Friday, December 31, 2010

Sambal Belacan Roast Chicken with Corn

On Christmas day, we dropped by at Auntie Nancy's house for a visit and were treated to a sumptuous spread of teatime delights, namely scones, cookies, quiche and cakes. I am amazed at how she managed to prepare so much delicious food, and on top of that, she also baked some chicken, which we got to "da pao" (ie. takeaway) later. I didn't find out what she put in the chicken, but the kids loved it as they had it for their dinner when we got home. There wasn't any left for the adults, although I managed to taste a little of it as I polished some of the remaining bits of meat off the bone. It was tasty but I just couldn't place what seasoning she used, until much later. I think it was sambal belacan, just a hint of it, which is why it wasn't too spicy for the kids. There was also corn on the cob, lightly covered with specks of chilli flakes. Mmm...yummy.

And so, inspired by the roast chicken that I never really got to eat, I decided to make something similar (based on what I think it was). You can't really go wrong with roast chicken as it is relatively easy to prepare and you don't really need a recipe. Here, I basically prepared some sambal belacan and used that to marinade the chicken and the corn, then baked them in the oven for about an hour. Easy and delicious!

Sambal Belacan Roast Chicken with Corn


2 large chicken thighs
Corn on the cob, cut into pieces

Marinade, combined in a bowl:
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp thick dark soy sauce / kecap manis (optional)
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tbsp olive oil

Sambal belacan:
4 long red chillies, sliced
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tbsp belacan, toasted in a pan
1-2 tbsp lemon/lime juice, or to taste
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste


  1. Combine the marinade with 1 tbsp (or more if preferred) sambal belacan. Rub all over the chicken and coat well. Roll some of the corn in the sambal belacan. Place in a foil-lined oven proof dish and cover with foil. Leave chicken to marinade for 3-4 hours.
  2. Place the chicken and corn in a preheated oven at 210°C. After half an hour, remove foil top and continue to bake for another half hour or until cooked. Place under hot grill for about 5 minutes until chicken skin is lightly charred. Serve with extra side of sambal.
  3. Sambal belacan: Using a mortar and pestle, pound chillies, garlic and belacan until almost fine. Add the rest of the ingredients, mix and adjust accordingly to taste.

Sambal belacan

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ginger and Wine Chicken with Thai Basil

It has been a long time since I last updated my blog as I just returned from my 3-week vacation with the family. The abundance of good (and cheap) food in Singapore and Malaysia has kept me busy, and in fact, I can't remember having gone hungry at all during those few weeks. Forget the calories, they always say enjoy yourself and eat as much as you can while you're on holidays. After all, it will be a long time before I have another holiday like that.

Now that we're all back to reality (which I must admit felt a bit strange when I first stepped into the house as it felt like I was in a new and unfamiliar place; even the floor felt different), it's time to get cooking again. We had to restock the refrigerator and pantry with basic supplies, so the first thing that came to mind was to cook some rice with chicken for the children. I came across my cousin Rachel's blog that day and she prepared a "3 Cup Chicken" ("Sam Pui Kai") dish which looked so tantalizing that I decided to cook something similar. I have heard of this dish before, but never tried it, so I don't really know what it should taste like. My version of it is pretty much the same, with a few minor tweaks here and there. I had also prepared a vinegar chilli sauce which was actually meant to be eaten with the chai poh omelette I made as a side dish. The chilli goes very well with the chicken too, and adds a little heat and zing to each bite.


600g chicken thigh fillets, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
1 1/2 inch ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tbsp vegetable oil
2-3 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp thick dark soy sauce
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1/4 cup chinese cooking wine (Shaoxing wine)
1/2 tbsp palm sugar (or substitute with white sugar)
1/4 cup water
Handful of thai basil leaves
1 red chilli, sliced (optional)

1 tbsp fish sauce
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp cornflour

Vinegar Chilli Sauce (optional):
1 long red chilli, chopped
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 tbsp sugar (or to taste)
Pinch of salt


  1. Combine marinade ingredients (except cornflour) and mix it through with the chicken. Then add cornflour and coat chicken evenly. Leave in the fridge for about an hour.
  2. Heat vegetable oil and sesame oil in a wok, then add ginger, fry until fragrant and then add garlic and fry for about a minute.
  3. Add chicken and sear on high heat until lightly browned, then add dark soy and stir fry for a minute.
  4. Add light soy, wine, palm sugar and water. Stir through and simmer on low-medium heat for about half an hour or until chicken is cooked and sauce is reduced to a slightly thick gravy. Taste and adjust for seasoning if necessary. Stir in the basil leaves and chilli (if used). Remove from heat and transfer to a serving dish. Delicious served with steamed jasmine rice and some vinegar chilli.
  5. To prepare the vinegar chilli, use a mortar and pestle to pound the chilli until fine, then add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Add more sugar/salt if necessary. Transfer to a small bowl and serve with chicken.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Chilli and Cheese Squares with Black Sesame

