30 November 2009

Choux Pastry 101 Workshop

Attended the Choux Pastry 101 Workshop conducted by Guest Chef Christopher Tan on Sat at Shermay's Cooking School.

Although I attended his Retro High Tea Workshop 2 years back which he demonstrated the Cream Puff with Custard Filling (similar choux pastry), I'm attracted to this workshop as he is teaching a master choux pastry recipe with several variations for both sweet and savoury desserts and snacks. These recipes would come in handy for nibbles during parties.

4 recipes were demonstrated during the workshop (with 3 bonus recipes).
  • Classic Choux Pastry - how to make, shape, bake, fill and serve, the base for cream puffs, eclairs, profiteroles, gougeres...
  • Smoked Ham Gougeres - savoury cheese choux puff flavoured with grated cheese and finely chopped smoked ham.
  • Matcha-Kinako Eclair - Jap-inspired eclair filled with green tea & white choc pastry cream, topped with dusting of roasted soy bean powder.
  • Cookie Choux A La Creme - airy puffs baked with a topping layer of crunchy cookie-like dough and filled with vanilla whipped cream.

The very first recipe demonstrated was the classic choux pastry, since it is the base for all the other recipes. Choux pastry is best served just after bake as the pastry turns soft very quicky in our humid weather. In fact, the choux pastry tasted just as nice on its own without any filling.

With the choux pastry, we proceeded to the savoury smoked ham gougeres which was basically adding grated cheese and smoked ham to the pastry batter. We could explore with different flavours of semi-hard cheese and add herbs, spices, chopped nuts or diced mushroom.

We got to taste the freshly baked smoked ham gougeres and it was totally addictive. Dense and moist on the inside and crispy on the outside with heavenly combi of cheese and ham... YUM! It is definitely great as a party snack!

Next, the Matcha-Kinako Eclairs. First, pipe the choux pastry into 'fingers' and send to bake. Meanwhile, prepare the matcha-white chocolate cream.

Slice the cooled pastry lengthwise and pipe with the green tea cream.

The matcha-white choco cream was very light and not too sweet but we found the matcha taste a little weak. Probably could add more matcha powder. The kinako powder was a nice complement to enhance taste as well as appearance.

Cookie Choux A La Creme in baking. This sort of resembles Crystal Jade's Polo Bun and Roti Boy's Coffee Bun but not quite the same. The centre of the cookie choux is hallow for whipped cream filling and texture airy (unlike polo bun or coffee bun).

The whipped cream was meant to be piped into the cookie choux but the choux was still hot and we ran out of time so the cream was served as a side (can be a variation as well). The cookie layer was very sweet and crispy, which was a pleasant contrast in texture to the airy puff.
Yet another fulfilling class and I definitely see myself baking some of these recipes since they are quite easy and fuss free.

24 November 2009

Pan fried salmon with mixed herb potato

Seldom cook fish at home because I can't handle fish very well. And if the fish is pan fried, the whole kitchen usually becomes oily with a lingering fishy smell.

Have been trying to eat more fish, especially cod and salmon since my pregnancy, and hubby and I were going places looking for eateries selling quality fish, from restaurants like Greenwood Fish Market to western stalls at neighbourhood coffee shops.

The other day, we saw this lovely slabs of fresh salmon at Cold Storage and we thought, why don't we try cooking salmon, ain't gonna be too tough. So we bought the salmon, some greens and potatoes for our weekend dinner.

Searched online for recipes to cook salmon - some options are grill salmon or pan fried salmon. Didn't feel like using my oven (hope to keep it grease free for my dessert baking) so the choice is pan fried salmon. In fact, recipes shown (foodnetwork.com, cooks.com) were all very simple, some salt and pepper, and pan fried with olive oil that's all. I guess fresh salmon doesn't really need much preparation or seasoning. So I just used whatever I have in my kitchen.

