Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Leek & Onion Potato Gratin

I didn't succeed when I tried making this on my first try but after my mum bought this wonder cooking tool that bakes like an oven, it's managed to make this second try quite successful. I first got this recipe from one of the recipe magazines from Australia years ago although I can't remember which. I've made a few modications myself such as adding cheese and onions. Let me know how it turns out for you if you're giving this recipe a shot.

3 USA Potatoes, sliced ¼ inch
1 Leek, sliced thin diagonally using only the white and light green part
½ White or Yellow Onion, sliced thin
Cheddar or Mozzarella Cheese

Mixture 1
1 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, room temperature
1 Tbsp Fresh Garlic, chopped

Mixture 2
Heavy Cream
White Pepper
Nutmeg Powder

  • Layer the potatoes, leeks, onions, garlic butter (Mixture 1) and followed by the cream (Mixture 2). Keep alternating and make sure that the potatoes are lightly covered with the cream
  • Sprinkle the cheese randomly over the top when the potato layers are completed
  • Cover with an aluminium foil and bake in the oven for approx. 45 min to an hour at 175 degrees
  • Check whether the potatoes are cook periodically by using a satay stick
    When potatoes are soft enough for your liking, take the aluminium foil off to allow the cheese and leeks to brown


I was using half and half instead of heavy cream which I thought might be much healthier. I was worried that the liquid would make the potatoes too runny at the end but it managed to soak up quite nicely. However, if you like something more sinful but creamier and smoother, don’t compromise on the cream.

I didn’t really stick to the measurements on the seasoning of the cream. The above is just a rough estimate. I would recommend that you dip your finger in the cream just to see if it’s tasty enough. Also, make modifications if necessary. If you like more leeks, less leeks, no onions, more garlic it’s all up to you.

Monday, March 20, 2006

a melon full of goodness.

I always love sitting around chatting with D and most of the times, food is involved. If it's not tea, dinner or lunch, we'd be out for ice cream, coffee etc. Talking about ice cream, D & I tried the new offering from Haagen Daas and it was gggoooodd.... I loved it! Creamy & smooth melon ice cream filled with melon bits. Best part? We tried the promotion where about 2 to 3 scoops of melon ice cream was served with half a rockmelon. Obviously the ice cream went well with the sweet and ripe fruit. This has got to be my favourite flavour now after strawberry. Trying this was costly though at $24. I decided that I can buy my own fruit, get my own tub and it will cost a whole lot cheaper! I had fun though that night. I really did.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

afternotes: hong kong & macau

I'm back!!! I had a hell lot of fun eating and shopping, eating and shopping. The TV commercial's right. That's pretty much I did during my 4 days there. Frankly I stuffed myself crazy, more than the shopping I did anyways. I made a short trip to HK during my mum's bday last year and then again this year. The last time I visited HK before that was like 13 years ago?? Mum's right, we should make HK trips a yearly affair. What was I doing the last 13 years??!!

So anyways, we actually took a plane to Macau before taking the ferry to Hong Kong. I actually left having a really good impression of Macau. Besides the crude people who curse and swear loudly at the gambling table, and prostitutes asking men for an "overnight", it actually is quite a quaint and seemingly untouched city. Macau is strongly influenced by the Portugese so all the roads have Portugese names despite the fact that most people only speak Cantonese these days. I felt its culture especially whilst having breakfast at one of the Cha Chan Tengs (Tea Houses) around Senado Square. We were seated right inside the tea house when we saw a whole group of old men sitting around having their morning coffee and chattering away in Portugese. It was a really pretty sight. Anyways, I was happy too cos I was having my favourite for breakfast. Instant noodles with luncheon meat and egg! Three of my favourite foods together in one bowl and with a hot cup of milk tea. yum...

Thanks to a HK colleague at work, I also managed to taste the Portugese side of Macau. Frankly, I had no idea what Portugese food was like before I tasted it so I guess it was rather exciting in a way for me. There are 3 famous Portugese restaurants on Taipa Island so we picked one randomly called Gong Gai (means Rooster in Cantonese) which was supposedly a mix of Portugese and Chinese. The decor was a mis-mesh of Asian and Spanish styles kinda. So was the food. I liked it though. At least it was something new, something good and something to remember.

Braised Lamb served with Potatoes

Mixed Seafood Rice

Even though I was throughly stuffed from dinner, I couldn't resist having a Portugese egg tart from one of the other Portugese restaurants called Xiao Fei Xiang (loosely translated as small flying elephant) that came recommended as well. I had the best Portugese egg tart ever. Call me selfish but I was superly unwilling to share it with my mum who obviously couldn't get enough from the small bite she had. The custard was soft, smooth and sweet. Look at how the custard glistens below. The pastry was super flaky. I doubt I'd never have Portugese egg tarts that good again unless I go back to Macau. Although my colleague did tell me that KFC in HK brings egg tarts from Macau for sale? And we all thought that KFC was only famous for their finger lickin' good chicken..hehh...

