Saturday, January 29, 2011

Stir-fry Egg Whites with Milk



After making all my Chinese New Year cookies, I had around 8 to 9 egg whites in my freezer.  While I had initially planned to bake some almond crisp (with leftover egg whites), I decided not to as I am a little too tired after my CNY baking spree over the past few days.  

Cooking will be an easy way to "finish off" these egg whites, such as making breakfast omelette.  Or how about some egg white milk pudding (鲜奶炖蛋)for dessert?  I recalled a few years back, I tried this stir-fry egg whites served with fried vermicelli in a Chinese restaurant.  Since, I have so many egg whites now, why not try to replicate this dish at home?  

The soft and moist egg whites goes very well with the crispy fried vermicelli and toasted almond flakes.  I made a mistake of stirring the egg whites too frequently at the beginning.  I suspect this is the reason for my egg whites being too scrambled-egg like.  Shall try it again next time with less stirring and maybe reduce the milk to 1/2 cup.  But, how often do I have 7 to 8 egg whites at one go without sacrificing the egg yolks?  Let me think about it.



Sticky Rice Cake Prata Puffs (年糕酥皮)






It is customary to eat nián gāo (年糕), a sticky sweet rice cake made from glutinous rice flour, during the Chinese Lunar New Year, as it symbolises increasing prosperity year after year.  If you are an working adult, eating nian gao means you will be promoted year after year (年年高升).  

On its own, I do not find nian gao that palatable.  It is a little chewy and sticky, does not have much flavour other than a mild sweet taste.  But I was very tempted to try out this nian gao recipe when I saw the posts from Blessed Homemaker and Cuisine Paradise's blogs.  Using our nation's favourite breakfast item - roti prata, this fusion nian gao snack is an instant hit with my family.  The combined melted cheese and nian gao  add a mild sweet and savory taste to the flaky prata.  




What are you waiting for?  Grab a pack of frozen roti prata from your nearby supermarket and try this easy snack at home.  No more wasteful nian gao this year.  Serve this snack to your guests during this Chinese New Year and they will surely be impressed!


Osmanthus Cookies





The dried osmanthus adds a nice osmanthus fragrance to the cookies.  


Ingredients:

100g Butter
100g Icing sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk (beaten)

(A) - mix together:
150g plain flour
20g corn flour
50g ground almond
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp dried osmanthus (桂花)

Black and white sesame seeds (optional)

Method :

1) Cream butter and icing sugar till light and fluffy.
2) Add half the beaten egg, beat well and add the other half .  Beat till fluffy. 
3) Add flour mixture (A) and mix to form a soft dough.  Divide dough into 2 portions.
4) Wrap each dough in clingwrap and chill in fridge for 30 minutes.

5) Dust a sheet of baking paper with plain flour, place a piece of dough at the centre and cover with clingwrap.  Roll the dough with a rolling pin between the baking paper and clingwrap.  Place the rolled dough on baking tray and chill in fridge for another 15 minutes.  
6) Repeat step 5 for the other piece of dough.  
7) Dust your cookie cutter with plain flour, stamp your cookie cutter over the chilled rolled dough and transfer the cookies to baking trays lined with baking paper.
8) Sprinkle sesame seeds on top of cookies and bake at preheated oven at 160C for 25 to 30 mins.
9) Cool completely before storing in air tight containers.





Honey Cornflakes Cookies



Almond Cookies







Ingredients:

(A)
150g ground almonds (toasted on hot pan for about 5 to 10 mins)
200g plain flour (sifted)
60g icing sugar (sifted)
60g caster sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

(B)
100ml corn oil
50g melted butter
1/2 tsp almond essence


1 egg yolk + 1 tbsp water for glazing
A handful of chopped almonds for toppings


Method:

1) Mix (A) together.  Mix (B) and pour into (A) to form a soft dough.

2) Chill dough in fridge for an hour.

3) Shape dough into small round balls (about a tsp each) and place into small paper casings.

4) Brush with egg wash and press some chopped almonds on each ball.

5) Baked at preheated oven of 170C for 15 to 20 minutes.

6) Cool completely on wire rack before storing in airtight containers.






Pineapple tarts









Monday, January 24, 2011

Banana Crumb Muffins



I wanted to bake some banana muffins for breakfast.  While I have a very good banana muffin recipe, it uses lots of butter (using creaming method).  I wanted something lighter and preferably a recipe that uses the muffin method (for easy cleaning up).  Found this easy to prepare and yet amazingly delicious banana muffin recipe.  What is so good about this muffin?  I must say is the crispy golden cinnamon crumb streusel topping.  It works magic with the soft and fluffy banana muffin.  


