Tag Archives: recipes

My Curry Puff Can Sing

M really, REALLY loves his curry puffs. That was the first thing I learnt about him when we were dating. Actually, maybe it’s one of two things that I first knew about M. The other is chicken curry, but since chicken curry is inside a curry puff, I suppose I could call it The First One-Big-Thing I knew about M. Now, M loves a good curry puff so much, that sometimes, I’m not sure which or who he would save in a fire – a puff or me. I’m not offended, because I mean let’s face it – a curry puff looks good and tastes good blistered and flaky – I can’t possible pull that off.

For his birthday last year, M asked me if I could make curry puffs for him. Well, I procrastinated, for a year, but thank goodness, my in-laws bought some Mr. Ting curry puffs and asked my parents to bring them over when they visited us in London. It was a sweet surprise for M. Almost a year later, I decided it was time to honour the request of my dearest husband. M decided to take part too, as he’s personally vested in this, so he made the chicken curry (a very thick version so we can pack it into the puff, you don’t want the curry to be making the pastry soggy…) with LOTS of tender, loving care. I’ve never seen him so focussed on getting the curry perfect for puffs. As for me, I used some of the pastry that was left over from making Portuguese egg tarts, and made more fresh puff pastry to accommodate the big pot of curry.

The result? Suffice to say that we were excellent partners-in-crime. The curry puff was perfectly flaky and fragrant, and yes, I would even go as far as bonkers-land to tell you that my curry puff ‘sings’! If you don’t believe me, watch this video. Yet, no frying was needed! This is definitely one of the best kitchen collaborations between us. We wolfed down two immediately, and exercised some self-restraint by popping the rest in the freezer. These kept well for a few weeks, all you have to do is to thaw the puffs out for a few minutes, and bake them as and when your craving hits.

The recipe for the puff pastry is the same as the one for my Portuguese egg tarts, except that I scaled the proportions of the ingredients up to match 200g of strong white bread flour. This should make about 10 large curry puffs. At Step 7 of the recipe, after cutting the pastry roll into 30g portions, with the cut side facing up (the orientation is very important because you want the flakes to appear like scales of a fish on the puff), press down each portion with the heel of your palm and roll out till you a circular pastry dough that is 12-15cm in diameter. Arrange the curry (preferably with a thick potato base i.e. add lots of potatoes in while cooking the curry, then mash the curry to create a thick luscious and dry-ish gravy) on one-half of the pastry circle, leaving a space round the edges for sealing. Bring the two halves of the circle together and seal by making indentations with the tines of a fork. Bake at 210 degrees Celsius for 18 minutes. If you want to keep them, freeze them before baking and let thaw for a few minutes (not too long though because you don’t want the butter in the pastry to melt – if that happens, the pastry wouldn’t puff up nicely and that means your puffs won’t sing like mine do, no Grammies!), then bake as per instructions.

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Portuguese Egg Tarts

Portuguese egg tarts. Mmmm. My love affair with them began many years ago. I shan’t try to talk about it again (with stars in my eyes, if I might add), but suffice to say that after my trip to Porto, I am irrevocably in love with these wobbly golden nuggets. I was determined to learn how to make Portuguese egg tarts but was discouraged by the fact that puff pastries are difficult to master. Many a times, people have suggested using ready-to-roll puff pastry, but to me, that defeats the purpose of learning to make something from scratch. After all, pastry wasn’t something I had attempted properly before (except when I was a kiddo, when dad taught me how to make croissants – I learned nothing because I was not interested) and it remained something that I would like to master.

So on a crazy day in January, I decided that I was going to conquer it all – pastry, custard, the works. I flipped through one of my birthday presents  – Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess – and found an exceedingly simple recipe. I was skeptical that something as delicious and layered as puff pastry could be made so easily, but hey it was Nigella’s recipe, and she has a knack of simplifying the most laborious tasks, so I went with her, bought a tonne of butter and some strong white bread flour. After a quick long-distance phone call to my dad to ask about the principles of making puff pastry, there was no looking back. I was ready to roll, quite literally.

Pastry making wasn’t daunting at all. It was quite an experience and really quite satisfying for a bake geek like me, as I worked through the dough and thought about what my dad mentioned during the phonecall. Seeing the layers come together thrilled me to no end, and watching the pastry huff-puff into a beautiful shade of fluffy gold was nothing short of…orgasmic (excuse me). Funnily, it was the custard that got me a little flustered. I was so intent on getting the pastry right that I neglected the custard. A few seconds of looking away was all it took for the custard to scramble ever so slightly while it was cooking, I was a little miffed at myself but thank goodness, I could salvage it by running the custard through a sieve to pick the scrambled bits out. It was mostly smooth, with some bits that escaped the clutches of the sieve, I wasn’t completely happy with it, but I knew that I was being careless more than anything else. Anyway, my point to you is, don’t ever look away when you’re cooking the custard, tend to it like your life depends on it or you’ll find yourself scrambling to save a kitchen disaster you could have averted by simply paying attention, something that I was clearly incapable of….

Now, before I leave you with the recipe, I urge you to try making puff pastry. It’s therapeutic, fun and this recipe worked beautifully. The pastry was flaky, buttery and puffed really well; I used it to make chicken curry puffs (post to follow soon), and it was mind-blowing. Try it, you won’t regret ditching the ready-to-roll pastries.

Here’s the recipe:

Portuguese Egg Tarts

For the puff pastry:
(adapted from Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess)

Makes 10 tarts (each to fill a hole in a standard muffin tray)

150g strong white bread flour
Pinch of salt
150g unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 cm slices, cold
2 teaspoons lemon juice
7-8 tablespoons iced water

1. Freeze flour and butter together for 1/2 hour. Preheat oven to 210 degrees Celsius.

2. Briefly pulse this mixture in food processor with salt. The butter should still be in good-sized chunks and should not be disintegrated.

