Saturday, January 15, 2011
Saturday, September 05, 2009
“Oh, I am off on this Saturday!” June shouts with excitement (through MSN mind you, but I can feel the excitement all the way from her house to my office).
“What!” that is all I can answer at the moment. It was a befuddlement to me. Then the moment passed and I got a grip on myself “We must hang out then! Catch up! What shall we do? Shopping? Eating? Watch a movie?” I babbled on and on like an excited kid that has been promised an all day outing.
“I am afraid of spending too much if we go out, let’s just stay in”, she says, at that moment I flash back to the last time we hang out, we watch movie, shopped and ate indulgingly as if we are some rich tai-tais (wives)having a day out, I blushed. Then a light bulb flashed right above my head, while my eyes roll up where I imagined a picture in my mind – U and I baking delicious stuffs out of her huge, and I mean huge oven that I had ooohed and ahhhed over when I visited her place the first time.
So I exclaimed “OK! Let’s stay in, we cook something and do some baking!”, and her resounding yes! had made my heart jumped with excitement. So that very Saturday, I went out to buy the necessary stuff that I can get at last minute (yes, that’s me again at it) and all my usual ka-changs, before heading off to her lovely home. When I reached, U had already begun baking chicken with baby potatoes and capsicums and loads of garlic. The house is already basking in wonderful food aroma, ah, how I miss those smells which make a house feels like home. Then like some chef cooking at home in her day off, she whips up spaghetti aglio olio with such style and flamboyant, she made me feel like I am eating food from a posh restaurant when we finally dig into the food. At same time we watched a chick-flick that I normally would not be watching, but it is alright because I was too busy enjoying the food anyway.
Finally when the show ended, and with me nearly falling asleep, she asked, “So what’s up for baking? “. When I told her I planned to make three bakes today, her eyes grew wide and I laughed, she just had to pardon me, who is someone that had been deprived of good baking therapy lately. Admittedly, I have not been baking much in recent times, so was a bit rusty on the baking instincts, and also due to ripping off recipes from my ever-long to-do list without thoroughly examining it, out of our three bakes, only one truly came out good. And luckily it was really good, I brought it the next day to work for breakfast, my sceptical colleague took a bite and say “hey, it’s good, just like those you can get in the famous-coffee-chain”. Ah, such things are what bakers or cooks out there would loved to hear, that the people who ate their food enjoys them as much as they do themselves, I did for mine!
Adapted from Slow Like Honey
I called it banana bread-fin because, it was supposed to be banana bread but I made it into muffin sized because I had this bunch of muffin cups around and I want to take the shortcut in baking them. Muffins bake in nearly half the time than bread. Besides, the outcome is more muffin like, possibly due to some of my own modification of the recipes (I am always guilty of this, couldn’t help tinkering). Making it into muffin also gave me the chance to see U in action, where she shows how commercial bakers make muffins quickly, by scooping up the batter with their hand and squeeze into each cups, using their palms as ‘funnels’. We had such fun doing it, we forgot to properly swirl and level the top and coupled with us not putting the muffin cups in proper muffins trays, it resulted in whimsical muffins, where after a long good laugh, I find it quite adorable and it gave a homemade feel to them.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups mashed banana
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chopped chocolates (optional) (or walnuts if it rocks your boat, I would have add this in if I had them)
Preheat oven to 350 F/180 C
Prepare 12 muffin cups in a muffin tray
Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a bowl.
In a separate bowl, combine together eggs, banana, sugar, and oil.
Add in the flour mixture and stir till just moistened (do not over-stir, batter should be lumpy).
Fold in the chopped chocolates (and/or walnuts) gently.
Squeeze batter into the muffin cups
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick poke in near the center comes out clean
Makes about 12 muffin cups if squeezed properly!
Saturday, January 24, 2009
I have baked more goodies after my initial kick-off Chinese New Year baking and finally chosen to remake Green Pea cookies in batches for giveaways because it was oh-so-tasty and not too tedious to make. I mentioned that Peanut cookies seemed like a new cookie for Chinese New Year but oh boy was I wrong, Lily reminisced making these with her grandmother, only that the original called for lard! I stand corrected but I might try again to say these Green Pea cookies should be newer in generation, as I could not recall it before the appearance of Peanut cookies during Chinese New Year, and some even claimed that it was a variation of the traditional Peanut cookies. Correct me if I am wrong again! I do not know what the Green Pea cookies represent in Chinese in comparison to other more obvious cookies, if anyone does know, do let me know too!
As for now, pardon the short post, I need to get ready, pack my bag and head north to celebrate in gluttony. By the way, Gong Xi Fa Cai!
Green Pea Cookies
When I made my first batch, I found that it was too sweet, and so I went about researching on more recipes around the wonderful blogosphere and came about to my own measurement below. Also, on the first time I bought the green peas, it was the Jusco selection packet, that comes in 180g and it seem the green peas do look slightly smaller than the usual snack ones. The cookie came out so fragrant, I bought the same packets for my subsequent bakes! Note that these came salted so I omit the salt in the recipe. Also make sure you grind the green pea fine enough for the melt-in-mouth cookies. Similarly to the Peanut cookies, you should add the oil bit by bit until the dough comes together. This time I was a bit lazy and skipped the egg glazing steps, thus my cookies look pale but it still taste oh-so-good. This time I also learnt from the Peanut cookies bakes and used 1 teaspoon to shape my cookies and it came out just the right size to pop into the mouth.
180g ground green pea cookies
180g all-purpose flour (sifted)
80g icing sugar
80 - 100g oil
1/4 tsp salt (omit if green peas are salted)
1 egg lightly beaten for glaze (optional)
Mix the ground green peas, sifted flour, icing sugar and salt (if using) together till well combined
Slowly add in the oil and mix till a pliable dough is formed
Shape them into balls or use a 1 teaspoon to shape it, and then line it on a tray
Brush egg wash on top of each cookie (optional)
Bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes
Make approximately 84 cookies
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Way long ago initially, I wanted to blog about my gastronomic adventure in Japan I haven’t. Then initially I wanted to do a roundup of the blog for 2008, and that did not happen either. Than it reminds me that initially I wanted to make many things for 1984 and friends’ Christmas Eve party but that did not happen either, though I did manage to make hummus and cupcakes, blog entry to follow, wish I hope would indeed happen on day. So all that initially aside, they have to wait, as I am going to make way for a more appropriate post at hand – Chinese New year bakes, which I had way way long ago initially, I’m talking about few years back here, wanted to bake which now I finally did!
