Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lemon & Herb Seared Chicken with Porcini Cream Pappardelle

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. Winston received a box of mushrooms to cook with from the Australian Mushroom Growers as part of the #MushroomMania2014 campaign


Some weeks... Going the extra mile for something definitely feels rewarding. I know it's dumb, but I've always raised my hands to be put in situations that tries, challenges or stretches me. Feeling even more motivated to want to overcome an obstacle in the face of adversity, then growing and learning from each passing experience. 

Then, there are weeks when no matter which way you turn, what method you try, you just feel like you're letting people down, including yourself. I think it's easy to feel complacent with what you do or are given with. Whether it's work, relationships, anything at all. To sit back, cruise along and just take the easy road. After all, there's no reason why it can't get you by anyway. It sure saves you a hell lot of worries.

Why feel so invested into something anyway? Why bother, why try? 

It's because I care. 

Over the weekend, my friends told me that people of my star sign are passionate, emotional and deep thinkers. Personally, I'm not one to believe in this sort of thing but thinking back, I can't say I disagree. I do analyse very often about what I'm doing and why. There's not a single thing in my life right now that I can think of that I'm doing because I have to. Truth is, I do them because I want to. A person with many interests. Many passions. I love it all. But, I'll be lying if I say that I don't often feel mentally or physically drained.

Then there are instances when you realise that being passionate has really helped someone or even achieved something exciting, which makes it all worth it again. It's such a constant cycle. Has its ups and downs. But would I have it any other way? Definitely not.


What I have learned in moments of trial or demanding pressures:
- Take a moment to stop. Reset your mind. There may be chaos all around you but the world's not going to stop if you took this moment to breathe
- A lot can change in just a short amount of time
- Give yourself credit. You've worked hard and probably done better than you think
- Count your blessings. Remember your roots. Being grateful definitely puts situations into perspective in the grander scheme of things


_________________


Back to the recipe. This was a creation I made on Sunday for a meal I shared with Dad on his last night before he flew back to Malaysia. It was good. I thought the flavours worked well too. 

The chicken was seared until it was crusty and crispy on the outside, but still remained incredibly juice on the inside. The zest of lemon looked so delicate on the plate, with its subtle but refreshing flavour to cut through the richness of the sauce. The sauce was generously reduced until the flavours had developed fully and thickened so that it coated the pasta perfectly. I can't stand watery or runny pasta sauces.

Overall, it was actually a really quick and tasty dish to make. Dad and I enjoyed it very much and I do hope you give it a go too. 


Lemon & Herb Seared Chicken with Porcini Cream Pappardelle

(an original recipe, serves 2)

Click here to print the recipe

Ingredients

250g pappardelle *
20g dried porcini mushrooms
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic (diced)
2 tbsp butter
250g mushrooms of choice (sliced)
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup dry white wine
300ml cream
Salt and pepper

* May be substituted with linguine or fettuccine 

For the chicken:
1 chicken breast
Salt and pepper
Dried mixed herbs
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil

To garnish:
Flat leaf parsley (chopped)
2 lemons (to zest)

________________________________

Method

1. Place a pot of salted water on the boil. Cook pasta as per packet instructions and drain.

2. Rehydrate dried porcini mushrooms by placing it in a bowl with hot water for 10 minutes. Drain and squeeze out liquid. Set aside.

3. Heat up a pan on the stove and add the olive oil and minced garlic. Fry until fragrant. 

4. Add in the porcini, butter and mushrooms and fry for about 5 minutes until cooked. Add in the salt and fry for another minute. 

5. Add in dry white wine and cream to the pan and simmer on the stove for 15 - 20 minutes or until the sauce is thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the cooked pasta.

6. Flatten the chicken breast with a meat mallet until about 1cm thick. Pat dry with paper towel and season both sides with salt, pepper and dried herbs. 

7. Heat up a separate pan and add the olive oil. Once hot, add in the chicken breast and sear for 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until cooked and golden on both sides. Set aside and allow to rest for 5 minutes before cutting to 1cm slices.

8. To serve, place the pasta and sauce on a plate. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Place the sliced chicken breast on the pasta. Zest the lemon over the chicken.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Balsamic Mushrooms Linguine with a Garlic Parsley Crumb

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. Winston received a box of mushrooms to cook with from the Australian Mushroom Growers as part of the #MushroomMania2014 campaign


Mushrooms, mushrooms, mushrooms...!

