Hey! Where’d January go?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Does anyone else feel as if this month has whooshed by? It’s been too swift. Only one more month of summer left …noooooooo.  (Actually if the temperatures keep up, I might actually be happy to see some cooler weather.)

We’ve been busy, busy, busy – trying to make the most of school holidays before the blessed dreaded “back to school”.

But in between visits to the beach, pool, museums, moonlight cinema and art gallery, I managed to pull off three decorated cakes (four if you count MC Senior’s Harry Potter birthday cake).  They look a little messy but I was trying to balance out taste and decoration. So I used ganache for two of the chocolate based cakes and a lemon-curd cream cheese icing (home made lemon curd added to cream cheese icing) for the lemon based cake. The weather was so hot that it was pretty tricky trying to get a smooth finish on any of the cakes – I kept having to refrigerate them. But I think the recipients were happy with them.

Have a great weekend!

For a tennis fan

Birthday Boy always wanted a black range rover

Don't ask, don't tell (actually, I'm not too sure either:))

Oh, btw, if you’ve noticed the lack of an EOWTTA this week, my apologies. Been a bit busy but mostly just too hot to think straight – plus I’ve been on a manic mission to turn out the kitchen drawers because, well, because I do things like that from time to time ☺

Daring Bakers Jan 2010: The “No, no more bars, oh well, just a teeny, tiny piece” bars

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The title sums up how I feel about my introduction to the Nanaimo Bar and this month’s Daring Bakers challenge. They are waaaay too tempting to have within easy reach.

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.

Lauren chose the Nanaimo as a tribute to the 2010 Winter Olympics, to be held in Vancouver. 
Can we say "Go for Gold"  ?

The Nanaimo Bar (pronounced Nah-nye-Moh) looks very much like an Aussie caramel slice but tastes quite different. I don’t much care for caramel slice (sacrilege!), but found the Nanaimos irresistible. For the uninitiated, the bar is made up of a chocolatey graham cracker base studded with nuts and coconut, then a middle layer very akin to simple buttercream (with added custard powder), then a rich melted chocolate topping to finish it off. Even reading about it is enough to induce drooling…no?

Surprisingly, a few DB’ers weren't on the same page. There were a few judgemental comments about this poor little bar. Just my opinion, but I think a little bit of food snobbery was involved – is it because this was a no-bake bar? Or was it the use of custard powder in the filling layer?

To be honest, I was quite sceptical at first about the addition of custard powder. Still not quite sure what role it plays (a stabilizer perhaps?), but the taste was unexpectedly good. I actually didn’t muck about with the recipe as I usually do- the only minor tweak was adding about 1 tbsp of maple syrup to the filling, in honour of this being a Canadian dessert.

I also really enjoyed the first part of this challenge – the gluten free graham crackers. Having seen so many recipes calling for graham cracker crumbs, it was pretty exciting to finally make some - gluten free ones to boot! They smelt absolutely amazing when baking and tasted great.

Gluten-free Graham Cracker Moose 

Again, there were a few mutterings about how under whelming some folks found this cracker. I think the secret is in the honey – good honey = good result. The cracker dough also needs to be rolled out quite thin to get crisp crackers. Some of the thicker cookies I made ended up being a bit chewy, but hey, I still have all my own teeth* and I’m not afraid to use them.

Okay, so I mucked around a little bit: Graham Cracker moose with buttercream layer and chocolate topping served with vanilla ice-cream topped with toasted almonds and coconut. 

So thanks for a fun challenge Lauren and good luck with the e-book ( Hand for Haiti)

Challenge recipe can be found here, and do check out what the other Daring Bakers did for their challenge.

*well, almost all my own - had an accident over 10 years ago and knocked out a front tooth, but I can still chew ok? 

Feeling true-blue

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Happy Australia Day.

To be perfectly honest, I have very mixed feelings about Australia Day.  I love my adopted country, consider myself an Aussie and a public holiday to celebrate being ‘Strayan ? Sweeet!

But, Australia Day commemorates the landing of the First Fleet, which led to massacres of the First People here – Indigenous Australians. To them, Australia Day is not a day for celebration, it is Invasion Day, a sombre day for reflection. Feels rather insensitive to have barbecues and picnics and cavort in the sun while others reflect on a dark day in their history. Their history should be our history, IS our history. Hardly surprising then, that there have been calls to move Australia Day to a more neutral date.

