Saturday, September 12, 2015

Master Class with BBC Celebrity Chef Rachel Allen

A great start to the weekend comes in the form of fun bakes with Rachel Allen.

Collaborating with BBC Lifestyle, Rachel Allen is visiting Singapore for the 5th time and I'm honored to receive an exclusive media invite by BBC Channel to attend cooking master class with BBC Lifestyle conducted by her.

BBC Celebrity Chef Rachel Allen returns to TV screens on BBC Lifestyle (Starhub Channel 432) with a new series - Rachel Allen: All Things Sweet - as she indulges in her passion for delectable desserts.

BBC Celebrity Chef Rachel Allen returns to TV screens on BBC Lifestyle (Starhub Channel 432) with a new series - Rachel Allen: All Things Sweet - as she indulges in her passion for delectable desserts.

She recreates mouth-watering morsels from her same-titled cookbook and shares some sweet-making secrets in the class. The recipe in the class is flavor-filled Banana, Ginger and Golden Syrup Bread, and Chocolate Peanut Brittle Butter Cookies.

I brought Kattie along as I knew she will enjoy the fun. And indeed she is. She is so hyped throughout the class and cracked good jokes too. Chef Rachel recognized her as the 'relaxed assistant' as what Kattie named herself. This Irish TV chef is quite a fun person.

All thanks to Palate Sensations for the nice and fully equipped kitchen. Everything was nicely arranged upon our arrival. All we need to do is to whip away with the flow.

The recipe is not difficult to follow. The Banana Bread is just mix, pour over, and bake. Result is really nice. The whole kitchen smells so good. Look at this happy girl with her bakes.

My favorite part is the crunchy peanut brittle. Kattie did it very well. The peanut brittle was nicely and evenly coated with caramelized sugar.

I can't tell you how much love I had for those caramelized crunchy peanut brittle. I had been eating em' while the butter cookies still baking in the oven. I don't think I can wait. Haha..

When I popped some peanut brittle into my mouth, I told Chef Rachel that "Kitchen is how kitchen supposed to be like". She laughed and she popped some into her mouth too. 

This is the end result baked by Chef Rachel. The ginger taste is at the strong side. It needs to be reduced slightly as the ginger powder in Asia is probably stronger than those in UK.

This Chocolate Peanut Brittle Butter Cookies. Too good and too addictive. I feels like Christmas!

From impressive afternoon tea goodies to irresistible treats for the little ones, I believe Chef Rachel Allen's All Things Sweet cooking tips will entice to rediscover the joy of baking. Probably I should take a look at her cookbook soon.

There's always room for something sweet :)

All thanks to BBC Channel and Palate Sensation for the hospitality. We had fun and we had a great experience.

Corn Chowder (玉米浓汤)

Corn Chowder is one of the ultimate comfort food. I had been cooking this soup for many times and I never gets tired of it. I guarantee you, this hearty home-made bowl of soul is easy and delicious.

Since my whole family loves this soup, I see no reason for not sharing this recipe. This recipe makes super comforting chowder and it's easier than you think to make. This Corn Chowder soup doesn't use milk, flour and corn starch. The starchy and the thickness comes from the potatoes. It's real stuff.

If you wants to make it more of a meal, you can add abit of fish or seafood in it. Probably crab meat, chunks of prawns, or even smoked fish.

This recipe feeds 4 soup portion. But if you are adding some seafood chunks, this recipe serves 3 as a meal.

  • 1 pack Sweet Corn Whole Kernels (380g). ** SEE NOTE
  • 2 Big Russet Potatoes, diced ** SEE NOTE
  • 1 Big Yellow Onions, chopped
  • 200g Bacon (about 8 slices)
  • 400ml Chicken Stock ** SEE NOTE
  • 200ml Water
  • 50g Butter
  • 100ml + 50ml Whipping Cream
  • 1 Fresh Red Chilli, finely chopped (optional) ** SEE NOTE
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • Some chopped parsley for garnishing
Note :
1. Sweet Corn Kernels might be in a pack or in a can. No specific brand required. I use Del-Monte is because the packing is easy to open. This brings laziness to the next level. Haha... Anyway, you just have to be more alert when you purchase it. There's sweet corn whole kernels and sweet corn cream style. Don't get the wrong one. If you want, you can use fresh sweet corn and cut the kernels on your own. But taste result will vary. Frozen corn kernels might be a good alternative too.

