Penne Pasta with Chicken, Bacon and Mustard Sauce

Penne Pasta with Chicken, Bacon and Mustard Sauce

This pasta dish makes regular appearances in our home.  It was given to me by my Aunt Jenni – who has a reputation for dishing some of the most delicious yet simple to prepare meals.  I have a feeling she may have adapted it from a Jamie Oliver but I’m not entirely sure.  In any case, this is our adaptation.  The original recipe uses roast chicken, but we’ve substituted smoked chicken instead.  The addition of mustard is something unusual but it does provides some oomph.  In any case, this can be prepared in 30 minutes or less and is great for a quick weeknight meal.

Penne Pasta with Smoked Chicken, Bacon, Peas and Mustard Sauce

Serves 4

  • 500 grams penne
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 rashers bacon (around 175 grams), rind removed, cut into 1 cm pieces
  • 2 smoked chicken drumsticks (around 450 grams), cut into 1 cm pieces
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 100 grams parmesan cheese
  • 75 grams frozen baby peas
  • 200 ml cream
  1. Bring a pot of water to the boil for the pasta.
  2. Heat the olive oil and add the diced onions and garlic, cook out until translucent, around 5 minutes over a medium heat.
  3. Add the bacon rashers and cook for about 5 minutes, add the chicken, mustard and finally the cream. Allow the sauce to simmer around 10 minutes to thicken.
  4. In the meantime, salt the water and add the pasta once the water comes to a boil. Cook as per the directions on the box.
  5. Once the pasta sauce has simmered, add the parmesan cheese and peas.
  6. When the pasta has cooked, drain and add to the sauce. Serve immediately.
Roast Duck with Mandarin Pancakes

Roast Duck with Mandarin Pancakes

Tucked away in the Gateway Building on the corner of Pitt and Alfred Streets is Neptune Palace.  “Neppi’s” is somewhat of an institution in the banking and finance circles. In typical Malaysian/Chinese restaurant fashion, the menu is extensive with at least 140 items to choose from.   Having said that, there are a number of requisite dishes that we always order like the “Rusty Motorbike”, Seafood Sang Choy Bau, Kapitan Chicken and the Duck Pancakes.  These are the reliable dishes that people come back for over and over again in the almost twenty years that this restaurant has been in operation.

Post the roast chicken he made the other day, we decided to try and re-create a few of our favourite dishes from this restaurant.  We liked the way they served their Duck Pancakes.  Whilst most Chinese restaurants will serve mostly the skin and very little meat, Neppi’s is a little different in that there is a generous amount of fried duck meat and of course, a decent amount of crispy skin.  I actually prefer the Mandarin Pancakes this way.  Rather than purchasing a whole duck, it made more sense for us to buy two duck breasts for this recipe.

So we marinated the duck breasts overnight in a teaspoon of five spice powder, two tablespoons of maple syrup and two tablespoons of soy sauce.  Then we sous vide the duck breasts at 57c for an hour and finally pan fried skin side down to get it all nice and extra crispy.  In the meantime, we prepared the Mandarin Pancakes (recipe below).  My husband is proving to be a better cook that I imagined!

To serve, we sliced up some of the duck, whilst the rest, we diced and fried it a little bit more.

The dishes we order at Neppi’s remind me sometimes of the very good friends I have.  There are over 140 dishes in the Neppi’s menu but we keep coming back to the dishes we know we can trust.  Similarly, of all the many friends I have, there are only a handful that I know I can rely on, no matter what.

Roast Duck with Mandarin Pancakes

Roast Duck with Mandarin Pancakes

Mandarin Pancakes

Recipe adapted from Neil Perry’s Rockpool

  • 400 grams plain flour
  • 190 ml boiling water
  • pinch salt
  • 65 ml cold water
  • sesame oil for rolling
  1. Place the flour, water and salt in a bowl of a stand mixer and using a dough hook, turn on to medium speed until the dough comes together in a ball.
  2. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead lightly on a lightly oiled surface for around 5 minutes until the ball of dough is smooth and springs back when pressed.
  3. Place the dough back in the bowl and cover with a damp cloth towel and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
  4. When the dough has rested, place it back on a lightly oiled surface and cut the dough in half. Keep one covered with a damp cloth and roll the other half into a long sausage. Cut the dough into 10 equal pieces.
  5. Press each piece down with the palm of your hand and then brush each piece with sesame oil. Place one piece of dough on top of the other so that the oiled sides are facing each other and then roll each pair of pancakes out to a diameter of 10 cm. Repeat with the rest of a pieces. Now, do the same with the rest of the dough. Place the rolled pieces of dough on top of each other in a plate and cover with a damp cloth.
  6. Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Place the pancake in the pan and dry fry for around 20 to 30 seconds or until you can see faint brown spots start to appear. You will also notice the dough puff up as it cooks.
  7. Flip the pancakes to the other side to cook again, another 15 to 20 seconds.
  8. Remove the pancakes from the heat and carefully pull them apart after a minute or so (allowing the pancakes to cool down a bit).
  9. The pancakes can be stored on a plate covered with a damp cloth before serving. They can also be stored in the freezer and heated in a warm oven before serving.
  10. To assemble, lay a pancake on a plate, spread over with hoisin sauce, sliced of green onions and cucumbers.
Perfectly Cooked Roast Chicken