Thin and crispy savoury cookies with a hint of chilli

Sardine puffs

Deep-fried sardine puffs

Light and crisp pastry pockets filled with sardines, chilli, potatoes and onions

Deep-fried Salty Beet Chips

Looks like bacon? Not! Salty Crispy Beet Chips ...hmm... a Vegetarian Bacon option?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Ginger Chicken

Whenever I ask Z what his favourite food is, he will say "Rice with black chicken and broccoli and carrot", and even if I offer other suggestions (in case he might have forgotten about the rest of the yummy food mummy has cooked for him in the past), he will still insist on the black chicken. I am glad he likes it because it is one of the easiest things for me to prepare with only 5 ingredients: Chicken drumsticks, ginger, sesame oil, dark soy and light soy (seasoned with sugar, salt and pepper). Today I tried a different version of ginger chicken, one that substitutes the soy sauce and sugar with fish sauce and brown sugar. I also decided to put in a little effort to debone the chicken drumsticks which I usually don't (okay, actually it was so that I could try out using my new Scanpan Santoku Knife that I purchased last weekend). For those who love eating ginger chicken, you will love this version too. The succulent pieces of chicken covered in a salty, sweet and sticky sauce with aromatic ginger will definitely go down well with a big bowl of rice! I will be cooking this more often from now, and perhaps Z will soon say "brown chicken" instead of "black chicken" as his favourite!

Recipe adapted from "The Songs of Sapa" by Luke Nguyen:


500g chicken drumstick/thigh fillets, skin on, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
2 tsp oyster sauce
1/2 tsp dark soy sauce
4 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp cornflour
4 tbsp water
2 inch piece of ginger, julienned
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp sesame oil
Coriander leaves, for garnish


  1. Marinade chicken with soy sauce, oyster sauce, 2 tbsp fish sauce, 1 tbsp brown sugar and the cornflour for half an hour.
  2. Combine the remaining fish sauce and brown sugar with the water and put aside.
  3. In a wok, heat up vegetable oil and sesame oil and fry ginger until fragrant.
  4. Add chicken and fry on high heat until browned all over. Add garlic and stir-fry briefly.
  5. Add the fish sauce and sugar mixture and stir into the chicken until it comes to a boil. Cover and simmer on low-medium heat for 5 minutes until chicken is cooked. Remove the lid and simmer until sauce is thickened. Dish out, garnish with coriander and serve with jasmine rice.

Nastar Pineapple Tarts

Here's my favourite recipe for pineapple rolls, which includes baking powder to create a lighter texture, and ghee for something a little extra!

Nastar Pineapple Tarts / Rolls


300g butter
80g icing sugar
3 egg yolks
3 tbsp ghee
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp fine salt

Sift together:
420g plain flour
50g corn flour / custard powder
1 tsp baking powder

Lightly beat together for egg wash:
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp condensed milk (optional)
2 tsp fresh milk/water
Pinch of salt
A drop of yellow food colouring (optional)

2 medium-sized pineapples (about 1.4kg after peeled and cored), cut into chunks (or 2 cans (about 800g each) pineapple chunks in natural juice, or you can mix both)
300g - 400g sugar, or to taste
2 tsp lemon juice (or depending on how sour/sweet the pineapples are)
1 inch cinnamon stick
4 cloves
1/2 star anise


Blend the pineapple chunks in an electric blender. Pour into a sieve to drain some of the excess juice, but not too dry. Cook pineapple and spices in a wide heavy-based saucepan over medium-high heat until it begins to boil. Lower heat to simmer (or use high heat but stir continuously and watch it to make sure it doesn't burn). Add the sugar and stir for about 30-40 minutes or until mixture is dry, thick and amber in colour. Halfway through, check for sweetness and add more sugar if necessary. Add lemon juice to taste. Leave aside to cool, refrigerate for a few hours and roll into small elongated pieces (about half teaspoon of pineapple jam each) to be used as filling.

Line baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Cream butter, ghee and sugar until light. Beat in egg yolks, one at a time. Then add vanilla and salt and beat until fluffy. Fold in sifted ingredients and mix into a firm dough. Put dough into a nastar mould and press out into a strip of about 2-inch lengths. Place a piece of pineapple jam on one end and roll up pastry to enclose the jam.

Put the rolls on prepared trays. Brush with egg wash (optional), and bake in preheated oven at 180°C for 15-18 minutes or until it starts to turn golden. Do not overbake as it may turn out too hard, and probably burnt too! Remove from oven and leave on tray for about 5 minutes. Then transfer to wire racks to cool. Store in airtight containers.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Caramelized Pork with Pineapple

I cooked this dish for dinner last night as I had some pineapple leftover from making pineapple tarts. My sister, who dropped by to collect some curry puffs, tried some and loved it! This is similar to the chicken version that I made a couple of weeks ago, except that it uses pork instead. An utterly delicious alternative to the soy-braised pork belly that I usually cook for the kids. And I can still have my chilli at the same time!

