Saturday, February 27, 2010

Earl Grey Pound Cake

It has been a rough week at home. First my boys, and then I, were hit by stomach flu, and took turns throwing up and feeling horrid. Vomiting must be one of the worst bodily sensations in the world. It's plain awful clutching at your tummy while your body forcefully purges all its contents, or none at all.

My poor baby had it worst - he threw up 7 times in a day, and my heart just broke. Thankfully, we have all recovered ... my boys are back to eating and drinking and fighting, which I am so happy to see. A noisy house means that everything is all right. :) I am keeping my fingers crossed that my daughter remains unscathed from this dreadful bug.

So this was a cake I baked before we all fell ill. We had some relatives visiting and I made a regular butter pound cake for tea.

Nothing special about a pound cake, right?

As I was spooning the batter into the cake tin, I decided to save half of it and add a bag of Earl Grey tea leaves into it. As a result, I got 2 cakes for tea. :)

I don't know about you, but I absolutely love Earl Grey tea. The citrusy scent is simply uplifting. It's my ritual to inhale deeply into my cuppa Earl Grey before drinking. :) So imagine that in a cake. Buttery and moist, with a delicate hint of Earl Grey. Heaven!

Of course, the crusty edges were a treat. I can never resist crusty edges, can you?

(adapted from here)

Note that the following is half the original recipe's measurements.

- 113g butter, plus more for pan
- 57g vegetable shortening
(I used all butter, so altogether 170g butter)

- 337.5g caster sugar
(I have got to be insane to use so much sugar!!! I cut it down to 200g.)

- 3 small eggs
- 165g all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
- 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 175 degree C.

2. With a mixer, cream butter and shortening together. Add sugar, a little at a time. Add vanilla extract and eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Stir dry ingredients together in a bowl and add to mixer alternately with milk, starting with the flour and ending with the flour. Your butter pound cake is ready for baking.

3. If you want to turn this into an Earl Grey pound cake, add in the tea leaves now. I used 1 tea bag for half of the batter and it was just right. So, I suppose 1 1/2 to 2 teabags for the entire cake should do? Fold in the tea leaves quickly and then pour into a greased and floured pan.

4. Bake for about 40mins, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Perhaps I should have allowed it to cool a little longer before slicing. I never learn.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sweet Spicy Sticky Tempeh

I found myself giving a "cooking lesson" at the market the other day. I was going about my own business buying some tempeh from the stall, when an elderly aunty stopped me as I was paying.

"How do you cook this?" she asked in mandarin.

"Oh, err ... very easy. Just slice them thinly this way," I demonstrated cross-wise, on the piece of tempeh I was holding. "Then you fry them till crispy ..."

"You mean, just fry and eat?" she interjected, looking incredulous.

"No, no! That wouldn't be nice," I replied. "You have to coat them in a sauce."

"A sauce?" asked the granny standing next to the aunty.

"Er ... yes," I struggled. By this time, two other ladies within earshot had taken interest in our conversation, and closed in to listen.

"You have to fry the tempeh pieces till they are crispy," I repeated. "Then you put them aside. Next, you fry some shallots, chilli and garlic in oil until aromatic."

"When the shallots have softened, you add some water, some salt, and some sugar. Maybe a spoonful, depending on how sweet you want it to be. Keep stir frying over a small flame, until you get thick syrup. Then you throw the fried tempeh back in and coat them quickly in the sauce. And that's it!"

"Ohhh," came the collective response.

"For colour, you can add a dash of kicap manis. If you want to skip that, it's fine too," I went on. "BUT, the kicap manis makes the tempeh look and taste better."

"What's kicap manis?" one of them asked quizzically.

*Note that this brand has got a salty version too (in green wording). Make sure you buy the sweet version, with red wording, as seen above. I used to mistake this for a shrimp sauce, because of all the misleading logo and the word "udang" on the label. It's actually made of soya beans, and suitable for vegetarian cooking.

"Ah, it's a thick, sweet, dark sauce that is commonly used in Malay and Indonesian dishes," I answered, warming up to the idea of hosting my own reality cooking show.

"Over there," I pointed to the stall selling dried goods. "I usually buy mine from them."

Thinking the "class" was over, I prepared to make a move. But no, everyone wanted a recap!

"I am so old already," the granny jokingly lamented. "If you don't repeat, I won't be able to remember."

Oh boy.

To say it was a surreal moment is an understatement. I felt like I was doing a roadblock on The Amazing Race - you don't get your clue until the old lady's satisfied with how you've performed your task.