To me the new year has yet to actually start, due to the impending Chinese New Year, it still feel like I am in the counting down mode to wrap up the year-has-been, please tell me I am not the only one, at least not the only Chinese. At first CNY still seemed pretty far away to me, but when I started to plan out some CNY bakes, it dawned onto me that it was only about 2 weeks away. Ah, so much to do, rather so much to bake yet so little time.
Anyway, what brought me into finally baking cookies for this important Chinese festival? That question brings to the story of a dear friend, M. She messaged me one day on a link to a mixer which she was contemplating to purchase in order to do some CNY baking; she chose to ask me because she knew I was a sort-of-baking-and-cooking aficionado, which then renewed the interest in me. I have always, wanted to bake for CNY but have not kick my lazy butt hard enough to really do it as because (insert overused excuses here) so this time thanks to M, I seized the opportunity and proposed to her to have a baking session together! Aha, that would bring this lazy tham jiak to really stick to the plan; she has a baking date to stick to!
So fast forward to the following weekend, I was lugging two big bags of ka-chang (Cantonese dialect’s multi-purpose word for utensils/equipments/anything that you use to do something), to M’s home and then we got started on our project. There were two bakes that day as each of us chose one recipe to attempt.
M chose her many-attempts-since-last-year Dragon Cookies, which she had not yet manage to achieve her ultimate one, which were supposed to be creamy , slightly soft, melt in your mouth yet having a bit of a crunch on first bite kind, if I understood her correctly. I can’t help but to mention here that the batch she baked the day before which she added banana essence due to one recipe which called for it, and a word of advice from both of us here, do not attempt to put banana essence in your Dragon Cookies! It is not a banana cookie, end of explanation. I guess I was her lucky star as finally, that very day that I am there with her baking the cookies she finally achieved her ultimate Dragon Cookie!
M’s Ultimate Dragon Cookies
Note that for this recipe, you would need a cookie press to shape it. Also M had noted that she had tried before with plastic press which has less desirable results especially if the dough is not soft enough, therefore she prefer the metal one that she is using now.
One important thing to understand about making these cookies is the balance between the baking time and the oven temperature. Our first batch was slightly over-baked and really puffed up. After tasting we found that it had a texture of similarity to kuih bangkit, where we even joked we had made a fusion of them, but ah that is not what we want for the ultimate Dragon Cookies, do we? So for the next batch we decided to bake in shorter time, about 10 minutes, and it came out perfect! The next next batch was slightly under-baked though, where we need to put in for few minutes more. Take note that we had the oven on slightly higher temperature due to its nature. Therefore we can only conclude that, the secret here in making the ultimate dragon cookies is to find the balance of time and temperature, also good recipe is a must, we would not want another banana essence case do we? Just remember that the cookies are suppose to be pale white even after baked. Good luck in trying, M tried since last year, so be like her, don’t give up! Also, we are now giving you a tried and true recipe below, so I bet it would save you at least a year, no?
150g icing sugar
2 egg yolks
1 egg white
350g corn flour
30g milk powder
60g plain flour
Beat butter, icing sugar, egg yolks and egg white until creamy
Sift flour and milk powder together
Add flour mixture to the batter and mix till fully incorporated
Fill batter into cookie press and press out a line and then shape it (M shaped to S which to me is a sleeping Dragon, there are other who made a flying Dragon - curly long line)on a baking tray
Bake at 160-180C for 10-15 mins
Yields 120 cookies
As for me, I chose to make Peanut Cookies, which not too long ago, I would say about maybe 10 years back that in Malaysia here, it became a must-have for Chinese New Year. If anyone new since when these cookies got into the list please let me know. As a peanut fan myself, I just had to make it, even though I knew it is not going to be easy, as we would first need to dry fry the peanuts patiently and then remove the skins patiently. Preparation is bit tedious, some experience on how the dough should be like would be good, but other than that it is a fairly simple recipe, calling for minimal ingredients.
Adapted from Do What I Like
First dry fry the peanuts over medium heat, remember to stir it religiously. Do not try to take shortcut by frying over high heat as it would result in the peanuts got burnt pretty quickly on the outside but has yet to fully cook on the inside. Then you have to take de-skin them, I do this by rubbing them against a basket, this would also need some work if you have not mastered the skill which enables you to do this in a jiffy. After that the peanuts is ready to be grind till fine.
But simple as the recipe may seem, it also requires some experience in understanding the dough. I added in all the oil and still found my mixture on the dry side but I tried by pressing them together and mould it into a 1/2 tablespoon for shape and it did work, but later noted to self that it seem a bit too big and might use a smaller one next round. But if you want an easier task where you can roll them into balls, you might need more oil to form the dough first. After researching and reading other’s experiences, it seemed that the quantity of oil needed depended also on how oily your peanuts were naturally. Therefore, slowly add in the oil until the dough is able to mould when pressed, or slightly more oil if you need to roll and shape them. These cookies came out with the melt-in-the-mouth texture, with some crunch due to the added chopped peanuts (I crushed them with a rolling pin; before that I tried to smash them against the counter which resulted in them flying everywhere, sorry M). I gave some to Q to try which she said that it tasted rich (even when I did not put enough oil) and she even asked if I have added peanut butter, ah, so it means I have achieved the creamy texture as well. Overall this is a good recipe, if you want full creamy kind then you might want to omit the chopped peanuts, and also remember to take note on the oil ratio.
