Saturday, August 31, 2013

Pan-fry Pumpkin Kueh with Sesame seeds and Dessicated Coconut 《椰香芝麻南瓜饼》

This pumpkin kueh makes a delightful afternoon tea snack.  It takes only a few ingredients and a few simple steps to prepare this tasty snack.  The desiccated coconut adds a mild coconut fragrance to the kueh.  Try it!

(makes 8 kueh)

120g mashed pumpkin
50g glutinous rice flour
50g plain flour
20g icing sugar
20g desiccated coconut
Extra plain flour (to dust your hands)
Sesame seeds (for coating)


1) Steam and mash the pumpkin.  While the mashed pumpkin is still hot, place it in a deep bowl, together with the glutinous rice flour, plain flour, icing sugar and dessicated coconut to form a soft, non-sticky dough (if dough is still wet, add another tbsp of plain flour).

2) Divide the dough into 8 portions.  Dust your hands with some flour and shape each portion into a round patty.

3) Coat each pumpkin patty with sesame seeds and flatten it with your palm while gently pressing the sesame seeds onto the pumpkin patty.

4) Heat up a non-stick pan and add a teaspoon of oil.  Pan fry the pumpkin kueh on both sides over medium heat till light golden brown.

5) Enjoy the pumpkin kueh with a cup of floral tea.

[Recipe adapted from 孟老師烘焙園地]

I love pumpkin in both sweet and savory dishes.  Here are some of the Chinese snacks that I have prepared with pumpkin:

Top:  Pan Fry Pumpkin Kueh,  Steamed Pumpkin & Garlic Chives Kueh
Bottom:  Steamed Pumpkin Glutinous rice Kueh,  Steamed Pumpkin Cake

Steamed Pumpkin and Garlic Chives Kueh:
I adapted the dough recipe from my earlier soon kueh recipe for making this kueh.  Same amount of flour used, add in 100g mashed pumpkin and reduce hot boiling water to 550ml.  To ensure that the dough is not too wet & sticky (since the mashed pumpkin may contain too much moisture during steaming), add in 500ml boiling water first, then gradually add in the remaining water to form a dough (may not use all the water).  The method is the same as the soon kueh.  As for the fillings, I have used garlic chives (韭菜), shredded pumpkin, fried tofu, fried egg, dried shrimps and minced ginger.

Steamed Pumpkin Glutinous rice kueh has almost the same ingredients as the above Pan Fry Pumpkin Kueh, except with the addition of yeast and a higher amount of liquid used.  

Steamed Pumpkin Cake, along with Steamed Yam Cake and Steamed Radish Cake, have always been my favourite morning or afternoon snack.  

Have a great weekend and perhaps you would like to try making some of these Chinese snacks?

Friday, August 30, 2013

Beef Kebabs Lemongrass with Basmati Rice Salad

Beef Kebabs on Lemongrass sticks

I hardly cook beef at home, but this week we had beef twice.  I wanted to prepare beef brisket soup, so while shopping for beef brisket, I also bought some ground beef.  My initial plan is to make some beef patties for burgers ... I even bought my burger buns!  Well.... but somehow, I ended up making egg and luncheon meat burgers for breakfast instead!  

As I picked up some fresh vegetables from the wet market, I spotted a basket full of lemongrass and an idea came to my mind - beef kebab on sticks!  The lemongrass infused a lovely favour to the beef kebabs and my kitchen smells wonderful during cooking ^_^    Beside adding flavour, the lemongrass drumsticks are also visually attractive and helps to whet one's appetite.  For dinner, I prepared a light Basmati rice salad to pair with the beef kebabs.  If you do not have Basmati rice, you could use Thai jasmine rice. But Basmati rice gives a lighter and fluffier texture, which goes very well as a salad.

Colourful Basmati Rice Salad

I had cucumber, tomato, onion, yellow zucchini, ladies finger, dried cranberries in the salad rice.  You can also use corn niblets, bell peppers, mushroom etc, I just use what's available in the fridge.  The key point is: choose a variety of colours from your available vegetables.  It's also a great way to clear leftovers since you need just a little of each vegetables for this rice salad.

