Sunday, 24 February 2013

MATCHA AND LIME CUSTARD MOCHI


As the Chinese new year celebration draws to an end, lets focus on the dessert menu. Auspicious food still has to be on the table so I chose something that will keep the family glued together. Sticky food is meant to promote family unity. Round shaped food bring unending prosperity. Nothing fits the bill more perfectly than mochi. 

Thursday, 21 February 2013

SHANTUNG STYLE PRAWNS


I love this dish but never knew its origins. This dish allegedly hails from Northern China. I say allegedly because a lot of Chinese recipes have gone through so much alterations that they are just a shadow of what they originally were. Also, there is a non-traditional Chinese ingredient here: ketchup. Although ketchup is much used in Chinese cooking today, it does not hail at all from ancient China. The souring agent used then was vinegar. 


Ketchup is the ingredient that makes Chinese food so loved by a lot of Westerners. It is the base of many sauces that calls for a sweet and sour element. Mixed with Chinese ingredients, it blends well with the other flavours and contributes the tangy taste aimed for. It does just that to this dish without adding too much sourness. 



This dish is very simple, easy and cooks in no time. It is one of those dishes where the rewards surpass the effort. A few ingredients and a few easy steps produces a dish that no one will dislike. The key point is in the frying of the prawns. Frying in hot oil toasts the shells and brings out its best flavour. It then gives that taste to the sauce when cooked together.

The best way to eat shell-on prawns is with your fingers. It is the direct contact with the food that people find alluring about it. The sauce outside the shell is very tasty, so don't be shy to lick that. There is a lot of delicious flavours inside the head where there is a roe-like substance and that is my favourite part. The meat should stay creamy, not tough. I can't find enough words to describe how delicious it is with the sauce. As a finale, lick your fingers. Don't be shy. There's no shame about it. There's no point in losing that last bit of heaven. 



Ingredients for the fried prawns:

15-20 large whole shell-on prawns
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 c. corn flour
cooking oil for frying

Method:

Trim the antennae, legs and sharp points on the prawns' heads. 

Mix the salt, pepper and corn flour. Add to the prawns and stir to coat.

Heat up a frying pan and add in enough oil for shallow frying. Fry the prawns, a few at a time, on medium high heat for 2-3 minutes until they are bright red in colour. They don't need to cook completely at this point because they are going to be cooked again in the sauce. Set aside.

Ingredients for the sauce:


1 c. water
2 tsps. corn flour (corn starch)
1/4 c. tomato ketchup
2 tbsps. sherry
4 tsps. light soy sauce
3 tbsps. brown sugar
1 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 to 1 tsp. chilli oil (or to taste)
2 tbsps. cooking oil
1 tbsp. chopped garlic
1" x 1" knob of ginger, cut into thin strips
2 bunches of spring onions, white and green parts separated, cut into 1" pieces on the slant

Method:

In a bowl, disperse the corn flour in the water. Add in the ketchup, sherry, soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil and chilli oil. Blend well and set aside.

Heat up a wok. When hot, add the cooking oil. Add in the garlic and ginger and stir fry for 1 minute. Pour in the sauce mixture, bring to a boil while stirring until thickened.

Add in the fried prawns and the white parts of the spring onions and simmer on low, covered for 5 minutes. Add in the spring onions and simmer uncovered for another minute. Do not simmer for too long as the coating of the prawns will melt resulting in a very thick sauce. Transfer to a serving dish.





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Singapore Style Chilli Crab
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Wednesday, 13 February 2013

SELF SAUCING CHOCOLATE PUDDINGS


I thought I was going to rest after the holidays but more holidays are still to come up. I have just cooked up a storm for Chinese new year so I am going to do a bit of magic for Valentine's day. 

While most will be dining out on Valentine's day, some will stay in and have a do-it-yourself celebration at home. Mind that the occasion is about celebrating love so don't get yourself all frazzled and wipe out all that loving feeling. Simple and easy is the way to do it. 


