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Cauliflower Puree with Morel Mushrooms


(serves 3 as appetizers, 6 as amuse-bouche)
This is a dish that uses the King of Mushrooms, the Morel. For the longest time I wanted to create a signature vegetarian dish which could stand shoulder to shoulder with normal dishes. Finally I managed to come up with a recipe that has a meaty taste without using meat, a buttery nutty taste without using nuts, and good structure without using starch. Everyone always asks me what are the other ingredients and they refuse to believe there is nothing other than morel mushrooms and cauliflower on their plate, but that’s the truth. 
 
Ingredients Cauliflower Puree with Morel
  1. Chopped Cauliflower (1.5 cups)
  2. Dried Morel Mushrooms (0.5 cups)
  3. Butter
  4. Cream
  5. Port
  6. Dill Weed

Preparation

  1. Soak 0.5 cup of dried morel mushrooms in 0.5 cup of cool water.
  2. Crudely chop up your cauliflower into pea sized pieces. Discard the main stem.
  3. After the morels have soaked for at least 20 minutes, squeeze them dry and cut them also into pea sized bits. Keep the liquid.
  4. Stir fry the morel bits with a knob of butter on low heat for 2 minutes. Add 1T of port and a pinch of salt towards the end and turn the fire off as the pan dries. Put the morel bits aside.
  5. Simmer the cauliflower bits in the morel water in the same pan. Add 0.5t salt, 0.5t sugar, 0.5t pepper, 1T port, a knob of butter and 4T cream. When the liquid has been reduced by half, reserve a few T of the thickened liquid as a sauce for dressing.
  6. Puree the cauliflower in a food processor. How fine you want the puree to be is up to you, but I usually like to leave it slightly grainy for that extra texture. Covered with some cling film and refrigerate for half an hour.
  7. Manually stir half the morel bits into the cauliflower puree and then arrange the puree on your plates. Sprinkle on some dill weed and dress with the reserved sauce and remaining morel bits.

Notes

  • You can consider serving this dish in double shot glasses or cappuccino cups if you don’t have those steel round forms. They are not that easy to shape manually.
  • This dish can also be used as a side dish for a meat course – serve it warm of course.
  • The last bit of the morel liquid will contain some sediment, pour that away.
  • Some morel will come with bits of leafy stem, cut those away as they spoil the bouncy texture of the mushrooms.
 
 

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Foie Gras and Orange Reduction Amuse Bouche


(serves 10)
One day I was having a crepe suzette with ice cream and I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be lovely to have some foie gras with this? Somewhere along the way I dropped the crepe and ended up with a superb 3 layer foie gras suzette amuse bouche. The tart but sweet orange reduction provides an interesting contrast to the richness of the foie gras while the shot glass format allows you to control the usual appearance and temperature issues associated with canned foie gras, and to serve portions that are small enough to not overwhelm the stomach or pocket.    
 

Ingredients

  1. Canned ‘Bloc’ Foie Gras (200g)
  2. Oranges (2)
  3. Butter (80g)
  4. Shallots (10)
  5. Vanilla Ice Cream (1 scoop)
  6. Marscapone (1 scoop)
  7. Marmalade
  8. Dark Soya Sauce
  9. Lemon Grass 
  10. Cointreau

Preparation 

  1. First anbd foremost, make sure you have 10 shot glasses (the double shot type).
  2. Squeeze the juice from your oranges after cutting them into halves. Peel and then chop the shallots finely. If you have trouble finding shallots, use a (not 10) red onion instead.
  3. Melt the butter in a pan and stir fry the shallot bits on low heat for about 10 minutes.
  4. Pour in the orange juice and place the orange rind, cut side down in the pan and continue cooking for a minute so some of the bitterness bleeds into the juice.
  5. Next, discard the rind, then add 2 heaped t of orange marmalade and 2t lemon grass. Proceed to boil this down till it begins to thicken. It should take a while, don’t use too high a flame after the initial stage. 
  6. When the volume has been reduced to a thin syrup consistency, stir in 0.5t soya sauce. Allow the mixture to cool; it will thicken as it cools.
  7. Divide the foie gras into the 10 shot glasses. Compact and flatten the foie gras with a small spoon by moving the shot glass in a circular fashion. Clean the oil off the top half of the inner surface of the shot glasses with a tissue for better visual impact.
  8. When the orange butter reduction has cooled, spoon it into the shot glasses as  a second layer over the foie gras. See this picture here:
  9. Left tray has foie gras patted down, right tray has orange butter sauce on top of the foie gras

  10. In a bowl, mix one ice cream scoop of vanilla ice cream, 1 scoop of marscapone and 1T of cointreau. Its ok if the ice cream melts. Spoon the mixture carefully into the shot glasses as the final layer. Add a few needles of lemongrass as a ganish.
  11. Keep the shots refrigerated chill in the freezer for 5 min to bring the temperature down further before serving. Serve with a small spoon, instructing your guests to eat all 3 layers together.

