[Review] Top 5 Dishes from Artichoke Singapore's Weekend Brunch


Artichoke has been a permanent fixture of Bugis for 8 years. In an era where even award winning, 3 Michelin star restaurants such as Joel Robuchon Restaurant can close its doors after a couple of years in Sentosa, 8 years is certainly a long time in this business.

Yet despite all these years, the restaurant is not only surviving but thriving in the food industry. Its ever evolving, dynamic repertoire of food from its menu is testament to how the restaurant has managed to stayed ahead of the competition.

Ambience

Hidden in an enclave behind the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Nafa) , it is certainly easy to miss this restaurant. It's like someone's house in the middle of the medium sized concrete buildings surrounding the city area.

Its friendly and down-to-earth chef-owner, restauranteur, Bjorn Shen, shared with us how the name of the restaurant Artichoke came about. Apparently, he flipped open a cookbook, turned to a random page, closed his eyes and randomly pointed his finger.  The first word that he pointed to was the word 'beginning', which didn't exactly resonate with him. He tried again, and this second time, the word he pointed to was Artichoke, and the name has stuck ever since.


Such is his casual, carefree disposition, and the food itself doesn't try too hard to be too serious either. But more on that later.

Chef-Owner's Philosophy

We had to ask ourselves though. Does a restaurant that serves Middle Eastern cuisine have a place in Singapore? Who would be its audience? Should its strategy be to cater to the locals or the expatriates?

Well, Chef Bjorn, who also happens to be one of the judges of the recently concluded TV cooking show series MasterChef Singapore 2018, and has quite an effervescent personality, seems to be in a buoyant mood these days given the success that his restaurant has found. And he was more than happy to share insights into the secrets of his success.

At the 3 year mark, his restaurant was having an identity crisis. He was wondering whether he should follow the trends of what kind of food that the audience wants instead of merely serving Middle Eastern food. After all, to any entrepreneurial businessman, it may not make much business sense to restrict your market and audience to just those who want to eat Middle Eastern food.

Thankfully, he stuck to his philosophy and principles. He did not want to pander to the market, he says articulately. He did not merely want to follow the trend. He wanted to innovate and be a thought leader in the industry. To create demand where there was none, rather than to just be a follower and be the supplier to what was being demanded.

This is his yard after all. You either enter his house and deal with his nuances, or live life knowing that you missed a great opportunity to try out something different.

My Top 5 Picks

As ambitious as that sounds, it was certainly the right decision as Chef Bjorn followed his passion. And when one does put his heart, passion and soul into the food he creates, with a degree of ingenuity and talent, the food turns out to be nothing short of phenomenal.

The food is also unpretentious and reflects the chef's personality. The food is deliciously fun, novel and doesn't try to take itself too seriously. That's because in terms of presentation, it's kinda messy, it's definitely not Instagram worthy, but it tastes absolutely wonderful. Surely, that's all that matters, right?

So let's cut to the chase and share our favourites from the Weekend Brunch menu. These are the 5 must tries: Fried Cauliflower Salad, Fried Chicken drumsticks marinated with Middle Eastern spices, the Shakshouka that is reminiscent of Spanish eggs, Mezze Platter and the Burnt Honey Sea Salt Soft Serve.

1) Fried Cauliflower Salad (S$24++)


My favourite dish, the cauliflower salad, pushes the boundaries and redefines what a cauliflower tastes like and I would never ever see the cauliflower in the same way again.

Crispy, with a myriad of tastes and spices which blend together harmoniously, this epitomises the chef's innovation and how he manages to infuse his creative juices into a seemingly boring old cauliflower to make it outstanding. The egg's runny texture also offered a nice complement to the otherwise dry salad. 

2) Artichoke Fried Chicken (S$25++)

The chicken drumsticks were just oozing with a multitude of flavours from the various Middle Eastern spice marinates intricately sealed in with za'atar honey, and showcases the chef's mastery in keeping his food simple yet aromatic and appealing. Before sinking your teeth into those (already) flavourful drumsticks, remember to dip it into the cheese dippings too. It's finger licking good!

3) Shakshouka (S$28++)


Here at Artichoke, eggs, synonymous with breakfast, are explored through this dish. Enjoy the eggs slowly simmered in a spicy tomato sauce and thick halloumi cheese. Use the Turkish toast to dig up all that cheesy goodness!

4) Mezze Platter (S$23++)

Consisting of the 4 freshest mezzes (small dishes) served on the chef's recommendation, this classic Middle Eastern dish is a perfect one for sharing. For me, the flavourful falafel quinoa ball stole the show. Together with the chickpea hummus blended with miso and the Turkish bread, this platter made our brunch an exceptionally hearty one.

