In my x years of cooking, I’ve only known one way of cooking chinese bbq roast pork (char siu) – and as the name implies, I would roast it in my oven. The result is often a very tasty but slightly dry char siu. However a very good man known as The Food Canon shared his family recipe for a wok-cooked char siu. There were warnings of a nightmarishly difficult to clean wok after but it wasn’t going to deter me. I did think that if I ruined my wok, I’d just have a get a new one. I needed to try this method out no matter what. Needed, not wanted, needed!
Essentially, this is a twice-cooked roast pork. Braised first in its marinade, then quickly crisped up and charred under a hot grill. Can anyone say yum?
The result was most wonderful – super moist, sticky, caramelly roast pork and with a little modification to the braising sauce (I ran really low on it), I also came up with a great cheat’s drizzling sauce. Served with a plate of freshly steamed jasmine rice and a side of garlic chinese broccolli, this was one gold-class comfort meal.
I used pork belly this time, which even the hubs (gasp!) found to be too fatty. I’d recommend using a good strip of pork loin instead. Something I’ll try again soon. But you know what they say, fat is flavour, and this pork is so fattily flavourful!
Oh, and my wok wasn’t ruined at all. Hot water and dishwashing liquid did the job just fine. Happy days!
CHINESE BBQ ROAST PORK – WOK STYLE
Adapted from The Food Canon
1kg pork belly strips
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp white pepper
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp chinese cooking wine
1 cup water
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1. Marinade pork strips with all of the ingredients except water and oil for at least 2 hours or overnight.
2. To a heated wok, add the oil, then add pork belly strips in one layer. Seal the pork for about a minute, then add all the marinade and water and simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes or until the pork is tender. Remove pork strips from the wok and lay it out on a baking tray in a single layer.
3. Place tray under the grill and char the pork for about a minute on each side.
4. If the braising liquid has reduced too much and there isn’t enough to make up a sauce, add another cup of water to braising liquid, add a couple tablespoons of hoisin sauce, stir and simmer till thickened and voila! – you have sauce.
5. Slice the pork up, drizzle with sauce and enjoy!
I had an amazing time in Japan and one of the most memorable things that my friends and I did was to spend an afternoon with a local named Taro. Taro-san owns a business that provides food-loving tourists a chance to learn and help prepare a typical Japanese home-cooked meal right in his own home. If you didn’t know any locals in a foreign country, chances are that you will not have any opportunities to enjoy a home-cooked meal or see the inside of someone’s home. We got both!
There are several options when booking with Haru Cooking Class- named after Taro’s most adorable 3 year old daughter Haruko. We chose to go shopping with Taro at the Nishiki Market (this is additional to the regular cooking bit), where we peppered Taro-san with curious questions about the local produce.
We then took a stroll through shops and laneways before hopping on a bus to his home. Taro-san speaks English very well and we enjoyed conversations about local culture and language and he asked quite a few brain-boggling questions on the use of English grammar. We take for granted what we know as ‘natural’ speech in English but when we had to explain the technicalities behind it, it’s TOUGH! Kudos to all the English teachers out there!
Sorry I digressed. With Taro’s class, you get hands on experience preparing and cooking authentic home-style miso soup, tamago roll (egg), stir-fried veggies and side dishes. However the star of the show was the Kobe steak. We sat cross-legged on Taro-san’s living/dining room floor and marvelled at the journey our pieces of Kobe steaks took to make it Kobe-certified. There’s even a website that tracks which farm and breeder the specific Kobe beef originated from. (Every Kobe beef/cow is assigned a registration certificate and number) Yup, they are serious about their Kobe beef! Real serious!
We helped to slice, season and cook the various dishes but left the handling of our precious Kobe beef to Taro-san. I have never eaten such amazing melt-in-the-mouth steaks cooked simply with salt and pepper. Soooo gooood!!! The whole meal and experience was fantastic and I highly recommend anyone visiting Kyoto to attend a class with Taro-san. You won’t regret it!
But wait there’s more! Taro-san is also quite an inventor.
He designed this oil dispenser which allows you to evenly and lightly oil the base of your cooking pans without over-pouring oil – as I often do! He generously gave each couple a dispenser to take home but this is available for sale on his website. I haven’t put what I have learnt in his class into practice yet, but just writing this post makes me want to make up a batch of fresh miso soup pronto!
For more information on Taro and his fun-filled cooking class, visit his website.
I’m still harping on Japan. I know. I’m slow. There’s much to share from my trip in ‘ahem’ February. I can’t help but tell you more. Today we shall take a trip back to Kyoto. Everyone I know claims that Kyoto is simply beautiful – and after my visit, I too am a Kyoto fan. Unlike busy, metropolitan Tokyo, the city of Kyoto is brimming with ancient shrines, old-style architecture, cobble-stone streets, traditional tea houses and kimono-clad ladies. You read that right – where trendy fashionistas rock the sidewalks of Tokyo, beautiful women dressed in gorgeous kimonos are a common sight in Kyoto.
While we were in Europe, all we saw were churches. After a while, you tend to visit the most famous one and then give the rest a miss. Here in Kyoto, the shrines take over. However we had to visit the most famous shrine – Fushimi Inari – which is also the ‘head shrine’ of Inari, the papa shrine, the one that is featured in all Kyoto travel photos. The one with the orange-red torii (sub-gates) that line the pathways to the main shrine. This place is huge, and it’s definitely a sight to behold.
The other touristy spot we visited was the Arashimaya bamboo groves. The district itself is rather lovely to explore and many people like to hire bicycles and venture through the area. It is also famous for the monkey park but we had already seen snow monkeys in Nagano, we gave that a miss as well.
Beautiful Kyoto – imagine it in spring when the cherry blossoms are in bloom! It would be amazing. We were there in winter but were lucky to spot a few cherry blossom trees that were early bloomers. You want a slice of Japanese culture? Visit Kyoto – oh my, I sound like a travel agency.
