Thursday, June 30, 2011

Green Tea Red Bean Bread (Notes on 17-Hr pre-fermentation method)








Have you caught the fever yet?  I mean the bread-making fever.  Playing with flour, yeast and water has never been on top of my "to-do" list in my kitchen.  Yet, this month alone, I have attempted more bread than usual.  Thanks to Jasmine for coming up with this month's baking theme - Bread Seduction and also my fellow-bloggers, who constantly tempt me with their delicious homemade bread.  

For this Green Tea Red Bean Bread, I used the recipe from 茄子, who has adapted her recipe from Kin, the author of the book,  "Natural Breads Made Easy" ("天然面包香").  This method of bread-making involves pre-fermenting the bread dough in the fridge for 17 hours or more, then knead again with more bread flour, water, yeast and butter.  The results is fragrant soft bread that remains soft the next day, even without the use of artificial bread improver.

This is the first time that I'm attempting this method of bread-making.  Few questions came to my mind while making the bread:  17 hours of fermenting - must it be strictly 17 hours, can plus/minus 1 to 2 hours?  Can I freeze the pre-ferment dough and unfreeze it when I'm ready to bake the bread?  Can I prepare more pre-ferment dough ahead, since 17 hours is too long a waiting time?  Are there any golden formula that I can apply?

I found some useful notes from here, which I've translated below for my easy reference.  As I have not read the book myself and this being my first attempt on 17-hour bread, I'm cannot verify the accuracy of the source nor the validity to the points made.

For the pre-ferment dough:

1) Chill the pre-ferment dough in the fridge, at a temperature between 0 to 5 degrees Celsius (cannot freeze), for at least 17 hours, but not exceeding 72 hours [Note:  This means can prepare more portions of pre-ferment dough and cut down on the preparation and waiting time].

2) Do not add sugar to prepare the pre-ferment dough.  Sugar aids expansion of the yeast during proofing.  The whole idea of this 17-hr method is to allow the yeast to slowly activate under a controlled temperature.

3) The proofed fermented dough should have expanded to about 1.2 to 1.5 times the original size.  Size does matter for this method to achieve the optimal result.

4) There is no need to "thaw" the pre-fermented dough to room temperature, i.e. remove from fridge and use straight away.

To mix with the main dough:  

5) Combine all the ingredients for the main dough (except for butter) and knead well.  Gradually add in the pre-ferment dough, piece by piece, to combine with the main dough.  When dough is smooth, gradually add in the butter.  Knead till the dough becomes smooth and elastic.

6) If kneading by hand, may need to reduce the water in the main dough, else it will be too sticky to handle.

7) Cover and proof the dough for 25 to 30 minutes.

8) Divide and round the dough into portions.  Let the dough rest for 20 minutes.

9) Shape and final proof for 45 minutes and bake at 180C for 30 to 35 minutes.  The baking temperature and time is for baking bread in a loaf tin with a lid.  May need to adjust oven temperature and baking time to suit to the size of bread.


Recipe for Green Tea Red Bean Bread
(from 茄子)

Pre-ferment dough:
210g bread flour
120g water
1 tsp yeast (about 5 to 6g)
6g skimmed milk powder  [I omitted this, I used 80g milk + 40g water instead]

Main dough:
80g bread flour
10g green tea powder  [I cut down to 6g]
1/2 tsp yeast (about 3g)
40g sugar
70g water [Original recipe uses milk, sweetened canned red bean and eggs]
25g butter

Method:
1) Prepare pre-ferment dough: Mix yeast with water, then combine with bread flour, yeast and milk powder.  Knead till smooth dough.  Cover and keep in fridge for 17 hours before use.

2) Mix ingredients for main dough (except butter) and knead till combined.  Gradually add in the pre-fermented dough, piece by piece and knead to get a smooth dough.  Add in the butter and knead to form a smooth and elastic dough.  Cover and proof the dough for 20 minutes (I proof it for 30 minutes).

3) Divide and round the dough.  Rest for another 20 minutes (I rest them for 10 minutes).  Shape and final proof the dough for 45 minutes.

4) Bake in preheated oven of 160C for 30 minutes till golden brown (I arranged 4 dough in a square pan and bake at 180C for about 25 minutes, cover with foil after 15 minutes).


I would like to share this post with Aspiring Bakers #8: Bread Seduction (June 2011)hosted by Jasmine of Sweetylicious.  






Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Smoked Salmon and Asparagus Quiche









Early last week, I bought a packet each of green asparagus and white asparagus from NTUC Finest.  I also have a few slices of smoked salmon in the fridge which I need to clear.  Smoked salmon and asparagus would make a wonderful combination!  And since I have not baked a quiche for quite some time, a smoked salmon and asparagus quiche seem a nice choice for our weekend lunch.

