I... have a photo of a fish on my blog. I'm still getting used to it.
It was already the third day into spring when I decided I had to have a spring themed menu for my blog because I think we can all pretty much agree upon the fact that Spring is the prettiest season of the year! Flowers come out in full bloom, the produce is beautiful and vibrant, fruits wonderfully plump, everything seems more fresh and light, the weather a perfect cool, people even seem happier and best of all; colours all around again.
I am aware this does not apply to Singapore; As I typed that entire chunk of words, I was just picturing the days when I witnessed all the trees along Jardin Tuileries in Paris all green again, rustling in the wind.
Spring brings life and new opportunities. I feel refreshed, energized and clearly inspired because this is going to be a post consisting of three spring recipes I came up with. A simple and light milk fish en papillote, rosemary tartlettes of pistachio frangipane cream, strawberries and pistachio crumble, as well as a tasty but oh so refreshing fennel, parsnip and apple soup to warm your soul.
Did I also mention that this is the week I start my first class at Shermay's cooking school? I am nervous as hell but we'll see how that goes. I'm not a great cook honestly speaking. If you compare between what I do with flour, butter, eggs and sugar, and the most prime piece of beef or the most exotic seafood. In fact, I'm awful at cooking meats and especially seafood. Throw in those foreign and complicated techniques and ways to cook et cetera et cetera et cetera and I'm left bemused. What I do know how to do is taking the freshest ingredients, my creativity, and possibly the easiest and most standard methods of cooking et voilà! We have something clean, simple, healthy and yet tasty.
En Papillote basically means food cooked in paper. It's possibly the simplest and most foolproof way of cooking fish or any kinds of seafood for me really. It's always perfectly cooked, tender and still juicy because everything is retained in that paper. I know, I'm a cheater. Lemons, calamansi, potatoes, fennel, spring onions, parsley, dill, good olive oil, salt and pepper went into that parcel. 20 minutes and my first spring lunch was served!
When I saw the first good strawberries of Spring at the supermarket, I jumped at it. They were of a vibrant red and sure enough, sweet as hell. Then I got a sprig of rosemary for mummy's haloumi cheese and I thought, why not a pâte sucrée with fresh rosemary inside? I always liked and played with the idea of using herbs in my desserts and with these rustic tartlettes, I saw no issue with added undertones of a fragrant earthiness.
We couldn't finish all that fish. What I've learnt whilst settling home cooked meals in Paris is that, I couldn't afford to throw out any leftovers I had or I would have been even more broke than I already was. So survival skills kicked in and I would always end up creating something new and delicious but with what I already had on hand and well, leftovers. Same applied for that milk fish. I made a lovely fennel and leek broth, a splash of stock and coconut milk (which by the way works so so well with fennel and 10x better and lighter than cream), sautéed up some diced parsnips and mixed them in. To serve, I garnished with my leftover milk fish, some olive oil, pepper, micro-greens and radish sprouts and diced granny smiths for texture, acidity and freshness. Everyone loved it.
I sincerely hope you'll enjoy these small savoury plates of spring.
Milk Fish en Papillote:
milk fish (or any of your favourite)
spring onions - 2 no.
lemon - 4 slices
parsley - 2 sprigs
dill - 1 sprig
potato (sliced thinly) - 1 no.
fennel (sliced thinly) - 1/4 bulb
good olive oil
Preheat your oven to 180C with ventilation.
Using a kitchen string, tie the herbs and spring onion securely around the lower half of the fish.
Season the inside of the fish with olive oil, salt and pepper. Stuff in the potatoes, fennel and 2 lemon slices. Lay the rest of the sliced lemon on top of the fish and drizzle with more olive oil and a good sprinkle of salt and pepper.
Wrap the fish securely within greaseproof paper or aluminium foil and secure the ends and top well to make sure the steam doesn't not escape.
Bake for 15-20 minutes depending on the size of your fish and serve hot on the paper itself.