200g ground peanut
1/2 tsp baking powder
100g icing sugar
1/4 tsp salt
100g - 150g crushed peanuts
100g-150g peanut oil/corn oil
Egg wash:1 egg yolk lightly beaten with 1 tsp water
Put all the peanuts into a wok and dry fry over low heat till crunchy
Remove the skin then grind till fineSieve flour and baking powder together
Mix the flour mixture, ground peanut powder, icing sugar and salt together till well combined
Add in the crushed peanuts and mix well (if you are using)
Slowly add in the peanut oil and mix till a pliable dough is formed (see note above
Shape them into balls or like use a 1/2 tablespoon to shape it, and then line it on a tray
Brush egg wash on top of each cookie
Bake at 165C for 15-20 minutes or till golden brown
Yields 35 cookies (for the 1/2 tablespoon size)
I would say the project has been quite successful for Peanut Cookies first attempt and the achievement of the ultimate Dragon Cookies. I am even contemplating to do second round of Peanut Cookies with some tweaks that I have learnt, oh well, we shall see if this lazy tham jiak will get around to that (psst, which might be next CNY!). Still, I think I deserved a pat on the head for finally meeting one of my initially-s, that is baking for CNY! Not to forget one pat for M as well for her perseverance!
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Anyway, remember my previous post on my advocate on healthy breakfast? Alright, you know where I am heading here, oh-oh Granola Version 2.0. Well nearly, but no. You see, I did had my heart set to improve my version 1.0 to maybe 1.1 or so, yes I have a bit of geek streak in me, after all I work in an IT industry (though I wished it was food industry hah), because I have two new ingredients at hand that would work brilliantly in my granola. My mum went to Hatyai a couple of weeks ago and asked me do I want some cashew nuts, my eyes glimmered instantly, oh yes I do, please bring me some, raw please. My mum was confused when I said I wanted raw, she thought I wanted non flavoured roasted kind, I had to explain, no I want raw, whitish and uncooked kind, she thought I was mad. But luckily I got the message across and she lugged back that packet of gem for me. She also asked if there is anything else that I would want, oh yes I do, dried fruits please, any dried fruits in season will do when she asked and she brought back dried mangoes for along with her supposedly dried bananas which turn out to be banana chips (please pardon my mum, she is not really culinary incline) but that aside, I am so set to make my granola tropical! But alas, I did not manage because there were some technical difficulties (which were just a posh way to say I had a problem) in getting access to my oven, thus the plan deferred. Then I remembered that there was something called muesli, a non-bake sister of granola. Ah-hah! Making muesli would also be like killing two birds with one stone as a faithful reader commented at not being able to make my granola for not having an oven, so no more excuses for ya!
I did some search for the recipe of muesli and voila, I found it at, yes you guess it, Jamie Oliver’s site! This recipe is actually Jamie’s version of Bircher muesli which he named Pukkolla, oh yes he is cute that way, which includes with mixing your own muesli and then soaking it and adding in good stuffs before eating. Just head on to the forum to get his original recipe or you can see my version below. I made my version of Jamie’s Pukkolla which was his version of Bircher muesli. Oh no is this the geek side of me or the crazy side? Anyway, version to version, mine came out so good I am happy with it! I am sticking to the name Pukkolla as it is kind of cool (hope Jamie don't mine), with my running versions yet again! Ah, so geek.
Pukkolla My Version 1.0
Jamie as always advocating ease and rustic kind of cooking, his recipe was in handfuls, just grab and mix kind. I wanted to do that just to feel rustic ha-ha, but the inner female side of me emerged and I just had to measure my things, but don’t worry as I go roughly by cups and not by weight, else you can also convert all the cups to handfuls if you want to be rustic like Jamie. I also had kind of halved Jamie’s recipe as I really do not know what to do if with so much muesli at one time where I am the only one eating it, I also do not want to open my new pack of rolled oats just yet, so feel free to double it. Since I did not have bran on hand, and had the goodness of freshly ground flaxseed with me, I substituted them. Also in Jamie's show, he smashed his nuts in a tea towel, leaving bits of different sizes, which give this mixture an extra depth!
4 cups organic rolled oats
1 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 cup chopped dried mango
1/2 cup sultanas/raisins
1/2 cup crushed almonds
1/2 cup crushed cashew nuts
Dump everything into a very large bowl, use your hand (so we are getting rustic here anyway) and mix everything well together.
Pour into an airtight container and store till when needed
The night before your breakfast:
Scoop half cup of your muesli mix into a bowl or container
Pour in about half cup of yogurt, or just enough to cover
Let soak overnight in the refrigerator
After a good night sleep, on next day for breakfast:
Remove bowl or container from the refrigerator
If you found it too thick, which I did, loosen with another roughly quarter cup of milk
Tuck in and enjoy
After that give yourself a pat on the head for having a wholesome breakfast and for listening to Tham Jiak!
Edited on 18th December 2008
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Since I have started into a healthy regime of sort, I have been looking out for interesting healthy food options. Contrary to the popular believe, I actually found that food which is good for you do taste good as well. Just like the Lui Cha that I mentioned before, all goodness pack into a bowl with plethora of taste and textures, I found another love in muesli.
Muesli stirred into plain fresh yogurt is an absolute heaven to start your day with. This was what I had frequently at work for breakfast, and as expected, I had mixed responses from fellow colleagues. Some do not even recognize what I am having, some cheered me for my good healthy choice while some salute me for being able to stomach it. Well I do agree that muesli is not exactly a normal breakfast fare for Malaysians, where we consume in abundance breakfasts like Nasi Lemak, Roti Canai, roti bakar (toast bread) with eggs, Wan Tan Mee (dried soy sauce noodles) and so on. With such indulging choices for breakfasts here, it is no wondered nobody ventured out further than that.
Of course we also do consume cereals and fresh milk at home apart from the usual bread with kaya, thanks to the heavy advertising by the giants bout 10 years ago but the idea of muesli and yogurt is still lost to many. For me, I thank the wonderful world of food blogging for introducing me to this seriously good, taste and health wise, food. It was also superbly convenient to have whenever you need a fulfilling breakfast or a quick healthy snack.
Ever since I have been consuming packaged muesli, I have been in awe of those who make their own mueslis or granolas. Ok wait, what is the difference between them? I am quite confused at first but from a quick read in Wiki here and here, I conclude that muesli are simply mixed grains, nuts and fruits while granola is a baked version of them. Correct me if I am wrong here, but anyhow, they both serves pretty much the same to me, crunchy goodness of oats, nuts and fruits all in one.