A few weeks ago, I was approached by Australian Mushroom Growers (aka Power of Mushrooms) to see if I'd be keen to take part of their #MushroomMania2014 campaign, which encourages people to eat and share their favourite mushroom dishes in the month of July. The Mushroom Mania campaign is pretty well known and has been running successfully for 14 years now. I've seen so many of my favourite bloggers take part over the years, so I was glad to be asked to join them as well this year.

As part of the campaign, I was given a seriously beautiful box of fresh mushrooms from the Prahran Market to cook with; and also a $100 Visa gift card to dine out on mushrooms. Best part about this campaign is that you get to take part too! The best part is that Power of Mushrooms are giving out 30 of these $100 Visa gift cards as well. Anyone who dines out on mushrooms this month and tags #MushroomMania2014 on a social media platform stands a chance to win!


Isn't that the most beautiful box of mushrooms in all of the land...?
(portobello, swiss brown, king oyster, enoki, shimeji, shiitake)

Back to the recipe. I was honestly quite blown away by the array of fresh, beautiful mushrooms I received and immediately felt so inspired to get cooking. I knew I wanted to make a quick, easy pasta that's perfect for a weeknight meal. Breadcrumbs are actually really perfect for simple pastas and I do it all the time. They give an extra textural element to the dish and can be flavoured with anything you like. 

Anyway, I just had this for dinner tonight and it was definitely delicious and quick to make. I'll be sharing another mushroom recipe again in the next few days so do tune in to check it out!

Hope you're all having a smashing start to the week. Happy Shroomin'!

Balsamic Mushrooms Linguine with a Garlic Parsley Crumb

(an original recipe, serves 2)

Click here to print the recipe

Ingredients

For the breadcrumbs:
3/4 cup breadcrumbs *
1 1/2 cup (or large handful) of flat leaf parsley
3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp butter

For the pasta:
250g linguine
Extra virgin olive oil
Chilli Flakes
Salt and pepper
Truffle oil (optional)

For the balsamic mushrooms:
250g fresh mushrooms of choice (sliced) **
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper

* I used Japanese Panko
** I used a variety of portobello, swiss brown, king oyster, shiitake, enoki and shimeji

________________________________________


Method

1. Blitz all the ingredients for the breadcrumb (except the butter) in a mini food processor until well combined. Place a pan on low heat on the stove with the 1 tbsp of butter. Toast the breadcrumb mixture in 2 batches until golden and toasted. Set aside.

2. Place a pot of salted water on the boil. Add the linguine and cook as per packet instructions. Drain and mix with extra virgin olive oil, chilli flakes, salt and pepper until well seasoned. 

3. Place the mushrooms and butter in a heated pan and fry for 5 minutes or until cooked. Stir in the balsamic vinegar. Turn off the stove and season with salt and pepper.


4. To serve, place the pasta on a plate. Top with mushrooms and breadcrumbs. Drizzle with truffle oil, if using.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Jinda Thai, Richmond




Love the array of chill condiments! So damn tasty with the noodle dishes


Thai Iced Milk Tea for all...


Deliciousness in a glass...


Fried Rice Kua Gling - $12.90
Stir fried pork soft bones with chilli, lime leaves and yellow curry paste



Pai Thai with Prawns - $14.90



Red Curry Roasted Duck - $15.90


Gai Ping & Nam Jim - $7.90
BBQ Thai style marinated chicken rib with homemade spicy 'nam jim'


Thai Milk Tea Crepe Cake with Ice Cream - $8.50


Som Tum Soft Shell Crab - $12.90
Green papaya salad, cherry tomatoes, snake beans and fresh chilli


My favourite dish there... Absolutely delish


Moo Yang - $15.90
Thai style marinated pork neck served with 'nam jim' and sticky rice


Massaman Beef Curry - $9.90


Pad See Ew Beef - $12.90


Boat Noodle - $9.00
Aromatic beef based soup with your choice of beef or pork


Spicy Dry Egg Noodle Pork - $9.00


Guay Jub - $9.00
Pork based brown soup with rolled rice noodles, crispy pork and offal


Coconut Crepe Cake with Coconut Ice Cream - $8.50


Seriously delicious Chai Tea Cake, which we shared after our meal. It was made by my cousin to congratulate my sis on her graduation


You can look them up on their Facebook page "Spoonfuls of Love"
They do seriously amazing baked treats...

