Orange and Fennel Salad with Almond Flakes and Goat's Cheese
This is a special recipe request from my dear friend, Cecelia from the "Middle Earth" A.K.A Auckland. She "whatsapp" me asking (in the middle of the night (UK time)) me to think of a very simple vegetarian salad recipe for her to prepare for a dinner party she is going..She suggested something with eggs and avocado etc...but I think it would look dull and uninspiring with those ingredients. Furthermore, the avocado will discolour rapidly and by the time she gets to her dinner party the salad would look quite sad!
I am the kind of person, if you presented me with a problem, I have no choice, but to find you a solution! After the conversation with Cecelia, instead of going back to sleep, I kept thinking about what can I teach her to make for her dinner party. Something that is so simple to make, but would make a beautiful impression to her friends at the dinner...
I have a vision of something elegant and refreshing...(I was actually thinking of a dish that represents the personality and character of Cecelia!) She is an elegant lady, and very colourful character..I want to teach her to make something that requires very little cooking skills, something with limited colour palette...and predominately white...
I think an orange and fennel salad would be a beautiful starter for her dinner party!
To make the salad, you will need the followings:
- 2-3 Medium or large orange (or grapefruit if you prefer some strong flavours) - cut away the skin and separate the flesh. Set aside in a bowl. Squeeze the orange juice from the remain of the oranges in another bowl.
- 1 large fennel bulb - thinly sliced (keep it fresh by putting the sliced fennel in a bowl of cold water and half of the lemon juice.) (Drained the fennel from the water completely just before you assemble the salad)
- A generous handful of red radishes - washed and sliced to rounds
- A small bunch of flat leave parsley - thinly sliced (if the fennel bulb comes with it feathery leaves, keep it as the garnish)
- Goat's cheese - break into small chunks
- A Generous handful of almond flakes
- 1 tbsp Honey (or sugar)
- 1 Lemon (use half of the juice for the fennel soaking water, and the other half for the salad dressing)
- Salt (to taste) for the salad dressing
- 2-3 tbsp Olive oil
First, prepare the salad dressing. In a bowl, mix the orange juice, olive oil, salt and honey. Whisk thoroughly. Add a pinch of the sliced parsley leaves. Adjust the seasoning to your taste. Set it aside.
Put the orange segments, drained fennel slices, sliced red radishes and parsley in a large salad bowl. Pour the salad dressing and gently coat everything with it.
In a large white serving plate, layout the orange and fennel salad artistically...with all the different colours distributed evenly. Sprinkle generously the almond flakes and goat's cheese. Garnish with the fennel leaves (or parsley leaves).
DONE! So simple! IT is a perfect colour combination for these dull and grey Autumn days. The refreshing taste and colours on the plate will really brightening up your day, I am quite sure about it!
Pineapple Jam Pastry
These Pineapple jam pastries slowing becoming my signature bake! I love how the clove acts like the stalk for the fruity looking pastry. So delicate and elegant.
You will normally find this kind of pastry during Chinese New Year. Many home bakers have their own little secret recipes and different interpretations of the shape of how these pastries should look like. I have made them with apple jam before, so I shaped them round-ish to resemble the apple (Picture below - I think my baking skills have improved a lot! I made those apple jam pastries in 2009!).
For these pineapple jam pastries, I shaped them into a large almond shape but slightly rounded top and bottom part of the pastry before inserting the whole clove to the top end.
They are prefect for afternoon tea, or as little gift for a special occasions.
It is not particular easy to make these pastries. I have made the pastry dough a bit softer by adding more boiling water. This will give a very buttery and delicately lighter pastry skin.
You should prepare the pineapple jam few days ahead before making the pastry. This will allow the jam cool down and slightly thicken to the right consistency to shape them into small balls.To make the pineapple jam. You will need:
- 1 Large Pineapple. (Skinned and discard the core. Coarsely grated. Then squeeze all the juices out (don't waste it!) and set aside.) (Pineapple juice is particularly good for preventing bloating and acidity.)
- The amount of the sugar should be the same weight as the grated and drained pineapple.
- A few cloves
- 1 Cinnamon bark.
Put all the ingredients in a pot and slowly cook it over high heat for approximately 15 minutes. Reduce the heat and cook further until the pineapple jam is thicken and glossy. Let it cool down completely and shape them into small balls for later.To make these pastry, you need the following ingredients:
- 170g Plain flour
- 1 tbsp Sugar
- 140g butter (cold and finely diced)
- 1 Egg yolk (lightly beaten)
- Small pinch of salt
- 2 tbsp hot boiling water
- Extra few handful of flour (for kneading)
Grease a baking sheet with butter and pre-heat the oven to 150'C.
In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt and sugar together and then rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add in the beaten egg yolk and the hot boiling water. Mix it to form a dough. Add a few handful of additional flour if the dough mixture is too wet. The dough should be quite soft but not sticky. Shape the dough into a ball and wrap it in a piece of cling film and chill it in the fridge for at least 1/2 hours.
