Saturday, May 21, 2011

My Favourite Macadamia Nut Tarts

Much like a pecan pie but with the lighter, softer flavours of macadamia nuts. Utterly delicious with a scoop of vanilla, honey or earl grey ice cream.

Makes a 24-cm tart or 6 to 8 mini tarts

Prep time: 1 hr
Cooking time: 1 hr 15 mins

For sweet tart dough:
290 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150 g icing sugar, sifted
70 g ground almonds
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
490 g plain flour

For filling:
42 g (3 tbsp) unsalted butter
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
3/4 cup corn syrup
135 g firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp rum
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups macadamia nuts, toasted and roughly chopped

Special equipment:
24-cm tart tin or 6 mini rectangular tart tins
Baking weights, dried beans or raw rice

1. To make pastry, place butter in the bowl of a standing or hand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat over medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes.
2. Add icing sugar and beat again until well blended, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl, about 2 minutes.
3. Add ground almonds, salt and vanilla and mix till smooth, scraping the bowl as necessary.
4. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well (for about 30 seconds) after each addition.
5. Reduce speed to low and add flour. As soon as the flour is incorporated, stop mixing — you don’t want to overwork the flour.
6. Gather dough into a ball and divide into 3 pieces. Gently press each piece into a disk and wrap each disk in cling film. Place in refrigerator for at least 3 hours or up to 2 days. This dough will keep in the freezer for up to a month.
7. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.
8. Because this is a very buttery dough, it can be fiddly to work with. So it’s best to roll the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap. If the dough becomes too soft while working with it, simply slip it back into the fridge for a few minutes.
9. Roll out one ball of dough to about 5 mm thick and line a 24-cm tart tin with it.
10. Prick the dough all over with a fork and chill in the fridge for 5 minutes.
11. Line the dough with a piece of parchment paper and fill about half-full with pie weights, dried beans or rice.
12. Place tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the crust is lightly coloured. Remove parchment and baking weights and return crust to the oven for another 8 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a rack while you get on with the filling.
13. To make the filling, melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Let the butter cook until some of the white solids fall to the bottom of the skillet and turn a rich hazelnut brown, about 10 minutes.
14. Strain brown butter through a fine sieve into the bowl of an electric mixer. Allow butter to cool before adding the rest of the ingredients except the macadamia nuts. Whisk until well blended, then strain through a fine sieve. (This filling can be made and refrigerated up to 3 days in advance).
15. Preheat oven to 150 degrees C and place tart pan on a foil-lined baking sheet.
16. Spread nuts over the bottom of the tart shell and pour filling over.
17. Bake until filling is set and golden brown on top, about 45 to 55 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack before serving.

This recipe was first published in the November 2010 issue of Food & Travel magazine
Photography by Mervin Chua/Aperture Ink

Good Eating, Mate

Stylishly laidback Aussie eatery Bronte makes its mark on the Greenwood stretch.

The waiters at Greenwood neighbourhood newbie Bronte are exceptionally tall (and young). And perhaps it is their remarkable height—and youth—that boosts their ability to move swiftly about the often-crowded white-brick-walled dining room. On Saturday evenings, these waiters (and the restaurant’s acoustics) are tested to their limits by the largely Australian clientele, all brimming with that bright Aussie verve. Word of advice: If you want a Saturday night dinner where you can hear yourselves, ask for a seat outside.

And if you haven’t already guessed, Bronte—named after the Sydney beachside suburb—is an Aussie restaurant helmed by chef-in-residence Justin Wong. The 33-year-old was born in Malaysia and lived most of his life in Australia where he cut his teeth under well-known culinary names like Luke Mangan.

His is a lean menu of about six starters, five mains, three steaks and a handful of desserts. And given such a tight selection, the expectation is that each dish should be done impeccably well. In that respect, Wong doesn’t disappoint.

Particularly good are the steaks. A 200-day grain-fed Stockyard sirloin from Queensland ($38 for 250g) had a wonderfully acrid char that buckled down to the knife to unravel richness and depth. It was even better than the more expensive 300-day grain fed Rangers Valley ribeye ($48 for 250g), which though an above-average slab of meat, lacked the nuance and resonance of the Stockyard.