2. If your potatoes are too small, use 3 potatoes instead of 2.

3. It's undeniably that chicken stock gives better flavor to the soup. But if you don't have chicken stock at home and you are not fussy about it, you could just use water. The existence of rendered bacon gives good flavor to the soup too.

4. Adding red chilli in the chowder will surprise you. I always do that. Chilli in the soup will bring your overall corn chowder taste to another new level. But for this particular time, I forgot about my chilli. I only realize my red chilli still sitting in the fridge AFTER I finished cooking my corn chowder! *Grrrrr!!*  If you are feeding kids, and worrying the existence of the chilli, then, you can choose not to add them in.

  1. Prepare all the ingredients - Chop yellow onions, dice potatoes, cut bacon into small pieces, remove seeds from chilli and finely chopped them. 
  2. A tablespoon of cooking oil (or lard if you have some at home) on the saucepot, throw in all the bacon pieces. Let it render under low flame, stirring it occasionally to prevent sticking at the bottom, otherwise it will get burnt easily. Render until all bacon pieces are all brown and crispy. Refer to picture. Remove some bacon bits from the saucepot, set aside for topping later. Leave the rest in the saucepot. 
  3. Add chopped onions into the saucepot and cook together with the bacon pieces under medium low fire, stir well, let it cook until onions are fragrant and soft. 
  4. Set aside 1/4 portion of sweet corn kernels aside. Pour the balance 3/4 sweet corn, chopped red chilli and diced potatoes into the saucepot. Stir well and cook for about 5 mins. 
  5. Add in 400ml chicken stock (or water). Once it is boiled, let it simmer under medium low fire for about 8 mins.
  6. Pour the soup into the blender and blend until smooth. You can roughly blend them if you prefer the less smooth soup texture. Pour the blended soup into a pot. Add 200ml water into the blender to 'rinse' the balance soup in the blender. Pour it back to the pot. No waste. Add in the remaining 1/4 sweet corn kernels. Stir. Let it simmer under dead low fire for another 5 mins. You have to keep stirring the soup so the soup doesn't stick to the pot.
  7. Add in 100ml whipping cream, salt and pepper. Stir and taste. 
  8. At this point of time, go whip up 50ml chilled whipping cream until stiff peak, keep it in the fridge for later use. However, this is absolutely optional. You can do away without whipped cream topping if you want it less fancy.
  9. To serve - Reheat the soup. Add in 50g Butter and give it a good stir. The butter will give the soup a very good gloss and nice buttery fragrant that you won't be able to resist. Top with whipped cream, chopped parsley and crunchy bacon bits. 
Ingredients are easily available at the supermarket. This corn chowder is absolutely fuss free.

Rendering bacon pieces under low flame. This takes abit of patience. Please ensure that you are stirring it occasionally to prevent from sticking at the bottom and ensure every bacon piece are well cooked. I use lard in replace of cooking oil. I love lard. It gives really good flavor.

Render Bacon pieces, add in chopped onions. Add in diced potatoes and corn kernels, add chicken stock, and simmer away. It's easy and it's not difficult to follow when there's photo shown here.

Next, blend the soup into smooth texture, add cream and butter. That's it. Easy.

As I mentioned above, to make it a meal, you can add seafood into the soup. And Oh.. don't forget to grab some bread to go along with. What you see here is a good combination of Corn Chowder, Romaine Walnut Salad, Nordic Sourdough with butter, and some chips to go along. This is my weekend lunch! Mad love!!!!

You could tweak the recipe by adding extra diced potatoes onto the blended soup, give it a good 5mins slow simmer before adding the cream. Leave it there untouched. The diced potatoes will soften by the remaining heat from the soup. This way, your chowder will good chunk of potatoes bites.

Maybe this recipe can be a generic recipe across other soups or chowder as well. Just replace corn kernels with leek and some celery, you will have Leek Soup. Replace corn kernels with fresh peas, and you will have peas soup.  It doesn't matter. The idea is really to be as hearty and as homely as possible. Right?

You know what? I hate it when some western-food-wannabe casual dining place serves me f**ked-up canned soup diluted with water and thickened it with corn starch. Urghh!!!

No more canned soup. Eat the real stuff. Try cooking corn chowder at home now!!!