Monday, October 7, 2013

Mediterranean Whole Baked Steelhead Trout

 My family loves steelhead trout among other family favorites like tuna, Mahi-Mahi, tilapia, salmon, basa and halibut. Today, I wanted to do something different with whole fish, since I would usually prepare whole fish stuffed with cashews and green onion oil and cooked on the grill or baked. This fish would be eaten with herbs, lettuce, vermicelli wrapped in rice paper.
Straying away from this Vietnamese favorite, I wanted to incorporate flavors of the Mediterranean. What screams at me are tomatoes, olives, garlic, oregano, olive oil. mint, lemons, saffron and a great deal of other spices and ingredients. This whole trout was treated with the utmost respect of ingredients, slow baked and served with a Tomato and Zucchini Saffron Pilaf and creamy but refreshing Cucumber and Mint Salad.



All Gone!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Fresh Fruit Tart with Vanilla Creme Diplomat

It's Fall and I decided to make a not-so-Fall dessert: a fruit tart.
I have never been a fan of fresh fruit tarts although I always found them very pretty to look at. My brother would always get a few when we drop into a Chinese/Hong Kong bakery while I stuck to my cream puffs or egg tarts.

I've never made a fruit tart. I know how to make the separate components and how the tart is put together but I never made it because I never liked them. I decided to suck it up and use fruits that I would normally like to eat (I'm not a huge fruit-eater either) and make a large tart for the family (mostly for my brother).
I made a shortcrust pastry and instead of the usual pastry cream filling, I made a creme diplomat. Creme diplomat is essentially pastry cream with whipped cream folded into it for a lighter cream. THAT was deliscious.

Creme Diplomat

2 cups milk
1 vanilla pod or 1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp Cointreau liqueur
3 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/2 cups all purpose flour; sifted
1 tbsp unsalted butter

1 1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped

Creme Patisserie 
In a saucepan, heat milk, vanilla and 1/4 sugar on medium heat and stir occasionally. When milk bubbles, remove from heat and set aside.

In a stainless steel bowl, whisk remaining sugar, liqueur,and flour until well blended and sugar has dissolved. Slowly add in a ladle of the hot milk while stirring the egg mixture constantly to avoid scrambling the eggs. Continue doing this until all the milk has been used.
Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook on medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat, remove the vanilla beans (using a sieve helps) and stir in butter.
Cool the cream completely and quickly by lining a shallow baking tray with plastic wrap and spreading the cream on the tray. Cover cream with another layer of plastic, placing it directly onto the cream to avoid a skin to form on the surface.

Once the cream cools completely, transfer to a clean bowl and fold in the whipped cream. Chill in the fridge for 1 hour before placing in tart shell. Voila! Store in a air-tight container for up to 3 days.

Creme Diplomat complete!

Shortcrust pastry


Fruit! Plums, peaches, kiwi, strawberries, mango, and oranges.


Mini fruit tarts from leftover ingredients!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

F---ing Amazing Vegan Chili (and updates)

Hello! My golly-gosh I have not maintained this blog since June! I've actually been busy traveling and working during the summer and have not has enough time to make anything worthwhile in the kitchen! But alas, autumn is arriving soon and my schedule/routine has now settled enough for me to get back into the kitchen and experiment!
During the last week of  August, my family and boyfriend took a week-long trip to the Florida and a two-day cruise to the Bahamas. In Florida, we went to Disney World and my boyfriend grabbed a Chili cheese dog due to a tradition that ran in his family. The dish, though it looked greatly unhealthy, smelled really good and according to him, "didn't taste bad either".
Well, lo-and-behold, I had a sudden craving for a chili cheese dog, even though I was never a fan of chili or hot dogs. I blame it on the spices and my love for cheese.

Anyways, I concocted a hearty vegan chili recipe to go with my vegetarian hot dogs. Heck, I also smothered it on top of beef sausages for the rest of my family who are meat-eaters. Needless to say, the chili was fucking amazing.
My method of making the chili was a very lengthy process because I used dried kidney beans, so the soaking and cooking process took around 10 hours in my slow cooker. I also used tomatoes I harvested in my garden, so the blanching, peeling and dicing process took a while. Of course, you can always use a can of diced tomatoes and beans
What makes this chili so "fucking amazing" is the charred pepper coulis, which is the pureed or strained flesh of the peppers. What makes it special is how I char the peppers prior to blending which naturally enhances  that sweet, smoky and spicy flavor. This is then added to the chili and mingles with the existing flavors of the dried spices n' herbs. Delicious!


