Thursday, January 31, 2013

Split Pea and Ham Bone Soup

This is my fifth and final post for this month on "Soup". Split pea is a new ingredient for me and I have never tasted split pea soup before.  The closest resemblance of a split pea dish that I tried, will be the Indian dal curry which comes with the serving of dosa. I wanted to learn more on healthier food and eating, and hence the idea of preparing split pea soup came to my mind.

Split peas (豌豆瓣) are high in protein, low in fat and a wonderful source of complex carbohydrates and dietary fibre.  Just a bowl of this split pea soup with a little bread will make a satisfying healthy meal.  

Split pea on its own is rather bland and tasteless, so you will need to use some stock to prepare the soup.  Alternatively, I used a huge piece of ham bone (from last Christmas leftover) to prepare this soup.  I have soaked the split peas for about 1 to 2 hours before cooking, as I am worried that the peas will not be cooked through easily.  But, I realised that soaking is not really necessary, as I cooked this soup in a slow cooker over low heat for 5 to 6 hours.  By dinner time, the peas have completely softened and dissolved into the soup.  I did not even need to blend it at all.  But if you are cooking the soup over a stove and wanted to shorten the cooking time, maybe pre-soaking the peas is necessary.

(serves 4 to 5)

350g split peas, washed and soaked
2 stalks celery, cut into small cubes
1 carrot, cut into small cubes
1 stalk leek, thinly sliced
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp dried herbs and 2 bay leaves
1 ham bone (or use stock)
1.5 to 1.8 litre water or stock (adjust to your preference.  If you did not pre-soak the peas, may need to add more water than this.)

1) Heat up a soup pot and add 1 to 2 tbsp olive oil.  Stir fry the celery and carrot for about a minute, before adding the leek and onion.  Stir well to combine.  Add in the garlic, dried herbs and bay leaves.  Stir fry till aromatic.  

2) Add in the split peas.  Stir and add in water (or stock) and ham bone.  Bring to boil and transfer to slow cooker.  Set the slow cooker on high heat first, to bring the content to boil. Then change to low heat and cook for about another 5 hours, or till peas softens.  Alternatively, you could set the slow cooker to auto mode.  If cooking on stove, bring to boil, then adjust to low heat and simmer till peas are cooked and softened.

3) In the middle of cooking, take out the ham bone to remove scraps of meat on the bone.  Shred the meat and set aside. Put the bone back into the soup.  When soup is almost done, remove and discard the bone.  Add the shredded meat into the soup and add salt/pepper to taste.

I served the split pea soup with Olive & Sun-Dried Tomato Bread Stick.  I especially baked these bread sticks to go with the soup.  For the appetiser, I prepared a refreshing combination of seedless grapes with cherry tomatoes, cucumber and bell pepper, lightly-tossed in lemon juice and olive oil dressing.

Happy Weekend to all!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Seafood Bee Hoon Soup

My weekday lunch is usually a one-dish soup meal or porridge.  Easy to prepare and light to eat.

(serves 2)

A few fresh prawns, shells removed & devein
Fish fillet, thinly sliced
A few scallops, cut half horizontally (or replaced with some clams)
Laksa bee hoon (for two)
1 tomato, cut into chunks
Some lettuce leaves
Few ginger slices
Homemade stock (or ready-packed)

1) Lightly marinate the fish slices and scallops with a pinch of salt and pepper while you bring the stock to boil.
2) Add in the tomato and ginger slices.  Bring to boil over high heat.  Add in the laksa bee hoon, followed by prawns, fish slices and scallop.  Cover and bring content to boil.  This takes about a minute or less to cook.
3) Place some lettuce leaves in a bowl and pour the boiling hot seafood bee hoon into the bowl.
4) Garnish with some spring onion and add a dash of pepper. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Apple & Pear Pork Ribs Soup

This is one of my favorite soup.  Delicious and super easy to prepare. 

(serves 3 to 4)

1 big Fuji apple (or other kind of apple) - cut into quarter
1 pear - cut into quarter
2 dried figs (these are dried Turkish figs)
1 honey date
A few red dates
A small handful of Chinese almond kernels (南北杏)
Pork ribs

1) Blanch the pork ribs in hot boiling water and remove.  Set aside.
2) Bring a pot of water to boil.  Add in all the ingredients and bring to boil.  Lower heat to simmer for an hour.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Soy Milk HL Soup

Here another post on one-dish soupy meal - Soy Milk HL Soup.  HL stands for high in calcium/protein and low in fats.

I learnt to make this soup from the TV programme, Dietary Errors 《饮食误区》.  What is so special about this soup is that soy milk is used as the soup base!  Initially, I was quite skeptical of the taste for this soup when I watched it on TV.  After years of drinking soy milk that is slightly sweetened, my mindset is such that soy milk should be sweet.  How would a savory soy milk taste?  To play safe, I cooked this soup using one part soy milk to one part home made stock (about 1 cup each).  Strangely, I did not taste any strong soy bean taste after cooking it with other ingredients.  And the good thing is: the soy milk makes the soup tastes richer and smoother.  It is delicious!   Next time, I shall try with 3 parts soy milk to 1 part homemade stock :)

Since this is a one-dish meal, I added fresh Chinese yam (淮山) as carbo-replacement.   Chinese yam is low in fats and high in fiber, making this the perfect food if you are on diet.  I added chicken breast milk, tofu and an egg for proteins.  For nice colours, I added a tablespoon of Chinese wolfberries, which by the way, is good for our eyes too.  