Adapted from a recipe by Luke Nguyen, The Songs of Sapa:

Caramelized Pork with Pineapple


500g pork belly, skin on, cut into 3 x 3 cm pieces
1 tbsp garlic, chopped finely
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp oyster sauce
1/2 tsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup water
1/2 sweet pineapple, cut into 3cm pieces
2-3 bird's eye chillies, sliced
5 spring onions, white part only, halved crossways
1 tbsp vegetable oil


  1. In a bowl, combine half the garlic, 1 tbsp of the fish sauce, the oyster sauce, dark soy sauce, sugar, 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp black pepper. Mix well, add pork and coat in the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  2. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and brown the pork for about 3-5 minutes until golden all over.
  3. Add remaining garlic and spring onions and mix well.
  4. Add pineapple, remaining 1 tbsp fish sauce and 1/2 cup water. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 1-2 hours or until pork is tender.
  5. Dish out into a bowl and garnish with sliced chilli, and serve with jasmine rice.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mini Penne with Swiss Brown Mushrooms, Bacon and Eggs

I don't usually buy swiss brown mushrooms (well, make that never) as I am quite contented eating regular button mushrooms (which are cheaper by the way). The reason why I bought swiss browns was because there were some available for sampling at the markets the other day, and they were juicy and delicious cooked with garlic and lemon thyme. Apparently, these are the smaller versions of portobello mushrooms. They have a more intense flavour than button mushrooms and have a firmer, meatier texture as well.

I decided to use the mushrooms in my pasta dish along with some bacon, asparagus and mashed egg. I used mini penne rigate for the pasta as I find them tiny enough that I don't need to cut them into bite-sized pieces for the kids to eat. I added vegetable stock and simmered the mushrooms in it to bring out the rich earthy flavour that swiss browns have. For the herbs, I used thyme because I simply love thyme (and I really think everyone should plant some thyme at home...they are really useful!). And the mashed egg (I love eggs too) just makes the dish a little more complete. H loves this, especially when I serve it with teddy-bear shaped pasta, which is her favourite!

H's favourite Teddy pasta!

Mini Penne with Swiss Brown Mushrooms, Bacon and Eggs


250g penne, cooked and drained
2 eggs, hard-boiled and roughly chopped
3-5 asparagus spears, cut into 2-inch lengths and blanched for 3-5 minutes
3 slices bacon rashers, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp butter
1/2 red/spanish onion, sliced
1 1/2 cup swiss brown mushrooms, sliced
A few sprigs of thyme, leaves removed (about 1 tbsp)
1 cup vegetable stock (chicken stock is fine too)
1-2 tbsp lemon juice
2/3 cup cream
1/4 cup grated parmesan, plus extra for serving
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and black pepper


  1. Heat up oil in pan and fry bacon for 3 minutes, then add garlic and fry for 1 minute.
  2. Add butter, then onions, mushrooms and thyme. Fry until mushrooms start to soften. Add stock and simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Add lemon juice and cream. Stir and bring to a simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Add the asparagus and stir in the parmesan. Turn off the heat and mix in the chopped egg.
  5. Toss the pasta with the sauce and serve with addtional grated parmesan.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Spanish Chicken & Corn Croquettes

It has been almost 10 years since G bought me this Spanish Tapas cookbook for my birthday (he figured I'd be happier receiving a cookbook with mouth-watering photos of food rather than flowers, and that still holds true to this day). It's interesting that food that may not have appealed to you (or me) a few years back suddenly appears more interesting and relevant when you revisit the cookbook, especially when you go, "Oh yeah, I know those herbs go really well with that meat" or "I've made something similar before and this sounds pretty easy to make"...etc.

Well, these croquettes are easy to prepare with simple basic ingredients, and as such, you can add in your favourite spices, herbs, vegetables, bacon and so on. I tweaked the recipe a little and added some parsley, corn and peas (peas weren't a good idea because the kids started picking them out one by one! But corn is good, sweet and adds some texture to the creamy chicken filling). When I took a bite of these, it instantly reminded me of the deep-fried Japanese Korokkes, and they are so soft and creamy on the inside. This Spanish version of the croquette uses a roux in lieu of potatoes to bind the meat together, and I like the idea of cooking the chicken first before blending it finely, as this gives it a smooth velvety texture. There are many variations you can make to the recipe, and I think next time I might try making a curry croquette, and use mashed potatoes and onions instead. These ones I've made, however, are totally delicious and addictive. Serve them with a drizzle of lemon juice, and perhaps dipped in some barbecue sauce or mayonnaise. Yum!

Here is the recipe below:

Chicken Croquettes


2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup plain flour
2/3 cup milk
1 tbsp olive oil
1 chicken breast fillet, with skin on (approx 250g), diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp corn/peas
1 small egg, beaten with 1 tbsp milk
1 cup panko crumbs (or fresh breadcrumbs will do too)
Vegetable oil for deep frying
Salt and black pepper
1 tbsp Italian flat-leaf parsley, plus extra for garnish
Lemon wedges, to serve


