Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Hainanese Chicken Rice

I wrote a post on Hainanese chicken rice sometime last year, though without the detailed recipe. Before I go on, let me just say that this recipe was provided courtesy of Mr G. If there's one thing he loves to cook and can cook well, it's chicken rice. The only part I play in the whole cooking process is preparing the chilli sauce and supervising the food styling. I'm only too happy to let him hold the reins on this one as he has cooked this umpteen times for the last few years, and has become quite an expert at it.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Char Kuay Teow, two-ways

Char Kuay Teow with sweet soy

If you know and love Malaysian food, then Char Kuay Teow needs no introduction. In terms of popularity, I would think that Laksa ranks number one, followed by Hainanese chicken rice, and then Char Kuay Teow. These three dishes are commonly found in most menus of restaurants serving Malaysian-style food in Sydney, but more often than not, the authenticity of the Char Kuay Teow is questionable. Char Kuay Teow (CKT) literally means fried rice noodles, but a plate of greasy fried rice noodles with black soy sauce does not qualify as CKT. I find that the CKT sold here usually omits the eggs, which is a must in every CKT. It coats the rice noodles and gives it flavour and texture. Cockles are another must-have in CKT, but I have omitted them in my dish as I was unable to find any at the shops here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Penang Assam Laksa

It took me this long to finally attempt making Assam Laksa, and if mum says it's easy to prepare, she's quite right there. Just steam (or boil) the fish, add the blended ingredients to the stock and simmer before adding the flaked fish. Then serve with noodles and garnishing. Sounds easy doesn't it? In fact, I think I took more time preparing all the ingredients then the actual process of cooking it (man, those shallots sure took forever to peel, and they brought buckets of tears to my eyes).

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pav Bhaji (Bread and vegetables)


My Indian friends from work threw a little Diwali party at their apartment last Friday, and I must say it was a very enjoyable evening, with good food, great company and lots of dancing. Moreover, it's hard not to fall in love with the phenomenal view from the balcony of the 33rd floor apartment right in the heart of Sydney. Dinner was a wonderful spread of  home-cooked vegetarian dishes, including pasta, salad and this delicious dish called pav bhaji. Pav (pronounced "pau" as in char siew pau) is equivalent to bun/bread, and bhaji refers to a vegetable dish. Apparently (or so internet sources say), pav bhaji is a popular Indian streetfood snack that originated in Marathi cuisine. It is basically a dish of mashed vegetables cooked in spices, and served with fried buttered pav. This dish uses loads of butter, which explains why it tastes so good. The bhaji is also topped with chopped onions, coriander and a splash of lemon juice which lifts the flavours in the dish.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sans Rival

Sans Rival is a rich, buttery and nutty cake (or dessert) made with crisp layers of cashewnut meringue and filled with French buttercream. Sounds decadent enough? It was Al from work who introduced me to this dessert, and as she didn't really know the exact name, she merely referred to it as Sandflower cake, or San something. I totally fell in love with it at first bite. The combination of silky buttercream, the light and crispy meringue and scattering of chopped cashews was just amazing. The next thing I did was to google Philippines, san, cashew and cake, and to my delight and excitement, I discovered the Sans Rival, which literally means "without rival", and it is indeed true to its name.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Grilled Pork Belly with Spicy Sauce

Hello! It's been a while since I last did a proper post on my blog. Life has just been a little busy lately, and just when I thought things were starting to wind down, my calendar for the next two months is fast filling up with dates for parties, school events, concerts and birthdays. And when you have three kids like me, multiply that by three and you'd wish weekends were a little longer, and perhaps with a free day for cooking and baking. Last weekend, I managed to find time to prepare these grilled pork belly skewers which were inspired by my recent dining experience at Sake restaurant in Sydney. What I found interesting was the spicy antichucho sauce that was served with the grilled pork (kushiyaki). Antichucho is apparently Peruvian grilled marinated beef hearts, served with a tangy and spicy sauce, I believe. As there is a considerable Japanese influence on Peruvian cuisine (one of Peru's presidents was of Japanese descent), that explains the use of the antichucho sauce in this dish.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Quick Microwave Chocolate Cake

Microwave Chocolate Cake


3 tbsp self-raising flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 egg
3 tbsp caster sugar
3 tbsp butter, melted
3 tbsp water
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp chocolate chips


Combine flour and cocoa in a small microwave-safe container and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs with sugar and add this to the dry ingredients, followed by the melted butter, water and vanilla. Stir well until evenly mixed and smooth. Add chocolate chips on top. Place in the microwave on medium heat (600W) for 3 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let it cool slightly before serving.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Asparagus and Prawn Stir-fry