In case you’re wondering, “Eh? Which crazy political blog have I accidentally surfed over to?”,  rest assured I don’t intend to start proselytising. However, as this is a personal space to share my thoughts and feelings - consider them shared.

I guess I’m feeling this way because of the way a small number of Aussies choose to celebrate. Getting blind drunk, then bashing or threatening to bash anyone who they consider “un-Australian” (read : darker skinned or funny looking). These yobbos drape themselves in the Australian flag, declaring their patriotism.  Sorry mate, you’re mistaking xenophonia for national pride. And pray tell me, how is wearing the flag as a cape, or worse, up your bum-crack as a “true-blue” bikini, show any respect for what that flag symbolises? Do you not realise that blood has been spilt to defend this precious emblem?

But just in case you’re starting to freak out - don’t worry. The majority of people I know are wonderful, tolerant, intelligent people. Ordinary people who try and make a difference, no matter how small. I will celebrate this Australia Day by hanging out with the folks I love, and we will celebrate the mateship, the spirit of “a fair-go” and the larrikinism that sets Aussies apart from everyone else.

So Happy Australia Day to you, spread a little love to the person next to you. C’mon hippies, we can do this together ☺

Here are some lamingtons to sweeten the deal. The “Life’s much better if we all get along” Lamington. The “It tastes much better with chocolate” Lamington.

Marbled Lamingtons

1 quantity of your favourite marbled butter cake
(I used a Margaret Fulton marble cake recipe)
(Lamington can either be made using sponge cake or butter cake)
Dessicated coconut to cover
(Optional: rainbow choc-bits, or sprinkles)

Chocolate “sauce” for dipping the lamingtons
(I’m going to admit to something highly un-Australian here, I don’t usually like lamingtons. They promise so much : a chocolate coating, smothered in coconut, then cake on the inside. It should all work together so beautifully, but I’m invariably disappointed that the coating just isn’t chocolate enough. The traditional coating is made from icing sugar, cocoa powder, sometimes butter and water, so I decided to amp it up by using real chocolate, and more butter. Butter is good).

145g dark chocolate (the kind you’d be happy to eat)
80g butter (I used salted butter to get a sweet/salty contrast)
3 tbsp (or to taste) icing sugar

Melt butter, icing sugar and chocolate together in the microwave or in a bain-marie (stir to make sure the sugar has dissolved). Let sit for a minute or two before using, so it’s not too runny. If  mixture starts to set, gently reheat.

Cut the marble cake into squares and dip into the chocolate sauce. The easiest way that I found was to put the sauce into a deep bowl, then use a skewer to pick up a cake square and dip into the chocolate. Tap the skewer along the edge of the bowl to get rid of drips.

Roll the chocolate square in coconut and leave to set on a wire rack set over a baking  tray to catch the drips.

MC Junior hates coconut so I made a few happy rainbow ones for her. The chunkier chocolate bits don’t stay on as well as the coconut and have a tendency to slide off.  Refrigerating the chocolate covered square for a couple of minutes seems to help.

Malaysian Monday 22: Kuih Bangkit.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Psst..I have a confession to make – I am much more competent at baking and cooking “western” meals than I am at Malaysian cuisine. “*Cough* Fraud! *cough*”, the peanut gallery mutters. For the record, the bulk of the cooking was done by mum. I’d only been allowed to watch and perform the “apprentice” jobs – tailing beansprouts, de-skinning roasted peanuts, pounding spice pastes, that sort of thing. Then I left home and you know, a girl’s got to socialise, so a lot of eating out ensued.

Only when I moved to Australia, homesick for the flavours of my mother’s kitchen, did I attempt to recreate dishes I loved. Having a lot of time on my hands and feeling very motivated, we ate many intricate, home-cooked Malaysian meals during those early years. But then work, study and eventually kids, started taking up more of my time and the practise of cooking Malaysian gave way to anything fast, simple and most of all acceptable to the mini-critics’ palates (pasta became a staple).

