Archive for the ‘Basic cooking skills’ Category

It has been a long long time since I last updated cookingheals. It has been a crazy time since I got back from Manila for the food photography workshop, and I ended the year of 2009 with dengue fever, bladder infection, and followed by a bad flu after I recovered from the dengue fever. It was a depressing period but I made it somehow, and hope that the new 2010 will bring brighter hopes, positive energies and fruitful harvests.

I’ve completed the Western cuisine course with Taylor’s College. Overall, it has been quite a worthwhile course to attend. I’m not going to attach the procedure and photos of every dish, but just a few photographs of my favourites. Most of the photos didn’t turn out well due to the poor light situation. You’ll have to find out more about the dishes yourself if you do get to attend haha…

Glazed spring chicken

Grilled beef tenderloin with Bearnaise sauce

Seared red snapper with lemon butter sauce, puree of pumpkin and pineapple kebab

Braised chicken leg in white wine sauce (one of my top favourite dishes from the entire course)

And finally, chicken lasagna. I’ve made it quite a number of times after the course and it came out absolutely delicious! Here’s a version that I made at home, with a slight tweak – chicken and mushroom lasagna:

Apart from the cuisine course, I’ve also been busy with a couple of food photography and food styling projects with food manufacturers…which explains why I have not been able to have time creating dishes or photographs for fun, the two projects really drained me out!

Lastly, as I’m writing this on Valentine’s Day’s evening, I hope that everyone gets to spend this special day with their special person or people. I’m still alone this year, but hopefully that special someone will appear soon haha…Today is also the first day of Chinese New Year, so I take this opportunity to wish all of you great health, lots of prosperity and fun in the new lunar year! May you all roar with success and joy!

Here’s a little card for both Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day, the chocolates and truffles have been crafted by yours truly :), made with Swiss bitter sweet and milk chocolate bars!

And a little cup of tea to relax…have a great time everyone!


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Today I attended the second lesson of my International Certification in Cuisine at Taylor’s University College Malaysia. I actually quite like the lessons, always packed with new things to learn and hands on practice. Today the menu was quite elaborate, with lamb kofta served with pita bread, coriander flavoured pumpkin soup, and glazed duck breast with semolina and jackfruit. We had so much to prepare and cook that there was basically no time in between for me to shoot the dishes I prepared. It was fun though, and the dishes were delicious!

Today the dishes involved quite a bit of dicing, one of the most important basic skills in Western cuisine. From onion to garlic to mint to red chili, from larger cubes to tiny pieces, we got to polish our dicing skills for sure!

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Caption: Dicing onion…Chef Rex did it with such a breeze…the secret lies in not cutting away the root part of the onion totally…so that you can hold that with your other hand while the hand holding the knife will be slicing the onion away…sort of acts as an anchor.

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Caption: Fine dicing chili and English parsley for the lamb kofta.

The first dish we prepared, lamb kofta with pita bread, was one of the best pita bread with lamb that I’ve tasted in a long long time! And it was my first time cooking lamb kofta too. The cooked lamb kofta was finished with a yogurt, mint and cumin dressing, so light and refreshing! It gave an Indian-Middle Eastern flavour that was indeed very appealing and appetizing! Plus it’s so easy to make that you can be done in under 20 minutes!

Procedure to cook lamb kofta with pita bread:
lamb kofta with pita bread Caption (From left to right, top to bottom): Frying the lamb kofta with olive oil, diced onion and chili; grill pita bread on a hot griddle after lightly brushed with olive oil; prepare dressing (3 tbsp yogurt, 1 tsp lemon juice, 1/2 tsp cumin powder, finely diced mint, shallot, garlic and chili, seasoned with pinch of salt and pepper); mix dressing with cooked lamb kofta.

Final results (these were made by me):
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Next, we made coriander flavoured pumpkin soup. Before I went to class today, I had a glimpse of the menu, thinking to myself, “Pumpkin soup…how hard can it be???”

Well, I was quite wrong. First, we had to prepare chicken stock (this was done right at the start of the class today, as it took about 30 minutes to boil the stock). Then we had to sweat (means frying with fats on very low heat, trying not to damage the colour of the ingredients) the pumpkin, leek, onion and coriander before adding in the chicken stock and let it simmer until pumpkin soften. Followed by blending the soup in a jar blender before finishing off with cream and seasoning. It’s probably the most elaborate pumpkin soup I’ve ever made, but the result was absolutely amazing – rich and flavourful!

Procedure to make pumpkin soup:
chicken stock Firstly, prepare chicken stock. As you can see, the stock was prepared with chicken bones and vegetables (shallots, leek, celery, carrot, thyme). Again, cold water was used instead of hot water to give a clear stock.

pumpkin soup-sweating_stockCaption: Sweating the vegetables for the pumpkin soup (left), and boiling the soup after adding in the chicken stock.

pumpkin soup-finishingCaption: Finishing off the pumpkin soup. After blending the soup when the pumpkin cubes become soft, return soup to stove on low heat, cream was added, and seasoned with salt and pepper. The soup was finished with a light touch of whipped cream on top before serving.

