Friday, December 30, 2011

Roasted Fennel


Recently, I fell in love with two vegetable snacks. One of them is roasted fennel (I will write about the second one real soon). While fennel is not a common ingredient in Singapore, it can be easily found in the States and I've come to love this veg. By roasting it, the fennel caramelizes to give a really nice sweet flavor and is lightly crisped around the edges. The longer you roast them in the oven, the more brown they will be. I don't like to roast it until it is brown all over as I like to still have a good bite of the vegetable, but feel free to alter the cooking time according to your preference! :)

Not only is this tasty, it is really easy to make too. Slice the fennel, coat it with some olive oil, sprinkle some salt and pepper, pop it into the oven and wala! Snack made healthy! :) Makes a great side dish too!

Roasted Fennel

Ingredients
2 large fennel bulbs
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon of pepper

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Cut off the stems of the fennel and slice the bulbs lengthwise, about 1/4-inch thick.

Using a roasting tray, place the sliced fennel on a sheet of aluminium foil. Drizzle the olive oil and sprinkle the salt and pepper over the fennel slices. Toss with your hands to coat well.

Roast the fennel in the oven for 20 minutes and then turn them over and roast for another 20 minutes, or until brown.
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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Home Fried Chicken


This is one good fried chicken. Granted, this is not the healthiest thing on planet earth and I'd usually oven bake my chicken for a healthier alternative but ooh, who doesn't love a good ol' crispy fried chicken once in a while? And I am speaking for my hubby as well haha! :)

HFC! Home Fried Chicken

Ingredients
4 chicken thighs with skin on
1 large egg
2 tablespoons of water
1 tablespoon of hot sauce
1 cup of self-raising flour mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
2 teaspoons of salt
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
Vegetable oil (I use Canola oil)

Mix the salt, garlic powder and black pepper together and season the chicken thighs with it (don't use all the seasoning for a less salty version). Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, beat the egg with 2 tablespoons of water and the hot sauce.

Spread the flour on a plate, to be used for coating later.

Pour oil into a large pot, until it reaches the halfway mark (do not fill it to the brim). Heat the oil until it reaches 375 degrees. I test the oil by dipping my wooden spoon into it. If it sizzles around the edges, it is ready.

Coat the chicken thighs with the egg, and then with the flour. Drop them into the pot and cook them for 10 minutes.

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!


Here's a picture of some sugar cookies I made in the shape of a gingerbread man. I used the same recipe I made for the hearts which can be found here. It was fun drawing crazy faces on these men. Some had jagged smiles, some had eyes in a straight line and a couple sported a full suit and a tie. haha! 

Christmas is my favorite season of the year, not just because of all the presents, the festive food, the lights and all, but that above all, it is a time to remember our beloved Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ - the reason for this season.

So merry Christmas to one and all and have a blessed new year ahead! :)

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Friday, December 23, 2011

I ♥ San Francisco!

Wow, it's been quite a while since I last wrote, mainly because I was away on a holiday with my hubby. We took a road trip to San Francisco and it was so lovely. We drove to Big Sur first (and admired the beautiful Pacific Ocean) and then headed to San Fran to gaze at the breathtaking Golden Gate Bridge. But of course what is a holiday without some good food? I had one of the best seafood ever! The Dungeness crab was in season and of course, we couldn't resist digging our fingers into one of them:


Their crab was not only fresh, it was really succulent and sweet. Their clam chowder was not bad (at the back) but the crab was really the star of the show! Tarantino's Restaurant has an indoor sitting, but my hubby and I just sat outside, alfresco style, after purchasing the food at their outdoor deli, where a guy would be boiling the crabs at the walkway. So really, it's pretty hard to miss it. In fact, I heard some people commenting that they couldn't stand the fishy smell the boiling crabs were emitting and ran away from the stand as fast as they could. But I thought it was ok heh! :)

Tarantino Restaurant (at the Fisherman's Wharf)
206 Jefferson St
(between Taylor St & Jones St)
San Francisco, CA 94133
Neighborhood: Fisherman's Wharf

And if I had to name the best dish I ate in San Fran, though it was a tough fight, I'd say the winner goes to Sam's Chowder Mobile!!


Oh look at the lobster flesh. Need I say more? Their lobster roll was super delicious, atop a generously buttered roll. It was so tasty, I wondered how they cooked it without drying out the lobster. They won several foodie awards, including CBS Best of the Bay Area's Street Food. They are mobile so they move around San Fran and I found them at the Golden Gate Park. Their chowder is really good too. Better than Tarantino's one, in my opinion.

To find out where they are, you can visit their website at
http://www.samschowdermobile.com/find-us.html


Have I ever mentioned how much I love farmer's markets? I love the whole concept of a wide variety of fresh produce and food stands all under the same roof. And at times, u can happily sample your way through the stalls too! The hubby and I made our way to SoMa (South of Market) for lunch and from far, we could see a long line snaking this stall. That is enough to capture our curiosity and the hubby quickly parked himself at the end of the queue while I checked out their menu. Their porcetta (pork) sandwich seemed to be the bestseller that afternoon, so we ordered one and boy was it delicious! The pork had a good crunch to it, and was salted just right. I love how it had heaps of arugula sandwiched in it. yums! I gobbled the sandwich up too quickly for a shot, but I did find a video of it on youtube so enjoy! :)

 

Roli Roti Gourmet
1 Ferry Bldg (at SoMa)
San Francisco, CA 94105

I also got some chocolates from Alfieri Farms. They sell some really good almond brittle and I bought home the dark chocolate variety. It was really addictive. I finished my packet in a couple of days and am yearning for more! I got it at one of the stalls in SoMa. Their website seems to be under construction, but you can view more info from yelp here:

http://www.yelp.com/biz/alfieri-farms-san-francisco#hrid:moduc7U-49HJqlrt4rljSA

As mentioned, the seafood in San Fran is really fresh, and so I really wanted to try their sushi. This restaurant was recommended on Frommer's guide book so we decided to check it out. It was really crowded and we had to wait for about 15 minutes before we could get a table, but it was worth the wait. The fish (below is the sushi delux), do bear me for repeating, was fresh, and the tamago! oh the tamago was so sweet and juicy, I've never really had anything quite like it.


We saw many tables ordering their clams cooked in sake, so we tried that too and it was not bad! It bore a slight resemblance to vongole.

Sanraku
704 Sutter Street
San Francisco CA 94109


On the day we left San Fran, we decided to return to this korean restaurant because the first time we went there, the queue was way too long and we were way too hungry after our long drive and we had to leave. This time, we were the first customer the moment they opened for lunch so we definitely had a seat! Haha! As we ate, the place began filling up with the lunch crowd!

This restaurant is famed for their soft tofu and so I had the kimchi one while my hubby had the seafood one. I preferred my soup base, and let me tell you, their tofu was unbelievably soft! Love it! Love their side dishes too. This is the first time I had full head+tail on fish as a side dish, though the fish was a little too salty for me. Thumbs up for the korean supermarket (separate establishment) beside it too that sold a wide variety of korean produce. I bought their fried scallion pancake as takeaway and it was delicious!