Clich├ęd as it sounds when describing fine Aussie fare, the flavours here are all bright, fresh and light. A starter of tomato soup ($12) gains complexity with the addition of smoked spice. A Portobello mushroom and baby spinach salad ($18) is deftly dressed in balsamic and oil and softened with a mild and creamy goat’s cheese. There is a remarkably tender and crisp salt and pepper squid ($16) served with lime aioli.

The starter portions are ample, which is great for sharing before tucking into mains like a robust braised beef cheeks ($34) cooked bourguignon-style or a succulent pan-fried barramundi ($28) with snow peas and tomato salsa.

If I had one gripe, it was the rather rustic-textured mashed potatoes—just a few chunks shy of a potato salad. It’s the kind of love-it-or-hate-it dish with absolutely no in-between. You either love it because it reminds you of the best mashed potatoes your Asian mother ever made or hate it because it’s not rich, smooth and satiny like how Joel Robuchon makes it.

The restaurant has only been open for about four months now, and it is already packed to the gills on weekends at dinner and brunch, when it serves simple, homey eats like a bacon and egg roll with HP sauce ($11) and grilled sirloin steak sandwiches ($18). So call in advance to reserve a seat if you don’t live around the corner.

8 Greenwood Avenue
Tel: 6219 9151

Opening hours:
Monday to Friday 11.30am to 2.30pm, 6pm to 10.30pm
Saturday and Sunday 10am to 3pm, 6pm to 10.30pm

An edited version of this article was published in TODAY on 22 April 2011
Photos courtesy of Bronte

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Case Of A New Identity

Fine dining Italian restaurant Forlino has a new chef at the helm, and with him, a new Italian direction.

Chef Mario Caramella’s food is good—and he knows it. “You don’t get to stay in this business for 20, 30 years and not be of a certain standard,” the 51-year-old Italian says with a dry smile. Caramella is the new Chef Patron of Forlino and he brings not just confidence and mettle, but also a welcome jolt of colour to the food.

To wit, his Insalata di Aragosta ($38), a beautiful lobster salad artfully arranged on bright yellow passion fruit sauce (the texture of light ointment), topped with coriander air and crowned with a violet pansy. It is vibrant in both looks and taste, with layers of flavours and textures that make it easy to polish off all too quickly. And yes, we said ‘coriander air’.

Evidently Caramello is no purist. “There are 20 regional cuisines in Italy,” he says, “but Italian chefs working overseas like me, we make up the 21st region. We cook Italian food that is created outside of Italy using the best ingredients produced around the world.”

That means modern techniques like sous vide are also part of his canon, in which Quaglie Arrosto ($58) is a dish he is particularly proud of. In it, he rolls a nugget of goose liver within a quail’s breast, wraps it in pancetta and cooks it in a vacuum bag in an extremely low temperature water bath for a long time. Before the dish is served, the meat is seared in a hot pan to give it a nice crisp and draped with a velvety sauce redolent of mushrooms.

It is a dish Caramella says he spent years reworking and perfecting. And the reward is a plump succulent meat roll with those thoughtful textural layers that make all the difference in the mouth.

Caramella also reinterprets that classic dish of osso bucco deftly in the form of ravioli ($38). The stewed veal shank is stuffed in a lovely homemade saffron and pumpkin ravioli and swathed in the meat’s sauce. For the diner, it is a delightful way of enjoying this otherwise rich meat dish in a lighter form with all the classic flavours faithfully intact.

Now while we’ve ascertained that the food at Forlino under Caramella is good, it would be remiss not to mention the view. It is no secret that Forlino offers one of the best views in town, but now that the new skyline dominated by Marina Bay Sands is complete, it is quite astonishingly spectacular.

The prices here at dinner are pretty decent too, especially compared to other upmarket restaurants in its vicinity. A four-course Classics Menu costs $108 and a six-course Degustation Menu ($158).

If it’s been a long time since you’ve eaten at Forlino, now is the time to revisit. The food is certainly different. It is brighter, more modern and more complex. And that fantastic view is definitely worth the money.

#02-06 One Fullerton
One Fullerton Road
Singapore 049213
T: 68776995

An edited version of this review was published in TODAY newspaper on 29 April 2011
Images here are courtesy of Forlino