Thursday, September 30, 2010

Watercress soup (and Naan)

Watercress and pork rib soup - delicious with some buttered crusty loaf, or in my case, naan!

Give me a pot of watercress soup and I can probably finish it all, slowly but surely. I thought I had made a big pot of it for dinner, but it went down so easily that we finished the entire thing. I knew that bunch of watercress was deceptively huge once I unbundled it, but shrank tremendously after simmering on the stove for a few hours.

I love this soup. It's delicious, highly nutricious and so simple to prepare. All you need are pork ribs and watercress (a big bunch of it), and slowly simmer them on low heat for a few hours (I had it on for 4 hours). Well, depending on how soft you want the watercress to be, you might want to add them later instead. Then, just season with salt and pepper. If necessary, add some chicken stock if there isn't enough sweetness from the pork. And that's it! All ready! The pork ribs can be eaten with some cut red chilli and soy sauce. And the soup goes well with some buttered crusty loaf. We had our soup with some leftover naan that we heated up in the oven, and it was truly yummy!


Japonais's like eating a Kinder Bueno cake, but more decadent!

I came across the recipe for Japonais in "Ultimate Cake" by Barbara Maher. A Japonais is a classic french pastry with traditional almonds and mocha filling. This version uses hazelnuts and chocolate ganache. I had never had it before this, but it looked easy to make and one of the ingredients was potato flour. I was curious about this flour as I had never used it before. Apparently, it is made from boiled, sieved and dried potatoes and produces a delicate, airy texture. So after chancing upon the flour at the supermarket one day, I bought it and decided to try out this recipe.

Recipe adapted from "Ultimate Cake".


For the Japonais:
150g caster sugar
100g roasted hazelnuts, finely ground
45g icing sugar
4 tsp potato flour
4 egg whites

For the filling and decoration:
Chocolate ganache:
300ml heavy/double cream
300g plain chocolate, chopped

4 tbsp roasted hazelnuts, finely chopped
8 whole roasted hazelnuts


1. Mark two 24cm circles on baking sheets. Mix half the caster sugar with the hazelnuts, icing sugar and potato flour.
2. Whisk the egg whites into soft peaks. Gradually whisk in remaining caster sugar until they form a stiff, glossy meringue. Fold in nut and sugar mixture until evenly mixed.
3. Spread mixture equally within the marked circles to form two flat discs and bake in preheated oven (160°C) for 1 hour, or until meringues are dry and crisp. If using both top and bottom oven racks, switch racks after 40 minutes and extend baking time by 15-20 minutes. Leave in oven with door slightly ajar to cool for 1-2 hours. Carefully lift off the lining paper after they have cooled.
4. Spread half the ganache over the base of one meringue disc. Cover with second disc, smooth-side up. Spread remaining ganache over the top and sides of cake.
5. Press most of the chopped nuts onto the sides, and arrange the whole nuts around the top. Sprinkle the centre with remaining nuts.

To make ganache:
1. Pour cream into a small pan and slowly bring to boil over a gentle heat. Take it off the heat and gradually stir in chocolate pieces until well incorporated.
2. Leave to cool in refrigerator until firm but not set.

If you love Nutella and you love Kinder Bueno, you will love this. The meringue is light and crisp, acting as a vessel for the hazelnuts, and blends nicely with the rich chocolate ganache. It is a rich and decadent dessert, and best eaten within 2-4 hours after it's made. Keeps in the fridge for 4-5 days.

Light, crisp and flaky hazelnut meringue sandwich filled with rich chocolate ganache and covered with chopped hazelnuts

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Chocolate Truffles Galore!

We were invited to a party last weekend and I couldn't think of anything to bring for the host, except perhaps buy a box of chocolates. Then I figured it would be a good idea to bring homemade ones instead. Truffles are easy to make (although it was my first time making them), they taste heavenly melt-in-your-mouth and it's fun making different coatings for them.

