Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Jamie's Italian, Singapore

More than three months since Jamie's Italian opened its doors to the Singapore food community, the buzz about the restaurant hasn't died down a bit; much less its long queues of diners. We were fortunate enough to have tried it just a few weeks after its opening and with more than an hour of waiting time, I'm sure the first question that comes to our mind is that - is it worth it? Precisely what my friends and colleagues asked me after our dining experience. To date, there are mixed reviews about the restaurant. In general, I would say just like any other food place anywhere in the world, it's also a case of a hit and miss. I know this might be a bit disappointing owing to the well established celebrity status of Jamie Oliver. This is the least that we could expect from one of his chains. However, it's also the kind of restaurant that you would want to be more lenient about and give it another chance. Again, maybe because the brand "Jamie Oliver" has something to do with it. At any rate, he seemed to be one of the sweetest and charming chefs around. So, essentially you want to negate all the doubts.

 
Personally, the first thing that I would commend this restaurant of is the ambiance. It's relaxing and calm even though the place looked totally busy. It's a nice place to have friends and family around. It's also very evident how Jamie Oliver connected the restaurant to his advocacy of sustainability. There are potted plants and fresh herbs all over. Woods are everywhere too. From the tables, chairs and ceilings down to his famous serving plates - the Jamie's planks.  
 


 This was the Q on a Sunday, lunch time (30 minutes before the restaurant opened).
Good thing though, the restaurant was sweet and generous enough to offer some antipastis to the people on Q while waiting.
 The Entrance
 This is the fresh pasta and bread section - where all breads and pastas are made everyday


You would also see a lot of Jamie Oliver's merchandise inside the restaurant albeit, I find the cook books a bit more pricey than in the local bookstore. Hence, I'd rather get my copy from the likes of Kinokuniya. 
 
 The bar section
 Freshly baked breads!

The pasta maker
 While waiting for your table, you can browse and peruse some of Jamie Oliver's cook books.


One proof that this restaurant  had indeed thought about young diners, kids can select their food from no less the 3D - slider. Even I, had fun perusing the kids' menu. What a brilliant idea!
We were seated at one of the tables near the salad and antipasti section. This is the well lit area hence, the perfect setting for families.

The main course preparation area.

A row of real good looking hams!

Now on to the main thing - the foods! These were some of the foods that we've tried from the wide array of choices in the menu.
 
Appetizers:
Apple Slaw, $8 - Radishes, walnuts, candied beets, mint & lemon with yoghurt
Fish Plank, $17 - Cured & Crispy Fish, Italian Cheeses, Pickles and Crunchy Salad
Happy Fish Fingers, $11.50 - Fish fight friendly fish fingers with zingy lemon mayo

Mains:

Tagliatelle Bolognese, $15 - Ragù of beef, pork, herbs, Chianti & Parmesan with crunchy, herby breadcrumbs
Lamb Chop Lollipops, $29.90 - Bone-in grilled lamb chops served with a creamy artichoke & mint sauce, roasted nuts, chilli & fresh mint
Rump Steak Salad, $25.50 - 180g aged grain-fed Angus steak with crunchy fennel, watercress, mint, chilli, garlic, horseradish & lemon

Desserts:
Creamy Panna Cotta, $9 - Lovely wobbly panna cotta served with a fruit compote
Tiramisu, $11.50 - Coffee-flavoured trifle with orange mascarpone & chocolate

Out of this selection, we were glad that we got more hits than miss. The Fish Plank boasted a very interesting repertoire of good starters. The Pasta was at its freshest and the Bolognese sauce complemented it just right. I am not a big fan of Lamb Chops, but I would take Jamie's Italian's an exception. The meat was so tender and juicy sans the off, satiating after taste. This, was definitely good! True to its name, the Happy Fish Fingers will certainly make any kid and kid at heart happy. The polenta chips that went with the fish fingers was wonderful, no wonder it's very famous. If not for the overly done steak, the Rump Steak Salad was another well executed dish. The mix of salad greens was really nice. For the dessert, the creamy Panna Cotta is a must have! It has everything that you would expect from a Panna Cotta - right texture, balanced sweetness and creaminess, paired with a well blended fruit compote; it's simply divine! Sadly, you can give the Tiramisu a miss. There's nothing extraordinary about it.
On the whole, trying out Jamie's Italian dishes is still an experience to be had despite issues on its service and some of its food offerings. There's still so much more to explore from the menu. Although it's inevitable that expectations will be high, I am quite certain that you'll be able to find something that will satisfy your discriminating taste buds. Anyhow, so much is at stake on a Jamie Oliver's brand thus, people behind it will not just sit on their laurels to make the restaurant live up to what its patrons call for.
 
