16th November 2013.
I enjoy attending cooking demonstrations when you get to know the chef’s thinking process in the making of his dishes. I was fortunate to attend the cooking demonstration by Peter Rollinson of Halia one weekend where he prepared several Halia signature dishes which are his unique European creations with inspiration taken from the local cuisine and produce.
Chef Peter seemed to pay a lot of attention to the acquisition of local produce which is largely unknown to Singaporeans. I mean Singapore is not a place where one would relate to agriculture. Nonetheless, Chef Peter, a passionate and enthusiastic figure went all out to acquire local produce for his dishes such as sweet potato leaves, locally farmed barramundi and frogs etc from the little bit of agricultural land left in the Northwestern part of Singapore and her remaining kelongs.
The first dish for the demonstration is a twist to the Frog Leg Porridge. Unlike the rich, heavy frog leg porridge we are acquainted with in Geylang, Chef Peter's Jurong Farm Frog Leg ‘Porridge’ with Ginger, Spring Onion and Cucumber uses rolled oats instead of rice. The oats was cooked in chicken stock and a ginger and spring onion pesto. Chef Peter cautioned that oats tend to cook quickly and turn mushy easily so stay focus when dealing with this delicate ingredient. The end result is a comparatively light dish with tender chunks of frog legs garnished with chilli and coriander leaf. This beats the lao ren mai my mum kept eating in the morning, try making this for breakfast one day?
The next dish is a Barramundi Fillet with Cauiliflower, Curry and Baby Spinach Leaves. Initially Chef Peter wanted to use sweet potato leaves for this dish instead of baby spinach leaves. However, sweet potato plants are rather fragile during the rainy season which resulted in temperamental supply of sweet potato leaves and today is just one of those days where it is in shortage.
Chef Peter explained that sweet potato leaves is preferred for its ability to retain its crunchiness even after cooking compared to spinach and he liked that variation in texture that sweet potato leaves provide. The barramundi in used was sourced from Barramundi Asia. Alternatively, one could use other fish for this dish such as sea bass and baby snapper.
This dish utilizes quite a range of spices such as cumin, coriander, turmeric, garam masala and black mustard seeds. All of which are available at Sheng Siong at affordable prices. Chef Peter didn’t use some fancy Masterfood or McCormick spices. It is your local spices you can find in Fairprice or Sheng Siong. For the cooking of the Barramundi, Chef Peter uses pomace olive oil but you could use canola oil as well, the key thing is that the oil shouldn’t have too strong a flavour such as extra virgin olive oil.
As a bonus, Chef Peter also shared one of his favourite garnish or complement to his dishes: a Parmesan Walnut Crumb which is made of shaved parmesan sprinkled in a circular motion around the pan till it just before it turns brown then take it away for it to cool and harden. (Don’t use high quality parmesan as the fat is needed to keep the melted cheese together). Remove any browned bits as these are bitter then chop the parmesan into pieces before mixing in the chopped walnuts.
This Parmesan Walnut Crumb will be the crowning garnish for the end product of barramundi dish, which is another light, delicate dish with the curried cauliflower and spinach to accentuate the flavours of the barramundi.
Perhaps, the most impressive dish for the day was the Ginger Parfait with Roasted Pineapple. It is a dessert that takes many steps and looks complicated but your effort will be rewarded handsomely (unless you are not a fan of ginger). Unlike your usual parfait, the ginger parfait was served in triangular blocks and paired with roasted pineapple. The addition of caramelized ginger really gives this dessert a fascinating dimension by giving it a really fragrant gingery flavour with a hint of spiciness which balances off the sweetness of the parfait. In short, I really enjoyed this dessert, would love to make it someday.
If you have the free time, money and enjoy cooking, do consider going down to La Galerie De Dietrich for a cooking demonstration. By the way, their Le Piano is awesome, but way beyond my budget. If you are interested in tasting Peter Rollinson's cooking, you could also visit one of the Halia restaurants.
Here is the recipe for the Jurong Farm Frog 'Porridge', Ginger Spring Onion and Coriander
Ingredients for Ginger and Spring Onion Pesto
100g Young Ginger
150g Spring Onion
175g Canola Oil
1. Blend using the young ginger with 100g of the canola oil until fine.
2. Using a stick blender/blender, finely blend the spring onion and coriander with 50ml of the canola oil.
3. Add the leftover canola oil to a hot pan, saute the ginger puree on induction hob over low heat for 5-10 minutes.
4. Add the spring onion mixture and continue to saute for 10 minutes.
5. Add sesame oil, salt and pepper. Chill over ice until ready to use. I think fridge is possible too but cling wrap it.
Ingredients for Garnish
30 g Coriander Leaf
2 pcs Large Red Chilli (seeds removed, cut julienne)
2 stems Spring Onion (cut julienne)
1. Mix all ingredients together and set aside until read to serve.
Ingredients for Frog Legs
6 pcs Frog Legs (from Jurong Frog Farm)
3 cloves Garlic (lightly crushed)
1 sprig Rosemary
Ingredients for 'Porridge'
150g Rolled Oats
300ml Chicken Stock
2 tbsp Ginger and Spring Onion Pesto
1. Heat the chicken stock in a small sauce pan on induction hob, once simmering add the oats and cook until tender.
2. Add the ginger and spring onion pesto and the butter and season with salt and pepper.
3. To cook the frog, place the butter, garlic and rosemary in a pan on induction power level 7, when the butter is foaming, add the frog legs and cook until just cooked through (be careful not to overcook the legs as they dry out considerably when overcooked).
4. Place a spoon of the porridge in a serving dish, top with the frog legs and then garnish with the coriander and chilli salad.
As always, recipes are not dead set. Adjust accordingly.
Many thanks to Cyndiana and Ivy of FoodNews for the invitation to Paul Rollinson's cooking demonstration at De Dietrich!
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