Thom & Aimee

Two Hobbits. The Kitchen. The Garden. And trouble ensues.

Candied Orange Peel with Chocolate

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“Don’t you think we’ve lost a bit of what Thom and Aimee was meant to do?”

I stared at Ned for a long moment and pondered on what came out of her mouth. “I guess so”, that was all I could meekly answer. Let’s rewind the clock a little. Before being a foodie was cool, way back to when words like “sustainability, seasonality, local produce, craft, foraging, and farm-to-table” passed everyone’s lips. Essentially, T&A was a platform for Ned to practice her craft. It was combined with our passion for seasonal and local produce, and our love and respect for each and every ingredient.

Ned only made that statement because I was raving about a TV series I caught recently. Chef’s Table featured six different chefs from all over the world, and while they may all serve distinct cuisines and have a unique style of their own. Similarities can be drawn from each chef. Creativity and the willingness to be inspired outside of food is important for a chef to progress. Having a strong identity and the need to make your own stamp (despite challenges) was a clear personality these chefs had. But the most apparent one was their respect for produce: a dish, no matter how skilled the chef is, will be ruined if the ingredients are not at its peak.

Everyone’s a foodie now. It’s suddenly very cool to be seen in the trendiest restaurant on your Instagram. People love eating. We get it. But there’s so much more than nibbling on a piece of avocado toast. Delve into food and you will read about agriculture, environmental and humanitarian issues, food politics, societal and cultural notes, history, and even science and technology. The world of food is so much more than ticking off the michelin guide. Ever wonder where that piece of chicken wing came from? How it lived, how the farm processed it, how it was brought to you, etc?

I’m not saying T&A is about all that. Because essentially, we only have one simple wish. And that is to make good food and treat the earth well at the same time. Ned and I tend to get overexcited at times and lose track of what we set out to do. That’s why we usually have very passionate long chats at unearthly hours. We are meandering back to our supposed path. So, look out for a little change.

Food wastage is something we are trying to minimise at home. It is so easy to toss unused and expired food into the trash, which are still edible and can be made into great dishes. Best way to make use of citrus? Turn the bitter peel into candy dipped in luxurious chocolate. Our last few desserts have made use of tons of oranges, and we decided not to toss them away into the garbage bin.

This is just but a first step to bigger things in life. And sometimes, all it takes is that one little ripple to make change happen.

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Pancakes and A Broken Heart

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As I write this now, February will almost be over. How did we even start 2016? I am not one who bares my heart so readily on this blog, because why should I anyway? This is about Thom and Aimee, isn’t it? But I realised how food and cooking heals, and how the chef can translate his or her love through the dish. No, it’s not about Valentine’s (which is long over). It’s about starting the New Year with a broken heart and the healing process.

To be honest, I’ve expected this to happen back in last December. I think we all know how big a procrastinator I am, so I’ve dragged ending an almost-relationship (this term is funny no?) long enough. It is not to say that it hurt lesser by having the mental readiness, because nothing can really prepare you from an actual broken heart. Strangely, it was accompanied with relief and some peace. And then, the rally from loved ones around you that made you understand who actually truly cared.

Nothing comforts one best when your own sister wakes you up with homemade pancakes on a rainy weekend (great for mopping around while looking pretty). Ned makes the Crêpe Suzette almost every day at work, but it’s not about the dullness of routine that mattered. It’s always special when someone creates a dish from scratch for no special reason whatsoever, but just so you, the diner, can at least smile.

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The performance that comes with a Crêpe Suzette is alluring and magnetic. Maybe it was my emotional state that made the dish more romantic than it seemed. Yet, to watch the blue flames dance upon the delicate golden pancakes and the bright caramelised sauce bubble with slight ferocity was almost hypnotising. To be honest, nothing was romantic because Ned was screaming her head off when she splashed the liqueur into the pan. And you’d think she does this for a living.

But that’s what cooking is all about. Happiness, sadness, laughter, tears, and maybe all at once. It’s not uncommon to see people disappear into the kitchen to celebrate or to mourn. Or to eat cause they are just damn fucking hungry. There is something therapeutic about the whole process, whether it’s for you or someone else. That’s why I decided it was alright to talk about something personal alongside Thom and Aimee. Because both are important and so intrinsic with each other.

They say time heals, but I say, nothing heals better than a noisy kitchen that fills the house with the aromatic heady fragrance of citrus on a wet morning. It is difficult still, but I know things will get better. Hey, you know what, I did smile when eating those pancakes. Those were darn good pancakes.