Fennel, Leek, Parsnip & Apple Soup:
fennel - 3/4 bulb
leeks (sliced) - 1 no.
garlic (finely chopped) - 1 no.
parsnips (diced) - 1 no.
white wine - 1/2 cup
vegetable stock - slightly more than 1 cup
coconut milk - 1 cup
flour - 1 tbsp
water - 3 tbsp
salt & pepper
small dices of granny smiths
micro-greens/radish sprouts (optional)
In a saucepan, heat up some olive oil and add in the fennel, leeks and garlic and sauté for about 4 minutes on medium high heat till tender. Do not let it brown.
Add in the white wine and cook till the liquid has reduced and you don't smell the alcohol anymore.
Add in the vegetable stock and coconut milk and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat and leave to simmer for 10 minutes.
While simmering, sauté your parsnips in a separate frying pan till lightly caramelized. Leave to cool.
Using an immersion blender, blend the soup as much as you can and strain out the fibres of the vegetables. Using a muslin cloth, squeeze out the liquid left in the fibres.
Bring the soup back to a boil and season with salt and pepper. Mix the flour with the water well and pour it into the soup to thicken it slightly. You should have a silky smooth fennel and leek broth.
Add in your previously sautéed parsnips and stir well to distribute evenly.
To serve, ladle in the soup and garnish with your leftover fish, cubed apples, a drizzle of good olive oil, some pepper and your micro-greens/radish sprouts. Serve warm with bread.
Rosemary Tartlettes of Strawberries, Blueberries & Pistachio
For the Pistachio Crumble:
flour – 1 cup
brown sugar – 1 cup
rolled oats – 3/4 cups
cold butter – 160g
ground cinnamon – 1 teaspoon
ground nutmeg – 1/2 teaspoon
ground four spices – 1/4 teaspoon
salt – a pinch
pistachios (roughly chopped) - 1/2 cup
For the Rosemary Pâte Sucrée:
butter (softened) – 150g
icing sugar – 100g
eggs – 60g
almond powder – 25g
flour – 250g
baking powder – 5g
rosemary (finely chopped) - 2 sprigs
For the Pistachio Frangipane Cream:
butter (softened) - 100g
sugar - 100g
ground almonds - 34g
pistachio paste - 100g
eggs - 80g
flour - 20g
kirsch - 14g
vanilla bean paste - 2g
For the crumble, combine all the dry ingredients together except for the pistachios. Add in the butter and break them into small pieces with your fingers. Toss the mixture about till you get a breadcrumb consistency with small lumps of butter. Add in the chopped pistachios and toss till combined. Set aside while you prepare the sweet rosemary dough.
Mix the butter and icing sugar together until well blended. Add in the eggs slowly, mixing well between each addition until smooth and emulsified.
Add in the dry ingredients and chopped rosemary and mix until just combined.
Form a ball and pat down, cling film it and let it rest in the fridge till it’s hard enough to work with the dough.
Roll the dough to a thickness of 3.5mm and line your tart molds. Prick the base with a fork and leave to chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
Prepare the pistachio frangipane cream by mixing the butter, sugar and pistachio paste till well combined. Add in the ground almonds and cream together.
Add in the eggs one by one and beat the mixture till pale and fluffy.
Sift in the flour and mix on low till just homogeneous.
Add in the vanilla and kirsch and fold using a spatula till just mixed well.
Leave in the fridge to firm up slightly.
Preheat your oven to 180C with ventilation and blind bake the tarts shells for about 10 minutes or until slightly brown. Remove and pipe in the pistachio frangipane cream till halfway up the tart shells.
Layer on your sliced strawberries and blueberries and cover with the crumble you made earlier on.
Bake for an additional 15 - 20 minutes till golden brown, the frangipane cream cooked through and the juices from the berries are bubbling slightly. Leave to cool for about 15 minutes.
Unmold, dust some icing sugar on top and serve warm with a scoop of your favourite ice-cream.