The Menu

What Ping did next

Issue 3 · Winter 2015/16
Words by Charlotte Hogarth-Jones · Images Chris Terry

Masterchef champion Ping Coombes has teamed up with Scott Dunn to create a fabulous new tasting menu

Issue 3 · Winter 2015/16
By Charlotte Hogarth-Jones · Images Chris Terry

Masterchef champion Ping Coombes has teamed up with Scott Dunn to create a fabulous new tasting menu

When Ping Coombes moved to the UK at the age of 21, her culinary skills were practically non-existent. “At home in Malaysia, my brother and I weren’t allowed in the kitchen,” she explains. “So I knew how to make instant noodles and heat up a tin of Campbell’s soup, but that was about it.” Which makes the fact that Ping won 2014’s Masterchef all the more impressive – especially since she only entered at the insistence of a friend, having just been made redundant from her job in hospital management.

Thankfully, things improved after those early days. “When I first moved in with my [British] husband, who I’d met while he was on his gap year in my home town of Ipoh, I was so excited and I bought as many ingredients as I could. I cooked baby squid stuffed with pork mince and pine nuts, which in hindsight was very ambitious, but I was really proud of it.”

It’s this love of experimentation, partnered with excellent technical skills, that saw Ping triumph on Masterchef and go on to become a champion of Malaysian cuisine in the UK. “I think it can be really confusing for people to actually know what Malaysian food is,” she says. “There’s a lot of crossover within the dishes themselves, so a chicken curry can be a fusion of Chinese, Malay and Indian influences. There's also a huge variety of dishes – it’s not just rendang and chicken satay. There are hundreds of different types of noodles alone.”

Ping is reinventing Malaysian food for an eager new British audience. This year, she has worked with Scott Dunn to devise a special tasting menu, available in all of its chalets and Mediterranean villas, along with five special children’s dishes that every Scott Dunn nanny has been trained to cook.

“The winter chalet menu has got a lot of warmth to it. It’s quite rich,” she says. “It’s food that’s perfect after a long day of skiing. There’s a laksa-inspired soup with a crispy duck egg, glass noodles and mushrooms, and a five-spiced pork spring roll – the kind I grew up with and absolutely love. Then there’s a big, meaty, Asian-style braised short rib with lots of orange peel, five-spice, star anise, cinnamon, cloves, soy sauce and red wine that smells lovely and Christmassy, and a chocolate lava cake with peanut candy and black sesame ice-cream for dessert.”

Ping’s recipes for children focus on getting them involved with the cooking, and include plenty of well-disguised fruit and veg. They range from a sweetcorn, tomato and avocado salsa, to help older children learn to chop, to a lemongrass lamb-shoulder ragu that’s as popular with adults as it is with toddlers.

The Malaysian culture of sharing dishes and not being restricted to eating at set meal times is another reason the cuisine is so well suited to modern tastes. So what advice does Ping have for those who want to explore Malaysia itself?

“If you want to eat well, and cheaply, eat on the streets,” says Ping. “We have night markets in Malaysia selling every possible kind of street food, so visiting one of those is a must. There are also kopitiams [coffee shops], where they’ll have five or six different stalls within, each one specialising in a certain snack. For hardcore foodies, a visit to a wet market is also a great idea. My mother visits one daily.”

With most Malaysian street-food dishes costing a pound or less, there’s nothing to lose by being adventurous. “I think food is such an important part of a holiday,” says Ping, “because when you eat the same dish in the future it takes you back to that time.

“Some of the meals I ate on holiday in Italy remind me of some of my happiest times,” she recalls, “and there are some things that you just can’t recreate at home. My husband Andrew and I love a type of Malaysian pancake called dai gau meen – they’re folded over and quite thick, sprinkled with crushed peanuts and sugar, but fluffy and chewy inside. I tried to make them at home once but it wasn’t the same. In a way, what you eat is as important as where you go.”


To try Ping's menu in any of Scott Dunn's chalets call 020 8682 5050 and speak with a member of the ski team. For more information about holidays to Malaysia call 020 8682 5060
Hair & Make-up: Rebekah Lidstone @Stella Creative Artists

Wild mushroom laksa soup

 

Serves 4

 

In the chalets we make this delicious laksa with a deep-fried duck egg and garnish it with edible flowers. Here is a simplified version to recreate at home

 

Ingredients

  • 30g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 vegetable or porcini stock cube
  • 2 medium eggs, at room temperature
  • 200ml coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • salt
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 100g glass noodles
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 370g mixed wild mushrooms
  • black pepper

For the spice paste

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 5 or 6 green chilies, cut into chunks with the seeds still in
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, with the top two inches discarded, cut into chunks
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 20g ginger, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 20g galangal, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 40g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

 

Method

  • Soak the porcini in 700ml of hot water for 1 hour. Strain the mushrooms and set aside, then dissolve your stock cube in the soaking liquid.
  • Next, make the spice paste. Blend all the ingredients for the paste together until smooth, then fry the mixture over a low to medium heat for about 5-10 minutes. Set aside.
  • Cook the eggs in boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove and plunge into cold water to stop them from cooking.
  • To make the broth, bring the porcini stock, 450ml water and the coconut milk to a boil. Season with salt, sugar and soy sauce. Pass the broth through a fine sieve into another pan.
  •  Rehydrate the glass noodles in just enough hot boiling water to cover for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  • To assemble, first put the broth over a low heat.
  • Fry the mushrooms and porcini in the butter over a high heat for about 2 minutes until they start to soften. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.
  • Divide the glass noodles into each bowl (shallow ones are best), and top them with the mushrooms.
  • Peel the eggs and cut in half, and place on top.
  • Ladle on the hot broth and serve.
Liked that? Try This ...

Alpine feast

The Menu · Issue 1 · Winter 2014/15

This website uses cookies that will help and improve your experience. By using this website you are agreeing to the use of cookies on this website.
More info
Ok