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)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Butternut Pumpkin Soup

Butternut Squash Soup (12 of 14).jpg

BUTTERNUT SMOOTHNESS | A silky textured soup bursting with vibrant colours and nutrition to brighten up your day or evening – all without the extra addition of cream or butter. 

Okay, so this was my first time making butternut pumpkin soup and boy was it delicious (not to mention the extreme ease at which it was achieved thanks to my hefty investment in my first Vitamix blender).

For those who tend to get confused between butternut squash and pumpkin, here are the facts: all pumpkins are squash, but not all squash are pumpkin. Squash is a botanic term, while pumpkin is a culinary term. The name ‘pumpkin’ is a derivative of the French ‘pampion,’ meaning sun-baked squash, from the Greek word ‘pepon’, meaning large melon. The English modified ‘pampion’ to ‘pompkin,’ which was changed to ‘pumpkin’ by the American colonists.

Pumpkins are one of the most nutritious of vegetables, being very high in fiber, vitamins A (over 2,500 units), B and C, beta-carotene, and minerals phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and iron. Smaller “pie pumpkins” are of smoother texture.

So seeing it was my dear friend’s birthday I decided to whip out a healthy birthday lunch for him and some of his close friends (after all, we are all trying to lose weight). I have always wanted to experiment making soup with my new Vitamix so here I was experimenting first time with whipping out a dairy-free pumpkin soup (saving the calories from the much un-needed cream and butter).

To brighten the orange color, I added a carrot or two which gave the soup more vibrancy (plus an extra dosage of Vitamin A and beta-carotene). Simply chuck all the ingredients into your Vitamix and turn the setting on the ‘soup’ function. I was simply amazed that within 5 minutes, all the ingredients have combined together miraculously to produce a soup that was steaming hot (due to the fast friction of the blades churning).

Butternut Squash Soup (11 of 14)

Butternut Pumpkin Soup

INGREDIENTS:

  • 250g butternut pumpkin peeled and cut into small chunks
  • 1/2 green apple
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 1/2 cups of water or vegetable stock
  • pinch of cinnamon, to taste
  • pinch of sea salt, to taste

Butternut Squash Soup (3 of 14)

METHOD:

1. Place all ingredients into the Vitamix container in the order listed and secure lid.Butternut Squash Soup (5 of 14).jpg

2. Select soup function if using a Pro 750 model. Otherwise select variable 1. Turn machine on and slowly increase to variable 10.Butternut Squash Soup (7 of 14).jpg

3. Blend for 6 minutes, or until hot. Serve immediately. Garnish with mint sprigs or croutons if desired.

Butternut Squash Soup (10 of 14)

 

Jerk Chicken Quinoa Citrus Salad

Jerk Chicken Citrus Quinoa Salad (1 of 21)

PROTEIN PACKED SALAD | A hearty and healthy chicken salad with creamy avocado, nutty quinoa, fresh parsley and lots of bright citrus flavours.

Fancy a touch of the Carribean? Well, look no further than Jerk Chicken. First, let’s clarify: “Jerk” doesn’t mean what you think it means. It means Jamaican BBQ. This well rounded flavour of sweet, hot, herbal and spicy chicken can be served with rice, beans or pasta. In this particular instance, I chose quinoa as I fancied a light dinner after the repetitive days of gluttony over the recent Lunar New Year.

I love quinoa not only due to its health benefits, but because it is so versatile and easy to prepare. Did you know that quinoa is one of the most protein-rich foods we can eat? It is a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids. Furthermore, it is chock full of fibre (good for relieving constipation) and is high in iron and magnesium. For more information about the health benefits of quinoa, click here.

The prime burst of flavor in this salad comes from the jerk chicken. Jerk seasoning boasts elements of sweetness, hotness, herbal-ness and spicy-ness – what a terrific combination to titillate your taste buds. Now, many of you may be wondering whether you can make your own jerk seasoning? Short answer, yes. Can I be bothered tonight? No. Problem with Hong Kong is that jerk seasoning is not easy to find. Thanks to my dear friend Noah though, he managed to grab me some on one of his (many) business trips to the British Virgin Islands.

Jerk Chicken Citrus Quinoa Salad (17 of 21)

Jerk Seasoning…not for “jerks”. Jerk seasoning typically comprises of a mixture of onion, vinegar, cayenne pepper, all spice, cinnamon, black pepper and oil.

As for how I chose to cook the chicken, I opted for the sous vide (my latest cooking gadget addiction) which inevitably takes longer (but results in chicken that is more moist and juicy). Feel free to pan-fry your chicken tenderloins/breast instead if you only have 10-15 minutes to spare (after you marinade it).

Now, for a little light dressing, simply whisk together lime juice, orange juice, olive oil, and a dash of honey. This citrus dressing is so refreshing and light that it won’t overpower the intense flavours from the jerk chicken.