Malaysian Monday is a way of motivating myself to re-introduce some childhood favourites to the family (and if you’re a regular visitor, you’ll know it has been a hit and miss affair).

While I’m pretty confident at the savoury Malaysian dishes, my success rate with the sweet stuff is pretty erratic, mainly to do with the vagueness of Malaysian recipes. Take for instance this Kuih Bangkit (Bangkit=rise), a popular biscuit (cookie) for the Chinese New Year celebrations (which falls on February 14th this year). Mum’s handwritten notes contain two recipes, both without any method attached. A frantic teleconference later, I’ve been talked through the method and told which recipe to use. But how on earth do I measure a recipe that calls for 3 coconuts and ¾ tin of cornflour. How big a tin? Or for that matter, how big a coconut?

So I fiddle about with the measurements and base my calculations on a 375ml can (I vaguely remember mum measuring with an empty evaporated milk can). Halfway through the mixing process, I suddenly understand why Mum didn’t quite want our “help” when she made these cookies. Flour flies EVERYWHERE! By the time I’d finished, there was a thin coating of flour on the kitchen bench, the stove, the floor and me! (So glad the kids are in bed at this point)

The resulting cookies are a mixed bunch, some of them end up looking like the real McCoy and the rest look like Scarface, with cracking and fissures. But you know what? I’m actually pretty pleased with them. For a first time effort, they actually look like they’re meant to (apart from the cracking) and they taste really good too. The texture isn’t quite right yet, the cookies aren’t as “melt-in-the-mouth” as the ones mum used to make, but hey, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad ☺

Both the mini-critics liked the kuih bangkit, but immediately reached for glasses of water after. Be warned, it has quite a dry mouthfeel but it’s meant to be that way.

Kuih Bangkit
(a typical cookie served during the Lunar New Year celebrations. It is made from either sago or tapioca flour and tastes very coconut-ty. If the cookies were made right, the texture should be dry and crisp at first bite, then dissolves pleasurably on the tongue. I have a feeling that my cookies didn’t contain enough liquid, so next time I’ll experiment with adding a couple of tablespoons more coconut cream. Also, I think I didn’t let the flours cool sufficiently after frying. This is my mum’s recipe, I’ve seen other recipes around that use only egg yolks instead of whole eggs, and some recipes call for butter as well).

320g tapioca starch
2 heaped tbsp (about 20g) cornflour
Pandan leaves if available

The day before (or few hours before), lightly toast the cornflour and the tapioca flour , and some pandan leaves in a dry frying pan over medium-low heat. The flours should start to lose moisture and become really lightweight and fluffy, almost like talcum powder. Set aside to cool completely (if making a day or two ahead, leave to cool then store in airtight container). I actually cooked them separately, and used a little bit more tapioca flour than I thought I’d need – this came in handy to dust and flour the kuih bangkit mould.

2 eggs
125g sugar
½ cup (100g) thick coconut cream or more if needed (I used the canned stuff)
½ tsp Vanilla extract (because I didn’t have pandan leaves)
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to about 150˚/160˚C. Beat the eggs and sugar until very light and at least doubled in volume (about 5 minutes on high with my electric hand-held beaters).

Sift the flours into a large bowl, with a pinch of salt. Mix the vanilla extract to the coconut milk. Using a spatula, fold in the eggs and then add the coconut milk a little at a time until a pliable, smooth dough forms. You may need a little more or less coconut cream, or if too “wet”, then more flour is needed. If you pick up a ball of dough, you should be able to roll it into a ball and it should still hold its shape.

Lightly dust the “kuih bangkit” mould (thanks mum!) with cornflour or tapioca flour (I used cornflour), pop a ball of dough into the mould, then very gently press it in (not too hard or it will stick). Use a knife to level off the dough. Hold the mould at an angle to the bench top and give it a firm tap to dislodge the dough shapes. If all goes to plan, they should fall out and look perfect (not smooshed like some of mine did).

 (Actually I think my mould is a pineapple tart mould but it works just as well for this cookie. Mum has a beautiful, old wooden mould with intricate animal shapes).


If you don’t have a mould, the dough can be rolled out quite thickly and cut with cookie cutters.