F---ing Amazing Vegan Chili 

2 Jalapeno peppers, charred or Chipotle peppers in oil
1 red sweet pepper, dice half and char other half
1 yellow sweet pepper, dice half and char other half (optional)
1 green sweet pepper, dice half and char other half (optional)

Olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
half a white onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 packages Yves veggie ground*

1 tsp dried marjoram 
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper powder
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
 4 stalks of celery, diced (optional)
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 cups black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups kidney beans with juice

Cilantro and sour cream to garnish (optional)

*You can also used coarsely crushed raw walnuts, whole raw cashews or crumbled extra firm tofu.

Remove the charred skin off the peppers and slice the flesh away to remove seeds (be careful when handling jalapenos). Place in a food processor or blender and blitz until a puree is formed. Set aside.

In a pot, heat olive oil and add in onions. Season with a bit of salt and sweat the onions until almost soft. Add in the garlic and cook until aromatic. Add in the diced peppers, remaining ingredients and the pepper puree. Simmer on low heat for around 10 minutes. If it is too thick, add 1/4 of water. If it is too runny, let simmer, uncovered until desired thickness. Season to taste.
Serve on fries, on a hot dog, or as is with garlic bread or tortilla chips.
I placed my chili in the slow cooker to keep warm so I could eat it the next day for lunch!

Beef Sausages for the rest of the family (I had Yves Veggie dogs)


Friday, June 14, 2013

Lapin au Vin Blanc: Rabbit Stew with White Wine

One of the meats that I like to cook with is rabbit. Before I was a vegetarian, I loved rabbit or hare (although hare is tougher). However, I only had it in Vietnam, prepared according to the Vietnamese local cuisine. Today, I wanted to try a French inspired dish, a stew-like dish made with rabbit and white wine. It is similar to a coq au vin (chicken in wine, usually red wine) but I wanted to use white wine to encourage the gamey flavor of the rabbit rather then hiding it under a bold vin rouge.


We bought a frozen rabbit at one of our supermarkets and thawed it over night.

I proceeded to separate all the meat from the carcass except for the legs the next day and marinated it in white wine (I used Chardonnay), salt, pepper, some herbs like thyme, rosemary and parsley. I used the bones to make a rabbit stock to use later in the the dish, so I didn't waste much.

 While the rabbit marinated, I prepared some pearl onions, baby carrots and I sliced up nice chunk of lardon (salted pork belly) into tiny pieces. In a large pot, I cooked the pork, pearl onions, garlic and baby carrots until the pork belly got crisp and the majority of the fat was cooked off. Remove the mixture and after coating the pieces of rabbit with flour, I browned them in the bacon fat until nicely colored.



Using the fat in the pot, a small knob of butter, and a couple tablespoons of flour, I made a roux and added in the rabbit stock, wine, pork belly, carrots, garlic and onions, reserving a few onions for garnish. Add in the rabbit and braise for 1 1/2-2 hours on medium high heat. Season according to taste.

I served this dish with egg noodles and French bread for the extra sauce. Oh, and of course, more Chardonnay!


I made a kale and sausage stew with mushrooms, carrots and pearl onions for myself. :)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Superb Spiced Pumpkin and Goat Cheese Soup; Inspired by The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess


Man, I have been so busy I haven't had the time to post much on here, my apologies for taking a month off. However, today I made something that was worthy of a post, a soup that is inspired by one of my favorite games, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. In the game, our hero, Link, travels to a freezing territory of snow and befriends a Yeti named Yeto, who is out to gather ingredients to cook a soup for his ill wife, Yeta. The soup features Reekfish (which resembles our reality Sockeye Salmon), root vegetables, Ordon Pumpkin and Ordon Goat Cheese (Ordon being Link's village). The Reekfish has healing properties and the more ingredients that Link contributes, the more health benefits the soup acquires and can be used to heal the player during in-game damage.

I have come across a few recipes for the soup, many featuring some sort of fish, pumpkin and carrots. I have been inspired to make my own rendition of the soup, vegetarianising it, adding a little kick of spices and preparing my garnish vegetables by roasting. And honestly, this is the best pumpkin soup I have ever had; it is absolutely delicious and so easy to make.
I used kabocha squash as my "pumpkin" because I love the sweetness of it and how it is richer than the regular pumpkins. The skin is a bit tough to remove but it is worth it. Just cut the pumpkin in half, remove the seeds, slice into 1/2 inch strips and carefully shave off the skin with a sharp knife. I left the skin on for the garnish because I wanted the slices to hold together.
 My other vegetables included carrots, yam, onions, and garlic. Of course, you could also add/use rutabaga, turnips, parsnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes etc. if you like.