Once the pastry is ready, roll it out into a tube. Divide the dough into equal portions. You should be able to make at least 20 pastries (depending of the size you want to make).
Roll all the divided dough portions separately into small balls. Slightly flatten each ball with your palm and then roll it out with the rolling pin. Carefully wrap the pineapple jam ball with the dough. Shape it nicely and stick one clove to the top of the dough. Place it to the greased baking sheet.
Repeat the whole process until you have make use of all the dough. Chill the pastry in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Prepare the glaze by mixing 1 whole egg, 1 egg yolk and 1 tsp water together.
Brush each pastry carefully with the glaze and then chill them in the fridge for further 10 minutes.
Bake them in the oven for 15 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 125'C and bake them for further 15 minutes. Remove the pastries from the oven and let them cool down completely on the wire rack. They should be ready!
But, for the finishing touch, if you think the pastry is a bit too pale. Once the pastries are cool, brush another layer of the glaze and bake them in 150'C oven for few more minutes until they are golden in colour.
ALL Done! Quite a long process, but it is worth it!If you would like to learn how to make these lovely pastries, let me know! I can provide 1:1 tuition or small group cooking classes arrangement at your connivence. Please get in touch here...
Variation 1: Oven Dried Yellow Plantain with Cinnamon Honey Greek Yoghurt Sauce
This is so easy to make and (I think) quite health too as breakfast or snacks in the afternoon. All you have to do is slice the yellow plantain, diagonally, approximately 5mm thick. Lightly oil a baking sheet and arrange the plantain slices on top and dry it in the pre-heated oven, at around 150'C, until the slices are dehydrated. You may want to stop the drying process just before the the slices are completely dry. This will give you a slightly "meaty" end product.
To make the cinnamon yoghurt sauce, mix a generous couple tablespoonful of TOTAL 0% Greek yoghurt, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder (or more depending on your taste) and 1 tablespoonful honey together. Done!
Variation 2: Deep Fried Yellow Plantain with Honey Greek Yoghurt Sauce
This is very much a typical Malaysian street food - "Goreng Pisang" (Deep Fried Plantain). For the batter, I mixed the following ingredients together:
- 120g Rice Flour
- 60g Plain flour
- 1 Egg (lightly beaten)
- 1-2 tsp cinnamon powder
- 110ml Water.
Heat generous amount of oil in a deep pan or prepare the deep fat frier. Coat well the plantain (large slices) in the batter and deep fry them until golden brown. Drain excess oil with kitchen towel.
Serves it with honey and TOTAL 0% Greek Yoghurt sauce. It is quite a refreshing combination. The yoghurt sauce kind of calm the "heaty-ness" of the deep fried plantain. Yum!
Simple to prepare, but full of flavour...and quite affordable dish to impress your guests! This slow cooked pork will warm your cold winter night...The ingredients:
- A nice piece of pork shank
- A bottle of good quality red wine.
- Few cloves of garlic
- one onion (whole)
- large piece of ginger (crashed).
- 500ml chicken stock
- Small pinch of cloves
- 2 star anise
Pre-heat the oven to 150'C. Heat a oven-proofed casserole pan. Fry lightly a few cloves of garlic, a chunk of ginger (sliced) and one large onion in some olive oil until soften and lightly brown. Add the pork shank and brown the meat all around. Add 500ml chicken stock and a whole bottle of red wine, few cloves and 2 star anise. Bring the liquid to the boil.
Remove the pan from the stove and place it in the pre-heated oven and let it slowly cook for few hours until the meat is falling off the bone. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with chopped spring onion.
Serves it with mashed potatoes...Yum!
Today's menu is French classic - Poulet En Bourride. I have been reading The Cook's Book
to learn some basic classic cooking techniques. I think I can cook - experimentally, most of the time. But for classic cooking techniques wise, I think know very little. So my challenge for this coming weeks will all be about classic western cooking techniques!
The weather has been grey and wet in Brighton these days, very depressing...I need some comforting and satisfying food to make myself feel good. In The Cook's Book,
there is a chicken bourride recipe. It looks rather nice for this damp days. Rich and thick yellowish aioli flavoured "soup" with juicy chicken pieces. I have made some modifications (well, I shouldn't have done it as my aim is to learn classic cooking skills ....but I think the additional orange juice would lighten the "soup" and give a more refreshing flavour and the orange pepper would add more vibrancy to the colour of the "soup")
For this modified chicken bourride, I used the following ingredients:
- 1 Whole chicken (cut into quarters)
- 1 tbsp Saffron threads
- A pinch of ground cumin
- Zest of 1 orange
- 1 Orange pepper (cut to large chunks)
- 1 Juice of orange
- 1 Red chilli (de-seeded and cut into half)
- 500ml Chicken stock
- 10 Small potatoes (peeled and leave them whole)
- 1/2 of lemon juice
- 1 Leek (sliced into strips)
- Olive oil for frying
- Salt and pepper to marinate the chicken pieces (to taste)
First marinate the chicken with salt and pepper. In a deep stewing pot, heat the olive oil and gently seal the meal until lightly brown. Add saffron, cumin, orange zest, pepper and chilli in the chicken. Stir well.