Recipe adapted from Allrecipes:

Ingredients:
(makes 9 muffins)

(A)
  • 1.5 cups plain flour (around 150g)
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt


  • (B)
  • 4 medium-sized bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup castor sugar (around 70g)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 50g butter, melted (or vegetable oil)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence


  • (C)
  • 1 banana, sliced


  • Crumb Toppings
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar (around 40g)
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp butter



Method:

1) Mix (A) together in a bowl. 
2) In another bowl, beat together (B).  
3) Pour (B) into (A) and stir to combine.  Spoon batter into muffin tray lined with muffin papers.  Put one slice of banana on each muffin.
4) In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, flour and cinnamon. Rub in 1 tablespoon butter until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Sprinkle topping over muffins.
5) Bake in preheated oven of 180C for around 25 minutes.  


Snow Fungus Pear Soup



This is one soup that I cook quite frequently, either having it sweet or savory.  Light, refreshing and supposedly packed with loads of health benefits, mainly from the use of snow fungus in this soup.  Chinese believes that the snow fungus is effective in clearing cough, strengthening of the respiratory system (i.e. good for the lungs), improving blood circulation and thereby enhancing our complexion.    

Here's what you need to prepare the savory soup:


Snow fungus (雪耳), pear (水梨), lean pork (软骨), red dates (红枣), sweet dates (蜜枣),
Chinese almond kernels (南北杏)

Soak the snow fungus in water till it softens.  Tear into smaller pieces and discard the middle hard core.  Peel, core the pear and cut into few big pieces.  Blanch the meat in hot water.  Combine all ingredients in a pot with 1.5 litres of hot water and simmer for an hour and a half.  Season with salt.

For a sweet version, exclude the lean pork and add rock sugar instead.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Apple Pie





My kitchen was filled with the aroma of baked apple, cinnamon and caramelized sugar when I was baking this apple pie in the oven.  My little girl was waiting rather impatiently for her apple pie as I had prepared the dough the day before.  She kept repeating "Mummy, when can I have my apple pie ... I am waiting for sooooooooooo long".  


Steps: 1) Prepare the dough (chill in fridge), 2) Roll out dough between parchment paper or baking paper,
3) Cover pie dish with pastry,  4) Trim the pastry (chill again),  5) Prepare apple fillings,
6) Fill pie dish with fillings, dot with butter and BAKE!


I used the rubbing-in method to mix the butter with the plain flour (you can use a food processor).  If you had attended home economics during your secondary school days, you might recalled using this rubbing-in method to bake some small cakes or rock buns (during my time).  Briefly, you rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips (not your palm) till the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  This will take a few minutes.  Thereafter, add a little sugar and milk and shape into a round dough.  Work quickly to prevent the butter from melting away.

The tricky part in making the pie might be rolling out the chilled pastry dough and fitting the pastry sheet onto the pie dish.  You do not want the pastry sheet to be too thick (since the pastry will expand a little during baking) nor too thin (it will tear easily).  Covering the pie dish with the rolled pastry sheet was a real nightmare when I first started to bake my own pie.  The pastry sheet just give way and I have to keep patching up the many holes in the pie shell.  As with many other things, practice makes perfect.  You just have to keep playing with it for a few more times and you will learn how to handle the soft pastry sheet.






When I took the apple pie out of the oven, my little girl went "WAH ... so nice".  She thought finally she can have her apple pie.  "Sorry my dear, you must be patient.  You need to wait for the pie to cool down first ;)"  "Huh ... WAIT AGAIN!"

RESIST THE TEMPTATION to cut the apple pie when it's straight out from the oven.   Let the pie cool completely for it to "set".  And when you finally cut and serve it, the apple pie fillings will be moist and the sauce will not run.  This apple pie is good on its own, but even better to have it with a nice scoop of vanilla ice-cream.







Steamed Fish with Bean Paste Sauce



With just two weeks to Chinese New Year, the prices of seafood naturally escalate.  Well, you can still buy some decent fish for steaming without burning a hole in the pocket, so long you avoid those pricey red grouper, cod fish, pomfret etc.  Ask your fish monger for a suitable fish for steaming and you should be able to get one around S$5,  for serving 3 to 4 persons.


