DESPITE the mass splattering of red decorations over every street in Singapore in readiness for Chinese New Year my focus for the week was on preparing a party feast for Russian New Year, albeit a late one.
Russian cuisine would not be one of my chosen Mastermind topics. However this was nothing a few evenings with Google couldn’t change, or at least help with. (Well, that and a Russian cookbook from the 1990s that my mother thrust into my case as I bounded out the door a few weeks before.)
While the host and I enthusiastically went through the menu I tentatively mentioned that from what I could gather Russian cuisine centres on dill, vodka and sour cream.
The party menu: Cocktails (including Russian mules – vodka, ginger beer, lime); Canapés (smoked salmon blini with sour cream and caviar, smoked herring on cucumber slices with dill and apple); Main (beef stroganoff with rice, Satsivi, roasted chicken with garlic, coriander and saffron, Fish Po Azovsky, baked fish with white wine, spinach, stewed tomato and parsley); Sides (including beetroot, smetana and walnut salad); Dessert (including apple Sharlotka, and White Russian ice cream with chilled vodka coffee syrup); Midnight snack (potato, mushroom and cheese pirozhki).
Some of the dishes took on a more Georgian slant as they have slightly more ingredients incorporated into their cuisine like the coriander and saffron in the chicken dish. The star of the night for many of us were the pirozhki, small bread parcels that can be stuffed with meat, cheese or vegetables. These little beauties should make a midnight appearance at all good parties and will certainly be appearing again on my menus over 2016.
The rest of the week was spent cooking for (slightly less wild) dinner parties, shopping at various markets and eating steamed dumplings.
I confess after my time out here I am slightly in love with dumplings especially the Xiao Long Bao (pictured) which traditionally contain pork and a scalding hot liquid that bursts into your mouth once you bite into the steaming little juicy morsels.
Here is an Eastern-inspired recipe for Matcha eclairs I made one night for dessert. Matcha is a powdered green tea from Japan and China. It lends a superb green colour to dishes and has a delicate, delightful, exotic and somewhat unusual taste. It works extremely well in noodles, ice cream, kit-kats and eclairs.
50g butter cut into cubes, plus extra for greasing
150 ml water
65 g plain flour
1 dsp caster sugar
2 eggs lightly beaten
Preheat the oven to 220 °C. Line a large flat tray with baking paper.
Place the butter and water in a small saucepan to melt the butter and bring the water just to the boil. Take off the heat, tip all the flour and sugar in at once and stir. Once in a ball return to a low heat and cook for a couple of minutes stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for about 10 minutes – this stage is really important as if you add the eggs in when the mixture is too hot your éclairs are doomed.
Once the mix is cooler, add 2/3s of the eggs and beat till combined. You want to form a paste you can pipe and it still holds its shape so add as much egg as needed. Scoop into a piping bag and pipe out 12 strips about 7 cm long, two strips wide and two layers high – leaving space in-between each eclair.
Bake for 10 minutes then reduce the oven to 170 °c and bake for a further 15 – 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and pierce each éclair at one end with a skewer to release the steam and leave to cool on a rack.
Matcha Cream Patisserie
500 ml whole milk
1 vanilla pod
3 egg yolks
100 g caster sugar
60 g cornflour, sifted
2 tsp matcha powder, sifted
35 g butter, cut into cubes
Weigh out all the ingredients. Pour the milk into a saucepan and add the scraped seeds and the pod. Gently bring to a boil. In a bowl whisk the egg yolks with sugar then add the corn flour and matcha. Whisk in the just boiled milk (discarding the pod) then pour back into the saucepan. Using a spatula and occasionally a whisk slowly cook the mix for a couple of minutes. It should be thick and by the end not taste of raw corn flour. Take off the heat and stir in the butter. Scrape into a bowl, cover with cling film and leave in the fridge to cool completely.
White chocolate icing
Make this just before you are ready to use it.
100 g white chocolate
1 tbs double cream
Melt the white chocolate with 1 tbs double cream in a pan on a low heat till smooth.
Matcha green dribble
1 tbs icing sugar
1 tsp matcha
1 – 3 tsp water
Mix the icing sugar and matcha together and stir in enough water to create a paste that can be dribbled.
To assemble: Cut each éclair lengthways, fill a piping bag with the matcha patisserie cream and pipe a good layer onto the bottom half then place the back the top of the eclair.
Spoon on top a thin layer of white chocolate icing. Leave this to set then dribble over some green matcha icing.