Ingredients for Truffles:

200g good quality dark chocoolate, chopped or broken to small pieces
160ml thickened / heavy whipping cream
20g butter


Toasted and chopped hazelnuts, almonds etc
Crushed Oreo cookies (without the cream filling)
Milo (gives it some crunch!)
Cocoa powder


1. Place cream and butter in a pot and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to avoid splattering.
2. Pour over chocolate pieces and let it sit for 5 minutes.
3. Whisk mixture till smooth and glossy, making sure all the chocolate is melted. Refrigerate overnight.
4. Prepare coating ingredients by placing them in a dish.
5. Working quickly with a teaspoon, scoop the chocolate into little irregular-shaped balls and roll them in the coating till evenly coated. If chocolate starts to melt and gets harder to work with, put it back in the fridge to harden before making again.
6. Place ready truffles on baking / parchment paper, cover and store in fridge. These can be eaten cold or at room temperature.

I also tried coating some toasted pecans in melted chocolate, then dipping them in crushed oreos for a second coating. These are yummy too!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Filo Tomato Rice Parcels

I made these for lunch today as there was leftover tomato rice in the fridge from the other night (but no more lamb!). As I felt like eating something more substantial, I thought it would be nice to wrap it up in filo pastry (which I had gone out to buy this morning) and have that with two of my favourite foods - mushrooms and egg.

This was ready in less than 20 minutes. All I had to do was take 2 sheets of filo pastry, brush them with melted butter and fold them in half. Then I placed a mound of the rice in the centre and wrapped it up into a little parcel, and popped it in the oven at 200°C for about 15 minutes. Once golden brown and crisp, I took it out of the oven and brushed it with more melted butter (for a little extra shine!). Then I served it with a fried egg and sauteed mushrooms, with a generous squeeze of ketchup and Sriracha chilli sauce. This would go really well with some sweet eggplant relish/chutney.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Strawberries & Cream Puffs

Strawberries and cream puffs - crisp, golden domes of choux pastry, lightly dusted with icing sugar and filled with fresh strawberries and whipped cream

These cream puffs (or profiteroles) are crisp on the outside, fluffy and buttery on the inside. I made some whipped cream with vanilla and a little sugar. I also mixed some of the cream with rose syrup. As there was some red bean paste in the fridge, I mixed some of it with the cream to make a creamy red bean filling. These choux pastries are easy to prepare and are best eaten immediately so that they maintain their crisp exterior. Fantastic drizzled with chocolate sauce!

Choux pastries filled with custard, fresh cream and strawberries, drizzled with hot chocolate sauce and lightly dusted with icing sugar

Tomato Rice and all that's Spice

Yum-yum spicy lamb rump with tomato rice and topped with a fried egg

Chilli and spices seldom make it to our dinner table nowadays as the kids still shy away from eating food that looks red-hot spicy or has little bits of chilli in them. But perhaps that's because I use the word "chilli" to dissuade them from eating certain foods that they shouldn't be eating  (doesn't work on ice-cream and lollies though). I should probably stop doing that and slowly assimilate chilli into their diet. Perhaps last night was a start. Well, I thought the food looked spicy but it wasn't.

I had a half-opened bottle of tomato paste (leftover from marinara night) and some lamb that had to be used up. I didn't want to make a stew with lamb rump, so I decided it would be nice to grill it instead. As for the tomato paste, I decided to use it to make tomato rice, which I haven't made since a department fund-raising event at work many years ago.

Preparing the rice is easy. Here's what I used:


3 cups rice (approx 450g)
3 cardamom pods
1/2 star anise
2 inch cinnamon stick
2 cloves garlic
1 onion, sliced into half-rings
50g butter/margarine
2-3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp salt
Handful of raisins/sultanas
300ml chicken stock
Chopped coriander leaves for garnishing
Fried shallots
Cashewnuts (optional)
Ketchup (optional)

1. Wash rice and put aside. Heat up 1 tbsp of oil with the butter/margarine in a pan/wok, and fry the dry spices. Then add garlic and onion and fry till onion softens.
2. Add tomato paste and mix it in.
3. Add rice, raisins and salt. Fry till everything is well incorporated.
4. Place in rice cooker, pour in chicken stock and add water to top up to correct level (as per cooking normal white rice). Start cooking!
5. Once cooked, stir, taste for seasoning, and serve garnished with chopped coriander, fried shallots and cashews. Add a fried egg sunny-side up for extra yum. Serve with a little ketchup (optional).

