Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ikan Bilis With Tempeh & Groundnuts


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Oh me, oh my. This was really snackalicious - sweet, salty, spicy. I couldn't stop popping bits and bites into my mouth once I started. What you see are crispy ikan bilis (anchovies), tempeh and groundnuts, thrown together into one dee-licious mess. It can be served as an appetiser, a side dish, a snack or a tidbit.

On a warm, humid day like today, when the thought of "lunch" just didn't appeal to me, I poured myself a glass wine and munched away. :)

Recipe
(from Debbie Teoh, inSing)

Makes 2 large jars.

* Note: I used the recipe as a very rough guide. You don't have to follow the measurements religiously ... just taste test as you go along. For me, I used a ratio of 1:1:1 for groundnuts, tempeh and ikan bilis.

- Oil for frying
- 320g groundnuts with skin
- 1 packet (180g) tempeh, finely sliced
- 100g ikan bilis (anchovies)

Spice paste
- 15 stalks dried chillies, soaked and cut into 3cm lengths
- 10g bird’s eye chillies
- 100g shallots
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 stalks lemon grass, sliced
- 1 teaspoon belachan or shrimp paste (optional)

If, however, making your own paste turns you off, use any readymade, storebought paste. I like this:


Note: This is not a product endorsement. I just personally like using this brand for days I need to cook in a hurry.

- 60g tamarind paste + 100ml water, sieved to get juice (I used only a small pinch of tamarind paste + about 2 tbsp water ... don't like it too sour)
- 30g palm sugar*
- 45g coarse sugar or to taste*
- Salt to taste (I omitted this ... the ikan bilis were salty enough)
- 10 kaffir lime leaves, sliced (I tore them up into rough shreds ... you can use less leaves if you wish)
* I omitted sugar in favour of kecap manis. Just 1 tsp to colour and sweeten things up.

1. Heat sufficient oil in a wok and fry the groundnuts. Remove nuts once they are lightly browned and drain them on paper towels. They will turn dark brown as they cool.


All the ingredients, prepared separately.
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2. Using the same oil, deep-fry the finely sliced tempeh till lightly browned and drain them on paper towels. Lastly, remove some of the oil, leaving about half a cup in the wok and deep fry the anchovies in batches until crispy. Discard the frying oil.


Crispy fried tempeh.
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2. Using an electric blender, finely grind spice paste ingredients. Skip this stage if you are using readymade paste, obviously.

3. Heat oil in a wok over medium heat and sauté the spice paste until fragrant, stirring continuously to prevent paste from burning. If using readymade paste, use about 2 or 3 tbsps, or however much you need to coat the ingredients.

4. Once the spice paste is fragrant and the oil rises*, add the tamarind juice, palm sugar and sugar, and simmer for 1 minute or until spice paste mixture thickens.
* Not necessary if using readymade paste. As long as the paste heats up, you can add the rest of the ingredients.

5. Add in the kaffir lime leaves, fried groundnuts, crispy tempeh and toss to mix, making sure the spice paste is evenly distributed.

6. Lastly, add in the crispy fried anchovies and adjust seasonings to taste. Remove from heat and leave to cool before storing in airtight containers or jars.


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For a vegetarian version, omit the ikan bilis and belacan (shrimp paste), and use a vegetarian sambal. I get mine (also Sing Long brand) from Fairprice. It is slightly sweeter than the Nasi Lemak Sambal Chilli, so you might not even need to add any sugar.

Enjoy! *licks fingers*

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Flourless Chocolate & Almond Cake


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Behold this cake! It's dark, rich, smooth and oh-so-indulgent (like all men should be). I chanced on the recipe at Times Online and thought it sounded promising, but I really sat up when I noticed the same writer had featured it twice - first here in 2004 (Flourless chocolate & almond cake), and 3 years later in 2007 (Still the best chocolate and almond cake).