Asparagus and Prawn Stir-fry
1 tbsp vegetable/peanut oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced/chopped
200g prawns, peeled, deveined and tails intact
2 bundles asparagus, woody ends snapped off, halved crossways
2-3 bird's eye chillies, sliced
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp palm sugar (or to taste)
1 tbsp Thai sweet chilli sauce
3 tbsp water
Heat oil in a wok on high heat. Add the garlic, followed by the prawns. Let the prawns cook on one side, then flip them over to cook the other side. When the prawns are almost cooked, remove and transfer them to a plate and leave the oil in the wok. Next, add the asparagus to the wok and fry for 30 seconds, then push them aside. Add the chillies and pour the sauce ingredients down the side of the wok into the centre and bring to a boil. Toss the prawns in with the asparagus and sauce, and stir-fry briefly until everything is well coated, and sauce is slightly reduced. Turn off the heat and transfer to a serving plate. Serve with steamed jasmine rice.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Braised Lamb Shanks with Massamun Curry

The first time I had lamb shanks was at Mulligan's, an Irish restaurant in Sydney. I remember how tender the meat was and it just melted in the mouth, together with the luscious red wine gravy and mashed potatoes. Well, that was a really really long time ago, and since then, I had always wanted to cook lamb shanks but never did until now, after I bought a french oven that's large enough to fit those shanks. I decided to make a Thai version by braising the lamb in massamum curry with some potatoes. I had it in the oven long enough that the meat was so tender and just fell off the bone. It was delicious, and with all curries, it tastes even better the next day!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Buttermilk Pancakes

I was pondering over what to write for this post and decided to look up "pancakes" in Wikipedia. It was fascinating to learn that different countries around the world have their own version of pancakes, be they sweet or savoury. Of course, the ones that most of us are better acquainted with are American-style pancakes, Australian pikelets (mini-sized ones) or crepes (which are thin pancakes). It was the long Labour Day weekend and the kids asked for pancakes this morning, and so I made pancakes!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Teriyaki Chicken Rice Burgers (Sliders)


There are people who don't like Vegemite, a minority of the population detest peas, and then there are those (like me, or is it just me?) who aren't particularly fond of beetroot. But I bet everyone (by that, I mean most people in general) loves teriyaki sauce. It's like a sweet soy-based barbecue sauce that goes with almost anything. The kids in particular enjoy having it with either grilled salmon or chicken, served with steamed rice. This time, I decided to make mini teriyaki chicken burgers (sliders) using round dinner rolls that I bought from the Vietnamese bakery. The size of these rolls are ideal for little hands and it makes me beam with joy when the kids ask for seconds (they love 'em!). These buns are actually really good, because they are similar to the ones used for Vietnamese pork rolls, which have a thin and flaky crust on the outside, with a light and fluffy interior.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Crispy Polenta Chips with Parmesan and Rosemary Salt

Ever since Jamie's Italian opened a branch in Sydney, I've only been there once, with three other friends. I had the Buffalo Ricotta ravioli with lemon and mint, which in all honesty, I thought was a rather confusing dish because as I was eating it, I kept tasting Lemon Curd Tart, and wished it was served as a dessert instead. If it was intended to be a main-and-dessert all in one, it certainly achieved its purpose. I suppose we had higher expectations for the food, as we found that the other mains were either underseasoned or lacking in flavour (we must have caught the chef on a bad day). That explains why I never went back again. Well, not until Ms L told me that the crispy polenta chips at Jamie's Italian were very, very good. I did want to go back just to try them, but the rest of the girls weren't really keen on going back just to have a small bowl of overpriced chips.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Kanitama-don (Crab Omelette on Rice)

Kanitama-don is basically a Japanese-style "egg fuyong", comprising an omelette of crab meat served on a bed of rice, and topped with a soy-based gravy. I first tried this dish in a Japanese restaurant a few years ago, and was taken by surprise by what was a huge mound of an omelette sitting in a pool of gravy on a large plate. I suppose I was expecting it to be a little more colourful and artistic in presentation, like typical Japanese cuisine. For a moment there, I thought they got my order wrong! Well, never mind that I was  having "egg fuyung" while my lunch partner enjoyed her steaming hot bowl of ramen. I LOVE eggs, and I do love a good omelette, especially when it comes with gravy, and so I was quite happy and contented with my meal that day and was already thinking of ordering it again next time. Well, except that I didn't see it on the menu anymore after that, and that meant only one thing - I have to make it if I want to eat it.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Deep-fried Snapper with 3 Flavour Sauce (Thai-style)