One dish meal using Happycall Pan

As you can see here, I used my Happycall pan (HCP) to cook this meal.  Key points to note when cooking the beef kebabs:  

1) Heat the HCP till smoking hot.  Add a little oil (about a tbsp) into the pan.  Arrange the beef kebabs into the HCP.  Keep the lid open, DO NOT close the lid (see pic below).

2) After one minute, rotate each kebab slightly to brown on another side. Keep rotating the kebabs till you brown them evenly (You need to brown the beef to seal in the juice, else you will end up with dried beef).  Browning will take a few minutes.

3) After the beef kebabs are browned, close the lid (but do not lock it) and cook for another minute or two.  This will ensure that the centre of the kebab is also cooked. 

Browning the beef kebabs 

For the Beef Kebabs:
(serves 3)

300g ground beef
2 tbsp chopped onion
2 cloves garlic
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger
1 stalk of lemongrass (head portion only)
1 tbsp cream corn (optional)*
1 tbsp chopped luncheon meat/ham (optional)*
2 tbsp chopped spring onion
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I used leftover sandwich bread)
1/2 egg, beaten

1 tsp garam masala spice mix
1/2 tsp paprika
1 - 2 tbsp tomato sauce/ketchup
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 to 2 tbsp stock (with little or no salt) 
1 to 2 tbsp oil (if the beef is lean)
1 tsp salt
Pepper to taste

5 to 6 stalks of lemongrass (the thinner tail end) - remove the outer dry layers and lightly crushed one end for each stalk.

*  I happened to have these in the fridge, so I added for extra flavour.  

1) Blend the onion, garlic, ginger and lemongrass in a food processor till fine. 

2) Mix all the ingredients and seasoning together.  Keep in fridge for an hour.  

3) Divide the beef into 5 or 6 portions.  Take a stalk of lemongrass and wrap it with the beef.  Use a clear plastic bag to help to roll and shape the beef onto the lemongrass.

4) Heat up the HCP (or any frying pan) on high heat till smoking hot.  Add a little oil.  Brown the beef  kebabs evenly, before closing the lid (or covering the pan) for a minute to two for thorough cooking (see tips above).

5) Serve the kebabs on the Basmatic Rice Salad (recipe below) and garnish with tomato slices.  Add some lime wedges at the side to squeeze over the kebabs.

For the Basmati Rice Salad:
(serves 3)

You will need:

1 cup of Basmati rice, washed and drained
1.5 cups stock (or water)
1/2 onion, chopped
1 small piece of cinnamon stick (about a inch)
1 star anise

Salad:  choose a variety of vegetables.  Over here, I used one tomato, 1/3 of a medium-sized yellow zucchini, a few ladies finger, one cucumber, handful of dried cranberries and a bunch of Chinese parsley.  Cut the vegetables into small cubes (remove and discard the seeds - tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini).

1) Stir fry the vegetables lightly over a hot pan and season with salt/pepper to taste.  You can use a HCP to do the stir-frying, but I prefer to use a regular pan as I can easily toss the vegetable around.  Set aside.

2) To cook the rice, you can use either a rice cooker, a pot over stove or the HCP.  Over here, I use the HCP:  Heat up the HCP over medium low heat.  Add a tablespoon of oil and fry the chopped onion till translucent.  Add the rice, cinnamon stick, star anise and stock/water.  Close the lid (locked) and cook the rice till the grains have fully absorbed all the liquid.  The rice will take around 10 minutes to cook.

Note:  To ensure even cooking, shift the pan to the left and right during cooking.  After the liquid is fully absorbed into the grains, test a few grains to see if the rice is cooked to the right texture.  If necessary, add a little more water, close the lid to cook for another minute to two. 

3) Lightly fluff the rice with a fork (the Basmati rice will fluff up easily) and mix in the vegetables and dried cranberries.  Close the lid again and let the rice stand in the pan for another few minutes.

4) Garnish the rice with sliced tomato and chopped parsley.

To complete my meal, I prepared lemongrass and ginger drink.  I used the tail end portion for the kebabs and reserved the head portion for making this drink.  