But still, for what it was worth, it brought a smile to my face each time I thought about my morning. :)

Tempeh + broccoli + rice = my meatless Saturday lunch.

Now, here's a recap for those who need it.

(serves 2 to 3)
- 2 packets tempeh (which means 4 large pieces in total), sliced cross-wise, about 1cm thick
- 3 to 4 shallots, sliced thinly
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 red chilli, sliced (de-seed only if you want it less spicy, or leave it out if you are cooking for children)
- 1 to 2 tbsps sugar, adjust according to taste
- Pinch of salt
- Water (about 1/2 to 3/4 cup), adjust accordingly
- 1 Tbsp kicap manis (I use Habhal's Kicap Manis)

1. Fry tempeh slices in oil till crispy. Set aside.

2. In a skillet, over a small flame, fry shallots, garlic and chilli till aromatic. When shallots have softened, add some water, sugar and salt, and continue frying till you get a caramelised syrup.

3. Throw in fried tempeh pieces into the skillet and toss to coat them evenly. Add splashes of kicap manis and continue tossing. Once all the tempeh have been coated in the sauce, dish up and serve.

Omit the chilli if you're cooking for the little ones. It's a good way to get children to start eating tempeh.

Friday, February 19, 2010

David Rocco's Drunken Pasta (Spaghetti Ubriachi)

I must have been a very good girl all of 2009, because for Christmas, I won not one but two cookbooks - one from Clare's blog (Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé), the other from Catherine's blog (David Rocco's Dolce Vita).

I guess I was in Santa's good books (pun intended).

While I have not gone about making anything from Pierre Hermés' book (some day when I overcome my fear of making French desserts, I will ... I promise you, Clare), I have already made something from David Rocco's. I'm always more comfortable cooking than baking.

Dolce Vita is a beautiful book, filled with lots of drool-worthy, gorgeous photos of David food.

My heart skipped a beat at the HUNKS of fish. The BEEFY stew. The SMOOTH panna cotta. The RED HOT peppers. The STEAMY soups.

Mamma mia! Yes, I really can't stop gawking at David the food.

Well, today my friends, I made the first pasta dish of 2010 - Drunken Pasta. It caught my eye with its regal red colour. Quite a feat, considering there are so many other tantalising photos of David the food.

Like all his recipes, this was very simple and straightforward. The pasta gets its lovely scarlet hue from red wine, so make sure you have a good bottle on hand.

BUT, would I make this again? No, I don't think so. As much as I enjoyed colouring my food, I wasn't wild about the taste. I still like my pasta eggy and cheesy, thank you very much. Now, excuse me while I go back to gawking reading.

(from David Rocco's Dolce Vita)
Serves 4

- 500g spaghetti
- 4 to 5 cups red wine (David recommended using Chianti, but all I had was a Merlot, so I used that)
- 4 tbsp EVOO
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 anchovies, finely chopped (I didn't have this and it was stated in the book that the addition of anchovies was an adaptation on the part of David)
- Chili pepper flakes, as much as you like
- 1 small bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup (50ml) freshly grated pecorino cheese (I used flakes instead)

1. Boil some water and cook your pasta for about 2 mins. Drain well.

2. In a second large pasta pot, put your wine on to boil.

3. In a frying pan, heat up the olive oil. Add the garlic, anchovies and chili pepper flakes and cook on medium until the anchovies melt into the oil and the garlic is brown. Set aside.

4. Now add your pasta to the boiling wine, give it a god stir and finish cooking the pasta until al dente, another 6 or 7 minutes.

5. When the pasta is ready, the wine will have infused the spaghetti, giving it a gorgeous ruby red colour. Don't worry about the wine being too strong for the sauce. The alcohol will burn off and leave a sweet delicate taste. Drain spaghetti from the wine, toss in the frying pan with the garlic-anchovy sauce, and finish cooking for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat sprinkle with a bit of parsley and some grated pecorino.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Yam Rice

Hi everyone! How did your CNY/Valentine's Day celebrations go? I didn't do much ... except eat, relax, catch up on sleep and eat some more. What about you? :)

Did any of you make Ngoh Hiang for CNY? I made a batch of Teochew-style Ngoh Hiang (with yam) for my mother-in-law. She adores them. ;) With quite a bit of yam leftover, I also cooked some Yam Rice.

For this, I went over to Gert's blog for some ideas. Gert, as many of you know, is an amazing cook and baker ... truly, an inspiration to a newbie like me. I made some amendments to the recipe though, like adding Chinese sausages and dried shrimps. Overall, a very yummy one-dish meal!

