Monday, September 28, 2009

Ina Garten's Strawberry Country Cake ... Made Easier

Whenever I see "country" or "rustic" cake recipes, my eyes will immediately light up. For me, those 2 words spell "messy", which means I have plenty of room for decorating error :)

This cake is so easy to bake and assemble. It is supposed to be a 2-layer cake, with berries and cream in between ... but I didn't bother doing the sandwich. Instead I made 2 single-layer cakes - one for my family, the other I gave to my lovely neighbour. Just plonk cream and berries straight onto the top!


Nothing is more rustic than fresh berries over squishy cream :) Check out the HUGE strawberries, which made the cake look so small. Messy = Quaint = Country.

Recipe
(adapted from here)

- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks or 170g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 cups (450g) sugar
- 4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup (about 175ml) sour cream, at room temperature (which I replaced with buttermilk)
- 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest (I omitted this and used only lemon zest)
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (I replaced with cake flour)
- 1/4 cup cornstarch (which I omitted since I was using cake flour)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda

For the filling for each cake:
- 1 cup (1/2 pint) heavy cream, chilled
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I only used a couple of drops)
- 1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
- Sliced almonds, lightly toasted (depends how much you want on your cake)


1. Preheat the oven to 350 F / 175 C.

2. Butter the bottom of two 8-inch cake pans. Then line them with parchment paper and butter and flour the lined pans.

3. Cream the butter and sugar on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. On medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, then the sour cream, zests, and vanilla, scraping down the bowl as needed. Mix well. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking soda. On low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and combine just until smooth.

4. Pour the batter evenly into the pans, smooth the tops, and bake in the center of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then remove to wire racks and let cool to room temperature. If using 1 cake, wrap the second well and freeze.

5. To make the filling for one cake, whip the cream, sugar, and vanilla in a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until firm. Slice one of the cakes in half with a long, sharp knife. Place the bottom slice of the cake on a serving platter, spread with 1/2 the whipped cream and scatter with sliced strawberries. Cover with the top slice of the cake and spread with the remaining cream. Decorate with strawberries.

* Or like me, you can simply decorate the cake without the sandwich layer - the quick, easy, lazy way ;) I added almonds for some crunch.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Rempah - Encore!

Within 2 months, I finished up my big batch of Curry Rempah. Tells you how often I have curry, doesn't it? As I had to replenish my depleted stock today, I remembered to weigh the ingredients for readers who have asked me, "exactly how much is a handful"?



Here it is. Do remember though, that cooking should be creative and free, so don't fret if it is slightly more or less.

Lengkuas (aka Galangal): ~200g
Young ginger: ~100g
Turmeric: ~50g
Shallots: ~750g
Candlenuts: ~100g
Dried red chilli: ~30g
Lemongrass: ~7 stalks
Fresh red chilli: ~450g
Garlic: ~1 bulb
Salt: ~1 1/2 tsp (add when you are frying the rempah)
Sugar: ~1 tsp (add when you are frying the rempah)
Vegetable oil: ~1 rice bowl (for frying the rempah)

By all means, go ahead and adjust the proportions. If you like it more spicy, add more chilli. If you like it more nutty, add more candlenuts. You call the shots ;)

As you pound/blitz the ingredients, adding vegetable oil in small quantities gives you a smoother blend. No measurements for this ... just pour a little here and there as you pound/blitz.

Fry over a low flame for about 1 hour, stirring all the time, until the oil floats to the top. Cool completely before scooping into a sterilised container. Freeze.



You will notice that this batch of rempah is a lot redder than the previous one I made. The difference is in the dried red chilli. I omitted it the last time because I only remembered them when I was about to start making the rempah, and since they take time to soften in water, I left them out.

I got an "earful" from my granny when I casually mentioned it to her. LOL! She roared and chided (in a doting sort of fashion), saying I would not achieve that gorgeous red hue. So, like a good girl, the first ingredient I bought today was the dried red chilli. Yup, granny takes her cooking very seriously, heh heh.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Lor Mai Fun (Savoury Glutinous Rice)

My neighbour handed me a bag of glutinous rice she had leftover from making bak chang. It was perfect timing because Lor Mai Fun has been on my to-do list for the longest time. I picked out the simplest recipe I could find online - my prerequisite whenever I am making something for the first time ;)



They turned out fine, thank goodness! I think the stars must have been aligned when I made this bowl of Lor Mai Fun (above). I had arranged the chinese sausages in a petal formation, but by some stroke of luck, a sliver of the stewed mushroom decided to peek out, as did a chunk of diced chinese sausage! All in the right places too. So there you go, an entire stalk of flower in a Lor Mai Fun. How's that for beginner's luck? ;)

Taste-wise, I will add some chicken the next time. The recipe did call for it, but I didn't have any in the freezer and I didn't want to drive out just to get some. The Lor Mai Fun was a tad on the bland side, which didn't bother me, because I ate it with chilli sauce anyway! I guess if you're not using chicken, remember to add more chinese sausage or mushrooms to up the flavour.



