Life’s a Peach (Daring Bakers February Challenge)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Okay, sorry, that was a really bad pun wasn’t it?

Daring Bakers time again, and luckily this time around, I actually made it well before schedule. Although I procrastinated writing the post until today - reveal day. Can’t win ‘em all. :)

I’m going to curb my usual verbosity because I need to get back into the kitchen, we’ve got friends coming over for dinner, and I’m going to attempt a chicken mole, wish me luck!

Alright, first the mandatory blog-checking lines: The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

All I need to tell you is that Panna Cotta is one of my favourite desserts because it is super quick and easy to make, and so smooth and creamy to eat. I made the challenge version of Honey Panna Cotta with Coffee Gelee, and added a splash of Kahlua and served it with a mixed nut praline (cant remember what nuts I used now, I think there were macadamias and cashews in there). Oh my goodness, we were scraping the bottom of the glasses!

I used the challenge recipe for the panna cotta, but winged it for my gelee because I wanted it to be quite bitter to counteract the sweetness of the panna cotta.

Then I decided to make a slightly healthier (only slighty) version using brown sugar, peaches and yoghurt. Yum, another win, the yoghurt version is slightly denser but the flavour is complex with a slight tang.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend and see you (probably late) on Monday. Do check out the Daring Kitchen for the recipe, and see what the other Daring Bakers came up with.

Florentine cookies - I tried subbing brown sugar with caster sugar for a first batch - disaster. For this batch I followed the challenge recipe, but added an extra 3 tablespoon of oats because the batter looked too runny. The finished cookies remind me a lot of Anzac biscuits, minus the coconut. Oh, and I used golden syrup instead of the corn syrup required in the recipe.

(I was hoping to be able to give you a recipe for the Brown Sugar and Yoghurt Panna Cotta, but I can’t find my notes. I’ll tell you what I did and hopefully you can take it from there. First I skinned two peaches by cutting a cross on the bottoms of them, then dunking them in boiling water. Once out of the hot water, I plunged the peaches into cold water to stop them from cooking. Then I peeled and sliced them thinly. I put the slices into a large bowl, made some simple spiced sugar syrup (1 part sugar, 1 part water, 1 cinnamon stick), then poured the hot syrup including the cinnamon stick, over the fruit and left to cool. I actually made these peaches the day before and left them overnight for the flavours to infuse. This makes more peaches than needed, but the fruit is great spooned over plain yoghurt, or ice cream or even cooked oats for breakfast.

The next bit is pretty simple, I replaced the cream in the original recipe with yoghurt, however, it wasn’t an equal substitution. Because yoghurt is thicker and denser, I used less yoghurt and more milk, but I can’t quite remember what my ratios were. I replaced the honey with brown sugar, and added a dash of ground cinnamon to the mixture too. To make the panna cotta, arrange drained peach slices prettily in a glass and pour panna cotta mixture in, and refrigerate until set.)

Love conquers...

Friday, February 25, 2011


Mactweets time again, and a pattern repeats itself,  Deadline today? Start making macarons today. Which explains the night time photos.

I’m not sure if it’s the weather, or busyness or just a general feeling of blahness, but my desire to cook, bake and blog has taken a drastic downward spiral of late.

Sure, we’ve had to eat, but I’ve been relying on old favourites, or spur of the moment creations, none of which I’d photographed.

As for writing, it seems frivolous to write an upbeat happy post about baking, when so much of the world is in anguish.

But baking is what I did, 3 dozen cupcakes for Mr. Kitchen Hand to take to a work function. It seemed to be the “unbalanced force”* I needed to pull me out of the “state of rest” I’d fallen into.

Three different flavoured cupcakes: chocolate with whipped chocolate ganache, lemon poppyseed with cream cheese frosting, and green tea cupcakes with black sesame and white chocolate icing) I had leftover icing, so made green tea macarons to fill. Love the combo, but need to tweak the icing, it's a bit too sweet still).

I’d forgotten how peaceful time spent in the kitchen could be. A chance to switch off the brain and concentrate on the task at hand. I’ve fallen in love all over again. With blogging, and baking and cupcakes and macarons.

