Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Vietnamese Braised Pork Belly with Coconut Juice

I cook with pork belly at home about 2-3 times a month, and last night, I tried out a new recipe for a Vietnamese version of braised pork using coconut juice. I was a little intrigued by the use of this new ingredient, but the dish turned out delicious with the subtle sweetness of the coconut juice coming through the soy and fish sauce flavoured broth. As I didn't have fresh coconut juice, I substituted it with Ayam Brand canned coconut juice instead. This dish will be a family favourite from now on! Here's the recipe:

Vietnamese Braised Pork Belly with Coconut Juice
(Adapted from SBS Food)


1 kg pork belly (not too fatty), cut into 3 cm cubes or slices
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3-4 shallots (small brown onion bulbs), finely chopped
3 tbsp fish sauce
1 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
1½ tbsp dark soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
½ tsp cracked black pepper
2 tbsp palm sugar or dark brown sugar (or substitute with white sugar)
2 stalks green/spring onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil
½ white onion, finely diced
3 cups young coconut juice (not milk or cream!)
1 cup water (or just enough to cover the pork)
8 hard boiled eggs, peeled
Coriander, to garnish


Combine pork belly, garlic, shallot, fish sauce, soy sauces, oyster sauce, pepper, sugar and green/spring onions. Add to marinade. Marinate pork for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Heat vegetable oil in heavy based pan and brown onion. Remove pork from marinade and add to the pan and seal over high heat. Add coconut juice, marinade and water.

Bring pan to the boil and skim surface. Simmer for 2 hours (or until tender) on low heat (skimming occasionally) and add eggs just 15 minutes before serving. Add salt to taste if necessary. Garnish with coriander and serve with steamed Jasmine rice.

Muhammara Sauce

Muhammara with mint

Try making this delicious Middle Eastern dip that is a combination of roasted red peppers, walnuts and the all-essential ingredient, pomegranate molasses. I bought the molasses at the local fruit market which sells an array of gourmet foodstuff. If you can't find it, you can always make your own (recipe here) using pomegranate juice, lemon juice and sugar. It has a tart and acidic taste that lends a beautiful flavour to the dip.

I decided to make a batch of this sauce after having tried some Kataifi prawns with Muhammara sauce at Kazbah a few weeks ago. It has a slightly sweet, spicy and nutty flavour, and it tasted so good that I had to google it to see what it was made from. I found a few recipes and they looked quick and easy to prepare, with the exception of having to buy or make the pomegranate molasses. They are great as a dip with some pita chips, bread, crackers etc. I also made an mashed egg and muhammara sandwich, which was yum! And of course, I grilled some fresh prawns and served them with the sauce. You can also serve them with steak, chicken, vegetables and practically anything you can think of. Try it! Here's the recipe:

Muhammara Recipe
(adapted from Epicurious)

A 7-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained*
2/3 cup fine fresh bread crumbs
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted lightly and chopped fine
2 to 4 garlic cloves, minced and mashed to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper / chilli flakes
1/2 - 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

* Or take 1 large red pepper and grill it in the oven for 25 minutes until the skin is charred or blistered. Place in a ziploc bag to cool (about 20 minutes) before peeling. 


In a food processor blend together the peppers, the bread crumbs, the walnuts, the garlic, the lemon juice, the pomegranate molasses, the cumin, the red pepper flakes, and salt to taste until the mixture is smooth and with the motor running add the oil gradually. Transfer the muhammara to a bowl and serve it at room temperature with pita bread, crackers, meats, etc.

Grilled prawns with Muhammara sauce

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Quick and Easy: Tomato Tortilla Soup

This simple tomato soup served with crisp fried tortilla strips is absolutely yummy and so easy to prepare. It's basically canned crushed tomatoes and chicken stock. I added some frozen corn kernels to it as well, and had it with a dollop of sour cream. Great for keeping hungry tummies warm and happy on cold winter days. It was also a good way to use up the extra flour tortillas that I had after making tortilla pie last week.

The recipe I used is adapted from Rachel Ray. I chose not to blend the soup together with the tortilla.

Tomato Tortilla Soup



  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (I used a pinch of cayenne pepper)
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • One 28-ounce can crushed/chopped tomatoes    
  • A handful of sweet corn kernels (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin    
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Juice of 1/2 lime / lemon
  • Seven 6-inch corn tortillas, cut into strips and pan-fried in olive oil until browned and crisp    
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (optional)

  1. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion and crushed red pepper and cook over medium heat until the onion is translucent, about 7 minutes. Add cumin and fry briefly. Then add the chicken broth and the tomatoes and their juice, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Add the salt, lime juice and corn kernels and simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Garnish with fried tortilla strips and serve.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Food Memory: Baked Beans and Spam

Crisp caramelized slices of luncheon meat (or Spam) with baked beans in a light tomato sauce.
Can it sound any better?

