Friday, November 26, 2010

Kiddy Meal: Beef stew with mashed potato

Occasionally, I like to "dress up" the food and give my little gal a little surprise.  Not into those fanciful bento arrangement though, as I reckon that by the time I finished "decorating" the bento meal, the food will be cold.  So, just a simple kiddy plate or add a cute food pick.

ABC Soup

Since childhood, this has been one of my favourite soups.  Not sure why this soup is called the "ABC Soup", probably it is chicken soup with lots of vegetables, so packed with all the vitamins and goodness.  My mum  did not call it "ABC Soup", but “薯仔红萝卜番茄煲鸡汤”, which is the ingredients she used for this soup: potato+carrot+tomato+onion and chicken (add a few pieces of dried scallop for that extra rich flavour).  I prefer this version too, though I will make changes, depending on what I have in the fridge.

ABC Soup

Ingredients: Corn, tomato, carrot,onion, chicken 

1) Cut vegetables.

2) Blanch chicken in hot water and set aside.

3) Boil 1.5 litre water, add all ingredients except tomato and simmer for 1 hour and 30 mins.

4) Add tomato and simmer for further 30 mins.  Alternatively, you can add together in step 3.

5) Season with salt (I added a small piece of 大头菜 at the beginning, so no need to add salt)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sweet and Sour Fish

This is a typical "high heat stir-fry" dish.  The fish is first deep-fried to golden brown.  Stir-fry the vegetables over high heat to bring out the flavour, add mixed sauce to the hot sizzling wok (or pan), followed by tossing the fried fish chunks back into wok to mix well with the tomato sauce.  
Sweet and Sour Fish

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mock Abalone with Dou Miao

Honestly, I find spending hundred over dollars on a can of abalone is way too expensive (that famous brand with a wheel).  But again, abalone is a delicacy reserved for special occasions, such as during the Lunar New Year festive period, so most people do not mind splurging on it once a while.  

With a little effort and preparation, you can have "abalone" as often as you like!  Over here, I used King Mushroom as the mock abalone.  You can also use Bailing Mushroom (白灵菇), which is even better in texture.  In both case, you will need to "borrow" some seafood flavour since both mushrooms are quite tasteless on its own.  

King Mushroom with Dou Miao


I remembered as a child, my mum would cook this soup when we complained of backache.  This is one of those soups which I dislike.  First, the colour of this soup is brownish black.  Second, it has quite a strong herbal taste.  Third - do I need another reason if it does not look or taste good?  Still, I must say this soup is "bearable"  and as I grow older, I begin to appreciate the goodness of this soup.  My girl tasted the soup and gave me that "what a disgusting taste" look on her face.  Ha.... I don't blame her, but hopefully she will learn to cook this soup next time.  

And here are the ingredients for this soup:

Chinese Spinach with Silver Fish (银鱼上汤苋菜)

This is a simple dish that you can easily whip up at home instead of having it in a restaurant or zi-char stall.  Another variation of this is Chinese Spinach with trio eggs (century egg, salted egg & chicken egg) or you can omit the eggs and add wolfberries instead. 

What you need:
  • A handful of silver fish, rinse and pat dry, before you fry it till crispy.  This will be used as toppings.
  • Broth - you can use ready-made stock, fish bone stock, ikan bilis stock or any stock that you have on hand.  For me, as I have some prawn shells, I sauteed the prawn shells with garlic to get a rich and favourful prawn stock as the broth.  
  • Chinese spinach - buy the small leafy spinach or baby spinach as it is more tender.  Heat oil, add garlic, Chinese spinach, stir-fry, add stock and it is done in 2 to 3 minutes.

Prawn with Water Bamboo

This is the first time that I cook this vegetable.  I have never seen this in our local market (or perhaps never noticed it)  though I have heard of this vegetable over a Taiwan cooking programme.  So when I saw this in our local supermarket, I was quite eager to try it out.

Water Bamboo (筊白笋)

I believe this is a variation of bamboo shoots, though it does not have a strong smell like the bamboo shoot (竹笋) and does not need long cooking time. It is a very tender vegetable and best to served as a cold salad (after quick blanch in hot water) or a quick stir-fry to retain the natural sweetness and crunch.  I stir-fried this with prawns (seasoned with a teaspoon of mild hot bean paste + soya sauce).  On another day, I stir-fried with celery, carrot, Chinese mushroom, sliced pork and shredded dried scallop (soaked, shredded and use water as stock).

