[instagrammed] – Asparagus & avocado pasta

avocado asparagus pasta

I almost forgot about my grand plans to chip at the backlog with some ‘instagrammed’ posts.. So here’s one.

This asparagus & avocado pasta is something I’ve made many (many) times, especially on a weekday when I cannot be bothered to make something too involved. Am so glad I happened to have both asparagus and avocado in my fridge at some point, or I might have never discovered this delightful combination.

You can find me on instagram as @breadetbutter – where I post a lot more regularly than I do here. 😉

Asparagus & avocado pasta
Serves 2 (generously)

  • 250g pasta of your choice (I usually use linguini or spaghetti)
  • 2 avocados
  • 150g asparagus (I use asparagus tips), cut into 1cm lengths
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Bunch coriander (approx 30g)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
1. Cook pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente. 1 minute before the pasta is done, add the asparagus to the pan. When draining the pasta, reserve some of the pasta cooking water – you may need it later.
2. Whilst pasta is cooking, halve and peel the avocados. Chop one avocado into small 1cm cubes, and the other into larger chunks.
3. Place the large chunks of avocado into a blender, along with the coriander, lime juice, and olive oil. Blend until it forms a thick smooth paste.
4. Place drained pasta and asparagus back into the (same) pan you were using earlier. Add the blended avocado mixture. The mixture may be quite thick and gloppy, if so, add some pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you reach your desired sauce consistency. The sauce should coat every strand of pasta.
5. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
6. Serve pasta onto plates. Top with small cubes of avocado. Other ingredients you can use are pine nuts, extra coriander, sesame seeds, chilli flakes.. An endless list really! Drizzle with some olive oil (if you wish), and eat.

Billy Law’s vinegar-braised pork belly & eggs

Well technically, it’s his mum’s recipe. But “Billy’s mum’s vinegar-braised pork belly & eggs” seemed a little bit long for a title!

For those of you who are not familiar with the name, Billy Law is a Malaysian (like myself) based in Australia. I first got to know of him through his food blog “A Table For Two”. Not long after, he appeared on one of my favourite shows – Masterchef Australia! For those of you who haven’t watched the Aussie version of Masterchef… you’re missing out! 🙂 Most people I know prefer the Australian format of the show, so it’s definitely worth watching to see if you like it.

But I digress.

Billy recently released his debut cookbook, aptly titled “Have You Eaten?”. I think he explains his choice of title very well here: “In Malaysia, it is quite common for Malaysians to greet each other saying, ‘Have you eaten?’ instead of the usual ‘Hey how are you’. I simply couldn’t think of anything more appropriate for the title of a cookbook that reflects my background, my culture, and my food.” And you know what, he is absolutely right. Though to be perfectly honest it usually comes out in typical Manglish (Malaysian English) as “Eat already ah?” 😉

I must admit that I was impressed by his cookbook after a quick flip through the book. Here’s a little confession: I almost never buy cookbooks that don’t “look” nice. Photography (and the way recipes are laid out) are the most important aspects of a cookbook to me, and I immediately loved the photography of this cookbook – which was, by the way, mostly styled and photographed by Billy himself. Some people have all the talent, hrmph!

The cookbook is divided into several chapters: “Snack Attack” (smaller bites e.g. Brie en croute with cranberries & walnuts); “On the Side” (e.g. Roast spiced cauliflower & corn salad); “Easy Peasy” (simple dishes e.g. Cola chilli chicken); “Over the Top” (more adventurous recipes e.g. Nonya spicy tamarind snapper); “Rice and Noodles” (all Malaysian/Chinese recipes e.g. “Nasi lemak”); and “Sugar Hit” (desserts e.g. Popcorn & salted caramel macarons). There is a good mix of both Malaysian/Chinese (think “Assam laksa” and “Kangkung belacan”) and non-Malaysian recipes (“Smoked ham hock baked beans”, “Lamb shank pie”, and “Rocky Road”). Now I know “non-Malaysian” isn’t exactly descriptive, but I have no idea how else to put it!

