Raising a glass

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

To you, and you and you. All of you who’ve taken the time to read, comment on and encourage my journey this year. Thank you.

It’s been such a fun ride and I can hardly believe that I’ve been blogging for almost a year now. Thanks to this blog I’ve joined not one, but two amazing baking groups, been introduced to many fantastic blogs, won an awesome prize, started tweeting (tws_shaz if anyone’s interested) and of course, met so many lovely people.

So here’s to 2010 and to more learning, living, laughing, scheming, creating, and of course, eating.

HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone, see you real soon ☺

(There's moscato jelly in the glass. Recipe from Australian Gourmet Traveller here. Pink moscato is my current favourite summer drink!)

Season’s Eatings

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Or more like “Leftovers of the Season”.

Whilst Christmas has come and gone, its memories linger on. As restrained as I was with the food shopping, a small family inevitably meant leftovers.

We’ve since had turkey salad (very similar to a previous duck salad recipe), turkey quesadillas and finally turkey currypuffs. There’s also turkey stock in the freezer. Turkey all gone. No more turkey. For at least a year!

We’ve also eaten far too many chocolates but also our equal weight in cherries and other stone fruit, which evens things out ☺

And here’s the dessert that just keeps giving. First it was an individually assembled trifle (biscuit roulade base, mascarpone semifreddo with raspberries and rosewater, a simple raspberry sauce and an apricot mousse/jelly).

(Semifreddo based on recipe found here. The apricot mousse thingy was simply pureed apricots plus juice of one lemon and sugar to taste. I added enough water to reach 500ml, cooked the mixture over low heat to dissolve the sugar, and added two softened gelatin leaves. After the gelatin had dissolved, I set the mousse in a large bowl, in the fridge. The raspberry sauce was made of pureed raspberries and icing sugar pushed through a sieve. The roulade recipe was from my favourite cake book The Cake Bible).

Next the trifle evolved into a creamy apricot moussey thing (the apricot mousse mixed with whipped cream and mascarpone), spooned over speculaas crumbs and topped with crushed pistachios and a raspberry to decorate.

(Speculaas from here)

Finally it became a layered dessert of semifreddo, mousse, whipped cream and crushed speculaas on top (image at start of post).

At least nothing went to waste even if it meant everything went to the waist! Hope you're still on holidays and enjoying every minute of it. I know I am :)

The DBGB Opera House and Season’s Greetings

Saturday, December 26, 2009

(DBGB = Daring Bakers Ginger Bread)

Hope you’re enjoying the holidays and good cheer. We’ve certainly had a wonderful time filled with family bonding and of course feasting.

Christmas lights  (not our own)

It’s been lots of fun, and so was this month’s Daring Bakers’ Gingerbread House challenge.

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

I used Y’s recipe from The Great Scandinavian Baking book by Beatrice Ojakangas because all the ingredients were on hand. I followed the challenge recipe with a couple of minor tweaks. After trawling the DB forums, it turned out that many bakers had issues with the dough being too dry. So I followed the recipe -weighing everything, except the flour, which was measured by guesstimation and level cups. Also, the challenge method called for adding the flour and hot water in together. Instead of this, I added the hot water to the creamed butter and sugar, stirred until everything was melted, then added the flour – a technique that my usual go-to gingerbread recipe recommends. The dough turned out fine and quite sturdy to work with. Flavourwise, it wasn’t as sweet as my usual gingerbread although still nice and “spicy”. The finished “house” ended up covered in so much royal icing anyway it was a good thing the dough wasn’t very sweet.

So here’s the finished house – it’s a slightly skewed gingerbread version of the Sydney Opera House (definitely not to scale).

I’ll let the pictures tell you the rest of the story :

The “sails” were baked on aluminium foil “moulds” held together by bamboo skewers.

The first attempt at creating the base ended up like this:

So I baked lots of “support” beams which ended up a bit skewed but they worked great once I doubled them up and added a fruit fizzer (lolly) to get the right height. I had to "borrow" a few of the lollies from MC junior's lolly stash, which ended up in a very thorough inquisition the next day. Finally managed to convince her she must have eaten the lollies then forgot about doing it!

Liberal application of royal icing and a few lollies later…

This is a reference to this event.



Once my gingerbread house was done and dusted, it was the kids’ turn. Technically they made speculaa houses because I’d used up all the gingerbread dough. The little 3 year old bossed me around instructed me on the placement of icing so that she could stick her lollies down, while the almost 7 year old handled her own icing blobbing and lolly placement. I had them decorate all the flat panels, then assembled it into a house for them.


