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.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Ceylon Spinach Soup

Ceylon Spinach is known as 'Saan Choy' in Cantonese. Easily grown in Malaysia, this spinach has deep green leaves with bright red stems. It is popular in clear soups and has a somewhat a slippery texture when it's cooked.
By now you would be wondering why I have here photos of borlotti beans. What has this bean got to do with this soup? Well, I kind of accidentally found out that this bean serves 2 purposes here. I actually meant for this bean to be a healthy snack for the kids, so I removed the beans from the pods and boiled them. Then I thought what a waste it would be if I were to throw away the water I boiled them in. I decided to add it to my soup as stock. What a pleasant surprise that was! It added sweetness and nutrients to the soup without changing the taste.
Love the looks of these beans in the water, don't you? Anyway, back to my clear Ceylon Spinach soup. This soup is rich in vitamins and minerals.
As for the soup base, I used 2 pieces of chicken keel, boiled in 2 litres of filtered water.
Pour the boiled stock into a slow-cooker and continue to simmer for 1 hour.
Pull off the tender top of the ceylon spinach from the stems, then remove the leaves from the harder portion of the stems. Rinse and drain.
3 pieces of soft tofu, rinsed and drained.
Add the borlotti beans stock into the chicken keel stock and put in the ceylon spinach and tofu. Let them simmer in the slow-cooker for another 30 minutes, then crack a salted duck egg and slowly drizzle its contents into the hot boiling soup, stir slightly before cutting off the heat. (This is to get the cloud effect). If the duck egg is of good quality, you will see the orange color oil dots floating on top of the soup. (It's lacking in my photo)
Add sea salt to taste.
Cut tofu into quarters before serving.
Notice the holes in the tofu. Hmm, that's the best part! A very springy texture which I like.

By the way, the ceylon spinach loses its bright red color after it's cooked.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Herbal Wonders

Food is the natural lifeline for our physical bodies and the right choice can assist us in maintaining and strengthening our health. The importance of herbs has been highly acknowledged by people from all nations, rich and poor alike. This post is specially written in reply to a request from a dear friend currently living in Hong Kong and my fellow bloggers whom may find this brew useful. I will not be in the position to introduce something I have not tried since I am no doctor but as for 'strengthening the lungs', I bring to you the well trusted "Cordyceps". In the mandarin translation cordyceps means 'worm in the winter, grass in summer'. Many will not try it mainly because it is expensive but if bought from a trustworthy source the investments can be worthwhile. Beware of imitations. Cordyceps otherwise known as 'tung chung cho' in Cantonese is believed to be the best remedy for anaemia, fatigue and weak lungs. It has great medicinal properties to aid recovery from illnesses as it encourages appetite and builds up resistance against chills and common cold. One small box of Cordyceps can be divided into 6 portions for this brew.
Red dates otherwise known as 'hoong cho' in Cantonese is often used in soups, brews or even sweet desserts to increase blood circulation in the body. It also possess lung, heart, spleen and stomach strengthening properties.
Recipe 1 portion of cordyceps (rinsed under filtered water) 1 handful of red dates, with or without stones (seed) is fine. Heat up a small slow-cooker with 2 rice bowls of hot filtered water (hot water is used to quicken the cooking process). The slow-cooker method is preferred because slow cooking does not burn and the liquid does not evaporate.
Method Simmer the brew in the slow-cooker for approx. 2 - 2 1/2 hours. Pour out the brew, cool slightly and drink warm.
Since this brew is expensive, a thinner brew can be obtained by adding a rice bowl of hot filtered water into the herbal sediment (cordycep and red dates) and boil in the slow-cooker for 1 hour for the second time. This second time round brew will be less aromatic but still contains enough medicinal properties for our well being. I personally drank this brew for a period of 3 months before trying to conceive a child. Started off by having it twice a week and consecutively once a week. The second time brew was serve to my hubby and he too benefited from it. I did not catch a flu for a year after that, I suppose my lungs were pretty strong then.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Refreshing Iceberg Lettuce

The iceberg lettuce is, in a way related to the white round cabbage. They look almost alike except for the texture of the leaves. The leaves of the iceberg lettuce is lighter in texture and thinner in density. It is simply refreshing when eaten raw in sandwiches or salads, but here in Malaysia it is usually blanched in boiling water, drained and drizzled with some garlic oil, a dash of light soya sauce and some pepper. This dish basically needs no formal introduction, so I guess I won't dwell in it too much.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Roasted Soft Pork Ribs

