Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Crunchy Chewy Cornflakes Cookies

Crunchy Chewy Cornflakes Cookies - speaking of alliteration and an oxymoron within the same cookie! As the name implies, this fabulous cookie is full of mouthwatering contrasts. At once sweet and salty, it is soft and chewy on the inside, crisp and crunchy on the outside - what's not to love?

I am not really into cereal with milk in the morning, but dunking this baby in a glass of cold fresh milk is a whole different story. I had my first ever cornflakes cookie earlier this winter in a cafe in Toronto and was hooked on making them ever since. Little did I know that cornflakes cookies have been around since 1970s. In today's world, thanks to our ever growing variety of flours and sugars, every home cook can play with different combinations to suit their dietary preferences and create their desired results. So play around and even get your kids into it!
The below recipe includes coconut flour and cornstarch to produce incredibly crumbly and tender cookies, so if you are after a more crunchy bite, feel free to substitute coconut flour with a half cup of plain flour or bread flour and leave out the cornstarch. Longer baking time will also produce a crunchier cookie. Additionally, you can sub brown sugar for white sugar for a more blond, less chewy version of the same cookie. Add a pinch of coarse sea salt for that extra crunch and contrasting savoriness. You can even experiment with mixing several kinds of cereals like rice cereals!

Now, get baking, and get ready to curl up with a glass of milk and a book!
What you'll need... (makes 24 3-inch cookies, minus all the dough I nibbled) 
Dry ingredients:
1 cup plain flour
3/4 cup coconut flour
1 cup + 1 cup cornflakes, lightly crushed by hand
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of coarse sea salt

Wet ingredients:
7/8 cup (200g) butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 190C/375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

2. In a mixing bowl sieve together the flours, cornstarch and baking soda. Mix in salts and 1 cup of cornflakes.

3. In a separate bowl, use electric beaters to beat the butter and sugars until creamy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Pour this wet mixture into the flour mixture and fold to combine.

4. Place the remaining cornflakes in a bowl. Spoon slightly heaped tablespoonfuls of the cookie dough into the cornflakes. Toss gently in the cornflakes to coat and form balls.

5. Drop the dough balls onto the parchment lined baking sheet, spacing at least 2 inches apart. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden. For best results let the cookies cool for 10 minutes before attacking. Repeat this step until you are out of dough.

Note: Just like cereal in milk, once mixed into the dough the cornflakes can quickly go soggy. If you enjoy working slow in the kitchen (like me), or have a small oven that can only handle a half dozen of cookies at a time (like me), reserve more cornflakes to be used as sprinkles instead of mixing into the dough in step 2.

材料(約 24 個 3 吋 曲奇):
低筋麵粉  125 克
純椰子粉  85 克 (可用 60 克 低筋麵粉取替)
玉米片  60 克(分半,並用手輕輕壓碎)
粟粉  2 茶匙
蘇打粉  1/2 茶匙
幼鹽  3/4 茶匙
海鹽  少量

牛油  200 克 (室溫)
紅糖  220 克
砂糖  50 克
香草精  1 茶匙
雞蛋  2 隻

1. 預熱焗爐至 190C / 375F。
2. 麵粉、粟粉、蘇打粉過篩,拌入幼鹽、海鹽和一半玉米片備用。
3. 牛油、砂糖、紅糖用攪拌機打至綿滑,拌入雞蛋及香草精。
4. 將以上濕和乾成份混合均勻。注意別過分攪拌。
5. 將剩餘的玉米碎片置於碗子內。
6. 把麵團揉成圓球狀,再沾上玉米碎片,然後排放在鋪了烘培紙的焗盤上。注意每球分隔約 2 吋讓其有充足空間擴大。
7. 放入焗爐焗約 12-15 分鐘至金黃色。略涼約 10 分鐘後可馬上享用!

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Sunday, August 7, 2016

Orecchiette with Eggplant and Italian Sausage | 意式肉腸茄子貓耳朵麵

Summer in Rome conjures up images of red-checkered tables and chairs spilling onto the sidewalk, of food lovers dining and drinking well into the evening, of lively farmers markets carrying the bounty of Italy's growing season - all alongside imposing ruins of Ancient Rome.