Honestly, this is one of best quiches that I had made so far.  The fillings are favourful and not heavy (I omit the cheese and cream totally!).  The best part is the crust stays crumbly till the next day.  I lightly toasted a leftover slice the next day and it tastes just as good!  I'm so happy!  

To increase the intake of greens, I prepared grilled asparagus with onion vinaigrette as a side.





To prepare the asparagus, you need to snap off the lower ends, i.e. the tough and fibrous part.  Depending on the thickness of your asparagus, you may need to peel away the outer skin from the middle of each stalk to the lower end.  For my green asparagus, I just need to snap off the lower tough ends.  For the thick white asparagus,  discard the tough ends and use a vegetable peeler to peel away the outer skin.

Lightly blanch the asparagus in boiling water with a pinch of salt and 1/2 tbsp cooking oil before baking and grilling.  Blanching the asparagus gives extra moisture which will prevent them from burning during baking/grilling.  It also ensures even cooking (for the white asparagus) and gives a nice shiny green coat to the green asparagus.

For the quiche:
(makes one 24cm quiche)

200g plain flour
75g butter
1 egg yolk + 2 tbsp water
2 tbsp cooking oil
2 tsp dried mixed herbs
A little egg white, beaten (for brushing)

Filling:
12 medium-sized asparagus spears (trim to fit the quiche pan), blanched
6 slices of smoked salmon
1 cup chopped asparagus, blanched
1 cup shaved ham (optional - you can replace it with more asparagus)
1/2 cup chopped spring onion
2 eggs, beaten
1.5 cups milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

1) Rub flour, dried herbs and butter together till it resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Add in the cooking oil, egg yolk and water.  Combine the ingredients to form into a ball.  If the mixture is too dry, add a little more water.  Wrap the dough in cling wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.  

2) Roll out the pastry between a sheet of baking paper and cling wrap. The pastry sheet should be slightly bigger than your quiche pan.   Using your rolling pin, gently transfer the pastry sheet to cover the quiche pan.  Trim excess pastry sheet and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

3) Prick the pastry base with a fork and blind bake in preheated oven of 190C for 15 minutes (To blind bake: Cover the pastry shell with a piece of baking paper and fill it with baking beads or uncooked rice/beans.  This is to prevent the pastry shell from puffing up while baking).  Remove the baking paper and baking beans.   Brush the pastry shell with a little egg white and bake for a further 10 minutes.  

4) While the pastry shell is baking in the oven, prepare the ingredients for the filling.  Fill the partially-baked pastry shell with shaved ham and chopped asparagus.  Mix well together: eggs, milk, spring onion, salt and pepper.  Pour the custard into the pastry shell.  Arrange the asparagus spears and smoked salmon on top.  

5) Reduce oven heat to 180C and bake for about 40 minutes, or till the filling has set and the top is golden.





For the grilled asparagus with onion vinaigrette

Onion vinaigrette:  Mix together
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Zest and juice from 1/3 lemon
2 tsp brown sugar
1 to 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Method:

1) Prepare the asparagus by removing lower tough ends and peeling away the outer skin (for the white asparagus).  Blanch the asparagus in boiling water with a pinch of salt and a little cooking oil.  Drain the asparagus and toss them with a little oil.

2) Heat a grilling pan till very hot.  Place the asparagus on the hot grilling pan and grill them for about 2 minutes, turning the asparagus every now and then.

3) Transfer the grilled asparagus on serving plate and pour the vinaigrette over it.








Monday, June 27, 2011

Bagel: "Excuse Me, I'm Not a Donut!"










Honestly, I cannot remember if I have ever tasted a bagel before.  Most of our bakeries here do not sell bagels.  Somehow, I remember bagels are quite heavy and dense, very different from our usual soft and fluffy bread.  Talking about soft bread, donuts (the bagel look-alike bread) is far more popular in Singapore.  When Donut Factory first started an outlet in Singapore, super long queues were seen at the basement shopping mall of Raffles City, just for a box of its famous donuts.  As for bagels, you may probably find them at coffee joints like Starbucks or Coffee Beans (and they are so expensive!).  If you are a bagel lover, you would have heard of this online bagel store, NYC Bagel Factory.   






So, why am I making these bagels?  I happened to surf the net, saw a few bagels recipes and thought of trying it since I have never made bagels before.  It needs only a few basic ingredients - bread flour, yeast, sugar, salt and water.  And one important step that caught my attention - you need to boil the dough just before baking!  How interesting!  I wondered what will happen when I boil the dough in water.  Will the dough absorbs the hot water and become spongy?  Will it melt inside the pot of water?  In the first place, why do you need to boil the dough before baking?  I guess it is my curiosity that drives me to bake these bagels. 