My Tofu House
4627 Geary Boulevard
San Francisco, CA 94118

So yep, here's the top picks of the food I tried on my first trip to San Fran. It was really a culinary delight and I would head back again just for the food alone! In fact, on our way back I was badgering my hubby when we could visit San Fran again hehe. If you have foodie places to recommend, do let me know! Keeping notes for the next trip! :)

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Chinese BBQ Pork Ribs

Glistening pork ribs, slightly charred at the edges to give a smoky flavor.
The hubby and I have been eating meal after meal of pasta recently cos:

1) I was testing out new pasta recipes
2) I wanted to use finish some stuff in the fridge ie: ricotta and mascarpone cheese

and so the craving for Chinese food hit me pretty fast and hard and before long, I was reminiscing about the Hong Kong spare ribs I used to eat at the zi char stall near my hubby's house. While I contemplated just going to a Chinese restaurant here for a quick fix, curiosity got the better of me and I decided to try making it myself hurhur.

Well, it turned out simply delectable! It was juicy on the inside, and slightly charred at the edges to give a nice smoky flavor. I used the fleshier kind of pork ribs this time so it was a bit like eating char siew. I'm going to try using the boney kind of spareribs the next time I make them! :)

Paired perfectly with some fluffy white rice. Yums!

Chinese BBQ Pork Ribs
1 tablespoon of Chinese five-spice powder 
1 full rack St. Louis-style spareribs, cut into individual ribs (about 3 pounds total)
1/2 cup hoisin sauce 
1/4 cup shaoxing wine or dry sherry 
2 tablespoons soy sauce 
1/4 cup honey

Sprinkle five-spice powder evenly over ribs and rub into them until thoroughly and evenly coated. Set ribs aside.

Combine hoisin sauce, shaoxing wine, soy sauce, and honey in a zip-lock bag. Add ribs to bag and mix until evenly coated. Seal bag, transfer to refrigerator, and let ribs marinate at least overnight and up to three nights.

When ready to cook, preheat oven to 375°F. Remove ribs from bag, wiping off excess marinade with your fingers (reserve the marinade). Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, set a wire rack on it, and spread the ribs evenly over the rack. Cover with aluminum foil and roast for 1 hour. Remove foil, brush ribs with marinade, increase heat to 450°F, and continue to roast until charred, glazed, and sticky, about 15 minutes longer, rotating ribs and basting with marinade once more during cooking (I did it after a 10-minute interval).
 
Let rest 10 minutes, then serve.

Adapted from Serious Eats
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Monday, December 12, 2011

Fluffy Homemade Marshmallows

As promised, here's the recipe for marshmallows! And as previously mentioned in my last entry, this pairs divinely with a cuppa ultimate hot chocolate. Just plonk in two to three of these fluffy pillows for a delicious treat!

Do try this recipe if you've never made marshmallows before. It is surprisingly easy, and you only need a few basic ingredients. Gone are the days of those rubbery and spongy store-bought marshmallows. Homemade ones are the real deal! Try it if you don't believe me! The ones you make yourself are waaaay softer and they just melt in your mouth. And they taste way better too! :)

I was able to fill two 9-inch pans of marshmallows with this recipe, so feel free to adjust accordingly. They can also be kept for a few weeks in an air-tight container. 

Homemade Marshmallows

Ingredients

2/3 cup of water, divided into two
3 envelopes of unflavored gelatin (each envelope containing 1/4oz of powdered gelatin)
1 cup of granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
1 cup of powdered/icing sugar for dusting

Lightly coat the insides of your pan with vegetable cooking spray. Sprinkle powdered sugar over it and set aside.

Pour 1/3 cup of the water into a bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and stir briefly to incorporate. Let it stand for about 10 minutes, or until the gelatin has softened.

In a small unheated saucepan, combine the remaining 1/3 cup of water and the granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Stir to mix well. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook the mixture without stirring for 10 minutes, or until it reaches 240 degrees, also known as the softball stage. You may clip a candy thermometer on the inside of the pan (make sure it doesn't touch the bottom of the pan or the reading will not be accurate). If you don't have a candy thermometer, you can also test the temperature of the mixture by dropping a small amount of it in a bowl of ice water. If the mixture solidify into a malleable ball, the sugar has reached softball stage, as opposed to hardball stage.

Using a hand electric mixer (or a standing mixer) on low speed, carefully add the hot syrup to the softened gelatin. Add the vanilla essence and increase the speed to medium-high. The mixture will start out very clear, but will eventually turn white. Beat for about 10 minutes, or until the marshmallow gets very thick and sticky - like melted marshmallow.

Using your spatula, spread the mixture into the prepared pan. Set it aside for about 3 hours, pr until the mixture is firm and cool. It will not be as firm as store-bought marshmallows.

When done, sift the powdered sugar on the top of the marshmallow, lightly coating it. Sift the rest of the powdered sugar into a shallow bowl. Run your knife around the edge of the cooled pan to loosen the marshmallow. Turn the pan upside down onto a sheet of wax paper. Cut your marshmallows into desired shapes/cubes. Place your knife under running water from time to time to prevent too much marshmallows from accumulating on the knife because they will be sticky.

Lastly, roll each marshmallow in the powdered sugar until completely coated. Store marshmallows in a single layer, or in layers separated by wax paper. 


Happy marshmallow-ing! :)

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Ultimate Hot Chocolate

'Tis the season for some hot chocolate!
The city's been hit by some really strong winds recently (and when I say strong, I mean uprooting 50-year-old trees, toppling cable lines and causing crazy blackouts kind of strong) and so this little ol' me who is not used to the chill is freezing her toes off!

Hence, to warm myself up, I made a cuppa hot chocolate that day! :) The puffy marshmallows you see melting into that mug were homemade, and I shall share that recipe in my next entry. No store bought synthetic tasting marshmallows can fight a homemade one! But for now, let's concentrate on that cuppa!

This recipe's really easy as pie, and the best thing is, you can easily tweak every component until you find the taste that you like best. Truth is, everyone has their own idea of what a good cup of hot chocolate should taste like. Some love it to be extra thick, some prefer it to be super sweet, some love it to be very milky, and so just go with the flow! Just remember to taste, taste, taste when you're stirring your pot!

I love how these marshmallows act as a sweetener for me, which is why I tend not to add too much sugar into mine. And I like mine with a touch of peppermint, so I stirred that delightful looking peppermint cane into the drink. Oh, how Christmas-y this feels! :) Totally my favorite time of the year!

Ultimate Hot Chocolate
(serves 1 large mug)

a mug of whole milk
1 tablespoon of cocoa powder
a handful of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar, or to taste
a pinch of salt

Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until the temperature just reaches the boiling point.  Taste and adjust accordingly. Garnish with your favorite marshmallows and peppermint sticks! Enjoy!

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Monday, December 5, 2011

The Real Mushroom Soup

When I first saw this recipe in Jamie Oliver's cookbook, I was really excited. What drew me to this recipe was the use of as many different fresh wild mushrooms as you can find. I knew that the depth of flavor for this soup would really be one of a kind with such variety. So, the moment my new food processor arrived in the mail, I immediately dropped by my supermarket and bought my mushrooms! :D I was that excited! Haha!

