The UnProfessional Chef

A girl's commentary on food, cooking and all things delicious!

Location: Singapore

A closet food critic and wannabe chef who loves the art of cooking and enjoying great cuisine in the company of great friends!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Comeback Canalés


Apologies! It’s been a rather long hiatus since my last post. The past few weeks had been a whirlwind of activity with the start of the new year and all its frantic scrabbling around to get things done, start new projects, prepare for the business of 2006 and just sheer exhaustion from it all that I sadly had to ignore my blog for a bit.

But I am back! My dear girlfriend D and I had just before Christmas developed a sudden huge addiction to canalés. Those gorgeous chewy rummy delights can’t be found in many places here in Singapore but we had a memory of canalés past from our trip to France last year and had been thinking about it for sometime. Some months ago we discovered a new pâtisserie, aptly called Canalé, which served up a plethora of delightful French pastries, cakes, macaroons, and of course, canalés, of a significantly higher standard than most of the so-called French pâtisseries here.

Inspired to make our very own, we sought the help of friends from France who were returning to Singapore for a vacation to buy us genuine individual copper canalé moulds from the bakeware supply shops in Paris. Our recipe also came from France courtesy of Clotilde’s instructions in Chocolate and Zucchini. These vintagey little orange-coloured devices arrived sometime back and had been sitting forlorn in my cupboard while I went off cooking and blogging for a bit but finally this morning, chancing upon an off day from work, I decided to christen them. Darling D had been a lot more efficient and had started experimenting with making the canalés some weeks back. The first couple of attempts were pretty tough exercises in finding just the right temperature and baking times as well as devising the best means of making sure the canalés did not stick steadfastly to their moulds. By reducing the baking time and buttering the inside of the moulds with copious amounts of butter, D hit jackpot two days ago. Bouyed by her success, as well as her kindness in giving me some of the extra batter (made of rum, vanilla pod, sugar, eggs, milk, butter and flour) she had prepared (a girl can only eat so many canalés ☺), I simply poured the mixture into the individual moulds, whacked them into the oven at 250ºC for 20 minutes, then reduced the heat to 200ºC for another 30 minutes or so and voilà, six little aromatic mouthwatering delights popped out! Gorgeously crisp with an almost caramel-like flavour on the crust containing a tasty chewy heart, these tiny delights pack a mighty punch.

Monday, January 02, 2006

A New Year and New Recipes

Welcoming the New Year by having a meal with either family or friends was simply the best way to enjoy the long holiday weekend we were having. Barely had the excessive feasting of Christmas subsided that the next round of merry-making hit us a week later. While the body may groan at the thought of more rich food, booze and desserts, the celebratory spirit soldiers on for one last burst of wining and dining before settling down to face the reality of work in the New Year.

First up – celebration. I had over for dinner three dear friends, two of whom were at the crossroads of their professional lives. One had just completed her PhD and we were all really chuffed at being able to call her ‘Dr’ after her seven years of hard work! Congratulations #1! The other dear friend is just about to head off to pursue her MBA at Insead – a goal she has always dreamt of achieving and we were all very happy indeed to be seeing her off on this next step of her journey in three days’ time. Congratulations #2!

Standing Rib Roast of Pork with Fennel Seeds, Coriander and Garlic

To mark these special events, I decided to attempt something I had not tried before – cooking pork. I had previously stuck to poultry or beef, but knowing that my guests’ dietary preferences headed in the opposite direction, I decided to push my own limits and try something new. On hindsight, perhaps I should have practiced first, but since I enjoy making each cooking expedition a true adventure, my friends had to suffer slightly from the experimental nature of it all.

I decided to try preparing a Standing Rib Roast of Pork with Fennel Seeds, Coriander and Garlic from the Zuni Café Cookbook. This recipe called for a really good cut of pork rib roast (which I purchased from The Butcher at Chip Bee Gardens, Holland Village) to be cut at crucial points then seasoned for at least three days ahead with crushed garlic paste, fennel seeds, coriander seeds (I didn’t have any so I used dried coriander leaves instead – probably wasn’t quite right, but it didn’t taste all that bad) and salt. The salt had the effect of brining the meat over the three days and rendering it beautifully soft and tender. After three days of sitting in the fridge, the entire roast was then placed in the oven to roast for between one to one and a half hours. Ideally, one should be armed with a meat thermometer in order to determine the precise doneness of the meat, but lacking one of those, I went with sheer guesswork. It didn’t do any harm, but certainly added to the excitement level of the cooking adventure.

The roast turned out beautifully. The brining process did indeed create an extremely tender cut of meat brimming with the smoky flavours of the fennel seeds and coriander. However, in my experimental enthusiasm, I overdid the salt at some spots leaving the meat eventually too salty in some portions. But barring the edges, the rest of the meat turned out well and I noted with a sigh of relief that my guests finished their portions to the bone.

Salad of Arugula Leaves, Red Onion and Red Grapes

To off set the extreme meatiness of the main course, I prepared a salad of Arugula Leaves, Red Onion and Red Grapes. This did not come from any cookbook recipe as such, but from a memory of having previously eaten something similarly delicious at another friend’s home. The greens were simply tossed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The greens, in particular, the grapes, were a juicy refreshing complement to the roast – who knew simple grapes were capable of this effect?

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

For carbo, I served up a portion of Rosemary Roasted Potatoes that I’d previously talked about. A perennial pleaser, I’d made sure I had a good-sized portion just in case the meat turned out to be an absolute disaster. It didn’t, thanfully, but the potatoes disappeared nevertheless!

Dinner ended with my standard Apple and Almond Crumble from How to Eat which I used to prepare ad nauseum for any and all dinner parties. I hadn’t done so in a while and thought it would be fun to do it again given its general failsafe quality.