The Sweet Spot

Pastry Chef & Traveler

Posts Tagged ‘Cooking’

Balsamic Chicken Salad with Figs, Portobello and Candied Pecans

I am feeling rather uninspired lately and procrastination has been my second name since I came back from Europe.

I’m not kidding, I have this above sentence typed out, but left blank for the next 20 minutes. And the next 2 hours. and maybe saved for a day, or two..

I feel this space needs a little facelift but it’s so hard to pick out one template that I can use for a long time :/

Anyway.fig balsamic chicken

Here’s a quick fuss-free dinner salad made with chicken, figs and portobello mushroom. Feel free to add or substitute as you wish. If you don’t have figs, I think pear would work nice too. If you don’t have pecans, walnuts would be a good substitute. If you don’t have portobello mushroom, regular white or swiss brown mushrooms would be fine. If you prefer arugula to spinach, then toss with that instead. No rules, just some simple and delicious.

black figs

So I’m using these Black mission figs. Figs are a good source of dietary fiber, high in Vitamin B6 and rich in potassium(80% higher than bananas). Dried figs are available throughout the year but fresh figs have an incredible flavour, although really, they don’t last long.  They are versatile in sweet or savoury dishes or even as a stand alone snack. They are mostly available in Malaysia from August to October (not grown here, but imported in)

roast chicken portobello figs salad

So for this dish, I did a google on the ingredients I have at home and made a little changes and et, voila. A relatively complete meal packed with flavours is ready. The recipe is adapted Davida from The Healthy Maven. It’s a simple recipe, that do not require any stove top cooking. So you can literally leave the chicken and mushroom to bake in the oven and proceed to prepare the dressing and figs. Make sure to not over cook the chicken as it is afterall a piece of lean meat with no fat, so it can be dry if you over cook it.

Balsamic Chicken Salad with Figs, Portobello and Candied Pecans
Serves: 2
For the pecans:
  • ½ cup raw pecans
  • 1 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
For the chicken:
  • 1 chicken breasts, boneless & skinless
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp grapeseed / olive oil
  • ½ tsp Dijon mustard (I used wholegrain mustard)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Salt and pepper to season
For the salad:
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 2 fresh black mission figs, sliced
  • 1 portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • ¼ cup blue cheese / gorgonzola, crumbled
For the dressing:
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil / grapeseed
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • ½ tsp Dijon mustard (I used wholegrain mustard)
  • ½ tsp honey
For the pecans:
  1. Preheat oven to 175 Celcius.
  2. Combine all the ingredients. Spread out on a parchment or silicone lined baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 15-20 minutes (watch closely and gently toss to make sure they don't burn).
  4. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 mins.
For the chicken:
  1. Combine all ingredients and marinate chicken for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 190 C
  3. Lay chopped portobellos along the bottom of a baking pan.Place chicken on top of portobellos and pour remaining marinade over portobellos.
  4. Bake for 10 mins. Remove from oven, flip chicken and bake for another 10 mins.
  5. Slice chicken.
For the dressing:
  1. Combine all ingredients until well mixed.
For the salad:
  1. In a large bowl combine spinach, blue cheese / gorgonzola, figs, portobellos and sliced chicken.
  2. Top with dressing, pecans and serve immediately




Hainanese Chicken Chop



I’ve recently been put on the challenge of making dinner for my entire family (9) during the weekend. One of it I made chicken roulade with ratatouille, and the recent weeks, I wanted to make something chinese so it was the Hainanese Chicken Chop. Chicken chops are such comfort “western” food here in Malaysia, although not necessarily from China at all. It is often a slab of deboned chicken thigh or flattened breast, grilled or crumbed and fried with a serving of brown gravy, which presumably made from a powder premix or concoction of other sauces.

hainanese chicken chop

hainanese chicken chop 2

The place famed of its early origin of Hainanese chicken chop would be in a old timer kopitiam Yut Kee. The Hainanese chicken chop would be served with a bread-crumbed, fried de-boned chicken thigh, dressed with thick brown sauce, mushed peas and sliced onions. Thickly sliced and pan-fried potatoes are served alongside. I mean, who doesn’t like a deep fried chicken chop? The sauce is mainly made of Worchestershire and tomato sauce, for its sweet and a spike of sourness taste.

hainanese chicken chop 3


I referred the recipe from Alan’s Hainanese Pork Chop Recipe, but using chicken instead. While deep-frying the chicken chops, I found that they brown very very fast, even before it is cooked inside. And when I turned down the heat, it was still the same (maybe a little better). My mom asked, is there sugar in the marinade ?? Errr yes ? So this is an important tip for you if you don’t cook as often. Marinade that contain sugar would lead to quicker caramelization when deep frying or barbecuing. Then I used the Philips Air Fryer to fry it at 180C for 15 minutes (give n take 2 mins), the chicken had a nicer colour. But really because the PAF can only take 1 chicken chop at a time, for me to fry up enough chicken for my whole family would take 120 minutes (in case you don’t know, thats 2 hours). So I went ahead with deep frying some but changed oil twice.