From what I gathered, bagels are boiled to give their signature dense and chewy texture.  The boiling is very brief, about 20 seconds to one minute on each side.  So, the water does not penetrate far into the dough.   Instead, the brief boiling forms a crust on the surface even before the bagel starts to bake in the oven.  When the crust is set, the bagels will not rise very much during baking, which explains the dense interiors.  Hence, the longer you boil a bagel, a thicker crust will form on the surface and you have a more dense and chewy bagel.  


Sweet & savory bagels: cream cheese, blueberries & cream, apple & ham, smoked salmon & cream


Ingredients:
(adapted from here)

200g bread flour
50g oats bran
3g instant dried yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
170ml warm water

Boiling the bagels - about 2L water + 2 tbsp sugar

Some egg whites - for brushing


Method:
1) Mix the bread flour, oats bran, yeast, sugar, salt and water together.  Knead to form a smooth and elastic dough.  Place the dough in a lightly-oiled bowl.  Cover and leave it to proof, about an hour, till it doubled in size.

2) Divide the dough into 4 - 6 portions (I divided into 6 portions for smaller bagels for breakfast).  To shape them, either (i) roll the dough into long strips and curl the dough around your hands to form a round disc or (ii) roll the dough into a ball, use your finger to poke a hole in the centre and  rotate the dough to get a round even disc.  

3) Place the bagels on baking paper and cover to let it rest for 15 to 20 minutes. 

4) Meanwhile, bring the water to boil and add in the sugar.  Carefully drop the bagels (one at a time) into the boiling water.  Do not overcrowd the pot (I boiled 3 bagels each batch).  Boil the bagels for 20 seconds to a minute, then flip them over for another 20 seconds to a minute.  Remove with a slotted spoon and place them on the baking paper.

5) Brush the bagel with egg whites, sprinkle some sesame seeds over and bake them in preheated oven of 190C for about 25 minutes, or till golden brown.


I am not very satisfied with these bagels.  Appearance - they look too dull and lack the smooth and shiny crust.  Taste - I find them too dense and chewy (I boiled them for a minute on each side).  I shall attempt another two more recipes next round:

a) Blueberry bagels from Kitchen Corner - used milk instead of water and added a tiny amount of butter in the kneading of dough.

b) Bagels from The Fresh Loaf - used sponge dough method that requires leaving the dough in the refrigerator overnight.


Despite this not-very-successful attempt on bagel making, I would like to share my findings with Aspiring Bakers #8: Bread Seduction (June 2011)hosted by Jasmine of Sweetylicious.  Hopefully, the more experienced bakers will share with me their tips on making bagels, while those who have never attempted making bagels will be keen to find out more.







Sunday, June 26, 2011

Fluffy Banana Pancakes









How about some soft and fluffy pancakes for a weekend breakfast?  I used the same recipe as my blueberries pancakes, except for about 3 tablespoon of mashed caramel banana added into the pancake batter.  

Recipe for pancake batter
(makes 5 thick and fluffy pancakes, each about 4.5" circle)

(A) Wet ingredients
3/4 cup milk
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp melted butter

(B) Dry ingredients
1 cup plain flour
2 tbsp sugar (I used only 1 tbsp sugar since I've added the caramel banana)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt


Method:
1) Mix the milk and vinegar together in a measuring jug and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes, while you gather the other ingredients.  Whisk in the melted butter and beaten egg.
2) Mix the dry ingredients together.  Pour in the wet ingredients and mix till well-combined.  Stir in 3 tbsp mashed caramel banana.  Pour the batter into the measuring jug for easy pouring later.
3) Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat and brush a little oil (or use a cooking spray) on the pan.  Pour a little batter into the pan.  Cook for about 30 to 45 seconds and flip over to the other side.  Remove from pan when both sides are golden brown.  Repeat steps for the remaining batter.
4) Serve hot with extra caramel banana and your favorite toppings.


To prepare the caramel banana:
Melt a tablespoon butter in a small pot or pan.  Stir in one tablespoon of brown sugar.  When the mixture starts bubbling, add in a dash of rum (be careful, it's HOT!) and stir.  Add in 3 large bananas (sliced) and stir to coat the banana slices with the caramel sauce.  Cook for about 2 minutes or till the bananas turn soft.





Friday, June 24, 2011

Pizza Bread with Sun Dried Tomato









With my leftover dough after making some ham & cheese rolls, I made these easy pizza bread.  After shaping and second-proofing the dough,  spread some sun-dried tomato pesto and top with some thinly sliced onion, bell peppers and ham.  Bake at 185C for about 15 minutes.







Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ham and Cheese Rolls









Ingredients:

One portion of sweet dough (I replace 3 tbsp of bread flour with oats bran)
Some slices of ham , each cut into 4 triangles
Some slices of cheese, each cut into 4 triangles

Method:
1) Preparation as per sweet dough recipe.  After dividing the dough into small portions, roll out each portion into a long pear shape.  
2) Place ham and cheese slices at the wider side of the roll-out dough, and gently roll up the dough.  Let it rest for 45 minutes, brush with beaten eggs and bake in preheated oven of 185C for around 15 minutes.





I would like to share this simple bread recipe with Aspiring Bakers #8: Bread Seduction (June 2011)hosted by Jasmine of Sweetylicious







Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mixed Tempura Udon: Served 2 Ways






I love the vibrant colours of these vegetables!


I love to use bright and colourful vegetables in my cooking.  They are visually pleasing and eating a colourful range of fruits and vegetables daily is also good for our health.  Over here, I have red (bell pepper), white (enoki mushrooms), green (lady's finger and parsley), orange (carrot) and purple (sweet potato).  Not only are these vegetables healthy and delicious, I think brightly-coloured vegetables also helps to lift one's mood and energy level!


Kakiage Udon, or Mixed Tempura Udon, served with clear soup or Japanese curry

I used these colourful vegetables to prepare mixed tempura to go with Udon, served 2 ways: clear soup (dashi) and Japanese curry.


To make the mixed tempura:

You need very little amount of each type of vegetables to make the mixed tempura.  So, this is one good recipe to "clear" some leftover vegetables from your fridge.  For me, I used about half a carrot, a small piece of sweet potato, a small chunk of sweet bell pepper, one small lady's finger, one to two stalks of parsley etc.  I made 3 big pieces of mixed tempura with the vegetables shown in the top picture.  Try to cut all the vegetables into the same size to ensure even cooking.  If you like, you can also add some crab sticks or shrimps into the mixed tempura.

Method:
1) Prepare the tempura batter in a mixing bowl.  I used ready-mix tempura flour: 60g flour mix with 100ml water.
2) Add in all the vegetables and mix well.  You just need a thin coat of tempura batter for the vegetables.  Divide the tempura mixture into individual portions.  Place one portion of tempura mixture in a rice bowl.
3) Heat sufficient oil in wok for deep-frying.  When oil is moderately hot (test: immerse a pair of wooden chopsticks in the hot oil and bubbles will form around it), slide the tempura mixture from the bowl into the hot oil.  Flip the tempura over to the other side after 30 to 40 seconds.  Fry both sides till golden brown and drain on kitchen paper.  Repeat for the remaining tempura batter.


Preparing your own tempura udon at home

To make the clear soup (dashi):

About 1/4 bonito flakes; 2 cups water; 1 tbsp mirin;  2 to 3 tbsp Japanese soy sauce (or to taste) - I used sukiyaki sauce.  

Method:
Put water in pot and bring to boil.  Add the bonito flakes and boil it gently for about 5 minutes.  Sieve the stock and discard the bonito flakes.  Add in the mirin and soy sauce.  The dashi is ready.


To make the Japanese curry:

Half a onion, cut into small wedges
Half a carrot, cut into small chunks
2 instant Japanese curry stock-cube

Method:
Heat a little oil in a pot and stir-fry the onion till translucent.  Add in the carrot, about 3.5 cups of water and the curry cubes.  Cover and let it come to a boil, then lower to medium-low heat and cook till carrots become soft.  I added 2 tbsp of mashed pumpkin to thicken the curry gravy (this is optional).


To serve the Mixed Tempura Udon:

Cook fresh udon in boiling water (per instructions on package), drain and place in individual bowls.  Pour clear soup base or curry gravy over the udon and top with crispy tempura.  For clear soup udon, you may want to serve the tempura separately to prevent it from turning soggy.



I will be sharing this recipe with Cuisine Paradise at her hosted event, June $20 Budget Meal - Noodles.



Estimated cost to prepare the above meal (serves 3):
Udon ($3.00) + bonito flakes/curry stock cubes ($1.50) + mixed vegetables ($1)

Total estimate cost: $5.50







Braised Salted Fish Head with Pork Belly (咸鱼头焖五花腩)










All your neighbours will know what you will be having for dinner tonight.  The fragrant of the salted fish head when it is browning in the wok is simply irresistible!   Cook it with pork belly, let it simmer on low heat till the fats melt into the gravy while the meat absorbs the rich flavour from the salted fish.    This is an excellent dish to go with rice but certainly not a healthy dish with the high-salt and high-fat content from the salted fish and pork belly.  But, you don't eat it everyday (maybe once or most twice a year?), keep other side dishes simple and healthy (like veggies and steamed dishes) and plan to cook this dish only when you are having a big family dinner, so everyone will just be taking two to three small pieces of that fatty stuff (accompanied with that yummy but sinful gravy ^_^).


