Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Sebastian's Remarkably Wonderful Brownies

The universe works in mysterious ways. I believe the universe connects us with the people we are destined to meet. You’ve probably heard the saying, “we don’t meet people by accident. They are meant to cross our path for a reason”. Sometimes they are there for a brief moment and other times for a lifetime.
People come into our life in many different ways, at a party, meeting or a random event; strangers sitting next to you on a bus or flight, and perhaps these days, on the internet. But somehow when you meet them you feel such strong bond and connection you don’t quite understand.
I met my best friend on the island, Lilla, at a Chinese restaurant over two years ago. We sat across from each other. I was with a group of friends and she was by herself. We made eye contact and I asked her, “Hi, where are you from?” She said, “Indonesia”. “Me too”, I said. Then we invited her to our table and that was our first encounter and the first of our many dinners together.
A couple of weeks later, on my birthday, I discovered that Lilla and I share the exact same birthday. How bizarre! As we get to know each other more, and upon each other’s observation, we found out we share so many similar qualities and we often joke that we are long lost twin sibling; separated at birth and we each had a half of a medallion. 
Lilla is the kind of friend you can truly rely on. Spending time with Lilla feels like I have known her forever and we always have fun catching up at the end of a long week with a cocktail or three.

Myself, Lilla and Espresso Martini
Not long ago, Lilla was doing a garage sale and she wanted something sweet to present at the sale. Of course I was happy to help and I baked her a tray of Sebastian’s Remarkably Wonderful Brownies from Dorie’s Cookies.
I love cookbook that has a story to tell and Dorie’s Cookies is one of them. Dorie and Sebastian started as pen pals in the early days of food forums on the internet until they finally met in Paris. I’m glad they became friends and that Sebastian shared his brownie recipe to Dorie.
"They’re unusual in the way they’re made and extraordinary in how they taste. The texture is neither cakey nor fudgy, but creamy, slightly chewy at the center and slightly crunchy at the edges."
I have made these brownies twice now and this recipe is definitely one to keep in your repertoire. There’s a lot of sugar in this brownie, but somehow they’re not sickly sweet and it is very chocolatey. Dorie mentions that the secret is cocoa powder, which gives the brownies their deep colour and flavour. There’s quite a lot of cocoa powder here, so I would definitely invest in really good quality ones.

Sebastian's Remarkably Wonderful Brownies
Wrapped well, the brownies will keep at room temperature for about three days, but I doubt it’ll last that long. Trust me.
So, have you met someone who share the same birthday as you? Do you find similar traits or qualities?

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

WPC - World Peace Cookies

I think it's very appropriate that I begin this baking project with the cookie that's on the cover of the book: World Peace Cookies.

Don't you just love the name? I know I do... and I feel with all the terrible things that are happening around the world, we could certainly use a little or a lot of peace. I wish everyone could have a bite of this cookie and perhaps, just perhaps, the world will become a better place, even just for a minute.

This is a seriously good chocolaty chocolate cookies. A recipe I know I'll be making again and again. It's sweet with a touch of salt from fleur de sel. I love its soft interior and the chunks of bittersweet chocolate still molten even after baking.

Like Dorie, I would also highly suggest that you splurge and use really good quality cocoa powder. My personal favourite is Green & Black's Organic. As well as best quality bittersweet chocolate. 

The making of the dough itself is straightforward and I chose to turn the dough into logs and freezing them before slicing and baking. After 12 minutes in the oven, do not panic if the cookies look like they're not done, that's just the way they should be. You won't be able to lift them (how do I know? I tried) and just be patient, and let them rest until they're just warm, at which point now you can handle and eat them.

World Peace Cookies - page 335

A New Project...

I started blogging eight years ago, in 2009.  I just turned twenty-one, and I wanted to be a better cook; and the blog is a mean of documenting my learning experience. In my first year of blogging, I set myself a challenge and I cooked my way through Jamie Oliver's My Guide to Making You A Better Cook cookbook. It was a wonderful learning experience and a year I’ll never forget.

It was then when I learn how to make homemade pasta, roast the most wonderful pork belly with my favourite braised red cabbage accompaniment, and I learn to prepare live lobsters and crabs.

I know I've been terrible at blogging. Not that I've stopped cooking, baking and eating at home entirely; you know, that's not true if you follow my Instagram (@michael_toa). But I do want to make a commitment to come back and share more of my learning experience with all of you. 

Through this blog, new friendships are made with so many around the world. I’ve gotten opportunities to work with brands and products I adore. And this blog also contributed to how I got to where I am now.

So, with that in mind, I am starting a new project! I have decided to bake my way through Dorie Greenspan’s Dorie’s Cookies. I love this book the first time I saw it and was very happy when…  let’s call this person M (like M in James Bond), for a bit of mystery (and we’ll talk more about M if you’d like in the coming posts) … M gave it to me as a Christmas present.

