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Monday, May 30, 2011

.. next Monday for the Muhibbah Malaysian Monday round-up #11.

How’s Monday treating y’all?  Unfortunately, due to a combination of tiredness, busyness and lack of inspiration, I have nothing for you today. Well, when I say nothing, I mean nothing Malaysian.

Instead, please have some very addictive caramel corn. The recipe can be found over at Orangette, and I’d been meaning to make this for the longest time ever. The recipe isn’t too tricky, but you do need a candy/ sugar thermometer to complete it successfully. You’d also need a very large mixing bowl too, otherwise it’s hard to coat the popcorn evenly. (I’d split my popcorn between two bowl). Plus, small mixing bowls = popcorn flying out all over the kitchen floor.

The caramel corn is worth the effort though. Compared to other recipes that I’ve tried, this one stays crisp even after four or five days. And the flavour is far superior. I’ll definitely make it again, but next time, I’d add more peanuts. Just because.

Hope you have a great start to the week, and do keep those entries coming in for the Muhibbah Malaysian Monday round-up #11. If you send your entries in to its(dot)sharon(at)gmail(dot)com by Friday, I’ll be able to include your post. Thank you to all of you who have been supporting 3 Hungry Tummies and I in this venture, we truly appreciate your support :)

(edit: Thank you Jill from Mad about Macarons and Beth from Of Muses and Meringues for letting me know that there seems to be a problem with the comments form. I've just changed it to a pop-up form, and hope that helps. )

I made popcorn from scratch on the stove . To keep it crisp, pour it from the pan onto baking trays to cool. If it stays in the pan, it will absorb the moisture from the steam it released.

Minutes from the Marquise Challenge

Friday, May 27, 2011

Whoops! Almost forgot about Daring Baker’s reveal day today. Funnily enough, I actually finished this challenge long before the deadline. But inertia has struck, it’s Friday night and my brain is distracted by holiday planning. So, apologies for brevity but I’m just going to do this in point form. (Just pretend you’re at a meeting or something).

1. Blog-checking lines: The May 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Emma of CookCraftGrow and Jenny of Purple House Dirt. They chose to challenge everyone to make a Chocolate Marquise. The inspiration for this recipe comes from a dessert they prepared at a restaurant in Seattle.

2.Obligatory pictures:

Challenge variation a (for explanation see 4)

 Challenge variation b (for explanation see 4)

3. Recipe: Available at our hosts’ blogs, or at the Daring Kitchen.

4. Recipe variations: I made a quarter batch of the recipe, and didn’t use any alcohol as I wanted the dessert to be kid-friendly. (Thanks Audax for the recipe conversions). We needed to blow torch the meringue portion of the recipe, but I just used the oven grill for Variation a (below) and for Variation b, I heated a metal skewer on the gas stove and set it onto the meringue to sear marks into it.

Oven-grilled meringue on sugared nut circle.
Seared meringue

Variation a: The chocolate marquise is flavoured with ginger, the meringue with cardamom, the nuts with cloves and cinnamon, and the caramel sauce with tea, ginger and mandarin peel.

Variation b: The “eat your vegetables” attempt. The meringue is flavoured with reduced carrot juice and brown sugar, the caramel made with beetroot juice. The chocolate marquis and nuts as per variation a. What did it taste like? The mini-critics didn’t have a clue they were eating hidden vegetables :) There was a slightly earthy taste to the caramel and meringue but not a flavour that could be pinpointed.

Q: What did the beetroot say to the carrot?

A: Don't dessert me!

5: Find more goodies: Check out the treats made by the rest of the Daring Bakers.

Thanks for a great challenge Emma and Jenny!
Have a great weekend :)

Appendix a: To make the circle, I cut the frozen chocolate marquise with a deep cookie cutter/food ring. After lifting the cutter out, I placed it onto a piece of baking powder dusted with cocoa powder. Then I dusted some cocoa powder onto the top of the ring. Very carefully, I set the cutter over my prepared nut and meringue circles, and nudged it out with a thin metal spatula.

Leftover meringue mixture can be baked on low heat until crisp. Great snacks.

Hey Batter! Batter! Batter*! It's Macattack #19.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

(*Or should that be macaronnage?)

Macarons again, which means it’s macattack time. My post is a wee bit late but I hope dear Deeba and Jamie will forgive me :)  This time, our theme was BALLPARK SNACKS“Put aside all of those elegant flavors, the sophistication and beauty of those little French treats and think junk food!” proclaimed the dynamic duo.

I've never been to a real ballgame, but when I do go, I'll look the part with this souvenior Mr. Kitchen Hand brought back from his trip to NY :)

Well, if sophistication and beauty are not what we are after, then I certainly nailed it. This month, I made some macanotsures (when it’s not quite a macawrong but it’s not quite right either).  I was trying to add some ground popcorn into the almond meal, but who would have guessed that trying to grind popcorn into a fine powder is actually very tricky to do? And it can kill your food processor . At least I think it’s dead, or maybe it’s just sulking and turned itself off for awhile, who knows.