Prawn with Water Bamboo

Monday, November 15, 2010

Papaya Soup: You can have it sweet or savory!

I love to eat papaya!  It's tasty, healthy and inexpensive!  You can have it as your fruit salad, a milkshake, a smoothie or even made them into popsicles! Have you tried using papaya in soups?  They are simply delicious!  You need to buy unripe papaya for soups.  After cooking, it will turn into bright orange colour.  And yes, you can have it as a sweet dessert (糖水) or a savory soup as part of a meal.  

Top:Sweet Papaya Snow Fungus Soup
Bottom: Savory Papaya Fish Bone Soup with Snow Fungus

Almond Banana Tartlets

I was thinking of what to do with some unbaked tart shells in my fridge.  I just want to do something quick and easy to finish up the tart shells, as little mess as possible since I was feeling a little tired over the weekend.  So when I saw one banana left on the dining table, I had an idea!  

Almond Banana Tartlets

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Chinese Steamboat

I know it's too early now to think of Chinese Reunion Dinner, where we think of steamboat or Chinese Hotpot.  But hey, you can still enjoy steamboat at other times of the year cos it is so easy to prepare, healthy and delicious.  Just step into a supermarket, buy some seafood, meat, vegetables, tofu and prepare a stock (or buy ready-made stock) and there you have it!  

Steamboat Dinner

It can be a simple fare of tofu, sliced meat, fishballs, vegetables to a lavish meal consisting crabs, sea prawns, pomfret, scallops, kurobuta (black pig), marbled beef etc.  And you can choose the soup base for your hotpot from hot & spicy pot, herbal chicken pot, ginseng chicken pot to Japanese-style kombo stock.  Of course, what's a steamboat dinner without those yummy sauces - sesame sauce, garlic chilli sauce, ginger & vinegar, soya sauce.  Let's get ready for some shabu-shabu acts!

I like to help myself to a nice bowl of soup at the end of the steamboat dinner.  So satisfying!  Can't survive without carbo in your meal?  You can add some noodles or even a bowl of cooked rice into your hotpot and you have a nice bowl of porridge!  

Salt and Pepper Prawns

This is a wonderful dish to whet your appetite.  Deep-fried prawns with the shell on, then tossed in a wok with garlic, pepper, five spice salt and spring onion.  Add some chopped chilies for colour and flavour.  A very quick dish with few steps and ingredients.  The only thing to note is control the heat well, do not attempt to multi-task while cooking this dish and you will have a perfect appetiser to go with your favourite beer.

Salt and Pepper Prawns

Friday, November 12, 2010

Tomato Bruschetta

  A delicious and easy appetiser, and very healthy too!

Tomato Bruschetta
If possible, try to select those big red juicy tomatoes.  I just use the locally available tomatoes.

Tomato mixture:
  2 ripe tomatoes, deseed and diced.
  1 garlic clove - finely minced
  1/2 red onion (chopped)
  Handful chopped parsley
  Juice from 1/3 lemon
  1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  Salt & pepper to taste

2 Ciabatta, cut in half lengthwise, then cut into 2 triangular shape (total: 8 pieces)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove - cut in half lenghwise

1) Combine tomato mixture and chill in fridge for at least an hour.
2) Toast bread in oven till crispy and drizzle olive oil and rub the garlic on the bread.
3) Spoon tomato mixture on bread and serve immediately.

Mushroom Baked Pasta

I love to buy mushrooms, especially now that our supermarkets pack lots of varieties of fresh mushrooms at affordable prices.  I bought the Enoki mushrooms (stir-fried with lettuce & 腐乳) - just $0.70 for one big packet (I think is from Taiwan), Portobello mushrooms and King Oyster mushrooms.  Portobello is great for grilling, soups or even for vegetarian burgers (replace meat patties).  I like to slice the King Oyster Mushrooms and use them as "abalone", served on top of a bed of vegetables.  

