have you ever had this nagging feeling of what to cook whenever a festive season is around the corner? what mood do i want to create? i want it to be different but not too overwhelming for my guests....who am i inviting? what is the occasion? are they adults or children? big eaters or mousy eaters? well there is room for everyone... read on.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

My Darlin' Daughter Turns 3!

This month marks exactly 3 years of motherhood for me. I thank God for all the wonderful times with my daughter, may it be 'cleaning up after she throws up when she's not well' to 'cuddly bedtime story-telling in bed under the warm cosy sheets of comforters'. Motherhood can never be a bed of roses all the time but definitely has plenty of fulfilling rewards.
My daughter's 1 year old party was celebrated only with family and her 2nd birthday was a simple party at home with family and close friends. Daddy and I promised her a bigger and more memorable party for her 3rd birthday so we decided to have a poolside bash with family and slightly more friends. We had close to 20 kids playing in the pool, some were nuking each other with water balloons, others were wandering aimlessly around. God blessed us with fine weather (no rain) until much later when everyone had finished swimming and blowing of candles was over, it started to pour. That made the whole alfresco dining so much more inviting.
A month before her birthday, she wanted me to bake her birthday cake. A promise is a promise, rule number one in parenting! I was blogging one night and she stopped me and pointed at cupcakes on my computer screen. So that's what she wanted and that was the birth of her birthday cupcakes! I tried a few recipes and decided to follow the Vietnamese Coffee Cupcakes recipe from chockylit.blogspot.com. It's just marvelous! I substituted coffee with chocolate and some were just plain butter. I also changed the icing to plain lemon buttercream frosting which complimented the cupcakes very well. The frosting was not too hard nor too soft but just perfect.
Recipe for frosting
125 gm butter (room temperature)
500 gm icing sugar
a little milk
juice of 1/2 a lemon
Beat all the ingredients together taking great care not to add too much milk. Consistency must be soft and creamy but does not drop off from the spoon.
Separate the frosting into different bowls and add different colors to each.
Pipe using disposable piping bags with small star nozzle in a circular motion. Next is to decorate slightly with some ready-made red sugar hearts. Notice the 3 hearts.... one belongs to Daddy, Mommy and last but not least the birthday girl. The birthday girl loved it so much that she couldn't wait to blow out the candles and tuck in. Same went for all her tiny guests, even the boys!
As for the adults, there was a spread of the 'must have lobak', some choice sausages, roasted ducks and BBQ pork 'siew yoke' for the wine table. A very tasty dish of 'mee siam' fried by her church friends' mommy ( which I myself had 3 helpings), some hokkien noodles and chicken satay.
At the end of the evening, I was real pleased with the whole party ... weather, food, guests, cake and most of all my little girl was happy and thrilled to have turned 3 with a big bash!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Marble Loaf Cake

Every baking household I know has their own 'tried and tested' marble cake recipe. As for me, this is my new version and I thought it was 'different'. This recipe is very moist and a little sticky in the centre and slightly crispy on the crusts when straight out from the oven. Love it for tea or as dessert after a hearty dinner, not to forget that cup of hot black frothy coffee. Just heaven! 250 gm all purpose flour 1/2 tsp soda bicarbonate (add in the flour) 100 gm castor sugar 175 gm unsalted butter (room temperature) 80 ml sour cream 2 large eggs (room temperature) vanilla extract 125 ml boiling water 175 gm dark bitter chocolate (melted)
Pre-heat oven at 170 degree celcius. Grease the side of a loaf tin and sprinkle flour over. Line the tin with grease paper. Cream butter and sugar, add eggs, sour cream and vanilla. Alternate the flour and boiling water.
Cream until even and scoop out 3 scoops and add melted chocolate (chocolate batter). Pour batter into the baking tin followed by the chocolate batter.
Folding the chocolate batter into the cake batter to get the marble effect.
Bake for 40 minutes or till the cake tester say so.
I am afraid I didn't do too well here. The chocolate batter just decided to stay unmarbled. Anyway, came out good enough for me.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Desserts Galore