I am not so much into celebrating Valentine's day but I like making a little something to mark the occasion. I made these simple self saucing chocolate puddings in jam jars for dessert. They cook in as little as 6 minutes and taste so delicious. The pudding cakes are as moist as you'd expect and breaks out in a puddle of sauce when you dig in. I added half a teaspoon of coffee to the sauce which made a huge difference to the taste. I served them with dollops of whipped double cream and black cherries. The cherries are optional but I wouldn't have it without that because that simple touch changed this simple pudding to a decadent dessert. Sprinkle on some chocolate shavings for good measure and serve with love.



Adapted from Food Dept.'s recipe of Self Saucing Chocolate Puddings.

Ingredients:

1 c. self raising flour (or 1 c plain flour, 1 tsp. baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt)
1/3 c. castor sugar
2 tbsps. Dutch cocoa
1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. melted butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. brown sugar
2 tbsps. Dutch cocoa
1 c. boiling water
1/2 tsp. instant coffee
double cream, tinned fruit or fruit conserve and chocolate shavings for toppings

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 350° F/180° C.

Sift flour, sugar and cocoa into a mixing bowl. 

Combine the milk, melted butter, egg,  and vanilla extract together. Pour into the dry ingredients. Mix gently until just combined.

Grease your chosen containers.You can use one large oven proof dish with a 4 c. capacity or use 4 individual containers such as jam jars, mugs or ramekins. Each container will take about 100 gms. of the mixture.

In a jug, combine the boiling water and coffee and stir until melted. Mix the brown sugar and cocoa in a bowl befor adding to this liquid and stirring to avoid lumps. Pour on top of the pudding. If using individual containers, each will take about 100 mls. of this liquid.

Bake for the large dish for 20-25 minutes. I baked the individual ones, au baine marie (to protect the jars) for 20 minutes. The water bath is not needed for oven proof containers.

This can also be cooked in the microwave, uncovered, for 15 minutes for a large dish or 6 minutes for 4 individual containers on full power. The pudding is done when the pudding cake rises up to the surface and is puffed and set. The sauce remains at the bottom. Leave to stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Top with dollops of whipped double cream and tinned black cherries or your choice of fruit conserve. Sprinkle with chocolate shavings.




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Monday, 11 February 2013

KUEH LAPIS LEGIT


For Chinese new year, cakes symbolize a rich and sweet life and layers signify rising abundance. Hence, this cake is the perfect offering at the beginning of the year.

Kueh lapis legit is an Indonesian layer cake that takes after the Dutch spekkoek. This cake is grilled layer by layer to produce the striped effect. It is popular during celebrations in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. 

I fell in love with this delicacy the first time I tried it. Although it is traditionally flavoured with spices, the first one I tried was plain but was so delicious because the richness of the butter and egg yolks was unadulterated by anything else. I did not add spice to my cake mix but added a teaspoon of vanilla instead to recreate that cake.




In the pre-blogging days, I found it difficult to find a good recipe for this cake. I have tried several through the years but was not satisfied until now. This kueh lapis legit recipe from The Baking Biatch is a keeper. First of all, the ingredients were all simple  and the amounts were very reasonable. When I tried it, the steps were pretty straightforward and easy. All it takes is time and patience really. This is the time to bring out the OCD in you. 

When the cake is done, you'll realize that it is all worth the effort. All the butter and egg yolks would have worked their magic on the cake. It is not just the ingredients that give the cake flavour. It is also the grilling process that gives it alternating layers of rich cake and toasty brown crust. This recipe produced the kueh lapis of my dreams: moist, rich but not cloying, ultra delicious, buttery with a hint of rum. It is served in thin slices and the fun way of eating it is to peel off each layer and savour them individually. Merely eating it makes life so sweet.

