Food, Recipes from the Heart

Pesto Pizza with Arugula

PESTOPIZZA-1

If you have a sweet basil plant growing ridiculously out of control somewhere on your corridor, the easiest way to preserve all that precious delicate basil leaves is to make a pesto sauce out of it. And no, pasta isn’t the only thing you can make with that pesto sauce. One of my favourite dishes to make with the pesto sauce is actually pizza. It’s unconventional, but trust me, it’ll make your home made pizza experience a mind blowing one.

You could use store bought pizza crust, or simply a loaf of bread lying around somewhere in your pantry waiting to be used. No one is judging you for using store bought stuff! We’re not The Pioneer Woman raising cattle on a farm with no convenience store within 2km. But if you do decide to spend some time making handmade pizza dough, this recipe adapted from Laura Vitale is my go-to recipe. Again, don’t feel pressured to make your pesto from scratch. Jamie Oliver’s pesto sauce is the best alternative to a freshly made pesto.

Pizza Dough (Adapted from Laura Vitale)

3 ½ cups of All Purpose Flour
2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Sugar
2 Tbsp of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 1/3 cups of Warm Water, 30deg
1 Envelope of Yeast

  1. In a mixing bowl, add yeast, sugar and water. Mix lightly with a fork and set aside for 10 to 15 mins to allow the yeast to activate.
  2. Add flour and knead until it comes together slightly.
  3. Add in olive oil and salt, and continue kneading until everything comes together.
  4. Using a dough attachment, knead using a standing food mixer for about 15 minutes on medium. Alternatively, you can hand knead for about 20 to 30 minutes.
  5. Form dough into a ball, then place it in an oiled mixing bowl before covering using a plastic wrap or cloth. Let the dough rest for 1 hour.
  6. In the mean time, you can prepare your pesto sauce.
  7. Preheat oven to 200deg.
  8. After an hour, divide the dough into 2, and shape into a ball before rolling the dough out into 8 inch rounds.
  9. Cover with the used plastic wrap or cloth, and let rest for 15 minutes.
  10. Assemble the pizza by slathering the pesto sauce onto the pizza base and adding cheese of your choice. You could use vegan cheese to make this pizza entirely vegan.
  11. Bake in oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until the crust is browned and cooked.
  12. Serve with fresh arugula which has been rinsed and dried with a kitchen towel to remove excess water.

Pesto Sauce

2 cups fresh basil
4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (or any nuts of your choice – almonds and walnuts are nice too)
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

  1. In a food processor, add all ingredients and pulse.
  2. Blend until all the ingredients are fine and well combined.
  3. Keep in a jar and seal the pesto with a layer of extra virgin olive oil, or freeze into cubes for easy access to cooking.
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Life After Masterchef and Ibu’s Roti Boyan

It’s been a month since the season finale of Masterchef Singapore, and the start of a crazy end of the year. You see, prior to Masterchef Singapore, I was just a photographer specialising in weddings, portraits and food. My previous job started off with me doing a lot of cooking, but ended up with me doing a lot of eating instead. When I left after 4 years, I was lost and confused because I know I wanted food to be a part of my life, a part of who I am, and do it professionally somehow.

Food has always been my escape – both positively and negatively. I could delve deeper but I think that warrants another post. Dealing with the major problem I had with food made me love creating flavours and foods that were both appealing to the eye and delicious to the taste. More importantly though, I felt the need to immortalize my mother’s recipes, and any other makcik around me for that matter.

Since Masterchef Singapore, though, life has been a lot more interesting. Having little kids and makciks asking for a photo while I’m working has humbled me a lot. For one, I have these little kids looking up to me, and then I have a group of makciks who have years of experience in the kitchen complimenting me on my cooking. I’m far from being a chef, truly. All I do is make a mess in the kitchen and eat because the desire to eat is after all more than the desire to cook. I just want to make sure what goes in my mouth is what I would serve others.

Photo courtesy of Masterchef Singapore

I grew up not seeing my mother bring a cookbook, let alone an iPad, into the kitchen. There was a brief moment where she was baking a lot, and that legendary baking book (lemme find the title!!) was always by her side whenever she was making Kek Lapis. Each year during Hari Raya, I would see her whip up five or 6 dishes for a whole day straight. Mind you, she never lets me in the kitchen to help! On the other hand, I have a sister who cooks amazingly and swears by the recipes she finds from cookbooks, blogs, websites and other makciks. I reckon it’s her science background that makes it easy for her to follow instructions and ace the experiment.

