Want to take your Lunar New Year feasting up a level this year?
Want to take your Lunar New Year feasting up a level this year? We’ve got just the recipes from Masterchef judge Audra Morrice
"Ngo Hiang, see page 102."
“I have eaten Ngo Hiang from as far back as I can remember and it definitely deserves a spot on the dinner table whether for the family or guests. You may skip the steaming process and deep-fry the rolls raw. In that case, it will take about 10 to 12 mins to get them brown and crisp. You will also need to manage the heat by lowering and increasing as necessary. Slice each roll on the diagonal into bite-sized pieces and serve with the chilli sauce and some kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce).”
We rooted for her when she put her culinary skills to the test in Masterchef Australia in 2012, and what we continue to love about Audra Morrice is that she’s stayed true to her Chinese-Indian roots. The Masterchef Asia and Masterchef Singapore judge has recently released her second book Cook & Feast, which draws on her own heritage as well as cultures she has connected with through the years.
Audra, who’s originally from Singapore, now runs a catering business in Sydney. She says cooking and feasting are the two things that bring joy to her and to many. “Feasting for me is not only about vibrant colours and flavours… but also the expression of celebration, pleasure, delight, joy and plentifulness.” All things we wish for in the Lunar New Year!
Although she is now thousands of miles away from Singapore, Audra still holds on to traditions she’s grown up with. “Traditions are important. It’s a way of reminding you of your heritage and it’s important to pass these on to the next generation. I keep the simple ones. For Lunar New Year, there’s always fish, noodles and dumplings – dishes my mother always cooked for reunion dinner.”
The recipes she’s sharing with us here will add a dash of flair and some new flavours to your festive repertoire. They include Ngo Hiang, Audra’s family favourite. She shares, “My family loves Ngo Hiang with the fresh chilli relish. This one is easy to make in advance and all that’s needed is a quick fry just before serving. The Sticky Black Bean Chilli Pork Ribs are a favourite amongst friends. It’s first roasted in the oven until tender, then just requires an a la minute wok fry before serving.”
For Audra, the Lunar New Year has a special significance. “For me, it’s the time spent in the kitchen with generations of families meticulously preparing a storm of dishes and snacks, learning from the wise and experienced. The conversations and banter that take place are priceless. And then, finally, the gathering of family around the dinner table indulging in all things traditional and meaningful.”
Prep 30 mins | Cook 25 mins | Makes 10 to 12 rolls
Kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce) for dipping
2 tbsps sweet chilli sauce
1. To make the chilli sauce, place all its ingredients in a food processor and blend till combined.
2. Place all the filling ingredients together in a bowl and mix well. Divide the mixture into 10 to 12 portions or more, depending on the size and number of rolls you wish to make.
3. Cut each beancurd sheet into 20-cm squares, or smaller as you wish. Wipe them down with a slightly damp kitchen towel. Lightly dust the top half of each sheet with tapioca flour.
4. Place a portion of filling lengthways at a third of the sheet closest to you, leaving space on either side. Cover the filling with the bottom part of the sheet and fold in the sides. Roll to make a sausagelike parcel. Or, roll into a sausage-like parcel and secure either ends with toothpicks or string.
5. To steam the rolls, place them on a lightly-oiled steamer tray or a flat plate, then steam the rolls for about 8 to 10 mins. Remove from the steamer and discard any liquid. Pat dry the rolls.
“Pork is one of the meats I really love to cook with. The ribs are an exceptionally delicious cut and really easy to cater for large groups of people. It’s marinated, roasted in slabs and finally sliced into individual ribs. Imagine serving them up on a large wooden board – sticky, salty, sweet, spicy and very moreish!”
Prep 10 mins | Cook 2 hours 10 mins | Serves 4
2 tsps brown or raw sugar
1 sprig spring onions, finely chopped Lime cheeks (optional)
1. Mix all the marinade ingredients together and marinate the ribs with the mixture in a non-reactive bowl for a few hours or overnight in the fridge. Remove from the fridge 30 mins before cooking.
2. Preheat your oven to 180 C. Place the ribs along with the marinade in a roasting tray lined with foil. Cover snugly with foil and bake in the oven for 1½ hours.
3. Remove the foil and increase the temperature to 210 C. Bake for a further 30 mins. This will help reduce any excess liquid and give the meat a really lovely char.
4. While the ribs are baking, mix all the ingredients for the sauce. Heat up a wok till it is piping hot. Once the ribs are ready, slice them up.
