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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

You know you’re not “blogging regularly” when you forget the password to your own blog! 😛

No excuses this time, as I’m beginning to sound like a broken record.

The hubs is back home in Malaysia with me and now it feels like a Real Holiday. I’ve been pretty busy in the kitchen too 😉

Cake with butter icing & butter cream decorated made by yours truly

Fondant Teddy - totally edible 😉

 

Two tiered fondant cake - far from perfect, I need more practice.

 

And the most labourious product I have produced to date:

MOONCAKES! I am indeed lucky as my mother in law makes really nice mooncakes, and she was willing to teach me. She did mention a couple of times that it’s VERY labourious, and perhaps I wouldn’t be up to it. I guess she doesn’t know how kiasu and willful I can be 😛 If I set my mind on something, I don’t usually give up easily. Unless it involves math

It took me two days to make the mooncakes; one day for the filling, and the next day for the pastry. From henceforth, I will not pooh-pooh or question the high prices of mooncake especially homemade ones since everything is made from scratch without the aid of machinery and does not contain filler ingredients or preservatives.

  

So last Saturday, I spent almost the entire day in the kitchen making the lotus bean paste. Boiling, straining, blending, and the most tedious part, “mixing” / reducing the liquid to form a thick paste. One has to continuously stir over low heat else the paste gets burnt. And thus, I had to slowly stir this……

  

into this….

It took me a good 2.5 hours of non-stop stirring to get the paste to this viscosity. It wasn’t so much the time that was energy sapping, but the fact that the thicker the paste got, the HARDER it was to stir. In the end, I felt I was wrestling a python in the wok.

Mooncake mould

 

Unbaked mooncakes

 

MOONCAKES

 

 

Egg yolk mooncake

 

Not many people know how to make mooncake, and it took my mother in law several years to perfect her mooncake from trial and error, as no one with expertise on mooncakes would readily share their recipe and know how with others, especially since mooncakes is a relatively expensive delicacy. I feel really blessed that I have managed to learn it from her. Now I am bent on making it on my own without my mom-in-law’s help thus I can REALLY say that I MADE MOONCAKE. 😀

My cute mom-in-law wants to learn how to make fruit tarts from me, and I feel rather embarrased, to say the least, that she wants to learn something as simple as that from plain ol’ me 😉

And for those who are wondering, I’m afraid that I won’t be sharing the recipe for the mooncakes out of respect for my mother in law who has worked years to perfect this family recipe. But if any of you are interested in buying homemade, wholesome, made-from-scratch-filling-paste mooncake without preservatives or colouring, you can drop me a line and I’ll let my mom-in-law know. She is based in Klang and makes different type of mooncakes, and if you’re lucky, she’ll sell you some 😉 Let me perfect my own mooncakes, and the next time around, I’ll take orders too 😛

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Is there even such a thing? A hectic holiday? Well that’s how my holiday back in Malaysia is turning out to be! It’s almost the end of January 2011, and it’s only my first blog entry. It’s my own doing really.

I signed up for baking classes and I have classes once a week. On top of that, I have to REPRODUCE the cake that I have learnt at class that week for the following week’s class. In other words, I have homework! I questioned myself loads before signing up for these classes, thinking that I could just learn baking from books. But you see, I’ve always reproduced cakes from recipe books, and somehow they never turned out the way I wanted them to. That’s where the classes come in handy. My teacher teaches from scratch and assumes that her students know nothing. The right way to mix, the right way to fold in ingredients, how to prevent your cakes from becoming dense. Now I finally know the answer to my perennial problem of having a cake with a damp/sticky bottom!

The baking part is actually the easy part. Yup you that read that right. No cake is complete without icing. And THAT my friends, is the difficult part. I thought buttercream icing would be easy peasy. Well it’s not! It takes a LOT of practice. The first time I did my homework, replicating a cake we made at class, I was cursing like a sailor at home and yelling at everyone in sight. Teehee. Then again, I was in a rush, and one should never, ever, decorate cakes in a hurry. But woohoo, the following week, I made a cake which looked LOADS better. It’s all in the practice.