Last weekend while doing my favourite passtime, wandering around the bookshop, I picked up this georgeous recipe book "Nyonya Flavours" published by The State Chinese (Penang) Association & Star Publications (M) Bhd. I recommend this book as "The Ultimate Penang Nyonya Recipe Book"! and it only costs RM38.00, full of authentic recipes, excellent photography and heritage wares. I also have another book "Penang Nyonya Cooking" by Cecilia Tan which I think is also pretty good but on the pricier side of RM67.20, published by Marshall Cavendish Cuisine.
Just by flipping through the dessert pages already got me working an appetite for sweet stuff. For those of you who have the former book, page 195 Nyonya Cendol was a total killer! Absolutely delicious looking! While I was growing up I distinctly remember cendol made that way and felt slightly chewy (unlike the ones we get in local restaurants), fragrantly pandan and simply refreshing is the word.
Armed with a packet of green beans, I decided to boil a pot of green bean soup (Lek Tau T'ng) just to satisfy my darling hubby's cravings.
200 gm green beans (washed and drained)
100 gms pearl sago (washed and drained)
1 piece of rock sugar (approx. 2" x 2")
2 pandan leaves (tied into a knot)
Bring a pot of filtered water to boil together with the green beans, adding the pandan leaves for fragrance. Boil for 15 minutes and simmer for another 40 minutes before adding the rock sugar to taste. I like it with less sugar. Boil another pot of filtered water and pour in the sago pearls, boil for 5 minutes and cover with the lid for 15 minutes. Then, drained and added into the pot of boiling green beans and stir. When sago pearls are properly cooked, they look transparent. I have one pearl that is half-cooked in the photo. How strange!
Bee Ko Moy (Black Glutinous Rice broth) is another heavenly dessert. Very importantly for this dessert to turn out well, one must purchase the right type of black glutinous rice. I can't really describe it cos I made this quite sometime ago and I did not take a photo of the rice. Sorry guys!
200 gm black glutinous rice (wash and soak for a while)
80 gm organic brown sugar
2 pandan leaves (knotted)
100 ml thick 1st pressed coconut milk (santan)
1 pinch of salt
Bring filtered water to boil with pandan leaves, add in the rice and simmer for 30 -40 minutes. Stirring regularly to avoid burning at the bottom of the pot. Cover the pot with a lid for the rice to cook throughly. The correct type of black glutinous rice will give a very smooth springy bite in every mouthful and not fibrous.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Fatt Tiew Cheong

This dish reminds me fondly of Samuel Hui's song, (Fatt Tiew Cheong, chen hei kom kuai heong!) simply means Buddha or monk jumps over the wall dish is just so deliciously aromatic! This is definitely not a simple daily dish, first of all it's really expensive, secondly it takes a little more time and effort to make it all worth while. Have been brewing this dish in my mind for a long time, finally a perfect occassion to churn it up, what better occassion than Mother's Day! Happy Mother's Day to all you 'Mothers' , young and old alike and may you take this journey of motherhood pleasantly in your stride.

Eating out on Mother's Day, Valentine's Day or any other special days that would really clean out your pocket is a definite No! No! for me. For the same amount I want to spend eating out on these days, I would gladly make an effort to cook an expensive delicacy right in the comfort of my own cosy kitchen. All you need is a packet of herbs from your nearby chinese herbal shop and some of your favourite expensive ingredients. I have a photograph of the herbs but I am not familiar with some of the names. Maybe you will know from the looks of it.

Bring 4.5 litres of filtered water to boil in a 5 litre soup pot. Rinse the herbs, 2 big dried scallops and 2 big dried oysters very briefly and drain. Add them into the boiling water and let it simmer for 1 hour. Next, wash and clean 4 pieces of chicken keel or chicken breast and blanche them in another pot of hot boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and add the chicken keel into the herbal soup pot and simmer for another 1 1/2 hours. Open the can of abalone (put abalone aside) and add the liquid from the can into the herbal pot. (I prefer to use chicken keel or breast for soup base mainly because it emits less impurities and I don't have to skim the soup). Also note, when making clear soup or stock, always simmer and never boil profusely cos that will make the liquid murky.

My favourite ingredients for this dish is a can of abalone (sliced thinly), 5 large whole dried shiitake mushrooms (pre-soaked in hot water, stem cut), 5 small chicken drumsticks, fried fish maw (bite size pieces), snow fungus (bite size pieces), 1 carrot (sliced and cut into the shape of stars, boiled in boiling water for 5 minutes, drained), 1 packet of brown shimeji mushrooms (cleaned and roots trimmed), 1 packet enoki (cleaned and roots trimmed), sea moss (fatt choy - pre-soaked in water).

20 minutes before the soup is ready, discard the chicken keel, then add in the mushrooms and chicken drumsticks. Continue to simmer. 5 minutes before the soup is ready, put in the fish maw, snow fungus, shimeji mushrooms, enoki, carrots and 1 cup of Shao Hsin fragrant wine. Soup is ready and notice I did not add any salt, very tasty! Decorate the serving bowl with all the goodies from the pot, add sea moss, sliced abalone and top up with this delicious soup. This recipe serves 5 -6 persons.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Leftovers Simply Delicious!

Festive leftovers like roast turkey can become a fresh turkey salad overnite or even hmm turkey soup! What about our daily leftover dishes, for example, braised pork belly, chicken stew, steamed chicken otherwise known as white cut chicken, chicken braised in soya sauce, roast duck or even BBQ pork belly. I certainly will not put them to waste, no way, its too precious. Leftovers like what I mentioned earlier can be transformed into a heart-warming appetizing hot pot called "Chai Boey" or "Choy Keuk". This dish is churned from all the meaty leftovers from a huge festive meal eg. Chinese New Year, Big Birthday Cookouts or just a little home entertaining dinner. Today's post was made possible by my darling sister who started off by cooking a pot of her delicious braised pig trotter in turnips and carrots yesterday. By the way, that was really good and simple too. Braised Pig Trotter with turnips and carrots 1 pig trotter (chopped into small chunks) - blanche in hot boiling water for 5 minutes to get rid of impurities then seasoned with dark soya sauce, light soya sauce, sugar, oyster sauce, salt and pepper.