The batch of granola I made was crunchy and fragrant; as expected. Just like many bloggers have mentioned, after you make your own, you find that it is so easy and tasted so good, why would one ever go back to buy packaged one? So if you are one like me who found love in muesli or granola, do try to make one at home or if you are one who have yet to understand its delicious goodness, try it and be converted!
Granola (Version 1.0)
I had used recipes from various bloggers as guidelines to come up with my own version. Thanks to my limited supplies, I was just planning to try out so I did not splurge much on fruits and nut, I made a really simple version of granola. You would notice that halfway through I stirred in ground flaxseed, this is because I totally forgot about until the granola had started baking in the oven, and I had to ground my whole flaxseed then before I can use it. This is my currently working version where I would continue to refine and innovate to come out with an ultimate granola!
1 ½ cups rolled oats
½ cup raisins
½ cup chopped almond
3 tbsp honey
1 tbsp neutral oil
2 tbsp water
½ cup ground flaxseed
Mix all the dry ingredients together – oats, raisins and chopped almond.
Pour the dry ingredients onto prepared parchment paper on a tray.
Mix the honey, water and oil and then slowly stir into the mixture bit by bit.
Mix very well until everything is a bit moist and clumps together a bit.
Roast in the oven at 200°C for 30 minutes. Stir it about every ten minutes.
Halfway through, stir in ½ cup of ground flaxseed for good measure!
When done, take it out and let completely cool before storing in airtight container.
Tip: serve ½ cup of granola stir into 1 cup of yogurt or milk or soy milk of your choice.
Update: Today while munching on my granola I found that some of my raisins were actually burnt, so I would advice to add in raisins maybe halfway through the baking.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
One way to start writing is to stop reading, I believe I mentioned this once before eons (exaggerating) in this blog, and it still holds really true. Two of my life’s greatest passions are writing and reading, therefore they often both compete fiercely for my time. I usually end up going through my ever-increasing list of google readers list and then my free time is up, and my dear blog abandoned. to be honest too, I do not have much to write about recently, with the usual excuse you would not want to hear about but now added with one more! J and I currently are pretty out of cash thanks to our recent indulgence in a 4X4 pickup, which so happen to be both our dreams now fulfilled, therefore not much spare for food indulgence.
Anyway, in a recent comment, a dear reader TummyThoz asked where is the report on my camping trip? I have not thought anyone would be interested to know what we did there, but it seems there is! It was great fun, we did crazy things, bathed in the waterfall, cooked with the same water (ha-ha), conquered Mount Stong, slept in the rain and then wake up in the wee hours to catch the sunrise at the well known lovers rock. What else can we ask for? On top of it all, it was the companies that made it all so worthwhile; definitely there will be more trips together!
Before we reached the foot of the mountain, we had a stop nearby for lunch to fuel our 2 hours climb to our camp site. There I saw a really special looking bottled Sarsi drink. We all stared at it, took picture but none of us want to try it. There was no information of the ingredients or expiry date. Later on, when I was hiking up Gunung Stong, the guide told me that Pokok Sarsi (tree), abundant in Gunung Ayam (the next higher mountain beside Stong), can be boiled to make Sarsi drink! How interesting, so that explains the queer bottled Sarsi with the logo of ayam (chicken). Then and there I regretted not trying the drink, after all it was locally made and not to be found anywhere else!
Fortunately for me though, before we leave the camp site the next day, our guide present us with pieces of pokok Sarsi, asking us to try boiling it for a drink! I was so delighted! Now I can make my own Sarsi drink all the way fresh from Gunung Ayam! (we were suppose to split among ourselves of these but I have yet to do so, I hope my hiking gang would not mind, ha-ha)
Since this is a food blog, I must also talk about the food we had there. Cooking in the camp is definitely no easy feat, luckily Q, our head chef did a thorough planning beforehand, so none of us went hungry. She even had a menu printed out!
Therefore while we worked hard to set up the camp and play hard as well, we had in mind what we would soon have to feast on. Such bliss! The most memorable meal was so happen to be the first meal. We had ‘steamboat’ as well as many dishes to accompany along. We were sort of fighting for the food and gorging it like we haven’t eaten in days. I remembered the Sambal Chicken (pictured below at bottom left) was really good, and was impressed that Q can pull this off in our condition. I am in the midst of getting the recipe from her, so stay tuned for a deceptively simple Sambal Chicken that one can even cooked with minimal utilities! Pardon our gluttony below.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Anyway speaking of writing, recently I have just went to a cooking demo by Chef Federico Michieletto, a corporate chef for the infamous Tai Thong group in Malaysia that had just recently launched a cookbook named Pasta My Italy. This Italian Pastas and Desserts cooking demo was actually organized by my high school, Convent Taiping’s alumni. At first I was a tad bit lazy to go all the way to KL of a place I do not know of early in the morning but luckily a close friend of mine is to take pictures of the event, therefore I chug alongside happily. Armed with the map in my PDA (which shocked my friend who said she is still all pen-and-paper girl); we got to the place with another friend in time for the demo.
It started with the Chef introducing himself where he also brought along a sidekick, named Ming (who reminds me of one celebrity chef) and I found the Chef really funny and charming while his sidekick was quiet. We started off with desserts as both of them requires some chilling time to be done, so we hoped to have it set by the time we finish our session. It was more than I can hope for to kick start with my favourite parts, especially the Chef from Italy himself is to show us the classic Tiramisu! Something I had always wanted to make but never quite did, which now I should kick myself for as it is really so easy! All you need is a good recipe, strong arms for whipping and you are all done, oh and don’t forget the fridge. Then he also shows us the basic version of panna cotta served only with fresh fruits (Chef said that this is how they like it in Italy), a taste of it was certainly a surprise to me as it was really creamy, smooth and soft, do not judge a book by its cover!
To sum up the lessons for desserts:
1. A chef always taste what he cooks, or you would never know whether it is good or not
2. Hand whipping of cream produce superior results than machine, besides the point where you can easily over-whipped with a machine where when it does, the cream will split and all is lost. As the chef continued to explained, cream is made up of fat and water, and when it split, technically you have just remove the water and accidentally made butter! Nothing too bad but that is not what you want for Tiramisu eh?
