Want something quick, healthy and delicious? This is a variation from the ever popular San Choy Bow (pork and lettuce wraps) and it is super easy to prepare. I used enoki mushroom (also known as golden needle mushroom) because I love its thin, springy texture.
Basically, if you’ve got pork mince and a variety of vegetables (a good mix of textures) – you’re good to go. I used water chestnuts and bamboo shoots (both canned) as they go really well with the pork and they also add crunch and sweetness to the dish. And of course, the enoki mushroom.Yum yum.
Go for your life, mix and match! That to me is the best part of cooking.
Pork and Enoki Mushroom Lettuce Wraps
300g pork mince
200g enoki mushrooms
100g water chestnuts (about 6-7), diced
70g canned bamboo shoots, shredded or diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp of minced ginger
1 small head of iceberg lettuce
crushed peanuts or cashews for garnish (optional)
For the sauce:
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsp hoisin sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp chinese cooking wine
ground white pepper
1. Separate lettuce leaves and trim any limp/floppy edges so they are like nice little cups.
2. Heat a wok over high heat, add sesame oil and stir fry garlic and ginger (they burn very quickly so keep watch!) – about 20 seconds will do.
3. Add mince, fry for about 3-4 minutes breaking up any lumps, then add water chestnut, bamboo shoots and mushrooms.
4. Add all the sauce ingredients, stir and cook for another minute.
To serve, spoon a portion of the pork mixture onto a lettuce leaf, top with crushed nuts if desired, roll or wrap it up and eat! Simple!
I’m currently hooked on an Aussie reality TV show called My Kitchen Rules. Oh. My. Gosh. Real live drama and cooking competition combined makes great after-work entertainment. Watching this programme really shows how much post-editing TV stations do…it’s so obvious how they pick a couple to focus on each week and make them the ones to love or hate. You should see the real-time comments on Twitter about the contestants and the nicknames they are given. Hilarious! It’s double the fun – watching and tweeting that is! Yeah, I’m hooked – big time!
Anyway, this post has nothing to do with the show I’m just a little distracted. And I’m currently craving for frozen yogurt. Again, not the point of this post.
We’re talking about corn. Sweet, succulent corn – in a can. Don’t diss the canned stuff cos they are good! I always try to have a couple of cans stocked in the pantry because these little, golden morsels of goodness are very versatile and handy for when you’re out of fresh food because you haven’t made a trip to the markets. By you, I mean me. Slack much?
I’ve made these spiced corn fritters before and they are so easy and so good. It’s one of the few vegetarian dishes that I make which the hubs has no qualms about – he actually really enjoys it and doesn’t go “where’s the meat?”. It’s usually served as a snack or appetiser, but make enough of them and it’s a complete, yummy and (rather) healthy meal.
Spiced Sweet Corn Fritters with Sweet and Spicy Dipping Sauce
Adapted from Simply Recipes
Makes about 16 – 20 fritters
- 3/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons red chili pepper flakes
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- 1 cup flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 cups of corn kernels
- 4 spring onions, finely sliced (about half a cup)
- Canola, or peanut oil (a high smoke point oil) for frying
Make the dipping sauce by combining all of the sauce ingredients into a small saucepan. Cook on medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to medium high, let boil for 5-10 minutes or so, until the mixture becomes somewhat syrupy. Remove from heat and let cool. The sauce should continue to thicken as it cools. If it becomes too thick, you can add a little water to it to thin it out a bit.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, ground coriander, and ground cumin in a medium bowl. Add egg, lemon juice and water. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add the corn and spring onions. Stir until just combined.
Heat a large frying pan on medium high heat. Add enough oil to generously coat the bottom of the pan. When oil is hot (shimmering not smoking), spoon about 2 heaping tablespoons worth of fritter batter into the pan to form one fritter, patting it down with the back of the spoon as soon as it is in the pan. Work in batches. Leave about 1/2 inch between the fritters in the pan. Let cook about 2-3 minutes on each side, flipping the fritters when they are nicely browned on one side. When browned on the other side, remove the fritters to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil.
Serve hot with dipping sauce.
This summer in Melbourne is a true reminder of the song by Crowded House – Four seasons in one day. From blazing hot 38C days to chilly 15C. To make the best of it, I enjoy myself by cooking and eating cool summer salads to rich, warming soups all in the same season. Awesome isn’t it?
On one of those stinking hot days (i’m not very good in extreme heat – picture Oscar the grouch scenarios) I really didn’t feel like cooking or doing anything for that matter but I really wanted a light, healthy and delicious lunch. So despite the non-desire to cook, I left behind my personal indent on the couch and moved sloth-like to the kitchen to whip this dish up. And I was glad I did. I love dishes that require such minimal cooking but yield great results. There’s no sweating over a hot stove either – thanks to whoever invented electric kettles and microwave ovens!
PRAWN, FENNEL AND TOFU SALAD
20 medium prawns, shells removed (I used frozen ones)
150g fresh firm tofu (bean curd), cubed
1 small fennel, sliced finely
1 red chilli, seeds removed and sliced finely
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tbsp crispy fried shallots (available from asian stores)
handful of fresh herbs (I used basil and parsley), leaves picked
100g glass noodles (bean thread vermicelli)
1 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2cm piece of fresh ginger, finely grated
Prepare dressing by whisking lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, sesame oil, vinegar and ginger until all the sugar has dissolved.
Cook prawns – you can boil them in a pot or cook them in a bowl of water in the microwave for 5 minutes (or until cooked through), drain and set aside to cool.
Place glass noodles in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave aside for 10 minutes, then drain and cool by running through some cold water.
Assemble salad with all of the ingredients including cooked prawns and noodles except the fried shallots.
Toss salad with dressing, then top with fried shallots. Serve cool. Yum.
I wanted to bake him something different. Something I haven’t made before. I thought long and hard and changed my mind a dozen times. Turned out, I spent way too much time thinking about what to bake that my man’s birthday came and went and the cake was only still a vision in my head. We celebrated his birthday with a amazing meal at Nobu. But still no cake.
Finally I got my act together (a couple weeks late) and decided to go with the classic, old fashioned Blackforest Cake. Yes, for those in the know – I still have cherries and this was a great recipe for using up more of them.
The traditional blackforest cake originated from Germany, and is called Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (black forest cherry torte). Kirschwasser, otherwise commonly known to the rest of us simply as Kirsch is a clear liquor distilled from cherries. Cherries are steeped in a sugar syrup with Kirsch before it is used for the cake. In my opinion, the kirsch-soaked cherries are the best parts of the cake. Well, the chocolate cake, whipped cream and shaved chocolates bits are great too, but the cherries…mmmm…
In my recipe, I used freshly frozen cherries instead of the canned ones, which is often what is recommended in recipes because they already come well soaked in syrup. Many use the canned syrup with kirsch or rum, or on its own if a non-alcohol cake is required.
I prepared the fresh cherries, with a simple sugar syrup…and white port. Oh yes, I broke the rules and used port. I didn’t have kirsch nor rum, only port. There’s sweetness, there’s alchohol…so why not? It worked really well anyway. Rules what rules? I got me some port-soaked cherries and cake…and it was gooooood.
The cake part was a no-brainer – I used my all time favourite chocolate cake recipe and the rest of it was just construction work. So easy yet it can look so impressive.
