Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Arrowroot: A soup and A Dish

A Cantonese home-cooked meal is not complete without a soup.  At the start of each meal, my family habit is to take a few sips of the soup first.  At the end of each meal, we'd help ourselves to more soup!  Depending on the types of soup, cooking time can be as quick as 10 to 15 minutes (we call it 滚汤) or the slow-heat, long simmering soup (煲汤 or 老火汤), which will take about at least an hour plus to three hours to prepare.  

Arrowroot pork ribs soup (粉葛猪骨汤) is a traditional Cantonese soup.  It is flavourful and naturally-thicken with the arrowroot and beans used to prepare the soup.  But compared to other popular soups, such as ABC, lotus roots, watercress, old-melon etc, arrowroot soup is not commonly available in hawker centres or food courts.  Occasionally, Chinese restaurants serve this soup in their menu.  When selecting arrowroot for soups, get those big and round type - it is sweeter and more importantly, it has lesser tough fibre.  Later in this post, I will utilise the leftover arrowroot for making another dish.

1 medium-sized arrow root
1 carrot (optional - for colour and added sweetness), cut into chunks
A small handful of pearl beans (珍珠豆
A small handful of black eyed beans (眉豆)
5 to 6 red dates
5 to 6 pieces of pork ribs

1) Wash and scrub clean the arrowroot.  Peel the skin and cut into chunks.  
2) Blanch the pork ribs in hot water to remove blood and impurities.  Discard water.
3) Bring a pot of water to boil (about 2 litres).  Put in all the ingredients and bring the soup to boil for a few minutes.  Turn to low heat and simmer for about two hours.  Add salt to taste.

Usually, we just drink the soup and discard the arrowroot, as it is rather tough and fibrous.  But, occasionally, if I manage to get a good piece of arrowroot that is sweet and quite "粉" (shall translate it as .... lesser tough fibre), these leftover arrowroot can be transformed into another delightful dish.

Braised pork trotters arrowroot with fermented red bean curd sauce

This dish reflects the "wisdom" and "thriftiness" of our old grandmothers.  They are so ingenious to turn an otherwise "not-so-tasty" fibrous root (but edible food) into another rich and flavourful dish!

My mum and mother-in-law told me back in the olden days, leftover arrowroot (or lotus roots) are never thrown away.  By braising these cooked arrowroot with fermented red bean curd sauce (南乳) and some pork belly (or pork ribs), you have another yummy dish! 

Leftover arrowroot, cut into smaller bite-sized pieces
1 carrot, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 pork trotter, front hock (猪手), chopped into bite-sized pieces
5 to 6 slices ginger
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
3 to 4 shallots, smashed
1 piece tangerine peel 
1 to 2 pieces fermented red bean curds (南乳)
1 to 2 tsp soy bean paste (豆酱)
A little cooking wine
2 tsp sugar or some rock sugar
Spring onion (garnish)

1) Boil the pork trotters in hot water for a few minutes to remove blood and impurities.  Discard water and set aside the pork trotters.
2) Heat the wok on high heat.  Add a little oil, stir-fry the ginger slices and shallots briefly.  Add the pork trotters and stir fry for a minute or more.  Push the pork trotters to one side and add in the chopped garlic, fermented red bean curds and soy bean paste.  Stir the sauces to prevent burning (if the wok is too hot, lower to medium heat where necessary).  When you smell the aroma from the sauces, stir-fry to combine with the pork trotters.  Drizzle a little cooking wine around the wok and stir-fry again.
3) Add water to completely cover the pork trotters, plus some more (water will be reduced & thickened after braising and with the addition of arrowroot).  Add the carrot and tangerine peel.
4) Bring content to boil, then turn to medium-low heat and braise for about an hour.  After 15 minutes into braising, add the arrowroot and sugar, cover and continue cooking.  In between, check to see if the gravy has reduced to prevent burning.  Add some water, if necessary.
5) Garnish with chopped spring onion and serve hot.

I will be sharing this post with Edith of Precious Moments at Heritage Food Trail.  