The culprit that killed my machine

Anyway, after much sifting and measuring and checking, then eggwhite beating and finally mixing, I realised my batter was rather too stiff. Forget magma, I was getting wet cement. I’d either messed up my measuring and threw out the ratios (highly likely), or popcorn behaves differently compared to almond meal (also highly likely).

To try and salvage the too stiff batter, I started adding fresh eggwhite, a tablespoonful at a time. This seemed to help, and the final treats resembled macarons, but they had quite funny feet. And the texture is, well, the best way to describe it is “odd”. There’s still the thin, crisp outer part of the shell, but the insides are sort of spongy, as well as a little bit chewy. Rather unusual, but not unpleasant. And to top it all off, the shells are really lumpy and bumpy, thanks to the not-quite-ground popcorn bits.

Popcorn flavoured, hot-dog shaped shells filled with peanut butter cream cheese frosting and nutella. What a mouthful!

Flavourwise though, they rock.  I think I nailed the part about putting aside elegant flavours too. When I offered one to MC Senior, she asked, “What flavour are these?”. My reply of popcorn, peanut butter and nutella evoked a response of, “They’re not very gourmet are they?”.  But she loved them anyway.

While these macaron “hot-dogs” probably won’t make an appearance at a sporting arena anytime soon, I figure they’re winners anyway. It doesn’t matter whether you win or look like a macaron, it’s how you taste. Who’s game to take them on?  :)

(For the shells, I used the basic French macaron recipe, removing some almond meal and substituting with ground (stovetop) popcorn.

For the filling, I tweaked a recipe I saw on the back of a Philadelphia cream cheese packet. I beat together about 75g cream cheese, 2 tablespoons peanut butter and two tablespoons icing sugar until smooth. To get the stripe effect, prop the piping bag up in a glass, carefully place the nutella against one side (I used a butter knife for this), then add the icing on the other side).

Malaysian Monday 74: Hainanese Chicken Rice (and a poaching success story.)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Happy Monday everyone.

The falling temperatures have had me craving some comfort food lately. When I think comfort food, I always think of rice. Or soup. Well, this dish has both. Add some juicy poached chicken and a spicy sauce, and the cravings were well satisfied.

Actually, I had been too nervous to try cooking this meal before, although the recipe is quite simple. The reason for this reticence has been my inability to poach chicken. I know, it’s such a fundamental kitchen task, a cooking rite of passage, and one I had not been able to master until now. Sure, I could make macarons and knead bread by hand, but every time I attempted to poach chicken, I ended up with tough, rubbery poultry.

But when I flicked through my little book of Malaysian hawker recipes (Hawkers Delight, compiled by Jabbar Ibrahim, published by S. Abdul Majeed & Co.), I read some instructions that sounded as if they were tailor made for me. “Do not cover the pot while it is boiling (this prevents the chicken from hardening)”. And as simply as that, my non-poaching days were over.

And now my post is over too.

Before I leave you with the recipe, please keep those lovely submissions heading this way for the Muhibbah Malaysian Monday round-up #11. Just email me at: its(dot)sharon(at)gmail(dot)com. Remember, anyone can play, you don’t have to be Malaysian. If you are interested in a Thai style chicken rice, check out the post over at my friend 3 Hungry Tummies’ blog. Suresh is a Muhibbah Malaysian Monday co-creator.

Hainanese Chicken Rice
(adapted from  Hawkers Delights)

Before I started, I looked up other Hainanese Chicken Rice recipes online, just to make sure the recipe I was working to was accurate. Along the way, I found an interesting step for exfoliating chicken at Jaden’s blog, Steamy Kitchen. Honestly, I’ve never thought about rubbing down my chicken before, but I gave it a go anyway. Not entirely sure it made a difference to the cooked bird, but it was a very interesting experience ;).

The recipe might seem long, but it’s simpler than it looks. Basically, we first poach the chicken, then use the poaching water to make stock. The stock is added to the rice and the sauce, and served on the side a soup.

Start with the best chicken you can find. Obviously the more free-rangi-er and organic-er the better.

The chicken and the stock
1 whole preferably free range/ organic chicken - mine weighed about 1.5kg
2 stalks spring onions (sometimes called shallots)
1 piece of ginger about 2.5 cm long
1 garlic clove
shaoxing rice wine (optional)
additional vegetables/ flavouring for the stock - I used a carrot and some coriander roots
2 tablespoons light soy sauce mixed with about a teaspoon of sesame oil to brush on the chicken.

(Feel free to change the amounts as you see fit).