I also made a vegetarian Lor Mai Fun for my husband. I stewed some mushrooms in vegetarian oyster sauce, garlic, ginger juice, sugar and a little dark sauce. Then used the gravy as seasoning for the rice. I also topped it with some canned peanuts. I actually liked the vegetarian version more.

All in all, a great afternoon snack!

Recipe
(adapted from Amy Beh's recipe, here)

- 400g glutinous rice, rinsed and soaked for at least 4–5 hours or preferably overnight
- 200g chicken, chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 1 Chinese sausage, sliced
- 2 Chinese mushrooms, soaked and sliced
- 3/4 tbsp minced garlic
- 1/2 tbsp minced ginger
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1/2 cup water (or chicken stock)

Seasoning
- 2 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp light soya sauce
- 1 tsp thick soy sauce
- 1 tsp Shao Hsing Hua Tiau wine
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3/4 tsp sugar or to taste

1. Drain soaked glutinous rice in a colander. Heat sesame oil and fry ginger and garlic until fragrant. Add chicken, mushrooms and seasoning ingredients.

2. Toss well to combine. Add glutinous rice to mix. Pour in water and stir until water is absorbed into the rice.

3. Arrange a few sliced sausages into each deep bowl. Spoon glutinous rice into the bowl until almost full to the brim.

4. Press slightly. Steam the filled bowls over a medium heat for 30–35 minutes or until rice is done. Turn out the rice and serve immediately.

An Asian version of an upside-down cake, I say!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Potato And Cheese Frittata

Bless the Italians! I love eggs and a simple Frittata is just right up my alley. It's a delicious one-dish meal which has loads of room for creativity and leftovers :) What's not to like?

Frittate (the plural of Frittata) are lovely served warm or cold, so they make perfect snacks to take along to picnics or road trips.

I made these on a whim. My plumber was coming to fix a choked pipe (disaster in my kitchen for 2 days!!) and I hadn't had lunch. Looking around my pantry, I spotted 1 lonely potato, an opened packet of shredded cheese and some wilting stalks of spring onions. Immediately, I thought of a savoury Potato and Cheese Frittata :) Yum!

To those ingredients, I added 1 shallot and 2 large eggs (thickened with some whipping cream and seasoned with salt and pepper). I also threw in 1 chilli, deseeded.

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I know I should really add another egg or 2, to make a thicker, prettier Frittata. But since I was eating it by myself, imagine what that would do to my cholesterol level!!!

So, due uova. Basta.

And yes, the plumber got the choked pipe fixed in 30 minutes. I am a lot poorer but infinitely happier, now that my kitchen is back in business! Yipee!

Recipe
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten and seasoned with salt and pepper
- 3 tbsp whipping cream (to be added to the eggs)
- 1 potato, peeled and cubed
- 1 stalk spring onion, sliced finely
- 1 shallot, sliced finely
- 1 chilli, deseeded
- Shredded cheeses, to sprinkle over the Frittata

* Note that you need a small, non-stick pan for this (about 15-18cm), to get the desired thickness for the Frittata.

1. In a small, non-stick pan, fry the potato cubes in some olive oil till browned and cooked through.

2. Lower the flame, add in shallots and spring onions. Fry a while longer till fragrant.

3. Slowly pour in the egg mixture, coating the bottom of the non-stick pan entirely.

4. Initially, as the omelette starts to set at the bottom, allow the uncooked portion on top to flow beneath by occasionally breaking the middle of the omelette, and also by gently lifting the sides. Your flame must be very small.

5. Stop "messing" with it when the omelette begins to firm up.

6. Sprinkle chilli and shredded cheeses on top and allow the Frittata to cook through. The bottom should be browned while the interior still remains tender.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sweet Garlicky Chilli Sauce

This is something I learned to make from my Granny. It's sweet and garlicky, and goes really well with all kinds of food, especially fried items like fish, chicken, vermicelli, noodles ... virtually everything! You can also have it as a dip, with some keropok (prawn or fish crackers) or tempeh. My recipe for crispy Tempeh Chips can be found here.