Green tea macarons  (I used the ratios I mentioned in last month's macaron post, and added 2 scant tablespoons green tea powder.) .

Have a safe and happy weekend wherever you are. (The Red Cross has set up an NZ Quake appeal for anyone who'd like to help)

Two halves make a whole (terrible pic, hope to upload better one tomorrow) (Not sure that my daytime pics are any better, oh dear)

Malaysian Monday #65 : Malaysia Kitchen Australia event.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Hi everyone, Monday again huh?

As you’ve probably noticed, the blog-pantry has been rather bare of late. Not quite sure where my baking/cooking mojo has gone, I didn’t even attempt anything remotely Malaysian over the weekend. Luckily, I still have something yummy for you today.

It’s the Malaysia Kitchen food market event that was mentioned in my previous Malaysian Monday post. Over three days last week (Wed night to Friday night), a little laneway behind the State Theatre, in the Sydney CBD, was transformed into an “eat street” serving up tasty Malaysian fare. The event was part of an initiative created by the Malaysian External Trade Development Commission (MATRADE ), which aims to promote and raise awareness of Malaysian cuisine.

Actually, the event started with a media launch on Tuesday night, involving the fooderati of Sydney.  Only glamourous foodies need apply (I’m sure my invitation to that event got lost in the mail  *wink*. :P).

If you want to sticky beak and find out what happened during the launch, you can check out this You Tube clip. Some prominent Malaysians (and ex-Malaysians) can be spotted in the crowd, including chef Cheong Liew, and Chef Wan. Blogger chocolatesuze also makes an appearance (what’d I tell you? Glamourous).

The food looked great didn’t it? Lucky little me, I actually got a chance to sample some of the tastiness, thanks to an invitation from Ogilvy PR 360 to drop by on one of the nights the event was open to the public. Even the threat of imminent rain and lack of a baby-sitter didn’t stop me from making my way to a Thursday night tasting.

There are either a lot of Sydneysiders interested in Malaysian cuisine, or a lot of homesick expats out there wanting to indulge their cravings. Probably  a little bit of both, because the queues throughout the event were really, really long and quite a few people had to be turned away.

Why the sad face little MC Junior?

Oh, I see. there's a very long queue!

Luckily, my invitation wasn’t a figment of an overactive imagination and after I wrangled the two kids past the bemused door-guardian man, we were let in, only to join another queue inside. Again, my luck held and we ended up being part of the first sitting.

Ah, light at the end of the tunnel.

Soon, dishes of food started appearing before us. On the Thursday night, we were treated to taster plates of Char Kway Teow (fried flat rice noodles) from Kuali , Nasi Kunyit and Beef Rendang (Tumeric rice and dry beef curry) from Kaki Lima, Nasi Lemak (Coconut Rice) from Jackie M. and Satay and Roti (Meat skewers and flatbread) from Mamak.

Have some char kway teow and cheer up.

Or maybe some Nasi kunyit, om nom nom.

But leave all the rendang for Mummy ok. Because I said so.

Tucking into familiar flavours on that warm and muggy evening in a narrow laneway with paint peeling off the walls, while listening to an eclectic selection of Malaysian music, I felt temporarily transported to the country of my birth. Even MC Senior remarked on how Malaysian it all felt.

Look, you can have some Nasi Lemak. (We were served portions for sharing amongst the three of us)

The food was definitely authentic, and mostly delicious. My favourite was the Nasi Kunyit and Rendang. However, due to the sheer volume of food being prepared and plated, all the dishes arrived on the cool side, which suited some food better than others. For example, the noodles had started to clump together a little, which made it hard to enjoy. I’d been chatting to the couple next to me throughout the sitting, acting as a bit of a culinary interpreter, and I noticed that the man couldn’t quite bring himself to finish the roti canai, even after dousing it in sauce. Which is a shame as I knew that these roti came from Mamak, and when you have it piping hot at the restaurant, roti is a thing of beauty :)

And roti.

Still, the tickets to the event cost $10 (drinks were extra) and I think I would have been satisfied with the variety, flavour and size of the four taster plates if I had actually paid my own way. I think the event did succeed in promoting new food unfamiliar to non-Malaysians. My dining companions were quite taken with the the acar (pickled vegetables ) found on the plates of Nasi Lemak. Even though they had travelled through Malaysia a few years ago, they hadn’t encountered the condiment before.