Fill a large pot with water (making sure that the whole chicken can fit in the pot, submerged), add in the spring onions, ginger and garlic, and bring to the boil. Clean the chicken, exfoliate if so inclined. I also remove the bishop’s nose - some folks consider this a delicacy, I find it too oily. (The bishop’s nose is the pointy oil gland on the chicken’s behind/ tail region). I also rubbed rice wine all over the chicken, another tip I picked up from Steamy Kitchen, although this step wasn’t in my recipe.

When the water is boiling, carefully lower the chicken into the pot, and let the water come back to a simmer. Do not cover!! Not unless you want a rubber chicken. Let the water simmer for about 2 to 3 minutes and skim if necessary. Turn the heat off, then cover the pot with a lid and leave to sit for 30 minutes. At this point I ducked out to pick MC Senior up from an activity so the chicken got left in there for probably 40 minutes.

Remove the lid, turn the heat back on and let the water come to a simmer again for another 2 - 3 minutes. Turn the heat off and cover the pot again, and leave for another 30 minutes.

The chicken should be ready by now. To test, pierce the meaty part of the thigh with a sharp knife or metal skewer. The juices should be clear. I also touch the skewer, if it’s really hot, I figure it’s safe :)

Carefully remove the chicken from the pot. I used a slotted spoon and a pair of tongs to maneuver it around. Place the chicken on a plate, brush liberally with the soy sauce/ sesame oil mixture and keep warm, tent with foil if possible. (Technically the chicken is hung on a hook to dry, but even without this step, it will work fine).

Bring the water in the pot back to the boil, add extra stock vegetables, and boil for 10 - 15 minutes. Remove from heat and keep warm. Depends on how much water you started with, you could end up with lots of stock. I saved and froze the leftover stock, so I didn’t season it until I needed to.

The rice

3 cups long grain rice (rinsed thoroughly and drained very well)
4 1/2 cups chicken stock (from above)
(Actually, this makes a whole lot of rice, and we had leftovers for the next day. If only serving a few people, I’d suggest reducing this to about 2 cups rice and 3 cups stock)

2-3 garlic cloves minced finely
a piece of ginger, thumb sized- peeled and minced finely
sesame oil (to taste)
vegetable oil

Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan and fry the garlic and ginger until fragrant. Add the sesame oil and rice, and stir until the rice is well coated. Add the stock and season with salt, then allow to simmer, uncovered, until all the liquid has been absorbed and there are “tunnels” in the rice. Cover the pan tightly and reduce the heat as low as possible, then cook until the rice is done. Fluff with a fork and keep warm.

The chilli sauce.

4-6 fresh long, red chillies (remove the seeds if you like)
1 garlic clove
piece of ginger
pinch of salt and sugar to taste
dash of vinegar (or lime juice)
chicken stock

While the rice is cooking, blitz the chillies, garlic, ginger and seasonings in a blender/ food processor until fine. Add the vinegar and the stock, and mix well. How much stock to use is up to you depending on the kind of consistency you fancy, I used about 2 tablespoonfuls.

To serve:
coriander leaves to garnish the soup
thick dark soy sauce (caramel soy sauce) to drizzle over the rice
sliced cucumbers
sliced tomatoes

Slice the chicken, serve it with the rice, tomatoes and cucumber. Serve the sauce and small bowlfuls of the stock/soup on the side (season first). Depending on where you come from, you either have the chicken rice as is, or drizzle lots of dark soy sauce over the rice before eating. I go the sauce :)

Have a great start to the week!

Toothy on a Thursday

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I had a funny dream last night. Or rather, early this morning. I’m not the sort of person who actually remembers any dreams but this must have been one of those you have on the brink of waking and then remember in technicolour glory.

Anyway, there I was walking back from the shops (in my dream), when I met Mr. Kitchen Hand and the MCs at the top of our driveway. Apparently we had to go to the nearby cafe for breakfast because he’d just injured himself and we couldn’t have breakfast at home. (So food obsessed right? Best way to deal with emergency is to head to the nearest cafe).

Upon quizzing Mr. Kitchen Hand, I learned that he had used a faulty electric toothbrush (still dreaming here, we don’t own electric toothbrushes) which electrocuted his jaw and caused a molar to eject painfully from the gum! (Stay with me here).

So we needed to go to the cafe as he needed to drink an iced coffee. He’d spoken to a friend who had suffered a similar fate (electric toothbrush malfunction causing gum ejection), and was advised that he needed to eat lots of ice to combat the effects of electrocution.

The dream ended with me trying to explain Mr. Kitchen Hand’s predicament to the receptionist at the Doctor’s office. She couldn’t stop laughing. Last thing I remembered before waking up, was joking about how at least the injury “wouldn’t affect his bluetooth communication”. (blew - tooth, get it?).

When I told Mr. Kitchen Hand about the dream, he just looked at me funny and said, “You were punning in your dream?”

So there you go. Just in case you didn’t realise how terribly addicted I am to bad puns.