Making this chilli sauce is a lot less work than making curry rempah ... only 3 main ingredients required. You can use a food processor if you don't want to pound the traditional way. But I still prefer using my pestle and mortar if I have the time, because chilli seeds do not get smashed finely in food processors.

Recipe
(as told by Granny)

- About 1 handful garlic cloves (or more, if you like a stronger garlicky flavour)
- About 1 handful shallots
- About 1 handful large red chilli (deseed the chilli if you don't like it too spicy)
- 3 tbsp sugar (or more if you like it sweeter)
- Pinch of salt
- About 1/2 rice bowl vegetable oil

As you can see, there is NO specific recipe. Haha ... that's the thing about learning from real cooks ;) Everything is a guesstimate! However, I can see the wisdom in this because it's up to your individual tastes. You should taste as you cook, and finetune along the way. It will turn out right :)

1. Pound (or blitz) the first 3 ingredients to a paste.

2. Fry in oil over low flame till the oil floats to the top (about 45mins).

3. Add in sugar and salt and continue frying for another 10mins. Taste and adjust accordingly. Turn off flame.

4. Allow to cool before bottling. Refrigerate.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mooncakes

Commercialism rears its ugly head. The Mid-Autumn Festival (also known as Lantern Festival or Mooncake Festival) falls on 3 October this year, and already, I have gone through 3 boxes of mooncakes! By the time we come to October, you can be sure the malls will be playing "Deck the Halls". It's quite absurd, really :(

But well, when well-meaning family members come over bearing boxes of lovely mooncakes, you just eat ;P


Mooncakes from my sister-in-law. From left: White Lotus Paste, Lotus Paste, Red Bean and Jade (Pandan). How do I know? The Chinese characters on top of each mooncake tell me so ;)



Luscious and smooth. I particularly enjoyed the Red Bean and Pandan (in the foreground). Love the golden yolks ... symbolic of the moon, you see ;)




My sister also bought some for my family. These were from Goodwood Park Hotel. The Durian Snow Skin (in yellow) was lovely.



Few days later, my sister came over AGAIN, with more durian mooncakes, from Peony Jade. These were filled with 100% Mao Shan Wang durians!! It was sublime ... like eating cream. Unfortunately, we both did not like the matcha snow skin.

I know there will be more mooncakes coming my way ... my aunt makes fantastic ones for us every year. Yes, the mooncake buffet continues ...

As a child, I really looked forward to the Mid-Autumn Festival. After dinner, the adults would sit outdoors, eating mooncakes and drinking tea, chatting under the full, bright moon (if it didn't rain, that is).

The kids would be toting paper/cellophane lanterns, walking about, and insisting they could spot Chang E (the fairy who lives on the moon)! Ah, those were the days! I still remember my favourite lantern was one of a colourful phoenix, which my granny gave me, and which I kept for quite some years.

And that reminds me, I should start looking around for some non-obnoxious, non-Disney, non-battery operated lanterns for my children soon :) Anyone coming with me?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Watercress Soup (西洋菜汤)

This is one of my favourite soups. It's a nourishing bowl of goodness that is easy to make. I didn't know that watercress is one of the oldest leaf vegetables consumed by humans, until I googled it. Well, we learn something new everyday!



I made this soup today for my family. The watercress at the market was beautifully fresh and crisp, and going cheap.

I went over to the poultry stall to buy a chicken for the soup. The nice uncle refused to sell me any! Instead he went behind the counter, dug into his freezer and handed me a huge bag of chicken thigh bones, gratis.

"Take these," he whispered. "The soup will taste even better!"

And he was right. Boiling soups with bones lend a milkiness to the taste. The watercress soup was rich and full-bodied. So delicious!

Finally, can anyone confirm if this is true: I understand that when cooking bitter-ish veggies, such as watercress or kow kei, we should NOT put the veggies in when the water is boiling. Instead, we should put them into the soup pot with room temperature water, and THEN let the whole thing boil. This way, the veggies will not have a bitter aftertaste when cooked. Any truth to this?

