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)

 

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)

 

 

Persimmon Caprese Salad

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PERSIMMON CAPRESE  | A new twist to one of Italy’s most simple and delicious salads.

Sick of the typical heirloom tomato mozzarella salad combo (aka Insalata Caprese)? Fear not, I’ve come up with a new twist to one of my classical summer salad favourites. Why not substitute the tomatoes for the persimmon fruit? Like the bright redness of tomatoes, the luscious orange glow from persimmons will also provide a sharp contrast in color when juxtaposed against the creamy whiteness of mozzarella cheese.

Persimmons are one of those fruits that, when you catch the right moment of ripeness – which is limited to only one or two days – truly offer a culinary experience of perfection.

Honey sweet and so soft that the skin care barely hold their juicy flesh, they make a perfect complement to Mozzarella di Bufala.

untitled (4 of 15).jpgAs for origins, this delicate fruit is native to China. From China, it spread to Korean peninsula and Japan very long time ago, and later was introduced to California during the middle of the 19th century.

In terms of nutrition, persimmon provides a powerful dosage of vitamin A, offering 55% of the daily value. Vitamin C runs a close second with 21%, plus excellent amounts of manganese, a co-factor for the enzyme superoxide dismutase, for healthy mucous membranes and skin, as well as a known protectant against lung and mouth cancers.

For those who aren’t so regular, persimmons are also an excellent source of fiber. B-complex vitamins are present to stabilise the metabolic system, along with copper and phosphorus.

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Persimmon Caprese Salad

Time: 15 minutes | Serves: 3-4 as a side

Ingredients:

  • 1 mozzarella ball
  • 1 persimmon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of maple syrup
  • Bunch of fresh basil
  • A handful of walnuts
  • Sprinkle of cumin and cinnamon

Method:

  1. Rip mozzarella ball into bite-size chunks. Slice persimmon into wedges and then into bite-sized chunks. Tear off the leaves of the fresh basil.
  2. Mix walnuts with the cumin and cinnamon spices in a small bowl. On medium-low heat, slowly pan fry the walnuts until golden brown. Remove from slow and let cool.untitled (14 of 15)
  3. Combine olive oil, balsamic and maple syrup in a small bowl.untitled (15 of 15)
  4. Layer the persimmon chunks, mozzarella and basil leaves on a plate in a rustic fashion. Sprinkle the spiced walnuts on top. Drizzle the olive oil balsamic mix on top. If desired, squeeze some aged balsamic vinegar on top in a zig zag fashion for an extra dose of balsamic sweetness.untitled (7 of 15) untitled (3 of 15)untitled (9 of 15).jpg

Maple Brussels Sprouts With Pancetta

Maple Brussel Spouts with Pancetta (7 of 19)

MAPLE BRUSSELS | If pan-frying your brussels sprouts with pancetta is not enough, try adding a hint of maple syrup for that extra ‘kick’.

Brussels Sprouts – these miniature cabbages – provide a chock full of nutrients. Provided you don’t overdo it, they are delicious when roasted, stir-fried, or steamed.

It is very important not to overcook Brussels sprouts. Not only do they lose their nutritional value and taste but they will begin to emit the unpleasant sulfur smell associated with overcooked cruciferous vegetables.

Boiling your sprouts for as little as 30 seconds takes away their crunch and bitterness, leaving you with a vegetable that is softened, mellowed, and ready for action.

Not only do brussels sprouts tastes good, they deliver a host of health benefits too. Just to name a few, brussels sprouts helps to lower cholesterol, supports immune function, prevents constipation, fights inflammation, and is a great source of folic acid. They also help to detoxify the body and help prevent bladder, breast, colon, lung, prostate and ovarian cancer.

Moreover, the fiber content of Brussels sprouts — 4 grams in every cup — makes this cruciferous vegetable a natural choice for digestive system support. You’re going to get half of your Daily Value for fiber from only 200 calories’ worth of Brussels sprouts.

Maple Brussel Spouts with Pancetta (17 of 19)

The Brussels sprout has long been popular in Brussels, Belgium, and may have originated and gained its name there.

Maple Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta

Time: 20 minutes | Serves: 2 as a side

INGREDIENTS:

  • Roughly 10 medium-sized brussel sprouts
  • 40g of pancetta, cubed
  • 1 garlic clove, diced
  • 1 teaspoon of maple syrup
  • Sprinkle of sea salt

METHOD:

  1. Wash brussel sprouts in a colander with running tap water.Maple Brussel Spouts with Pancetta (13 of 19)
  2. Parboil brussel sprouts for no more than 3 minutes. You can do this by boiling a pot of hot water. Once it simmers, add a sprinkle of salt then dunk the sprouts inside and set timer.Maple Brussel Spouts with Pancetta (15 of 19)
  3. Quickly drain in colander then dunk in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process immediately.Maple Brussel Spouts with Pancetta (12 of 19)
  4. Dry brussel sprouts thoroughly with tea towel or kitchen towel. You want to get these beauties as dry as possible to achieve a better caramelisation process and crunch factor.Maple Brussel Spouts with Pancetta (11 of 19)
  5. Get saute pan ready by turning on stove to medium-high. Add a knob of olive oil and pan fry the pancetta with the crushed garlic cloves for 30 seconds. Switch to medium heat and add the brussel sprouts. Sprinkle some sea salt to taste (optional: can also add a turnstile of crushed black pepper). Pan-fry for 4-5 minutes until the sprouts leave beautiful char marks.Maple Brussel Spouts with Pancetta (10 of 19)Maple Brussel Spouts with Pancetta (8 of 19)
  6. Once charred to your level of ‘perfection,’ turn off stove and add a teaspoon of maple syrup. Mix with spatula to ensure the sprouts are all coated evenly.Maple Brussel Spouts with Pancetta (9 of 19)
  7. Serve as a side. Brussel sprouts are so versatile; they pair with a variety of main dishes be it pasta, roasts, or can even constitute a meal by themselves.Maple Brussel Spouts with Pancetta (4 of 19)The Brussels sprouts should be brown with a bit of black on the outside when done. Maple Brussel Spouts with Pancetta (5 of 19)