Aside from lucky cherry blossom spotting, we had the opportunity to join in the festivities of Godairikison ninno’e. This is the largest event in Daigoji held on February 23rd each year. This religious festival is attended by over 100,000 visitors a year. Monks pray for peace, health and happiness for Japan and paper charms are burnt and distributed. What caught our attention and brought us to the festival was actually the famous ‘mochi-lifting’ ceremony. Men and women take part in this ceremony by lifting giant mochi (rice cakes) – 150kg for men and 90kg for women. Apparently the longer one lifts and maintains hold on the giant mochi, gets dedicated with power (strength and health perhaps?) However the appearance of a superhero made me think that maybe the participants are really asking for super powers? It was very interesting and entertaining. The whole area of Daigoji Temple was filled with throngs of visitors, food stalls (there seem to be food stalls at every festival – I love it), colourful flags and giant mochis. Great fun.
Next up: A home-style cooking class in Kyoto
Taking a break from my Japanese holiday ramblings to share this delicious recipe with you. When I go for dim sum (or yum cha, if in Australia), there are a few standard items which are must-haves. Steamed prawn dumplings (har gow), bbq pork buns, braised chicken feet (I’m sure some of you are cringing at the thought of this, but it is one of my favourites) and steamed pork dumplings (siu mai).
At a dim sum (yum cha) restaurant here in Melbourne, you’d have to pay about $4.50 a serve (usually 3 to 4 small siu mais in a mini bamboo steamer). If you were to make this at home, it’s about $6 – 7 for 35 to 40 large dumplings. Feeling a little ripped off? Well, go ahead and make some at home then. The best part is that these dumplings can be frozen and steamed from frozen. You can eat all 40 dumplings in one sitting of course, I’m not judging…but I wouldn’t recommend it!
Most recipes recommend using round wonton wrappers but I like this version that uses square wrappers. Watch this video and be amazed at how easy it is to form the dumplings. Your dumplings will look pretty pro at the end of it. Enjoy!
STEAMED SIU MAI (PORK DUMPLINGS)
Makes about 35 – 40
350g (3/4 pound) minced pork, preferable with some fat in it
220g (1/2 pound) raw prawns, peeled, deveined (coarsely chopped)
2 stalks of spring onion, chopped finely (both green and white bits)
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp mirin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 tsp corn starch
2 tsp finely diced carrots
1 packet of wonton wrappers (about 40 in a pack)
1. In a mixing bowl, add pork, prawns, spring onions, soya sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, mirin, white pepper, salt and corn starch together, mix thoroughly.
2. To wrap the dumplings, watch this video. Using a square wonton wrapper, dip your finger in water and wet all four edges. Place a tablespoon of pork mixture in the middle of the wrapper, fold all four corners together. Hold the dumpling in a cupped hand, fold in the edges sticking out on the sides while using cupped hand to shape the dumpling. Flatten and even out the top of the dumpling with a knife. Garnish with a tiny pinch of carrots.
3. Lay a sheet of parchment paper at the bottom of a bamboo steamer, arrange siu mai, leaving some space in between to avoid sticking.
4. Bring water to a boil over high heat in a saucepan/wok that is big enough for the bamboo steamer to sit on. Cover and steam for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and serve warm.
Dumplings can be prepared ahead and is suitable for freezing. Give an extra 2 – 3 minutes if steaming from frozen.
Shinjuku is one of the city wards (districts) of Tokyo. We stayed in Koreatown near Shin Okubo Station which is conveniently located for our random wanderings in the busy city. Home to many of Tokyo’s tallest skyscrapers, large department stores and one of the busiest train stations, Shinjuku is also known for it’s wild red-light district, Kabukicho. Right in the corner of Kabukicho, is a six-alley block known as Golden Gai. These six alley ways house close to 200 bars and izakayas. Yes 200 of them in six small alleys, so you can imagine how tiny of these bars are! The alleys are narrow, only accessible by pedestrians and bicycles and the former brothels look run-down and shabby from the outside.
We were there around 7.30pm and Golden Gai hadn’t fully come alive, but it meant we were able to find a spot in two of the izakayas that we were brave enough to enter. Most of the bars only serve regulars and if not accompanied by one, may be turned away. But visitors should not be offended, some of the bars only have up to six seats at the bar and regulars have priority.
The first izakaya we entered was probably one of the least intimidating. Spacious in comparison to some others, there were about six tables and a small bar section. The owner welcomed visitors and were friendly and accommodating. We ordered delicious warm sakes with a range of mouthwatering bar food (just like tapas, but mostly on sticks).
After devouring stick after stick of fried chicken, veggies and seafood and downing a few bottles of sake, we were ready (and bolder, thanks to the sake) to check out another spot.
It’s tricky as we walked down alley after alley. The bars which are visitor-friendly were identified by the menus by the entrance. All the bars have closed doors and look as if they’re closed (most of them were actually full inside!). So we had to open some of the doors and poked our heads in to check each place out. As there were four of us, most places couldn’t really accommodate us. Finally, we found a place called Matsukanei-tei. It was a hilarious sight watching the guys squeeze through the doorway, up the narrow stairway and crouching in the actual bar area so as not to knock their heads on the low ceiling.
The tiny, tiny bar seated six – there were two regulars in there who were friendly and we shared the evening having conversations in basic Japanese and English. The bar owner, Ken prepared all the food that we ate. We just said bring on the food and he just kept on feeding us until we said stop. It was one of the best experiences we had, mingling with the locals, sharing their precious, tiny space and enjoying scrumptious morsels of Japanese tapas.
The evening at Golden Gai was eye-opening, a cultural integration exercise full of laughter, good conversations (or attempts at those), amazing food and delicious sakes. So what if some people thought it’s a seedy strip to visit (some say it’s run by the yakuza!), we had fun and it was indeed an unforgettable experience.
