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TOWARDS EATING PLEASURE: The recipes in Ms Ong's book (above) are meant to be flexible so they can be whipped up any time of the day.

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TOWARDS EATING PLEASURE: Raw tuna radish and soybean salad with Japanese-inspired dressing.

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TOWARDS EATING PLEASURE: Seasonal greens with poached egg and ‘green goddess’ sauce.

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DOWN TO THE BASICS: The book by Ms Menezes (above) - the first of its kind which is tailored specifically for Singapore's apartment dwellers - gets to the nitty-gritty of growing 15 herbs, covering the general basics of how to pot them to how to ensure best growth.

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DOWN TO THE BASICS: The book by Ms Menezes - the first of its kind which is tailored specifically for Singapore's apartment dwellers - gets to the nitty-gritty of growing 15 herbs, covering the general basics of how to pot them to how to ensure best growth.

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DOWN TO THE BASICS: The book by Ms Menezes - the first of its kind which is tailored specifically for Singapore's apartment dwellers - gets to the nitty-gritty of growing 15 herbs, covering the general basics of how to pot them to how to ensure best growth; (above) Mint, cucumber and orange immune booster salad.

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CHANGING SCENE: 'I wanted to debunk the myth that Chinese herbs could only be used as medicine when one is ill, and spread the knowledge that Chinese herbs can be incorporated into the daily diet as a way of life for the maintenance of good health,' says Joanna Wong (above) of her book, Herbalicious.

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CHANGING SCENE: 'I wanted to debunk the myth that Chinese herbs could only be used as medicine when one is ill, and spread the knowledge that Chinese herbs can be incorporated into the daily diet as a way of life for the maintenance of good health,' says Joanna Wong of her book, (above) Herbalicious.

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CHANGING SCENE: Bak kut teh beef in cabbage wrap.

Only the good stuff

Healthy cooking and eating get easier with three new cookbooks filled with nourishing yet time-saving recipes.
Jul 2, 2016 5:50 AM

The Pleasures of Eating Well: Nourishing Favourites from the Como Shambhala Kitchen
By Christina Ong
S$95.00 before GST, 305x225mm / 303pp / Cased

The book will retail at Como Shambhala Urban Escape at Delfi Orchard, SuperNature at Forum the Shopping Mall, Culina at Dempsey Hill, Amazon.com, and www.club21global.com from early August 2016

THIS is a book you would want to bring to your bedroom, where you will close your eyes and stroke its linen spine, running your fingers over the textured coconuts on the front cover - before you crack it open in your kitchen.

For some of us, that is also as close as we'll get to a Como resort. For others, it would definitely bring some lovely recollections of the good food partaken at any one of Como's 13 properties worldwide.

Founder Christina Ong's elegance is reflected in the classy look of the book, and as she reveals in her introduction, the whopping 147 recipes is a reflection of her sensible approach to eating well. Those pleasures are built into her DNA, she writes, and just like the majority of the population, she notes that the lack of time can affect the way we eat.

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Hence, these recipes are meant to be flexible so they can be whipped up any time of the day: whether you're eating alone or hosting a dinner party, you'd find something in there.

Those looking to change their lifestyles - either to detox or simply just to add more nutrition into meals - will find the recipes handy too.

They don't fit one prescriptive way of eating (raw, macrobiotic etc) but the chief practice is to avoid processed foods.

The recipes stem from Ms Ong's Como Shambala concept of 360-degree wellness, and they are developed with Como's group executive chef Timothy DeSouza, who is also the executive chef at the upcoming Como Cuisine at Como Dempsey.

The book took a year to pull together, with food shoots done mainly in the new property Como Point Yamu in Phuket, says Ming Tan of the Como Group, who coordinated the project as its managing editor.

A quick flip shows that while some of the recipes are indeed simple (such as in the breakfast section or juices), there are those which require "exotic" ingredients such as goat curd and yak meat from Bhutan.

Then again, one can always adapt (like leaving out the goat curd garnish from the roast beetroot and cumin soup, for example) or just skip those that are too complicated - such as the carpaccio of yak with grilled Matsutake mushrooms and fern tip salad which is a write-off in my books (until maybe when I'm camping in Bhutan next, armed with a gaucho knife).

But the several no-cook recipes are definitely high on my list - in fact, I just want to rush into the kitchen to whip up a chilled creamy avocado, miso and orange soup which just requires a quick blend of avocado and white miso paste, with carrot juice and young coconut water, ginger, garlic and grated orange zest. Chill it and serve with the recommended garnishings, or not.


