the hinata diaries

Monday, February 06, 2006

Sunday brunch at home

Ever since we opened the doors of our new home to friends and family last week, most of Philippe and my time has been spent trying to find new excuses to invite people over. And breaking in my still pristine Donna Hay's Modern Classics 2 seemed like a perfect reason.

Donna Hay's baking and dessert book is definitely no fancy and intimidating French tome. But it is filled with gorgeous photographs, surprisingly simple recipes and, as the title suggests, is the perfect baking encyclopedia for every classic dish you've tried/heard of/seen on a menu/peered at through glazed patisserie windows - cookies, muffins, tarts, puddings, scones, friandes, crumbles, flourless chocolate cake...

We ended up staying at home all day (which we're determined to do now anyway - it did take us a year and a small fortune to get this place ready after all!) and hosting two sessions - a brunch in the late morning and afternoon tea. And voila the menu!
  • Lemon and tomato salad, from Cooking Moroccan
  • Spiced carrots, ditto
  • Homemade tabbouleh
  • Anis' scrambled eggs with bacon (no bacon pic attached, use your imagination :) )
  • Chocolate chip cookies, from Donna Hays' Modern Classics 2
  • Coconut macaroons, ditto
  • Pink grapefruit granita, ditto
  • Plum clafoutis, ditto
  • Fresh papayas and baked nectarines with brown sugar mascarpone

Tabbouleh and grapefruit granita recipes after the pics. Unfortunately forgot to take a pic of the best dish (to me) of the day - the plum clafoutis.

I've been curious about clafoutis (sounds like a great blog title, like Sleepless in Seattle!) for a while - I tried a hotel buffet version of a cherry clafoutis at a Sunday brunch at the Shangri-La in KL's a couple of years ago and wasn't too impressed, but the sheer sight of it sent Philippe in emotional somersaults. Apparently, [insert stone fruit here] clafoutis was once Philippe's favourite dessert back in France. Which immediately made it one of my Most Important Cooking Challenges. Actually, any dish that no-one but Philippe's mom can make immediately becomes a Most Important Cooking Challenge, not in a rivalrous sort of way, but more out of curiousity to find out what his childhood tasted like. My own childhood food memories are still too sacred to attempt to recreate just yet :)

Anyway, happy to report that the clafoutis turned out both gorgeous and yummy. Philippe only managed to get a small slice of it since it was wolfed down pretty quickly by everyone else (including me). Will make this again soon and post pics then. For a simple mental picture though, imagine:

  • A square baking tray
  • Said tray filled with 16 heart shaped plum halves, cut side up
  • Said plum halves cushioned comfortably in a pudding (like bread pudding), puffed and golden brown
  • Said plum halves also oozing glorious purple plum juice on the sides
  • Barely visible (alright, so it was invisible, but just for the sake of imagining...) steam rising from the fresh-from-the-oven pudding

And there you have it!

Tabbouleh from scratch

Tabbouleh, the North African grain and mint salad, used to be one of our favourite party dishes - you can find the instant version at most Carrefours, which more or less involves adding water and sticking the bowl into the fridge. It's typically served cold and is perfect for hot sunny days (i.e. most days in Singapore). This time, I decided to try making the tabbouleh from scratch, and realized that it really is pretty simple, although you do have to start fairly early in the day to give the grains sufficient time to absorb all the lovely flavours.

Serves 4

  • 1 cup bulghur wheat
  • 60 ml olive oil
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons flat leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons mint, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons coriander, finely chopped
  • 1 green pepper, seeds and stalk removed and thinly sliced
  • Diced tomatoes to garnish (optional)

Soak bulghur wheat in cold water to cover and leave 30 minutes.

Transfer bulghur wheat to kitchen towel and pat out excess water. Replace kitchen towel and repeat until wheat is almost completely dry. Transfer dry wheat to large serving bowl (Warning: this can gets pretty messy, with grains falling all over the place. But absolutely necessary as you need the wheat to be dry in order to absorb what comes next.)

Toss wheat with olive oil, lemon juice, sugar, salt and pepper. Cover and chill for 1-2 hours, the longer the better.

Before serving, toss with remaining ingredients and serve chilled.

Pink grapefruit granita

I'd planned to use serve the granita, essentially grapefruit crushed ice, with alcohol as a welcome cocktail for our brunch guests. Unfortunately, being tucked away in the freezer, I completely forgot about it. Retrieved it in time for tea and passed Nina the first spoonful as a taste test. The look of sheer bliss on her face sent me reaching for the spoon as well and we tore down the stairs waving frantically (practically screaming "Eureka!") and thrusting spoonfuls of the ice into our amused guests' faces. So much for needing alcohol! Bottom line: you have to try this. It's ridiculously simple - if you can make ice cubes you can make this - and just amazing. The only drawback is that it melts pretty darn quickly, so be prepared to serve and eat it within seconds of taking it out of the freezer.

Serves 6

  • 4 grapefruits, juice squeezed and strained - makes about 2 cups juice
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2/3 cup caster sugar

Heat water and sugar over low flame, stirring constantly until sugar is completely dissolved. Let stand until cool.

Mix syrup in jug with grapefruit juice. Pour into shallow metal tray and freeze, approximately 4 hours.

To serve, scrape granita with fork to make fluffy crystals. Serve immediately.


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