Saturday, August 27, 2011

Matcha Macarons

Macarons! Macarons! We were in a love-hate relationship. It took me so long to be able to make them well! Mastering the macaron technique is more difficult than taking a law exam. Seriously.

Failed 3 times, frustrated, persisted, searched the web, and realized that macarons had been harsh on others too! The macaron shell is the source of all troubles, the common problems include, no "feet" (the tiny ruffles along the circumference), soggy crust, cracks on crust, or they just turn out to be extremely sweet almond cookies.

The first time I had macarons was very unpleasant (that patisserie makes really bad macarons). I was so turned off by its excessive sweetness and hard crust which stuck to my teeth that I stayed away from it for a number of years. Macarons and I finally crossed paths again when my sister made me try one from the Island Shangri-la, telling me that it's really good. So I tried, very unwillingly, and then taking another bite, willingly this time, admitted that the macaron did taste great!

The perfect macaron shell should have two layers, a very thin, smooth, egg shell-like crust and beneath it is the soft, slightly chewy, meringue-like texture. It took me three failing attempts to finally get the macaron technique and make decent, "legit" macarons. I will share with you all the "secrets" to making macarons, however, it is inevitable to experience some flops before you truly grasp the technique. Meanwhile, you may also read "Demystifying Macarons" by Helene Dujardin for inspiration. Have fun experimenting!

Tips for making nice macaron shells:

1. Use aged egg whites (48-72 hours).
2. Beat the egg whites until they stand.
3. Mix in the dry ingredients (almond power and sugar and any other flavouring  e.g. matcha powder) into the beaten egg whites with a few very quick strokes and then slow down for a few more strokes until all the ingredients are well combined and form a slightly runny but also a little thick batter. Do not over mix. 
4. When you're done piping out the small rounds on the baking paper, leave it there for 45-60 minutes before shoving it into the oven. This process and the aged egg whites are crucial for creating the "feet".
Please click read more for the recipe.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Grilled Mackerel with Couscous & Rocket and Spinach Salad

My Saturday night supper. Extremely satisfying.

I received a text from my friend, K, that morning, telling me how good rocket salad is. As if I needed any reminder of my admiration for rockets, that message prompted me to immediately hit CitySuper and swing my arms around the fresh rockets! Some baby spinach and herbs managed to squeeze their way into my arms too! Glad they did that, they came in really handy later that evening.

Rocket, also known as arugula, has a strong, distinct, peppery taste, with a slight hint of bitterness. Generally used in salads and sandwiches. Take it literally, rocket really does shape like a rocket, long and lean. Not everyone can stand its taste, people either hate it or love it.

Another ingredient I would like to introduce to you is Couscous. It is made out of semolina and water, rolled by hand to form small pellets and subsequently dried with flour and sieved to separate. Very popular in Morocco, Middle East, France and Turkey etc. I first tasted couscous in a Middle Eastern restaurant, it was served with a generous spoon of lamb stew, so good! Couscous itself does not have a lot of flavour, it is like rice, so to spice it up, I mixed in chopped mint, parsley and lemon juice.

I have received requests to include recipes here, so there you go! Please click Read More.


Pretty daring to make Palmiers as a gift after all it is not difficult to get good ones from Cookies Quartet or Royal Garden's cake shop. But to show my appreciation and heartfelt gratitude to the nice people I have met lately, I decided to roll up my sleeves, get my hands down and really do something for them.

I referred to the recipe from the website, Christinesrecipes, but I did not follow the exact measurements. The amount of sugar you put really depends on your personal taste. I scattered the sugar over the pastry until it was all coated, not piled, with sugar. Also, to get that hint of creamy sweetness, I gave the melted butter a splash of vanilla essence.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


My sister and I made hummus for breakfast this morning. With no pita bread at home, we had it with plain crackers instead. Still good!

The ingredients include 1 can of chickpeas, 1/3 lemon for both its juice and zest, 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, and around 100g of Greek yogurt, garlic (optional), salt and paprika. Preparation instructions? Hardly any! You just have to combine these ingredients either with a blender (which will take you less than 2 minutes) or by hand. 

We went primitive, mashed the peas and combined everything by hand, using only a fork and a spoon. We had a very bad experience with the blender, so we would rather take the rough path. Besides, mashing by hand left our hummus a much fuller and chunkier texture! But for those who prefer really smooth hummus, blender is the way to go!

Chickpeas have a rich, nutty, buttery flavour, extremely tasty but very heavy. Lighten it up with the yogurt and lemon acid, they work perfectly together and keep this dip fresh and exciting! 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding

I just had an amazing afternoon. I watched my favourite movie, Something's Gotta Give, and made crème brûlée with my very good friend Natalie while listening to Pink Martini's feel-good music. I know I know, crème brûlée always gets the attention and it is many people's favourite. But for now, (next entry please!) it has to make way for this luscious, beautiful and heart-warming Bread Pudding!

I usually cook by myself but last Saturday, Daisy et son bébé joined me. Cooking by yourself and cooking with someone is very different. When I cook by myself, I experiment, focus on the food and enjoy the peace and quiet. Whereas cooking with someone can create more mess, more chaos, but it makes you realize that good company is just as important as good food itself. Having someone to share with you the joy and sense of satisfaction is incredible. 

Bread pudding is my favorite dessert. I like its golden brown crust and its creamy, custard-like inside. It was once called "the poor man's pudding" because the recipe, born out of necessity, was created by someone who had too much stale bread in hand but did not want to throw them away! Even today, when fresh bread is everywhere, I insist on using bread that is of at least 2 days old. Fresh bread has too much moist and does not absorb the creamy mixture well enough to create the custard-like texture. 

Croissants have a buttery flavor, so you can skip the butter and do it the express way. Since Daisy and I are chocoholics, we added dark chocolate bits too along with the raisins. Yumm!

Follow Michael Chiarello's recipe, spend 15 minutes in the kitchen and you'll make everyone in house very happy!