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An Obsession for Toast

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As children, we woke up to fuss-free breakfasts – sandwiches or sugary cereal on school mornings and McDonald’s, char kway teow or prata for the weekends. When I mention sandwiches, I speak of the crappy white sliced varietal that we would slap with peanut butter, jams, tuna mayonnaise, or a slice of Kraft cheese. You could say breakfast was not really given much thought, it was just a meal to start the day. (Unless it involved dim sum, now that’s a breakfast we both can die for.)

There was never a time that we were not under the care of a house helper. If we were hungry, she would whip up a bowl of instant noodles or take a trip to the mama shop for some crisps. Basically, we grew up on a diet of processed junk food. But there were times our Dad would get a little creative and request for the helper to cook up something different. I remember it so clearly still, because when Dad liked a certain dish, we would have it for days.

Our crappy white bread slice was soaked into beaten egg and fried in sunflower oil. We didn’t go to McDonald’s that week but I’m sure my Dad’s attempt in a french toast made up for the same amount of calories. The end result was an heavily eggy toast served alongside sugar or butter. Sometimes, when I crave for a little nostalgia now, I get them at our local coffee houses with a generous heap of kaya (coconut jam).

The french toast of our childhood might not pass any taste tests but it was a little bit of innocence from a time when our only worry was missing Power Rangers on TV. There’s a special place for this fried eggy bread in our hearts.

With the onslaught of brunch-centric cafes that popped up on this island in the past years, the real McCoy made an entrance with flamboyance and pompadour. Le Pain Perdu with American brashness that gave birth to thick toast slices bathed in egg custard, topped with exotic fruits, designer ice cream, unique sauces, bacon and cream. (Although I must say that the Eggs Benedict has overshadowed it a little.) It might not be the familiar eggy bread that I know but oh, I welcome thee with open arms.

As I slowly ate my way through a myriad of french toasts offered, I couldn’t help but feel like something was missing from every dish I sampled from. The bread was too crumbly or too limp, the egg custard didn’t come through, the focus of the toast was dethroned by its toppings, etc. Well, I guess if nothing could satisfy, it’s back to the kitchen to whip up our own.

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A snowball started rolling, I began to soak up information as would a pain perdu. A french toast, in essence, is simply just bread soaked in egg custard and then fried. But it’s the simplest dishes that command the most attention for quality of ingredients and technique. Using what I’ve read across thousands of books and websites (I exaggerate), these are the eight commandments of making french toasts.

  • Use good quality but dry, stale brioche or challah
  • The bread must be sliced to the thickness of an inch
  • Ingredients should be at room temperature
  • The egg mixture would be a ratio of 1 egg to 150ml of whole milk
  • You can flavour the custard with vanilla, spices, zest, salt, sugar or even alcohol
  • Soak the bread for approximately a minute on each side until saturated
  • Use clarified butter or ghee to fry the bread
  • This is optional: use a cast iron pan so that heat is evenly distributed

One thing I love most about toasts in general is the freedom of creativity. You can throw any toppings on top of it; savoury, sweet, flavoured egg custards, stuffed. The sky’s the limit. In fact, I was so obsessed that I came up with a long list of flavour combinations. We decided to only do four versions before Ned kills me or I die from french toast overdose.

All four toasts are stuffed; two are savoury and the other of the sweet variety. We made tons of brioche loaves for this very purpose (what sort of idiots make batches of bread to make toasts and puddings? Us?). Then, just for the fun of it, we invited friends over for a Toast for Brunch party. Behold, the four toasts:

  • French Toast stuffed with Ricotta & Baby Portobello Mushrooms, and topped with Prosciutto Ham, Tomato Chutney and Poached Egg
  • French Toast stuffed with Avocado & Cream Cheese, and topped with Smoked Salmon, Hollandaise Sauce and Poached Egg
  • French Toast stuffed with Passion Fruit curd, and topped with Grilled Lemongrass-spiked Mango, Lime Caramel Sauce, Coconut Ice Cream and Chocolate Biscotti Crumbs
  • French Toast stuffed with Kalamansi Curd, and topped with Flambé Banana, Dark Chocolate Sauce, Peanut Butter Ice Cream and Speculoos Crumble

Just reading them is a mouthful. Haven’t we made things complicated? Shouldn’t brunch be a fuss-free affair? Trust us, these babies actually cured my cravings for French Toasts. It might be a lot of work but I did say it was a party. If Ned served it naked with a slosh of maple syrup and berries, I would have gladly devoured it too. But we are always looking for excuses to test flavour combinations. Plus, we had guinea pigs.