 

Baked Eggplant with Tahini Buttermilk Dressing

Baked Aubergines with Tahini Buttermilk Dressing (1 of 24)

Going through my eggplant (and middle eastern inspired) phase. In my opinion, nothing pairs more harmoniously with eggplant than the creaminess of rich tahini. Seeing I still had a carton of buttermilk sitting in my fridge waiting to expire, I decided to put it to good use to create a tahini-buttermilk sauce to dress some baked eggplants rounds. For those who want a more substantial dinner (i.e. some meat) for dinner as well, the best way to complement this tahini dressed eggplant side dish quickly is by grilling some rosemary lamb chop(s).  Mmm…just writing this at midnight is making me hungry! 

Baked Aubergines with Tahini Buttermilk Dressing (2 of 24)

NB: You can adjust the thickness of this tahini-buttermilk dressing by tinkering with the wet ingredients (and can even transform it into a creamy spread that pairs beautifully with sourdough/rye toast).

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large long eggplant, cut into rounds
  • A few fresh mint leaves, diced or shredded
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • Pepper and salt, to taste
  • Olive oil

SAUCE:

  • 3 tablespoon tahini
  • 2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoon water
  • 2 tablespoon buttermilk
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
  • Pinch of salt

1) Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius.

2) Cut eggplant into rounds, approximately 1/2 inch thick. Layer eggplants on a roasting tray lined with parchment paper or foil. Spray or brush olive oil on the rounds. Sprinkle dried thyme, crushed black pepper and salt.

Baked Aubergines with Tahini Buttermilk Dressing (23 of 24)

3) Roast for ~ 20 minutes until eggplant rounds are nicely browned. Keep warm.

Baked Aubergines with Tahini Buttermilk Dressing (18 of 24)

4) Make the tahini dressing. Combine all the sauce ingredients listed above into a bowl and whisk until smooth.

Baked Aubergines with Tahini Buttermilk Dressing (20 of 24)

5) Drizzle the tahini sauce on top of the freshly baked eggplant. Garnish with freshly diced or shredded mint so that the colours pop. Serve as a side.

Baked Aubergines with Tahini Buttermilk Dressing (7 of 24)

Cumin and Coriander Roasted Cauliflower with Dates and Crushed Almonds

Roasted Spiced Cauliflower with Dates (4 of 19)

Did you know that cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6? What’s more, it’s also a very good source of choline, dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, manganese, phosphorus, and biotin. Additionally, it contains a good dosage of vitamin B2, protein, vitamin B1, niacin, and magnesium. So if you want a food that wil help lower your risk of contracting cancer, improve your digestion, and help with calcium absorption, this white cruciferous vegetable is the choice for you.

But wait, isn’t cauliflower super bland, tasteless, and lacking in texture? Short answer: Yes and No. “Yes” by its very nature but “No” if you know how to cook it the right way to deliver maximum punch and texture. What is the right way? For me, it involves roasting the cauliflower with a concoction of cumin and coriander spices, then adding chopped dates for a touch of sweetness, and throwing a handful of crushed almonds to pack in the extra “crunch factor”. Mmm….suddenly, cauliflower has taken on a new dimension, delivering a really incredible flavour that one can be impressed by (well, at least marginally).

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 head of cauliflower, broken into florets, outer greens removed
  • 2 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 knob of butter
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Half a cup of pitted dates, chopped into halves
  • Handful of roasted almonds, crushed
  • 1 piece of fresh coriander, chopped

METHOD:

1) Preheat oven to 200 degrees celsius. Blanch cauliflower in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes then transfer to a colander and give it a good shake to get as much water out as possible. Allow it to steam dry (don’t want any water or else it won’t roast properly).

Roasted Spiced Cauliflower with Dates (18 of 19)

2) Bash the coriander seeds in a mortar and pestle. Combine with the cumin. Repeat for the almonds.

Roasted Spiced Cauliflower with Dates (15 of 19) Roasted Spiced Cauliflower with Dates (17 of 19)Roasted Spiced Cauliflower with Dates (16 of 19)

3) Chop the pitted dates into halves.

Roasted Spiced Cauliflower with Dates (12 of 19)

4) Add knob of butter with some olive oil in a pan on medium heat. Throw in the cauliflower and throw in the spices, almonds, and dates. Mix together thoroughly to ensure cauliflower florets are covered with the spice mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Roasted Spiced Cauliflower with Dates (14 of 19)

Roasted Spiced Cauliflower with Dates (11 of 19)

5) Transfer contents to a roasting tray and roast for about 15 minutes to crisp up the florets.

Roasted Spiced Cauliflower with Dates (9 of 19)

6) Serve and garnish with some chopped fresh coriander.

Roasted Spiced Cauliflower with Dates (1 of 19)

Roasted Spiced Cauliflower with Dates (3 of 19)