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Chocolate Brownie Tart

I "cheated" cos this is not exactly a tart (i.e. one with a pastry base).  This is actually a chocolate brownie baked in a tart pan.  So what you see here is a chocolate brownie that has gone through a "slimming" session.

I halved the recipe and bake at preheated oven of 175C for about 20 - 25 minutes.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Almond Pear Tart

Made these pear tarts with a tiny piece of leftover pastry dough.  

I just mould the dough into the bottom of these rings.  Partially-bake the dough at preheated oven of 175C for about 15 minutes, then let it cool slightly.  Fill the base with some almond cream and place one poached pear into the ring, press it down gently, so that part of the almond cream comes up to surround the pear.  Cover the top of pear with foil and bake further at 175C for about 35 to 40 minutes.

The detailed recipe is here, but I reduced the portion.  For almond cream, I used only 1/3 of the recipe.

These pear tarts are tasty on their own, but I don't mind having them with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

I am submitting this to Aspiring Bakers #10: Easy as Pie (August 2011), hosted by Janine of "Not the Kitchen Sink!".  

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Nutella Truffles

Thanks to {L} of Obsessedly Involved with Food, I was the lucky one to win a coffee-time desserts book from her recent Aspiring Bakers #9 event.  Thanks {L}, I love this book for all the little treats ideas.

I browsed through the recipes and was attracted to this quick and easy Nutella Truffles.  I had all the required ingredients stated in the recipe.  The best thing is it helps to clear my dairy whipping cream, after I first opened the carton for making my Strawberry Tart.  

150ml single cream
250g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
125g butter, cut into cubes
200g Nutella
200g unsweetened cocoa powder

[Note: I used 80% of above ingredients and yields about 50 small pieces]

1) Heat the cream until it starts to simmer.  Away from heat, add the chocolate and the butter.  Mix well until you have a smooth ganache.  Add Nutella in 2 to 3 stages.  Mix well.

2) Put the ganache in fridge for at least 2 hours until it harden (I pour into a plate and it took me an hour or less for it to harden).

3) Put the cocoa powder on a plate (I made some with toasted chopped almonds).

4) With a teaspoon, make little balls of ganache and roll carefully in the cocoa powder (I used a melon ball scoop).

5) Arrange on a plate and return to the fridge for 30 minutes before serving.

[Recipe source:  Les Petits Plats Francais:  Coffee-Time Treats by Jose Marechal]

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Marrow Green with Vermicelli (大姨妈嫁女)

Here is one dish that all Cantonese families will be familiar with - 大姨妈嫁女 (briefly translated as:  maternal eldest aunt's daughter is getting married).  "Huh... you mean yee ma actually cooked this dish when her daughter got married???".... I asked my mum when she first told me the name of this dish.  The truth is everyone calls it this way for many generations.  So now, I also tell my little gal this is "大姨妈嫁女" (hee.... she looks at me with a "huh" expression ...)

One possible explanation (I read from the internet) is this dish is such a common household dish that everyone is familiar with and knows how to prepare it with ease.  The ease of preparing this dish is associated with the way the eldest aunt marries off her daughter.  As the aunt has many daughters, she became very familiar with the details and rituals in marriage.  So, when you cook this dish, it is as easy & familiar as the aunt who marries off her daughter.  If you know of any other versions of how the name of this dish came about, please do share it with us over here cos I would really love to know it.

Indeed, this simple household dish is really easy to prepare, but you need some practice to make it taste good.   Basic ingredients:  dried prawns, marrow green and vermicelli (I added Chinese mushrooms, carrots and sweet bean sticks).  Basic steps:  Heat oil, add garlic, chopped dried prawns.  Add marrow green & stir-fry, add water, simmer.  Lastly, add in vermicelli, cook till soft and gravy thickens.   The sweetness of the dried prawns and the marrow green is fully soaked up by the vermicelli and goes very well with rice.