Happy belated birthday to my favourite person in this world!
Makes a 9 inch, double layered cake
About 500 – 700g pitted cherries
25g caster sugar (more if cherries are not very sweet)
55ml port (kirsch, rum or brandy if you want to substitute)
1/2 cup water
Add cherries, sugar and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat and let it simmer till the water is reduced by half and becomes syrupy. Add in liquor, remove from heat. Let cherries soften and soak in the liquid until cool.
600ml thickened cream
2 tbsp soft icing sugar
Whip cream until almost stiff, then add in sugar and whip until cream holds peaks.
Half the cooled cake horizontally, brush both layers of the cake with some of the syrup and port mixture. Some people like the cake to have more syrup and some prefer the cake without – so it’s up to you how much syrup to soak the cake with. Just don’t drown it.
Spread whipped cream over the bottom layer of cake, and distribute soaked cherries evenly over the cream.
Gently lay top layer of cake over and top it with more cream. Decorate with piped cream, shaved dark chocolate and cherries.
If you’re currently living in London and you haven’t had the Ottolenghi experience, I highly recommend it. For those not in the know, Ottolenghi is a cross between a modern upmarket restaurant with its sleek white and black settings and a home-style kitchen diner with chefs proudly bringing out platters of food to the display counters. You are surrounded by freshly prepared salads, warm dishes and baked goods and they are all designed for sharing. It is their belief that most dishes are at their tastiest and best at room temperature or just warm – so you will not see refrigerated display shelves for their salads, nor bain-maries for their hot food.
True to their philosophy of using fresh, quality produce and clever combinations of raw, basic ingredients – you’ll be able to taste every ingredient in each dish. Nothing is is disguised or smothered by another. Simple, tasty food.
I’ve tried a couple of salad recipes from the Ottolenghi cookbook and they have both been superb – Roasted aubergine with saffron yogurt (yum!) and Chargrilled courgettes, asparagus and haloumi (yum yum!). So this time, I thought I’d try a meat dish.
The original recipe has hazelnuts instead of almonds. I only had almonds and I thought the flavours worked just as well. I loved the combination of juicy roasted chicken, spicy saffron and the sweetness from the nuts and honey. So simple, so tasty.
I shall endeavour to try out more wonderful recipes from the cookbook and bring Ottolenghi to my very own dining table here in Melbourne.
ROAST CHICKEN WITH SAFFRON, ALMONDS AND HONEY
Original recipe serves 4 (which I halved)
1 large chicken, divided into quarters
2 onions, roughly chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
a generous pinch of saffron strands
juice of 1 lemon
4 tbsp cold water
2 tsp course sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
100g unskinned hazelnuts (I used almonds)
2 tbsp rosewater
2 spring onions, roughly chopped (I skipped this, but added a couple of parsnips to bulk up the dish)
1. In a large bowl, mix the chicken pieces with onions, olive oil, ginger, cinnamon, saffron, lemon juice, water, salt and pepper. Leave to marinate for an hour or overnight in the fridge.
2. Preheat oven to 190 deg celcius. Spread the nuts on a an oven tray and roast for 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Chop roughly and set aside.
3. Transfer the chicken and marinade to a large roasting tray. Arrange chicken skin side up and bake for about 35 minutes.
4. While chicken is roasting, mix the honey, rosewater and nuts together to make a rough paste. Remove the chicken from the oven, spoon generous amounts of nut mixture on to each piece and spread it to cover. Return to oven for 5 – 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and nuts are golden brown.
5. Transfer to serving dish and garnish with chopped spring onions.
(As I added parsnips to the dish, I mixed them in with the chicken in step 1 and cooked them for as long as the chicken.)
I go absolutely ga-ga over Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia.
I even took a photo with it when I went to the B&J factory in Vermont five years ago…okay swooning over a poster = not a good look.
I love the full fat version as well as the not-so-fat frozen yogurt version. Love love love! Thus it’s no surprise that I thought of making my very own Cherry Garcia ice cream with my haul of Tassie cherries. It’s such a simple recipe that I kick myself for not making it sooner – B&J stocks very limited flavours in the UK and Australia – it’s always Phish food and Cookie Dough, Phish food and Cookie dough…yawn I’m bored already, show me some new flavours! But now that I have my own homemade CG, I shall fret no more…muahahaha!
Even better, this recipe is eggless which means it’s even easier to make! If you are a CG fan like me, you have to get some of this homemade stuff in your belly right now!
EGGLESS CHERRY GARCIA
Makes about 1.5 pints
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar (most recipes call for more sugar but I didn’t want it too sweet)
200g pitted cherries, whole
200g pitted cherries, roughly chopped
50g shaved dark chocolate
1. Warm up milk, cream and sugar just till the sugar is all dissolved.
2. Add whole cherries to the mixture and with a hand held blender, blitz till smooth.
3. Stir through chopped cherries. Store mixture in a container and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
4. Churn in ice-cream maker, following manufacturer’s instructions. The final churned product will still be soft, so return the ice cream to a covered container and leave in freezer until firmed up. (About another hour or so)
Yesterday was the last day of chinese new year. I missed it completely – not that I was going to do anything special but at least I won’t look like a doof and continue greeting friends with an enthusiastic ‘gong hei fatt choy’ (typical chinese greeting wishing others prosperity for the new year). This year’s ‘celebration’ for my half-white hubster and me included…hmm…nothing. The only thing that saved the dismal chinese heritage in me was the re-creation of one of our favourite chinese new year goodies – pineapple tarts.
Calling these cookies a tart can be very confusing because they are not tart-like in any way. Okay, the original version which I used to make may resemble a tart (somewhat). This was what I did back in London – using a shot glass, coke bottle cap and a knife (creatively unprofessional but hey, it worked!)
Until I get my hands on the actual pineapple tart mould (only available in Singapore/Malaysia), I shall only attempt this new version which is rolled up like a mini pillow – with the buttery, crumbly pastry encasing a little cocoon of sticky pineapple jam. Anyway, these pineapple tarts were lucky. Their existence (albeit a short one) came close to being nulled. I was ambitiously planning to make them in time for the first week of chinese new year. I even bought the pineapples but procrastination took over and the pineapples sat in the bags they came in for a week in the muggy summer heat, and rotted away. Ew…not nice.
I didn’t really want to disappoint the hubs – pineapple tarts are one of his faves – so I went and got new pineapples the following week and got down to it. With hands covered in dough and jam, I finally churned these pineapple pillows out. Those of you who are Australia Masterchef fans will know who Billy is. He’s the queen of desserts and I thought it will not be a bad move using his recipe. And it wasn’t a bad move. The pastry which is what makes or breaks the tarts, turned out the way I wanted it – all buttery and crumbly and melt-in-the-mouth-y.
The jam making process was straightforward enough – no dramas there, and I heeded Billy’s advice to pre-roll the jam before delving deep into pastry rolling and shaping. It seriously helped cut back on time and the potential mess it could create and the pre-rolled jam looked all cute and ready to play their part.
Considering I had 15 days of chinese new year and only managed to bake one batch of pineapple tarts, perhaps I should start planning for Easter now. What do people bake for Easter anyway?