Ingredients:

1 salted fish head (咸鱼头)
600g pork belly (五花腩), cut into small pieces
10 pieces of tofu puffs (豆包, tau pok), soaked in hot water, squeezed dried
3 to 4 dried chilies (辣椒干), soaked in water, squeezed dried
7 to 8 slices of ginger
Dash of cooking wine
1 to 2 tsp sugar

Method:
1) Soak the salted fish head in water for 2 to 3 hours.  This is to remove the excess salt content (you may want to change the water once).  Discard the water. 

2) Heat some oil in wok, add 2 slices of ginger and brown the salted fish head on both sides.  Set aside.

3) Turn the heat on high and add the pork belly slices.  Use the high heat to partially melt away some of the fats on the pork belly while browning it, so that the pork belly pieces remain intact during braising.  When the fats start melting, add in the remaining ginger slices, dried chilies and stir-fry with the pork belly till fragrant.  Add a dash of cooking wine around the edge of the wok.  Add in the salted fish head and pour in sufficient water to fully cover all the ingredients, plus a cup more.  Cover and bring it to boil.

4) Transfer the contents from the wok to a casserole and let it simmer on low heat for an hour and a half to two hours.  In between cooking, check and add sugar to taste.  At the last 30 minutes of cooking, add in the tofu puffs.

5) Leave it to rest for two to three hours before serving.  To serve, warm it up again (you may even want to keep it till the next day to serve).






Monday, June 20, 2011

Apple Tart








I love this apple tart recipe as it is bursting with all-natural apple flavour and a thin biscuit crust.  The filling is moist, yet the base remains very crispy, even after leaving it in room temperature for 6 to 7 hours in our hot humid weather.  I'm not sure if the tart base will stay crispy for longer hours cos it was so yummy that we finished it all within the day!

This apple tart consists of 4 layers:  The thin biscuit crust at the bottom, a thin spread of almond cream, apple puree, and topped with apple slices.  Preparation work is fairly simple too, especially if you have prepared the base crust a day before.







To make the Tart Base
(fits one 26cm loose-based tart pan)

200g plain flour
2 tsp caster sugar
100g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg yolk + 2 to 3 tbsp water
A pinch of salt
A little egg white


Method:

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 to two in 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 5 minutes, uncovered.   Set aside to cool.

Refer here for a pictorial illustration.


To make the Almond Cream


75g unsalted butter
75g caster sugar
85g ground blanched almonds
2 tsp plain flour
1 tsp cornstarch
1 beaten egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Method:
1) Cream butter and sugar lightly.  Add ground almond and mix to combine.
2) Add flour and cornstarch, mix, then add beaten egg and vanilla extract.  Mix well.


To make the Apple Puree

2 to 3 green apples, peeled and cut into small pieces
2 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla extract
10g unsalted butter

Method:
Combine cut apples, sugar and water in a small pot.  Cover and gently cook the mixture for about 10 minutes till soft.  Stir in the vanilla extract and 10g butter.  Whisk the mixture lightly to mash up the apples.  Set aside.


Apple Toppings:

2 to 3 green apples (peeled, cored and cut into thin slices)
15g unsalted butter, melted
1 tbsp sugar





To assemble the Apple Tart

1) Spread a thin layer of almond cream evenly onto the baked tart shell.  
2) Spread another thin layer of apple puree over the almond cream.
3) Arrange the apple slices in a circle around the edge.  Repeat for an inner circle, this time going in the opposite direction from the outer circle.  Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.
4) Bake the tart in a preheated oven of 175C for 35 to 40 minutes.  You may want to loosely cover the top with foil at the last 10 minutes of baking.


Recipe source: 
For tart base and apple puree - adapted from "French Desserts" by Laura Washburn
For almond cream - adapted from "Baking from My Home to Yours" by Dorie Greenspan






Sunday, June 19, 2011

Nyonya Fried Mee Siam






Spicy Rice Vermicelli


One of the benefits of writing a food blog is it motivates me to keep looking out for new recipes, cooking ideas and trying out new dishes.  By posting the dishes online, it helps to keep track of the dishes that I have cooked for the past week, month or year, and at the same time, what are the dishes that I have been wanting to try out, but never appear on my dinner table.  Better still, join a blogging event, for instance, a monthly food theme, where we need to use specific ingredient(s) in our cooked dishes or baked goodies.  It really adds fun and challenge to my daily cooking routine.  

Take for instance, this Nyonya fried mee siam.  This is the first time that I'm preparing this dish, after flipping through a cook book that was hidden in my bookshelf for nth number of years.  I have always wanted to prepare this spicy rice vermicelli, but had no idea how to prepare the rempah or the spicy paste.  So when I saw the recipe in the cook book and scrutinised the list of ingredients... hey, it was not too complicated after all.  OK, I must TRY THIS for this month's budget meal: Noodles!  See... the power and motivation of food blogging.  Else, I would have probably tuck the book back to the bookshelf for another nth years.....


