[Gallery] Les Jardins

It’s been some time since our last post because I have been thinking about how to make the blog a little more interesting and personal. I did not want it to be like most of the other food blogs because 1) I’m usually not the one cooking and Wayne cooks in such a  laissez faire manner, it’s not easy for me to blog about the process and 2) cooking and baking are fun, but I find myself always looking forward to the process of photographing the final product and actually spend more effort on it than the cooking itself!

Recently, my interest in foodstyling and food photography have been growing with inspiration from some amazing food magazines, blogs and instagram accounts. I’ve long wanted to take photos of better quality and with more interesting composition but found the quality of the cameras I had rather limiting.

Couple of days back, Wayne finally bought a new DSLR and we’ve been having so much fun with it! For future posts, we’re hoping to showcase more thematic food photos and I hope to experiment with more interesting attempts at food styling.

Some days back, we came home to a sweet surprise at our doorstep from my dear girlfriend, Jia, who just returned from Paris.

A delectable selection of vibrantly colored macarons nestled in a lovely purple box.

2013 Les Jardins Pierre Hermé

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Couldn’t tell you how excited I was, but I had to try so hard to convince myself (and Wayne) not to eat them till I take some lovely photos.

Spent whatever free time I had the next day thinking about how I’d style the shoot. Had such a tough time deciding on the flowers to buy to complement the macarons and this beautiful rustic bunch just stood out. Colorful and full of character but doesn’t steal the show. Perfect!

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Here’s our first (and very amateurish) shot at food photography!

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(the set-up)

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“She was sitting in a garden more beautiful than even her rampaging imagination could ever have conjured up, and she was being serenaded by trees.” ― Lynn Kurland, Spellweaver

[Quick Fix] Blueberry Chocolate Pancakes

Yes, yes, I’m a sweet tooth. And my best bet is chocolate!

Found plain pancakes a little… too plain. So I decided to throw some blueberries and chocolate into the mix.

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I prepared the blueberry pancakes and chocolate pancakes separately because the decision to make the chocolate pancakes was a last minute one.

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Here’s my $1 chocolate from Ikea again! We bought about half a doz of them previously hurhur…

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And when they are done, just stack the blueberry pancakes and chocolate pancakes alternately, slather on some butter, squish tons of golden syrup on top and scatter more blueberries and chocolates all over!

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A sweet treat (with chocolate) is good at anytime, especially for breakfast!

And it takes about the same effort as making a plain pancake!

[Quick Fix] Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

Had a tough time deciding if I should categorise this under Sweet Treat or under Quick Fix, because it’s both, really!

We received a box of lovely lovely long-stemed strawberries from my mother-in-law (MIL, for future entries) over the weekends and while munching on it during tea time today, I realised they are just PERFECT for dipping!

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It costs about $18 for 500g of strawberries, but they taste really great. Crunchy, sweet, slight tartness, and really fleshy.

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I used dark chocolate from IKEA which costs less than $1 a bar and tastes so good when melted (I’ll probably do another post on the awesome stuff you can get at IKEA because there are just so many hidden treasures!).

 

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I felt this odd sense of tranquility when I was stirring the chocolate over the hot water bath. It’s unbelievably therapeutic.

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Before dipping, I kept the washed strawberries in the fridge and brought them out just before dipping so that the chocolate can set quicker due to the temperature difference.

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The whole process was so quick and easy, it took barely 15 mins, I guess? I was enjoying the process so much I forgot to check the time!

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After popping the nicely dipped strawberries into the fridge and waiting for it to set, what do you do with excess melted chocolate?

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Pray hard you have chilled bananas at home!

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And to thank the lovely MIL who has always been providing us with our weekly dose of anti-oxidents, we’re gonna leave these as a little surprise for her when she visits!

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If you have some strawberries and chocolates at home (some extra bananas will be even better), go prepare a warm water bath and start melting away!

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[Cakes & Bakes] Banana Walnut Loaf

In case I’ve not confessed on the blog yet, I don’t cook all the lovely food you see on my Instagram – Wayne does.

So what do I do, besides eating and taking photos? I bake! Because I’m more of a sweet tooth compared to Wayne and I lurveeee a good after-meal treat 🙂 In case you’re interested, some snapshots of my very amateurish baking can be found on Instagram at #poppybake.

Recently, I’ve grown to like baking loaves. I first started with a Blackberry Lemon Yogurt Loaf and I was hooked by how easy it was to make, the heavenly aroma that flooded our kitchen when it was baking and how surprisingly nice it tastes! That, being the first time I make a loaf cake.

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So I decided to make one today for my family’s Fathers’ Day gathering at our house!

