Friday, August 29, 2008

Frozen Delights

A few weeks ago I wrote briefly about my attempts at making chocolate sorbet and matcha ice cream. I promised to post up recipes and I have not forgotten. It's just that I have been really busy at work. It is during these times when I wish I actually owned one of those fantastic Musso ice-cream machines.

With a Musso, I can simply dump the entire ice-cream mixture into the machine, press a button and within 30 minutes I can have a perfect quart of heaven.

Since I don't have a Musso, I have to contend with my old-school ice and salt ice-cream churner, which doesn't really make the best ice-cream but does allow me to come up with something quite decent. And by decent, I do mean something that kind of resembles ice-cream but nowhere near perfect. First of all, you got to understand that it's rather humid where I live and the ice-salt combination can only reduce the temperature down to a certain point.

However, today, I'm going to rave about two good recipes that I know would be 10 times better if I had a professional ice-cream maker. But until I have enough cash to actually buy one of my own, I will appreciate my beloved ice-cream churner.

Dessert-lovers like me always crave for ice-cream and there is never a wrong time to have a scoop or two. So I crave for ice-cream pretty often and will usually bookmark ice-cream recipes with the intention of making it. Sometimes I forget about it and sometimes I do end up actually making some. It really depends if I have enough ice in the fridge and if I have the time.

A couple of weekends ago, I set out to make two ice-cold treats and boy was it a delicious affair.

The chocolate sorbet was a shoo-in because I've been wanting to make something with a rich dark chocolate taste. I was sceptical of most chocolate ice-cream recipes because well, I wasn't too sure if it was going to be chocolatey enough. Yes I'm quite particular about my chocolate, I love it dark.

I first chanced upon the chocolate sorbet recipe at Su Good Sweets. I literally held my breath the moment I saw that scoop of decadent deep brown in a glass cup. You can't really blame me for being so easily enticed. It really did look irresistable.

With Su's recipe, I made a lovely chocolate sorbet which wasn't quite perfect (ice crystals weren't fine enough) but it did taste super. It also had that intense dark brown appearance which I adore.

As soon as I had finished making my sorbet, I made plans for another ice-cream escapade - this time involving my favourite matcha powder.

You might remember my previous attempt at matcha ice-cream. It was a success but I thought there has got to be a better recipe out there.

I was right. I did find another recipe and it was recommended to me by a reader who had tried it before. Though it did involve raw egg yolks, I thought I'd just give it a shot. I had great faith in the eggs - was dead sure I wouldn't fall ill and I was right.

The end result was a creamy textured matcha ice-cream with the right amount of matcha flavour made possible by the matcha powder of course.

It was a very lovely milky green too:

The recipe is apparently Harumi Kurihara’s. She's a well-known Japanese cookbook author. Her recipes have received rave reviews so I was absolutely sure her green tea ice-cream recipe won't fail. Thank god it didn't.

These days I don't buy green tea ice cream anymore. I'd rather make my own.

I await the day I can own my very own Musso and be totally bowled over. Then I will never have to settle for ice-cream that's second-best, ever again.


Chocolate Sorbet
Paraphrased from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich

1 cup (3.25 oz) cocoa
Scant 1 cup sugar
2 tiny pinches salt
2 cups boiling water
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tbsp rum or vodka (optional)
Combine cocoa, sugar, salt in saucepan and whisk in 1/2 cup boiling water to make a thick paste. Add the remaining water. Stir over medium heat just until tiny bubbles form at the edges of the pan. Don’t cook any longer, as the heat can damage the flavor of the cocoa.
Take the mixture off the heat and add the vanilla. Refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours. Add the rum or vodka, if using. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Harden the sorbet in the freezer for at least 3 to 4 hours.
Note: The flavor is so rich that you can substitute half of the water with milk.

Harumi Kurihara’s Matcha Ice Cream (Green Tea Ice-cream)
2 tbs/10g green tea powder (macha)
120g granulated sugar
3 egg yolks
1 cup/200ml milk
1 cup/200ml double cream
1. In a small bowl, mix the green tea powder with 2 tablespoons of the granulated sugar.
2. In a separate bowl, mix together the egg yolks and remaining sugar.
3. Pour the milk into a small pan and gently heat taking care not to let it boil (ideally the temperature of the milk should be 80oC). Remove from the heat and mix a few spoonfuls of the warm milk with the green tea powder and sugar in a small bowl. When you have a smooth paste, add it to the remaining milk in the pan, then gradually combine with the egg yolks and sugar mix. Leave to cool.
4. Lightly whip the cream till slightly firm and then add to the cold green tea milk mixture.
5. Transfer the mixture to a large container and put it in the frigde. Leave overnight.
6. Next day, assemble the ice cream machine, turn power on, then slowly pour mixture into it. Churn for about half an hour till mixture becomes double in volume. Then pour mixture into container and freeze for a few hours till firm

Friday, August 08, 2008

East Coast BBQ Seafood

A few weeks ago, I met up with Jiawei, an old friend of mine.