Ingredients for my fried mee siam


Ingredients:
(serves 4 to 5)

300g vermicelli (米粉)
150g small-sized prawns ( 虾仁)
1 firm bean curd (豆干)
2 eggs (鸡蛋)
2 handfuls of beansprouts (豆芽)
Handful of chives (韭菜 ), cut into 1" sections
2 tbsp tamarind paste, assam (亚参)
3 cloves garlic, chopped

Spice ingredients
7 dried chilies (辣椒干)
5 red chilies (红辣椒)
2 to 3 tbsp dried shrimps (虾米), briefly soak in water
15 cloves shallots (红葱头)
4 cloves garlic (蒜头)
1 small piece belachan, approx 1/2 tbsp (峇拉煎), toast in oven for a few minutes
2 tbsp soy bean paste (豆酱)

Garnish
2 to 3 small limes (酸柑)
1 to 2 tbsp fried shallots (葱油酥)


Method:
1) Preparation work (see above picture):  Soak the vermicelli in water till soft.  Drain and set aside.  De-shell the prawns.  Cut the bean curd into small pieces, shallow fried in hot oil over medium-low heat till golden brown.  Set aside.  Fry the eggs into thin omelette and cut into thin shreds.  Cut the chives into 1" sections.  Mix the assam with one cup of water (sieve the liquid, discard the seeds)

2) Prepare the spice paste (rempah):  Soak the dried chilies in hot water, squeeze out water and remove seeds (I prefer less spicy).  Halve the red chilies and remove seeds.  Blend the spice ingredients in a blender till all ingredients come together to form a paste.  Add a little water from soaking the dried shrimps for easier blending.
[Note: The traditional way is to pound the spice ingredients in a mortar and pestle, in a certain order.  I may explore that next time.]

3) Heat up the wok with oil (about 3 tbsp) over medium low heat and fry the rempah till fragrant.  This takes time, keep stirring the paste till it dries up, colour darkens and the paste is fragrant (Do not attempt to speed up by cooking over high heat as the rempah is easily burnt).  As the paste is drying up, add about 2 tsp sugar and 1/2 salt.  Taste the rempah and add more salt if necessary.

4) Heat up some oil in a clean wok over high heat.  Add the chopped garlic, stir fry for a while.  Add the bean sprouts, give it a few stirs, remove and push it to one side of the wok set aside.  Add in the prepared rempah, assam juice and about 2 to 3 cups of water.  Add the rice vermicelli, cover and let it simmer over medium heat for a few minutes.

5) When the rice vermicelli has soaked up most of the liquid in the wok, toss the vermicelli with a wok ladle and a pair of wooden chopsticks till ingredients are well-combined.  Add in the prawns, fried bean curd and chives, bean sprouts and toss well again and cover briefly for a minute or two.  Add in the shredded eggs and give it another toss.

6) Garnish with fried shallots and serve hot with small limes at the side.


[Recipe Source: Adapted from "Traditional Nonya Cuisine" by Luck Koh]



I will be sharing this recipe with Cuisine Paradise at her hosted event, June $20 Budget Meal - Noodles.



Estimated cost to prepare the above meal (serves 4 to 5):
Vermicelli ($1) + prawns ($2) + chives/eggs/bean curd/bean sprouts/limes ($2) + spice ingredients ($2)

Total estimate cost: $7.00

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Mini Pumpkin Cheese Buns






Fresh from the oven


These cute little buns are really easy to make and make for a healthy snack.  

Ingredients:

200g bread flour
20g milk powder
1 tsp instant dried yeast
40g caster sugar
100g mashed pumpkin
35g beaten egg
60g cream cheese
Pinch of salt


Method:
1) Put all ingredients (except for cream cheese) in a mixer and knead for 10 minutes.  Add cream cheese and knead for another 5 minutes till a smooth dough is formed.  Cover and let it rest for about 45 minutes, or till it doubled in size.
2) Punch out air and divide the dough into 24 pieces.  Round up each of the dough and place on baking tray lined with baking paper (leave a small gap in between for the dough to expand).  Let the dough rest for another 45 minutes (I placed it in closed door oven).
3) Bake in preheated oven of 190C for 10 to 12 minutes.  Brush a thin layer of melted butter on the buns and transfer to rack to cool completely.

