baking

Smashed Roasted Potatoes Recipe

Papa Hsin • Brunch • The mighty small potato

Every day is brunch day when you have smashed roasted potatoes. I had these for the first time at a friends house last month and could not forget the taste of them. Crispy, soaked in flavour, the perfect size to consume in one single bite. I don’t think I can ever go back to normal roasted potatoes. I skimmed over a recipe online and made these for a belated father’s day brunch. They were everyone’s favourites and are now requested on the menu for when my aunties visit in the fall.

Growing up, Papa Hsin worked in foreign affairs and was the person responsible for cultivating my exotic palette (I was the child that hated Chinese food). Papa loves hosting and it was not uncommon for me to come home to a house full of strangers cooking and eating. Once, I came home to an Indian chef cooking curry in the kitchen with an entire butchered lamb he had brought over in a sack. The kitchen smelled like curry for days and I remember eating curry till I was nauseous.

Some of my best childhood memories with Papa Hsin were the fruit markets we would visit on the weekend. It would be the two of us — on one scooter, trying to fit as many fruit boxes—papayas, pineapples, and mangos we could carry home before eating our weight in fruit. Now that Papa Hsin is getting old, there are times where there seems to be an ocean of cultural and generational differences between us. But there is always one thing I can count on connecting over — food.

I served these smashed potatoes with roasted vegetables, fried eggs, sausages and made them again the following week. They are really good for any meal or thrown together for a light snack. The trick is to roast them till they are crispy, on the edge of burning and eat them while they are hot.

Smashed Roasted Potatoes

Ingredients

Bag of small potatoes
Olive oil
Few cloves of fresh chopped garlic
Salt + pepper
Thyme, rosemary, or herbs you have on hand

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 425 Fahrenheit. Wash potatoes and put in a microwaveable bowl. Fill with water until potatoes are half submerged. Put saran wrap over the bowl and poke a few holes in it. Microwave for 5–6 minutes or until potatoes are soft and easily pierced with a fork. Some potatoes may explode. It is to be expected. Drain potatoes and let cool.

2. Spread potatoes evenly on a baking sheet. Mash potatoes flat with your hands or with a spatula. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Season with herbs. Toss or mix with your fingers to coat. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan.

3. Roast potatoes until brown and crispy. 25–30 minutes. Flip potatoes after 15 mins. Try not to eat too many of them. Garnish with fresh herbs and serve immediately.

Me + Papa Hsin with happy brunch faces.
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How to Make Dried Pineapple Flowers

My grandmother • Her pineapple farm • Memories of Taiwan

Dried Pineapple Flowers. A recipe and a story about a favourite person I wanted to write about for a very long time— my grandma — a tea and pineapple farmer in Nantou, Taiwan. The person who instilled in me a love for this marvellous fruit. Golden, ripened under the sun, syrupy sweet they hurt your teeth and so fragrant that drivers put them in their cabs as a natural perfume.

So much of my love for food, being in the kitchen, making things with my hands come from grandma, who wakes up at five am every day to cook for the masses. Tables filled with marinated pork with eggs, her famous fried fish with tomato sauce, sesame oil chicken for winter months, and the best-fried tofu I could eat platefuls of with congee and soy sauce every morning.

Since grandpa passed a few years ago, grandma renounced meat (a tradition in Buddist culture where they believe will help grandpa’s soul go to heaven). Since then, all activity in grandma’s kitchen has stopped. My remaining family on the farm eats out while grandma eats her vegetarian meals in solitude. My heart kind of breaks over this and for my grandmother — who shows so much love through food. I also feel the urge to share more of her recipes and write about my childhood memories and places that will never be the same.

I made two batches of these pineapple flowers and photographed them over the course of a few days. It was difficult to find a recipe that was not too western but one that I could make. I also realized that no recipe or photograph can convey the importance of pineapples in my life, or compare to any of the recipes grandma makes. But one must try.

There are so many recipes I want to collect from grandma — her delicious fried long green beans, squash flowers from her yard and boiled noodles with tea oil (茶油麵線). I wish I could teleport to her farm and take more photos of grandma — slicing pineapples with graceful skills acquired from a lifetime.

So here it is, a simple but tedious recipe dedicated to my pineapple farmer grandma, whose love for her grandchildren travels miles and continents. To the fruit my mother hated as a child because she had to eat way too many of them. And to the fruit I always leave grandma’s house with, wrapped snugly in newspapers to bring back to Taipei or wherever I am headed.

Dried Pineapple Flowers

You will need:

One ripe pineapple
A sharp knife or mandolin
Baking trays and sheets

Instructions:

1. Cut both ends of the pineapple. Stand pineapple on the bottom and cut deliberately around the fruit. Do not be afraid to cut into the flesh and get rid of the eyes (鳳梨眼 in Mandarin). The pineapple will taste less tart.

2. Cut pineapple into even slices as thin as possible (thin enough that you can see the blade through the slice). I used a knife but a mandolin should work too. Dry on paper towels and lay flat without overlapping on a baking sheet.

3. Bake at 220F for an hour. After 30 minutes, flip pineapples flowers. Bake and repeat until pineapples are dried, golden with a texture that represents dried mangos.

4. Place pineapple flowers in muffin tins to attain a curvy shape. Store in an airtight container with lotsa room as the flowers will stick to each other. I kept mine stored separately in silicon muffin cups.

* These flowers are great as a topping for smoothies, yogurt, cakes or eat as a snack. They also make very impressive gifts to your co-workers or friends.

* Check on your pineapple flowers when they are almost done as they go from dried to burnt in a very short time. If your pineapple flowers are still wet to the touch, turn the heat off and leave them in the oven overnight!

A photo of me and grandma. Photographed on her farm in 2017.

A Recipe: Hedgehog Shortbread Cookies

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I have found in life that art happens during unexpected moments. For example, it happens through an idea you get on your morning walk. It happens during a conversation over Chinese noodles or on a day when your shoot gets canceled on account of rain. Art happens in those times when you find yourself stuck indoors, with no photos to edit and your to-do list (almost) done aside from figuring out your taxes.

That’s when you know you need to bake cookies. Because art is like a cookie monster. When you hear the cookie monster rumbling, you gotta feed it. Preferably hedgehog cookies.

So here they are. Brown, crunchy,  irresistible little devils covered with toasted pecans and chocolate. 100% hard work and 100% worth it.

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Sightless hedgehogschocolate_hedgehog_shortbread_cookies_sophia_hsin-101.jpg
Not anymore

You will need:

• 1 cup non-salted butter
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 1 large egg
• 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
• 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 1/4 tsp salt
• dark chocolate chips
• finely chopped toasted pecans

Directions:

1. Cream butter and sugar in mixing bowl. Add egg and vanilla. Mix well. Add in dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to wet ingredients and mix well.

2. Form cookies. Use an ice cream scoop if you’d like. Roll into ball form, forming one pointed end. Space out the cookies as they expand! Bake at 375 degrees for 8 minutes or when they are light brown on the bottom. Cool on rack.

3. Melt chocolate chips in the microwave (use 30-second intervals). Dip or cover hedgehogs with chocolate. Use a spoon to cover with crushed nuts. Scoop remaining chocolate into bag and pipe two eyes and one nose.

4. Enjoy!

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* Makes around two dozen hedgehogs
* For nut-free version substitute nuts with graham crackers

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Passing these out at my Amelia Hedgehog Book Signing. If you are in Vancouver July 21st do show up for one and come say hello!

Till next time.