Saturday, April 7, 2012

Singapore Food Porn

I know, another post which isn't a recipe. Tut, tut! But sometimes food is pretty. And interesting. And I wanted to share a few food snaps I took in Singapore.

To kickstart our holiday, we had to get up at 4am for a 7:40am flight. That was painful. (I am NOT a morning person!) Plus, I get a tad motion sick at times so I didn't eat any breakfast nor did I eat much on the plane. So when we got to the hotel at about 2:30pm, I was starving and Pete was a tad peckish too. Too tired to go out hunting for food, we decided that a bit of room service would go down nicely.

We ordered two ham and cheese panini's, a pot of tea for me and a can of coke for Pete. We assumed it would be served on a little trolley or tray, like most other hotels we've previously stayed at do. We were wrong. Half an hour later, this arrived and was set up beside our window.

Everything we'd ordered and more!

Ham and cheese panini, lightly toasted with melty cheese.

Complimentary side salad with a gorgeous honey-balsamic dressing.

Condiments for our fries (which were also complimentary). Two bowls of ketchup, one of hot English mustard and the other of the creamiest and yummiest mayonnaise ever!

We also received chilled jasmine tea and moist face towels.

We headed out one night and grabbed dinner from one of the food courts. This was Pete's char kway teow.

I ordered a nasi goreng.

One day whilst out and about, the only place we could find was a Western-style cafe. The had pasta and pizza and all the usual type of stuff which was a little disappointing. I ordered a BLT which came served with potato chips. The BLT itself was quite tasty though.

Pete ordered a burger and it was HUGE! Although not very nice.

We ate big lunches whilst out and about most days and in the evenings, treated ourselves to fancy bars for cocktails and tapas/bar bites. We got into the habit of ordering satay sticks at each place (Axis Bar, The Fullerton and the Ritz-Carlton to name a few.)

Pete thought the satay was best at the Ritz because the sticks were served with a really thick and chunky sauce. I preferred the Fullerton because their sauce was smoother and creamier in texture with the right amount of spice.

On our last evening in Singapore, as we walked back to our hotel from The Fullerton where we'd had a few cocktails, we came across a little store called The Cookie Museum. WOW! What a place! I wish we'd found it earlier in our trip. The lady there was an absolute darling and let us try half a dozen different varieties of cookies.

At $45 a tin, they weren't cheap but they were divine! We tried berry, salted toffee, chocolate and even laksa flavoured cookies. (The laksa ones were surprisingly good!)

We ended up buying a tin of berry cookies for Pete's Nanna and bought a tin of salted toffee, pistachio, dark chocolate and papaya cookies for ourselves.

There were a surprising amount of chocolate stores in Singapore. We found one that stocked every type of every brand of chocolate in the world so purchased some M&Ms that we're never able to find in Australia - dark chocolate and peanut butter.

We also bought some locally made chocolate too. We bought a bar of 70% African milk chocolate (which has a light and slightly fruity finish) and 72% Peruvian dark chocolate (which is slightly acidic and has notes of blackberry.)

I adore the notes on the back:

Eating instructions: Close your eyes, take a bite, letting it slowly melt and dance in your mouth. Refrain from groaning in ecstasy unless enjoying this chocolate bar in private. And just a word of caution: Eating this bar of chocolate will result in some serious pleasure. Be mentally prepared for it.

We had a great trip to Singapore and tried lots of new and interesting foods. One day I hope we can go back and try more things - perhaps I may even get up the courage to give durian popsicles a shot! ;p

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Dolce Vita, Singapore - Review

Note: I don't usually do restaurant reviews, I tend to leave that to the professionals and stick to posting recipes suitable for the normal person to cook at home. But this was an opportunity I just had to take.

Less than 24 hours ago, Pete and I got back from an 8 day trip to Singapore to celebrate Pete's 30th birthday.

One of his New Years resolutions this year was to eat at a Michelin starred restaurant. Sadly there are no Michelin starred restaurants in Singapore but there are a number of starred chefs who have set up restaurants there which was good enough for us!

At our hotel was a restaurant called Dolce Vita. The chef, Marco Pedrelli, was taught to cook by his Italian mother and grandmother in Cesena, Italy then went to work in numerous Michelin starred restaurants throughout Europe before earning his own Michelin star.

Needless to say the guy knows how to cook, so we booked a table at Dolce Vita at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Singapore. We had assumed Marco Pedrelli had put his name to the restaurant and designed the menu but didn't actually cook in it. We were quite wrong - we found out a few days later he was actually cooking there and therefore most likely made (or at least supervised to cooking of) our dinner that Saturday night.

So to kickstart the evening, we had a chat with the sommelier and decided that since it was Pete's birthday, the occasion called for bubbles so we ordered a nice glass of real French champagne each which was served with olive ciabatta bread and butter that was churned in-house. Divine!

