Malaysian Monday 86 : Eye candy

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hi everyone,

First up, thank you to the most loyal of you for still sticking around. I do apologise for my erratic posting and the general slackness in following up comments. This month, life just kind of took over, I’m sure you know what I mean. In fact, I’m guessing a lot of you are probably in the same boat since the Malaysian Monday vault is looking rather forlorn. If you are toying with the idea of joining our Muhibbah Malaysian Monday event, this is the last week to make it for the round-up! I’ll be posting next Monday, so if you can get your entry in by Friday, I’ll add you on.

Now back to this week’s Malaysian Monday dish. It’s a super speedy one - I wanted to make something cool and refreshing, and I’d always wanted to experiment with jelly (agar-agar) decorating. Actually, instead of the more traditional agar-agar, I used konnyaku instead because it sets so clear, and because I like the “bounciness” when you bite into it.

Konnyaku sets really easily and the texture is sort of strange if you're not used to it. Set konnyaku can be peeled off the sides of the pan.

These jellies are really way too simple. The only ingredients needed are water, sugar and the setting agent of choice (agar/konnyaku). Add a dash of food colouring and use a fun mould, and you’ll be churning out lots of colorful eye-candy in no time. Most packets of agar-agar will have a recipe on it, and since that will tell you exactly how much water/ sugar to use, I won’t type out a recipe.

Since I’ve actually featured agar-agar before, I thought I’d show you another “trick” we sometimes use to make agar-agar more exciting. Beat an egg white until thick and foamy, then pour the hot agar-agar liquid into this meringue, keep whisking to incorporate everything evenly. This makes the agar-agar very opaque and imparts an interesting texture, although I suspect the texture would only be appealing to those who grew up with it. It does rather feel as if you’re biting into a sponge. Not a sponge cake, but a scouring sponge! Interesting but very different for most Western palates ;).

Thanks for sticking around, and do send in your entries for the Malaysian Monday round-up to its(dot)sharon(at)gmail(dot)com. My friend Suresh, over at 3 Hungry Tummies, definitely deserves a huge serving of thanks for keeping the wok fires burning while I was off gallivanting :)

Have a great start to the week, and enjoy the last month of the year!

The DB Pinoy Gang

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Hi folks! If you’re wondering about the title, I was trying to come up with some sort of witty word association for “rival”. So I thought of gangs (go figure!). Then I was trying to tie it in to the fact that this post had something to do with Filipino cuisine and it was also part of our Daring Bakers challenge. The fact that I had to explain the whole thing means that I failed miserably. What can I say? My brain is a complicated organ.

Anyhooo, I think our host of this month’s Daring Bakers Challenge does a better job of explaining, so take it away Catherine!

Catherine of Munchie Musings was our November Daring Bakers’ host and she challenged us to make a traditional Filipino dessert –the delicious Sans Rival cake! And for those of us who wanted to try an additional Filipino dessert, Catherine also gave us a bonus recipe for Bibingka which comes from her friend Jun of Jun-blog.

She says, “ Sans rival means “without rival” and any Filipino will argue with you that this is true... A Sans Rival is made with layers of dacquoise, typically using crushed cashews, with very rich French buttercream frosting. The dacquoise is allowed to bake and dry to a crispy layer so that there is the crunch of pastry and nuts with the buttery, silky frosting.”

Oooh, dacquoise I could definitely get behind (daquoise is just a fancy way of saying nutty meringue layer.) French buttercream, I don’t know. It is a sad, deep, character flaw that I really dislike “proper” buttercream. Give me the simple version that uses just icing sugar and butter, and I’ll happily eat a mound of it. But the kind made with eggs always seems to leave too much of a cloying, oily aftertaste for me. Which is strange, because stuff like whipped cream, creme fraiche, mascarpone or any other decadent, creamy food I can eat with no problems.

But in the spirirt of being daring, I made the given recipe anyway. Since I didn’t want too much of a good thing, I halved the daquoise layer measurements, and used just 5 egg whites, and instead of crushed cashews, used grounds almonds which saved me a trip to the store. For the buttercream, I re-jigged the measurements to use 3 egg yolks.

We could flavour the buttercream any way we wanted, and after checking with a few websites to see if it was possible, I let the sugar syrup get to the golden amber/ caramel stage before pouring it into the beaten egg yolks, then added some salt to get a Salted Caramel Buttercream! Apart from a scary hissing sound as the caramel hit the eggs and some minute lumps of hardened caramel in the buttercream, it worked really well. And more importantly, it tasted really good. I can neither confirm nor deny that I licked the beaters.