Notes

  • Use the type of canned foie gras that is labeled ‘bloc’. Just use it straight out of the can, its 98% pure foie gras and fully cooked. Do not use fresh foie gras since it is raw. Don’t use foie gras pate or mousse since you are only using a small amount per amuse bouche and you want maximum impact. 
  • Soya sauce is the secret ingredient, don’t skip it. It adds just the right amount of saltiness and darkens the orange reduction to the right colour. Use the dark soya sauce if you can, it is thicker.
  • The marscapone reduces the sweetness from the ice cream and allows for a stiffer consistency at room temperature. Don’t skip it.
  • I do not recommend this but if you are cheating by using store bought orange juice, it is essential you get the type with pulp.
  • You can use Grande Marnier instead of Cointreau. If you absolutely hate alcohol, add the cointreau to the orange juice so the alcohol boils off. However, the top creamy layer will lose all of its orange aroma and undertone.

The Apple Version

this version is made in almost the same way as the orange version. Simply make the following changes to the ingredients: 

  • replace onion with one apple cut to 1/4 inch cubes, without skin
  • replace lemongrasss with 0.5t nutmeg and 0.5t cinnamon
  • replace orange juice with 1/2 cup white wine
  • replace marmalade with 1T sugar
  • replace cointreau with sherry
 
 

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Cod Liver on Leek Amuse-bouche


(serves as 3 appetizers or 6 amuse-bouche)
This is a delicate combination of smoked cod liver, leeks and sesame seeds that will go perfectly as an amuse-bouche. While the ingredients are inexpensive, this dish will still score high on the novelty factor. I know what you’re thinking, isn’t cod liver fishy? Not in this case. It’ll be like seafood flavoured faux foie gras. This dish is served chilled and you can prepare it ahead of time.

note: please refer to my Smoked Cod Liver post before proceeding.

Ingredients

  1. Smoked Cod Liver (1 tin)
  2. Leek (3/4 cup julienned)
  3. Sake (3/4 cup)
  4. Sesame Seeds (3t)
  5. Woustershire Sauce
  6. Mint Leaves (1t chopped)
  7. Coriander Seed Powder

Preparation 

  1. Two hours ahead, decant the oil of the smoked cod liver into a bowl for later use, then soak the cod liver pieces in 3/4 cup of sake. 
  2. Slice the leek into half lengthwise first and then proceed to julienne it diagonally to get long strips.
  3. Its now two hours later. Stir fry the leek in 4T of the cod infused oil under a low flame until the leek softens and just begins to brown. Put aside the cod liver pieces and add the sake to the leek in the pan.
  4. As the sake boils down slowly, add 0.5T woustershire sauce, 0.5t corriander seed powder, 0.5t suger, 1t of chopped mint leaves and a pinch of salt. Turn off the heat when the sake is about a fifth of its original volume. Allow to cool.
  5. After everything has cooled, prepare a bed of leek on each serving dish. Spoon over all the liquid from the pan as well. Evenly, sprinkle 3t of sesame seeds on the leek beds.
  6. Cut the liver pieces to the appropriate size as shown in the photo. You should make the cuts such that a cut surface faces up for each piece where possible. These have a reddish hue which makes for a much better appearance. You’ll notice that we at no point applied heat to the smoked cod liver, that’s the way its meant to be.
  7. Finish off with a light sprinkle of black pepper. Refrigerate until the point of serving.

Notes

  • What happened to the fishy taste? Smoking the cod liver had removes some of it and soaking it in sake neutralizes the rest. I’ve experimented soaking it from half an hour to overnight and I think 2 hours leaves you with just the right residual taste.The beauty here is we are not masking the fishiness with an overpowering smell like garlic, but removing it using a chemical reaction.
  • The accompanying picture is of an appetizer portion. If you are doing amuse-bouche, one of the best ways to serve this is in oriental porcelain spoons. Its just the right size for a mouthful.
 