Ingredients:

1 fish (clean the fish properly and pat dry)

(A):
1/2 tbsp grated ginger
1 tbsp chopped garlic
1/2 tbsp fried shallot

(B):
1 stalk of spring onion (cut into 1 inch long)
Some Chinese parsley (chopped)
Some cut chilli

Seasoning:
1/2 tsp black bean sauce (豆鼓)
1/2 tbsp bean paste sauce (豆酱)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp shallot oil (or cooking oil)
1/2 tsp corn flour
3 tbsp water


Method:
1) Mix (A) with seasoning (Meanwhile, heat up your wok with enough water for steaming).
2) Place fish in plate and pour (1) over it.
3) When water in wok starts boiling, steam the fish  for 10 minutes.
4) Garnish with (B) and serve immediately.

Garlic Chives, Bean Curd with Shredded Pork



It did not cross my mind that this is another classic home-cooked dish until I googled for "garlic chives and bean curd".  I don't remember eating garlic chives as a child, probably my mum finds the taste is too strong for her likings or that we may not like it.  Anyway, saw some fresh garlic chives in the market, so just bought it.  And since I still have one piece of  yellow firm bean curd (or tau kwa) in my fridge, a quick stir-fry of tau kwa, mushroom, shredded pork with garlic chives would be a nice combination.


Ingredients:

1 piece of tau kwa (thinly sliced and blanched in hot water) - note 1
1/2 rice bowl shredded pork - note 2
A small bunch of garlic chives (cut into 2 inches long)
2 to 3 dried Chinese mushrooms (soaked in water, thinly sliced.  Reserve liquid)
2 slices of ginger
2 cloves of garlic (minced)
1/2 tsp cornflour + 2 tbsp water (cornstarch solution)

Notes:
1) For plain tau kwa, cut into thin slices, fried them with a little oil first, so that it does not breakdown easily during stir-frying.
2) I kept some stewed pork and gravy from another stewed dish.  This is an instant taste enhancer without adding any MSG to this dish.  Alternatively, you can use fresh pork, slice and marinate with soy sauce, sesame oil and pepper.


Method:

1) Heat oil in wok on high heat.  Add ginger, followed by Chinese mushroom. Stir-fry lightly to release aroma in the mushroom.  Push aside.
2) Add minced garlic, shredded pork and tau kwa (if using fresh pork, add the pork first, stir-fry lightly before adding the tau kwa).
3) Add the garlic chives, stir well to combine all ingredients.  Add the reserved liquid from soaking mushroom and stewed pork gravy (optional).
4) Add soy sauce to taste and add cornstarch solution. Stir well.
5) Add a dash of pepper and serve hot.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Luffa Meatball Soup



This is my kind of perfect "one-dish meal" to go with rice.  There's meat, vegetable and soup, ALL in ONE bowl of comfort soup.  I believe many busy mums will agree with me.  Just need to cook one soup and probably steam a fish and dinner is ready!  Simple to prepare, nutritious and the kids love it!  


Ingredients:
(serves 2 to 3 person)

(A)
150g minced pork
1 tbsp preserved vegetables (冬菜) - rinsed & chopped finely
1 stalk of spring onion (chopped)
Small piece of ginger - remove skin and grated
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp corn flour
Pinch of salt
Dash of pepper

(B)
Luffa (丝瓜) - remove rough outer skin and inner seeds.  Thinly sliced.
1 tomato (cut into chunks)
350ml stock*  + extra water to make a big bowl of soup

* See recipe for stock-base using ikan bilis and dried scallop


Method:

1) Mix (A) together and chill in fridge for at least an hour.
2) Boil stock and water in pot.
3) When soup starts boiling, add luffa and tomato.
4) Scoop a heap teaspoon of meat fillings, shape into meatball between the teaspoon and your palm (wet your palm first) and drop the meatball into soup.  Cook for about 3 minutes.
5) Add a little salt to taste and serve.

Sliced Fish Soup





This is another quick & easy dish, as long as you have some ready stock on hand.  I usually prepare a big pot of stock (my favorite is ikan bilis or anchovies with small dried scallops), freeze them in small tubs and defrost the required portion whenever I need it.  You can use the stock for soups, porridge or even add a little to stir-fry dishes (far better than adding MSG).