Pre-heat the oven to 190'C
Add the stock and potatoes to the chicken. Cover and bring the stock to the boil and lower the heat to simmer the chicken for 5 minutes. Then transfer the pot to the oven and cook for about 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the aioli with the following ingredients:
- 2 Egg yolks
- 1 tbsp Wholegrain dijon mustard
- 1tbsp Apple cider vinegar
- 50ml vegetable oil
- 50ml Olive oil
- 4 Cloves of garlic (minced)
In a large bowl, add the egg yolks, mustard and vinegar, whisk to mix everything together. Mix the vegetable and olive oil together in a jar. Slowly whisk in the oil to the egg mixture. Finally, add the garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside for later.
Once the chicken is cooked, remove the chicken and potatoes from the pot (careful with the pipping hot cover! I was careless enough to pick the hot handle up with my bare hand!! I am still in pain!) and set aside to let them cool down slightly.
De-bone the chicken drumsticks and set aside separately. Separate the meat from the rest of the bird and set aside.
Cook the leek in some salted water until soften. Drain and set aside.
In the blender, add the stock (with pepper, chilli, and 4 potatoes) and meat from the drumstick. Blend then into a smooth texture. While blending, add the orange and lemon juice then slowly add the aioli (one tablespoonful at a time) to the mixture until the texture and taste that suit you.
Pour the smooth "soup" back to the chicken and potatoes in the pot. Fold in the leek strips. It is all ready to serve!
I shared this chicken bourride with my friend, Chris, while watching the movie Prometheus! A truly comfort food at these autumnal evening!
Chicken Sausage with Tomato Sauce or Garlic Aioli Sauce
I spent the last weekend watching all three series of Masterchef USA. Almost non-stop of full two days of Masterchef, I was exhausted but rather inspired. Masterchef USA is very different from the UK version. So much drama, and many full-of-themselves characters in the USA version. Contestants in the UK version seemed all too nicey and reserved! But I do like the UK version because It is more about the food on the plate rather than some out-spoken dramatic characters.
The problem of watching so many hours of Masterchef in a weekend is that I am so wanted to do the "mystery box" challenge! I keep thinking what would I do if I was given those mystery boxes. (Do they really just bake something without a recipe? For the first time? One of the contestant, Monti Carlo said she didn't know what is fish sauce, but she made Tom Kha Gai! How can someone just know what is Tom Kha Gai if she doesn't even know about fish sauce?? Surely they have some kind of references behind the scene!)
Anyway, I was quite inspired after watching so many hours Masterchef, I just want to cook and experiment with food!
I bought a whole chicken to perfect my butchering skills. Quartered the chicken, de-boned the chicken legs and separating the breasts from the bone. I was going to throw away the nice large piece of the skin covering the breast, but then I thought it can used to make some chicken sausages with crispy skin. It will taste delicious with some freshly made tomato sauce.
To make the chicken sausage, I use the following ingredients: (make 1)
- Large piece of unbroken chicken skin
- 1 boneless chicken leg
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 fresh chilli
- 1 small onion
- 1 tbsp curry powder
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Oil for frying the sausage
Preheat the oven to 180'C. Mince the chicken leg with all the ingredients (except the skin!) and carefully wrap the minced meat inside the chicken skin. Place the sausage shape meat on a piece of kitchen foil, and tightly wrap the sausage with the foil. Place it in the hot oven for 10 minutes to mould the final shape of the sausage.
To make the tomato sauce, roast three large tomatoes in the oven. when they are soften, remove the skin and place the whole tomatoes in the pan and cook slowly over the medium heat until they break down into juicy sauce. Season it with 1tbsp of sugar, one zest of lemon, juice of 1/2 a lemon, salt and pepper to taste. Continue cooking the tomato sauce until the juice is concentrated. Remove the pan from the heat and add 1-2 tbsp of olive oil. Set aside to cool.
Remove the sausage from the oven and unwrap it from the kitchen foil. Heat some oil in the pan and cook the sausage until the chicken skin is crisp and nicely caramelised.
Slice the sausage and serves it with some pea shoots and the concentrated tomato sauce. Delicious! It would make a nice starter to wake your appetite with the slightly tangy sauce or the light garlic lemony aioli sauce.
I am really quite missing some authentic Malaysian food at the moment. There is a Malaysian/Indonesia restaurant in Brighton, they have satays in their menu, it tasted not too bad, but pricy for 2-3 skewers of satay!
As usual, I think I can re-create those satays at home in my tiny kitchen with much cheaper spending and can eat to my heart's contents! These chunky, juicy and fragrant satays are probably better (in taste and value) than those I had in the restaurant!
I want to organise a cooking class to teach how to make these delicious and nice satay!