Asakusa is one of the most popular tourist spots in Tokyo. It’s also known as ‘old Tokyo’ or ‘Temple town’. What first greeted us when we arrived was the ginormous red lantern at the Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate) which is the outer gate of the famous Sensoji Temple. Throngs of people were at the gate trying to take photos, our little group included. Unexpectedly, a couple of locals came by mid-self-portrait, and asked if we were willing to be interviewed for a local breakfast TV show! What?! With a little hesitation and a lot of nudging from my hubby, we agreed. The segment asked us what photos have we taken during our holiday in Tokyo. Having only been in Japan for all of one full day, we didn’t have much – well except for food, lots of them (not surprising right?) We shared some of the photos we took with their tech guy after much gesturing and basic Japanese during the interview. It was all a bit of a laugh really. I’m sure not everyone can say they were interviewed for a Japanese TV show! (By the way, our TV segment got bumped for the Academy Awards on screening day. Ah well, I guess what the movie stars wore to the Academy Awards was more interesting than food photos!)
Okay, back to Asakusa. Once you step through Kaminarimon, you’re faced with a busy pedestrian mall, known as Nakamise Street. This is where the ‘old Tokyo’ comes in. Stalls selling traditional Japanese items and souvenirs line both sides of the street. There were also many stalls selling traditional Japanese snacks such as red bean crepe cakes, mochi, sweet sake and takoyaki and some of them were made not with modern machines, but old-style methods.
The Sensoji temple grounds were filled with locals offering incense and prayer cards and ringing prayer bells. It certainly was a busy and colourful sight with locals and tourists intermingling and sharing the beautiful, sunny winter’s day.
Now the day wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t stop for some actual food would it? We walked along the streets near Sensoji Temple and noticed a tiny, little shop specialising in fresh udon (Japanese style wheat-flour noodles). Promptly, we joined the queue and we were glad we did so. Once seated in the small restaurant which probably only housed five tables and a bench, we ordered our udon meals. The fresh udon was springy and delicious and they came in the form of curry udon (with thick Japanese curry), miso based udon (rich miso soup base) and the set meal which came with a bowl of udon in dashi stock and crisp tempura of fish, prawns and vegetables on rice. Nothing’s better than fresh and delicious hot noodle soups to satiate our hunger after a long wander through Nakimase and Sensoji Temple – simply perfect.
Coming up next: A night out in Golden Gai – the home of izakayas.
Japan is awesome. This was my very first trip to the land of the rising sun, the land of super considerate and polite beings, the land of contrasts and the land of mouthwatering amazingness. I mean, Japan is simply wow. Let me start by telling you how impressed I was with Japanese hospitality, customer service and general behaviour. People were so polite and considerate, I heard all of two car honks the entire time I was there. There were continuous thank you’s and welcome’s, there were lots of bowing and smiles. What a pleasant society.
The next thing you’d notice would be the contrasts – traditional temples sit amidst modern skyscrapers, kimono-clad ladies walk the streets next to sleek fashionistas, age-old businesses run alongside the most up-to-date technologically advanced machines.
Then comes the food. Everyone speaks of how expensive Japan is. But let me tell you – for about 600 – 800 yen which is roughly about $6 – 8 Aussie dollars, you can get a delicious meal. Steaming bowls of ramen, fresh sushi and sashimi boxes, teriyaki chicken bentos. Yum. There are obviously more expensive meals such as an omakase which is like a degustation meal. Those can range from 3500 – 250000 yen. In general, a decent meal complete with sake (Japanese rice wine) costs about $15 to $22. Not shabby, definitely not pricey but a whole lot of delicious.
There’s just so much to share with you, so let me just start off with a glimpse of the famous fish market in Tokyo – Tsukiji Market. This fish market is known to be one of the largest wholesale fish markets in the world. There are two parts to the market – the inner section that houses the famous tuna auction (we didn’t make it to that unfortunately), and the outer section chock full of fresh seafood, kitchenware and cooked food. The sights, smells and sounds were extraordinary.
Of course there’s food involved. We had the most succulent grilled oyster, sweet tamago (egg) roll, smoky yakitori and no one goes to Tsukiji market and not have sushi made from the freshest ingredients from next door right? My favourite was the uni gunkanmaki – a nigiri sushi (hand formed sushi) with a strip of nori (seaweed) around it and topped with loose ingredients such as uni (sea urchin). The creamy sea urchin was subtle, slightly savoury and you could taste the sea…wow and wow.
I did mention that the people were friendly and polite right? Look at our adorable sushi chef who smiled for the camera while preparing our lunch. So sweet.
Coming up next, a visit to Asakusa.
Whew, birthday month is over. There are just too many amazing people in my life born in the month of January. It started with my very own birthday (ahem!), to a couple of my colleagues’, to my mum’s, to my best friend’s and right through to the hubby’s on the last day of the month. Many celebratory meals in the form of a picnic, a hoity-toity degustation, brunches, lunches and dinners were had. Good times often do come with expanding waistlines! This is another reason why I never have weight-loss new year resolutions. It’s pointless.
Now the one thing my hubby enjoys most for his birthday is to have his very own home-made birthday cake (preferably all to himself) which he can enjoy throughout his birthday week.
This year, I whipped out his all-time favourite baked blueberry cheesecake. I’m not even sure where I got this recipe from, but it is one of my rare, handwritten recipes in my book which I have tried and enjoyed countless times. I doubt it was from a cookbook (why else would I have re-written it), or that it was found online (maybe? but I can’t seem to find the exact same recipe again).
Wherever it’s from, I’m just glad I have it, and now I’m sharing it here. So go forth my friends, bake, eat and prosper!
BAKED BLUEBERRY CHEESECAKE
Makes a 9″/24cm cake
For the base
200g digestives biscuits
100g melted butter
For the cheesecake
1 x 250g cream cheese (I use Philadelphia)
1/3 cup whipping cream
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup of blueberries (I usually put in at least 1/2 a cup more!)
1. Lightly grease a springform cake tin. Process digestive biscuits to fine crumbs in a food processor. Mix crumbs and melted butter well in a bowl before layering it on the base of the cake tin. Press down evenly and firmly. Leave the tin in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the cake.
2. Preheat oven to 220C/420F.
Beat cream cheese, cream, sugar, eggs, flour, cornstarch, vanilla extract and lemon juice until light.
3. Gently mix in sour cream and melted butter. The mixture is quite runny. Gently fold in blueberries.
5. Remove tin from the fridge, pour in cake mixture.
6. Bake in the oven at 220C/420F for 15 minutes, then lower the oven and bake at 140C/280F for about an hour or until cake is no longer wobbly in the middle. I rotate my cake halfway through for even baking.
