Grilled leeks with hazelnut brown butter

 

Leeks with Hazelnut Browned Butter (1 of 21)

LEEKS IN BEURRE NOISETTE | Who would have thought leeks could taste so incredible?

I don’t eat leeks often but having returned from Singapore recently earlier this year, I was inspired by the critically acclaimed restaurant Burnt Ends (nb: book early) to recreate their signature leek dish with browned butter and hazelnuts.

First, let’s delve into a little short history about this amazing vegetable that belongs in the Allium family.

Leeks with Hazelnut Browned Butter (20 of 21)

Leeks have been cultivated since the time of the Ancient Egyptians and were probably part of the diet of those who built the pyramids. Hippocrates the ancient Greek physician and ‘father of medicine’ prescribed the leek as a cure for nosebleeds.

The Romans considered the leek a superior vegetable and Emperor Nero got through so many he gained the nickname Porophagus (leek eater); he is reported to have thought that eating leeks would improve his singing voice!

The leek is also associated with the Welsh Saint David. During the Middle Ages when Saint David was alive the leek was seen as a healthy and virtuous plant. Extraordinary qualities were claimed for it. It was the original health food, high in fibre, good for purging the blood, keeping colds at bay and healing wounds.

The leek also acquired mystical virtues. For single young ladies curious to foretell the future ‘man of their dreams’, mystic belief has it that girls who sleep with leeks under their pillow on St David’s Day would see their future husband in their dreams.

What’s more, the humble leek is also mentioned in the Bible. The book of Numbers records how after leaving Egypt, the children of Israel missed a range of foods including leeks.

The leek in Hebrew is called Karti, which is a pun on another Hebrew word yikartu meaning ‘to be cut off’. Thus the Jews eat leeks at Rosh Hashanah to symbolise a wish for their enemies ‘to be cut off’.

So enough about leek history. Let’s get down to recreating this simple yet beautifully eloquent dish that will surely impress your guests (well, it surely did blow them away at my last supper club).

Leeks with Beurre Noisette and Hazelnuts

PREP TIME: 10 mins | ACTIVE TIME: 10 mins | TOTAL TIME: 20 mins | SERVES: 3  

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 leeks, washed
  • 1/4 cup hazelnuts (roughly about 10)
  • 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
  • Pinch of premium sea salt flakes or gourmet salt of your liking (I used Pukara’s smoked salt with olives here to add the last delicate ‘kick’ in flavor).Leeks with Hazelnut Browned Butter (21 of 21)

METHOD:

  1. Wash leeks and trim stems.Slice each leek in half. If long, cut the leeks in half horizontally. Leeks with Hazelnut Browned Butter (4 of 21)
  2. Heat a griddle (I used a cast iron griddle pan) on high. Brush oil with a high smoke point (grapeseed perhaps) onto the pan. Once smoking, throw the leeks onto the pan and grill for 4 minutes each side till the gorgeous grilled char marks form.  Sprinkle some salt as you grill the leeks.Leeks with Hazelnut Browned Butter (15 of 21)
  3. Lightly crush the hazelnuts in a mortar and pestle (or feel free to leave them in their entirety).Leeks with Hazelnut Browned Butter (14 of 21)
  4. In the meantime, as the leeks are cooking, heat another small pan on medium-low heat. Melt the butter and add the crushed hazelnuts (optional to slightly crush them in a mortar and pestle or leave them in their entirety).Leeks with Hazelnut Browned Butter (11 of 21)
  5. Once the butter turns a caramelised brown, turn off the heat (roughly 8-10 minutes). Leeks with Hazelnut Browned Butter (12 of 21)
  6. By now both your leeks and beurre noisette should be done. Dish the leeks up and arrange uniformly on a cleaned plate. Immediately, pour the browned butter with hazelnuts on top. For the finishing touch, sprinkle with a touch of gourmet salt (I used Pukara’s smoked salt with olives). Serve whilst warm.Leeks with Hazelnut Browned Butter (2 of 21)

 

Truffled Scrambled Eggs

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TRUFFLED-UP SCRAMBLED EGGS | Soft heavenly ricotta-like texture with a touch of gourmet.

Crazy about eggs? Especially those creamy and soft scrambled eggs that slip off your spoon into your mouth?

The secret here is cooking the eggs low and slow — low heat, plus plenty of time for soft eggy curds to gradually form.

Yes, I know patience may not jive well with a busy morning weekday schedule before work but trust me, 10-15 minutes is worth your time once you taste the sensation of these eggs. If I am going to make scramble eggs, this is how I will do them. No compromise.