Perfectly Cooked Roast Chicken

There aren’t many hobbies where I can outshine my husband.  UnFortunately,  he seems to be naturally gifted at most sports and can beat me at every single board game.  His real talent however, lies in being able to keep the scores close enough that you’re motivated to keep on trying to win.  I remember a few years back we would spend some afternoons after work playing squash.  First one who scored nine points won.  The games were always pretty close.  One day, we were arguing about something, I can’t even remember what, but none of us was giving in.  After a while I finally said that we should just settle the argument on the squash court.

“You don’t want to do that.” he said.

I was confident though that given how close the matches had been in the past, my extra anger would surely give me an advantage this time.

So off we went to the courts.

He won the first game 9 – 0.  Then he won the second round, 9 – 0.

He was leading the third game 7 – 0 when I decided to throw my racket and walk off the courts.

I was beaten and humbled… and  we have never played squash since then.

Cooking has always been my domain.  The other day though, my husband expressed interest in learning how to cook something.   I told him that I would teach him ten dishes and/or techniques from a list that a couple of friends had put together after reading this list.  (Ma Po Tofu?  Really?  REALLY??)  We thought that we could surely come up with a much better list – but that a good roast chicken recipe should remain.    I chose Thomas Keller’s Simple Roast Chicken to start.

So here it is – Dan Thomas Keller’s Simple Roast Chicken.  It’s dead easy to make.  Get the best quality chicken (around 1.2 to 1.5 kilos in weight) you can find, pat the chicken dry, rub the chicken cavity with a generous amount of salt and pepper, truss the chicken and season with more salt on top.  Roast (breast side up) in a pre-heated 210c oven (fan forced) for  around 50 minutes.  Remove from oven, allow to rest 10 minutes, sprinkle with thyme leaves and serve.

Served with roast vegetables and dijon mustard, this chicken was hands down the easiest and most delicious roast chicken we’ve ever had.  Definitely a winning dish!

Thomas Keller's Simple Roast Chicken

Thomas Keller’s Simple Roast Chicken

Prawn Pasta with Bisque Sauce

Prawn Pasta with Bisque Sauce

This is one of those recipes that wasn’t meant to make it to the blog. On my way home from work tonight I thought that, since my husband was working late, I might kill time by making some fresh pasta. I stopped by the fish monger and found some fresh prawns and thought that a nice creamy bisque sauce would work well with it. I was wrong. It didn’t work well with it… it worked SUPER DUPER WELL with it!

It was so good, I knew I would do you a disservice if I didn’t share it. So – here it is – prawn pasta with a bisque sauce. Have you got a favourite seafood pasta recipe? Well, now you do!

Recipe for fresh pasta can be found here.

Prawn Pasta with Bisque Sauce

Prawn Pasta with Bisque Sauce

Prawn Pasta with Bisque Sauce

serves 2

  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 large carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, roughly chopped
  • 45 ml olive oil plus another 30 ml to fry the prawns.
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 12 large prawns
  • 100 ml cream
  • salt to taste
  • chopped parsley for garnish
  • 100 to 150 grams fresh pasta per person
  1. In a large pan, heat the olive oil and add the onion, carrot and celery. Cook until the onions are translucent, around 5 minutes, then add the garlic cloves. Season with salt.
  2. Peel and devein the prawns. Chop the meat into large pieces and set aside for use later. Place the prawn heads and peel with the vegetables and saute for around 5 more minutes. Add 750 ml of water and allow to simmer until the liquid havles, around 50 minutes to 1 hour.
  3. When the sauce has reduced, strain the sauce and add the cream, continue to simmer until the sauce thickens. Taste and season as required.
  4. Heat the 30 ml of oil in another pan and fry the prawns until cooked, around 3 minutes. Add this to the bisque/cream sauce.
  5. Meanwhile, heat a large pot of water until boiling. Salt the water once it reaches a boil and add the fresh pasta. Cook until al dente. Drain the pasta and add to the bisque sauce.
  6. Place in serving bowls and sprinkle with parsley.