If you've been following my recent posts, you'll know that I've been coming up with "copycat" recipes for some of dishes served at Sailors Thai. This time, I attempted to prepare the deep-fried snapper with three flavour sauce that everyone at our table of ten was raving about. As we ordered only one of each item from the menu, by the time it was passed down to our end of the table, the fish was almost mangled beyond recognition. Okay, perhaps that's an overstatement. Fortunately though, the fish head appeared to be intact, and surprisingly, nobody took the best part - the cheek! If I was having fish with my family (or relatives), the cheek would definitely be the first thing to disappear.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Snow Peas and Asparagus in Oyster Sauce

In my previous post (Grilled Beef with Charred Tomato and Chilli Sauce), I wrote about my visit to Sailors Thai where I had the luxury of savouring an array of creative and exotic Thai dishes and was simply enamoured by the overall gastronomic experience. I attempted to make a mental note of how each dish tasted so that I could recreate the same at home if I ever had a craving for it. And so, this post features a very simple recipe for delicious stir-fried vegetables in oyster sauce. In the menu, it was actually stated as "stir fried broccolini and sugar snap peas with oyster sauce", but they looked more like asparagus than broccolini, and so I've used asparagus in my recipe here. How timely it was that Ms AC received a bag of snow peas from her neighbour who just harvested them from the backyard, and she brought some to the office for me!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Thai-style Grilled Beef with Charred Tomato and Chilli Dipping Sauce

The inspiration for this dish came from the fabulous dinner I enjoyed at Sailors Thai a few nights ago. There were ten of us and we must have ordered about half of the entire menu. Everyone was ooh-ing and aah-ing over the myriad of dishes that were a fusion of contemporary cuisine with traditional Thai-style flavours, served in a fine dining setting. I loved every single dish we ordered, with the exception of the dessert platter which was quite a let-down considering that there are so many other Thai desserts I can think of that should have made the menu. Anyway, that was soon forgotten by everyone after a few glasses (and bottles) of dessert wine (we had the Botrytis Semillon which was wonderfully sweet and intense with a pleasant finish).

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream


If you ever feel like making ice cream, try your hand at this one. It's blueberry cheesecake and ice cream all rolled into one, and it tastes absolutely fantastic! As I've used quite a substantial amount of cheese in this recipe, I figured it would be rich and creamy enough without the need to make a custard base for it, which makes this ice cream dead-easy to prepare. I layered the ice cream with some luscious blueberry compote which is also a breeze to make, but feel free to substitute it with other berries or fruit, or perhaps some chocolate chips or cookie crumbs if you like. Alternatively, just make plain cheesecake ice cream, which makes it versatile enough to be served with a variety of toppings like passionfruit, chocolate fudge sauce, caramel, fresh fruits or anything else you can think of. You could also make this into a frozen cheesecake by lining the base of a cake pan crushed biscuits, and then pouring the cheesecake mixture over it before letting it set in the freezer.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Thai Duck Noodle Soup

When Ms T asked me if she could make duck soup using chicken stock, this Thai duck noodle soup instantly came to mind. I then realised that she must have been referring to Cantonese-style roast duck noodle soup where the duck is served on top of egg noodles in a chicken broth. The Thai-style version that I've featured in this post uses a stock made using duck bones, galangal, coriander root and some aromatics, and is served with wide rice noodles that I hand-cut to size. Though already tasty on its own, this noodle soup is really best eaten with some tangy, garlicky vinegar chilli sauce that also makes a great dipping sauce for the duck meat.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Malai Kofta with Roasted Capsicum


I first tried malai kofta at this Indian restaurant called Curry at the Rocks in Sydney, and was pleasantly surprised at how delicious it was, given that I'm not a big fan of vegetarian-type dishes. My colleague who introduced this dish to me explained that malai koftas are deep-fried potato balls served in a creamy sauce prepared from boiled milk, spices and fresh cream. The first thought that came to me was "I have to make this at home!", and so I looked up some recipes on the internet to get an idea of the basic ingredients that went into this dish. The koftas are usually made with mashed potato and paneer (an Indian cottage cheese) which are formed into balls and deep-fried until they form a crisp layer. The sauce predominantly comprises tomatoes and cream, but I decided to substitute part of the tomatoes with roasted red peppers instead.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Petits pois à la Française (French-style Peas) with Brussel Sprouts (and Roast Chicken)