After the grandparents had suitably admired them on Christmas Day, the kids partook in the most fun part of the whole activity.

Enjoy the hols!

EOWTTA*: N is for Noisette (which counts because it is a Nut)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

*Eating our way through the alphabet.

This post is late because we’re in holiday mode and went swimming today. Figured we’d better enjoy the warm weather as the forecast is for rain the next few days.

And because my brain is already vacationing, today’s EOWTTA is going to be a short one.

The Noisette, or Hazelnut (I only speak food French), is sometimes also known as a Cob nut or Filbert, depending on variety. (Thank you Wikipedia).

Apparently, hazelnuts may be beneficial in lowering the risks of coronary heart disease. If interested, you can read about it here.

Not that I eat hazelnuts for the health benefits. Frequently, the hazelnuts I consume come covered in copious amounts of chocolate! (Ah, did I hear someone say antioxidants?).

Hazelnuts and chocolate are one of those classic food pairings that have become so ubiquitous – you know, like that chocolate spread, and the chocolate ball and that other chocolate ball. You know what I’m talking about ☺.

So it was pretty much a no-brainer when I decided to make these Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes as our yearly giveaway for Mr. Kitchen Hand’s co-workers. (Didn’t get a chance to photograph the wrapped cupcakes as they were whisked away too early in the morning).

Hope your festive preparations are going well. I may or may not be back here again before Christmas so Happy Holidays to all ☺.

But don’t forget to come back on the 27th for the Daring Baker’s reveal...it’s a fun one this month.

And a cupcake in a pear treeee...(actually, it's a frangipani) 

Hazelnut, Prune, Chocolate and Frangelico Cupcakes
(adapted from Stephanie Alexander’s Whisky and Raisin Chocolate Celebration Cake. I don’t have a great fondness for raisins which is why I changed the fruit to prunes. The use of Frangelico is pretty much self-explanatory).

150g prunes, chopped
½ cup Frangelico
120g plain flour
180g ground hazelnuts (couldn’t find hazelnut meal so I ground my own which resulted in some interesting textured bits)
Pinch of cinnamon
400g dark chocolate
225g butter (unsalted)
½ cup warm water
6 eggs separated
240g sugar.

Begin soaking the prunes in the Frangelico a few hours ahead (I did it overnight in the fridge).

Assemble two very huge mixing bowls. Halfway through, I had to tip my batter into a salad bowl because it was threatening to overflow.

Prepare cupcake wrappers, or if baking as a whole cake, double line a cake tin (S.Alexander recommends a 22cm square one).

Preheat oven to 180˚C. Mix together the flour, cinnamon and hazelnuts. Put the chocolate and butter into a saucepan and melt over low heat. Stir until smooth then add the warm water and mix well. (I accidentally missed this step and realised my mistake when I added the flour and found that the batter was way too thick. Luckily, adding the water at that stage seemed to work too.)

Beat egg yolks and sugar until thick and “ribbony” in one of the mixing bowls. And the slightly cooled chocolate mixture to the egg yolks and mix well. Fold in the flour, mix well, then add in the prunes and frangelico. I found that a sturdy spatula helped greatly with the mixing.

In the other bowl, whip egg whites until soft peaks form. Add a little of the egg whites into the batter to “loosen”, then fold in the rest. Spoon into prepared cupcake cases and bake until done - test with skewer. It took about 20 minutes for medium cupcakes, but it depends on the size of your cupcakes and your oven.

I used a simple chocolate glaze to finish, (similar recipe here but I omitted the corn syrup and flavoured it with a tablespoon of frangelico.)

Malaysian Monday 19: Kuih Keria

Monday, December 21, 2009

Welcome to the last Malaysian Monday for the year. Can’t believe how quickly time has flown - this blog is almost a year old! Seems like only yesterday I was struggling for something to say, and now I just can’t shut up ;P

To round things off sweetly, I figured this Malaysian style glazed doughnut would do nicely (get it?).

The main ingredient in Kuih Keria is actually sweet potato (not quite sure what the name Keria means). This is a pretty simple dish to whip up but we didn’t usually make the kuih at home as it was far simpler to buy one from the “Goreng Pisang" (Banana Fritters) stall. These stalls usually sell an array of deep fried goodies that are very popular at afternoon tea-time.

