Team Singply Singsational: We did Singapore Proud!

>> Thursday, 26 July 2012

Team Singply Singsational: We did Singapore Proud!

by Leigh koh-Peart of Craft Cakes & Two Hungry Girls Supperclub

The whole shebang started like this in typical Singapore style. Over lunch one day, I said to Goz of Plusixfive Supperclub, "Eh, want to enter a cooking competition with me or not?" He said yes and the rest didn't matter. So we entered Nom Nom Nom 2012 as an entry representing Singapore cuisine. Nom Nom Nom is organized annually to raise funds and awareness for Action Against Hunger. Action Against Hunger is a global humanitarian organization committed to ending world hunger, working to save the lives of malnourished children while providing communities with access to safe water and sustainable solutions to hunger.

The next time Goz and I met up we were sat overlooking a kitchen in a Soho restaurant, discussing what to put on our 3-course menu for the Olympic-themed competition while pondering over the menu for dinner that evening.

"What is quintessentially Singaporean, can be cooked in under 2.5 hours and looks bloody amazing?" we asked each other. After much discussion over our meal, we finally decided that the star of our menu would be Hainanese-style Poached Chicken Rice. It's a dish that uses the humble chicken in its entirety, deceptive in its simplicity but when done well, is truly an authentic taste of Singapore cuisine. And to complement it, a light and refreshing starter of Teochew-style Raw-Fish Salad and an indulgent dessert of golden Banana Fritters with Gula Melaka (Palm sugar) Cream.

On the eve of the competition, we plotted over what secret ingredients to bring on the day because the right ingredients were key to the authentic flavour of our dishes. Leaving nothing to chance, we even brought our own red chillis and Jasmine rice. Losing was not an option for Singaporeans. We are never knowingly under-prepared. Please google "kiasu-ism". 

The day started early at the Cookery School on Little Portland Street in Marylebone for a briefing. The lovely team at the school even made us a delicious breakfast spread! We were sent on our way to the Marylebone farmer's market and Waitrose to shop for our ingredients. We managed to get all our fresh ingredients and managed to stick to the budget of £40.00 and raced back to the school for the 11.30am start for cooking. 

After a brief discussion on who was doing what, we scribbled down our action plan and got to work. First up was poaching the free-range organice chicken we bought at the farmer's market. First you have to "exfoliate" the chicken with coarse sea salt, then place it in a large stock pot, fill it with water to cover the chicken and add the aromatics that add to the all-important fragrance of this dish. Fresh pandan leaves (from Goz's garden in Singapore, no less!), ginger slices and garlic cloves form the holy herb and spice trinity. Goz was busy rendering up some chicken fat on the stove for the rice while i cracked on with the special chilli sauce. 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/tikichris/7530611776/ 
Photo by Tiki Chris


This was the bit where the beast of a food processor, Magimix Cuisine 5200 came into good use and spared us valuable time mincing the blend of red chillis, garlic and ginger by hand. It took me all of a minute to get the chilli sauce blended to a perfect puree. 

In between schmoozing and giving out business cards for his Supperclub (Plusixfive), Goz prepared the starter of Raw Fish Salad and garnishes, proving that Singaporeans can multi-task just fine. 


Team Singply Singsational. Leigh (left) & Goz.
With the two and a half hours time limit inching closer to zero, we cooked the rice, carving up the chicken and slicing the fish. Our final dish left to do was Goreng Pisang (banana fritters) with Gula Melaka (palm sugar) Sauce & Whipped Cream. After being impatient and botching the first attempt at deep-frying a banana, the next few turned out perfectly golden brown and crispy. A valuable tip is to wait till the oil is sizzling hot before adding the bananas! 


With the dessert done and 15 minutes left, we started to plate our dishes. At this point the kitchen reached a fever pitch. People shouting orders and dodging bodies in the way. It felt like being in a restaurant kitchen once again. The staff at the Cookery School ought to be sainted for being ever so calm, obliging and smiling as everyone seemed close to combustion around them. 


http://www.flickr.com/photos/tikichris/7534544210/
Caption: Our spread of authentic Singapore dishes!
Photo by Tiki Chris

Times up! We carried our dishes upstairs for the judges tasting before retiring back to the kitchen to clear up the mess while the kitchen team set up the tables for lunch. We got to sample everyone's delicious food and also the killer Mac n Cheese made for us by the wonderful kitchen team. With plates picked clean, glasses of wine emptied and just as relaxation set in, Mex from Great British Chefs announced that the judges results are in.


The first prize went to Victoria Glass of Alphabet Soup for her Spanish-inspired menu. Her pork main was perfectly cooked and seasoned beautifully. Goz and I came in second place for our "Singply Singsational" menu, to much cheering and high-fiving, between us two mostly. We were still in a daze of disbelief as they announced the third (Urvashi & Meena) and fourth place (Bex & Linds) winners. 

Goz & I with our prizes for 2nd place. A Magimix Le Mini Plus each. In electric blue!
On top of our prizes, everyone went home with an amazing goodie bag just for participating. We felt truly spoilt and super chuffed that our food was deemed good enough by the panel of esteemed judges.

Check out contents of the goodie bag for all the finalists & our prize, a Magimix Le Mini Plus!
Goz and I want to thank the hard work and selflessness of the whole team at Cookery School, Annie Mole aka Mecca Ibrahim, the generous sponsors Magimix and the team at Action Against Hunger. You have made this event unforgettable!


VOTE FOR SINGPLY SINGSATIONAL

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About Nom Nom Nom

Now in its fifth year, Nom Nom Nom is a MasterChef style competition giving the internet's finest bloggers, food photographers and food writers the chance to compete against each other in a professional kitchen. To find out more click here

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