I cooked “Mum’s vingear-braised pork belly & eggs” from the “Easy Peasy” chapter, and it turned out remarkably well. I usually don’t put vinegar in my braised pork belly dish (called “Tau Yew Bak” in Hokkien), so I definitely learnt a new trick! I made a few tweaks to the recipe though – I used less sugar, and more chilli. A lot more chilli.

This is a remarkably easy dish to make, but it does have to be slow cooked for at least 2 hours to ensure the meat is meltingly tender. I can’t complain, I love dishes that don’t require much attention!

P.S. Scroll to the bottom to find out how to win a copy of this fabulous cookbook!

Billy’s Mum’s vingear-braised pork belly & eggs
From Billy Law’s “Have You Eaten?”

  • 2 liters water
  • 500g pork ribs
  • 500g pork belly, chopped into 3cm chunks
  • 5cm ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 whole garlic, unpeeled
  • 10 star anise
  • 5 dried chillies (the recipe states this is optional. I used 10. Haha!)
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons dark soy caramel (I used a mix of kecap manis + dark soy sauce)
  • 100ml light soy sauce
  • 1 cup sugar (I used 1/4 cup)
  • 6 hard boiled eggs, peeled

1. Boil the water in a large pot over medium high heat, until it starts to bubble.
2. Add the pork ribs, pork belly, ginger, whole garlic, star anise and chillis to the pot of boiling water. Bring to the boil again.
3. Scoop out any impurities that float to the surface – I find that it is quite useful to use a small fine metal sieve. Alternatively, use a spoon.
4. Turn the heat down to low (until the liquid is simmering), and add the vinegar, dark soy caramel, light soy sauce, and sugar. Stir well.
5. Add the hard boiled eggs to the pot.
6. Cook on low heat for at least 2 hours (stirring occasionally), or until the pork is meltingly tender. I cooked it covered for the first hour, then left it uncovered for the remaining cooking time.
7. Once the sauce starts to thicken, taste, and adjust the seasoning accordingly. If it is too sour/too salty: add more sugar. If it is too sweet: add more light soy sauce. Billy notes that extra water should not be used, the exception being if the sauce is drying out too quickly!
8. Serve with rice (noodles work well too).

Have You Eaten? by Billy Law, £25 hardback, published by Hardie Grant, is now available at http://www.hardiegrant.co.uk/books/have-you-eaten-paperback

If you’re not convinced by what I’ve said here, have a look at what some other bloggers thought about the book (my post is part of a 5-part blog tour, ending today):
Monday 1st – http://junglefrog-cooking.com/
Tuesday 2nd – http://englishmum.com/
Wednesday 3rd – http://www.babaduck.com/
Thursday 4th – http://www.millycundall.com/
Friday 5th – Me!

And now – how can you WIN a copy of Have You Eaten?, thanks to Hardie Grant Books? Simply follow Hardie Grant on Twitter @hardiegrantuk and RT the relevant tweet – simples! Competition is only open to UK residents though (apologies to everyone who isn’t in the UK!). Winners will be announced on October 8 2012.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of the cookbook, but all the views expressed above are my own.

[instagrammed] – Pork & turkey ragu

We all have our comfort foods. Those few dishes that never fail to make you feel better, the dishes that put a smile on your face no matter how rubbish your day has been.

Whilst most of my comfort foods are Malaysian/Chinese, I do have a few non-Malaysian ones – and ragu is one of them. My take on ragu is by no means authentic, but it is the way R and I like it. 🙂

Someone on instagram asked me for this recipe, so I thought I might as well post it here. A blog post is long overdue anyway!

I used a mix of pork & turkey this time around, but alternative meats include beef, lamb, wildboar, or even duck. I tend to use two types of meats, as I find it gives that little something extra to the dish.

Do note that this recipe makes a fair bit of ragu – I always cook with the aim of having leftovers (hello, packed lunch!), plus meat usually comes in 500g packs. The recipe is easily halved though. Also, amounts for seasonings are approximate: please taste as you go along!

Pork & turkey ragu
Serves 4-6, generously!