What has the dream got to do with the cookies in the photos is anybody’s guess. Perhaps I could tie it in by telling you these are the kind of cookies you’ll dream about. Or at least the kind your child’s friends beg for a taste of in the playground. I feel really cruel because I’d love to send lots in for MC Senior to share with her friends but the school has a “no-sharing food” policy (in case of allergies). I’m quite sure she surreptitiously snuck a couple of bites to her closest pals though (friends with no dietary restrictions of course!).

Please head over to my friend Hungry Dog’s place for the triple chocolate walnut cookie recipe. It’s from her cousin, who adapted a recipe by Martha Stewart. I followed every instruction precisely, except I swapped pecans for walnuts. And I baked one batch nut-free so MC Senior could take it to school. I found that these cookies actually taste better the next day, after the flavours get to mature a bit. And please use the Dutch processed cocoa, it really makes a difference.

Enjoy the rest of the week, and sweet dreams :)

Malaysian Monday 73: Kai Tan Koh (Steamed sponge cake).

Monday, May 16, 2011

Happy Monday everyone,

Here’s something sweet to start off the week. It was a busy weekend, so I was flicking through Mum’s recipe books trying to find something speedy to make. My attention was caught by the words Kai Tan Koh (translation, Kai = chicken, Tan = egg, Koh = cake, I think). This light, fluffy steamed sponge was a favourite snack when I was a kid. Mum often bought a slice or two from the markets for tea time.

The recipe also caught my eye because one of the ingredients was ice-cream soda or creaming soda. I remember enjoying this as a kid, it was a mild-flavoured, clear drink. When I went to hunt it down, I discovered that the Australian version is pink! I wasn’t sure that we’d drink the leftovers so I swapped with soda water instead, and just added a bit more sugar to the ingredients.

After reading through the recipe I realised it would make quite a lot of cake. Actually, come to think of it, a lot of the recipes in Mum’s books are for huge amounts. I wonder why? Maybe people shared food more often? So I had to reduce the quantities a little, and aside from a tiny bit of sunkenness at the top of the cake, I thought it was really close to what I remembered. Soft, sweet, moist and very easy to eat.

The top sunk a little bit, oops

But when I looked online to try and figure out how to spell the cake properly, I came across a couple of posts which mentioned that a “proper” kai tan koh had to “smile” (split at the top), like a pound cake. Or like a steamed rice cake, remember these?

Since the cakes were so speedy to whip up, and proved very popular with everyone in the family (gosh, even Mr. Kitchen Hand ate some and thought it was good), I tried making another batch to see if I could get it to split. This time I re-jigged the ratios, making it similar to a pound cake, you know, 2 eggs, 2 oz flour etc. Sadly, this second attempt sank even lower than the first, and the taste and texture was nowhere near as nice as the first one. Which just goes to show, sometimes one should leave well enough alone.

Attempt number two sunk even more!!

I have a feeling my first cake didn’t split because the cake pan was too tall and narrow, and the batter took too long to cook in the middle. Perhaps a shallower pan may have helped. The issue here was trying to find a pan that would fit into my steamer. I’m going to have to experiment again to see if I can make the cake split. If you have any ideas, please feel free to share.

In the meantime, I leave you with the recipe I tried. I have a feeling you could reduce the amount of soda water slightly and still be fine. If you would like a recipe that doesn’t use soda, you could try this one at No Frills, or this one at My Kitchen Snippets. Happy cooking.

And please keep those entries coming for our Muhibbah Malaysian Monday round-up #11. Suresh from 3 Hungry Tummies and I appreciate all your support. I’m your host for this month so email the information about your posts to its(dot)sharon(at)gmail.com. Thank you and have a great start to the week!

Number one was much better, and tastier too

Kai Tan Koh (Steamed sponge cake)
If you’ve been wanting to try your hand at an Asian dessert, this is probably the least “scary” of them all. It’s just like a very moist sponge.

3 eggs (at room temperature)
4.5 oz plain flour - sifted
1 1/2 cup sugar
150ml soda water (or cream soda or lemonade) - if you do use cream soda or lemonade, decrease the sugar by 1/4 cup
dash of vanilla extract

First of all, find a suitable mould/ cake tin that will fit inside a steamer. Prepare the steamer and start heating the water. Lightly grease the cake pan.

Beat the eggs and sugar together until very thick and light. The mix should be able to fall in a thick stream from the beaters. It took roughly 8-10 minutes when I did it using my hand held electric beaters.

Add in the soda  and vanilla extract, and beat quickly so that it is mixed in well. Don’t overbeat and try not to knock any of the air out.

