer of this over your ladies' fingers, smoothening it with a spatula or the back of your spoon.

Stuff 046

Place another layer of coffee-soaked fingers over the cream, and then spoon more cream over that layer, rather as you would build a brick wall. Presumably, if you had a deep enough dish and enough ladies' fingers, you could have a tiramisu with as many layers as your dish was deep, but I think two will do nicely.

Stuff 047

Once you've finished applying the final layer of cream, cover the dish with clingwrap and place the entire edifice in the refrigerator and chill overnight. This sets the tiramisu, otherwise you'd get a big gloppy mess as soon as you tried to cut it.

Stuff 055

When you're ready to present your masterpiece to the world, remove it from the refrigerator and cover the top with a light dusting of cocoa powder. Try not to be too heavy-handed, I hear cocoa dust can cause pulmonary problems.

With so many yolks and a large amount of cream and cheese, tiramisu doesn't keep very well, so try to finish it within a day or two, perhaps three at the most.

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Sunday, June 26, 2005

IMBB #16: Eggs Redux

Well, since I did promise a proper IMBB entry, I guess I'll have to deliver. This entry very nearly didn't materialise, due to the absence of the key ingredient, the eggs.

I decided that instead of working with boring ol' bird eggs, which are not only quotidian and unpretentious, but also rather finicky ingredients, I'd try something a little more exotic. And since in cuisine, "exotic" seems to mean "Oriental", I decided I'd go East with this particular IMBB.

Now, normally I'm not a fan of Japanese food, because I have a problem with eating my food raw. However, I really like this little morsel involving salmon roe, or ikura. Fishy though it may be (and I'm not a great fan of fish either), I absolutely love the sensual, almost carnal explosion of that most primal of colours: red.

Unfortunately, unless you happen to own a fish farm stocked with breeding salmon, ikura isn't something you can grab off the shelf. Still, it's not a prohibitively unavailable ingredient, and once you've obtained it then the rest of this recipe is rather simple, which is always a plus. Surprisingly, it comes from Emmanuel Stroobant, whose cookbook hasn't been good for much else.

Marinated Salmon Roe with Watermelon Ice Cubes is an excellent amuse-bouche to be served before the meal proper, and also does well as an intermezzo to cleanse the palate. It's very refreshing, and the tart roe is offset by the sweet and chilled watermelon, wonderfully cooling in the recent heatwave we've been experiencing.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

400g Watermelon, rind removed, flesh cut into 1-cm cubes
2 Tbsp Coriander leaves, chopped
1 Tbsp Mirin
1/2 Tbsp Teriyaki sauce
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
200g Salmon roe (Ikura)
Freshly cracked black pepper

Marinated Salmon Roe meez

Mirin and Teriyaki sauce can be bought at most supermarkets, while salmon roe can usually only be found at specialised Japanese supermarkets, such as Isetan. I didn't manage to get any coriander, but any strong herb will do, such as parsley or basil.

Place the diced watermelon in a shot glass, tealight holder, martini glass or whatever stylish container you can find, and freeze for an hour or two. Do not freeze it for too long, as they can cause discomfort to the teeth if they are too cold.

Marinted Salmon Roe

Marinate the salmon roe with the coriander leaves, mirin, teriyaki sauce and lemon juice and keep refrigerated.

When ready to serve, taste the dressing and correct accordingly. There should be some tartness from the roe and the teriyaki sauce, but enough sweetness from the mirin as well.

Marinated Salmon Roe with Watermelon Ice Cubes

Remove your watermelon cubes from the freezer, top with salmon roe and pour the dressing over. Sprinkle with freshly cracked black pepper and garnish with a few strands of chives.

All gone

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Friday, June 24, 2005

Recipe: Creme Anglaise

(Originally part of IMBB 16: Eggs)

I've decided to tidy up the recipe and change it to an entry devoted solely to Creme Anglaise, the rich custard sauce that goes so wel with so many desserts.