So we crossed over to HK and then we had dessert at the Ferry Terminal in Tsim Tsa Tsui which was fantastic. There were 2 stalls actually. One was the famous Hui Lau Shan of which Singapore already has a branch of. By the way, the HK ones have much more on their menu and is cheaper. The other one was called Han Fa Lau. When I saw that stall, I actually got quite excited cos I was told that they're famous for the Yong Ji Gam Lok (mango dessert with sago and pomelo) and I was supposed to travel to Lan Kwai Fong if I wanted to taste it. So of course, I had it there and then and it was super good. Pure, which I liked.

I have to make this special mention for one of the street foods I had at Causeway Bay. It was so so good, I really regretted not having more of it (had to save my tummy for other stuff you see). You can't really see what the aunty in the pic is cooking in that big boiling pot right?

Look, the below pic was the end product! I loved it and although D squirmed when I told him how great this was, I still have to say that this was definitely one of the foods that I had that was memorable. It has intestines, radish, chives, dried pig's skin and a bit of pig's blood in it. I know it sounds gross to some who do not eat innards but I'm telling you, if you do eat them, this is a definite must-try. Curry sauce is then poured on top to combine with the gravy from the pot. Lastly, it's topped with HK style chilli oil and garlic. Absolutely delicious!

There were so many other great stuff that I ate. I had curry fishballs, lotsa sashimi of which included my favourite toro, fantastic teochew dinner on our last night there and award winning instant noodles. It was really a memorable trip. I don't think I can list every single thing one by one so just look at some memorable moments below.

Che Zai Min with Chicken Wings
It may look like a simple dish but this plate of yum actually won an award for being the best fried Chu Qian Yi Ding in town. Located on Soy Street at Ladies' St, it serves simple fare and is well-known for its Chu Qian Yi Ding. It was really yum and tasted somewhat like Fried Hong Kong Noodles from home but it was way better cos I've never been a fan of Hong Kong Noodles and I loved this.

Gong Zai Min
Apparently this is one of Che Zai Min's specialty too. I've never had it before and frankly it was ordinary. The only interesting thing about it was that they managed to squeeze so much variety into that bowl of noodles. I was told that this used to be sold in a cart with the seller yelling out to the apartments above.

Braised Goose
This was absolutely heavenly. OK, I'll be honest and say that I can't tell the difference between goose and duck meat! Not unless I have them both at the same time maybe? I love goose AND duck so what does it matter right? I had this on my last dinner in HK at a Teochew restaurant called Sin Kwong in Wan Chai. It must be famous cos I saw so many pics of HK stars outside the shop.

Roast Pigeon
Dad ordered this whole pigeon for me cos I was complaining about not having it during the days I was there. I don't get to eat it much here cos it's not that cheap and easily available (except on the road). So anyways, I loved it especially when it was dipped into the salt mixture. I eventually gobbled down half of the poor bird. Yes, that's how much I love my pigeons.

So I'm thinking now that I should probably start planning my next HK trip cos I'm really excited to have another culinary experience. There seems to be endless stuff to eat, new things to try. Maybe in Sept?? I can't wait...

Sunday, March 05, 2006

my first resolution for 2006 . check

Buko Nero
126 Tanjong Pagar Road
Tel: 6324 6225

I'm done with my first resolution of the year. So that's off my list. You can find out what the rest are here. YES. I got through to Buko Nero on the phone. The feeling of hearing someone say "hello" at the other end felt like I had won a million bucks (ok, I'm exaggerating but it feels like I won something, maybe $1000?). For days, or even weeks actually, I was dialling the same number over and over, and I kept hearing the same voice on the answering machine. So when the same person picked up the phone, he had to say hello twice before I even realised that I had gotten thru. Even when they only had lunch slots, I said yes without even thinking.

In case you're wondering what's up with this place. Well, for starters, Buko Nero is so popular that you probably have to book one month in advance for dinner especially on weekends. That is if you're even lucky to get through. The cosy restaurant only sits approx. 20 people at once and has a policy that there can be no more than 6 people on one booking. Everyone that came in that day somehow knew the owners on a personal basis but I guess if you go a couple of more times, they'd get friendly too cos the restaurant is so quaint and service, so personable. I guess that's the benefit when you're got a smaller place to run.

I eventually got to change my lunch to a dinner when they had a cancellation. The set menu which I had for the night was a reasonable $35. That price will apply only if you did not have an itchy backside like myself to change the main course. Some of the highlights below.

