Monday, August 31, 2009

Glazed Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes

Have I mentioned that I come from an extended family of teachers? One day, when my kids are older, I might want to try teaching too. Perhaps it's just in my blood to seek this path ;)

Well, tomorrow - 1 September - is Teacher's Day. School will be closed (yippeeee!) so students across Singapore paid tribute to their teachers today.



My kids helped make these Glazed Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes last night. I thought they looked a little too plain and pale after glazing them, so before the icing hardened, I hurriedly grabbed my packet of dragée and did some impromptu decorations.

Obviously, I made more of these lemony delights for ourselves too. I just can't say no to anything made of lemon AND buttermilk. So citrusy and soft. Mmmmm ...

On a more sombre note, I made another batch of cupcakes - Chocolate Chip ones. They were for a friend who left Singapore after being here with us for 5 years. We will miss her :(



Recipe
(adapted from here)

Cake

- 3 tablespoons grated lemon rind (about 2 lemons)
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
- 300g caster sugar
- 330g all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 115g unsalted butter, softened
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk (I made my own using 1 cup fresh milk and 2 tbsp lemon juice)

Lemon glaze
- 110g powdered sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon low-fat buttermilk (I omitted this)
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind (I omitted this)


1. Preheat oven to 170 degree celsius.

2. To prepare cake, combine rind and 3 tablespoons juice in a small bowl. Set aside.

3. Line cupcake holders with paper cups.

4. Whisk all dry ingredients in a big bowl to mix well.

5. Place butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Gradually add caster sugar and rind mixture, beating until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture and 1 cup buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beating at low speed, beginning and ending with flour mixture. I always prefer to fold the last remaining traces of flour by hand, to ensure that I do not over-beat the batter.

6. Spoon batter into cupcake cups. Bake at 170 degree celsius for 25-30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

7. To prepare glaze, combine powdered sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl, stirring until smooth. Spoon glaze over slightly warm cupcakes. Garnish with grated lemon rind once glaze is set, or, if decorating with dragée like me, embellish cupcakes when the glaze is still fluid. They will set like pink pearls when the glaze hardens :)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Homemade Radish Cake - Encore!

My friend, J, emailed me from USA to say that her first attempt at Radish Cake (Lor Pak Kou) failed. It all stemmed from the wrong type of rice flour she had bought. She asked for "Rice Flour" but the clueless store manager handed her a box of "Sweet Rice Flour", which is in fact, Glutinous Rice Flour! No wonder her Radish Cake turned out like mochi :( Anyhow, I just wanted to take this chance to alert anyone who is attempting this recipe ... make sure you see the words Plain Rice Flour.

Photobucket

Another thing - if dried cuttlefish is unavailable, you can substitute with dried shrimp or chinese sausage (lap cheong). Or dried mushrooms? I guess you can be adventurous and experiment ;)

A note of caution: it does take some practice to get this dish right, so don't be disheartened if it doesn't work out on the first few attempts. I have had my fair share of unsatisfactory results too ... it's all part and parcel of learning, no?

Photobucket

So, thanks to J, I remembered I haven't had Radish Cake in a while. I used to order it every time I have dim sum, but ever since I've learnt to make this, I have stopped eating anything but my own. Kinda like never ever buying a cake once you've learnt to bake, I suppose!

Here it is again, in its full crusty-crispy-charred-along-the-edges glory :) Holy yum! The step-by-step recipe is here. I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I do!

Photobucket

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mac N Cheese

It was one of those days where I had errand after errand to run. On top of that, my 3 kids took turns to fall ill ... fever, cough, cold ... the works :( I was so worried it would be the dreaded H1N1. Fortunately, they have all recovered as I write. Unfortunately, I can feel myself coming down with something as I write :( It's always the case, isn't it? Kids fall ill, one after another like dominoes. Parents spend a few weeks (with hardly any rest) nursing them back to health. Kids recover, parents fall ill. Sigh.

When kids are sick, they just don't have an appetite. Instead of making them eat proper meals, I let them choose whatever they feel like (within reasonable limits, of course). I figure something in the tum is better than none.

