Monday, December 31, 2012

Another 3 plus 1 meal for Year 2012

My recent posts were mostly cakes and desserts.  While I enjoy baking cakes and creating sweet little treats, cooking remains my greatest passion, especially Chinese cuisine.  So, I shall end this year with another 3 plus 1 meal post.

What's for dinner:
Chayote & Carrot Pork Ribs Soup (similar recipe over here)
Steamed Chicken with Ginger Sauce
Light and Healthy Tofu with Broccoli
Crispy Tofu Puff with Meat Filling

Steamed Chicken with Ginger Sauce

The chicken is steamed in a rice cooker.  Rice cooker cooks similar to a pressure cooker.  The result is quick, tasty and juicy chicken.  Compare to the traditional method of poaching the chicken in a pot of hot water, this method is much easier and I find the chicken more flavourful.

* Mixed spice ingredients: 2 knots of pandan leaves, crushed lemon grass, few slices of ginger, crushed garlic/onions/spring onion (your preference...  I like to have them all!).  
* Rub the whole chicken with 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp sesame oil, leave to marinate for about 30 minutes.

To cook:
* Place some of the mixed spice ingredients at the bottom of the rice cooker.  Place chicken on top (with a knot of pandan leaves and lemon grass inside the chicken).  Pour 2 tbsp of Chinese cooking wine and 1/2 cup of water over the chicken.  
*Cover and press cook button.  Cook for about 10 to 15 minutes (depends on your rice cooker) and switch to keep warm mode for another 10 minutes (the heat inside will continue to cook the chicken).  Remove the chicken, cool slightly before cutting up the chicken.
*Serve with warm shallot and ginger sauce.
*Use the gravy in the rice cooker for cooking rice.

You can also use chicken wings/thighs/drums to prepare this:

Light and Healthy Tofu with Broccoli

The tofu dish is light and tasty.  Very few basic ingredients - chopped ham, corn kernels, carrot, breech mushrooms, silken tofu and broccoli.  Other: 2 slices of ginger, stock, 1 egg white

To cook:
*  Blanch the broccoli in boiling water. Set aside.
* Stir fry ham/carrot/mushroom/corn with ginger slices till fragrant.  Add in stock, bring to boil.  Add tofu and simmer for a minute.  Add seasoning (salt/oyster sauce etc) to taste.  Thicken with corn starch solution and add in beaten egg white.  
* Serve with blanched broccoli.

Crispy Tofu Puff with Meat Filling

The taste is similar to ngoh hiang, except it is crispier on the outside, due to the tofu puff (invert inside out).  For the filling, you can use prawn, fish or meat paste.  I used 1 part minced meat to 1 part chopped garlic chives and water chestnut.  Combine the filling ingredients together, seasoned with oyster sauce, sesame oil, pepper etc.  Cover and keep the filling in fridge for an hour before stuffing inside the tofu puff.

To prepare:
*  Cut a small opening at the side of each tofu puff.  Gently turn the puff inside out.
* Stuff each tofu puff with a teaspoon of meat filling.
* Deep fried in hot oil till golden.  

Tofu puffs with meat and chives fillings is very tasty.  You can steam it instead of deep frying, or cook in soup with noodles and some leafy vegetables for a healthy one-dish meal.    For this menu, since my other dishes were rather light, so I deep fried these tofu puffs for variety in taste and texture.


Other 3 plus 1 menus are listed over here.  

Wishing all a Happy and Healthy 2013. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas Baking and Sharing

I have been busy with Christmas baking and decorating since end November.  Here are some of my attempts for this Christmas:

My first batch of Christmas bakes - snowman cookies.  The cookie dough recipe is from Sugarbelle, which uses icing sugar in the dough instead of fine sugar or caster sugar.  It gives very clean-looking cookies, but taste and texture wise, I prefer the other recipe which I will mention later in this post.  As with other cookie dough that I have tried, this recipe also yields rather sticky dough and I need to keep popping the dough back into the fridge to firm up before transferring the cut-out cookies to the baking sheet.  