Preparing the lamb is even simpler:


400g lamb rump steaks
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
Lemon wedge


  1. Preheat oven to 220°C. Combine all the dry spice ingredients in a bowl. Dip the steaks in and coat evenly with the spice rub.
  2. Heat up a little oil in the pan (the same one used for frying the rice above) and sear the lamb steaks for 1-2 minutes on each side.
  3. Place steaks in a baking dish and bake in oven for 10-15 minutes (or cooked to your liking). Remove and rest the steaks for the same amount of time it was in the oven for.
  4. Cut into slices and serve with tomato rice and a wedge of lemon.
So there you go! How easy was that? Another hit with the family! :)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fish, Nori and a little Sriracha


I've been trying to get the kids to eat more fish recently, so I bought some ocean perch fillets over the weekend as they are a nice smooth flaky fish. I found some panko crumbs and nori sheets in the pantry and decided to do crispy crumbed nori-wrapped fish nuggets. As all the kids were at home, I had to prepare something quick and easy for their dinner, so this seemed like a good idea.

First, I cut up the nori sheets into strips. After slicing the fish into bite-sized nuggets (seasoned with salt and pepper), I simply used strips of nori to wrap around the fish, sealing them with a little beaten egg. Then I prepared 3 bowls which had flour, a beaten egg and panko crumbs. Then it was simply dip-dunk-and-crumb and into the deep-fryer (or just a wok with enough hot oil for deep-frying). And unlike deep-frying chicken, fish only takes a minute or so to cook. I also prepared a Sriracha mayo dip to go with it, using one part Sriracha chilli sauce to two parts mayonnaise. It has a nice tangy garlicky flavour that goes well with the crumbed nori fish. We loved it, and most importantly, it was a hit with the kids too.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Easy Spaghetti Marinara

I think pastas are great. They are easy to prepare, minimal mess in the kitchen, a wonderful one pot meal and you can throw in just about anything you like into it. I was inspired to make marinara for dinner after walking past our neighbour's apartment and catching a whiff of what smelt like grilled calamari. So, I decided to make spaghetti marinara for dinner that night.

I searched the web and found Giada's recipe for marinara sauce. It looked simple and had rave reviews. Based on her recipe, I added some tomato paste, parsley and mixed herbs for a little more flavour. I wanted the sauce to be more liquid, so I also added about a cup of water to it. I omitted the celery as I didn't have any at the time. It turned out great and the kids loved it!

Here is the recipe I used, adapted from Giada de Laurentiis:


1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp dried Italian herbs
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
400g canned crushed tomatoes
1 dried bay leaf
600g mixed seafood (mussels, fish, prawns, calamari, squid etc)

300g dried spaghettini, cooked till al dente


In a large casserole pot, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent. Add the celery and carrots. Saute until all the vegetables are soft. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, dried herbs and bay leaf, with a cup of water and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the seafood to the sauce and cook for about 3-4 minutes or so. Stir in chopped parsley and serve over cooked pasta.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Love a Pavlova

Pavlovas are an Australian thing. They never really excited me. Basically, a pavlova consists of fruits and cream served over a piece of meringue, like a meringue fruit trifle, or an Eton Mess. Before I made this, I had never had pavlova before. I decided to make it only because I had leftover egg whites in the fridge, and I figured if it didn't turn out well, at least it was only egg whites and sugar that went into it.

Well....I have to say, seriously, that these pavlovas are GOOD. Perhaps it's because this was my first time eating it, so there was an element of surprise when I took a bite of the fruit, cream and meringue combo. I was expecting it to be an overly sweet dessert. However, the freshness and tartness of the fruits balanced perfectly with sweetness of the crisp and gooey meringue, rounded off with the smooth whipped cream that seemed to blend everything together in one mouthful. It was a harmonious combination of textures and flavours. The meringue was delicate, light and crisp on the outside, and the inside was soft and gooey, just like marshmallow. This dessert has done justice to its name, being aptly named after Russian ballet dancer Ánna Pávlova, very delicate and very light.

I made mini pavlovas as we wouldn't be able to finish a whole pavlova in one go. They can be stored undecorated in an airtight container for 2-3 days. So it's a real handy dessert that you can make in advance (for parties and guests) and assemble them quickly when needed. Dear H loved eating this so much that she took over my share (after I had only one bite) and started digging at the meringue and cream covered fruits, turning it into her own "Eaten Mess".

The recipe I used was adapted from Good Taste Magazine.