For stock-base
(makes 4 tubs of approximately 350ml each)

1 cup of ikan bilis (rinsed)
1/4 cup of small dried scallops (rinsed)
1.7 litre water
3 to 4 cloves of garlic (crushed)
3 to 4 slices of ginger

Method:

1) Heat a little oil in pot and add ginger and garlic.
2) Add ikan bilis and scallops to pot and stir fry to release aroma.  This step also helps to remove the fishy smell in ikan bilis.
3) Add water and simmer on medium heat for about 30 minutes.
4) Once cool, pour the stock in small tubs and store in freezer.


Ingredients for sliced fish soup

Fish slices (I use batang fish)
Green leafy vegetables or lettuce
1 tub of stock + extra water to make one big bowl soup
Spring onion (cut into 1 inch) for garnish
Salt to taste

Method:

1) Marinate fish with 1 tbsp oil, 1/3 tsp salt, 2 tbsp water, pepper for at least 30 minutes.
2) Boil stock and water in pot.
3) When soup starts boiling, add vegetables and season with salt (not too much as the fish is marinated with a little salt).
4) Just before off heat, add fish slices, give it a stir to ensure fish slices do not stick to each other and off heat.  This step takes less than a minute, so that your fish slices will be tender.
5) Add spring onion and serve.


Stir-fry Bamboo Shoots with Chicken





Ingredients:

2 pieces of chicken breast meat (cut into thin slices)
1 parboiled bamboo shoot (竹笋)* - shredded
Handful of shredded carrot
2 slices of ginger
1/2 chilli (cut)
1 stalk of spring onion (cut into 2 inches long)
A little stock (I was cooking soup, so took 1/2 ladle of soup)
1 - 2 tbsp soy sauce
Cornstarch (1 tsp cornflour + 2 tbsp water)


Marinate chicken meat with (for 30 minutes or more)
1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tbsp cooking oil
1-2 tbsp water
1/2 tsp corn flour
Dash of pepper

* Parboiled bamboo shoot is available from supermarket.  One bamboo shoot per packet.  You need to remove the outer green leaves before cutting the shoot.

Method:

1) Heat oil in wok over high heat.  Add ginger, followed by marinated chicken (quick stir).
2) Add shredded bamboo shoots, carrot and cut chillies (quick stir).
3) Add stock (quick stir), soy sauce and slowly thickened with cornstarch solution.
4) Add spring onion, give it a stir and serve.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bunny Buns with Sweet Potato Fillings



Since this will be the Year of Rabbit, I made some rabbit-shaped steamed buns for breakfast.  As I still have some mashed purple sweet potato in the freezer (leftover from making the Purple Ondeh Ondeh), I mixed equal parts of bottled Kaya to the sweet potato as my "instant red bean paste".




Ingredients:
(makes about 12 buns)

(A)

3g instant dry yeast + 1 tsp plain flour + 1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp water

(B)
125g plain flour + 125g Hong Kong flour
30g caster sugar
75ml milk + 60ml - 75ml water 
15g cooking oil (I used canola oil)



Method:
1) Combine  (A) to rest for 5 mins.
2) Mix (A) and (B) together, except for cooking oil, and mix well to form a dough.  Knead for 5 mins (by mixer) or 10 mins (by hand) to incorporate all the ingredients together.  
3) Add cooking oil and knead for another 5 to 10 mins into a smooth dough.
4) Cover dough with plastic wrap or damp towel and rest for about 45 mins or till dough doubled.
5) Divide dough into 12 portions and wrap some sweet potato fillings in each bun.
6) Shape each bun into oval shape.  Use scissors to make 2 cuts on top for the rabbit ears.
7) Put each bun on lightly-oiled baking paper and place in a bamboo steamer or any steamed rack/plate (those with many holes in it).  Rest the buns for 40 - 50 mins or until doubled in size ( I placed the buns in a covered wok filled with warm water).
8) Steam the buns for 10 minutes over high heat.  Reduce to low heat for another minute, turn off flame and KEEP COVER FOR ANOTHER MINUTE before you lift up the cover.  

Monday, January 17, 2011

Berries Cheesecake Bars




I still have one whole roll of Oreo biscuits in my pantry, after making the Oreo Cheese Tartlet.  Just last month around Christmas period, fresh raspberries were on sale at NTUC Finest, which I happily snapped up two punnets (around S$5.90 per punnet).  One punnet went to my Raspberry Lemoncurd Cheese Tart, and the rest stored in freezer.  