I also signed up for a whole-day hands on puff pastry class. Granted I had to drive to the other end of the world from where I live (fine, it was just Puchong, but DEEP inside Puchong, and it’s under Sepang municipality ok!), I totally enjoyed it! My classmates were all makcik-makcik (elderly ladies) but hey, who cares, I was there to learn. We learnt to make puff pastry from scratch, and I hope I have banished the Demon of the Failed Puff Pastry from my kitchen forever 😛

Dough resting

And thiiiis is how you work it

Beautiful layers of dough + butter = puff pastry

Let's make some little pies

Danish Windmill

Vol Au Vent

Final products - all from scratch!

*BEAMS*

Aren’t they absolutely beeeeyoootiful? I was dead tired from class that day which started at about 10am and lasted till about 6pm. But the end products are absolutely worth it.

Let’s hope I am able to successfully recreate them when I am back in Italy! 😛

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I love being home. The best thing is that it hasn’t been ALL.THAT.HOT. Perhaps it’s due to the monsoon season. The days are balmy, and it tends to rain in the evenings. I love it. The family and I spent Christmas back in Batu Pahat at my uncle’s home. Everytime I see an uncle from my dad’s side, I get a little “jolted” by the similarities between them and my late papa. This time around I saw my eldest uncle, and he looked frail, and my thoughts immediately veered to my father. It’s not like it is a bad thing, I get a little glimpse of papa here and there.

 

Of course, being in Malaysia means EATING. Funnily enough, either my tastebuds have changed, or I’ve just been to all the wrong places. Food doesn’t seem as good. With the exception of  THE Best Soto In The World in Batu Pahat, no other food came close. I swear I must have mumbled OMG Sedap, or OMG damn nice or something else along those lines while I was slurping the soto.

 

I’ll let the pictures do the talking 😉

 

 

Indian Rojak at Kedai Makanan Om, Taman Emas, Batu Pahat. YUMS.

 

 

 

 

Indian mee goreng at Kedai Makanan Om, Taman Emas, Batu Pahat. I used to eat at this then stall (now shop) when it was at Gunung Soga, and it tastes about the same as it used to, except, back then you could find pieces of sotong (squid) in it! Of course, with rising prices these days, I’d be lucky to find any seafood in there.

 

 

 

THE BEST soto in the whole wide world. If you tell me that there’s another place that sells better soto than this, then I say you’re wrong. Soto doesn’t get any better than this. The broth is thick and oh-so-flavourful, and the chunks of beef are tender and just about melts in your mouth. This place also sells lontong and laksa Johor, but since it was only me and my sister eating that day, we couldn’t order lots to share. You can also find other drool worthy Johorean delicacies at this stall called Warung Mat Marican that is just by the roundabout. This stall has earned the moniker BP Hilton due to it’s sometimes higher-than-average prices 😀 But I don’t mind paying a little more, because I’ve never found another place that sells soto, laksa, lontong or tauhu sumbat this drool worthy!

 

 

 

Chili pan mee from Super Kitchen, Kota Damansara. Quite good.

 

 

 

My brother-in-law’s favourite butter & kaya toast from a nondescript kopitiam in Ayer Hitam, Johor.

 

 

 

The shop was almost closed when we got there, but they still served us. Ah, I wonder if these old-style kopitiams will remain for years to come, or will they all turn into those fashionably modern airconditioned, franchised “kopitiams” that try to replicate kopitiams of yore and are a dime a dozen, springing up like mushrooms all over town?

 

 

 

Ayer (Air) Hitam in Johor, haven for house deco items and wedding related paraphernalia.

 

 

For some strange reason, one can also get soft toys in Ayer Hitam for really cheap!

 

 

That would be me pottering about in a nursery. Ahh, I wish I had a landed property with a nice big garden.

