KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - When Melbourne-based Diana Chan won Season 9 of MasterChef Australia in July this year, she was really touched by the exuberant support of her fellow Malaysians, and immediately knew that she would have to plan a homecoming trip.
"It's been amazing to meet fans, to be met with so much welcome and love. Really touching to meet people who have been following my journey - Malaysians supporting Malaysians!" said Chan, when she was in Kuala Lumpur in October.
"I don't see myself as a celebrity though - just as a very fortunate person."
Her two-week trip saw her cook for a special dinner, conduct a cooking demo at the Australian International School Malaysia, and conduct another cooking demo at Mid-Valley Megamall, in a meet-and-greet with fans - among others. The ambitious Chan was constantly on the go during her visit. "I'm already planning another trip to Johor Baru, where I grew up!" she said.
Life has changed very much for her since the win.
"It's been such a tremendous change in my life, knowing that you can make food your passion and focus," said Chan.
"I was an accountant with a 9 to 5 job, but nowadays I can jump out of bed and do menu planning, or have a cooking demo or a photo shoot, or do some recipe testing."
"I handle stress so much better nowadays, and I find that I'm really up for anything. Throw me any challenge, and I'm ready to explore!" she said. "Right now, my focus is to meet people, build a profile and showcase my food philosophy."
Her approach is all about local, sustainable sourced and fresh produce, and flavours which fuse and bridge cultures.
"I try to buy organic and free-range produce," she said. "It's important to eat ethically-produced food, and we need to take care of the animals that provide our food. I don't like the idea of hormone-injected chickens. And really, properly sourced produce just tastes better!"
Chan says there's been much interest in her win, and her work from both Malaysia and Southeast Asia, and so her initial dream of a brick-and-mortar fusion-type restaurant will be slightly delayed.
"I want to promote Malaysia via its food and culture, so I'm looking at a food and travel show, a cookbook, and doing some pop-ups in both Melbourne and KL," she said. "And then I'll probably look at next year to open an actual restaurant."
LEMON RICOTTA DOUGHNUTS WITH SALTED CARAMEL
For the doughnuts:
2 eggs (beaten)
1 Tbs caster sugar
1 cup self-raising flour
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 lemon, zest and juice
oil, for deep frying
For the glaze:
1 cup caster sugar
1 tsp cinnamon powder
For the salted caramel sauce:
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup thickened cream
3 Tbs butter
1 tsp salt
To make doughnuts
Mix all doughnut ingredients in a large bowl.
Heat the oil in a wok.
Using two tablespoons, create balls and immediately drop them into the hot oil.
The balls will turn themselves over when one side is done. This should take 4 to 5 minutes.
Fry until golden brown and cooked through; adjust heat as needed if they brown too quickly without cooking through.
Drain on paper towels to cool and absorb oil.
In a bowl, mix the caster sugar and cinnamon together and roll the ricotta doughnuts in the sugar mixture to coat.
For the salted caramel sauce
Gradually add the sugar into a saucepan. Keep swirling to agitate and allow the sugar to melt.
As it melts, keep adding in the rest gradually.
Cook without stirring until the sugar has reached an amber colour; this should take approximately 10 to 12 minutes.
In the meantime, warm the cream in another saucepan.
When the caramel is ready, slowly pour in the cream and continue to whisk until smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Whisk in the butter and add the salt to taste.
Serve warm with the cinnamon sugar-dusted doughnuts.