Peas have usually been an afterthought for me. I always have a bag of frozen peas in the freezer that I use when I need to add a splash of colour to my food ( e.g. fried rice and pasta dishes), or when I have no other fresh vegetables on hand and peas are the closest substitute. I've never really considered cooking a dish of peas before, because, really, don't you just toss them with butter, salt and pepper and serve them as a side? Or mash them up and make mushy peas? Well, I came across some recipes for "Petits pois à la Française", which I thought sounded very.....French and exotic! It means French-style baby peas, usually cooked with butter, onions, stock, lettuce and sometimes bacon. It sounds like a simple dish, but it tastes absolutely amazing! I didn't have any lettuce, and so I substituted it with brussel sprouts instead (love love love!) which turned out so perfect especially with the butter and bacon combination.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Creamy Pea and Basil Soup

I stumbled upon this recipe for pea and basil soup while I was searching for ways to use up the half tub of bocconcini and half bunch of fresh basil that I had in the fridge from two nights ago. I never thought that peas and basil would go together, and was curious as to how it would taste. Well, it's no fancy soup, but it tastes fantastic especially where you get the sweetness from the peas combined with the fresh and bright flavours of the basil. And it doesn't stop there. Top it with some creamy baby bocconcini and bits of roasted red bell peppers and that makes a complete meal that's great for all seasons. I can unshamedly admit that I polished off two bowls of soup for lunch today, and even my four-year-old enjoyed it (albeit in small amounts).

Monday, August 6, 2012

Farfalle Pasta with Sausage and Mushrooms in a Rosa Sauce

The moment I did a preview of the photos on this post, I knew I had forgotten to add something to the pasta. Peas! That's what was missing! It would have added such a nice pop of vibrant green to the dish. Well, at least I didn't forget the parsley, for both flavour and colour. It's been a while since I last cooked pasta, and when I do, it's usually a spaghettini with bacon and mushrooms in a creamy lemon butter sauce. I can't help it. Those are all my favourite ingredients and it's the only way I know how to incorporate them all in one delicious  meal. Well, up until two days ago when I made this super delicious pasta (I used bowtie or farfalle) with pork and fennel sausages, mushrooms, pancetta in a creamy tomato sauce. It was an absolute hit with everyone in the family (even my picky toddler, who often scoffs at any food I place in front of him, was too happy to finish his bowl of "butterflies" -that's what I told him they were).

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Dark Ale Veal Osso Bucco

I love my Chasseur french oven. At a fraction of the price of a Le Creuset, this stylish enameled cast iron cookware comes in a variety of colours, looks great and has so far produced excellent results. I've only used it twice since I bought it a few weeks ago. The first time, I made Massaman curry lamb shanks with potatoes and they tasted fantastic served with steamed jasmine rice. This second time around, I opted to cook this delicious veal osso bucco slow-cooked in dark ale, and I tell ya, it was SO GOOD. Seriously (I'm salivating at the thought of it). I can't wait to make this again when my parents come and visit in a few months' time. The osso bucco was so melt-in-your-mouth tender, the onions were just lovely and the sauce served with the soft cheesy polenta was absolutely yummy.

Friday, July 27, 2012

English Breakfast Latte Ice Cream

Floating and melting island of ice-cream...
This ice cream was inspired by memories of how I used to spend my Saturday mornings back in Singapore when I was still young, single and carefree. What I'm trying to say is that instead of waking up in the morning to children's cries for milk, nappy change and brekkie, Saturday morning was absolute bliss with unlimited me-time, quiet time, any time. I pretty much had a standard routine where I would take a leisurely walk to the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf about ten minutes away, grab a copy of the newspapers and order myself some breakfast. In terms of food, there wasn't much to choose from, and it was usually a toss up between bagels or muffins of some sort. After all, I was really only there for the English Breakfast Latte, and I would order the same thing every Saturday morning. The regular staff there kind of know how I like it, with "more tea" (i.e. more tea leaves). But when someone new takes my order of EBL with "more tea", I usually receive the puzzled look plus the occasional furrowed brow, followed by the question "Err...More tea...?". Yes, I tell them. More tea leaves. I like it stronger, I explain. (And no, I'm not asking for a large EBL for the price of a small).