What’s the trick? Simply cook the eggs in a regular saute pan over the lowest heat you can manage on your stove. Please resist the temptation to nudge the dial up. As the eggs start to cook, stir occasionally to mix the cooked eggs on bottom with the still-runny eggs on top, and let the eggs form into billowy curds at their own pace.

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Ingredients:

TIME: 10 mins | YIELDS: one 

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of black truffle paste
  • Chopped green onions or chives for garnish
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Method:

  1. Turn stove on lowest heat setting. Heat pan with a tablespoon of olive oil.
  2. In meantime, lightly beat eggs in a bowl with a dash of salt and pepper. truffled-scrambled-eggs-1-of-6
  3. Pour whisked eggs into pan and gently fold continuously. truffled-scrambled-eggs-2-of-6
  4. Once egg forms set curds, add the teaspoon of black truffle paste.truffled-scrambled-eggs-3-of-6
  5. Remove pan from stove and dish eggs onto a plate (remember, eggs still cook when removed from stove). Garnish with chopped spring onions or chives before serving.truffled-scrambled-eggs-4-of-6

Fluffy Wholewheat Buttermilk Scones

Buttermilk Scones (28 of 103)SCONE-MANIA | Wholewheat heavenly fluffy scones with a hint of orange zest

Whoever said scones couldn’t be fluffy while at the same time deliver on wholesomeness is wrong. In 20 minutes, you could have piping hot scones served with clotted cream and jam – perfect for unexpected guests.

I love scones. Whether they are homemade, from a coffee shop (ok, maybe not the ones from Asia), plain, or with fruits, I simply can’t resist a piping hot scone fresh from the oven served with clotted cream and jam. Serve this with a steaming cup of english breakfast or earl grey tea and there you have me: my way of solo therapy for a Sunday afternoon.Buttermilk Scones (14 of 103)

Don’t be deceived. Scones are not difficult to make. The ‘trick’ though (to keep the scones moist and fluffy) is to halve the flour portion equally between plain flour and wholewheat flour. Also, be careful not to over mix the dough with your hands and the butter and milk must be added whilst cold. Most importantly, when baking scones, make sure you place each one close to each other. This will yield a better ‘uplifting’ (i.e. rising) effect when the scones bake.

Buttermilk Scones (1 of 2)

The beauty of this basic wholewheat recipe is that you are free to add your own variations. I experimented with some orange peel (love the zesty citrusy touch) and sultanas, as well as playing up another variation using some chopped up dried figs from turkey.

Buttermilk Scones (43 of 103)

Fluffy Wholewheat Buttermilk Scones

TOTAL TIME: 20 min | YIELDS: 8 large scones 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1.5 cups self raising flour
  • 1.5 cups self raising wholewheat flour (NB: if you are using plain flour, add baking powder to the mix)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 60g butter
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk (or full-cream milk)
  • Grated zest of half an orange and half a cup of sultanas (optional)Buttermilk Scones (102 of 103)

METHOD:

  1. Preheat oven to 230C or 210C fan. Lightly grease and flour a baking tray. Sift flour and salt into a bowl. Buttermilk Scones (101 of 103)
  2. Chop butter into cubes and rub in the butter with our fingers until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.Buttermilk Scones (100 of 103)
  3. Add nearly all the milk at once and mix in quickly with a knife. Add remaining milk if needed and pull dough together into a rough ball. Add the grated orange zest and sultanas (if using). Turn dough out on to a floured board and knead by turning and pressing with heel of hand 3 or 4 times. Buttermilk Scones (96 of 103)
  4. Pat out to a 2cm thick round and cut into 4cm rounds with a floured cutter. Gather scraps together, knead lightly and cut out.Buttermilk Scones (95 of 103)
  5. Place scones close together on a lightly greased baking tray. Brush tops with a little milk and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until well-risen and golden.Buttermilk Scones (94 of 103)
  6. Voila. Scones should turn out beautifully golden and sumptuous. Note: For soft scones, wrap in a tea towel as soon as they come from oven. For crusty scones, do not wrap, cool slightly on a wire rack. Serve warm with butter or with jam and cream.Buttermilk Scones (86 of 103)

Buttermilk Scones (78 of 103)Buttermilk Scones (2 of 2)

Grilled Asparagus with Torn Bocconcini and Persimmon

Grilled asparagus with persimmon and mozzarella (12 of 14)

CHARRED ASPARAGUS | A rich juxtaposition of vibrant colours to brighten up your dinner parties

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of asparagus? Well, for me, it is ‘versatility’. That’s right, asparagus is amazing versatile: steam, simmer, roast, batter, grill, pan-fry, or wok-fry – these are all the ways in which you can cook this delectably crisp and sweet vegetable. Heck, you can even slice it thinly and incorporate it into a salad in raw form.