1/2 marrow green (节瓜), cut into thin strips (amount of marrow green used is about 2 to 3 times of carrot)
1 carrot, cut into thin strips
2 Chinese mushrooms, soaked & cut into thin strips
2 pieces sweet bean sticks (甜竹), soaked & cut into thin strips
1 small bunch of vermicelli (粉丝), soaked, drain off water
Small handful dried prawns (about 2 - 3 tbsp), soaked for few minutes, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small piece of ginger, smashed
A little oyster sauce (to taste)

1) Heat a little oil in wok to moderately hot.  Add in ginger, garlic and dried prawns.  When you can smell the aroma from the garlic/dried prawns, add in the marrow green and carrot (add a pinch of salt).  Stir fry to combine the ingredients in the wok.  Cover for about a minute.  Add sufficient water (cover about 7 parts of contents in wok), cover and let it simmer at low heat for about 15 minutes.  In between, give it a few stir and add oyster sauce to taste.

2) Add in the sweet bean sticks and vermicelli.  Let it simmer again till vermicelli turns soft and absorbs most of the gravy.  There is no need to thicken the gravy with cornstarch.  The gravy should be just sufficient, not too little (it will taste dry) or too much (it will not be as flavourful).  

I will be sharing this dish with Edith of Precious Moments at Heritage Food Trail.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Flower Pot Cakes {Tea-Treat for Teachers}

What is a flower pot cake?  It is a cake baked in a flower pot or similar containers, thereafter covered with crushed cookies (such as Oreo) to resemble the soil.  This was my Teachers' Day project with my little girl for last year's Teachers' Day Celebration.  Instead of baking the cakes in flower pots, I just baked them in muffin cases and drop each cake into a IKEA mug, i.e. my mini flower pot.  My little girl had much fun stirring the cake batter, washing/drying the mugs and crushing the OREO cookies.   

My craft paper flowers

To make it special, I made some paper flowers using craft papers and insert each flower into the mug.  Attach a tea-bag with a little note "Teachers' Day Tea-Treat".  So, the gift idea is:  The teacher gets to enjoy the cake, along with a cup of tea (brew using the mug) and keep the paper flower as a gift.

Flower pot cakes for all the Teachers & Staff

We also made a Teachers' Day Card for her class teacher.  On one side is a "crossword puzzle" made up of all the names of the students in the class (plus the teacher's name).  I got this idea after my girl repeatedly asked me to spell the names of her friends (she enjoys writing little notes and drawing princesses pictures for her friends).  I typed, printed and cut out the letters; while my girl carefully arranged her friends' names and stick them onto the card (based on the draft that I prepared for her).  The other side is her class photo (taken during racial harmony day).

DIY Teachers' Day Card

Next week will be Teachers' Day again... how about making a card or DIY a gift to thank your teacher(s)?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Strawberry Tart

This strawberry tart has been in my "To-Do" list ever since Fruit Paradise set foot in Singapore.  Their fruit tarts must be the prettiness, drool-worthy tarts on earth.  They look so gorgeous with the artistically-layers of fruits and cream on the tart.  It's simply a piece of art that you are savoring.

Sad to say, beneath the beautiful appearance lacks the substance of a nice fruit tart.  If you have ever tried a slice of their fruit tart (and burn a hole in your pocket!), you will know what I mean.  Once you dig into the tart, you will be "dropped" from PARADISE... ouch!  There are only a FEW miserable slices of fruit, a dry slice of sponge and the bulk of it is cream, cream and more CREAM with a thick pastry base (I need to exert considerable strength for my fork to cut through the base).  More beautiful pictures of fruit paradise tarts and review over at this blog.  Utterly disappointed!  This is far very different from the cakes and pastries that I had enjoyed in Japan.

Amazing selection of cakes, pastries & desserts at Japan's basement supermarkets.  

I wanted to create a similar fruit tart, but with lesser cream and packed with more fruits and flavour.  Using the basic sweet pastry crust, I carefully filled the crust with a layer of light pastry cream.  Next, a thin slice of sponge cake with a thin coat of pastry cream, topped with strawberries slices.  Spread a layer of whipped cream to cover the strawberries before placing another thin slice of sponge cake on top.  Repeat layering of whipped cream, strawberries slices and a final coat of whipped cream to cover up the tart.  Garnish with strawberries slices and brush over with apricot gel.   