For this baked pasta dish, I combined portobello and king oyster mushrooms with celery/carrot.    This is a easy way to get your kids to eat more vegetables if they hate their greens.  Portobello mushrooms has a meaty taste, so it helps to balance out the flavour since no meat is used in this dish.  While this may looks very creamy, fret not, there's NO CREAM in it - simply milk and a handful of shredded cheese sprinkled on top for that cheesy effect:

Mushroom Baked Pasta
Here are the main ingredients required:

From 12th position (clockwise): portobello mushrooms, shredded cheese, tomato sauce & sun-dried tomato, Penne (pasta), garlic and onions, king oyster mushroom, celery.   

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pasta Soup - Chinese Style

I cook most of my meals during weekday.  I enjoy home-cooked food and never seem to get tired or bored with it.  Since I am cooking small portions, I do not have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen preparing and cooking my meals.  Of course, a little planning will help to speed things up.

Here's what I have for lunch today - Shell Pasta with Marrow Green in Fish Bone Broth.  Cooking + preparation takes about 20 minutes, though it would have taken at least 2 hours without planning ahead!   

Shell Pasta with Marrow Green in Fish Bone Broth

Three Colour Carrot Soup (三色萝卜汤)

Radish or carrot?  The green and white carrots, are usually known as green radish and white radish (or daikon).  The Chinese word for them is simply "萝卜" (luo bo), whether it is orange, green or white.  I love their colour combination and like to cook them in soup.  If you are cooking this soup for the first time, you may be put off by a "gas smell" released from the radish (in the first half an hour of cooking).  But the smell will go away after a while and you will not taste it in the soup.  
Three Colour Carrot Soup (三色萝卜汤)
Green and white radish (cut into chunks)
Carrot (cut into chunks)
3 pieces pork muscles - see tips below (or pork ribs) - wash and blanch in hot water
3 pieces dried scallop (瑶柱)
2 slices ginger

1) Boil 1.5 litre water and add all the ingredients.
2) Simmer for 1.5 hours over low heat.

Cooking tips:
1) I like to use pork muscles in soup, as the meat is very tender and flavourful after cooking.  Plus, it has lesser fats than pork ribs and gives clearer soup.  

2) You can make use of the pork muscles in the soup for another dish.  After simmering for an hour in the soup, remove one or two pieces of pork muscle and shred it.  Add 1 tsp each of soya sauce, sesame oil, mirin, water and dash of pepper to marinate it.  You can add the marinated pork to a stir-fry vegetable, with steamed tofu or steamed eggs.  Or simply store it in the freezer for future use [add in porridge (century egg porridge), instant noodles etc].

Berries Yogurt

Craving for something sweet and creamy?  Instead of reaching out to that pint of ice-cream in your fridge, you can go for something healthier, yet equally delicious - low-fat yogurt!  Yogurt is a good source of protein and  calcium, and it contains live cultures, which aids in digestion.  Add your favorite toppings and you have a yummy and refreshing treat:

Berries Yogurt
What I have here is commercially available yogurt, but you can make your own yogurt at home with milk and a few tablespoons of plain yogurt (with live cultures) as a starter.

I used 2 small tubs of yogurt - plain and berries flavours; and blueberries and strawberries as toppings.  Simply alternate the yogurt in cup for colour contrast, then top with berries.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Basic Sweet Buns

This basic sweet bun recipe yields about 12 buns.  The buns are soft and can be used with sweet or savory fillings.  For a healthier version, replace 50g bread flour with wholemeal flour, oats bran, wheat germ etc

300g bread flour

50g plain flour
70g castor sugar
8g instant yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg (beaten) + extra for brushing
75g water

75g milk
60g butter, cut into small pieces

1) Mix all ingredients in a mixing bowl, except for water, milk, egg and butter.
2) Pour in water, milk, beaten egg and knead for 10 minutes by machine (Longer kneading time by hand).
3) Add butter and knead for another 5 minutes or until the dough is smooth.
4) Cover and rest the dough for 45 minutes or till double in size.
5) Divide and round dough into desired portions.  Rest for 10 mins.
6) Wrap fillings, cover and rest for another 45 minutes.
7) Brush with beaten egg and bake in preheated oven at 190C for around 12 minutes.