Although I was not able to find all the mushrooms he mentioned, I was able to get a decent variety: dried porcini, crimini, white, shitake and oyster. The end result? Delicious! :)

The Real Mushroom Soup (adapted from Jamie's Dinners)
(serves 6)

Ingredients
a small handful of dried porcini (if you were to use a field of Portabello mushrooms to make a soup, just adding a tiny but of dried porcini into the base would make the whole thing more luxurious)
600g/1lb 6oz mixed fresh wild mushrooms (chanterelles, girolles, trompettes de la mort, shitake, oyster), cleaned and sliced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
a knob of butter
a handful of fresh thyme, leaves picked
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 litre/1 3/4 pints chicken or vegetable stock
a handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons of mascarpone cheese
1 lemon (I omitted this cos I didn't want any lemony taste in my mushroom soup)
optional: truffle oil

Place the porcini in a small dish, add boiling water just to cover, and leave to soak. Get a large casserole-type pan nice and hot, then add a good couple of lugs of olive oil and your fresh mushrooms. Stir around very quickly for a minute, then add your garlic, onion, butter and thyme and a small amount of seasoning. After about a minute you'll probably notice moisture cooking out of the mushrooms and at this point add half of your porcini, chopped up, and the rest left whole. Strain the soaking liquid to remove any grit, and add it to the pan. Carry on cooking for about 20 minutes until most of the moisture disappears.

Season to taste, and add your stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for around 20 minutes. I usually remove half the soup from the pan and whiz it up to a purée at this point, then pour it back in, adding the parsley and mascarpone, and seasoning carefully to taste.

You can serve this soup as you like, but there are a few things to remember when finishing it off. Mix together a pinch of salt and pepper with the zest of one lemon and the juice of half of it, then spoon a little of this into the middle of the soup. When you go to eat it, stir it in and it gives a wonderful flavour. Other things you can consider are little slices of grilled crostini put into the bottom of the bowls before the soup is poured over. Or you could even quickly fry some nice-looking mushrooms – like girolles, chanterelles or oysters – and sprinkle these on top of the soup. If I was going to use truffle oil, then I would use it on its own – a few drips on the top just before serving.

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Pasta with Bacon, Roasted Bell Peppers & Peas

You won't believe how delicious this pasta is until you've tasted it for yourself! This is one of my favorite pasta dish and the last time I did it, I ate way too many helpings than I normally would cos it was just so flavorful!

The smokiness from the roasted bell peppers/capsicums, the sweet peas, the salty and fatty bacon and the cheesy cream that binds them all together - to describe it in Singaporean style - it was super shiok!

Not to mention easy! You can whip it up in no time, and here's how! 

Pasta with Bacon, Roasted Bell Peppers & Peas
(serves 4)

Ingredients
3 strips of thick-cut uncured bacon (you can use normal thick-cut bacon too), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 red bell peppers
3/4 cup of tiny frozen peas, thawed
3/4 cup of heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons of butter
2 teaspoons of vegetable oil
3/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 pound of pasta, preferably short, tubular ones like macaroni or penne
Salt
Black pepper

Roast your bell peppers until the skin is charred and black. You can place them in the broiler of your oven or over a grill. If you can't do either one, you can also use a skillet. But the charring would be less uniform if you use this method. Simply bring an your skillet (with no oil) on high heat. Sear the sides of the bell peppers until they are blackened.

When the bell peppers are done, put them aside to cool. Then, remove the charred skin from the capsicum. The flesh of the bell pepper should be tender but not mushy. Remove the seeds and cut them into small cubes.

Cook your pasta according to the package's instructions.

While your pasta is cooking, melt the butter with oil over medium heat. Cook the bacon in the butter for 4 minutes.

Add the peas and cook for one minute, stirring to coat well.

Then, add in the peppers, stirring for half a minute or less.

Add the cream, a pinch of salt and several grindings of pepper and turn up the heat to high. Cook, stirring constantly, until the cream thickens.

Toss the sauce with cooked, drained pasta, mixing the Parmesan cheese in at the same time. Serve immediately, with extra grated cheese on the side.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Sugar Cookies

Handcrafted with love!
Aren't these Christmas cookies so beautiful? And they are sooo easy to make too! :)

Have been really busy this week (and we are only at the start) shopping for Christmas. Also, a friend from out of town will be visiting me this week so gotta prep some stuff too. I don't know about you, but November seemed to have whizzed past me in a blur. How did time pass so fast? But I love it! All these is keeping my adrenaline pumping...

So yes, as I was saying, what is Christmas without some sugar cookies! I'm not sure if you noticed, but the edges of my cookie hearts are not slick. Why is that so? Because I didn't use a cookie cutter. I couldn't find a heart-shape cookie cutter (strangely, the stores I went to had stars, christmas trees, aeroplanes, but I think they ran out of hearts!) so I decided to just cut them by hand. I guess I can now say these cookies were "handcrafted" hoho. And like thumbprints, you won't be able to find the exact same heart on my cookie tray because I didn't use a stencil. So yes, they are absolutely unique! ;P

So let's get on with talking about how to make these cookies! First, use your favorite sugar recipe. I used the recipe from my friend Sheralyn (the same one who passed me the delicious bread ring recipe) and they worked superbly. I added nutmeg for mine, and I LOVE how it gives the cookies the extra kick and flavor, making it all spiced, sweet and salty at once. Below is the recipe, and thereafter I'll elaborate on how to decorate it using royal icing.

So good, you can even eat them on their own!
Christmas Sugar Cookies

Ingredients
240g unsalted butter, softened
200g sugar or brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
330g of flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg (optional)

Mix and sift the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg into a large bowl.

In a separate large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together.

Mix the egg and vanilla into the butter and sugar mixture. You will get quite a wet mixture but it is ok. Add in the sifted flour.

Knead gently and chill the dough for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. You may chill it up to a day.

Preheat your oven to 350F.

Gently roll out the dough about 1/4-inch thick and cut them into your desired shapes.

Line your baking tray with wax paper. Place your cut cookies on them. Chill them in the refrigerator again for about 10 to 15 minutes. This will help to harden the dough and allow it to hold its shape better during the baking process.

Bake your cookies for about 10 minutes, or until the edges are brown. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Royal Icing 1 (for piping the outline of the cookie)

Ingredients
1 large egg white
1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice
220g of powdered/icing sugar, sifted.

Beat the egg whites with the lemon juice until combined. Slowly whisk 1/2 a cup of sugar into the mixture. Do this with the rest of the sugar until you have a thick mixture - you can't have a runny consistency, but it shouldn't be so thick that you can't pipe it properly. If the icing gets too runny, you can add more sugar. If it is too thick, just add a bit of water.

If you don't own a piping bag, no worries, simply put them into a ziplock bag (or other bags that can give you a nice pointed edge) and snip the tip off. Be very careful, snip the hole as small as you can and adjust from there.

Royal Icing 2 (for flooding - which means to fill out the whole cookie)

Ingredients
2 large egg whites
2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice
330g of powdered/icing sugar, sifted.

Follow the same steps as the above. To add color to your icing, just add your favorite food coloring.

Important note: Royal icing dries out very quickly, so always cover your bowl of icing with a cling film when not in use. Also, place the tip of your piping bag on a piece of moist tissue while interchanging colors/bags to prevent crusting.