The cooked spears can sport a variety of guises. Simple salt and pepper seasoning with butter or olive oil will often do the trick. For something fancier, try drizzling it with a beurre blanc sauce.  Or for an even bolder treatment, try a mixture of anchovies, garlic, olives and chiles.

How to shop for asparagus? First, at the market, look for spears that are brightly colored and have compact, tightly closed tips. Spears that are ridged or look dry have lost their flavor. Check the root ends to see how dried out they are; if they are truly brown, reach for a different bundle.

How to best cook asparagus? For stovetop cooking, a stainless steel or enamel-coated cast-iron pot is best. If you’re stir-frying, you’ll need a wok or a deep-sided cast iron skillet. For roasting, use a baking sheet or a small roasting pan.

For now, I am going to show you how to grill asparagus on a cast-iron pan and finish it off with a topping that comprises of torn bocconcini and diced persimmon.

Grilled asparagus with persimmon and mozzarella (7 of 14)

Grilled Asparagus with Torn Bocconcini and Persimmon

COOK TIME: 3-5 mins | PREP TIME: 10 min | TOTAL TIME: 15 min | SERVES: 4 (side)

Ingredients:

  • One pack of asparagus (NB: thicker ones are better for grilling)
  • 100g of bocconcini or buffalo mozzarella
  • One persimmon
  • Sea salt and black pepper,  to season
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • Drizzle of Pukara’s caramelised balsamic vinegar (optional)Grilled asparagus with persimmon and mozzarella (2 of 14)

Method:

  1. Clean asparagus and cut off about 0.5cm at the root end.Grilled asparagus with persimmon and mozzarella (1 of 14)
  2. Heat grill pan on medium-high, brush with oil. Grill asparagus until charred on both sides, roughly 3-5 minutes or so depending on thickness of the stems. During the grilling process, season with some salt and crack the good old black pepper.Grilled asparagus with persimmon and mozzarella (3 of 14)
  3. Chop persimmon into 1cm cubes. Break bocconcini or mozzarella into bite size pieces.Grilled asparagus with persimmon and mozzarella (6 of 14)Grilled asparagus with persimmon and mozzarella (4 of 14)
  4. Once asparagus is charred evenly on both sides, layer on serving plate.Grilled asparagus with persimmon and mozzarella (5 of 14)
  5. Topple the green stems with the torn bocconcini and diced persimmon to get the rich juxtaposition of bright colours. Grate some lemon zest and drizzle with some balsamic glaze to finish (optional).     Grilled asparagus with persimmon and mozzarella (8 of 14) Grilled asparagus with persimmon and mozzarella (13 of 14)Grilled asparagus with persimmon and mozzarella (14 of 14)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maple Glazed Baby Carrots

Maple Glazed Baby Carrots (5 of 9)BABY CARROT LOVE | Sweeten those baby orange gems with a dash of maple syrup

For a simple and fast side dish designed to delight your guests, look no further than the baby carrot. Dress the carrots with maple syrup and a hint of brown sugar to accentuate the natural sweetness of these orange gems further. All in all, this side dish will take you no more than 15 minutes to dish up from prep to table.

A baby carrot is an immature carrot, grown in a small size. Alternatively, they can be cut from a larger carrot (what are called “baby cuts”). Baby cuts were invented by a guy called Mike Yorusek in the mid 1980s.

Back then, the carrot industry was stagnant and wasteful. Yurosek, itching for a way to make use of all the misshapen carrots, got tired of seeing all the carrots go to waste so tried something new. Instead of tossing them out, he carved them into something more palatable. At first, Yurosek used a potato peeler, which didn’t quite work because the process was too laborious. But then he bought an industrial green-bean cutter. The machine cut the carrots into uniform 2-inch pieces, the standard baby carrot size that persists today.

The beauty of these 2-inch perfectly rounded orange gems is that they need not be peeled, thus saving a lot of time. Simply give them a good wash and ‘bam’, they are ready to go.

Now, why is one little carrot so important? First and foremost, munching on carrots can prevent blindness caused by Vitamin A deficiency.