Next, out came the complimentary aperitif - a poached chicken roulade.

Whilst we were eating our chicken roulade, the laser light show at the Marina Bay Sands kicked off.

Next out was something I would happily call one of the best things I've ever eaten. Ever. Almost as good as my Mum's chocolate rum slice. (And that's a pretty big call!)

It was grilled and chilled asparagus, aged Iberico de Bellota ham, buffalo mozzarella and morel ragout. I can't even get close to describing how amazing this was. Cold, refreshing, salty, creamy. Just gorgeous!

For his entree, Pete ordered seared scallops with a creamed lobster and leek sauce.

Pete and I both ordered the same thing for our main meal - Tris di pasta. Starting from the left: braised oxtail-foie gras cannelloni with creamed spinach and parmesan ; homemade crab ravioli (made with squid ink) in a champagne sauce ; and tortellini of wild forest mushrooms and ricotta with a pine nut and olive oil dressing.

Now, I'm afraid Pete and I were a little too eager when our desserts reached us. We'd eaten half of them before we remembered to take a photo of them! Oops.

So this is half a torta di mele - a slow baked golden apple on puff pastry, calvados ice-cream and Tahitian vanilla sauce.

And this is half a tarte di cioccolato e caramel - chocolate salted caramel tarte with fresh raspberries and gold leaf.

Overall, it was an amazing dinner. The service was flawless, the food was impeccable and Pete had a wonderful birthday. If anyone is heading to Singapore soon then I'd highly recommend Dolce Vita.

Friday, March 16, 2012


Since it's St Patrick's Day tomorrow, I thought I'd share one of my favourite Irish recipes. It's a very simple recipe and it centres, of course, around the simple potato.

Colcannon (or caulcannon) is essentially mashed potato with stuff added into it. What "stuff" you wish to use is up to you - the most traditional addition was cabbage, but over time people started using kale, silverbeet and even spinach. I say use whatever you like or have in the kitchen.

Serves 4

5-6 medium sized Ruby Lou potatoes, peeled and diced
100g butter
2 tbsp milk (use cream if you have any)
Salt and pepper
2 large handfuls of greens, finely shredded or chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 spring onions, finely sliced

Boil the potatoes in a large pot of water for 15 minutes, or until they are cooked and tender. Drain well - you don't want soggy potato! Add in the butter, milk, a decent amount of salt and a small pinch of pepper. Mash well.

Add the greens, parsley and spring onion. Stir well then serve.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

According to the powers that be (ie: Wikipedia), spaghetti alla puttanesca is literally called "whore's spaghetti". Charming. I don't know why it's called whore's spaghetti, possibly because it's a little tangy and salty.

This pasta dish is pantry cooking at its finest. I always tend to have pasta and a tin of tomatoes in the pantry, a three-quarters-used jar of olives in the fridge and a lemon that's looking a bit worse for wear in the fruit bowl. This meal is very quick and easy to cook which makes it the perfect mid-week dinner.

But please note, you don't have to be an Italian whore to enjoy this!

Spaghetti alla Puttanesca
(Serves 4-6)

350g dried spaghetti
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp capers
1 red chilli, finely chopped (take out the seeds if you don't like much heat)
1/4 cup olives, sliced (green, black, stuffed, pitted, whatever you have you can use!)
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of dried oregano
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
2 130g tins of "no drain" tuna (optional)
A small handful of fresh parsley or basil, roughly chopped (optional)
Lemon juice

Put the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling water and cook according to the packet instructions.

In a large pan (I use a heavy-based frying pan), heat the olive oil over a medium heat and add the garlic, capers and chilli. Fry for a minute to release all those aromas and flavours.

Then add the olives, cinnamon, oregano, tomatoes and (if using) the tuna. Cook for a couple of minutes until the sauce has thickened a little and then season it generously with salt and pepper.

When it's cooked, drain the spaghetti and add it to the sauce. Stir well, add the fresh parsley or basil and squeeze over a bit of lemon juice, then serve with a green salad, some fresh crusty bread and a glass of chilled white wine.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


{Recipe developed with the help of Stacey}

Picadillo is a latin American dish made using minced beef. I thought I was making a Mexican meal but according to Wikipedia my use of spices, herbs and fruit has made the recipe venture into Cuban territory.

Origins aside, this is a savoury yet sweet recipe. You may look at the list of ingredients and wonder how the hell it could taste good when it contains beef, apple, tomatoes and ground cloves - but just trust me on this one.