3. Turn out the pulsed mixture to a large bowl, add juice and water. Go easy on the water, you should only add a little bit at a time, until it’s just enough to bind the dough. 7-8 tablespoons of water worked for me, but you may need less or more, so be careful here. At this point, don’t worry if the butter chunks are still visible, they’re meant to make their presence felt. This is key to getting the pastry to puff and form layers at the later stage. Wrap the dough up with cling film and freeze it for 1/2 hour.

4. It is important to work very quickly at this point, to prevent the butter from melting. If you feel that the butter isn’t cold, feel free to pop the dough into the freezer for a bit, before continuing with any of the steps. Cold butter is absolute key to getting good puff pastry. Dust a clean working surface with the bread flour, roll out the dough into a rectangle. This will be a little bit difficult because the butter chunks are still there. Don’t worry about getting a homogeneous layer, because you’re not supposed to at this stage. Fold the rectangle in 1/3 sections, like you would a business letter (basically, left and right edges of the rectangle should be folded inwards, and you should get a folded pastry that is 1/3 of the original size). Turn the folded ‘letter’ such that closed end of the ‘letter’ faces you. Roll the pastry out to flatten it. Fold the left and right edges in again, like what you did before, ‘business-letter’-style.

5. Repeat the roll and fold, then finally roll the pastry out again. By doing this, you’re creating invisible layers, the cold butter when heated in the oven, will help with the puffing to create separate layers of pastry. If the butter melts at any point when you’re working with the dough, the flour absorbs it and you will end up with greasy, soggy pastry, which is not what you want.

6. To create concentric layers for the egg tart (notice how the pastry layers puff outwards in circles?), roll up the rectangle along the length of the pastry like you would a Swiss roll. Freeze this roll for another 1/2 hour.

7. Grease the holes in the muffin pan with butter. Cut the roll into 25-30g portions. You should see circular layers on the cross-section of the dough (see photo of dough above). Making sure that the cross-section is facing up (like in the photo), press the dough evenly into each hole until a lip forms slightly over the edge of the hole. You will find that the rest of the dough pieces will start to feel greasy as the butter melts, so it is a good idea to pop the dough pieces into the freezer as you work on each muffin hole.

8. Finally, place the muffin pan into the freezer for about 15 min. If you have extra pastry dough, don’t worry, just keep them frozen and you can use them another day. I kept mine for a few weeks and they were still very good when I made curry puffs. In the meantime, prepare the custard.

For the custard:
Makes about 7 tarts (I was putting a recipe together randomly for this and didn’t manage to make enough for 10, feel free to scale this up or scale the pastry portions down).

100ml whipping cream
100ml whole milk
Pinch of salt
Dash of ground cinnamon
1 strip of lemon peel (about 5cm by 1cm long)
50g caster sugar
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks

1. Lightly beat the 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks together and set aside.

2. In a saucepan, dissolve sugar in milk and cream. Do not bring this to boil. Add salt, lemon peel, cinnamon, followed by the beaten eggs. Keep stirring while cooking till the custard coats the spoon. Make sure the pan isn’t too hot as the eggs might scramble. Strain the custard to remove the lemon peel and set it aside to cool.

To assemble:

Spoon about 2 tablespoon of the custard into each of the pastry-covered holes in the muffin pan (each should be 2/3 full). Bake at 210 degrees Celsius for 18 minutes, then using the broiler function, bake it for another 2 minutes. This should brown the custard further in patches, which are characteristic of Portuguese egg tarts. Remove the tarts from the oven and let cool slightly as they will be too hot to eat. But have them warm, and you’ll be handsomely rewarded.

*Updated: This post has been featured on Foodgawker. Check out my profile on Foodgawker to see my other featured posts!

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What I Have Been Up To and…My First Guest Post!

I miss you guys, I really do. So here I am, clearing the cobwebs to say……I’m STILL alive and that I hope you haven’t forgotten about me. It’s been a while since I wrote anything here. I’ve got tonnes of comments and emails to reply to (I’m sorry, please give me some time). I have not baked or cooked anything recently. The last thing I made was tau yew bak  (braised pork belly), which took me 4 hours on Chinese New Year’s Eve and that was it. So it must have been a week? And that’s a ridiculous record in my books because it means that I’ve been feeling pent up from the lack of my favourite activities. Nothing remotely interesting happened over the last week. I’ve just been holed up in the study, poring over mountains of journals and books, with a pencil and my laptop fired up to get me to the finishing line. I shan’t say too much here, all shall be revealed by the end of this week. And yes, hopefully, you’ll see me resurrecting my annoying self on Facebook, Twitter and the blog when ‘things are revealed’.

It sounds like I had a sucky week, eh? That was pretty much the case, except for the one thing that I’ve been looking forward to for a month now. You see, I started putting my heart, soul and food (but of course..) out for the world to see on 14 February 2010. As the first birthday of my blog approaches (I’m thinking of making something to celebrate this, any ideas?), I marvel at the journey that I’ve been on for the past year, especially with regards to all the cooking and baking I’ve done. Personal growth as a humble home cook aside, I’ve also had the great fortune of meeting quite a few bloggers through all that writing. One of them is none other than Notabilia, who has invited me to pen my very first guest post. I can’t think of a better way to kick off the birthday celebrations for my blog, so thank you for this party, Notabilia.

For this month’s ‘Cooking With…’ instalment over at Notabilia’s, I created a fusion pastry of sorts, something that is inspired by my home country, Singapore, and my current time in London. Over the years in Europe, I’ve become acquainted with beautifully crafted pastries that have not seen the light of day in Singapore.