Sift the flour over the egg mixture, and using a thin plastic spatula, carefully fold in the flour using figure of 8 motions. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl too, making sure to incorporate all the flour while keeping as much of the air in as possible.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and steam until the cake is cooked. It took about 25-30 minutes for me. (Test with a skewer, it should come out relatively clean, one or two clinging crumbs is fine)

Feeling tarty and spreading the love

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Where on earth did the week go? I was hoping to get to my beloved blog on Wednesday, or at least Thursday, but life happens, right?

What do you bake when the week is speeding by and you feel like something lush and desserty? Perhaps something like this pineapple and gingernut tart/ pie? The base is the standard crushed biscuit (cookie) base but instead of using something plain like graham crackers, I used Gingernuts. I don’t often buy sweet biscuits from the shops/ supermarkets because we prefer the taste of home made. The only exception is Gingernuts - there’s something about the almost tooth-breakingly hard texture that gets to me. I love dipping them in a cup of tea until they are soft enough to eat.


Spread the crust with a dreamy creamy filling and top with a zingy fruity topping, and you get a pretty snazzy dessert in next to no time.

And speaking of time (you like how I did that?), it’s high time I did a quick shout out to a few fellow bloggers.

First up, is Cheah from No Frills Recipes who is an ardent supporter of our Muhibbah Malaysian Monday project. She tagged me in a Easter meme but I ran out of time to respond, so this mention is hopefully the next best thing :)

Next, I need to say a big thank you to Diyana from Kebun Malay-Kadazan Girls who sent me a whole lot of lovely seeds for the garden. I’d won them in a Save the Bees giveaway on her blog. If you haven’t had a chance to visit her gardening site, I do urge you to pay a visit, you’ll be amazed at the number of edibles she grows in her garden.

The seeds

Some seedlings have sprouted (calendula)

Finally, I just wanted to mention Fiona from Life on Nanchang Lu, for no particular reason really, except that I really enjoy her blog. She writes an expat-eye-view of her life in China, her blog is full of interesting photos, anecdotes, travel tales and of course, food (she's a VERY brave eater). Did I mention she’s a fellow Aussie?

Of course, there are so many other bloggers out there who never cease to amaze and inspire me, and I don’t want any of you to feel left out, so even if I didn’t mention you by name, consider yourself loved :)

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Just wanted to share this photo of a very serious faced chef - she's helping Mr. Kitchen Hand make pizza (I get the night off, woo hoo!).

Pineapple gingernut pie

(I found that eaten straightway, the crust sticks to the teeth a bit. After a day in the fridge, the crust softens (thanks to the filling) and won’t stick. Either let the tart mature, or use a few plain biscuits with the gingernuts to counteract the sticky teeth syndrome, if it bothers you).

19-20 Gingernuts (1 packet contains 20, so either use them all or eat one - cook’s perks)
60g butter, melted

Process the gingernuts until you get fine crumbs. There should be about 1 3/4 cups worth. Place in a bowl and mix the melted butter in thoroughly.  (edit: forgot to mention you need to press the crumbs into a pie dish, but I'm sure you know this right?) Bake at about 170˚C for roughly 5 minutes. Set aside.

(Modified from a recipe for Cream Cheese Pie found at allrecipes. I reduced the measurements because I'm not a fan of a huge amount of cream cheese, I find it a bit cloying. This reduction in quantities yields a shallower tart/pie.)

250g cream cheese (1 packet) - room temperature
1/4 cup coconut milk
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoon honey
dash of vanilla essence

(Check the recipe link for more thorough instructions). Beat the filling ingredients together until smooth, pour into the crust and bake at approx 170˚C until set (about 35 minutes). Keep an eye on this as the top can get browned quickly, as happened to mine! Cover loosely with foil if needed.

3/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoon brown sugar
cooked fruit of choice - I used some cooked pineapple (chop 2 cups of fresh pineapple roughly, add a couple of tablespoons sugar, or to taste, simmer on low heat until tender. It took about 10 minutes. Let cool before using).

Mix the sour cream and brown sugar together. Spread this creamy topping over the cooked filling, then cover with the fruit and bake for a further 5-10 minutes. Cool before attempting to cut. Tastes great slightly warm or even cold, straight from the fridge.

Malaysian Monday 72: Homestyle fried fish with crispy ginger.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Whew, Monday again (well, it was Monday when I tried to upload this, before the tech gremlins hit). How are you all doing?

Today’s MM post is one of those home-style, everyday type dishes I talked about a while back when I made the green bean omelette.

That's the tail end of the fish. Unfortunately, the photo of the whole fish was just a bit too scary to use, cos it lost its skin :)

I got to thinking about this because it was Mother’s Day yesterday. And you know, I thought of my mum. She lives an eight hour plane trip away, so we didn’t get to spend time with her, and we couldn’t even Skype (technical difficulties over there), so all she got was text message! Sorry mum.