5) Burnt Honey Sea Salt Soft Serve (S$6++)


End off the meal with a honey soft serve. Surprisingly not heavy on the palate, this dessert was not overly sweet and, in my opinion, a better healthier version of the usual salted caramel version.

Conclusion

In all, our dining experience at Artichoke was casual and laidback, but also positive and refreshing. The food and vibes were just the perfect way to start the weekend.

Artichoke

161 Middle Road, Singapore 188978

Webpage
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[Review] Italian Caprese Cake from Pasticceria Di Rosa

[Advertorial]

I was recently approached by Italian bakery Pasticceria Di Rosa to share more about its business to customers in this part of the world.

While I was originally a little apprehensive to share about this overseas establishment due to my unfamiliarity with the brand, what moved me were my further conversations with the people behind the bakery, their sincerity, finding out what drives them and really trying the product.
Source: Pasticceria Di Rosa


Overview of Confectionery

Source: Pasticceria Di Rosa
Source: Pasticceria Di Rosa
A family business set up by Vincenzo Di Rosa in 1982, Pasticceria Di Rosa is based in Naples, Italy, and a product of love, dedication, hard work and sacrifice.

Today, the pasticceria run by Vencenzo’s son, Francesco, and daughter-in-law, who are just as trained and passionate about the business. I heard that Francesco had been helping out in his father’s bakery since he was 8 years old!

The Di Rosa pastry shop is known throughout the country for its craftsmanship and modern techniques and is a leader in the confectionery market, using recipes perfected over the years.

Confectioneries Available

Source: Pasticceria Di Rosa
Source: Pasticceria Di Rosa
The pastry shop offers a selection of cakes and cookies. Its signature cakes include the famous Red Cake (an adaption of the American red velvet cake) and Mokaccino Cake (a collaboration with well-known Italian confectioners and a Neapolitan company that produces Passalacqua coffee), while notable cookies include its Swivels (chocolate biscuit that looks like a cinnamon roll) and Biscociok (a crispy waffle with chocolate base filled with gianduja hazelnut-chocolate cream).

Torta Caprese

Source: Pasticceria Di Rosa
Apart from fresh cakes sold at its shopfront, the pastry shop also offers several items for online purchase/ overseas delivery.

One of them is the Torta Caprese which I had the opportunity to try. A traditional cake that originates from Capri island (located at the Bay of Naples), it is a chocolate cake filled with almonds or walnuts.

This pasticceria’s interpretation of this cake was really good. While it looks like a normal American square brownie, it was filled with lots of nuts – almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios and peanuts. I liked the crunch that came along with each bite of each cake and the bite-sized portions made it really addictive.

At 10 euros (≈S$15) per box excluding shipping, it comes in 12 pieces at approximately 500g and is produced under international HACCP food safety certification.

Overseas Shipping

Source: Pasticceria Di Rosa
The confectionery is open to importers interested in bringing in the product to Singapore. For individuals, the caprese and other sweet treats are also available for online purchase here. Delivery for the caprese is available from Mondays to Wednesdays. 


Pasticceria Di Rosa
Corso Campano, 546, 80014 Giugliano in Campania NA, Italy
Webpage
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[Recipe] Banana Blueberry Muffins Using Airfryer

Some readers have asked me for muffin recipes, but if there's only one that I am allowed to share, it would be these banana blueberry muffins!

I love how these muffins are moist, wholesome and really easy to bake. This recipe's strength lies in its versatility. Just treat it as a banana muffin base, and then you can add blueberries, raspberries or even chocolate chips - whatever you have in your fridge.

These muffins have always proven perfect for my parties. As they are not too sweet or oily, I am sure they will be very well received amongst the young and old at your next gathering too. Enjoy!

Banana Blueberry Muffins Using Airfryer

Recipe

Yield: 6 muffins

Ingredients
(A)
2 eggs, beaten
75g cooking oil
70g sugar
1/3 tsp vanilla extract (or 2/3 tsp vanilla essence)
2 medium bananas, mashed

(B)
100g top flour/ cake flour (or any low-gluten flour)
2/3 tsp salt
2/3 tsp baking soda

(C)
Blueberries (or any other fruits)

Directions

1. Preheat 
Preheat airfryer at 150 degrees for 5 minutes.

2. Mix
Mix ingredients in (A) together and set aside. These are the wet ingredients.
3. Mix
In another bowl, combine ingredients in (B) together and sieve. These are the dry ingredients.
4. Combine.
Create a well in the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients in. Fold in gently. Pour into 6 muffin cups till 2-thirds full.
5. Decorate.
Add the blueberries or any other toppings.
6. Bake.
Bake in airfryer at 150 degrees for 10 min. If needed, continue baking for 3 to 5 min more till golden brown.
7. Serve!
It's ready to be served. Best eaten warm. :)


For more cake recipes using airfryer, click here.