It might not be the toast we remembered eating, but damn, this was a new memory to keep for years now.

Buckwheat Blinis with Smoked Salmon, Sour Cream, Dill and Caviar

We are back, guys. Not that we were missed (if you did, let us hug you), but we are finally back in the kitchen and hopefully, staying for longer. There was about a year of hiatus and nothing really stirred in our kitchen. I guess life just got really hectic. In the past year, Ned’s switched bakeries, we travelled, and well, both our schedules just didn’t fit despite living in the same house. Sometimes, we barely even have time to sit down to catch up on each other’s lives.

At times, it just takes a little ingredient to start the ball rolling. In our case, our brother came home with tiny tubs of opulent black pearls – caviar. How obnoxiously decadent. Well, he managed to get them for free. So it’s not like we get such freebies frequently. It was left in the fridge for quite awhile until mom egged us to get rid of it.

Well, those pearls started an avalanche then. I forwarded Ned a link about blinis one odd day with these words: let’s do them this Sunday.

She texted a reply almost immediately, “Yeah sure.”.

I guess there was always a silent urge to return to where we found comfort and solace: in that tiny kitchen that used to overflow with too much food. We started bouncing menu ideas off each other, conversations hovered around the current culinary landscape in Singapore, food trends around the world, food politics, our favourite food writers and of course, recipes of our favourite dishes. I’m sure Ned shares the same sentiment: I really love and miss talking about our number one love and passion.

Back to the caviar. We didn’t want to fuss about creating a complicated dish, especially on a lazy Sunday morning. Brunch was invented for the late wakers with bad hangovers, and stylish creative types with 10k Instagram followers. We love them too… waking up to it, that is. Not making them because that would mean you actually have to wake up really early in the morning to prepare food for lazy asses. To make our Sunday less of a chore, simple buckwheat Russian pancakes are probably the best solution.

(Although Ned did point out that the inclusion of yeast in the batter only meant more work for her, as compared to a typical American pancake. There was a two-hour waiting time, which also meant a quick shut-eye. Well, blame it on the caviar.)

The best thing was that we only needed to make the blinis. Slap the pancakes with some sour cream, smoked salmon, dill and caviar – and there’s breakfast ready. Or get creative and top the blinis with other ingredients: avocado, beetroot, goat’s cheese, pesto, roast beef…. the list is endless really. In fact, we made too many of them and had them with roasted pork belly for lunch after.

If that Sunday morning was any indication for things to come, well, I can safely say that we definitely are back and staying for good. And that we, or rather I, have a slight obsession with comfort brunch food.

Recipe was adapted from here.

Issue 14: Durian

Alright, pledge your allegiance now. There can only be two sides to this important matter, you’re either on Team Durian or Team How-The-Hell-Are-You-Not-On-Team-Durian. Well, the fact that we have dedicated this issue to the prickly fruit, it’s glaringly obvious that we love our durians. And when we say ‘love’, we meant insanely obsessed. We cannot say the word ‘durian’ and not turn into a couple of rabid hyperventilating dorks. (I’m twitching in my seat at this moment. I. Need. Durian.)

“If you don’t love durian, you are not Singaporean” – there goes the saying. Of course, you are not forced to consume it to become a Singaporean, but it just shows how well-loved this fruit is. Not just in Singapore, it’s deemed the King of Fruits in the whole of South East Asia. (It should be for the world wide world.) Comes durian season (from late May to Early August), you’d find five-star hotels and fine-dining restaurants churning out durian desserts of sorts. Some even travel to neighbouring countries to have a durian-centred feast. There was even a durian buffet. A bloody buffet that allows you to eat all the durians you want! And yes, we went for that. *evil cackle*

To strangers to this odd food, durians can be an offensive assault to your senses. With sharp thorns covering every millimetre of the husk, you would think it’s probably dangerous to consume it. I think Mother Nature was just being a selfish bitch to deter us from eating such heavenly stuff.