Egg White Frittata with Oregano topped with Crispy Shallots
Compliments of the chef. There was a sweet liquid in this dish that I still can't figure out what it was til now.

Buko Nero's Taukwa Tower
I really liked this. The taukwa was smooth and I loved the mushrooms and dark soya sauce that was drizzled all over. I know it sounds a bit dubious to be eating taukwa in a restaurant but it's good. Next time I'm back, I'll be ordering a whole portion for myself.

Cous cous Salad with Red Snapper
Frankly, I've never been a great fan of cous cous, polenta that sort of thing. But this cous cous salad which was part of the set menu was actually quite yum. I loved the flaky texture of the fish. Somehow, red snapper, cous cous and drizzle of balsamic vinegar went well together.

White Bean Soup with Rosemary
D didn't really like this much when he had a taste. It was kinda weird tasting it for the first time cos it tasted like chinese soup but yet it was creamy and had the rosemary herb in it. It tasted good but I guess it was the concept behind it that D found hard to accept. Nevertheless, I thought it was smooth and tasty. Loved it for me.

Beef Tenderloin wrapped with Bacon topped with Porcini Mushrooms
Definitely the highlight of my evening. It was a tad too salty though with the bacon and all but I loved it. Every single bit of it. It was cooked to a perfect medium rare, the way I like my beef done. The sauce was super tasty and generous with porcini mushrooms. Definitely the must-try at Buko Nero.

White Chocolate Amaretto Cake
D loved my dessert from the set menu so much that he swopped his green tea panna cotta with me. The cake had a strong flavour of amaretto but not too overwhelming. Wasn't too sweet too. I think the chef did extremely well on this one.

Green Tea Panna Cotta topped with Red Beans
Frankly, I didn't really like this. The texture was too thick, too creamy and the green tea taste wasn't coming through enough. I ate the green tea & red bean mousse cake from The Patissier just the day before and I'd rather have that cake anytime.

So I think it was a good dining experience for both D & I. It was really like nothing we've ever tried before. Frankly, I'm not sure when I'll be going back though cos the one month booking window is seriously too long a time for me to know when I feel like having fusion. Plus, it's way too tiring to get through the phone lines. It's still good food though.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

sweet savourings

The Patissier
18 Ann Siang Road, #01-01
Tel: 6220 5565
4 Mohd Sultan Road, #01-01
Tel: 6737 3369

I think I've fallen in love again. In recent months, I haven't had much cravings for sweets. I used to love desserts, cakes and all for tea but nothing's been tempting enough to make tastebuds tingle. Well then Sunday Times last week rescued the compartment of my stomach reserved for sweets only. It's been hungry for too long.

Managed to take a day off for me and D's 7th anniversary so I was telling him that we should go have a nice afternoon tea especially when we don't have many chances to relax on a weekday afternoon. So we chose The Patissier over the more commercial sounding Canele Patisserie (owned by Les Amis, you see). When we got to the Ann Siang Rd outlet around 4 plus, we found out it was just a bakery. Worse, there was only one piece of cake left. Even when the nice lady tried to call the Mohd Sultan outlet for us, we were told they were out too. GREAT! But ok, fortunately for us, she suddenly remembered that she did have some irregular sized Passion Fruit Meringue cake which ending up having.

Having our cake on a bench at Ann Siang Hill was a perfect way to enjoy it, even though we didn't have the tea which we planned for. The cakes were yum yum yum and I haven't had such good cakes in a long time. I wanted to take a nice pic before we started eating but of course, D said that I was a true foodie because I started eating before I took my pic. hehh..

Anyways, the Passion Fruit Meringue is their signature cake and it was what I went there for cos I love anything with passionfruit in it. The passionfruit meringue had that little tanginess which I loved. There was a generous amount of strawberries and mangoes layered in between and it was light. I am usually not a big of meringue but somehow, having thin layers in the cake gave it more texture. It's become my favourite of the moment so much so that I went out at 10am in the morning to get one whole cake for my Mum's bday. Guess I'm wasn't the only one in love with it cos coming from a family who usually dreads buying whole cakes, we finished it the whole 500g in a day!

We also tried the Red Bean Green Tea cake which was a pairing of red bean mousse on the top and green tea mousse on the bottom layer. Separating the 2 is a layer of green tea sponge. I liked the cake too cos red bean and green tea has always been a perfect pairing. It was one of the most delicate cakes I've eaten because of the subtle flavours from both ingredients.

Individual slices are priced reasonably but it seems like you're paying a lot if you purchase a whole cake. However, for the ingredients that The Patissier uses, and seeing how pretty and mouth-watering the cakes are, it's all worth it. To make sure you don't miss out, call to make a reservation cos this place sells out fast.