Feed 2009

Photo by Catherine Ling

Photo Credit: Catherine Ling

There are some people who are born to par-tay and there are some who hide out in the kitchen. This blog belongs firmly in the category of people busy cooking for the party, wondering what those people are doing in the kitchen.

Year-end 2009 was a great time where I accidentally invited a lot of people into my home to eat. “Accidentally” because while I tend to restrict the number of guests to about 6 because I have a small apartment but such things, as they often do, take a life on its own. Anyway, here’s a collection of notes, comments and whatnot, mainly for my future reference but it might interest you somewhat.

It all started when I ordered 5.6kg worth of dry-aged beef…

Beef done Bleu

My dear friend See Wah was in town and I decided that it would be nice to cook dinner for her and her family. I also invited certain personages who are seriously discerning beef eaters but because I am not in the habit of dropping names and do not have a dear darling wife, I will refer to them as Dr. Zouk and the Bailli Delegue. Cooking for them was a challenge as I had to do medium-rare and Pittsburg Blue. My proudest moment was when I received a snail mail thank-you note – yes, these people are classy like that – saying that the “steak was perfectly cooked with a nice crust”.

I also introduced them to my Cold Soba with Honey-soy sauce but since no one really commented on it, I won’t either.

It was also my first time doing a potato salad (doing a mustard-spiced mayo). As Dr. Zouk is a fan of very good Sarawak pineapples, I wanted to serve them with minted sugar but Dr. Zouk asked for a dark soy sauce dip which he said brought him back to his childhood days. Similar to what my mum would do but she added cut red chili to the dark soy sauce. All this was to attenuate the natural acidity of the pineapple. Dr. Zouk commented that my dark soy sauce was of exceptional quality; that’s because my grandfather used to place strong emphasis on soy sauce quality.

Anyway, served with a 1993 Hungarian Aszu Essencia, it was a perfect way to round off the meal.

Here’s See Wah’s exciting account of my attempt to do her in. 🙂


Pan-frying in beurre noisette

Photo Credit: Catherine Ling

A few days later when I was in Shanghai, I received an sms from someone I dated almost 20 years ago. We’ve not met in years mainly for one reason or another. Since I still had steak, so why the hell not? Besides, I needed to refine my steak-cooking technique.

Tomato Salad with dijon vinaigrette

Photo Credit: Catherine Ling

This time it was a simple meal consisting of steak and a salad of Momotaro tomatoes which I added a Dijon Vinaigrette mainly because I thought the Vinaigrette was by far the best accompaniment to sweet tomatoes. Dessert was Ben & Jerry’s.

She turned up at my door, heavily pregnant. It was lovely to just chat in the kitchen while I cooked the steaks and she leaned against the door. We had a wonderful time catching up till the wee hours of morning when she drove off in her heavily modified Sabaru WRX. Supermom.

I like simple dinners for two; agenda-less and casual.



The Keismans were in town and that’s reason enough for a party. They’ve been very generous over the years with their dinners and I’ve always had them over for Christmas, so this Christmas it just didn’t seem right if they weren’t around.

I was apprehensive about this potluck lunch mainly because there were 15 people coming and these guests, good friends actually, are veterans at throwing prop-pah dinner parties with silver napkin rings, Noritake chinaware and heirloom Sheffield cutlery no less. In situations like this, the only way is to go the other direction, i.e. get them to slum it out with Sheng Siong plasticware.


A very tight squeeze but it was a fantastic party. There’s something nice about having a potluck with people who’ve just returned from vacation: Barbara-Jean did her famous Porcini pasta that blew me away and Florence wrangled up a fantastic Hainanese mutton soup. We had Duck Rillette from France, Camel sausages from Turkey and Pantone from Italy. I did a roast beef (which I think wasn’t very good) and because I have this fear of not having enough food to feed my friends, I also baked a leg of ham (which everyone liked). The cheese course was awesome with the creamy, semi-liquid goat cheese being the most popular. Dessert was a fantastic collection of ice creams and fruit sorbets.