Food memories aren't always all happy and good. Some of you might be cringing at the thought of "baked beans and spam??". Well, at least I did when I first came across this dish which was served to me (meaning "plonked onto my compartmentalized food tray alongside some rice and other dishes") when I was staying at a hostel during my high school days. I was thinking "Gee, does throwing together two types of canned food really count as a dish?". It reminded me of dog food. It was a chunk of luncheon meat (the kind in the cylindrical Maling can) that had been quartered and mixed through with baked beans in tomato sauce. I must say I had never seen anything like it before, but then of course, it was my first time being away from home, and having been pampered with delicous home-cooked meals until then, this was pretty alien to me. My roommate, on the other hand, thought that it was "nice" and couldn't understand why I didn't think so. I was still skeptical about it.

It didn't take more than a few weeks of hostel dinners before I realised that I would be eating it more often than I expected. Or maybe the cooks figured that baked beans and luncheon meat would be a treat for us. After all, they are imported ingredients, and maybe to them, fusion food. Literally. I guess I sort of got used to it after a while. It started to grow on me and I actually kind of liked it. Anyway, I always looked forward to the "Friday Dinner Specials", especially the chicken rice which was always such a treat for us. There's my one and only positive food memory from hostel life.

Well, if you're a fan of baked beans and spam, then you will love this dish. Being two of Z's favourite foods, his face and eyes lit up with joy when I showed him what's for dinner. Perhaps this is a good way to prepare him for life in boarding school if or when it happens.

Supplemented the meal with stir-fried chinese cabbage and oyster mushrooms.
Sprinkled some crispy fried diced spam over the top for colour :)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Food Memory: Steamed Egg Custard with Pork and Salted Egg Yolk

It has been a while since I last had this dish. My mum used to make this for lunch at home and we would eat it together with a hot bowl of porridge (congee). Actually, I never did like it when I was little, but as I grew up, I slowly learnt to appreciate and enjoy the rich and creamy taste of of the salted egg yolks against the soft and silky egg custard. However, whenever I go back home to visit and ask my mum to cook this, she refuses to for the pure reason that it's TOO SIMPLE! :)

I decided to make this for dinner because firstly, it's easy to prepare, and secondly, I had some duck's eggs leftover from the other day when I cooked the crab. Most of the time, when I cook steamed egg, I would use one egg with 1/2 cup water, seasoned, and place it in a small bowl which I would then pop into the rice cooker on top of the rice, about 15 minutes just before the timer for the rice goes off. It will come out perfectly set and dear H will be the one who finishes the whole bowl. It's also a good way to help "moisten" the rice especially when there's no gravy or sauce in the other dishes. Well, this time, I used 3 eggs, so I had to steam it in a wok instead, but over very low heat. The water should be just simmering, otherwise the eggs will overcook and you'd end up with dry and hard "honeycombed" eggs instead.

Here is the recipe, which I have sort of conjured up based on memory:

Steamed Egg Custard with Pork and Salted Egg Yolk


3 tbsp minced pork
2 salted duck's eggs, boiled and yolks removed and chopped
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/3 cup water
1 tsp light soy sauce
1/4 tsp salt (or to taste)
Dash of pepper
1 tbsp vegetable/peanut oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Some chopped spring onions or frozen mixed vegetables for topping (optional)

1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
Dash of pepper
1/8 tsp sesame oil


Combine pork with marinade and leave for 20 minutes.

Fry garlic in 1 tbsp oil until garlic turns light brown and crisp. Dish out and put aside.

Combine beaten eggs with water, soy, salt, pepper and stir until well mixed. Pour into a steaming tray or glass pie dish. Take 3 tbsp of this mixture and stir it through the pork until the mince is well dispersed. Add this to the rest of the egg mixture and spread the mince evenly. Sprinkle with salted egg yolk. Steam over simmering water on low heat for 15 minutes or until egg is just set. Take care not to overcook. If frozen vegetables are used, add this to the egg just before it completely sets and continue to steam until cooked. Remove from steamer and drizzle the garlic oil over the egg. Serve with steamed jasmine rice.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Momofuku in My Kitchen: Blueberry and Cream Cookies

These cookies are so good the kids just can't stop going back for more! At some point, I might need to hide them somewhere safe. I found the recipe for these famous Momofuku cookies on Martha Stewart's website and decided that since I can't go to New York and buy some, I would just make them at home. This is a multi-step process recipe, but it really is quite quick and easy to make them. The original size of these cookies are large, so I made them half a size smaller and reduced the baking time slightly so that they maintain their chewy centres.

Here is the recipe:

Blueberry and Cream Cookies


  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons salt (I only used 1/2 tsp)
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) Plugra European-style unsalted butter (I used regular unsalted butter)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons light-brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup glucose
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup dried blueberries
  • 1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup Milk Crumbs

  1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment mix together butter, sugars, and glucose until well combined. Add egg and mix until well combined.
  3. Add flour mixture and mix until well combined. Add blueberries and milk crumbs and mix until well combined. Using an ice cream scoop about 2 1/8 inches in diameter, scoop dough into balls and place about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.
  4. Preheat oven to 180C. Transfer baking sheets to refrigerator until dough is chilled, about 15 minutes. Transfer baking sheets to oven and bake, rotating pans halfway through baking, until cookies are golden brown and tops begin to crackle, about 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.
    Milk Crumbs:

    • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon nonfat milk powder
    • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    • 1/4 cup white chocolate, melted

    1. Preheat oven to 120C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
    2. In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons milk powder, flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt. Stir in melted butter until well combined. Spread mixture on prepared baking sheet and transfer to oven. Bake until dried and crumbly, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove milk crumble from oven and let cool completely.
    3. Transfer milk crumble to a large bowl and fold in remaining 2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons milk powder and white chocolate. Use immediately or transfer to an airtight container and keep refrigerated until ready to use.

