Chef Robert Danhi came to town last weekend, on tour to demonstrate recipes he has specially created for Sunkist. I was lucky enough to attend both the press event at Morsels (an interesting new restaurant at 35 Mayo Street) and the public demo at ToTT.
I have to admit that prior to these events, I didn't know much about Robert, but I'm so glad Sunkist chose him. He's an all-round nice guy and wonderful teacher - firm, friendly and funny. You truly feel the passion he has for food of this region. His award-winning book, "Southeast Asian Flavors", is stunningly detailed, almost like an encyclopaedia. It's a labour of love that took over 20 years in the making.
Anyway, he's developed some recipes exclusively for Sunkist. It's ironic that citrus fruits came from Asia, but here they are eaten mostly at the end of the meal and less so as part of the main dishes.
This was also my first encounter with Cara Cara oranges (middle and right). Look at the jewel-like colours of this very special variety of the navel orange. It's much sweeter too, with hints of cranberry-vanilla. I totally love this.
Cara Cara oranges are also called "Power Oranges" because each provides 150% of all the Vitamin C you need in a day. The pinkish red hue comes from lycopene, an antioxidant. I've always loved navel oranges, but now the Cara Cara is my favourite variety. Too bad it's only available from Jan to April, and stocks get snapped up so quickly in Singapore.
Chef Danhi's recipes uses oranges and lemons in starters, mains, drinks and desserts. Here are all seven of them (in .jpg format - click to see/download full size versions).
Cara Cara Orange and Californian Wine Sparkler
This is a gorgeous mix of Cara Cara orange syrup, orange segments and sparkling wine (or champagne if you prefer). Perfect for parties, and the beautiful colours simply lend a happy, festive feel.
Lemon Coriander Salsa with Seared Scallops
These half-moon seared scallops are an absolute carnival. Topped with a lemony and spicy salsa, they are decorated with crunchy muruku, a nod to our culture.
You temper the spices, mustard seeds, ginger, garlic, chili flakes, coriander stems and lemon zest. Stir in sugar and tomatoes, and let the mixture cool.
Folk in diced lemon and coriander leaves.
Oh the scallops are seared in ghee. Chef Danhi is quite gleeful about using ghee, which he says is really as good as clarified butter. I'm going to start stocking some at home.
Grilled Lemon and Spiced Beef with Raita
Oh this one is fun, easy and interesting. Smear a turmeric spice mix onto cut lemons and grill them.
They look great with a nice piece of steak, raita and basmati rice. But the lemons aren't just for good-looking garnish.
Squeeze the lemon and watch the grilled spice paste drip along with the juice onto the steak, raita and rice. Chef Danhi uses very little salt for the steak, as the lemon enhances the natural flavours with less need for sodium.
Orange Ginger Cheesecake with Spiced Coconut Caramel
Man, this is a stroke of genius. Coconut cream in caramel! I didn't think about this when I used coconut cream in my cupcakes, but oh, I just wanted to rush home and make a batch of coconut caramel immediately. It smelled really good too.
The caramel is slightly bitter and perfectly balances the sweet and savoury flavours of the fruity cheesecake.
The next day at ToTT, Chef Danhi demonstrated yet more recipes to a huge crowd.
More gorgeous oranges and lemons. Actually, to my surprise, Sunkist doesn't grow any of these. Sunkist is a not-for-profit marketing cooperative entirely owned by and operated for the California and Arizona citrus growers who make up its membership. The individual growers have more marketing clout when they stand together. Check out the FAQs on how it works.
I do have to say the fruits that have the Sunkist label tend to be of a certain quality you can rely on.
Here's Chef Danhi showing the audience a navel orange. When you cut the bottom, you may find you don't always get the neat radiant lines - that's because of the "navel" bulge. I blogged about this before when I first found out that the "navel" is actually a Siamese twin. A mini orange within the orange.
OK, on with the additional recipes...
Sparkling California Lemonade
Spiced with ginger and flavoured with pandan, this lemonade will stand out.
Orange Roasted Duck in Lettuce Cups
Oh you can tell this is so, so good even before you take a bite! Fresh and tasty. You don't have to roast your own duck - just buy some readymade ones, chop up some oranges and cucumbers, prepare the chili paste-lemongrass-fish-sauce-lime-ginger-coriander dressing, mix them all up and serve on butterhead lettuce cups.
Orange and Yogurt Parfait
This dessert is healthy and yet delicious, as with many of Chef Danhi's creations.
So there you have all seven gorgeous recipes. I like that they are gorgeous, aromatic, tasty, and look like they are packed with vitamins and antioxidants. And they're pretty easy to do. I'm going to experiment with using more citrus fruit in dishes from now on.
I'm very glad I got to meet Chef Danhi and his Malaysian wife. It's sweet and endearing to see how they are so in love, even after 21 years of marriage. Happiness always makes food taste better.
Thanks to Sunkist and MS&L for inviting me.