Some caramel “brittle” to decorate the sides and Pa-dah! One complete Sans Rival cake.

When I greedily cut my first slice as soon as I’d finished layering and decorating  the cake, I was a bit disappointed with the texture of the dacquoise layers. They were chewy instead of crisp. But after I refrigerated the rest of the Sans Rival (uncovered), the layers dried out and crisped up. Brilliant!

The mushy, chewy slice of greed.

So, have I gotten over my dislike of French buttercream? Well, yes and no. I wouldn’t rule it out completely as an acceptable decoration for cake, but I still find it way too rich and can only eat a teeny square of cake before the cloying sensation kicks in. Which is a shame because the flavour of this salted caramel buttercream is just sensational.

Patience will reward you in the end

Thanks for the great challenge Catherine, one day when I have more time, I’ll give the Bibingka a go. Wonder what the other Daring Bakers got up to?

And for my loyal friends who’ve probably been wondering where I’d disappeared over the last week, with nary an explanation, I apologise profusely! We made an impromptu trip out of the country to visit this country. Can you guess where? (If you’re related to me or actually know me personally, you cannot play) ;) I’ve missed reading all your blogs and will remedy the situation very soon!

From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere*

Friday, November 18, 2011

*With apologies to Theodor Geisel

Funny thing number 1: Kohlrabi

So...I know you’re not meant to judge by appearances, but if there was a competition for “Oddest looking vegetable”, I bet kohlrabi would be in with a very strong chance. It’s so alien looking, with all those appendages, and what about the colour?

Not surprising then that I’ve walked past poor old kohlrabi on numerous occasions, not even tempted to pick it up for a closer look. This all changed recently when a particularly interesting specimen was up for grabs at the markets. “Why not?”

What did it taste like? A lot like radish without the peppery bite. I used it in an Asian inspired “slaw” - kohlrabi, carrot, mango and coriander, dressed with a bit of soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil and rice vinegar. A sprinkling of peanuts added some crunch.

I can’t say I was completely bowled over by the taste, but I will definitely buy it again to add some interest to salads. Anyone got any suggestions on what else to use it for?

Funny thing number 2: Jaboticaba

Ok, these guys don’t actually look funny. In fact, they look very appealing, like giant blueberries. Which is why I picked them up impulsively even though I had no idea what they would taste like. “Buy first, google later” was my policy.

Turns out, these are a rainforest fruit also known as Brazilian grape. They even look grape-like on the inside. The taste is very tropical, a mix of tangy and sweet,  typical of many fleshy fruits of this ilk. It reminds me a little of mangosteen and “langsat” (Lansium domesticum).

Apparently the pretty deep purple skin is edible but we found it too tough and also after a lot of chewing it tasted quite tannic and mouth puckering. So we bit holes in the skin and squeezed out the flesh instead. We really enjoyed these and would definitely buy it again, perhaps next time we’ll even cook with them.

And there endeth the funny.

Belated thanksgiving wishes to you, and have a great weekend.

The Force is strong with this one

Monday, November 14, 2011

This isn’t the post you’re looking for (*waves hand like Jedi master*)

Happy Monday everyone! Sorry if you’ve come looking for a Malaysian Monday post, there isn’t one - yet. As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve been a bit distant over the last week, for a few reasons. Mr. Kitchen Hand was away travelling and I was left holding down the fort on my own. I was also busy organising and baking for MC Junior’s birthday celebrations. We held a party for her on the weekend.

So, I do hope you’ll excuse the lack of Malaysian flavours, and accept some food from a far away galaxy instead. She chose a Star Wars theme for her party, but for the sake of her friends with non movie-tragic parents we changed it to a “space” theme instead. The guests made an effort to dress up either in space inspired outfits or royal attire. I loved how everyone got into the spirit and some of the creative costumes that resulted. Let’s just say a lot of aluminium foil and sparkly materials were utilised :). Enjoy the photos and I’ll try to get back to regular posting soon. 

If you saw Darth and a pint sized Leia wandering around your neighbourhood on Sunday, it was just Mr. Kitchen Hand and MC Junior off to get me a coffee :)

MC Senior is dressed as the young Queen Amidala disguised as a handmaiden. MC Junior is wearing a hand-me-down outfit I made for MC Senior. It's basically cut down from a bathrobe I bought at the second hand store. MC Senior wore it forward facing, but then I stumbled upon this awesome clip on how to make perfect Leia hair , and realised if you wear the bathrobe backwards, it looks even better! 