Make sure your cookies are completely cooled.

Using royal icing 1, pipe a border around your cookie. This is to help contain the icing later which will be much more runny in consistency. Without this step, your icing might run messily over the edges.


Wait for the icing to completely cool. This may take around half an hour. Always have a cookie that you can test with. If that test cookie dries, you know the rest are probably dried. And you can practice your designs on that test cookie first before attempting on your real cookies!In fact, I usually have at least two test cookies cos i tend to chomp on the first one while decorating hurhur.

Then, use a teaspoon to and start flooding your cookie. Try not to over flood it, just have enough icing to coat the surface. A super thick flooding may run over the border resulting in a horrible mess.

Then, while your icing is still wet (you cannot manipulate the design on dried out icing), dot it with another color. I place my red icing in a piping bag and piped the dots!

After that, use a toothpick and gently run it through the circles.

And there you'll have it, beautifully swirled hearts on a cookie.

When you are done, place the cookie on a flat surface. Make sure it is not tilted, because the wet icing will make its way out of your cookie before you know it! The icing will take several hours to dry (sometimes overnight) so check your test cookie before packing them up! :)

Happy holidays everyone! :)
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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Super Duper Good Frosting!

Luscious frosting paired with the lovely tulip from the hubby.
Thanksgiving and Black Friday is officially over! Can't believe the crazy sale that was going on. It was the best time for the hubby and I to stock up on winter wear so woohoo!

Anyway, I brought these cupcakes to a thanksgiving party on Thursday and they were a hit! It was my first time making this frosting and I was simply bowled over by it! It was super luscious and buttery, totally love it. And it was so easy to make too! The secret is in the flour. When I first saw this recipe, I was hesitant to try it cos since when do you add flour into your frosting? But then my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to give it a shot!

And it was worth it.

Try it, and you'll see what I mean. :)

I used the easy peasy chocolate cupcake recipe that goes super well with this frosting.

Super Duper Good Frosting (from MissyDew)
(frosts 12 regular cupcakes)

Ingredients
5 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar (not powdered sugar)

Bake your favorite chocolate cake and let it cool.

In a small saucepan, whisk flour into milk and heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens. You want it to be very thick, thicker than cake mix, more like a brownie mix is. Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature. (If I’m in a hurry, I place the saucepan over ice in the sink for about 10 minutes or so until the mixture cools.) It must be completely cool before you use it in the next step. Stir in vanilla.

While the mixture is cooling, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. You don’t want any sugar graininess left.

(Note: If you don't have an electric mixer, make sure your butter is softened (NOT melted) so that you can cream it easily with a fork. One way to do that is to cut the butter cup into 1 inch by 1 inch cubes and let it soften in room temperature. I took about 20 minutes to half an hour, but this depends on the room temperature).

Then add the completely cooled milk/flour/vanilla mixture and beat the living daylights out of it. If it looks separated, you haven’t beaten it enough! Beat it until it all combines and resembles whipped cream.

When done, spread it over your cupcakes and enjoy this heaven of a frosting!

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Delicious Pear Tart

Delicious pear tart studded with cloves.
Thanksgiving is coming! Although we don't celebrate it in Singapore, it's fun to be part of the festivities here in America. Just yesterday, my hubby and I drove past this house that had a HUGE inflatable cartoon turkey sitting on their lawn! It was so cute! Love how everyone's all psyched up for this meaningful season.

So yes, this recipe probably comes in handy for Thanksgiving and the one just around the corner (my favorite) Christmas! This tart only took me less than half an hour to make, if you don't count the baking time, which is another reason to give it a try!

I've never made a tart before, but I had some lovely, fresh pears with me and according to the classic Italian cookbook I own (which you would be familiar with if you've been following my blog), this is such a simple recipe that "only an active campaign of sabotage could ruin it". And that's my cue, to attempt my first tart with an easy recipe. The result? I passed them to my hubby's friends who wolfed them down happily. Not a single slice was left! :)

The best pears to use for this recipe are the Bosc or the Anjou variety. But if you are not picky, or are in the mood for experimenting, feel free to substitute with other pears.

A Farm Wife's Fresh Pear Tart (from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan)

Ingredients
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 cup granulated sugar
Salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 pounds of fresh pears
A 9-inch round cake pan
Butter for greasing the pan and dotting the cake
1/2 cup dry, unflavored bread crumbs
Optional: 1 dozen cloves

1. Preheat oven to 375F

2. Beat the eggs and milk together in a bowl. Add the sugar and a tiny pinch salt, and continue to beat. Add the flour, mixing it in thoroughly to produce a compact cake batter.

3. Peel the pears, cut them lengthwise in two, scoop out the seeds and core, then cut them into thin slices about 1 inch wide. Add them to the batter in the bowl, distributing them evenly.

4. Smear the pan generously with butter, sprinkle lightly with bread crumbs, then turn the pan over and give it a sharp rap against the counter to shake loose excess crumbs.

5. Put the batter into the pan, leveling it off with the back of a spoon or a spatula. Make numerous small hollows on the top with a fingertip and fill them with little bits of butter. Stud with the optional cloves, distributing them at random, but apart. Place the pan in the upper third of the preheated oven and bake for 50 minutes, or until the top has become lightly colored.

6. While it is still lukewarm, carefully loosen the tart from the bottom of the pan, lift it with spatulas, and transfer to a platter. It is very nice served while still a little warm, or at room temperature.

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Gravlax (Cured Salmon) With Delicious Side Salad

Stained by the beetroot to a lovely fuchsia hue.
I have been rather obsessed with curing salmon lately. Ever since I knew how to do it, I've been buying truckloads of fresh salmon to cure at home. I still cannot wrap my head around the simplicity of the whole process!

It is wonderfully easy, really. I'm going to share two different ways to cure your salmon today. The picture above is a recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver, which is rather elaborated with lots of condiments to cure the salmon with. You can watch the video here:





The second one (picture below) is the much simpler, standard version. It is also saltier than the above recipe.

Salmon cured in one of its simplest forms.
I've paired the salmon with a salad that I've been simply addicted to. My hubby and I have been chomping on those leaves for the past few days, and I still can't get enough of it!! The secret is in the dressing, that is both tangy and sweet at the same time. Love it!!

So yes, try curing your own salmon at home today! It's fun and it definitely beats store-bought ones!

Gravlax (simple version)
(serves 4)

Ingredients
1 pound of fresh salmon, with skin on
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
zest of one lemon
Optional: 2 handfuls of dill, chopped finely

After washing the salmon, pat it dry and coat it with salt and brown sugar. Top it off with the lemon zest and dill. Place the salmon in a ziplock bag and refrigerate it for 24 hours to 48 hours (I actually like it better after just one day, as opposed to 48 hours because the salmon is less cured, but that's me, heh). Weigh some heavy items on the whole salmon (ie: big, heavy books or bricks) to aid in the absorption of the condiments.

When the salmon is ready, remove it from the ziplock bag and wash it under running water to remove the salt and sugar. Pat it dry with a paper towel. Then, skin the salmon by sliding your knife across it, between the skin and the flesh. (I love the fatty layer of fish just beneath the skin, so I'd really scrap my skin clean. But that's just me, heh.) Discard the skin.

