Perfecting a classic- Honey Creme Brulee

I haven’t yet met someone that doesn’t like creme brulee with it’s thin, crunchy, glass-like caramel sugar layer topping a silky smooth custard- it really is the perfect dessert that can be served warm (winter comfort food!) or cold in the summer with fresh berries. So how to improve on an already perfect dish?

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The special ingredient is…HONEY!

Honey adds a light floral sweetness to the custard that is pure deliciousness! You wouldn’t get the same depth of flavour from the traditional recipe using white sugar.

To make this dessert, simply substitute in honey for the sugar in your favourite creme brulee recipe.

Needless to say that the container was scraped clean by my friends after our morning tea- it’s plate-lickin’ good!

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Baby Jungle Cake for a Lil’ Cookie

What can be more fitting for a baby boy’s first birthday than a cake topped with baby jungle animals? Aren’t they just the cutest?

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This was actually my first time decorating a cake using gumpaste and I must say, it took me back to my childhood playdoh days! As requested by the sweet mummah, the cake is to be:

  1. a moist chocolate cake covered with ganache (not fondant),
  2. has on it the name of the birthday boy and the number 1
  3. jungle-themed
  4. coloured blue

With help from some youtube videos, I made a baby elephant, lion and panda for cake toppers! To continue with the jungle theme, the sides of the cake are lined with little trees and mini mushrooms are dotted around the animals on top.

Although by no means perfect, it was a lot of fun to make and I am so delighted to take part in making Ethan’s first birthday a special one! Happy Birthday lil’ cookie!

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Mexican Sun-dried Tomato and Garlic Chicken

Imagine juicy chicken pieces lightly coated in a sticky sauce infused with honey, garlic and sun-dried tomato, finished with a squeeze of fresh lime juice…need I say more? Make this and treat yourself to some fresh Mexican flavours tonight- especially when served with some soft tortillas, fresh salsa and spicy rice!  Pair it with a refreshing margarita if you are feeling fancy… Delicioso!SONY DSC

Ingredients

For the chicken marinade:

  • 8 chicken drumsticks, de-boned
  • 3 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil

For the sauce:

  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped sun-dried tomato
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • runny honey, to taste
  • salt, to taste
  • juice from a fresh lime

Method

  1.  Marinate the chicken. In a bowl, combine together the marinade ingredients with the chicken. Leave to marinate for at least 30 minutes, or overnight.
  2. In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, pan-fry the chicken pieces in some oil until golden on all sides (the chicken is not fully cooked at this stage). Remove the chicken onto a plate.
  3. Over medium heat, add the 1 teaspoon of minced garlic into the pan and fry until aromatic. Deglaze the pan with white wine and add in the sun-dried tomato. Taste and season the sauce with some honey and salt.
  4. Return the chicken to the pan. Cover and cook over low heat until chicken is cooked through and the sauce has reduced. Re-check seasoning and adjust if necessary. Squeeze over fresh lime juice and serve immediately!

Salt-Crust Baked Whole Fish with Lemon and Thyme

Here’s an idea for your next fishing trip where you have (hopefully) caught a big, handsome fish- bake it in a salt-crust with fresh lemon and thyme!

The beauty of making a salt crust is that it will not only season the fish, but will seal in the moisture, keeping the flesh succulent and tender.  The belly is stuffed with fresh lemon, thyme and bay leaves to impart a wonderful aroma and to eliminate any fishiness. To add even more fragrance, the salt crust is mixed with fresh lemon zest, dried oregano and thyme!

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Simply served drizzled with some olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon and some black pepper, this makes one wonderful meal to be shared with family and friends! Just one word of warning: beware of the amazing flavour explosion when you break open the crust!

