Thom & Aimee

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

Tag: thyme

Warm Puff Pastry Tart with Fig, Olive, Capers and Goat’s Cheese

To showcase the versatility of the fig, we decided to do a savoury dish instead of the usual sweet suspects. It was either this, or another puff pastry fig tart with crème pâtissière and homemade cinnamon ice cream (it sounds really good at the moment). The savoury one won in the end, and we do not regret it one bit. In fact, we actually applaud ourselves for making this decision.

In our short history of tart making, this is by far and honestly the best dish I’ve ever eaten. So much so I wished we had made more so that I could have the whole tart myself. I mean, just look at it! It just draws you in with the bright contrast of colours: crispy golden brown pastry, lush flame-red baked figs, soft milky white goat’s cheese and dark shiny olives.

And with one bite, you’ll be lost in a combust of flavours – the sweet caramelised onions at the bast, the fragrance of the thyme and toasted pine nuts, the sharpness of the olives and capers, the tang of the cheese that amazingly brought out all the star quality of the figs. It was practically orgasmic.

Of course, puff pastry is always a roadblock but if you’re not keen on rolling out your own dough, there are some good quality ready-made puff pastry sheets available in the market. It saves up plenty of time and still tastes good. Yes, we are lazy sometimes. Making puff pastry from scratch can be satisfying but there are those days you just want to lie down under the sun with a glass of white wine and a scrumptious slice of tart. Lazy afternoons are our guilty pleasure.

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Porcini Mushrooms and Chocolate Risotto

There might be an overdose of chocolate on this blog, but this is the last one, we promise. Unless the cravings strike again. We can never get enough of the delicious stuff, chocolate is simply our-go-to candy. But this time, it appears in a more savoury fashion with porcini mushrooms and delicate risotto rice.

When Willie’s Wonky Chocolate Factory was showing on cable, N and I used to catch it quite regularly. If anything, other than being intrigued by the works of chocolate business, the show made us strangely depressed. It was like watching Wallander – the grey palette, the slow-paced direction, the slight melancholy in the music, and the too-calm voice droning over the programme. Though the problems William faced that got us feeling slightly underwhelmed at times, we were always tempted to try one of his cocoa products.

This issue just gave us an excuse to ship some of his luscious chocolate over, and receiving the beautifully packaged cylinders felt almost like Charlie getting his golden ticket. It’s interesting to know that the concept of terroir comes in here as well. (Yes, I’m still in my cheese fairy land.) Where the cocoa beans were grown affects how the end product would taste; like coffee, wine, cheese, tea and even milk. Both the Madagascan Black (Sambirano Cacao) and Venezuelan Black (Rio Caribe Cacao) that we bought had different notes, resulting in varying degrees of cocoa-ness, if I could put it that way.

Porcini mushrooms have a very strong nutty flavour, and this risotto dish features the woodiness really well. In fact, the mushrooms were a little too overpowering and the chocolate was almost negligent. To give it more balance, we added more of Willie’s Venezuelan Black cacao, resulting in a stickier consistency and deep earthy colouring. The chocolate finally came through subtly, dancing with the richness of the porcini. With a medley of flavours punching through, this is a dish best eaten as an entrée and in small portions.

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There are some food that sits pretty on their own, and there are some that screams at you. The colours of the shakshuka are so vivid that it oozes passion and character. The bright red, loud yellow and vibrant saffron orange conjure a portrait worthy of placement in any museum.

This is the sort of dish that inspires one to make, well, N had this recipe on the must-make list for a long time now. The first time she laid her eyes on it, it never left her lips. Just reading through the list of ingredients causes one to salivate – lovely poached eggs cooked in tangy tomato sauce, alongside sweet peppers, onions and saffron. When the fragrance of the peppers started to waft through the house, waiting for the dish to be ready was awfully excruciating. I think I screamed ‘hungry’ like five times this morning.

We don’t usually have such flavourful breakfasts; we usually start our day with porridge and steamed dumplings. With the different exotic textures bursting in one’s mouth, it was almost like being somewhere else. I loved it so much that I had two servings. N, this is definitely a keeper.