Purple Sweet Potato Flower Buns

It is common to find yellow sweet potato or orange sweet potato in the market.  Usually, I will buy these and cook sweet potato soup or make Taiwanese Porridge.  Purple sweet potato?  This is something new to me.    It is not just the skin that is purple, but the flesh is also purple as well!  There is another type, where the skin is purple with yellowish flesh inside.  With some research on the internet for recipes and benefits of having purple sweet potato, I have some lovely " purple flowers" for tea and breakfast:

Purple Sweet Potato Flower Buns

Chicken Hot Dog Wholemeal Bun

Chicken Hotdog Wholemeal Bun

One portion basic sweet bun recipe

12 chicken hot dogs
Some mixed vegetables (toppings)
Tomato or chilli sauce

1) Divide and round dough into 12 pieces.  Rest for 10 mins.

2) Roll each piece into a rectangular shape (to fit hot dog).  Wrap a hot dog in each dough, cut and shape it flat.  Place on baking tray lined with greaseproof paper to rest for another 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

3) Brush with beaten egg, sprinkle some mixed vegetables, squeeze tomato/chilli sauce and mayonnaise on each bun.

4) Bake at a preheated oven of 185C for 12 to 15 minutes.

5) Squeeze some more mayonnaise on each bun.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Appetisers for dinner

I wanted something light and refreshing for dinner, better still with minimum cooking and preparation.  I checked my fridge and took out a Japanese cucumber, a packet of ladies fingers, two small chicken thighs, a few cocktail hot dogs and strips of bacon.  After some preparation and simple cooking (blanching + grilling), dinner is ready!

Top left (clockwise): Blanched ladies fingers with sesame sauce, grilled hot dog & bacon rolls, cucumber with garlic sauce, grilled bovril chicken sticks.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Soon Kueh

My little girl loves to eat Soon Kueh, those with BangKwang (沙葛 or turnips) fillings, and not with the real "soon" (笋 or bamboo shoots).  While Soon Kueh is available from most hawker centres, I find most of the Soon Kueh has too much MSG or too heavily spiced with pepper, such that you need to down a glass of water after eating one.  Why not try making it at home, I thought.

Soon Kueh

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Fried Tau Pok with stuffings (炸豆包)

A friend, a native of Fujian China, gave me a box of stuffed tau pok, quite similar to our local stuffed tau kwa, except that she used tau pok as the wrap and the fillings are Chinese seaweed, grated carrot and chopped garlic chives.  I dipped them in a thin batter and deep-fried till golden brown.

Fried Stuffed Tau Pok
The coat is very crispy, but I find the fillings a little chewy, due to the texture of seaweed.  If I replace seaweed with sotong & fish paste, I wondered how will it taste?  Alternatively, I could also use the smaller bean curd puffs, turn them inside out and stuffed them with sotong paste + a little minced pork/grated carrot/chives fillings.  The size will be just right as finger food for parties!  

Steamed Chicken Rice with Salted Fish (咸鱼鸡饭)

This is the simplified version of the Chicken Claypot Rice, an ideal one-dish meal for the busy working mum.

Steamed Chicken Rice, served with Chinese Long Cabbage soup

If you marinate the chicken and soak the mushrooms in the morning, preparation + cooking in  the evening only takes approximately 45 minutes and all is cooked in the rice-cooker, i.e. you are free to do whatever you need to do during this time - take your shower, read the papers, help your kids to unpack.... while waiting for your dinner. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Barley Bean Curd Sheet Dessert Soup (腐竹薏米糖水)

This is a popular Cantonese dessert soup, usually served warm.  Whenever I cook this, I like to keep some in the fridge and have it cold the next day, which is so refreshing especially on a hot afternoon.

This is a simplified version as I only used pearl barley and bean curd sheets.  I did not add any ginkgo nuts or hard-boiled quail eggs.  My mum used to cook the detailed version and in a big pot!  After drinking one big bowl of it, it's like having a meal, since barley has the effect of filling up your tummy.  So, if you are on a diet, have more barley drink (just make sure you control the amount of sugar in it). 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fried Pork Cutlet with Fermented Red Bean Sauce

This is a fusion of Chinese and Japanese cuisines.  I use fermented red bean curd to marinate paper thin slices of collar pork (typically used for shabu shabu or steamboat - available at supermarkets), then lightly coat them with flour, dip in beaten eggs and finally coat with Japanese breadcrumbs before deep-frying at high heat.

