Ricotta Pancakes

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This, dear foodies, takes 10 minutes to make, and just a little longer to cook. Dead. Easy.

A few people have requested this recipe, so I’ll quickly post it to prevent any unwanted snags at my feet a little later. The thing is, I never make pancakes a whole lot, which probably sounds like sacrilege to most. I then came across the quaintest, most moreish-looking recipe for lemon ricotta hot cakes on the website whiteonricecouple.com, in other words the most beautfiful food photography blog ever? And ok, I actually came across it two months ago. So yes, it’s been a whole two months before I decided to whisk some butter and sugar together for the sake of following it. God, it’s a beaut. I followed the original recipe once, but the second time I made a few adjustments.

These hotcakes, or mini silver dollar pancakes if you will, are oddly tender due to the quick-whisked egg whites in the batter (don’t fret! This part takes 30 seconds at most! I swear my life on it) and whole-milk ricotta and milk. Yes, you need good, whole milk for this. None of the almond or soy stuff, no matter how nourishing that feels later on. It’s a Sunday.

Ricotta Pancakes (serves 2-3)

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2.5 tablespoons sugar
  • 0.5 teaspoon salt
  • 0.5 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 0.5 teaspoon nutmeg/cinnamon
  • 0.5 tablespoons baking powder (I like decimal places, if you cannot already tell)
  • 1.25 cup whole milk ricotta
  • 0.5 cup milk
  • 2 eggs, separated into yolks and whites
  • butter for cooking

Procedure:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, nutmeg/cinnamon (I didn’t have fresh nutmeg so I just used cinnamon) and baking powder for at least 30 seconds.
  2. Separate the eggs and put whites aside.
  3. In a medium bowl containing the egg yolks you just extracted from those beautiful fresh eggs you just cracked, whisk in the ricotta, milk and vanilla extract. Lots of vanilla. Yum yum.
  4. Immediately fold the dry ingredients in and do NOT overmix. Mix until just combined and set aside.
  5. Whisk the egg whites by hand until foamy. I urge you to do it by hand because this step takes no time at all and why would I want you to whip out those dreaded electronic whisks for extra cleaning later on? Come on now.
  6. Pour the translucent whites into the batter you set aside and mix until just combined once more. Don’t be thorough with this batter, it does its job when you’re more laid back.
  7. Cook on a medium hot pan with a thin film of unsalted butter. It takes around 2 minutes a side. Flip when you see mini bubbles forming on the surface.
  8. Serve with butter and maple syrup (smashed berries and jam if you want) because that’s all you really need for this darn brilliant recipe.
  9. Take a fork, cut a nice triangle in the stack, or of two if you’re polite, and enjoy with a cup of good coffee.
  10. Make a mental note to make these again in the near future.

Assembly Coffee

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Everyone please assemble.

Another post dedication to my new café buddy, Liz! Yes, this one is for you, you pink kitty hoarder. (I know you are, deep deep down). Café visiting (the term hopping is a little oversubscribed now, isn’t it) is an actual addiction, I may embarrassedly admit. See, I would be at school working on my extended essay, but since they didn’t have the chemicals I needed that day for me to continue playing at and experimenting with waxy red lipstick, I jumped at the chance to pop by a new café relatively near where I stay. We squealed like idiots over the mere idea, but I don’t regret any willful squeal. No, I don’t really squeal. But for coffee and salted caramel waffles? Yes, I do squeal. Assembly it was.

I said it. Salted caramel waffles. I wondered if they would be comparable to the ones we had at Strangers’ Reunion, that nicely hidden waffle haven, propped up in the middle of a pancake stack of old Chinese shophouses will colourful boards and near-garish signs. This place wasn’t quite as hidden, seeing as it was tucked away nicely near the Botanical Gardens, where my father and I walk to every single Sunday anyway. A huge ‘A’ greeted the two of us as we approached, which really appealed to me in particular, for dreadfully obvious reasons. I liked that a lot.

Before I blabber on the wonders of crisp and fluffy waffle world, I’d just like to apologise in advance for the iPhone-quality photos. Special creds to Liz’s cam, she’s lovely for letting me snap away like a deranged foodie lunatic , but no, I don’t always happen to have my Nikon handy. And you know what? These preserve memories just as well.