Ingredients used:
(serves 2)

Small portion of Chinese yam (淮山)  , cut into cubes
1 tomato, cut into chunks
2 to 3 Chinese mushrooms, cut into thin slices (reserved liquid for soup)
1 tbsp Chinese wolfberries (soak briefly in warm water)
1 piece of chicken breast, cut into small cubes
1/2 box of silken tofu, cut into small cubes
1 cup of unsweetened soy milk
1 cup of home made stock
1 egg, lightly beaten
Some chopped parsley

1) Bring the stock and mushroom water to gentle boil.  Add in Chinese yam, tomato and mushroom.  Cook for a few minutes to soften the Chinese yam and to bring out the flavour of the mushroom.
2) Add in Chinese wolfberries, chicken breast and cook for another minute.
3) Add in tofu and soy milk.  Season with salt/pepper to taste.
4) Bring to boil and pour in the beaten egg.  Sprinkle chopped parsley and serve immediately.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Chunky Vegetable Soup & Garlic Croutons

January is the month for eating light and healthy, especially after all the "excesses" that we consumed over Christmas and New Year period (not forgetting the overseas holiday too!!).  What's more, Chinese New Year is just one month away, where we are treated yet to another round of festive food and goodies.

This month, I will focus on soups or soupy meals.  Soups are nutritious, filling and simply delicious.  As long as you are careful with the amount/type of fats that you add during cooking, most soups are healthy for our body.  Instead of sautéing the soup ingredients with a big chunk of butter, cut down or replaced with a healthier option such as corn oil or olive oil.  Instead of adding that dollop of cream into your soup, you can use unsweetened yogurt or even thicken the soup with potato, cauliflower, pumpkin and carrot etc.  For this chunky soup recipe, I added a healthy and natural thickener ---- pearl barley.

Honestly, this is the best chunky vegetables soup that I have tasted.  It is full of flavour, without adding any MSG or artificial sweetener.  You can vary the type and amount of vegetables that you used for this soup.  From the picture that you see above, these ingredients give me four servings of soup (as a main course, served with a dinner roll).  I have added a small piece of ham (leftovers from Christmas) for extra flavour. Omit the ham if you want it to be a vegetarian meal.  

(serves 4)

1 Russet potato, 1 carrot, 1 leek, 2 medium-sized tomatoes, 3 pieces sun-dried tomatoes, pearl barley,
1/2 red bell pepper, 1/2 zucchini, small portion of ham, few cloves garlics, small piece ginger, 1 onion,
2 bay leaves, 1/2 tsp dried rosemary, 1 small piece of lemongrass (bulb portion only),  homemade stock,
1/2 cup canned whole tomatoes with its juice

Preparation:  Cut the vegetables into chunky cubes as seen from picture


1) Heat up a stockpot and add 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the onions and potatoes.  Cook briefly and add in carrots, sun-dried tomatoes, lemongrass, ginger, garlic and leek.

2) Add in both the fresh and canned tomatoes.  Add water or stock (amount to add depends on how thick you like the soup to be).  Add in the dried rosemary and bay leaves.  Cover, bring to boil and let it simmer for about 20 minutes.

3) Add in the bell pepper and ham.  Simmer for another 10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cover and set aside for 30 minutes before serving.

4) Garnish and served with wholemeal garlic croutons.
[Cut a slice of wholemeal bread into cubes.  Toss with 2 tsp olive oil, 1 garlic (finely minced) and a tiny pinch of salt and dried herbs.  Bake in oven at 175C for about 5 minutes till crispy]

Monday, January 7, 2013

Bad Piggy aka Angry Bird Green Pig

I'm never an Angry Bird fan. Other than the red angry bird, I hardly know the other characters in the popular Angry Bird games, not even this Green Pig!  Anyway, with the help of Google and my little girl, I managed to  find out more about this bad piggy.  And if you are just like me, who knows nothing much about Angry Bird, this green pig is the King Pig -  see the yellow crown on his head ;)  

About the cake - it is made up of 3-layer Chocolate Sponge with Dark Chocolate Ganache filling.  The whole cake is covered with Italian Meringue Butter Cream (IMBC), flavoured with rose water and lightly coated with dessicated coconut.  

About Italian Meringue Butter Cream (IMBC) - I prefer to use IMBC over topping cream (or fresh cream/non-dairy cream), as commonly used by local bakeries.  IMBC gives a light and silky smooth touch to the cake.  And very importantly, this butter cream is quite stable and does not melt away quickly in our hot weather.  The cons are: Compared to topping cream, which just need to pour and whip, IMBC requires more time/effort to prepare, and it is also more costly, given the relatively high cost of butter.

About the decorative bits -   The actual cake is 10" square, cut to approximately 9" piggy shape (the cake board underneath is 10").  The cake measures about 3" in height and weighs about 1.2 kilogram. The green pig image is first outlined on the cake using the same technique as the Little Birdie Cake, and filled with tinted piping gel. 

If I were to decorate this cake again, I would ...
Instead of trimming the cake to a piggy shape, I think it will be nicer as a round cake.  I wasted a fair bit of time to carve the cake to a piggy shape, but to find that the design does not really stand out.  Worse, the carved-out pointed area around the crown was extremely difficult to apply the butter cream.

With a round cake, I can choose to: (a) stick kit-kat chocolate biscuits around the side (to resemble woods),  (b) line the side with angry bird edible prints, or (c) paste the birthday child's name/age etc by using fondant.

As a little surprise for the birthday boy, I made a Green Piggy birthday card for him.  Hope he had a wonderful birthday celebration.  Happy Birthday, Reyon!  

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