So, I was glad when they requested for Mac N Cheese. Great! A one-dish meal that is easy to make. I whipped up a large casserole dish for the entire family for lunch. Loved the cheesy gooey-ness! I had a very leisurely lunch with my brood ... a nice way to take a breather from the morning madness.

Now, if I am missing from the blogosphere for the next few days, you know why ...

Photobucket

Classic Two-Cheese Macaroni
from The Best of Cooking Light, page 123

(seen and adapted from here)

- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 1/2 cups milk
- 1 1/2 cups shredded Mozzarella and Red Cheddar
- 6 cups hot cooked elbow macaroni (about 3 cups uncooked)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt*
- Cooking Spray (or some butter for greasing)

*Note:
- I substituted salt with 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, which is a salty cheese
- I topped the dish with panko, for some crunch.

1. Preheat oven to 190 degree celcius.

2. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup, level with a knife. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat; add flour. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Cook until thick. Keep stirring. Add in all the cheeses until they melt, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, add in macaroni and coat evenly.

3. Spoon into greased casserole dish. Sprinkle with panko. Bake at 190 degree celcius for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Top should be golden brown and deliciously crusty!

Mac N Cheese 1

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Moment Of Reflection

Almost 4 months ago, I started this blog for a lark. It was one of those spontaneous, spur-of-the-moment decisions.

To date, I have received 3 "awards" - from Cherry on a Cake, Almost Bourdain and Bits of Taste (thank you, lovelies). Now, we all know that these are not real awards ... more like a friendship chain mail :) But this fellowship is precisely what makes it so special - that these accomplished food bloggers think enough of me to welcome me into their circle ... I feel honoured and humbled.

Thanks to this blog, I have had the privilege of befriending so many wonderful individuals - on my blogroll and beyond (Nana, Kenny, Ninette, Tracie, Linda, Catherine, oh ... too many to name, but nonetheless all treasured). You are truly talents. To be in your company is an accomplishment for this Little Teochew :)

Better yet, I now aspire to cook and bake and write and photograph better! Yes, I am always in awe whenever I visit your gorgeous blogs. How do you all do it?!

When I started this blog, I had absolutely no idea where it would take me. Today, I marvel at how far it has taken me. I sit in the driver's seat, with happy anticipation of where the road will lead. I am thankful for the company of these beautiful people ... the reason why my blogging journey has so far been one heck of an enriching and enjoyable ride.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Asian-style Almond Cookies

Photobucket

If you think this teacup and saucer set is a blast from the past, you are right. It was given to me by my Granny almost 30 years ago. Growing up, I used to spend a lot of my waking hours at her home ... lots of happy memories there. I still remember this particular day she came back from her errands. I followed her into the kitchen and she whipped out this pink teacup set, and to my delight, told me that it was for me. I couldn't stop smiling the whole day.

Photobucket

I thought the prettiest thing about this teacup was its wide brim which dramatically tapered down to a petite, dainty 'waist'.
Oh, how grown-up I felt drinking from it!

Today, I suddenly wanted to know where and why Granny got it ... so I phoned her. To my utter surprise, she remembered every single detail! Apparently, like many little girls back then, I was very fond of playing masak-masak (pretend cooking). So one day, while she was out, she chanced upon this teacup set at a shop along North Bridge Road and bought it for my masak-masak! She's in her 80s and she still remembers :)

Anyhow, I used to have my afternoon tea served on this set - usually a hot beverage with bread or a slice of sugee cake or traditional Asian cookies.

These Almond Cookies taste very similar to the ones I ate as a child. In those days, lard was commonly used in many baked goods, presumably a cheaper source of fat than butter. Whatever the case, lard made these cookies very crispy and sandy-crumbed, with a distinct aroma and flavour. Can't imagine? Just think of what bacon does for a dish and you'll get the idea.

These days though, lard is seldom used, but you can still re-live the taste of these cookies by using ghee (clarified butter).