This dude is quite the character, and I mean it in a good way of course. I remembered him as being very animated and lively. He has wide hand gestures that are hard to miss. It has been more than two years since we last met up. We used to be coursemates back when I was still pursuing my Mass Communication diploma at Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

It was great to see that he was exactly the same - as cheery as always. As we caught up, I asked him what he was doing now and what he said next definitely pricked my ears and I'm sure you will be interested too.

He was helping out at his uncle's barbeque seafood stall at East Coast Lagoon Food Village. Located at East Coast Park around the Marine Parade area, this food centre is known for serving up one of the best satay beehoon in Singapore. Then there's also the famous barbecue pork noodles, beef noodles and the most delicious chicken wings. There are also many bbq seafood stalls there. I've eaten at one of the bbq stalls before but am usually rather disappointed because of the small portions and cut-throat prices. So naturally, when Jiawei told me about his uncle's stall, I had to probe further.

But what's the use of asking so many questions when I could actually taste for myself how good it actually is? You've got to taste it to believe it, yes?

So I went down last weekend with my mum and Dot. Before I say anything, perhaps you want to see the first dish we ordered:

The photo alone says plenty. Okay, maybe only if you are a big fan of seafood and perhaps clams.

Commonly known as 'la-la' here, these clams are usually stir-fried in a tasty spicy red sauce. We locals enjoy dishing the sauce on plain rice once we've fished out all the clam-meat.

I did the same here. But it was different, so different that I was very surprised.

But in a GOOD way.

The sauce that came with the clams were unlike any I had ever tasted. This is not an exaggeration on my part. Thicker and tastier, it had a fuller flavour than the other versions I've eaten. There was a slight sweet and tangy hint that made the spicy note sort of 3-dimensional.

Okay, I might be stretching it quite thin here. But bear with me. I am desperately trying to use every opportunity I can to practise my food description skills since that's what I do (my full-time job).

So of course I was curious and I asked Jiawei's uncle what made it so special. I hope I'm not leaking some trade-secret here, but he said that he added tomatoes. Oh and one thing to note, he makes most of his sauces at home before bringing it down to the stall and yes it is his own recipe.

Even the sambal he used for the lip-smacking sambal stingray is homemade:

Yes it looks fiery red and it is spicy but not until it burns your taste buds.

Now when I ordered the stingray, I assumed the only option I had was sambal. Well at least that's what most of the bbq seafood stalls offer: Sambal Stingray. Then Jiawei told me that his uncle has another option: Butter & Garlic Stingray.

The moment he uttered those two words 'butter' and 'garlic', I was sold. But I still wanted my sambal stingray so he offered to season half of my stingray with sambal and the other half, with butter and garlic.

The result was enthralling. I know it's not a common word used for food but what the heck anyway. I have never seen any other bbq seafood stall serving stingray the way his uncle does. Any foodie would know that butter and garlic is a marriage made in aromatic heavens and when done right, can create a whirl-wind romance, yes between said dish and hungry diner.

Sometimes it is true, you have to try it to believe it.

It looks like Jiawei's uncle might have something really good up his sleeves. If he can manage to pull off good clams and stingray, I'm sure the rest of his dishes would be just as good, including the sambal kangkong:

And I was right. The kangkong was just as good with a solid sambal.

I found out from Jiawei that prior to the renovations of the food centre, his uncle used to have a satay stall there. But after they moved back in to the newly furbished food centre, he decided to focus on bbq seafood and they have been there for the past 4 years.

When I went there for dinner, I did tell Jiawei I would write about this place if I liked it enough and well since I loved it, I decided I had to share it with you.

They also sell salmon, sole, seabass, squid, lobster and fried oyster among others.

Seriously, I think sometimes, you don't need a table with white starched table cloths and a room in air-conditioned comfort to enjoy a good meal. This stall might be small but it serves some kick-ass seafood that would be a delight to any diner.

You can find this stall at number 38, it is relatively near the DBS atm.


East Coast B.B.Q. Seafood
38, East Coast Lagoon Food Village
1220 East Coast Parkway

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Perfect Sunday Grilled Veggie Sandwich

Nothing says Sunday better than a good sandwich.

It could well be because sandwiches are deemed as lazy meals. Okay, it probably depends. A lazy sandwich would be a plain picnic ham and processed Kraft cheese one. Or maybe one with peanut butter and jelly.