  1. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Add flour, stir and cook for 1-2 minutes. Gradually beat in the milk until the sauce is thick and smooth. Cover with a lid and remove from heat.
  2. Heat oil in a frying pan and cook chicken with the garlic until chicken is lightly browned and cooked through.
  3. Pour contents of the frying pan (remove liquid if any) into a blender and process until finely chopped. Stir into the sauce together with the chopped parsley, corn and peas. Season with plenty of salt and pepper. Let cool completely and refrigerate for at least half an hour to firm up.
  4. Wet both hands with water and shape the mixture into small sausages, then dip in egg and then breadcrumbs. Deep fry in hot oil until crisp and lightly golden (about 4 minutes). Drain on paper towels and serve with lemon and garnish with parsley.
Note: You can refrigerate the shaped "sausages" before crumbing them so that they are easier to handle.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Raspberry Semifreddo: A" No-Churn" Ice-cream

When I saw the photo of this in Belinda Jeffery's cookbook, I knew I had to try it out! It was a timely decision as the past few days have been really hot, and it's not even summer yet. Our air-conditioning had also broken down, so all the more reason to make ice-cream! I only wished we had a blast chiller so that we didn't have to wait for it to freeze overnight before eating it.

I used frozen raspberries for this, and I find that a 500g pack was just enough to yield the required amount, including extra for the ripple. I must have pureed the heck out of it and pushed every last bit of raspberry flesh through the sieve (because nobody likes gritty raspberry seeds stuck in the teeth). You might need to use some elbow grease for this, otherwise, it might be a good idea to have some extra raspberries on stand-by (the recipe called for 900g, with extra to serve as topping) in case you can't get enough puree out of the sieve.

For those who don't know what a semifreddo is, it's a partially frozen dessert that never becomes really hard and icy due to the incorporation of air through the addition of whipped cream or meringue to it. If you don't have an ice-cream maker, this is an easy way to make ice-cream as it rarely needs churning. It's creamy, yet not too rich and simply bursts with such intense flavour from the raspberries! The most delicious raspberry semifreddo!

Here is the recipe below:

Raspberry Semifreddo
(serves 4-6)

900g fresh or frozen raspberries (I used 500g frozen raspberries which was just enough to yield about 400ml of puree)
4 egg whites, at room temperature
250g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
300ml double thick cream, very softly whipped
Extra caster sugar (add this to any extra puree to serve as a topping)

To serve (optional):
Nectarines or figs
Extra fresh raspberries

  1. Puree raspberries in a blender and then pass it through a large fine sieve to remove the seeds.
  2. Using a hand-held electric beater, beat egg whites in a large heatproof bowl until just fluffy, then slowly add 1/4 cup of the sugar, a little at a time, and beat well between each addition.
  3. Put the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and continue beating, adding the rest of the sugar a little at a time until the sugar has dissolved and mixture is thick and fluffy. This takes about 6 minutes.
  4. Remove the bowl from the heat and stand it in a larger bowl filled with plenty of ice. Continue beating until the mixture is cool. Add vanilla extract (if used) and whisk in 300ml of the raspberry puree until well blended, and then fold in the whipped cream.
  5. Spoon the mixture into a freezer container, splotching a little of the reserved puree here and there as you go. When all the mixture is in, swirl a knife blade through it a couple of times to make a ripple. Cover the container and freeze overnight.
  6. To serve, scoop it into chilled bowls or glasses. Serve with summer fruits and berry topping if desired.

Caramelized Chicken with Sweet Pineapple and Balsamic Vinegar

This recipe is adapted from Luke Nguyen's book called "The Songs of Sapa". The original recipe uses pork, but since I didn't have any pork, I substituted it with chicken instead. The recipe also called for fresh pineapples. Well, I didn't have any of that either, so I simply used up the leftover canned pineapples from the previous day (when I made pineapple fried rice). I added balsamic vinegar to the dish towards the end of cooking to bring out the flavours and give it a little tanginess and acidity. I suppose if using fresh pineapples, the vinegar may not be necessary, depending on whether the pineapples are sweet or sour.

We loved this, and so did the kids, but of course, we omitted the chilli for them. It goes perfectly with steamed jasmine rice (make sure to ladle lots of gravy over the rice), and the sliced bird's eye chillies together with the sweet, salty and sour gravy and pineapples are sure to set your tastebuds dancing!

Caramelized Chicken with Sweet Pineapple and Balsamic Vinegar


500g chicken thigh fillet, diced into 3cm cubes
1 tbsp garlic, chopped finely
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp oyster sauce
1 tsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cornflour
1 tbsp palm sugar (optional)
3/4 tbsp balsamic vinegar (or to taste)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup canned pineapple pieces, drained (or use fresh if available)
3-4 bird's eye chillies, sliced
4 spring onions, white part only, halved crossways
2 tbsp vegetable oil


  1. Marinade chicken with half the garlic, 2 tbsp sugar, 1 tbsp fish sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp black pepper and cornflour. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  2. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and brown the chicken, for about 3-5 minutes.
  3. Add remaining garlic and spring onions and mix well.
  4. Add pineapple, remaining 1 tbsp fish sauce and 1/2 cup water. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked and sauce slightly thickened.
  5. Add balsamic vinegar to taste (if using fresh pineapples, vinegar may not be necessary if there is sufficient acidity from the pineapple).
  6. Check for seasoning and add more sugar or vinegar if necessary. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with sliced chilli. Serve with jasmine rice.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pineapple, Coconut and Turmeric Fried Rice