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Ingredients

For the fish:

  • 1 fresh whole fish, gutted
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 dried bay leaf

For the salt-crust:

  • Salt, enough to cover the fish entirely
  • Zest of 3 lemons
  • 2-3 tsp dried oregano
  • 2-3 tsp dried thyme

For the dressing:

  • Juice of one lemon
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
  2. Prepare the fish: Stuff the belly of the fish with the lemon slices, bay leaf and fresh thyme. Wrap the tail and head with some foil.
  3. Prepare the salt crust: Mix the lemon zest, dried thyme and oregano with the salt. Add enough water to the salt so that is begins to clump together.
  4. Cover a baking tray large enough to fit the fish with foil. Lay a layer of the salt mixture in the bottom of the tray. Place the fish on top and cover the fish with the rest of the salt mixture, patting down with your hands so that the body of the fish is covered entirely with the salt. Wrap the head and tail of the fish with foil to keep it from burning.
  5. Bake until the fish is cooked (times will vary depending on the size of the fish). Once done leave it to cool for 5 minutes.
  6. Prepare the dressing: Mix together the lemon juice, olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  7. To serve, break open and discard the salt crust. Remove the skin of the fish as it may be too salty. Drizzle over the dressing and serve immediately!

The Apple Cake to Convert Apple- Haters

I have a question for all my fellow (wannabe) chefs/ home cooks/ food experimenters out there, have you ever asked yourself what is it about cooking that brings you so much joy? For me, I have never had one clear answer, until now, until I baked this Apple Cake for my friends a few days ago…

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What is so special about this Apple Cake, you ask? It looks to be just a simple teacake with fresh apple slices, flavoured with vanilla and a little cinnamon! Actually what this cake has achieved is to convert a apple-hating friend of mine to realize how tasty they can be!

What is it about cooking that brings me so much joy? It is the ability to introduce others to new or perceived-to-be unpleasant ingredients in a way that is delicious and to hopefully convert them from haters to lovers! The reaction of surprise and delight from my friend upon tasting this cake was priceless and certainly a moment I will remember for years to come.

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Ingredients

(Note: I have doubled the recipe to fit my ring cake mold and an extra sliced apple for the up-side-down cake effect as shown in my photo)

  • oil and flour for prepping the pan
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup soft brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh apple puree
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 apple , peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • Apricot jam, for glazing

Method

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Oil and flour a 9-inch round cake pan and line with baking paper.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, applesauce, oil and vanilla extract. Stir in sliced apple.
  3. Stir flour mixture into apple mixture until just blended. Turn into the prepared pan and spread evenly.
  4. Bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  5. Leave the cake to cool in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Invert on the wire rack to cool completely.
  6. Melt some apricot jam in the microwave and glaze the top of the cake with the melted jam with a spoon or pastry brush.

Japanese Bitter Gourd Salad

Bitter gourd, bitter melon, goya, karela, balsam-pear… this green, knobbly vegetable is actually known under many different names depending on where you are from! As per its name-sake the flavour of the flesh is very bitter and is an acquired taste at first-  but give it a go and you may never look back!SONY DSC

This cool and refreshing salad has a Japanese-inspired dressing that is rich with the umami of dashi fish stock, sweet mirin and fruity apple vinegar. Crunchy rings of bitter gourd are sweetened with small bursts of sweet tomato cubes and enlivened with fresh mint and lemon-basil leaves. It makes for a wonderful little side dish or appetizer whet the appetite!

Don’t be scared of the bitterness of the bitter gourd- the process of salting to remove some of the juices and then quickly blanching mellows the flavour considerably. If this is your first time trying this vegetable I hope this dish will have you return for seconds!

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Ingredients

For the salad:

  • 3 bitter gourds, cut into 5mm rings with seeds removed
  • 1 fresh tomato, de-seeded and cut into small dice
  • 1 handful of fresh mint leaves
  • 1 handful of fresh lemon-basil leaves
  • 1 large handful of dried bonito flakes

For the dressing:

  • 3″ square of dried kelp
  • 1 large handful of dried bonito flakes
  • 2-3 tsp instant dashi powder
  • 1 tbsp mirin
  • 1-2 tsp apple vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Method

  1. Make the dressing. Place the dried kelp in a small saucepan and add in enough water to just cover the kelp. Bring to the boil and add in the dried bonito flakes. Cover and remove saucepan from heat. Leave to cool completely, then pour the stock through a fine sieve to remove the kelp and bonito flakes. Reserve the stock and discard the kelp and bonito flakes. Add the mirin, vinegar, sugar and sea salt to the stock. Taste and adjust seasoning if required.
  2. Place the sliced bitter gourd in a colander and massage in approximately 2 teaspoons of salt. Leave to stand for 15 minutes.
  3. Rinse the bitter gourd to remove the salt. Bring to a boil some water (enough to cover the bitter gourd) with a little salt in a large saucepan. Blanch the bitter gourd in the boiling water for 1 minute then refresh in ice water. Transfer the bitter gourd to a colander to drain.
  4. Mix together the stock with the bitter gourd, mint and lemon-basil. Leave to marinate for a least 30 minutes.
  5. Just before serving, mix in the diced tomato and top with dried bonito flakes.

