Would someone like to explain to me how exactly we got to the first day of 2012 when it feels like we were just celebrating starting 2011 a couple months ago?
2011 was, for me, a year of many highs and lows and a year of lessons. A year that taught me the hard way that work shouldn’t be all there is to my life and that it’s okay to ask for help sometimes. A year that saw me do my first cupcake sale- purely by chance- and miss out on a half marathon I had been looking forward to due to a bout of sickness. A year of travelling, mostly, to the same couple of destinations (Bangkok, Penang, Bangkok, Penang- seriously), each time with a different but much loved travel companion.
But above all that, 2011 was a year I found my way back into the kitchen. A year that I spent the days dreaming of food and the nights and weekends truly reveling in culinary therapy- something that I intend to keep doing well into the new year.
So this time, I thought it would be much appropriate to not only round up my favourite recipes from the year past- a tradition I started last year- but also make a list of all the culinary-related things I would really love to get done in the new year. A short-term bucket list of sorts, I guess.
So without further ado, may I present my favourite eleven recipes- recipes that had me dreaming for days long after the food was polished off- for Twenty Eleven.
Cookies and cream just seems to be one of those flavours from our childhood we all love, no matter how old we get. So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at how well received this cookies and cream cake was. But I was- both at how ridiculously easy it was to make and how incredibly delicious it was. With a generous layer of cookies and cream frosting sandwiched between dense chocolate butter cake and encased in a lightly whipped cream, this was one cake that certainly had me transpotted right back to my childhood- and then reaching for seconds. [Recipe here]
Oh, macarons. Where do I even begin to tell you about my many misadventures with them? I’ve always had a hit and miss relationship with them- no feet, cracked, misshaped ones, I’ve seen them all- so it was such a delight to see a batch of perfectly formed macaroni shells come out of my oven, thanks to a fantastic new macaron book I jumped on the second it was released. Needless to say, it took considerably less time and effort to polish off the batch of dark chocolate macarons. So between that book and my recent Christmas present to myself, you can bet I won’t be waiting another three years before making another batch of macarons. [Recipe here]
2011 was, for me, a year I really turned a corner with noodles and went through a bit of a noodles craze with ramen and minced meat noodles. So it really didn’t take much to persuade me to make Jamie Oliver’s adaptation of dan dan noodles, a classic noodles dish from China. While not quite as authentic as what I expect one would find in China, this had me slurping up every single bit, Sze Chuan peppercorns and all- and mustering up the courage to try the authentic dish the next time I’m in China. [Recipe here]
I always feel a little bad when desserts that involve barely any effort turn out tasting like I had slaved over days to make them. And this chocolate mousse cake was no exception- for a little while, at least. Essentially a nut meringue cake topped with milk chocolate mousse, this was one incredibly decadent chocolate cake that I had no trouble getting over my guilt about how fuss-free it was and polishing it off. [Recipe here]
Bread is the one thing I can never get enough of- both the making and eating of- in the kitchen. And this roasted garlic and rosemary bread loaf certainly didn’t let me down. A loaf that was truly as therapeutic to make as it was incredibly delicious to eat, it sure wasn’t hard to see why this disappeared in less than half the time I took to make it. [Recipe here]
Muah chee (glutinous rice cakes tossed in a ground peanut and sugar mixture) was the first thing I learnt to make as a child and promptly forgot all about until Pooja from Notabilia asked if I would like to do a guest post feature local recipes on her blog. I had so much fun digging up the recipe from my mum’s forgotten collection of cookbooks and files and whipping up my long lost childhood favourite snack, much to the boyfriend’s amusement (he was thoroughly impressed that I knew how to make it and even more surprised at how easy it was). And you know what they say (okay, I’m making it up), everything’s always taste better with a side of nostalgia. [Recipe here]
Spaghetti and meatballs was always one of those things I was much better at eating than making until this recipe from Molly Wizenberg. Melted, oozing cheese embedded in each tender, delicious meatball and served with a seriously simple tomato sauce, this is one of those recipes you really have to make and eat to believe how good it is. [Recipe here]
If I had to pick just one favourite recipe out of this list of eleven, this strawberry mascaprone tart might just be it.
What initially started as a crazy goal to recreate a seriously good mini strawberry tart I had resulted into one crisp buttery tart filled with creamily smooth mascaprone filling and topped with luscious macerated strawberries that was even better than the tart that started this all. [Recipe here]
I have long had a soft spot for mushroom soup, even as a kid when the only kind of mushroom soup I knew of came from a Campbell tin. Thankfully, I have since learnt of another- even more delicious- kind of mushroom soup; one that involves an assortment of fresh mushrooms.