Photobucket

I made a lot of cookies for they finish up too quickly. The sweet-salty-crispy-nutty combination is simply addictive, I kid you not. What's more, there is no need for a mixer! Yes, everything goes into a large bowl and a few stirs later, you are ready to bake. It's that easy.

But wait, there is one thing that always puzzled me about this teacup set ...

Photobucket

If that is your signature on the teacup, pray tell ...

Photobucket

... why are there these random smudges of paint on the saucer? They were there since Day 1 and I often wondered why. My favourite childhood conspiracy theory was that the artist used the saucer as a palette and couldn't get the paint off after he was done with the cup! You think? ;)

Recipe
(adapted from here)
- 100g ghee
- 120g caster sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
- 70g ground almonds (today, I mixed 35g finely chopped almond chunks + 35g ground almonds)
- 150g plain flour
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt (do NOT omit this ... without salt, your cookies will taste flat)
- Egg glaze: egg yolk

1. Mix first 4 ingredients, then add almonds and mix.

2. Sift flour, baking soda and salt. Mix and add to above. Mix to form a dough.

3. Scoop dough, shape it with your hands and arrange on lined tray. I used a 1/2-tsp spoon to measure out the dough for even-sized cookies. They expand slightly when baked, so I find that using the 1/2-tsp yields a nice bite-sized cookie. Brush with yolk glaze.

4. Bake in preheated 180 degree celcius oven for 12 to 14 minutes till yolk glaze on cookies look golden yellow and bottoms of cookies are light golden brown. Do not underbake. You do not want a soft centre for these cookies. They are supposed to be nicely crisp and sandy-crumbed throughout.

5. Allow cookies to cool completely on a rack and store in container.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Corn And Prawn Fritters

HOW do you stop at one?

I made these Corn And Prawn Fritters again. Couldn't resist. Saw the beautiful sweet corn while buying groceries and had to (HAD TO!) grab them.


The last time I made them with leeks. Today, I used loads of spring onions. Mmm Mmm. Finger-lickin' good.


HOW do you say no to these? Bliss ... really.

Recipe
(adapted from recipe by Amy Van, Today newspaper)
Or if you want photo references, check out my older post here.

- 150g fresh prawns (shelled, deveined and chopped into small chunks)
- 2 ears sweet corn (peeled, washed, kernels removed from cob)
- 2 shallots (peeled and chopped)
- 1 stalk spring onions, chopped
- 1 red chilli (seeds removed, sliced or chopped)
- 300g flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 375 ml water
- Oil for deep-frying
- Salt, to taste
- Pepper, to taste

1. Sift flour and baking powder into a bowl. Add salt and pepper. Slowly stir in water to obtain a thick batter (batter should slowly drip off the spoon).

2. Add prawns, shallots, sweet corn, spring onions and chilli to the batter. Stir until well-mixed.

3. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Drop 1 tbsp of batter into the oil, one at a time, until the skillet is filled up. Make sure your have sufficient space in between fritters so that they don't stick. Flip the fritters to ensure that both sides are browned. Fry in batches.

4. Remove the fritters from skillet and drain on paper towels (I find tempura paper better).

5. Serve with dips, although they are lovely on their own.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Red Rubies (Tub Tim Krob)

I made these Red Rubies (Tub Tim Krob in Thai) for dessert today. Aren't they so pretty? I love Thai desserts. They not only taste lovely, they look exquisite too.



Impress your friends and family with these! They look like a lot of work, but really, they are so easy and quick. Perfect as a sweet, refreshing finish to any meal :)

Recipe
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
Boil both with 2 stalks pandan leaves (screwpine leaves) until syrup is fragrant. If you don't have pandan leaves, you can add a splash of rose essence to flavour your syrup. Refrigerate.

- 10 water chestnuts, peeled and diced into pea-sized chunks
- 1/2 tsp red food coloring
- 3 tbsp tapioca flour
- 1 packet coconut milk or cream
- Ice cubes

1. Toss diced water chestnuts with red food colouring until evenly coated.

2. Throw in the coloured water chestnuts into a plastic bag of tapioca flour and shake well to coat.

3. Pour out the contents into a sieve and shake off excess flour.

4. Put floured chestnuts into a pot of boiling water. Boil for about 2 mins, or until the flour turns translucent and the vibrant colour of the water chestnuts shine through.