Appearance-wise, my strawberry tart is nothing close to being in paradise.  But, I am so thrilled and pleased that this is definitely much tastier than the one that I had at Fruit Paradise.  The soft sponge, strawberries and cream combination is heavenly, they simply melt in the mouth and makes my heart melt too!  And the pastry base is so thin and delicate that I am so worried that my tart may fall apart... thanks goodness... it did not fail me ^_^  (I brushed a thin layer of egg white on the tart at the last 15 minutes of baking.  This acts as a protective film against the pastry cream/fillings on top and prevent it from turning soggy).

I'm leaving the recipe to the end of this post, as it involves quite a fair bit of steps to put this tart together.  But this is time and effort well-spent cos I am really pleased with the end result.  I am submitting this to Aspiring Bakers #10: Easy as Pie (August 2011), hosted by Janine of "Not the Kitchen Sink!".  

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cook and Share a Pot of Curry

Today is our (unofficial) Nation Curry Cooking Day!  At least 60,000 people have signed up for "Cook and Share A Pot of Curry" event.  The purpose of cooking a pot of curry is to promote tolerance, understanding, acceptance and appreciation in our multi-racial society.  

Beside cooking a pot of chicken curry, I have also prepared popiah (Chinese spring roll) for dinner.  

So, this is my weekend family dinner spread:

Click on here for more dinner menu ideas.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Steamed Minced Pork with Salted Fish (Haam Yu Jeng Ju Yoke)

Here is one humble home-cooked Cantonese dish that really brings on a nostalgic feel.  I still remember those days how my father enjoyed this dish - scooping up the wonderful gravy onto his rice with his chopsticks and meat patty, taking a bite into the juicy meat patty and savoring the aromatic bowl of rice.  Hamm yu jeng ju yoke (咸鱼蒸猪肉), paired with some blanched vegetables or soup, to go with plain rice, will make a satisfying and comforting meal.

When I served this dish at the dining table, my little girl went "wow.... I smell something nice!".  Ha... indeed a true blue Canto who loves her soup too ;)  This is one of her favorite dishes and I told her when she grows up, she will  learn to prepare this and share it with us.

There are some variations to this dish.  You can replace the salted fish with salted shrimp paste (咸虾蒸猪肉) or with a salted egg (mix minced meat with salted egg white and place the yolk on top).  You can either prepare this as a side dish to go with rice (as in my post here) or steam the pork patty directly over steamed rice (煲仔饭).  These are all lovely combinations and fairly easy to prepare at home.  For a more balanced diet, prepare a vegetable dish or soup to go with it.  

Till now, I find my mum's version of this hamm yu jeng ju yoke the best.  As usual, she does not have written recipe, everything is in her head and finger tips.  And this is my version and I am still working on how to improve it further.

(serves 3 to 4)

200g minced pork
2 Chinese mushrooms, soak in water till soft, finely chopped
2 water chestnuts, finely chopped
1 thumb-sized piece of salted fish, rinse and cut into small pieces
1 tsp grated ginger
Some shredded ginger
Some chopped spring onion (garnish)

1 - 2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp cooking wine
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp sugar
Tiny pinch of salt
Dash of pepper
1 tbsp water
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tbsp cooked shallot oil (to drizzle on top before steaming)

Few points to note:
1) Minced pork should have some fats in it.  The pork patty will taste "dried" if it is all lean meat. If buy ready-minced pork, use a chopper to mince it again for a "bouncy" meat patty (弹牙).

2) I believe (traditionally) there is no Chinese mushrooms or water chestnuts in this dish.  But, we love the aroma and the crunch that these ingredients add to the dish.

3) Marinate and chill the pork patty for at least an hour before steaming for better texture and flavour.

1) Mix the minced pork with the seasonings.  Stir in the chopped mushrooms, water chestnuts, half the salted  fish and grated ginger.  Spread and press the meat patty evenly into a plate.  Chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

2) Sprinkle the remaining salted fish and shredded ginger on top of the meat patty.  Drizzle with shallot oil.  Steam on high for about 10 minutes.  Garnish with  chopped spring onion and serve immediately.