Oh yes, I also made Lap Mei Fan which I added a slight twist with shredded Chye Sim which I steamed beforehand; it gave the claypot rice a nice contrast with its soft beautifully buttery flavor. It garnered mostly favorable comments like “it has more meat than rice”. Florence gave me an interesting feedback: the rice grains were broken and hence there wasn’t a good mouthfeel. You know these are the real foodies when the scrutiny is down to the rice grain. But I agree with her: the rice grain is important; my focus at that time was consistent cooking temperature.

Back to the drawing board. 🙂



Photo Credit: Catherine Ling

Even after the lunch of Caligulian proportions, I still have 5 steaks left. So there is no helping but to call upon expert help. So I sent out an email to the food bloggers I know and Catherine, Cheryl, Leroy and Brad responded with aplomb.

I served the Momotaros with Dijon Vinaigrette again because I wanted independent 3rd party opinion about whether this was one of the best ways to serve fresh tomatoes. It was. 🙂

This blog has a fear of under-feeding people, so I decided to do an oxtail stew. However a dinner at the new Michelangelo’s inspired me to follow the Nouvelle Cuisine way, so I decided to do a Braised Oxtail in red wine jus with Braised Shallots as described by Raymond Blanc. Unfortunately, my version is not the same mainly because I, unlike Raymond Blanc, do not have a talented butcher named Marco Pierre White working for me who can fillet an oxtail into a single piece of deliciousness.

So, despite my shortcomings, I did what I could.

Braised Oxtail in Red Wine Jus a la Raymond Blanc

Photo Credit: Catherine Ling

I am pleased to report that all that was left were bones picked clean in dry bowls.

Steak-wise, I have been refining my steak-cooking over the dinners which has more or less culminated to what they got at this dinner. Naturally, I revealed my secret ingredient; Cheryl was the only one that understood it on the get-go since she works with it regularly and is a fan of it but I think everyone else got it after a while.

This was also the first time I served boiled potatoes. Giving in to my fear of under-feeding people, I thought a nice boiled potato would fill in the odd gap or two. Besides, it was very remarkably easy to do. I didn’t have much faith in it because in my experience, boiled potatoes are always part of leftovers. Surprisingly, because of my secret ingredient, not one potato was left. 🙂

For the first steak, everyone was busy digging into the meat, I felt that I’ve forgotten something. A quick check with Cheryl confirmed it. She was making a face at the steak. I had forgotten to fix up the sauce. So for the second steak, I did a Balsamic vinegar and beef jus reduction. This time Cheryl nodded, so yay!

And speaking of bakers who cook, Cheryl brought an apple pie which she baked that day for the dinner. I’m down with her using a lattice top; it gives a nice buttery crust without interfering too much with the fruit.


She wanted to heat it up in my oven, but one look at my battered and dirty oven, she started laughing. I believe she saved everyone from the indignity of roast beef-scented apple pie. Served with superb B&J ice cream from Catherine, it was a blast.

Dinner conversation was rather tame and restricted to mostly war stories of food blogging and travels with Catherine and Brad dazzling us with their stunning photography. Leroy was quiet most of the time, busy attacking the steak. I did my best to persuade him that gristle can’t be eaten.

While I am anticipating the next dinner at a French Pizzeria, here’s Catherine’s generously detailed account of the dinner. And Cheryl caught me slicing things with my tongue. 😛


And... voila!

I hate breaking with tradition because sometimes it’s just easier to go with the flow. So it was time of the year where I invite my friends and co-workers for a New Year potluck lunch.

Inspired by a one-line description in Mario Puzo’s The Don, I decided to do a Roast Lamb stuffed with Bacon. I like Mario Puzo novels because they usually include a recipe for a classical Italian dish, plus they’re a fantastic read. Yes, give me a short description and some time, I usually can do something with it.