Adapted from A Table for Two
Pineapple Jam Filling:
3 baby pineapples (or 2 cans of shredded pineapples)
200 gram sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1 tbsp honey (or 150g liquid glucose)
2 tbsp wheat flour ( or all purpose flour)
1. Slice and grate pineapples till fine. You can use a food processor do grate it.
2. Strain the grated pineapple till dry.
3. Let it simmer in a pot till the juice dries up. Add sugar, star anise, cinnamon stick and clove.
4. Stir till the pineapple is thick and dry. Add honey (or liquid glucose)
5. Stir till the pineapple becomes sticky and jammy.
6. Add wheat flour. Continue to stir for about 10 minutes.
7. Leave to cool and shape into small balls.
250 gram butter
50 gram icing sugar
2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg yolk (for glazing)
350 gram plain flour (all purpose flour)
50 gram corn flour
IMPORTANT: YOU MUST first roll the pineapple jam filling into balls, resembling a silkworm cocooon. Set aside on a plate.
1. Cream butter and sugar together using an electric mixer until light. Beat in egg yolks one at a time, until well combined. Add vanilla essence and salt and whisk until fluffy.
2. Fold in sifted dry ingredients (plain flour & corn flour) and mix to form a dough. It should be a light crumbly shortbread texture.
3. Roll a tablespoonful of dough into a 5-7cm long tube in your palm, then gently press down with index finger to flatten the dough into an oblong shape, around 0.5cm thickness and 3-4cm wide. You will get the hang of it after a few trials.
4. Place the rolled-out pineapple jam ball on the edge of the strip and roll the dough to wrap around it to form a small elongated roll. Do not overlap pastry. Place the roll on a greased baking tray. Repeat until all dough mixture and jam filling is used up.
5. Preheat oven at 180°C. Use a fork and draw lines on top of the tarts. Brush the rolls with beaten egg yolk. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks before storing in an airtight jar.
New Year’s eve 2012 = sugar overload. What better way to welcome the new year than to be on a high…and if you’re not big on suffering a hangover on New Year’s day, then I would recommend a sugar high from a dessert party. Our friends invited us to their place for a New Year’s eve party to bring in the new year and watch the fireworks, and all guests were asked to bring a dessert. Brilliant!
Obviously, I had to bring something with cherries in it (from our Tassie haul) and I was tossing up between a cherry pie, cherry tart or cherry cupcakes. Cherry frangipane tart won the toss up and I went in search for a reasonably fuss free recipe.
After setting aside enough fresh cherries to give to friends and for our own TV snacking, I still had about 3 kg left. These needed to be pitted before I could make the tart, and freeze for future use.
If you’ve tried pitting cherries using a knife, you would have found that it’s not an easy job and the cherries tend to get mushy from all the man-handling. I found the easiest way to pit cherries without one of those fancy schmancy cherry pitters is to use a paper clip.
Yup you read that right! What you see there is a bent out of shape paper clip. Just search on YouTube for videos on how to pit cherries using a paper clip – you’ll find quite a number out there. It’s easy and very effective.
So back to the tart – I love a good frangipane filling and was looking forward to encasing those sweet cherries in it. Frangipane is usually made from almonds but I have heard of other variations with walnuts and pistachios. Mmm the pistachio version sounds divine but I stuck to the classic almond frangipane this time.
The dessert party was fabulous – there were meringues, baklavas, chocolates, cheesecake slices, italian cookies, ice cream and of course fresh cherries and my cherry frangipane tart. Pity I didn’t have my camera on me to take the full spread of desserts, but a good friend did snap a few of the cherry frangipane tart while I was serving it up…thanks Kelvin!
What a sweet way to celebrate the passing of 2011 and the welcoming of a new one. Have a great 2012 everyone! January is almost over – let’s make the most out of the next 11 months!
CHERRY FRANGIPANE TART
Adapted from Joy of Baking
1 1/2 cups (200 grams) all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated white sugar
3 tablespoons (42 grams) unsalted butter
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (45 grams) almond meal (flour)
1 tablespoon (12 grams) all purpose flour
30 fresh pitted cherries
confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
To make pastry:
1. Beat butter and sugar in your mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add beaten egg until just incorporated.
2. Sift flour and salt together, add to the butter and egg mixture. Mix until it comes together to form a dough. Turn it out on a dusted work bench, knead lightly just to bring the dough together. Flatten and form the dough into a disc, wrap with cling wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Have ready an 8 – 9 inch (20 – 23 cm) tart pan with a removable bottom. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry into an 11 – 12 inch (28 – 30 cm) circle that is about 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick. To prevent the pastry from sticking to the counter and to ensure uniform thickness, keep lifting up and turning the pastry a quarter turn as you roll (always roll from the center of the pastry outwards to get uniform thickness). To make sure it is the right size, take your tart pan, flip it over, and place it on the rolled out pastry. The pastry should be about an inch larger than pan.
4. When the pastry is rolled to the desired size, lightly roll pastry around your rolling pin, dusting off any excess flour as you roll. Unroll onto top of tart pan. Never pull pastry or you will get shrinkage (shrinkage is caused by too much pulling of the pastry when placing it in the pan). Gently lay in pan and with a small floured piece of pastry, lightly press pastry into bottom and up sides of pan. Roll your rolling pin over top of pan to get rid of excess pastry. With a thumb up movement, again press dough into pan. Roll rolling pin over top again to get rid of any extra pastry. Prick bottom of dough (this will prevent the dough from puffing up as it bakes). Cover and refrigerate for about 20 minutes to chill the butter and to rest the gluten in the flour.
5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line unbaked pastry shell with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Fill tart pan with pie weights, rice or beans, making sure the weights are to the top of the pan and evenly distributed over the entire surface. Bake the crust for 20 to 25 minutes or until the crust is dry and lightly golden brown. Remove weights and cool crust on wire rack before filling.
Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C).
Frangipane and cherry filling:
1. In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the sugar and butter until creamy. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract until smooth. Add the almond meal and flour and beat until it forms a smooth paste. Fill the cooled tart pastry with the filling and spread it evenly.
2. Arrange the cherries in the frangipane filling. Bake for about 25 -35 minutes, or until the frangipane is puffed and light brown in color. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Once cooled, dust with confectioner’s sugar.
Best served with a dollop of cream or vanilla ice cream.
It’s the last day of 2011!!! Oh my, how time flies. This has been an amazing year starting off with our final months in the UK, enjoying a luxurious Mexican vacation, saying farewell to our wonderful friends in the big smoke, witnessing my brother in law’s wedding in Vietnam, moving home to Melbourne Australia, setting up a new home, starting and ending a new job within a few weeks, enjoying funemployment for a few months and now here I am, fresh from my Christmas vacation in beautiful Tasmania and ready for 2012. Busy no?
I’m very thankful for all of God’s blessings, including a year of good health for me and my family and friends. I’ve also had a few blissful month of funemployment, but I am also pleased to say that I will be back in the rat race starting next week. New year, new job, new hopes, new adventures. I can’t wait!
One of this year’s many blessings is this.
Meet my new and totally adorable friend – my PINK Cuisinart ice cream maker. I think I’m becoming more and more of a girly girl. My once black, blue and grey wardrobe is being taken over by splashes of colours, pink included. And this trend has obviously seeped into my kitchenware! Gaaahhh!