3. Just dip the sponge fingers quickly in the espresso each time, where if you snap it in half you can see that the inside are still dry and hard, this is what you want as later on it will soak on all the liquid goodness from the cheese and cream and becomes soft and yummy like how a Tiramisu should be.
Then into the huge refrigerators these babies went and we continued to pastas! The Chef and his helper Ming did an amazing feat of cooking two pasta dishes nearly at one go each time. He gave a lot of tips in various areas of basic Italian pasta cooking, which makes me go ohhhh and ahhhh. Here are the summaries of what I can remember and which had me really going with the expressions mentioned.
1. The way that usual experts (note: chef) usually takes pasta out of their packet is by – Chef proceeded to hitting the packet of pasta real hard at one end onto the table and voila, the other end popped out pastas in perfect form.
2. Hold the pasta together and lower it into the middle of the pot and then let go to flow all around like flowers – the right way to boil pasta
3. In order to achieve the perfect ‘al dente’, Chef does it by ‘look’, while us the lesser humans can use the trick of throwing it onto a wall and if it sticks, it is done! Honest! The real al-dente version that the Italians like (Chef claimed) is slightly more on the harder side (with the core still not fully cooked), which he did for his first two dishes for us to try, where many claimed not to their palate but for me it was quite toothy and full of texture in fact.
4. Classic carbonara does not have cream in it (in fact loads of egg yolks) and therefore should be yellowish in oppose to white sauce ones which we found in most carbonara dishes out in the restaurants in Malaysia
5. Carbonara loves black pepper a lot
6. One trick from Chef is that they usually reuse the water used to boil the pasta during the cooking of the sauce – later on deduce by me to have the bit of pasta flavor in as well as clever reuse of the salty water plus bringing some of the ‘flour’ from the pasta into the sauce to make more smooth
7. Oh and by the way, Chef said to boil pasta with added salt, usually in ratio of 5 parts water with 1 part salt (very much more than I have ever used!)
8. For the Aglio Olio, it is usually just plain garlic and olive oil but Chef found that Malaysians love more flavors, thus he usually adds in some chopped chilies, dried chili flakes, chopped parsleys and torned basil leaves
9. Oh ya, basil leaves are usually add in at the end, torned and never cut/slice to retain its natural flavor (mm, I love basil! Think Thai)
10. Arrabiata means angry therefore he named the dish Penne Arrabiata as “Angry Penne”, which I found amusing
10. Normally pastas with chilies in it do not need additional black pepper, either too much spiciness ofrclash in terms of 'spiciness' differences
11. One more special trick from Chef is that the pit inside the garlic is the main reason of the smell that lingers in your mouth, so remove it if you want to have loads of garlic but still kiss after dinner
12. We should also try to remove the seeds from the chilies and the chilies flakes as it is hard to digest
Alright that’s about it that I can remember for now, the bed starts to feel more inviting than my writing bug. There you have it, the real Italian cooking pastas and desserts.
Update: Recipes can be found at our Convent Taiping Alumni blog.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Where have I been missing for so long? Happily busy as commented by a new reader of mine? Yea, I would say so. Currently my tasks are getting heavier, where I see myself working later and later but there is one other thing that is making me go crazy, preparing to be a bridesmaid and helping out in my sister’s wedding! Oh boy, now I know that planning for wedding needs so much of an attention. Every little details counts for big things.
Anyway, enough bout me as I am here to tell you a story about an amazing woman. I mentioned about my Lai Ma in my Chinese New Year great feast at her home. I practically spend the first 4 years of my life at her humble home, surrounded with lots of love from her, her husband and her children. There were also chaos and mischief as I had my dear god sister U and her brother as partners in crime.
The story of how Lai Ma became my nanny started like this. My first nanny was not her, but another lady somewhere in Aulong (a suburb of Taiping) and at that time I was about few months old. My mum had to send me to a nanny because she was working and could not take care of me full time. So one fine day, my Pho Pho(grandma) decided to give me a visit, and took a cab to Aulong. She found me at the hall, crying pitifully, desperate for a nappy change and yet with no one attending to me. As she reminisced to me, she found the nanny happily cooking in the kitchen seemingly unaware of my predicament. That was enough for Pho Pho where she called up my mum immediately, and with a recommendation from a distant relative, my mum drove right over after work, pick me up and drove me straight to my Lai Ma’s house. That was how Lai Pa described, where I came in my mum’s car late in the evening, in need of love and attention right into their home that was never deprived of those. And so begin my years of growing up there.
I would say it had been the shaping years of my life, trust me we children do absorb everything like sponge during the first 5 years of our lives from family and people surrounding us. So environment counts and lucky for me, it was a great one. After that it is the school, the teacher and then to friends. So if you had just turned into a mum or are expecting, remember this, the next 5 years is the time you take to shape your child. Anyway, not to divert, so my Lai Ma, her husband and her three children (all in their teens then) had shaped me in many ways. When I finally move back permanently with my family, I somehow felt I was different, albeit a bit on the stubborn and naughtier side due to fact that I was exposed to peers other than your own siblings, so I was somehow the stronger and mischievous one in school, but that would be another story.
Quite a pity though as when I was young, I was a rascal who refused to eat. All I want to do was play, play and just play. So when it comes to meal time, it was either wham bam thank you ma’am and then rush off to continue whatever game that we were in, or it would be a long torturous road of trying to cheat me into finishing my meal. This was how un-tham jiak I was when I was young. Maybe I did not know how to appreciate food then, which I make up real well now, I hope. I even shied away from Malaysia’s king of fruit, the durian when I was young and no amounts of coaxing or brain-washing can make me eat it. This was another real pity thing as my Lai Pa goes to an estate all the time, to hunt wild boars (yes, hunting with big long guns that you would only see in the movies) and also harvest many wonderful fresh local fruits, and one that always came back fresh from falling off the tree is the durian.
