Archive for the ‘Holiday’ Category

Fruit Loops Milk Panna Cotta

New York City is like one great big meal.  A bit extravagant, somewhat pricey, but overall an unforgettable experience.   So what makes New York so special to me?  Like any great meal, each dish has to be well executed, a little bit edgy, sometimes unexpected, each plate should be unique but complementary to the whole experience.


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Cheek to cheek

Today I received an email from my Dad, telling me that my two labradors were fine… that is… “fine but undisciplined”.  When I read this I showed the note to my husband and we both agreed my Dad was wrong.  Sure, they have had their share of accidents, but  we firmly believe that they are just adventurous explorers (also known as notorious scavengers)! (more…)

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Eiffel Tower, 7th arrondisement

Come and take a walk with me, along my favourite arrondisement in Paris.

The 7th… while home to the Eiffel, is so much more than that!


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Quenelles with Nantua Sauce

Aux Lyonnais Quenelles of Fish with Nantua Sauce

One of my must-go-to Bistros in Paris is Aux Lyonnais which is located in the second arrondissement.  The restaurant, of course, is dedicated to celebrating the cuisine of Lyon.   I love to go to this restaurant, because you can get a three course meal for around 35 Euro, considering of course that the restaurant is owned by Alain Ducasse, one of the most highly decorated Michelin starred and influential chefs in the world.   The one dish that I fell in love with on my first trip (which I continue to order on every visit) is the Quenelles of Fish in Nantua Sauce.  In fact, if you look at one of my very first posts here, you will see the dish and how it was served.

The quenelles are poached fish dumplings usually made from pike (a speciality of the Lyon region).     The dish is baked in the oven to finish but not before a rich and creamy bisque (usually made from crayfish) like sauce is poured generously over the mousse like dumplings.

I like to think of myself as pretty smart and resourceful.  When you have the internet at your finger tips, its easy to search for recipe you want to try and recreate.  So I searched high and low for the Aux Lyonnais Quenelle recipe but with no success!

The thing is, sometimes, it’s better to be lucky that smart!

I had given up hopes of ever making this recipe one day until I browsed through the Coco Cookbook and realized that the Quenelles were a featured recipe!  The recipe is of David Rathgeber who headed the Aux Lyonnais kitchen.  It was by pure luck that I opened the cookbook and the page I landed on showed a picture of the beautiful quenelles!  I said to myself, they look familiar and sure enough, here was the recipe from Aux Lyonnais!

Finally, leave it to husbands to give you compliments in a weird sort of way.  When he asked me what we were eating, I explained we were having quenelles of fish.  He said:

“What is a quenelle?”

“Like a fish patty” I said, trying to think of the closest thing that he could relate to.

As he polished off the last dumpling, he said, “I don’t think you made the recipe correctly.  These fish patties aren’t like the patties I’ve tried before.  I feel like I am eating a cloud.”

Well, considering that he finished the whole lot – I considered it confirmation that I had made the recipe correctly!

Quenelles of fish in Nantua Sauce

Recipe – Adapted from Coco, recipe from David Rathgeber

Quenelles of Fish in Nantua Sauce (the recipe serves six but I simply halved the recipe)

For the quenelles

  • 750 grams pike fillets, skinned (I used ling fish as I couldn’t find pike)
  • 350 ml light cream
  • 150 grams butter, softened
  • 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk
  • salt and pepper
  1. Bone the pike fillets, process in a food processor and then add the cream, eggs, egg yolks and butter.  Beat until smooth and add salt and pepper.
  2. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and rest in the refrigerator for 12 hours.
  3. Bring a large pan of water to a boil, add some salt and then reduce the heat to 80C.
  4. Shape the fish mixture into quenelles between 2 large spoons and place them in the water to cook (over a low heat) for 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Carefully remove the quenelles and drain.
  6. Store in a cool place.

For the crayfish (see note below)

  • 15 crayfish
  • olive oil for frying
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • sprigs of parsley
  • 200 ml cognac
  1. Remove the intestines from the crayfish, also removing the heads and tails to use separately.
  2. Heat the oil in the pan and sear the tails with the garlic and parsley.
  3. Remove from the heat and deglaze with the cognac and rest for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove the tails and peel them, leaving the last ring of shell attached.  Set aside.
  5. Strain through a sieve the cooking liquid.