Then, there’s the smell. Most are turned off by its pungent and rank stench. If you go onto google, you’d find descriptions such as rotten sewage, dead rats and smelly socks. Basically, one can hardly phantom why anyone would put durians in their mouth. Its fragrance is so strong that it’s literally banned in hotels or public transport. You can eat durians and become a durian-farting machine for the next few days. That’s how potent these stuff are. But sorry, dude, we find the smell of durians A-MAH-ZING. If our neighbours from three floors up are eating durians, we would know and we would be awfully filled with envy.

Past the smell, you pick up this gooey, creamy (sometimes watery) glob of yellow-orange flesh. If you thought the smell was intense, the fruit itself is like getting multiple special combo-attacks. It’s Hadouken, Kamehameha, Bankai and Gomu Gomu all at once. You have received 10000000 damage and have to respawn for the next 500 times. But if you can go beyond the smells and first taste, you’d find how amazingly complex durians are. The custard-like flesh can go from caramel sweet to bittersweet. You may find hints of nuts, caramel and fruits such as mango and overripe bananas.

We tried quite a few varieties for erm, research. From mao shan wang (loosely translated as mountain cat king), D24, D13, XO to jin feng (golden phoenix), hong xia (red prawn) and butter durians. And that’s just the top of the list. After so many durians, our taste buds got a little numb. Our reactions slowly became useless information like “arghmagawd” to “ugh, pass”. In any case, stick to the winners such as mao shan wang and D24. Though, we do love the ultra sweet butter durians as well.

Because of its overpowering flavours, it’s tough to pair durians with any other ingredient. The easiest way is to complement the pronounced notes present in the fruit. We looked at nuts, tropical fruits such as mangosteen and mangoes, and local foods such as palm sugar. The idea was to inject the awesomeness of durian into classic French desserts, with a touch of local flavours. Ah~ anything durian just works for me.

I could go on and on about durians. This controversial fruit may not be the most crowd-pleasing and it divides people into two distinct camps. But in my memories, it was about having the whole family squatting on the newspaper-covered floor as we slurp the buttery flesh off our fingers. Well, our youngest sister would be behind a closed door trying to avoid the smells. And that itself is one quirky memory to have.

Roasted Almond Affogato

With the unearthly timings the World Cup matches are broadcasting locally, a single cup of coffee is just not enough to last us through the night. Or should I say early morning. In any case, we are surviving on an average of two to three hours of sleep these days. And no matter how many cups of coffee you down, the caffeine seems to stop its magical effects after awhile. (I tried drinking a total of 8 shots once. Please do not try it unless you wish to have an accelerating heart rate.)

Sometimes, we do get a little hungry in the middle of the night. Swearing at the television and watching 22 men kick a ball can take up a lot of energy. Especially if your team is not playing up to expectations, hunger plus anger, on top of fatigue, makes a rabid fangirl. To combat potential crazy breakdowns, we figured a simple dessert would calm even the most frantic. (No, really, I actually lost sleep because Germany drew an equaliser with Ghana. A sleep-deprived person who can’t fall asleep. The world could have combusted.) A word of caution though: the sugar and caffeine rush might work differently on different people. And this is not for those worried about their waistlines.

Let’s turn back the clock a little. One of our very first meals in London was at Polpo and to beat the jet lag, we decided to have an affogato after our very satisfying meal. A dessert in a cup of coffee, nothing beats the simple combination of pure vanilla ice cream melting in your cup of rich espresso. I don’t know if it was the excitement of being on a holiday or that we were hungry and cold, but it was one of the most luscious cups of heaven we have had. Ever since then, we knew we had to recreate it when we go back home.

Back to the present, we came across the cookbook ‘One’ by Florence Knight, who is the head chef of Polpo. And to our delight, within it lies a recipe of an affogato. Traditionally made with vanilla ice cream and a cup of espresso, this version is a much richer concoction with its inclusion of roasted almonds. And boy, when we both tasted the dessert, it was like we were transported back to London and into the cosy corner of the bar at Polpo.

The combination of the caramelised almond ice cream lifted the bitterness of the coffee. We used a deeper roast of beans as we favoured the contrast of bittersweet. You can add pralines to the dessert for an extra indulgence but for convenience’s sake (half time is only 20 minutes), we are satisfied with just almond ice cream and coffee. In fact, almost too satisfied because we just downed two cups each. Well, stomachs come first, guilt can come later.