So now I am all grown up, appreciating food in its myriad of tastes, smells and textures, that I see how much I have missed then, oh and yea, I do eat durian now and enjoy it very much. Funny how much one’s taste can change so much as they grew up. My Lai Ma’s cooking was superb, sadly that I realized this so much later, but still not too late fortunately. I also learnt that she was an excellent baker only after I had left Taiping for studies, where her husband and children had once bought her a huge mixer (maybe it was smallest at that time), that lasted her for more than 20 years until now, where in occasions I got to use to bake a few cakes with her and even made my first virgin cheesecake at her place, her acclaimed best recipe from those who had tried. It was a really cool stand mixer, like a KitchenAid of that time, where I believed I would have dream and wish for it then like how I wish for KitchenAid now.
From the recent Chinese New Year (the most celebrated occasion for the Chinese every year is still vividly fresh in my mind), I had managed to learn one of her ‘secret’ recipe, the young papaya pickle. It is thinly sliced young papaya soaked in Chinese rice vinegar, sugar and sliced chillies, in glass containers, which can last for ages but it never does, not in my household anyway. I was lucky last year when once during a visit to her house, she had just made a big batch, soaking in few glass containers of various sorts such as jam jar, taucu jar (her favourite) and other sauces jar, just like how we Chinese like to keep these containers/bottles/boxes for ‘just in case’s, which this time, rarely I might say, was really put to good use. She even reminded me to bring back the container the next time I come back so that it can be reuse for more pickled papayas! So, this year when I visit her again, I casually mentioned that I had brought back the containers for her (proudly as I was really famous for forgetfulness, especially in her household of really keen and responsible people), and she was indeed surprised and happy. Then I also casually mentioned that I simply looove those pickled papayas, where I polished off in just a week and had been yearning for more since then. She perk up immediately to know I enjoy it so much and offered immediatly “it is so very easy to make, let me make a batch for you to bring back tomorrow!” I was thrilled yet worried as my plan was to go back with my cousin was right after breakfast, which she waved off as no problem as she said it can be done in a jiffy.
Come the next day, my mum fetched me to Lai Ma’s house early in the morning before meeting my cousin for breakfast to pick up my precious pickled papayas. My mum was also very intrigued and want to give it a try, which later I passed one jar to her (later claimed by her to be excellent) and took two jar back home to PJ. Yes, my dear Lai Ma had made a huge batch for me, where she had skipped her daily morning walk that day just to get to the market early to buy papaya, come back and then slice and soak them just in time for me to pick up before I leave. I felt so loved, people say food is the way to a man’s heart, for me that is the way to a child’s heart, yes I am still very much a child to her, for me at least, and for all time to come I’m sure.
Young Papaya Pickle
When I asked my Lai Ma how do I know how to pick an unripe papaya that is just right for this pickle, my Lai Pa was right there listening, and as I said that he was a wise food enthusiast too, he told me straight away “when you just see a tiny hint/streak of yellow on a green papaya, then that papaya is just right for pickling”. See, I told you my Lai Pa was a wise food enthusiast (and also in many other areas of life, I’m compelled to add), he gave me such an easy and fool-proof method to my pickling journey! The recipe below is more of an estimation as it really depends how much papaya slices you can get from your papaya, how strong your rice vinegar is, and how sweet and spicy you want it to be, so follow it as a guideline and then taste as you go on.
Green with a hint/streak of yellow papaya (sliced thinly)
Chinese Rice vinegar
Red chillies (sliced in inches)
Put the sliced papaya into a jar (from your stashed of ‘just in case’ glass containers)
Pour in rice vinegar to 3 quarter full (do not add to full as the papaya will produce more water as it pickle)
Put in sugar to taste, stir in each addition and continue tasting to just right
Throw in few slices of chillies (as many as you like, but for mine I saw bout 1-2 chilly for a jar)
From time to time, give it a turn around (i.e. spoon bottom to top and vice versa so that all the papayas could get to soak), with a really clean dry spoon.
After a while all the papaya will be happily soaking in rice vinegar and its own juices, so then onwards you can keep as long as you want, just remember to take out with clean spoon every time. (Psst, sometimes I dip in with my fingers when I could not resist but no worries, mine do not need to be stored for long anyway).
P/S: I am submitting this entry to Apples & Thymes to celebrate my Lai Ma, just like a mother to me and a mother to her lovely children, and how she play a big part in my life and my love for food.
Update: The lovely round-up of Apples & Thyme can be found at Mele Cotte.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Although I had eaten so much within that long weekend regardless that I had forewarned myself, I can vividly remember all the wonderful feasts. Few of them was taken outside in restaurants as we do not want to tire our dear grandmothers and mothers, but those few home made feasts was what I treasured most.
On my Ah Ma side, it had been many years since she cooked a feast for our Chinese New Year as all her children want her to rest and relax, while on my Pho Pho side, it would be the usual feast of my favourite dishes such as jiu hu char, which had me standing by the side of the bowl, nearly finishing off by wrapping it in fresh raw lettuce and popping it into my mouth again and again, ah bliss, and also the must have heart-attacking duck soup, I swear that it is more of duck ‘oil’, but nonetheless irresistible! These home cooked feasts will have me gobbling up as if there were no tomorrow while I just nibble on the restaurant food, which once I got so sick off I cheated my way out of dinner by saying I wanted to visit my Lai Ma (Nanny), which I did of course but with no food.
Speaking bout my Lai Ma, she is another wonder woman in kitchen, apart from being a wonder woman of raising kids, which would be another whole story I will share soon. Last year, when I got real lucky, she had me sit down and feasted on her food during my visit. At that time I was already full from lunch at Pho Pho’s but staring at her version of Chinese New Year home feasting; I could not resist and proceeded to have second lunch of the day! I cursed myself for eating too much beforehand while continued on feasting anyway. So this year, with the reminiscence of the wonderful feast I had with the tastes still vividly at the tip of my tongue, I smarted my way out from a lunch out with my relatives in a restaurant and ‘visited’ my Lai Ma on Chor Yat (first day of Chinese New Year) itself. Beside the fact that I was really yearning to see both my Lai Ma and Lai Pa (her husband) after a long time, I was also secretly yearning for her special dishes.