    Crunchy cookies with milk crumble and juicy dried blueberries

    Quick and Easy: Tortilla Pie

    Tortilla pie with a dollop of sour cream

    These are easy to make and they look and taste delicious. Z was only too happy to help out and apart from chopping the onions, he basically cooked and assembled everything from start to finish. Great for a quick dinner fix and something a little different. I also made my own taco seasoning since I had all the ingredients I needed in the pantry. I omitted the Mexican chilli beans and used frozen mixed vegetables instead, and some hard boiled eggs which I sliced and popped in between the layers. The only thing missing was a red onion and tomato salsa and some avocado to serve with it. But nonetheless, it was still delicous!

    Tortilla Pie


    500g beef mince
    1 tbsp olive oil
    1 red onion, finely diced
    1/4 cup coriander leaves, chopped
    Taco seasoning (or make your own - see below)*
    1 tbsp lemon juice (optional)
    Salt and pepper to taste
    420g can Mexican chilli beans (I substituted with some frozen mixed vegetables that I precooked in the microwave, or you can use other diced vegetables of your choice)
    6-8 flour tortillas
    2-3 hard boiled eggs (optional)
    300g Mexican tomato salsa
    250g grated Cheddar
    150g sour cream
    1 avocado, diced

    * Taco seasoning:
    1/2 tbsp ground cumin
    1/2 tbsp paprika
    1 tsp onion powder
    1 tsp garlic powder
    1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
    1-2 tsp chilli powder (optional)


    1. Preheat oven to 180C and grease a 23cm pie plate. Heat up oil in the pan and fry the onions until softened, then add meat, breaking them up into tiny pieces and fry until browned. Add taco seasoning and lemon juice and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the coriander leaves and beans or mixed vegetables if used. Trasnfer into a bowl.
    2. Place a tortilla in the pie dish, spread some salsa over, then spoon over 1/2 cup of the mince mixture. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheddar. Continue layering with tortilla followed by salsa, mince and cheddar, and top off with a tortilla sprinkled with a little cheese. It should look dome-shaped.
    3. Bake for 15-25 minutes until cheese has melted and the tortillas are slighly crisp around the top and edges. Cut into wedges and serve with sour cream and avocado, and a tomato salad/salsa if desired.

    Z having fun assembling the tortilla pie

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    Saturday Cooking: French Toast, Beary Bread and Rendang Beef Ribs

    Saturday morning started with some Brioche French Toast with Bacon and Maple Syrup....

    ...followed by an afternoon of baking with the kids, making these Beary Bready Buns....

    ...and ended the day in the kitchen making Rendang Beef Ribs (which I couldn't resist after watching it on Top Chef Masters). All this makes up for a day off from cooking on Sunday!

    Saturday, June 18, 2011

    Quick and Easy: Eggs in Spicy Chilli Jam

    Deep-fried hard-boiled egg served with a sweet and spicy chilli and tomato jam,
    garnished with coriander leaves

    I had picked a handful of fresh red chillies from the garden and decided to make a sweet chilli jam and serve it with hard-boiled eggs. I boiled the chillies first for about 15 minutes until they turned soft, chopped them up with shallots and garlic, then fried them in oil with belacan (shrimp paste), diced tomatoes, tamarind paste, water, salt and sugar. This was simmered until it caramelized and reduced to a thick jammy consistency. I also added a little chicken stock powder for flavour, then tossed in some hard-boiled eggs (that I had lightly shallow-fried in oil). Wow, those chillies were really hot, which makes it extra delicious served with plenty of steamed jasmine rice to help drown out the heat. Yum!

    Chocolate Swiss Roll with Raspberry Cream Cheese

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    Quick and Easy: Strawberry Roll with Vanilla Buttercream

    Basic sponge with the addition of strawberry paste

    I have a love-hate relatsionship with swiss rolls. I love them but they just refuse to work with me. Each time I make swiss rolls, there's bound to be something that goes wrong when I'm baking, or the cake just doesn't turn out as I hoped it would. This time (probably my 12th attempt or so), it turned out just right. No gaping holes in the cake, texture was soft, fluffy and fine (even straight out of the fridge), and it didn't crack when I rolled it up. Here are some tips for a better swiss roll:

    1. Use cakeflour to produce a finer crumb.
    2. Use canola/corn oil and not butter, as butter tends to make the cake a little heavy, and is also more difficult to fold into the batter.
    3. Whisk eggs over a simmering water bath until just above body temperature. Remove from heat and continue on high speed until light and fluffy, then reduce speed and whisk for 3 minutes or until there are no longer large bubbles in the mixture (and reaches ribbon stage of course). Total whisking time about 10 minutes.
    4. Sift flour over the egg mixture a little at at time and fold in gently from the surface down.
    5. Trim off all four edges of the cake so that it's less prone to cracking when you roll it up, plus you get a nicer finish.
    6. I think it's easier to roll up this time because I used buttercream, which tends to be stiffer and a little "sticky" compared to fresh whipped cream. That provides some grip when rolling the cake so that the cream doesn't run everywhere.