Best served fully cooled.
January 26 is Australia Day. It’s a day of BBQs by the beach, picnics in the park, summer music concerts and this year, it also includes watching scream queen Azarenka beat smiling assassin Li Na at the Australian Open. Not quite patriotic I guess unless you count the thong throwing contests or men painted in blue and wearing nothing but the Australian flag, throwing around an inflatable kangaroo. Ah Australia…
However, nothing is more Australian than this…
…the infamous Vegemite, dreaded by many but loved by many more. I grew up loving Bovril and Marmite. And it was a no brainer that I switched to Vegemite when I landed on Aussie shores years ago.
It’s not appealing to many and I can imagine why – it’s dark brown, doesn’t smell very nice and super salty. Made from yeast extract (what?? I don’t even know what that means)…it can be quite a potent spread for an amateur.
I love this stuff, especially on generously buttered toast with a light scraping of vegemite. (Yes, please do not treat Vegemite like your regular peanut butter or nutella spread where more is merrier). It’s great also with cheese toasties and some people put a little in sauces and gravies.
Vegemite Chicken is another great way to use Vegemite. My hubby will not go anywhere near my Vegemite toast, but this dish is now in his list of ‘yes’ food. In fact, he requested for it this time!
Trust me, it’s good. You’ll hardly taste the Vegemite but it sure gives the dish an added depth of flavour. Imagine honey soy chicken but with more power!
Try it to believe it. I’m sure many of you will be using that long-abandoned jar of Vegemite in your pantry after this.
Adapted from Almost Bourdain
650g chicken wings, split and without tips
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1/2 tsp Vegemite
Toasted sesame seeds for garnishing (optional)
1 tsp Vegemite
1 tbs honey
1 tbs light soy sauce
1 tbs Shaoxing wine
A dash white pepper powder
1. Marinade chicken for at least 3 hours or overnight.
2. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a frying pan on high heat. Add chicken wings and stir fry till lightly brown on all sides. Set leftover marinade aside.
3. Add in honey, dark soy sauce and vegemite to the chicken, stir fry and mix well. Add in marinade, coat chicken well and simmer till the sauce is thickened, dark and syrupy.
4. Taste and if required, add a splash of light soy to taste.
5. Serve with a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds, steaming hot white rice and a side of stir fried veggies. Perfect.
The new year celebrations have come and gone. Many of us have returned to work and the Christmas break seemed so long ago. The gyms are packed full of people attempting to keep to their new year resolutions of losing weight, getting fit etc etc. January is probably the month where carb intake is the lowest due to enthusiastic weight watchers who stuffed one too many roasted spuds and christmas pudding. Don’t quote me, i’m making stuff up, because I am one of those who tries very, very hard to go the non-carb or low-carb way.
Safe to say, I haven’t been very successful. When I’m after a quick and easy one dish meal, I tend to turn to rice or noodles. Hey I can’t help it – I’m asian!
So I try to be as healthy as possible, loading the dish with more vegetables and protein. This cabbage and chicken pilaf is a quick and easy one-pan meal. If you’re really not in the mood for cleaning up either, you can eat directly from the pan too – no one’s judging!
A pilaf is a rice dish (usually, but not always of Indian influence) cooked with vegetables and broth. It’s versatile, so you can chuck in protein like chicken or other meats or seafood. A way to describe it is like an Indian paella? Just with different flavours and spices and much less labour intensive and time consuming.
Simple ingredients, cooked in 30 minutes or less! Great mid-week meal.
CABBAGE & CHICKEN PILAF
3 fillets of skinless and boneless chicken thighs, sliced
1/2 a head of white cabbage, coursely shredded
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup of frozen peas
1 1/2 cups of long grain white rice (you can use basmati rice too)
2 cups of unsalted chicken stock
2 tsp of curry powder
1 tsp of ground ginger
1 tsp of ground cumin
salt & pepper to taste
light soy sauce to taste (optional)
In a 30cm fry pan or cast iron braiser, heat a splash of vegetable oil. Brown chicken pieces until just lightly browned.
Add in ground ginger, cumin, curry powder, garlic and rice. Stir to mix ingredients well and ensure rice is well coated with spices. Add in cabbage, mix well and cook for about 5 minutes.
Add in chicken stock and frozen peas. Mix through and cover pan. Cook for about 15 minutes or until rice is tender. Season to taste. Sprinkle with crispy fried shallots before serving (optional).
Oh hello 2013. Welcome. May we have some great times together!
Melbourne summer gets unbearably hot. Summer is only my friend when I’m down at the beach. All other times, I prefer to not move too much and stay cool on my couch with lots of ice-cold drinks and some TV marathon. Currently I’m hiding from the 38C (100F) heat and hooked on Sons of Anarchy – is Jax ever going to leave Samcro?!!
Back to the beach…I spent Christmas camping by the beach with the hubby. Made some amateur boo-boos, like forgetting to pack warm gear (it gets cold at night!), forgetting to apply sun screen when going for a walk by the beach (yup, peeling like a dried up shrimp right now) and leaving our foldable table behind in the apartment. I know. Rookie mistakes. It’s just been too long since we last camped. It just means we need another attempt at this.
The only other good thing about summer is stoned fruits. It’s time for peaches, nectarines, cherries, berries and mangoes. I’m chomping down on yet another nectarine as I’m writing this. Juicy!
What better way to use up the abundance of fruit than to bake them in delicious ways. Such as this nectarine upside-down cake. It’s an adapted recipe from David Lebovitz. Great for any type of stoned fruit really – I happened to have a few over-ripe nectarines, but this works for peaches, cherries, strawberries, blueberries, pineapple and more. Go experiment!
I loved the caramel oozing all over the nectarines, the cake part was also light and not overly sweet – which is great when you have enough caramel to sweeten the deal. Eat while still warm, or warm up for 20 seconds in the microwave…great on its own or with ice cream.
NECTARINE UPSIDE DOWN CAKE
Adapted from David Lebovitz
I used a 9″ square pan, but David L used a 10″ skillet / cake pan. Do not use a springform pan unless you want to scrape hardened caramel from the bottom of your oven!