Bake at 300˚F / 150˚C , for anywhere between 15-30 minutes depending on the thickness of the cookie. Check often, turn trays if needed. The aim is to get a really dry cookie but without too much colouration. It needs to be dry all the way through so snap one or two in half to check, and put it back into the oven if needed.

Have a good week ☺

EOWTTA*:Q is for Quinoa

Saturday, January 23, 2010

(EOWTTA*=Eating Our Way Through the Alphabet)

Okay, still working on pronouncing this food properly - even looked it up on Forvo (where I discovered I’d been mangling crepe all along *blush*). The general consensus seems to be: keen-wah.

Quinoa is actually a seed and is related to beets and spinach. There is a bit of a buzz surrounding this kernel as it’s not only gluten-free, but also considered a complete protein food.

I’d first tasted quinoa a few years ago, at a little café just outside the Queen Victoria markets in Melbourne (why doesn’t Sydney have something similar?). Clueless at the time as to what the “grain” might be, I ordered a quinoa salad because it looked so intriguing. The taste of the seed itself was quite mild and nutty, but what really hooked me was the texture – a little bit soft, a little bit chewy and a little bit crunchy, sort of like cous-cous with more backbone. If cous-cous was The Narrator, quinoa would be Tyler Durden.

In its uncooked form, quinoa looks quite unassuming, but once cooked, little “tails” appear - these give the seed it’s crunch. The “tail” is actually the seed’s external germ (I think this is science speak for the part that germinates).

Apparently, quinoa fresh off the plant is really bitter because it contains saponins. The bitterness can be removed by soaking and rinsing (store-bought quinoa would have undergone this process.)

The simplest way to prepare quinoa is the absorption method (like cooking rice) – bring 1 part quinoa and 2 parts water to boil, lower heat and simmer until the water has been absorbed. I like to make sure the quinoa maintains its bite, so once the tails have “unfurled”, I drain it in a sieve. It’s all a matter of taste, some folks may prefer it softer and fluffier. The great thing about the quinoa is that I haven’t yet had it stick to the bottom of the pan and burn, as rice sometimes has the habit of doing. The smell of cooked quinoa is prominent though, and it can take a bit of getting used to. It’s not a bad scent, just quite strong. MC Senior can always tell if I’ve cooked quinoa the minute she walks through the door.

Usually, I make a roasted vegetable salad with this seed, but I’d heard it could make a good breakfast as well. As I’d confessed earlier, breakfast is not my favourite meal of the day, and I’m on a mini-mission to compile a list of food that might appeal in the morning.

After a quick search on the interweb, I discovered that a lot of quinoa breakfast dishes are just variations of porridge (oatmeal). While I don’t mind porridge it’s not really what I want to eat on a warm summer’s morning. Then I remembered a Jill Dupleix recipe for sweet, spiced cous-cous. That recipe calls for the cous-cous to be served alongside a sweet milk and stewed apricots. While I have nothing against milk, I don’t think I can face sweet milk first thing upon waking, so my version involves plain Greek yoghurt, lightly stewed peaches and the quinoa.

Because I’m really not a morning person (a consequence of staying up late being a nosy parker and reading other people’s blogs), breakfast options not only need to appeal to my tastebuds, they have to be quick to make and basically idiot-proof. Did this quinoa breakfast pass the test?

Surprisingly yes. If pre-prepared, the actual putting together of this breakfast takes about 2 minutes. And I ate it all up. I even had it the next day without bothering to heat it or add sugar – and actually preferred the less sweet, cold version.

Resource : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quinoa

My quinoa breakfast

(Inspired by Jill Dupleix’s sweet spiced cous-cous)

Part 1
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water

Cook the quinoa according package instructions, until al-dente. Store in airtight container in the fridge.

Part 2.
2 peaches
½ cup sugar (I used raw caster sugar)
½ cup water
(add spice eg cinnamon stick if desired)

Skin the peaches as you would a tomato – cut a cross in the pointy end, pour boiling water over it, leave for a minute or so, then remove and plunge into ice-water to stop it cooking. Peel and slice into segments.