I was disappointed though that unlike the feast at the launch party, there were no desserts or Malaysian drinks on offer. Teh tarik or teh-o-ais limau would have been very welcome. MC Senior was a little sad too, wailing “but dessert is the best part of the meal!!” (go girl). All was well after I promised her an ice-cream at the Queen Victoria Building across the road :).

We did leave the event feeling very satisfied (and slightly nostalgic), the night was lots of fun and Sydney really needs more of these sorts of dos. Unfortunately I don’t think we have enough laneways big enough to accommodate the crowds. Perhaps a market stall/ hawker stall event like Malaysiafest might be a better way to go? Please invite me along to the next one?

If you’re not in Sydney, you can visit the Malaysia Kitchen website to find out what’s happening in your part of the world. The menu bar lists Malaysian restaurants around the globe, so if you’re interested in trying Malaysian food, why not check to see if there’s a restaurant where you live?

If that fails, you could always try cooking a Malaysian meal at home, then post it on your blog and join our Muhibbah Malaysian Monday event. This time around (#8), the round-up will be hosted by Suresh of 3 Hungry Tummies . Please send your entries to sureshchong(at)yahoo(dot)com.

Have a great start to the week :)

Malaysian Monday 64: Some bunny loves me (two types of Steamed Buns)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Monday and Happy Valentine’s Day if you go in for that sort of thing.

No flowers or hearts over at the Skewer House, but I couldn’t resist a bit of cuteness over the weekend. Look! Bunny shaped steamed buns.  I’d been flicking through a book called Delicious Dim Sum (recipes by Chin Woo Loong) when I first saw them. You could say it was love at first sight :).

The method intrigued me because the dough isn’t “proved” at all, which I thought was a little unusual for a yeast dough. But then again, I haven’t really made steamed buns very often, so I wouldn’t know what’s the norm.

These buns are filled with a sweet lotus paste, and I thought I’d try my hand at making my own. Only because I couldn’t find any ready-made, not because I’m slightly masochistic ok? I used 100g dried lotus seeds, and consulted a couple of recipes found here and here. After recalculating the ingredient ratios, I also made a couple of changes:

1) I soaked the lotus seeds for about 6 hours in cold water to reduce boiling time.
2) Instead of alkaline water, I added a pinch of baking soda when boiling. This is supposed to help soften the seeds easily. I’d heard that this method decreases the nutritional value of food, but hey, no one ever said these buns were meant to be healthy!
3) Instead of peanut oil, I used sunflower oil as it tastes quite neutral.
4) Instead of maltose/ honey, I used golden syrup, and omitted the condensed milk.
5) The resulting paste wasn’t as fine as could be, so I pushed it through a sieve.

Dried lotus seeds (ready skinned). Make sure to remove any skin and the green shoot in the middle otherwise the paste will be bitter.

I ended up with about a cupful of lovely lotus seed paste. The paste cooked really quickly after the initial sugar-caramelisation process, and I’d definitely make it again.

The baby bunny buns were also quite quick to throw together, and were eaten even faster! The MC’s loved them so much, I decided to make a different type of steamed bun known as mantou. Chocolate Mantou. And then I hit upon either a fusion faux-pas or brilliant mash-up depending on your point of view : Nutella filled steamed buns.

I’m going with brilliant because they.were.awesome. Imagine a warm, soft sweet bread filled with melting Nutella. I repeat. Awesome. (Pity I didn’t make them in time for World Nutella Day.)

So, forget the box of chocolates today, if you want to impress, try your hand at Nutella filled steamed buns :).
By the way if you live in Sydney, and would like to try some Malaysian food, there’s a Malaysian food market on this Wednesday (16th) to Friday (18th) , at the State Theatre Laneway. Find out more here. .

And, how about spreading some Malaysian food love? Join our Muhibbah Malaysian Monday event. This time around (#8), the round-up will be hosted by Suresh of 3 Hungry Tummies . Please send your entries to sureshchong(at)yahoo(dot)com.