Slice the salmon into thin strips. Serve with a little squeeze of lemon and a side salad.

Gravlax With The Works!
(serves 6)

Note: I've adapted Jamie Oliver's recipe in terms of the ingredients, but due to the different size of the fish and a little ambiguity in the instructions in his video, I've tweaked the measurements a little for this recipe.

Ingredients
1.5 pound of fresh salmon, with skin on
5 tablespoons of salt
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
1 beetroot, grated (get those baby beetroots, not the large mature ones, and not the canned ones)
1 heaping tablespoon of horse radish
3 handfuls of dill, chopped finely
1 shot of schnapps (or brandy)
zest of 1 lemon

Wash your salmon and pat it dry. On a large tray, place salmon skin down. Top it off with the salt, brown sugar, beetroot, horse radish, dill. lemon zest and schnapps. Massage the condiments in a little, and then wrap the tray with cling wrap. Put the salmon in the refrigerator for 48 hours, weighed down by heavy items such as books or bricks, etc.

When ready, use a paper towel to brush all the condiments away from the fish. Then, skin the salmon by sliding your knife across it, between the skin and the flesh. Discard the skin. Slice the salmon into thin strips.

To make the cream to go with the gravlax:
Mix 3 tablespoons of sour cream with 2 teaspoon of wholegrain mustard, 1 teaspoon of horseradish, a pinch of black pepper and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.

Delicious Side Salad
(serves 4)

Ingredients for the salad: (actually, you can put anything you one inside, but this is one of my favorite combinations)

3-4 handfuls of mesclun salad
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 zucchini, diced
12 black olives, each cut into 3 parts
a handful of salted pistachio nuts
1/2 handful of crumbled feta cheese

Ingredients for the dressing
3 tablespoons of balsamic vinaigrette (I like Trader Joe's one)
1/2 teaspoon of garlic, chopped finely
1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of honey, or to taste
1 pinch of salt and pepper

Mix the ingredients for the salad dressing in a small bowl until combined. Adjust according to taste. Toss the salad with the dressing and then top it off with the crumbled feta cheese.

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Broccoli With Olive Oil & Garlic


Looking for a new spin on broccoli? Then try this! It is a simple two-step recipe, requiring you to just boil the broccoli first before sauteing it.The flavor definitely beats just boiling or steaming those veggies with a squeeze of lemon. Do note that if you don't like parsley, you may want to omit it because the end product has quite a distinct parsley taste.

Broccoli with Olive Oil & Garlic

Ingredients
a bunch of fresh broccoli, chopped
4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons of chopped parsley
Salt to taste
Optional: a wedge of lemon

Boil chopped broccoli in pot of salted boiling water for about 5 minutes, or until the stem is easily pierced by a fork.

In a skillet (get one that is big enough to fit all the broccoli in comfortably), saute the garlic with the olive oil over medium heat. When the garlic turns light brown, add in the broccoli, a tiny pinch of salt and parsley. Coat the vegetables evenly for 2 minutes and then serve with a wedge of lemon.
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Update: New twitter account!

I've moved! My twitter account, that is.

For those who have been following @thehappyglut twitter account, I'd like to let you know that I've moved to @JinnyKohHong so do make the switch. Just reclick the twitter icon on my right sidebar cos i've updated the link.

See you there! :)

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cabbage Soup With Meatballs & Wolfberries

This is what I call yummy goodness!
If you've never made Chinese soup before, this recipe is a great way to start. It is easy, doesn't require double-boiling and is full of flavor. Cabbage is one of my favorite vegetables because not only is it packed with fiber and antioxidants, it is also pretty versatile! You can make slaw with it, fry it, steam it, boil it, etc. I especially enjoy cooked cabbage because the heat brings out its natural sweetness. Paired with wolfberries, this becomes one big, nutritious slurp! :D

My mother used to make this soup for me all the time, but I've tweaked it a bit, especially for the minced meat part, to make it tastier. Personally, I just can't get enough of the meatballs! Heh

Cabbage Soup With Meatballs & Wolfberries
(serves 4)

Ingredients
Bones of 3 chicken drumlets (or the equivalent weight of other chicken bones)
Half a head of cabbage, chopped
1 pound of minced pork
1 tablespoon of dried wolfberries
2 tablespoons of light soya sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons of shaoxing wine
1 tablespoon of sesame oil
1/2 cup chicken stock
white pepper

In a bowl, combine the light soya sauce, shaoxing wine, sesame oil, a generous amount of white pepper with the minced pork. Mix well.

Put a cling wrap over the bowl and refrigerate the minced pork.

In a large dutch oven/casserole, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil and put the chicken bones in. Remove any scum that floats to the surface of the pot. Boil for 10 minutes.

Turn the heat down to low-medium heat. Add the cabbage and chicken stock then simmer for 45 minutes.

Remove the minced pork from the refrigerator. I like to stand beside the stove, form the meatballs and drop them straight into the dutch oven/casserole instead of making all the meatballs at one go on a plate. Using a tablespoon with your right hand, scoop out 3/4 of a tablespoon of minced meat and put it into the middle of your left palm. To form the round, spherical meatball shape, simply rotate your left fingers in a circular motion. If you are left-handed, swop it the other way around.

Once done, drop the meatball into the soup. Do this for the rest of the minced meat. Be careful to give ample space between each meatball. Use your ladle to move the cabbage around to create space. When done, check if the water level is just above the cabbage and meatballs. If not, add a bit more water until just covered.

Simmer the soup for another hour to an hour and a half. 10 minutes before you off the stove, add in the wolfberries. Serve hot. Best Blogger Tips

Monday, November 14, 2011

How To Use A Pomegranate

Superfruit!
It is hard to ignore this exotic fruit with its lovely crimson exterior that resembles a cross between a peach and an apple. I love how the blood-red kernels adorn the interior of the fruit, like a display of precious rubies hidden in a cave. And these bright "rubies" are not just pretty, they are packed with a hefty dose of vitamins and antioxidents!

But enough of hearing me wax lyrical about one of my favorite fruits. If you are like me in the past, not too sure how to open or use it, let the mystery be solved today!

If you are choosing a pomegranate at a farmer's market or supermarket, try to find one that is deep red in colour and feels relatively heavy . It should also have a shiny exterior, as if it has been waxed, and a soft (not mushy) skin. Avoid picking pomegranates that has cracks on its skin cos they tend to spoil quickly.

Now that we've got that settled, there are two popular ways of eating it raw: by picking the seeds or extracting its juice. If you are wearing your favorite white shirt, I'd suggest you to protect it with a napkin or apron, or better yet, wear something else altogether cos this vibrant fruit has a knack for shooting off red juice that might stain your beloved shirt.

To open the fruit, simply cut the fruit into quarters using a knife and pick the seeds out with your fingers. You just need to be careful about the juice that may spray out when you accidentally burst the kernels. But hey, just like eating mangosteen, half the fun is the mess of prying open the fruit for some finger-licking goodness! :) Just don't go overboard and end up looking like you just butchered a small rabbit.

Alternatively, you can also separate the seeds from the skin by pulling it at the side (like how you would pull apart an orange from its skin).

To extract its juice, simply blend the pomegranate seeds in a blender and strain its juice through a cheese cloth or muslin.