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Iced Mocha- $5.00
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Salted caramel buttermilk waffles- $11.50

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The place was much more of a nook than a full-blown artisan café yard, which was more charming than off-putting, and hey, at least the place wasn’t fusty. Lit golden from the back interior, with a couple of round tables exposed to some soft sunlight. Almost in love already. After some surprising encounters with old faces, we sat down. A woman (who apparently is also the barista) was walking around, pretty heavy-handed with her red lipstick, gathering cups and saucers of quirky, contrasting colours (think lavender and a bright sun-yellow). I didn’t miss out the arrangement of homemade cakes at the front either. Assembled at Assembly Coffee. Quite ready, quite thirsty.

The iced mocha is nothing to shout feather and fame about. It was, frankly, a milky mess with a dusting of added sweetener, severely lacking in any rich mocha flavour, let alone a smidgen of caffeine. I remember admiring the traditional gradient of colour as it was brought to the table, rising from steep chocolate to alluring white with flecks of cocoa on top. The first sip was all milk, so I went ahead and stirred rather thoroughly, like how you would attempt to dissolve sodium hydrogen-carbonate in water with a glass rod to make the perfect 3% concentration. And still, mostly milk. Mostly. Alright, it was decent and refreshing, albeit far from impressive. I’ve encountered worse and I’ve had spectacular. Fell on either a 4 or 5.

The waffles came like an angel on wings shortly after. Rough-handed squeezing for that criss-crossed weaving of salted caramel, a patchwork of beckoning, tongue-tingling sweetness atop a 7-inch wide babe of buttermilk waffle. And for the heck of it, a scoop of vanilla ice cream. In all honesty, that one scoop did no justice for the pairing. There should have been at least two (and gargantuan scoops, at that) to balance the rigid honesty and fluffiness of waffle with cool vanilla and salted caramel. I took my first bite, after carefully laying a bite of waffle with a good smear of caramel and ice cream. Flavours played like kids in my mouth.

Ok, it’s not exactly the bomb diggity salted caramel buttermilk mania. Once again, a serious lacking of salt in that department, but nevertheless, one cannot refuse to appreciate or acknowledge the humble beauty of that waffle. Decently crisp on the outside, with a white, light and fluffy belly. Note how I said decent. Which basically means they could’ve upped the crisp factor just that little bit more. The sort of waffle which would go all nice and squidgy after a few turns with ice cream. Buttermilk clearly does wonders in any waffle case. The ice cream offered a good vanilla flavour, though don’t expect anything artisan. They should definitely consider adding a menu option of ‘two scoops’. Really. These were good, no, great waffles, but something about them made me feel as if they still did not quite match up to the ones at Strangers’ Reunion, for those alone were absolute perfection on a plate. If I may recall correctly, they were even more crisp with better aeration throughout its slightly thicker body. Don’t get me wrong, the ones at Assembly are perfectly desirable little circles of goodness, and they went perfectly with two hours of conversation and iced home brew, but they aren’t the ones I would claim to be stellar, or the best.

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Passionfruit meringue tart– $6

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Tart tart. Sweet meringue. Dense, rich, not overly cloying, balanced with the only mildly sweet cracker crust. A beautiful ochre colour. Honestly, there was nothing to complain about there. My fork sank to the bottom with the right tension as it eased through the thick, I’m-holdin-it-together passionfruit curd, which yielded the most wonderful bright notes, playing up the heavily whipped meringue and carefree crust. Loved. It. And would you look at the caramel curls on top.

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As I left, I bought a slice of their homemade strawberry cheesecake for $6.50. As a child, I was a cheesecake aficionado, and seeing this humbly decorated cherub in the glass display brought about a myriad old memories, coated with rich cream cheese. I excitedly opened the square plastic packet when I got home. Too excited to take a picture, obviously. I let my fork slide right into its insides, and then nudged at the tender biscuit crust beneath. Immediately, I sensed a definite sogginess at the bottom, realising that it was probably due to the moist body of cake. It was half-collapsing, almost broken into two messy halves. A quick bite left me disappointed, for it was neither tart nor rich, despite yielding a good amount of sweetness. Pale, numb, young. The only thing which should be improved on is the structure and signature tanginess of a good cheesecake, because the ease with which my fork underwent was slightly worrying. I had a half slice anyway, because on the whole, it’s a good homemade cheesecake (with a few limp,thinly-sliced strawberries on top. Who else loves picking glazed fruit off cake? It’s a carnal pleasure).

