We are all familiar with pickled cucumber – the Brits call them gherkins, Americans call them pickles and the French call them cornichons. All pretty fancy names for the humble cucumber. This recipe is from my cooking class when I was in Kyoto earlier in the year. Simply called…wait for it…Japanese Cucumber Salad or in Japanese, Aemono!! It is what it is – speedy, simple and oh so refreshing. Unlike the saliva-inducing tartness of the gherkin, this lightly pickled cucumber salad is slightly sweet and goes well with anything!
The Japanese usually serve this as a side dish along with their standard fare of rice, fish and miso soup. Clean flavours all round, so you can imagine how delicate this salad is. Totally delicious.
JAPANESE CUCUMBER SALAD (AEMONO)
1 cucumber (I used a standard continental cucumber)
few pinches of salt
2 tsp light soy
4 tsp sugar
4 tsp vinegar (I used white wine vinegar)
1 tsp sesame seeds
1. Slice cucumber into thin round pieces.
2. Salt it and let it sit for 10 minutes.
3. Squeeze out water from the cucumber.
4. Add all the ingredients to the cucumber and mix well.
Told you it was simple! Takes less than 15 minutes including the salting process and it’s ready to be eaten. Enjoy!
This always happens to me. The cold weather swings by unannounced and I promptly have the urge to make ice cream. Not in summer when it’s the most logical, no, no, no, let’s wait till the mercury hits below 15 (59 for those in the Fahrenheit world) and then dust off the ice cream maker…
To be fair it seems like my favourite season, Autumn, took a leave of absence this year in Melbourne. It was summer, and then voila! Winter said hello. I feel a little cheated. So why not cheer myself up with ice cream?
I’m also reminiscing a little of my trip to Japan in February and putting two and two together, I thought a little matcha ice cream will bring on a large dose of comfort.
While in Kyoto, we visit Ippodo Tea House, renowned for its many varieties of Japanese tea, from the everyday subtle Sencha to the bold and thick Koicha. The Ippodo website wonderfully explains the different types of tea, its components and preparation methods for those who are keen to find out more.
Matcha is a shade-cultivated tea leaf that is finely ground, has a sweet aroma and gloriously jade-green in colour. It is the tea used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. A true properly prepared matcha is quite an acquired taste – rich, full-bodied, slightly bitter and salty. Recommended to partake with a sweet treat.
I bought the noob version of matcha when I was in Kyoto – which is essentially an easy to mix, pre-sweetened matcha. And this was what I used to make the ice cream. I used Billy Law’s matcha ice cream recipe and just omitted the sugar. What resulted was matcha ice cream that was delightfully creamy and full of earthy green tea flavour and perfectly sweetened. (Well for my taste as I’m not a fan of overly sweet stuff)
MATCHA ICE CREAM
Recipe by Billy Law in ‘Have you eaten yet?’
Serves 6 – 8 (I halved the recipe)
375ml (13 fl oz/1.5 cups) thickened (whipping) cream
375ml (13 fl oz/1.5 cups) full cream milk
115g (4 oz/0.5 cup caster sugar (which I omitted due to pre-sweetened matcha)
2 tablespoons matcha powder (I used 6 tablespoons of the matcha mix)
1. Whip the cream in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Set aside.
2. Put milk, sugar and matcha powder into a food processor and process until well combined and the sugar has dissolved. Strain the mixture througha fine sieve into the whipped cream. Fold the cream gently into the mixture, then cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight. (Thanks to my noob matcha mix, I only had to mix it in the milk and stir to dissolve, no straining required)
3. Churn the mixture in an ice-cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. It will take 15 – 20 minutes for the ice cream to set. Serve immediately or transfer to a container and store in freezer for firmer texture.
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!
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.
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.
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!