Thank you, dear Gert, for sharing this recipe with us. I hope you and your family are enjoying your time in KL. :)

(loosely adapted from My Kitchen Snippets)
- 2 cups rice, washed and drained
- 250g yam, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 5 pcs dried mushrooms - soaked and sliced thinly (I used my batch of frozen stewed chinese mushrooms)
- 2 pieces chicken breast meat, sliced thinly and seasoned with a dash of soy
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 5 shallots, sliced thinly
- 1 tsp grated ginger (I omitted this)
- 3 spring onions, cut small
I added:
- 1 Chinese sausage, sliced thinly
- 1 handful dried shrimps (hay bee/udang kering), soaked in water (do not discard this water)

- 2 tbsp oyster sauce
- 2 tbsp light soya sauce (I omitted this)
- 1 tbsp sesame oil (I used shallot oil instead)
- 1/2 tsp sugar or to taste (I used 2 tbsp of Rose brand "Thick Sweet Sauce" - made from molasses, sugar, water and caramel)
- 3 cups chicken stock/water (I used water mixed with the soaking liquid from the dried shrimps)
- 1 tsp of black soy sauce
- Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat about 1/4 cup of oil and fry shallots till golden and fragrant. Remove shallot crisps and set aside. Using the same oil, fry the yam cubes until lightly brown. Remove and set aside.

2. Sauté garlic and dried shrimps until fragrant and lightly brown. Add in the chicken, mushrooms and chinese sausage, and stir-fry for a minute. Add rice and seasoning. Stir-fry well.

3. Dish rice mixture into an electric rice cooker. Add water chicken stock/water and yam and cook rice as usual. Stand rice in cooker for 10 to 15 minutes before dishing out to serve.

4. Serve rice with a sprinkling of shallot crisps and spring onions.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Raspberry-Almond Financiers

Tomorrow, around 1.3 billion Chinese from around the world usher in the most important event of the Lunar calendar, the Chinese New Year. Let me take this opportunity to wish all my Chinese friends and readers:

恭喜发财, 万事如意!

May the Year of the Tiger bring good fortune to all of you!

As a last minute thought, I decided to bake some Financiers for prosperity and good fortune. Nothing like celebrating CNY with some edible "gold bars", don't you think?

"A financier is a ... light teacake, similar to sponge cake, and usually contains almond flour, crushed or ground almonds, or almond flavoring. The basis of the cake itself is beurre noisette (brown butter), egg whites, powdered sugar and flour. The name "financier" is said to derive from the traditional rectangular mold, which resembles a bar of gold. (Wikipedia)

But wait, let's not forget Valentine's Day, which is all about love, hearts and romance. Again, let me wish all my friends and readers a year filled with love and happiness! What is wealth and abundance if you don't have love?

So, I was randomly surfing for a Financier recipe when I came across these Raspberry-Almond Financiers at Martha Stewart's. Oh, perfect! They are befitting of both occasions.

As you can see, I made two versions - a gold bar for prosperity, and a few bébé ones with hand drawn hearts for love.

I watched these Financier cupcakes instantly transform before my eyes. From ordinary to extraordinary. All with a dollop of jam. I also watched my bébé Financiers instantly disappear before my eyes.

Now you see it ...

... now you don't! ;) Not bad eh? I was carrying him and taking photos at the same time. Mommies are amazing multitaskers. :)

One thing about this recipe though, is that it didn't yield a light teacake. In fact, the texture was quite dense. Are they supposed to be airy like sponge cakes? How is that possible without leavening agents and/or prolonged beating of the eggs? There was also no "dome", which I see in other Financiers. Ah well, it was my first time making and eating these, so I didn't quite know what to expect. Next time, I will try out the Green Tea Financiers from Shirley's blog. Her version looks so much more like the light teacakes as described in Wikipedia. :)

Still, I got my "gold bars" and sweethearts. :) What more can I ask for?

(from Martha Stewart)
Makes 45

- Vegetable oil cooking spray
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1/3 cup honey
- 2 cups sliced blanched almonds (6 1/2 ounces), lightly toasted and finely ground (I used ready ground almonds)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup sifted confectioners' sugar
- 3/4 cup sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 5 large egg whites
- 1 cup raspberries (fresh or frozen), pureed and strained (1/2 cup) (I used jam instead)

1. Preheat oven to 170 degree celsius. Coat mini muffin tins with cooking spray, or line with muffin cups like I did.

2. Heat butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, whisking frequently, until golden brown, 6 to 7 minutes. Add honey, and whisk until combined. Remove from heat.