I will be sharing this dish with Edith of Precious Moments at her Heritage Food Trail.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

SG Love Curry {cupcakes}

My tongue-in-cheek cupcake creation, from the recent curry fiasco:

These are really "currylicious" and I love these red paper cases!

Soft & spongy chocolate cake with butter cream icing and fondant:

Carry and share these cupcakes in style:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I {heart} Apple Pie

I enjoy baking apple pie or apple tart, as apples are available all-year round.  My favorite apple tart recipe is the thin-crust apple tart, filled with almond cream and apple puree, and topped with thinly-sliced apple.

This time, I wanted to try a double-crust apple pie, one that is filled with chunky apple fillings.  I prefer to use a loose-base tart pan, instead of a pie dish, for easy removal.  For the top crust, I cut out heart-shaped dough and arranged them on the apple filling, an idea from watching the Martha Stewart show.  You can use any cookie cutters, not necessarily heart-shaped cutters.  Martha uses fluted round cutter in her recipe, but I find these little heart-shaped toppers more adorable!  

And since I still have some dulce de leche in the fridge, I decided to pair it with this apple tart.  I wondered how the DDL will react with the tangy apples!  

(makes one 8" pie)

Pastry dough
400g plain flour
4 tsp fine or caster sugar
200g unsalted butter
1.5 egg yolk + 4 to 5 tbsp water (use the remaining 1/2 egg yolk as egg wash)
Pinch of salt

1) Combine flour, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl and rub in butter (using your finger tips) till it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
2) Stir in the egg yolk mixture and combine to form a dough.
3) Divide the dough into 2 portions, wrap and chill in fridge for 30 minutes.
4) Roll out the first portion between baking paper and cling wrap.  The roll-out dough sheet should be slightly bigger than the tart pan or pie dish.  Transfer the dough sheet to cover the tart pan and trim the edges.  Keep chill in fridge.
5) For the second portion, roll out the dough into a thin sheet.  Use heart-shaped cookie cutters (I used 3 different sizes) to cut out heart-shaped dough.  Chill the dough for another 15 minutes.  

While the rolled-out dough is chilling in fridge, preheat the oven at 185C and prepare the apple filling.

Apple Filling
5 to 6 green apples, peeled, core and cut into small pieces
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp brown sugar (Suggest: use at least 4 tbsp, mine is a little bland)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 heaped tbsp dulce de leche
1.5 tsp corn flour
30g butter

Egg wash: 1/2 egg yolk + 1 tbsp water
A little caster sugar for sprinkling on top

Toss all ingredients together, except for butter.

To Assemble:

1) Pour the filling into the prepared pie crust.  Dot small pieces of butter on top of the apple filling.
2) Arrange the cut-out dough pieces on the apple filling, working from the rim to the centre, overlapping each dough pieces slightly.
3) Brush the pie with egg wash and sprinkle a little caster sugar on top.
4) Bake in preheated oven at 185C for about 75 minutes.  Mid-way into baking, cover the top with foil to prevent burning (insert a piece of foil at the bottom of oven to catch any juices spilling out from the pie).

[Note:  Let the apple pie cool down completely (about an hour), before removing and slicing it.  This will prevent the juice from flowing out and the pie from breaking]

I am submitting this to Aspiring Bakers #10: Easy as Pie (August 2011), hosted by Janine of "Not the Kitchen Sink!".  

I mentioned earlier in this post that I added dulce de leche for this apple pie.  Sad to say.... I cannot taste the DDL at all!  I guess 3 heaped tablespoon of DDL is not enough.  And since I added DDL to this recipe, I reduced the brown sugar to only 2 tbsp (about 30g) and it tasted a little bland (I used 1/2 cup sugar, approx 110g for my previous apple pie and it tasted just nice).  So while the DDL is thick and creamy, it is not as sweet as it looks!  In the end, I warmed up the apple pie and served it with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream for that added sweetness.  Who can resist that melting vanilla ice-cream with warm apple pie..... YUM!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Lemon Meringue Tart

I am quite a lemon-lover and I always keep some lemons in my fridge.  I used lemons in salad, for making desserts, or simply mix honey in warm water with a squeeze of lemon juice for a refreshing healthy drink.  And that's not all ... the lemon skin has great uses too.  Besides using lemon skins to scrub the chopping board and kitchen sink, it's also an all-natural non-toxic cleaner for the microwave oven.  Simply place a few lemon skins with a bowl of water in microwave, heat on high for two to three minutes till it's boiling and steaming away.  Wait for another few minutes, then clean the oven with a dry kitchen towel.  