5. Remove and drain the water chestnuts. Toss into a bowl of ice-cold water.

6. To serve, scoop Red Rubies into a glass of ice cubes. Drench in sugar syrup and coconut milk/cream. Serve immediately.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Jumbo Siew Mai

Anyone who knows me will tell you how much I adore dim sum. I think there is so much meaning to those 2 words - 点心 - which means, to touch the heart. If a table full of intricately handmade, mouthwatering morsels doesn't touch your heart, I don't know what will.



Now, Siew Mai 烧卖 is the quintessential dim sum item. I used to have dim sum for brunch almost every weekend - the highlight of every week! But of late, no such luck :( Somehow, my weekends are now filled with things that need to be done.

Today, I made some Siew Mai to pamper myself. They definitely pale in comparison to the ones you find at Cantonese restaurants, but they are good enough for me ... for now. And yes, I know I need to improve on my wrapping skills!

Since one is never enough, I made them in jumbo sizes ... because size does matter, where food is concerned! ;P

Recipe
- 200g minced pork (which you can sub with chicken)
- 300g prawns (shelled, deveined and smashed into a gluey paste, using the back of a cleaver)
- spring onions
- some garlic
- diced chinese mushrooms (soaked and softened)
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- splash of Huatiao wine
- splash of sesame oil
- dash of pepper
- 1 beaten egg (I only used about 1/3 of it to add moisture)
- dumpling wrappers (the thin, round ones)
- Tobiko for garnishing

1. Mix everything up, except the Tobiko. Using a 1-tbsp spoon, measure out meatballs of uniform size and place in centre of dumpling wrappers. Mine were all 1 heaped tbsp.

2. Wrap and press firmly around each Siew Mai.

3. Seal the top with some egg wash.

4. Place the Siew Mai onto a bamboo steamer (or a plate that has been lined with parchment paper). Spray water to moisten the skin.

5. Steam on high for about 8mins. Do not overcook, or the meat will be tough. Top each Siew Mai with Tobiko and serve immediately, with chilli sauce or mustard. And don't forget a pot of Chinese tea :)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Cognac-Flavoured Crostini

Photobucket

Sometimes, we remember the frites more than the steak. My sister recently dined at a new eatery in town and had a most memorable meal. But the one item that really blew her mind was the bread. In fact, she was so besotted with their bread that she came over to my house, armed with a bagful of goodies, among them a baguette, some olive oil and hummus dip. "We must try and replicate the taste!" she said, like a woman on a mission.

Photobucket

"Hmmm ... the bread was that good, huh?" I thought.

In the kitchen, we laid out the ingredients on the table. "Rumour has it that the bread is flavoured with a splash of vodka," she said, with a glint in her eyes.

"Ooooh!" Now I was starting to feel her enthusiasm.

"Vodka I have none, but I do have cognac," I offered.

And so we began our kitchen experiment ...

Photobucket

Recipe
- 1 baguette
- 4 to 5 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- a knob of butter
- 1 tbsp cognac (or vodka)
- 1 clove (or 2) garlic, sliced/smashed
- Sea salt
- Black pepper

1. Pre-heat oven to 200 degree celcius.

2. Slice the baguettes into 1/2 inch thick pieces and lay out on a tray.

3. In a bowl, combine olive oil, butter, garlic and cognac, and microwave on high for about 2 minutes, so that the flavour of garlic is infused into the oil (butter should be melted by then). Stir well.

4. Brush both sides of all the baguette slices generously with the flavoured oil.

5. Toast in the oven for slightly over 1 minute, or when the sides start turning crusty and golden brown. Don't take your eyes off them! The bread should still be soft, chewy and pliable in the centre.