For the longest time, I have had the biggest exasperation with Thai food in Melbourne. It is one cuisine that I truly enjoy but have struggled to find places that meets my annoying standards... Consistently. Sure, there's Ying Thai on Lygon (but it's been there for ages and I'm bored of it already) and Thai Taste in Collingwood (but I'm pretty sure the original chef has left because the food is awful now). I've tried so many others over the years and nothing has really stuck out to me. Sydney does Thai food way, way better than Melbourne (in general). In fact, I have become so complacent with the cuisine from the constant disappointments that for a long time, Thai food meant nothing more to me than the greasy, boring Pad Thai from the local takeaway shop. Nothing that really celebrates the beautiful culture and highlights the vibrant flavours that they really use. I do, however, think that the other place that sort of came close (which I still enjoy going to) is Bangkok Terrace in Hawthorn.

So, when Jinda Thai opened in Melbourne, word spread about them really quick (thanks mainly to social media and images of their signature Thai milk tea crepe cake). Seriously, there was a period when I would see photos of food from Jinda Thai every single day on Instagram without fail. But, having been so let down so many times in the past that I wasn't in any hurry to try this place out... 

And now that I've finally tried Jinda Thai, I honestly see what all the rave was about. The inside was not what I expected at all. The space was surprisingly large with high ceilings, wooden tables, exposed bricks and little antiques and artwork throughout the restaurant. It was quite beautiful, actually. The menu was very large (which normally I'm not a fan of) but it was very comprehensive, well laid out and easy to follow. 

We started off our meal with a perfect glass of Thai Milk Tea. The sweet aroma of the tea with the milky aftertaste was just fantastic. It honestly didn't take long after that before the food hit our table. The first dish we had was the soft shell crab som tum (or green papaya) salad. The sweet, sour, salty and spicy flavour of the dressing was so well rounded and balanced it tasted incredible. The soft shell crab was extra crunchy from the little clusters of fried batter on the outside. This dish was fantastic. Definitely a winner.

Next, we were onto the various noodle dishes that we ordered. What Jinda Thai does so well is the selection of noodles that they have. Super cheap and incredibly tasty selections. We couldn't get enough of the Pad Thai and Pad See Ew here and it was so delicious to eat with the array of chilli condiments. I must say that the spicy dry egg pork noodle sounded ordinary but everything from the fresh toppings to the texture of the noodles were fantastic. Although, I must say I wasn't too wow-ed by their signature boat noodles (even though it's a dish that everyone can't stop raving about). For me, I just found it a bit hard to enjoy soup made of blood (which was essentially what it was).

The other dishes here are consistent too, whether you're ordering the grilled meats as a starter or the curries as your mains. The soft bone fried rice we was seriously spicy but my gosh the fresh herbs and flavours that went into it definitely excited our senses. Finally, you cannot end your meal here without having their crepe cakes for dessert. They are absolutely DELICIOUS! The soft pillowy textures of the crepe, layered with a feather light whipped cream and topped with the luscious sauce -- just fantastic. Both the Thai Milk Tea and Coconut flavoured ones were a winner but personally I was leaning towards the latter.

Overall, I think Jinda Thai is a downright good and reliable choice and is the answer to the Thai food prayers of many people around Melbourne..... FINALLY!! The food is delicious, authentic, relatively inexpensive, with great selections in a comfortable setting and also good with groups or bookings. Plus, the food is relatively quick even if the place is packed out. No, really. The open kitchen is massive and always looks like there's 20 - 30 people in there at a time. Very capable team. Jinda Thai is definitely a place that most people fell in love with from their first visit and everyone always seems to have a different favourite dish to eat there (and I love it when that happens)Been back twice the past 2 months and already looking forward to coming back. Definitely going in "Wince's Faves".

Jinda Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 6, 2014

LBSS Cafe, Abbotsford



The famous Dr Ron Swanson in the making...


The ultimate grilled cheese sandwich, oh yeahhh... 


Our humble and inviting breakfast table...



Gorgeous Soy Piccolo... 




Green Juice



Acai: Still trendin' - $17
Pistachio + Dried Berry Granola w/ poached pear, Acai sorbet, housemade coconut berry yoghurt + cacao nibs

(big and sweet option)



House Special: Brussel Sprout and Quinoa Salad



Honey Puffs - $14
House-made coconut yogustard with honey-coated organic puffed grains, fresh fruit + optional house-squeez'd almond milk. We out here, doin' it.