Raspberries are highly perishable but store well in freezer.  For freezing, gently rinse the raspberries so that they will maintain their shape and gently pat dry with kitchen paper.  Arrange the raspberries in a single layer on a baking pan (make sure to leave gaps in between the raspberries) and put them in the freezer.  Once frozen, remove pan from freezer, give it a knock against the kitchen top and the frozen raspberries will fall off easily.  Next, transfer the raspberries to freezer bag or plastic container.  They will not be lumpy or stick together, so you can easily remove the desired amount  for your next use.

While browsing through the internet, this cheesecake recipe by My Kitchen Snippet caught my attention (as I have all the necessary ingredients).  I made some minor adjustment to the ingredients to fit my baking pan and own preference.

Ingredients:
For square pan measured 20cm x 20cm
(makes 16 to 20 bite-sized cheesecake bars)

Base:
115g Oreo cookies (separate cream* and crush biscuits)
50g melted butter

Cheesecake fillings:
250g cream cheese (or 1 block)
Oreo cream (removed from biscuits when making base crust)*
20g brown sugar
40g caster sugar
Zest and juice from 1/2 lemon
1 egg
1 tbsp plain flour + 1 tsp corn flour
40ml milk
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
40ml whipping cream
Handful of berries (I used raspberries and blueberries)


Method:

1) Line baking pan with baking paper (leave some baking paper overhang at the sides, so that you can lift up the cheesecake easily after baking & chilling).
2) Combine crushed Oreo cookies with melted butter and press onto the base of the baking pan.  Chill in the fridge for the base to harden while you prepare the fillings.
3) Beat cream cheese and oreo cream with both sugar, lemon zest and juice until smooth. 
4) Beat in egg, flour, milk and vanilla essence.  
5) Add whipping cream and mix until well combined. 
6) Pour mixture into prepared base and sprinkle berries on top.
7) Bake the cheesecake at preheated oven of 165C for 35 minutes.
8) Allow it to cool and chill in fridge for an hour before slicing. 



Saturday, January 15, 2011

Chocolate Fondue





A super easy, no-fuss chocolate fondue made with Hershey's semi-sweet chocolate chips for that last-minute chocolate cravings:


Ingredients:
Equal parts of Hershey's chocolate chips to cream
Your favourite fruits, biscuits and marshmallows


Method:
1) Heat cream on high in microwave for a minute (or 3 minutes on stove-top)
2) Place chocolate chips in bowl and pour the hot cream over it.  Stir till well-combined.
3) Gather your fondue dippers.  Enjoy!

Pearl Meatball (珍珠丸子)



This bite-sized snack has an interesting name - Pearl Meatball, literally translated from  珍珠丸子.  Coated with a thin layer of glutinous rice, the meatball has this shiny, translucent coat after steaming that resembles a pearl.  

For a juicy meat texture, try to get minced meat with some fats.  Alternatively, if you only have minced lean meat (especially buying from supermarket, not much choice), try adding a tablespoon of oil in the meat fillings.  I have only added some grated carrots and chopped spring onions to the minced meat.  For better flavour and texture, you can add some Chinese dried mushrooms and dried shrimps.





Friday, January 14, 2011

What to do with leftover turkey (Part 4)?

This is the final part of "What to do with leftover turkey" as I have used up all the turkey meat and bones that were leftover from Christmas party.  Let's do a quick recap of the dishes that were prepared from leftover Christmas turkey:

Turkey bones - the bones make lovely stock for soup and sauce base.  With the soup base, I have cooked Pumpkin Soup.  Add a handful of chopped turkey meat, cream corn and an egg, you have the comforting Chinese-style Cream of Corn Turkey Soup.  Want a simple one-dish meal?  The Leek & Turkey Porridge is ideal at all times of the day.  

Turkey meat - shredded turkey meat makes yummy fillings for sandwiches.  But as turkey meat is quite dry on its own since it contains little fats, you need to add some moisture such as lemon juice, yogurt and mayonnaise to make it more palatable.  This Turkey, Ham & Avocado combination makes great fillings for sandwiches, as well as yummy toppings for salad or baked potato.




Shredded turkey meat is also a great addition to your pasta sauce.  For busy working mum, make a big pot of pasta sauce over weekend, cool and store in separate tubs in your freezer.  During the busy week, when you need pasta sauce, simply defrost a tub and use it for:
  • Pasta
  • Pizza - spread fillings on pizza base, add pineapple chunks & other favorite fillings, sprinkle mozzarella cheese and bake.
  • Spread on baguette (French loaf), sprinkle some cheese and toast it for another yummy treat.  
  • Baked rice - top over cooked rice (mix with some mayo), add cheese and bake

Here's another meal that I prepared, using Turkey pasta sauce (see far below for recipe):

Turkey filled Taco, served with shredded lettuce and salsa.