For the sauce

  • Olive oil for frying
  • 1 onion, cut into 3 mm cubes
  • 1 celery stark, cut into 3 mm cubes
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • sprigs of parsley, chopped
  • 25 grams butter
  • 100 ml cognac
  • 150 ml white wine
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 stalk of fennel, chopped
  • salt and white pepper
  1. Heat the oil and add the crayfish heads.  Cook for 5 minutes until brown.
  2. Add the onions, celery, garlic and parsley and butter and sweat the vegetables for 5 minutes.
  3. Deglaze with the cognac and the white wine, then flambe the pan.
  4. Add the tomates and fennel and cook for 1 hour over gentle heat, adjusting the seasoning if necessary.

To finish the dish

  • 500 ml light cream
  • pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 140C.
  2. Arrange the quenelles in an ovenproof dish and add half the crayfish cooking liquid, so that the quenelles are half covered.  Bake for 20 minutes, until slightly rise.
  3. In a pan, gently heat the remaining cooking liquid, with the cream, adding the crayfish tails to in.
  4. Remove the quenelles from the oven and pour the cream sauce and crayfish tails to it.

Delicious with buttered rice

Note: I didn’t have crayfish but I had a frozen bag of prawn heads and tails which I used for the sauce.  Whenever I am preparing prawns, I will keep the heads and tails (raw) in a bag in the freezer and in recipes such as this, comes very handy.

I’ve also typed out the recipe pretty much as it was in the book but note that I didn’t use crayfish (as mentioned above).  However, I think if you don’t have access to crayfish, you can also use prawns or lobster.

Lastly, the recipe is long and involves many processes.  Trust me, it is worth it.  This is bistro cooking at its finest!

Coco Cookbook is published by Phaidon.

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Santa Choux Pastry with Hazelnut Mousse Filling

At age one, I was very scared of Santa.   I can’t remember actually crying but pictures don’t lie – and there I am, in the little red outfit, with my mouth wide open, howling as any baby would if you put them infront of a strange pudgy man with a red suit and a long white beard!  And it wasn’t just me… my sister looks pretty terrified too – don’t you think?

Santa's worst photo shoot ever...

And the next year, the same thing happened…

Santa's second worst photo shoot ever!

It was only around age 3 and 4 that I realized how GREAT  Santa was.  He was the jolly man in the red suit who would give me presents if I was good! Oh yes sure, he saw me when I was sleeping, he knew when I was awake, he knew if I’d been bad or good and so I was usually good for goodness sake!

Every year my siblings and I would write Santa a letter of all the things we wanted for Christmas.  At age five or so, I remember my lists being pretty extensive and I would have to ask my eldest sister to help me write it out.  The letters would always begin with some summary of how good or bad I was the during the year.  Of course I would always emphasize the good and the bad stuff was always watered down.   There was one year  I can still recall my obsession with Hello Kitty and I had a Dear Santa letter that was a page long asking for everything hello kitty from shoes, a bag, a doll to a cooking set (yes I loved to cook even then!).  Every 24th of December my Mom would ask all of us kids to take an afternoon nap and a few hours later we would all wake up and beneath the tree were the presents we had asked for!  Of course we never really took naps – we were always too excited to see what Santa would bring this year!  So we’d just close our eyes and wait until my Mom finally told us we could have a look at the tree.

As a child, it was something I always looked forward to!

When I was ten, I was in love with a little doll I had “adopted” – her name was Patricia and she was a Cabbage Patch Doll.  I remember asking Santa for everything Cabbage Patch so that I could take care of Patricia in true Cabbage Patch style.  I asked for a swing set, a tea party set and a new dress for her.

A few days before Christmas I was looking for Patricia’s little shoe and for some reason I thought my Mom had kept it.  I looked all around her room but could not find it.  I thought it must be in her shoe closet so I went to her dressing room and of all the things to find – the Cabbage Patch swing set! What was the swing set doing in my Mom’s dressing room?

And that’s when I knew… When did you find out?

He knows if you've been bad or good - so be good for goodness sake!