They call it third-wave coffee movement. I say I’m coming back for the hot coffees and yolk-impregnated eggs.

Rating: 4.0/5

Assembly Coffee
26 Evans Road
Singapore 259367

Telephone: +65 6735 5647

Halia (Raffles Hotel)

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Yeah, um. You see that? I’m not even starting with a decent introduction to the place. Instead I just thrust their sticky toffee date pudding in your faces because I believe that’s what you deserve as a perfectly decent introduction. So now yes, I proclaim this a decent introduction. I hope that’s alright. And because I believe in revolting carnal pleasure before anything less provocative gets in the way. Halia at Raffles Hotel, or in other words that place I always pass by whilst brisk walking with my Dad in the Botanic Gardens, except this time it’s at the oldest hotel in the country. I’ll just run you through this pudding real quick.

Sticky toffee date pudding –$10

Honestly one of the best I’ve ever had. Ok so, when it came, I thought it looked a little boring. Average-sized flattened cuboid with some probably average vanilla ice cream for tradition’s sake. Ha, wrong again. It undoubtedly beat the one from Marmalade Pantry, in terms of texture and sweetness level. This tongue can’t take too much of a sugar overload, I swear. Yes, even I. It could shrivel up and die. This was surprisingly moist, although the banana bread appearance could be refined. Moist, dense, with the right amount of aeration to soak up all the cool vanilla and warm, sweet caramel, like a brown child grovelling on sticky ground for some fair-weather pleasure. I particularly enjoyed the slight addition of sea salt and homemade (yes, yes) butterscotch.

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Chilli crab dip with toasted baguette– $14

Deep fried squid, with spring onion lime syrup dip and piquant mayo– $14

Pork sausage and mash (from kids menu)

Fried bocconcini, roast red onion, capsicum and mesclun salad with balsamic – $17

Alright, I didn’t know the fare here was going to be that impressive. The mother and I shared the three starters; that chilli crab dip was divine- mildly spicy, creamy, well-textured with the even slivers of fresh crab meat. Ugh, yum, especially with the oh-so sophisticatedly toasted baguette. Eat it slow, or you may get a crabby overdose with no room for any of the other rather amazing stuff. The bocconcini (mozzarella) salad was a perfectly petite size, offering crunch and serious stringiness, as you may see in the photo above. Yeah, that was vulgar stringiness. Thank goodness for the tart and lemony salad, or the little fried balls by themselves would have been plain, old, trite things. As for the squid, what was most intriguing was the sauces they served it with. Hello, sweet pairings (?). I was confused, then intrigued, then pleased. I used the two dips as an excuse for the baguette, because I thought it’s toasted, airy texture fit the soaking process more, and made the whole experience of dip and eat more enjoyable. I picked at some of my sister’s sausage and mash, almost scoffing at the putrid size (who was I to judge, it was a damn kids option for goodness sake), but was shocked at the aromatic, whipped velvet of white, speckled mash, and juicy, well done pork sausage. It didn’t even need a sauce reduction!

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62.5 degrees C poached eggs with roma tomato, baby spinach and herb butter sauce on toasted brioche– $20 (my mother is a vegetarian so we passed on the extra mortadella and pistachio ham).

Basically one of the highlights of my life. I mean, of the day. You know, it runs the same route.

Here’s another one of my little stories. So I move the golden slab of brioche a little, very, very little on the plate, and then boom. The beautiful little pregnant egg, so delicate and translucent that you can feel the yolk tremble and weep underneath the 0.01mm thick membrane of white, dropped its belly to the white ground. These guys were so careful to poach it at this precise temperature, under such precise conditions, yielding the most vulnerable, scared little egg. Oh, poor egg. Oh, beautiful, poor egg. But weak it was not. It survived not just one, but two falls, after some clumsy knife handling on my part once again. It finally let its inhibitions go once I stroked the surface with my knife, as if that force alone actually beat that of the ground-hitting phase. Really. Yolk everywhere. It was a beautiful, carnal mess.

Mushed it all up. I let the brioche go soggy, let the tomato and spinach drink up the sunny hues of yolk, yolk and more yolk. The fresh, cooked vegetables, bouncy, lovely-textured mushrooms and balsamic-glazed red onions paired the rich egg-and-herbed butter combo perfectly. Every moment was one spent in sanctimony, I tell you.