For this lemon meringue tart, I used the juice from two and a half lemons to prepare the lemon curd.  Depending on how tangy you like the tart to be, you can always adjust the amount of lemon juice and/or sugar to taste.  

To get the most juice from your lemon, get the thin-skinned lemon.  Press and roll the whole lemon against the kitchen counter-top for a few times.  Wash them clean, grate the lemon for its zest, before cutting them into halves.  Then poke each halves with a fork for several times.  Hold the fork, insert into the half lemon, and squeeze the juice out with your other hand, moving the fork up/down as you squeezed.  

(8" loose-bottom tart pan)

Pastry crust:
180g plain flour
2 tsp caster sugar
90g unsalted butter
1 egg yolk + 2 to 3 tbsp water
A pinch of salt
A little egg white


1) Combine flour, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl and rub in butter (using your finger tips) till it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
2) Stir in the egg yolk mixture and combine to form a dough.
3) Wrap the dough in cling wrap and chill for an hour in the fridge.
4) Roll out the dough between baking paper and cling wrap.  The roll-out dough sheet should be slightly bigger than the tart pan.
5) Transfer the dough sheet to cover the tart pan.  Trim the edges and chill again for another 15 mins before baking.  
6) Prick the pastry base with a fork and blind-bake in a preheated oven of 180C for 20 minutes.  Remove tart from the oven and brush a thin layer of egg white on the partially-baked tart shell, and bake for a further 15 minutes or till golden brown.  Leave aside to cool.

Lemon curd filling:
Juice & zest from 2.5 lemons - about 150ml lemon juice
150g sugar
4 egg yolks (medium-sized)
80g butter, cut into small pieces
1.5 tsp custard powder + 1.5 tbsp water (A)

1) Mix lemon juice, sugar, egg yolks and (A) in a mixing bowl and place it over a pot of simmering water.
2) Keep stirring to prevent it from curdling. When the mixture becomes thick (about 10 minutes), remove from heat and pour through a strainer.
3) Gradually whisk in the butter pieces into the lemon curd and stir in the lemon zest.
4) Cover the top of the lemon curd with cling wrap to prevent a skin from forming on top.  Let it cool slightly.

Meringue Topping
3 egg whites, room temperature
60g to 100g caster sugar (depends on how sweet you like it to be)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites till foamy.  Add in the cream of tartar.  Gradually add the sugar and continue whisking till stiff peak.
[Note:  I used 60g sugar, and only managed to get the whites to medium peak, i.e. need to use more sugar to yield stiff peak]

To assemble:
1) Spread lemon curd into tart shell.
2) Pipe or spread the meringue onto the lemon curd.
3) Place in oven (top heat only) at 200C to brown the meringue for about 2 minutes.  

[Note: Alternatively, some recipes call for pouring the hot lemon curd into the partially-baked tart, then bake together in the oven for another 10 to 15 minutes, before topping with meringue, and bake further to brown the meringue.  This method should yield a firmer curd filling.]

I am submitting this to Aspiring Bakers #10: Easy as Pie (August 2011), hosted by Janine of "Not the Kitchen Sink!".

Here are other ideas on using the lemon curd:
Lemon Curd Soft Cheesecake
Lemon Curd Cheese Tart

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Zucchini Tart and a Weekend Lunch

Here are the main ingredients.  Before you read on, make a guess of the dishes that I have prepared from these ingredients:

First, I prepare the soup.  Details can be found here (with slight variations in the ingredients used).

I grilled the pumpkin on both sides for a rich flavour that it adds to the soup

Next, I work on the mushrooms.  Need to bake the mushrooms (caps facing down) in the oven for about 15 minutes, then pile on the filling and cheese, and bake again for another 10 to 12 minutes till golden brown.

Baked portobello mushrooms is a great starter to any meal!