For the decoration bits, prepare round pieces of fondant (coloured with sky-blue colour food gel) while the cookies are baking in the oven.  Once the cookies are removed from the oven, quickly place the prepared fondant over the hot cookies.  The heat from the cookie will melt the fondant slightly and allow the fondant to stick itself firmly on the cookie.  Next, cut out small pieces of white, red and black fondant to make these snowman.  You will need a little corn syrup to stick the pieces together.  I used a toothpick and dip into the black colour gel for the eyes.

I had so much fun baking the usual Christmas cookies and decorating them with fondant and royal icing.  For my second batch of cookies, I used this recipe, mainly adapted from Happy Home Baking.  Quite a sticky dough and need to work fast.  At times, I do need to pop the rolled out dough back into the fridge to firm up before transferring the cut out cookies to baking tray.  But, the hard work is worth it, as the cookies are crispy and tasty.

(makes about 36 Christmas theme cookies)

200g unsalted butter + a pinch of salt
100g fine sugar
50g icing sugar
2 egg yolks
360g plain flour + 40g corn flour + 1/2 tsp baking powder (sift together)
1 tsp vanilla paste
1 tsp mixed spice (optional)

1) Cream butter, salt, fine sugar and icing sugar together till creamy.
2) Add in egg yolks, one at a time and beat till creamy.
3) Mix in vanilla paste and sifted flour till form a dough.  
4) Divide the dough into 3 portions.  Roll out each portion between a sheet of baking paper and clear plastic wrap.  Place in fridge for 30 minutes to firm up.
5) Remove and stamp with cookie cutters.  Transfer the cut out cookie to baking trays, lined with baking paper.  If dough turns soft, place dough back to fridge to firm up before transferring the cut out cookies.
6) Bake in preheated oven of 175C for about 15 minutes.
7) Remove and cool the cookies on rack completely before storing in airtight containers.

For the first time, I organised two cookies/cupcake decorating sessions at my house, one for my neighbour kids, and another session with my friends and their kids.  My house was filled with the sweet aroma of baked cookies and cupcakes.  While it was a little tiring having to prepare the cupcakes, cookies, icing etc, but I was rewarded with lots of joys and laughters - the best Christmas presents!

This is rose cupcake with rose butter cream 

Cupcakes for friends.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Gingerbread House

This year, I attempted gingerbread house from scratch.  From drawing the template, preparing the dough, baking and putting the house together and finally decorating it.  It was a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when I finally completed my mini gingerbread house.  As the gingerbread house is meant for display only, I used the cheapest shortening available to prepare the dough,  which is tub margarine (S$2.40 for 500g).  No need to use expensive butter, of course unless, you intend to eat the gingerbread house.  

Here's the gingerbread dough recipe, adapted from Haniela:

550g plain flour
250g margarine
170g icing sugar
70g dark brown sugar
1 egg, medium sized
2 to 3 tsp mixed spices (or more if you like)
1/2 cup golden syrup (lightly grease the cup with a little oil before filling with golden syrup)

1) Cream margarine, icing sugar and dark brown sugar together till creamy.
2) Add in eggs, mixed spices and golden syrup.  Beat till combined.
3) Add in plain flour and mix to form a dough.  Rest the dough for a short while before rolling and cutting out the cookie shapes.
4) Bake in preheated oven of 175C for about 15 minutes or more.  I prefer to bake for a longer time to ensure the cookies are really dry, given our high level of humidity.

With the success of my first gingerbread house, I made my second gingerbread house a few days later - the polka dots house.  For this gingerbread house, I flooded the cookies (i.e. the "walls") with red/white royal icing and let them dry completely (preferably in an aircon room to speed up the drying process) before putting the house together.  Despite putting in more work and effort, I think the house is quite ugly and far from the super cute-looking bird house by Haniela.

Now, these two gingerbread houses are currently the best natural air freshener for my house.  The aroma of mixed spices and icing sugar is simply superb!  One question that you may have .... any ants, cockroaches or house pests came knocking on the door of my gingerbread house?    Surprisingly ..... no.  I just leave them uncovered on the dining table.  Perhaps the mixed spices fragrance is too strong for the liking of the average household pests??

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