6. Take the tray of crostini out of the oven, sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Serve immediately.

Photobucket

You will notice that the addition of alcohol really provides a robust depth to the crostini. Very irresistible! We wiped out 2 trays of crostini just like that! *snaps fingers*

We had them with hummus but I can imagine they would go well with an avocado dip too. Or spoon some fish tartare on top of them! Ah, that would be such a posh hors d'oeuvre, wouldn't it? :)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Egg Wrap With Leftovers



Sometimes, it's all in the presentation, isn't it? You can have the most nondescript ingredients, but when you present them in a pleasing manner, their delicious factor gets bumped up. This applies to some leftovers I had - minced chicken which my kids couldn't finish the night before.

I re-fried them with some oyster sauce, carrots, spring onions and some chilli. Then wrapped everything up in an omelette. Had this with some rice for lunch. Leftovers get finished, tummy is filled :)

I hope this post corrects a few erroneous assumptions about me (particularly for my friends):

1. Just because I blog about food does not mean I cook or bake everyday.
- I only blog about the "nicer" stuff that I make. And that's not on a daily basis. Furthermore, I live in Singapore ... come on! Delicious hawker food can be found cheaply in every nook and cranny, 24/7. One can buy a full meal (rice and 3 side dishes) for a mere S$2.50! Certainly you can find me at food centres going, "Ta-pau!" or "Bungkus!" instead of cooking.

2. Just because I blog about food does not mean that I feast on chic eats regularly. For that, you'll have to look for Kenny of Chic Eats, of course ;)
- Yes, my dear friends who have been asking, "So, what did you eat today?" ... sorry to burst your bubble. Most days, I eat very simple food, such as "re-packaged" leftovers like this. Heh.



Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to find out what other leftovers need to be finished up today :)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Warm Banana Soufflé

Still on the subject of bananas, I tried my hand at this Warm Banana Soufflé. It looked too gorgeous to pass up and I just had to try making it. I was so nervous! My very first soufflé! Will it rise? That was the only question on my mind, never mind how it would taste.

It's quite comical now that I think back. My kids and I huddled together, watching with bated breath to see if the thing would rise. LOL!



As you can see, it did rise. And it actually went sky high while in the oven! The photos you see here are of a somewhat deflated soufflé :( I think I took it out too quickly.



Now, I have never had soufflé before, so I don't quite know if I got it right. This one was a cross between cotton candy and mousse. Yes?

Question: Would I do this again? Yes, but I would like to try using the entire egg. I still like some fat in my desserts, and that means yolks, please. "The more yolks the merrier" is my mantra for desserts :)

For the recipe, click here. Bon appetit!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Happy Birthday, Singapore!

Let's roll out the red and white, cos we're having a party! Singapore turns 44 years old tomorrow :) I made this Banana Cake for the long National Day weekend. But not just any Banana Cake ... this one was made using Pisang Raja (King of Bananas), famed for it delectable golden, sweet flesh.



A simple ribbon and a dusting of icing sugar. Voila! Banana Cake gets glammed up :)

This is by far, the best Banana Cake I have ever made. The Pisang Raja was so sweet and aromatic, the entire cake smelled and tasted like magic. It was moist and light, and kept its softness, thanks to the use of canola oil instead of butter. Oh, heaven! Finally, I say with confidence, "I can bake a Banana Cake to save my life." LOL.



Recipe
- 90g oil (I used a canola-olive oil blend)
- 90g castor sugar (which I reduced to 75 because the Pisang Raja were incredibly sweet)
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 125g cake flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 3 bananas, mashed with a fork
- 25g evaporated milk or regular milk
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract (I used only 2 drops this because I wanted the true flavour of bananas to stand out)

1. Beat egg and sugar till light and creamy.

2. Add milk, mashed bananas, oil and vanilla essence and combine.

3. In a separate bowl, sift cake flour, baking powder and baking soda, and give a quick whisk. Fold in flours into the wet ingredients until no traces of flour remain. Do not over-mix. Stop the moment everything is incorporated.

5. Pour into a lined 6-inch round tray.

6. Bake at 175 degree celsius for about 50mins, or until cooked. I tented my cake with foil to prevent the top from burning.



On a more serious note, I only have one simple wish for my beloved country, and that is, for the people to be happy.