  • 500g minced pork
  • 500g minced turkey
  • 1 onion, diced finely
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced finely
  • 250g chestnut mushrooms, diced/sliced finely (optional) – sometimes I use carrots
  • 3 tbsp red wine
  • 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp sugar (I use castor sugar)
  • 4 small bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Heat some oil in a large pan (one that has a cover – you will need this later), over high heat. Fry the chopped onions and garlic for several minutes, until they become fragrant.
2. Add the pork and turkey mince to the pan, and fry until lightly browned.
3. Add the chopped mushrooms to the pan (if using), and fry for a minute or so until they shrink slightly.
4. Add the red wine to the pan, and stir for 1 minute.
5. Add the sugar, Worcestershire sauce and chopped tomatoes to the pan. Bring the sauce to a boil.
6. Once the sauce is bubbling, turn down the heat to low. Add the bay leaves, salt and pepper to the pan. I’d advise underseasoning with salt/pepper at this point – it’s very easy to add more salt, but very much harder to save a dish that is too salty!
7. Cover the pan, and simmer on low heat for at least 1 hour, until the oils float to the surface of the sauce.
8. Taste and add more salt/pepper as needed. If the sauce is too wet for your liking, you can leave it to simmer for a further 10-15 minutes, uncovered.
9. Serve with a carbohydrate of your choice – pasta, rice, couscous, polenta, freshly baked bread… it all works! In the photo above, I served the ragu with some pappardelle.

[instagrammed] – Pea & spelt pancakes

I’ve got a confession: I’m a lazy blogger. There, I said it.

Considering how much I cook (I cook most days), I should be blogging a lot more often than I do – but I don’t. Mainly because it takes time to set up a “proper” photograph for the blog.. and I am usually hungry. This is coming from someone who doesn’t even set up a proper backdrop with props like a lot of the other amazing bloggers out there.

Which is why instagram is brilliant for someone like me – I snap a quick photo of the dish (ok, sometimes two or three photos), and voila, time to eat! A few people have said that I should do recipe ‘mini posts’ based on my instagram photos… and after thinking about it, I think it makes a lot of sense. So here goes! Photo is taken straight from instagram, with no further editing done. Simples. ( If you want to see more instagram photos, do follow me @breadetbutter – and if you see something you like, give me a shout and I’ll try to post a recipe here on the blog if possible. )

p.s. These were inspired by this recipe on Aran’s blog.

Pea & spelt pancakes
Makes 8 pancakes (approximately 3.5 inches wide)

For the pancakes:

  • 250g peas
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 5 tbsp spelt flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • Pepper and salt, to taste (I use just under 1/2 teaspoon of each)
  • 3 eggwhites

To serve:

  • Smoked salmon
  • Greek yogurt (I usually add a squeeze of lemon juice to the yogurt)
  • Chives, cut finely (alternatively, use dill)

1. Cook peas in salted, boiling water for 2-3 minutes, or until they are tender. Take care to not overcook them/let them turn mushy. Remove the peas from the pot and place in a medium sized bowl.
2. Add milk to the peas, then roughly mash the peas. You can use a potato masher, fork, handheld blender, or even a food processor. I like having bits of peas to bite into, so I don’t mash it finely.
3. Add the flour, baking soda, pepper, and salt to the bowl containing the mashed peas. Stir with a spatula/spoon until the mixture is well combined. Set aside.
4. In a clean bowl, whisk the eggwhites until stiff peaks form.
5. Fold the eggwhites into the pea mixture in two batches. It’s alright to have a few small lumps of eggwhites running through the batter, it’s better than overmixing!
6. Heat a lightly oiled non-stick pan over medium heat. Pour 1/3 cup of pancake batter into the pan. Flip the pancake when you start to see bubbles on the surface, or when the edges start to dry up.
7. Repeat with remaining pancake batter, until all batter is used up.
8. Serve with smoked salmon, greek yogurt and chives.

