Saturday, June 29, 2013

Announcement: It's a Cookbook!

To purchase your copy, please click here.

You know what happens with food bloggers who suddenly blog a lot less or go MIA? They are either having a baby or they are writing a cookbook. In my case, it was the latter although having laboured over it all these months, it does feel like I just had a new baby!

Hot off the press and officially launched today at KK Women's and Children's Hospital! Read on for more details.

Mid last year, KK Women's and Children's Hospital asked if I wanted to work with them on an antenatal cookbook, as part of their 155th Anniversary celebrations. Of course I said yes - are you kidding me? - because it would be so awesome to be published and do my bit for a worthy cause. You see, this is a charity cookbook. All proceeds from its sales go towards helping the needy patients of KKH Health Endowment Fund. Who on earth turns down a collaboration like that? Immediately, I put my name down and work began.

Now, writing a cookbook was truly an eye-opener, but having 2 clinical dietitians as co-authors only made the experience even more interesting.

Over several weekends, I had hospital dietitians and staff come over to my kitchen so that we could test and taste the dishes together. As the dietitians needed to make nutritional analyses on the recipes, every ingredient - even a clove of garlic - had to be weighed to the last decigram. Sometimes, they went one step further and weighed the ingredients with/without skin and before/after cooking. It was both fascinating and painful to watch.

My kitchen, my 'lab': (L) Now you know - 3 cloves of unpeeled garlic weigh 25g; (R) Adding one grain of barley at a time to get the perfect number. All this meticulous prep work before cooking!

And me? I cooked and cooked. At the end of the day, when my back threatened to give way, I knew I was not cut out to be a lady iron chef. No, siree. On average, we were on our feet for 7 straight hours without a break. How we did it is still beyond me, but I attribute it to wonderful team spirit. It was a pleasure working alongside those lovely ladies.

Oh yes, the washing up. You have no idea how fast the dirty pots, pans and plates piled up by the minute. We'd take turns to clean up and dispose the trash, and then proceed to evaluate the recipes. Afterward, it was the entire weigh-prep-cook-taste-clean-evaluate process all over again ... greasy hair and all. Nope, we hardly channeled our inner Nigella while we were at it.

Once the recipes were tested, I was on to the second phase - styling and photography. This turned out to be the most challenging part of all. I had 35 dishes to shoot, and being a full-time mum meant I had to work around my children's schedules. As such, my window of good, strong light was very small. Throw in the fickle weather at that time, and I ended up having to re-cook and re-shoot many dishes. Exasperating, that was!

And so it was a mad rush every single day, weekends included, trying to get my photos done. Blog? No way. Looking back, it must have been hilarious for my kids to see their frazzled mother at work - dashing in and out of the kitchen with hot food, arranging and re-arranging the tableware, climbing onto a tall stool with a camera dangling around her neck (the neighbours across can stare, I don't care!). Yesterday, when my daughter pored over my book, she remarked, "Oh my, I actually remember the days you shot these dishes!" Yup, so do I, darling. Every single one.

When we eventually came to the third phase - layout and content editing - I was all pumped up again. I knew it was the homestretch and I could not wait to see the finished product. In fact, for so many months that I had been working on the book, I did not see it taking shape ... until I was handed the draft copy. It was a surreal moment to say the least, not unlike the first time you see your baby's ultrasound pictures. I took a moment to let it all sink in.

And here we are today, with the cookbook in my hands. It's hard to believe all the months of work have finally come to fruition. What a ride it has been!

Here is a sneak peek of some of the dishes in the book:

Healthy and delicious are not mutually exclusive! The recipes may have the expectant mother in mind (specifically, to increase the intakes of certain vitamins and minerals required during pregnancy), but certainly, anyone who wants to cook healthy, delicious everyday meals can totally do with a cookbook like this.

Important information
This cookbook is officially launched and goes on sale today at KKH's 2-day public forum titled "Parenthood - an amazing journey". Each copy is priced at S$20 (if purchased directly at KKH’s Patient Education Centre, Admissions Office and Retail Pharmacy) and $25 at major bookstores (available by the end of July). As I mentioned, all proceeds go towards helping the needy patients of KKH Health Endowment Fund, so please support this charitable cause.


Last but not least, I want to thank some people who helped make this cookbook happen.

To KKH: Thank you for letting me be part of this meaningful project. It is nothing short of an honour and privilege, and I feel very grateful for this opportunity. Special thanks to Team Cookbook - Vincent, Xian Hui, Jaffri, Christine and Nehal.

To my wonderful bunch of close friends: Your constant stream of encouraging words made all the difference. Thank you for being more excited than I am!

To my blog readers: Thank you for supporting The Little Teochew through the past 4 years.

To Brad: Of all people, you helped me the most on this journey, and I thank you for your friendship and generosity.