Like most Malaysian recipes, the ingredients for this kuih will vary according to individual taste and other factors (eg: moisture content in the potato).

Here’s how I made my kuih keria.

First boil some sweet potatoes in their skins (steam if preferred). As you can see, I used three small purple skinned ones, but the orange skinned variety is more commonly used. Let cool, then peel and mash. I added a pinch of salt and a knob of butter (not a traditional ingredient) as well. I ended up with about 1 ½ cups (packed) mashed sweet potato.

Add enough plain flour to bind the potatoes and make a soft dough (I used slightly less than half a cup of flour). Don’t add too much flour otherwise the doughnut will end up really hard and will not taste of sweet potato at all.

Form the dough into small doughnut shapes. It’s easiest to shape some balls of dough into a disc shape then poke a hole with a finger. Deep fry until golden. Drain on absorbent paper.

Then make the glaze. I used about ½ a cup of sugar and ¼ cup water but I think this was really a bit too much water. You’ll need just enough water to dissolve the sugar. Heat the sugar until bubbling, it’s ok to stir because it doesn’t matter if the sugar crystallises. When the sugar has melted and become thick and starting to “dry out” (do not let it become caramel), put the doughnuts in and stir to coat. Lift out and place on a plate (would be worth lining the plate with some parchment paper to prevent the doughnuts from sticking). The sugar should actually form a crisp coating around the doughnut. Mine was a bit patchy.

Best eaten warm. The texture is unreal, you bite through the crisp sugar crust, then chew through the golden brown “skin” and hit the soft, fluffy potatoey insides. Mmmm….it’s so good I eat about 4 before I gather the willpower to walk away. (I can still hear them calling me from the kitchen now!).

A fellow taste tester (MC Senior) shares her thoughts with you:

Appearance: Looks like “Hmmm..I might try that”
Taste: Mmm..yum. It’s good, it’s a sweety, salty, bittery flavour all in one. (Bittery???!)
Texture: Nice squashy sort of texture

Hope the week ahead is filled with wonderful surprises!

Something special this way comes

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The post office box holds many surprises this time of year, and guess what was waiting there a couple of days ago? A Tiffany’s box! Yes, you read that right. The much coveted, distinctive blue box had my name on it. What a fabulous early Christmas present.

And I have the blog and some lovely fellow bloggers to thank for it. While drowsily browsing blogland (say that fast) late one night, I stumbled upon this post at The Reluctant Entertainer. As a cupcake tragic, I just had to comment, thinking my entry wouldn’t count because I lived too far away. I then surfed on over to Party Cupcake Ideas to ogle the cupcakes and thought no more about the competition.

Imagine my absolute surprise when I received an email from Sandy (The Reluctant Entertainer herself) letting me know I’d won the prize! “Are you sure I’m eligible? ” I emailed back. Apparently I was, so a HUGE thank you to Sandy and Melody (of Party Cupcake Ideas) for such a wonderful present.

Of course, to celebrate, I baked. Here’s a little cupcake inspired by my new  Tiffany’s cupcake charm necklace.

Thanks again ladies!

Vanilla bean cupcake with strawberry frosting

(I just tweaked a basic pound cake formula for the cupcake)

100g butter
125g sugar
2 eggs
125g flour
½ tsp baking powder (sifted together with the flour)
½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped (I store the beans in my sugar jar. Use a whole bean if feeling really extravagant)
2 tbsp milk

I was feeling a bit old-school and fed-up of washing up, so I made this using a wooden spoon to beat the ingredients. Lightly beat the eggs and milk together. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add in the vanilla seeds and mix well. Add in half the flour and mix well, then half the egg/milk mixture. Mix well, then repeat.

Spoon into cupcake wrappers and bake at moderately high heat, until golden brown.

Makes about 12 medium cupcakes. The cake texture is slightly dense yet moist.

Strawberry frosting
125g butter
200g icing sugar (sifted)
½ cup strawberry puree (to start)

First, cook the strawberry puree very gently over low heat (do not boil) until the mixture has reduced by at least half. I ended up with about 2 tablespoons. Set aside to cool.

Beat butter until light, add in the icing sugar a bit at a time and beat well. When all the sugar has been incorporated, add in two tablespoons of the thickened strawberry puree. Gently mix it in.

Ice cooled cupcakes.

The flavours really develop after the icing has been allowed to mellow for a couple of hours.