Leia in cupcake form. The MC's really wanted to help, so I let them roll and stick on the "buns" and they drew on faces with edible food colouring pens.

Making Leia "hair" 

I started this off for them by covering each cupcake with some ganache, then a circle of light pink icing, and a "fringe" cut using a circle shaped cookie cutter.

Speaking of cookies...

Of course the Star Wars cookie cutters had to make an appearance right? I didn't want to bother icing them, so I just made the Storm Troopers and Yoda. I added some food colouring to the Yoda cookie dough batch. Too easy.

Labels inspired by a T-shirt we saw one day. 

At most Aussie kids parties, you'll find fairy bread. Here's our version :)

Another Aussie kid snack staple - vegemite on cruskits (sort of airy crackers). I added some cut out cheese men to represent Han Solo.

Great idea I found on Just Jenn Recipes. Edamame/ Soybeans for a healthy party snack.

It's all in a name - just some fancy ways of saying jelly (jello) and melon balls.

More fancy labels :)

And of course, there's cake! A death star, and an ewok (plus a plate of the Leia cupcakes). There are little spacecraft coming off the Death Star. These craft...

The Ewok was carved from 2 square cakes, 1 rounded cake and 1 cupcake stacked on top of each other. I covered the whole lot in ganache, then piped a mix of simple butter icing mixed with varying parts of ganache in it to look like fur. The hood and features were modelled out of fondant, and the spear was a bamboo skewer painted with food colouring.

Then Luke Skywalker showed up! If you live in Sydney and need a superhero, you can find him at Superhero Central. (He's pretty amazing).

Thanks for having a look :)

I’m still your host for the November Muhibbah Malaysian Monday round-up (to be posted on the first Monday of December), so please send in all your entries to : its(dot)sharon(at)gmail(dot)com. And if you haven’t seen it yet, do check out the delectable dishes from the last round-up over at 3 Hungry Tummies.

Have a great start to the week, and May the Force be with You.

Muhibbah Malaysian Monday Round-Up 16

Monday, November 7, 2011

Happy Monday everyone, it's my favourite time of the month - round-up time! Please head over to Suresh's blog, 3 Hungry Tummies, to check out what everyone has been cooking up this time.

Thanks for all your wonderful entries, and keep on cooking because I'll be hosting the next round-up. Please send your entries to : its(dot)sharon(at)gmail(dot)com.

Take care and have a great start to the week :)

Not to be trifled with.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Hands up if you like trifle? Did I just see you pull a face? I’ll admit, the “traditional” trifle of sponge roll, jelly, cream, fruit and custard can be a bit cringe inducing. However, I do admit  having a soft spot for it since we ate it every Christmas.  My lovely aunt (hello Aunty G!) would make a big bowl of it and us kids couldn’t wait to dig into all the layers, especially the brightly coloured jelly (jello).

Now that I’ve grown up and my tastebuds have matured a little bit, I’ve been on the lookout for slightly more sophisticated trifle recipes. Bill Granger has a good Italian version , also known as Zuppa Inglese, that I’ve made a few times to much acclaim (and bowl licking!). I’d cut the recipe out of a newspaper article years ago, but there is a very similar recipe over here. However, this trifle utilises coffee and alcohol, which isn’t too kid-friendly, plus the MC’s have an aversion to custard. (Seriously I am still working out how this has come to pass!).

A few weeks ago, I spotted this Lemon Blueberry trifle recipe in a little pullout cookbook included with my favourite Delicious magazine. The method really intrigued me. The “custard” section is actually lemon juice and sugar, cooked with thickened cream and then set in the fridge. Plus there was lemon curd involved and I loooooove lemon curd. But I must admit I was a bit worried about the enormous amount of dairy involved - would it be too overpowering and cloying?

Since I had friends coming over for dinner, I thought it would be a good time to test the recipe out. (These are very good friends so I have no qualms testing recipes out on them ;) ). Because I wanted the trifle to be a bit special, I made my own lemon curd from scratch. ( This is my favourite recipe). I also made the cake from scratch, using Rose Beranbaum’s Golden Lemon Almond Cake recipe from the Cake Bible.

I put together two little jars minus the alcohol, and layered the rest of the trifle in a big glass bowl, subbing Cointreau for limoncello.

Oh wow! This is an amazing dessert! The tang of lemon definitely cuts through the richness of all that cream. It’s so, SO good. Although I’m not sure if it tasted so sensational thanks to all the home-made components. The golden almond cake is just delish on its own and of course, as mentioned, I love that lemon curd recipe. Anyway, I’ll definitely be making this again, maybe with lime curd instead. And mango. Oh the possibilities.

