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Posts from the ‘Recipes’ Category

Love thy Opal Basil

Basil is often hailed as the “king of herbs” by many chefs and it is one of my favourite herbs in cooking.  The herb is an undeniable feature in Italian cuisine and other varieties is highlighted in Thailand and Vietnamese dishes.  Whenever I see a bouquet of fresh sweet basil, I am always hypnotized by the sweet fragrance.

I was lucky enough to meet the cousin of sweet basil, Opal basil – thanks to specialist produce company, Melissa’s. The opal basil has short crinkly and serrated purplish leaves with similar colored veins and stems. If you hold the leaf against a light, you can see the green highlights.  Unlike its cousin, the opal basil makes a rare appearance in Singapore supermarket shelves. When I saw them, I had to smell and try it. I love the strong that the opal basil has a clove like taste with a tinge of ginger.  It would be perfect as salad garnishing or decoration piece.

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Since the opal basil wasn’t used during the workshop, I happily volunteered to take them home. With an abundance of basil in hand, I couldn’t resist making pesto sauce and nothing beats home-made pesto sauce.  The traditional Italian pesto from Ligura, Genoa is made with green basil, good extra virgin olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino cheese.  Pesto is best served with ribbon pasta such as tagliatelle , fettuccine or linguini where sauce can cling onto the pasta or stirred with home-made gnocchi.

Pesto is versatile and it can have used in other serving suggestions.  Here are a few ideas:

  • a dollop of pesto on top of soups.
  • as a spread for bruschettas.
  • serve as a tapenade.
  • mixed with some mayonnaise to give your sandwiches that extra zing.
  • add to some sour cream or natural yogurt and serve as a dip.
  • mixed with some vinegar for a salad dressing

It is so easy to make and it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.  Here is my version of the classical pesto sauce.

CY’s Pesto Sauce

Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients:

6 cups of fresh basil

140 grams of roasted almonds (unsalted)*

1.25 cups of extra virgin olive oil

6 cloves of garlic

1 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

kosher salt and black pepper to taste

* You can purchase raw almonds and toast in oven on a low heat.  For classic pesto use pine nuts or walnuts.

Method:

1. Rinse the basil leaves.  You may air dry or use a tea towel to gently wipe the leaves dry.

2. Place the leaves, almonds, garlic and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese in a food processor.

3. While the dry ingredients are being blended, slowly drizzle the olive oil into the processor to form a smooth sauce.  It should medium smooth texture and not a thick paste.

4. Add salt and pepper to taste.

5. It can be served immediately with your favourite pasta or stored in an air tight container in the refrigerator  for up to 1 week.

Opal Basil Pesto


Mangiar bene! ( that’s good eating in Italian)

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Sunday roast

Sunday’s in England or US wouldn’t be the same without the traditional roast. Since I am not living in either country, I thought it would be nice to have a roast dinner for a change plus I can’t resist a good roast either.  I wanted to try roasting the chicken using a method I learnt from an Israeli chef a few months back.  His Egyptian grandmother  roasted the chicken by creating a border of sea salt .  The salt helps to create the skin to brown and crispy without losing tenderness or moisture of the meat.  The Chinese has a similar method by  wrapping a whole chicken in lotus leaf placed on top of bed of hot salt cooked over a stove top.

With the modern convection ovens, it is much easier to achieve the taste the same result.  I decided to incorporate the Egyptian method but I infused some fresh rosemary to give the chicken extra flavour.  The roast dinner would not be the same without potatoes. To complete the meal, I served some beautiful steamed baby cauliflowers and baby corn. Baby cauliflowers are rarely sold here in Singapore supermarkets. I happen to chance upon them during my food styling workshop last week and was lucky enough to take home the unused produce.  The organic fruits and vegetables were supplied by Melissa’s, a fresh produce specialist based in the USA.

Beautiful Baby Cauliflowers

I decided not to dress the baby cauliflowers and corn.  I wanted to rosemary flavour to come through and the natural sweetness of the vegetables to compliment the chicken.  No one ingredients overpowered each other.

What I like about this recipe is that you need minimal ingredients to complete a wonderful meal. The chicken is roasted on a lower temperature and cooked for a longer period.  The meat is so tender and falls of the bones so easily that you only need a fork to eat the chicken. Here is my recipe for the roast chicken.

Salt Baked Roast Chicken with Fresh Rosemary 

(serves 4)

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken (approximately 1.5 kgs)

4 sprigs of fresh rosemary

200 grams of sea salt (fine or coarse)

500 grams potatoes

Cooking string

Parchment paper

Method:

1.  Preheat the oven to 180 deg Celsius or 350 deg Fahrenheit.  Prepare a roasting pan or tray with parchment paper.  If you are not using parchment paper, sprinkle some oil on the base to prevent the chicken skin sticking to the pan/tray.

2. Prepare the chicken by removing the neck, feet and discarding any giblets. Trim off any excess fat.

3. Starting at neck cavity, loosen skin from breast and drumsticks by inserting fingers, gently pushing between skin and meat. Try not to tear the skin during this process.

4.  Carefully insert the rosemary in between the skin and meat of the breast and drumstick.

5. Tie the drumsticks together with the cooking string.  Place the chicken in the middle of the roasting pan or chicken.

6. Create a border of sea salt around the chicken.  Place the washed whole potatoes on top of the sea salt.

7. Depending on the size, roast the chicken for between 1 hr 15 mins to 1 hr 3o mins until the skin has turned golden brown.

8. Once it is ready, let the chicken stand for 15 to 20 mins before serving. Brush off any salt from the chicken and potatoes before transferring the chicken and potatoes to a serving dish.

Options:  You may use other herb such as thyme instead of rosemary.  

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Hope you enjoyed my first post and recipe.  My 13  year old nephew topped my evening by complimenting the meal as “This chicken was AWESOME!”.

Bon Appétit!