5. Pour the sauce in the hot wok, add the ribs and toss until well coated. You’ll have to work really fast so make sure everything is ready for this stage of cooking. Finally, tip in the Sichuan pepper, toss to mix and plate up. Finish off with a sprinkling of spring onions. Serve with lime cheeks, if using.
“This dish was inspired by a Polish girl I met while filming as a guest judge on MasterChef Poland in Singapore. It was incredible that she explored and experimented with the use of buah keluak, an ingredient the Peranakans love and yet so foreign to many Singaporeans, even more so, the Polish. Buah keluak is the nut of Pangium edule, a tall tree native to the mangrove swamps of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. These nuts are poisonous but become edible with fermentation.”
Prep 15 mins | Cook 15 mins | Serves 4
1 tsp raw sugar or to taste
BUAH KELUAK SAMBAL
2 kaffir lime leaves
1. Make the Buah Keluak Sambal by blending together the buah keluak flesh, garlic, onion, dried and fresh chillies, galangal, turmeric, lemongrass, shrimp paste, candlenuts and kaffir lime leaves until fine.
2. In a saucepan, heat ¼ cup oil over medium heat. Add the sambal paste and cook until fragrant, about 8 to 10 mins. Add 2 tbsps tamarind puree, 1 tsp sugar and ½ tsp salt, or adjust to taste. Set aside to cool.
3. Coat each piece of fish with 1 tbsp buah keluak sambal, leave to marinade for an hour or overnight in the fridge.
4. Heat a non-stick fry pan on mediumhigh heat. Place a grill mesh over a separate flame on the stove. Pan sear the fish, skin side down, on the fry pan until crisp and golden.
5. Put two layers of banana leaves on the open flame and place the fish skin side down on the leaves to cook till just done. The burnt banana leaves will impart a smoky flavour to the fish. Or, grill over the barbecue until the fish is cooked through or line a baking sheet with banana leaves, top with the fish and cook for 8 to 10 mins (depending on the size of the fish) on the top grill of an oven preheated to 210 C. The fish should be just cooked with bits of the surface lightly charred.
“What can be more delicious than ikan bilis and cheese cookies? These are more like a butter-based cracker and a perfect snack when you have friends over for drinks. Make them thin so they are crisp! To obtain a finely-grated cheddar cheese, place it in the freezer until it’s hard, then grate. Or, blitz in a food processor until finely ground. In warmer climates, cool the rolled-out dough in the fridge or freezer until it’s firm enough. Most dried ikan bilis are slightly salted. Rinse them well before frying them. The ikan bilis filling can be easily substituted with dried prawns. Ensure they are coarsely processed and deep-fried until crispy before using.”
Prep 30 mins | Cook 15 mins | Makes 70 to 80 tiny cookies
1. Preheat your oven to 180 C. Line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper.
2. Place the flour, spices, baking powder, salt and sugar in a food processor and blitz for 20 secs. Add the cheddar cheese and ikan bilis and pulse until roughly combined.
3. Add the butter and blitz until a dough is formed. You may need to add 1 to 2 tbsps water for the dough to come together. In warmer climates, you may not need as much water.
4. Roll the dough out between 2 large plastic sheets to 3-mm thick. Or, you can sandwich the cookie dough with the ikan bilis filling by rolling the dough out between 2 large plastic sheets until 4-mm thick.
“I love all the seafood recipes in this cookbook so much so it’s really hard to pick a favourite. This one is exceptionally good. Salty, sweet and super spicy! Just make sure you pick up really fresh prawns. I use made-in-China Lao Gan Ma brand chilli sauce for this dish. It’s full of crispy onions, chillies and Sichuan peppers. For alternatives, look for chilli sauces that are cooked with dried crispy chilllies.”
Prep 15 mins | Cook 5 mins | Serves 4
1 cup fresh coriander leaves Oil, for frying
2 tbsps Lao Gan Ma chilli sauce (see Audra’s Note on right)
1. Remove the heads and shells of the prawns but keep the tails intact. Set the prawns aside and keep the heads and shells to make prawn oil.
2. Run a sharp knife down the spine of the prawn to butterfly them. Remove the intestinal tracts. Marinate the prawns in a glass or ceramic bowl with sea salt, black pepper and Sichuan pepper. Set aside.
3. Make a sauce by mixing the Shaoxing wine chilli oil, black vinegar, kecap manis and chilli sauce in a small bowl.
4. Place a large fry pan or wok over high heat and add 2 to 3 tbsps of oil. When the pan is hot and the oil is shimmering, add the garlic, ginger, chillies and chopped coriander. Stir and cook for a couple of minutes until they are slightly charred at the edges.
PHOTOS AND RECIPES COURTESY OF LANDMARK BOOKS