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Tiramisu

It’s typical to make a tiramisu when one thinks about coffee. This is probably the most famousest of Italian desserts in the world. Go to your nearest Italian eatery and you’d definitely find a tiramisu in the menu. You can even find it disguised under unfamiliar ingredients such as matcha, strawberries or even beer (you heard me right). Despite its worldwide reputation and popularity, the tiramisu was only a recent invention. Created in the 1970s at Le Beccherie in a northern town of Treviso (the restaurant is closing down though), the tiramisu is an icon beside the pizza and pasta of Italy.

To me, the tiramisu is almost like eating a trifle (will Italians kill me for saying that). Its too creamy for a cake but too stodgy to be called a mousse. With a concoction of mascarpone, coffee, marsala wine and sponge ladyfinger biscuits, the dessert is a great after-dinner treat of booze and coffee. We have eaten many tiramisu, from horrendous watery sloshes in cups to frozen ice-cream like cakes, and knew immediately what we wanted our own tiramisu to be like.

Although we grew up eating creamy cups of tiramisu, we were not big fans of digging our spoons into tons of cream. Here was the challenge: to make the tiramisu an elegant dish. It got Ned really excited with the prospect of designing and creating her own dessert. But that was where it got difficult. She had to get the ingredients, quantity and cooking methods right. It was basically a trial-and-error with a sit-and-pray mindset. You should see the number of designs she came up with. They were terrifying and amazing at the same time. It was like watching The Doctor come up with plans that aren’t really plans.

All the usual ingredients had to remain to stay true to its origin but the dessert will have to be almost cake-like for a cleaner shape. More chocolate was incorporated into the pastry in the form of luxurious ganaches. Soaked in potent espresso, ladyfinger biscuits act as the base and divider between the ganache and mascarpone custard. The key difference is the form of the mascarpone. No longer sloppy, the top layer is a sturdy semifreddo-like custard. Dusted with lavish sprinkles of cocoa powder, the dish was definitely a tiramisu when you taste it, but in a new dress.

We might have committed a crime by tweaking the recipe but as with life, nothing stays still. And with all things well-loved, classics will always stay close to one’s heart but new interpretations must be welcomed with open arms. Besides, the tiramisu itself is considered a new kid on the block in the books of history. So, a little makeover won’t do this dessert any harm. If anything, we are loving the new look.

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Chocolate and Coffee Crème Brûlée Tart

The reason of why we made this dessert was quite a simple one: we had one in a shop and just had to make one in case of sudden cravings. The first time I had it was when a friend bought a slice of a Brazilian Coffee Tart for my birthday and I swear it was the best thing I have had for a long long time. In fact, it was sitting quite plainly beside the Lemon Meringue Tart. But the moment I popped a piece of it into my mouth, I thought I died and went to chocolate-y coffee heaven.

The luscious fudge-like chocolate just melts in your mouth and the creamy bitter coffee melds perfectly with the sweetness of the chocolate. Are you salivating yet? Because I am. Most chocolate desserts tend to overpower with its cocoa but this manages to be subtle and allow an amazingly balancing act alongside the coffee. After which, I told (more like raved to) Ned to give it try. Well, to cut long story short, she went to the same piece of heaven and here we are, trying to create the foods of angels.

Lucky for us, we managed to get hold of the recipe from Eric Kayser’s book of tarts. We’ll be honest here: heaven was not in our grasp yet. The tart base used was a chocolate shortbread pastry instead of the plain shortcrust used in the shop, and this resulted in a far too crumbly texture. The chocolate and coffee layers thankfully came through fine. Although instead of singing a duet together, it was like watching two contestants pitting each other in an episode of The Voice. The flavours were amazingly strong and powerful. Not that it was bad, but after gobbling half the tart, it seemed a little too rich for any more. We figured the tart base could have contributed to the chocolate-ness of the pastry.

Overall, it was still an amazing dessert but improvements could be made. Can I just complain how difficult it was for me to slice the dessert? Well, that’s just me because I was being spoilt. (Ned happened to be busy and I was left with the cutting.) But at least I learnt how to handle such desserts – have patience and more patience. Ned is adamant in making another batch until she achieves that slice of perfection. I’m all for it as long as I don’t have to cut it.

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Issue 13: Coffee

I have no memory of how we started drinking coffee. In fact, we grew up drinking tea (especially with dim sum breakfasts). Though, our parents never stopped us from sipping on their cups of coffee at a tender age. Maybe it was the introduction of Frappuccinos and flavoured coffee beverages from the mass coffee spots such as Starbucks that got us into drinking coffee. But I do not remember, because coffee and us go way back.