Anyway, this dish reminds me of my mum, and eating lunch with my brother after school. Back then, the school day started at about 7.45am and ended at about 1-ish in the afternoon. We had recess around 10.30, and went home for lunch. That was if we were in the morning session. Due to lack of space/ facilities, schools also ran an afternoon session, which went from about 1.30pm to about 6.30pm. Which session you attended depended on what year you were in.

For example, I think I attended morning school sessions in Primary 1, 3 and 5(?), and I can’t even remember when in secondary school! What I do remember is hating the afternoon session because it felt as if we never had any time to ourselves. By the time we got home, it was dinner time and bed time, then when we woke up, we only had enough time to get a bit of homework done before it was time to get ready for school again. Unless you were an absolutely early riser, afternoon school sucked.

But back to the food. As you can imagine, we’d be ravenous by the time we got home, and Mum (bless her), always had a hot meal waiting. Most of the time she cooked, and sometimes she’d pick something up from the market/ hawker stalls. This fish dish was one we had often because, like the green bean omelette, it ticked all the boxes. It was easy and fast to prepare, tasted great, was nutritious and satisfied even picky eaters (that would be my little brother) ;P.

Guess what? I grew this!

Mum always used a fish known as ikan bawal (silver pomfret), but since I couldn’t find it here, I used a small whole snapper instead. Any white fleshed fish would work I think. I’m not writing out a “proper” recipe for this because it all depends on taste, but I’ll explain how I made it.

First I prepared some finely cut ginger matchsticks. Then I cut slits in the thickest part on the side of the snapper ( to ensure it cooked through), patted it dry and rubbed it with a bit of salt. Then I deep fried the snapper in vegetable oil, at which point, it lost most of its skin because I was a bit impatient and the oil wasn’t quite hot enough. While the snapper was cooking, I heated up a tiny bit of vegetable oil in a small frying pan, added a dash of sesame oil, and when it was hot enough, added the ginger matchsticks, and fried it until the ginger started to turn golden brown. Make sure to remove the ginger from the heat at this point as residual heat from the oil will keep cooking it after.

See? Ginger rhizome with root attached

Then the fish was placed on a serving plate, a dash of soy sauce splashed on, and then the crisp ginger and ginger scented oil poured over the top. Served with rice and a green vegetable, it made a simple but complete meal. (Actually, I would even be happy to serve this fish to guests as part of a dinner menu.)

Have a great start to the week. And remember, if you have any Malaysian dishes/ posts to share, please do send your entry to me at its(dot)sharon(at)gmail(dot)com as I will be hosting the round-up for Muhibbah Malaysian Monday #11. Muhibbah Monday is an event co-created and jointly hosted by Suresh from 3 Hungry Tummies and myself. You can read more about it here.

My ginger patch. Actually ginger is really easy to grow as long as it's pretty warm. Just stick it into the ground and forget about it.

Wedding cupcakes, a show and tell trial.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

No, no, not that wedding.

Remember the wedding I talked about a couple of weeks ago? The one where I obtained a new sister-in-law? Yes, that one.

Well, I made cupcakes for it. The bride and groom were very relaxed about the whole wedding thing, and basically left all cupcake decisions to me. After much deliberation and pre-wedding trials, I ended up making a plain chocolate flavour (who doesn’t like chocolate?), a lemon poppyseed, a raspberry and coconut, and a strawberry and champagne flavour (inspired by this post on NQN).

 Counterclockwise from left: Lemon poppyseed, Chocolate, Raspberry and coconut (decorated with coconut and dried raspberry bits, I dried fresh raspberries in the oven), Strawberry champagne.

The first three I was very pleased with, but I hadn’t really trialled the strawberry one and I wasn’t as happy with it. It was my fault, I’d tweaked a recipe found on the Martha Stewart site by messing around with the egg ratios. I also probably added more strawberry puree than called for. All this made the texture a bit dense and slightly “gluey”, even though the flavour was good.

To try and salvage it, I sliced the cupcakes into thirds and sandwiched with homemade strawberry jam to try and get a more interesting finished product. It was fine and no one else seemed to notice, but I am so glad that I only made 6 of these and actually only put out 3 of them on the cake stand. (MC Senior and I each had one, so I think only one other random person was subjected to it). It’s all well and good when I’m experimenting or baking for myself, but when I bake for other people, I feel extremely mortified if something doesn’t live up to expectations!

At least it looked good! Slivered dried strawberry to decorate, and cream cheese icing flavoured with strawberry puree.

Luckily, the other three flavours went down extremely well, and the stand-out was the raspberry and coconut flavour. It’s from the Women’s Weekly cupcake book, and I tweaked it a little by substituting yoghurt for sour cream, and adding coconut cream as well. Instead of making the cream cheese icing used in the book, I made a simple “buttercream” (icing sugar and butter), and flavoured it with a one (or was it two) tablespoons of thick coconut cream. Mmm, it’s very sweet but I could eat spoonfuls of this stuff!