Just to give you some statistics, vitamin A deficiency partially or totally blinds nearly 350,000 children from more than 75 countries every year. Roughly 60 percent of these children die within months of going blind. However, vitamin A deficiency is preventable. One cooked carrot has approximately 150% of the Recommended Daily Amount of beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A. Vitamin A helps to prevent night blindness, dry skin, poor bone growth, weak tooth enamel, diarrhoea and slow growth.

Convinced to eat more baby carrots now? Even the late Steve Jobs was an avid carrot fan, often fasting on weeks on nothing but carrots (and apples).

Maple Glazed Baby Carrots (9 of 9)

Maple Glazed Baby Carrots

Prep Time: 5 mins | Cook time: 10 min | Total time: 15 mins | Serves: 3-4 as a side

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 ounces of baby carrots / baby cuts
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of maple syrup
  • 1/2 tablespoon of brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of freshly chopped dill
  • 1 teaspoon of freshly torn thyme leaves
  • Drizzle of balsamic glaze (optional)

Maple Glazed Baby Carrots (2 of 9)

METHOD:

1. Wash and drain baby carrots in a colander.

Maple Glazed Baby Carrots (3 of 9)

2. Heat oil in a frying or skillet on medium heat. Throw in baby carrots, maple syrup, brown sugar, dill and thyme and gently toss to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally. until carrots are tender, about 10 minutes.  Maple Glazed Baby Carrots (4 of 9)

3. Garnish with additional dill before serving.Maple Glazed Baby Carrots (6 of 9)

For those who like the added dimension of balsamic, feel free to drizzle some balsamic vinegar over the cooked carrots before serving. For this dish, I lightly drizzled some of Pukara’s fig balsamic (pictured below).

Maple Glazed Baby Carrots (8 of 9)

 

 

Heavenly Almond Milk with Vanilla Bean and Dates

Almond milk with dates and vanilla bean (16 of 31)

Save the money buying almond milk and make your own. Creamy, lightly sweet, and so satisfying—homemade almond milk (without the additives and preservatives) is a true luxury!

It also contains no animal byproducts, allowing vegans and vegetarians to enjoy it without guilt.

Personally, my favourite flavour combo comprises of utilising an entire vanilla bean, a couple Medjool dates, and a pinch of Himalayan sea salt. The secret to an intense vanilla flavour is blending the entire vanilla bean; just chop it up and toss the whole bean into the blender. Not to worry if you don’t have one on hand though: a half a teaspoon of vanilla extract will work just fine in a pinch.

This milk is delicious served with cookies, cereal, in a smoothie, or simply on its own.

Almond milk with dates and vanilla bean (14 of 31).jpg

Almond milk’s high vitamin E content makes it a superfood for skin, helping to protect it from the  sun damage. 

I am now going to rave on about the merits of almond milk. First, for those who are looking to lose weight, almond milk is your solution. Did you know that one cup of almond milk contains only 60 calories, as opposed to 146 calories in whole milk, 122 calories in 2 percent, 102 calories in 1 percent, and 86 calories in skim? Enough said – it makes for a great substitute that will help you lose or maintain your current weight.

Moreover, almond milk won’t impact your blood sugar levels. Home made almond milk (with no additives) is low in carbs, which means it won’t significantly increase your blood sugar levels, reducing your risk for diabetes. Because of its low glycemic index, your body will use the carbs as energy so the sugars aren’t stored as fat (score!).

Almond milk also keeps your heart healthy as there is no cholesterol or saturated fat in almond milk. It’s also low in sodium and high in healthy fats (such as omega fatty acids, typically found in fish), which helps to prevent high blood pressure and heart disease.

For those who care about beauty and skin, the vitamin E boost in almond milk will work wonders. Containing  50 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin E, almond milk contains antioxidant properties essential to your skin’s health, such as protecting it against sun damage.

For those who are lactose intolerant (i.e. have difficultly digesting the sugar in cow’s milk), almond milk is particularly fitting as unlike cow’s milk, there is no lactose. Lactose intolerance is prevalent amongst the Asian population and impacts about 25% of the US population.
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Almond milk is a suitable, lactose-free substitute for cow’s milk.