Found this recipe on Foodnetwork.com and it looks really quick and easy! I had less than 2 hours to spare so the prep time seemed perfect.

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The butter-sugar -vanilla-egg-banana mixture may seem a little runny when you’re first done with incorporating them, but after you fold in the flour mix and walnuts, the texture will turn into something that resembles more of a cake mix (as below). So don’t be taken aback when you first pop your mixing bowl out of the mixer!

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Alway remember the all important step of giving the loaf tin a good butter-up and it’ll make removing the loaf a whole lot easier 🙂 And don’t forget to rap the baking tin to remove the air bubbles!

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After my experience with the Blackberry Loaf, I’ve found that baking the loaf on the middle rack may brown the crust of the loaf a little too fast. Hence, I’ve decided to bake on the lowest rack instead, to allow enough time for the inside of the cake to cook thoroughly before the crust browns. And I’ll rotate the tin every 10 mins or so to let the heat even out.

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I love the cracks on the loaves because they are unique and gives them character – no 2 loaves look the same!

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I let it cool in the tin for an hour and on the rack for another hour before serving. You can even keep it in the fridge, cling-wrapped, and enjoy it for breakfast!

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My sister-in-law who adores banana cakes gave it a thumbs up! Except that she ate one of the “end” slices so she found the crust area a little too dry. I’m trying to find a way to solve that too and keep my cake more moist without loosing the flavor. Let me know if you have any tips!

I was intending to make a plain banana cake at first, but glad I threw in the walnuts because the contrast in the texture makes the cake a whole lot more interesting 🙂

Such an easy recipe, I’m sure you’ll be able to do it too! Go give it a shot! 😉

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[Quick Fix] Curry Chicken

Curry Chicken is one comfort food that brings back lovely childhood memories.

Wayne and I always argue about who’s granny cooks curry better, mine or his. We figured, it’s really not about the taste, but the childhood memories that the aroma of curry brings. So I bet YOUR granny cooks the best curry too 🙂

We got a little tired of the usual stuff we’ve been cooking so we decided to experiment with cooking curry. But unlike our grannies, we decided to cheat a little and use Prima Taste’s curry mix :p

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Well, it’s the first time we’re attempting curry so we didn’t want to intimidate ourselves with the experience!

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Basically, we just prepared the additional items – Chicken and Potatoes – and followed the instructions on the package.

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And Mr Cook-Too-Much poured 2 packs of the mix into the pot instead of one and increased the water required correspondingly. But we did not increase the other ingredients.

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And we found that the amount of gravy is just nice for 4 chicken drumsticks, 1 pack of 6 wings (mid section) and 5 potatoes.

Of course, that will be too much for 2 people to finish in one sitting -_-

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But it so happened, that we had a couple of special guests turning up for dinner that day, totally out of the blue!

The amount of curry was just nice for the 4 of us, with a little left over, and everyone found it really tasty!

The only imperfection is that the curry had a slightly powdery texture (though not very obvious), probably because the coconut came in powder form. If you’re particular, you can try doing without the powder coconut that comes with the packet and use the coconut milk that comes in a small carton instead.

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Given the very little effort it took and the great satisfaction that came with the meal, we’ll definitely try it again!

Showed my parents the photo and they were impressed even without trying it.

Even if you don’t really cook, we’re pretty sure you can do it too!

[Celebrity Chef Inspired] Heston’s Perfect Roast Chicken

The last time we tried roasting a chicken was probably close to 2 years ago. And when we caught a recent episode of Heston cooking this perfect roast chicken with juice glistening below the crispy brown skin, we were sold to try roast chicken again.

We didn’t want to finish the whole chicken by ourselves so the perfect opportunity came on Mothers’ Day where we volunteered to cook for the family.

The preparation time was a little long, but definitely worth it!

The main step here is the very first step – brining.

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Heston advised 60g of salt for 1 liter of water, but we wanted to fully submerge the chicken so we added another 500ml of water and adjusted the salt content accordingly.

Basically, if the proportion of water to salt is right, the moisture will be nicely retained in the chicken. A friend of ours tried it for smaller chicken parts too like drumstick or thigh and it works too!

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The chicken is then left in the fridge overnight.

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 About 3 hrs before dinner, we brought the chicken out to prep.

Before seasoning the chix, we stuffed a lemon into the, erm, cavity. If you have fresh herbs on hand, rosemary or thyme will go really well too.

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A pity our non-green fingers had recently caused the death of another rosemary pot, so we made do with dried herbs instead.

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We mixed the herbs and seasoning with butter.

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And slather, slather, slather!

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Then off the bird goes, into the oven at an abnormally low heat of 90 degrees C.