There’s quite a bit of confusion when it comes to the identification of the root vegetable that is found in this dish. In Southeast Asia, we call this a yam cake which will probably mislead all my American friends to thinking it’s like thanksgiving-style sweet yams. Nah-uh. Firstly, yam as we know it in Southeast Asia is really taro. The yam that is used by my Northern Hemisphere friends for thanksgiving is known in Southeast Asia as sweet potato. Confused yet? In Australia, most people know what I’m referring to when I say yam, or taro. And sweet potato is simply, sweet potato.
For the sake of my own sanity (and probably yours too), I’ll refer to this dish as a taro cake. Commonly found in Southeast Asia as a savory snack – steamed, with loads of fried shrimp topping like the one featured here, or sliced up and pan-fried. The latter style is also common in dim sum / yum cha restaurants.
My personal preference is for the steamed version with a generous amount of the crisp topping consisting of fried shallots, dried shrimp, spring onions and red chilies (it’s the best part!!). The dense, savory cake is packed full of cubed taro and more dried shrimp. Best eaten warm with chili sauce and sweet caramel soy sauce (kecap manis).
My mouth is watering as I write this. Darn.
STEAMED TARO CAKE
Recipe from Rasa Malaysia
For the cake:
• 1½ bowls yam, diced into 1-2cm cubes
• 1 bowl rice flour
• 2 tablespoons wheat starch
• 2 bowls water
• ½ bowl dried shrimp
• 5 shallots, finely chopped
• 1 teaspoon five spice powder
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ½ teaspoon white pepper
For the topping:
• deep fried shallots (you can buy packs of ready fried ones in Asian groceries)
• spring onions, sliced finely
• red chillies, sliced finely
• dried shrimps, chopped finely and shallow fried till crisp
(I do not have quantities for the topping, prepare as much or as little as you want (I love it, so I have an abundance of it) – it’s a must-have for this dish. Yummy!
- Heat a pan over medium high heat, and fry the shallots and dried shrimp until they become aromatic. This should take about 3-5 minutes.
- Add the cubed yam to the pan, and fry with the shallots and dried shrimp mixture until cooked and brown. Best way to test – eat a piece of the taro to make sure it’s cooked through and no longer al dente.
- In a separate bowl, mix the rice flour, wheat starch, salt, pepper, five spice powder and water, and stir until it forms a smooth paste.
- Add the flour mixture into the pan slowly, stirring continuously until a thick paste forms.
- Pour the mixture into a heatproof bowl/plate and steam over high heat for 45 minutes, or until cooked.
- To serve, sprinkle generously with deep fried shallots, chopped spring onions, sliced chillies and chopped dried shrimp. Drizzle with chilli sauce and kecap manis.
Winter officially made its grand entrance today in Melbourne. It’s been a shade of cool grey 8 (think Copic markers). Thick fog descended upon us in the CBD from mid-morning and decided to stay for the rest of the day. M-i-s-e-r-a-b-l-e! What happened to the eternal sunshine that we boasted of downunder? Gah!!!!
On days like these, all I want is a plate of comforting carbs to soothe the sadness away. Preferably one that can be whipped up in no time and accompanied by a nice glass of vino. Like this simple and delicious pan-fried gnocchi with tomato, bacon and basil.
I’ve never been a big fan of gnocchi. Just as I’m not a big fan of mashed potato or other mushy potato products. I’d usually enjoy a couple mouthfuls and that’s about it. It’s probably something to do with the cloying texture of mushed-up taters – not my thing. Pan-fried gnocchi however, has a slightly crisp exterior and chewy insides which I recently grown to love.
The standard way to cook gnocchi is to boil them like you would any other pasta before pan-frying them. I like frying them directly, skipping the boiling process. I find that with this method, it produces a puffed up, crispier gnocchi which is super yummy.
Going along with the idea that this is a quick and easy meal, I’ve used store-bought gnocchi and canned tomatoes. Can’t get simpler than this. Prep time 2 minutes. Cooking time 15- 20 minutes. Oh yes.