Ingredients:  Mini Portobello mushrooms, leeks, ham, spring onion, mozzarella cheese, some Japanese breadcrumbs, a little beaten eggs, a few squeeze of Japanese mayonnaise, salt & pepper to taste.

1) Brush a little oil on the Portobello mushrooms, sprinkle a pinch of salt and bake them (caps facing down) in a preheated oven at about 180C for about 10 to 15 minutes till soft.

2) Mix all other ingredients together (except for cheese and reserved some chopped spring onion for garnish).

3) Fill the mushrooms with the prepared filling, top with cheese and bake in oven at about 200C for another 10 to 12 minutes, till the cheese melts and turn golden brown.

Just a few ingredients for this zucchini tart, but it tastes simply wonderful!

The magic ingredient in this tart is the sun-dried tomatoes pesto.  To prepare the pesto, blend some oil-soaked sun-dried tomatoes with a few cloves of garlic, a handful of parsley, a little olive oil to get a thick paste.  Add salt/pepper to taste.  If you like, you can even add some roasted pine nuts and grated Parmesan cheese to be blended together.  

1 sheet of ready-rolled frozen puff pastry, a few tbsp sun-dried tomatoes pesto, thinly sliced zucchini (toss with a little oil and a pinch of salt/pepper), chopped parsley, some beaten egg.

1) Cut 3 thin strips (about 1 cm each) of puff pastry from the pastry sheet and set aside.  Brush beaten eggs around the edge of the big pastry sheet.  

2) Spread sun-dried tomatoes pesto on the base of the pastry sheet.  Sprinkle some chopped parsley over it.  Arrange the sliced zucchini on top.

3) Place the thin strips of pastry around the edge to form the crust.  Brush a little beaten egg around the edge and bake in a preheated oven at 225C for about 20 minutes.

4) Garnish with some chopped parsley.

Each bite of the tart is filled with the richness of the tomatoes pesto, sweetness of the zucchini and a lovely crisp of the puff pastry.  

How do you like to have these for your weekend lunch?

My 2-plus-1 menu: Baked Portobello Mushrooms, Leek & Pumpkin Soup, Zucchini & Sun-Dried Tomatoes Tart

I am submitting this to Aspiring Bakers #10: Easy as Pie (August 2011), hosted by Janine of "Not the Kitchen Sink!".   

For other cooking ideas with zucchini:

For a summary of my other menu ideas, do click over here.  

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Happy Birthday, Singapore (Part II)

This is a National Day cake that I made for my little gal's preschool for their National Day Celebration.  I was deciding between making a sponge cake with whipped cream filling/decoration or a rich chocolate brownies with fondant covering.  The preschool has about hundred kids and almost every other day, there will be a mini birthday celebration.  Most of the time, parents will get one big birthday cake (sponge cake decorated with pictures of Barbie dolls, Disney Princesses, Ben 10 or Transformers etc) for their kids' birthday celebration in school.  Just last week, my girl had two birthday parties in her class.  I guess the kids should have had enough sponge cake, so I made this sinfully rich chocolate brownies instead.  After all, kids love chocolate, yeah?

To assemble this cake, I made two 10" square pan brownies.  Trim the cake to the desired dimension.  Place both cakes side by side on a 15" x 19" cake board and cover the cakes with white marshmallow fondant (MMF).  To stick the MMF securely on the cake, you will need to spread a thin layer of butter cream, honey or cream cheese frosting on the cake first.  For the top red portion, brush some water on the fondant and sprinkle over with red sanding sugar (cover the bottom half with cling wrap first).  I love the sparkling effect that the sanding sugar adds to our National Flag.  The final step is to add the crescent moon, stars and letterings.

Rich and moist chocolate brownies, with chopped walnuts and marshmallows fillings.