    Swiss Roll Recipe


    4 large eggs (59g each)
    120g caster sugar
    1 tsp strawberry paste (optional)
    100g cake flour
    5 tbsp canola oil


    Preheat oven to 190°C. Grease and line a 23cm x 33cm swiss roll pan.

    Using hand held electric beaters/mixer, whisk eggs and sugar in a large metal bowl over a pot of simmering water until it reaches about 40°C. Use the back of your finger to test and it should be just lukewarm. Remove from heat and continue whisking until it reaches ribbon stage and there are no longer large bubbles in the mixture. Add flavourings, if any, at this stage and whisk it in well.

    Fold in the flour gently until well combined, then drizzle the oil around the edge of the bowl. Fold in the oil gently, cutting through the batter each time and ensure it's well mixed. Pour into pan and smooth it out, and bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly browned, springs back to touch and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from pan and transfer to a cooling rack. When cool, peel off baking paper.

    Take a new sheet of baking paper and place the cake skinside down onto it. Place a heavy chopping board at the end of the cake to stop it from slipping away when you roll the cake. Use a serrated knife and lightly score the side of the cake nearest to you, twice, 1 cm apart. Bend in this end gently until it's flexible enough to roll. Spread the cake with cream (refrigerate the cream first if it's too soft) or any other filling and roll it up. Roll up again in aluminium foil and twist the ends like a candy wrapper, ensuring it's tightly rolled. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours before serving.

    Filling used is a simple vanilla buttercream

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    Jammy Orange Almond Cookies

    So much for the long weekend, we didn't get to go to the Sydney Aquarium like we planned to, due to rain that is forecast to continue until the end of the week. I had to keep the kids occupied with something other than TV and computer games at home, so I decided that we would make cookies together. That gave me a chance to try out the new car and dinosaur cookie cutters that I bought last week.

    I still had the AWW Cookies cookbook that I borrowed from the local public library, and found a recipe for orange and almond shortbread cookies. Perfect! It was just a matter of combining all the ingredients together, chilling the dough, followed by cutting out the cookie shapes. The kids had a fun time making these cookies, although I must add that the cleaning up after that took 3 times longer than usual, compared to making them myself.

    The cookies turned out great, and managed to keep their shape (and not melt into a flat amoeba-looking blob on the baking tray). The kids devoured them like little cookie monsters and just couldn't get enough of them! Z and I both like the ones with a drop of strawberry jam in the middle. The cookies themselves aren't really that sweet, so the jam, which is sticky and slightly chewy (from baking) provides a nice contrast and balance to the flavours and texture. We'll be making more jammy cookies from now on, and not only on rainy days! :)

    Monday, June 13, 2011

    Spicy Szechuan Pork with Cellophane Noodles

    I know, this looks so spicy and is swimming in chilli oil, but it's actually not as hot as it looks. It has a slight tang and sweetness from the vinegar, and the chewy and slippery cellophane noodles provide some cool respite from the heat of the chillies and peppers. Somehow, the noodles remind me of chewing on tapioca pearls in Pearl Milk Tea (but less chewy).

    I would have used chinese cabbage in this dish, but as I didn't have any, I substituted with some cauliflower instead, just to add texture and crunch to it. You can also use thinly sliced pork belly, but I thought minced pork would be easier. Here is the recipe below:

    Spicy Szechuan Pork with Cellophane Noodles


    150g minced pork
    80g mung bean cellophane noodles
    2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    1 tsp grated ginger
    1 1/2 cups chinese cabbage, cut into 2" x 2" squares (or subtitute with any other vegetables e.g. cauliflower), blanched
    Vegetable oil for frying

    1 tbsp chilli powder (or more if you like!)
    1 tbsp chilli oil
    1/2 tsp chilli bean paste ("Douban Jiang")
    1 tbsp light soy sauce
    1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
    1/2 tsp sugar
    1/2 tsp chicken stock powder
    1/3 cup water
    2-3 tbsp Chinkiang black vinegar
    1 tbsp rice vinegar
    1/4 tsp sesame oil
    1/2 tsp finely ground toasted Szechuan peppercorns (or to taste)
    1 spring onion, sliced thinly

    1 tbsp light soy sauce
    1/4 tsp pepper
    1/4 tsp sesame oil
    1 tsp cornflour
    1 tbsp water


    1. Combine pork with marinade and leave aside for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, cook noodles in boiling water for 10 minutes or until cooked. Rinse under cold running water for a minute until all the starch is gone. Leave it to sit in a bowl of cool water so they don't stick.
    2. Heat up 1 tbsp oil in a wok and brown the meat, breaking it up as you go along. Push the meat aside and add 1 1/2 tbsp oil. Fry the garlic and ginger, then add the chilli powder, chilli oil and chilli bean paste. Fry for about a minute, then mix through with the pork.
    3. Add the soy, wine, sugar, vinegars, chicken stock powder and water. Bring to a boil and simmer 1-2 minutes until the sauce is slightly reduced. Add sesame oil and turn off the heat.
    4. Toss the blanched vegetables and cooked noodles through the sauce and transfer to a serving dish. Sprinkle with Szechuan pepper and chopped spring onions. Serve as an appetizer or with steamed jasmine rice.