To make the drink:
4 to 5 stalks of lemongrass (head portion only) - crushed
2 to 3 thin slices of ginger
About 1 litre water
Brown rock sugar, to taste
Juice from 1/2 lemon (add after cooking)

Combine all the ingredients in a pot (except for lemon juice), bring to boil and simmer for 30 minutes.  Cool the drink slightly and add in the lemon juice.  Serve hot or cold.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Durian Chiffon (Cooked Dough Method)

Recently, I have been baking chiffon cakes using the cooked dough method.  I find this method more manageable and gives a higher success rate in achieving a nice and soft texture.  The cooked dough method is similar to traditional chiffon cake method, except that you first cooked the flour in warm melted butter/oil/milk, cool slightly before you fold in the whisked egg whites or meringue.

Black Sesame Chiffon and Pandan Chiffon, both using cooked dough method (pictures taken with mobile camera)

Usually, I do not add baking powder for chiffon cakes.  The air in the meringue is sufficient to yield a soft and silky smooth cake.  But for this durian chiffon cake, I added 1/4 tsp baking powder as I had 100g durian puree added to this cake.  

(chiffon pan size: 21cm)

30g butter
20g corn oil
70g milk
1/4 tsp salt

(B) Sift together:
90g plain flour
1/4 tsp baking powder

(C) Mix together:
4 yolks
100g durian puree (if durian flesh is too dry, add 1 to 2 tbsp milk)

5 egg whites
70g sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1) Combine (A) together in a small sauce pot and bring it to gentle simmer.  Once it starts to simmer, remove the pot from heat and stir in (B).  

2) Pour (C) into step 1 and mix till combined.  Set aside the batter.

3) Whisk (D) till peak form.  Fold the meringue into the prepared batter (fold 1/3 portion of the meringue at a time).  Pour the batter into an ungreased chiffon pan.

4) Bake in preheated oven at 170C for about 45 minutes (I placed at 2nd lowest rack position).

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Seafood Paella

I bought a Happycall Pan (HCP) recently.  Just the basic slim version.  Within a few weeks, I have used the pan to cook a variety of dishes and was quite impressed with it.   The non-stick HCP makes cooking a breeze - no worries of food sticking at the bottom, and the silicon-sealed edge really helps to speed up cooking.  

Last night, I used the pan to try another dish that I have not cooked for a long time - Seafood Paella 《海鲜烩饭》.  My seafood paella may not be the authentic version - as there is no saffron in it, I used the Chinese long grain rice instead of the short grain rice used for making paella, and I used a HCP instead of the flat paella pan.  But all these do not matter, cos the paella is so delicious!  Every grain of rice is perfectly cooked and flavourful, and the seafood retains the freshness and moisture.

Here are the ingredients that I used for the paella:
(serves 3)

5 medium-sized prawns
2 large scallops, sliced into half horizontally
1 piece of fish fillets, cut into bite-sized portion
1 handful of baby squids, or 1 big squid

1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 tomato, cut into small cubes
1/2 bell pepper (I used 2 baby bell peppers instead)
1/2 cup green peas

1 cup of white rice, plus a handful more
1.5 cups of stock (may not used up all the stock)
2 to 3 tbsp thick tomato paste*
Salt/pepper to taste

1/2 lemon, cut into wedges
Red chilli
Chopped dill

* I precooked my tomato paste using garlic, onion, tomato puree, streaky bacon, sun-dried tomatoes and dried herbs.  Stir fry the ingredients in a pan till aromatic, add some water and simmer till thickened.  Alternatively, you can use canned tomato paste or tomato puree to cook the rice (but do not use tomato ketchup sauce as the taste is different).

Ingredients for cooking paella

Prepare the seafood:
1) Wash and pat dry the prawns on kitchen paper.  Rub a pinch of salt all over the prawns.  Heat up the HCP over medium heat and add a tablespoon of olive oil into the pan.  When the pan is hot, add in the prawns and grill on both sides till the prawns turn light pinkish in colour.  Remove and set aside.

2) Marinate the fish slices, scallops and squids with a small pinch of salt, pepper and 2 teaspoons of olive oil.  Set aside.

Wash the rice and drain in a sieve.  Previously, I soaked the rice briefly before cooking in the HCP as I was worried that the rice may not be cooked thoroughly.  But I found that soaking is not necessary with a HCP.

Stock for the paella:
You can use either packet stock or homemade stock.  I made a simple homemade stock from ginger, garlic and prawn shells.  Heat up a stockpot over high heat, add in some oil and stir fry some prawn shells till aromatic.  Add in ginger slices and garlic.  Lastly pour in water, bring to boil and simmer on medium low heat for about 20 minutes.  Leftover stock can be stored in the freezer for future use.