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The Novice Cook: Baked Fish and Capers on Toast

As part of The Novice Cook series, I have decided earlier this year that I would cook every recipe out of Hugh’s Three Good Things. It’s been a long time since my last venture in the kitchen. I could tell that I was a little rusty from the lack of practice as I had to keep asking N to check on the readiness of my fish. And how to use the oven. In a nutshell, I’m not making any sort of progress at all.

Honestly, I’m not a fish person. It’s not that I do not like the taste. Over the years, I just stopped eating fish as frequently as I should. My late Grandma always dominated the kitchen. But when she had dementia and started becoming forgetful, she would put in tons of conflicting ingredients into the fish. We still ate it, of course, out of respect. Sometimes it would turn out delicious, sometimes not so appetising.

The only reason why I chose this recipe was because it didn’t threaten me and it could use up the capers I had left. This dish surprised me. Sometimes, one can forget that such simple ingredients can come together to create layers of textures. Biting into it, there would be the sweetness of the fish, zingy-ness of the capers, fragrance of the thyme, and aroma of the buttered garlic toast. We added a spritz of lemon juice to add a little spring into the dish. S, the resident fish lover at home, dug into it with so much gusto that my heart exploded with joy.

(With N’s advice, I will not post the recipe since I’m doing so much out from an individual book. You may get your own copy here.)

On the matter of fish, I’m trying to get our family into the routine of buying sustainable fish and meat from ethical sources. Reading about the horse meat scandal in the UK only emphasizes how much we don’t know what we put on our plates anymore. Sometimes I wonder if people even know what the piece of meat even looked like before it was cut and packed into little plastic boxes everyone is so familiar with. And there’s the confounded theory that ethical food is, most of the time, two to three times more expensive than an unhealthy overfed animal. Something is terribly wrong with our society.

On the same note, since this is Hugh’s recipe and it’s about fish, join him in his fight to protect the oceans and defend the seabed and fish stocks from the most damaging forms of fishing. Although it concentrates mostly around Britain, I think its a start to big things. I’m not sure how fishing is done in Singapore or Southeast Asia. If possible, I would love to visit our local fisheries and fish farms to learn more. Then, maybe with better understanding, there would be better futures.

Braised Venison and Carrots

It’s probably too late to wish ‘Happy New Year’, seeing how it has been more than three weeks into 2013. I thought we could be more consistent in posting but my days have been spent lying in bed with my laptop propped on my lap and watching Stephen Fry on QI. There goes a New Year resolution out of the window.

Lately, my conversations with N have been about meat. The simple pleasure of enjoying fresh meat on your table comes down to where it came from, how the animal was taken care of, how ethically it was prepared, etc. I’ve been reading a lot about the provenance of meat and fell in love with the passions that independent farmers have for their animals and butchers who respect their products. Pity that our little island does not have the land for little farms of handsome cows and cute pigs.

But we thought we would try something different this time – venison.

Venison comprises of deer, elk, moose and caribou, but the most widely consumed would be the deer. The main three breeds that one can find would be the red deer (the majestic Scottish variant), fallow deer or the roe deer (considered the best by most chefs). Most websites would recommend wild venison, which are tougher but full of flavour over farmed venison. However, we found out that all venison imported into Singapore are from Australia and New Zealand, where deer are mostly farmed. By law, all game must be frozen and farmed due to the risk of diseases.

To get the most out of your venison, speak to the your local butcher and they should be more than happy to help you out. (If they don’t, maybe it’s time to break up with him.) The cuts of venison is almost similar to that of a lamb. The shoulder, neck and flank are best for braising and stews; but only the leg was available at our butchers so we decided to make do with it.

I could go on and on about venison but I should stop. Or else a proper essay will probably emerge out of it.

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Le Noël Blanc

Christmas came and went like a ghost from a Charles Dickens novel. We have been planning for our first dessert table for more than a month now. Different state of emotions ran through us: excitement, fear, calmness, confidence then the usual freaking out. The funny thing about Christmas was that there was always not enough time whether you were feeding six or 50 people. Something was probably missing or not done. (That was always solved with a glass of pinot noir and a small amount of charm.)

Dessert tables can be daunting. Just google it and you can find plenty of different inspirations and examples. The beauty of a dessert table at its most basic and importance is that it must be an aesthetic masterpiece. Some might disagree but we have a reason of saying so. A lot of colour coordination comes into play, alongside complementary props. Many use icing and fondant to achieve that level of thematic consistency, which is something we as bakers are not keen on. To all cupcake and fondant lovers, sorry, we are just not that into them.