This mushroom soup, served with a splash of truffle oil and warm garlic bread fresh from the oven, could definitely rival the best of mushroom soups I’ve had at cafes and put mushroom soup of the canned variety to shame. [Recipe here]
Poached eggs might just be my new favourite comfort food for 2011, both to make and to eat. Thankfully, all it needs is some eggs, water and a splash of vinegar- it truly doesn’t get any easier than that. [Recipe here]
Brownies. Chocolate pudding. Mascerated berries. Whipped Cream. Repeat.
Need I say more? [Recipe here]
Twelve Things I Would Like To Do In Twenty Twelve
One: Explore my heritage through food
I’ve always been more comforting roasting and cooking Italian dishes and have only dabbled in a handful of Asian dishes over the year. This year, I would love to up the effort on exploring and cooking Asian, particularly Chinese, dishes and desserts- my little way of playing tribute to my heritage, if you will.
Two: Get rid of my food hang ups
Puff pastries and deep frying are two of the many culinary hang ups I have in my kitchen. I think it would be liberating to finally be rid, or at least try to get rid, of my fear of those things.
Three: Make fresh pasta
Given how much I love pasta, it seems kinda wrong that I haven’t tried making my own. Especially since I own a copy of Jamie Oliver’s Jamie At Home, which has amazingly detailed instructions with step by step photos of how to make pasta at home. First, though, I do need to hunt down a pasta making machine.
Four: Cook one recipe out of unused cookbooks
My collection of cookbooks has expanded greatly in the last couple of years and I’m a little ashamed to admit that there are quite a few of them (I’m a little afraid to count exactly how many) that have never left my bedside table and made it into the kitchen. Last year, I used six books for the first time. Let’s see if I can top that number this year and hopefully ease the guilt I feel every time I look at them while I’m at it.
Five: Cook out of my mum’s recipe collection
As mentioned earlier, my mum has amassed quite a collection of recipes from ages ago that we have sort of forgotten about, which I unearthed the recipe for my favourite childhood snack from. I’m really excited to have a look through her recipes, especially the ones she has tried and scribbled little notes on, cook my way through them and find some gems.
Six: Make more pastries and tarts
Since I made that strawberry mascaprone tart, I haven’t quite been able to get pastries and tarts out of my head so it looks like I’ll definitely be making more pastries and tarts this year, both of the sweet and savoury nature.
Seven: Experiment with salads
Much as I truly love eating salads, I find myself in a salad rut, more often than not dressing the leaves of my choice in a simple vinaigrette. This year, I would like to experiment a lot more with different types of salads and dressings.
Eight: Dabble in whole grain desserts
Like anyone else, I love a good, satisfying dessert. But this year, in an effort to eat a little cleaner and aided by several cookbooks with a whole grain focus (which nicely ties in with number four), I would like to keep indulging in desserts, just with a slightly healthier spin.
Nine: Bake more bread
If there’s one thing I do kinda regret having not done enough of in the kitchen, it has got to be bread baking. I would love nothing more than to make a fresh loaf of bread every weekend but let’s not get too hopeful about having all that time off work. So I would really love to bake more bread as often as I can this year.
Ten: Dabble a little more in multi-component desserts
Nothing makes me quite as happy as juggling and assembling multiple components of a dessert in the kitchen. This year, I would really love to throw myself into the craziness of it all, even if it’s something as uncomplicated as making a multi layered cake.
Eleven: Start grilling
Late last year, I spoilt myself a little and got myself a gorgeous Le Creuset grill pan. This year, I would really like to start making a lot use of it beyond grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, starting maybe with a nice piece of rib eye.
Twelve: Make a lot of ice cream
Okay, add making ice cream to that list of stuff I wish I did more of in the last year. My ice cream machine has been woefully neglected the last year and I’m more than happy to making that right by making tons of ice cream this year.
So there you have it- my eleven favourite recipes from Twenty Eleven and twelve things I look forward to doing, culinary wise, in Twenty Twelve.
It certainly looks like I’ll have one really busy but fun year in the kitchen this year, if I get up to everything I want to. But before that all unfolds, I would just like to say a huge thank you to you for dropping by the last year. And here’s wishing you one and all a happy new year. May you all have a fantastic year filled with tons of deliciousness ahead!