The area where we live is dotted with many Thai and Italian eateries, which is why when we order take-out, it's usually pizza or stir-fried rice noodles. We just had Thai the other day, and we love the spicy basil rice noodles. As the kids do not take chilli, we ordered a pineapple fried rice for them (which was fortunately a large portion, so I had a share of it too). I'm usually a little wary of ordering pineapple fried rice as they are pretty bland most of the time, looking like plain fried rice. This one was not bad, with a hint of sweetness from the pineapple, with juicy raisins and crunchy roasted cashews. The rice had a lovely yellow tinge that made it more convincing to the eye and palette that it IS pineapple rice. Well, I did have some canned pineapple in the pantry, so I thought why not try making it at home, which is what I did two days later (after cooking some extra white rice the following night). I had already conjured up the idea of what to put in it, although I did forget to garnish it with pork floss (another one of those things sitting on my pantry shelf) as I originally intended to, just for the extra sweetness, flavour and texture. I also boiled down the pineapple juice (I used a 400g can of pineapples in unsweetened pineapple juice) and reduced it to a thick syrup before adding it to the rice.

Coconut Pineapple Fried Rice


2 cups cooked jasmine rice, refrigerated
1 chicken breast fillet, thinly sliced
3 eggs, beaten and seasoned with soy sauce and pepper
2 tbsp butter
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
2 tbsp dried shrimp, finely chopped and fried in oil for 2-3 minutes.
Handful of peas
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 cup pineapple pieces
1/2 cup pineapple juice, boiled and reduced to a syrup
1 tbsp sugar (or to taste)
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/4 cup dessicated coconut, toasted in pan till golden brown
1 tomato, halved and quartered
1/4 cup raw cashews, fried in oil till golden brown
Sliced red chilli, fried shallots, coriander leaves, pork floss (optional) for garnish
Wedge of lime/lemon
Vegetable oil, for frying

Marinade for chicken:
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
3/4 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp pineapple juice
1 tsp sugar
Pinch of salt
Dash of pepper
Pinch of soda bicarbonate
1 tsp cornflour


  1. Marinade the chicken for an hour, then fry in oil till cooked. Dish out and put aside.
  2. Scramble the eggs in wok and cut up into small pieces, dish out and put aside.
  3. Heat up 2 tbsp oil and 2 tbsp butter in a wok. Fry onions till softened, then add garlic, fry for half a minute. Add dried shrimp and peas.
  4. Break up the rice with a fork and add to the wok and fry till well mixed. Add soy, fish sauce and the pineapple syrup and stir into the rice. Sprinkle turmeric over the rice and mix.
  5. Mix in the chicken, eggs, pineapple, coconut and tomatoes. Season with salt and sugar. Toss in the cashews.
  6. Transfer to a plate and garnish with coriander leaves, pork floss, fried shallots and sliced chilli, and a wedge of lime/lemon.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Spring Rolls & Lettuce Wraps

Here are my attempts at making popiah (spring roll) skin, though I doubt I will be doing this again unless my cravings take over, and until I get a cast iron skillet, which I suspect may be the key to making a good popiah skin (It's sort of like making crepe, except that instead of using a batter, you make a dough from plain flour, water and oil). I used a non-stick pan and it didn't work too well for me as I had some difficulty trying to get the dough to stick to the pan, resulting in quite a mess. I think I managed to produce about 50 pieces all in all, which were not too bad, though some were rather erratically shaped, but I prefer to call them "rustic". Oh well, it did look easy when I watched how it was made on youtube :)

Spring rolls filled with lettuce, vinegared chilli, kecap manis, jicama/turnip, carrots, pork mince, chinese sausage (lapcheong), ground peanuts, crispy fried shallots

My favourite - lettuce wraps with jicama/turnip and pork mixture

I used the spring roll skins and filled them with lettuce, bulgogi beef and bean sprouts

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"Banana-Split" Strudel

Warm banana, chocolate and cream cheese strudel in baklava-style walnut layered filo pastry

This is too addictive. Thank goodness it's a pretty rich dessert, so even if I wanted to eat more, my stomach is telling me to stop. I came across the recipe for this on the Food & Wine website after searching for ways to use up the bananas that I had bought a few days ago. Well, forget about banana breads and banana muffins. This recipe by Gale Gand is an interesting take on the strudel which is the perfect combination of bananas, chocolate and cream cheese. I also like the way she layered the filo pastry with walnuts and sugar, like a crunchy baklava, but without the syrup. The top crust is buttery and sugary-crisp, and I dressed it up a little with black sesame seeds. It's delicious served both warm or cold (I prefer having mine's like eating chocolate banana cheesecake......yum!).