Photo courtesy of Masterchef Singapore

And then you have me – the resident Perangai Budak Gemok who just wants to eat good food and makes sure she’s able to replicate foods she’s tasted from other countries, homes or restaurants. It’s frustrating to eat out with me, because if either my mum, my sis or I am able to cook it at home, it’s not worth my money.

So anyways, I’ve been living away from my mum since getting married, and I do miss her cooking. On some days, my mum would randomly be making Ayam Penyet based on a recipe she found on YouTube (her new found love) or kneading away making this favourite of mine – Roti Boyan. It’s basically a prata-like dough (with much less oil) with a filling of potatoes, eggs and onions. There’s many versions of it out there, but I do prefer Ibu’s Roti Boyan because she doesn’t deep fry it. All hell will break loose if I do that and serve it to her calling it Roti Boyan.

Being away from my mother also means being away from almost all of my kitchen gadgets and equipments which I’ve collected over the many years living with her. My trusted standing mixer is now away from me, which means I have to manually knead dough by hand whenever I feel like making bread, or using the hand mixer when I’m making cookies or bakes. The good thing about this is that I’m able to know for sure when the dough is ready, or when I can stop kneading and let the dough proof. Needless to say, my fear of making bread by hand is no longer there!

When I called Ibu asking for the recipe, she did the usual “Agak-agak je lah…” so naturally I had to be extra cautious and actually measure out the ingredients so that my future kids will not have a problem when they ask me for the recipe instead.

Ibu’s Roti Boyan

Makes 5 medium sized pies
Serves: 10
Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 30 minutes

Dough

500g plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
300ml water (plus more if need be)
20g unsalted butter

  1. In a big bowl, combine flour and salt together.
  2. Add water, 2 tablespoons at a time, and knead the dough until it comes together. Continue kneading until the dough is sticky to touch. Do not be alarmed if it’s too sticky.
  3. Add butter, and continue kneading until butter is well incorporated. Add a bit more flour if the dough is too sticky, but ensure that dough stays soft through out the entire kneading process.
  4. Form dough into a ball, then leave in the bowl covered with a cloth for an hour to rest.

Filling

5 medium sized waxy potatoes (you could use russet too)
5 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
100g Chinese parsley (daun sup), chopped
100g Spring onions (daun bawang), chopped

  1. Peel and cut potatoes into chunks.
  2. Boil potatoes till cooked.
  3. Drain potatoes and put them back in the same pot used to boil.
  4. In a separate bowl, crack eggs and beat till fluffy and well combined.
  5. Mash potatoes, add in eggs, parsley, spring onions, salt and pepper. Mix until well combined.

Assembly

  1. Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces. You may weigh them if you prefer accuracy. Just eyeball the sizes if you’re lazy like me. Place the balls of dough on tray and keep them covered with the cloth while you are working on one.
  2. Prepare 2 serving plates about the size of your palm. Oil them with vegetable oil just enough to cover the entire plate.
  3. On your countertop, dust the surface with flour. Roll out a piece of dough to the size of the serving plates. Make sure to keep turning the dough when you roll it out so it doesn’t stick.
  4. Place the first piece of dough on the oiled serving plate. Stretch it out as much as possible so it comes to fit the plate.
  5. Add a ladle of the filling to the centre of the dough.
  6. Go back to your countertop and roll out a second piece of dough.
  7. Carefully place the second layer of dough on top of the filling.
  8. Press the sides so they stick together. Crimp the sides of the pie like epok-epok.
  9. Repeat and continue the process for the remaining dough and filling.

Cooking

  1. Heat a non-stick pan on the stove with a teaspoon of oil at medium heat.
  2. Slowly slide the pie onto the pan and cook for 3 minutes.
  3. Flip the pie and cook for another 3 minutes.
  4. If you wish to freeze and keep the pies, this is where you remove it from the pan and let it cool before freezing.
  5. If you wish to serve it immediately, continue cooking each side for another 5 minutes on low heat, or until the crust comes to a nice deep brown colour to it.
  6. Serve with sambal tumis.
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