"... there is one well-known and well-loved cake that I go to for all manner of celebrations: a rich, flourless chocolate cake adapted from an Elizabeth David recipe in French Provincial Cooking. She simply calls it a chocolate and almond cake, although I believe it is also known as Reine de Saba, or Queen of Sheba. Rich and intense, it rises slightly in the oven only to deflate, crack and wrinkle into a rustic mess as it cools — all part of its charm. It makes a fabulous dinner-party pudding with crème fraiche or custard, is even better as a celebration cake dusted with icing sugar or cocoa powder, and is particularly good, I must say, for breakfast. Of the 260 recipes in the past twelve months, this is one of my favourites."
- Jill Dupleix, Times Online

WOW.

How could I not give such a highly-recommended cake a shot? So, bright and early I started ... mixing and whisking, and before long, I was rewarded with a cake that tasted as good as it looked.


(Left) Yolks bathed in gorgeous morning light. (Right) How come no "rustic cracks"??? I waited and waited for the cake to deflate and crack with panache, but nothing happened! It only cracked slightly when I started slicing - and that was because it was not yet completely cooled. Where are the cracks when you want them?

Recipe
(from Times Online)
Serves 6

Prep: 20 min
Cook: 50 min

* I would highly recommend using a springform cake pan or removable-bottom cake pan to bake this.

- 200g dark, bitter chocolate (I used Valrhona Equatorial 55%, so ... not exactly dark or bitter)
- 1 tbsp strong espresso coffee (I omitted this)
- 1 tbsp rum or brandy (I used rum)
- 150g caster sugar (I reduced the sugar to 130g because I didn't use dark bitter chocolate)
- 150g butter (I used unsalted)
- 100g ground almonds
- 5 eggs, separated
- Icing sugar for dusting
- Pinch of salt (the recipe doesn't call for this, but I always feel salt enhances the flavour of chocolate ... still, it's optional)

1. Melt the chocolate, coffee, rum or brandy, sugar and butter (and salt, if using) in a bowl sitting in a pot of barely simmering water. Remove from the heat and stir until well mixed.

2. Add the ground almonds and mix well. Beat in the egg yolks, one by one.
* Unless you can't take nuts, you must include the almonds! The nutty flavour brings out another dimension against the smooth chocolate. Amazing.

3. Beat the egg whites until stiff and peaky, and stir a couple of spoonfuls into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, before gently folding in the rest.
* Let me clarify for those who are unclear: add whites to chocolate, not the other way around.


4. Turn into a buttered and floured 20cm (8in) round or square cake tin and bake at 180°C/Gas 4 for 40 to 50 mins (less if you like it fudgey, more if you like it cakey).
* I found it neither fudgey nor cakey. I'd like to use the word "mousse-like" to describe the velvety-soft interior. If you like chocolate mousse, you'll love this cake.

5. Leave to cool before removing gently from the tin, and dust with icing sugar to serve.


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This was what I got after baking for 40 mins, and to me, it was perfect - slightly crusty edges with an interior so tender, it yielded completely to the gentlest nudge of the fork. If, however, you like it "cakier", then bake slightly longer but with a sheet of foil tenting the cake. It could brown too much and burn. Do keep an eye as you bake ... chocolate cakes have a tendency to produce burnt tops if you are not watchful.

But basically, this is it! A cake that truly lives up to its glowing reputation. :) Isn't it a beauty? 'Twas was a HUGE hit, with everyone asking for seconds and get this, the next day too!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Cream Cheese Pound Cake


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More cheese. :)

I'm turning into a baking blog, but what the heck, huh? I have been baking every other day - very simple bites - even though all I want is a midday nap. ;) But you know, it's such joy when you see young ones heartily tuck into your labour of love ... and that's the only reason why I take the trouble.

Years from now, they are not gonna remember these cakes as much as they will remember me. Whatever I do for them in the here and now, becomes part of their childhood memories in time to come.

This was what Mommy used to do with us; tell us; feed us.

It's the little things ... like outings, stories, and yes, homemade treats at tea. These are the precious days of our lives. :)


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I saw this Cream Cheese Pound Cake recipe at Joy of Baking and I have to say, it's super. It is not too heavy - if you are wary of pound cakes - and has an absolutely lovely lemony zing to it. VERY nice! I give it 2 thumbs up.

I did, however, do some tweaking - like halving the proportions, reducing the sugar, reducing the butter, and increasing the amount of cream cheese.