(little and sweet option)



GF* HM** for your GF*** GF**** - $17
We've made health out of not-health: gluten free almond + berry pancake bits with daire-free coconut ice cream + sugar-free date syrup & a bit of fresh fruit

*Guilt-free; **Hot mess; ***Gluten-free; ****Girlfriend

(big and sweet option)


Freekakes - $17 (add ocean trout gravlax - $6)
Freekeh, sweet potato + currant cakes with cashew cream, chilli jam, wilted kale and eggs

(big and salty option)


Dr Ron Swanson - $18
It's a triple-decker croque monsieur; a veritable bacon wallet of gruyere, bechemel + slow-roasted pork hock + egg

(big and salty option)



Photo taken from my Instagram: @winceeee

I like how they have a large mirror for selfies in the toilet. Btw, how hysterical is baby Joe's face in this photo?!
#selfiestation #lbsscafe

The first thing that came to mind when I rocked up at LBSS Cafe was, "How the heck have I not noticed this place until now?!". I have been going across the road to have my usual roast duck fix at Pacific House every 3 weeks for the past 6 years but never noticed them until now. Too funny. 

The concept at LBSS Cafe is very simple. It basically stands for "Little Big Sugar Salt". There are only 8 main items on the menu (with maybe 2 or 3 more for daily specials and little items). The menu is designed to make it simpler for people to make their decisions. All you need to do is decide whether or not you feel like getting something sweet or savoury; big or small portion. Then, you'll be presented with 2 options for that category. It's pretty nifty and straight forward, I must say. I don't like menus that are too overbearing with choices.

We came here on a relaxed Sunday morning and though the cafe wasn't big, it was very warm and inviting. We had a nice big table to ourselves too -- lucky us. Overall, I thought the food was quite good. Sure, there were some (very) minor areas that could've been improved but I still thought it was leaps and bounds better than the awful Hammer & Tong brunch I had the day before. 

I started off with a lovely soy piccolo. Robust and fragrant, it was just what I needed. Then, I ordered the Freekakes with the extra trout gravlax and it was DELICIOUS. It was a unique dish (as I find corn and zucchini fritters mega boring) with very distinct yet complementary flavours too. The cakes were crisp/crusty on the outside and tasted so, so good with that homemade chilli jam. I loved the addition of kale (which made it a healthy and tasty dish) and also the underlaying note of cashew from the cream. Not to mention, the gravlax was honestly the best I've had in Melbourne. It was so fresh, flavourful (without being overly salty) and still retained great bite and resistance in the texture. Outstanding. Now, that is one way to make a healthy dish (with lots of superfood) taste damn delicious. It was a tasty dish from start to finish and the green juice I had with it was definitely refreshing to drink.

I had a small nibble of everything else and thought they were done pretty well too. The acai bowl is one of their signature dishes and definitely recommended for people looking for a healthy start to the day. Plus, that mother of a grilled cheese sandwich (Dr Ron Swanson) was GREAT. Definitely not a light breakfast dish but hey, it tasted friggin' amazing. It was everything you wanted but know you shouldn't all in one. A plate worthy to be named after the man himself. Loved the smoky pork hock flavour too. Although, I must say that I am also a sucker for any Parks and Rec reference as it's one of my favourite shows to watch (anyone else a fan?!)

Although, the down side was I did find the honey puffs to taste too similar to what you'd get from the supermarket (even though a lot went into the dish). Also, let's just say the gluten free hotcakes tasted very gluten free. Ahem. Definitely a shock to people like me who's not used to this GF stuff. I did suggest that they maybe add ricotta or something to give the batter a little bit more flavour and moisture. But, the coconut ice cream that went with it was really good. Besides that, I did make a comment that the menu was a bit hard to read because some of the dishes were upside down so you had to turn the menu to read them. But, I've actually been told that they have since changed the layout since our visit so I'm glad they did that.

Overall, what I find most appealing about LBSS Cafe is the dishes that they offer that highlights healthy superfood ingredients (such as freekeh, kale, quinoa, acai etc) without compromising on flavour. Definitely something that sets themselves apart and sits well with me as I too am trying to lead a healthier lifestyle this 2014. That said, I also love the fact that they have something so tasty/crazy/indulgent like the triple decker grilled cheese sandwich (Dr Ron Swanson) too. 

Very happy to have tried out LBSS Cafe. A nice, healthier alternative to your standard brunch places. Can't wait to come back. This time, I want to have a coffee with their homemade almond milk too. Again, so healthy! Love it.

Little Big Sugar Salt - LBSS Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 30, 2014

Chinese Steamed Egg Custard Recipe


A silky, smooth and thin custard topped with a savoury mince. A dish that's very common in many, many Chinese households around Malaysia

One of the reasons why I LOVE my company is that everyone is such foodies, no kidding. What brings us together is that we're all such fatties, which is something we happily embrace. We. LOVE. Food. Whether it's cooking awesome meals for your usual weekday lunch using the office kitchen; or telling each other about a new restaurant we've tried over the weekend; or even sharing a recipe we've tested that turned out amazing. 