So with this new pink gadget, I decided to make a more “manly” ice cream. A dark, super duper chocolatey ice cream. It’s easy, and egg-free and this method of making ice cream with corn flour guarantees a creamy and very smooth dessert.
Have a wonderful new year’s eve, go a little crazy cos you can, don’t drink and drive and may 2012 start off with a bang (yes to fireworks!) and filled with more deliciousness in your lives! xx
Eggless Very Chocolate Ice Cream
Serves 4 – 6
350 ml whole milk
350 ml cream
1/2 cup sugar
4 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
3-4 tablespoons of corn starch
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1. Whisk together 200 ml of the milk with the corn starch, making sure that there are no lumps. Set aside for now.
2. Blend the remaining milk, cream, sugar, salt and vanilla extract in a sauce pan. Warm until steaming hot on medium heat. Now, stir in the cocoa and corn starch mixture with the rest of the ingredients in the sauce pan. Barely reaching a boil, cook and stir continuously for about five minutes, or until the mixture begins to thicken.
3. Reduce the heat and continue to stir for another five minutes until the mixture has thickened even further.
4. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool down. Refrigerate for a couple of hours and prepare according to the instructions of your ice cream machine
Christmas is a time for caring and sharing. The best way to brighten someone’s season is to share some sugar. Add touches of sweetness to the last few crazy days before the Christmas holidays. I started making cookies last year as Christmas cheer and gifting them to close friends and colleagues. This is a tradition I’d like to keep for as long as it gives me joy to bake and share.
I saw this gorgeous creation on one of my favourite blogs and I knew straightaway that it would be my 2011 Christmas cookie. To make it an even sweeter deal, it’s a shortcut recipe using box cake mix! Bliss. You can’t imagine how much time that saved me.
There’s something about red velvet cake or cookies that is deliciously beautiful. The white chocolate drizzle set against the rich red cookie is a perfect Christmas picture.
The cheesecake part of the cookie is really the filling in the cookie. It’s like a pleasant surprise to an already yummy cake-like cookie. I love how easy it was to make these, and how much more satisfying it was to bring a smile to those who received them.
Add a few pieces of string, a plastic bag, a cardboard with pretty words and voila! A package of Christmas cheer.
I’m off to Tasmania with the hubs and I’m looking forward to a week of sunshine, hiking, beaches and catching up with old friends over good food and drinks.
Have a safe and happy Christmas everyone! Thank you for your support and encouragement for droolfactor this year. See y’all in 2012 for more yummy goodness!
RED VELVET CHEESECAKE COOKIES
Adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod
Makes 10 giant cookies
For the cookies:
1 box red velvet cake mix (I used White Wings Devilish Red Velvet)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the cheesecake filling:
110g cream cheese, at room temperature
65gm icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the white chocolate drizzle:
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips, melted
In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together cake mix, flour, eggs, oil and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap.Refrigerate for at least two hours.
For the cheesecake filling, using a mixer, combine cream cheese, icing sugar, and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth. Using a teaspoon, scoop out cheesecake filling and place on a plate. Continue scooping out cheesecake filling into teaspoon balls until you have 10. Place plate in the freezer and freeze for at least two hours.
Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide the dough into ten equal portions. On a piece of cling film, roll a portion of the dough into a ball, flatten it (I found it easier manipulating the dough using the cling film as it sticks to the hand and fingers and not on the cling film).
Place a teaspoon of cheesecake filling in the center and wrap the cookie dough around the filling. Gently roll into a ball and place on prepared baking sheet and flatten it slightly till it becomes a thick even disc. Note: Original recipe did not require flattening of the dough into a disc which resulted in a thick cookie. I believe the spreading of the cookie will vary depending on the cake mix. Test bake one cookie first just to be on the safe side.
Only bake 3 or 4 cookies at a time. The cookies are large and will spread. Bake for 11-13 minutes or until the cookies begin to crackle. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. Remove from baking sheet to a wire cooling rack and cool completely.
Melt the white chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl or over a double-boiler. Drizzle the white chocolate over the cooled cookies. Let the cookies set until the chocolate hardens.
There are days when the hours seem to slip by so quickly and stealthily and soon enough the sun’s setting and it’s time for dinner and oh my gosh, I haven’t prepared anything yet! Yes, yes – this is even when jobless me is at home all day fiddling around. You see, if I’m actually at work, I tend to plan ahead a lot more and usually I have something prepared, defrosted or planned for dinner.
Thank God for pasta. It has got to be one of the easiest and fastest meals to whip up…aside from baked beans on toast of course. Well, this linguini was done in 30 minutes tops, and only because the pasta took time to cook and the prawns needed to be defrosted in the microwave. It’s quick and delicious and pretty much a fail-proof, mid-week, when you’ve-forgotten-to-prep-for-dinner kinda meal.
Chilli Prawn Linguini
400g shelled, green prawns
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp dried chilli flakes
handful of fresh basil leaves
400g tinned tomatoes
salt and pepper
Cook pasta in large pot of boiling, salted water according to packet instructions
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large frying pan on medium. Cook prawns for 1-2 minutes, until they begin to change colour. Add in chilli and garlic. Cook for another minute before adding in tinned tomatoes, including all the juices. Season to taste and stir through basil leaves.
Drain cooked pasta, reserving half a cup of the cooking liquid. Toss the pasta through the sauce, adding in some of the cooking liquid to get a smooth, glossy coating of sauce throughout.
I’m wilting. It’s all UK’s fault. Living in the UK for the past four years has made me less tolerant to hot summer days. I’m talking about real, hot, Aussie summer days. I’m ashamed to say, summer’s only just started downunder and I’ve already started whining. Can’t imagine when the mercury hits forty degrees (celcius) and above! Help me!
To cool off, I’ve started with summer recipes, including this refreshing sorbet. I’ve got my eye on an adorable pink Cuisinart ice-cream maker but have not gotten around to purchasing it just yet. The good thing is this sorbet does not need fancy ice cream makers to churn it. All you need is a fork. Yup, let’s do this the old fashioned way.
I found some beautiful nashi pears at the market and they are usually delicious and juicy on their own, however my craving for coolness gave me the inspiration to use them for my first sorbet of the season. Unlike their creamy counterparts, this fruity sorbet is light and delicate and is a perfect dessert for a hot summer evening.
Nashi Pear and Honey Sorbet
Serves 2 – 4
2 Nashi (Asian) pears
1 tbsp honey
Juice and zest of half a lemon
Place a shallow dish for your sorbet in the freezer. This cools the dish and allows the sorbet to firm up faster.
Bring water and sugar to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for a couple of minutes. Add the peeled and quartered pears to the syrup and simmer for another five minutes. Add honey and stir to dissolve halfway through.
Set the pears and syrup aside for five minutes before adding the lemon juice and zest. Set aside to cool.
Once cooled, blend the pears and syrup in a food processor to a smooth purée. Push the mixture through a course sieve into the dish which you placed in the freezer earlier. Return the dish and pear mixture into the freezer.
Use a fork to whisk the sorbet every 30 minutes. The sorbet should become fluffier and paler. Sorbet should be ready in approx 2-3 hours.