Here is the recipe, by Gale Gand:

"Banana-Split" Strudel



1 1/3 cups finely chopped walnuts (4 1/2 ounces)
1/2 pound cream cheese, softened (I used a 250g block)
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup granulated (caster) sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 ounces (or 60g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 sheets filo/phyllo dough
1 stick (4 ounces / 110g) unsalted butter, melted
4 medium bananas, peeled
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting (optional)
1 pint vanilla ice cream



  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Spread the walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast for 6 minutes, or until browned. Transfer the walnuts to a plate to cool.
  2. In a bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Beat in the egg yolk. Add 1/4 cup of granulated sugar, the vanilla and cinnamon and beat until blended. Stir the chocolate into the cream cheese mixture and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes.
  3. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay 1 sheet of phyllo on the parchment paper. Brush the phyllo with melted butter and sprinkle with 1/3 cup of the walnuts and 2 tablespoons of the granulated sugar. Cover with another phyllo sheet, butter it and sprinkle with walnuts and granulated sugar as before; repeat 2 more times to make 4 layers.
  4. Turn the baking sheet so that a long side is facing you. Spoon half the cream cheese mixture in a long strip along the length of the phyllo, leaving a 2-inch border of phyllo below and on each side. Lay 2 bananas end to end on the cream cheese. Set the 2 remaining bananas next to them, so you have a double row. Trim the bananas if needed. Spoon the remaining cream cheese mixture in a strip on the bananas.
  5. Starting with the long edge closest to you and using the parchment paper as a guide, lift the phyllo up and over the bananas and roll into a neat, compact log; fold in the sides to enclose the filling. Discard the parchment paper. Slide the strudel to the center of the baking sheet, making sure the seam is down. Brush the strudel with melted butter and sprinkle with granulated sugar.
  6. Bake the strudel for 40 minutes, or until crisp and brown. Let it stand for about 25 minutes, then transfer to a cutting board. Dust with confectioners' sugar. Using a serrated knife, thickly slice the strudel crosswise and serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Crisp, buttery and sugary layers of pastry encase a creamy chocolate, cheese and banana filling

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Chicken Curry Puffs

One of the "standard" items that I usually serve whenever we have guests over at our house, are curry puffs. They are easy to make and can be prepared in advance, which is good because that means I just have to reheat them in the oven the next day. I should be thankful that frozen puff pastry is widely available these days. I can't imagine if I had to make my own puff pastry. I remember seeing my mum making puff pastry from scratch when I was little. Lots of folding and rolling. But the curry puffs she made were so terribly yummy as the pastry was delicate with many thin and crisp layers. I think she stopped making them for a while because they were a bit too unhealthy. Well, frozen pastry isn't too bad, and I don't forsee myself slaving over the kitchen counter making my own.

I did not type out the recipe for this because it's pretty basic. The filling is made from diced chicken and potatoes, cooked with star anise, cinnamon and cloves, curry powder and curry leaves, seasoned with fish sauce, soy sauce, salt and sugar. Oh, and of course, onions, garlic and ground chilli. Some people like to add peas and carrots, but I prefer to keep mine simple. The only tricky part is trying fill the pastry with as much of the filling as possible, and yet be able to seal the edges properly and not having them burst open during baking. As you can see in the picture below, one of them started to open up a little, but still not too bad. We usually eat up all the ugly looking ones anyway and save the better looking ones for the guests :)

Mushroom, Tomato and Bocconcini

Sliced white batard, grilled with tomatoes, mushrooms and bocconcini, with parsley and sweet basil

I'm going through a phase where I've been just eating ciabatta with bocconcini, tomatoes and mushrooms for lunch everyday. It's delicious and doesn't take much time to prepare. I like using ciabatta bread, which I sliced thinly so that it crisps up in the oven. So, I placed a little butter on the bread and drizzled with some extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), and popped them in the oven under a hot grill at 200°C for about a minute or so. Then I drizzled a little balsamic vinegar, placed some thinly sliced bocconcini, followed by tomatoes and mushrooms (which I had already seasoned with salt and pepper and tossed in EVOO together with parsley and basil) on the bread and topped it with some more bocconcini. Grill in oven for about 5 minutes until the cheese has melted. Remove and drizzle with some EVOO and serve! Crunchy and full of flavour, especially the zingy balsamic vinegar! Yum!

Grilled ciabatta with a buttery bocconcini base

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Stir-fried Asparagus with Sambal Belacan

We had some friends over for lunch last weekend, and as usual (by popular demand), G prepared chicken rice and I prepared a side dish of Sambal Asparagus. It was my first time making it after many years, and I was afraid that I might have forgotten what it should taste like. Well, fortunately it turned out pretty well, although next time I would probably add more chilli to it :)

Sambal Asparagus

2 bunches asparagus (approx 400g), woody ends trimmed
2 tbsp dried shrimp, washed and left for 15 minutes to soften
6 shallots
3 cloves garlic
2-3 tbsp chilli paste (made from dried chillies)
2 tsp belacan (fermented shrimp paste)
1/4 cup oil

1/2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp sugar
Salt to taste


Cut the asparagus into 5cm lengths. Blend/pound the dried shrimp, shallots and garlic until almost fine. Heat oil in wok and fry the blended ingredients, belacan and chilli paste until fragrant for about 3-4 minutes or until caramelized into a deep red colour. Mix in seasoning. Then add asparagus and stir-fry on high heat for about 3 minutes. Check for seasoning. Dish out and serve with white rice. 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Easy Chocolate Mousse