One of the pastries that has me eating out of its hand (or feet, you’ll see why) is the French macaron. I became enamoured with these delicate babies when my friend took me for birthday tea at Ladurée in Harrods slightly more than a year ago, and it is an understatement to say that my life was changed after that. A few months later, I took the first bite of Pierre Hermé’s ingenious creations, and I became obsessed, in the most psychotic of ways, with these almond cookies. I endeavoured to make them in my kitchen, the first time without incorporating almonds, and without using the proper method. They were delicious but were without feet. Then I tried making them again, this time using the proper method, and lo and behold, I got lucky. One macaron flavour then paved way for another in my kitchen. I was making them regularly in 2010, constantly thinking of new flavours to try out, and I am always excited to get my hands dirty.

So what are these feet that we’re talking about? You know the ruffle-y bit underneath that smooth surface, the bits that are getting cosy with the filling? That’s the feet. Getting them to appear is a bit of a terrifying, stressful venture that drives bakers nuts, and yes, all macaron aficionados should inspect these cookies for proper anatomy. So we’ve got the appearance sorted. How about the taste? Well, a macaron should have a crispy exterior that yields to a slightly chewy centre, and then the shell should cave to the most luscious cores, such as creams, ganache etc. The difficulties are apparent in making a macaron. We need to master the perfect balance between crisp and chewy textures, and we need a good filling. We also need feet. Such a massive amount of effort goes into making these babies that it’s no wonder bakeries hold these ransom for exorbitant amounts of cash. It is also for this reason, that I have gotten round to making macarons at home.

I’m happy to say that feet are aplenty since my first proper attempt, and I hope they continue to pitter-patter their way through my life or at the very least, take The Pleasure Monger to its second birthday (you see, the business of getting feet or no feet seems to be jinxed and I hope that I didn’t just do my luck in). Enough about macarons and getting all nostalgic on my side, let’s bring you over to my first guest post at Notabilia’s to have a look at the recipe! In the meantime, wait for my return!

If you love macarons, join me on my macaron journey.

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Chinese New Year: Bake, Learn, Laugh and Eat

I’ve had the great fortune of meeting the lovely E of heavenwildfleur in person on a few occasions over the last couple of months and certainly feel very blessed to have made a wonderful and incredibly talented friend like her. When she invited me to her place for a bake day in the weekend leading to Chinese New Year, I couldn’t possibly say no, could I? So I kicked my books aside, packed my baking tools and some ingredients, and barged my way into her very lovely home. The rest was baking history, really.

We searched high and low for reliable recipes for two of the many Chinese New Year goodies that we wanted to snack on, the mandatory pineapple tarts and kueh bangkit, a coconut biscuit that crumbles pleasurably and melts in your mouth. Luckily for us, there are some very trustworthy Singaporean bloggers we can rely on, and we turned to The Little Teochew for pineapple tarts and Lily’s Wai Sek Hong for kueh bangkit.

We started off at about 11.30am with the pineapple tarts and soon I found myself bringing the tart dough together whilst E got on with cooking the tapioca flour for the kueh bangkit. It was a lot of fun, and very eye-opening too as it is the first time that I’ve baked with someone (so talented and knowledgeable to boot), so it was incredible (for me, not sure if it was the case for E….) to banter over bakes and cakes. I learnt a lot during this session and realised the value of discussing recipes. Most of the time, I bake on my own, mutter to myself when something goes wrong and try to rectify mistakes alone. Talking the recipes (and life) out with E really helped and lent a new dimension to the bits and bobs of baking! It was also very fun to think out of the box and brainstorm ways to shape the pineapple tarts and kueh bangkit without proper moulds. If you would like to know, we used standard cookie cutters for the tarts and made a depression in the middle for the pineapple jam using the end of a rolling pin. As for the kueh bangkit, we made gnocchi-like shapes, round ones, rectangle ones, curry puff-like ones (don’t ask) before settling on moulding the dough into ‘windmills’ and making the indents with tines of a fork. In a way, we took ‘hand-made’ to the next level with these goodies.

You would think that with all the discussion, two pairs of hands, one talented brain (E’s) and one puny putrefying lump of neurons (mine), we would have triumphed over the recipes and emerged with perfect trays of pineapple tarts and kueh bangkit. I kid you not but it took us 3 trays of tarts and 2 trays of kueh bangkit before we mastered the baking times and temperatures. My lump of neurons must have let E’s brain and the recipes down. Numerous attempts, tonnes of squatting down in front of the oven, lots of laughs and a bak kut teh lunch later, we dusted our hands at about 5pm with 100 pineapple tarts and 90 pieces of kueh bangkit. The sun had set by then and though two of us whipped out our ginormous DSLRs to capture our deeds (what did you expect when you put two food bloggers together?), I didn’t manage to get nice pictures of the trays of goodies laid out in their naked glory (E, post your pictures please….), so I packed some home for the shoot on the next day.

If you swung by to eavesdrop on how the recipes went, I can tell you that they were pretty reliable! The goodies didn’t taste like how we would have liked them to be on the day they were baked, but having let them ‘rest’, they were way better on the next day. We think they are probably like macarons, since they taste better after being rested. We have no idea why but are happy that our efforts didn’t go to waste. We did make some changes to (or would tweak) the recipes to make them work better in our hands. I had to add one more egg yolk to the pineapple tart dough to bring the crumbs together before letting the dough rest. E found that it might be better to remove the pandan leaves after the third round of cooking so they don’t burn and overpower the coconut flavour in the kueh bangkit. We also had to adjust the oven temperatures and baking times. As promised, the pastry for the pineapple tarts was crumbly and flaky (although I did think that it could do with a more buttery flavour) and the kueh bangkit had a pleasant texture to it, slightly crunchy on the outside and melt-in-the-mouth on the inside. These recipes are good templates to work on with future attempts. I think they are keepers, alongside with that for my clementine macarons, and I would certainly revisit them when I bake for Chinese New Year again!