It was a success. Not much bacon to go around, but along with the anchovies, it did give the roast lamb a good smokey sweet flavor. I was rather taken aback when Agnes of the Lees asked for Ketchup. I was glad she didn’t use it when I supplied the condiment.

And speaking of classic Italian, David and Agnes brought 2 pizzas. I was looking forward to Agnes’s Mee Goreng, but the pizza was excellent. As was the salad from Agnes the Lim, brought over from across the border.

Faced with the unanticipated success of the boiled potatoes, I decided to impose it on my friends just in case the last time was a fluke. For objective research purposes, you understand. In fact, I was relating it to Joel before everyone arrived, so I kept a close watch on the progress.

Boiled Potatoes in Herbed Butter

Photo Credit: Catherine Ling

No leftovers of the tuberous kind, I’m happy to report. It was cleaned out way before the Roast Lamb was finished. In fact, I’m happy to report that I had absolutely no leftovers from this lunch. Dessert was a happy ice cream from Chun Beng and Corrine and a huge Carrot cake from Joel who got it from his sister who’s managing and baking for the cafe Black at the new Tripleone Somerset, in town.

This was an interesting lunch where I had 2 kids in my home. The different styles of parenting were stark and enlightening. Agnes of the Lees has a very threatening eyebrow. 🙂


Braised Oxtail

It’s the 2nd week of 2010, I’ve just received the bill for the 5.6kg of beef and I’ve closed my kitchen for a major cleaning. Hopefully I can clean out Cheryl’s ringing laughter from my oven. There’s a distinctly smokey smell in the house but I shall overcome.

I am pleased to have cooked for so many people because it’s a great way to keep distracted from the superficial veneer of jolliness over the quiet despair and emptiness.

Cooking for parties helps keep my knives sharp and singing, occupied in fulfilling their intended purpose. I’ve finally arrived at what is most optimal for me in cooking a nice steak.

I am a home cook with the occasional touch of whimsy and a penchant for meat but if you want the recipe for what I’ve done, let me know. I’ll leave out the rest.


Posted on 8th Jan 2010 in Dinner Book, Food and Drink, Makankaki, Meat


There Are 7 Comments


skerrie commented on January 8, 2010 at 3:08 pm

This post was sublime! Thanks for sharing, Ivan!


ladyironchef commented on January 8, 2010 at 11:34 pm

THANK YOU THANK YOU for inviting us! hee sorry for the caps, but just to show my excitement. lol! it was a great dinner, and the fear of under-feeding people does not apply at all, we were so stuffed! lets have more parties to celebrate 2010, anything, so long it’s an excuse to wine, feast and make merry :))


food.recentrunes.com | Nouvelle cuisine at Michelangelo’s commented on January 12, 2010 at 4:15 pm

[…] all started when Janice thought the luncheon at my home was a dinner. She had ordered short ribs and a huge bowl of Tiramisu to bring to my potluck. […]


rachel commented on January 13, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Hi ,
just stumbled on ur blog..
Think it is heaven just seeing the smiles on ppl’s face after a meal that u have slogged and prepared with apprehension .
you shld give urself a pat on the back ! though as a novice baker, u shld give ur oven more TLC =P!
oh oh..
the beef just looks realllly nice , care to share where u bought them? ex?


thehungrycow commented on January 13, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Cheers to the home cook! 😀


ivan commented on January 15, 2010 at 10:22 pm

@rachel: Thanks! Happy faces well stuffed is the reward for the cook! 🙂

The beef was specially ordered from Indoguna (you can try Jones the Grocer).

Expensive is relative since the same steak (just 1 piece) retails about $120-150 at a very good steakhouse here.

Personally, I think it was great value for money.


food.recentrunes.com | Avocados in Black commented on January 27, 2010 at 9:40 am

[…] Bar since both were within walking distance. I suggested Black since Joel brought Carrot Cake to my home and said that his sister, who co-owned Black, baked […]

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