Spanish Surf & Turf

This is not your usual surf and turf- who says that is must be steak and prawns? Let me take you to Spain with my special twist: mussels and meatballs in saffron sauce!

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Plump, juicy mussels and moist, flavoursome pork meatballs are en-robed in a golden saffron sauce. The sauce is rich with the flavour of the sea and the meatiness of the pork juices, along with the aroma of fresh thyme and bay leaves. A sprinkling of a diced ripe tomato and some zesty lemon juice adds the final bright notes to the dish!

The key these tender and juicy meatballs is the addition of moistened bread and not to over-mix the mince mixture. Along with some fresh chives, thyme, garlic, dried oregano, wholegrain mustard, and grated Parmesan, they are little spheres of deliciousness that burst in your mouth!

I recommend that you serve this with plenty of crusty bread, rice or even pasta to savour that amazing sauce – you wouldn’t want to leave a drop behind!

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Ingredients

For the meatballs:

  • 25g fresh white bread, crusts removed and bread cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1-2 tbsp milk, as needed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • approx. 15g Parmesan, grated
  • approx. 1/4 cup minced fresh chives
  • 5g salt
  • 1-2 tsp wholegrain mustard, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1  egg yolk
  • some fresh thyme leaves, minced
  • some ground black pepper, to taste
  • some runny honey, to taste
  • 200g pork mince

For the broth:

  • 10 fresh mussels
  • 1 snapper head
  • some dry white wine
  • a few springs of fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a small pinch of saffron
  • some sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • some runny honey, to taste
  • some fresh lemon juice or apple vinegar, to taste
  • 1 tbsp flour roux
  • 1 tomato, seeded and cut into small cubes
  • some fresh parsley, to garnish

Method

  1. Steam mussels until just opened. Remove the meat from the shell and reserve the mussel juices. Discard the shells.
  2. Heat some oil in a frying pan and pan-fry the snapper head until golden on both sides. De-glaze the pan with white wine and add in the bay leaves, some fresh thyme, saffron and a little water. Simmer for approximately 15 minutes. Reserve the stock and discard the snapper head and aromatics.
  3. In a bowl combine bread with 1 tablespoon of the milk and let stand until bread is completely moist, about 10 minutes. Mash with a spoon to make sure there are no dry spots; if there are dry spots add the rest of the milk.
  4. In a mixing bowl or food processor, combine together all of the meatball ingredients until thoroughly combined. Avoid mixing any more than necessary.
  5. Using wet hands. shape meatball mixture into 8-10 balls.
  6. Over medium-high heat, pan-fry meatballs until golden on all sides. De-glaze the pan with white wine. Add in fresh thyme and simmer until reduced and meatballs are cooked.
  7. Transfer the meatballs onto a plate. Add to the frying pan the reserved fish stock and mussel juices. Taste and adjust seasoning with some salt, black pepper, lemon juice/ apple vinegar and honey as necessary.
  8. Whisk in the flour roux cook gently until sauce is thickened. Return the meatballs and mussels to the pan to re-heat. Stir in the chopped tomato.
  9. Garnish with some fresh parsley and serve immediately.

What To Do with Fresh Lemons Part II: Mediterranean Snapper

After making my Ultimate Lemon Chicken last night, I still had three huge lemons left. So here’s part two of what to do when life gives you lemons- Mediterranean Snapper! SONY DSC

Just take three fresh lemons, one whole snapper, some green olives, marinated sun-dried tomatoes, a bunch of flat Italian parsley and a bottle of crisp Sauvignon Blanc– there you have my delicious Mediterranean Snapper! Feel transported to Greece eating this dish…see for yourself!

