For close to two months, Jaan by Kirk Westaway has been quiet. Situated at the 70th floor of the Swissôtel The Stamford hotel in Singapore’s downtown area, the restaurant is eerily empty, devoid of its usual gastronomic hubbub. When the pandemic flared, restaurants closed across the island. Yet unlike its other fine dining peers that have resorted to a delivery- or takeaway-only model, Jaan, along with the hotel, entirely ceased operations.
“It doesn’t really make sense for us to open up the hotel, do all the orders, bring the staff back in just to supplement a few takeaways,” says Kirk Westaway, the restaurant’s titular executive chef. “We would have loved to but we are unable to achieve it.”
While staying at home, the British chef has mostly been fielding emails and working on Jaan’s new seasonal menu for when the restaurant reopens in June. “I write a lot of things down. I’ve got books everywhere, and notes and little scribbles going on. But to trial dishes from home is a nightmare,” he laughs. Westaway has also been spending time talking to other chefs in different parts of the world, talking about how the coronavirus has impacted the food industry globally and sharing ideas on how to survive in a post-pandemic realm.
Restaurants are now facing existential questions about their future. Westaway thinks things would be particularly tough for restaurants in Singapore. “The amount of people in Singapore is already quite limited. That narrows down the number of those who would actually come out to eat in fine dining or regular restaurants,” he says. “And as exportation plays a big role in Singapore’s F&B industry, trying to get ingredients sourced from different parts of the world will be one of the biggest issues now that things have slowed down.”
Lately, in between navigating the restaurant around future obstacles, the chef and his fiancé have been spending much time cooking their own meals. “We’ve been cooking three meals a day, every single day,” says Westaway. He’s been leisurely baking bread and assembling organic salads. “This time has really reconnected us with cooking at home. We eat very, very well.”
For T, Westaway shares his homemade tortellini recipe. Like Jaan’s British fare — of which is largely inspired by Westaway’s time growing up in hometown Devonshire — the tortellini’s choice of stuffing is Devon crab meat. Westway buys his from Dempsey Hill’s market, Culina. (“This one’s pretty special but you can definitely pick your choice of crab in FairPrice or other markets in Singapore,” says Westaway.) For the fresh pasta, the chef likes to add in saffron to enhance the richness of the yellow tint. He has a pasta machine at home, through which he rolls his pasta dough until thin. For those without one, a rolling pin works as well.
“Like the English food we have in the restaurant, this tortellini is all about comfort,” he says. “It’s warm and comforting, the kind you imagine enjoying in the winter in front of a fireplace.”
Kirk Westaway’s Crab Tortellini
Time: 45–60 minutes (not inclusive of the time spent on cooling the pasta dough in the fridge)
Westaway’s Devonshire crab saffron tortellini.
Part 1: The Pasta Dough
Ingredients for Saffron Pasta
- 250 grams pasta flour
- 50 grams organic egg yolk
- 1 organic whole egg
- 10 grams olive oil
- 4 grams fine salt
- 0.5 gram saffron
- 10 grams water
1. Mix all the ingredients until you form a clear tight dough. Wrap in cling film and store in the fridge to rest for at least two hours.
2. After the dough is rested, begin to roll it through your pasta machine until thin. Alternatively, roll the dough with a rolling pin. Work quickly so the pasta does not dry out. Cut discs of pasta and fill in with the crab mix.
3. Blanch for two minutes and serve immediately.
Part 2: The Crab Stuffing
Ingredients for Crab Stuffing
- 200 grams picked fresh white Devonshire crab meat
- 50 grams remaining egg white, scrambled and chopped
- 50 grams fromage blanc or yoghurt
- 1 lemon
- 15 grams flat-leaf parsley
- 0.5 gram togarashi pepper
1. Fold all ingredients together, season with Cornish sea salt, Togarashi and lemon zest to taste.
2. Chill again in the fridge.
Part 3: The Posh English Sauce
Ingredients for Sauce
- 200 grams English sparkling wine
- 500 grams chicken stock
- 200 grams cream
1. Simmer sparkling wine and reduce slowly by simmering until 25 percent is evaporated. Add chicken stock and reduce 25 percent. Add cream, and reduce 25 percent.
2. Season with Cornish sea salt.
Part 4: The Plating
Ingredients for Sauce Topping
- English black caviar
- Fresh chives
- Olive oil
1. Just before serving, add the sauce topping ingredients into the sauce and mix.
2. Separately, drizzle the tortellini with olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of Cornish sea salt.
3. Place four crab tortellini on a serving plate. Grate some lemon zest.
4. Pour the sauce over the tortellini and serve.
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