    Mung Bean Vermicelli (or cellophane noodles)

    Quick and Easy: Udon Noodles with Pork in Miso Broth

    It had been raining all day, so we decided to stay indoors, and I prepared a quick and simple lunch using udon noodles in a broth made with dashi stock (I bought a box of it that came in powdered form, packed in portion-sized sachets), soy sauce and white miso paste. To that, I added some fishballs, ground pork (which I marinated with soy, sesame oil and a little miso), sweet corn kernels and an egg, and garnished it with chopped spring onions and a sheet of nori. The kids simply loved it! I put in a dash of chilli oil to my portion of the noodles to give it some kick, and it was delish! A satisfying meal of hot noodle soup on a cold and rainy winter's day!

    Sunday, June 12, 2011

    Fish Taco Rocks!

    Fish taco totally rocks! I have never had fish tacos before until now, and have always been curious why they seem to be a popular dish on Top Chef. I usually associated taco with beef mince, salsa, sour cream, guacamole and lots of cheese, plus a truckload of calories to go with it. Fish taco, however, is the opposite - light and delicate pieces of grilled fish, topped with a fresh salsa, baja sauce and a cabbage salad (which I substituted with, ahem... coleslaw), neatly wrapped in a warm flour tortilla. The marinated fish tastes fantastic, and so does the tomato and onion salsa with fresh coriander and cumin. The recipe called for lime juice, but I substituted with lemon juice instead.

    This is now the family's new-found favourite food and I will be definitely be making this more often. It's so quick and easy to prepare and very healthy too (if you go easy on the baja sauce). YUMM-MY!

    Grilled marinated barramundi, salsa and baja sauce in a soft and warm tortilla

    Here is the original recipe from Food Safari (with my notes in Italics).

    Fish Tacos Recipe


    10 flour or corn tortillas

    For the fish marinade
    5 firm white fish fillets, boneless (snapper is good) (I used Wild Barramundi)
    2 tbsp olive oil
    ¼ cup fresh lime juice (I used lemon juice)
    Pinch of salt
    2 tbsp chopped coriander
    1 tsp of cayenne pepper or mild chilli powder

    For the cabbage salad
    1 red onion, thinly sliced
    ¼ cup coriander, coarsely chopped
    2 cups freshly shredded white cabbage

    For the baja sauce
    1 cup light sour cream
    1/3 cup plain yogurt (I omitted this)
    ½ tsp mild chilli powder (or to taste)
    1 tbsp lime juice
    Pinch of salt

    For the chipotle salsa fresca
    1 cup chopped red tomatoes
    ½ cup chopped red onion
    3 chipotle chillies, minced (or use 1 minced jalapeno) (I omitted this)
    1 large clove garlic, minced
    ½ cup chopped coriander
    Juice of 1 lime
    2 tbsp olive oil
    Pinch of cumin
    Sea salt


    Place the fish fillets in a large, shallow dish and brush with olive oil. Pour over lime juice, a sprinkle of salt, chopped coriander and half the cayenne pepper. Allow the marinade to infuse the fish for 30 minutes - 2 hours in the fridge.
    In the meantime, toss the cabbage salad ingredients together - shredded cabbage with red onion and coriander.

    For the salsa
    Mix the chopped tomato, onion, chilli, garlic and coriander together in bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and lime juice. Add pinch of cumin and some sea salt and stir through. Set aside.

    For the baja sauce
    In a small bowl, mix together - sour cream, yoghurt, chilli powder, lime juice and salt.

    Preheat a grill or barbeque to medium-low.
    On a very clean grate brush the grill with oil and place the fish seasoning side down to cook. Sprinkle the rest of the chilli on the top side of the fish and cook for about 2-3 minutes per side or until the fish is cooked through.
    Remove the fish to a clean platter, allow it to rest 10 minutes and then slice into thick strips.
    Heat the tortillas by placing them on the barbeque grill for about a minute each side.

    To serve
    For each taco, place a warm tortilla on a plate, add a few chunks of fish, drizzle with the Baja sauce, and add a handful of salsa and cabbage salad.

    Make a small fold along the bottom edge of the tortilla and close from both sides, creating a little parcel that won’t drip out the bottom. Now, take a big bite and ENJOY!