Heavenly Almond Milk with Vanilla Bean and Dates

TIME: 15 minutes | SERVES: 4 cups

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large cup of  almonds
  • 3.5 cups of filtered water
  • 4 pitted dates
  • 1 whole vanilla bean or 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • Pinch of himalayan sea salt

Almond milk with dates and vanilla bean (14 of 31).jpg

METHOD:

  1. Soak the raw almonds in a bowl of water overnight. Hint: the longer you soak, the creamier the almond milk will become.Almond milk with dates and vanilla bean (30 of 31)
  2. Drain water in colander. Almond milk with dates and vanilla bean (29 of 31)
  3. Place drained almonds in a Vitamix (or any powerful blender will do).Almond milk with dates and vanilla bean (28 of 31)
  4. Add the dates, vanilla bean and a pinch of himalayan sea salt in the Vitamix. Fill up the container with filtered water at a ratio of  roughly 3-4 x as much as the volume of the almonds. Here I used 3.5 cups of water.Almond milk with dates and vanilla bean (26 of 31)
  5. Hit the on button, at first on low, before slowly increasing the speed to high and blend for 1 minute.Almond milk with dates and vanilla bean (25 of 31)
  6. Once everything is blended, strain the contents into a large bowl using a cheese cloth or nut milk bag/sprouting bag (as if milking a cow).Almond milk with dates and vanilla bean (20 of 31)Almond milk with dates and vanilla bean (19 of 31)
  7. Once done, pour the almond milk into a jar and store in the fridge. Almond milk can be stored for 2-3 days (since there are no preservatives) in the fridge.Almond milk with dates and vanilla bean (10 of 31)
  8. For variations, feel free to blend in some cacao and banana for an almond milk smoothie to best kick start the day. Otherwise, the almond milk makes for a refreshing alternative to milk when served chilled.Almond milk with dates and vanilla bean (18 of 31)

 

Grilled vanilla peaches on truffled ricotta rye

Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (23 of 26)

VANILLA DREAM | Vanilla and maple glazed peaches layered on a  ‘truffled-up’ ricotta rye toast.

If the thought alone of grilled peaches is enough to excite your taste buds, try adding a smidgen of vanilla bean and a dash of maple before subjecting them to grill pan. Trust me, you won’t regret. It adds that extra oomph of sophistication to coat the soft, warm fruit.

These grilled peaches are as versatile as you want them to be. Serve them as a dessert, with vanilla bean ice-cream and drizzle of warm balsamic if you may. For me though, since the occasion was to host  a birthday lunch for my dear friend, I decided to deploy them as a convincing starter.

With the aid of creamy ricotta – which I magnificently combined with a drizzling of Pukura’s much loved truffle flavoured extra virgin olive oil (yes, going gourmet I am) – you can transform this simple fruit into an attractive starter even for the most discerning palate. Simply grill some sourdough or rye bread and spread a generous layer of the truffled-up ricotta cheese, then top with two slices of these grilled peaches. Finish with a drizzle of reduced balsamic glaze and chopped mint for garnish. Voila…a crowd pleaser.

Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (18 of 26)

A simple to make crowd pleaser sure to impress even the most discerning palate.

Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (26 of 26)

Crostini anyone?

Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (20 of 26)

Grilled Vanilla Peaches on Truffled Ricotta Rye

Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (12 of 26)

INGREDIENTS (makes 5-6):

  • 250g tub of ricotta
  • 6 slices of rye bread, cut 1 cm thick and about a palm size each.
  • 2 peaches, cut into wedges  (1/8th each).
  • 1 vanilla bean (substitute for powder of essence if desired)
  • 1 tablespoon of maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon of Pukara’s truffle extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of truffle salt (optional)
  • Balsamic glaze (or reduce one cup of balsamic vinegar)
  • Handful of shredded mint (for garnish)

Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (19 of 26)

METHOD:

  1. Wash peaches, pat dry. Slice open and take out seed. Cut into 8 wedges.Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (7 of 26).jpg
  2. Mix cut peaches with vanilla bean (I have a vanilla bean grinder) and tablespoon of maple syrup.Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (8 of 26)
  3. Turn heat on grill pan on high. After pan heats up, layer wedges on the pan and grill until beautiful char marks form on both sides (roughly 2-3 minutes each side). Be careful not to overdo it.Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (10 of 26)
  4. In the meantime, mix the ricotta with the truffle oil using a tablespoon. Add a pinch of truffle salt (or regular salt) and combine thoroughly.Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (2 of 26)Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (4 of 26)
  5. Toast the rye or sourdough bread on a grill pan or oven. Generously spread the done up ricotta over each toast. Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (11 of 26)
  6. Layer 2 grilled peaches on top of each crostini. Drizzle with balsamic glaze. Finish off with a sprinkle of the shredded mint for garnish. Serve while warm. Enjoy!Grilled Vanilla Peaches with Ricotta Toast (18 of 26)