DO try this at home. :)

Recipe
(from Sara Foster's The Foster's Market Cookbook and sighted at Joy of Baking)

Serves 6
* Note: The following recipe includes my adaptations.

- 195g all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 150g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 140g package cream cheese, room temperature
- 200g castor sugar
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Zest of a lemon or orange

1. Preheat oven to 175°C and place rack in center of oven. Butter and line an 8-inch round cake tin. I used a 6-inch square cake tin and it was too small, resulting in the top doming and cracking. If you are using a square tin, a 7-inch one should be just right. For Bundt pans, I have no idea what size. Anyone?
* A side note: If a recipe calls for round tins, and you want to use square ones, always remember to use 1-inch smaller ... for the simple reason that square tins hold more batter than round ones of the same size.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

3. In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar, in three additions, beating well after each addition. Continue beating on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla and lemon zest and beat until incorporated.

4. Add the flour mixture and mix just until incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

5. Bake for about 50 mins. Do check at the 30 min-mark for over-browning.

6. Remove the cake from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 20 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and cool completely. (The cake is cooled in the pan first for about 20 minutes so the cake has time to set. The cake may collapse if you try to remove it from the pan too soon.)

7. This cake will keep several days at room temperature and one week when refrigerated. Can also be frozen.


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Monday, July 11, 2011

Cheddar Cheese Muffins


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I made Cheddar Cheese Muffins the other day. My gang had one word: "NotCheesyEnough!" Whoa! And to think I took the liberty to add more cheese than the recipe called for. I didn't quite believe them, so I took a bite, and yes, I have to agree with their young, discerning tastebuds. Ah, how could I have doubted my food critics at all? They, who always give the most brutally honest, un-PC comments! That's why I love them. :)


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I would recommend adding more cheese, or using a sharp cheddar (I used regular mild cheddar). Also, I felt it would have been nicer if it was just a little bit sweeter ... maybe add an extra 1 tbsp sugar. I know it's supposed to be a savoury muffin, but I do feel the balance between sweet and savoury was kinda "off-balance". They may not have blown us away, but these muffins were nonetheless a welcome treat at tea, especially when still slightly warm out of the oven.

Have a good week ahead, everyone!

Recipe
(from Food.com)

- 1 cup milk
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted & then cooled
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1 3/4 cups (195g) all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (I used 1 cup regular cheddar cheese)

Prep Time: 10 mins
Total Time: 30 mins

1. Preheat oven to 175°C.

2. In a large bowl, combine milk, melted butter, egg and cayenne.

3. In a second bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, sugar & salt.

4. Stir in cheese.

5. Add flour mixture to milk mixture and stir batter until it is just combined.

6. The batter should be lumpy.

7. Spoon the batter into muffin tins (buttered or lined) filling each about 2/3 full.

8. Bake 20-25 minutes.


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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Brownie Cupcakes


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Today's post isn't really a post. I simply made Brownies but turned them into cupcakes. However, I will not post this new recipe I tried out because it wasn't as good as the Chocolate Rum Bownies I made before. Like I said, today's post isn't really a post. ;)

You've got to admit though, anything in cupcake-form looks prettier, no? If you're making Brownie Cupcakes, remember that the batter does not rise like regular cake or muffin batter ... so go ahead and fill up. Also, to all the brownie baking virgins out there - don't overbake. Brownies have a craggy surface with a rich, dense, fudgy interior. When you test with a skewer/toothpick, it should not come out clean. Instead, you should see some moist crumbs sticking to it.


Sunshine on a stalk! Brownie Cupcakes! Valrhona! That's the way life should be ... everyday!

Aside, I think my helper, who has gotten so used to Valrhona, is gonna have a hard time adapting to chocolate-anything when she eventually returns to Indonesia. Reminds me of the time my previous helper rang me when she touched down at Surabaya airport. She practically screeched into the phone, "Ma'm! The car my family rent for me so OLD and got NO AIR-CON!!!"