In addition, I cooked this Carrot, Potato and Leek Soup to go with the Taco.  And again, the soup is prepared from Turkey bones stock base (see recipe far below):


Comfort soup made from Turkey bones stock base

Pandan Roll






I have always wanted to make swiss rolls, especially after my recent Japan trip.  Their sponge cake and rolls with light creamy fillings really make me drool!  How I wish I could replicate some of those delightful sweet treats.  One common problem with making swiss rolls is rolling up a firm swiss roll and yet without any cracks on the surface or fillings escaping from the side.  While browsing through recipes from fellow bloggers, I chanced upon this Orange Roll recipe from Kitchen Corner, and adapted it for my Pandan Roll.   




Don't you think the above looks like Matcha and Azuki roll (Green Tea with red bean fillings)?  I have some mashed purple sweet potato in the fridge (leftovers from making my Purple Ondeh Ondeh), so combining 2 parts of mashed sweet potato to 1 part of kaya (any bottled kaya), I have this special "red bean fillings".


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Beancurd & Vermicelli Salad





Inspired by the Thai-style salad, I made this salad with a few simple ingredients.

Some of the ingredients used: Yellow firm beancurd, celery, carrot, Japanese cucumber, onion & chilli

The use of vermicelli in this salad dish is a winner.  Beside adding a different texture to this dish, it soaks and holds well the sweet & sour dressings.  So with each mouthful, there is the crunchy carrot, celery & cucumber , soft beancurd, the silky vermicelli with its appetising dressings, the occasional spicy bits of onion/chilli and the lovely aroma from the roasted sesame seeds.




Mixed-Berries Panna Cotta




Our local supermarkets are flooded with berries again!  Yes, even at this time of the year (I thought berries = summer time?), we are able to enjoy wide varieties of berries at very good price (2 packs of blueberries for S$3.99 - that's good value since a few years back, a small packet of this antioxidant-rich and memory-booster fruit can set you back by around S$8).

I used the same recipe for making the previous raspberry panna cotta.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Roast Duck & Orange Salad

Appetising Salad with Citrus Honey & Ginger Dressings

With Chinese New Year round the corner, I am starting to think of the food & snacks relating to the festive period.

New Year's Eve dinner is the start of the festive celebration, where family members will gather for the Reunion Dinner.  Nowadays, more people choose to have their Reunion dinner at a restaurant.  Fuss-free, no preparation or cleaning up to do are the main reasons for the restaurant-goers.  Personally, I prefer to have this special dinner at home.  For an easy to prepare Reunion Dinner, we usually have hotpot or steamboat dinner on New Year's eve.

On the first day of New Year, my mother-in-law will prepare a traditional vegetarian dish, Vegetable Stew in Fermented Red Bean Curd Sauce (南乳焖斋) and the Eight Treasures Dessert Soup (八宝糖水) for brunch.  Throughout the day, there will be the usual festive snacks like pineapple tarts, cookies, bak gua (BBQ meat), love letters, Mandarin oranges, melon seeds etc.  New Year's Dinner will consist of a traditional soup with five or six other auspicious-sounding dishes.

Yu Sheng (鱼生) is a "must have" dish during the Chinese New Year, where everyone will toss ("lo hei", Cantonese for 捞起) to a year of abundance and prosperity!  My little girl loves this dish, as this is the only time where she can literally play & toss her food with all's approval.  Traditionally, Yu Sheng is served on the 7th day of New Year, i.e. Ren Ri (人日) or everyone's birthday.  Ha, but we Singaporeans are very kiasu ..... only one day to gather all the prosperity for the whole year is certainly not enough!  So, many people start to "lo hei" as early as one week before the Chinese New Year and "lo" all the way to the 15th day of New Year!  With demands, restaurants are happily supplying this Yu Sheng dish.  Why not, since this is the only time of the year where diners are happily forking out big bucks for essentially a low-cost salad dish (mainly shredded carrot and radish) served with miserable slices of raw fish.

With all the rich food and calories, it will be good to plan some lighter meals in-between the festive period.  Something refreshing to cleanse your palette between heavy meals, to boost your vegetables intake and a great way to clear some of the leftover food and Mandarin oranges.