Monday, July 23, 2012

Wonton Noodles (Wantan Mee)

I am pleased (and utterly thrilled!) to announce that I am doing a guest post for Rasa Malaysia today. Ever since I got that email from Bee a couple of weeks ago, I have been looking forward to this, plus I have also been feeding my family with loads of wonton noodles over the last two weekends. Thankfully (for all of us), my second attempt at perfecting the recipe was a success and I was really happy with how it turned out. I have to say my favourite part of the dish is the pickled green chillies because that's how I remember enjoying these noodles back in Malaysia. If you prefer to omit these chillies, try mixing the noodles through with Sriracha chilli sauce instead. Sriracha has a tangy zing and bite that lifts the flavours of the noodles and gives a subtle kick of heat to the dish. Do check out my Wonton Noodles guest post at Rasa Malaysia!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Imperial Pork Ribs with Plum Sauce

Some of the recipes that I post are inspired by dishes that I've tried elsewhere, loved and attempted to replicate at home. I remember the exotic-tasting Muhammara sauce that came with the deep-fried kataifi prawns that I loved at Kazbah (and the Breakfast Tagine too!). Oh, and not forgetting the awesome chilli crab dip with potato wedges they used to serve at an Irish pub called Muddy Murphy's back in Singapore. And more recently, I found a great recipe for Japanese Hashed Beef that turned out even better than the one I had at Oiden Bowl Bar. In today's post, I am featuring this melt-in-your-mouth dish of braised pork ribs in a sweet and sour plum sauce. The first time I ordered this at Phoenix restaurant, I was expecting deep-fried pork ribs with peking sauce. When the food arrived, I actually thought they gave us the wrong order and was a little disappointed that it wasn't deep-fried. However, the moment I dug my fork into the meat, it was so tender and pulled apart so easily that I knew this was going to be good!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Claypot Yee Mee

I made this simple braised yee mee for lunch today, something I haven't eaten in a long time. I had forgotten how good these noodles taste. I don't cook with my claypot much, so I figured I might as well put it to good use. You can find yee mee (these are crispy noodle "cakes") at Asian supermarkets and they are usually made in Malaysia. I suppose it's more a Malaysian dish than anything else. You don't really need a claypot for it although it would probably taste more authentic, apart from keeping the noodles hot. I've used chicken and mushrooms here, but you can omit the mushrooms and substitute the chicken with a mixture of seafood or pork.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Strawberry Ricotta Ice-cream Sandwich

I just bought my very first ice-cream maker, a very affordable Cuisinart in pink. Love it! It's actually a very simple contraption consisting of a freezer bowl which rotates on a spinning base, and there's a paddle that's inserted in the bowl which then churns the ice-cream as the bowl rotates. I've made ice-cream in the past, but using the manual method of freezing the mixture and stirring with a spoon every half hour so as to avoid ice crystals from forming. The kids and I had fun watching the mixture churn and slowly turning into ice-cream. Instant gratification.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Fudgy Nama Chocolates

When Nami posted the recipe for Nama Chocolates on her website Just One Cookbook, I read it and thought "Wow, making homemade Royce chocolates looks pretty easy. Just make chocolate truffles and cut them into squares instead of shaping them into balls." Now, why didn't I think of that? Royce chocolates hail from Japan and they have opened quite a number of stores around Asia. So far, I have only come across the Royce chocolate store at Takashimaya in Singapore, where I would usually walk past the display counter hoping that the salesperson standing behind would be offering free tasting samples (in miniscule 1 centimetre cubes). It was such a treat at the time (a long time ago!) when I considered them a luxury item, what more with a name like that.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Spicy Pork and Kimchi Fried Rice

Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish of spicy fermented vegetables (usually napa cabbage or radish) and is commonly eaten as an appetizer or used in cooking. I was never really a fan of kimchi. Whenever I dined at Korean restaurants and was presented with banchan (the many little dishes that are served at the start of the meal), I would just sample a few slivers of the cabbage kimchi and perhaps a piece of the radish kimchi (I havan't acquired a taste for that yet). My favourites were usually the cubed potatoes (potato jorim) and the soy bean sprouts. Over time, I actually grew to like the taste of kimchi, and I guess it also depends on how "powerful" the flavour is. Everytime we shop at the Korean supermarket and browse through the shelves of kimchi, G would remind me jokingly "Are you sure you want to try it? It's made with rotten fish/squid." We watched that episode of Bizarre Foods where Andrew Zimmern visited a traditional kimchi factory in Korea where they showed how tonnes and tonnes of cabbage were seasoned and fermented in huge vats with rotten fish or squid (or something like that). And for months too.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Malaysian Beef Soto (Soto Daging)

Soto Daging (Beef Soto) is a Malaysian dish comprising cubes of compressed rice sitting in a richly spiced beef broth, served with tender slices of beef, bean sprouts and sometimes potato croquettes (known as begedil), and then garnished with crispy fried shallots, chinese celery (or coriander leaves) and spring onions. My favourite part of the dish is the hot chilli soy sauce, which we call "kicap cili". It is a simple blend of finely chopped bird's eye chillies, garlic and soy sauce, and is usually mixed into the soup just before eating. The heat from the chillies together with the garlicky soy sauce somehow adds extra depth to the flavours of the soup and gives it the drool-factor (in fact, I am salivating right now trying to describe it).