Ingredients:

500 gms. of soft, room temperature butter
1 c. of sweetened condensed milk
1 tbsp. rum
1 c. plus 1 tbsp. plain flour
1 tsp. gingerbread spice (I did not use this) or 1 tsp. of vanilla extract
20 egg yolks, room temperature
1 c. castor sugar
10 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 c. castor sugar
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 390° F/200° C.

Line a 25 cm. square tin with baking parchment. I don't have one in this size so I used a 20 cm. square tin instead. I had a little bit extra batter left which I cooked in another small pan.

Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add the condensed milk gradually while mixing. Add the rum and vanilla and mix again.

Mix the flour and gingerbread spice (if using) together. Sift over the butter mixture and blend together.

Whisk the egg yolks and 1 c. of sugar together until thick and light in colour.

With the mixer running, add in the egg yolk and sugar mixture to the butter and condensed milk mixture until well combined.

In a clean mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add the 1/4 c. sugar and cream of tartar. Whisk until stiff but not dry.

Add the egg whites to the batter 1/3 at a time, folding after each addition.

Pour 100 gms. of batter into your prepared pan, spread with a spatula and bake in the middle of the oven for 3-5 minutes until the top is nicely browned.

After the first layer is baked, the subsequent ones are grilled. Switch the oven to grill. Although a higher temperature was recommended, I found that I only needed the same temperature for my grill. Every oven behaves differently so adjust yours accordingly. The layers shouldn't cook too fast as the batter might still be uncooked inside, too slow and the cake becomes dry.

Each layer has to have a uniform amount of batter to achieve even layers. If you are using the 25 cm. tin, the recipe suggests weighing 100 gms. of the batter for each layer. I measured 1/2 c. of batter for each layer for my 20 cm. tin (about 3/4 c.  for the 25 cm tin if you prefer to measure rather than weigh the batter).

Pour your second layer and grill. Each layer has to be fully cooked before another layer is poured on it. Timing is important to end up with a moist layer with nicely browned crust. You should see the batter cooking: the surface dries and firms as it cooks before it slowly browns. The colour of the crust should be medium brown. It takes about 3 1/2 minutes for each layer to cook.

After grilling, you need to press each layer to make it completely flat. I used a fondant smoother but a cake slice would also do.

Repeat the process (pour batter, grill, press) until you've used up all the batter.

As you build up the layers, you might need to decrease the temperature of the grill or lower the oven shelf so that the cake doesn't cook too fast.

When done, invert the tin onto a cooling rack. Let the cake cool in the tin.

When cooled, unmold, peel off the paper and slice. Store in an air tight container.




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Ube Macapuno Inipit
Sweetcorn and Cassava Bibingka
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Thursday, 7 February 2013

POT ROAST SOY SAUCE CHICKEN


During the two week Chinese New Year celebrations, food with auspicious meaning are eaten to beckon good tidings for the coming year. Whole chicken is served during Chinese New Year because it signifies rebirth, family togetherness and prosperity. Marbled eggs symbolize gold nuggets. In this dish, both are present to bestow good wishes to everyone partaking.

Monday, 4 February 2013

BEEF AND SHITAKE MUSHROOMS ON TENDERSTEM BROCCOLI


My Mum-in-law's cooking is very simple yet it is always delicious. It is the no fuss no frills way she cooks that make it that way. She makes food with simple clean tastes, none of the ingredients overpower each other. There is no tricks nor science employed. It is quite the opposite. She cooks simple fresh ingredients quickly to capture their natural taste at their prime. Thus vegetables end up so tasty and fresh even when they are just fried with garlic and light soy sauce. 

Although her ingredients are variable, there is one common factor that ensures that each dish she cooks is always delicious: a well seasoned wok. A well seasoned wok gives you a headstart on producing very tasty stir fries. Even before you start cooking, there is already some "taste" in your wok. This taste is called wok hei or breath of the wok. Upon heating, the wok releases this taste and imparts it on the food to give it the characteristic taste of Chinese food.