[Source: Recipe adapted from LiLi 的彩色厨房]


I had 3 mini buns for breakfast with coffee and gave a packet of mini buns to my neighbour's kids


I would like to share this delicious recipe with Aspiring Bakers #8: Bread Seduction (June 2011)hosted by Jasmine of Sweetylicious




Friday, June 17, 2011

Strawberry Meringue Cake









This must be my second most tedious cake to make, after my Barbie doll cake.  While I did not spend hours  to make this strawberry meringue cake, it takes planning, lots of patience and caring hands to create this.  I called this strawberry meringue cake, but the actual name is Fraisier, a classic French cake.  The cake is filled with lots of strawberries in between layers of sponge, pastry cream, butter cream and finally topped with Italian meringue.








Thursday, June 16, 2011

Chayote Black Eye Beans Soup







This is the first time I'm using Chayote (佛手瓜) in my soup and it is really tasty!  After cooking, it is soft and has a mildly sweet flavour.  Compared to old melon, 老黄瓜 (a very common and popular ingredient for soup), Chayote does not turn mushy after long simmering.  I will certainly include this as one of my favourite soup from now on.

Ingredients:
1 chayote (佛手瓜), peeled and cut into chunks
2 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 handful of black eye beans (眉豆)
5 to 6 red dates
1 small piece of ginger, smashed
Chicken bones (2 racks)*, removed skins and trimmed off fats

* I used the bones from one medium-sized chicken.  Cut and set aside the drums, thighs, wings and breast meat.  The remaining bones and legs for making soup

 Method:
1) Blanched the chicken bones in hot water.  Set aside.
2) Bring a pot of water (about 1.7 litre) to boil.  When water starts boiling, add in all the ingredients.  Bring it to boil again and reduce to low heat to simmer for an hour and a half.
3) Season with salt to taste.  Serve hot.


For a complete meal, I had blanched lady's fingers with sesame sauce, fried chicken and soy sauce anchovies.





Please refer here for more menu ideas.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Raspberry Cheese Tartlets








Pastry crust:
100g butter
50g icing sugar
30g beaten egg
185g plain flour
1 tbsp cocoa powder

Cream cheese fillings - refer to recipe here (prepare half the portion).


Method:
1) Rub butter into flour, cocoa powder and icing sugar till fine breadcrumbs.  Mix in egg and combine to form a dough.
2) Chill in fridge for 30 minutes.
3) Take a small amount of dough and press into each tart mold.  Trim off excess dough with a knife.
4) Blind-bake in preheated oven of 175C for 12 minutes.  Remove and pour in cream cheese fillings and bake further for about 12 to 15 minutes.  Set on a rack to cool.
5) Decorate with fresh raspberries.  Chill in fridge for an hour before serving.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sambal Lady's Fingers






I love spicy food, but I hardly cook them at home.  I am totally clueless on how to prepare the rempah (the spice paste), what ingredients to add, how much to use and in which order should I pound the spices, ahem... I mean blend them to make the rempah.  So, my quick-fix solution for preparing spicy food is A1 instant curry paste or ready-to-use bottled sambal sauce.




This is my new bottle of sambal udang, a "souvenir" from Club Med Cherating.  I attended a cooking class during my vacation at Club Med.   I casually asked the chef where did they get their yummy sambal chili (a generous portion is always placed at the buffet table for self-service) and without hesitation, the chef turned around and gave me a bottle!  Really nice of him ....  I tried to look for this brand of sambal chili sauce in  Kuantan, but cannot find it :(

For this sambal lady's fingers, I briefly blanched the lady's fingers in hot water (with a pinch of salt and little oil).  Heat up a little oil in wok, stir fry some chopped garlic, add a heaped tablespoon of sambal chili and stir fry till fragrant.  Add the blanched lady's fingers and stir well to combine.  Add a tiny bit of water to prevent burning.



Soy Sauce Chicken Noodles (油鸡面)








I bought some dried shrimp roe noodles (虾籽面) from my trip to Hong Kong.  Shrimp roe noodles or shrimp noodles is quite popular in Hong Kong.  It's a kind of cooked noodles, dried and bundled up like a biscuit (面饼).  This is how it looks like:




Cooking the shrimp noodles is similar to cooking instant noodles.  Bring a pot of water to boil, put in the noodle, use a pair of chopsticks to separate the strands.  Once all the strands are separated, it's ready.  Do not overcooked the noodles or they will not be springy.  The shrimp noodles is best served in soup with wonton and vegetables.  I shall prepare the wonton noodles another time. 


Recipe for soy sauce chicken
(serves 3 to 4)

Ingredients
2 chicken legs and 2 chicken wings (or use 1/2 a chicken)
Few slices of ginger
3 to 4 garlic (lightly crushed)
3 to 4 shallots (thickly sliced)
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick

Seasonings
2 tbsp oyster sauce (蚝油)
2 tbsp light soy sauce (酱清)
2 tbsp dark soy sauce (黑酱油)
1 tbsp soy paste (酱油膏)
1 tbsp cooking wine
1 tsp sugar or rock sugar

Method:
1) Heat up a pot with a tbsp oil.  Stir fry the shallots, ginger and garlic till aroma, add about 700 to 800ml water.  Bring the pot of water to boil, then add in the star anise, cinnamon stick and all the seasonings.  Let it boil for about 10 minutes.