    A smashing salsa with tomatoes, red onion, chopped coriander and cumin

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    Lemon Delicious Pudding

    Thursday, June 9, 2011

    Spiced Pork and Yam Rolls in Beancurd Skin

    I made a batch of these five-spiced pork and yam rolls (I happened to have the purple variety of yam in the freezer) and they were delicious dipped in sweet and sticky black sauce. The filling is made with pork mince, water chestnuts, shredded yam, chopped onions and seasoned with five spice powder. This is wrapped in dried beancurd skin, then steamed until cooked before deep-frying on a slow medium heat until brown and crisp. As I had extra sheets of beancurd skin (offcuts), I made a simple batter (1 egg + 2 tbsp flour) and spread it on the sheets, then scattered diced luncheon meat, rolled it up and deep-fried till golden and crisp. Makes a great snack for the kids!

    Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    Buta No Kakuni (Japanese Braised Pork Belly)

    The kids love eating chinese soy-braised pork belly with their rice for dinner. Sometimes I cook the Japanese version with sake and mirin, and add thickly-sliced daikon in the stew. The daikon has enzymes that work really well in tenderising the meat, and the fat turns so soft and silky it cuts like butter. The daikon is a perfect complement to the pork, and this dish makes a perfect meal when eaten with rice or congee, doused with that delicious sweet and salty gravy.

    Buta No Kakuni (Japanese Braised Pork Belly) Recipe


    700g pork belly, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
    ~500g daikon (radish), cut into 1 1/2 inch thick slices
    5-6 slices ginger
    3 cloves garlic
    Half a star anise (~ 3 petals)
    2 inch cinnamon stick
    4-5 tbsp Kikkoman soy sauce
    1/3 cup sake
    3 tbsp mirin
    1 1/2 cups water
    1 tbsp sugar
    Dash of pepper
    1 stalk spring onion, chopped finely


    1. Heat up 1 tbsp oil in a pot and fry ginger, garlic, star anise and cinnamon stick until fragrant. Add pork and brown on all sides.
    2. Add soy, sake, mirin, water and sugar. Bring to a boil, lower heat and gently simmer for 1 hour. Add the daikon and submerge them in the sauce together with the pork. Simmer for another hour or so until pork is tender. Season with pepper. Dish out, garnish with chopped spring onions and serve with steamed rice or congee.
    * Note: Different brands of soy sauce have different levels of saltiness or intensity. You can start with less soy first and add more to taste as you go along.

    Tuesday, June 7, 2011

    Mud Crabs with Salted Egg Yolk

    Here's a recipe you can try out, but be sure to use fresh or live crabs if possible.

    Crabs with Salted Egg Yolk
    Adapted from Kuali.com


    1kg fresh crabs
    1 cup tapioca flour
    Oil for deep-frying
    3 salted egg yolks (I used salted duck eggs)
    5 bird's eye chillies, chopped
    2 stalks curry leaves
    3 tbsp butter
    ½ tsp salt or to taste
    ½ tsp pepper
    1½-2 tsp sugar
    3 tbsp evaporated milk


    1. Clean the crabs. Remove the pincers and trim the legs. Cut into 4 pieces.
    2. Boil salted eggs for 7-9 minutes. Remove the yolks and use a fork to mash the egg yolks finely.
    3. Make sure the crabs are dry, then toss them in tapioca flour. Deep-fry in hot oil till golden in colour and cooked. Remove and leave aside.
    4. Melt butter in a wok, sauté curry leaves and bird's eye chillies until aromatic. Add salted egg yolks, keep stirring until egg yolks are incorporated into the butter sauce.
    5. Add pepper, salt, sugar and evaporated milk then stir in pre-fried crabs. Stir-fry briskly to mix. Dish out and serve immediately.


    Silken Tofu with Bonito Soy and Spring Onions

    Steamed silken tofu served with bonito soy sauce, spring onions and fried
    garlic in peanut oil

    Bonito Soy Sauce has wonderful umami flavour

    Monday, June 6, 2011

    Easy Gyoza or Potstickers

    Gyoza served with a soy, black vinegar, chilli and sesame oil dipping sauce

    G came home from work and was happy to see that I had made gyoza for dinner. He asked what inspired me to do so (because I don't make dumplings very often) and I told him it was Rasa Malaysia, where I saw pictures of some delectable-looking gyozas and couldn't resist making them. Making dumplings are quite therapeutic, and the more you make, the more efficient you get and the nicer they look. It's like origami, just edible.

    The filling is made from pork mince, chinese cabbage, spring onions, ginger and garlic, seasoned with soy (I used Bonito soy sauce that I found at the Asian grocery), sake, sugar, sesame oil, salt and pepper. For the dipping sauce, I used soy sauce, Chinkiang black vinegar, sesame oil and chilli oil. The dumplings are super easy to make (using ready-made gow gee wrappers of course), and they are pan-fried, steamed with a little water, and then browned again once the water evaporates. They have a lovely chewy and crisp texture, and the pleats/folds in the skin are perfect for catching the tangy dipping sauce.

    I made extra, so I popped the rest in the freezer for a rainy day. So much better than buying frozen ones from the supermarket, and they are so easy to prepare! I will definitely be making many more of these in future!