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Get Cracking for Christmas with a Chocolate and Coconut Roulade

So we have been back in sunny Singapore for almost a week now, and yes, I have been rather quiet on the blog as I have been whisked away to a flurry of culinary activities. I haven’t been cooking or baking, just eating LOADS only to realise that my old pair of jeans doesn’t fit anymore – oh, the horror!!! I have covered all the local dishes that I want to eat in just one week. I’m even doing repeats on the hawker rounds. Do the math and you’ll realise why I’m exploding in my jeans. In some ways, I wish I’m stuck in the snow blizzard, which is all the rage in London now, so I might be snowed in and be deprived of evil things I call food. But given the foodie I am, my pantry will be bursting with things I could work with to create meals befitting the holidays, and I’d still be fat anyway. Can’t win, can I?

Case in point: Just before we flew back to Singapore, we had some coconut milk in the fridge, and of course the baking aficionado in me always ensure a plentiful supply of flour, eggs, and what-not in the pantry. I needed to clear the perishables, and I wanted to make something for Christmas before I lost the sole governance of my cramp but beloved kitchen, so I dived into my recipe books and searched for ideas.

Two Christmases ago, my cousin, MS, visited us from the States and I had made Delia Smith’s flourless chocolate log cake for the occasion. I remember approaching the recipe with much excitement as I was told that flourless cakes are incredibly light. It was also my first time making a log cake and I was rather nervous about rolling the cake up. The nerves were probably very, very appropriate because I was a novice then and naturally, the cake cracked when I rolled it up. My ego was bruised after that attempt, so was M, almost physically so, because I had thrown a hissy fit after disfiguring the poor cake. Although the log cake was delightfully light, airy and chocolatey, I refused to make one again because I was afraid of screwing things up. This year, I summoned the courage and gave the elusive log cake another shot.

M bought me a chocolate recipe book (Chocolat by Stéphan Lagorce) about a year ago, and I have neglected it since I wasn’t confident of tempering with chocolate. I decided to try out the roulade recipe in the book this year and thought it would be lovely to give the cake a tropical twist by filling it with whipped coconut cream. It was a perfect idea, in my opinion. I could use up the residual coconut milk in the fridge. I could practise the ‘never-say-die’ attitude and try making a beautiful log cake. And I could have a little Christmas with M before we returned to Singapore.

But things are never quite perfect in reality. I did finish up the coconut milk. I did have a little Christmas with M. The roulade rolled up beautifully when it was warm, but when I rolled it again after the cake was cooled, it cracked! I was upset but to be honest, I kinda expected it. I am nowhere near being an expert at baking even though I have improved over the years. Thankfully for M, I am a lot more mature now and have learnt not to throw too big a tantrum if I fail in the kitchen. The roulade was delicious though. It was very moist and light, and insanely fragrant with the whipped coconut cream filling. I would say that the chocolate and coconut combination is a dream and really, a small stroke of genius. M loved the imperfect roulade very much. I loved it too, but I think I would be a teeny bit happier if the roulade didn’t crack. Third time’s the charm, and hopefully, I will make a perfect log cake on my next attempt.

Here’s the recipe:

Chocolate Roulade with Whipped Coconut Cream Filling

For the log:
(adapted from Chocolat by Stéphan Lagorce)

4 eggs, separated
150g caster sugar
90g plain flour
10g cornflour
10g cocoa powder
30g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 and 1/2 tablespoons milk
10g icing sugar
Salt

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line 12inch by 8inch baking tray with parchment.
2. Beat yolks and caster sugar till mixture turns very pale and fluffy.
3. Sift and mix flour, cocoa powder together.
4. Add flour mixture to egg mixture and mix till combined.
5. Add butter and milk, and beat to combine.
6. In another bowl, beat egg whites with icing sugar and pinch of salt till stiff peaks form.
7. Gently fold egg whites into the mixture from Step 5 until incorporated.
8. Spread this mixture evenly into the lined baking tray and bake for 11 minutes in preheated oven. Remove the tray from oven and cool the cake in the tray for a few minutes on a cooling rack.
9. Flip the cake onto a clean tea towel, leave the baking parchment on, and roll the cake up. You might need a rolling pin in the middle to guide the rolling. The tea towel should now be on the outside of the roulade and the baking parchment should be in the centre.
10. Hold the roulade in the log shape for about 2 minutes, unroll the roulade and cool completely before filling the cake with the coconut cream. My roulade rolled beautifully when it was warm but cracked when I re-rolled the cake after it cooled completely. Next time, I might leave the cake to cool in the log shape before unrolling it to fill, although this might affect the texture of the cake.

For the whipped coconut cream filling:
(own recipe)

280g unsweetened coconut cream (the part that settles above the water when you leave a can standing for a few days in the fridge)
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Beat ingredients till light and fluffy.
2. Fill the cooled roulade, and roll roulade up.
3. Decorate with a sprinkle of icing shade and dark chocolate shavings if you like, just like I did!

Store the finished roulade in the fridge, and serve chilled.

Enjoy!

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*Updated: This post has been featured on Foodgawker, Tastespotting and Foodpress. Check out my profiles on Foodgawker and Tastespotting to see my other featured posts!