Christmas Kisses and some blog love

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Only 7 more sleeps!
The atmosphere is rich with excitement over at Chez Skewer! Coupled with the Christmas rush, MC senior is also officially on school holidays, so posting will be slightly erratic from now on.

MC Senior had a class picnic on the last day of school (Wednesday), and needed to bring something to share. Not wanting anyone to miss out, she requested a gluten-free treat so that her friend S would be able to eat it.

Having very little experience with GF baking, I knew I didn’t have the time to play around with different flours. Nuts were also ruled out due to strict school policy. Hmmm…what’s quick to whip up, contains no gluten or nuts and is kid-friendly? Meringues of course!

Using the brush-striping technique, I even managed to make them look festive. Flavoured with orange rind and cinnamon, they tasted quite Christmassy.

I used a small star shaped piping tip to make these and ended up with over 120 sweet meringue kisses. Too cute! MC Senior loved it and so did her little friends (apparently one friend ate 3 handfuls! Sorry friend’s mummy).

Speaking of love, I want to say a very huge thank you to Hungry Dog for this award. She’s a lovely gal who writes honest, often funny posts and she’s a dog person ( need I say more?). I know I’m supposed to pass it on, and I will soon – promise! Thanks again Hungry Dog.

And thank you for visiting! Come back real soon ☺

Meringue Kisses

3 egg whites (room temperature)
¾ cup sugar (working on the ratio of ¼ cup sugar per egg white)
finely zested rind of 1 orange – leave to dry out on a plate overnight if possible. Or store loosely covered in fridge (the rest of the fridge will smell of orange rind though)
Generous pinch cinnamon
Pinch of cream of tartar

Prepare piping bag – visit this Wilton page for a how-to. Preheat oven to about 120˚C.

In a deep bowl (make sure it’s squeaky clean), start beating the egg whites. When slightly frothy add in the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks start to show. Add sugar a little at a time, beating well after each addition. (The meringue may “weep” if the sugar isn’t incorporated properly.) Add the rind and cinnamon – I actually added these to the last batch of sugar to help it disperse better. Beat until thick and glossy (if using hand-held beaters, you should be able to “feel” the stiffness of the meringue while beating.)

Carefully spoon mixture into piping bag. Pipe onto parchment paper lined trays and bake for about 20-30 minutes (baking time will be longer if larger shapes are piped). Don’t let the meringues colour too much, they should be crisp on the outside and slightly soft and a little chewy in the centre.

Store in an airtight container.

EOWTTA*: M is for Mangosteen

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

EOWTTA*= eating our way through the alphabet

The confusingly named mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana) is not related to the mango at all – don’t ask how the name came about because I don’t know.

The mangosteen has such distinctive purply black skin and a green almost comic-book stem, it would be really hard to mistake it for a mango anyway.

Mangosteen season was a highly anticipated time during my childhood, because it usually arrived at the same time as durian season. Mangosteen was the recommended “antidote” if one had overindulged in the “heaty” durian, as the former is considered a “cooling” fruit. If you’d like to read more about the convoluted concept of “heaty” and “cooling” foods, try this. (To be honest, it all sounds like so much goobledygook to me but shh... don’t tell mum! Oops, too late ☺ )

The actual edible part of the mangosteen is quite small in comparison with the overall size of the fruit. The outer peel is quite indigestible and I’ve heard more than one amusing anecdote of unsuspecting first timers trying to take a huge bite out of the fruit as you would an apple!

As kids, we’d love to turn the fruit upside down and count the number of “petals” on the flower shaped bump found at the base of the fruit. This number corresponds with the number of segments found inside the fruit.

There is also a special way to open the fruit. My assistant, Mini-critic Senior, will show you how.

First, cup the fruit upside down in your hands, with your fingers intertwined.


Then very gently squeeze your palms towards each other. Only the lightest pressure is needed to “pop” the skin. If it is really hard to open, it may mean that the fruit is actually unripe.

The fruit should have split open all the way around the middle. Remove the top and enjoy! Be careful though, the sap found in the skin can leave stains on clothing.

It is still relatively hard to find mangosteens because they are a tropical fruit with a short shelf life. When we do find them, during summer, they cost an arm and a leg. Mine cost AUD$2 each! So, no recipe today, because we wanted to enjoy these babies.