I’ve made some choux pastry and filled them with a rich hazelnut mousse  in the form of Santa – for  whom this post is dedicated to.  May he always bring out the child in everyone…

Recipe (Adapted from  Balthazar Cookbook)

  • 125 ml milk
  • 125 grams butter
  • 5 grams salt
  • 5 grams sugar
  • 140 grams flour
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
  1. Pre heat the oven to 170c (fan forced)
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, butter, sugar and salt with 1.2 cup water and bring to a boil.  Add the sifted flour and stir with a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined.
  3. Continue stirring over medium heat for around 3 minutes.
  4. Transfer the dough into a bowl of a standing mixer.  Stir at a low speed for a few minutes to lower the temperature of the dough.  Increase the speed to medium and then add the eggs, one at a time.
  5. Mix until a smooth, cool dough forms, about 5 minutes.
  6. Fill a pastry bag, fitted with a # 9 tip, with the dough, or use a spoon to form small puffs, about 3 cm in diameter, and another around 5 cm in diameter on parchment paper or silpat.
  7. Brush the puffs with some beaten egg yolk and transfer to the oven.  Bake for 30 minutes to 40 minutes until golden brown.  Cool the puffs on a wire rack.
  8. To fill, make a hole using the tip of a very small piping nozzle and fill with your choice of filling (hazelnut mousse recipe here).

Red Icing Recipe

  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • a few drops of red food colouring
  1. Mix the icing sugar, milk and red food colouring together and use to dip the baked choux pastry.

Hazelnut Mousse Recipe – see link.

To Assemble

Lay a coloured smaller dough on top of the larged colored dough.  Pipe with some whipped cream using a star nozzle in between the two doughs as if to form a collar.  Top with some more whipped cream to form Santa’s hat.

Santa Choux Pastry

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Spiced Nuts - perfect for those who prefer savoury treats!

I am one of those people who prefer savoury to sweet.  Given a choice between an entree or dessert, I prefer having and entree… or two!  So the next treat in my All They Want for Christmas Series is perfect for people like me!   These Indian-inspired spiced nuts are incredibly addicting.  They are moreish and it is impossible to stop at one.  This recipe was adapted from the Taste website.

Recipe – makes 3 jars (see above)

  • 250 grams of your favorite nuts (I used cashew, almonds, brazil nuts,  almonds, pistachios)
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon peanut oil
  • 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin, ground coriander, garam masala, sweet paprika, ground fennel, ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (fan forced). Combine the nuts with the egg white, oil, cumin, coriander, garam masala, paprika, fennel and turmeric in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Place in a large roasting pan.
  2. Bake in oven, stirring every 5 minutes, for 15 minutes or until nuts are toasted and mixture is aromatic. Add raisins and gently toss to combine. Set aside for 30 minutes to cool to room temperature.

Package in little glass jars

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Stained Glass Christmas Cookies

The idea for these gorgeous Christmas cookies came one day while browsing through Martha Stewart’s website.  When I saw them, I knew I had to bump off one of my other stories to showcase these cookies.  Aren’t they adorable?  Not only that – they are absolutely delicious.  I know because I gave a little box to my sister to give my nephew to take to school.  They looked so cute with the little melted candy in the middle mimicking the “stained glass” that I thought he would love them.  In the middle of the day I received an email from her saying she gave one to Ben (my nephew) and the rest were taken by my brother in law (his father) to work! Talk about these cookies appealing to young and old alike!

Stained Glass Christmas Trees

Recipe (from Martha Stewart)

  • 2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for the worksurface
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 125 grams butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 150 grams assorted hard candies, chopped
  1. Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder into a large bowl and set aside.
  2. In an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and pale and then add the egg and mix until smooth.  Add the vanilla extract and then slowly add the flour mixture, a little at a time.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes.
  3. Roll out the chilled dough to around 3 mm thick and cut out shapes using a Christmas tree shaped cookie cutter.  Transfer the cut outs to a baking tray lined with parchment paper.  Space them around 5 cm apart.
  4. Using the tip of a sharp paring knife, make a triangular cut out and fill with the assorted hard candies.  Chill the dough for 15 minutes.
  5. In the meantime, pre-heat the oven 160 c (fan forced).  Once the dough is chilled, bake for 11 to 15 minutes until the edge are slightly brown.
  6. Let cook completely on sheets on wire racks.

Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 5 days.

To package, I suggest you place the cookies in a plain white box and decorate the top of the box with another cookie.  Otherwise, use a Christmas tree shaped disposable container.

To package, use plain white boxes or Christmas shaped containers

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Happy Holidays!

Surprise!  Happy Holidays!  Do you like it?  The macarons?  The Christmassy look?

My husband and I are terrible at doing Christmas decorations.  In our years together we put up the Christmas tree one year and the next day our dogs had decided that it would be fun to eat the Christmas balls hanging from the tree AND THEN decided that it would be even more fun to tear down the whole tree and that was the end of that!