Ingredients (Serves 2, or 1 Cup)

4 egg yolks
100ml milk, or half-and-half
50g sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla essence
30g butter

Creme Anglaise meez

If you'll notice, this is almost exactly the same as the Creme Brulee recipe, except with less cream. In fact, the procedure for making it is exactly the same as well.

Milk and sugar

Heat your milk and half the sugar till it's almost boiling (if it's got cream in it then make sure it doesn't boil) and the sugar has dissolved completely. Add the vanilla extract and let it flavour the milk.

Egg yolks and sugar

Add the remaining sugar to your egg yolks. An interesting reaction occurs in which your yolks get "burnt" by the sugar if you leave them too long, so start whisking immediately.

Pale yellow

Keep whisking till the yolks have thickened and turned pale yellow. If you lift your whisk and let the yolk fall back into the bowl, it should leave a trail on the surface, called "forming the ribbon". You could keep whisking till the yolks are almost white, but that is very tiring.


Temper your yolks by whisking some of the hot milk into them.

Whisking the sauce

Then whisk the yolks back into the remainder of your milk.

Coats a spoon

Over low heat, whisk your custard until it thickens, taking care not to scramble your eggs. Whisk in the butter to give it that creamy liaison. Heat it till it coats the back of a spoon, in other words, until you can draw a line as shown in the photo.

Creme Anglaise

Strain your creme anglaise into a separate container. This custard sauce is particularly versatile, and it may be served hot or cold, and is a good accompaniment to all sorts of desserts, including souffles, floating islands, molten chocolate cakes and other sweet treats.

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Saturday, June 18, 2005

Review: Au Petit Salut

[Edit: Au Petit Salut now operates out of two locations. This review describes the bistro at Holland Village. For a review of their flagship restaurant at Dempsey Road, click here.]

As promised, I went to try Au Petit Salut's set lunch on Friday, and was very pleased with what I found. What I found was good, solid, reliable French food at affordable prices.

For a while it had seemed that one was hard-pressed to find any decent French food anywhere that wouldn't have you mortgaging the house. Saint-Pierre, Saint Julian, Les Saisons, Vis-a-vis, all well and good, but nothing particularly budget-friendly. Petit Salut though, saves the day with a satisfying set lunch. Do not, however, expect dinner to be an equally good deal.

Restaurant Interior

The restaurant itself is cosy enough, not so large that you'd be bothered by lots of noisy patrons, nor so small that you'd constantly rub elbows with the waiters.


The set lunch menu is certainly generous, with four or five choices per course, all for $22, including coffee or tea. Unlike many other restaurants that serve set lunches, Petit Salut doesn't palm you the cheapest scraps from last night's dinner. Admittedly, you're not getting foie gras, but things like lamb stew and beef cheek, while not haute cuisine, are still substantial enough for you to feel you're getting your money's worth.

Stuffed mushroom

I started with an oven-baked portobello mushroom with "duxelles" and mozzarella ($12). Duxelles is a mushroom stuffing, so this dish is kind of like mushroom overkill, but since I'm a great fan of mushrooms, I had no complaints. The mushroom wasn't dry, as was the case with some baked mushrooms in other restaurants, but wasn't wet either. It was moist, meaty and generally a good appetiser (4/5). I did think they could have dispensed with the cheese though, and opted perhaps for a tomato coulis or some such.

Lamb Stew

Next was a traditional French dish, navarin d'agneau, which was basically a lamb stew with a white wine and tomato base ($18). Aesthetically, it could have done with a little work, as I thought the vegetables were a little rough and ready. But since the meal was only $22, it's excusable. The lamb itself was tender, although the tomato sauce didn't quite mask the scent of the lamb, if that puts you off. Again, I enjoyed this dish (4/5), which was of a decent portion. The chef is of the "let the ingredients speak for themselves" school, and I found that that approach worked particularly well with dishes like this lamb stew and the braised beef cheek.