Geez, so much oil.

Anyway, the next time I make this, I would not use sugar in the marinade.

chicken chop prep

The condiments I used to serve alongside were steamed frozen peas, then tossed in butter and salt. I also lightly steamed some potatoes, cut them to wedges then deep fried and tossed in a little salt. To coat the chicken, it’s the first time I’m using cream crackers (Hup Seng brand) as a crumb. Cream crackers are slightly buttery and very aromatic so using them gives it a very crispy and tasty coating instead of just panko. It would be the reason why my chicken chops brown so fast, it could be sugar from the cream crackers. As I’m cooking 10 portions, I had to make sure all the chicken chops were coated in egg and cream cracker crumbs before I fill up the pan with frying oil. The one thing I learned about cooking for 10 people is …. mise en place is very important as you really don’t have time or space to cut any veg while cooking something else. Planning your workflow is also as important.

The other vital part of this dish is the sauce. I googled some recipes and see that mostly are made with tomato sauce with worchestershire sauce, and some water. Some would add in starch to thicken the sauce, but seeing that tomato sauce is gluey, one doesn’t need so much starch. Plus you don’t want gluggy sauce. My sauce was mainly made with tomato sauce, Lea & Pearins worchestershire sauce, HP A1 sauce, soy sauce, some sugar and salt and water and cooked with slices of onions and fresh tomatoes.

hainanese chicken chop gif

hainanese chicken chop recipe

Hainanese Chicken Chop
Serves: 10 servings
  • 10 deboned, skinless chicken thigh
  • 30-40 soda cream crackers
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 medium red onion, peeled and wedged
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 4 russet potatoes
  • 3 tomato, cut to wedges
  • 1 small packet frozen garden peas
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp potato starch
  • 2 tbsp water
  • Vegetable oil for deep frying
  • 1 tsp five-spice powder (五香粉)
  • 4 tbsp of fermented soya beans with brining liquids (豆酱)
  • 3 tbsp of sugar (I would not recommend adding this)
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tbsp potato starch or corn starch
  • 4 tbsp water (to be mixed with starch)
Drizzling Sauce
  • 3 tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tbsp A1 steak sauce (optional)
  • 10 tbsp ketchup
  • 2 tbsp sugar (depending on taste)
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 3 cups of water
  1. Clean chicken thigh, remove skin. Marinade chicken by mixing all of the ingredients together in a bowl, then pour into a large bowl containing the chickens. Rub chicken ensuring even coating on all sides. Cover with a cling wrap. Leave in the fridge for at least 1 hour, or overnight.
  2. Put cream crackers in a ziplock or clear plastic bag. Use a rolling pin to crush it till it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
  3. Crack eggs into a tray and lightly mix with a fork or chopstick. Remove chicken from fridge. Coat chicken with egg, then onto the cream crackers. Gently press the crackers so it sticks onto the chicken. Lay them on another tray, ready for frying.
  4. Meanwhile, scrub potatoes to remove dirt. Steam till its partially cooked (about 10-15 minutes) Remove from steamer and leave to cool. Cut potato lengthwise to wedges (about 8 per potato, depending on the size). Set aside.
  5. Steam or boil frozen peas, then add in some butter and salt. Toss.
  6. Prepare the sauce. In a pan, add in 1 tbsp oil and onions. Saute for 2 minutes. Mix all the sauces in a bowl. Add it to the onions and bring it to a gentle simmer. Test and season. Dilute 2 tbsp potato starch in 2 tbsp water, stir into the sauce. Add in a couple pieces of tomato that has been cut to wedges. Once the sauce has thickened, turn off the heat. You may need to heat it up again prior to serving. Reserve the remaining tomato for serving fresh.
  7. In a wok, pour sufficient oil and let it heat up. To test, you can use a wooden chopstick and press onto the wok base, if there are bubbles at the side of the chopstick, it is ready. Fry potato wedges in batches. When done, sprinkle some salt on the potato wedges. Set them aside.
  8. Now fry chicken chop till golden. You may need to reduce the heat to medium. It depends on how big your wok is and how much oil you have inside. Alternatively if you have a Philips Air Fryer, put in it at 180 C for 15 minutes.
  9. Remove the chicken once cooked on some paper towels to drain any excess oil. Then, arrange on the plate with potato wedges, green peas, fresh tomato and a generous spoonful of the sauce.