(Serves 4-6)

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large chilli, finely chopped (you can leave the seeds in if you like heat)
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
500g beef mince
1/2 tspn ground cinnamon
1/2 tspn ground cloves
1/2 tspn ground cumin
1 tspn smoked paprika
50g olives, chopped
60g sultanas
1 apple, peeled and finely diced
2 tins of diced tomatoes
1 cup beef stock
50g slivered almonds (or you can substitute in peanuts), toasted
1 small handful of coriander, roughly chopped (optional)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and gently fry the onion, garlic, chilli and thyme leaves until the onion has begun to soften. Add the beef mince and season it well with salt and pepper. Fry the meat until it is mostly brown.

Add the cinnamon, cloves, cumin and paprika and fry for 1 minute or until the spices are fragrant. Stir in the olives, sultanas and apple and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the tins of diced tomatoes and the stock and simmer the mixture for about 30 minutes, or until most of the moisture has evaporated. (You want it to be thick and saucey without being sloppy).

Add the almonds and coriander (if using) then serve with rice, in a burrito or in a taco.

Note: Recommended burrito/taco fillings are fresh lettuce, diced cucumber, diced tomato, guacamole, sour cream, grated cheese and tomato salsa.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd's pie (or cottage pie if you're using beef - cows don't have shepherds hence the change in name) is a traditional way of using leftovers from a roast dinner. The meat would be shredded, the roast potatoes mashed up and the veggies incorporated into the meat sauce.

I don't often roast lamb or beef so I make my version of shepherd's pie using a pack of mince from the supermarket, however if you do have leftover roast meat then you can use that instead.

Shepherd's Pie
Serves 4

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
2 sticks of celery, finely diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
500g lamb or beef mince
2 tbsp plain flour
1/2 cup red wine
1 tspn thyme leaves (try and use fresh, it does make a difference in this dish)
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 cup of gravy (I use the Gravox Traditional powder)
1/4 cup Beerenberg pepper steak sauce (optional)
5 large potatoes, peeled and diced
100g butter

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat, add the vegetables and garlic and very gently saute for about 10 minutes until the vegetables begin to feel tender. Add the lamb mince and saute until it had browned through. (If you're using leftover roast meat, you'll only need to heat it through.)

While the meat is browning, preheat the oven to about 200C. (If using a fan-forced oven, turn it to about 180C.)

Add the flour and stir it through well then add the red wine. Bring the mixture to a boil then stir in the thyme, bay leaves, Worcestershire sauce, tomatoes, gravy and (if using) the pepper sauce. Season with salt and let the mixture simmer gently for about 30 minutes. If it begins to look dry then add a little hot water from the kettle however you do want it to have a thick consistency.

Whilst the meat sauce is simmering, boil the potatoes until tender then drain and mash with the butter. Season with a little salt and pepper.

Remove the bay leaves, then spoon the lamb mixture into a large oven-proof dish. Dollop the mashed potato on top so it completely covers the lamb mixture. If the dish is quite full looking then place it on a baking tray as the meat sauce can bubble over the side a little and I find it's easier to clean an extra oven tray than clean the bottom of my oven.

Note: Real chefs will tell you not to put cheese on top because lamb and cheese don't "match" but if adding cheese is what it takes for your kids to eat, then add as much as you like!

Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes until the potato has browned and gone a little crunchy looking.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Sour Fish Curry

It's no secret that I love curry - usually the creamier (and naughtier) the better! But when the weather is hot, I tend to find that too much cream can make me feel a bit queasy and sickly so this fish curry is light and fragrant thanks to coconut milk with a punch of sourness from the tamarind puree. However, if you have kids or a husband who are a bit fussy, then only use half of the tamarind puree.

Sour Fish Curry
Serves 4

3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 brown onions, halved then finely sliced
2-3 chillies (any colour), finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
5cm piece of ginger, grated
1 tspn black mustard seeds
1/2 tspn fenugreek seeds
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tspn ground turmeric
400mL coconut milk
5 roma tomatoes, diced
2 tbsp tamarind puree
4 firm fish fillets (I tend to use John dory or local Pilbara blue spot emperor)
Small bunch of coriander leaves (optional)

Heat the oil in a large pan and gently fry the onions until they begin to turn translucent. Add in the chilli, garlic, ginger and mustard seeds and fry until you can hear the seeds begin to pop. Add the fenugreek seeds, ground coriander and turmeric. Stir the mixture well and fry for another 2 minutes. (If the spice mixture begins to look very dry, feel free to add a touch more oil.)

Add the coconut milk, tomatoes and tamarind puree. Bring the sauce to a rapid simmer for 4-5 minutes then turn the heat down to medium, add in the fish fillets and poach them for 3 minutes. Turn them, then leave them for another 3 minutes or until the fish is cooked through. Season the curry well with salt and add the coriander if you're using it. Serve over steamed basmati rice.