When the rest of the world prepare for winter and the Christmas holidays, I’m bracing myself for summer and my first summer Christmas after four blissful wintry ones. It feels weird. No more warm apple ciders or spicy gluhwein, instead of Starbucks Christmas cups filled with Gingerbread Latte, it’s Christmas blend frappes. BBQ and fresh salads take the place of roasted dinners and hearty stews. Stash away the woolly scarves, gloves and coats, bring on the sunblock, bikinis and flip flops. It’s a summer Christmas down under and yes it’s going to take some getting used to again, but I’ll cherish it all with open (and soon-to-be tanned) arms. I’ll miss my white Christmas, but I’m game for a change. Well at least for one year anyway.
Not the point of this post, which is really about a boy’s birthday cupcakes. Naturally, when I think of boys (actually men in their 30s in this case), I think of darker colours and flavours – perhaps dark chocolate, coffee, maybe a cheeky dash of alcohol…
I had none of that, and I wasn’t quite inspired that day to go the dark way. Blame the bright and beautiful summer days. So I opted for blue. Blueberries in this case – a simple, moist vanilla cake with juicy blueberries topped with a decadent cream cheese frosting.
Blueberry cupcakes – good for a boy, good for summery days.
Adapted to make 12
(original recipe yields 24 – 30, and quantity stated in brackets)
97.5 g cake flour (1 3/4 cups)
70 g plain flour(1 1/4 cups)
225 g sugar (2 cups)
1/2 tbsp baking powder (1 tbsp)
pinch of salt (3/4 tsp)
115 g butter, cut into cubes, room temp (1 cup)
2 eggs (4 eggs)
1/2 cup milk (1 cup)
1 tsp vanilla extract (2 tsp)
3/4 cup blueberries, plus 1 tbsp flour (1 1/2cups / 2 tbsp flour)
1. Preheat oven to 160 deg celcius. Line cupcake pans with paper liners and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment combine flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt; mix on low speed until combined. Add butter, mixing until just coated with flour.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla. With mixer on medium speed, add wet ingredients in 3 parts. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl before each addition. Beat the batter until ingredients are thoroughly combined, but do not overbeat.
4. In a medium bowl, gently toss the blueberries with 1 tablespoon of flour, then carefully fold the blueberries in the batter.
4. Use a large scoop to divide batter evenly among liners, filling about 2/3 full. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 – 24 minutes.
4. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Cream Cheese Frosting
Original quantity for 24 – 30 cupcakes stated in brackets
113 g cream cheese (8 oz)
57.5 g butter, softened to room temp (1 cup)
160g confectioners sugar sifted (2 pounds)
*Note: If I had halved the original recipe, I should have about 450g confectioners sugar but I think that is waaaayyyy too much, so I adapted it and only used 160 g.
1. In a the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together, cream cheese and butter until well combined.
2. With the mixer on low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar until thoroughly incorporated and smooth.
I am such a slacker!!! Sorry folks, it just seems that leisure days are more difficult to manage than when I was working. Time between blog posts have been too far apart, and I apologise. It’s not that I haven’t been cooking…don’t worry, the hubs is well fed and watered. Procrastination and telly time have simply taken over my life for a bit. I’m back now so let’s move things along.
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Jamie Oliver’s recipes. Right next to me is one of his latest cookbook – Jamie’s 30 minute meals. I enjoy watching the series and marvel at how easy and quickly he whips up those 30 minute meals. What they do not show on TV is the crew of people he has in the background prepping and cleaning after him…which makes the 30 minute meal into realistically a 45 to 60 minute meal. However there is no doubt he’s planned the dishes well and they are indeed easy to cook and absolutely delicious.
I bookmarked one of Jamie’s 30 minute meal dishes – Piri piri chicken – and was really keen to try and make my own piri piri sauce. Piri piri is actually a small, spicy member of the chilli pepper/capsicum family which some refer to as the African bird’s eye chilli. My very first experience of Piri piri is from the famous Portuguese style grilled chicken dish – juicy, spicy barbequed chicken that is constantly basted in the spicy piri piri sauce. Nando’s is a famous restaurant chain that serves up this chicken dish with your choice of mild, medium or hot sauce. I like mine hot. Mmmm…
Compared to the bottled sauces which is very much a generic tangy and spicy sauce, this homemade rustic version tasted of fresh ingredients like chillies, herbs and smoky paprika. I liked it a lot and would recommend your own tweaking to suit your tastes. I would add a little more vinegar or lemon juice and less of the paprika next time because my sour taste buds were craving for more tang. But that’s just me – I used to love those super sour candies called super lemon, where the best part of eating it was to see all your friends’ faces cringe from the sourness and I also enjoy eating the actual lemon slices that serves as a garnish in iced teas. So unless you’re like me, I’d say stick to the recipe and you’ll be right.
One word of warning if you do try this recipe – beware of the chilli and vinegar fumes if you decided to sniff in the perfume of freshly processed chilli sauce. I did that straight after blending the sauce and popping the cover of the liquidizer (food processor). Oooh boy…stay at least two nose lengths away from the processor. Trust me.
PIRI PIRI CHICKEN
Adapted from Jamie’s 30 minute meals
1 red onion
4 cloves of garlic
1-2 bird’s eye chillies
2 tbsp sweet smoked paprika
4 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
large bunch of basil
4 large chicken thighs, skin on bone in
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
6 sprigs of fresh thyme
8 baby potatoes, halved, unpeeled and parboiled for 6 minutes*
Pre heat oven to 200 deg C.
Peel and roughly chop red onion and add to the liquidizer with 4 peeled cloves of garlic. Add the chillies (stalks removed), paprika, zest of 2 lemons and juice of 1 lemon. Add white wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, a good pinch of salt and pepper, the bunch of basil and swig of water. Blitz until smooth.
Slash flesh side of the chicken thighs a few times, drizzle with olive oil and season. Brown chicken in a hot pan ( i used an ovenproof casserole pan) till golden on both sides. Remove chicken and set aside.
Slice the peppers into strips and add to the pan, char peppers for about five minutes. Set aside. Brown parboiled potatoes for another five minutes in the pan. Pour the piri piri sauce into the pan with the potatoes, then return chicken pieces and peppers to the sauce and scatter the sprigs of thyme on top.
Place pan into the oven and cook uncovered for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
Serve straight from the oven with a side of salad and rice or crusty bread.
* Jamie’s original recipe did not have potatoes.
This one was created out of boredom. I’m what you may call a ‘lady of leisure’ nowadays except that shopping, afternoon teas, manicures and massages are not the order of the day. I’m not THAT kind of lady of leisure. Most of the time, I’m on the computer doing some freelance design work, looking for a job, watching TV, going to the gym and cooking. It’s become quite a routine actually and one that I’m kinda ready to give up (well, almost). I do have some activities I have yet to do – like museum visits, taking up a new sport, charity work etc. All talk for the moment, I might just get my butt off the couch and make them happen. Might.
So anyway, I felt like baking one day and had some of that wonderful fig jam from my trip to a berry farm recently, and I had one apple left in my crisper. I know my crisper sounds quite pathetic, it usually have several fresh veggies and fruit in it, but on this day that I decided to bake, the solo apple was it. Either that or it was half a head of cabbage…Hmm.
I browsed through some websites, looked through my cookbooks and decided that I’ll whip up a cake that used both the fig jam and apple. I also threw in some leftover walnuts that I had and the whole combination was actually quite delish.