Creme Brulee

Dessert took the form of a classic, vanilla-infused creme brulee ($8.50). I'm not sure what they did with the caramelised top; it looks too even to have been burnt with a torch. In any case, the crust was a bit too thick and sweet for me, and the custard was kind of luke warm (3.5/5).

Au Petit Salut is conveniently located in Holland Village, although parking can be a bitch. It took me ten minutes to park, although admittedly five of those minutes were spent attempting to parallel park.

In terms of ambience, the restaurant is small, but fairly tasteful. Air-conditioning is about right, though it can get drafty if you're directly underneath a vent. Adequate, would perhaps be the most accurate term to use.

The service was quite commendable. The food was served promptly, and the staff were very friendly and helpful. This may have had something to do with the fact that the boss lady was around, but I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Au Petit Salut (French)
Bblk 44 Jalan Merah Saga, #01-54
Tel: 6475 1976
Closed for lunch on Saturdays
Location: 4.5/5
Service: 4/5
Ambience: 4.5/5
Food: 4/5
Overall: One of the best set lunch deals in town

Edit: I returned for a family lunch on Sunday (26/06/05)

There were some slight changes to the starter and main course sections of the set lunch menu, but no change in desserts. Disturbingly, the Soup of the Day was still Cream of Green Lentils, exactly as it had been since Tuesday. Always beware the Soup of the Day.

All prices are exactly the same, since I was having the same set lunch.


To start, I had the burgundy snails with tomato and garlic butter. I assume these are not called escargots because the were served without their shells. I was served six of these little suckers, which were very hot and smothered in butter. Perhaps it was the tomato, but somehow I felt the fragrance from the garlic and butter was somewhat lacking. Still, they were enjoyable (4/5), and it's not every day you get to eat half a dozen molluscs.

Duck Confit

I decided to forgo my usual meat, as even though their lamb stew had been updated, it was still a lamb stew, and I didn't quite feel in the mood for a beef onglet. Instead, I had a duck confit served with white beans and rosemary jus. Unfortunately the duck meat wasn't fork tender, nor was it particularly flavourful (3.5/5).

Coconut Souffle

For dessert, I had the 20-minute coconut souffle. Now, this was a really gorgeous affair, as it had risen straight and tall, right out of its cup. The coconut was mild, so it couldn't completely mask the taste of the egg whites, but it did impart an interesting taste to an otherwise plain souffle. I enjoyed this (4/5), as it was appropriately light and fluffy, but I was somewhat concerned by the fluid at the base of the souffle cup, as it looked suspiciously like egg white.

So it looks like Au Petit Salut is pretty constant in its food all days of the week, although service was somewhat slower this time around. Still an excellent place to go for lunch.

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Monday, June 13, 2005

Recipe: Mushroom Soup

I'm still on my soup fetish, perhaps to tide me over the dismal tart affair, and to keep me going until Is My Blog Burning: Eggs rolls around.

Everybody loves mushroom soup. It's one of those old staples that can be found in just about any restaurant you go to. The number of places that try to palm you Campbell's mushroom soup, though, is utterly disgraceful, especially when it's really not that difficult to make your own.

There are only a few types of mushrooms easily available in Singapore: white button mushrooms, brown cremini mushrooms (which are just brown buttons), portabello mushrooms (which are just overgrown creminis) and shiitake mushrooms. See Foodsubs for pictures. Also available at some specialty food shops are chanterelles, trompets de mort, morels, porcini and truffles, but are much too expensive to be of any use to the normal home cook.

The problem with most of these mushrooms is that they are not particularly flavourful. Buttons and creminis are close to tasteless, and while the portabello is meaty, they're not very economical. Shiitakes are the tastiest of all, but impart a distinctive oriental taste to an otherwise European soup.

The trick, then, is to incorporate a very strong flavour base into your soup. This may be down with a small amount of porcini mushrooms, which are intensely aromatic. They're cheaper if bought fresh, but less flavoured than the dried variety.

A more affordable compromise is to buy dried Shiitake mushrooms, then rehydrate them with hot water. Not only will the mushrooms lend strength to your soup, the water used to rehydrate them can be added in to fortify the mushroom flavour, in place of plain vegetable or chicken stock.