When I got there, many people were there visiting already, including U and her brother which grew up with me together under my Lai Ma’s care. I waited patiently while enjoying their company and once they leave, I casually asked if there is lunch. My Lai Ma was extremely surprised “What! You haven’t had your lunch? Why didn’t you say so just now?” Glancing at the clock which was showing only near to 3pm, it wasn’t that late from lunch but from my Lai Ma’s reaction, just like how a typical Chinese would react, it would had seemed like I had been starving for years. Quickly, she had me get the rice while she got me a big bowl of ham choy thong (salted vegetable soup). I stared at the spread in front of me and proceeded to enjoy the feast, this time with lots of room in my tham jiak stomach to fit in.
The ham choy thong is how I always remembered it would be, as she cooks it quite frequently, salty, slightly spicy and sourish, which serves real well as an appetizer. Then there was the must-have steamed chicken, eaten with her homemade green chili sauce. Another meat dish is the lor bak (deep fried marinated minced pork rolled in thin soybean sheets) which was home made by my Lai Ma’s sister was really good too. The chunky minced pork was really juicy and fragrant while the soybean sheets were perfectly crunchy. My Lai Ma made pickled cucumber to eat with it, which surprisingly pairs really well together and to me, it was better than the usual Loh sauce (dark sauce thicken with corn starch, usually served at the hawker stalls).
Then next is my favourite chow mangkuang (stir fried sliced yam bean) which tastes like my Ah Ma’s Cantonese version with added cuttlefish strips. This dish has similarity to my Pho Pho’s Hakka darker and much more sinful version, which is to be eaten best wrapped in fresh lettuces.
Finally, it was the star dish of the day, which was the first that came to my mind when I was reminiscing about her dishes of last year. It is the stir fried ngaku (arrowhead/arrowroots) with nam yue (fermented red beancurd) that despite looking weird with its pinkish hue, it was a real delight to the palate. Slight sweet yet salty and with just hints of nam yue (many people find this an acquired taste, but trust me it is just a slight complement here). This dish is also a darling to eat wrapped in fresh lettuce, but first slathered generously with tim cheong (sweet sauce). I once asked where to get the tim cheong and my Lai Ma said “Aiya, make it yourself. Very easy! Put this this and that that together, and ta-da – you got your ultimate tim cheong”. Sorry though I cannot remember those ‘easy’ steps, aih, they all make it sound so easy, time for me to buck up! I must start cooking and making more Chinese cuisines. This is definitely one better way to enjoy ngaku apart from the usual addictive fried ngaku crisps which are widely available (both homemade or store bought) at this time of the year.
I ate with such gluttony and tham jiak-ness that halfway through my feasting, Lai Pa took second helpings of rice and joined me together at the table. Now the real family feast has begun!
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
As a Malaysian Chinese, even though I have never been to my origin of country before, China, where my grandparents and great-grandparents came from, I was like the rest here who had never forgetten their culture. We are still tied very much to our roots, calling ourselves Chinese, proudly claiming which clan we are from – Hokkien, Cantonese, Hakka, Teo Chew, and Hainan and so on. It is so natural, where one Chinese would ask another their surname (to judge) or just asking straight out which clan they are from.
So even though we have long (or always) been living in Malaysia, and even with the ever predictable weather of either rain or shine, we still carried on the tradition of celebrating Dongzhi (Winter Solstice) Festival, where in Cantonese we call it Kor Tong, loosely translated as 'passing through the winter'. So in order to kor tong, the tradition is to eat Tong Yuen (glutinous rice dumplings), along with various hot sweet soup, my Ah Ma usually make the sweet ginger soup version. It seems that we like to celebrate with glutinous rice, reminded me of my Bak Chang for Duan Wu festival.
As I said before, after coming up to KL, away from family, I seldom have the chance to enjoy all these festivals anymore, what more to have the chance to eat Ah Ma’s tong yuen. I wish I would have the chance to once again make these with her, rolling of colorful balls, making them round this time. Fortunately though, I had a chance to eat home made tong yuen this ‘winter’ as J’s mum made some for the family. J and I only had it today, late from the real date because we had been away for a weekend escapade with friends (food adventure to follow soon). I was so happy when I found that J’s mum had made the sweet ginger soup version, this one sweeten with my favourite gula Melaka. J’s mum made small plain tong yuen in pinks and also big white ones with crushed peanuts filling. It was absolutely delicious! So I guess now I have officially kor tong, what bout you?
By the way to everyone who is celebrating, Merry Christmas, and to the Chinese of the world, Happy Dongzhi and I wish you all abundant with family and friends reunions.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Nevertheless, today I was lucky to be release early from a work training today, therefore this post. I have been meaning to post is since the beginning of this month, which was my dad’s birthday. Yes my dad, the pillar of my house and the foundation of my family.
Every dad is special to every little girl, just like how my dad is. Since the day I was born, he had never really raise his voice on me, not to mention laid hands on me. But he had his ways to keep us (my sister and I) in check, his “because I say so” and his silent treatments. No matter how though, I always see through his scheme. I am the little girl of the house, hardheaded at most times but usually using her charms to manja (pamper) her way through his heart. Whenever he tried to put up his steel manner, I would manja if I ever see there is a chance to get what I want (opportunity sighting is learnt throughout the years of living together), so I usually end up with what I want. But I had never abuse this power though, cause at times I know there are many things that even the best charm can never change or get.
My dad is in someway whom we like to tease in Malaysia, China-man, which actually loosely translated to the same style of the ancient Chinese people’s thinking, but not necessarily meaning it in a bad way. He was strict and conservative in his sense, protective towards his only two daughters, and manly about his house rules. Anyway, as my sister and I grew older, he had learnt to take off his protective net, and let us roam ourselves out in the world. So far, as he is always nearby, traveling forthnighly back to Taiping, we always find chance to come out for a dinner during Sunday nights, just like how we used to do as a family those days. During our Taiping days, we always go out for a full fledged Chinese dinner on Sunday night, its like a ritual. Then we would always go to the same restaurant again and again until we are so bored of it we would change to another, and then the vicious cycle begin again. Anyway, no matter what, I love you, dad!