To my precious family: Truly, everything is nothing if I did not have you to share this with.

And to my beloved Daddy: Wherever you are, know that you still continue to inspire the ones you left behind. I hope I gave you something to smile about today. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Chocolate Chip Muffins

I just made these muffins, and decided to blog about them immediately before they get eaten and forgotten. There are many great muffin recipes out there but the reason for today's post is because this is the first time I baked with my batter filled all the way to the brim. Yes, you heard right. Not two-thirds full, not three-quarters full. Completely full.

I have to say, I was a bit apprehensive when my muffin tin went into the oven. I mean, won't the batter spill and make an ugly mess? Will the muffins really rise and dome? However, having read the success stories online, I was determined to give this method a shot and as you can see, the muffins really turned out tall and proud! Every single one of them.

Now go on and try this at home. :)

(adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction)

Makes 12 regular muffins

(A) Dry ingredients
- 330g (3 cups) plain flour
- 4 tsps baking powder
- 1 tsp salt

(B) Wet ingredients
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
- 225g (1 cup) sugar (I reduced to 170g)
- 236ml (1 cup) milk, at room temperature
- 118ml (1/2 cup) vegetable oil
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Chocolate chips
- 160 to 180g (1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips - I used mini ones)

1. Preheat oven to 220°C (425°F). Lightly grease muffin tins, including the rims.

2. Whisk (A) briefly in a bowl to mix.

3. Mix (B) in a medium bowl - eggs and sugar first, followed by the rest.

4. Add (B) to (A). Fold gently to combine - using either a spatula or spoon - until no streaks of flour remain. The batter should look lumpy and thick.
A tip on folding: 
- We want to combine the ingredients in as few strokes as possible. The less we handle the batter, the fluffier the muffins. Start folding in long, broad strokes, scraping the ingredients from the bottom of the bowl in an upward motion.

5. Sprinkle in the chocolate chips and fold in 2 to 3 strokes to combine.

6. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins all the way to the brim.

7. Important step: bake at 220°C for the first 5mins and then turn the temperature down to 190°C for another 25mins. Those first 5mins will provide that crucial rise to help produce those beautiful domes. After the muffins are done, allow them to cool for 10mins in the tin before removing. For minimal clean up, use muffin liners, but I wanted the au naturel look today.

(Taken from my instagram gallery) Two of my favourite things: Tea and chocolate. These pretty printed sheets were remnants of some craftwork I was doing for my home. I put them together to get this background, and now I can't stop looking at it. I love old school. I love tea and chocolate.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Everyday Chocolate Loaf Cake

Taking a short break to share this dark-as-night chocolate cake recipe with you. Hope everyone is doing fine. :)

(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

- 113g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
- 200g (1 cup) firmly packed light brown sugar (I reduced it to 100g)
- 115g (1/2 cup) caster sugar (I reduced it to 75g; if you like it sweeter, reduce to 95g)*
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 cup (236ml) buttermilk (or yoghurt or even regular fresh milk, which was what I used)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 170g (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour**
- 85g (3/4 cup) Valrhona dutch-processed cocoa powder*** (Singapore readers, you can buy this ingredient at Sun Lik)
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt

* Note that because I reduced the sugar considerably, the cake tasted like dark chocolate - just slightly sweet with a tinge of bitterness. It was fine by all of us - my kids love dark chocolate, anyway - and if you are having it with hot tea or coffee, it is actually perfect. However, for those who prefer a slightly sweeter cake, use 100g brown sugar + 95g caster sugar. Of course, if sugar is your thing, just follow the original recipe!

** I used 100g wholewheat flour + 70g plain flour and the cake was a little firmer than usual. Again, not an issue and the kids ate without complaints. But if I were to make it again (with wholewheat flour), I would add an extra tablespoon of buttermilk or yoghurt, or 2 tablespoons of milk to increase the moisture content.

*** If using natural unsweetened cocoa powder (like Hershey's), use 1/2 tsp baking soda and omit baking powder. However, the colour and taste will not be as intense as if you use dutch-processed cocoa powder.

1. Preheat the oven to 165°C (325°F). Butter and lightly flour a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan*. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth.
* Note: I used 2 mini loaf pans from Daiso. Whatever size loaf pan you use, fill it up to two-thirds full and flatten out with the back of a spoon.

2. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3mins. Add the egg and beat well, then the buttermilk and vanilla. Sift in flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt into your wet ingredients. Fold with a spatula until well-blended but do not overmix. Scrape down the batter in the bowl, making sure the ingredients are all incorporated.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 60 to 70mins (shorter time required if you are using smaller pans), or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool in pan on a rack for about 10 to 15mins, at which point you can cool it the rest of the way out of the pan. Dust with icing sugar to dress it up before serving.