Duck Baguette - Smoked and Sous Vide

Duck Baguette – Smoked and Sous Vide

A few weeks ago I was chatting with a group of friends over Whatsapp when we received a message from my sister. She was disturbed to discover that her son, not quite two years old, had started saying the “F” word. Of course, all of us, (not being the highly principled and responsible adults we should have been) thought it was cute and asked her to take a video and send it to us.

While my sister’s first reaction was worry that he was going to get kicked out of day care, I thought it was quite amusing. I remember when my Mom first told me about my other nephew had learned a few bad words from some friends at school, he was probably around three then. I pulled him aside one day and whispered to him to tell me what bad word he knew. He said a few curse words and we had a good laugh over it. After that, I told him never to repeat it again. I haven’t heard anything like that from him since. The thing with kids is that they eventually learn to use their judgement about what they can and can’t say… sometimes even better than adults.

I read this article the other day about how parents react differently to use different strategies to curb the use of swear words. Some will ignore, others will explain to them what they’ve said is inappropriate and others will ban the use of certain gadgets like the ipad. In my sister’s case, I’ve noticed she’s also taken to substituting swearing for other words. Now I hear her say “Far out!” and it’s also rubbed off on me.

Her husband though, I think he is in denial.

The other day he took my nephew over to say hello. As we were chatting, my nephew was running around the house saying, what to me sounded like “F@$k”.

“What did he say?”, I asked his father.

My brother looked at me sheepishly, and shrugged his shoulders. “I think he was saying duck.”

Yeah right.

Duck Salad - with candied pecans, cherries and mixed greens

Duck Salad – with candied pecans, cherries and mixed greens

The next day I went to the butcher to get a few duck breasts, no doubt inspired by my nephew’s expanded vocabulary. No recipe this time, just a few notes on how I prepared the duck.

First, I marinated them in a maple/soy sauce mixture. Two tablespoons of maple syrup and three tablespoons on light soy sauce, allow to marinate for around 2 hours.

Then the duck breasts were vacuum sealed and placed in a water bath. I am loving my new sous vide machine which allows me to make the most tender duck I’ve ever tasted. I cook the duck breasts at 57c for an hour and they come out amazingly tender every time.

After, I smoked them using my second favourite kitchen gadget, my stove top smoker. This is a twenty plus year old machine donated to me by my Mom. I smoked the duck breasts using hickory sawdust over a low temperature for 15 minutes.

Finally, the duck breasts were pan fried to get the skin all nice and crispy.

Duck - Sous Vide, Smoked and Pan Fried

Duck – Sous Vide, Smoked and Pan Fried

The duck can be served in so many ways. Sometimes I have with as a salad. My two favourites are with some mixed greens, candied pecans and cherries over a vin cotto dressing. I also like it with figs, and hazelnuts.

Duck Breast Salad with Figs and Hazelnuts

Duck Breast Salad with Figs and Hazelnuts

The duck breasts are also amazing on a sandwich. Imagine the most meltingly tender duck breast, crispy skin and a hint of hickory over a crusty baguette spread with some butter, mustard and mayonnaise. Far out!

Duck Baguette

Duck Baguette

Salmon Tartare Cornets

Salmon Tartare Cornets

This weekend we invited a few good friends for a last hurrah barbecue before it good to cold to cook outdoors. We decided on a surf and turf theme of steak and prawns, along with a salad of smoked duck breast (the recipe for another time), and mushroom soup. These little cornets were a last minute addition, inspired by the book I am reading now called Life, on the Line, by Grant Achatz of Alinea. While the story is an autobiography, the most interesting part of the book, at least for me, was reading about Thomas Keller. Achatz for a time worked at The French Laundry and he tells of his time in Keller’s kitchen and how Keller became his mentor. I have never (yet) been fortunate enough to eat at any of Thomas Keller’s restaurants, but I am told that every meal at The French Laundry begins with a “cornet”. The story goes that Keller was about to leave New York and move to LA and he was unhappy about the move. One night, his friends took him to a Chinese restaurant and then to Baskin-Robbins after. The man at the counter gave him his order in a cone and that was his “a-ha!” moment. This is where he came up with the idea. These cornets are filled with a red onion cream and topped with a salmon tartare. For a vegetarian option, he suggests eggplant caviar and roasted red peppers. In his cookbook, Keller says that people always smile when they are served these.