Salmon preparation and cooking steps (I pan fried the potatoes before salmon)

I have 4 slabs of salmon (I know that's a lot! We over-estimated). Marinated for about 1/2 hour - 2 slabs with lemon pepper seasoning and coriander leaves (MasterFoods) and the other 2 with normal salt (sea salt or Kosher salt would be better but I ran out of sea salt) and ground black pepper (McCormick).
  • Heat a frying pan or skillet with olive oil.
  • Coat the marinated salmon with a thin layer of corn starch and pat off excess starch.
  • Once oil is heated, gently place the salmon into the pan.
  • Once one side of the salmon turns slightly brown, flip to the opposite side. Same goes for the other 2 sides.
  • Cooking time is based on estimation, depending on how thick the salmon slice is.
Potatoes preparation and steps

For potatoes, didn't feel like mashed potatoes or baked potatoes so opted for pan fried potatoes as well. Took reference from http://thelittleteochew.blogspot.com/2009/11/panfried-potatoes-with-rosemary.html and modify a little.
  • Instead of cutting into cubes, I sliced the potatoes into about 1cm slices. (I use US Russet Potatoes)
  • In a frying pan, heat some olive oil.
  • Once oil is heated, add the slices of potatoes.
  • Sprinkle some mixed herbs (MasterFoods - there's thyme, rosemary, marjoram, oregano, basil and sage in the mix) and salt sparingly onto the potatoes.
  • Fry till the potatoes look crisp and golden brown on surface and edges, turn to other side. Same process.
For greens, I just blanched some broccoli and baby carrots.
Pan fried salmon with mixed herb potato.

Not bad at all! This slab was marinated with salt and ground black pepper. I think we preferred this to the other lemon pepper and coriander leaves seasoning. In fact, the seasoning tasted quite subtle for both, probably due to the strong taste of salmon itself.
We also managed to cook this slab just right, with a thin crispy crust and meat still very tender and juicy, almost melt in the mouth! For the other slab (not shown in photo, overcooked a little. Although the crust was more crisp, the meat became a little dry and tougher).

As for the potatoes, we like!!! The mixed herb complemented the potatoes really well. The potato slices were slightly crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Yum!

The veggies were, just like veggies. We dipped with some thousand island sauce otherwise too bland.

We managed 3 slabs of salmon between us (barely able to finish!) and I packed the remaining slab with some leftover veggies and potatoes for lunch the next day. Next time, just 2 slabs would do.
Overall, it was a satisfying, hearty and healthy meal! We could do this again, though the kitchen was a tad oily and fishy for a night.

08 November 2009

Roast Pork, Cabbage & Tofu Pot

One of hubby's favourite homecook dish is the Roast Pork, Cabbage & Tofu Pot, a very quick & easy one pot dish which I cook once in a few weeks.

Ingredients are fairly simple.
  • 1 long cabbage 大白菜. I usually get the smallest one sold at supermarkets (around 600-700g) and use up the entire cabbage. Some supermarkets sell half of big size ones. Cut the cabbage into 1-inch pieces.
  • 1 carrot. Cut into slices.
  • 1 egg tofu. Cut into about 2cm thickness, about 8 pieces.
  • 300-500g roast pork, depends on how much meat you like. Sheng Shiong sells quite nice roast pork, if not wet market. Cut into about 1cm thickness.
  • A few slices of ginger.
  • Optional --- baby corn, shiitake mushroom
First, heat up a deep pot with medium fire. No need to add oil. Once pot is hot, add the roast pork slices and stir fry. Some oil from the roast pork will be 'forced' out. Add ginger slices. Stir fry till the roast pork gets a little light brown and you can smell the aroma of the pork. Hmmm, heavenly.

Next, add the cabbage and carrot. The veg will fill the pot to the brim but soon they will simmer down. Try to stir fry a bit despite the tight space. Then cover pot with lit and let simmer.

After 5-10 mins, the veg would simmer down to 3/5 pot, you'll notice some water 'force' out from the cabbage. Add more water to level just barely covering the ingredients. Once the soup base starts to boil, lower to medium small fire, cover the pot and let simmer.

Meanwhile, coat the tofu slices with some corn starch. Pan-fry the tofu with some oil. You may deep fry the tofu, but I find pan frying a healthier option and use much less oil. The purpose of this step is to add some colour to the tofu and also have a slightly crisp coating so that the tofu doesn't break easily when added to the pot later. Keep the remaining corn starch for use later.

After simmering the ingredients for about 15 mins, the veg would have softened. Add the tofu slices. Add some water to the corn starch, and stir into the pot to slightly thicken the soup base. Cover and simmer for just a while more.

Ready to serve. I find that it's not necessary to add any sauces as the roast pork itself is roasted with lots of sauces and flavours hence saltish enough and the flavour goes into the soup base during the simmering process. In addition, the sweetness of the cabbage and carrot also adds to the flavouring.
Simple one pot dish, full of flavour from the roast pork, goes well with brown or white rice =D