 

 

You see that spiky palm tree in the pot? That’s a cycas plant. Papa used to be crazy over this plant. We had loads of them back home in our family house in Batu Pahat. It fetches quite a high price and is supposedly a good-luck plant.

 

 

I was admiring a heliconia plant. I happen to know quite a number of plant names simply because my dad was in this line when he was still alive. In fact, he used to drill the names of plants into us when we were little, and sometimes, we would rattle them off “Hey pa look! Lots of dracaena/lantana/petunias growing here” *smug face*

 

 

 

The family picking out pots and mama getting all wide eyed and excited at the variety of plants. She has such green fingers, just like my dad. Our apartment balcony is filled with plants, and they are all thriving. I even have kaffir lime and cili padi growing healthily!

 

 

 

I absolutely LOVE this plant, water hyacinth or Bunga Kiambang. Aren’t they the prettiest things you have seen?

 

 

 

 

Ok, I don’t know what this flower is called, but it’s so pretty, and has that retro feel about it.

 

And of course, our national flower, the hibiscus.

 

 

So, as you can see, I’m having a pretty good time back home. There truly is no place like home 🙂

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Lookie lookie at what I found at the supermarket opposite my house.

Yes, they’re rambutan !! The pack said that they’re from Vietnam though. I wonder why they don’t come from Malaysia. I usually giggle silently when I see rambutans in the supermarkets here because they’re ALWAYS brown, almost black; basically rambutan we would throw away without batting an eye back home. I remember how I laughed my head off when I was staying with my aunt in London and I saw a basket of BLACK rambutans at the grocers opposite her house. Well these that I saw today weren’t too bad. Dark red, turning brown, but still they’re not wholly brown.

These “ramboutan” comes nicely packaged in packets of about 5, and cost EUR3.99 per pack, or if you look closely at the price tag, EUR19.95 per kg!!

And next to the rambutan, were these:



Carambola! Or more popularly known in Malaysia as Starfruit or belimbing, in Malay. And these babies are from Malaysia! It’s spelt as Malesia in Italian. I forgot to take a picture of the price tag, but I remember it was around 10EUR per kg. And each packet contains 3 starfruit, thus costing about 4EUR per pack.

Oh how my heart swelled with pride 😉

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Remember my dinner party for almost 20? I had wanted to make a dessert that was fuss free and easy, considering the fact that I had to dedicate more time to my other more complicated dishes. I searched online and found this recipe by Nigella Lawson. Easy. Chocolate. Pistachios. No bake. No sweat. I couldn’t find another reason NOT to make this.

Apologies for the less than sharp pictures. I had guests around and had to cut the blocks as quick as possible without people judging me for my (nasty?) habit of taking pictures of my food. And on hindsight, I should have used a non-serrated knife to cut out the fudge, as the serrated knife left jagged marks on the fudge squares.

Chocolate Pistachio Fudge

 

340 grams 70% dark chocolate OR 340 grams semisweet chocolate, chopped*

1 can (340 ml) sweetened condensed milk

Pinch of salt

1 cup shelled pistachios

 

Directions

 

1. Melt the chopped chocolate, condensed milk and salt in a heavy based pan on a low heat.

2. Put the nuts into a freezer bag and bash them with a rolling pin, until broken up into both big and little pieces.

3. Add the nuts to the melted chocolate and condensed milk and stir well to mix.

4. Pour this mixture into a 9-inch square foil tray(grease tray slightly with butter to ease removal later on) smoothing the top.

5. Sprinkle some smaller pieces on the top for garnish if you like.

 6. Let the fudge cool and then refrigerate until set. You can then cut into small pieces approximately 3/4 by 1 3/4 inches or cutting 8 by 8 lines in the tin to give 64 pieces.

 7. Once cut you can keep it in the freezer, no need to thaw just eat straight away.

 

I am not such a huge fan of chocolate, I eat it occasionally but I don’t go crazy over it, but this chocolate fudge made me crave for MORE. It went down quite well with the guests, and also pairs well with vanilla ice cream. The hubs and I even had to wrestle fight ration the last piece. I think it all boils down to the quality of chocolate that you use.