I made a mini chocolate cake for the top tier, it had windsurfers on it. All the decorations made out of sugarpaste (modelling paste)

For the chocolate cupcake, I used my favourite chocolate pound cake recipe from The Cake Bible, and topped it with dark chocolate ganache. Simple but fantastic. I also turned to The Cake Bible for the lemon poppyseed cake, and made up some cream cheese icing to go on top. ( approx 1 part butter to 3 parts cream cheese, lemon rind, teeny bit lemon juice and enough sifted icing sugar to form a spreadable icing. I tend to stop and check and taste as I go until I get a result I’m happy with).

Another view

Now that the show and tell bit is over, let me tell you a little about the trialling part. Remember last year when I was trialling cupcakes for my brother’s wedding? I had issues with the cupcake wrappers peeling off. At the time, I though the trouble was with the amount of liquid in the cake batter (I still think this may play a part in it though). However, this time, I baked my tried and true cupcakes and they peeled quite badly, prompting a rethink.


This time round, I think the culprits were:

1) Cold batter - I didn’t let the eggs and milk warm up to room temperature, thus accidentally chilling the cake batter.

2) Oven not pre-heated properly - For the trial cupcakes, I was mostly rushing through the baking as it was just test cakes, and unfortunately all the rushing meant I didn’t preheat the oven properly.

3) Pulling the cupcakes out of the tins too quickly - I assumed that leaving the cupcakes in the cake tins would cause them to steam and lose the wrappers more. But I found that if I pulled them out straight away, the hot cupcake sort of lost its grip on the wrappers. Instead, if I left the cupcakes in the pan for about 10 minutes, until they were just warm, the wrappers seemed to stay on better. Anyone know why this is so?

4) Cheap wrappers possibly played a part too.

5) Also, if the cupcakes had not sufficiently cooled, storing them in an airtight container caused them to peel as well.

I made notes!

Actually, for the big day, I intended to remove the cupcakes from the wrapper I baked them in, and to put them into prettier wrappers anyway. So it wouldn’t have mattered too much if the paper had peeled away, but hey, it’s a matter of baking pride, y’know?

Enjoy the weekend, and if I don’t get back on here before Sunday, Happy Mother’s Day to all you lovely mum’s out there!

Malaysian Monday 71: Leng Chee kang

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Happy Monday  Tuesday everyone.

Today’s Malaysian Monday Tuesday offering is a sweet Chinese soup known as Leng Chee Kang. (I think Leng Chee means lotus seed).  As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not terribly organised when it comes to deciding what to cook for these posts. Sometimes, it’s a matter of looking in the pantry for available ingredients to cobble together a last minute dish.

Other times, my decision is based on an ingredient I’ve found while out and about. For example, I was super excited when I spied fresh quail’s eggs at my local Harris Farm outlet, and knew I wanted to make something with them. Then I stumbled upon dried persimmons in the local Asian supermarket, and visions of the sweet Leng Chee Kang dessert/ drink that I used to savour at the hawker stalls of Malaysia popped into my head.

Leng Chee Kang varies from stall to stall, and what you get in the bowl depends on where you are. The stall I most often frequented was at the SS2 hawker centre (a suburb in Petaling Jaya), a location based on its proximity to where I lived and worked at the time. I tried to list as many things as I could remember, but bear in mind, it’s been at least 13 or 14 years since I last ate there so my recollection is probably not perfect!

As far as I can recall, the leng chee kang I liked usually had slivers of dried persimmon, dried longans, lotus seeds, Job’s tears, fox nuts, edible lily bulbs, white cloud fungus, strips of agar-agar, and a quail’s egg.

Counterclockwise from the big white thing at the bottom left: Whole dried persimmon, dried longan, lotus seeds, dried lily bulb, fox nuts (with the reddish skin), Job's tears (looks like large barley grains), Lo Han Guo fruit and dried snow fungus.

Actually, I had trouble naming some of those items even though I recognised them visually.  Luckily, the packet of dried soup ingredients I bought had the ingredients listed by Latin names, so I could find out more about them.

As for the quail’s eggs, I know it sounds a bit odd, but it’s a very common ingredient in these sorts of dessert soups. Quail’s eggs are readily found in Malaysia, especially at the wet markets. I find it quite amusing that over here in Australia, they are seen as exotic, and you’re considered very la-dee-dah if you buy them. When Mr. Kitchen Hand saw the eggs in the fridge, he’d blurted out, “Oooh, fancy!”.

Boiled quails eggs and rehydrated snow fungus

Knowing the ingredients included in a bowl of leng chee kang and actually knowing how to make leng chee kang were two different matters entirely. I had a vague notion that I needed to make the sweet soup base out of dried longans, then add other ingredients to it. My hunch was confirmed when I looked for recipes and found a post over on a blog called Masak-masak (malay word which means cook-cook). I realised I needed to use a dried fruit called Lo Han Quo as well (sometimes spelt Lo Han Ko or Lo Han Guo. Latin name: Momordica grosvenori ).  Next I surfed over to Aunty Lily’s blog and found a recipe for a Lo Han Guo  sweet soup.