Jerk Chicken Citrus Quinoa Salad (3 of 21)

Jerk Chicken Quinoa Citrus Salad

INACTIVE TIME: 1.5 hours | ACTIVE TIME: 4 minutes | SERVES: 1

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 small chicken tenderloin fillets (or 0.5 pound chicken breast fillet if you prefer)
  • 1 tablespoon jerk seasoning
  • 1 bunch of Italian parsley
  • 1 limes
  • 1 orange
  • 1/2 tablespoon of liquid honey
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoaJerk Chicken Citrus Quinoa Salad (13 of 21)

METHOD:

  1. Preheat pot of water with the sous vide to the desired temperature. In this case, I set it to 140°F/60°C for cooking the chicken tenderloins. Jerk Chicken Citrus Quinoa Salad (11 of 21)
  2. Marinade chicken tenderloins with the jerk seasoning and place in zip-lock bag. Jerk Chicken Citrus Quinoa Salad (19 of 21)Jerk Chicken Citrus Quinoa Salad (18 of 21)
  3. Once desired temperature is reached, immerse zip lock bag into the pot of water, removing all air via the water immersion method. Leave in the water for 1-1.5 hours.
  4. While chicken is cooking via the sous vide method, prepare the quinoa. Simply place half a cup of uncooked quinoa into a pot set on medium-high and pour in 1 cup of water. Leave to boil, stirring occasionally for 10-15 minutes until cooked. Set aside and leave to cool.Jerk Chicken Citrus Quinoa Salad (12 of 21)Jerk Chicken Citrus Quinoa Salad (9 of 21)
  5. Prepare the salad dressing. Juice one lime and half an orange. In a small bowl, combine these juices together and whisk in half a tablespoon of honey. Set aside.Jerk Chicken Citrus Quinoa Salad (8 of 21)Jerk Chicken Citrus Quinoa Salad (7 of 21)
  6. Chop up the coriander and the remaining half of the orange into small chunks. Dice the avocado into small bite sized chunks. Combine everything with the cooled down quinoa, mixing in the salad dressing.
  7. Once chicken is done in the sous vide, remove from the zip lock bag and pat dry. Heat a heavy cast iron skillet or pan on medium-high heat and coat with a light drizzle of oil. Once oil shimmers throw the chicken tenderloins in and pan-fry until golden brown (~2 minutes each side).  Jerk Chicken Citrus Quinoa Salad (6 of 21)
  8. Remove chicken from pan and slice into smaller bite-sized pieces.Jerk Chicken Citrus Quinoa Salad (14 of 21)
  9. Transfer quinoa salad base into a bowl for serving. Top with the freshly cooked chicken slices and serve while warm.Jerk Chicken Citrus Quinoa Salad (4 of 21)

Sous vide Chicken Breast with Herbes de Provence

Sous Vide Chicken with Herbs de Provence (14 of 14)

Thanks to sous vide cooking, no longer do you have to tolerate bland and tough chicken breasts.

Chicken breasts are the classic lean muscle-building protein. But don’t get stuck in the routine of pan-frying the breasts, which often results in producing a tough, bland and dry texture.

Tonight, I was feeling rather experimental and had some time to spare. Consequently, I opted to cook chicken breast sous vide style. All it requires is extreme “hands off” patience.

The secret to perfect chicken? Temperature control. The kind of down-to-the-degree type of control that sous vide cooking can attain.

If we’re to believe what our parents told us, chicken should be cooked to a temperature of 165°F; anything below 140°F then you tread into the “danger” zone, the temperature zone in which bacteria supposedly thrives. The ideal temperature for cooking chicken rests between 140-145°F. Once you get pass the 155°F mark, sous-vide chicken starts to take on an unpleasant chalky, tacky texture.

I set up the dial on my Anova precision cooker to 60°C/140°F. Chicken cooked at 140°F has a very tender, extremely juicy texture that is firm and completely opaque. No signs of stringiness or tackiness. It melts between your teeth. At two hours the chicken has a nice resilient chew to it, while retaining its juiciness.

The problem with traditionally cooked chicken is that the meat is penetrated by higher heat from the outside in, making it very difficult to gauge exactly what temperature it is from the edges to the centre. Common sense dictates that we often overcook the outer layers inevitably, leading to that all too familiar dry and stringy texture. Sous vide cooking allows one to control precisely the temperature at which one desires to serve them eat. This effectively means that by the time we’re done, the chicken is cooked perfectly from edge to centre without compromising on its juiciness.

The results? The chicken breast is tender enough to cut with a butter knife and glistens with flavourful juices.

Sous vide chicken with herbes de Provence (1 of 1).jpg

Not your ordinary bland and dry chicken breast.