Ingredients

  • 1 large whole snapper, cleaned, head removed and scored with a sharp knife three times on each side
  • flour for dredging
  • 6 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup green olives, pitted and halved
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, cut into strips
  • 3 large lemons (2 zested and segmented)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf Italian parsley, plus extra to garnish
  • sea salt and raw sugar, to taste

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celcius. Dredge snapper in flour on both sides and shake off excess. Heat vegetable oil in a frying pan large enough to hold the snapper over medium-high heat until just smoking. Lay snapper carefully in the pan and cook until golden brown on both sides.
  2. Transfer the snapper into a ceramic casserole dish. To the frying pan, add olives, sun-dried tomatoes, lemon zest and segments, juice from the remaining lemon, and wine. Bring to a boil and season with salt and sugar to taste. Mix in fresh parsley.
  3. Pour the sauce over snapper and bake in the oven until just cooked through, approximately 10-15 minutes depending on thickness. Remove from oven and allow to rest for at least 5 minutes.
  4. Garnish with extra parsley and serve immediately.

The Ultimate Lemon Chicken

What to do when life gives you lemons- especially huge juicy, zesty ones? My ultimate lemony, garlicky and herb-y chicken recipe, of course!

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Fresh citrus notes permeates the whole dish as fresh lemon zest is used both in the luscious sauce and marinade. Moist chicken thigh cutlets are marinaded in a mixture of French wholegrain mustard, oregano and thyme, then pan-fried until the skin is crispy in garlic-infused oil. A dash of runny honey right at the end balances the sourness of lemon juice perfectly!

Be sure to serve it with plenty of rice or mashed potatoes for that wonderful lemony sauce! Bon appétit!

Ingredients
  • 10 chicken drumsticks, de-boned
  • 1 tbsp whole grain mustard
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest (1 teaspoon for rub and 2 teaspoons for sauce)
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil (1 tbsp for rub, 1 tbsp for cooking)
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
  • 1 1/4 cups (300 ml) low-sodium chicken stock
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • runny honey, to taste
  • sea salt, to taste
Method
  1. Make rub for chicken. Combine mustard, 1 teaspoon of the lemon zest, oregano, thyme, salt and 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil in a small bowl. Use fingers to coat chicken on both sides with the mustard rub.
  2. In another bowl combine remaining lemon zest (2 teaspoons), lemon juice and the chicken stock. Set aside.
  3. Heat remaining tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the smashed garlic then cook about 1 minute or until you can smell toasted garlic and the garlic has browned around the edges. Remove and discard the garlic, but leave the oil.
  4. Add chicken, skin-side down into the hot garlic-infused oil and cook 2 to 3 minutes or until the skin has turned golden brown. Flip over and cook until chicken is cooked through. Transfer chicken cutlets on to a plate and cover with aluminium foil.
  5. To the frying pan, add the lemon juice mixture. Bring to a gentle simmer for a few minutes.
  6. In a small bowl, use your fingers to mix butter and flour together, making a dry, crumbly paste. Whisk the flour and butter into the sauce. The sauce will thicken slightly and look glossy.
  7. Add some honey and salt (if required) to balance the flavour of the sauce.
  8. Pour lemon sauce over the chicken cutlets and serve immediately.

A Cool Summer Treat- Melon, Mint & Passionfruit!

It is a real treat during those long, hot summer days feasting on juicy wedges of melon straight from the fridge- how cool and refreshing!

You really couldn’t go wrong with the flavours of watermelon, rockmelon, passionfruit and mint– sweet and zingy! Ripe cubes of rockmelon marinated in passionfruit pulp sit in a sweet watermelon puree flavoured with fresh mint- so easy and delicious! Try it out for your summer party!

SONY DSCIngredients

  • 1/2 fresh watermelon, de-seeded and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 fresh rockmelon, de-seeded and cut into small cubes
  • Pulp from 4-5 passionfuit
  • Some fresh mint leaves, finely shredded

Method

  1. In a blender, puree the fresh chunks of watermelon. Mix in the shredded mint leaves and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
  2. Mix the passionfruit pulp with the rockmelon cubes. Place in the refrigerator.
  3. To serve, divide watermelon puree and rockmelon cubes into serving bowls. Top with some extra passionfruit pulp and mint leaves (optional).