Recipe
- 1 bundle fresh watercress
- 1/2 fresh chicken, or 500g bones, or 500g pork ribs
- 1 carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 handful pitted red dates
- 1 handful Chinese wolfberries
- 3 large soup bowls of water (boiled till amount is reduced to about 2 large bowls)

1. Rinse watercress thoroughly.

2. In a soup pot, put all ingredients in and bring to a gradual boil over medium heat. Once the water comes to a rolling bowl, lower the flame and let the soup simmer gently. This should take about an hour or longer, if you want a more robust flavour.

3. If, like me, you are using a pressure cooker, all it takes is about 15-20mins.

4. Add salt to taste if desired. But for me, there is absolutely no need. It was so flavourful on its own.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Homemade Ice-Cream ... And I Didn't Need A Machine!

Alright, it's official. I don't think I will be buying ice-creams for a long time. A few days back, I made my very first ice-cream - a mango flavoured one - and it was out of this world. Holy yum!


Melting by the minute! Photographing ice-cream ranks right up there with soufflés.

Well, it was a very hot day. No, that would be an understatement. It was scorching, sweltering, suffocating. I felt like passing out in the still of the humidity and the heat of the kitchen. Then, I looked at the 4 mangoes lying on my kitchen top and like a thirsty traveller in a desert, I saw a mirage (cue dramatic drum roll). The words, "ICE-CREAM!" were written all over them.

A quick check online for a recipe without needing an ice-cream machine yielded Nigella's No Churn Pomegranate Ice-Cream. Bingo, exactly what I needed!

But then, there were hiccups. The recipe called for 3/4 cup of pomegranate + lime juice, but I was using mangoes, which were more pulp than juice. Still, I took the chance and went ahead (fools rush in where angels fear to tread, I say).

As all 4 of my mangoes were already very ripe, I decided to puree them all, and that yielded 2 staggering cups of pulp! Oh nevermind, I thought. I will just have a stronger mango flavour ;P

So after changing the entire face of this recipe, I ended up with ice-cream that I had to churn. But no worries ... I only needed to churn 3 times and it was ready :)

I think the excessive mango puree may have affected the whipping cream's ability to be whipped properly. I could not get soft peaks no matter how hard I tried. Perhaps the next time, I will follow the original pomegranate recipe to a 'T' and see if it works for me. I can't wait!



Recipe
(adapted from here)
- 4 ripe mangoes, peeled and cut into chunks
- 175g icing sugar
- 500ml whipping cream

1. Puree the mango chunks by pressing them through a wire sieve. This will ensure a smooth puree.

2. Add icing sugar and whipping cream to the mango puree and whisk to combine.

3. According to Nigella's recipe: "Whisk until soft peaks form" but no matter how long I whisked, I just could not whip to that stage. Too much mango, I suppose! Next time, I will skip this stage.

4. Spoon and smooth the ice cream into the airtight container of your choice and freeze for at least 4 hours, or overnight. I placed my mixture in a metal food carrier, covered loosely with a paper plate and placed it in the freezer ;)

5. About 2 hours later, I checked on it and there were already ice crystals on the edges of the mixture. I churned it with a large spoon and put it back in the freezer. After another 2 hours, I repeated the process. By this time, 90% of the mixture already resembled ice-cream and if you like your ice-cream soft, you can start eating now.

You can imagine how excited I was, doing my little happy dance and stealing spoonfuls of that golden goodness as I churned. Okay, okay, I will be honest - I was eating from the moment I peeled the mangoes!

So, I churned it one last time and left it in the freezer for another hour, and it was truly icy and firm by then. The remainder, I left it in the freezer overnight, covered with the proper carrier lid.


I just wanted to comment on the giant mint leaves ... they are from Cameron Highlands, and they filled my entire kitchen with their refreshing scent. :)

Now, this stuff is gold, and I am not just referring to the colour. It's silky, smooth, creamy and fragrant ... simply sublime. And done with the most primitive of methods and equipment. In other words, ANYONE can make ice-cream. Now, isn't that something to cheer about? :)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Kiwifruit 101

This is a shout out to ZESPRI - the Kiwifruit Company. I don't know anyone there and I am not paid to do this. BUT, my daughter came home yesterday with a goody bag, filled with 2 kiwifruit, a toy, a discount voucher and a brochure. She said a magician from ZESPRI came to the school and did a little skit featuring kiwifruit (among other fruits and veggies). At the end of the skit, everyone got that goody bag.

Whatever the magician did, the magic sure worked. She had a kiwifruit after lunch and another after dinner. Now, she wants kiwifruit every week - "I prefer the Gold one", she declared. This, coming from someone who previously refused even a single bite of it, not even the thin slices on cream cakes! My jaw just dropped.

