Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Best Brunch Ever Cookbook from ToTT - It's Time For Singaporeans to Cook at Home

Yeah, it's time all of us learn to cook at home. It's not just about saving money as eating outside has become an increasingly arduous ordeal when it comes to price.

But, because it is also something that is very communal when you cook at home. When you can get everyone in the family to chip in to help concoct a meal, there is something special about bonding through cooking.

 Cooking at home also means using fresh ingredients, making fresh sauces and eating fresh from the oven.

It is not just about eating more healthy, but actually savoring real flavors and being able to discern what is actually there. There are far too many eateries these days that are making far too many shortcuts in their food preparation, that you end up eating preservatives, MSG and other artificially manufactured flavors.

That is why I am appreciative that the folks at ToTT has decided to launch an affordable recipe book featuring some of the most notable chefs working in Singapore. It is not a fancy cookbook to turn you into a Masterchef wannabe, but instead, it focuses on simple but effective dishes that anyone can replicate in their own home.

Over a 2 hour session last week at ToTT's spanking kitchen studio, I was treated to 4 of the recipes from the book, each handmade by the chef that created them.

Spaghetti Piccanti

This simple but tasty pasta dish is made up of anchovies, calamari fried with breadcrumbs, chili and garlic. It is a dish that can be whipped up in minutes, and it's my kind of instant noodles. There are full of textures from the breadcrumbs and calamari, and if you nail this perfectly, the sharpness of the chilli/garlic will bring out all the flavors of the calamari and anchovies beautifully.

The chef is Antonio Facchinetti, and is currently helming Prego's at the Swissotel, and anyone who loves Italian will know Prego's is one of our institutions when it comes to Italian cuisine here in Singapore.

Eggs "A La Coque"

Chef Nichols Joanny's eggs dish may look somewhat intimidating to make, but it turns out that if you follow the recipe diligently, it is not that difficult after all. Perhaps a few tries to get it perfect, but totally manageable even for novices.

The dish itself makes a perfect tea time companion with a nice brew, and the steam yolks should be just set enough but beautifully runny. The deep fried prawn looks like a more elegant form of spring roll, but according to the chef, it is just fried at the right temperature just to give it that golden delicious crisp. It is finished off with a nice acidified vinegar and wine sauce to give it that mandatory balance.

Cornbread Wedges with Bacon Jam

For something a little light, Chef Dan Segall's cornbread wedges with bacon jam is a gastronomic gem to do at home. His cornbread was suitably light in texture, and fully intoxicated with the pure sweetness of corn. What was more impressive was this easy to make bacon jam that goes with the cornbread.

Elements of bacon, garlic, onion and vinegar all combine to make the perfect savory jam. Just a pinch of nutmeg to give it a perfume punch that lifts up the entire flavor base. Dan himself is such a colorful cook that you can tell he infuses all his recipes with a lot of that same enthusiasm.

Steamed Rice Rolls

Having just returned from Hanoi recently, I still have that yearning for Vietnamese cuisine. And seeing how Chef Chi Quang Trinh prepare this refreshing dish just brought back all my favorite flavors of Vietnam.

You can taste all the freshness of the filling and the dipping sauce (which is made from scratch) and it embodies the essence of Vietnamese cooking. Light, fresh and healthy. This is how Vietnamese make their food, and in a way, it should be how we all cook and eat our food on a regular basis.

It was not only enlightening to see the 4 masters displaying their craft in making simple but delicious food for home cooks, but it was also inspiring to learn from them at the same time.

I also applaud ToTT over the last few years for taking the effort to build up the store and kitchen studio to cater to so many aspiring home cooks, who now have an avenue and an outlet to dabble in their passion.

For the unaware, ToTT has a large store in Bukit Timah that sells everything from cookbooks, to fine dining plates to sous vide machines. It is literally a chef's haven.

They also conduct a number of cooking lessons ranging from simple home cook meals to very posh and sophisticated cuisine from the best culinary masters here.

They have also recently gone high tech by launching a full e-commerce website that allows you to order online and there is a very comprehensive e-store that should have something for every home cook's needs. You can visit the website here.

With the Chefs of 4

Personally, I have utilised the store a number of times since its inception, and it is heartening to see that the owners are continuing to improve their facilities and services in order to keep the amateur home cooks like myself constantly engaged.

At the end of the day, I always advocate home cooking as the best way of eating. It may not be the most refined, nor the most sophisticated of cuisine, but it is certainly the most sincere, most heartfelt cooking one can savor.

So, cook at home. And be utterly gratified.

Best Brunch Ever Cookbook is available at ToTT.
896 Dunearn Road

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