Dissolve sugar and water in small saucepan over medium heat. Let simmer gently, stirring, for a couple of minutes. Slip the peaches in and simmer until tender (depends on ripeness of peaches). Remove with slotted spoon, set aside to cool. Simmer the syrup left in the bowl till it thickens a little (not too much though or it’ll turn into toffee). Pour over peaches, leave to cool, store covered in fridge.

Part 3
Thick unsweetened yohurt (I used Greek yoghurt)
Pinch of cinnamon
Sugar to taste

To serve, place about a cup of cooked quinoa into a serving bowl. Then top with the yoghurt and peaches for a simple, cold breakfast. Otherwise, warm the quinoa in the microwave (or steam if you’re anti-microwave). The aim is to take the edge off the chill and not to make it piping hot. Stir through about 1 tsp sugar and a pinch of cinnamon until the quinoa is thoroughly coated. Then serve with yoghurt and peaches.

Have a great weekend!

G is for Gallivanting, a slice and a couple of awards

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

It’s the penultimate (always wanted to use that word in a sentence) week of school holidays and we’ve been gallivanting hither, and thither and yon. Which explains the erratic blogposts.

As we roamed far and wide (actually, to be honest it was mostly to the beach and back), our path took us to the door of Ellie from Almost Bourdain who invited us to her home (thanks Ellie!). Not wanting to show up empty handed, I quickly put together one of my favourite, easy slices. I hadn’t actually planned to post it here because this treat is really not very photogenic. However, there have been recipe requests from Mr Kitchen Hand’s colleagues (who helped eat the other half of the slice) so who am I to refuse?

Nut, honey and caramel slice

(adapted from a recipe I clipped from a mag ages ago. Unfortunately, cannot remember the name of the mag –oops)


2 cups (300g) plain flour
½ cup (100g) firmly packed brown sugar
180g chilled unsalted butter (chopped)
pinch of cinnamon


125g butter
1 cup (200g) firmly packed brown sugar
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp maple syrup (or use all honey instead)
1 ½ tbsp pure cream (not thickened)
250g nuts (I used a mixture of macadamias, walnuts and pistachios) – the original recipe calls for pecans
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (more if using essence)

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Grease and line a 4cm deep, 21 x 30 cm slice pan (I just used a pan I had which was roughly the same size give or take a few cms). Allow the baking paper to overhang the pan to make removal easier.

To make the base, process the dry ingredients in a food processor until evenly distributed (about half a minute), then add the butter and pulse until mixture resembles damp sand. Put the mix into the lined tray then flatten with the back of a large spoon or roll a small glass over it. (I prefer to use a spoon so that I can press down with a bit more pressure). Bake until golden (about 20  minutes or so).

While the base is baking, melt the butter over medium heat, then add the sugar, syrup, honey and cream and stir until the sugar dissolves. Let the mixture boil then reduce heat and simmer, stirring for about a minute. Add in the nuts and vanilla, stir well until combined. Remove from heat and keep warm.

When the base is done, remove from the oven and let it stand for a couple of minutes, then pour the warm nut mixture over the top. Tilt the pan to make sure it’s even, then put it back in the oven and bake for about 15-18 minutes. The top should be bubbling and deep golden. Don’t be tempted to pull it out too early or the mix won’t set as well. Turn the pan around if needed.

Remove from oven and cool in pan. When cold, slip a thin metal spatula or knife to loosen the edges of the slice from the pan, then carefully slide the whole thing out onto a chopping board. Slice into squares or fingers or whatever takes your fancy. It is supposed to keep for 5 days in a cool spot and also freezes well, but I haven’t had any last that long yet (but then again I always give a lot away because I don’t want to be tempted into eating the lot!)

And before I go, I must say a very big thank you to the Heavenly Housewife who’s handed this Happy 101 award on to little ole moi. If you haven’t yet met HH, she’s a dah-ling who always makes me smile, so do stop by and say hi. Thank you very much HH.

And of course not forgetting the Honest Scrap award handed on by Hungry Dog just before Christmas. Do check out Hungry Dog’s musings as well and say hello to their little hungry dog Frances (who’s really a dog). Thanks HD!

Now, both awards come with their own set of rules and by the time I wrote it all out, it turned into an ultra long rambling post, so instead, if you’d like to know more, just check out the rules for Honest Scrap here, and for Happy 101 here.