The cake turned out moist, thanks to the shredded apple and sticky figgy bits from the jam. I didn’t add in too much sugar bearing in mind that the jam will already add sweetness.
If I do try this again, I might add little bit of cinnamon or maybe a handful of raisins to add another dimension to a subtle fruity cake.
FIG JAM AND APPLE LOAF
125g butter, softened
1/2 cup (100g) firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups (225g) self raising flour
1/2 cup (160g) fig jam
1 cup shredded apple (I used one medium apple)
1/2 cup (125ml) milk
25 g chopped walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line a loaf tin.
Beat butter and sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time until just combined.
Stir in flour, jam, apple, walnuts and milk in two batches. Spoon cake mixture into prepared loaf tin.
Bake in oven for about 45 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Serve warm and if you’re indulgent like me, serve warm with a little spread of salted butter. Guilty but yum!
I made a major boo boo in my last post by not stating that the oven temperature (and all future ones too!) is in Celcius and not Fahrenheit. My apologies to the fahrenheit folks out there who attempted to make the Oreo cupcakes and waited FOREVER for your cakes to cook in 180 F. Yikes. Major. Mistake. I promise never to do that again!! Ever!!
I have only ever used the metric system so I’m a major doofus when it comes to miles, fahrenheit, yards, foot, ounce etc etc. Conversions means math. And math and I aren’t good friends. I am forever grateful to Diana’s Desserts which has this handy conversion site specifically for baking, for without it, I would be in a complete conversion mess. There are countless conversion sites out there, but Diana’s site is bookmarked on my computer and it’s totally my handy helper in times of baking.
So anyway, as mentioned in my last post, I have a fail-proof Oreo cheesecake recipe which has been in my collection for many years and so here it is. I normally bake this in a slightly smaller springform pan (8″) which means there’s a thicker layer of cheesecake to indulge in. However since moving back to Australia, I only have one springform pan which is 9″ and so I ended up with a wider, thinner cheesecake. Not too big a problem as I only needed a couple more crushed oreos to add to the base. Everything else remained the same.
If you’re still a little Oreo crazy after all my talk of Oreos, you’d want to give this a try. It’s easy, delicious and looks darn impressive. I love that it is such a forgiving cake, it makes amateurs like me look good.
COOKIES AND CREAM CHEESCAKE
Make one 8″ cake
1 cup crushed oreos (approx 12 cookies)
1 tbsp melted butter
1 x 250g pack cream cheese, softened
1 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
20 Oreos broken into small pieces
Mix crushed oreos with melted butter and press onto bottom of springform pan. Chill in the fridge while you prepare the other ingredients.
Preheat oven to 150C. Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla with electric mixer until well blended. Add eggs one at a time at low speed.
Remove chilled base from the fridge. Pour cheese mixture over the crust. Sprinkle broken oreo pieces over the top.
Bake in the oven for an hour or until the centre is almost set. If it’s a teeny bit jiggly, it’s okay as it will set further after it comes out of the oven. Cool before removing from the pan. Refridgerate for an hour or more before serving.
I’m a little obsessed with anything Oreos. I remember in the 90′s when cookies and cream was hip and happening. My greatest indulgence was cookies and cream thick shake. Large one please!
It seems the fad has died down in the last decade (oh my, I can quote decades means I’m old, yikes) but the infamous little chocolate sandwich of cookie and cream is far from passé. It’s very much alive and dear to our hearts and our flabby tummies can attest to that. In my collection is a never-fail, totally delish oreo cheesecake recipe that I’ve had for years. I’ll post that soon, as I made one recently and just haven’t come round to writing about it. But this is a newbie for me and it’s definitely staying in my collection – Oreo cupcakes. I made these for a friend’s birthday earlier this month and to date it’s my favourite cupcake recipe.
The cake part of the recipe is from a fellow food blogger – and for the life of me I can’t seem to remember who!! If you do know, please let me know and I’ll point it out to others. (Sheesh this is becoming habit – note to self – I have to make a point to remember which blog recipes are from!) But this is one of the best cookies and cream cupcakes I’ve had. Chunks of cookies and a super moist chocolate cake – heaven! Literally, break up a regular size Oreo into cup cake liners as seen below, and pour in a surprisingly runny chocolate cake batter.
See how runny the batter is? Yeah, don’t freak out. It makes the best chocolate cake base.
The frosting is made from whipped cream which is one of my favourite because it reminds me of the cookies and cream thick shake I used to indulge in. It is one of the simplest frostings to make but oh-so-lickably-yummy. I stood there for the longest time licking the bowl clean after I was done frosting the cupcakes. There was quite a bit leftover, and I ate it all! So, so good and so, so bad for me.
I managed to find the mini Oreos to top the cupcakes, but if you don’t have that, just use a regular sized Oreo and break it in half. Or even whole, if you prefer an equal cookie to cake ratio. My cupcake’s quite small, so the mini ones worked well.
Makes about 18 cupcakes
- 1 1/2 Cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 Cup natural unsweetened cocoa
- 1 1/4 Cup sugar
- 3/4 Teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 Teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 Teaspoon salt
- 2 Eggs
- 1/2 Cup vegetable oil
- 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 Cup milk
- 3/4 Cup hot water
- 18 Oreos plus 6 more for crumbs
- small snack size box of mini oreos
Preheat the oven to 180C degrees. Line tray with baking cups.
Break Oreos into smaller pieces and disperse evenly in the bottom of each cupcake liner.
Mix the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl using a whisk. Then add the eggs, oil, vanilla, milk, and mix well until throughly incorporated. At this point, the batter looks normal and thick.
Then add the hot water and mix until is it combined. Now the mixture should be a much thinner liquid. (See photo above) Transfer batter into a large measuring cup and fill each cupcake cup about 3/4 full. Bake for 16-18 minutes. Repeat the baking process for any remaining batter.
- 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tbsp. whipping cream
- 3 tbsp. powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 6 tbsp. Oreo cookie crumbs
In the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the whipping cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract. Beat on medium-high speed until the whipped cream holds stiff peaks. Gently fold in the cookie crumbs with a spatula.
One of my favourite daikon radish dishes is this – Singapore style soon kueh (turnip dumplings). The original dumpling has a savoury filling made from what is known as a chinese turnip or jicama. However using the daikon was stemmed from the fact that I lived in the UK where turnips are mostly swedes which were not suitable and there were no jicamas in sight. The daikon is versatile and its texture is similar and makes for a good substitute.
I bought a ginormous daikon recently and was intending to cook it in a soup but a bout of peckishness and craving made me change my mind and I rolled up my sleeves for some kneading and moulding action.
I’ve made this dumpling before with a different recipe for the pastry and I wanted to try out a different recipe that is known as the ‘crystal’ version. This meant that the skin of the dumpling is translucent when cooked rather than the opague version that I made before.
I’m pretty sure this isn’t the best recipe, because I found the pastry to be a little too tough and chewy. A good crystal dumpling is nice and translucent with a soft skin that has a slight chew. Having said that, the dumplings were still yummy and the hubs and I shared a large plateful for dinner, with loads to spare for breakfast. It’s probably a strange idea for many of you that we have the same kind of food for dinner and breakfast. Probably like having cereal for dinner – which by the way is becoming quite norm for young people in Australia! (Source: some morning show in Australia, can’t remember which one)
The truth is that in Singapore, these dumplings are usually eaten more as a snack (morning or afternoon) and sometimes as breakfast. I don’t follow rules very well and decided I wanted them for dinner. The hubs just eats whatever I cook and so breakfast food for dinner it is! Yay!