Sous vide Chicken with Herbes de Provence

INACTIVE TIME: 2 hours | ACTIVE TIME: 4 minutes | SERVES: 1

INGREDIENTS:

  • One chicken breast (palm size)
  • 1 tablespoon of herbes de Provence.
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Sous Vide Chicken with Herbs de Provence (9 of 14)

METHOD:

  1. Preheat precision cooker to 140°F/60°C. Allow the water bath to come to the right temperature before dowsing your chicken in the bag inside.Sous Vide Chicken with Herbs de Provence (7 of 14)
  2. Season the chicken breast with a coating of olive oil followed by the herbes de Provence, salt and pepper. Bag the chicken in zip lock bag or vacuum bag (if using).Sous Vide Chicken with Herbs de Provence (3 of 14)Sous Vide Chicken with Herbs de Provence (5 of 14)
  3. Immerse the chicken in the bag into the water bath. It should sink. Set timer to 2 hours. Feel free to run some errands, go for a jog, or take a shower while the chicken is cooking (this is what I mean by “hands-free” cooking).Sous Vide Chicken with Herbs de Provence (8 of 14)
  4. Once time is up, pre-heat a cast iron pan or skillet on medium-high heat, coated with a thin layer of oil. Remove chicken breast from zip lock bag and pat dry. Once oil starts to shimmer, place chicken breast on the pan and hold down flat with a spatula to ensure maximum contact between chicken breast and pan. Pan-fry for 2 minutes on each side to produce a beautiful brown and crisp sear.Sous Vide Chicken with Herbs de Provence (9 of 14)
  5. Once seared, remove chicken from pan and slice to serve. Sous Vide Chicken with Herbs de Provence (10 of 14)Sous Vide Chicken with Herbs de Provence (12 of 14)

Cherry Tomato and Roasted Lemon Salad

Roasted Candied Lemon With Mixed Tomato Salad (3 of 32)

I am a sucker for colours. Precisely because of that, I was immediately captivated by the vivid kaleidoscope of colours that deck out the pages in Plenty More, Ottolenghi’s vegetarian cookbookOne usually does not equate healthy produce with good taste but trust me, he somehow manages to make vegetables taste phenomenal as if they have undergone some sort of transformative renaissance.

Flipping through the pages, the tomato and roasted lemon salad caught my eye. Who would have thought one could incorporate lemon rind into a salad? So I’ve made an adaptation to Ottolenghi’s “Tomato, Onion, and Roasted Lemon Salad” since (a) I am not a fan of raw red onions, and (b) nor was I able to lay my hands on pomegranate molasses in Hong Kong (okay, I confess, was too ‘lazy’ to make my own). I simply substituted maple syrup for the molasses.

As the man advises, seek out the sweetest tomatoes you can find to balance out the bitterness of the lemon. I personally don’t find that the local tomatoes in Hong Kong deliver enough taste or sweetness so I bought some juicy cherry tomatoes imported from Holland.

Roasted Candied Lemon With Mixed Tomato Salad (8 of 32)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 medium lemons, halved lengthwise, pips removed and cut withways into 2mm eslices (260g)
  • 3 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon caster sugar
  • 8 sages leaves, finely shredded
  • 400g baby tomatoes, yelllow or red or a mixture of both, halved
  • 1/3 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 10g parsley leaves
  • 15g mint leaves
  • Seeds of 1 small pomegranate (120g)
  • 11/2 tablespoon pomegranate molasses (NB: I used maple syrup instead)
  • 1/2  small red onion, finely sliced (50g)
  • Salt and black pepperRoasted Candied Lemon With Mixed Tomato Salad (28 of 32)

METHOD:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees celsius.
  2. Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil, add the lemon slices and blanch for 2 minutes. Drain well and then place the lemon in a bowl and pour over 1 tablespoon of the oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, the sugar and sage. Gently mix and then spread out exerting on a parchment lined baking tray.  Place in the oven and cook for 20 minutes, until the lemons have died out a little. Remove and set aside and cool.Roasted Candied Lemon With Mixed Tomato Salad (22 of 32)Roasted Candied Lemon With Mixed Tomato Salad (21 of 32)Roasted Candied Lemon With Mixed Tomato Salad (16 of 32)
  3. Place the rest of the ingredients in a bowl along with the remaining oil, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and some black pepper. Add the lemon slices, store gently and serve. 
    Roasted Candied Lemon With Mixed Tomato Salad (14 of 32)

Roasted Candied Lemon With Mixed Tomato Salad (6 of 32)

Tahini-dressed Haricots Verts with Walnuts and Red Pepper Flakes

Tahini dressed haricot verts with walnuts and chilli flakes (2 of 9)

A quick and easy Middle Eastern inspired side dish reminiscence of the creamy richness of a ranch dressing.