 

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Runny Yolk Boiled Eggs


(serves 4)
Half a boiled egg is perfect as an amuse-bouche or hors d’oeuvre. Its easy to prepare and can be cooked ahead of time. To avoid the powdery taste of fully cooked yolk, many recipes simply scoop the yolk out and mix it with something creamy like mayonnaise but I prefer the more natural solution, which is to have the yolk still runny after the white has cooked. In Japan, where the practice of eating Ramen with molten yolk eggs was developed, this type of egg is called Ajitsuke Tamago or just plain Ajitama for short.
 

Ingredients

  1. Soya Sauce
  2. Chinese Cooking Wine
  3. Vinegar
  4. a Drawing Pin

Optional Ingredients

  1. Garlic (3 cloves)
  2. Smoked Salmon (25g)

Preparation
The first thing anyone learns about boiling eggs is to put cold water in the pot with the eggs to prevent them from cracking and leaking. This golden rule does not hold here as timing is absolutely crucial in having the yolk runny and white solid. Not to worry, there are a few tricks to that.

  1. Store your eggs in the fridge first and then submerge them in some tap water for 5 minutes to bring the temperature of the shell up but keep the yolk cold.  A fresh egg will sink completely in water. If part of an egg floats above the water surface that means an air pocket has built up inside and it is a few weeks old – you may want to cook that egg fully. Also an air pocket means part of the boiled egg will be flat and the yolk will end up off-centre.
  2. Next heat a pot of water, adding a T of vinegar. Make sure you have sufficient water to cover the eggs.
  3. Using a drawing pin, punch a small hole at the base (the wider end) of the each egg. This will serve to relieve stress on the shell and prevent cracking since you are putting the eggs directly into boiling water.
  4. When the water is boiling strongly, lower the eggs into the boling water. If the water stops boiling momentarily after you put the eggs in, you are using too little water. Simmer from 6 minutes for medium sized eggs to 7 minutes for XL sized eggs. Use a ladle so you can put all the eggs in at the same time.
  5. As the eggs are simmering, prepare a bowl of iced water. Once the eggs are ‘done’ transfer them immediately to the iced water to prevent further cooking.
  6. After the eggs have cooled sufficiently, tap them over their entire surface to fully crack the shells. As the eggs are cold, the egg itself should have shrunk enough to detach itself from the shell membrane and this will help you to avoid damaging the eggs’ surface as you peel them.
  7. Mix 4T soya sauce, 2T Chinese Cooking Wine and 1t of sugar in the smallest container you have that can house the eggs without stacking them.  Top off with water, stir and place the eggs in, making sure they are fully submerged. Cover with clear film and refrigerate for a few hours, or overnight if possible. After the eggs are stained, they will retain some taste from the marinade.
  8. Near the time of dining, slice each egg into two, and place a few drops of the marinade onto the yolk to impart some taste to them.

Optional (i.e. if not eating with Ramen)

  1. While you are letting the eggs warm to room temperature, peel and slice three cloves of garlic as finely as you can and pan fry them in a dash of oil till they are golden.
  2. Cut a slice of smoked salmon into tiny squares.
  3. Use them both as condiments for your egg as shown above.

Notes

  • This type of egg, that is to say Ajitama, is served with many types of Ramen.
  • If you happen to be making Chashu for Ramen you can use the stewing liquid as the marinade instead of making it from scratch. The soya component of the marinade can also be replaced with things like olive tapenade, tea leaves or mashed anchovy.
  • If you want to use a zip-loc bag to marinate the eggs in, make sure the bag is kept in a bowl the entire time.  When you lift the bag without a bowl, its narrow base can squeeze the eggs and cause ruptures, especially if you are making many eggs at once.
  • The iced water is essential. Instant cooling will help ensure that your eggs are cooked to the correct degree each time. Besides, slow cooling results in a grey coating on the yolk which we’d like to avoid.
  • The boiled egg is versatile. Other than the garlic/smoked salmon condiment combo suggested, you can try a wide variety of savoury alternatives like caviar, salmon roe, crispy fried bits of Iberico ham etc.
 
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Posted by on December 5, 2010 in Appetizers, Japanese, Recipe

 

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Smoked Cod Liver


Various dishes of liver from fatty fish are served as amuse-bouche in Japanese restaurants. Those fresh fish livers are hard to come by and prepare properly but I recently discovered a canned version from Denmark.

Its somewhat close to foie gras in taste, but comes at a small fraction of the price of foie gras. And you don’t have to get self-conflicted about fish being force fed. The texture is closer to calf sweetbreads except you needn’t worry about mad cow disease.  And best of all, this smoked cod liver is rich in Omega-3. 