But Aunty G, if you’re reading this, please don’t stop making your trifle, that’s what memories are made of :)

Have a great weekend friends.

Malaysian Monday 85: No-name spicy potatoes

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Happy Tuesday everyone! (Sorry, it was Monday when I started typing this). Ready for another installment of Malaysian Monday? Today’s dish has no name. Oh alright, it probably has a name, I just don’t know what it is. But if you describe it to a Malaysian, they’ll know exactly what you’re talking about. Since potatoes are a major ingredient, I’m calling it “Spicy Potato Fry”.

My friend Suresh, who incidentally is hosting the next Muhibbah Monday round-up, called it Ikan Bilis Masak Kentang, or Spicy Anchovy and Potato Stir Fry. Even thought I like anchovies, the version I remember from my university days contained tempeh instead. I’m guessing the tempeh was probably cheaper for the canteen management.

As a poor student, I ate a LOT of this stuff. Our canteen had a system where we could choose from a variety of side dishes to go with a plate of rice, and we paid according to what was on the plate (and the size of the plate). Meat or fish cost more than vegetables. The pricing system was pretty erratic though, it depended on who was behind the counter. Boss Lady never let you get away with anything, her husband, the Boss Man, was a softer touch and if one of the workers manned the counter while the bosses were on a break, he’d wave us on for the bare minimum if he was in a good mood :).

To cook this dish, you don’t need many ingredients and none of the steps are actually difficult, but it is a little bit time-consuming. Like many Malaysian dishes, the ingredients themselves can be changed to suit your palate, and measurements are fast and loose.

Here’s how I made the dish, using a mix of traditional and non-traditional techniques and ingredients :)

Start with 3 potatoes (I used Dutch Cream), a 250g block of tempeh and about 1 cup of raw peanuts. Peel the potatoes, slice into thin matchsticks, rinse in a bowl of water, drain well through a sieve and pat dry with kitchen paper. Make sure the potatoes are really dry. The washing process reduces the excess starch and stops the potato from sticking to the pan.

Slice the tempeh into matchsticks and set aside.


Toast the raw peanuts either in a dry frying pan or use the less traditional route of the oven. Remove from the oven when the skins start to peel. Rub the peanuts between your fingers, then use this trick to get rid of the skins - take the tray outside and either sift gently in the breeze, or if there isn’t a breeze, blow gently on the peanuts so that the skin floats away. Easy right? We would only buy raw peanuts when I was a kid, and my job was peanut sifter, a task I have handed on to MC Junior. It’s a fun job but the pay is peanuts (couldn’t resist could I?).

Then prepare the chilli paste. I used 3 long red chillies, 2 garlic cloves and a candlenut (optional). Deseed the chillies if you’d like it less fiery, or increase the amount for more heat. Pound the ingredients into a paste in a mortar and pestle (traditional), or use a blender (not so traditional). Have some white vinegar, fish sauce (optional), salt and sugar handy for the cooking process.

Heat a wok on medium high heat and fill with enough vegetable oil to deep fry the ingredients. If you do it in a few batches, you won’t need too much oil. I started by cooking the potatoes first (a few handfuls at a time), then lightly browning the peanuts, then the tempeh (again, a few handfuls at a time). Take each batch out and drain on kitchen paper. You should end up with three piles - fried potato, peanuts and crisp tempeh.

Drain any excess oil out of the wok, and lightly wipe off any bits with a wadded up kitchen paper. The wok should still be fairly clean. Return to heat and if needed, add a tablespoon or two of oil. Fry the chilli paste until fragrant, then add a splash of vinegar to taste (I used about 2 teaspoons). I also added a couple of teaspoons of fish sauce, which isn’t a traditional ingredient but adds a little bit of depth to the dish. Next add sugar to taste (I used about 2 heaped tablespoonfuls). Stir well. The paste should be shiny and slightly sticky.

Add the potatoes, peanuts and tempeh and stir to coat. Stir constantly to stop the mixture sticking and reduce heat if necessary. If it’s all going too fast and starting to catch, add a drop or two of water but not too much as it’s meant to be dry rather than “saucy”. Taste to check seasoning and add salt. It should taste quite sweet, spicy and a little salty too.

When all the ingredients are heated through, dish up and serve with steamed rice. It is meant as a side dish to go with other dishes as part of a meal.

Thanks for reading, and don’t forget there’s still time to get in for the next Muhibbah Malaysian Monday round-up, so send your entries to sureshchong(at)yahoo(dot)com, who blogs at 3 Hungry Tummies.