3. Using a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine almonds, sugars, flour, and salt on low speed. Raise speed to medium-high, and add egg whites, one at a time, beating after each addition until just combined. Scrape down sides of bowl. Reduce speed to low, and add warm butter-honey mixture in a slow, steady stream. Raise speed to high, and beat for 45 seconds.

4. Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling each halfway. Spoon a scant 1/2 teaspoon raspberry puree near one edge of each cup. Draw a skewer or the tip of a paring knife through puree toward opposite edge of cup to form a heart shape.
* I omitted the raspberry puree. Instead I sent the batter straight into the oven for baking.

5. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until edges are golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool slightly in tins on wire racks. Using a small offset spatula, carefully unmold financiers, and transfer to rack. Financiers are best served warm or the same day they are baked, but they can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature for up to 3 days. If desired, serve or package financiers in decorative paper liners.
* As soon as the Financiers were baked, I allowed them to cool. Make sure they are really cool before you decorate them. Warm up some raspberry jam (any jam you like, actually) so that it liquifies. Gently drop a small dollop onto a Financier, and with the blade of a butter knife, coax the jam into a heart shape. When the jam cools, the shape will set. Don't use too much jam and you'll do fine.

Love or money? Why, have both!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Palm Beach Seafood Restaurant

Chandeliers are hardly what you'd associate with a local seafood place, but they are the first thing you'll notice when you step in here. Unlike the usual no-frills set up of many seafood restaurants, Palm Beach sports an upmarket, contemporary interior, complete with tasteful tablescapes and yes, chandeliers.

If al fresco is more your style, there is a chic terrace area where you can dine under the stars. Did I mention the magnificent view of Marina Bay?

Fruit blends ($3.80 each)
The moment I saw these Fruit Blends, I felt like a kid at a wedding dinner. Cold drinks galore! We had a choice of longan, mango, lychee, lime and soursop. They go so well with seafood, and were refreshing palate cleansers in between courses.

Crispy Fish Appetisers
Paired with a special chilli sauce, these Crispy Fish were seriously addictive. They are called 美人鱼 in chinese, meaning, "mermaid", which of course, made everyone chuckle. I would have been happy just munching on them and slurping the fruit blends all night. But no, our generous hosts would never have allowed that. The first main dish was already a precursor of the sumptuous meal ahead.

Alaskan King Crab Yusheng ($58 for a small serving, $88 for a large serving)
A whopping 25 ingredients go into this, including fresh Alaskan crab meat (the 2 small plates behind the platter). You can also opt for salmon ($38 / $58) or abalone ($68 / $128) if you so prefer. After the waitstaff performed the mini "ritual" of pouring the different sauces and uttering words of good fortune, we dug in.

Lo hei!!! Toss, toss, toss! The higher the better!

The messy aftermath. It was a delicious Yusheng, by the way.

Seafood Deluxe Combination ($23 per person for a selection of 5 seafood items)
Cold prawns, Scottish bamboo clams, New Zealand king salmon sashimi, Hokkaido scallop sashimi, Canadian fresh oysters. Treasures of the sea from all around the world, and might I add, spectacularly presented. Every bit was outstandingly fresh.

Pretty as a picture ... I always appreciate little touches like flower garnishes. There was so much Hokkaido scallop sashimi that we could all go for seconds and thirds.

"Coco Lobo" Australian Lobster with Vermicelli in Superior Stock ($16.80 per 100g)
The broth looks fiery and menacing, but no, it's not laksa or curry. Trust me, it's all bark and no bite ... very mild and sweet, actually.

A generous serving of fresh Australian lobster completes this award-winning dish.

Honey Tangy Marble Goby ($7.50 per 100g)
This was awesome, awesome, awesome! Perfectly crisp on the outside, moist and so succulent on the inside. With or without the sauce, this dish was sublime.

Prosperity Vegetables ($48 for a small serving, $68 for a large serving)
Huge battered oysters proudly perched atop a bed of broccolini and black moss. Lovely! It was more "prosperity" than "vegetables" if you ask me. But who's complaining?

Double Baked Crab a la Singapura ($4.50 per 100g)
Three cheeses went into this crab dish. I wasn't expecting to like it but I did. The cheese coating the crab was baked to a yummilicious crisp ... umami-rich and finger-licking good!

Sri Lanka Chilli Crab ($4.50 per 100g)
This monster of a crab must have weighed a ton. It was huge! Honestly, I have never cared for Chilli Crab, and this version didn't change my mind. I only managed a small piece. But that didn't stop me from enjoying the pillow-soft, golden mantou that accompanied this dish.