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Nagoya Style Deep Fried Chicken Wings

I first saw the recipe for these famous Japanese deep-fried chicken wings on Just One Cookbook, and was immediately drawn to the pictures of crispy  wings coated in sweet and sticky soy sauce. I don't make deep-fried wings very often, but with this one, I had to make! Indeed, these twice-fried wings were crispy and finger-licking good. We polished off the entire 2 pound batch of wings within minutes, and we were left craving for more. They are fantastic when eaten with white rice as it counteracts some of the sweetness from the glaze on the wings.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Melting Moments with Raspberries and Cream

These melting moments are absolutely heavenly! So good. Light, buttery, creamy and melts in your mouth. The balance between the sweetness from the vanilla buttercream and the tartness of the raspberry jam is perfect. These delightful little sandwich cookies were so popular that I had to make a second batch the day after, which I brought to work the next day only to have them all devoured by everyone. I guess the main difference between this recipe and others is that this uses custard powder, which gives it a sweet scent and flavour. It also uses baking powder which results in a light and crumbly texture. I can declare that this is now my favourite melting moment recipe, and if you try it out, I bet it'll be your favourite too! Also, don't forget to check out the recipe for quick and easy Raspberry Jam in my previous post. You can prepare the jam and refrigerate it a few days ahead until you're ready to make the cookies.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Microwave Raspberry Jam

I used to have this idea that only little old ladies who live in the countryside make jam in their kitchens, which is why I have never made jam before until now! The microwave method of making jam is awesome and saves you so much time. Not only that, but it only uses 3 ingredients and there is no setting agent like pectin required either. However, it does use lemon rind during the cooking process, and that perhaps helps to set the jam, since citrus fruits contain a high concentration of pectin. The lovely thing about this jam is that it's bursting with pure fruity flavour from the raspberries, it's like eating a raspberry concentrate. It tastes so much better than commercially manufactured jams.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Light and Creamy Japanese Cheesecake

My family and I enjoy eating Japanese cheesecake and I have made it a number of times in the past. This time, however, I wanted to make a cheesecake that was not only light and fluffy, but creamy as well and not so cake-like in texture. The typical recipe for Japanese cheesecake uses milk and flour in addition to other ingredients like cream cheese and eggs. In making this creamy version, I've substituted the milk with sour cream and omitted the flour component. I did add a scant amount of cornflour as I figured it might help bind the ingredients (that's what I think anyway) and prevent cracks from forming on top of the cake while it's baking. Whether it helped or not, I can't say for certain, but my cake came out perfect with no cracks at all. It rose nicely in the oven, and didn't collapse in the middle while it was cooling down. In fact, the top of the cake came down slowly until it was just level.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Crispy Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Maple Pecan Dressing

Brussel sprouts are DELICIOUS! I just thought I should mention that first before you skip this post. I can count on one hand the number of times I've eaten them, and it's just one of those vegetables that I just don't think about, and is easy to miss at the vegetable section of the supermarket because they don't sell a lot of them. They are also seasonal and are usually available around autumn to early winter in Australia. We were hunting high and low for brussel sprouts last December as we wanted to serve them for Christmas lunch, but they weren't in season then.  And so, when I came across them a few weeks ago at the supermarket, I was thrilled and grabbed a pack immediately.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Chocolate and Cream Cheese Layer Cake

This recipe combines the best of both worlds - rich and moist chocolate cake, and sweet delicious cream cheese. It was one of the many cakes that my mum used to make for us when we were kids, and one of our favourites too. She made it without the raspberries, and I decided to add them since I had a box of them in the freezer. From the photos, the cheese layer looks much too brown on top, and that's because I didn't cover the pan with baking paper to prevent the cake from over-browning. The other reason may be that I used a dark-coloured cake pan which often results in a darker crust since it absorbs more heat. I'll have to try using a silver-coloured pan next time then, or perhaps reduce the temperature of the oven slightly.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sun-dried Tomato Butter

