07 August 2007

My Indulgence

I used to scoff at the small-portion-in-big-plate concept that I had seen in many 'atas' restaurants. That was until I realised that it was a conspiracy to leave you wanting for more of the good stuff - a conspiracy that worked on me.

And so for dinners at home, I try to put some of that into practice as well, in the meantime balancing that with my conditioned instinct to feed feed feed! I've picked up, from the women in my family, the type of hospitality insisting that having guests practically lifting their tummies off the floor at the end of the night and dragging it out the door with them, signals success.
When Yin came over for dinner the other day, I tried to control the portions, but still failed. A salad, pasta and a risotto later, we were stuffed. I didn't even prepare a sweet finish to dinner, expecting there to be little space for anymore after two carb-heavy dishes and I'm thankful for that decision. Though truth be told, I did toy with the idea of making AT LEAST an ice cream.

Thinking back though, if I had to choose between some ice cream and more pasta or risotto, I would go with the pasta (even over the risotto!). Not because I think I have unlocked the key to creating the perfect forkfuls of the classic pasta - Aglio Olio (garlic and olive oil), but because of my latest discovery of Tetsuya's Truffle Salsa.

Having passed by Culina (Bukit Timah Road, next to Coronation Plaza) countless times without actually dropping in, I resolved to make a trip down specially to have a look-see. They stock plenty of gourmet goodies that may not be a need, but would be a luxurious bonus to have. Squid ink in little sachets, vanilla fleur de sel, dried ceps that will knock your socks off with a sniff, and even chestnut puree in retro-looking squeeze tubes.

Seeing how they stocked all these deluxe ingredients, I asked if they happened to bring in any truffle-infused Camembert that made one of my trips to Paris absolutely unforgettable. Sadly, they didn't bring any of that hedonistic, creamy cheese in. They did however, recommend the next best alternative - mix some of Tetsuya's Truffle Salsa with a good quality Camembert for my very own sensuous spread.

At SGD$29 for a small 80g bottle of truffle salsa, I guess my reluctance was written all over my face. But they then very connivingly showed me the bigger bottle with better value for money (SGD$59 for 500g), and let me have a whiff of their own personal stash. I was hooked at first smell, and in a heartbeat, I said I'd take a bottle.

Obviously alerted to my nasal instincts, they brought out tiny apothecary bottles that contained super fragrant tea leaves from Gryphon. Of course, I have my own stash of Gryphon tea at home, and am loving it (Moroccan Mint is great for ice cream). Still, I enjoyed the moments sniffing away!

But I digress, yet again.

I haven't actually tried mixing the truffle salsa with any Camembert cheese yet, but using it for the little Aglio Olio 'upgrade' was simply heavenly. The salsa has olives (and I really don't like olives), but the flavours were a perfect balance of olives and truffle among others. The angelhair pasta was tossed in mild garlic-flavoured olive oil and truffle salsa for super silky delicate strands of noodle bathing in the distinct aroma that only truffles can yield. And while that would have been enough, I went over the top and added an extra teaspoonful of the good stuff.

After the delicious pasta, I made risotto with truffle oil, and dried ceps that I bought from Culina as well. Standing by the stove, nursing the starch from the risotto and chatting with Yin at the same time was such an enjoyable and therapeutic experience. The risotto had an extra dimension of flavour from the smooth ceps that triggered images of oak trees basking in gentle early morning sunlight, with chilly fog embracing their trunks.

But like I mentioned earlier, I would choose the pasta over the risotto if given a choice. It's hard not to, especially since the pasta took a fraction of the total time taken to make the risotto. This may seem to sit at the other end of the difficulty-spectrum of home-cooking as compared to the previous post, but it really isn't.

I can't think of a more idiot-proof pasta dish to do than Aglio Olio. And if you happen to have some of the truffle salsa at hand as well, this would be a great way to pamper yourself without too much bustling around the kitchen.

In fact, when Val suggested having a tennis session over the weekend and 'arrowed' (civil service lingo) me to provide a simple one-dish dinner, that came to mind immediately. I just upped the quantities to almost 100g of pasta per person and took just about 10 minutes to put it all together. Together with the smoked cheese that Val brought from Germany (I think), some table water crackers, we were well fed and ready for an intensive round of tennis.

Truffled Aglio Olio

Serves 4


400 g angelhair pasta, cooked according to instructions on packet till al dente (I always salt the water generously so that it needs minimal seasoning later on)

8 tbspns olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly

2 tbspns Tetsuya's Truffle Salsa+ 4 tsps (optional)

salt and pepper to taste


When pasta is almost done, heat olive oil over medium heat.

(Place a slice of garlic in the oil, and if it sizzles, the oil is hot enough)

When olive oil is heated, add garlic and fry until it just starts to brown, then remove from heat.

Toss the drained angelhair pasta through the olive oil, adding 2 tbspns Tetsuya's Truffle Salsa and more olive oil if required.

Season with salt to taste.

Serve with 1 additional tsp of truffle salsa each.

Leave some parmesan cheese and black pepper at the table to add if required (my friends always love a little interactive portion)


Anonymous said...

daffy.. I'm hungry!!! :(

daphne said...

yum! That looks fantastic. =)

Stephen said...

Looks great! I know, whenever I walk into our local gourmet specialty store I left wondering how I'm going to pay my rent! ;) But I can't resist truffles, cheeses, charcuterie. It's worth it!

Anonymous said...

duckie> Come back!

Daphne> Thanks! Isn't it weird calling someone by your own name? I recently got to know another Daphne, and it feels mighty weird!

Stephen> It's a relief to know I'm not the only one who feels this way! I have been trying to resist returning to the shop! =)