3 tbsp butter (45g), salted or unsalted
3/4 cup packed (135g) light brown sugar
5 – 6 nectarines (or enough cut fruit to layer the bottom of your pan)
8 tbsp (115g) unsalted butter
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (210g) flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (125ml) whole milk, at room temperature
1. Melt the 3 tbsp (45g) of butter in a cake pan or skillet. Add the brown sugar and cook while stirring, until the sugar is melted and begins to bubble. Remove from heat and let cool.
2. Once cool, arrange the fruit in a tight, single layer. Set aside.
3. Preheat the oven to 350F. (190C)
4. Beat the 8 tbsp (115g) of butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time, beat until smooth.
5. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
6. Stir in half of the flour mixture, then the milk, then the remaining dry ingredients. Do not overmix: stir just until the flour is barely incorporated into the batter.
7. Spread the batter over the fruit, then bake for 45 minutes to one hour (depending on the size of the pan, and the thickness of the batter.) The cake is ready when it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and the center feels just set.
8. Remove from oven, let cool about 20 minutes, then place a cake plate on top, flip the cake out on to the plate, taking care, as there may be some hot caramel that might escape.
Best served warm.
Summer has well and truly arrived. It doesn’t help when it’s also the last working Friday before the Christmas break. Getting through today is tough – my brain’s on holiday mode, I’m listening to the Chipmunks singing carols and I’m staring out my office window. You can see in the distance, the glistening waters of the bay calling out to me…
I have been busy too…busy practicing my face painting skills – ha! (Very productive day isn’t it?)…I’m the official kid’s face painter this Christmas Eve at work. Sticky children, face paint, cookies…that should make those three hours at the office on Christmas Eve pass speedily. I hope.
I do have a Christmas cookie recipe to share…but first I’m craving for some of this…shaken iced tea – just like the ones in Starbucks (in the US). Blissful beverage on a hot summer’s day.
HOMEMADE SHAKEN ICED TEA
6 tea bags (black tea)
1.5 litres boiling water (2 quarts)
1/2 cup lemon cordial
lots of ice
Add tea bags and water, stir it around and let tea bags sit for about 5 minutes (or more if you like your tea strong). Add in lemon cordial, shake it well (or stir) and taste. Add more cordial if required. Let tea cool off, remove bags, add lots of ice, shake it some more and serve.
Happy summer for those in the southern hemisphere! I’m off camping by the beach this Christmas…woo hoo! Can’t. Wait.
I’ve said this many times before – I’m not great at pre-planning. Usually when I have a last minute craving for something home-made, it has to be quick and easy.
A few weekends ago, I woke up and decided I NEEDED some hot cinnamon rolls for a lazy Sunday breakfast.
The traditional bready cinnamon roll requires the standard straight bread dough prep – which means incorporating yeast into the flour, letting it rise etc. And it usually means preparing ahead of time. Which brings me back to my first point – I don’t do that very well. So, hot cinnamon rolls on a whim? Not a chance…oh wait, unless you go for the no-yeast version.
Thanks to all the folks out there who decided that cinnamon rolls need not have to be the yeasty bready kind. Yay to you! I got this recipe off the net, and gave it a shot.
Nothing beats freshly baked cinnamon rolls. Bready or cakey. The texture of this no-yeast cinnamon roll is a little more like a firm muffin. It lacks the chewiness of the bready roll, which I love. However, everything else is spot on. Gooey, buttery, cinnamony with some caramelly crunchy bits…all washed down with a fresh cup of joe or in my case, strong, black tea. Buttery bliss on a Sunday morning.
P/S: I didn’t glaze the rolls because the amount of sugar in this thing is enough to scare away the sugar fairy but if you prefer to keep your sweet tooth happy, the glaze option’s below.
No-Yeast Cinnamon Roll
Recipe from food.com
2 cups flour(220g)
2 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter (43g)
3/4 cup milk (approx 177ml)
4 tablespoons butter (56g)
1 cup brown sugar (200g)
3 teaspoons cinnamon
For the filling, in a small bowl combine softened butter, brown sugar and cinnamon to form a crumbly mixture.
Sprinkle 1/4 of the mixture over the bottom of a 9×9 pan.
In a large bowl mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
Cut or rub in softened butter till it resembles bread crumbs.
Stir in milk to form a soft dough.
Roll out dough into a rectangle on a lightly floured into a rectangle about 1/4 inch thick.
Spread the remaining filling on the rolled out dough.
Roll up the rectangle, with a sharp knife slice into 12 pieces.
Bake for 20-25 min at 400°F (200°C).
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Combine powdered sugar and milk in a small bowl and stir until smooth.
Once rolls are out of the oven, drizzle on glaze and serve warm.
Ferran Adria, of the legendary El Bulli restaurant came up with an amazing cookbook for home cooking called The Family Meal. This book is way cool. 31 meals planned out, with each step of each meal fully documented with photographs. The ingredient list also caters to meals for 2 right up to 75! Very convenient indeed.
My first attempt at one of his recipes was this amazingly rich and creamy Caesar Salad dressing. It was one of those times the hubby was away (can’t remember where he went now) and all I had in the fridge worth considering was a head of cos lettuce and half a block of parmesan cheese. It was a no-brainer what I was going to have for my solo dinner.
A caesar salad to me isn’t really a salad. It’s too unhealthy and delicious to count as a one. I love it though, it’s one of those meals I’d have when I just feel like a tasty veggie-filled meal, albeit calorifically rich. Especially this version of caesar dressing – all garlicky and super creamy.
By Ferran Adria, “The Family Meal”
1/2 garlic clove
2 anchovy fillets, packed in olive oil, drained
1 egg yolk
2 tsp Sherry vinegar (I used white wine vinegar)
3 tbsp plus 1 tsp sunflower oil
20g finely grated Parmesan cheese
1. Put garlic, anchovies and egg yolk in a beaker or jug.
2. Process with a hand held blender until smooth.
3. Very gradually, pour in the sunflower oil while blending until it becomes a smooth, thick mayonnaise-like consistency. Blend in the vinegar.