The only time I ever tried sun-dried tomato butter was at an Italian restaurant called  Pete's Place in Singapore, many years ago. They had this wonderful spread of breads that you can help yourself to, and I would go straight for the orangey-coloured sun-dried tomato butter. It just had that "umami" flavour from the tomatoes that made it taste so addictive, I would keep going back for more. Since I had a jar of sun-dried tomatoes in the fridge that I hardly use, I figured I might as well turn it into this delicious butter that is versatile enough that you can also use them as a flavour topping for steaks (so good!!!), chicken, seafood, vegetables, pasta or anything you like. It's also a great and easy way to use up any leftover sun-dried tomatoes you may have.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Garlic Bread Recipe

Here is a simple but delicious recipe for garlic bread, made with fresh crusty baguette from the bakery. I added some extra-virgin olive oil to the garlic butter mixture which helps cut through some of the richness from the butter, and at the same time give it a lovely aroma and flavour. The kids love, love, love garlic bread, but they were a little fussy when they saw the green bits of parsley in it. Guess I'll have to remember to make a separate batch for them next time, without the parsley. You can use any sort of bread to make this, and I usually use Turkish pide as I love the crispy and chewy texture when it's hot out of the oven. If you're using a baguette, try getting a good quality one with a nice crust. I got mine from Baker's Delight and it turned out really crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside without turning all mushy. You can make extra loaves of garlic bread and refrigerate or freeze them for another day. Serve them with pastas, soups, stews or just have them as a snack or appetizer. You won't be able to stop at one!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Japanese-style Hashed Beef (Hayashi Raisu)

Have you ever eaten food that made you smile? It's when you take the first bite, and suddenly all your tastebuds are awaken and you feel a calming sense of euphoria which translates into a big smile spread across your face. Some foods (like chocolate, ice-cream and chilli) can trigger the brain to release more endorphins in the body, which is why we feel happy or even "high" when we eat them. One of my most memorable encounters with such "happy food" was at this restaurant called Modestos in Singapore, where I ordered the tiramisu for dessert. When it arrived on the plate, I could already tell how good it must be, looking at the moist and creamy layers of sponge and mascarpone, topped with a generous dusting of cocoa powder. The first mouthful just overwhelmed me with that warm and fuzzy feeling inside, and I just couldn't contain the urge to smile. Needless to say, it was the perfect way to end a meal, and I would always order it each time I went back.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sesame-crusted Chicken with Sweet Chilli Glaze

These oven-baked drumsticks are crunchy and delicious, and no doubt healthier than your regular deep-fried chicken. You can use drumsticks (or chicken wings/thighs if you prefer) either with or without skin on, and they both turn out beautiful with a thick golden crust that is especially delicious with a sweet chilli glaze. It uses only four basic ingredients, which is fantastic, and takes only minutes to prepare. The oven does the rest of the work! No deep-frying, no oil-splatters, no greasy countertops and pans to clean up after. You can omit the sesame seeds if you want (not everyone is a fan of sesame seeds, I know) and just use the breadcrumbs, and perhaps throw in some herbs, cheese and all that for some variation. Next time though, I might try using chicken breast fillets and make little nuggets for the kids, which are easier for the little hands to handle.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Japanese Castella


I have to admit that I baked this cake out of curiosity, and not so much because I wanted to eat it. I have read so much about this popular Japanese cake that many talented and adventurous food bloggers have attempted to make. It's a simple cake, but takes a bit of practice and experience to perfect it. It's great that many of them have shared their tips and tricks in baking the perfect Castella, except that I didn't really take note of them! The entire process just sounded a little too daunting, plus it had to be baked in a special wooden box which I didn't have. I didn't think about the Castella again until I borrowed a book from the library and saw a recipe for Japanese Castella. Actually, I've borrowed this book many times before, but the name of the cake just didn't register in my mind until I discovered it on other food blogs. The recipe, of course, is just a recipe and doesn't tell you how difficult it is or what problems you might encounter. But when I saw that it just needs to be baked in a round springform tin (no special bakingware required), and I didn't need to use bread flour, I was delighted and set off to make my very first Castella, no holds barred (almost).

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Apple and Blueberry Shortcake

Granny Smith Apples are currently in season (in Australia, that is) and I couldn't resist buying some in case I had sudden cravings for apple desserts. I love using apples for baking, and some of my favourites are Apple Crumble and Dutch Apple Cake, which I have made over and over again. My original intention with these lovely green apples was to make an Upside-down Apple Cake, which is absolutely decadent. However, the recipe makes quite a large cake and is best eaten on the same day. All I wanted was a slice or two, and not having to eat apple cake everyday for the rest of the week. It's just too sinful. Instead, I found a recipe for Apple and Blueberry Shortcake in Bills Food, a cookbook by Bill Granger (I was puzzled why it was spelt Bills and not Bill's, and G speculated that some people might take it to mean "Bill is Food" instead. Hmmm....).