Jamie's Italian
1 HarbourFront Walk,
VivoCity, #1 165-167
Singapore 098585
+65 67335500

12.00pm to 10.00pm Sunday to Thursday
12.00pm to 11.00pm Friday/Saturday
 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

An Absolute Birthday Feast

It was the husband's birthday the other day and we've decided to celebrate it simply at home. As far as home made meal is concerned, nothing can beat it on special occasions. Hence, I dressed up our dining table with sure hit dishes that dining outside is no longer an option.  
 
As in any birthday celebration, a cake is always a must have. This time around, I braved Ina Garten's very popular chocolate cake. And to tell you honestly, this is by far the best chocolate cake that I've tried! I can now attest to all the positive comments Ina Garten had on this cake recipe. The recipe is easy to modify yet the overall quality of the cake is not affected.  Although I didn't follow the recipe by heart, the cake still turned out perfectly fine. The sponge is moist, a bit decadent but still light in mouth feel. This will definitely be my favourite chocolate cake base. I can complement it with any ganache or frosting next time. Indeed, it's another satisfying recipe from the Barefoot Contessa! As usual, Ina didn't disappoint.    
Beatty's Chocolate Cake by Ina Garten
What you need:
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour (I prefer unbleached)
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups cocoa powder (I used Valrhona, dutch processed)
2 tsps. baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter milk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil (sunflower oil)
2 extra large eggs, at room temp
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup hot coffee (original recipe calls for freshly brewed coffee but I used decaffeinated instant coffee )
Chocolate butter cream, recipe below
How to make:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Butter 2 x 8 inch x 2 inch round cake pans (I used 8.5 inch and it worked just fine). Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.
2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined.
3. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 mins, until the cake tester comes out clean.
5. Cool the pans for 30 mins, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
6. Place 1 layer, flat side up on a cake stand. With a knife or spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up and spread the frosting evenly on the top and side of the cake.
7. Decorate with fresh berries and macarons.

Chocolate Frosting

What you need:
6 ounces good semi sweet chocolate (I used Valrhona 64%)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 extra large egg yolk (I opt out for this one because I will be serving the cake to my kids I don't want to use any raw ingredient)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1 /4 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
1 tbsp. instant coffee powder (I used Nescafe decaf, but it gave a sourish after taste on the frosting. You can try other good brands of instant coffee)

How to make:
1. Place chocolate in a heat proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 mins. Add vanilla and continue beating for 3 mins. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add confectioner's sugar then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy.
3. Dissolve the coffee powder in 2 tsps. of the hottest tap water. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Don't whip. Spread immediately on the cooled cake.

I also bought some easy to prepare finger foods and treats for the kids which I just arranged nicely on a plate.
Almond Bread Sticks and Baked Potato Wedges

Tortilla with Salsa - any store bought tortilla or nachos will do for this appetizer; Tostitos and Old El Paso are the good brands for Chunky Salsa (medium hot)
 
Here's the 3-course meal that I prepared from scratch:

Prawns and Mango Skewers
How to make:
Sauté prawns in garlic and olive oil until tender, remove head and shells. Skewer prawns with mango squares and sprinkle with chopped Italian parsley.