These cornets are by no means the easiest things to make. First it took a while for me to decide on how to make the stencil, then, I had to buy the cornet molds. Finally, when I started baking the batter, I didn’t realize that we had to pick up the tuilles straight from the oven, still seeping in HOT butter, so that I could mold them to the cornets. On the first night I made it, I ended well past midnight just trying to get it right. It took two batches to make just barely enough for our guests this weekend.

But the smile on their faces when they ate the cornets, was of course, all worth it.

Salmon Tartare Cornets

Salmon Tartare Cornets

Salmon Tartare with Sweet Onion Creme Fraiche

From Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry Cookbook” Where possible, I have converted the measurements into weights, which is how I made the recipe.
For the Cornets

  • 115 grams softened butter
  • 20 grams sugar
  • 65 grams flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 egg whites, cold
  • 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
  1. First make the stencil which should be around 10 cm in diameter. A good guide to this can be found here
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 205c (fan forced)
  3. In a food processor, place the softened butter (make sure it is still cool to the touch) and sugar and mix on high until the sugar is fully incorporated and the butter has lightened in colour, a few seconds. Add the flour and salt and continue to mix again until fully incorporated, again, this should take no more than 5 to 10 seconds.
  4. Add the egg whites, one at a time, after each time, mix the batter on high until the whites are fully incorporated. The batter should now be light and fluffy.
  5. Place the stencil on top of a silpat or baking baking paper and sprinkle some sesame seeds inside the diameter of the stencil. Using an offset spatula, spread around 1.5 teaspoons of the batter on to stencil (make sure there are no holes), removing any excess batter.
  6. Leave about 3 cm between each round. Place the silpat or baking paper on a baking tray.
  7. Place the baking tray in the oven for around 5 to 6 minutes, until the batter is set, the edges may start to crinkle slightly. At this time, open the oven door and take the tray out and place it on the counter. Working quickly and carefully (there is hot melted butter that you will notice seeping from the cookies, use gloves if you need to), place a cornet mold on one of the batters and fold the bottom of the cornet batter on to the cornet to form a cone shape. Leave the cornet wrapped around the mold and continue with the rest of the cornets around the mold. Arrange the cornet molds, seam side down and lean them against each other to prevent them from rolling.
  8. When all the cornets are rolled, return the tray to the oven and bake for an additional 4 to 5 minutes, until the cornets are golden brown. Remove from the oven and let them rest for a minute or so and place the cornets on some paper towels and allow to cool.
  9. Wipe the excess butter from the silpats and allow to cool down before moving on to the next batch. The cornets will keep for up to 2 days in an airtight container.

For the Salmon Tartare

  • 115 grams sashimi grade salmon
  • 15 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • lemon zest from 1/4 a lemon
  • 1.5 teaspoons finely minced chives
  • 1.5 teaspoons finely minced shallots, or red onions
  • pinch of salt and pepper to taste

for the Sweet Red Onion Creme Fraiche

  • 1 tablespoon finely minced red onions
  • 125 grams creme fraiche
  • pinch of salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh chives for garnish
  1. To make the salmon tartare, finely diced the salmon using a very sharp knife. Place in a bowl with all the ingredients for the tartare. Set aside until ready to use, but for a minimum of 30 minutes and maximum of 12 hours.
  2. To make the Sweet red onion creme fraiche, place the red onions in a strainer and place under running cold water for a few seconds. Dry them on paper towels. Set aside. Whisk the creme fraiche until soft peaks, around 1 minute. Fold in the red onions and seasoning. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve, for up to 6 hours.
  3. To serve, pipe some of the red onion creme fraiche (you can use a piping bag to make it easier), next, spoon around 1.5 teaspoons of the tartare over the onion cream and mold it into a dome resembling a scoop of ice cream. Lay a chive tip agains one side of the tartare to garnish.
Salmon Tartare Cornets

Salmon Tartare Cornets

72 Hour Sous Vide Beef Ribs

72 Hour Sous Vide Beef Ribs

I must have mentioned this several times, that I am normally not a very patient person.  I think however, over time I have managed to hide this pretty well from most people.  Years ago though, concealing my temper wasn’t something I did very well.  On my recent holiday, we passed by California for the weekend to see my cousins and friends whom I hadn’t seen in over 10 years.  As long lost friends always do, we spent a good chunk of time reminiscing over “the good old days”.