Drawing inspiration from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Haricots Verts and Freekeh recipe with a minty tahini dressing, I’ve decided to create my own little adaptation by doing away with the freekeh and the dried mint. After all, keeping things simple and fast (particularly for the sides) is how I like to cook when hosting and managing multiple dishes.

Green beans are low in calories, and a good source of fibre (which is essential to ensure regular bowel movements). Moreover, they are an important source of vitamins C and B9/Folacin. The first is vital for the formation and maintenance of connective tissues; it is also a highly effective antioxidant in protecting the cornea, skin, and tissues. The second – vitamin B9 or Folate – is required by cells to grow and multiply: it is recommended for women hoping to get pregnant, children and anyone whose body requires cellular renewal (during growth or convalescence, etc.).

Given their nutritional content, one should regularly consume more green beans as a side dish or as a salad. This recipe is ideal for those who find green beans too bland and want something that tastes similar to the consistency of a ranch dressing (but minus the calories). Since this side dish is served cold, it can be prepared in advance so that it leaves you with more ample time (and hands) to work on your main course.

Tahini dressed haricot verts with walnuts and chilli flakes (3 of 9)

INGREDIENTS:

(Serves 3-4 as a side dish)

  • 1 pound haricots verts, trimmed
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely grated
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried mint
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves with tender stems
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill sprigs
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves with tender stems
  • 1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt, to taste

METHOD:

  1. Wash and drain haricot verts. Tahini dressed haricot verts with walnuts and chilli flakes (9 of 9)
  2. Cook haricot verts in a pot of boiling water for ~4 minutes. Immediately dunk in an ice bath (bowl of cold water with ice) to stop the cooking process.Tahini dressed haricot verts with walnuts and chilli flakes (7 of 9)Tahini dressed haricot verts with walnuts and chilli flakes (6 of 9)
  3. Prepare the tahini dressing by whisking the garlic, oil, lemon juice, maple syrup, tahini, and 1 tablespoon of water together in a bowl. Season with salt. Add the haricot verts and toss around until evenly coated. Top with the chopped dill, cilantro, parsley, walnuts and red pepper flakes before serving.

Tahini dressed haricot verts with walnuts and chilli flakes (4 of 9)

Sumac grilled lamb chops with lemon pea mash

Sumac lamb chops with pea mash (1 of 3)

After having disappeared mysteriously for a month (I got caught up with work amongst other things), the girl is back in the kitchen. This time, she is back experimenting with sumac and lamb chops. Some of you may be wondering “what the heck is sumac?”. So before I digress into the finer details of the recipe, let me give you a brief description of what sumac is, its origins, and more importantly, why you should have it in your spice cabinet!

shutterstock_204298135

Sumac is one of the most ancient spices that one should readily have at their disposal

The sumac bush, native to the Middle East, produces deep red berries, which are dried and ground into coarse powder. While it’s less common, the berries may also be sold whole. Ground sumac is a versatile spice with a tangy lemony flavor, although more balanced and less tart than lemon juice. A small sprinkle also adds a beautiful pop of color to any dish.

Sumac is a widely used, essential spice in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking. It’s used in everything from dry rubs, marinades, and dressing. But its best use is sprinkled over food before serving.

It’s great over vegetables, grilled lamb, chicken and fish. Ground sumac also makes a nice, flavorful topping on dips like hummus.

Thanks to the recommendation from my Iranian friend (who I highly respect when it comes to the culinary scene), I’ve decided to experiment with sumac and grilled lamb chops tonight. Given how busy I am, in order to save time, I opted to create a quick and simple lemon pea mash as a side. The two complement each other harmoniously, both in flavours and in colours.

INGREDIENTS: (serves one)

  • 2 lamb cutlets
  • 2 teaspoons of sumac
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 knob of butter
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • Sea salt

METHOD:

  1. Place cutlets in a non-reactive bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and generously sprinkle sumac, garlic powder, and salt all over.
  2. Sumac lamb chops with pea mash (18 of 18)Cook the peas in a saucepan of boiling water (~1.5 cups) and boil for roughly 10 minutes until soft. Stir in the knob of butter, the lemon juice, and a dash of sea salt.

Sumac lamb chops with pea mash (16 of 18)3. With a potato masher or fork, lightly crush the pea mixture until it resembles a mash.

Sumac lamb chops with pea mash (13 of 18)4. Meanwhile, coat a cast iron pan with olive oil and turn the hob to a high heat. Pan-fry the lamb chops 2-3 minutes on both sides depending on how well done you like your lamb. Cover with foil and set aside for 5 minutes to rest.

Sumac lamb chops with pea mash (12 of 18)5. Layer the pea mash on a plate and stack the lamb chops neatly on top. Serve immediately.

Sumac lamb chops with pea mash (2 of 3)

Sumac lamb chops with pea mash (3 of 18)