In comparison to the two pastries (crystal and opague), the crystal version is a lot easier to work with as it starts off sticky but ends up clean and easy to mould. The other one was much softer and fiddlier (is there such a word?) but it was also softer and less chewy after it’s been cooked.
Might give a different crystal pastry recipe a try next time. For the opague version and filling recipe, go to my soon kueh post.
CRYSTAL DUMPLINGS (Pastry recipe)
Makes about 20-24
375 g Wheat Starch
180 g Tapioca flour
450 ml Boiling water
3 tbsp Vegetable oil
Oil for greasing
Put wheat starch and tapioca flour into a mixing bowl, pour in boiling water and mix quickly with ladle or big spoon. Cover and leave aside for 15 minutes.
Add in oil and knead into a pliable dough. Roll out in a cylinder about 1.5 inches in diameter. Cut with a sharp knife into 3/4 inch slices. Dab a little oil on both sides of the slice and roll out gently into thin round shapes. Cover the rest of the dough with a damp cloth while working to prevent them from drying out
Place 2 teaspoons of filling in the centre of each slice of dough and fold in half. Seal the edges by pressing together.
Steam dumplings for 15-20 minutes and brush with oil after removing from steamer. Serve with crisp fried shallots, sweet caramel soy sauce (kecap manis) and chilli sauce.
Atrocious. I have been away for too long! Went away last week to Sydney with the hubs. He was there for work, while I played tourist. It’s great to be funemployed for a while. I’m still enjoying the break. Usually by this time, I’ll be itching to go back to work, but not right now! Loving spring in Melbourne, loving the time I have to potter around. I’m sure I’ll get bored of this soon enough.
I also planted my first crop of herbs in two galvanised buckets. They started of as seedlings and are flourishing under my care *ahem* It’s quite a surprise really, because I’m not known for my green thumbs. Let’s hope they continue to grow and be consumed throughout the summer months!
I can see more parsley and dill recipes coming this way. For now, I do have a fabulous chimichurri recipe to share. I couldn’t use all of my homegrown parsley as they were still busy growing…so I supplemented with a store bought bunch. I have a chimichurri recipe that I used while in the UK but I think this one’s the one I’ll be using from now. It’s simple, fresh and delicious.
Chimichurri is basically a green sauce originating from Argentina. It is made mostly from parsley and is totally delicious as a marinade or served with grilled meat. I had a couple of grilled thick, juicy steaks recently and served them with this. The combination of herbs, garlic and vinegar lifted the already juicy and delicious grilled steaks and brought them to a whole new level of yum. The Argentinians sure knew what they were doing.
If you haven’t had chimichurri before, you HAVE to try this.
Enough for 2 – 4 steaks
- 1 cup firmly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, trimmed of thick stems
- 2-3 garlic cloves
- 2 Tbsps fresh oregano leaves (can sub 2 teaspoons dried oregano)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 Finely chop the parsley, fresh oregano, and garlic (or process in a food processor several pulses). Place in a small bowl.
2 Stir in the olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Adjust seasonings.
Serve immediately or refrigerate. If chilled, return to room temperature before serving. Can keep for a day or two.
Need to go to the gym more to make up for baking a little too much these few weeks. I believe it’s a phase I’m going through, a phase the hubby very much appreciates I’m sure.
To make space in my freezer for freshly bought produce I got from the market, I thought I’d use up some of my frozen blueberries. I found this recipe a while back but don’t remember where from. All I remember was that it was supposed to be a coffee cake – you know, the kind with no coffee and lots of sugary streusel on top? I decided not to go with the streusel topping and just baked the cake on its own.
Turns out, you don’t need the extra sugary topping at all. I love streusel coffee cake, trust me. Made a huge one before and ate it all! However I feel that this cake was good on its own. Don’t overbake the cake and you’ll get this delightful creamy cake that is not overly sweet. It looks deceivingly dense, but it was light and crumbly. Good with a big mug of tea!
Right, here’s the recipe. I’m off to the gym! Gah!!!
BLUEBERRY SOUR CREAM CAKE
225g cup butter, softened
225g castor sugar
60g brown sugar
200ml sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
190g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 cups blueberries (optional – dust berries with 1 tbsp flour)
Preheat oven to 190 C. Butter and flour a springform tin. With a mixer, cream the softened butter and two sugars. Then add the eggs, one at a time, until well mixed. In a separate small bowl, fold the vanilla into the sour cream. Then fold the sour cream mixture into the bowl with the cake batter.
In a separate larger bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt. Pour this mixture into cake batter bowl with mixer on low to medium. Then fold in blueberries.Bake for 50 minutes to an hour or until the middle of the cake springs back when touched.
Peaky batch. After making macarons a number of times, it’s still pretty hit or miss with these little diva shells. I got the beautiful peaky shiny meringue. I got the ‘magma’ flowing mix with the almond meal. I piped, tapped the trays and waited. Yet there were still stubborn peaks on the macaron shells. I’m thinking my magma wasn’t quite flowing right.
One thing about macarons. Whether they are smooth and pretty or not so pretty slightly deformed mounds – they all taste the same. Good same. Yummy same.
On a recent trip home from a snow weekend, we stopped by a berry farm. I know fresh berries aren’t in season during winter, but the farm was open, and there were berry products which we could taste! Free tastings are always good right? There were berry jams, berry wines, syrup, sauce – all things berrilicious. I left with a wonderful jar of chunky and sticky fig jam and a smooth and shiny apple and elderberry jelly.
This is the first time I’ve filled macs with ganache and am really glad to say they’re a perfect fit. I used the apple and elderberry jelly to flavour the white chocolate ganache and the subtle fruity flavours came through just enough. Could have done with a bit more of a fruity hit but I didn’t want to add on more jelly as the sugar high from one of these mamas would have been ridiculous!
Summer’s on the way (read BERRIES galore!!), so next time I’ll add fresh berries to the ganache instead.
In the meantime, here’s the recipe. I’m off to enjoy another round of Glee marathon before I break into Season 3. Yes, I’m a Gleek!
200g almond meal
200g confectioners’ sugar
150g egg whites, divided into two 75g portions
Line baking trays with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
Process almond meal with confectioners’ sugar in a food processor. Sieve out any large bits of almond.
Combine sugar and water in a saucepan. Heat on medium until all the sugar is dissolved.
Meanwhile, place 75g of egg whites in a mixer bowl with the whisk attachment.
Continue cooking until the sugar syrup reaches 118 C. While the sugar is cooking, begin whisking the egg whites. They should reach stiff peaks by the time the syrup is at 118 C. If it whips too fast, turn down or turn off the mixer.
Turn the mixer speed to low. Carefully pour the sugar syrup in a slow stream into the mixer.
Turn the mixer speed to high and let the meringue whip for several minutes until it has cooled and appears glossy and firm.
In a large bowl, combine the almond meal mixture with the remaining 75g of egg whites until partially combined.
Scoop the meringue on top of the almond meal mixture. Using a spatula or dough scraper, carefully fold the meringue in, trying not to deflate it.
The final batter should be thick and flow slowly like magma. Do not overmix.