With over 160 mouth-watering cookie recipes both sweet and savoury (I am already loving the Cocktail Cookie section) to traybakes, marshmallows and ice-creams I look forward to baking and eating all of them; as well as few friends who gladly volunteered to tasting all of them.

I am very excited and I look forward to sharing my experience with all of you.



Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Marmite Sausage Rolls

Hello lovely readers! Hope all of you are doing well and are enjoying the festive season. Less than a week to Christmas now... is everyone excited?!

I had a little time after doing some Christmas shopping (still not done yet... yikes!) and I made these Marmite sausage rolls for tea. They are so easy to make; especially that I'm using store-bought puff pastry. If you make them into mini sausage rolls, they also make great nibble-y party food.

I completely understand that the world is divided into two kinds of people. Those who love Marmite (Me!) and those who can't stand it. However, I'd still encourage those who are not keen on Marmite to try these as well. The flavour of Marmite here isn't as obvious as let's say, if you're having it on toast. But it really boost the meatiness of the sausage meat, giving it that savoury umami flavour.

To begin, in a saute pan over medium heat, heat a little olive oil and thrown in one finely chopped medium sized onion. Season with salt and pepper. The salt will help to prevent the onions from burning, Cook the onions for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until they are nicely brown. Then add in the garlic and stir for a couple of minutes and set aside to cool slightly.

In another bowl, add the sausage meat. I bought regular sausages and squeeze them out of its casings. Then add in the slightly cooled onion mix with a pinch of red pepper flakes for some heat and fragrant fresh thyme leaves.

Then, pour in the beautiful, dark and glossy Marmite... hmmm... 

And some delicious mature cheddar cheese... now, we're really talking! Season with salt and pepper to taste. Go easy with the salt though. There's already salt in the onions, Marmite is salty as well as the cheese. Give this a good mix.

The assembly itself couldn't be easier. Not only my puff pastry is store bought, but it's also ready-rolled which means I don't have to do anything to it. 

Cut each sheet of the puff pastry into four rectangles and put the filling on the centre of each one. Be as generous as you like, but just make sure you are able to fold it nicely later. Brush the sides with beaten egg and fold into a sausage roll. To secure the edges, I use a fork and press all the sides and prick the top several times. This will ensure the steam from inside is able to escape.

Brush the top again with egg wash and I sprinkle some coarse black pepper and more fresh thyme leaves. When all of them are assembled, bake in a pr-heated 180 C oven for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.

Let the sausage rolls rest for 10 minutes and you know exactly what to do next...

Happy holidays everyone!


Marmite Sausage Rolls
Recipe by Michael Toa
Makes 12 large sausage rolls

1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or grated
Olive oil, regular not extra virgin
450 gr good quality sausage meat
a pinch of red pepper flakes
4 sprigs of fresh thyme, plus more for sprinkling
1 tablespoon of Marmite
75 gr mature cheddar, cut into small cubes
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 sheets of store-bought puff pastry

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Grilled Lime and Coriander Chicken Thighs

At the moment, if I had to choose my favourite herb, and I can only choose one, it would be fresh coriander (or cilantro, for my State side readers). I just adore it's grassy freshness. It's utterly delicious. But funny thing, when I was little, I hated it for some reasons. I guess our palate changes with time.

I felt like something light and fresh for lunch today and I prepared this quick and tasty little dish. It doesn't take long time to marinate; otherwise, the acid from the lime juice will start to cook the chicken. Two hours maximum, I reckon. I prepped this in the morning after gym. I got on with regular house chores and by the time I finished, the chickens are ready for the hot grill.

The chicken would go nicely with crunchy salad on the side and flatbread, or perhaps nutty brown rice. But I wanted something heartier, so I opted with Nigella Lawson's Mock Mash from Nigellissima. No potatoes are harmed in the making of this mash. Instead, it's made of semolina. It takes minutes to prepare and definitely takes a lot less effort than making the real mash potatoes.

Grilled Lime and Coriander Chicken Thighs
Serves 2

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 small clove of garlic, finely minced or grated
Zest and juice of 1 lime
2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoon olive oil, regular not extra virgin
Salt and white pepper to taste

A small handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients (minus the fresh coriander) together and give it a good mix. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate for a couple of hours or so in the fridge.

Take out the chicken and let it come back to almost room temperature before grilling. In the meantime, heat up the grill.

Grill the chicken for around 8 minutes per side or until cooked. Cooking time varies depending on the size of your chicken thighs. Serve with vessel of your choice, and top with chopped fresh coriander and more limes to squeeze over.