Two Preparations of Nian Gao ($18 for a small serving, $28 for a large serving)
I preferred the Nian Gao on the right. It was done the way my mother-in-law would prepare - sandwiched between sweet potato and/or yam slices. Very nice! The one on the left, which we all mistook for Kueh Kosui, was - gasp, I'd never thought I'd say this - too sweet for me.

White Fungus, Red Dates & Dried Longan Served in a Coconut ($5.80)
Dessert, take two. This tasted like regular tong soi my mom would make. The coconut bowl was a cute serving idea, though. One of us asked if they would be washed and recycled, which of course drew gasps horror from our hosts. They'll have you know that Palm Beach at One Fullerton has a kitchen that is certified with food safety standards, thank you very much!

By this time, I had eaten enough for hibernation. Thankfully, a cup of hot Chinese tea was served and it did wonders to settle the party in my tummy. To say it was a lavish meal is an understatement. This has been, by far, the most sumptuous, satisfying seafood meal I have had in a very long time.

Palm Beach Seafood Restaurant has lined up a list of Chinese New Year specialties. They are available for the whole month of February. The set menus range from $168 for 4 persons to $1,588 for 10 persons. Taxes apply.

Reservations are highly recommended. We were there on a Wednesday evening, and diners were streaming in non-stop, up till almost the time we left!

Palm Beach Seafood Restaurant
1 Fullerton Road
#01-09 One Fullerton
Singapore 049213
Tel: +65 6336 8118
Fax: +65 6338 6278

Many thanks to hosts, Karin and Gail, for the splendid dinner, and to The Fullerton Heritage, for arranging this.

Related posts:
One on the Bund
Society Bar

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Some restaurants wow you with their dazzle and pizzazz. Others romance you with their quiet charm. Boathouse belongs to the latter category.

Situated right across the Fullerton Hotel, it is easy to overlook this nondescript, standalone building. But miss it, and you're missing out on a gem.

Boathouse is located inside this historic Fullerton Waterboat House - a heritage building (circa 1919) that once supplied fresh water to ships anchored offshore. (Photo courtesy of Boathouse)

It is so easy to be enchanted by this place. Walking into the cosy, intimate dining room - and I say dining room, not restaurant - I felt as if I was coming over to a friend's house for dinner. If you find fine dining intimidating, you'll feel completely at ease here.

The decor was understated, with very clean lines and lots of open space. Very tastefully done. In fact, it reminded me so much of a family friend's summer home in Sweden. Such is its welcoming vibe.

We were warmly received upon arrival by hosts, Kannan and Sophia, who took us through our menu for the night.

Melon Mint
Our Amuse Bouche was a concoction of melon, mint and peach, with crushed ice, and served in a shot glass. A palate cleanser.

Fish Chowder with Seabass Carpaccio
This was my favourite dish of the evening. Searing hot chowder was poured from a teapot and onto the seabass carpaccio, cooking it in the process. Creamy, tasty and hearty. Two thumbs up from me.

Atlantic Pink Snapper panseared with shaved Zucchini & Truffle Mash in a Fish Bouillon
Another superb dish. The snapper was fabulously fresh, firm and sweet ... and in a decent portion too. I was glad the chef had a light hand with the salt because it hardly needed any seasoning.

Tagliatelle Wild Mushroom in a Truffle Sauce
The pasta was perfectly al dente, the mushrooms crunchy and sweet. I only found the rich sauce a tad salty.

But ah, that's where the freshly-baked homemade bread came to the rescue. It was perfect for mopping up the Truffle Sauce and cutting the saltiness.

White Chocolate Semifreddo with Fruit Compote
Unlike the melting ice-cream on the other plate, this semifreddo was a dream to photograph. I felt it could have been a wee bit airier. The best semifreddo I have ever tasted melted on my tongue like a snowflake. But still, this was a commendable creation that we all enjoyed.

More desserts (special order)
Extras for the dessert aficionados among us. (Bottom right) Creme Brulee, (Centre) Caramel Apple tartlets and three varieties of (melting!) ice-cream, (Top left) Panna Cotta. All competently done, but the Creme Brulee was my favourite.

Situated above Boathouse is an open air deck called [ prel . ude ].

Here, you can take in a 360-degree view of the surrounds. Grab a chair, order a drink (there is a bar here). Then, sit back and watch the world go by.

I didn't want to go home!

A picture says a thousand words, and this one aptly sums up my wonderful evening here.

3 Fullerton Road
#03-01 The Waterboat House
Singapore 029415
Tel: (65) 6538 9038

Many thanks to Kannan and Sophia of Boathouse for the warm hospitality, and The Fullerton Heritage for arranging this.

Related posts:
One on the Bund
Society Bar