Mushroom Soup (serves 4)

250g Shiitake mushrooms (fresh, or a mixture of fresh and dried)
200g Cremini mushrooms
1 stalk celery
500ml chicken stock
1 bay leaf
50g butter (or 5 Tbsp olive oil)

Mushroom soup meez

You can be flexible with the mushrooms, depending on what is available or what is convenient. In this instance I used white button mushrooms in place of shiitakes, but included some dried shiitake for flavour. I also used some porcini oil in the hopes that this would do something for the taste.

Mushrooms 1

Roughly chop your celery and mushrooms, and place in a covered pot along with the butter or oil. Allow to sweat over low heat for 15 - 20 minutes. Toss them about in the pot every once in a while to ensure the bottom isn't burning.

Mushrooms 3

Add half the chicken stock or the rehydrating water, the bay leaf and simmer, covered, for another 15 - 20 minutes.

Mushrooms 4

By this time the funghi should be soft and have infused the water with flavour. Remove the bay leaf and transfer the contents of the pot to a bowl and allow to cool for 20 - 30 minutes.

In a blender, process the mushrooms and liquid to a paste. Personally, I like leaving little bits of mushrooms to chomp on, but you can blend the mixture as finely as you want.


At this point, the soup may wait till close to serving time, or you may freeze the excess for later consumption.

Before serving, add the remaining chicken stock to the soup until it reaches your desired consistency, and season to taste. Warm up the soup to a gentle simmer and serve in individual bowls with a tablespoon of cream stirred into each.

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Saturday, June 11, 2005

Recipe: French Onion Soup

I have a thing for soups. They're like my comfort food, and I love experimenting with new soups. French onion soup has been on my "to try" list for a long time, together with cold soups and consommés.

Decided I'd finally give it a try as it didn't seem that difficult, and was handed a chance to do so when Alex came over for lunch. Count on a long preparation time for this one, as even though it doesn't require blending, it does require a lot of slow cooking and simmering and extensive preparation.

Recipe courtesy of J.C. Yeah, Jesus loved onions too. Just kidding, it's Caesar's secret recipe. No, kidding, it is, once again, one of Julia's.

French onion soup (Serves 8)

700g or slightly more than 5 cups of thinly sliced yellow onions
3 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp oil
1 tsp sugar
3 Tbsp flour
8 cups boiling brown stock (but more advisable to use 1/3 stock and 2/3 water)
1/2 cup of white wine
Rounds of toasted bread
1 to 2 cups grated Swiss or Parmesan cheese (but I'd use mozzarella)

French onion soup meez

Those little flecks you see in the stock are bits of a beef stock cube I added, as I was afraid it would be too diluted by the water I had added earlier. Do not be tempted to do this, as those little stock cubes are damn salty.

Onions 1

Cook the onions in the oil over very low heat in a covered saucepan for 15 minutes, until they begin to colour and turn golden.

Meanwhile, put your stock-water mixture on to boil.

Onions 2

Once your onions are nicely golden, sprinkle on the sugar and cook uncovered for 30 minutes or till your onions turn an even, deep golden brown. Mine took 15 minutes to reach a dark brown colour, but possibly my heat was a little too strong.

Onions 4

Add the flour and stir for a few minutes, making sure no flour lumps are left intact.


Off the heat, pour in the boiling liquid and add the wine. Simmer partially covered for 30 minutes more, skimming if necessary. Do not boil or over-simmer or your soup will become very salty. This soup benefits from two to three tablespoons of cognac stirred in just before serving, if you have any, but it's not a disaster if you don't. Season for taste, checking especially for saltiness.


Divide your soup into tureens, float your bread rounds on the soup, and top with grated cheese. Place them in a 160ºC oven for twenty minutes or until the cheese has melted and is starting to bubble (mozzarella or parmesan work well in this respect).

Soup 3

Finish by browning your cheese with a blowtorch or under a broiler.