Pipe 1 ½” rounds of batter onto the prepared baking sheets. Let the sheets sit for about 20 minutes to let the shells harden.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 160 C.
Bake one set of macarons for 12-14 minutes, rotating once.
Let tray cool for a few minutes before removing from the silicone mat. Let finish cooling on wire racks.
APPLE & ELDERBERRY WHITE CHOC GANACHE
50ml pouring cream
100g white chocolate
5 tbps apple and elderberry jelly
Bring cream just to the boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat, add chocolate, stand until melted (5 minutes), stir until smooth and glossy. Refrigerate until firm yet still pliable (45 minutes-1 hour) then stir until smooth. Add jelly, stir till fully combined.
It’s my last week at my current job (woo hoo!) and a huge part of me is looking forward to lounging around, cooking, baking, more lounging, watching TV, more lounging around, eating and sleeping next week. I don’t expect to be hired again straight off the bat, so a little me time is in store. Yay! I have a number of things planned for me time. Baking – yes. TV watching – yes. Curb my impulsive Scoopon, Groupon purchases – yes, yes, yes! Between hubby and I, we have purchased five things via scoopon and groupon in the last month. It’s getting out of hand! Help me!
One of the scoopon deals is a 3-hour cupcake workshop – I’ll be sure to keep you updated on that. I’ve made cupcakes many times before but a proper class might be loads of fun! Can’t. Wait.
Today’s post is still on sweet bakes, but not the cake or frosting kind. Hong Kong style egg tarts. I’m not a big fan of egg custard tarts. I do enjoy one at the occasional yum cha lunches (dim sum for some of you) and once in a blue moon, I may just buy one from a chinese bakery. However I promised the hubs that I will bake him some egg tarts (about 3 weeks ago) and I finally fulfilled that promise. Egg tarts come in two different forms. One has a shortcrust butter pastry base and the other a more flaky puff pastry base. I don’t mind either – I’ve had really good versions of both before and I’ve had really bad versions as well.
I came across this post where a fellow blogger, Christine from Hong Kong had special requests to translate her Chinese recipes into English. That to me is a sign that the recipe must be a good one. And I’m glad she translated her recipe so I could give it a try. And I did. And it was good. Real good.
This is a shortcrust pastry style tart. A good egg tart to me has a buttery, slightly crumbly but firm tart base with a soft, just-set custard that is not too sweet or dense. If you over bake these tarts, it might be rock hard and yucky. If you under bake it, the insides including the custard may be too runny or not set properly. Christine had wonderful tips on how to bake the tarts to perfection. (I’ve included her tips below – if you do make them, follow the instructions!)
The tarts turned out beautifully. Buttery shortcrust pastry with just the right amount of crumble. The custard was perfect – not too sweet, just firm enough to hold its shape but still jelly-like, soft and creamy. I loved the taste so much, I broke my single egg tart consumption history and had two of them at one sitting! These tarts are best eaten freshly cooled from the oven. The twenty minute wait (for the tarts to cool) I made the hubby endure was quite torturous but he promptly inhaled the tarts soon after. Not a crumb left.
Thanks Christine for the recipe! And for adding to the inches on both of our waistlines.
HK STYLE EGG TARTS
Recipe from Christine’s Recipes
For the crust:
- 225 gm plain flour
- 125 gm butter
- 55 gm icing sugar
- 1 egg, whisked
- a dash of vanilla extract
Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer over medium speed until the mixture is smooth, fluffy and light in color. Add in whisked egg, half at a time, beat over low speed. Add vanilla extract, mix well.
Sift in flour in two batches, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions with a spatula, and make sure all ingredients combine well. Knead into a soft dough.
Roll out the dough to a 1/2 cm thickness. Cut dough with a cookie cutter that is just a bit smaller than your tart tin in size. Line dough in the middle of tart tins. Lightly press the dough with your thumbs, starting from the bottom then up to the sides. While pressing the dough, turn the tart tin clockwise/anti-clockwise in order to make an even tart shell. Trim away any excess dough.
For the custard:
- 3 eggs
- 110 gm caster sugar
- 225 gm hot water
- 85 gm evaporated milk
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Add sugar into hot water, mix until completely dissolved. Whisk egg with evaporated milk. Pour in sugar water. Mix well. Sift egg mixture to get rid of any foam. Carefully pour egg mixture into each tart shell.
Baking the tarts:
Preheat oven to 200C. Position rack in lower third of oven. Bake tarts for 10 to 15 minutes until the edges are lightly brown.
Lower the heat to 180C. Keep an eye on them. Once you see the custard being puffed up a bit, pull the oven door open about 2 to 3 inches. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes until the custard is cooked through. Just insert a toothpick into the custard. If it stands on its own, it’s done.
Extra baking tips:
- Placing tarts on the lower rack in the oven cooks the crusts easily and prevents the custard from heating up too quickly.
- At the very last stage, pull the oven door open a few inches. This is to avoid the custard from being puffed up too high. The custard will collapse once they are cooled down and you want to prevent this from happening.
- To check if the custard is set, stick a toothpick in the custard when it’s almost ready and if the toothpick stands on its own, the custard is set. The custard may still look a bit on the soft side, but if the toothpick stands, it’s good! Trust the toothpick!
Some people are able to run their lives like well-oiled machines – stable, unchanging. Some people rock it with crazy happenings everyday and live by the motto of “go get ‘em or else”…For me, I feel like I’m just unsettled – not simple, not rocking it either. Probably due to the fact that we moved to a whole different continent about 4 months ago. Although it’s back to where we call home, the feeling like we haven’t quite completed our journey is still hovering around.
Hubby and I are super blessed to have found an apartment to rent really quickly, we found jobs speedily too and we’re back into life as we once knew. Well…not quite. I’ve resigned from my brand new job – yes after just 2.5 months of action. It just wasn’t what I expected. It just wasn’t something I could see myself doing for the next few years. I had to leave. I’ve never ever done this in my life – probation period definitely holds new meaning for me now! So yeah, it’s back to square one.
Plus I just read an update from an acquaintance’s blog of their thoughts from a recent miscarriage. Made me super sad, which explains why I’m so melancholic at the mo. Sorry!!!
However, having said all that, I know I should be thankful – for all of God’s amazing blessings in my life. Especially for my hubby who is ever so gracious and supportive – I could quit a thousand jobs and he’ll still be okay with it. Thank you hunny! You’re the best! It’s now written for the world to see, so you can’t take it back !!! I love you!
I am also thankful that simple, pleasurable things do exist. Like this baked swordfish dish I made a while back, and the fact that tomorrow will be the first day of spring. Yippee!
EASY BAKED SWORDFISH WITH HERBS
Adapted from cuisine.com.au
- 4 medium sized swordfish steaks (about half an inch thick)
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 ripe tomatoes, halved, juice and seeds removed, and chopped
- 3 tbsp chopped parsley
- 1 tsp thyme leaves
- 1 tsp rosemary leaves, finely chopped
- 1/2 clove garlic, finely chopped
- Splash of white wine
- Juice of half a lemon
- Extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 180C.
Season fish with salt and pepper and place in an ovenproof dish. Combine the tomatoes, herbs and garlic in a bowl, then sprinkle over the fish. Add the white wine, lemon juice and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes or until just cooked through.