A stroll through the compact yet complete Circus Maximus Farmers Market will take you on a culinary journey through the sights and smells of an Italian summer. Emerald green zucchini, deep purple aubergines and bursting red, candy-sweet tomatoes of all shapes and sizes meet the pungent aroma of cured meats and fresh made stracciatella di bufala. Ristorantes and trattorias around town offer up seasonal specials, showcasing the freshest of local, in-season ingredients.

Interestingly, I have not always had the same appreciation for Italian cuisine. In my early years of travel I have had my fair share of dismal Italian food, falling victim for obvious tourist traps that were more concerned about turning over tables than food. I was confounded, disappointed, my experience once so marred by droopy, soggy, skimpy pizza that I left questioning what Italian food was.

Falling in love with Trastevere, Rome [Summer 2016]

It wasn't until recently as my passion and curiosity for cooking grew that I started understanding and truly appreciating the essence of great italian food: simplicity, highlighted by the freshest, seasonal ingredients.

Over the years I trailed off the beaten path, exploring the nooks and crannies of Rome and beyond, tasting local treats and regional dishes along the way. My discoveries are as ground-breaking as they are elemental. Whether it is tagliatelle amatriciana, a classic pizza margherita, or a simple antipasto of burratina affumicata, the connection is clear: all you need is a few good ingredients to make an amazing dish.

Call me crazy - never had it occurred to me before just how much tomatoes themselves contribute to the actual flavor of a tomato sauce until my last pizza in Rome - it was a transcendental moment. I was positively enlightened. Perhaps possessed. You get the idea.

Below is my take on a simple pasta dish I had as I explored Italy: Orecchiette con Melanzane e Salsiccia. Little bite-sized orecchiette (literally "small ears" in Italian) makes a wonderful vehicle to hold the chunky sauce, although any kind of pasta will do. The tomato sauce can be made in large batches ahead of time and frozen for later use; recipe as follows:

Classic Homemade Tomato Sauce | Sugo al Pomodoro

What you'll need...
200g orecchiette
2 sweet Italian sausage with fennel, casing removed
1 small eggplant, diced into bite-sized cubes
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Classic Homemade Tomato Sauce
Grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese, for garnish

1. Toss eggplant with one teaspoon of salt and drain for a few minutes on paper towel. Bring a salted pot of water to boil, cook pasta till al dente. Drain, reserving a small amount of pasta water.

2. Heat oil in a skillet over medium low heat, add sausage. Crumble the sausage and cook until beginning to brown. Pat the moisture off the eggplant and add to the sausage. Cook to soften, partially covered, about 6 minutes.

3. Add homemade tomato sauce and cherry tomatoes, stir to combine and cook till heated through. Add some pasta water if necessary.

4. Stir in cooked orecchiette and season to taste with salt and pepper. Plate and top with grated cheese. Buon appetito!

貓耳朵麵  200 克
意式肉腸  2 條 除去腸衣
茄子  1 小個
車厘茄  8 個 切半
初榨橄欖油   1 湯匙
芝士  隨個人喜好

1. 茄子切成小丁,撒上 1 茶匙鹽拌勻出水。
2. 滾水裡加鹽及意粉,煮至彈牙撈起備用。可保留少量意粉水備用。
3. 橄欖油用中慢火燒熱,加入意式肉腸,用鏟剁碎並煎至呈金黃色。
4. 茄子用吸水紙印乾,加入平鍋跟肉腸一起煮至軟身,約 6 分鐘。
5. 加入自家製意式番茄醬和車厘茄拌勻,有需要的話可加少量意粉水。
6. 番茄醬滾後拌入貓耳朵麵,拌勻再作調味關火即成。
7. 上碟後隨意撒上芝士,再配上一杯白酒,好好品嚐!