As you probably already know by now, colouring outside the lines is more my style - so instead of following all the rules, I’m just going to list the things that make me happy (because it’s easier).

Oh ok, I’ll give you two honest things about myself, can’t think of anything else more profound, I’m pretty much a WYSISWIG type.

1) I’m not a breakfast person (hold the lecturing). I know it’s supposed to be the most important meal of the day etc, etc, but I just cannot face it and only feel hungry around morning-tea time. It’s probably because I’m neither a fan of bread nor cereal, but if I had curry on tap maybe I would eat brekkie more often ☺. (For the record, I make sure the kids eat breakfast!)

2) The geek within me loves trying to figure out how things work and why, must be a throwback to my days as a science student.

3) And these things make me happy: the kids (most of the time)

4)Warm, sunny days spent at the beach

5) Hanging out with Mr. Kitchen Hand, drinking tea and chatting at the end of the day

6)Going for lunch

7)Good coffee

8)Shopping at the weekly farmer’s/ organic markets

9)Music and dancing

10)Being creative

And I’d like to pass it on to a few bloggers who I read often and some whom I’ve just met. If I’ve tagged you, just pick whichever award you prefer and feel free to pass it on or don’t do anything (whatever makes you happy☺).

a)Trissa from Trissalicious
b) Pierre who’s from Paris
c)Devon at Travelling Tastebuds
d)Lisa Michelle from Parsley, Sage, Dessert and Line Drives
e) 3 hungry tummies over in Melbourne
f)Erica at My Colombian Recipes
h)Ellie from Almost Bourdain
i)Juliana at Simple Recipes

Malaysian Monday? Must be a muggle thing.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Oops, Malaysian Monday seems to have vanished! All because we had an extra busy weekend filled with Potteresque going-ons.

It was MC Senior’s birthday and we threw a party based around her favourite book character. Of course, there was cake.

And jelly.

(sorry it's blurry, the jelly would'nt stop wobbling!) 

Some coconut ice.

And potions! My inner geek whooped with joy when I discovered how to make a pH indicator out of red cabbage juice. (Further reading here). Just in case you’d like to make your own, it’s very, very simple. I roughly chopped half a head of red cabbage, put it all into a large pot, then poured boiling water over it – enough to just cover the leaves. Put the pot on medium low heat and simmer very gently for about 5 minutes or so. Turn off the heat, cover and leave to cool. Sieve into a large bowl, then use a funnel to pour into a suitable storage container (I used a 1.25l bottle). I made this a couple of days ahead and stored in the fridge, it still worked great.

Acid (L-R: Coke, Vinegar, Lemon Juice)

Base: (L-R: Toothpaste, Laundry detergent, Baking Soda)

Best part about this pH indicator? It’s edible and can be used to turn egg white green. To make this wonderfully mad fried egg, I separated the egg and yolk, then carefully mixed in about a teaspoon of the cabbage juice into the white.  After pouring the white into a frying pan, I gently slid the yolk back on. Perfection. MC Senior could not believe I would eat it – for the record, no cabbage taste at all, tasted just like a fried egg. (Yes I know I could have achieved a similar effect using food colouring but where’s the fun in that?)

So do excuse the lack of anything remotely Malaysian, we were having too much fun.

Have a magical start to the week.

EOWTTA*: P is for Potato

Thursday, January 14, 2010

(*EOWTTA=Eating Our Way through the Alphabet)

Picture the humble potato – such a perfect little package of pleasure. Fries, mash, hash brown, jacket potatoes, rosti, mmmm after delightful mmmm. It’s not hard to see why this tuber is the fourth largest food crop in the world. In fact, the spud is so popular that 2008 was declared International Year of the Potato (how’d I miss that memo?) It’s even got its own dedicated museum, seriously!

I could possibly go on and on about this vegetable but in a bid to curb verbosity I’ll just point out some of the more interesting trivia. For example, did you know that the potato comes from the same family as deadly nightshade/belladonna, henbane, tobacco and mandragora/mandrake. (Had to make sure I put that last one in as MC Senior is a mad keen Harry Potter fan.)