Pan-fried gnocchi with tomato, bacon and basil
Serves 2 hungry fellas or 4 regular people
1 x 400ml can of crushed or chopped tomatoes
Large handful of basil leaves, torn
2 strips of smoked bacon, sliced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
50g of grated parmesan
1/2 tsp of sugar
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Heat a good drizzle of olive oil in a pan, add gnocchi (you can pre-boil them first if you wish, but I didn’t) and fry till slightly puffed up and golden (about 7 – 10 minutes). Add garlic and bacon, fry for about 3 minutes or until aroma of fried bacon is wafting through the entire house. Add tomatoes and warm through. Season with sugar, salt and pepper. Stir through torn basil leaves. Serve with another drizzle of good olive oil and grated parmesan. Done!
We all know Heston Blumenthal is amazing. Usually his recipes involve stuff that sounds more like a science experiment – dry ice, paint sprays, super chillers etc but his latest TV gig ‘How to cook like Heston’ has a few recipes that are meant for regular folks! Hooray!
The first episode was about eggs. How to poach, scramble, make scotch eggs and bacon and egg ice-cream like Heston. Yeah right, bacon and egg ice-cream…let me just pop to the store and get some dry ice after work and I’ll whip some up! Not!
To be fair, this particular lemon tart recipe from the egg episode was easy to follow and not bizarre in any way.
The only tart tin I had was a shallow one so I couldn’t get the same proportion of luscious lemon custard to pastry the same way Heston did. Actually I had more pastry than lemon custard but it tasted really, really good. All lemony, smooth and sweet. Oh alright, I need to get a proper tart tin and try this again.
Original recipe below from ‘Heston Blumenthal at Home’
(I halved the recipe to fit a shallow 30 cm tart tin)
For the pastry
300g plain flour
150g unsalted butter
½ tsp salt
120g icing sugar
3 large egg yolks
Seeds from ½ vanilla pod
Finely grated zest of ½ lemon
1 egg for the egg wash
For the filling
Finely grated zest and juice of 5 lemons
300ml double cream
390g white caster sugar
9 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1.Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the flour, butter and salt on low speed until it becomes a sand like texture (approximately 2-3 minutes).
2.In the meantime, in a tall container blitz together the icing sugar and egg yolks with a hand blender.
3.Add the vanilla seeds and lemon zest to the egg yolk mixture and then add to the bowl in the mixer and continue to mix on low speed until fully combined and a very soft dough has formed (approximately 3-5 minutes).
4.Mould the dough into a flat rectangle and wrap it in clingfilm before placing in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
5.Roll the pastry between two sheets of baking paper to a thickness of 2mm, using two stacked 2 pence coins as guides, then place in the freezer for 30 minutes.
6.Pre-heat the oven to 190ºC/gas mark 5. Line a 26cm tart tin (2.5cm deep) with the pastry making sure to press it into the edges and leaving the pastry hanging over the edge.
7.Take a sheet of baking paper and scrunch it up several times to eliminate any sharp edges. Prick the dough with a fork all over the surface. Place the baking paper on top and add enough coins (or baking beans) to fill the casing ¼ of the way up. Place in the preheated oven to bake for approximately 20 minutes or until fully cooked.
8.In the meantime, mix some of the leftover dough with an egg using a hand blender.
9.After 20 minutes, remove the baking paper and coins and, using a pastry brush, brush the entire surface of the tart with the dough and egg mixture. This ‘liquid pastry’ will ensure that any holes will be sealed. Return the tart to the oven for an additional 10 minutes.
10.Remove the tart from the oven and allow to cool completely.
11.When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 120ºC/gas mark ½. Place the baked pastry case in the oven to warm up.
12.Put all the filling ingredients into a bowl and mix together using a spatula. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and allow to warm up until the temperature reaches 60ºC. At this point, strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a jug. With a spoon, remove the bubbles from the surface of the liquid.
13.Slide the oven rack out a bit, then pour the mixture into the warm pastry case inside the oven. Fill the case to the top, slide the rack carefully back in, and bake the tart for approximately 25 minutes or until the temperature of the filling reaches 70ºC. Allow to cool completely at room temperature.