    Love the crisp caramelized bottoms of the gyozas

    Extra (uncooked) gyozas are great for storing in the freezer for another day

    Quick and Easy: Pink Macarons with Rosewater and White Chocolate Ganache

    I was browsing through an AWW Cookies cookbook and came across a recipe for Pink Macarons. Surprisingly, they appeared to be one of the easier cookies to make compared to the other recipes in the book. I do love eating macarons, and the first time I ever tried them was when a friend kindly brought me some from Adriano Zumbo's. They were truly delicious, and I think the fun is in trying out different flavours, and then suddenly biting into one that tastes absolutely heavenly (if I remember correctly, they were the salted caramel and rosewater ones). The next (and last) time I had them were when G brought some home from work (someone went to France and bought him a dainty selection of macarons from Georges Larnicol). These mini macarons were lighter, drier and crisper in texture, and equally delicious.

    The ones I made here are crisp on the outside, and light and slightly chewy inside. Despite the simple recipe, they actually turned out well (apart from some of the cracked ones that was probably due to inadequate standing time prior to baking). I found the recipe easy to follow and the chocolate ganache filling was quick to prepare (compared to buttercream which requires a bit more work). Also, it makes a small batch of 18 macarons using only 3 egg whites, so that makes it more manageable especially as a first attempt (in case they don't turn out).

    A few things I should not have done was to use a self-made paper piping bag, without a nozzle (as I didn't have a plain nozzle at home). This made it a little tricky to pipe out, which is why I just bought a plain nozzle over the weekend! Another thing to note is that I should only bake one tray at a time. By baking both trays together, the ones on top formed "feet" but the ones below baked too slowly that the "feet" didn't form at all. Well, so now I know!

    Pink Macarons with Rosewater and White Chocolate Ganache
    (makes 18)
    Adapted from The Australian Women's Weekly


    3 egg whites (use large eggs)
    2 tbsp caster sugar
    Pink food colouring
    1 1/4 cups (200g) icing sugar, sifted
    1 cup (120g) almond meal
    2 tbsp icing sugar, extra


    1. Make white chocolate ganache.
    2. Grease and line oven trays with baking paper. Combine sifted icing sugar and almond meal and mix with a hand whisk for 30 seconds until evenly mixed.
    3. Beat egg whites in a small bowl until soft peaks form. Add sugar and colouring, beat until sugar dissolves and peaks are just stiff. Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Fold in icing sugar and almond meal mixture, in two batches.
    4. Spoon mixture into a large piping bag with a 11mm plain nozzle. Pipe 1 1/2 inch diameter rounds, 1 inch apart, onto trays. Tap trays on bench top to allow macarons to spread slightly. Dust with sifted extra icing sugar and stand 20-30 minutes.
    5. Preheat oven to 150C (130C fan-forced). Bake macarons one tray at a time for 15-20 minutes until firm to the touch, but don't let them brown or colour. Stand 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.
    6. Sandwich macarons with ganache and dust with a little icing sugar if desired.

    White chocolate ganache fillling:

    100g white eating chocolate, chopped coarsely
    2 tbsp thickened cream
    A few drops rosewater / rosewater essence, to taste

    Stir chocolate and cream in a small bowl over a pot of simmering water over low heat until melted and smooth. Add rosewater to taste. Cover and refrigerate until mixture is spreadable.

    Thursday, June 2, 2011

    Breakfast Tagine

    This is one of my favourite things to eat for breakfast (or more like brunch), which is only served at Kazbah, a Middle-Eastern style restaurant that serves great food. I love their breakfast menu, which is not your typical Big Aussie Breakfast or Bacon and Egg Roll, and we almost never fail to order the Breakfast Tagine. Both the lamb and vegetarian versions taste delicious, but we usually order the lamb.

    I decided to try replicating this dish at home, but without a tagine of course. A tagine is an earthenware pot with a conical lid which allows steam to circulate during cooking. This creates condensation that drips back onto the meat, fish or vegies, keeping food moist so there is little need to add water. If you have a heavy-based pan with a tight-fitting lid, it should work pretty well as long as steam doesn't escape from it.

    I was happy with how the dish turned out, and G happily tucked into his meal and added that it tasted similar to the one at Kazbah. I didn't add feta cheese to it although that would be a bonus ingredient. The "real thing" also uses Sucuk, a type of spicy Turkish sausage. I didn't know where to find that, so I substituted with chorizo instead.

    Again, this is an easy dish to cook, and ready-minced meat takes the pain out of cutting meat and having to scrub your chopping board clean. Do try out this recipe. It's delicious with toasted turkish pide/bread, and you can have it for breakfast, lunch or dinner!