Pasta with anchovy sauce

Apologies for the extended break from the blog – the past few months have been absolutely insane, and I think it’s safe to say I have never been so stressed out about an exam, ever! I’m horrendous with exam stress, and I actually lose my appetite (I know, shocking!) in the week before important exams.. I remember how I lost weight prior to finals, much to my surprise (because I was also consuming regular doses of chocolate). Though I regained it all with a post-exam Barcelona trip. 😛 The way it should be, haha.

I’ve still got another set of exams and a dissertation to write, but it won’t be as bad as the exam I’ve just done (I hope!). So I thought it was high time I returned to the blog and chipped away at the ridiculous backlog I have.

This pasta dish was inspired by our Florence trip a couple of years ago. I absolutely loved Florence, and it is one of my favourite European cities. The food is so simple, yet so ridiculously good. And when I think about it, a fair number of the pasta dishes I cook nowadays are inspired by what we ate in Florence.

You might think that an anchovy sauce pasta might be too salty, but on the contrary – it’s really good! Of course, you need to like anchovies to want to eat this, but trust me when I say you will love this if you’re an anchovy fan.

This is a meal that can be whipped up in 20 minutes, making it a perfect weeknight dinner. Not to mention that it uses very basic ingredients which you’re likely to have on hand anyway – canned anchovies, pasta, onions, garlic.

Oh and a little confession – the photos of this dish were taken a whole TWO YEARS ago. Told you I had a massive backlog. 😉

Pasta with anchovy sauce

  • 1 large onion
  • 3-5 cloves garlic (depending on how much you like garlic)
  • 30g anchovies (actual weight), chopped finely
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1-2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2 whole cloves
  • pepper, to taste
  • 300g fettuccine (or other broad pasta e.g. bucatini, linguine)
  • toasted breadcrumbs or chopped parsley to serve (optional)
1. Finely chop the onions and garlic. I use my trusty mini food processor for this as it makes the onion and garlic turn into a beautiful smooth ‘paste’, which means your sauce will be smoother.
2. Heat the olive oil in a non-stick pan over low heat. Add the onions, garlic and anchovies and cook until it becomes fragrant (should take 8-10 minutes).
3. Add 1 teaspoon of brown sugar and let the mixture cook for another minute. Taste. If the mixture seems a little salty, add the extra teaspoon of brown sugar.
4. Stir in the butter and the cloves, followed by the water. Let it simmer gently for a minute or so, and take off the heat.
5. Whilst the sauce is cooking, cook the pasta in a pan of boiling salted water, until al dente. Reserve some of the pasta cooking liquid (1 cup should be enough).
6. Mix the cooked pasta with the anchovy sauce, and add the pasta cooking liquid (as needed) to lubricate the pasta.
7. Serve the pasta into a plate, sprinkle with chopped parsley or toasted breadcrumbs (optional), add pepper to taste – and eat. 

* Just a note: I wouldn’t advise using the oil from the canned anchovies, as it is usually quite salty.

In photos: Jean-Georges, New York.

I must admit, one of the main reasons I wanted to dine at Jean-Georges was because of an episode of Friends (where Chandler managed to snag a last minute reservation for his & Monica’s anniversary). I am rather obsessed with Friends, but that’s another story for another day.

Of course, I wouldn’t have made a reservation had there not been good reviews for the restaurant.. I’m not that Friends-mad! And obviously, the fact that it holds three Michelin-stars was a factor.

In keeping with my ‘trying to be more efficient at blogging’ thing, this will be a a photo-centered post.

p.s. We dined here in mid-December 2011.

Bread. Good, but not great. (Nothing can beat Eleven Madison Park’s warm, flaky bun goodness. )

Amuse: Flavours of fall. From L to R – Cheese & truffle spring roll with lettuce; Salmon smoked with chilli; Sweet potato soup with apple & basil.

Scallop sashimi with crispy rice and chipotle mayo. This was my favourite dish of the meal. There was something so simple, yet so good about this.

Sea urchin on black bread, with jalapeno. I was impressed at the freshness of sea urchin – I normally am not a fan but was won over by this.

Crab dumplings with celeriac & meyer lemon tea. This was light and refreshing.