One of my other favorite way of using pomegranate is as a salad dressing or a glaze over meats. Below is a simple recipe to make your own pomegranate molasses.

Pomegranate Molasses

Ingredients
4 cups of pomegranate juice
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons of lemon juice (or to taste)

Simmer your pomegranate juice, sugar and lemon juice over medium heat on a large saucepan for about an hour, or until the mixture becomes a thick syrup. Dissolve more sugar into it if you want the syrup to be sweeter. When done, cool the pomegranate molasses before storing it in the refrigerator. Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Fluffy Pancakes With Butter & Maple Syrup

oh pancakes, how you make my mornings shine.
Don't you just love pancakes in the morning?

I know I do.

Pancakes have now taken on so many different forms, from sweet to savoury, from banana to smoke salmon toppings, that it is almost impossible to decide which is my favorite! Gone are the days where the only pancakes we knew as little kids were those plain, simple flapjacks.

So today, I've decided to make just that. Those good old hotcakes with just some butter and maple syrup. To savor the beauty of it without the frills. It also helped that I wanted to complement them with the Canadian maple syrup that my dear friend recently gave me heh.

This easy recipe only takes 10 minutes to prep and 15 minutes to cook. I love how it requires only a few basic ingredients and the pancakes turned out nice and fluffy with a buttery, eggy taste to it. Delicious, I say! Just a note, this recipe doesn't call for buttermilk. Also, I had to grease my skillet several times between pancakes cos the pancakes tend to absorb the oil quickly.

So, gather your family/friends for a treat and some fun flipping pancakes in the air (figuratively, unless of course, you are an expert with your spatula and pan!) and have your pancakes the conventional way or jazz them up with some fresh fruits and jam!

Fluffy Pancakes With Butter & Maple Syrup (From Every Day with Rachael Ray)
Makes 12 pancakes

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups of flour
3 tablespoons of sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1 1/4 cups of milk
1 egg, separated
3 tablespoons of butter, melted, plus more (unmelted) for serving
Maple syrup, for serving

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the milk, egg yolks and melted butter. Pour the wet mixture into the dry and stir until just combined.

2. Preheat a griddle or large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Meanwhile, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. Gently fold the whites into the batter.

3. Grease the griddle and ladle on 1/4 cup portions of batter. Cook on 1 side until bubbles form and the pancakes are cooked around the edges, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Flip and cook through, 1 minute more. Serve with butter and maple syrup.

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Bacon & Egg Bread Ring

Imperfect, but I love my beloved first bread ring :)

You might not believe it when I tell you that i've been wanting to make a bread ring since 2007.

Yes, 2007.

Back then, I chanced upon a picture of a bread ring baked by my friend, Sheralyn (who btw, is a talented writer and awesome baker!). I was super intrigued by it and asked her for the recipe. Alas! I didn't have the time to make it and days turned to weeks, weeks turned months, months turned to years and before I knew it, I lost the recipe. :(

However, recently, I've been thinking about that beloved bread ring again and decided to shamelessly ask Sheralyn for the recipe once more. She generously passed it to me along with some others which I can't wait to try. Hooray! Bread ring problems solved!

So with the recipe printed and stuck onto my refrigerator, I set out on this long awaited task. I must say I loved the recipe, simply because it was easy! I didn't need to separately rise the yeast or wait hours for the dough to rise. My only mistake was, in my haste, rolling the dough a little unevenly so it cracked open at one side while baking (a little peek-a-boo!). To avoid the same mishap as me, make sure to roll your dough evenly and wide enough to incorporate all your ingredients so that when you roll the bread up, they will not burst open!

My first bread ring was imperfect in its shape, but I loved the flavor, my hubby gobbled it up and we were one happy couple. :)

Egg & Bacon Ring

Ingredients
500g flour, sifted
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
11g of instant yeast
250g water (about one glass)

Create well in flour, sugar and salt mix.

Place yeast in the well, add water and mix.

Knead dough till smooth.

Rest the dough for 30 minutes (or more, up to two hours). *I rested mine for slightly over an hour.

Roll out dough into oblong and top it with:
-bacon or ham
-hard boiled eggs (about 5 to 6 eggs, halved)
-cubed mozzarella
-parmesan cheese *I used about two handfuls of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, and left some for sprinkling on the top of the bread ring
-sundried tomato or cherry tomatoes

Wrap dough around the filling. Form a ring.

Top the dough with a generous amount of olive oil and some rosemary (leaves picked) (as mentioned, I topped mine with some parmesan cheese too.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius (392 F) and put the bread ring in for a second rise while waiting for the oven to get heated.

Once the oven has been pre-heated, bake it for 30 minutes. Best Blogger Tips

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Perfect Yorkshire Pudding With Beef Roast

My perfect little yorkies!
I've been itching to make a batch of yorkshire puddings since a week ago. The only other time I've tried a yorkshire pudding was at lawry's with my mom and sis, which had left an indelible impression on me. So, with my new muffin tins, I decided to make a batch at home!

But of course, these yorkies are meant to go with some nice gravy, so I took out my trusty italian cookbook and picked a beef roast recipe.

At first glance, the beef recipe looked easy enough, but that was because my eyes glazed over the words "larding needle" So when I actually got my hands down to doing it, I realised I had to lard the beef! To be honest, I didn't quite know how to do that so I had to google it. As I didn't have a larding needle, I used my good old chinese chopsticks as suggested by Marcella, but still, it was quite a feat! After fighting larding my beef, I felt pretty accomplished!! :D

Beef that was so tender, with fat and juices running over.
But still, the star of the day had to be those yorkies. It was so fluffy with the perfect hollow in the centre to lap up all the onions and gravy. Mmm... I was glad I made it cos it was hubby's first yorkie and he really enjoyed it! Loved the hint of milk in the pudding. Yorkies FTW!

Perfect hollow in the center.
I saved one yorkie for my friend who doesn't eat beef, and plonked a tablespoon of strawberry jam in the middle. Delicious! Yorkies can also be eaten as desserts by topping them with some compote or ice-cream. Lovely! Will definitely make these yorkshire puddings again, probably the next time with a thicker gravy (this onion sauce runs a little thin).

Yorshire Pudding (from Simple Bites)
Yields: 12
  • 7/8 cups of flour (250 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2-3 Tablespoons butter or lard (for pan)
TIP: Have all ingredients at room temperature.
  1. Sift salt and flour together into a bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, into which pour the milk and water. Beat thoroughly with a whisk.
  2. In a separate bowl or measuring cup, beat the eggs until frothy and add to the batter. Beat the better well.
  3. Cover batter with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight.
  4. Preheat oven to 400°F and generously butter a 12- cup muffin tin.
  5. Remove Yorkshire pudding batter from fridge and beat until small bubbles rise to the surface.
  6. Place the buttered muffin tin into the oven until butter is sizzling and slightly browned (about a minute and a half). Remove pan from oven and quickly pour batter into muffin cups, distributing the batter evenly between the 12 cups.
  7. Return to oven as speedily as possible and bake for about 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. You may need to raise the pan to the top shelf of the oven to get a nice browning on the tops.
  8. Remove from oven, and with a fork, pop Yorkshire pudding into a waiting napkin-lined basket. Serve immediately.
Beef Roast Braised With Onions (From Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking)
What is remarkable about this roast is that it is braised with only the juices that flow from the onions on which the meat rests. Eventually, the juices vanish, the mean becomes tenderly impregnated with sweet onion flavor, and the onions themselves turn deliciously brown.