As if it wasn't enough, she went on to rattle off trivia on kiwifruit - like, "Did you know 1 kiwifruit has the same amount of Vitamin C as 2 oranges?" or "Did you know that 1 kiwifruit has the same amount of potassium as 1 mango?" And so on, and so forth. Argh, if only she could rattle off her facts the same way for her upcoming year-end exams!

Next, she demonstrated the correct way of eating a kiwifruit - slice it in half and using a spoon, eat only the soft flesh around the core. My goodness! Now she is teaching me kiwifruit etiquette.

Whatever the case, I am thankful. I wish more companies would reach out and get kids interested in their fruits and veggies like this ... so kudos to ZESPRI. Yes yes, I know ... it's soft sell and vested interest for them, but the end result is a child who wants to try a new fruit and ends up enjoying it (without her mother having to do any persuading).

That, my friends, is what I call a win-win-win situation. Kiwifruit, anyone?

The Cognac Crostini Connection

So it started with my sister having a meal at a restaurant, after which she just couldn't get the fantastic bread out of her head. Then came the determined attempt to replicate the taste, which led to the little experiment in my humble kitchen.

The result? Cognac-flavoured Crostini, which have travelled round the world! My heart sings whenever fellow bloggers and friends enjoy something as much as I do :)

These talented, lovely ladies have taken the recipe and made it their own ... do I sound like a judge on American Idol? LOL! Take a look at their gorgeous eats:

~ Monique of La Table de Nana: Cognac and Crostinis

~ Linda of How to Cook a Wolf: Little T's Crostini ... With Vodka

~ Kate of A Spoonful of Thyme: Crispy Cognac Crostini

~ Michelle of Big Black Dog: French Bread and a Delicious Brandy-flavoured Crostini

And ... not forgetting my sister, who sparked off this entire Crostini Connection! :) Cheers!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Easy Salmon Cakes

They surveyed the dish in front of them with caution. "It's like your usual salmon, but in little patties," I explained. Each of them took a piece and hesitatingly took a bite. Then another, and another. No one said a word until all the Salmon Cakes were gone.



My older son, a little man of few words, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, then slid off his chair and went off to play, satiated. The younger boy, with a mutilated-looking patty in his grubby hands, gnawed at it with his four tiny teeth, grinning whenever I looked at him.

My daughter, in between the few last bites, declared, "This stuff is gooood!"

And so, a new family favourite was born. Easy Salmon Cakes, made with whatever I had on hand. Sometimes, we get lucky :)


Crispy on the outside, flaky and moist on the inside. Held together by mashed potatoes and mayo, this is one easy but tasty dish!

Recipe
- 1 fillet fresh salmon, about 250g
- 1 large potato, cut into chunks and microwaved on high till cooked, then mashed coarsely (I will increase to 2 potatoes next time because we're all spud lovers)
- 1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
- pinch of salt
- pinch of pepper
- 3 tbsp of mayo (use your discretion - just enough for the fish mixture to be sticky, for shaping into patties)
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 tray of panko or breadcrumbs

1. Boil potato, or microwave on high till cooked, then mash coarsely into chunks.

2. In the meantime, remove bones from salmon. Rinse.

3. Bring a small saucepan of milk to a boil. Poach the salmon, about 10mins, over a very low fire till cooked. You can flavour the milk, for eg, add garlic (like I did) or bay leaves or lemongrass, etc, to give the fish an added dimension in taste.

4. Remove from milk and drain off excess fluids. Cool.

5. In a large bowl, combine mashed potato, grated parmesan, salt, pepper and mayo. Flake in the poached salmon with a fork and gently fold everything together. Do not stir or overmix.

6. Shape into patties. If the patties keep crumbling, add a little more mayo.

7. Heat up oil in a skillet. Dip one patty at a time, into egg, then panko, then into the hot oil. Fry till golden brown over a medium flame.

8. Dish up and drain excess oil. Serve.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Terong Balado (Stirfried Brinjal In Chilli Sauce)

Terong Balado is a very popular Indonesian dish. It is basically Brinjal in Balado sauce. As you know, Brinjal is also known as Eggplant or Aubergine, depending on where you live. This recipe is one of my favourite stirfry dishes because it is fast, easy and delicious!