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Rating: 4.83/5 (I like complicated decimals)

The Halia at Raffles Hotel

1 Beach Road
#01-22/23 Raffles Hotel
Singapore 189673
Tel: +65 9639 1148

Guys, I love eggs.

Department of Caffeine

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Special reservation for one, please.

To say I was happy to finally arrive at this little brown-hued nook is a severe, severe understatement. I had been meaning to visit for a full year, believe it or not. The urge was uncontrollable, and now being the holidays, I found myself a pathetic excuse to go all the way to somewhere like Tanjong Pagar just to be woken up, enlightened, seduced by a cuppa joe and (fingers crossed) good brunch fare. Even though I had breakfast. But still. This will only be a half review since I went alone, armed with a frown-faced stomach and On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt (finished the whole thing in that one sitting). If I ordered anything more, such as their acclaimed and gorgeous buttermilk waffles (those come in all varieties, they even have valrhona chocolate ones with honey butterscotch?!), I might have received one too many a glare. The fact that I appear a weirdly skinny alien to many won’t help. The irony would have been annoying, and might’ve put my own stomach to shame. I should also like to note that they spelt butterscotch wrongly (please refer to the first picture), which tainted my first impression of the place, as spelling and grammar is of utmost importance in any state or occasion. To me at least. Come on. Scotch.

Anyways.

Caffé Mocha– $5.50

Smoked Salmon and baby spring onion scrambled eggs on toasted English muffin with brown butter– $15.50 (NEW! They said)

The Caffé Mocha, in other words Mr. childish mock version of a proper capp, was of a rich, plump brew, though the caffeine knob could have been turned up just that bit more. Wonderful, was my first thought. I should have remembered my unkind intolerance to milky, more sweet or chocolatey coffee though. The funny thing was, this substantial cup of warm, rich mocha came a considerable amount of time after my food came, which was confusing and admittedly rather disconcerting. It’s fine if it’s the other way round, for you can ponder your ongoing life crises whilst trying to appear demure as you sip at the cup’s brim, taking in the more comforting aroma, letting your ashen thoughts dissolve in the steam and liquid right under your foam-tipped nose. Ah, and if you want some seriously professional latte art, this is the place to come to. Lovely, but after a while, perhaps due to the chemistry of the chocolate-infused brew, the top was splotched with popped air bubbles, and my once-beautiful swan faded into the deep chocolate of the river it was contained in.

I was debating whether to order the scrambled eggs or the smoked salmon quiche with a large side salad. There were the waffles, but I knew it would be a waste if I didn’t finish it. And I knew they had French toast, stuffed with all sorts of wonderful like maple syrup bananas and greek yoghurt with berries, but I came to the heart-numbing realisation that it was just not available that day.

Pain, pain. But a quiche, Alex, is not nearly as exotic as something with brown butter, I told myself. It was that, the smoked salmon and words ‘baby onion’ which made me decide to spend a painful 15 bucks. 15.50! I made a careful note to not shell out all my savings before this mid-term break. The plate arrived within 10 minutes, which was impressive, the steam rising up like wispy gaseous intestines (remember that I’m the worst with descriptions. Remember). The scrambled eggs were of a bright and buttery hue, mellow but shining with the purity of fresh eggs, whipped to perfection with some cream and great lashings of butter, I supposed. The smoked salmon was not in the least bit too salty and complemented the rest of the dish so kindly, so perfectly. Even the side salad was lovingly dressed up with a tart lemon vinaigrette, to spice up and add a cutting contrast to the heavier, denser flavours of English muffin stodge and buttery egg. Then again, it was that English muffin which had a little bit of a problem. Perfectly toasted, a generous size, but to be frank, soggy.

I said it. Soggy. I appreciated the usage of brown butter here, though to be fair they could have done the browning process a little longer (and let my coffee come first, ha) to bring out the signature nutty notes of well-done brown butter. Its craggy loveliness, akin to the texture I had this morning for my first breakfast (which I slathered with almond butter, honey, banana and cinnamon y-u-m), was totally destroyed due to the heavy-handedness of the butter. Too much of it made the otherwise nicely crisp inside a mushy mess, and this was exacerbated by the moisture of the smoked salmon and slick golden scramble which lay like lazy bums on top.