One of the stories I couldn’t live down was the time my ex-boyfriend had broken up with me.  I spent months (okay, maybe it was more like a year… and a bit…) agonizing and crying over one of my best friend’s shoulders.  We would always chat long into the night and the funny thing is, I don’t think the essence of our conversations ever changed – it was either me asking him what had I done wrong, what I could have done different and him constantly reassuring me that “it was his loss”.  Other times, I asked him to “analyze” for me  the latest “ex-encounter” and whether his actions “meant anything”… reincarnations of these two topics came up over and over again… for a year… and a bit.

During the trip, as we looked back on our University years, we laughed at how trivial everything seemed to us now, but at that time, I don’t know how I would have survived without his support.  He always knew what to say when things were bleak, how to make me feel better, and how to make me laugh despite everything.

So when a year or so after he and his own girlfriend broke up, of course I was there for him.  I knew it was my turn to console him and do all the nice and altruistic things he had done for me.  I lavished him with praises and told him that he was a sure ten and she was most likely a four (at best), I told him that for sure “he could do better”.  The consoling continued well into the nights, just as he had done for me.

That is, until one day, I had enough.  I was frankly tired of iterations of similar conversations and so when he called me one night to tell me about her (again), I cracked it.  I told him that I was tired of hearing about their break-up and “NO!” they were probably not going to get back together and “NO!” just because she said “Hi!” it didn’t mean that she liked him all over again.  I said that he should forget about her and move on.  I mean, seriously, enough was enough!

My outburst was met with silence.

“Hello?”  I asked.  “Are you still on the phone?”

“Trissa,” he said.  “For ONE YEAR, I was there for you when your relationship ended.  I listened to you talk about your ex, I was there to give you advice, be there for you, keep you company and just be a really good friend!”  he declared.

“And you can’t even give me two weeks?!?” he asked.

I must have also mentioned many times that my impatience does NOT extend to food.  With food I am willing to wait.  Take these beef ribs I cooked using the latest addition to my kitchen gadgets, a sous vide machine.  I cooked them for three straight days.  I would come home after each day and take a sneak peak at the ribs bathing in the machine, smiling at myself knowing that there was something amazing waiting for me at the end.  Sous vide is a technique wherein food is first vacuum sealed and then submerged into a water bath and cooked over a low, precise temperature.  The machine, made popular by the likes of Heston Blumenthal,  is hands down one of the best kitchen investments I have made.  I have tried cooking rack of lamb, chicken, slow poached eggs and most recently, these 72 hour beef ribs which was inspired by a meal I had at Izakaya Fujiyama.  I tried asking Chef Kenji for the beef ribs recipe but he said it was a secret but I think my recipe comes dangerously close to it.   The beef is so tender but still beautifully pink in the middle.  It is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted.  Restaurant quality food at home, and anyone can make it.  Unbelievable!

And whatever happened to my confidant, I am truly lucky that despite my being so horribly impatient and a lousy friend, he still remains one of my best friends today.  He will, however, never, even up to this day, let me forget the time I told him “to get over it!”

Teriyaki Glazed 72 Hour Sous Vide Beef Ribs

  • 1.5 kilos of beef ribs, portioned into 500 grams each
  • half a cup of salt
  • half a cup of sugar
  1. Prepare the brine by dissolving the salt and sugar in 3 liters of water. Add the beef ribs and leave for one to two hours. Remove and pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Prepare the water bath, fill it with water and bring the temperature to 56c.
  3. Place each portion into the sous vide bag and vacuum seal.
  4. Place the beef ribs in the water bath and cook for 72 hours.
  5. When done, remove the beef ribs. If not using immediately, place the beef ribs in a container filled with 50% ice and 50% water. Cool the ribs then store in the refrigerator until required (if using from the refrigerator, heat at 56c for 15 minutes before using.
  6. Heat a few tablespoons of vegetable oil in a pan until almost smoking (the pan should be very hot), quickly sear the beef on all sides, around 30 seconds to 1 minute each side until golden brown.
  7. Coat the beef in the teriyaki glaze (recipe follows). Slice and serve with green onions (optional).
72 Hour Sous Vide Beef Ribs

72 Hour Sous Vide Beef Ribs

Teriyaki Glaze

adapted from Practical Japanese Cooking by Shizuo Tsuji and Koichiro Hata

  • 240 ml (1 cup) mirin
  • 160 ml (2/3 cup) sake
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) dark soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp grated ginger
  • 4 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 1 green chili, finely diced
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  1. Mix the mirin, sake and dark soy sauce in a sauce pan. Bring the ingredients to a boil and then turn down to a simmer until the sauce thickens, around 10 minutes.
  2. In another sauce pan, combine the ginger, garlic, and chili and oil and cook over a low heat until fragrant.
  3. Use the glaze over the beef ribs and spoon over the ginger garlic oil before serving (optional)

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