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Chefs in Singapore share their favourite Christmas recipes from their homeland
DAMIAN D’SILVA, RESTAURANT KIN
“Some of my all-time favourite Christmas dishes are Feng and Eurasian Christmas Pie. Feng is a dry curry made up of nearly every part of the pig’s innards, finely chopped and slow-cooked in a blend of 15 aromatic spices - a backbreaking process but entirely worth it. It has a special place in my heart because of my memory of Granddad preparing it when I was growing up. I recall the aroma wafting through the house and it was the one dish I always ate first at the table, with roti perancis (French loaf or baguette). It also reminds me of my Dad, who would pack portions in the freezer and ration it so it would last him till the next Christmas!
“And then there’s Eurasian Christmas Pie, a D’Silva tradition to usher in Christmas. A rich stew of chicken, meatballs, pork sausage, carrots, potatoes and spices in puff pastry, our family ate it after midnight mass. It has a special relevance to the Eurasian community because of our heritage.
“There are other special Christmas dishes that were not always a part of Granddad’s repertoire. Curry Mohylu, for example, was cooked when there was an excess of fish. We would make fishballs and give them to the neighbours. The rest went into Curry Mohylu, and occasionally, king prawns (angka) would replace the fish. The dish originated in Malacca, so you don’t see it in many Eurasian home here. In fact I’ve never eaten it outside of my family. I only cook it when I have cravings for it. But for Christmas at Kin, we’ve prepared a whole spread of dishes apart from Feng and Christmas pie. There’s Curry Devil, Green Chilli with King Prawns, and Salt Fish Pickle. The pickle is Pop’s twist on a most cherished pickle recipe from Goa, and it’s usually reserved for our special guests.”
Pork mixture First, clean thoroughly the pig’s heart, ears(2), liver(300gm), kidneys(2 pairs), small intestines(300gm), sweet intestines(500gm) and stomach. For the heart, stomach and intestines, rub a mixture of baking soda and salt and leave for half an hour. Then wash under running water till clean and all traces of blood and most of the slime is removed. Remove the hair from the ears. Bring
6 litres of water to boil. On medium heat, add the items to cook till done. The kidneys and liver, should not be overcooked (30 minutes should suffice). The belly pork (1kg), stomach and ears need more time (prick with fork to check for doneness). Skim continuously. You should have 3 litres of stock after cooking which you will use later. Remove the cooked meat. Dice the heart, ears, stomach, liver and kidneys. Slice the intestines and belly pork. Mix the pork mixture with 8 tablespoons of Feng curry powder.
Deep Frying Slice 400gm each of peeled shallots and garlic. Shred 300gm of old ginger. Fry the ingredients in 2 cups oil, drain and set aside.
Spices Dry cinnamon (5), nutmeg (2), star anise (7) and cloves (30) and fry using the shallot-garlic oil.
Cooking the Feng In the shallot, garlic and ginger oil, add 2 cups of mixed meat at a time, followed by a cup of stock and cook until the liquid dries before starting again. Continue doing this until all the meat and stock has been used. This should take an hour. Next add 600ml of rice vinegar into the cooked mixture and cook till the vinegar amalgamates before adding the fried shallots, garlic and ginger. Continue cooking on a low flame till a light layer of oil appears on the surface. At this point, add another 200ml of rice vinegar and continue to cook another hour. The cooking time from when the first vinegar is added to the second batch, is around 3 hours. Lastly, salt is added and at this time if the mixture looks dry, only water is added.The end result is almost slurry-like but on the runnier side. The first taste is vinegar, followed by the flavour from the curry powder. Feng can be kept in the freezer for a year and when heating up, water is added to bring it to the right texture and consistency.
JUANJO CARRILLO, FOC GROUP
“I’m from Barcelona and Christmas for us is always a huge family affair.
We gather at our Grandma’s house and cook lunch together. Grandma is the head chef and decides the main menu - cold cuts, seafood and ‘Escudella’, which is a traditional Catalan meat and vegetable soup served with pasta. We also make Roast Chicken a la Catalana, which is my most favourite dish. Now I make my own version, which is a fusion of my Spanish culture and my wife’s Colombian heritage.
“Living far away from family, it’s harder to maintain our traditions so my wife and I try to create our own by cooking together and putting up our tree.”
“We’ve only been in Singapore for three months, and while my Christmas will be spent working in the kitchen, I will try to spend time cooking with my wife at home. We’ll make some of our favourite dishes such as ‘Arepas’ - a Colombian bread with meat and ‘Buñuelos y Natilla’, which is a Latin American cinnamon milk custard.”