Actually, I wouldn’t really do too much to a mangosteen - the flavour is so refreshing (Mr. Kitchen Hand likens it to lemonade), it would be a shame to mask it or distort it in cooking. Having said that, I think the fruit would probably make a very good sorbet . There’s a recipe here if you can afford that many mangosteens ☺

Little Miss Mangosteen: MC Senior met mangosteen for the first time while holidaying at the grandparents place in Malaysia. That's how the fruit is sold, with rope twined around the stems and hung up for display. 

And I cannot end this post without referring you to this website pretty much dedicated to the mangosteen.


Malaysian Monday 18: Kuah Kacang

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hello Blog. Bet you thought I’d forgotten about you huh? Blame it on the silly season.

Let’s have a short and spicy Malaysian Monday today. Have some peanut sauce (kuah kacang). This sauce, served with skewers of meat (usually chicken or beef), becomes the very famous Satay.

While Malaysian will definitely argue about which is the best - the suburb of Kajang, in the state of Selangor is probably the most well known place to get a good satay.

I’ve actually tried to make satay sauce many times from many different recipes, but they don’t seem to turn out quite right. The red layer of oil always seems to be missing. Exactly when to add the peanuts seems to affect the outcome, and also a heavy handedness with the oil helps (my biggest problem).  Raw peanuts that have been toasted from scratch also contribute to the outcome, but this step sounds like too much hard work so I used unsalted roasted peanuts instead.

Finally, I think I’ve found the right balance thanks to this recipe, I’d halved it and adapted it but can’t quite remember if I added or omitted the coconut milk (my notes are all scribbled), so won’t post the adapted recipe yet until I try it again.

Chicken satay skewers 

Hope you’re week is starting with a smile ☺

They call me Mac – a –Looney

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

“I’m running out of time, I really need to make some macarons tonight!” - I clump around the kitchen pulling out mixing bowls and beaters.  Mr. Kitchen Hand just looks at me quizzically. “Didn’t you just make some a few days ago?” No, that batch was a couple of weeks ago. “What about the time before that” he asks. That was in October, for the Daring Bakers! Giving up in confusion, he shuffles off to bed, and I hear him mutter under his breath, “Goodnight, you macalooney”.

At least I know that there are others out there who share my brand of lunacy. There’s even a clubhouse with secret password and everything. (The Mactweets clubhouse is here, and the password? Just tweet Deeba or Jamie that you want to join in. They’re lovely and won’t make you go through any initiation rites).

I’m not sure if I’m posting on time, but having jumped the gun earlier, this time I wanted to wait until the very last minute. Hope it still counts!

With the holidays just round the corner, I went for a Christmas pudding flavoured macaron, filled with rum butter (no brandy in our house).  Please accept my apologies for taking this elegant tidbit and giving it such a garish colour scheme. It was definitely accidental - didn’t realise how much colour was sticking to the inside of the piping bag until it was too late! (Always wanted to try this brush striping colour technique).

The actual mac making experience was quite interesting, to say the least. Best explained in picture form:

No guts, no glory mac-making. Decided to add two dried figs into the macaron shell mixture (recipe below). Also added breadcrumbs and chirstmassy spices like nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. To try and break down the figs, I whizzed them  in the food processor, with the breadcrumbs and almond meal. Took forever and the almond meal was in danger of turning into almond butter. So I tipped the mixture out and tried to grind it in the mortar and pestle. Then seive and repeat ad nauseaum! Finally got so bored of it, tipped the final bits back into food processor with the icing sugar. End result? Stopping to poke bits of dried fig out of piping tip every two minutes!

The brush striping technique as mentioned. I don't always use disposable piping bags but I don't have a large enough piping tip and these ones were just right. To ease my conscience, I wash and reuse the bags - so far I've gone 5 rounds on the same bag with no ill effects (but this changed as you will see) :)

 The blogeritis has hit hard. I know I'm in trouble when the piping bag bursts and I reach for the camera instead of the cleaning cloth! The bag burst because I was so fed up of fishing out fig bits I kind of squeezed a bit harder than usual.

All's well in the end. The first lot baked perfectly, and I believe tht drying time (very long) really helped.I had the brown top/sticky bottom dilemma on all the subsequent batches though. At first I though it was drying time, but wondering if my hands are too hot and the macaron mixture was affected inside the piping bag?

Apart from the garish colours, they taste really good!

Christmas Pudding Macaron Shells:

Dried breadcrumbs 30g
Almond meal 50g
Icing sugar 135 g
Caster sugar 20g
Egg whites 60g
Pinch of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg
2 dried figs (I used mission figs).