Creamy chocolate mousse with fresh strawberries, blueberries and whipped cream

The first time I made chocolate mousse, I made it straight out of a packet of instant mix. Perhaps I'm fussy, but it tasted pretty bad and I think I had to throw away most of it because nobody else wanted to eat it. It just tasted a little plasticky. So, this time, I decided to make chocolate mousse from scratch instead. Quick and easy to prepare, all you need are eggs, cream and chocolate (and a little sugar). Smooth, light and creamy, it's a good substitute for chocolate ice-cream or soft serve :)

Easy Chocolate Mousse


3 large eggs, separated
350ml thickened cream
200g dark cooking chocolate
2 tbsp caster sugar


  1. Melt 180g of the chocolate together with 200ml of the cream in a bowl over a pot of simmering water. Stir with a whisk until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and leave to cool for about 5 minutes. Then stir in egg yolks.
  2. Whip the rest of the cream to soft peaks.
  3. Beat the egg whites to soft peaks, then add sugar and beat till stiff and glossy.
  4. Fold the beaten egg white into the chocolate mixture in two batches until just combined. Do not overmix.
  5. Pour into ramekins or little cups and chill for four hours or overnight.
  6. With the remaining 20g chocolate, use a grater to make chocolate curls.
  7. Serve chilled chocolate mousse with whipped cream, berries and chocolate curls.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Butterflied Curry-Infused Roast Chicken

I love home-cooked roast chicken, especially free-range chicken which is sweet, moist, succulent and incredibly tender. Here is another one of my versions of roast chicken, made with pantry ingredients. I used a variety of spices commonly found in curries, and also added some curry leaves for aromatics. The result is a mildly and sweetly spiced chicken with a subtle hint of curry flavour (from the leaves). I also butterflied the chicken in order to reduce cooking time. Here is the recipe below:


1 whole free-range chicken (about 1.5kg)
Olive oil

1 tbsp dark soy
1 tbsp kecap manis
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp Thai sweet chilli sauce
1 tsp worchestershire sauce
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground fennel
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp oil


Mix marinade together and put aside. Butterfly the chicken by using a pair of kitchen shears/scissors to cut along the backbone of the chicken. Then flatten the chicken out and place in a roasting pan. Rub marinade all over the chicken and under the skin. Place a sprig of curry leaves under the skin and another 2-3 sprigs under the cavity of the chicken. Leave to marinade for a few hours.

Preheat oven to 200°C. Remove chicken from fridge and leave out for about an hour. Drizzle olive oil all over the chicken and pour 1-2 tbsp of water in the pan to prevent the marinade from getting burnt in the oven. Place tray on the middle rack and roast for about 45 minutes or until juices run clear and skin is slightly charred and crisp.  Use a brush to baste the chicken with the marinade in the pan halfway through cooking. When cooked, remove from oven and rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Wok-tossed Diced Lamb with Sichuan Pepper and Chillies

We rarely eat out, mainly because with three kids in tow, it can be quite difficult to have a nice and quiet sit-down meal. Our kids just can't sit still. However, last weekend, I managed to "persuade" my sister to babysit (okay, she was nice enough to take the hint) while G and I went out for lunch. It was a tough choice, but we finally settled on this restaurant called Red Chilli Sichuan, since it's a place that we probably won't be bringing the kids to in the near future. Naturally, all the dishes we ordered were spicy and had more chilli in it than I've eaten in a year.

Most of the food featured on the menu either had a tonne of sichuan peppercorn in them or were cooked with a tremendous amount of chilli. We ordered this diced chicken dish which was just that - little bits of deep-fried chicken cubes buried under a mountain of crispy dried chillies, not to mention the lashings of Sichuan pepper and chilli seeds in that dish. It was a tongue-and-mouth-numbing experience, but delicious nonetheless. The cold bean noodle in sour sauce provided some cool respite. (Hmm...I wonder if dentists in the province of Sichuan used Sichuan peppercorns as anaesthetic back in the old days....).

I was inspired to cook something similar, so with lamb in hand (which I had in the fridge), I came up with a lamb version of the dish. Here is the recipe below:


250g lamb rump steak, diced into small cubes
1/3 cup potato flour (or substitute with cornflour)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp grated ginger
2 spring onions, white part only, chopped
1 cup dried chillis, cut in half
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns (or more if desired), toasted in pan and crushed finely with a mortar and pestle
Oil for frying

1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp soy
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tbsp Shaoxing wine
Pinch of salt
Dash of pepper
1 tsp cornflour
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda (optional)


  1. Combine meat with marinade and leave for 2 hours.
  2. Heat oil in wok. Lighly coat meat with potato flour (or cornflour) and deep fry for 2-3 minutes till golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper.
  3. Heat up 1/4 cup oil in a clean wok and fry garlic and ginger, then add spring onions and dried chillies (together with the seeds) and fry for about a minute. Mix in the hoisin sauce and red wine vinegar.
  4. Add lamb and toss in wok with the salt, sugar, black pepper and Sichuan pepper. Dish up and serve with steamed white rice.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Parmesan & Herb Crusted Chicken Schnitzel with Crunchy Buttery Garlic Sourdough and Tomato Bocconcini Salad

We had lunch with A and family at Gordon Pizza Bar last weekend and had great pizzas and fantastic garlic sourdough bread. So we decided to get a loaf of sourdough from the supermarket and make garlic bread and chicken schnitzel for dinner. This was also after watching Junior Masterchef the night before where they demonstrated how to prepare chicken schnitzel with heirloom tomato and bocconcini salad. G wanted to make the salad too, so we bought some cherry tomatos and a tub of traditional bocconcini.