Purple Ondeh Ondeh



Making these cute little purple balls is very therapeutic.  You will feel like a child again playing with nice, warm and soft purple-coloured playdoh, just that this playdoh is edible.   See the colour changes from a deep purple when the potato is steamed and mashed, to a sweet romantic delicate light purple when mix with the glutinous rice flour.  Roll the dough into tiny balls and see them dance in the pot of boiling water.  If you have kids at home, get them help you with the rolling.  This is so much fun and an excellent family bonding activity that you can do at home with your kids!  





Saturday, January 8, 2011

Beef & Avocado Salad

Beef Avocado Salad with Lemongrass & Balsamic Vinegar Dressing

Serve this salad as a main course for two persons or a side salad for four.  The combination of finely chopped 
lemon grass, Thai fish sauce, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and mixed herbs/chilli makes this an appetising and flavourful dish.  Once you get the steak marinated and the mixed salad greens prepare in advance (leave them in the fridge), putting everything together is a breeze.  



Friday, January 7, 2011

Carrot Cupcake

Carrot Cupcake with Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

Making carrot cake is quite similar to making muffins, i.e. you prepare the wet ingredients (such as eggs, sugar, milk, corn oil, melted butter) and the dry ingredients respectively, and combine them together.  The most time-consuming part is grating the carrot, if you do not have a food processor.  It took me almost 15 minutes just to grate two medium-sized carrots and leave me with a sore arm thereafter.  But the moist carrot cake is worth all the efforts!  

Interestingly, we have the Chinese-style carrot cake (萝卜糕), a steamed savory cake made of rice flour and grated radish (or daikon).  I make this steamed version more often as I can have it for breakfast, tea or at anytime of the day.  The steamed version is also healthier - far lesser fats and sugar content.  Any leftover will be used to make yummy fried carrot cake the next day.  







Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Purple Sweet Potato Chiffon Cake

I seldom bake a chiffon cake, as most of the time, it would end up in the rubbish bin.  I do not know about other home-bakers, but I always have this problem with chiffon cakes - burnt top, sunk-in after baking, sticky at the bottom or simply the wrong texture.  This is a cake that always gives me headache, heartache and lots of question marks.  I do follow the recipe closely (hmmm... sometimes out by a little.. usually to cut down on the sugar), careful when beating the egg whites and folding it to the egg yolk batter, but the end-product is often less than satisfactory.

After many trial and error attempts, I decided to bake a chiffon cake again.  This time, with a completely new ingredient - Purple Sweet Potato and a new kind of flour - Violet Flour.  I have already tested purple sweet potato on buns and English scones, but adding mashed purple sweet potato to chiffon cake is my first attempt.  I learnt about Violet Flour from Cosy Bake when I read about her bakes.  Violet Flour is like our Prima Top Flour for making chiffon cakes and swiss rolls.  So when I see packets of Violet Flour at Isetan (Meidi-ya at Liang Court has it too and cheaper), I decided to buy a packet to test it out.

Here is my chiffon cake:


It may not be the "perfect" chiffon cake, but at least the texture, appearance and taste is close to a chiffon cake.  Personally, I find it a little bland.  With no addition of any artificial flavouring, this chiffon cake loses out in terms of aroma and taste, when compared with our local favourite "Pandan Chiffon Cake".  On hindsight, I could have replaced the "3 tbsp of milk, 3 tbsp of corn oil and 3 tbsp of water" with "9 tbsp of coconut milk".  I believe the coconut milk should improve the taste factor of this chiffon cake.


Monday, January 3, 2011

Udon with Shimeji Mushrooms in Miso Sauce

I took a picture of this lovely bunch of shimeji mushrooms:



This is one quick and easy recipe, using shimeji mushrooms, udon, garlic and spring onion:




Ingredients:

2 packets of udon (from supermarket)
1 small packet of shimeiji mushroom (cut, discard base and separate the mushrooms)
1-2 stalks of spring onion (chopped)
6 to 7 cloves garlic (chopped)
1/2 chilli, chopped finely (optional)
1 tbsp miso paste
1 tbsp mirin
1-2 tsp soya sauce (adjust to taste)

Method:
1) Boil water in pot to parboil udon.
2) Heat 2 tbsp oil in pan and fry half the chopped garlic till golden brown.  Set aside the browned garlic.
3) With the remaining oil in pan, heat pan at high heat and add shimeiji mushrooms. Toss a few times.
4) Add remaining chopped garlic and miso paste.  Add some water from pot (for cooking udon) and toss to mix with shimeji mushrooms.
5) Add udon, mirin, soya sauce and sufficient water to pan to adjust for desired thickness of miso sauce.
6) Turn off heat and add chopped spring onion, chilli and browned garlic.  Stir together.
7) Serve with blanched Shanghai green or any other vegetables.