Another time,  we decided to put up instead a little Christmas train that my Mom brought over from the Philippines.  It was adorable, and almost 25 or so years old.  It was one of those antique trains that played Jingle Bells when you turned it on, it had eight cars with different animals sitting them and they would move up and down like a carousel.  When we turned it on we gave each other a big smile.  It would really be a great Christmas!  Alas, the joy lasted all of 30 seconds because then the train stopped working and a burning smell came from the train’s interior.  We had plugged the train in a 220 volt socket when it was a 110 volt train!


These macarons decided to think outside the box! 🙂

And that was the end of our Christmas decorating story.  Since then, we’ve never decorated our home!  So this year I thought, since we aren’t going to be decorating our house – might as well decorate my blog – that way, dogs can’t chew on it and I can’t plug the blog anywhere and accidentally overload it!  When guests come over and ask where the Christmas decor is, I’ll just pull up my laptop and show them my blog!  A great way to promote my blog eh?!  🙂

The next in my Christmas Series is the Christmas Macaron.  I tried to do something different with the macarons so I used two colours and some of them I experimented and piped them into squares.  To get that two coloured effect, simply pipe using a thinner tip the outer edge and once done, pipe the inner portion using a thicker tip.  I also flavoured these macarons with a white chocolate and mint ganache.


Perfect way to serve macarons in a Christmas party...


  • 125 grams almond meal
  • 150 grams icing sugar (not icing mixture)
  • 100 grams caster sugar
  • 100 grams egg whites (from around 3 eggs)


  1. In a food processor grind the almond meal and icing sugar for around 5 minutes until very finely ground.
  2. Place the egg whites in an electric mixer and whip the whites until soft peaks
  3. Add the sugar, 50 grams at a time while the egg whites are being beaten.
  4. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks.
  5. Fold the ground almond meal mixture into the egg white mixture in three additions until fully amalgamated.
  6. Pipe on to baking trays which have been lined with baking paper. Note: If you are using food colouring, add it now.
  7. Let the macarons dry for around 30 minutes until the “shells” are dry.
  8. Bake in  a pre-heated oven (150c fan forced) for 15 minutes
Final collage 1

Pipe the outer area with one colour and the inner with another

Mint Ganache

  • 110 ml cream
  • 10 grams sugar
  • 30 grams fresh mint leaves
  • 220 grams white chocolate
  1. Place the cream, sugar and mint leaves in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.
  2. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Once cool, place in the refrigerator at least 4 hours to allow the flavours to infuse.
  3. Chop the white chocolate and microwave for around 45 seconds in 15 second intervals
  4. Reheat the cream and strain the cream and place in the bowl of white chocolate.
  5. Allow to cool and place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Final Collage 2To package, use either white paper boxes or Christmas designed disposable containers.  A great idea for when your dogs decide to tear down your Christmas tree and you are left with Christmas ornaments?  Use them for your packaging!

end collage

Wrap with paper boxes or containers

If you like it, please stumble it! 🙂
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Chocolate Cookies with Cranberries and Pistachios

Here’s a confession – I never go Christmas shopping.  Ever.  I do always have good intentions to buy gifts early, wrap them nicely and write a sweet card wishing everyone the best for the Holiday Season… but it never happens.  Usually, my sister will shop for family and friends.  She is ultra organized, actually shops throughout the year places the gifts in a large box  so that come December everyone has a very nice gift from her… and usually from me too as I always ask her to “add my name” to the card she writes… Sometimes, if it’s someone she doesn’t know, at the last minute I’ve been known to panic shop, tell people “close your eyes and put your hands out” and then place an unwrapped gift in their hands.  It’s a bad habit which I intend to break this year.

So, to kick off the Christmas season, I’ve decided to introduce a series called “All They Want For Christmas!”.  The intention is to come up with food ideas for Christmas gifts that I think friends and family would want.

The first recipe in the series I call the Practically Perfect Chocolate Christmas Cookie – it’s a chocolate cookie made with dark lindt chocolate, studded with fruit and nut, in this case, cranberries and pistachios – the two of which I associate with the holiday season.  These cookies are crisp on the outside but maintain that fudge like centre – just the way a perfect cookie should be!