With such exciting relatives, it’s little wonder that the tame tuber actually possesses toxic potential. Potatoes contain compounds known as glycoalkaloids - one of which is solanine. Accidentally ingesting solanine can cause all manner of nasty symptoms, but actual death by potato is thankfully rare (I think). Interestingly enough, deep-frying potatoes can lower the glycoalkaloid concentration, so there’s your excuse the next time a chips/fries craving strikes!

The potato is also a pretty hardy vegetable, even managing to sprout in space. And of course, if you get bored of eating them, you can always make a potato clock.

We didn’t make a clock, but we made some pretend potatoes.

This idea is from one of my favourite little books: Quick and Easy Small Cakes by Kazuko Kawachi . I’d never really felt the need to make this zany treat although I’d always stop to admire the realistic looking “potatoes” when flipping through the book.

Potato cakes
adapted from Quick and Easy Small Cakes.
(makes about 13 small “potatoes”)

1 cup mashed potatoes (from about 3 small potatoes – starchy ones, eg Sebagos, work best).
1 tablespoon thin cream
1 tablespoon butter
pinch of salt and cinnamon to flavour
Marzipan to cover (I used a 250g box)
More cinnamon to dust
Slivered almonds to decorate

Mix mashed potato, cream, butter and salt in a small saucepan over low heat to dry out. When cool, fashion small potato shapes and set aside.

Roll out marzipan thinly between two sheets of plastic wrap, cut out circles larger than the potato balls. Be careful not to overwork marzipan or handle it too much otherwise the marzipan can become oily. Wrap the potato balls in the marzipan, then dust with more cinnamon so that they look like potatoes. The best way to do this is one at a time in a very small bowl. Place the marzipanned shape in the bowl, dust with the cinnamon and shake the bowl until the cinnamon coats the marzipan potato.

Arrange seam side down on paper patty cases, and stick slivered almonds in randomly to form “eyes”.

Best served within a few hours of making as the mashed potato causes the marzipan to start “weeping” after awhile.

Honestly though, I don’t think I’ll make this again. It was just a bit too oddball for me. Hey, I’m not averse to veggies in dessert but neither the girls nor Mr. Kitchen Hand were taken with these. It was fun while it lasted though :)

Some potato links:



F is for Faking It

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

We apologise that your regular EOWTTA (Eating Our Way through the Alphabet) segment is unavailable today - P is for Post Postponed. Instead, please accept this MacAttack 3 offering.

Our hosts Deeba and Jamie wanted us to “do something or add something you’ve never done before but have always wanted to try - maybe drying out fruit to create a flavor/color powder, try Italian meringue, try new flavor combos, try getting feet if you've never done that before... or use your macs to create a new dessert. Out with the old, in with the new!"

I had something new: a candy thermometer. The new toy was purchased so I could make the Italian meringue based macarons. This method had intrigued me for awhile – especially the possibility of adding flavouring to the boiling sugar syrup.

Using Zumbo’s candy cane macaron recipe as the base, I added 40ml of strawberry juice (from fresh berries) instead of water to make the syrup. Unfortunately, the flavour wasn’t strong enough and I really should have made a strawberry reduction, but live and learn.

The resulting macarons look perfect don’t they? Such smooth shells, such gentle slopes instead of the peaking I usually get.

Dainty tiny feet.

But it’s all fake! Every single one had sticky innards, most of which were left on the parchment paper and I ended up with hollow shells.

Never mind, I had some leftover strawberry buttercream/frosting in the freezer, so I filled up the hollows and voila, strawberry cream macarons. Aside from a little stickiness, they actually tasted darn good. Shhh…nobody needs to know that these beauties are actually slightly air-headed ☺

I’m definitely going to have to try this method again once I work out how to overcome the sticky problem – I have a feeling it’s oven temperature. Any suggestions? Apart from the stickiness, I really liked how the macaron shells were so ridiculously smooth, and the meringue really holds up well.

If you’re interested in the Italian meringue method, I read up on them here at Melanger , and here at Syrup and Tang.

Till MacAttack 4, stay sweet.

Malaysian Monday 21: Ais Kacang

Monday, January 11, 2010

We needed to cool down on the weekend, and Ais kacang (Ais=Ice, Kacang=legume) sounded like the perfect solution. Well, perfect if you’re willing to brave the “strange” ingredients that make up this dessert. In the end, only MC Senior and I enjoyed the icy treat. MC Junior ate a bit of ice but refused anything else, and Mr. Kitchen Hand was a lost cause.