So often, in our pursuit of happiness, we lose sight of the raison d'être. The rat race consumes us while the prize eludes. We keep wanting more. Goal posts keep shifting. When will it ever end?

The means to an end should be an end in itself.

May Singaporeans find happiness as we grow from strength to strength. Majullah Singapura!

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Celebration Of Life

My daughter came home with some good news recently! Her art piece - entitled, A Celebration Of Life - won a bronze award at a national youth competition :)

SYF 2

We are all so proud of her. This is indeed a milestone ... the first time she has ever done something entirely on her own. No help, opinions or advice from us. What a wonderful boost to her self-esteem, for she now realises that her talent is real, and not just lip service from mommy ;P

I told her that if she works hard, the sky is truly the limit. I hope it sinks into her.

This is the catalogue copy of her submission. The original is currently on exhibition.

SYF 1

A Celebration Of Life is a 2-piece installation. It celebrates the gift of flowers, friendship and the joy they bring to the recipient. For sure, I could NOT paint like that when I was 10 years old!

So what did we do to celebrate? Why, eat of course! Since we are both fans of Japanese cuisine, we went off for a nice meal, just the 2 of us. Mother-daughter day out :)

Tatsu 3
We started with some appetisers. (From left) Hamachi sashimi, Cha Soba, Shimeiji mushrooms in clear soup.

Tatsu 2
(Clockwise from left) Ebi Tempura and Potato Croquettes, California Maki, Stewed Pork Belly.

Tatsu 1
And more rolls! In total, we polished off 4 plates of rolls: Futomaki, Calfornia Maki, Spider Maki (Softshell Crab) and Unagi Maki! Really good.

And so I was gushing all day when she suddenly asked, "So, do you have a painting that you are really proud of?"

Uh oh. I scratched my head and thought for a long time. I have painted, sketched and done all sorts of artwork, but I didn't keep any copies of them. And then, I remembered.

This.

Photobucket

It was a batik piece which I did as a teen, entitled Ginger Flowers. I kept it tucked behind the cupboard all these years. When I looked at it after all the unwrapping and dusting, the phrase "yellow with age" came to mind. Has it been that long?!

Photobucket

So, we'll see. When her paintings come back, I may put our humble works up on the wall ;)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Acar / Achar

I think Acar is a great way to eat raw veggies. It's a pickled salad that's delightfully sweet, sour and summery all at once (wow, plenty of alliterations there).



You can get Acar quite easily in supermarkets here, but if I have the time, I like to make my own. Why? So that I get to control the amount of vinegar! Urgh, some of the commercially-made ones add soooo much vinegar, it is a health hazard to eat them. Truly, you can feel your oesophagus burn as the Acar makes its way down to your tum. Not good.

There are many recipe variations for Acar, given the cultural influences of every region, so there are no hard and fast rules. For me, I only like cucumbers, carrots, pineapples, shallots and peanuts in my Acar. I know some people add long beans, egg plant and cauliflower. Some also add belacan (shrimp paste). Well, it's your call :)

I love Acar as a side dish to Nasi Lemak or Chicken Curry. Oh yum! It brings a refreshing tang to a spicy meal.

Recipe
(my own estimates making Acar today)
Veggies
- 3 cucumbers, cored and sliced into strips (do NOT peel the skin)
- 1 large carrot, sliced into strips
- 1 Thai Honey pineapple, cut into chunks
- 1 handful shallots, peeled and sliced
- 100g peanuts, dry fried and crushed



Dressing
- 3 tbsp rempah
- 1/2 cup white rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup water
- 6 tbsp sugar
- pinch of salt

1. To make your veggies crunchy, you need to dry them out. In Singapore, where the sun is so strong it dries your laundry to a crisp, I laid out the cut ingredients on trays and placed them under direct sunlight. Otherwise, you can use an oven.

