Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Masterclass with Anna Olson and an Inspired Recipe!

I love watching cooking shows.  I love watching celebrity chefs.  :)

And to my delight, I met Chef Anna Olson in person!  Double :)

Anna Olson is a professionally trained pastry chef with over fifteen years of experience in the culinary field.  She shares her talents with the world through award winning cookbooks, television shows and other culinary businesses.

Some of my friends always think I cook well.  Some cannot imagine how I am able to cook after work.  I guess, it is just the passion of cooking for people I love and feeling so so so happy when they enjoy the food I cooked.  But, there are also days when I do not know what to cook, days when the food seems so boring and mediocre.  There are days I need inspirations.

When I first saw the menu, I knew I had to attend this hands-on Masterclass with Anna.  This is the prelude to what will be premiering exclusively on Asian Food Channel starting Friday, 29 July 2016 at 9.00pm.  "Inspired with Anna Olson" - Anna's brand new show, will bring us on a journey from street food stalls to high-end restaurants, learning about Asia's best-loved signature dishes.  It will also show her adapting the techniques, ingredients and flavours gathered from her travels to create new inspiring dishes that will leave us drooling for more.

Sarah Benjamin, the host for the day, is also one of the two winners of the first season of Food Hero and hosts her own Asian Food Channel web series called Simply Special.

Warm and personable, Anna's shares her tips to some cooking techniques.  And although she is a trained pastry chef, she does not stop at just doing bakings.  How inspiring it is when I saw that she uses our Chinese kind of steamers to cook one of the dishes - Singapore-Filipino-inspired Steamed Carrot Cake with Sweet Potato Ice Cream.

This Singapore-Filipino-inspired Steamed Carrot Cake is just one of the items taught in the Masterclass.  An East-meets-West combination, this carrot cake is Anna's take of Singapore's daikon radish side dish steamed to become a dessert, with a little savoury spice.

When the Chinese steamer meets a ramekin.

Eat it plain on its own, like what we Asians usually do for a carrot cake, or pair it with ice-cream, and see it being transformed to a different kind of dish.

Loving the Masterclass as I learn, have fun and meet fellow bloggers (partnering with Vera from Life is in the Small Things).
Photo credit : Asian Food Channel
If you love beef pho, then you will love this too.  I absolutely adore it.  For those who do not like it raw, you can always sear it first.

And, it is just that dish to make when one is feeling not so good, because, you get to flatten that beef with the meat mallet.  Go on, vent your frustrations.  Just kidding!  Note that no one was hurt while we were at it (as shown in the above picture).

This beautiful Vietnamese-inspired Beef Carpaccio with Pho Flavours is a starter dish that Anna took inspiration from the Beef Pho.  Using homemade Hoisin Sauce (yes, no longer do I need to buy bottled ones!!), this easy to prepare dish is packed full of flavours.  Please see recipe at end of post!  

Cooking at a Masterclass in CulinaryOn means all ingredients are prepared and there is no need to wash the plates and bowls.  Lovely.  Haha.

Risotto has always been something that I cannot perfectly master and with tips in my head, I shall continue trying to cook that one nice risotto dish for the family.

Do you know Anna's Malaysian-inspired Shrimp and Coconut Risotto with Pickled Jalapeno is taken from which Malaysian dish?  

It is from the Nasi Lemak!  Did you get it right?  How creative, isn't it?  It indeed motivated me as I try to create some new dishes for the family so that they will be spared of that usual fare cooked by me.

This risotto has a rich and intense flavour, bringing out the aromatic coconut milk used and the sweetness of the big prawns.

Lovely three course menu that I learnt to prepare.  All very different and each full of flavours.

Like I mention earlier, here is the recipe for the Beef Carpaccio with Pho Flavours, courtesy of Anna Olson and Asian Food Channel.