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[Review] KECha @ Far East Plaza: Where To Get The Most Insta-Worthy Drinks In Town!

The local tea scene in Singapore has lately seen rapid evolvement with the opening of many tea chains across shopping malls in the town and suburban areas. These tea chains tend to serve fruit-based drinks, and it is not difficult to see why fruits have become a part of this fad, given the more health-conscious youths of today.

While there may be a group of drinkers that patronise their favourite chains because of addiction or be part of the "in" crowd, some may just be curious onlookers who would like to know more about this new trend. 

For those in the latter group, just head over to Far East Plaza. This mall, once the most "hip" place for youngsters after school, is home to many up-and-coming tea chains - one of which is KECha Singapore.

KECha Singapore

My interest in KECha was first piqued when I saw the Instagram-worthy drinks with various colours on social media. 

KECha, from Taiwan, offers a range of healthy drinks in stunning colors from fruit/ flower-based teas to the usual milk-based ones. The drinks are served in reusable bottles, so thumbs-up to Kecha for its eco-friendly effort!
For those who are health conscious, you will be pleased to know that their various drinks recipes are specially concocted with no added colouring or sugar and the purple colouring is naturally derived from butterfly pea. While most are attracted by the mesmerising shades, I love it for their health properties as they are known to help to detoxify the body and slow down the ageing process. (I grow blue pea plants at home!)

With more than 45 drinks on the menu, many of which look equally attractive, I am sure you will take a while to decide which flavour you want, so below are their Top 5 Bestsellers to help you out! :)

Fruit/ Flower-Based Series

From left: Wander Garden (S$4.90), Grapefruit Petal (S$5.90), Ocean Berry (S$4.90).

1) Wander Garden

It is often said that we eat/ drink with our eyes first, and I am sure many would be tempted to try this series for the stunning purple colours.

The top purple layer of Wander Garden is made from butterfly pea extracts, while the bottom layer is made from a special blend of rose, elderflower and apple flavours. A first sip of this drink offered an initial strong rose taste and reminded me of bandung. Theereafter, subsequent sips then revealed a nice sour apple aftertaste, so it is really interesting how a simple kiosk drink is able to play such teasers on my mind.

2) Ocean Berry

Ocean Berry is slightly sweeter than the previous drink and owes its key flavours to the strawberry puree used. I like the tangy fruity flavours which offer a really pleasant aftertaste.

3) Grapefruit Petal

For those who prefer something more sour, this jasmine green tea with osmanthus and fresh grapefruit juice & slices will suit you best. With the strongest sourish accents amongst the 3 drinks in this category, it adds a really refreshing touch to the palate especially after a heavy meal.

Milk-Based Series

From left: Taiwan Brown Sugar Milk (S$5.30), Matcha Milk Tea (S$4.90).

1) Matcha Milk Tea

I would consider this my favourite amongst the 5 listed here, as I like how the green tea flavours are strong yet do not overpower the milky flavours. Slightly sweet, this would be the choice for those who want to enjoy the antioxidant benefits of green tea but may be averse to the bitter tinges that come with the pure brewed version.

2) Taiwan Brown Sugar Milk 



Consisting of premium brown sugar, brown sugar pearl and fresh milk, this is equivalent to the "babyccino" on the menu. It can be quite sweet, but since it is due to the premium brown sugar used, it is perhaps alright to cut ourselves the slack to indulge in this drink once in a while. :)

Conclusion

So which drink fascinates you the most? Head on down to their outlets at Far East Plaza, JCUBE or Yew Tee Point to check out their menu! :)

KECha Singapore
Far East Plaza, #01-16E.
JCube, #02-65.
Yew Tee Point, B1-41.

Islandwide delivery is available: 

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[Recipe] Baked Durian Mooncakes Using Philips XXL Airfryer



The period leading up to Mid Autumn Festival is always a busy time for me as I am usually buried in the kitchen preparing mooncakes for family and friends using my airfryer. 

While I've a tried-and-tested mini mooncake recipe using lotus paste fillings, this time round I decided to change things a little by making them larger and using durian paste fillings instead.

This is now possible because of my new Philips XXL Airfryer (more info here)! It has helped me complete more mini mooncakes and bake large mooncakes too. 


Philips XXL Airfryer

Now you must be thinking: Wait, hang on. Did you just say that we can bake mooncakes in the airfryer? Yes! This has been what I have been doing in the last years since I got my first airfryer in 2014.