Preparation Time

20 minutes

Cooking Time

45 minutes

Ingredients (serves 4)

For the meringue:
  • 3 egg whites
  • 155g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • 1/2 tsp white vinegar or lemon juice
For the topping:
  • 300ml double cream
  • 1 tbs icing sugar (optional)
  • 2 tbs frozen raspberries/blueberries
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 kiwifruit, peeled, halved lengthways, thinly sliced crossways
  • 4 strawberries, hulled, thinly sliced (optional: macerate with a little caster sugar to soften the strawberries )



  1. Preheat oven to 120°C. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper.
  2. Use an electric beater to whisk egg whites in a clean, dry bowl until stiff peaks form. Gradually add the sugar and whisk until dissolved. Rub a little between fingers to make sure there is no graininess from the sugar. Add cornflour, vinegar/lemon juice and vanilla and whisk until thick and glossy.
  3. Spoon onto baking sheet to form four 10cm-diameter meringues. Make a slight dip in the centre of the meringue so that the outside edge is slightly higher. Bake on lowest shelf of oven for 45 minutes or until hard to the touch on the outside and marshmallow-like in the centre. Turn oven off and leave pavlovas in oven, with door ajar, for 30 minutes to dry. Remove from oven and carefully lift off baking paper. Store in airtight container for up to 3 days.
  4. For the topping, whip cream to stiff peaks, adding sugar towards the end if used.
  5. For the coulis, place frozen berries in a saucepan with caster sugar, lemon juice and water, simmer for 5 minutes and adjust to taste accordingly.
  6. Just before serving, spread cream over the top of the Pavlova and pile the coulis and fruit decoratively on top.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Simply Steamed Barramundi

I love fish. The kids love fish too, especially the kind that is deep fried in crispy beer batter and served with a mountain of chicken-salt-laden potato chips. Fortunately, I don't have to recreate that at home in order to give them their weekly supply of brain food. They also love to eat their rice, and when served with a steamed flaky white fish like barramundi, they gobble it down so quickly and ravenously that it brings me close to tears (of joy) instead of tearing my hair out trying to feed them.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Soon Kueh - The Sequel

I wanted to try making Soon Kueh again with a different recipe for the dough, plus, I also had leftover turnip in the fridge. The last (or first) time I made it, I used rice flour, tapioca starch and oil. This time I found a recipe on Lifestyle Food which uses wheat starch flour (dung meen fun) instead of rice flour. I wanted the skin to be similar to that of Har Gow (prawn dumplings) found at Dim Sum restaurants, translucent with a springy texture, and wheat starch flour does the job. I was happy with the way the dumplings turned out. They were chewy and springy with just enough bite, and eaten with crispy prawn chilli and my trusty friend, ABC chilli sauce, it's yum!

Here's the recipe for the dumpling skin:

Soon Kueh Dough


165 gms wheat starch flour - Tung Meen Fun
85 gms tapioca flour
420 ml hot boiling water
5 tablespoons oil


  1. Mix wheat starch flour and tapioca flour in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add boiling water and mix thoroughly using a plastic rice cooker server or plastic dough scraper till you get a translucent like dough.
  3. Cover with cling wrap and let it rest for 10 minutes.
  4. Add oil gradually and knead into a smooth dough.
  5. Roll out dough into a long sausage roll and divide into about 15 pieces for wrapping the dumplings.

Cheesy Pasta and Ribs Nite

Z, my fussy little 4-year-old, came up to me, opened his mouth and showed me a little brown morsel of half-chewed meat at the tip of his tongue. "Mummy, what's this?" he asked. I hesitated for a moment, wondering if he planned to spit it out if I told him what it was, in which case I would have to think of an alternative answer. "Bbq pork rib," I replied. He closed his mouth and resumed chewing. "Do you like it?" I asked him quickly. He answered me with a nonchalant "Yes". Oh yes. Approval from my biggest food critic. I'm ecstatic. No, really, I am glad that I now have one more item to add to my repertoire of "Food my kids will eat without giving 10 excuses not to".

We had purchased a bottle a Jack Daniel's Barbecue Sauce a few weeks ago, as seeing it brought back delicious memories of dining at TGIF restaurant, where we would always order the JD-glazed ribs. We have only dined there 3 times: Melbourne, San Francisco and Orlando. Unfortunately, there is no TGIF in Sydney. So we would just have to make do with JD in a bottle.