First of all, I’m going to make this clear: we are no coffee snobs. Really, we do appreciate a good cuppa but if you ask us if our coffee was single estate (what the hell is that anyway), we are not that anal. As long as the caffeine does its job, we are happy birds. So if you are expecting to learn about the degree of the roast or what soil the coffee tree grew in, we don’t speak coffee like the hipsters down Everton Park. With all due respect, we admire those who pursue the art of coffee. It’s a passion I wished we had.

However, I did visit the local library to do a little research and it was like opening a can of worms. The amount of information to digest was immense – from its history, botanical classifications (Arabica or Robusta), grading systems, countries of origin to coffee characteristics, cupping, roasting, grinding and different brewing methods. (You can even choose your beans based on seasonality!) Basically, I could regurgitate whatever I read but what would be the point really? You can always flip any issue of Kinfolk or visit your nearest cafe to know the details of your cuppa.

Coffee used to be a drink to perk up mornings, now it’s all about it being part of a lifestyle. Every week, I hear at least three new we-roast-out-own-beans cafes are opening in different parts of Singapore. But with such enthusiasm comes exposure to much more important matters: coffee and its effects on the world and slave trade. We are not foreign to the terms fair trade or sustainable farming. As with all types of agriculture, it’s always a business first. If there is demand, there would be supply.

Here’s a good example: Kopi Luwak (civet coffee, or more famously known as the coffee made out of beans from animal shit) is one of the most expensive coffees in the world. What started as a novelty and appreciated by coffee connoisseurs became an environmental disaster and helping hand to animal cruelty. Just read this article in Guardian to understand how much an innocent-looking cup of coffee isn’t all that wholesome anymore. Even your convenient Nespresso cup of coffee is contributing to global wastage with its capsules.

I’m not sure how many of the so-called hipster coffee-enthusiasts joints actually care about the provenance of the beans they use. It’s just so easy to cash in on trends without the actual passion of serving really tasty coffee without the sense of guilt. Why care so much for just coffee? Well, because you might not have it soon. As much as we don’t have the same amount of obsessions as hipsters (okay, we are not mocking them but how else to refer them as? Erm, indie folks?), if they are bringing about a wave of green coffee, then I guess the influx of cafes isn’t such a bad thing after all.

I shall go make a cup of coffee now.

Poached Mandarin Oranges with Vanilla Ice Cream

(I’m on fire here! Three posts in a row!! But that’s only because *cough* Ned sent me a threatening note this morning *cough*. I had to finish up all the old drafts left sitting on the shelf by today or *cough* certain misfortune might befall me.)

At times, we forget why we wanted to do this or our mantra for local seasonal produce. If you haven’t noticed, we barely focus on any fresh fruits or vegetables this year. With the lack of time to do anything in the kitchen, we wanted to avoid wastage of any sort. Fruits, vegetables, meat and seafood are too perishable to keep up with our schedules. We just finished up our next row of desserts and it features another dry ingredient (it’s coffee, if you need to know). If possible, we would love to return to the good old days where fruits play a major part.

The last time we handled fruit of any sort was after Chinese New Year. (Okay, that was four months ago. Please do not glare at me for being four months late in posting this.) Leftover mandarin oranges was common at most Chinese households after the festive season. These citruses are great on their own but we decided to finish the last batch of oranges with a little touch of Middle Eastern spice.

Unlike the typical oranges, mandarins are a lot more tender with its plump juicy pulp held together with thick with white pith. Some do not like the bitterness of the pith, but we tend to eat them anyway since the mandarins are sweet enough. The lovely thing about mandarins is that you can peel them open with just your hands. Just look at how pretty each segment looks! Like tiny gold Chinese ingots (currency of imperial china)! An interesting cultural fact: mandarin oranges and gold have the same pronunciation in Cantonese. And that’s why we exchange mandarins (or gold) during the New Year.

With that much leftover oranges and our (then) freshly made vanilla ice cream, we turned them into a simple dessert that give the usual citrus a little spicy kick. You can poach the mandarins in their tiny ingots or slice them in a cross-section to create beautiful floral shapes. What we really love is how a few added spice could bring the fruit a waft of fresh air. Instead of the usual saccharine taste of orange, the flavour of the fruit deepened with the vanilla, cardamom and cinnamon. To top it all off, add a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream and dust some chopped pistachios for added crunch – a Chinese tradition with an exotic Middle Eastern twist.

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