Note: This curry would also work well with prawns.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Dairy-Free Citrus Cake

There's a few flavours in life that I can't live without. Chocolate. Cinnamon. Citrus. Obviously I can't combine all three flavours in one cake - that would just be wrong. So this cake is citrus. And dairy-free. And super soft. And super yummy.

In the ingredients, I've listed citrus zest and juice. Personally, I've made this cake using just oranges and a combination of orange and lemon. There's also no reason this wouldn't work with limes or mandarins so play about with the flavours to suit your own taste.

Dairy-Free Citrus Cake

2/3 cup caster sugar
2 large eggs (use 3 if they're only small)
4 tspn citrus zest, finely grated (If you love a strong citrus flavour, add an extra tspn or 2!)
1/2 cup good quality olive oil
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1/4 cup soy milk
1/4 cup citrus juice

Preheat the oven to 190C (or 170C if you have a fan-forced oven). Grease and line the tin with baking paper. (Make sure you line your tin completely - bottom and sides - as this cake is uber soft and may stick otherwise.)

Using electric beaters, beat the sugar and eggs together for a couple of minutes until the mixture is thick and frothy. Beat in the citrus zest and olive oil.

Stir in the flour, milk and juice then pour the mixture into the cake tin.

Bake the cake for 50 minutes ot until it's golden on top. Test it's baked through by inserting a skewer - if should come out cleanly with only moist crumbs sticking to it.

Let the cake cool in the tin for 10-15 minutes then turn it onto a wire rack to finish cooling completely. Finish by dusting it with icing sugar.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chicken Stroganoff

Stroganoff is usually made with beef. And sour cream. And often brandy and lots of butter.

A great strog can be a great weekly staple since it's actually quite easy to make and usually pleases the kids. And if you're going to make it a weekly (or fortnightly) meal, then your waistline may not thank you for the large doses of sour cream ingested on a regular basis. And you may not want to serve a sauce containing booze to your kids.

So here's my "light" version, one made minus the brandy and the heavy cream.

Chicken Stroganoff
(Serves 4-6)

3 tbsp olive oil
1 large brown onion, diced
6 chicken thighs, diced into chunks
6 large field mushrooms, diced into chunks
1/4 tspn paprika
3 tbsp tomato paste
3/4 cup chicken stock
185ml tin of Carnation light and creamy evaporated milk
1 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp chopped parsley

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and gently fry the onion until it begins to turn translucent. Add the diced chicken and cook until it's browned all over. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking until the chicken has almost cooked through and the mushrooms have softened.

Add the paprika and cook for 1 minute then add the tomato paste and stock. Bring the stroganoff to the boil, then turn the heat down to a very gentle simmer.

Mix the evaporated milk and cornflour together then add to the saucepan along with some salt and pepper. Simmer the stroganoff until it's thick and has a creamy consistency.

Mix in the chopped parsely then serve over pasta, rice or buttery mashed potato.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Green Chicken Pie

This year I've planted my first veggie patch and much to my surprise, I've had a bumper crop of silverbeet so I've had to become inventive and figure out a few recipes to use it up before the caterpillars ate it all!

So let me introduce you to my Green Chicken Pie. I took some inspiration from the traditional English shephard's pie which has a meaty-veggie base topped with mashed potato and then baked.

I know, I know - you're all remembering the boiled and grey silverbeet you were probably served up as a child, but trust me - after you've eaten my green chicken pie, you'll fall in love with this versatile and under-rated veggie.

Green Chicken Pie
(Serves 4)

3 tbsp olive oil
1 large brown onion, diced
6 large silverbeet leaves, stems finely diced and leaves shredded
4-5 large chicken thighs (skinless, boneless), cut into chunks
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tspn fennel seeds, ground
2 tbsp plain flour
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
5-6 royal blue potatoes, peeled and diced
100g butter

Preheat the oven to 220C. Grease a 2-3 litre casserole dish then place this on a baking pan or another type of "catcher" in case of over-spill!

Heat the oil over medium heat in a deep saucepan and gently saute the onion and silverbeet stems until the onion is translucent. Add the diced chicken and cook until the chicken is almost cooked through.

Add the garlic and fennel seeds and cook for 1 minute. Add the flour and cook for another minute. Stir in the white wine and bring the mixture to the boil then add the chicken stock. Turn the heat back down to medium, stir in plenty of freshly cracked black pepper and a bit of salt then let the mixture simmer for about 15 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. Thrown in the silverbeet leaves and parsley and mix in.

Meanwhile, boil the diced potatoes until tender. Drain then mash with the butter, plenty of salt and a pinch of pepper.

Spoon the chicken and silverbeet mixture into the casserole dish then top with the mashed potatoes. Pop this into the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the potato on top begins to brown a little.

Serve this with a side of blanched veggies or just as it is.