Rack of ribs resting on the roasting rack

First I prepared a dry spice rub for the ribs. Using what I had in the pantry, I mixed these ingredients together:
Smokey paprika
Garlic powder
Ground cinnamon
Brown sugar
Black pepper
White pepper

The ribs were washed and patted dry, then prepped by rubbing some oil on them as the dry spices are more soluble in oil than in water. Then, the spice mix is rubbed and pressed onto both sides of the ribs, giving them a nice thick coating. I left them in the fridge for a couple of hours before pulling them out to roast in the oven at a low temperature of around 120°C. After an hour, I covered it with aluminium foil and continued to cook it for another 3-4 hours till the meat was tender. Thereafter, I removed the foil, turned up the heat a little and left it to roast for another half hour while basting it with the barbecue sauce, turning once. When it was almost done, I placed it under the grill/broiler for a few minutes on each side until the surface of the ribs started to bubble and caramelize to give a nicely charred flavour.

I skimped on the barbecue sauce while basting the ribs as I wasn't sure how it would taste (and I also didn't want the kids to OD on whiskey). Yummm..... it turned out delicious, and I will definitely brush more glaze on it the next time so that there's extra to lick off the fingers!


I wasn't sure if just one rack of ribs would be enough to feed the whole family, so I decided to make Penne and Cauliflower Cheese Bake as an accompaniment. Initially, I had wanted to make mac and cheese, but I didn't have any macaroni in the pantry. It's basically garlic, bacon and mushrooms, sauteed in some butter with cream cheese, milk, dijon mustard and lots of cheddar cheese added to it. Then placed in a baking dish, topped with more cheddar  and breadcrumbs, sprinkled with paprika and baked in the oven for half an hour. Super easy and tasty! And dear H loves this one!

Penne and cauliflower cheese bake

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Chicken Pad Thai

Chicken pad thai with bean sprouts and garlic chives, garnished with ground peanuts and chilli flakes

It was only when G and I came to Australia that we started eating a lot of Thai food. That's probably because half of the restaurants in Sydney (okay, maybe I exaggerated a little...slightly less than half perhaps) serve Thai cuisine. I usually order a Pad Kee Mao and G will, without fail, order his favourite Pad Thai. So, while we were out on our grocery run this morning, G asked if I wanted to make Pad Thai for dinner. We had recently watched an episode of Poh's Kitchen on TV this week and there was a segment on preparing this dish. So we decided to try it out and bought all the necessary ingredients.

The way it was prepared on TV looked quick and easy. Of course, it would have been better if we had a cast iron wok over a flaming hot stove, but our Tefal non-stick wok did the job just fine. We didn't have prawns (as used in the recipe), so we added chicken instead. The pad thai turned out fantastic, almost as good as the one we had at Thai La-Ong in Newtown some time back. It was moist and had the right balance of sweet, salty and sour. Great texture in the noodles too, and I simply loved the sweetness of the red (spanish) onions in it. No more takeaway pad thai for us! Or perhaps not for me at least.

Chicken Pad Thai
(Source: Poh's Kitchen)


Pad Thai Sauce:
  • 45g palm sugar
  • 35g tamarind juice
  • 8g tomato sauce
  • 3g salt

  • 1 tbs vegetable oil
  • 50g dried rice stick noodles, medium
  • 2g eggs
  • 50g prawns, shelled
  • 10g onions, red
  • 10g white pickled radish, diced (Thai product also called preserved turnip)
  • 30 - 40g tofu
  • 40g bean sprouts
  • 20g garlic chives
  • 2 tsp peanuts roasted, crushed
  • 1 tsp dried red chillies, roasted
  • Lime wedge (to serve)



  1. To make tamarind juice, dissolve one part tamarind with two parts of warm water. Using fingers, break up the lumps and let stand for a few minutes. Drain and discard fibre and seeds.
  2. To make the Pad Thai Sauce add palm sugar, salt and tomato sauce to the tamarind juice.
  3. Soak approximately 50 grams of dried rice noodles for 30 minutes and drain. This will yield about 120 grams. Pre blanch prawns in hot water that is slightly salted and cool down.
  4. Reserve some bean shoots and chives for garnishing. In a wok heat some oil and sauté half the amount of sliced red onions.
  5. Add beaten eggs and sauté for a few seconds stirring and breaking up the lumps, remove from heat and set aside. Heat the remaining oil and add the rest of the onions.
  6. Add the noodles, prawns and all the remaining ingredients including the sauce. Toss for about a minute or two and check for seasoning.
  7. Serve on a plate with two teaspoons of crushed roasted peanuts and crushed red chilli flakes on the side. Garnish with bean sprouts, chives and a wedge of lime and serve immediately.