The size of these delightul morsels is rather small so this sets some limitations on how you can serve them.  The most obvious way would be as a replacement for foie gras, in dishes which don’t require a whole chunk of goose liver. I myself prefer to serve this delicacy as itself, as I feel many people will take delight in sampling a new taste. I often use this smoked cod liver as the basis for an amuse-bouche, flavoured with various combinations of mustard, vinegar, mirin or fortified wine. Accompany this with something crispy to maintain balance, like thin toast or roasted sesame seeds perhaps. I have a recipe using smoked cod liver on this blog, you can check it out here

An added bonus is oil with a rich smoked flavour. You can’t see it in the photo because I decanted it, but the tin comes full of Omega-3 rich oil.  You can use this oil as part of a pasta sauce or salad dressing etc.

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2010 in Ingredients, Seafood

 

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What is an Amuse-bouche?


 

Bastardized from the french term ‘amouz-bouche’, which literally means amuse-the-mouth, the amuse-bouche is a small dish which can be eaten in one or two bites. In a fine french restaurant, it is a complimentry course served after you order your food but before the food that you ordered arrives. Its purpose is to reduce the idle time while your order is being prepared. Its sort of like a hors d’ oeuvre, except only one is served per person and you can’t pick which one. They are almost always served cold as they are usually prepared in advance.

Because of their small stature, greater attention is given to appearance, and amuse-bouches are served on such things as oriental porcelain spoons or glass tiles. In the home setting, you can use less ornate crockery such as shot glasses or expresso cups.

Some ideas for an amuse-bouche are smoked meat, raw or seared tuna, savoury jelly, mini terrine slices, small quantities of rich soups. You can also serve 3 amuse-bouche together (ie a trio) as a full appitizer, especially if they are made under a common theme.

Examples of amuse-bouche from Kobi’s Kitchen are my Smoked Oysters in Tomato Jelly, Cod Liver on Leek and Runny Yolk Boiled Eggs, Foie Gras & Orange Reduction Shots .

Notes

  • The other complimentry courses in fine French dining are sherbet (sorbet) served before your main course, and petits fours served after you ask for the bill.
 
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Posted by on February 11, 2010 in Appetizers, French

 

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Smoked Oysters in Tomato Jelly


(makes 4 to 8 servings, depending on serving size)
This is a visually attractive dish which I normally serve as a amuse-bouche (pre-appetizer) although it can also be served as a regular cold appetizer. The dish consists of a base of smoked oyster puree, with small cubes of fresh tomatoes sandwiched under a topping of minted tomato jelly. 
 

Ingredients

  1. Smoke Oysters (100g)
  2. Mayonnaise (2t)
  3. Tomatoes (2)
  4. Mint leaves (chopped)
  5. Coriander seed powder 

Preparation

  1. The first step is check for serving ware of the appropriate size. I typically use shot glasses as they are transparent, but you can use any number of other options such as dessert wine glasses.
  2. Place your smoke oysters in the food processor together with any liquid from the tin. Spoon in 2t of mayonnaise which will bind the oil to the puree and add a spinkle of black pepper. Blend under high speed for about 5 seconds.
  3. Spoon the puree into the bottom 1/3 of you shot glasses. The way to do this wihout dirtying the sides is to use two tea spoons. Push the puree off one spoon with the other such that the puree falls dead centre into the shot glasses. Then flatten.
  4. You should use tomatoes which are fresh and crisp. Halve each tomato from the bottom down and spoon the insides (i.e. the jelly) of the tomatoes into a bowl. Mash the jelly with your fingers and remove any solid bits. Stir in 2t of chopped mint leaves.
  5. Cut the outer portion of one tomato into 1/4 inch strips and then futher into cubes. Divide these equally on top of the puree. You probably won’t be needing the remainder of the second tomato, have it handy just in case.
  6. Top off each shot glass with the minted jelly and then sprinkle a generous amount of coriander powder over the surface.
  7. Refrigerate until it is time to serve. When serving, instruct your diners to mix all the contents rather than eating a layer at a time.

Notes

  • If you are going for full-sized appitizers, I’d suggest expresso cups, in which you can hold 4 servings with the quantity of ingredients specified.
  • You can also try pairs of shot glasses with a different base (say smoked salmon) in the second shot glass for contrast. 
  • I’ve included a picture here of my hand-held food processor set which is indespensible to every home kitchen. Its easy to clean and doesn’t take much storage space. Each set comes with 3 different attachments for whipping, making purees and in-the-pot blending.

 

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2010 in A Kobi Original, Appetizers, Recipe, Seafood

 

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