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The components served to feed off each other in the best possible way. Just that… muffin. Just that. I would come here again for that damn French toast, waffles and coffee. And for goodness’ sake, some friends.

Rating: 4.75/ 5.0

15 Duxton Rd, 089481
6223 3426

Café hopping is annoyingly expensive. I do this in the name of coffee. I do this in the name of good and beautiful food. I do this…

Pietrasanta the Italian Restaurant

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Can I be completely honest here? I’m not one who would willingly live my life on pizza and pasta. Italian food is magnificent; its rustic and hearty authenticity can awaken the dead and magnetise them back to wooden tables by a fire on a cold night, the red-and-white checkered tablecloths abound with bruschetta and coarsely-cut garlic bread and moon-sized pizzas just for extra hearty assurance.

I’ll start off with that tomato sauce starter there. A little cup of salty heaven, looking down on all Ketchup-derived descendants around the world. Dip a little bit of bread in it, or drink it straight. Shot or slow, that’s up to you. I like to dip my finger in every now and again. That’s just me.

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Margherita (Italian mozzarella with basil leaves in tomato sauce)- $16.90

Prosciutto E Funghi (Italian mozzarella, cooked ham and button mushrooms in tomato sauce)- $18.90

The pomodoro pasta you see at the top was a special request by the kids, otherwise they usually only serve lasagna, a hefty portion of beautiful noodle and melting, sweet meat. The pizzas are all thin-crust but burst with the appropriate flavours with each bite. Tomato comes through like the shining opera singer, but doesn’t crack any windows. I prefer the funghi version, only because less cheese and more fungi (how weird do I sound) is my thing. The whole idea of button mushrooms usually turns me off, but its bouncier, firmer texture as opposed to something like shitake or chanterelle worked superbly with the melting cheese and tomato.

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Zappa Di Pesce (Fresh seafood soup) –$15.90

Italian tomato, rocket and parma ham salad– $14.90

Burrata and smoked scamorza– not sure of the price as this was a simple, special request

Squid ink fettuccine with crab meat sauce– $20.90 (In other words, my favourite dish)

Home-made fettuccine with sausage and truffle– $24.90

Now then. Would you LOOK at that burrata? It’s hard to get something produced fresh and seasonal wrong, but God, they never go wrong with the burrata. Cold, pure and oozing like uncontrollable organ spillage. I should seriously reconsider food blogging with my abhorrent descriptions. But honestly, it’s actually one of the most beautiful things in the universe, coupled with good balsamic vinaigrette, olive oil and ripe Italian tomato. Parma ham if you want, but let’s not forget to worship the purity of that bone-white baby burrata.

If it wasn’t for the heady richness the sausage fettuccine offered, I would say that it would be the best of the lot. But the lolling tongues of fettuccine and achingly creamy sauce served to appease much of the obesity resistance movement of my stomach, and it just gets too much after about 5 minutes. The squid ink, on the other hand, is lighter, but darker, if you know what I mean. A decadent smorsgabord of savoury umami flavour, grounded by the honest humility of an experienced pasta maker. Homemade, they say? Homemade it really is.The crab meat is the best part, juicy and chunky, and makes for a nice break when you’re not looking in your lady’s mirror desperately scrubbing away at your blackened teeth.

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A mash up of my uncle’s Ossobucco con gremolada (four-hour braised veal shank–$32.90) and Risotto Porcini (risotto with porcini, saffron and bone marrow–$23.90)

If you know me well, I prefer the supposedly icky gelatinous bits and bobs of an animal to the meat itself- bone marrow, fish eyes, blubber, cartilage, fat trimmings, you name it, I’ll have it. I’m basically the hopeless bottom feeder. The tender braised meat is absolute divinity, and it paired wonderfully (surprisingly too, for the pairing was spontaneous, I tell you that) with the rich, aromatic risotto, yellow, fat, plump little pearls. Al dente, with an almost smoky air about it.

And lastly, tiramisu. I’m not associating a price with it, because, well, tiramisu. I don’t think this is the best around, for the sponge could have done with a more luxurious and thorough caffeine and rum spa. A little dry, a little too sweet. The cocoa was decadent, but didn’t mask a less-than-rich interior.

Reliable Sunday lunch resort.

Rating: 4.8/5

Pietrasanta

5B Portsdown Road
#01-03 Singapore 139311
Tel: +65 6479 9521