Crunchy Choc Chip, Pecan and Almond Cookies

Freshly baked choc chip cookies cooling on the rack
Z had a craving for chocolate chip cookies yesterday, so I told him that I would make some for him today. My cousin R was kind enough to share her recipe with me. The only variation that I made to it was the addition of vanilla extract. I also used chopped pecans and almond slivers. The cookies came out great with an amazing texture that was light and crunchy. Initially, I had planned to make a separate batch with only choc chips without nuts in them, but H had mixed the chips and nuts together in the bowl before I could stop her. So, when Z saw that there were nuts in the cookies, he totally lost interest in them! H however was not as fussy and ate a couple. Well, so much for baking cookies for the time, I should probably keep the kids out of the kitchen when I'm baking!

(I only used up half of the cookie dough as that already yielded about 80 bite-sized cookies, and I can't imagine how we are ever going to finish them! I rolled up the remainder dough in clingwrap and stored it in the freezer so that they are ready to be cut and baked the next time anyone in the house has a craving!)

Crunchy Choc Chip, Pecan and Almond Cookies

250g butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 egg
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 1/2 cups of self raising flour
1 cup choc chips
1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1 1/4 cup almond nibs, roughly chopped


1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees celsius.
2. Beat butter, brown sugar, caster sugar and egg till well blended. Add cocoa, flour and bicarbonate of soda and beat on low speed till combined.
3. Add choc chips and nuts and mix well.
4. Spoon onto baking tray lined with baking paper. Compress it so that it holds its shape. If dough is too soft, refrigerate until it firms up slightly before shaping the cookies. I used about 1 tablespoon to make small-sized cookies.
5. Bake for about 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Asian-style "Buffalo Wings"

I will always remember the buffalo wings I used to have back in Singapore at Jerry's BBQ located at Jalan Kayu many years ago. The wings had a crispy batter and a shiny deep red coating of sweet, tangy and spicy sauce. It was almost reminiscent of chinese sweet and sour pork. Hence, we used to refer to them as "Gu Lao Wings".

The kids love to eat chicken, and they love ketchup. Well, Buffalo wings is kind of ketchupy, so I thought it would be a good idea to make some "mock" Buffalo wings for dinner last night. I didn't have any hot sauce in the pantry, so I came up with my own version instead.

After doing some research on the internet, I came across a recipe by Alton Brown which I found interesting because instead of deep-frying the wings, he steams them first, then puts them in the oven to roast, and it claims that the wings comes out crispy. Wow, no-deep-fry-crispy-chicken-wings! I had to give it a go.

I followed the recipe, except that when it came to the roasting part, I dipped the wings in some melted butter before putting them in the oven. I thought it might give them a little boost for some extra crunch. Well, the recipe didn't really work for me. Next time, I might just bake them straight in the oven without steaming first because I don't think it makes much of a difference (except that maybe the steaming helps to draw out a lot of the chicken fat). Roasting is more healthy than deep-frying anyway, and less mess in the kitchen.

So my wings were ready and all that was needed was the sauce. I prepared two sauces. For the kids, I used oyster sauce, ketchup, hoisin, worchestershire sauce and sugar. The other was prepared using the same but with the addition of tabasco, ABC extra hot chilli sauce and szechuan peppercorn. I heated up the sauce in the wok, and tossed the wings in to coat. A few chopped spring onions and a sprinkling of sesame seeds, and it's ready! How easy is that? And tasty too!

Baked chicken wings in a sweet, sour and spicy sauce

Pineapple "Crumble" Tarts

It's the Hari Raya season and I thought I'd join in the festivities by making some pineapple tarts. These tarts come in various shapes and sizes, but I like the open-faced tarts, which are round cut-out pieces of pastry with a ball of jam in the middle. I also like the ones made with the nastar mould (the rolled up ones). However, as I did not have the particular shaped cookie-cutter nor mould, I made them into little round balls instead.