The only fat used is the pancetta with which the beef is larded. If you don't have a larding needle, push strips of pancetta into the meat using a chopstick of the traditional hard Chinese rather than the soft, breakable Japanese kind, or the other blunt, narrow stick, or similar object. Pierce the meat following the direction of its grain.

For 4 to 6 servings

1/4 pound pancetta or salt pork in a single piece
2 pounds boneless beef roast, preferably the brisket
5 cloves
4 medium onions sliced very, very thin
Salt
Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. Cut the pancetta or salt pork into narrow strips about 1/4 inch wide. Use hald the strips to lard the meat with a larding needle, or by an alternative method as suggested in the introductory remarks above.

3. Insert the cloves at random into any 5 of the places where the pancetta was inserted.

4. Choose a heavy-bottomed pot just large enough to accomodate the roast snugly. Spread the sliced onion on the bottom of the pot, over it distribute the remaining strips of pancetta or salt pork, then put in the meat. Season liberally with salt and pepper, and cover tightly. If the lid does not provide a tight fit, place a sheet of aluminium foil between it and the pot. Put on the uppermost rack of the preheated oven.

5. Cook for about 3 1/2 hours, until the meat feels very tender when proded with a fork. Turn the roast after the first 30 minutes, and every 30 to 40 minutes thereafter. You will find that the color of the meat is dull and unlovely at first, but as it finishes cooking and the onions become colored a dark brown it develops a rich, dark, patina.

6. When done, slice the meat and arrange the slices on a warm platter. Pour the contents of the pan and the juices left on the cutting board over the meat, and serve at once.

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Buffalo Mozzarella & Basil Sandwich

When I was in Germany, one of my favourite sandwiches to get is a buffalo mozzarella sandwich. I see it being sold everywhere, from train stations to little bakeries in shopping malls. I love the light, milky taste of the cheese, combined with the juicy tomato and the slight, peppery and sweet taste of the basil. Coursely ground black pepper is key to making this sandwich perfect, so make sure you have some on hand!

To make this sandwich, just butter two slices of bread lightly. I like wholemeal bread! Then, layer fresh, sweet basil and slices of heirloom tomatoes followed by the buffalo mozzarella. And there you have it, a healthy and yummy sandwich for lunch! :D Best Blogger Tips

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Homemade Chirashi Don

One of the good things about making your own bowl of chirashi don (mixed sashimi ricebowl) is that you can put anything you want on it, how ever much you desire. If you have a soft spot for hotate (scallop), load it up! If your favorite sashimi is ika (squid), put it down. As you can see, ikura (salmon roe) is my favorite and I've generously topped it, along with those creamy sake (salmon). What is not obvious in this picture is that I've lined a layer of shredded seaweed on top of the rice, making it sort of like unrolled sushi.

Making my own chirashi don is not only more economical than having it in a restaurant, it is a very fuss-free affair. Besides making the sushi rice, you just need to chop the rest of the ingredients up. You don't even need to cook them (unless you want to make your own tamago (egg), which I want to try someday!).

Sushi Rice(serves 2)

1 cup medium grain rice (I use Calrose)
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of mirin/sweet cooking rice wine/sushi seasoning - adjust to taste. I like mine with slightly more mirin.

Wash the rice until the water runs clear. This is to remove all the starchy coating on the rice.

Cook the rice in the rice cooker according to package directions. Mine didn't come with any, so I cooked it as how I normally would with jasmine rice.

Then, spread the rice out on a large bowl or a hangiri (a wide wooden tub) like how it is traditionally done by the Japanese. Stir in your mirin. Make sure to coat the rice evenly and to use the folding method, so as not to smash the cooked rice.

Then, wait for the rice to cool to room temperature.

When done, place a bed of shredded seaweed on top of the rice, followed by your favorite toppings. Itadakimasu! Best Blogger Tips

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Chocolate cupcake with caramel frosting topped with chopped chocolates

Haven't updated for a few days cos I've been out and about, getting some new furniture and new kitchen utensils (yays!). This is my first attempt at cupcakes, and I am really happy with the results. If I can do it as a first timer, so can u! :)

I adapted from two different recipes, cos I wanted a chocolate cupcake (whose recipe had buttercream frosting), and I couldn't resist the caramel frosting from another recipe. I was really in a dilemma deciding between buttercream and that, but I wanted a very stiff frosting, like icing, so I went with this. LOVED IT. I loved how the icing gives a cooling sensation when it hits your tongue. I baked a batch of 12 for my friends and they enjoyed every last bite so yays! :)

Just to note, what is not found in the recipes is the extra chocolate topped on the frosting. I just chopped some of my favorite chocolate bars up (fun sized ones!), which in this case were snickers, nestle crunch and reese's. I halved the nestle crunch, quartered the reese's and chopped the snickers up into bits. who doesn't like a nice "cherry" on top!

Another alternative, which I wanna try next time, is dusting some sea salt in the caramel. LOVE the combi of sea salt and caramel! :)

You can smell the cocoa even before baking.
love watching these cute cupcakes rise
Time to start piping!
 Tip: I just used a regular zip-lock bag, snipped a little hole at the corner and piped from there! Be sure to cut a really small hole, and adjust from there, cos, u know, u can't really do it the other way around heh.
All piped up! But something's missing!
Candy! YUMS.
Chocolate Cupcake (from For the Love of Cooking)
(makes 12 regular sized cupcakes)

1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup + 2 tbsp flour
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1/2 cup of milk
1/4 cup of canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup boiling water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tray with cupcake liners.

Sift together the dry ingredients into a large bowl.

Add the egg, milk, oil, and vanilla then beat together with a mixer until combined.

Scrape the sides of the bowl then add the boiling water and mix until just combined. The batter will be very watery so don't be alarmed. Pour the batter into a measuring cup (it's so much easier and cleaner than using a spoon) and pour evenly into each liner. Place into the oven and bake for 20-22 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let them cool completely before frosting.

Caramel Frosting (adapted from Sugar Duchess)

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (1/2 lb) powdered sugar

Melt the butter in a heavy 2-quart saucepan. Stir in the salt and brown sugar and heat the mixture to boiling, stirring constantly. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, until the sugar is totally dissolved. Stir in the milk and return to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat and cool to lukewarm (30-40 minutes) stirring occasionally. Stir in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the powdered sugar. Adjust consistency with a little more milk, if necessary. You know you have the right consistency when it is not too difficult to pipe the frosting out, neither is it so watery it is dripping all over the place. From my experience, even though I like mine to be a little stiffer, I had to add about 1 to 2 more tablespoons of milk after adding all the powdered sugar. But do adjust accordingly!

Wait until the cupcakes are completely cool to frost them. Best Blogger Tips

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Roast Chicken With Lemon & Rosemary Roast Potatoes

November's here! Where did all the time go?