I'm not slighting these classic combinations, no, believe me, I love my PJs too. But these are indeed easy sandwiches that can be made within mere seconds so the accomplishment one feels can't be that substantial.

Okay, I'm saying this only because I felt like I had accomplished something this weekend. I made lunch for my family today, including dessert (that will come in another post!). Although simple, it just felt good, to feed my loved ones. It's been a while since I actually cooked a meal for my family. Usually it's just a cake or two, or something random hashed up from leftovers.

Today, ah today was something else. I was at Ngee Ann City yesterday and a lovely multigrain loaf beckoned me from the shelves of Swiss Bake. I love their breads and I couldn't resist this beautiful one. I bought the $5.90 loaf with the intention of doing something with it today.

It did not take long for me to figure out what I would use it for. It was quite a natural option. I looked at my dear sister and said, "You know what, tomorrow we shall all have grilled veggie sandwich for lunch, how does that sound?". She nodded her head and I took that as a sign of approval.

So Sunday lunch was settled. All I needed to do was to get the vegetables.

That wasn't a problem because mum offered to buy it from the supermarket after morning mass. I wrote down a list of what to buy the night before. It went something like this:

2 red capsicum, 2 yellow capsicum, 2 egg plant, 2 zucchini, and a pumpkin.

Next, I knew my grilled veggie sandwich wouldn't be complete without a caramelised onion relish.

So at midnight last night, I scooted to the kitchen and sliced up 4 onions thinly, sauteed it with olive oil and seasoned it with some sea salt. I cooked it for a further 20 minutes to caramelise and brown it so all the sweet juicy flavours will come out. After that, I added 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and viola I had a tasty relish that would make my sandwich perfect. I let it cool and then placed it in the fridge.

This is how it looked like:

When morning came, a very excited me started prepping the veggies as soon as my mum came home with the ingredients.

I sliced the eggplant, capsicum, and roasted pumpkin. There wasn't any zucchini because my mum couldn't find any at the supermarket. But it was okay.

Next was the grilling. Okay, for this, you get an aluminium pan (disposable ones are fine), grease it and place the vegetables evenly on the surface. Drizzle olive oil and season with some salt. Grill the vegetables until cooked.

I did mine in various batches:

That's my grilled eggplant. Make sure you don't burn your veggies. You should flip it over once you see the top side turning brown. You want the vegetables grilled nicely, not charred.

For the capsicum, it is best to grill the death of of it. Why? You want a nicely caramelised capsicum that's soft and sweet. Place the vegetable with the skin side facing up and grill until the skin looks black and deathly. You will notice juices oozing out - that's a good thing. Once the skins are all black, remove the pan and proceed to peel off the black charred skins. If you find it difficult, place the capsicum pieces into a paper bag and seal it for a while, after which you can open and continue to peel the skins.

You can use any pumpkin or squash for that matter. I think my mum bought the Japanese kind - the ones with dark green skins. Well I preferred these anyway. I sliced these up and grilled it in the pan as per normal. The result? Sweet soft pumpkins that tasted a bit like sweet potatoes. Lovely.

So you've got all your ingredients ready. Now it's time to assemble your perfect Sunday grilled veggie sandwich.

Oh don't forget to toast your bread before assembling. I think the toasted crunch adds to the whole experience. And please do take your caramelised onion relish out of the fridge, you will need it to make the sandwich extra delicious.

This is easy peasy stuff but I'm just showing you the steps for the heck of it, so enjoy!

Step 1: Spread the relish on the toasted bread:

Step 2: Place the grilled vegetables on top of the relish in any order you want:

Step 3: Take your other piece of toast, place it on top and press down!

And there you have it, a perfect Sunday grilled veggie sandwich that's super easy yet satisfying and of course one that tastes good and is good for you. How about that!

You can use any bread you want but for me, I love the taste of a wholesome multigrain toast with my grilled vegetables.

Perhaps you're not sold on the idea just yet. It is okay. Maybe you could try making it yourself and then you'll change your mind. To me, this is the cheaper alternative to the grilled vegetable sandwich at Cedele. Yes, i first fell in love with the sandwich at Cedele. But it isn't cheap. So I thought I could probably make a similar, if not, better one, and I think I just did. Just ask Dot, she loves Cedele grilled vegetable sandwich as much as I do and she dropped by for lunch and had a taste of my version and thinks that it is on par.

I love Sundays, especially sandwiches on Sundays.

Right now I'm toying with the idea of making Sunday sandwiches a weekly affair.

It'll be lots of fun and I am sure my family will be very happy.

Till next Sunday then. If you have a perfect sandwich combination of your own, do feel free to share it with me!

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