Golden caramelised pineapple jam

I made the pineapple jam using canned and fresh pineapples, combining both elements of sweetness and tartness. The pineapple that I had bought the previous day was not sweet enough to eat on its own, so just as well, it went into making the jam. The pineapples were grated and cooked down with sugar to an amber colour. It turned out well, still juicy and not overly sweet, with a subtle hint of spices which were cinnamon, star anise and cloves.

Pineapple tarts fresh out of the oven...smells heavenly!

In making the pastry, I added some cornflour to the dough to create a more delicate texture. The pastry was then shaped into round discs and filled with little round morsels of jam, then rolled into a ball with a clove stuck into it. I think it looks pretty this way :)

Delicate little gems filled with luscious pineapple jam
 This was my first attempt at making pineapple tarts. That probably explains their "rustic" appearance in the photos. The jam filling was still moist and juicy, partly due to it being enclosed in the pastry, and hence protected from being dried out in the oven. The addition of the cornflour to the dough produced a more delicate and flaky texture, such that it crumbles and melts in your mouth together with the luscious jam filling to yield the perfect bite. That's the measure of a good pineapple tart.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Twice-cooked Pork Belly, two-ways

Since the kids came along, I always have to make sure there is something on the dinner table that the kids will eat. That means no spicy food and no leafy green vegetables. Sometimes, I have to prepare a separate dish for them just to please their palates (otherwise they will insist on getting fish and chips or naan). Last night, I decided to use up the slab of pork belly sitting in the freezer, and instead of the usual soy-braised pork that has almost become a staple for the kids (and us too), I thought I'd do a twice-cooked version of it. Killing two birds with one stone. I'd do half of it spicy, and the other half, non-spicy for the kids.

First the meat had to be boiled/poached first so that it's tender. Then it was left to cool before I cut it into thin slices. I divided them into two portions, and with one half of the portion, I stir-fried it with a teriyaki base that I prepared using soy, sugar, mirin and sake. With the other half, it was a stir-fry with garlic, red capsicum, hoisin, oyster sauce, sugar, pepper and salted fish, and also chilli paste for some heat. I had run out of ginger, otherwise that would have gone in as well. Both versions were delicious, and all prepared using the same method but different ingredients. And minimal washing up to do!

Recipe (approximation):

900g pork belly

Version I: Teriyaki sauce:

1 tsp garlic, chopped
1 tsp grated ginger
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup mirin
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons sake
1 tbsp water
Version II: The other sweet and spicy sauce:
1 tsp garlic, chopped
1 tsp grated ginger
1½ tbsp hoisin sauce
½ tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp chinese cooking wine
1 tbsp fried salted fish, chopped (otherwise you can use salted bean paste)
Chilli paste
2 tbsp water
Dash of salt to taste
Red/green capsicum, sliced into thin strips
Place the whole pork in a pot of boiling water and simmer for about 1½ to 2 hours till tender, remove and let it cool, then slice thinly. Divide into 2 half portions (sauce recipe above is for 450g pork).
Fry the garlic and ginger, (then for Version II, add salted fish and capsicum and fry for a minute), then pour in sauce ingredients and bring to boil. Then add sliced pork and toss till evenly coated and sauce thickens. Add more water if necessary. Taste for seasoning. Dish up and garnish with chopped spring onions and coriander leaves.

Sliced pork belly stir-fried with salted fish, capsicum and chilli
Thinly sliced pork belly coated in teriyaki sauce

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Apple Crumble

I love apple crumble for at least 3 reasons:

1. It's super easy to make.
2. I love the many variations you can make to the fruit and crumble topping.
3. It's 75% fruit, so I don't have to feel guilty about eating too much of it.

And of course, needless to say, it's crunchicrumblelicious.


Easy step #1: Peel, core, dice and cook apples (I used Granny Smiths). Easy enough, but I got distracted and overcooked my apples by a weeny bit.
Easy step #2: Prepare the crumble mixture, which is made up of flour, butter, caster sugar and brown sugar, and I added almonds which I had in the pantry. Just rub them together with your fingers. No equipment required!
Final assembly: Place apples in baking dish, sprinkle crumble mixture (and extra sugar on top for a sugary crust) and bake for 20 minutes.