My old first-version Philips analogue airfryer is still working after 4 years, but I decided to upgrade mine to the new Philips Avance Collection Airfryer XXL HD9654/91 for my new home. Here's why:
  • New Twin Turbo technology: The powerful heater and motor enables hot air to swirl fast like a tornado, allowing up to 90% of the fat to be extracted from food. 
  • Large capacity: As mentioned earlier, I love this new XXL version for its size. I can now cook more items, fitting up to 1.4kg of fries (previous version: 0.8kg) or one whole chicken.
  • Multipurpose functionalities: To correct most people's perception about airfryers, apart from frying, this kitchen appliance enables me to bake, grill and roast, as well produce perfectly cooked food every time. Just view my various recipes for cookies and cakes for inspiration!
  • "Keep Warm" mode: I also like how this new mode allows the heat in food to be retained for up to 30 minutes. Really useful for busy families like mine!

Excited now? Let's start baking our mooncakes in the airfryer! :)

Baked Durian Mooncakes

Yield: 6 large mooncakes, each 7 cm diameter across

Ingredients


(A) Skin
150g top/ cake flour, sifted
100g golden syrup
1 tsp alkaline/ lye water (this helps to make the dough more stretchable and give the skin the golden-brown colour)
40g oil


(B) Filling
720g durian paste
melon seeds (optional)

(C) Egg wash for glazing
1 egg yoke
1 tbsp water

Tools

Philips XXL Airfryer
Large mooncake mould plunger (7 cm diameter across/ 125g-size), with some flour for dusting

Directions

1. Mix.
In a mixing bowl, mix the sifted flour, syrup, oil and alkaline water together. Combine until it forms a soft dough.


2. Rest.
Place a cling wrap on the dough (not over the dough, i.e. no gap between the dough and cling wrap). Leave it in the fridge to rest overnight. This step is known as 醒面.

Tips: The longer you let the dough rest, the easier you can wrap the fillings later.


3. Prepare dough balls.
The next day, divide the dough into 6 balls of 40g each. Return them to the fridge and keep chilled.

4. Prepare paste balls.
Next, divide the durian paste fillings into 6 balls of 120g each. If you are adding melon seeds, add them together with the paste balls.

5. Wrap.
It is now time to start preparing the mooncake balls. Remove 1 of the dough balls from the fridge and roll it out flat on a baking paper.

Wrap the flattened dough around 1 of the paste balls. Shape it into a mooncake ball. Ensure that there are no exposed parts.

(Repeat for the next 5 mooncake balls.)

Tips: Only remove dough balls from the fridge when you are about to use them. Warmed-up dough can become very sticky and difficult to work with!

Before:

After - No exposed parts:


6. Preheat.
Remove the baking pan. Preheat the airfryer using the Manual (M) mode at 180 degrees for 4 min.


7. Dust.
To prepare the plunger, cover the face of the mould generously with flour. Then, pour the excess out. This ensures that the plunger is well-dusted.

8. Press.
Place the mooncake balls, 1 at a time, in the plunger. Press hard so that the impressions can be properly made (this is my favourite part!). Release the plunger and gently place them onto a baking tray.

(Repeat for the next 2 mooncake balls. These 3 mooncakes form Batch 1.)

Tips: I'll recommend that you line the tray with baking paper. This prevents criss-cross lines on the underside of your mooncakes and helps ensure that the mooncakes don't "sink" into the baking tray. Remember to place the 3 mooncakes at the edges of the baking paper, so that the paper does not "fly" up.

9. Spray.
Spray the 3 mooncakes with water to prevent the mooncakes from cracking during baking later.


10. Bake.
Bake Batch 1 using the Manual (M) mode at 180 degrees for 10 min. 


11. Prepare egg wash.
Meanwhile, prepare the egg wash by mixing well the 1 egg yolk and 1 tbsp of water. 

Tips: To achieve a greater consistency for the egg wash, pass it through a sieve. 


12. Cool.
After this first bake, remove the mooncakes from the airfryer and leave them to cool for at least 15 min (do not skip this step).

13. Glaze.
Thereafter, glaze the top and sides of your mooncakes thinly and evenly with the egg wash.

14. Continue baking.
Return the mooncakes to the airfryer. Continue to bake using the Manual (M) mode at 180 degrees for another 4 - 6 min until golden brown.


15. Repeat.
To bake Batch 2 (the remaining 3 mooncakes), repeat steps #8 to 10 and #12 to 14.

16. Store.
Cool the 6 mooncakes completely before storing in an airtight container at room temperature for at least 3 days. This allows the mooncakes to 回油 and the skin to soften. It will also produce a glossy and shiny surface, and the flavours can be better developed.

PS: If your kitchen is too warm, you can store the mooncakes in the fridge sooner.



17. Ready!
After 3 days, the mooncakes' surface will turn glossy. For optimal results, wait for up to 7 days. Keep in the fridge if your home is warm.




Serve with hot Chinese tea or give these heartfelt gifts to your friends/ families. Happy Mid Autumn Festival, everyone! :)
 
For more info on Philips XXL Airfryer, click here.

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