Vietnamese-inspired Beef Carpaccio with Pho Flavours
Recipe courtesy of Anna Olson

Yield: 8 appetizer servings

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes


350g beef tenderloin
30g thinly sliced red onion rings (about 3 slices)
125g bean sprouts
20g total chopped fresh coriander, Thai basil & mint
35g chopped roasted peanuts
Sriracha, to taste
1 lime, cut into wedges, for garnish

For Hoisin:

60ml soy sauce (low sodium)
30g smooth peanut butter
30ml honey
1 clove garlic, minced
5ml sesame oil
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
3 whole cloves
3 black peppercorns


1. For the hoisin, place all of the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally. Simmer for about 5 minutes, then strain out the spices and cool to room temperature before chilling until ready to serve.  The sauce will not be as thick as commercial hoisin.

2. For the beef, slice the raw tenderloin across the grain into 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) slices.  Place a slice into a re-sealable bag and using the flat side of a meat mallet, pound it as thin as possible without tearing the meat.  Repeat with the remaining slices and arrange them on a large platter or individual small plates.  Cover the platter or plates with plastic and chill until ready to serve.  This should be done the same day you wish to serve the dish.

3. Have all of the remaining ingredients on hand, to assemble right before serving.  Sprinkle the onion slices overtop the beef and sprinkle the bean sprouts over in an even layer.  Top this with the chopped fresh herbs and the chopped peanuts.  Drizzle the hoisin over this and add sriracha to taste.  Arrange the lime wedges of the platter or plate and serve immediately.

If you love Chef Anna Olson or would like to be inspired to try new recipes and / or new creations like I do, remember to tune-in to Inspired with Anna Olson, premiering Friday, 29 July at 9pm on Asian Food Channel (Starhub Ch 435).

Disclosure:  I was invited to the Masterclass with Anna Olson.  No monetary compensation was received.  All photographs, unless otherwise stated, and opinions are true to my own.

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Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Coding - Should Kids Learn?

Sorry for the absence!  If you have been following my Facebook and / or Instagram, you probably would have known that June was jam packed with activities.  Both planned and unplanned.

Now that D is officially following the national school curriculum (terms and school breaks), June became the month of no-spelling-no-tests-no-exams-no-show-and-tell.  Like many, June suddenly meant fun!

And we started it right with a trial at First Code Academy.  Frankly, I have zero idea of coding, except maybe that vague impression of binary code which I studied previously.

I have since learnt more about coding.  So what is coding?  Simply put, it is telling the computers to perform certain tasks.  We see it the moment our hands touch the apps on the phone, while we scroll through the browser and using computer software.  

To me, learning coding is learning a skill.  Whatever we do these days, we cannot escape from coding.  Look at Facebook, or maybe that app on the iPad that helps with the ordering of your food.  Even that software the school uses to teach the students the subjects is built by codes.

Glad to meet Ms. Michelle Sun, CEO and cofounder of First Code Academy, an education startup that teaches coding to kids from 6 and above.  A very young lady, she received the BBC 30 Under 30 Women Entrepreneurs in 2015, apart from the many international and regional accolades.

Launched in 2013, First Code Academy conducts coding classes both in Hong Kong and Singapore and has since taught over 2500 students with projects-based, small group learning environments.

While we were there, we were shown the different types of things coding can do.  And one of them is definitely the Virtual Reality.

For D who is 7 years old, the kickstart program for learning coding is the ScratchJr.  Developed by Massachusetts Institue of Technology (MIT) Media Lab and Lifelong Kindergarten group, this very popular Scratch programming language appeals to young children.  

The many "instant gratification" these days often lead me to wonder how to ensure the boys do not have the mindset of "I-want-it-now" and I think learning coding might be one of the ways.

It sorts of teaches them patience, focus, and more importantly, the joy and satisfaction of achieving something after they complete their own app.  It also makes them think as it often involves logical thinking and problem solving.

A short clip of what D did with ScratchJr.  I quite like the fact that he thought about putting the animals near the musical instruments such that it looks as if the animals are playing the instruments (in this clip, it only shows his first attempt with one animal and one instrument).

Will I enrol D in a coding class?  Why not?  But I believe it has to be a long-term commitment and I feel that this is the type of enrichment we, as parents, of the very academically-driven society should look into.

If you are interested to know more about coding in First Code Academy, they are having a First Code Academy Info Session.  Register for the free session here!

Disclosure:  We were invited to a session at First Code Academy.  No monetary compensation was received.  All photographs, unless otherwise stated, and opinions are true to my own.

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