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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Classic Homemade Tomato Sauce | 自家製意式番茄醬

Supermarkets these days stock an aisle full of pasta sauces, and tomato sauces alone - with the myriad of brands and permutations - make up the bulk of these often overpriced commercial products. Tomato sauces are infinitely useful in Italian home cooking, but before you head down to your grocers to grab a jar of that stuff next time, consider making your own!

In Italy most home cooks would swear by using fresh, summer tomatoes for their sauce, but if you live in a place where tomatoes are consistently bland and overpriced like I do, go for a tin of whole plum tomatoes or chopped tomatoes for a money- and time-saving short cut.

Me frolicking in every home cook's wonderland: Borough Market, London

Heirloom tomato galore at Borough Market, London
A great tomato sauce should be able to stand on its own without much adornment and excessive seasoning, as some purists may say. No herbs, no onions, no vinegar, no wine; just sugar, salt, olive oil, and tomatoes. Pure tomatoey goodness. But if you are like me who loves full-on flavor, experiment with different seasonings and create your own flavor profile!  

Homemade tomato sauce is simple and quick, and it freezes well. So make a big batch ahead of time and you will always have some ready when you need some. Here is my own go-to recipe. I sometimes throw in a squirt of  ketchup for a sweeter, more Japanese-style tomato sauce (ready for a Purist onslaught). Try it out and it might just surprise you. I often finish my sauce with some fresh cherry tomatoes for some extra chunkiness.

Create other dishes using this tomato sauce:
Grilled Eggplant Parmesan
Orecchiette with Eggplant and Italian Sausage

Make homemade tomato sauce from fresh whole tomatoes or the canned variety for ease

What you'll need...
1 tin (800 g / 28 oz) chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves 
Fresh or dried herbs to taste (eg. sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano)
2 stems of fresh basil, thyme, or rosemary
Salt and pepper, to taste
Sugar, to taste
6-8 cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)
2 teaspoons tomato paste (optional)
1. Heat oil in a large saucepan on medium-low heat, add chopped onions and cook until translucent and tender. Stir in garlic, red pepper flakes, and any dried herbs and cook for another two minutes until fragrant.

2. Tip in the tomatoes, bay leaves, salt and pepper, bring to a slow boil then reduce heat and let simmer, uncovered, for 20 min, stirring occasionally, until sauce is reduced.

3. Stir in cherry tomatoes (if using) and add stem of basil or other fresh herbs and submerge in sauce for another 10 minutes. Test the sauce and add sugar to cut the acidity. Season to taste with tomato paste if desired.

4. When finished, discard bay leaves and stem of basil. Enjoy the sauce as is with your favorite pasta or use it in a variety of dishes!

Note: Use a immersion blender to puree the sauce for a smoother sauce; otherwise, leave it chunky! Keep refrigerated for up to one week, or keep separate batches in freezer for later use.

Flavor and texture is derived from reducing the sauce


番茄  1 罐 (800 克)
初榨橄欖油  1 1/2 湯匙
蒜頭  4 瓣  (切碎)
洋蔥  1 小個  (切碎)
乾辣椒碎  適量
各種香草  隨意  (乾或新鮮)
月桂葉  2 片
新鮮羅勒葉 、百里香、或迷迭香  2  枝
黑胡椒  適量
砂糖  適量
車厘  6-8 個  切半(可免)
番茄膏  2 茶匙(可免)

1. 橄欖油用中慢火燒熱,下洋蔥煮至軟身。
2. 加入蒜、乾辣椒碎、及任何乾香草,多煮約兩分鐘。
3. 加入罐裝番茄、月桂葉、鹽和黑胡椒並拌勻,待滾後轉慢火煮約 20 分鐘。
4. 加入已切好的小番茄和整枝羅勒葉,繼續煮約 10 分鐘至完全收水。
5. 試味。如番茄醬偏酸,可加糖調整。
6. 可隨個人喜好加入番茄膏調味。
7. 把羅勒和月桂葉拔掉並扔掉即成!可隨意炮製各式各樣的意大利菜式!


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