4. Stir in grated parmesan cheese. All done.
Note: If making this dressing for two, I would recommend blending it in a small food processor. I found that with such a small amount, everything got stuck behind the blades in the hand-held blender. Took me a while to scrape them all out.
Okay so the original recipe sounds way cooler….chocolate muscovado banana cake by Nigel Slater. Alas I only have regular, good ol’ brown sugar. Muscovado will have to take a back seat this time.
I had to look up the difference between brown sugar and muscovado – muscovado sugar is darker, more moist and has a strong molasses flavour. I’m sure this recipe will benefit from the use of muscovado sugar but I was very happy with how moist and tasty the cake turned out without it.
I don’t know about you, but whenever I bake anything, I can’t wait to taste it. So when a recipe calls for the cake to be cooled completely, I usually don’t. But this time, I highly recommend it. When I ate the cake fresh out of the oven, it did not taste as flavourful and I was not impressed. When I had another slice a few hours later, it tasted beautiful. Moist, banana-filled, chocolate laced cake. Om nom nom. Thank you Nigel Slater.
Oh and see this? My current favourite tea from Harney & Sons. Love it!! Perfect with a slice of chocolate brown sugar banana cake.
CHOCOLATE BROWN SUGAR BANANA CAKE
Adapted from Nigel Slater’s recipe – Kitchen Diaries II
250g plain flour
Who doesn’t love nutella? Slathered generously on toast or in a french crepe (mmm, french crepes), filled in fancy cupcakes or swirled through ice cream…endless possibilities are to be had with the amazing, world-famous chocolate hazelnut spread.
I recently used it to fill some yo-yos (the cookie, not the toy) because I couldn’t be bothered with making buttercream frosting. Also the idea of having butter cookies, filled with buttercream made me cringe from the thought of butter overdose. I love butter, mind you, just not in multiple doses.
Yo-yo cookies are sometimes referred to as melting moments – because they are crumbly and melt-in-the-mouth. Good with a cup of freshly brewed tea or a cold glass of milk.
The cookies took less than 30 minutes to prepare and bake. It’s the waiting time taken to cool before I could fill them and eat them that was more excruciating. But do be patient, cool cookies completely, or else you’ll risk the nutella melting and dripping over its sides. It helps also to leave filled cookies in the fridge for a while before serving, just to let the nutella spread firm up a little.
Then, enjoy every crumbly, buttery, chocolatey goodness – it’s worth the wait.
Makes about 20
- 1 3/4 stick (185 g) butter, softened
- 1/3 cup (60g) icing sugar
- 1 1/2 cups (185g) plain flour, sifted
- 1/3 cup (60g) custard powder, sifted
I have a problem. I own a number of really amazing cookbooks and have recently added a few more to my collection. I love browsing through them and getting ideas for recipes as well as oogle at the gorgeous food photography or typography. But when it comes to last minute cooking inspiration, I tend to just whip out the iPhone or iPad and surf the web. Whaaatt??
Take last Sunday for example, I woke up and decided that I needed to bake. I didn’t care what, I just wanted to get the butter, sugar and flour out. So instead of getting out of bed and flipping through my cookbooks, I stayed in bed and surfed YouTube for recipes. Gosh, how low can one go right?
This recipe for fudgey brownies came from Laura Vitale of Laura in the Kitchen. I’m sure we all have our ‘go-to’ brownie recipe, I had one too. But after watching Laura’s version, I chucked my age-old high school brownie recipe and dived straight into the kitchen for my baking therapy.
Loved, loved, loved this fudgey brownie. Chewy and super chocolatey – just the way I think brownies should be and it’s really easy to make. No excuses for anyone wanting to reach for the pre-mixed brownie box!
Adapted from Laurainthekitchen.com
140g (5 oz) of unsalted butter, at room temperature
200g (7 oz) of 70% dark chocolate, melted
200g (approx 1 cup) of castor sugar
2 tsp of vanilla extract
¼ tsp of salt
1 tbsp cocoa powder
2 large eggs
2 tbsp of espresso coffee
75 g (2/3 cup) of plain flour
Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Spray an 8 by 8 inch square pan with non stick cooking spray and lay the bottom with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a large bowl whisk together the sugar and butter until fluffy. Add the eggs, vanilla extract and espresso. Beat until all is combined.
Add the melted chocolate and whisk, add the dry ingredients and mix everything together until it’s incorporated but don’t over mix.
Pour batter into your prepared pan, spread evenly and bake for about 40 minutes or until when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with moist crumbs but not wet batter.
Cool for about 5 minutes in the pan and then transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Coconut custard spread – otherwise known as kaya – is what I consider the jam of Southeast Asia. If you haven’t tried kaya before – it is creamy and easily spreadable in texture and fragrant with coconut and screwpine (pandan) flavours. When kids were tucking into sandwiches or toasts with PBJ in the US, marmalade or marmite in the UK and vegemite in Australia, we had kaya.
Kaya toast is what we enjoy having for breakfast or even as a snack whenever we’re back in Singapore. Thinly sliced crustless bread, lightly toasted and spread with kaya and a melting slab of butter – now that’s how we roll! It’s so popular that there are even kaya toast franchises all over Singapore – Ya Kun and Killiney Kopitiam…just to name a couple of the big boys.
Here’s a picture of a Ya Kun kaya toast meal – complete with soft boiled eggs and coffee. Oh my, I want some right now.
The good thing is that kaya is widely distributed across the globe, which means if I’m craving for some downunder, I’m not far from a store that sells it. However, one of the things my mum-in-law left behind from her last visit to Melbourne earlier this year, was her recipe for homemade kaya.
Unlike the store bought kaya, this version is not as sweet and the texture is not as processed. Kinda rustic and quite delish! Now I’ll share the recipe with you, but it was just me scrambling to jot down notes while mum was speeding through the process. Like any other home cook, mum’s recipe is all about estimation, so when I say medium bowl that can fill a dozen eggs, it means just that. I can’t give you any more detail than that!