Fried Pork Cutlet with Fermented Red Bean Sauce (炸南乳肉片)

300g collar pork (ready sliced)
1 egg (beaten) for coating
3 tbsp plain flour + 1 tbsp corn flour + 1/4 tsp baking powder (mix well)
1 cup of Japanese breadcrumbs
Cooking oil for deep-frying

1 cube of fermented red bean curd (mashed)
1 heap tsp mashed roasted garlic (or 2 tsp finely minced garlic)
1/3 tsp 5-spice powder
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1 egg (beaten)
1 tsp mirin
1 tbsp water

1) Mix together the marinate ingredients and pour over the sliced pork.  Rub each slices well with the marinate and keep in refrigerator for at least 5 hours.
2) Place the flour, beaten eggs, and Japanese breadcrumb in separate dishes.
3) Lightly coat each piece of pork with flour (shake off excess), dip into beaten eggs, coat with Japanese breadcrumbs (shake off excess) and place on a plate.  Repeat steps for all the pork slices.
4) Heat oil on high (ideal temp is 180C) (see tips below) and fry few pieces of pork at each time (depends on the size of your cookware).  
5) Fry each side for about a minute & half or till golden brown.  Remove from oil and drain on kitchen paper.  

Cooking tips:
1) I do not have a kitchen thermometre, so I test the temperature by inserting a wooden chopstick into the oil.  When small bubbles form around the chopstick, the oil is ready for frying.  Alternatively, drop a small piece of breadcrumb into the oil.  If it sinks slightly and then floats to the top bubbling, the oil is ready.  If you see the breadcrumb floats instantly to the top, the oil is too hot (add a little oil to lower the heat).

2) Do not put too many pieces of pork into the oil at one time.  Overcrowding will cause the oil temperature to drop and this will result in oily pork cutlet.  High heat helps to give a crispy coat, seals in the juice while keeps the oil from seeping into the pork.  But overly high heat will burn your food before they are properly cooked.

3) Do not shallow fry as the pork will tend to absorb more oil, compared to deep-frying.  Moreover, the breadcrumbs will be easily burnt if in close contact to the bottom of your cookware.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Raspberry Panna Cotta

This refreshing dessert is so yummy, yet so simple to make.  I have experimented with all milk (no cream) panna cotta - the taste is very light.  Unless you are on a diet, I do not suggest using all milk as it takes away the pleasure of having panna cotta.  I have not tried using all cream yet as the idea of having 40% fat in the cup is very guilty.  And so, my lower-fat version of panna cotta:

Raspberry Panna Cotta
(makes 6 cups)

350ml full cream milk
150ml whipping cream (or heavy cream)
50g fine sugar
1/2 vanilla essence
3 level tsp gelatin powder (dissolved in 2 tbsp warm water)
2 tbsp Tortally jelly crystals (raspberry flavour)
100ml water
A cup of fresh or frozen raspberry

1) Gently boil the milk, dairy cream and sugar in a pot till sugar is melted and small bubbles started to form at the side of pot.
2) Pour the gelatin mixture and vanilla essence into the pot and stir.
3) Let it cool and pour into small cups and place in refrigerator till set.
4) Dissolve the jelly crystals in 100ml water (over stove or heat on high in microwave for one minute).
5) Cool the jelly mixture.  Place a few raspberries in each cup and gently pour some jelly mixture over it.
6) Chill and serve.

Quick & Easy Curry Tuna Fusilli

Cooking this was really fast, preparation + cooking = 20 minutes!

Here's what you need to whip out this quick & easy meal for two:
From 12 o'clock (clockwise): Olives, Holland pea, onion & garlic, cucumber, canned curry tuna, spring onion, fusilli

You can also add some slice tomatoes, bell peppers, chopped chilli or mushrooms.  No hard and fast rules, simply make use of whatever vegetables that's available in your fridge.  If you're cooking for your kids, use canned tomato tuna instead.

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