Another thing that makes this whole foodie scenario more fun is the fact that we truly celebrate each other's cultural diversity. Which is why every few months, we have this thing called the "International Food Day". Basically, it's a potluck for everyone to bring a dish from their cultural heritage. Plus, we secretly love it even more when some people get their Mums/Aunties/Grandmothers to prepare these traditional dishes -- wowsers. If only Mum lived in Melbourne too so I can kindly ask her to contribute something and pass it as my own creation (as if anyone's going to buy that).

Obviously, we always, always overestimate the amount of food to bring and we end up having SO much leftovers. Personally, I'm not complaining because one of my favourite things about potlucks is (shamelessly) taking home the leftovers. 


Taken from my Instagram: @winceeee

We've honestly outdone ourselves the last time. We really did. Our company is growing, which also means, more food at International Food Day... Yeeew!! This time, we had Italian, Australian, Lebanese, Syrian, Jewish, Iranian, Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Russian, Macedonian and Greek food... AMAZING to say the least. Everyone always puts in so much effort (or sometimes, their Mum does haha) that the end result is just too good.

For myself, I always make sure that the food I bring is Vegetarian, just so I can share with my vego friends in the office. Not the easiest thing to do if you're Chinese as we are natural carnivores but I think it's been so far so good. In the past, I've made my Seri Muka (Malaysian Pandan Custard with Sweet Glutinous Rice), Vego Fried Noodles, Malaysian Vegetable Curry and now this, Chinese Steamed Egg Custard (but the vego version). 


These photos are the vegetarian version, using tofu instead of minced meat =)

This dish is hands down one of my favourite childhood dishes to eat. It's a dish that's found in almost every Chinese household around Malaysia, with so many variations from family to family. There's 2 ways that I like to have this:
1) The quick steamed version (that creates a soft, pillowy custard) with the mince at the bottom of the dish
2) Low and slow steamed version (that creates a smooth, silky custard) with the mince at the top of the dish

I've shared the first version several years ago in the link: here


Photo of pillowy version from 2011 
*cringes at old photos*

Essentially the same dish, but the different methods make it feel like 2 completely different dishes. I make the first version at home on for a quick weeknight dinner and the second version when I want to make it more presentable to share with others. Both equally delicious and satisfying.

Anyway, here's the recipe for the smooth, silky, thin and light custard version. With vegetarian version, which is just as satisfying as the meat version, if I may add. 



Chinese Steamed Egg Custard Recipe


Ingredients

For the custard:
8 eggs *
400 ml stock or water *
1/2 tsp salt
White pepper
1 salted duck egg yolk (optional)
1 century egg (optional)

* Quantity may be adjusted to suit the size of your dish. Ratio is 50ml stock/water per egg.

For the seasoning:
1 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
1/2 tsp dark soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp Chinese Shao Xin wine
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp corn flour
2 tbsp water
Few dashes white pepper

For the mince:
200g minced pork or beef *
1 cup dried shiitake mushroom
1 1/2 tbsp oil
1/2 brown onion (diced finely)
4 cloves garlic (diced finely)

For vegetarian version, replace minced meat with equal amount diced firm tofu


To garnish:
Chopped spring onions
Fried shallots (optional)
1 tsp soy sauce
Sesame oil





Method

1. Beat all the ingredients of the custard in a large bowl until well combined. Dice the salted duck egg yolk and century egg (if using) and stir into the custard. Pour into a deep round dish and set aside.

2. Mix all the ingredients of the seasoning with the minced meat. Set aside.

3. Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl of boiled water for 20 minutes to let it rehydrate. Drain and squeeze out the excess liquid. Dice to small cubes and set aside.

4. Heat up a pan with the oil. Add the onions and garlic and fry until fragrant. Add in the minced meat and mushrooms and stir until the meat is cooked. Dish out and set aside.

5. Place the dish with custard in a steamer. Steam on medium-high for 25 to 30 minutes until the egg is set but still slightly wobbles in the centre. It is done when liquid doesn't spill out when you cut into it. 

Tip: Don't cover the steamer completely with the lid (with about a 2cm gap) so that the steam doesn't get pent-up. This helps to make sure the custard remains smooth and silky.If the steam is too high, the custard will inflate and has lots of pores on the surface. 

6. Remove the cooked custard from the steamed and top with cooked mince mixture. Drizzle 1 tsp of soy sauce and few drops of sesame oil around the egg. Garnish with spring onions and fried shallots (if using). Serve immediately with rice.