Chef Ciaran Armstrong has been calling Singapore home for the past three years. Originally from Ireland, he is now the sous chef of The Halia and Villa Halia and has over a decade of experience in modern European cuisine. He enjoys using aromatic spices and putting an Asian twist to his cooking. He is also experienced in pastry and bread making and has recently spearheaded the revamped banquet menu at Villa Halia. Here he shares his recipe for Celeriac and Mushroom Duxelle Lasagne.
What meal do you most like to cook at home?
In Singapore, I don’t cook much as I’m happily enjoying the amazing spectrum of hawker fare so readily available. However, when I’m back in Ireland, my favourite meal to cook would definitely be breakfast. I have Irish breakfast almost every weekend. On my plate, it usually consists of bacon, sausage, tomato, potato bread, soda bread with mushroom, egg, tomato, white and black pudding.
Where did you learn to cook that and how long does it take to make it?
I picked it up from my parents. They would always prepare it for my siblings and me. It only takes about 10 to 15 minutes to whip out this meal. I’ll usually shop for the ingredients at a local supermarket.
Is it different from food you serve in The Halia?
We do serve something similar for brunch on the weekends. But what we have there is the American version. I would definitely consider offering the Irish version in future, it would create an interesting spin to what Singaporeans are used to.
What are the three ingredients you always make sure to have in your fridge?
Good tomato paste, smoked paprika and thyme.
Do you like entertaining at home?
I would like to but I spend most of my evenings at work! I do enjoy going out with friends though after work to unwind with drinks and some nibbles.
Who’s your dream guest?
They would have to be both of my grandmothers. I grew up eating their stews, soups and casseroles, which have some influence on what I do today. I’d like them to taste my modern version on these dishes. It would be really special if they taste my food.
If you have kids over at your house for a meal, how would you cater to their taste?
Keep it simple, healthy and fun. And also let them be involved in some way.
What is one home-cooked dish that you’ll never get sick of?
Irish stew with crusty bread. I love stews and living in Singapore, I’m lucky to enjoy my girlfriend’s mum’s cooking. She makes great local dishes and my favourite dish from her is chicken stew with black sauce and ginger.
Apart from the food, what are the other key ingredients to a memorable home-cooked meal?
Family, some drinks and laughter. From there, spontaneous entertainment always ensues and great memories created.
If you’re going to a potluck dinner, what dish would you bring?
Celeriac and mushroom duxelle lasagna. It’s a vegetarian dish but meat lovers would also enjoy it as the earthy and meaty textures of the mushroom make you forget the dish is animal-free!
Celeriac and Mushroom Duxelle Lasagne by Chef Ciaran Armstrong
- 1 celeriac (peeled and squared to 8cm x 8cm)
- 200g mixed mushrooms all but 3-4 finely diced (swiss brown, button, etc)
- 30g dried morel or mixed forest mushroom
- 80g shallot finely diced
- 1 clove garlic finely diced
- 200 ml single cream
- 30 ml Madeira
- 1 pkt thyme
- 1 lemon
- 100g spinach
- 2 bay leaves
- 80g rocket
- Truffle oil
- Salt flakes
- Black pepper
- Olive oil
Slice the celeriac approx ½ cm thick, 4 slices per portion, then blanch in boiling water for 2-3 mins when needed, toss in a little olive oil and just a few drops of truffle oil. With the 3-4 mushroom you have reserved, slice ½ cm thick, place on tray, drizzle with olive oil and roast at 170c, or simply pan fry for 30 seconds on each side on medium to high heat.
- Rinse the dried mushroom to remove any soil, then soak in 250ml boiling water for 5-6 mins, remove then roughly chop
- Sweat off half the shallot and garlic in a sauce pan on medium heat for approx 4-5 mins without it taking on colour.
- Add diced and dried mushroom and cook for 6-7 mins then add in Madeira.
- Reduce on high heat until alcohol has evaporated then add cream.
- Reduce to medium low heat and cook until slightly thickened.
- Season to taste then remove from heat.
While the duxelle is cooking, the bay leaves and a sprig of thyme to the mushroom water and reduce it by 2/3 over heat. Adjust seasoning at the end only.
- Lightly sauté the remaining shallot and garlic in olive oil for 2-3 mins.
- Add spinach and stir until the spinach has gone deep green and wilted.
- Puree in food processor with a squeeze of lemon juice and season to taste.
- Place down one sheet of celeriac and spread the duxelle on top, about 1 cm thick.
- Top with another sheet of celeriac and spread a layer of spinach puree approx ½ cm thick.
- Repeat this again to obtain 4 layers.
- Place the roasted mushroom in a fan shape across the spinach puree.
- Toss the rocket in a bowl with a squeeze of lemon and a few drops of truffle oil and place on top.
- Sprinkle with salt flakes and finally pour a little of the mushroom broth at the side of the bowl.