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Strawberries and Cream Sponge Cake with White Chocolate Flakes

Last weekend, we had a little celebration for Z's birthday at home. Upon special request, G made his "famous" Hainanese chicken rice (scroll down to the end to see photo) which we all enjoyed for lunch. For his birthday cake, I made a simple vanilla sponge filled with fresh strawberries and chantilly cream, and covered it with more cream and plenty of white chocolate flakes. Z said he loved the cake, mostly because of the marshmallows, and the strawberries too. The sponge itself turned out fine, thankfully. I actually made a "test" sponge the day before using a slightly different recipe and it turned out really "spongey" and rubbery - it reminded me of loofah! After that experience, I decided to play it safe and stick to a recipe I've used for making Swiss Roll. I simply couldn't afford to get Z's birthday cake wrong, although I was prepared to just buy one from the cake shop if I really needed to.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Wafu Hamburger with Potato Salad

Wa means Japanese and Fu means style. So this dish is a Japanese-style hamburger (or hamburg), which is really a grilled beef patty (or a giant meatball) topped with a Japanese-style sauce. It sounds so simple, and yet the combination of the moist and tender beef with the shimeji mushrooms (love the texture!) and dashi gravy is so delicious. The potato salad is a great side dish for this as it helps so soak up some of that mushroom gravy and makes the perfect mouthful when eaten together with the hamburger patty. This was a comforting and enjoyable meal for both G and I, although the kids weren't too excited about it when they spotted bits of onion in the meat. I guess I should dice up the onions a little finer next time and hope they don't notice them!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Almost Applebee's Oriental Chicken Salad

Even though I've only had Applebee's Oriental Chicken Salad once in my life (and many years ago), I will always remember it as being one of the tastiest salads I've had. I'm no salad lover, which is why the crunchy toasted almond flakes and crispy noodles really did it for me, not to mention the deep-fried chicken tenders scattered over the top of the salad which made it a complete and satisfying meal. The "oriental" dressing was fantastic, although at the time, I was more focused on enjoying my meal rather than trying to analyse and figure out the components of the dressing.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Best-loved Lemon Tart

My mum has been making this lemon tart since I was a little girl, and it is one of the best-loved desserts in our family. I would like to think that this is the best lemon tart I have ever eaten. I have never known any other version of lemon tart until I came to Australia and noticed that all the lemon tarts sold at cafes and patisseries were different from what I was used to. They were really lemon cream tarts I suppose, as the lemon filling typically contains cream. I have to say that mum's version wins hands down, as I prefer the tart and lemony jam-like filling which is perfectly balanced by the rich, buttery and slighly salty shortcrust pastry. Pure heaven!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Potato Korokke (Croquette)

At this point, some of you must be wondering why I am constantly cooking Japanese food. Well, Japanese recipes are often simple and span only half a page of a cookbook, which makes it less daunting especially when they usually come with a list of less than ten ingredients. Compare that to Malaysian cooking which may use spices and sauces from A-Z, with plenty of chopping, pounding, crushing, toasting, frying, simmering and keeping a constant watch while cooking. I hardly have half a day to spend doing all that especially now that I'm back at work, and it's impossible to keep the children out of mischief. Just today, while I was preparing pork chops for dinner, my little toddler managed to empty almost an entire bottle of shampoo all over the floor in the shower.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Teriyaki Chicken

I made this for dinner last week, and I asked Hilary if she liked it. She said "Yes" and I asked her why. She looked up from her plate of rice and teriyaki chicken and said to me with conviction, "Because...I love the chicken so much!". And indeed, she loved it so much that she had second and third helpings of the chicken (and didn't finish her rice!). This is my second post on teriyaki chicken this month. The first one was a Teriyaki Chicken and Egg rice bowl, where I baked and grilled the chicken in the oven with a sweet teriyaki sauce. This second version I'm posting today is based on Nami's recipe, from Just One Cookbook. I decided to try her version which uses onion and ginger in the marinade.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Nanban-Chicken (Vinaigrette Chicken)

As I was flipping through the pages of the cookbook "Essentially Japanese" by Hideo Dekura, I stopped at page 191 which featured a recipe for Vinaigrette Chicken (or Nanban-Chicken as commonly known in Japan). The words vinaigrette got my tastebuds tingling and my mouth watering as I could imagine eating succulent pieces of deep-fried chicken soaked in the sweet, tangy and spicy dressing (or sauce). I had never had this dish before, although once I ate it, it tasted very familiar, like something that would have been served as a side dish in one of those bento boxes.