2. Now, the good thing about having a tub of ready-made rempah on hand is that you already take half the work out of making Acar. I guess you can also substitute with ready-made curry paste, if you want instant gratification ;)

3. After the veggies are dried, fry 3 tbsp of rempah in oil. Add the water, vinegar, salt and sugar. Bring to a boil.

4. Throw in the veggies and quickly coat them thoroughly. Do not cook the veggies. Leave to cool before bottling. Refrigerate.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Almond Meringues



Have you ever bought a plate or bowl, with the intention of making something for it? I know it sounds strange, but this happens to me sometimes. For instance, when I saw this brilliant blue bowl, I immediately saw Nikujaga written all over it. And so I bought it and made that. And it was the perfect pairing.

When I bought this pink princess plate, I envisioned macarons in a delicate shade of pink, sitting pretty on it.

Well, I was going to make macarons, but chickened out at the very last minute because of all the hearsay ... them being fussy little divas. And I didn't want to waste a Saturday morning on failed project. So I opted for the more even-tempered sister, the meringue. But in the requisite shade of pink, for my girly plate.

They turned out so pretty and sweet (pun intended), I couldn't help but accessorise them with my faux pearl bracelets. OK OK, I have my "moments", but pink never fails to bring out the girly girl in me. You can imagine how I love to dress up my daughter ;) LOL! Thank goodness she is all sugar and spice!



Recipe

(adapted from here)
- 6 large egg whites (at room temperature)
- 2 1/2 tablespoons castor sugar
- 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted (280g)
- 3/4 cup ground almonds (about 150g)
- 2 drops red food colouring (optional)
* Note that I halved the recipe.


1. Preheat the oven to 160 degree celsius.

2. Trace your meringue circles on baking sheets.

3. Beat egg whites to soft peaks and gradually add 2 1/2 tablespoons of sugar and continue beating until stiff.

4. Combine 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar and ground almonds, as well as colouring (if using); fold into egg whites. I folded in 2 batches.

5. This mixture can now be used to form layers, or designs or whatever your choose.

6. Simply spoon mixture into a pastry bag fitted with the tip of your choice, and pipe your designs onto the baking sheets.

7. Dust lightly with powdered sugar (optional).

8. Then bake the your meringue until crisp and lightly golden. I turned off the oven at the first hint of "light golden" and left the meringues to continue baking on their own.

9. When baked, leave the meringues to cool slowly in the oven with door slightly ajar.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Bergedils (Potato Patties)

I remember eating my first bergedil when I was about 7 or 8. My mum brought home a couple and coaxed me to try them. I surveyed them with caution, because I was, and still am, a picky eater. I took a feeble bite and promptly spat it out. It tasted floury ... eeeks! Lesson to all parents: if you want to introduce new foods to your kids, give them the best to sample. Otherwise, you are setting yourself up for damage control later.

I only gave bergedils another chance when I was a little older - with much goading. The second time was thankfully, a positive experience ... or I might have crossed bergedils out of my food list forever. My loss, of course.

Now that I have learned how to make them, the only bergedils I eat are the ones that come from my kitchen. They are 100% potato and 0% flour, the way it should be. You can also add minced meat to the patties, although I don't, since my family prefers them plain.

Bergedil 1

Make sure you use a firmer type of potato. Do not use mushy, powdery types like the Russet. I usually use Dutch or Indonesian potatoes, which are quite similar to the Yukon. Firmer potatoes will keep the bergedils' shape better. I love adding loads of spring onions and shallots! Oh, for me, the aroma of shallots being fried ranks right up there with the smells of freshly baked bread and freshly brewed coffee. It's heaven on earth. This is one dish that always satisfies my carbo cravings.

Recipe
- 700g peeled potatoes (use firmer ones), cut into small pieces
- 150g fry shallots (sliced)
- spring onions, chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 beaten egg

Fry potato pieces in oil until cooked. Drain excess oil and cool. If you prefer a healthier version, you can steam or boil the potatoes first.

Mash potatoes.

Fry sliced shallots till golden brown.

Add shallots, chopped spring onions, salt and pepper to mashed potatoes and mix evenly.

Shape the potatoes into patties.

Dip in egg before frying in oil. Fry till both sides are golden brown.

Drain excess oil and serve.