My version (too much whipped cream on top!):
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The last dish was the most elaborate and time consuming. There were 4 main steps involved in preparing the glazed duck breast dish.

First, marinate the duck breast with crushed green, red pepper (you can use fresh or canned ones) and Sichuan pepper, balsamic vinegar, honey and rock salt for around 30 minutes (Our duck breasts were imported from France!):

Then, caramelize sugar before adding balsamic vinegar on very low heat. Add in the duck breast with the skin on the pan/skillet together with the marinade. Leave for a minute or so before finishing off the duck breast in the oven.
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While duck breast is cooking in the oven, prepare semolina. Fry olive oil with finely diced garlic, dried chili, thinly sliced shallot and curry leaves. Add semolina flour, stir evenly. Then add chicken stock and cook for about 5 minutes while stirring constantly. Cooked semolina flour should have a thick and starchy texture.
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Next, prepare jackfruit. Dice jackfruit into small cubes, and finely dice coriander leaves. Add balsamic vinegar and stir well.

To finish and serve the duck breast, remove from oven, slice thickly and serve on the semolina and with jackfruit with balsamic vinegar.

Chef Rex’s version (see how delicate his is compared to mine below haha):
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And my version. (Overcooked!)

After thoughts:
Again, the lighting wasn’t very good as I just shot with whatever lights available in the kitchen. I didn’t have much time to shoot the dishes that I made myself, we were running out of time, but I really enjoyed it as I learned a few new skills and to fine tune what I already know. I didn’t attach the full recipes here as I am not sure if Taylor’s College would let me publish them online!

For story on the first lesson of the cooking class, go here.

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Today I’m going to blog about my first cooking lesson at Taylor’s University College Malaysia’s International Certification in Cuisine. The course lasts about 8 weeks, every Saturday morning. I can cook a lot of dishes, and I know many of the basic skills, but I thought it’s good to improve on things I already know, and learn new things that I don’t know.

Being a self-taught cook (aside from my home economics classes in high school), I’ve always wanted to improve cooking and preparation skills, and learn the right techniques. I’ve been pondering on attending this course for ages, but I kept delaying the thought as I either had not enough money (it costs about RM3000 or USD 850 for the entire course, inclusive of all facilities, tools and ingredients), or no time. This time, I just bit the bullet and signed up!

Some of the reasons why I chose Taylor’s are that the classes are conducted on Saturday, less chances of clashing with my projects; and very good facilities (I remember drooling away when I first saw the training kitchen when I went there to check out the course 2 years back).

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My dream commercial kitchen…Every student has a workstation to themselves.

This course is more like a leisure course, specially designed for non-trained cooking enthusiasts or people who want to refresh or relearn their cooking skills. I even met the head chef of my favourite Vietnamese restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, Sao Nam! He was very surprised when he found out that I knew he was from Sao Nam haha!

Our instructor, Chef Rex is a very nice & helpful guy who patiently answers all my questions (being my inquisitive nature and my keenness to learn). He knows his stuff well, and happy to share!

We learned to cook 3 dishes: 2 appetizers (Lime marinated scallops tossed in glass noodles with julienne mango; Crispy Indian semolina breaded prawns with a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette), and a main course (Pan fried cod bedded over warm macaroni pomelo served with creamy fish sauce).

Among some of the basic skills we learned yesterday:

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Captions of photos (from left to right and top to bottom): Cutting and julienning (photo of my opposite neighbour Ina from Russia), zesting lime, making fish stock, preparing & whisking vinaigrette, coating prawns before frying, frying prawns and fish.

We also learned other skills such as the proper methods to boil pasta the French and Italian way.

Some of the useful little tips which I previously did not know:
* Standard recipe for preparing basic vinaigrette is 1 part acid : 3 parts oil.
* Use cold water to add into fish stock base to get a clear stock, if hot water is used, the stock will turn out cloudy.
* When adding butter to white sauce, make sure the butter is properly chilled and solid to give better flavour, smoothness and shine.
* Herbs are divided into strong herbs and soft herbs. Strong herbs are used during cooking and flavour will stay even a few days after cooking, while soft herbs are added into the dishes just before dish is ready.
* The Basil leaf is a soft herb, while the stem is a strong herb that you can use for cooking.

We get to cook the dishes hands on and take them home to enjoy! It was certainly very fun and I definitely look forward to the next lessons!

Final results (photos of final output were poorly lit as I could only use whatever light that was available):

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Appetizers: Lime marinated scallops tossed in glass noodles with julienne mango; Crispy Indian semolina breaded prawns with a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette

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Main course: Pan fried cod bedded over warm macaroni pomelo served with creamy fish sauce (It’s so so so yummy and it’s the best-est cod fish dish I’ve eaten in a long time!)

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