Herb heaven

At Home: From Pot to Pot
By Pauline Menezes
S$28.00 before GST, 234 x 180mm / 140pp / Paperback Cuisine

The book will be available at leading bookstores this weekend

This book on growing herbs and using them is the first of its kind which is tailored specifically for Singapore's apartment dwellers. Pauline Menezes is the honorary secretary of the Vegetarian Society (Singapore), and she started growing her own herbs at home for the book, besides soliciting recipes from different sources - from food bloggers to top chef Emmanuel Stroobant, well known for his vegetarian cuisine.

The book gets to the nitty-gritty of growing 15 herbs - covering the general basics of how to pot them to how to ensure best growth. There's also an introduction to hydroponics. "The book's main aim is to encourage apartment dwellers to plant greens and enjoy the benefits, so it has to cover the basics and be accessible," says Ms Menezes, adding that the 30 recipes were selected to best use the herbs and can be prepared in less than 30 minutes.

Ms Menezes says the idea for the book came about when the president of the Institute of Parks and Recreation Singapore suggested a book which gave tips on planting as well as recipes. "Which is why I had to experiment growing the herbs myself," she quips. Other contributors include Chuah Khai Lin, Clarence Tan, Frankie Tan, George Jacobs, Maria Boey, and To Chee Kan.

Ms Menezes started writing last July, incorporating tips from other growers as well. One thing she learnt was that while the sun might make a difference in the size of the plant and its leaves, most of the herbs in the book don't require full sun. They can also be grown in small, used drinks or food containers so you don't have to kit up or think that you need to go to specialist stores for the growing.

The recipes in the book try to keep to less than eight ingredients as Ms Menezes believes that people want simplicity. Alongside the recipes are also tasting and nutrition notes on the herbs featured. The recipe for the Blue Butterfly Pea Curd Cheese Spread, for example, sees the use of the flower in an edible way rather than just as a natural food dye. The notes highlight the presence of Anthocyanin, a flavonoid found in the flower which is the same as that found in blueberries. "The information the book contains is more like the first step towards herbs and the recipes are general, rather than targeting people with specific dietary needs," she notes.

VSS was formed some 12 years ago and the main aim is to help people transition to a vegetarian diet. Although it's a relatively young organisation, this is the third cookbook it's produced in collaboration with other societies.


Bites of goodness

Herbalicious
By Joanna Wong
S$36.00 before GST, 255 x 210mm / 164pp / Cased

The book will be available at bookstores from July 9

IN 2004, the World Gourmet Summit featured modern cuisine cooked with traditional Chinese herbs. That marked something like an official debut for Chinese herbs in the Singapore modern culinary scene outside of the usual double boiled soups or medicinal fare, and its profile in modern cuisine has been slowly on the rise since.

The force behind this profile change has been Joanna Wong, who had headed the branding and corporate communications for established traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) brand Eu Yan Sang. "I wanted to debunk the myth that Chinese herbs could only be used as medicine when one is ill, and spread the knowledge that Chinese herbs can be incorporated into the daily diet as a way of life for the maintenance of good health," says Ms Wong.

She's since collaborated with many renowned celebrity chefs in Singapore and abroad to create numerous original and unique herbal dishes while constantly experimenting on her own, confesses the foodie. Amassing such a wealth of knowledge, after she left Eu Yan Sang last July, she decided to pull together all that rich experience and distill it into a cookbook, Herbalicious.

The cookbook is certainly a first, and Ms Wong's whole premise is to point out that food is medicine in TCM, particularly when infused with medicinal herbs, it can help to balance the organ systems, and in turn help to strengthen, rejuvenate and support the body, and prevent ailments. This is also known as food therapy.

Ms Wong also roped in five chefs, each contributing six to eight recipes each. There are more than 50 recipes in the book, about one third of which are Ms Wong's. Eu Yan Sang sponsored the herbs used in testing the recipes.

From the chefs, readers will find Chinese herbs used in Indian, Thai, Western and Chinese cuisine. The chefs are namely Manesh Mehrotra, Wolfgang Ranner, Forest Leong, Ku Keong, and Martin Foo.

"The recipes in this book are much about nourishing yin, the nutritive body fluids inside our bodies that help to lubricate our organs. This is important, especially for those of us living in hot and humid climates," she says, clarifying that it's not the same yin as in yin/yang which refers to the "cooling" or "feminine" qualities.

There is a useful pictorial glossary of the herbs in the book, with the names in Mandarin and hanyu pinyin so that readers learn about the herbs, and also their nutritional values. "It's a good thing to archive this now - so that the younger generation gains a better understanding of how to use herbs in their cooking. Especially since it's healthy," says Ms Wong.

"Wellness is a big thing now and when we talk about wellness, it should be about the diet, nutrition and exercise," she adds.