Photobucket

Recipe
- 1 large brinjal, cut into short, thick strips (or into circles, if the brinjal is round)
- 2 or 3 cloves of garlic
- 2 or 3 shallots
- 2 fresh red chilli, deseeded
- 1 or 2 fresh juicy tomatoes, diced
- Pinch of sugar
- Pinch of salt
- Small amount of water, if too dry

1. Pound garlic, shallots and chilli into a coarse paste. Add diced tomatoes and mix. Set aside.

2. Fry brinjal in oil till the the flesh turns light golden. Dish up and drain off excess oil. Set aside.

3. With a small amount of oil, fry the paste till fragrant. There should be some liquid from the tomatoes. If too dry, add a little water.

4. Toss in the brinjal, add salt and sugar, and quickly stir fry all the ingredients.

5. Dish up and garnish. I used crispy fried shallots for some crunch. Serve hot.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Cotton Soft Japanese Cheesecake (For a Birthday)

Related post: Tips & Tricks on how to get that perfect Cheesecake!

Trust the Japanese to finetune and improve everything. Sometimes, reinventing the wheel does pay off. So you have cheesecakes and you have sponge cakes. Under the hands of the Japanese, these 2 cakes get married and voila! You get a Cotton Soft Japanese Cheesecake.

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See how soft and spongy the texture is? Very unlike your regular cheesecakes, which are creamy and dense.

I made this for my baby's first birthday. He turned ONE today. My baby is ONE!!! Was it not just yesterday I was getting ready to birth him??? Where did all the time go?


Hello world! This was him, 3 hours after birth.

I still remember my doctor saying during a postpartum check up, "Your baby will celebrate his first birthday on a very auspicious date (09.09.09)!" In Chinese, the number 9 sounds like the word "eternity". For that reason, 09.09 of any year is a favoured date to get married (for Chinese couples, at least).

Not only that, in ancient China, 9 was the number reserved only for the Emperor. If you have been to the Forbidden City in Beijing, you will notice that everything there is built according to multiples of 9. Whatever, because 09.09 will always be a special date to me :) It's my little emperor's special day!

Well, we had a nice lunch out, and then came home for the cake. I usually like to eat this cake as is, but since this was a birthday cake, I decided to frost it with some fresh cream. What is a birthday cake if we don't have some cake decorations, yes?

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Before frosting.


Photobucket
After some very simple frosting, imperfections and all ... because this was a birthday cake and I didn't want to risk destroying it with my lack of frosting skills. Yes, my third frosted cake in my entire life! But you know what, it gets easier each time ;)

This soft, cottony cake was a hit with everyone. Even after 2 slices, you don't feel bloated like you normally do with regular cheesecake. So, it was more than half gone after we ate it. The remainder, I shared with my nice neighbours.

To my baby son: "Happy birthday, my dearest! Wishing you many, many, many happy returns of the day."

Recipe
(adapted from Diana's Desserts)
- 140g fine granulated sugar
- 6 egg whites
- 6 egg yolks
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
- 50g butter
- 250g cream cheese
- 100ml fresh milk
- 1 tbsp lemon juice (I omitted this)
- 60g cake flour
- 20g corn flour
- 1/4 tsp salt

1. Melt cream cheese, butter and milk over a double boiler. Cool the mixture. Fold in the flour, the cornflour, egg yolks, lemon juice and mix well.

2. Whisk egg whites with cream of tartar until foamy. Add in the sugar and whisk until soft peaks form.

3. Add the egg whites to the cheese mixture and fold well. Pour into a 8-inch round springform cake pan or removable-bottom cake pan (lightly grease and line the bottom and sides of the pan with greaseproof baking paper or parchment paper). Wrap the base of your cake tin with aluminium foil, to prevent seepage ... although I never do, and it has never seeped! ;)

4. Bake cheesecake in a water bath for 1 hour 10 minutes or until set and golden brown at 160 degree celsius.

My own observation:
5. Leave to cool in oven with door ajar, about 1 hour. Sudden changes in temperature may cause the cake to cool too quickly and collapse.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Sky Dining Onboard The Singapore Flyer

I love my blog! It has enriched my life in so many ways. In July, I was invited to the Singapore Food Festival, where I had such a wonderful time.

Yesterday, I was invited for an evening onboard the iconic Singapore Flyer, courtesy of Singapore Tourism Board. Not just for a ride in the sky, but for a spectacular dinner in a private cabin! It offers the World's First Full Butler Sky Dining, so you can imagine how thrilled I was.


Here it is, the Singapore Flyer! I deliberately arrived earlier to take photos while there was still daylight.