Corn Pasta with Garlic Confit

roasted garlic corn pasta

My idea of dinner these days has a new approach, well, not like new NEW approach but since I’m cooking dinner for me, myself and I, I want to make something I would want to eat with ingredients that I seldom use, and especially with fresh non-green vegetables. My mom has been a vegetarian about 8 years ago and I won’t say it hasn’t affect our household. Most of the time, vegetarian cooking are mostly chinese dishes at home and I hardly come across any vegetarian restaurants or cafes that are vege friendly, that’s NOT chinese style of cooking.

So in my last travel to Europe, my mom was with me and, of course vegetarian meals were pre-arranged. So I was hoping to get some new inspirations there but, mehhhhh it was so bad that they even served 2 sunny side-ups and tomato stew as a main. Come’on ??? A visit to Ottolenghi was planned but our tight scheduling didn’t allow us a chance to try. Oh well.

zucchini corn pasta roasted garlic

Ok wait, confession, this dish is not entirely vegetarian cause I added smoked salmon to it but originally, it was from Food52. I had some leftover smoked salmon from other pasta dish so I just added into it. Another change I made to this was to add raw zucchini pasta. Thing is, I had some leftoverrs from making zucchini fritters so I just shred it thinking maybe, it would be enough for 1 but it turned out my shredder was too fine and the zucchinis all stuck to each other. I quickly then put the kettle to boil and cooked some pasta. Also, if you have time, make the slow roasted tomatoes and it would pack in much more flavour. I didn’t cause I don’t wanna wait 1.5 hours later for dinner.

You can say I didn’t follow the recipe to the t but merely adaptations of ideas and concept is what I do. I can hardly remember how many tablespoons of oil went into the garlic confit or how much spaghetti went into this dish. Cooking at dinner at home for me is very casual, unless I cook for my family then I can get a bit #$@*& (heh)

But in all, I loved the flavours of this dish. Light, refreshing and vibrant with the addition of corns. Pasta doesn’t have to be drenched in sauce all the time, you know.

zucchini corn pasta fresh corn zucchini pasta

Zucchini Corn Pasta with Garlic Confit
Serves: 1
  • 10 cloves garlic, unpeeled (for the garlic confit)
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tomato, wedged (any size, color, shape, if using cherry tomatoes, about a handful)
  • 1-2 tablespoons garlic oil (from the pot of garlic confit)
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • handful of basil leaves
  • ½ ear corn
  • pasta for 1 (about 100-120g)
  • salt & pepper to season
  • Optional : smoked salmon, parmesan cheese shavings
  1. With a paring knife, puncture a tiny hole in each clove of garlic. Place cloves in a small pot and cover with the olive oil. If the cloves aren't completely covered, add a splash more oil. Bring to a boil. Turn down as low as the flame will go. Simmer until a paring knife slides in easily (about 15 to 20 minutes). Take off the heat and cool in the pan. Set aside.
  2. Shuck your corn. Get a large and wide bowl. Hold an ear of corn by the stem end with the opposite tip pressing down into the center of the bowl. Using a very sharp knife (serrated works well), saw the knife back and forth, working your way from the stem end down towards the bowl, cutting the corn kernels away from the cob as you go. Try to remove just the kernel layer (almost like a corn kernel rug). You don’t want to cut out tough chunks of the cob, so make sure the knife moves straight down without digging too deep. Rotate the ear and cut down again. Keep rotating and cutting off the kernels until the cob is bare. Turn the knife around and milk the corn by rubbing the dull side of the knife up and down the cob all the way around. Set aside.
  3. Place a large pot of water on high heat for the pasta. Add salt. When the water is boiling, slide in your pasta.
  4. While waiting for pasta to cook, spoon 1 tablespoon garlic oil (from the cooled pot of garlic confit) into a medium-sized pot. Squeeze 4 garlic cloves (keep the leftover confit garlic in oil for other use) out of their skins into the oil in the pot. With the back of a wooden spoon, break the cloves apart a bit into the olive oil.
  5. Warm for 30 seconds on medium heat. Add corn and salt. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Turn heat down to low. Add tomatoes. Stir for one minute. Taste. It will probably need a bit more salt or pepper. Adjust as needed.
  6. Add drained pasta and lightly torn basil leaves to the tomato/corn/garlic mixture. (add smoked salmon now if using) Toss. Add a few more splashes of garlic oil. Add more salt or garlic oil as needed. Add some parmesan cheese shavings. Serve immediately.



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