But as all dessert tables, yes, there was still a theme to abide to.

Working with an upcoming events boutique The Magpies, we were given a small brief: White, Rustic and French. The France that everyone knew well were the chic streets of Paris with their high-fashion houses and a certain je-ne-sais-quoi. To achieve rustic charms, we decided to drop ourselves into a region famous for its rolling lavender fields and charming bastides (country houses): the south eastern part of France, Provence.

When one speaks of a Provençal Christmas, the famous 13 desserts come to mind. Here was the difficult part. As fascinating and mouth-watering 13 desserts could be, churning out so many types of sweets could become literally a Nightmare before Christmas. There were a number of other factors that came into play: the need of balance between the savoury and sweet, dietary specifications, a tight baking schedule and availability of ingredients and recipes.

So, many recipes were tried and tested. Those you see on the table above are the successful bakes after weeks of homework. We tried to keep the Provençal spirit alive with or without the 13 desserts. It may not be the best representation, but it was still as delicious. We hope to execute the real Provençal Christmas desserts one day. Someone, please let us know where we can find a good Calissons recipe in English!!

Here was the menu that was served:

Two types of hassle-free tea sandwiches, one with eggs and chives, and the other was roasted chicken with cranberry sauce. Lovely roasted potatoes served with mustard mayonnaise. And a personal favourite – mini Caramelised Onion and Gruyère tarts.

The sweets were fronted by a magnificent chocolate Gugelhupf cake (I’d call this the show-stopper), toffee nut macarons, dainty orange blossom crème caramel cups with meringue, and a dark chocolate fondue served with marshmallows and bananas.

To quench one’s thirst, we had Lemonade and Pastis de Marseille. (Yes, it’s a summer drink but pastis is such a fixture of the Provençal culture that we had to serve it.) We also gave Ginger nut Biscuits as a little gift to the guests.

At a glance, the menu does not seem extensive or difficult. To be honest, we did not meet with any major mishaps other than some burnt caramel. This was our first dessert table after all, we could aim for the stars but it was better to get it right for a start. As with many beginnings, it can only get better the next time.

Pictures are from our friends at The Magpies. (Thank you girls!) For the recipes, just scroll down to the end of the entry!!

By the way, The Hobbit came out 2 weeks ago and we were very very happy and satisfied fans. If you have yet to watch it, go catch it (especially in HFR 3D, it’s eyegasm galore)!!!! WE INSIST.

Now that Christmas is over, there is only 3 more days to the New Year…. we feel old already… *sobs*

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Penne with Prawn, Olives and Feta Cheese (Greek Pasta Salad)

Penne with Prawn, Olives and Feta Cheese
Pasta is fast becoming our family’s food of convenience. That and Japanese soba noodles, so apologies on the overload of pasta recipes.

Why this Greek pasta salad? It was one of those slow work days when my colleagues and I decided to have a little Mediterranean pot luck lunch in the office. Pasta was the only thing that covered all grounds: easy to cook, portable, ability to serve it cold, and a sure crowd and tummy pleaser. Well, the other reason was because I was craving for my colleague’s homemade hummus, hence the Mediterranean theme.

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Tomato & Thyme Foccacia

So here I am, seated in my little corner with the laptop propped on my lap – how do I even begin this entry? (You see, D has been bugging me to post this entry and I’ve procrastinated for a week)

I do suppose this project began when D and I took a trip down to Tekka Market, for a hope to chance upon some fruit or vegetable we could instill in a dish. The moment we laid our eyes on these fresh vibrant tomatoes – we were sold. Plus, it costs much cheaper in Tekka than in the supermarkets in Singapore.

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Cherry Tomato & Rosemary Spaghetti

Anyone who knows me know that I don’t cook. These are the usual excuses: pure intimidation, insufficient time, laziness, lack of knowledge, and laziness. If anything, this was the very first dish that got me cooking. (I still can’t gauge when pasta is cooked though. N calls me a kitchen noob.)

This requires almost no cooking at all. It’s food down to its basics, and despite its simplicity, it is full of robust flavours. I loved it so much that I had it for lunch everyday at one point.

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