At the ticket office, I was escorted to the VIP Lounge for drinks before boarding. I took more photos while waiting for my sister to arrive. Yes, I was allowed to bring a guest and I brought my sister to thank her for the Cognac-Flavoured Crostini inspiration :)

My hubby was busy, otherwise he would have loved to come, especially since vegetarian meals were available upon request. Oh, I have a good reason to revisit the Singapore Flyer again :) Perhaps bring my kids too.


(Centre) A cute jar of marshmallows at the bar! I loved the quirky little touches.


I noticed there was an outdoor area, so I stepped out and took some pics before night fell. My dinner date had arrived by then and we were served fruit juices before being led to the boarding area. No queueing, no waiting ... just first class treatment.


We were scheduled to board the 7:37pm flight. As we stepped into our private cabin, an entire row of tourists started snapping photos of us getting seated at our table. My first taste of "paparazzi", LOL! Immediately, our in-flight butler, Raj, got to work, meticulously setting the table for dinner.


We, on the other hand, squealed like kids in a candy store and rushed off to take photos.


Can you blame us? The view was out of this world ... see the full moon? The brightly lit lanes are for the Singapore Grand Prix. Yup, 25 September 2009 is the date.


The red and yellow area are spectator seats. Can you imagine what it would be like having dinner while Räikkönen, Massa, Hamilton et al race it out below? That would bring the dinner up by another notch, wouldn't it? Lights, camera and action! Find out how you can get a piece of the Night Race here.


Raj then motioned us to take a seat and enjoy our starters. *Wistful sigh* ... can everyday be like this? Please? It was surreal ... dining onboard the world's largest observation wheel, feeling on top of the world, literally.


These bruschetta were delish!


Our dinner menu.


Our Appetisers. The prawns were supremely fresh and succulent. Add to the herb citrus salsa and slices of sweet mandarin, and you have an explosion of flavours in every bite. Fabulous. I loved every bit of this dish.


Shortly after, the panoramic view lured us away from the table. We were on Cloud 9!


This is a side of Singapore I seldom see ... I felt like a tourist in my own country. The night scene was mesmerising.

Too soon, we finished 1 rotation of the wheel and were back at starting point. This was when our Entrees were ready to be served.


The minute the door opened, a crew member whizzed in, served us and breezed out as quickly as he entered. All in 60 seconds! How's that for efficiency?


Cod. Very firm and fresh. It was lightly marinated, so that the honey and miso did not overwhelm the natural sweetness of the fish. Lovely.


Chicken Roulade with Turkey Ham. The savoury meats were perfectly balanced by the sweet potato mash. The use of Baked Garlic Zucchini crisps as topping was brilliant. Kudos to Chef Frankie.

Once we finished dinner, we took in more sights from the Flyer.


The twinkling lights come from the construction site of the soon-to-be-ready Integrated Resorts (IR). The view can only get better when construction is complete.


The many colours of the Singapore Flyer, taken at different intervals.


Within an hour, our 2 rotations of the wheel were up, and we were led back to the VIP Lounge. Notice the checkered flags hanging overhead? :) The F1 mood is heating up!


This was dessert - Panna Cotta with an Asian twist. There was a distinct coconut flavour in the Panna Cotta, which was drizzled with gula melaka (palm sugar). I thought of my friend, Monique, when I ate this :) We had our dessert with freshly brewed coffee and/or specialty tea.


I guess all food bloggers can identify with this :)


After all the photos were taken, we finally got to sit back, relax and enjoy our dessert. And then my phone rang. "Are you coming home soon?" My kids were looking for me. Sigh ... at least Cinderella had until midnight to enjoy herself. I had to be home by 10pm.


The drive home. This is the F1 race track itself, barricades all up and ready to go!

And so ended my incredible night out. I give it 2 thumbs up. The food was decent, the service impeccable, and the experience ... priceless.

A big thank you to Mr Benjamin Loh of Singapore Tourism Board for arranging this, and the Singapore Flyer crew (especially Raj and Ryan) for your warm hospitality. Visit the Singapore Flyer website for more details on out-of-this-world Sky Dining.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Teochew-Style Ngoh Hiang (With Yam)

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Peekaboo! What is this my daughter is holding up? Guess.
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If you guessed dried beancurd skin, you are right! And what might we be using it for? Why, Teochew-Style Ngoh Hiang! You see, food does make the world go round. Thanks to this blog, I receive lovely emails from complete strangers regularly.