1) After grilling the prawns (and set aside), add 2 more tablespoons of olive oil into the pan.  As the pan was already heated up while grilling the prawns, you can now add the chopped onion to the pan and stir fry lightly.  Add in the chopped celery, tomatoes and stir well to combine.

2) Stir in the rice and tomato paste.  Add the stock and salt/pepper (to taste).  I will pour 3/4 of the stock first, stir and gradually add the remaining when the rice has fully absorbed the liquid and still looks dry. This prevents adding too much liquid which cause the rice to be too soft or soggy.  Close the lid and simmer on medium-low heat for a few minutes (around 4 to 6 minutes).  After 5 minutes, open the lid and check the rice to see if you need to add the remaining stock.  

3) When the rice has absorbed the stock (still wet at the bottom of the pan), add in the marinated fish, scallops and squids.  Close the lid and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. 

4) Open the lid and arrange the grilled prawns, bell peppers into the pan.  Lastly, add in the green peas (just sprinkle over randomly).  Close the lid and cook for another minute and turn off the heat.  Keep the lid on for another 3 to 5 minutes.

5) Garnish the paella with lemon wedges, chopped dill and chilli.  Squeeze the lemon juice over the rice and enjoy!

See the thin layer of crispy bits at the bottom?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Barbie Doll Princess Cake (Sponge Cake)

This barbie doll cake is for my friend's lovely little girl, Livni, who celebrated her 6th birthday last week.  Livni wanted a Princess cake, a pink Barbie Doll Princess cake, to be exact.  

I made a few Barbie cakes previously:  My first princess cake was a butter cake covered with fondant.  My 2nd attempt - a Licca-chan doll cake, made with sponge cake and covered with light purple-based whipped cream - that's my "homework" for the cake decorating class.  Last year, I made a Cinderella Fondant cake for my neighbour.  This time, it is a soft and spongy vanilla cake with vanilla cream filling, and decorated with non-dairy whipped cream.

Presenting my lovely Princesses: 

Princess cakes with fondant covering
Princess cakes with whipped cream covering

Preparation work for this Barbie cake:
  • 3 to 4 sponge cakes* (I had three 8 inch and one 6" cakes) - sliced into 2 or 3 layers per cake and filled with desired fillings.
  • Stack the cakes together (the sponge cakes are light and airy, so even if you stacked a few cakes together, you do not need to insert any straws or support pillars).
  • Trim the cake to a dome shape.
  • Cut a small hole in the centre of the cake to fit in the doll.
  • Spread a thin layer of whipped cream and smooth out the cream evenly.  The cake is now ready for decoration.

* Bake the sponge cakes a day ahead.  The cakes are easier to handle compared to cakes freshly baked in the day.

Dressing up in progress ... 

Decoration tips used:

Wilton tip 789 (cake icer):  
 - to cover the whole cake in plain whipped cream
 - to create the pink layers from the waistline to the middle of the gown

Wilton tip 19 (open star): 
 - to pipe the swirls at the front portion, from waistline to middle of gown

Wilton tip 103 (petal):
- to pipe alternating layers of pink and white ruffles at the bottom of the gown
- to pipe a thin darker pink ruffles on the pink layers as contrast.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Hearty Sunday Breakfast .... Scalloped Potatoes

Sunday is the perfect day to laze around in bed and enjoy a late hearty breakfast or brunch.   Nevertheless, my internal alarm clock woke me up early at 6 am this morning.  After finished making my Tiramisu cake (for a birthday celebration later in the evening) and kept away in the fridge, I quickly gathered a few ingredients to prepare my weekend breakfast.

My breakfast menu consists pan-baked scalloped potatoes (a light and healthy version), sausages, baked beans, pan-roasted tomatoes and some blanched pea shoots.  The portion is enough to serve 4 to 5 persons.  I used a Happycall pan to cook, and preparation cum cooking took around 25 to 30 minutes.  Alternatively, you can bake the scalloped potatoes in the oven, while pan-fry the sausages and tomatoes on stove.  