And cos I love you dear readers, here’s a recipe for:
Chocolate Mantou dough :)
The bunny dough is pretty similar but has added shortening, and no proving time, I’ve added that information below as well.
(adapted from Delicious Dim Sum, compiled by Wong Kee Sum, recipes by Chin Woo Long)

For the dough:
300g low protein flour (cake flour). I initially made my bunnies with AP flour and they were fine but I found I had to add lots of water to the dough.
5 gm instant yeast (just under a sachet. Our sachets weigh 7g)
70g sugar
5g baking powder
112g lukewarm water (about 1/2 cup) - I found I needed more both times. At least 1/4 cup more in both cases, definitely more when using AP flour.
for chocolate mantou: about 3 teaspoons cocoa powder, mixed into a paste with 3 teaspoons boiling water (may need teeny bit more water).

Place sugar, yeast and 1/2 cup water in a bowl or jug and leave for five minutes. (You don’t really need this step when using instant yeast but I like to do this to check if my yeast is still “working”).

Place flour and baking powder into a large bowl (I also added a pinch of salt), make a well in the centre and add all the water. Mix well then knead until a smooth dough is formed (took me at least 10 minutes hand kneading). I also found at this stage I needed to add more water, a tablespoon at a time.

To make the mantou, divide the dough in half. Leave half the dough plain, and mix the other half with the cocoa powder paste until well incorporated. Roll out the plain dough into a rectangular shape. Roll out the cocoa dough into roughly the same size and shape, then brush the plain dough with a little water and place the cocoa dough on top and press down lightly.

Layers of dough and impatient testers

Trim the edges (I used a pizza cutter), and save the offcuts to make Nutella filled buns :). Roll up from the longest sides (like making a swiss roll), then use a sharp knife to slice pieces off the roll. I ended up with about 7 pieces, these end up being the mantou, so make them the size you want your mantou to be.

Leave the mantou to prove for about half and hour.

Steam the rolls without crowding as they expand when cooked. I cooked mine in batches. To test if cooked, carefully press one, it should bounce back. My rolls took about 6-7 minutes to cook.

Serve warm.

Save any leftover rolls in an airtight container in the fridge. Make sure to steam and reheat before serving. Cold steamed buns aren’t very appetising.

To make the bunnies, add about 1 tablespoon vegetable oil when mixing the dough. The recipe called for shortening but I didn’t have any. Roll the dough into a long log, then cut pieces off the log.  Flatten the pieces into circles, place a little lotus seed paste in the middle and pinch the endges together to seal. Run a little water around the edges to help stick. Shape the balls of dough into ovals, then steam straight away until cooked (about 7-8 minutes for me).

When cooked, and cooled, use some scissors (I used a sharp knife, it worked better) to cut ears and a tail. Stick on some black sesame seeds for eyes (i just dabbed on some water and it stuck).

When life gives you green tomatoes,

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Make chutney.

But before we get to the chutney, how about a tour of the kitchen garden? Admittedly, I use the word kitchen garden very loosely. I have this fantasy of a garden filled with lush herbs spilling over the edges of paths. Verdant salad greens peeping over the tops of beautiful terracotta containers. Row upon row of feathery carrot tops and bright, flashy beetroot leaves jostling for space. And a tall bamboo teepee standing majestically in the centre of this plot, covered with climbers unfurling their curly little tendrils towards the sun.

The reality is a very tiny courtyard garden crammed higgeldy-piggeldy with plants. A teensy area starved for sunlight, in the path of occasionally ferocious winds. And to top it all off, my arch nemesis Mr. Possum attempts to foil my every gardening move.

The tiny garden has been accidentally taken over by a pumpkin plant I optimistically planted.

Possible pumpkin (if possum doesn't get to it first)

But, no matter how meager my harvest, or how often I stand out there in the early morning railing against the *%$#@!!! hungry creatures who visited during the night, I continue to soldier on. There’s just something about growing attempting to grow my own food that is highly addictive.


This is what Mr. Possum does

Enough of my sob gardening story though, let’s return to the food. I’d found myself with a glut of green tomatoes because we’d returned home from our Christmas holidays to a couple of dying tomato plants (yes, this isn’t exactly the freshest post). The poor plants were beyond redemption, so I pulled them out, and carefully stripped each salvageable tomato off the vine.