5 medium size turnips cut in chunks - I forgot to snap a photo of them, they were gorgeous! 2 large carrots cut in chunks 5 cloves of smashed garlic 1 big onion cut in wedges 8 -10 dried chilis (soaked in hot water for 20 minutes and drained) Heat olive oil in a claypot, put in the garlic and onion. Sautee till fragrant. Sear the chunks of pig trotter, adding a little hot water as you go along. Put in all the turnips, dried chilis and carrots and bring to boil for 10 minutes. Simmer on low heat for 40 minutes. (Important note : make sure the carrots and turnips are in big chunks, if they are too small, they will all melt away by the end of the 40 minutes)

We couldn't finish all of it cos we were all so stuffed! Then my mobile market guys came a honking... what a blessing his van was filled with fresh vegetables, he had preserved salted mustard greens (kiam chye or ham choy), lots of choy sum fa (flowering cabbage), pow choy (chinese round head cabbage) and on and on. Just then, our Chai Boey dish is born! I just cannot resist but blog it! Here goes...

The leftovers from the above dish and half a frozen roasted duck from the freezer.

3 huge clutches of choy sum fa, 2 packets of perserved salted mustard greens, 5 bird eye chilis, 8 dried chilis (soaked in hot water and drained), 2 sour plums and 1 1/2 Tbsp assam paste.

Salt, sugar, light soya sauce, dark soya sauce - all these use according to the taste you like. Sometimes the leftover dishes may be salty or some may be spicy so put your tastebuds to the test. Same goes for the chilis in this dish. Some may like kai choy (bamboo mustard cabbage), it gives it a slightly bitter taste to this awesome hot, spicy, salty, sour and sweet dish.

Bring 2/3 of water in a 5 litre pot to boil. Put in roasted duck, leftover braised trotter, sour plum, dried chilis, bird eye chili, assam paste and boil for 1 hour. I use the vision ware 5 litre pot that does not dehydrate much and also try not to use metal pot as the sourness in this dish may not go well with metal.

Pre-soak the preserved salted mustard greens in water to make sure most of the salty taste is gone before putting them into the simmering pot. Simmer for another 40 minutes and cut off the heat. Leave it covered on the stove overnite. Reheat the next morning and put in the cleaned fresh vegetables and boil for 20 minutes then dig in!

I especially like the turnip bits in the chai boey cos the taste of the dish really got soaked-in. By far, this is one of the best dishes my sis makes real well. Sorry to say I can't get the taste just right... there is so much to consider, spicy, sour, salty, sweet and balancing them needs lots of practice. I will just continue to eat.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Hi Fellow Bloggers!

You must have noticed by now I have not been blogging as much as I love to. Just to let you guys know, I have not stopped blogging and will not intentionally stop. Due to lotsa birthdays, mother's day, teacher's day, whatever days you name it ... it's probably in the month of May! I promise to be back as soon as I can cos as for me, my whole family is born in this special month. Happy Birthday to us and to all of you MAY babies out there! To tell you the truth, I am trying to perfect my little girl's birthday cake and wish me all the best! Keep blogging!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Fish anyone?

Mackeral and Leeks
This is a long forgotten dish, for me anyway. Brought to memory by my mobile market guy when he tried to sell me some really fresh looking leeks. This can actually be a very delicious weekly dish on the dinner table. All you need is:- 1 medium sized mackeral (kau yee) cut into 2 cm thick slices, slightly marinated with cornflour, light soya sauce 3 fairly large bulbs of leeks (cut it very slanted) 1 Tbsp fermented soya beans (tauchu) 3 bulbs chopped garlic
4 slices of ginger salt and pepper Dash of black soya sauce
Drizzle pan with olive oil and throw in the chopped garlic, ginger and soya beans. Stir fry the fish slices, add in the sliced leeks and a little hot water. Salt and pepper to taste. Dark soya sauce for coloring.
Steam Pomfret in Oyster Sauce
1 large Pomfret (cleaned and gutted)
1 sprig spring onions (roughly chopped)
Julienne of ginger
coriander leaves (roughly chopped)
a little chopped spring onions
3 Tbsp garlic oil
A dash of sesame oil
1 tsp light soya sauce
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp oyster sauce
hot water
Arrange all the ingredients on the fish and stuff some julienne of ginger into the cavity of the fish. Keep cool in the fridge in a cling wrap.
Mix all the ingredients for the sauce in a bowl and pour it onto the fish when about the steam. Steam for 8 - 10 minutes on very high heat. Serve immediately.
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I'm Audrey from Somewhere in my kitchen, Malaysia.

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