I just thought of a 4th reason to love apple crumble:

4. You don't even have to wait for it to cool down before eating. Just grab a spoon and dig in!

Apple and almond crumble..,,absolute YUM!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Soon Kueh

After successfully making chwee kueh over the weekend, it seemed appropriate to try my hand at making soon kueh as well. How difficult can it be? Well, I realised that it needed lots of time and patience to be able to roll these little dumplings out, which, I did not have. 

There a few steps to making these dumplings.  First, the ingredients for the filling need to be prepared.  That involved shredding the turnip and carrot (by hand) into juliennes or little matchsticks, then cutting them again into shorter strips. These are then stir-fried with pork mince and mushrooms, and then left to cool. This was the easy part.

Next comes the dough, which is made up of rice flour, tapioca starch, boiling hot water and oil. These are combined to form a soft dough, a bit like mushy sticky rice. The trick is then to roll these out into thin flat rounds, fill them with the turnip mixture and seal them without breaking them. And then these are transferred to a greased pan and steamed for 10 minutes.  My pan could only take 3 to 4 pieces at a time, and my batch yielded 17 (I threw away one which fell apart during the wrapping process). The next tricky part was removing the cooked dumplings from the pan without tearing the skin. Getting around this problem involved brushing lots of oil onto anything that came into contact with the dumplings. Otherwise, I'd find myself in a real sticky situation.

The dumplings came out fine, looking close enough to the real thing. The earlier batches were better though as I rolled out the dough thinner. That was before little J woke up and I had to speed things up a little after that. But hey, now I know how soon kueh is made, and it's actually not that hard. All you really need is time and patience (and don't do it on a hungry stomach).

The prepared filling for the dumplings - diced turnip, carrots, mushrooms and pork mince.

Dumplings fresh out of the steamer

Soon Kueh served with ABC chilli sauce, crispy prawn chilli and drizzled with some kecap manis. YUM!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Chocolate Sticky Date Pudding

This is the second sticky date pudding I have ever made. The first was the traditional pudding and it tasted sensational, thanks to a great recipe. Most recipes for sticky date pudding are quite similar, except that some may have a higher proportion of dates to flour.  After a successful first attempt, I decided it was time that I tried the chocolate version.  No, it wasn't a chocolate cake with dates in it. Instead, finely chopped chocolate bits are folded through the date and flour mixture, so that after it's baked, it still looks like sticky date pudding, but with tiny pockets of melted chocolate incorporated within. G and I agreed that this version was even better, and the kids seemed to think so too (although they kept calling it chocolate cake), not forgetting the lashings of warm butterscotch sauce (love love love!) that made it even more moreish. Sticky date pudding is such a perennial classic and is a welcome treat especially on cold winter nights!

Melting Moments

I love these rich buttery melt-in-your-mouth cookies with a layer of icing sandwiched in between. If I can't make macarons, well, these will just have to do for now. I made a batch of these, with the intention of making passionfruit-flavoured ones. I remembered I still had that half bottle of rose syrup in the pantry that I was trying to use up. So I took a portion of the icing mixture and added a few drops of rose syrup and lemon juice to it. It was pinkalicious. Z loved the pink ones too, so I saved most of them for him.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Father's Day Breakfast Fry-up

Happy Father's Day to all Aussie fathers!  For some reason which I cannot fathom, Father's Day in Oz is different from international Father's Day, which makes it difficult for some of us to buy Father's Day cards (or sometimes even remember the day itself) for dads who celebrate the latter. 

Anyway, I decided to prepare brekkie today (which usually consists of toast and the usual condiments) from the store of bacon, sausages, eggs and mushrooms we had in the fridge.  I then assembled the toast (smothered with some Praise mayonnaise), mixed salad leaves, bacon, sauteed mushrooms, and eggs sunnyside-up, with an extra side of pork chipolata sausages.  Here's to you, Daddy!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Chwee kueh

I used to have chwee kueh (literally means "water cake", but it's actually kind of a savoury steamed rice pudding) for breakfast back in BP a long time ago.  Personally, I think the BP chwee kueh is the best!  Simply made from rice flour and water, then steamed, it is topped with preserved radish and served with 2 sauces - an orangey coloured chilli sauce, and the infamous purple sweet sauce.  Here, I've managed to come up with a reasonably good version of it, except that I still don't know the secret of the purple sauce.  Instead, I served it with some crispy prawn chilli and a drizzling of kecap manis.  Truly truly scrumptious!