Monday, March 22, 2010

To plate or not to plate

 I've recently discovered that plating and presentation make a lot of difference.

Your food can taste delicious, be the best (insert dish here) in the world...but if it doesn't look appetizing, you're gonna need some time convincing people.

On the other hand, you can fall on the other extreme. The food can be borderline but because it's presented so elegantly, people are attracted to try.

If I had to choose one, I'd rather pick the first. At least, once people know, they'll keep coming back and telling their friends. The latter will just end in disappointment. But why stop at option one? Work on both. With taste and image hand in hand, your customer with leave satisfied and amazed with the experience.

The reality is, it's not easy to have both. First things first, you need to be inspired. This creates the drive that will push you through your comfort zone. Second and more importantly, it takes practice and practice and practice. But you know what they say. Practice makes perfect :) Don't give up just yet. And last but not least, start from something small and work your way up. You need to walk first before you run.

Cream of Pumpkin Soup
with sweet garlic, thyme croutons and drizzle of paprika oil
adapted from Guy Savoy: Simple French Recipes for the Home Cook
serves 4

1 head garlic
1 cup milk
1 small pumpkin (about 680g)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1-2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Peel garlic cloves and place in a small saucepan along with the milk.
  2. Bring just to a boil, then remove from heat and drain, discarding the milk.
  3. Peel pumpkin, discard fiber and seeds, and cut the flesh into 1-cm cubes.
  4. Warm the butter in a large pot and add the pumpkin cubes and blanched garlic cloves.
  5. Season with salt and cook over high heat, stirring often and crushing the flesh of the pumpkin as it becomes soft.
  6. Add the chicken stock, lower the heat to medium low and simmer for about 40 minutes or until the pumpkin is very tender.
  7. Add the milk and cream and cook for 6-7 minutes.
  8. Puree the mixture in a food processor until smooth.
  9. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Pour into the serving bowl and add your garnish.
Thyme croutons

3 slices of stale white bread (freeze it individually to ease cutting)
olive oil
salt and pepper
dried thyme 

Method: Cut the bread slices into 1-cm cubes. Heat oil in a frying pan. Add the bread cubes and coat well. Season with salt, pepper and thyme. Stir until dry and crispy. Alternatively, you can bake the bread cubes until crispy.

Paprika Oil
Heat some flavorless oil (like canola or grape-seed oil) in a frying pan. Add paprika powder and stir into the oil until it turns red.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Strawberry shortcake - Trifle style

I follow a list of food blogs. At least once a week, after a full day of sorting through data, rearranging them to make it more understandable, going through meetings or burning off stress with friends on weekends, I like to retreat, sit back, laptop on my lap, and escape to the world of food and culinary journeys.

Time hasn't been on my side for the past month since my last post. There were Fridays and Saturdays I had to be out of town. There were a couple of days I caught the dysentery bug so common of visiting or returning overseas students. There were days where...well, let's just say I have to keep a social life. On those times, the blogs were the next best thing to baking itself. For the other bloggers out there, your passion, recipes and warmth continue to inspire me and I want to thank you for that. Keep doing what you're doing.

I can't believe I'm at a point of time where I have to choose between what I have to do and what I love doing and sometimes I can't always have both. When I was a student, there was so much time that I can bake on impulse. Now, I have to plan when to bake.

But you know what. I still love it. And I promise you, I will come up with more creations soon :) I love cakes, I love making something out of the simple ingredients, mixing and matching recipe parts and I love the joy of sharing the food I make. And the smile on everyone's faces after they taste what's been made. That's what I call accomplishment.

So here's to baking...First visit back - strawberry trifle :) Enjoy~

Strawberry Trifle
adapted from Sky-High's Sky-High Strawberry Shortcake
Makes 6x250ml glasses

1 1/2 cups cake flour
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
70g butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup whole milk (or buttermilk)

500g strawberries
2 tbsp rum
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 180C and butter 2x20cm pans (you probably can substitute them with a rectangular baking tray/swiss roll pan).
  2. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl until thoroughly mixed. Set aside. 
  3. Clean and hull strawberries. Cut them into nickel-thick slices.
  4. Combine strawberries with rum, extract and sugar. Coat well and leave for at least 1 hour.
  5. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, cream butter, sugar and extract on medium speed until pale and fluffy.
  6. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  7. Pour in the dry ingredients in two or three additions, alternating with the milk.
  8. Divide batter evenly among the two prepared pans.
  9. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and a cake tester skewer comes out clean.
  10. Leave a while before inverting to cool on a wire rack to room temperature.
  11. In another bowl, beat the cream and sugar on medium speed until soft peaks form.
  12. Cut the cake into slices that will fit the width of your glass.
  13. Layer the cake first, next add the strawberries with some of the juices (but you don't want the cake to be soggy), and then spoon in the whipped cream evenly.
  14. Repeat the sequence of the layers until you fill the glass, making sure the whipped cream ends up on top.
  15. Decorate with leftover strawberries slices and serve :)


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