At first glance, Ais Kacang (sometimes spelt Ice Kacang) looks like a perfectly innocent snow-coneish dessert.  The top half is just shaved ice streaked with colourful sugar syrup and drizzled with condensed milk (or evaporated milk). Two types of syrup are used - a red one (sometimes rose flavoured) and a brown syrup made from gula melaka (dark brown palm sugar).

Ah, but what’s this lurking at the bottom. A mixture of different things : in our case, some boiled red beans (azuki beans), creamed corn, sago pearls, coconut jelly and “grass” jelly. In fact, Ais Kacang is also known as Air Batu Campur (or ABC for short). Air Batu (literally water, stone) is the Malay word for ice, and campur means mixed. This mixture can vary from stall to stall. Red beans and corn are usually requisite – the word kacang (legume) refers to the beans in this dish. Usually attap palm seeds are added (not my favourite so I left them out). Then many variations of jellyish things and sometimes cendol are mixed in. Fancy-schmancy folks also add a scoop of ice-cream on top, a lychee and maybe a handful of crushed, toasted peanuts.

A well built Ais Kacang is truly a sight to behold!

If you’re willing to brave the mix, here’s a general guide to building your own. Feel free to vary the mixture as you see fit.

Ais Kacang

You will need:
Shaved ice (I used the blender to crush some ice-cubes. In hot weather, it helps to chill the blender jug and the bowl that the ice mixture will be put into)

Syrup 1 – boil 1 part sugar to 1 part water (I used 1 cup of each) until the sugar is dissolved, let simmer for a couple of minutes. Cool then add colours and flavours if desired (eg. rosewater)

Syrup 2 – Disolve equal parts palm sugar and water, then boil until syrupy. Leave to cool.

Condensed milk or evaporated milk

Mixture of: Boiled azuki beans, creamed corn, sago pearls, jelly, cendol, lychees, and whatever else takes your fancy.

Coconut jelly and "grass" jelly (also known as cincau - I really don't know what it's made of!)

Place your chosen mixture in the bottom of a bowl or deep glass, top with shaved ice then drizzle with syrup and milk.  Eat if you dare ☺

Stay cool.

Cheery cherry days

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Aaaah, summer - when swimming, picnics and barbecues take centre stage. The season of drowsy days filled with bright light, warm breezes and the glorious colours of stone fruit. Blushing peaches and nectarines, golden mangoes, startling red chunks of watermelon and jewel-like shiny cherries just begging to be bitten into.

Cherries, my favourite of the stone fruit, are ideal for picnics and on-the-go snacking. I also like to eat them cold, straight from the fridge - so juicy and refreshing.  Actually, I like cherries any way they come: in jams, juices, sauces, compotes or covered in chocolate.

Chocolate? Now there’s a combination to think about…

That’s how I came up with this tart – using a chocolate pastry base, a mascarpone cream filling, and a topping of stewed cherries. It was a pretty simple dessert to put together and highly portable. We took this along to a barbecue, I made each component ahead then assembled the tarts when we got to our destination. The resulting tarts looked great and I didn’t have to worry about them breaking apart during the journey.

Hope you’re enjoying some warmth wherever you are.

For the tart shell, I used a basic shortcrust pastry base and swapped some of the flour for cocoa powder.

The mascarpone cream filling is similar to the one found here, with vanilla to flavour instead, and minus the cherries.

For the cherries:

2 cups cherries (pits left in, they hold their shape better this way)
1 cup sugar
½ cup water
juice of half a lemon and a slice of lemon peel
1 cinnamon stick

Place all the ingredients in a pan over low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to a gentle simmer and stir from time to time. When cherries are just tender (about 10 minutes or so), remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Keep simmering the leftover liquid until thick and syrupy (be careful not to overdo it or you’ll end up with toffee). I stored the cherries and the thick syrup separately. The cherries were kept in the fridge and the syrup at room temperature. When needed, place some mascarpone cream into a tart shell, top with a few cherries then drizzle with the syrup.