1 kabocha squash or pumpkin (1-2.5 lbs)
3 large yellow yams or sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
4 carrots
1/2 cup wild mushrooms
1/2 white onion, diced
1 elephant garlic clove, minced (or 3 garlic cloves)
2 bay leaves
1 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp fresh basil, chopped or dried
4-5 cups of vegetable stock
1/2 cup soft goat cheese (1/4 of the log)
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Reserve 1/4 of the pumpkin, skin on, for garnish; 1 yam, for garnish; 2 carrots, for garnish; and mushrooms for garnish.
Peel and dice the remainder of the squash, yams and carrots. In a soup pot, heat 1 tbsp olive oil and sweat out the onions and garlic. Turn heat to medium and add the diced vegetables. Saute for 5 minutes then add bay leaves, cumin, paprika, turmeric, basil and cook for another 3 minutes; season to taste then add vegetable stock. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer until the vegetables begin to disintegrate.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees C. Meanwhile, prep the garnish. Cut the reserved pumpkin piece into 1/4 inch-thick slices and cut in have to be roughly 1-inch in size. Cube the yam. Cut carrots in half and diagonally. On a baking sheet, drizzle on olive oil and sprinkle in salt. Add the garnish and season with more olive oil, salt and pepper, tossing it to evenly coat. Make sure you vegetables are not too crowded. Roast for 15-20 minutes, making sure to check and flip to avoid uneven cooking.
In a skillet, saute the mushrooms with olive oil, salt and pepper (you can add spices or other seasonings if you want to any of the garnishes).
When the soup is ready, remove the bay leaves and ladle the hot soup into a blender/food processor with crumbled goat cheese and blend until smooth (if you have to do it in batches, add the goat cheese in batches to ensure consistency). Add more stock or water if necessary. Make sure to blend it hot to ensure that the soup is smooth. Return to pot and place on low heat to adjust seasoning.
Serve hot with the garnishes either place on top or mixed right into the soup.

You can obviously avoid the garnishes and just have a smooth soup but for accuracy sake, I did the garnishes to make it look more like it was in-game. My goal for the near future is to make another reversion of the soup, with fish and all, for the family.
Have fun cooking and happy eating!
P.S. Check out these other recipes from the same inspiration, The Geeky Chef and Gourmet Gaming.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Pistachio-Crusted Rack of Lamb with Roasted Asparagus, Sweet Potato Mash and Sherry Wine Reduction


Today is the last day of the Easter long weekend! Everyday had been full of cooking and fine-wine-dining in the comfort of my own home. For Easter Monday, I made rack of lamb, as per my suggestion for possible Easter dinners. Inspired once again by Chef Gordan Ramsay, this time his recipe for herb-crusted rack of lamb, I took a step further and made a pistachio crust made with pistachios, parsley, bread crumbs, salt n' pepper and olive oil. I was very disappointed to find very little pistachios available in the supermarket I went to. I salvaged what I could at the bulk section, just enough to cover my lamb rack and have some extra leftover. The pistachio nuts gave the crust an earthy, nutty and savory flavor and a little bit of parsley was added for subtle flavor and a bust of color. Since the crust is vegan, I may use the left overs to crust some tofu for dinner later on in the week.
I followed the cooking technique of Chef Gordan Ramsay for my dear lamb rack: scoring, seasoning, searing, resting, dijon and all. I served the rack of lamb with roasted asparagus (the best flippin' thing on Earth), sweet potato mash and a Sherry wine reduction. I love the sweet and fruity flavor of Sherry for cooking; not a fan of it with my meal. I'll stick to an organic Cabernet Sauvignon instead.

Pistachio Crust
1 cup shelled pistachio nuts
1 cup Panko/white bread crumbs
1/2 cup parsley leaves
1 tbsp olive oil 
salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor, blend the pistachio nuts until crumbly. Add remaining ingredients and blitz until parsley leaves are well blended and mixture is green. Pour onto a plate and dip lamb rack, coating generously and evenly with the crust mixture.


Roasted Asparagus
Asparagus. As much as you want.
Olive oil. To grease your baking sheet and coat the asparagus.
Sea Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 375 F.
Trim asparagus of its' woody, chewy, non-flavorful ends. Take the end of the asparagus between your thumb and forefinger and bend until it breaks. The asparagus automatically breaks just where the woody part ends and the fresh, juicy asparagus begins. Easy-peasy.
Grease a large enough baking sheet to avoid the asparagus spears from crowding. Toss the spears with olive oil and your salt n' pepper. If you want more flavor, add a zest of one lemon or a few thinly sliced cloves of garlic. Even better, dice some bacon, crisp it up and use the bacon fat in place of the olive oil. Delish!
Roast for 15-20 minutes until the spears limp when you hold it by the end.

For myself, I made a Spinach, Mushroom, Goat Cheese and Pine Nut Phyllo tart. Mouthful, I know.
It's something I made a long time ago for a Christmas gathering and I got the inspiration from Chatelaine .
It's pretty simple to put together and it's a change from the puff pastry that I love.