My mum-in-law’s homemade kaya
12 large eggs (or fill up a medium size mixing bowl)
1 bowl of granulated sugar (same size bowl as the eggs)
1 x 270ml can of coconut cream
6 screwpine (pandan) leaves
1 tbsp of wheat flour, dissolved in 1 tbsp of water
1. In a medium metal mixing bowl or pot, beat eggs for about 2 minutes.
2. Cut up the screwpine leaves into small (about 2cm) pieces. Process the leaves in a food processor with 2 tbsp of water. Strain blended leaves through a clean muslin cloth. Squeeze the living daylights out of the pulp to get all the juices.
3. Add screwpine juice, sugar and coconut cream to the eggs. Place the pot or bowl in a water bath on simmer. Ensure the depth of water in the bath is level to the egg mixture in the bowl.
4. Simmer and stir the mixture gently and continuously until it is thickened. (About 20 – 25 minutes) Yes, elbow grease and patience is required.
5. Add wheat flour mixture to the custard, stir and cook for another 5 minutes.
6. Cool and store in jam jars or air tight containers.
About 10 years ago, I won a Christmas raffle. The prizes include a bunch of household stuff contributed by the participating retail stores in that street, all of which I no longer own, or have no recollection of. Well, except for the Christmas tree. Yes, I won a Christmas tree, but in the heat of Melbourne’s summer, it died a sad, sad death. I only remember the tree because I spent many hours picking up stray pine needles from the carpet after. Pitiful. Anyway, the point of this story is that aside from that one time, I never win anything.
Until now! Actually, this happened at the beginning of the year. Michael Shafran, author and ‘recipe whisperer’ started The Melting Pot which is a great hub for contributor recipes. A competition was held just before the website was launched. To participate, we had to submit a recipe of our heritage. Naturally I picked one of my favourites – Singapore home-style Hainanese Chicken Rice – and was extremely pleased to be picked as one of five finalists!
All finalists were awarded a Tojiro knife – we got to choose between a Sha Ra Ku Mono chef’s knife, or a Santoku knife. And here is the beautifully, crafted piece of art. It’s so purdeee!
So this is a rather random post of how one can be so excited about winning a knife, but when the spring sun has gone into hiding and it’s all gloomy again outside, I have to find something to be excited about. And this was it. Short-lived excitement. I’ll have another food-related post on the way soon. Promise.
One of the best things about having leftover roast dinners is having fun the next day creating new dishes from it. Sandwiches filled with sliced roast beef – yum. Warm lamb salad – yum. Diced up roast pork in fritatas or fried rice – oh yeah. And perhaps some leftover roast chicken pizza?
Easy to make, these personal sized pizzas make great weekend lunches. Generally everyone gets creative when it comes to toppings, but the base of the pizza is just as important. I used tomato pesto for some and mayonnaise and bbq sauce for the other. They’re probably not the healthiest (who am I kidding?) but they’re delicious and loads of fun!
Here’s the basic pizza dough base (makes 5-6 thin personal sized pizza bases)
Adapted from Jamie Oliver
300g strong white bread flour
1/2 tablespoon fine sea salt
1 x 7g sachets of dried yeast
1/2 tablespoon golden caster sugar
around 325ml lukewarm water
Pile the flour and salt on to a clean surface and make an well in the centre. Add your yeast and sugar to the lukewarm water, mix up with a fork and leave for a few minutes, then pour into the well.
Using a fork and a circular movement, slowly bring in the flour from the inner edge of the well and mix into the water. It will look like thick porridge. Continue to mix, bringing in all the flour. When the dough comes together and becomes too hard to mix with your fork, flour your hands and begin to pat it into a ball.
Knead the dough by rolling it backward and forward, using your left hand to stretch the dough toward you and your right hand to push the dough away from you at the same time. Repeat this for 10 minutes, until you have a smooth, springy, soft dough.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let double in size for about 45 minutes.
To make pizzas:
Place the dough on a floured surface, divide into 6 portions (or less if you prefer bigger pizzas). Flour and cover with plastic wrap, and let it rest for about 15 minutes. This will make it easier to roll it thinly.
Take a portion of the dough, dust your surface and the dough with a little flour and roll it out into a rough circle about 0.5cm thick.
Tear off an appropriately sized piece of tin foil, rub it with olive oil, dust it well with flour and place the pizza base on top. Continue doing the same with the other pieces and then, if you dust them with a little flour, you can pile them up into a stack, cover them with cling film and put them in the fridge.
When you’re ready to cook them, preheat your oven to 250°C/500°F. Top each pizza with your favourite stuff (don’t forget the cheese!), drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil and place pizza (on the foil) one at a time directly on the shelf of the oven. Cook for 7 – 10 minutes until golden and crispy.
There are days when I feel like baking and in my head I picture elaborate layered cakes with glossy frosting or perfect pastries with melt in the mouth creme patissiere. The reality is I’d rather get the baking done quickly so I can sit in front of the TV and stuff my face with cake. The sooner done, the better. And who am I kidding? Elaborate layered cakes only live somewhere in my head probably from a snapshot of someone else’s hard work on the web or in cookbooks.
So at times like these, I could pop around the corner to the mini supermarket and get a loaf of factory made shrink wrapped madeira cake (triple yuck) or I take out my cake tray, pause the TV and get cracking on this.
Red velvet cake and cream cheese frosting are like BFFs. So when I discovered that cream cheese which I thought was in my fridge didn’t really exist, I resorted to cream cheese frosting’s much lighter and healthier cousin – meringue frosting. Sweeeeeet.
Red Velvet Sheet Cake with Meringue Frosting
Cake recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman and Smitten Kitchen
- 1 cup canola oil (instead of shortening which was in the original recipe)
- 1-3/4 cup Sugar
- 2-1/2 cups Cake Flour
- 1-1/4 teaspoon Salt
- 2 whole Eggs
- 1 cup Buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
- 1-1/2 teaspoon Vinegar
- 1-1/2 ounce, fluid Red Food Coloring
- 1-1/2 teaspoon Cocoa Powder (not Dutch processed, just the regular stuff)
Preheat oven to 180 C (350F) degrees. Thoroughly spray a large sheet cake pan with baking spray, be generous with the spray.