My hearty weekend breakfast

You will need:
(serves 4 to 5)

8 sausages 
4 tomatoes, cut into halves (sprinkle a little salt on top of the cut surface)
1 can of baked beans
A small packet of pea shoots

For the potatoes:
450g baby potatoes (whole, skin on) - washed and scrubbed
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 stalks spring onion, chopped 
2 eggs (I used 1 egg + 3 egg whites as I have leftover whites from my Tiramisu cake)
80ml milk
2 tbsp lite sour cream (i.e. low fat sour cream) - you can also use cooking cream, whipped cream etc
1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used mozzarella and cheddar)
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp paprika
Salt/pepper to taste


1) Gently cook the baby potatoes in boiling water  for about 5 minutes.  Drain the water, cool the potatoes briefly and cut them into thin slices.  Set aside.

2) While boiling the baby potatoes, pan-roast the sausages in a lightly-greased pan.  When the sausages are halfway into cooking.  Add in the tomatoes (cut side face down).  Continue to cook till the sausages are nicely brown and the tomatoes are lightly charred at the edge.  Set aside and keep warm.

3) Add about 1 tbsp oil in the pan (I'm using a Happycall Pan which has a non-stick coating).  Stir fry the chopped onions till translucent.  Add in the sliced potatoes from step 1 and cook for another minute before adding in the chopped garlic.  Stir well to combine.

4) Meanwhile, mix together the egg, milk, sour cream, chopped spring onion (reserved a little for garnishing) and 1/3 of the shredded cheese.  Stir in salt, pepper, rosemary and  paprika.  Pour the egg mixture into the pan and spread the mixture evenly over the potatoes.  Close the lid and cook over medium-low heat till the egg mixture has set (took around 5 to 8 minutes with a Happycall pan)

5) While the scalloped potatoes are cooking in the pan, lightly blanch the pea shoots in boiling salted water.  Set aside.  Warm up the baked beans (in microwave or small pot).  Clear the table top and get ready to serve the breakfast.

6) When the scalloped potatoes have set, sprinkle the remaining shredded cheese over the top, close lid and turn off the heat.  Keep lid on for another 3 minutes.  Garnish with chopped spring onion, chopped dill and a pinch of paprika.

1) Streaky bacon bits add wonderful flavour to scalloped potatoes.  Cut streaky bacons into small pieces and pan fry till crispy before pan-frying the chopped onions (as per step 3 above).

2) Chopped bell peppers add fiber and vibrant colours to your scalloped potatoes. 

3) Instead of serving this for breakfast, it is good for lunch or dinner with a side salad.  Leftovers are good for a packed lunch the next day.  Pack along some fresh fruits for a balanced diet.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Sticky Dates Pudding

When I posted on my Facebook, boxes of Medjool dates that I bought recently, my nephew commented, " Sticky Dates Pudding".  What a brilliant idea!  Thanks, Leonard!  This is a really a yummy treat, and I can't believe that it is so easy to prepare! 

I google for several recipes and decided on this recipe by Donna Hay.  I reduced the amount of sugar and replaced the toffee sauce with caramel sauce.

(mostly adapted from Donna Hay)

200g chopped dates, pitted
250ml boiling water
1 tsp baking soda
100g unsalted butter
90g brown sugar
2 eggs
150g self-raising flour

1) Mix the chopped dates, boiling water and baking soda together and allow to stand for 5 minutes.

2) Cream the butter and sugar together lightly to combine.  Mix in the dates mixture from step 1.

3) Add the eggs and flour.  Mix to combine.  The batter looks very watery, but this is perfectly ok.

4) Pour into a greased and lined pan (I used 8" square pan).

5) Bake in a preheated oven of 180C for about 30 minutes.  Cool before cutting into squares.  Warm up the pudding slightly in a microwave, serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzle caramel sauce over the pudding.

Caramel sauce
(Recipe from Martha Stewart)

1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt (I replaced with sea salt that I add in only at the end of cooking)
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp butter (I omit)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1) Place sugar, salt (if using) and water in a small saucepan, and bring to boil over medium heat.
2) When the sugar mixture turns to amber colour, lower the heat and pour in the cream (be careful, the mixture will bubbled up!).  Stir in the butter if you are using.
3) Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla extract and sea salt.  Cool completely before storing in the fridge.  To serve, reheat in a microwave oven.

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