ROAST CHICKEN ‘A LA CATALANA’, CORN TACO, PINE NUTS & PRUNE PRALINE, GREEN MOJO (MAKES 16 TACOS)
Roast Chicken Season four chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Soak 30 dried prunes (halved) and 30 dried apricots (halved) in 50gm port wine and 50gm cognac for 20 minutes. Sear chicken until golden, add 300gm sliced onions and cook for 2 minutes, add dried fruit with alcohol and cook till evaporated. Add 400gm chicken stock, boil and transfer to oven tray. Cook for 20 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius. Remove chicken and shred. Blend the remaining ingredients in a food processor into a sauce. Mix shredded chicken and
sauce and set aside.
Green Mojo Blend together: 75gm mashed potato, 20gm water, half teaspoon each of cumin seeds and cayenne pepper, 40gm coriander, 20gm parsley, 25gm extra virgin olive oil and 12gm sherry vinegar. Season to taste.
Aji Dressing Mix together: 30gm each of red onion, red and green bell pepper brunoise, half teaspoon coriander, 25 gm extra virgin olive oil, 15 gm lime juice. Salt and cayenne pepper to taste.
Pine Nut and Prune Praline In saucepan, heat 50gm sugar and 15gm water to a boil and add 50gm pine nuts. Stir until caramelized, add 30gm dried prunes and cook 30 seconds. Add 50 gm water and 20gm port wine, boil 1 minute. Blend and spoon into a piping bag.
To assemble Toast corn tacos, top with shredded red cabbage, chicken, and finish with praline and green mojo. Garnish with micro herbs.
KONSTANTINO BLOCKBERGEN, FIREBAKE WOODFIRED BAKEHOUSE
“Growing up, my parents operated an inn with eight rooms and a fine dining restaurant. They were busy running the business and Christmas would be the time when the family could have a beautiful meal together.
We celebrated on Christmas Eve and when I was 12, my father and I would cook together - Balik smoked salmon served with horseradish cream and Iranian caviar, a consommé, shellfish appetiser, a main course of game bird (guinea fowl, squab or pigeon) with black truffle sauce, and a potato or spinach gratin. I would be in charge of desserts - a crepe suzette, souffle or a tarte.
“I’ve given a recipe for Kugelhopf because in Switzerland, it’s more significant than panettone, which was more relevant then to Italy. When I worked with this recipe 25 years ago, it was the first time I worked with a fermented dough. Over the years through my travels, I tasted various versions, and now for me, it has evolved into something with floral and citrus notes and almonds. I soak
the freshly baked kugelhopf in an orange blossom syrup and for texture I add a caster sugar coating.
“My parents always made it a point to reserve Christmas Eve for the family, so I try to keep to this tradition as well. So we always prepare a Christmas feast at home with family and some close friends.
We usually serve a selection of seafood on ice, charcuterie platter with bread, soup, pasta or risotto, and a selection of meats. We end with a cheese platter and dessert table.
The feast usually goes on for over five hours!”
CHRISTMAS SOURDOUGH KUGELHOPF
Starter Dilute 60gm mother (white liquid starter) in 60gm room temperature filtered water. Add 60gm white flour and mix. Cover with a kitchen towel and let ferment until the starter is active, minimum four to five hours.
Dough (Step 1) In a bowl, mix 240 gm dried sultanas with 70ml boiling water boiling and 90ml dark rum and soak overnight. In mixer at slow speed (dough paddle), dissolve 180gm white sourdough starter in 130gm fresh milk (1 minute). Add 75 gm wild honey, 1 egg and mix (3 minutes). Add 380 gm organic white flour in 3 batches and continue to mix (about 5 minutes). Add 12 gm sea salt to strengthen the gluten.
With dough hook, add 175gm butter and beat at medium-high speed (5 mins). It should be a bit sticky and batter-like. Transfer onto well-floured kitchen bench to finish the kneading and shape dough into a large ball. Place in well-buttered bowl, coat in butter to prevent drying and cover with kitchen towel to rest for 30 mins.
(Step 2) Stretch and fold the dough and let it rest for another 30 minutes. Mix in the soaked sultanas, cover and place in cooler area to ferment for another 60 minutes. Transfer dough onto a floured bench, and shape into two equal balls. Place each ball in a non-stick mould (with a hollow like a chiffon cake pan). Cover and proof in a cooler area for 4 to 5 hours.
Bake Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius (conventional heat, no fan).
When dough is fully proofed, bake for 30 to 40 mins.Remove from oven, unmould, and let cool on wire rack.
Finish While still hot, lift the cake and soak it in clarified butter (made from 1 kg of butter) in a large bowl for 5 to 10 seconds. Next, soak it in orange blossom almond syrup (made from boiling 600 gm sugar and 400 gm water, gently adding 60 gm almond powder and 5 ml orange blossom and cooling completely) for 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat. Let drip on wire rack and generously coat each cake with caster sugar, followed by icing sugar.
VIANNEY MASSOT, VIANNEY MASSOT RESTAURANT
“Christmas has always been a huge celebration for my family - one of the few opportunities for all the family members to come together for the annual Le Reveillon (Christmas Eve). My grandmother would make a traditional French poultry dish - Le Chapon de Pintade. She would use a guinea fowl because the meat is juicier and more tender from a rich diet of milk or porridge. The fowl is
served with foie gras and chestnuts.