Recipe for chocolate brownies
(for one 10" square pan)

300g chocolate (I used dark couverture)
100g butter
4 eggs
150g sugar
Pinch of salt
100g honey
1 tsp vanilla essence (can use rum flavour instead)
160g plain flour
40g cocoa powder
100g chopped walnut (toasted)
2 handful of mini marshmallows

1) Melt chocolate and butter together in a double-boiler.  Set aside
2) Whisk eggs, sugar and salt till creamy (no need to be fluffy and pale white) - about 3 to 4 minutes.  Add in  melted chocolate mixture, honey and vanilla essence.
3) Sift in plain flour and cocoa powder.  Mix well to combine.  Stir in chopped walnut and mini marshmallows.  Pour batter into lined 10" baking pan.
4) Bake in preheated oven at 175C for about 35 minutes.

Happy Birthday to you, Singapore

If you have missed out on my earlier National Day Cookies, here's the link:

Monday, August 8, 2011

Green Papaya Fish Head Soup

Green papaya fish head soup is a traditional confinement soup.  It is believed to help improve the milk supply of breastfeeding moms.  You do not need to be in confinement to enjoy this soup.  This is a light and nourishing soup, suitable for both the young and the elderly.

To prepare this, you will need an unripe green papaya and 1/2 fish head.  The papaya skin is all green and it will remain green for at least a few days ... maybe longer (not sure how long it will stay green cos I cooked it within 3 days from purchase).  If you have sensitive hands, make sure you put on plastic gloves before you peel the papaya skin.  If unripe green papaya is not available, get the usual orange papaya, but buy the firm one.  For the fish head, fry it in the wok with a few slices of ginger over high heat.  This will get rid of the fishy smell and gives a nice milky colour to the soup.

1 unripe green papaya, cut into big chunks
1/2 fish head
A small piece of snow fungus (soak till soft)
A handful of small dried scallops (optional)
A few red dates
A few slices of ginger

1) Heat the wok on very high heat.  Add a little oil.  Fry the fish head on both sides with a few slices of ginger.  When both sides are light brown, add a dash of cooking wine.  Add sufficient water.

2) Transfer content to a casserole or pot.  Add in the papaya, snow fungus, red dates and scallops (if using).  Simmer on low heat for an hour and a half.  Add salt to taste.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Banana Sponge Cake

Learnt to make this banana sponge cake from Richard Goh's baking class.  Although it is a demo-class, I find that I learnt far more than what I acquired from those hands-on classes else where.  Take for instance, the hands-on baking classes from a popular baking supplies store.  Though is called "hands-on", most of the time, I do not get to learn the proper skills or techniques in these classes.  If you need a sponge cake for a given recipe, the instructor will use their in-house sponge mix, instead of teaching you the proper ways to prepare a sponge cake.  

This banana cake is soft and spongy, moist and fill with the wonderful aroma of baked banana.  To get this nice spongy texture, the followings steps are essential.  Eggs and sugar must be whisked at high or maximum speed till the content tripled.  You should get a thick creamy batter.  When you lift up the balloon whisk, the batter will stick on the whisk and then drop after 1 to 2 seconds.  Depending on the power of your mixer, this may take 5 to 10 minutes.  To help to stabilise the eggs, add a pinch of salt before whisking.  

Next, folding of sifted flour into the batter.  Fold the flour in 2 to 3 batches with your hand or spatula, in an up-down circular motion, each time scooping the flour from the bottom of the mixer.  Once all the flour is added in (no need to fold the flour in completely yet), pour in the oil.  The flour particles in the batter helps to absorb the oil, which will prevent the cake from getting oily.  Another popular alternative is to mix the oil with a little batter first, before folding into the remaining batter.  I guess a combination of these two method should yield good result.  What you want to achieve is a thick and shiny batter.  There should not be too much air bubbles in the batter, or the cake will sink after baking.  

(makes an 8" pan)

3 eggs
100g sugar (original recipe: 150g)
A pinch of salt
200g banana (about 2.5 medium-sized banana)
150g top flour (original recipe: plain flour)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
100g corn oil
1/2 tsp banana paste (optional)

1) Whisk eggs, sugar, salt and banana at maximum speed until stiff.

2) Mix and sift the flour, baking powder and soda together.  Fold the sifted flour into the batter.

3) Add in corn oil and mix well.

4) Pour the batter into lined baking pan and bake in preheated oven at 160C for about 45 minutes.

[Recipe source: Richard Goh]

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...