For method, visit the Mactweets site for a tutorial.

EOWTTA = L is for Lychee

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

*EOWTTA: Eating Our Way Through The Alphabet

L is also for Late. I did postpone this due to our hectic schedule, but also because last week, the lychees at the greengrocers were a very sad shade of brown. They’re much better looking this week, very important for their close-up with the camera! This week’s fruit is still pinkish rather than deep red, but much prettier. (I’m only judgemental with my produce mind.)

While the brown lychees looked terrible, I’ve since discovered (thank you Google and Wikipedia) that the red lychee skin turns brown when the fruit is refrigerated. Apparently the flavour of the fruit isn’t affected. There you go, learn something new every day.

The lychee is a tropical/ subtropical fruit and is seasonal. They are highly prized in China, and for one Tang dynasty Emperor, it was the fruit of love. Apparently, Emperor Li Longji had the fruit couriered (by horse) from Southern China, for his favourite concubine Yang Yuhuan (Yang Guifei).

On a more practical note, lychees are very high in Vitamin C and just 9 of the fruit are enough to meet an adult’s daily RDA.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lychee

The fruit was introduced to Australia by Chinese goldminers who came here seeking their fortune. Lychees can also be dried, and in this state, they are referred to as lychee-nuts.

If you’ve never had a lychee, I’d highly recommend one. They pack so much flavour in one little package. The taste is almost overwhelmingly sweet but it is saved by the complex aroma and hint of bitterness. The esteemed Pierre Hermé has worked the flavour into the famous Ispahan macaron. (Can someone pleeaasseeee send me to Paris so I can taste this creation first hand?)

We’d always eaten our lychees fresh or from the can. In fact, many cafes in Malaysia offer lychee “juice” as part of the drinks menu. This is really just the syrup from canned lychees, served on ice, with a couple of the fruit for garnish. Boy did we love it! Sugary and cold and juicy, just the stuff for kids ☺

Speaking of kids, I just had to share this exchange with mini-critic junior (she is 3).

MC junior: What is that?
Shaz: Lychees, they’re yummy.
MC junior: Is that like mousey cheese (aka Swiss Cheese)?

While lychees go very well in desserts, they also lend a burst of sweetness to salads and other savoury dishes. If you don’t like fruit and meat pairings, this isn’t for you. Otherwise, here’s a ridiculously easy recipe that makes it look as if you went to a lot of effort. Perfect for entertaining or just a weeknight treat.

Thai style duck salad with lychees
(inspired by Thai Red Duck Curry with Lychees, or purists might call it a bastardisation. Please don’t get mad, I love Thai flavours, and this is just my ignoramus take on it. Can’t remember if I saw a version of this salad in a magazine somewhere, but I can’t seem to find it. So if you think that credit is due, please let me know so I can fix it).

½ a roast/barbecued duck (available from Chinese BBQ restaurants or Chinatown. Lucky me, I live round the corner from one of these restaurants – which is why I find this dish ridiculously easy. If you have to hunt for the duck, it might make it a little bit harder)
Lychees – according to taste
Asian style salad mix (from the *ahem* supermarket) – make your own with a combination of asian style salad greens, eg: mizuna, baby pak choy etc. Or use your favourite combo of baby salad leaves.
Handful of coriander leaves – picked and cleaned

1 eschallot – finely sliced
1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely diced
Juice from 1 large lime
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon palm sugar (sub with brown sugar) – or to taste

To make dressing, gently warm the fish sauce and sugar until the sugar has dissolved. If needed, add about 1 tablespoon warm water so the fish sauce doesn’t catch and burn. Let cool.

Mix with the other dressing ingredients. Taste and adjust the flavours, it should be sweet, sour, spicy and salty. Remember that the duck will be pretty salty and there will be sweetness from the lychees as well.

Wash and dry salad leaves, set aside. Debone and shred duck meat into small pieces – I find my hands and a pair of kitchen scissors work a treat. (I toss the duck skin in as well for added flavour). Peel, deseed and slice lychees according to taste.

Toss all salad ingredients (including coriander leaves) together with the dressing. Serve immediately.

I know this sounds odd, but I like to serve it with steamed rice, it helps the salad go further. Add an omelette for a complete meal.

If extra crunch is desired, scatter some crushed toasted peanuts over the top of the salad.