14.Just before serving, trim the overhanging pastry by running a sharp knife round the top of the tart tin and discard. .
I have a new love. Market love that is. South Melbourne market may be smaller than the infamous Victoria Market in the CBD, but it certainly has my vote when it comes to quality of fresh food and healthy sanity levels. Unlike Victoria market where the vendors are yelling out bargains and the shoppers are trampling over one another, South Melbourne market (on an early Sunday morning run) is a calm, organised shopping haven. Even my market-phobe of a hubby enjoys tagging along and finding interest in what the stalls have to offer!
Some people have said that the price of produce is slightly higher in South Melbourne and for the most part, I disagree. Depending on what you’re getting, I think prices are quite competitive. Well, except when hubby dearest got very excited and encouraged me to buy ‘the most beautiful piece of tuna steak’ recently. When the lady at the fish produce counter handed over the package and said ‘$16’ I handed over the cash with a frozen smile on my face. You see, I usually go for the bargains like fresh fish of the day or Sunday tray which has a few gorgeous fillets of fish for $12. So when I had to pay 16 bucks for ONE steak…I was just a little gobsmacked. The budget shopper in me was clawing to get out and kick me in the shin for not going for the ‘specials’.
Since the deed had already been done, I decided we’d make the best of it and create a meal worth all the glory the tuna steak could bring. And this was it.
I marinated the tuna steak, gently seared, sliced and layered with some peppery watercress and roma tomatoes on lightly toasted Turkish bread. Simple, fresh and delicious. Would I do it again with a $16 piece of tuna steak? Most definitely. (Scroogy shopper me is probably screaming in the background) But yes, I’ll do it all over again.
Marinated tuna steak
1 tuna steak (1 inch thick)
2 tbsp light soy
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp cooking wine / dry sherry
1/2 red chilli, finely diced
1/2 tsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp grated garlic
Mix all the ingredients together and marinate the steak for at least 20 minutes. Save the marinade as a dressing for the salad and to drizzle over the fish after it has been sliced and layered on the sandwich.
Sear the steak gently on each side for about 2 minutes on high. Cook for longer if you prefer your fish cooked through but I wanted to enjoy the freshness of the steak in its rare form.
Bean curd puffs, also known as tofu puffs or ‘tau pok’ to many southeast asians are one of my favourite variants of the humble bean curd. The healthier version of the bean curd or tofu is dense and has very high water content. The puff version is deep fried, hollow-ish and dry which is very much like a sponge and when cooked in sauce or soup, it soaks up all the wonderful flavours and is totally delicious. I love them in soups, in laksa, sliced and stir fried or in this case – stuffed!
Stuffed bean curd puffs is considered ‘street food’ and is quite commonly found in Singapore or Malaysia food centres. The puff is split in half, lightly toasted and then filled with healthy goodies like julienned cucumber, bean shoots and slices of boiled egg and served with a creamy satay (peanut) sauce. The freshness of the cucumber and bean shoots, the crisp outer tofu shell and the nutty yumminess of the satay sauce is simply a divine combination.
It’s so easy to prepare, very cost-effective and rather healthy as a meal in itself – unless you’re like me where I am over-generous with the satay sauce and I totally drench the little puffs. Oh yum. Many people enjoy this dish as a starter, but it’s surprisingly satisfying as a main. A great summer dish.
Stuffed Bean Curd Puffs
Recipe for 4 as a starter or 2 as main
1 packet tofu puffs (about 14 – 16 pieces)
100 g beans shoots, blanched
1/2 cucumber, julienned
2 large hard boiled eggs, sliced
2 tbsp roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
Slice the tofu puffs almost all the way through, lightly toast or grill on both sides. Stuff the toasted puffs with equal amount of cucumber and bean shoots, then top with sliced egg and chopped peanuts. Serve immediately with a side of satay sauce.
I used ready made satay sauce this time, but if you fancy making some yourself, here’s a quick and easy recipe from a previous post.