It's the month of Thanksgiving, and I thought, instead of sharing a turkey recipe, I am going to share a roast chicken recipe. I think a chicken is the perfect bird for a small family, like my husband and me! I love this recipe because it is relatively straightforward, and the end result is one tasty, juicy chicken. I had at least 1/2 inch of juices in my tray, perfect to slurp it up with the potatoes! The lemon helps to tendorize the chicken, but the good thing is it doesn't leave a strong lemony after taste. For those who doesn't like lemony chicken, like my hubby, that should be good news for you.

Just a note, I didn't have fresh thyme with me, so I substituted it for oregano. I also added butternut squash to the recipe because I love its slight nutty flavour, and it pairs well with the juices. J follow the same steps with the squash as with the potatoes. Finally, there is a part of the recipe that asks you to toss your potatoes in a pan after boiling them. I tried skipping that step, as well as sauteing the potatoes with a little olive oil after boiling, and the difference is pretty great. The potatoes were definitey tastier and a little more crisp when sauted before popping them into the oven.

So, are you ready? Then pick up your spring chicken and let's start cooking!

Roast Chicken With Lemon And Rosemary Roast Potatoes (from Jamie's Dinners)

Ingredients
4 1/2 pounds free-range organic chicken
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled (note: I used one large potato, and 1/2 small butternut squash)
1 large, preferably unwaxed, lemon
1 whole bulb of garlic, broken into cloves
a handful of fresh thyme (note: I used oregano)
olive oil
a handful of fresh rosemary sprigs, leaves picked
optional: 8 slices bacon

Rub the chicken inside and out with a generous amount of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Do this in the morning if possible, then cover the chicken and leave in the fridge until you’re ready to start cooking it for lunch or dinner. By doing this, you’ll make the meat really tasty when cooked.Preheat your oven to 375ºF. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Cut the potatoes into golf-ball-sized pieces, put them into the water with the whole lemon and the garlic cloves, and cook for 12 minutes. Drain and allow to steam dry for 1 minute (this will give you crispier potatoes), then remove the lemon and garlic. Toss the potatoes in the pan while still hot so their outsidesget chuffed up and fluffy – this will make them lovely and crispy when they roast.

While the lemon is still hot, carefully stab it about 10 times. Take the chicken out of the fridge, pat it with paper towels and rub it all over with olive oil. Push the garlic cloves, the whole lemon and the thyme into the cavity, then put the chicken into a roasting pan and cook in the preheated oven for around 45 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate. Some lovely fat should have cooked outof it into the roasting tray, so toss the potatoes into this with the rosemary leaves. Shake the tray around, then make a gap in the center of the potatoes and put the chicken back in. If using the bacon, lay the slices over the chicken breast and cook for a further 45 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked and the potatoes are nice and golden. (You can tell the chicken is cooked when thethigh meat pulls easily away from the bone and the juices run clear.)

I like to remove the bacon from the chicken and crumble it up over the potatoes. Then I remove the lemon and garlic from inside the chicken, squeeze all the garlic flesh out of the skin, mush it up and smear it all over the chicken, discard the lemon and rosemary and carve the chicken at the table. Heaven! Best Blogger Tips

Monday, October 31, 2011

Bolognese Meat Sauce

Oh happy day! My photo of sambal goreng udang was featured on Tastespotting! If you who are visiting my blog from Tastespotting's link, thanks for checking this out and a big welcome to you! This is a rather new food blog, but do stay tuned and subscribe for I'll be posting more exciting recipes and reviews in time to come! :) Also, feel free to leave a comment and say hi!

Today, I'm going to share with you one of the best, if not the best, beef bolognese recipe!

Although this recipe requires hours of preparation, it is not difficult, and your efforts will pay off. I've never had better beef bolognese in my life, not even in restaurants. This recipe is from my favorite italian cookbook, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. Love her work, love her recipes, love her book!

I'd usually save at least my afternoon and evening to make this because you need at least three hours to simmer the sauce and that is not counting simmering the milk and wine before that. But, it is worth the time because you can make a huge batch and portion them out (like what I did in the picture) and keep them in the refrigerator (more on that in the after note). So I'd say if you have a day, give this a shot and savour one of the best beef bolognese!

Bolognese Meat Sauce (from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan)

Some things to note:
Ragu, as the Bolognese call their celebrated meat sauce, is characterized by mellow, gentle, comfortable flavor that any cook can achieve by being careful about a few basic points:

The meat should not be from too lean a cut; the more marbled it is, the sweeter the ragu will be. The most desirable cut of beef is the neck portion of the chuck.

Add salt immediately when sauteing the meat to extract its juices for the subsequent benefit of the sauce.

Cook the meat in milk before adding wine and tomatoes to protect if from the acidic bite of the latter.

Do not use a demiglace or other concentrates that tip the balance of flavors toward harshness.

Use a pot that retains heat. Earthenware is preferred in Bologna and by most cooks in Emilia-Romagna, but enameled cast-iron pans or a pot whose heavy bottom is composed of layers of steel alloys are fully satisfactory.

Cook, uncovered, at the merest simmer for a long, long time; no less than 3 hours is necessary, more is better.

Ingredients
(2 heaping cups, for about 6 servings and 1 1/2 pounds pasta)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter plus 1 tablespoon for tossing the pasta
1/2 cup chopped onion
2/3 cup chopped celery
2/3 cup chopped carrot
3/4 pound ground beef chuck
(see prefatory note above)
Salt
Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
1 cup whole milk
Whole nutmeg
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cup canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds pasta
Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese at the table

Put the oil, butter and chopped onion in the pot and turn the heat on to medium. Cook and stir the onion until it has become translucent, then add the chopped celery and carrot. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring the vegetables to coat them well.

Add the ground beef, a large pinch of salt, and a few grindings of pepper. Crumble the meat with a fork, stir well, and cook until th beef has lost its raw, red color.

Add the milk and let it simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely. Add a tiny grating - about 1/8 teaspoon - of nutmeg and stir.

Add the wine, let it simmer until it has evaporated, then add the tomatoes and stir thoroughly to coat all ingredients well. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down so that the sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers, with just an intermittent bubble breaking through to the surface. Cook, uncovered, for 3 hours or more, stirring from time to time. While the sauce is cooking, you are likely to find that it begins to dry out and the fat separates from the meat. To keep it from sticking, continue the cooking, adding 1/2 cup of water whenever necessary. At the end, however, no water at all must be left and the fat must separate from the sauce. Taste and correct for salt.

Toss with cooked drained pasta, adding the tablespoon of butter, and serve with freshly grated Parmesan on the side.

Ahead-of-time note: If you cannot watch the sauce for a 3- to 4-hour stretch, you can turn off the heat whenever you need to leave, and resume cooking later on, as long as you complete the sauce within the same day. Once done, you can refrigerate the sauce in a tightly sealed container for 3 days, or you can freeze it. Before tossing with pasta, reheat it, letting it simmer for 15 minutes and stirring it once or twice.

Variation of Ragu with PorkPork is an important part of Bologna's culture, its economy, and the cuisine, and many cooks add some pork to make their ragu tastier. Use 1 part ground pork, preferably from the neck or Boston butt, to 2 parts beef, and make the meat sauce exactly as described in the basic recipe above.

And that's my beef bolognese, all set and ready to go! :) Best Blogger Tips