This is really quick and easy to prepare. To make the garlic bread, preheat oven to 220°C. Slice the sourdough about 3/4 inch thick. Then melt some (3-4 tablespoons) of butter with some olive oil and a few pieces of crushed garlic in a pan and place four slices of bread in it, coating the bread evenly with the butter-oil mixture. Grill for a few minutes, then flip over and put more butter in the pan, coating the other side of the bread. Sprinkle with a little chopped parsley. When they start to crisp up a little, remove and place them on the oven rack and bake for about 3-5 minutes until they turn golden brown. They start to brown very quickly at this stage. Remove from oven and while hot, take a clove of garlic with the top chopped off and rub over the surface of both sides of the bread. Serve hot. The garlic sourdough is super-crunchy and buttery all over inside out. It screams out butter and garlic! (Of course, the texture will depend on the quality of the sourdough used)

Super crunchy and buttery garlic and herb bread

The chicken schnitzel is a breeze to prepare too.


1 chicken breast fillet, escalloped (this gives you 4-5 pieces)
5-6 pieces of stale bread, torn to pieces (I used sourdough)
1 egg, beaten with 1 tbsp milk
Plain flour for coating
Salt and pepper
Olive oil for frying

  1. Using a meat mallet, flatten the chicken into thin escallopes, from which you will get 4-5 pieces.
  2. In a food processor, combine stale bread with some parsley, rosemary, thyme and parmesan, and season with salt and pepper. Using the pulse button, process into breadcrumbs. Pour out onto a plate.
  3. Heat up about 2 tbsp oil in a frying pan. Dip the chicken escallope into the flour (shake off excess), then into the egg mixture, and into the breadcrumbs and coat both sides. Then dip it in egg again and back into the breadcrumbs for a double coating. Throw breadcrumbs over the top and all over the chicken and press the crumbs in firmly to ensure a thick and even coating.
  4. Slowly lower the chicken into the pan and repeat the same crumbing process with the other pieces of chicken. Fry chicken for about 4 minutes on each side till golden brown and crisp. Add more oil if necessary. Serve hot with salad and white wine. 

Absolutely yummy and addictive chicken schnitzel

I prepared the salad using cherry tomatoes (or any sweet tomatoes will do), bocconcini and flat-leaf parsley, along with some mixed salad leaves that we had in the fridge. Cut tomatoes in half and place on a plate with the salad leaves. Add some torn parsley leaves, and then tear the bocconcini into rough little pieces and throw them on top. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss lightly and serve with schnitzel. Eat everything together in one mouthful...totally absolutely delicious! Love the taste of the creamy bocconcini with the parsley and tomatoes. The schnitzel is bursting with so much flavour from the fresh herbs, sourdough crumbs and parmesan! Addictive!

Creamy Homestyle Scrambled Eggs

My mum used to make me scrambled eggs on toast for breakfast when I was a kid. It was my favourite! Soft, creamy and buttery eggs on buttered toast. She would then cut up the toast into six little rectangles which I would then pop into my mouth and savour each perfect little bite. Did I mention butter?

This is exactly how I like my scrambled eggs. I have never known them to be cooked any other way except this. Anything else just isn't scrambled eggs, which is why I almost never ever order them when I eat out because I know they just aren't the same. I have encountered the kind served at breakfast buffets and they are usually hard, crumbly, dry and bland.

These homestyle ones that are so memorable to me are just perfect, and the trick is to stir it slowly over low heat in a small pot or pan. If you use a large frying pan or too high heat, the eggs will cook too quickly and end up a little like scrambled omelette instead of having that soft and creamy custard-like consistency.

Slow-cooked Scrambled Eggs


2 large eggs, beaten well
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper


  1. Combine milk with the beaten eggs and beat well. Season with a little salt and pepper.
  2. Place butter in a small pot or pan (approx 15cm radius) and place it on low heat. When the butter starts to melt, pour in the egg mixture. It should fill the entire surface of the pan/pot and come up to at least 1 cm high. Stir slowly with a wooden spoon/spatula. After about 5 minutes, the liquid mixture should start to coat the bottom and side of the pot as well as the tip of the spoon/spatula. If the heat gets too hot, remove the pot from the flame and continue stirring to avoid the eggs overcooking. Once stabilised, put it back on the flame. Stir slowly and continuously, ensuring that the egg does not stick to the bottom of the pot.
  3. After about 5-8 minutes, the egg mixture should start to come together to form a soft creamy consistency that will not fall off the spoon when scooped.
  4. Take it off the heat immediately and serve it on 2 slices of buttered toast (preferably cold sliced butter). Enjoy!
Made scrambled eggs again the next day - a creamier version this time