2) Put the chicken into the pot of stock, bring content to boil again and let it simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes.  Leave the chicken in the pot till it cool completely.


To prepare the noodles
(serves 3)

3 dried noodles (you can use fresh noodles)
Some leafy vegetables (I used choy sum, 菜心)
Soy sauce gravy  - from preparing the soy sauce chicken
Some sambal chili sauce (I'm a typical Singaporean, and I love my noodles spicy!)

Method:
1) Bring a pot of water to boil.  Blanch the vegetables and set aside.
2) When the water starts boiling again, put in the dried noodles.  Use a pair of chopsticks to separate the noodles strands.  When all the strands are separated, remove the noodles and lightly toss the noodles with the soy sauce gravy and sambal chili (optional).
3) Serve the noodles with blanched vegetable and soy sauce chicken.



I will be sharing this recipe with Cuisine Paradise at her hosted event, June $20 Budget Meal - Noodles.



Estimated cost to prepare the above meal (serves 3):
Chicken* ($4.00) + Vegetables ($0.80) + Noodles ($1.80) = $6.60

* Buying a whole chicken is cheaper than buying the chicken parts separately.  Use the chicken bones for soups or stocks, the chicken legs/wings for a main dish, the breast meat for stir-fry, meatballs, minced chicken fillings.  "一鸡三吃" is very economical when preparing home-cooked meals.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Zucchini Cranberry Bread with Oats Crumble





Soft and moist zucchini bread, served plain or with some cream cheese frosting, topped with fresh berries


I never thought that zucchini can be used for making breads or cakes, as I have always relate this vegetable with savory cooking.  In fact, the first time when I saw zucchini in the supermarket, I thought to myself "what a nice-looking cucumber, with its shiny green skin and firm body.... but why so expensive huh?"   Of course, that was years ago!  Now, zucchini is available in most supermarkets and reasonably priced. 

I bought two zucchini - one was used for making my healthy one-dish meal, grilled zucchini vegetable soup.  I thought of using the other zucchini for an antipasto, a starter or perhaps for making zucchini quiche.  Nope, I did not make any of these, maybe next time...  I searched the internet for zucchini and the recipe "zucchini bread" caught my attention.  OH... zucchini for making bread ... how interesting!  


Easy to make zucchini bread


I'm so glad that I tried this new recipe!  Such an easy recipe that yields incredibly soft and moist flavourful tea-bread, perfect for breakfast or tea-snack.  How easy is this recipe?  You do not need a mixer to prepare this, AND my little girl actually helped to mix all the ingredients together!  I just give the batter a few stir to ensure the flour is properly mixed.  So, if you are planning for another baking session with your child, why not try this zucchini bread recipe?


Ingredients:
(makes 2 mini loaves - each 14cm x 8cm x 6cm)

(A) Sift together:
1.5 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder

(B) 
2 medium eggs
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
Zest from an orange

(C)
1 cup grated zucchini (firmly packed)
1/4 cup dried cranberry (or more if you like)

(D) Oats Topping: 
1/2 cup breakfast oats
1/4 cup plain flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
30g butter
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Variations:
Replace cranberry with raisins, walnuts or chocolate chips.
For added fibre, replace 1/4 cup plain flour with wholemeal flour.


Method:
1) Sift (A) together in a mixing bowl.  Set aside
2) In another mixing bowl, beat eggs and sugar together.  Pour in the vegetable oil and beat to combine.  Stir in the vanilla essence, evaporated milk and orange zest.  Add (A) to the wet mixture and stir to combine.
3) Stir in the grated zucchini, cranberry and mix well.
4) Pour batter into lined baking pan(s).  Use your finger tips to rub in the oats, plain flour, brown sugar, cinnamon with the butter (till course crumbs) and sprinkle over the batter.
5) Bake in preheated oven of 165C for 45 minutes (if baked in bigger pan, increase baking time to approx 60 minutes or more).  After 30 minutes, cover the top with a foil to prevent the crumble from burning.
6) Cool the bread in baking pan for 10 minutes, remove from pan and transfer to rack to cool completely before slicing.
7) Serve the bread plain or with some cream cheese frosting.

[Source: Adapted from Allrecipe]


I would like to share this wonderful recipe with Aspiring Bakers #8: Bread Seduction (June 2011)hosted by Jasmine of Sweetylicious









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