I could totally imagine the look of bewildered anguish on her face! *giggles*


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Anyway, you can find the Chocolate Rum Brownie recipe here if you haven't already tried it. OK, that's it ... I'm outta here! Nothing much to say today. ;)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Almond & Pistachio Cake

Happy July, everyone! Whaddya know? I'm here again, quicker than I thought I would be. :) Thank you all SO MUCH for the wonderful "welcome back" in my last post. Your sweet comments, tweets, retweets and emails make me feel so loved! I am really humbled and honoured. Truly, I am.

A few days after, I found myself in the kitchen ... baking. ;) Must have been all the positive energy you guys sent my way!


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With pistachios leftover from making Baklava, I contemplated baking Italian Pistachio Cookies since they were such a hit the last time, but decided hmmm ... maybe I should try making something else. Then I saw this Almond & Pistachio Cake on Good Food Channel, and the tantalising intro read:

"A damp, delicious and very special cake ... enjoy with a cup of Italian coffee for the true cafe experience."

Mama mia, sounds good already! Here it is ...

Recipe
(from Good Food Channel)

Note: I halved the proportions of everything. It yielded a very small cake - enough for 6 slices ... which is plenty, given how rich it is.


- 250g butter, softened (I think you can cut back on the butter a bit ... maybe to 200 to 220g?)
- 200g caster sugar
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 120g ground almonds
- 100g ground pistachio nuts
- 50g plain flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- Grated zest of 2 unwaxed lemons

For the pistachio topping*
- 60g caster sugar
- Freshly squeezed juice of 2 lemons
- 60g pistachio nuts, chopped
* Note: Good thing I tasted the syrup before adding the pistachios, because I didn't like it at all. Bleah. So I decided to make a honey pistachio topping instead, getting some inspiration from Middle Eastern flavours. Here's what I used:

- 1 or 2 tbsp honey, basically enough to coat the pistachios
- A pinch of cinnamon
- A drop or 2 of rosewater
- 60g pistachio nuts (or more, if you like), roughly chopped

For the cake
1. Preheat oven to 180°C.

2. Beat the butter and sugar together until smooth. Add the eggs, a little at a time, and beat until firmly incorporated.

3. Stir in the ground almonds and pistachios, the flour and baking powder*, and the lemon zest.
* It's better to first mix the flour and baking powder together (in a separate bowl), before adding them into the batter.

4. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes (if you halved the measurements like me, then 30 minutes or so)*, until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven.
* Do note that this cake browns quite quickly, you might want to tent with a foil halfway through.

For the topping
5a. (What the original recipe says)
Meanwhile, make the topping. Heat the caster sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan. Stir in the pistachios. When the sugar has completely dissolved, pour the mixture evenly over the cake. Leave to cool in the tin, then turn out and serve cut into slices.

5b. (What The Little Teochew did - and very differently too!)

Allow cake to cool in pan for about 10mins before turning it out onto a wire rack. Meanwhile, mix the cinnamon, rosewater and honey in a bowl. Throw in chopped pistachios (I lightly toasted them first) and stir to coat well (see above). Place the cooled cake onto a serving plate, then spoon the honeyed nut topping on. Slice and devour.


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So how did it taste? I took a small bite from my little boy's slice cos you know ... I've broken up with sugar after being together for decades. I know it's sad, but one has to move on. Amazingly, I have been coping very well ... no withdrawal symptoms, no pining whatsoever. ;) But yes, the cake was damp and delicious indeed. The lemon zest gave a nice zing to the nuttiness. Don't skip it ... I think without the zest, the cake can taste quite heavy.


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And now, here's a lil shout-out to end this post. Do check out BakedbyLace if you have some time. Lace is a young lady - a student - who is passionate about baking, and has been selling her creations for a while.

So, I don't know Lace, have never met her before, have never tasted her cupcakes ... which means, this is in no way an endorsement. She emailed me to ask if I would do a non-obligatory review on the cupcakes she makes for sale. I wrote back to say that I would do this mention for nothing in return.

Why, you may wonder?

Well, I feel a lot for young people who are passionate about a cause/hobby/interest and actually get down to doing something about it. Power to them! Reminds me of Fel (Muffins Are Ugly Cupcakes) and Min (Honest Vanilla). Heck, I wish I had more verve when I was younger. *sniff*

Till my next post, folks ... whenever that may be ... peace!

Out.