Rock sugar and sliced dried persimmon. Rinse the persimmon first to get rid of the white coating.

Using these two recipes as reference, I made a sweet soup base for the leng chee kang, boiled the other ingredients separately, then combined them in a bowl when ready to serve.

And I learnt something new on my blog travels too. I remembered that the leng chee kang I used to eat contained something dark brown and slightly gelatinous which I always thought was a type of seaweed. But I came across a post by Pete, and found out that this “stuff” is from a tree called Scaphium spp (Kembang Semangkuk, literal translation = “swells to fill a bowl”). Further googling led me to the name Malva nuts, though they are really seeds. It is the flesh around the seeds that swell up when soaked in water, and this jelly-like flesh is then added to drinks and dessert soups. 

You can eat/ drink leng chee kang hot or cold. In Malaysia, I would always have it cold as the surrounding temperatures were usually soaring. But this time, I had the soup warm and it made a wonderful afternoon snack, especially soothing to the sore throat I’d been nursing for the last couple of days.

Snow fungus. Trim off the base (yellowish bit). It tastes of nothing much but has a crunchy texture, almost like very thin cartilage!

According to my Mum, leng chee kang is very “cooling”, thus good for a sore throat. I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m no great believer in the heaty/cooling food theory (which exasperates mum quite a lot, earning me the words “Tee-ki” which I think means stubborn/ hard headed). But, I guess the extra fluids and sugar doesn’t hurt in the healing process :)

By the way, you might also come across this dessert spelt Laici Kang (Laici=Lychee). Usually it has the same basic sweet soup base, sometimes without the Lo Han Guo, but with different sorts of add-ins but obviously, lychees are a must.

Thanks for popping by and remember, if you’d like to participate in the next Muhibbah Malaysian Monday round-up (#11), do send your entries to its(dot)sharon(at)gmail(dot)com. Muhibbah Monday is a joint project by Suresh from  3 Hungry Tummies and yours truly. You can find out more about it here.

Have a great start to the week!

Leng Chee Kang

For the sweet soup base

1 Lo Han Guo fruit, tapped with a rolling pin lightly so it cracks a little
4 dried longans (that’s all that came in my packet of soup mix)
approx. 8 cups of water
2 roughly golf ball sized lumps of rock sugar

Place the Lo Han Guo, dried longans and water in a large saucepan of water and bring to the boil. The Lo Han Guo fruit floats, so lightly cracking it, and pushing it under when you first put it in the pan, helps it to stay half submerged in the water. Turn the heat down adn simmer the fruits until the water turns brown and the flavour is released. It took abotu 40 minutes for me. Taste a spoonful or two from time to time to check if it has reached the flavour you want.

The taste is pretty herbal and may not appeal to everyone. The longer you boil this fruit, the stronger the flavour, and it can verge on bitterness, so I’d advise constant tasting.

When the flavour is to your liking, fish out the Lo Han Guo, but leave the longans in there, and stir in the rock sugar. Stir for a bit and let it simmer for another half hour or so. Taste and adjust sweetness if necessary.

To serve, place desired fillings in a bowl and ladle the warm soup over. Add ice-cubes if desired.

For the ingredients to serve in the soup:

To prepare the snow fungus, soak it in cold water until it is soft. Trim of the base, then boil in plain water until ready (about  20 minutes or so).

To prepare dried persimmon - rinse off the white residue and slice into thin slivers.

Boil quails eggs, about 3 minutes for hard-boiled centres. Cool immediately in a bowl of cold water.

For the other ingredients (choose from any or all of the ones mentioned in the post) - I bought a soup packet from the Asian supermarket that contained small amounts of each ingredient. I boiled everything in lots of water and a lump of rock sugar. Some cooks advocate cooking the lotus seeds separately because they take longer to cook, and this way, you don’t turn the other ingredients to mush. I bunged everything in together because I had such a small quantity. Do remember to remove the green shoots from the middle of the lotus seeds (see this post for a photo).

Packets of Lo Han Guo (bottom-l), dried soup mix (bottom-r), dried persimmon (top-r) and snow fungus(top-left.)

Muhibbah Malaysian Monday Round Up 10

Monday, May 2, 2011

Happy Monday everyone,

The Muhibbah Malaysian Monday round up is now live over at 3 Hungry Tummies, so do head on over to check it out.

I'll be hosting the next round-up, (Muhibbah Malaysian Monday #11), so send those entries to its(dot)sharon(at)gmail(dot)com.

Actually, I almost forgot that it was round-up time, and had prepared a Malaysian Monday post, so I'll put it up tomorrow, do swing by to take a look then.