*Use the best quality chocolate that you can get your hands on. I used Lindt 70% dark chocolate. Of course, I needn’t say more about Lindt. But please, if you have to use some cheapo, dodgy chocolate to make this, please, take my advice and go look for another dessert to make, just not this.

Also, I assume that the pistachios in Nigella’s recipe are supposed to be unsalted, but since I only had salted ones at hand, I threw in only a tiny pinch of salt for flavour.

Wrapped in clear bags and tied with a nice festive ribbon, these make great little gifts especially around festive seasons. Or if you want to suck up to your boss.

EDITED: I made a new batch and cut the squares using a non-serrated knife. They look much nicer now 🙂

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Scratching my head

So here’s the thing. I have a dinner party to host next week, and I have been scratching my head for the past two weeks trying to come up with a menu that would suit EVERYONE. I will be having about 15 guests over, and the thing that makes it so darn difficult is the fact that everyone here is so “diverse”. Case in point, I have some guests who:

One guest does not eat meat

One guest does not eat pork

One guest is allergic to yeast

Many guests aren’t quite open to Asian food

I will be inviting our neighbour (not the nasty one, but the nice couple with the cute little girl) who has had us over for dinner ages ago. They not-so-subtly hinted that they do not take any spice. At all.

On top of that, we don’t have the most extensive set of dinnerware, enough for 15 people, so it’s gonna be plastic plates all the way. Which also means I cannot make nice fancy desserts in individual glasses.

As of now, here’s the tentative menu:

1. Fried rice

2. Deviled eggs

3. Indian styled tuna cutlets

4. Chicken curry (this was specifically requested by a Japanese family)

5. Twice baked potatoes with anchovy, Parmesan and rosemary

6. Tomato + basil + mozzarella skewers

7. Walnut + rocket (arugula) + gorgonzola cheese crostini

8. Pie tee (tentative)

9. Apple tart – dessert.

I want to have some Asian elements in them, hence the fried rice, tuna cutlets, chicken curry (well, this one was requested of me) and pie tee (Malaysian Nyonya). At the same time, for those who don’t want/like Asian, there’s the potatoes, tomato+basil skewers and crostini.

As for the pie tee, I’ve read that it’s a lot of work, so I’m gonna do a trial run before the dinner on the 6th, and if it goes well, then pie tee will be on the menu, else I may omit it altogether.

What do you think of the menu? Too much? Too little? Too Asian? Boring? I absolutely adore cooking, but it’s always trying to figure out WHAT to cook thats the biggest headache. I would love to hear your input on my menu, do drop me a comment and let me know what you think! Thanks folks.

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Say hello to my new best friend Lola. She’s the reason I’ve been absent from the blogosphere for quite a bit now. Isn’t she absolutely beautiful?

Lola is a 90th Anniversary Limited Edition KitchenAid Stand Mixer. The first time I saw this particular Candy Apple Red KitchenAid was in John Lewis, Cardiff. I fell in love with it instantly. I had always wanted an Imperial Red mixer, but this one in Candy Apple Red just took my breath away. It has this sheen to it that makes it different from the Imperial Red.

I found a good deal online, and after literally years of contemplating, I bought it. Or rather, the hubs bought it for me 😀 I have since effortlessly made some cakes with it, and oooohhh my, the KitchenAid really makes it effortless, as it works like a dream. I made a looooovely marble bundt cake with it, and although the hubs was away travelling, and I was alone at home, I baked, and since the recipe yields a lot (one bundt tin and one loaf tin), I had to eat it all by myself! And I didn’t get tired of it! Of course I kept it in the fridge and ate a slice 2-3 slices a day. In case you’re wondering, yes, I’ve been working out for at least 40 minutes 3-4 times a week to burn off all that extra calories I’ve been ingesting. I haven’t broken the scales yet.

Go on and admire my KitchenAid won’t you? 😉

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