    Breakfast Tagine (Lamb) Recipe


    500g (or 1 pound) lamb mince
    2 tbsp olive oil
    1 red/brown onion, finely chopped
    1 red bell pepper / capsicum
    3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
    1 chorizo, sliced thinly on the diagonal (optional)
    1 bay leaf (optional)
    2 tomatoes, deseeded, quartered
    2 tbsp lemon juice
    1 tbsp honey
    Handful mint leaves, finely chopped (optional)
    1 cup baby spinach leaves
    5 eggs
    Salt and black pepper
    Feta cheese (optional)

    Spice mix (blended with 1-2 tbsp water to make a paste):
    1 tbsp ground cumin
    2 tsp ground coriander
    2 tsp smoky paprika
    1/2 tbsp chilli powder (or to taste)
    ½ tsp ground cinnamon


    1. Preheat the oven to 200C (390F). Roast the capsicum whole for 20-25 minutes until it starts to blister. Remove and let it cool before deseeding and cutting it into thin long strips. (If you prefer not to roast them, just cut them into strips and sautee them in a pan until softened).
    2. Heat up the oil in a large pan (preferably an ovensafe one if you're going to put it in the oven) and fry the onions until they soften. Add the garlic and fry briefly before adding the spice mix, and fry for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
    3. Add the lamb mince to the pan and mix well. If the mince is too stiff, mix it through with 2 tbsp water to help loosen and break up the mince so that it doesn't form large clumps in the pan. You can do this before adding the mince to the pan. Otherwise, use the back of the spatula to "mash" the lamb into a fine mince. This will help it absorb the flavours better and give a more consistent and finer texture.
    4. After the meat has been browned and coated in the spices, push it aside and fry the chorizo. Then add the bay leaf, roasted capsicum, tomatoes, lemon juice and honey. Mix well and bring to a simmer. Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook on low heat for about 30 minutes. Be careful not to burn the bottom of the pan. There should be just enough liquid to let it steam and cook gently. If the bottom starts to dry up and stick to the pan, add a few tablespoons of water. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Sprinkle with chilli flakes if you prefer it more spicy.
    5. Preheat oven to 200C (390F). When ready to serve, stir in chopped mint and spinach until just wilted. Crumble some feta cheese over it (optional). Break the eggs over the mince, spacing them out equally. Cover with lid and pop it in the oven for 6-8 minutes until the whites are just barely set, but the yolks should be runny. Alternatively, you can just cook it over the stove over low heat. Remove the lid (otherwise the eggs will continue to cook) and serve immediately with some hot toasted turkish bread. Enjoy!

    Try to use freshly toasted and ground spices like cumin. The commercially prepacked ones will not have as strong an aroma, so you might need to add a pinch more.

    One-bowl Custard Cake

    I have been trying to refrain myself from baking anything this week, so I thought I could do so by not extending my grocery shopping beyond milk, eggs and bread. Well, unfortunately my sweet tooth got the better of me and I stumbled upon this recipe while googling "one bowl cake recipes", obviously in the desperate attempt to make something quick and easy to satisfy my craving. And (un)fortunately, I had all the ingredients I needed, even the custard powder which I bought quite a while back that is hardly used except in small quantities in certain recipes. After I fetched Z back from school, I quickly gathered all the ingredients, pulled out my hand mixer and in no time at all, my cake was in the oven.

    It was a simple but delicious butter cake with a richness and sweetness that is accentuated by the custard, which also gave it a beautiful amber colour. The kids loved it, especially little J who stuffed his mouth silly and kept saying "Mmmmm....". He has been trying all morning to find ways to climb up onto the dining table to get hold of some cake. I also packed some for Z's recess today. They are great for lunchboxes!

    Here is the recipe. If you decide to halve it (which was what I did), you can use an 8 inch / 20 cm square tin and bake for 30-40 minutes.

    Custard Cake Recipe
    Adapted from Best Recipes

    2 cups self-raising flour, sifted
    250g butter at room temperature
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    Rind of 1 lemon, finely grated
    1 3/4 cups caster sugar
    4 eggs
    3/4 cup custard powder
    1 cup milk


    Preheat oven to 180C (or 160C fan-forced). Cream butter and sugar with vanilla extract, lemon rind and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time until well combined. Add flour, custard powder and milk and beat at very low speed until just combined. Pour into lined 23cm deep square tin. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Turn onto a cooling rack.

    Wednesday, June 1, 2011

    Pumpkin Ravioli with Burnt Butter, Crispy Sage and Toasted Pinenuts

    A giant pumpkin ravioli drizzled with burnt butter sauce and garnished with crispy sage leaves and toasted pinenuts - a classic combination which I absolutely love!

    This is one of my favourite pasta dishes - a great classic combination that is simple and delicious. I didn't have a pasta machine, so rolling out the dough as thinly as possible was a bit of a challenge. Unless you want to work those upper abdominal muscles and biceps (which is where I'm feeling sore right now), I would recommend rolling it out with a machine, or else, just use wonton/gow gee wrappers. I will probably try doing that next time! :)

    As I didn't want to waste the pasta dough trimmings, I decided to deep-fry them until they puffed up nice and crispy, and then dusted them with plenty of icing sugar. Homemade Crostoli! It was a hit with the kids, but of course, how can they not love anything deep-fried, crispy and covered in sugar?

    The ravioli filling is made from oven-roasted pumpkin, mashed together with parmesan, sauteed garlic and chopped pinenuts, then seasoned with salt and black pepper, and a sprinkling of dried italian herbs

    Used leftover shreds of pasta dough and fried them up to make Crostoli, dusted with icing sugar