A lot of the tomatoes were too small to really use for anything else, so I thought about preserving them. After looking up a couple of recipes (from Stephanie Alexander and Madhur Jaffery), I couldn’t quite find exactly what I wanted, so I cobbled together my own version of chutney.

I was hoping for a more vibrant green colour but I think the vinegar bleached the tomatoes somewhat. However, it tastes pretty much how I hoped it would. Sweet but tangy, with a little kick from the dried chillies.

Not a great looker but something I’m quite proud off. A bit like my garden really :).

Have a great weekend and happy gardening (if you’re that way inclined).

Green tomato chutney

approx 8 cups/ 950g (1 cup=250ml) green tomatoes, chopped, deseeded if possible. I left most of the seeds in, the tomatoes were too green and little.
6 cloves garlic - finely minced
chunk of ginger (length of my thumb) finely grated
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tsp fennel seeds toasted
grated rind of 1 lime
juice of half lime
1/2 tsp ground coriander
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar (120g)
2/3 cup vinegar (150ml)
pinch of cayenne pepper
3 small dried chillies (I shook the seeds out first).

Prepare some jars. I do this by washing jars (and lids) in hot soapy water, then rinsing with boiling hot water, then laying them on their sides to dry in a low oven (about 120˚C). I try not to handle the jars if possible, instead I use a pair of metal tongs that have been washed in boiling water first. I leave the jars in the warm oven until needed. The lids I leave to air-dry.

This is probably not the most fool-proof method but I only ever make small quantities and store the finished jars in the fridge anyway.

To cook the chutney, place everything in a large saucepan, cook gently and stir until the sugar dissolves. Then turn up the heat a little and simmer until the chutney is thick (took about 45mins to an hour). Spoon hot chutney into jars and seal. Leave to cool before storing in fridge.

If you want to keep the chutney for a long time, it’s best to process them in a hot water bath.

This quantity filled 2 and a half odd sized jars.

I had 5 of these tiny dwarf eggplants in a pot. Mr. Possum ate 4 of them one night when I forgot to cover it.

This is a very welcome and quite rare garden visitor. A blue banded bee :)

Muhibbah Malaysian Monday Round-Up #7.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Happy Monday everyone, and if you are celebrating the lunar New Year, we hope you are enjoying the festivities.

Thanks again to all of you who took the time and effort to join us for Muhibbah Malaysian Monday. It was great to receive all your entries and we appreciate each and every one of them – from our supporters who have been with us right from the start, to the newcomers who have recently joined us.  Here’s to many more tasty treats!

Before I plate up the delicious contributions this month, a quick reminder.  We try to keep the “rules” simple – there are just  three steps that we would like you to take when you post an entry to Muhibbah Malaysian Monday.

1)Please display a Muhibbah Monday badge on that post (you can grab the pic of the badge off either my blog or 3 Hungry Tummies blog).

2)Please link back to both Test with Skewer (my blog) and 3 Hungry Tummies (Suresh’s blog). If you’re not quite sure how to do that, here’s a simple sentence that many use: “I’m sending this to Test with Skewer and 3 Hungry Tummies for Muhibbah Malaysian Monday”. 

3)Don’t forget to send an email to the host for the month,  and include a link to your post.

All done.

Thanks for bearing with me, now bring on the food!

Lena, from Her Frozen Wingssent us some spicy sambal squid. A simple but oh-so-tasty dish that utilises homemade “sambal” paste.

She also made some chicken rice balls. What balls? Ah, you’ve heard of chicken rice right? Well, make the rice into spheres and you get chicken rice balls. Yummy :).

Tina, from My Domestic Bliss contributed a vibrant green kuih (cake) called Binka Pandan. This is a smooth, creamy confection fragrant with the scent of pandan (screwpine).

Next up we have three contributions from Getrude of My Kitchen Snippets

A luxurious dish called Sang Har Mee(freshwater prawn noodles). Just look at those huge prawns!

Then she found a new use for a Takoyaki pan, and made cute little Kaya (coconut jam) balls. (Hmm, anyone detect a theme here? :D).