The smell is so intoxicating, it always gets me in the festive mood.
“My mother always make Bûche de Noël (Yule log) with cherry, chocolate and almond mousse.
Bûche de Noël is a must-have at the Christmas table and there’s nothing like a home-made one.
“This year, I will recreate my grandmother Le Chapon de Pintade, but with a Poularde de Bresse. The chicken is reared in Bresse and only available in December. By wrapping the poultry in a cotton or linen cloth, the bird will conserve better and turn smooth (from its fat), making it perfect for roasting. As a personal touch, I will use a traditional technique known as Demi Deuil, and tuck luxurious slices of black truffles under the chicken’s skin, which will permeate the meat as it cooks, resulting in a roast that is big on flavour.”
LE CHAPON DE PINTADE
Prepare chicken Remove the head and neck of the Poularde Bresse (2.5kg). Remove any excess fat from the cavity and trim away excess skin. Wash the inside of the Poularde with pepper. Shake out any excess water and pat the skin dry. Season the inside cavity with salt and pepper and insert some thyme and pepper. Gently insert 6 slices of black truffle between the Poularde and the skin with your fingers. Take extra care not to tear the skin. Tie a string around the Poularde and set it aside on a roasting tray.
Roast Take 3 Agria potatoes and cut them into half. With a knife, shape the potatoes into crescents. Put them into the roasting tray along with garlic and 15 chestnuts. Place the roasting tray into the oven and cook for 40mins at 200 degrees until nice and brown. After 40mins, remove the Poularde from the roasting tray and transfer onto serving plate, with its legs up in the air. Allow it to rest for 30mins. Plate the chestnuts and potatoes. Collect the juice of the roast chicken from the tray to be served alongside the Poularde. Finish the dish with some slices of black truffles.
ZACH ELLIOTT-CRENN, MAGGIE JOAN’S
“I have three brothers, so things are always a little rambunctious in the house on Christmas Day. We have a large extended family so we need to keep things manageable, prep-wise. Lunch is quite traditionally Australian, and usually involves lots of fresh seafood, like oysters, prawns and smoked salmon to start with, followed by a roast - and seasonal vegetables, such as new potatoes, summer courgettes and carrots, oven-roasted with herbs and olive oil. And we always have pavlova for dessert - it always steals the show!
“Pavlova is a classic Australian dessert that my parents make every year. As a baker, my father has always had to work very long hours so growing up, my family didn’t get to spend as much time together as we’d have liked. So Christmas was always a very special time when my father could fully relax. He makes the pavlova on Christmas morning with my mother’s help, and every single year something goes wrong - the cream is not cold enough, the oven stops working, the dog takes a bite of the meringue... leading to much laughter, and no hard feelings. For me, pavlova will forever be synonymous with family Christmases. The one I put on the menu this year includes honey mangoes, allspice yogurt and coconut for a fun, local twist.
“Ever since I got married, my wife and I alternate between France, where she is from, and Canberra, where my parents live. This year we’re going to Australia, and I’m the one cooking Christmas lunch. I’m hoping to make use of some of the beautiful seafood Australia has to offer, like Tathra oysters and Scarlet prawns, and to use the barbecue - it doesn’t get much more Australian than the barbie!”
PAVLOVA (SERVES 8)
Allspice yoghurt Prepare the night before: finely grate 3 allspice berries into 100 gm plain natural unsweetened yoghurt. Place the yoghurt in cheesecloth and hang overnight to thicken.
Meringue Preheat oven at 120 degrees Celsius (no fan). Whisk 4 egg whites till light and fluffy. Slowly add 250gm sugar and whisk until thick and shiny. Fold in 1 teaspoon of sifted corn flour, followed by 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar and seeds scraped from one vanilla pod. On an oven tray lined with baking paper, pipe the mixture into eight 8cm diameter domes. Bake for one hour. Allow to cool inside the oven once switched off.
Mango puree Blend together 500gm mango puree and 15gm agar agar until smooth. Bring mixture to a boil briefly, then allow to chill completely. Blend once more until smooth.
Sabayon Warm 200ml fresh coconut milk, 10gm lime juice and 25gm sugar in a small pan until sugar has dissolved. Allow to chill, then pour into a siphon, charge with one gas charger and keep refrigerated.
Slice one piece of old coconut very thinly on a mandolin and place in a dehydrator for 2.5 hours.
Dice one honey mango into 0.5cm cubes. To serve, pipe a tablespoon of allspice yoghurt over the meringue dome and cover with diced mango. Pipe small dots of mango purée all over the diced mango. Place five pieces of dehydrated coconut on top. Garnish with orange wood sorrel. Just before serving, pipe the coconut sabayon on top of the pavlova, just off to the side.