Chinese-style steamed carrot cake (萝卜糕)



萝卜糕 is made with grated radish and rice flour.  But, this common breakfast snack is widely-known as steamed carrot cake rather than steamed "radish" cake.  Other similar varieties are steamed yam cake and steamed pumpkin cake .  The ingredients and method for making these steamed cakes are pretty much the same, except that you replaced the "grated radish" with chopped yam or pumpkin.  

For this carrot cake, I added a thin layer of mashed pumpkin before steaming.  I happened to have a small piece of pumpkin left in the fridge, so just add it in.  I did not write down the exact amount of ingredients used.  You can always adjust the ingredients and their respective amount to suit your own preference.  The most important is the amount of rice flour and water.  As a general guide, I used around 3 to 3.5 times the water to rice flour.  For example, for 200g of rice flour, I will add approximately 600ml water or a little more for a softer texture.  In addition, I will use a little water for stir-frying/simmering the other ingredients, before adding to the flour mixture.



List of common ingredients used for carrot/pumpkin/yam cake:

* Grated radish, chopped pumpkin or chopped yam.
* Dried Chinese mushroom - soak in water and slice (Dried mushrooms adds more aroma, compared to fresh shitake mushrooms.  Reserve water for soaking mushroom to mix with rice flour.
* Chinese sausage - remove plastic wrap and slice thinly.
* Dried shrimps - soak and chop.  Reserve water for soaking dried shrimps to mix with rice flour.
* In addition to rice flour, I usually add a little corn flour to the rice flour solution.  Corn flour gives a smooth texture to the steamed cake (approximately 1 tbsp corn flour for 200g of rice flour used)
* Fried shallot - leave the sliced shallot to dry in the open for an hour before frying to get crispy fried shallots.  Use shallot oil to prepare carrot cake and reserve some to brush over the top to retain moisture in cake.  Sprinkle the fried shallots as a garnish.  
* Five-spice powder.  This adds aroma to the carrot cake.  


Method:
1) Mix rice flour, corn flour, water, salt and five-spice powder.  Set aside.
2) Use shallot oil to stir-fry the Chinese mushrooms, sausages and dried shrimps to release their aroma.
3) Add grated radish/ chopped pumpkin/ chopped yam.  Cover wok and simmer for about 5 minutes to release aroma.
4) Pour in rice flour solution and stir until mixture thickens (about 3 to 5 minutes).
5) Pour into well-greased steaming pan, smooth the top with an oiled spatula (or spoon) and steam on high heat for 45 minutes to an hour.
6) Brush the top with shallot oil and garnish with fried shallot, chopped spring onion and chillies.


Purple Potato Oat Scone with Honey Cream Cheese

This is my second time experimenting with purple sweet potato.  The first time, I used it to bake some purple flower buns.  I had a few ideas in my mind - maybe some steamed purple buns with vegetable fillings (Chinese-style steamed buns), a purple chiffon cake with bits of purple sweet potato, or perhaps some lovely purple Onde Onde for afternoon tea?  I shall try out these recipes, if I have enough sweet potato. But first, I need to make something for breakfast:



Ingredients:
(Makes about 8 triangular scones)

225g plain flour (I used 150g plain flour + 75g oat bran)
1 tsp baking powder
40g butter
150g purple sweet potato (steamed and mashed)
3 tbsp sugar
80 - 100ml milk

Method:
1) Mix flour, oat bran and baking powder.  Rub butter into flour.
2) Mix mashed potato, sugar, milk and add to flour mixture to form a dough.  
3) Sprinkle a little flour on a board or counter-top and form the dough into a rectangular shape (or circle shape) with approximately 2 cm thickness.  
4) Use a knife to cut triangles from the dough and place them on greased baking paper.
5) Brush the top with some milk and bake in preheat oven at 200C for 20 - 25 minutes.
6) Serve with honey cream cheese or your favourite jam.

(Honey cream cheese: Mix together: Few drops of lemon + 2 tbsp plain cream cheese + 1 tsp honey)

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