And back to a luxurious finale with more seafood.  Sweet and sour crab to be exact.  Mmmmm....

Everyone say hello to Charmaine of From Our Kitchen, who joins the Muhibbah Malaysian Monday fun with three entries too.

She also made Sang har meen, and now I’m craving prawns :)

Then she baked sweet Fah Sang Peng (Peanut Cookies) for the New Year celebrations.

She also made some of the very popular Pineapple Jam Tarts. Bet I couldn’t stop at just one of these. 

Aloha! Nate and Annnie from House of Annie who join us again with four posts. Some of you may remember that our third Muhibbah Monday round-up was hosted over at their place.  Nate also recently conducted a short interview with yours truly, so do pop by and check it out.

While you’re there, read about the famous Chendol (ice dessert) in Penang Road.

They also sampled some delicious Nasi Kandar while in Penang. Nasi (rice) Kandar (a way of carrying) was so named because a long time ago, the vendors used to carry their wares around on a stick balanced across their shoulders.

Then they came face-to-face with a Roti Man (Bread Man). What does he do? Read the post to find out.

And find out why they think there's no place like Penang!

Next comes something rib-stickingly comforting from one of our regulars, Cheah of No Frills Recipes. A dish of Pig trotters with black vinegar. She explains that this dish is popular with new mothers.

Jen, from Tastes of Home joins us with Malaysian Kam Heong squid. Kam Heong is a method of cooking that results in a wonderfully fragrant dish. Visit her blog to find out more.

Something sweet next from Sherie of Mameemoomoo, who made Sweet Potato Ondeh-ondeh for us. Did someone say sugar? Oh yum :)

The next person who joins us is a real babe ;) He he. Babe in KL, that’s who! She posted two reviews for us. The first one is of Kashmir Cafe in Petaling Jaya.

And the next review was a special Extravagant 8 menu tasting at Gu Yu Tien restaurant. The food looks incredible and was presented in an exciting way. Babe mentioned that none of the restaurants participating in the Extravagant  8 promotion would be featuring shark’s fin on their menus, which made me do a happy dance.

Special Yee Sang

Looking for something sweet to hit the spot? Try this prune layer cake from Swee San at The Sweet Spot. It looks perfect. Time consuming, but perfect!

Do you love cooking? Love2Cook sure does. And it shows! Take this delicious Manchurian chicken she made for us. Tasty.

If that doesn’t get your mouth watering, check out the Pooris (Indian bread) that her mom made. Lucky girl!

(Ooops! I'm so sorry, I did miss someone). Here's Kristy from My Little Space with three entries.

Look at the texture in this interesting kuih. It's a Pandan (Screwpine) flavoured Ma Lai Ko (Malay Cake).

Kristy also cooked a very delicious Pucuk Paku Masak Lemak (Fern shoots in a creamy coconut sauce). These fern shoots are a real delicacy.

Malaysians love our rice, and one of our favourite dishes is Nasi Briyani (Briyani Rice). Kristy made a yummy serving!

Arrgh!! I cannot believe I accidentally left someone else out. How on earth did I manage to forget  Ju, The Little Teochew? I'm sure most of you would have heard of her and her lovely blog. And you would have already seen the tempting Banana Rum Cake she submitted to our little shindig. Thanks Ju for submitting and for being so patient with me. Apologies again (I made your name extra large to make up for it :) ).

We had a last minute entrant who wanted to participate. Come on down Neev, from Happy Homemade Cupcakes who submitted a post from the past, titled Burnt Sugar Cake.

And of course, last but never least is my friend Suresh, from 3 Hungry Tummies (*waves*) who made my favourite comfort food ever – Ipoh Hor Fun (Ipoh style rice noodles).

He also cooked a luscious looking Tau Yew Bak (Soya Sauce Pork Belly Stew).

And a noodle dish I am surprised to say I had never encountered before:  Fried rice noodles topped with a raw egg. Wow! Learn something new every day eh?

Thanks again everyone, and if I’ve accidentally left anyone out, please send me an email so I can add you on. Next month’s round up will be hosted by Suresh of 3 Hungry Tummies, so please send all your Muhibbah Malaysian Monday #8 entries to sureshchong(at)yahoo(dot)com.