Soup 4

Not much to look at, it's true, but with a little care and refinement, no reason why it would not do for polite company.

Warning: This soup is HOT. At no point in the cooking or serving process should you spill any of it on yourself or on your guests. Of course, to serve it less than scalding hot is unpardonable.

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Sunday, June 05, 2005

Review: Pizza Pazza

Pretentious food isn't always found in some classy restaurant joint. Sometimes you find only slightly pretentious food in the most humble of settings. Such was the case today, when we came across a pizza parlour in a food court.

Anchorpoint Food Court

This looks like your average food court at Anchorpoint, with stalls that sell chicken rice and noodles. It isn't until you walk in further, towards the end of the place, that you notice a stall not commonly seen in food courts.

Pasta Pazza

But that wasn't what we were looking for. Unusual, maybe, but not spectacular. A little further in though, and just opposite the pasta place, and we were rewarded.

Pizza Pazza

Now, a pizza parlour in a food court is certainly something you don't see everyday. And definitely not one run by the owner himself, who appears to be Italian. See those boxes? That can only mean one thing: he does delivery.

Romanian Guy

Turns out he's not Italian after all. He's a Romanian guy named Peter Bontoi who makes Italian pizzas. Talk about globalisation. Check out the huge mound of ingredients he has in front of him. Nothing fancy, the usual mozzarella, salami, mushrooms, capsicum and stuff.


Take a look at the huge menu he has next to his work area. Obviously plonking himself in a food court has done wonders for his bottom line; he can afford to price himself well below anything you'd find elsewhere, including joints like Pizza Hut and Canadian Pizza. $5.00 for a personal pizza is a really fantastic price. This is regardless of how many toppings you want on it, so if you're a Zen Buddhist, this is a great place to say, "make me one with everything". What really caught my eye was the $1.80 panna cotta, but unfortunately it wasn't ready when I asked for one.

The great thing about this setup is the flexibility it comes with. Mr. Bontoi says any other Italian dishes are available upon advance request and that he can do on site cooking for any occasion. The real sweetener though, is that he does free delivery for any order over $20 (for selected areas). So if you live anywhere around Anchorpoint, this is a really good alternative to Pizza Hut. Question is, of course, does the food come up to scratch?


This was the Caprese salad ($4), which was really simple. Surprisingly, the lettuce was extremely crunchy and retained its water. The dressing of olive oil and basil puree looked awful, but was quite refreshing when drizzled over the tomatoes and cheese slices. I have never been a fan of olives, but for the price, the salads really are a good alternative to the fat-laden food you're otherwise likely to consume.

Mushroom soup

My father decided to order the "chef's soup" ($4), which turned out to be mushroom soup. For this, I have only one word: Campbell's. 'Nuff said.


And now on to the main event. This guy's pizza looks pretty authentic, and he doesn't stinge on the ingredients. My mother rather unwisely ordered artichokes and olives, which took up far too much space on the pizza than they were worth. The pizza's crust is thin; though not as thin as it gets in true pizzerias. A 12" pizza like this one feeds two people for $12, no matter how many toppings you order, and for that price, I'm not complaining.

Pizza Pasta is located in Anchorpoint, right opposite IKEA. Of course, if you don't feel like making the trip, you could always call for delivery, assuming you live nearby of course.

The service is more friendly than you'd expect from a food court, as he's got his son helping him to serve the pizzas to hungry customers. We didn't even pay up front, which is definitely a plus, though I'm not sure how much business sense that makes.

In terms of ambience, well, it's a food court, what do you expect? It can be a bit warm if you sit next to the stall itself, because it's located near to the doorway and warm air keeps getting blown in.

Pizza Pazza (Italian, casual)
Oscar's Food Mall
Anchorpoint #01-07
Tel: 6474 3626 (call for delivery)
Location: 3.5/5 (5/5 if delivery)
Service: 4/5
Ambience: 3/5
Food: 4/5
Overall: This has "value-for-money" written all over it

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