 
Salad Nicoise
How to make:
Mix together in individual serving size baby lettuce, hard boiled egg, black olives, tuna chunks and cherry tomatoes. Drizzle with vinaigrette dressing (3 tbsps olive oil, 2 tbsps balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp caster sugar, 1/2 tsp finely chopped garlic mixed until homogenous).
Beef Medallion with Rosti and Asparagus
Beef Medallion (Grass Fed Tenderloin, 2 fingers-thickness)
1. Pre-heat oven to 180C. Season beef tenderloin with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
2. Bring a heavy bottomed pan to high heat. Add 2 tbsp of olive oil, 2 cloves garlic and sprig of fresh rosemary.
3. Pan-fry beef tenderloin 4 mins per side.
4. Put in the oven for 8 mins for medium-rare doneness.
5. Take out from the oven and cover with foil for 5 mins to seal in the meat juices.
Mushroom and Onion Sauce
1. Sauté 1 med yellow onion (chopped into rings) and 6 Portobello mushrooms (sliced thinly) in 2 tbsp olive oil until onion is caramelized.
2. Add 2 cups of beef stock and allow to boil. Add the juices from the meat. Simmer for a few minutes. Add corn flour mixture (2 tbsp corn flour and 3 tbsp water). Continue to simmer until the sauce thickens. Adjust thickness when necessary.
Rosti
1. Parboil potatoes (unpeeled) in boiling water for 2 - 3 mins.
2. Put in the fridge for a few hours (2 - 3 hours).
3. Peel potatoes and shred.
4. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
5. Heat a non-stick pan and add 2 tbsp olive oil.
6. Using an egg shaper, pan fry potatoes until browned on both sides. Add 1 tsp of butter when flipping to the other side.
Asparagus - blanched in salted boiling water for 1 min.
Plate beef medallion on top of rosti and asparagus. Finish with the mushroom and onion sauce on top.
 

We capped our night with a slice of heavenly good chocolate cake. What a way to end a lovely meal! Do you agree?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Celebrating Children's Day 2013


It was Children's Day yesterday, so I took a time off from work to spend it with my children. Because I want them to feel that the day is special, I prepared some simple treats and surprises. They woke up with this goodie with greeting cards and red packets waiting for them. And what do you expect? So extremely delighted they were!
I also made a yummy food repertoire that they will surely love. Every kid likes Nutella. I haven't encountered any who doesn't so far. Hence, Donna Hay's Self Frosting Nutella Cupcake makes a very fitting choice. This is one of the easiest cupcakes to make and the taste is simply superb. My kids usually describe it as the yummiest cupcake of all!  

 
SELF FROSTING NUTELLA CUPCAKE by Donna Hay (adapted by Kell's Kitchen)
 
What you need:
10 tbsp. butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract, pure
1 3/4 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup Nutella spread
 
How to make:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 160 C. Line 12 muffin tins with paper liners.
2. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
3. Add in eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with each addition.
4. Add vanilla. Stir in flour, salt and baking powder until batter is uniform and no flour remains.
5. Fill each cupcake case with batter, about 3/4 full. Top each cake with 1 heaped teaspoon of Nutella spread. Swirl Nutella in with a toothpick, making sure to fold a bit of batter up over the Nutella.
6. Bake for 20 mins until the tops of the cupcakes are slightly browned and a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean. Remove from the tin and cool completely.
7. Decorate with 1/2 tsp of Nutella spread and Ferrero Chocolate (However, I find the Almond Coconut too sweet, so I think you can substitute it with another chocolate or you can simply take it out. The cupcake is already good enough to consume as it is).
 



 
Likewise, kids' favourite food items adored the breakfast plates - Ham and Bacon Burger  and Penne Bolognese
 
Here's how to make them:
 
Ham and Bacon Burger - simply layer cheese, ham, bacon, tomatoes and lettuce in a toasted bun
 
Penne Bolognese - cook 250g mini penne according to package directions, drain and set aside. Sauté 1 tbsp. minced garlic, 1 tbsp. chopped onion in 2 tbsp. olive oil until fragrant. Add 300g minced beef, stir fry and cook until tender. Season with salt & pepper. Add in 500g spaghetti sauce and simmer for 10 mins with continuous stirring. Serve on a plate with grated parmesan cheese.
 
It's only once in a year that we celebrate Children's Day. Needless to say, every child matters and therefore deserves to be loved and made feel special everyday. Don't you think so?