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Aft 1.5 hrs, the chicken still looks barely cooked, and we’re suppose to let it rest out of the oven for another 45 mins.

This cooking method is really not for the impatient.

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After resting, the final step is to brush some butter on the chicken and send it back into the oven at it’s highest temperature for 10 mins. This step give colour to the chicken and it’ll look beautiful and taste really yummy!!

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The skin was not extremely crispy, just nicely browned, but the juice that was retained in the chicken made the effort and time spent really worth it.

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Too bad we were in so distracted by all the hustle of serving dinner that we forgot to take a photo of the first cut of the chicken.

Managed to take a quick shot of the portion on my plate before I gobbled it down. Check out the evidence of moisture glistering on the flesh 🙂

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We’ll definitely try it again when we have another gathering!

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[Foodie Events] Savour 2013

We’ve been talking about it for a whole month since we grabbed a copy of the Savour pamphlet, but only bought our tickets 2 days short of the event because it was so hard to decide which day to go for!

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Finally decided on the Sunday slot to end off our weekend beautifully 🙂

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It was a gloomy Sunday morning because it had been raining since early morning. The organisers were nice enough to have ponchos on hand for us, but rain or shine, nothing comes between foodies and their food!

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We arrived at event around 11.20 and went straight for the first Master Class with Chef Andre Chiang.

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He whipped up 3 dishes featuring ingredients found in the rainforest of West Kalimantan. Very uncommon ingredients, lightly processed, but plated in very interesting manner.

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One cooking tip we picked up from his masterclass – to prevent diluting the flavour of the ingredients that you’re using (especially vegetables or fruits), do not boil the ingredients in water directly as the juice from the ingredients will be lost (unless you’re trying to make soup). Either let them cook in their own juice or boil them while keeping them in a vacuumed plastic pack.

And he uses this lovely herb box! No wonder is food turns out like art pieces 🙂

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We proceeded out excitingly to the Gourmet Village where all the yummy food awaits.

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And our first stop – Gunther’s

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Cold Angel Hair Pasta, Gunther’s – $18 

Angel Hair done just right, flavoured with truffle and topped with Oscietra Caviar.  I think there’s only one way to describe it – Decadence in a cup. Of course, the price reflected that as well.

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Happy indeed! In spite of the drizzle 🙂 It just made us feel like we’re in London again.

And speaking of London…

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Slow-cooked Angus Ox Cheek Braised in Burgundy, Horseradish & Potato Purée, Roasted Carrots & Bone Marrow Crumb, Pollen Street Social – $14

My absolute favourite dish amongst those that we tried that day! The ox cheek was cooked sooooo soft and tender, you can easily pry the meat apart with a plastic fork. And the flavour is really intense, but you don’t feel overwhelmed by the dish because the flavours are nicely balanced and the tinge of tartness cuts the intensity and makes you want to eat more. The bone marrow crumbs also added another layer of texture to the dish.

Seriously, the dish made me fall in love with Chef Jason Atherton immediately (not to mention, he’s cute too).

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I need to get us into Pollen Street Social when we visit London in Sept!

Before we even managed to get ourselves a drink, we were back in the Gourmet Auditorium for another Masterclass. This time with Chef Daniel Chavez.

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They provided insights on how they ensure that the best and freshest seafood are served at their restaurant and an interesting tip to keep fresh fishes, well, fresh for the next 3-5 days. Basically, stuff a clean paper in the fish after cleaning out its innards and replace two to three times daily so fish stays fresher longer. And don’t remove the scales until you’re ready to cook it.

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And we got to test this yummy appetizer which they demonstrated and they were kind enough to provide the recipe for it!

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Another really amazing thing about Savour, is the free Nespresso! Really enjoyed them 🙂

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Next up, we tried to settle our Foie Gras craving.

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Le Foie Gras, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon – $14

Lovely and creamy, but I personally prefer pan-seared ones 🙂

And we were on our way back to the auditorium once again for the last Master class with Chef Gunther!

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Featuring live lobster and involuntary squeals from some of the ladies.

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Tying the lobster this way helps the lobster to cook more evenly because the folds between the segments of the tail are usually not properly cooked when its curled up.

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And that’s gluttony me rushing to the front of the crowd to try the dish.

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Then we’re back for more food (really, I could do this for daysssss)!

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No review of the food because we were rushing through the mouthfuls to try as many item as we can before the gourmet village closes to prepare for dinner. But the Classic English Strawberry Trifle Scented with Rose Petal by Chef Anthony Demetre was absolutely memorable because it was unique, gorgeous and really tasty!

Wrapped up the Savour experience with some cheese and caviar from the gourmet market (yes, they served as perishable souvenirs).

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Savour 2014 – I’m definitely coming!