So back to dad and his birthday, this year, mum insist that all of us go back to Taiping to celebrate. So of we all drove back in 3 separate cars, sis and her boyfriend, J and I and then dad, pardon us for the pollution, but as I told you, my mum insisted. Oh well, since she had came up in our numerous occasions, we all agreed to head home. Then during one of our MSN sessions, yes my mum DO surf the net and chit chat on messengers, she casually mentioned that I should bake a cake for dad. It tugs at my heart, I badly wanted to, but I know time is not on my side. Anyhow, due to perseverance, I got up that early Saturday morning, after arriving the night before in Taiping after midnight, and got over to my Nanny’s house and bake a cake, no so direct as I had to decide a recipe then from one of her old cookbooks, drove out to get the remaining missing ingredients (fortunately everywhere is near in Taiping), and came back to bake the
Chocolate Cake with Sliced Peaches
100g chocolate (use the rich kind, I used Varlhona)
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of baking soda
½ tsp baking soda
5 eggs, separated (I hope I got this right from memory, missed it out from my handcopy)
¼ tin condense milk
1 tsp vanilla essense
1 tbsp brandy
Heat oven to 175 degrees.
Melt chocolate over steaming water (like the usual bain marie kind or my Nanny’s bowl-in-water-Asian-style kind)
Beat egg whites with half the sugar till fluffy. Add baking soda and beat till stiff but not dry.
beat butter and remaining sugar till light and fluffy (old books love this word)
Add condense milk by spoonful into the batter, beat well.
Add in melted chocolate bit by bit and beat till incorporated.
Add egg yolks, one at a time, beat well each time
Add vanilla and brandy, beat till blend.
Pour into the prepared and lined 8-inch pan.
Baked for bout 45-55 minutes (we had some trouble during baking, so do not have the exact right time) or till skewer comes out clean (use this method then)
Whipped up by me out of memory of many food blogs’ recipes I read and the remaining ingredients lying around
Melt them together over slow heat
Let cool a little and then scoop over chocolate cake
Cut the cake in half (this was done skillfully by my Nanny)
Put the top side down, hiding the cracks if any
Slather chocolate icing liberally over the cake (cut side)
Arrange the slices of peach around it
Put the other cake slice over, cut side down
Pour the rest of the icing over the cake, forming a lovely overflowing chocolatey fountain
Nanny and I wish we could devour it then when the chocolate cake is dousing in the chocolate sauce, but we put it in the freezer instead and let it set
Then bring to the party and serves 8 people after a full Chinese course meal for sweet endings
Saturday, November 10, 2007
It had been a long time since I last join a food event, but this time it got me out of my cold storage box again, just because the theme really got me at my heart. This event is about, quoting african vanielje, celebrations of mothers and grandmothers and time spent with them in the kitchen, in dedication to Jeni’s mother. Apples and Thymes, it seems like the perfect name for the theme today, though I cannot explain why.
If you are a regular reader of my blog, you would have read bout my stories about my Ah Ma (grandmother) in so many occasions. For Ah Ma, the ever diligent wife, mother and grandmother, the always seeking of self improvement, the only bind now to our big family tree, the reason we all should appreciate and celebrate life and the ties to our roots back to China itself. I bet these reasons are truly strong enough for a celebration, a big one at date. So let’s toast to my Ah Ma and all the mothers and grandmothers in the world. You all somehow make this world a better place.
Looking back, it seems that I did not spend enough time with my Ah ma in my earlier days. What a shame, I certainly could have learned a lot. It was not until I went to Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, to study and now to work, that I learn what I have all these while been taking for granted – real food laboured with real love. Maybe it is also our Asian way of life, where kids are not allowed to play in the kitchen; too dangerous, too troublesome, going to cut self with knife, breakables would be broken, edibles made inedible and the list would go on. That is how then, this little Chinese kid got left out of her Ah Ma’s kitchen, much to her lament.
But I remember the festivals, the time where we (kids) just might have the reason, or rather the chance to help out in the kitchen. I remember once, during Tanglung (Lantern) festival, I don’t know why this event was etched firmly in my memory where I can picture it vividly in my mind, where my sister and I walked into the kitchen where there were hundreds of mini Tong Yuens (glutinuous rice dumplings balls) in plethora of pinks, whites, greens and yellows in a huge metal tray. Ah Ma’s version of Tong Yuen is more of the north Malaysia style, small and plain with no fillings. My sister and I would eagerly help to shape the balls. I still remember Ah Ma saying, “Aiya, not like that, one big one small. Aiya, not round enough, let me show you”. She then will show her spectacular skill of rolling Tong Yuen into a round ball at the right size at amazing speed, due to years of making of thousands of them. Although she would try her best to advise us, we end up with Tong Yuens of various sizes and some oval, some round, some flat. In the end, she would still smile, praise us for our help and then throw it all in boil and then add into the prepared sweet ginger soup. I found a video here at Malaysia Best, where there are two little boys helping out with making Tong Yuen.
Anyhow, after I went to the big world out there, I do also always try to return to my little hometown, where every time I would bombard my Ah Ma with various questions on how she make this or that dish. Just like every cook, especially the ones who enjoy it, she would go into a long and detail description from picking of the right vegetables to the right cut of meat, then to right preparations and the many seasonings up to the right way of cooking and down to the right time itself. I would sit there fixated, nodding occasionally and try to absorb everything. Sometimes when the list got too long, I might whip out my PDA or a paper to note things down. When I got home again, I would try to replicate some of dishes that I learned, mostly a success as Chinese cooking when once you understand its basics and have spent years in eating them, you can easily make it, but mostly it is never up to par to Ah Ma. Maybe in the future, after years of practice, I might make it as good as her.
Although there were many of her dishes that I loved, there was one dish that I hold really dearly to my heart personally. This one dish that I always beg her to make is ho lan shu chu yok (stir fry potato and pork in dark soy sauce). Whenever she cooks this dish is I would be eating and eating it way after I finish off my rice. I would have to pry myself from the table in risk of finishing it before anyone else can have the chance to eat it. Then, after a while off, I would then pester her again, “Ah Ma, when are you going to cook potato chu yok (this mixed term was coined since I was really young) again?”. She would then just smile and ask if I am ever bored at it, which I would shook my head vigorously. Even after long gone from home and back again, I once again request for this comfort dish of mine. I am so excited when we finally cook it together in her kitchen; after all I am not a kid anymore right, where I would be more of a help than a nuisance, then again, arming with camera in hand, I do seem worst off, but a food blogger got to do, what she got to do – shoot!