Marmite & Coffee Pork Chops

I’ve been in a bit of frenzy lately, trying to tie up loose ends on work, run tonnes of errands, and squeeze in that all-important Christmas shopping on an extremely tight budget. So even though holidays have begun for M, who has finished his exams recently, and I have been relieved of wifely duties that I’ve so diligently kept to when poor M was buried under piles of books, I have been finding it a little hard to cope with the ‘holidays’ (or not). I haven’t been cooking, or baking (except for scones and a special something that I’ve whipped up for Christmas – watch this space!), so I haven’t been able to relax very much with my hobbies. If you have been reading (thank you for coming back), you might have noticed that I have also been tardy on the blogging front for I have admittedly, lost inspiration in some ways. I haven’t said much on this, not until I have mulled things over long enough…I am contemplating to keep this blog as a private diary because I am feeling unconfident about writing, taking good food photos and embarrassed about putting up my silly stuff for the world to see, whoever ‘world’ is. Yes I am a bag of hormones sandwiched between work stress and a lack of confidence, not such a good combination right now and I’m hoping it won’t be here to stay.

As a cure, transient as it surely will be, I looked through my archives to see what I’ve done in the past few months, and there, there, I came across one of my favourite creations – Marmite and Coffee Pork Chops. So once upon a time, I was able to cook something well, I was inspired and energetic, and I was growing on the photo-taking front even though I wasn’t good at it. I was learning a lot and I liked it. But now I’m stagnant, or getting worse, because my thick head just can’t seem to pick up anything new. I think such is the difference between someone with talent and aptitude to grow, and someone who’s just a wannabe. Pffft. Allow me, the wannabe, to live in the past though…until I get out of this inertia and hopefully learn again.

Less on the emo crap, and more on the pork chops. I became obsessed with Marmite over the past few months (see this and this), and found that whilst it can be overpowering, Marmite lends a unique and subtle savoury kick that we can’t quite get with any other condiments when it is used in small quantities. One day, I had a box of pork chops waiting to be cooked properly. At that time, I had just returned to London from Singapore, and I was missing zi char (hawker style stir-fry) very badly. I also had a strange craving for coffee pork ribs. But I didn’t want to just have coffee pork. I wanted something more, something with oomph and so I decided to try making Marmite & Coffee Pork Chops instead. I haven’t seen it on zi char menus, but it may exist and some of you may have tried this. But it’s my first time experimenting with these flavours and they turned out to be a divine marriage of intense flavours. I Cleopatra-ed my pork chops, meaning that I steeped them in milk for two hours to tenderise the chops, before frying them in as little oil as I could manage to achieve a deep-fried texture (I don’t like to waste oil…). I used cornflour for a lighter, more flaky batter and it was a really good call to do so. I can also see why Cleopatra was rumoured to love soaking in milk baths; the milk made the chops impossibly tender and it’s my favourite tenderising agent now.

Instead of letting this flaky batter down by drenching the chops with the Marmite and coffee gravy, I made a thick dipping sauce instead. You can tweak the sauce to the consistency that you prefer by omitting or including the plain flour in the sauce recipe. I like my chops to be crispy, hence the dipping sauce. If you want to coat the chops all over with the sauce, you will want to take a notch down on the flavours as my dipping sauce is made to be very concentrated and may overpower your palette – go easy on the honey, Marmite, brown sugar and coffee powder!

The result? Pork chops that are crispy on the outside and so very tender on the inside, complete with savoury-sweet Marmite sauce with a deep hint of aromatic coffee – perfect with fluffy white rice! This is a dish that is here to stay in my kitchen, and I hope you will enjoy it too! If you don’t like Marmite, feel free to substitute the sauce with something else, such as tonkatsu sauce for a Japanese twist.

Here’s the recipe:

Marmite & Coffee Pork Chops

For the pork chops:
600-700g boneless pork chops (should be about 4 pieces), leave fat on
1 tablespoon shaoxing wine
500ml whole milk
1 teaspoon Marmite
10 tablespoons cornflour
2 teaspoons salt
Dash of black pepper
Sunflower oil

1. Mix wine, milk and Marmite together, set aside.
2. Tenderise pork chops using the sharp end of your knife.
3. Soak pork chops in the milk bath for 2 hours at room temperature (if you’re in a cool climate) or in the fridge overnight.
4. Squeeze pork chops to remove the excess milk, coat in batter mixture made of cornflour, salt and pepper.
5. Deep-fry in sunflower oil (I filled my saucepan with oil to about 1-2cm in height and it was enough) till pork chops turn golden brown on both sides.

Marmite & Coffee Dipping Sauce:
2 tablespoons shaoxing wine
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 and 1/2 tablespoons Marmite
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 and 1/2 tablespoons coffee powder
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon plain flour

1. Heat all ingredients (except plain flour) in saucepan and stir continuously till mixture comes to boil.
2. Take saucepan off the heat and stir in plain flour to thicken the sauce.
3. Serve as a dipping sauce with the fried pork chops, white rice is a must!

Enjoy!

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Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons

Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons

When the Mactweets Challenge: MacAttack #13 came around, I knew it was time to get some egg whites out and age them a little. We were warned that this was the 13th challenge, you know, the unlucky number for some, and guess what, I had a bit of an unlucky start this time! I was all ready to whip my egg whites up for Fall-themed macarons, and as luck (or the lack thereof) would have it, I spilled the aged egg whites before I could even grow feet on the macs. My clumsy hands in an over-packed fridge were very much like bulls in a china shop, I knocked the whites over, mopped up the gooey spill and mourned the tragic loss of my aged egg whites. I was ready to throw in the towel and skip this challenge but macaron gurus, Jamie from Life’s a Feast and Eunice from Heaven in a Wild Flower assured me that fresh egg whites will whip up nicely anyway. Heeding their advice, I cracked some new eggs and separated the whites from yolks. There was no looking back and I was glad that I listened to them.

Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons

For this month’s challenge, we were asked to create macarons that spoke of what Fall meant to us. The first thing that I thought of was a piping hot cup of Japanese green tea in my cold, cold hands! I admit I did dream about sipping on a mug of hot chocolate about two seconds after I thought about green tea, but I felt that hot chocolate was a little too much for autumn, and better appreciated in the bitter cold of winter. I had wanted to make a matcha & white chocolate mascarpone filling (which I made last month and friends loved them), but I had a tin of adzuki bean paste in the pantry, just dying to be married to matcha already. I couldn’t deny a match made in heaven, could I?

Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons

 

Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons

Whilst I am not a big fan of winter in London, I quite like autumn. Yes, most of the trees are bald in the blink of an eye, but the occasional tree is decked out in warm gold leaves that turn a seductive shade of mahogany. To me, it is the rarity of this sight that makes London very beautiful despite the cold and the ubiquitous bare trees. Regrettably so, it can get too cold to wander along the streets, and when that happens, what I love most is to curl up in my couch, with a duvet draped round my legs and a cup of hot Japanese green tea to sip on. With every cup of green tea, I also insist on having something sweet to nibble on. This is the ‘way of life’ that M and my sister-in-law, M have instilled in me. Both Ms are true connoisseurs of teatime accompaniments and I am glad that I have been well-taught.

Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons

 

 

Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons

For about two months now, I’ve been a bit obsessed with matcha, and have made cupcakes, polvorons, macarons and more cupcakes with matcha (posts to follow soon). There’s nothing I like more than having matcha-based pastries with hot green tea. The flavours are strong, yet subtle and so very alluring. Here, the sweet earthiness of adzuki beans are perfectly balanced with the bittersweet matcha & white chocolate buttercream. If you love matcha as much as I do, you might want to get cracking on these macarons in your own kitchen.

Here’s the recipe:

For the macaron shells (makes 22 shells):
(adapted from heavenwildfleur)

55g egg white (these are not aged, and will turn out a little more chewy)
3g egg white powder
45g caster sugar
70g almond flour
80g icing sugar
1 teaspoon green food colouring
Black sesame seeds

1. Preheat oven at 170 degrees Celsius.

2. Sift almond flour and icing sugar together in a bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk egg whites and egg white powder till soft peaks are formed. Whisk in caster sugar until stiff peaks form.

4. To the egg white mixture, fold in dry ingredients from Step 2 in 1/3 portions to combine. Add colouring, then fold in the mixture more vigorously. Test the consistency from time to time by lifting a generous dollop of macaron paste and dropping it into the mixing bowl. If the macaron paste does not settle smoothly after 30 seconds, continue folding the paste. If the macaron paste smooths out too quickly, you’ve gone too far.

5. Pipe out the shells onto a baking sheet lined with parchment and leave them to rest for 25 minutes before baking. Sprinkle some black sesame seeds on the shell.

6. When a crust is formed, turn temperature on oven down to 140 degrees Celsius and bake for 15 minutes, turning the tray halfway through baking.

7. Cool parchment of baked shells on cooling rack. Unmould when the shells are completely cool. (I also dusted the shells with a little bit of edible gold lustre, they do give a nice sheen but they didn’t show up well on the pictures..)

For the Matcha & White Chocolate Buttercream:

55g white chocolate
40g unsalted butter
50g icing sugar
5g matcha powder (you can add more if you like a stronger flavour, as the sweetness of ready-made adzuki bean paste can differ – See ‘Assembling’ section below)

1. Melt white chocolate and butter and leave to cool.

2. Beat in icing sugar and matcha powder until well-combined and creamy.

Assembling macarons:

1. Spoon matcha cream onto one shell.

2. Add one small dollop of adzuki bean paste on top of the cream.

3. Sandwich, and you’re done!

Matcha & Adzuki Bean Macarons

Hope you enjoy making these and let me know what you think of the recipe!

If you love macarons, join me on my macaron journey. And if you can’t get enough of matcha, you might like my Lychee Chiffon Cake with Matcha Whipped Cream Frosting.

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.

*Updated: This post has been featured on Foodgawker and Tastespotting. Check out my profiles on Foodgawker and Tastespotting to see my other featured posts!

 

Pumpkin & Chocolate Brownies with Cream Cheese Swirls

Pumpkin & chocolate brownies with cream cheese swirls

Even though I don’t like winter very much, the last of autumn has to be given a proper farewell. In my opinion, there’s no better way to do it than to put a little bit of pumpkin in everything. Well, not everything, but you know, compatible things. Things like dark chocolate, hazelnuts. Yum.

Pumpkin & chocolate brownies with cream cheese swirls

I went into pumpkin overdrive lately, and bought one too many pumpkins. I made a pumpkin & walnut cake with cream cheese frosting for Halloween out of one, and the other was just sitting there on the table, sulking and looking very much neglected. It looked very handsome, nonetheless. Sunset orange, smooth, not the least bit scarred and very hard-muscled – literally. Oh well, someone’s gotta do the job and stick the knife in.

Pumpkin & chocolate brownies with cream cheese swirls

I really dread gutting a pumpkin. I’m the opposite of a gym bunny and carving a pumpkin gives me such an unpleasant and dangerous workout. The knife has to be exceedingly sharp, because the skin’s just impossible to get rid of. And I have to go in with such force, that many a times, I have almost lost a finger. Yes, gutting a pumpkin intimidates me. I spent a good half-hour wrestling this one to get to its flesh. Urgh, it was so not fun.