Whisk cake flour, cocoa and salt in a bowl.
Place oil and sugar in bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until well-blended. Beat in eggs one at a time. With machine on low, very slowly add red food coloring. Add vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk in two batches. Scrape down bowl and beat just long enough to combine.
Place baking soda in a small dish, stir in vinegar and add to batter with machine running. Beat for 10 seconds.
Pour batter into prepared sheet cake pan. Even out the surface. Bake for 20 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Remove pan from oven and allow cake to cool completely before icing.
Italian Meringue Frosting
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3 egg whites (room temperature)
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla or other flavoring
2 tablespoons sugar
Mix 2/3 cup sugar and water together and bring to a boil until a temperature of 275 is reached on a candy thermometer.
As the syrup reaches its temperature, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, 2 tablespoons sugar until the whites form soft peaks.
Remove syrup from heat add the syrup in a small stream while continuing to beat the mixture with the electric mixer.
Beat about 3 more minutes. The mixture will form glossy peaks and thicken.
Add the vanilla and mix a bit more.
Frost the cake immediately.
*Although this frosting is super easy to make and is much healthier than cream cheese, it doesn’t keep as well. Maximum two days refrigerated – that is if your cake lasts that long to begin with!
Aussie breakfasts are one of the many things I truly missed while living in London. Here in Melbourne, you’ll be spoilt for choice with the continuously growing cafe culture. I’m sure every Melburnian will have their own favourite breakfast hangouts.
Many people go mainly for coffees and food is somewhat secondary. People rave about the single source coffees, the Japanese cold drips etc. but for me I pick these places mainly for the food. Coffee, schmoffee…give me amazing food and I’ll be raving about it. Perfectly poached eggs, juicy bacon, fluffy pancakes and more…Here are my top four favourite breakfast spots (not in any particular order).
1 Church Street, Brighton
The breakfast menu at The Pantry range from regular hearty fry-ups with eggs, bacon, mushrooms, hash browns etc to more sophisticated deals like wild mushroom and sage with truffled pecorino. Pictured above (top) is one of their specials – slow cooked pulled pork and melted gruyere on sourdough with poached eggs. Doesn’t that sound amazing? It tasted just as good too! The other is one of their regular menu items and one of our favourite indulgent breakfast choices – buttery french toast, bacon and maple syrup.
To work off a smidge of the meal, you could wander through The Pantry’s deli which is located right next door. Displays of freshly prepared pasta, salads, cheeses and breads will probably tempt you to stock up for the next meal or two.
107a Canterbury Rd, Middle Park
A converted station masters building, Mart 130 started off as a novelty visit but since our first visit to this charming cafe, we have been won over by their delicious breakfasts which include regulars like crisp corn fritters, giant fluffy pancakes and my favourite (pictured above) – perfect poached eggs with hollandaise, smashed avocado on sourdough toast and a side of bacon. ‘Nuff said.
303 Coventry Street, South Melbourne
We love South Melbourne and frequent many of the cafes whenever it’s marketing Sunday. We chanced upon this tiny cafe on Coventry Street one day when we wanted a change from our regular and super busy Chez Dre and we fell in love. Qeleven may be small, but it’s big on personality and flavours. My all time favourite is the ‘Mexican Extravaganza’ - mushroom and cheese quesadilla, fried eggs, pumpkin and coriander rosti, capsicum, black bean salsa, chipotle mayo – did I hear anyone say ‘yum’?? Chargrilled corn beef with coleslaw, fried eggs and cornichons is also a regular feature.
The exciting thing about Qeleven is their regular menu changes and additions based on seasonal produce which you can keep track of by following their blog or joining their mailing list. I was rewarded with a seasonal omelette of crispy potato, braised leek, Swiss Gruyère, peas and dill.
READING ROOM CAFE
88 Ballarat Road, Footscray
Tucked in a corner within the Footscray campus of Victoria University lies Reading Room Cafe. It’s not your typical campus cafe deal because what these guys serve up beats any high street cafe. With adorable sounding names for their weekend menus, you’d be tempted to try every single dish. The BFG is a favourite – brioche french toast, crispy bacon, candied walnuts. Yeah. But wait there’s more! Top picture – totally delicious and aptly named ‘A nice place to visit’ – black truffle omelette, wilted spinach with potato and haloumi croquette. Apparently, the coffee is good too!
I know it’s long overdue but I promise my next post will be a recipe!!
Winter is like my hibernation period for cooking. I should really be whipping up warm, bubbling winter fare but somehow I feel like I’d rather have someone else do the cooking. Then again when summer comes, I’d probably whine about how hot it is to be cooking. Heh. Anyway back to winter – it doesn’t help that it’s dark all the time, and my photographs suffer due to lack of light. My mini photo studio is covered in dust, one of the bulbs is broken and I haven’t replaced it. My camera is clean from flour prints and oil stains. It’s a sad, sad situation.
On the bright side, I have been checking out Melbourne’s bustling food scene. From dainty dumplings in a scruffy side street to chunky steak and chips at a microbrewery. From zippy five-minute take-aways to four-hour long degustation. Oh yes, I have been indulging.
So please excuse me while I digest and get my groove back. In the meantime, do jump on my food train and take a peek at what I have been enjoying…
First stop: Taxi Dining Room at Federation Square, Melbourne
Hubby took me to Taxi for a pampering summer’s day special date earlier this year. This is one of those much talked about restaurants in the city. It was awarded The Age Good Food Guide ‘Wine List of the Year’ and Two Chefs Hats in 2010. The food is what one would describe as contemporary fusion of Japanese and modern Australian – favoring trendy ingredients that look like they belong in a nursery rhyme. Yuzu, wagyu, ponzu.
We went for the six-course degustation lunch menu. Every course served looked like works of delicious art which I admired for like two seconds and promptly tucked in. The menu consisted of fresh scallop sashimi with yuzu and caviar, duck done three ways, dumpling in five-spiced broth, crispy salmon on celeriac puree, grilled grade-7 wagyu beef and hazelnut parfait.
Oh my. Now you see why I’m not cooking much?
Next stop: Melbourne’s famous brekkies