Recipe (makes 15 pieces)

  • 125 grams lindt chocolate, 70% cocoa, chopped
  • 75 grams flour
  • 30 grams dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 50 grams butter
  • 120 grams brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 40 grams unsalted pistachios
  • 40 grams dried cranberries
  1. Melt the chocolate by placing it in a microwave safe bowl and heating the chocolate for around 45 seconds at 15 second intervals.  Allow to cool slightly.
  2. In the meantime, cream the sugar and the butter until pale and then add the egg.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, cocoa powder and baking soda.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the batter, a third at a time.
  5. Next, add the melted chocolate and mix well.
  6. Fold in the cranberries and pistachios and place in the fridge for around 30 minutes.
  7. Preheat the oven to 160c (fan forced) and bake the cookies in batches for around 15 minutes.  Half way through the baking process, remove the cookies from the oven and press them to flatten slightly with a spatula and then return them to the oven.
  8. Allow to cool.

Note: The cookies will last for 3 days in an airtight container.


Package in a paper box or glass jar with a festive ribbon

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The “Affair”

Cuban Style Corn - with mayonnaise, cojita cheese and chili

The first time I fell in love with New York was in December of 2001.  In September of that year, my husband (then my fiancee) left for a two year MBA at the Stern University in New York.  We agreed that we would meet in New York in December.  I was giddy with excitement at the thought of spending Christmas in New York.  What fun!  For the three months prior to my leaving, I daydreamed about ice skating at the Rockefeller Center,  walking hand in hand  around Central Park, making a snowman for the very first time, the BIG after Christmas sales and of course, the BIG BIG reunion after being apart for what seemed like an eternity!

I touched down at the JFK early on a Friday morning and was met by my fiancee.  It was the perfect “airport reunion” scene – you know the one where the guy is standing at the arrivals section holding a dozen roses.  There were tears (mine), hugs (his) and kisses(ours!) and it was all very romantic.  Of course a great start to my dream Christmas holiday.

Of course, things don’t always go as planned.

We headed back to his flat and he told me that he had would skip his 9 am class to spend time with me.  I was tired and wanted to take a shower and a short nap so I told him to go to his class and we would catch up around mid-day.

After my quick nap, with nothing better to do, I wandered around his room and there it was – on his study table… his cel phone.  He had left it.

I know,  I know… I shouldn’t have.  But I picked it up and went through his messages.  First the inbox – one message – from Samantha*.  DINNER ON SATURDAY.  IVE BOOKED FOR 7 PM.  First, this took me completely by surprise.  I sat down and couldn’t breathe.  Then, I was furious.  I wanted to get out of the flat – I didn’t want to be around when he came back for fear of what I would say, or do.  Imagine, waiting for this moment for over three months, traveling over  20 hours to see him and then I see a message from Samantha?

I left his flat.

I wandered around the streets of New York for three hours.   I was tired, angry, and betrayed.  I was also cold and hungry.

Then I saw a little hole in the wall restaurant that had people lining up around the front counter.   I could smell the aroma of grilled corn and it was intoxicating.  Even in my sadness I knew I had to eat something and if people were queuing despite the cold weather, it must be worth trying!

It turns out, everyone was waiting to order the grilled corn, Cuban style.  Dare I say it made me forget my sadness, even for those five minutes?  When you try it, you will understand why.  Sweet corn, perfectly grilled, slathered with mayonnaise and then sprinkled with Cotija, an aged cheese , chili powder and finished with a dash of fresh lime.  The flavour sensations were amazing.

Grilled corn with mayonnaise, chili powder, cotija cheese and a dash of lime

Grilled corn with mayonnaise, chili powder, cotija cheese and a dash of lime

I went back to his flat, prepared to fly back home.  When I got back, he was frantically pacing the front of the building.  “What happened to you!? Where did you go?!?” he screamed at me.  “You left your phone, I read a text from Samantha”  I replied.

He started laughing at me.  He explained that Sam was his classmate from MBA.  She also worked part time at Balthazar and because it was notoriously difficult to make a booking on a Saturday night with such short notice, she pulled a few strings and got a table for him and me on Saturday.  Then, I started laughing with him.

The holiday was back on!

Recipe from Cuban Style Grilled Corn Inspired from Cafe Habana

Serves 2

  • 2 ears of corn, husks removed
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup grated cotija cheese (can be substituted with grated parmesan cheese)
  • pinch of chili powder (depending on how hot you like it)
  • lime wedges
  1. Grill the corn over a barbecue or a hot grill until slightly charred
  2. Slather with mayonnaise
  3. Top with the cheese and chili powder
  4. Finish with a dash of lime


*Note – names have been changed to protect the innocent.

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