Pumpkin & chocolate brownies with cream cheese swirls

But once I got to the core of the problem (pun intended), I blitzed the pulp into purée, made the most complicated version of brownies I have ever baked (usually brownies are so very easy because you just dunk everything in), and made M very happy with my take on Autumn’s farewell. Admittedly, I wasn’t very happy with the brownie when I sneaked a piece fresh out of the oven, whilst it’s warm and soft. It should be good, but it tasted half-hearted, like what Deb from Smitten Kitchen said. Neither chocolatey nor pumpkin-y. I was so disappointed. I chucked it in the fridge, hoping to never see it again, not knowing that the fridge and some sort of ‘ageing’ process were about to work its magic on these brownies. M and I had it for dessert after dinner that night, and I was just picking at it absent-mindedly when M exclaimed, ‘This is some good, really moist brownie!’. I was in a bit of a disbelief, thinking that he probably wanted to make me feel better. I took a bite, and damn, he was right! They were very dense, moist, and chocolatey, with a hint of pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg. The only thing I wasn’t happy about was how the cream cheese swirl got lost in the flavours (possibly because I used medium-fat cream cheese, rather than full-fat….silly Sainsbury’s ran out of the full-fat one, and also because I made very little of the cream cheese swirl).  It was still a solidly good brownie, nonetheless and I felt better about the day’s effort.

Pumpkin & chocolate brownies with cream cheese swirls

Here’s the recipe.

Pumpkin & Chocolate Brownies with Cream Cheese Swirl
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen for brownie, and David Lebovitz for the cream cheese swirl)

Brownie part:
175g plain flour
2/3 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
80g unsalted butter, plus more to grease the pan
160g 70% chocolate (I used Lindt)
205g caster sugar
3 medium eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla paste
295g pumpkin, blitzed in food processor to form purée
80ml sunflower oil
2/3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of ground nutmeg
40g blanched hazelnuts, chopped

Cream Cheese Swirl part:
165g medium-fat cream cheese
50g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla paste

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius, and line 6 by 10 inch pan with baking parchment. Ensure parchment covers the sides of the pan too, so it’s easy to lift the brownie to cooling rack when everything’s done. Grease the parchment with some butter.
2. Combine plain flour, baking powder and salt.
3. Melt chocolate and unsalted butter to form a smooth mixture, and set aside.
4. Mix pumpkin purée, oil, cinnamon and nutmeg together and set aside.
5. Beat caster sugar, eggs, vanilla paste until fluffy and combined.
6. Add the flour mixture to egg mixture and beat till combined.
7. Meanwhile, beat the ingredients for the cream cheese swirl till combined and set aside.
8. Add 2 and 1/2 cups of the flour and egg mixture (from Step 6) to the chocolate mixture (from Step 3) and mix well.
9. Add the remaining (should be about 1/2 cup) flour and egg mixture (from Step 6) to the pumpkin mixture (from Step 4) and mix well.
10. Add a layer of chocolate batter (1/2 of the portion from Step 8 ) to the lined pan, followed by a layer of pumpkin batter (1/2 of the portion from Step 9). Repeat for another layer of chocolate batter. Now add the remaining pumpkin batter in blobs, alternating it with blobs of the cream cheese mixture (from Step 7). It is vital to work quickly because the chocolate batter sets pretty easily.
11. Swirl the mixture in the pan with a small spatula, making sure to work through to the bottom layer as the chocolate batter is quite dense. Sprinkle the chopped hazelnuts over the top.
12. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, or until set, whichever comes earlier.
13. Cool slightly in pan, then lift parchment out to cool brownie on a cooling rack.
14. Refrigerate when brownie is completely cooled, for flavours to develop and cut to serve. I think this would work well with a scoop of good vanilla ice-cream too.

Hope you will enjoy making this! Feel free to leave comments!

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.

*Updated: This post has been featured on Foodgawker, Tastespotting and Photograzing. Check out my profiles on PhotograzingFoodgawker and Tastespotting to see my other featured posts!

Fruit in Baking: White Chocolate & Cranberry Cookies

I’m participating in the Monthly Mingle: Fruit in Baking this month. Monthly Mingle came into fruition with amazing Meeta from What’s For Lunch, Honey? and this month, it is hosted by lovely Deeba at Passionate About Baking!

White chocolate & cranberry cookies

 

I don’t usually bake with fruits, I use lots of chocolate, nuts in my recipes, you know the heavy stuff, and I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t worked with fruits recently except for my lychee mascarpone macarons. I thought this month’s Fruit in Baking would be perfect to get cracking on some dried fruits at home. I don’t always like to go out and buy all sorts of ingredients, just to tick the boxes on recipes; I do enjoy rummaging things from my pantry and putting them together, as I try to practise a waste-not approach. Besides, it’s more practical to finish up what’s left in the pantry before running out to get even more ingredients. You see, we don’t get very much kitchen (or any) space in London.

White chocolate & cranberry cookies

My in-laws came over to London in May this year, and they brought two giant packs of dried cranberries. They were meant as health foods for us, but we can only snack on that many dried cranberries when we’re feeling peckish, so I thought it would be nice to make some white chocolate and cranberry cookies with them.

White chocolate & cranberry cookies

 

I am actually very fond of these cookies as they bring back lots of memories. When I first moved to London in 2007, I was introduced to a whole new variety of baked goods here. Waffles, cookies, biscuits, cakes, breads are done in so many permutations, done so very well and extremely cheaply that I wonder why bakeries in Singapore resort to charging exorbitant prices for good ‘fancy’ (read: those containing more than mere chocolate chips) cookies. The cost price isn’t high, but it appears that Asian countries are selling a Westernised concept to consumers; a large white chocolate and cranberry cookie may cost us only £0.50 here or even less, but it can cost up to the equivalent of £2 in Singapore. As such, I behaved like a mad woman on the loose, buying cookies from every nook and cranny in London, feasting on them without a care in the world. White chocolate and cranberry cookies were one of the goodies that I particularly enjoyed.