Comte risotto. This came with the (extravagant) option of having white Alba truffles shaved atop the risotto, which I decided against.

Chicken leg confit with parmesan crust, artichoke & lemon sauce. I order anything with artichoke in it. It’s another one of my obsessions, having only discovered the wonders of artichokes in the last year.

Caramelised beef tenderloin, with comte beignets, spinach & wasabi pea puree. Is it wrong that I enjoyed the beignets more than the beef?

For some reason, I didn’t write down the name of this dish! From memory, this was a chocolate pear cake, with shaved ice in the bowl. I can’t for the life of me remember which alcohol was used in the shaved ice, but I do remember it being extremely boozy.

Chocolates, one of which was adorned with ‘JG’.

Macarons. Again, I didn’t note down what flavour these were – oops!

Vanilla marshmallows. These were delightful. The restaurant stores them in giant glass jars, and cut them for you with scissors at the table.

Jean-Georges
1 Central Park West
New York
NY 10023
www.jean-georges.com

NB: This site houses the 70-seat Jean Georges dining room (which is where we dined), and also Nougatine at Jean Georges (a more casual bar-style dining room).

As the restaurant was just next to Central Park, we took a slow stroll across the park (and ended up in the Upper East Side). I didn’t have my tripod with me and it was getting quite dark, but I wanted to share a few photos I took at the time, even though they are not of the best quality.

Man, I ♥ New York.

The Modern, New York

One of R’s friends went to New York last week, and we gave her a list of restaurant recommendations… which included The Modern, the restaurant at MoMa (The Museum of Modern Art). This helpfully reminded me that I had yet to blog about our meal there (that took place almost 7 months ago!), so here goes:

NB: We ate in the bar area, as the restaurant (which I believe holds a Michelin star – but I might be mistaken) was unfortunately closed for lunch!

Bread rolls – I enjoyed the mini baguette rolls more than the sourdough, I think it was the novelty of miniature rolls!

Quail terrine, with a fennel and grapefruit salad. A delicious start to the meal. Loved the inclusion of pistachio bits in the terrine.

Artichoke soup, with pearl barley, almonds and ricotta salata. I always order artichoke dishes whenever they are on a menu, and this soup didn’t dissapoint. The accompanying biscuits were buttery and crumbly, just how they should be.

Crispy Atlantic cod, celeriac Granny Smith apple salad, and sauce gribiche. A slightly “healthier” take on fish and chips, where light celeriac/apple cubes replaced the chips. (Secretly I think I’d prefer some fat-laden chips though.) The cod batter was deliciously crispy, and the cod itself perfectly cooked.



Long Island duck breast, with peppercorn crusted apples and pistachio truffle dipping sauce. This was SO DELICIOUS I could have eaten another plate. By far the best pan fried duck I’ve ever eaten, hands down. I also loved the peppercorn crusted apples – they were so good that I would choose this over potato wedges/fries (believe me, that rarely happens).

Pan-Seared Skate with crispy rock shrimp, creamy grits and brown butter vinaigrette. All I can say is: YUM. The brown butter vinaigrette was an inspired sauce for the dish.

Citrus Carpaccio with lemongrass gelée and green apple basil sorbet. I never would have thought that a few simple segments of grapefruits and oranges could make for such an elegant dessert. I liked the crispy ‘sugar’ halve that came with the dish, as it added extra texture to the dish.

The Modern: bar area. It had emptied significantly when I took this photo, it was extremely busy around lunchtime, and were were lucky to get a table within 20 minutes. I highly recommend planning ahead, and booking a table! You can always wander back to the museum after you finish your meal.

The Modern Bar Room in a nutshell:
– Simple yet delicious food, I enjoyed every single dish!
– Has the bonus of having MoMA next door, and believe me when I say MoMA is a MUST visit.
– Gets very busy: reservations are definitely recommended
– Service was lacking at times, I suspect they reserve their A-list team for the restaurant perhaps?
– If I get a chance, I’d go back – but I want to try the restaurant next time around!

The Modern
9, West 53rd Street
New York 10019
themodernnyc.com