One reader, S from Perth, wrote to me recently. She wanted to know if I had a recipe for the traditional Teochew-Style Ngoh Hiang (prawn/pork rolls), the type with yam in it. I wrote back and promised her to keep a lookout for it ... so, here it is.

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I always remember eating this style of Ngoh Hiang when I was young, at Teochew restaurants. From my understanding, not many people know how to make them (the Hokkien Ngoh Hiang is more commonly eaten here), so I asked my friends - especially those with aged parents who cook - and struck gold when my good friend, SY, told me that her mum makes delicious Teochew Ngoh Hiangs every Chinese New Year.

Within 2 days, I fixed up an appointment with her mum ... let's call her Nice Mrs Tan. I drove her to my home, straight into my kitchen and learned from the master, one-on-one. In total, she taught me 3 dishes, which translated to 6 hours in the kitchen! I spoke more (broken) Teochew in those 6 hours than in my entire life put together.

Recipe
(Courtesy of Nice Mrs Tan)

For Step 1
- 400g shallots, peeled and sliced thinly
- 1 medium sized yam, peeled and sliced thinly
- 2 rice bowls vegetable oil
- Salt

For Step 2
- 1 kg pork belly (minced)
- 500g water chestnuts, peeled and chopped
- 500g fresh prawns, shelled and deveined, then smashed using the back of the cleaver, then chopped finely
- 1 large sheet beancurd skin, wiped with a slightly damp cloth, then cut into small rectangular pieces
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 chicken stock cube
- 1/2 to 1 tbsp white pepper (or more, if you so desire)
- 1 1/2 to 2 tbsp dark soya sauce
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp shallot oil (the oil used for frying the shallots in Step 1)
- Chopped liver (if you so desire, but I hate liver! No liver in my rolls!)

For Step 3
- Plain flour, small quantity
- 1 egg (lightly beaten)


Method:

Step 1
Steam yam slices for 10mins (or until tender).

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(Left) Raw yam slices. (Right) Cooked yam after steaming. Mash the cooked yam with the back of your fork. If you find some parts which are still hard, discard those. Leave to cool on a flat plate or tray.

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Peel and slice shallots thinly. You must be wondering why I have a tealight in the kitchen. Well, if you place a candle near the shallots (or onions) that you are cutting, you will not tear. I have found this to be true when I am cooking something on my stove at the same time. The heat will burn away the shallot fumes.

On a separate note, just look at these gorgeous shallots! I get my shallots from this lovely makcik at the market. Her shallots are twice the cost of the ones sold at supermarkets, but their colour and aroma are worth every extra cent.

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Fry shallots in oil (about 2 rice bowls) until fragrant and golden brown. Add salt only when you are just about to ladle out the shallots. This way, the shallots will be crispy.

Drain the shallots of oil and let them cool on a flat plate. Do not discard the oil. It is liquid gold. Tip: keep it as a drizzle for any soupy or steamed dishes. They instantly wake up the flavours.


Step 2
Put all the ingredients for Step 2 into a large pot. Add fried shallots and yam, and mix thoroughly using your hands. Drizzle in shallot oil.

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This is how the final mixture should look ... a little sticky. If you are using chicken, make sure you add just a little more beaten egg, since chicken has the tendency to be drier.

Wipe beancurd skin with a slightly damp cloth to remove the excess salt. Cut the skin into even sized rectangular sheets.

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Spoon meat mixture onto each sheet and wrap tightly. Like a maki. Wrap all the way and then leave the roll seam side down. You do not need to tuck in both ends. They will "wilt" and close on their own during steaming.

After all the rolling is completed, heat up your steamer. While waiting for it to heat up, brush all the rolls with a little vegetable oil, so that they don't stick to the surface of the steamer.

Place Ngoh Hiang Rolls into the steamer and cook for about 10-12mins. Leave them to cool. At this stage, you can pack some into containers and freeze them for later consumption.

Once cooled, slice them diagonally with a very sharp knife, into medium sized chunks.

Step 3
Dip both "exposed" sides of each chunk into egg, then lightly in flour to seal everything. Drop each piece into a wok of heated oil. Deep fry till golden brown. Drain excess oil and serve with Sweet Flour Sauce.

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Crispy on the outside, juicy and creamy on the inside.

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And there you have it, from Nice Mrs Tan's kitchen to mine, and now to yours. I hope you'll all like this Teochew dish. I certainly did :)

For my other posts on (Hokkien) Ngoh Hiang, click here and here.