 

White chocolate & cranberry cookies

I like soft cookies, so I have tweaked the recipe for my chocolate chunk and flaked coconut cookies to make way for white chocolate and dried cranberries. If you like crunchy cookies, just bake them for a minute or two longer, as long as they don’t burn (they shouldn’t) and they will harden once they are completely cooled. These were very popular with my friends, I made loads, but they were snapped up very quickly. I’ve been told that these weren’t too sweet, even with the white chocolate, and the flavours worked well together!

White chocolate & cranberry cookies

White chocolate & cranberry cookies

Here’s my recipe.

Chocolate Chunks and Flaked Coconut Cookies:
(adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook)

225g unsalted butter, room temperature
130g soft light brown sugar
170g golden caster sugar
2 medium eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste
400g plain flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 and 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
100g white chocolate, roughly chopped
100g dried cranberries, roughly chopped

1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius.

2. Cream butter and sugar with a handheld electric whisk until light and fluffy.

3. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix well (scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula after each addition to incorporate the unmixed parts). Turn the mixer down to low speed and beat in the vanilla paste.

4. Add flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda and mix well until a smooth dough is formed. Stir in the roughly chopped white chocolate and cranberries.

5. Arrange 6 tablespoon-sized drops of cookie dough on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Ensure that these drops are spaced well apart to allow for expansion. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges. At this point, the cookies will be quite flat, and frighteningly soft and pliable. Leave the cookies to cool slightly on the tray before transferring the cookies onto the cooling rack.

6. You can choose to eat them while they are warm (not hot!) and wash them  down with a glass of cold milk, or have them at room temperature (they will be harder than when it is warm). M and I love the cookies warm. When the cookies have cooled completely, keep them away from cookie monsters!

White chocolate & cranberry cookies

Enjoy!

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.

 

M’s Spanish Paella

M's Spanish Paella

Having returned from San Sebastián, we are still suffering from really severe withdrawal symptoms – think foaming-at-the-mouth bad. The trip has refuelled our love of Spain and we couldn’t stop reminiscing about the wonderful food we had in Madrid, Barcelona and of course, San Sebastián (yes yes, I’m aware I haven’t put up the pintxos post from the SS trip…will do so soon! In the meantime, enjoy my post on Arzak over here first). The symptoms got so bad, that we launched into a myriad of preparations for a pintxos candlelit dinner for two, complete with a good Spanish wine on Halloween night (no pictures because it was too dark…). And the day before, we visited Broadway Market and good ol’ Tesco to pick up some ingredients for the Spanish paella. It was a Spanish weekend, our Spanish weekend.

M's Spanish Paella

Now, I really don’t want to offend any Spanish people out there and say that our recipe is authentic. I too, cringe when someone posts a recipe and declares it ‘Authentic Singapore Noodles’ because hell, there is NO such thing as Singapore noodles….(this myth however seems to be propagated everywhere in Chinese restaurants in UK and beyond, the kind of scene that is fit for a horror movie). I would go as far as to say that whilst we have used unauthentic ways to cook this paella (apparently, a paella dish is needed, and some ingredients we used are not usually found in authentic paellas), M’s version turned out fabulous. And because it is his version, I have decided to name this dish ‘M’s Spanish Paella’.

M's Spanish Paella

Regular readers will know that M doesn’t like to follow recipes, but I did politely asked him if he could narrate what he had done as he cooked, and he obliged. So folks…..WE HAVE A RECIPE!!!! This will have to be one of my blogging achievements, to wrestle a recipe out of mysterious M.

M's Spanish Paella

M cooked enough for four people, but we were so hungry, and the paella was so darn tasty, that we could finish it in one sitting. I stopped both of us before the damage was done, as I was planning to save a portion for photos in natural light the next day (the skies are completely dark by 5-6pm these days in London, huge huge taboo for photography, or even seeing your fingers in front of you), and erm, we don’t want another jelly belly, do we?

M's Spanish Paella

M never fails to disappoint with his cooking, and again, I was very happy with what he cooked. The rice was slightly chewy and moist, and packed full of robust flavours – seafood, chicken stock, chorizo. The squid and prawns were perfectly cooked too! It was pretty hard to stop once I started.

M's Spanish Paella

Here’s the recipe:

M’s Spanish Paella

serves 4 normal people, or 2 piranhas/pigs/dinosaurs

100g squid, gutted, cleaned and sliced into rings
100g prawns, shelled, cleaned and halved
125g smoked streaky bacon, sliced
100g chorizo, cut into chunks
1/2 bulb garlic (probably 4-6 cloves)
250g paella rice
Chicken stock (1 teaspoon chicken stock powder + pinch of saffron + 500ml hot water)
4 perino tomatoes, halved plus extra whole perino tomatoes to garnish
30g parsley, leaves and stems separated, and chopped
2 onions, chopped
1 red chilli, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 lemon

1. Heat oil in non-stick pot on medium heat.

2. Fry garlic, onion, chilli and parsley stems till onions and garlic soften.

3. Add bacon and chorizo, and fry till oil seeps out of bacon.

4. Add paella rice and chicken stock, simmer with lid closed for 20-25 minutes until all liquid is almost absorbed. This will really depend on how hot your hob is, so keep a lookout.

5. Add squid and prawns and cook further till rice is cooked. The rice should be slightly chewy and a little moist, not completely dry or too wet.

6. Garnish with parsley leaves and fresh perino tomatoes, and serve with a squeeze of lemon.

Enjoy!

P/S: We sneaked a little red wine and had some iberico ham for starters too!

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*Updated: This post has been featured on Foodgawker, Tastespotting and Foodpress. Check out my profiles on Foodgawker and Tastespotting to see my other featured posts!

Your Best Recipe

I have also submitted this recipe to Your Best Recipe (November), which is hosted by the lovely Spicie Foodie.