For this recipe, I used 'soft pork ribs' otherwise known as 'baby pork ribs'. This is the part where the white colored ribs can been seen connected to the normal rack ribs. I find this part more tender and moist compared to the normal rack ribs, not to mention I can't resist chewing on the soft bones. Anyway, in order to get a tender roast, marinate the ribs overnight with the juice of 1 fresh lemon. Other ingredients are a dash of my favourite S&W mesquite smoke sauce, Lea & Perrin sauce, sea salt and black pepper. Put all the marinate and ribs in a zipper bag and place in the fridge, overnight.

The next day, take the bag out and drip dry the ribs, reserve the marinate in the bag for gravy later. Leave the ribs at room temperature while the oven is heated to 200 degree celcius. Drizzle a little olive oil onto the ribs and pop it into the ready oven and roast for 20 minutes uncovered. If you want it with more color, leave it uncovered a little longer but be sure not to let it burn. Cover with aluminium foil and set timer for 30 minutes, check ribs and baske ribs with its own dripping. Repeat this process for another 30 minutes. Pearce knife into the meatiest part of the ribs to check if it's properly cooked. No red liquid oozing out means okay. Please do not eat pork roasts or steak rare or medium done mainly because it harbours harmful bacteria that may cause a slow down in our brain waves if eaten consistently. Trust me that won't be fun. Pork must always, always be well done.

Take ribs out of the roasting pan to cool. Place roasting pan on the stove, pour in the pork marinate and bring to boil. Add a cup of red wine and salt and pepper to taste. If you like thicker gravy, dissolve 1 Tbsp of plain flour or cornflour in some water and pour into boiling gravy. Stir a moment and cut off the heat. Spoon gravy on top of the ribs. Cut ribs can be served with some steamed broccoli and some boiled baby potatoes.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Nutritious Roots Soup?

Wild edible roots and tubers have provided people all over Asia with food for thousand of years. Now widely cultivated, these roots are eaten in many ways. Cooked as vegetables, used in desserts, drinks and grounded to make flour etc... Most root vegetables are high in nutritional value. In fact, some roots and tubers like tapioca, sweet potato, yambean replaces rice as the staple diet in certain parts of Asia.

My first selection for this nutritional soup is a tuber called arrowroot (fun koat in Cantonese). Originated from Central America, is occassionally eaten as a vegetable in Japan and China. Arrrowroot looks slightly like a long tapioca with a fresh and pleasant aroma and texture. This tuber is known to relieve acidity, stomach cramps and indigestion. Paired with the lotus roots (ling ngaw in Cantonese) made famous by the chinese, transforms this soup into a treasured delicacy for a soup friendly home. The lotus root consists of a number of linked segments approx. 10 - 20 cm in length each. When sliced, the crisp flesh reveals a series of hollow chambers and not to mention this root has appreciable amounts of vitamin C and some level of calcium. Peanuts, often known as groundnuts (faa tzang in Cantonese) in Asia, also comes from roots. They are actually nodules which form on the roots of a bushy leguminous plant. It is rich in calcium, thiamine, carbohydrates, phosphorus and niacin. Besides all the underground goodies, some chinese herbs like boxthorn fruit (kei chee) and red dates (hoong choe) are added for more nutritional values. 3 litres of filtered water 1 arrowroot (10 inches long), peeled and cut into chunks. 1 lotus root (aprox. 3 short segments), sliced. 1 handful of skinless groundnuts 1 handful of seeded red dates (washed under filtered water) 1 handful of boxthorn fruit (washed under filtered water) 1 chicken breast (washed and cut into 2)

Bring water to boil in a soup pot and put in all the ingredients above. Bring to boil for 10 minutes and transfer to a heated slow-cooker and set timer for 3 1/2 hours. Sea salt to taste.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Phlegm Remedy

Never thought this simple brew was so effective in getting rid of phlegm. Must share this little wonder-brew with you especially when you have children prone to the common flu. This is not a flu remedy but it definitely rids the phlegm factor in the beginning stage of the common cold and the tail end of it. Sometimes, the irritating phlegm causes unneccesary hurling in young children (above 1 yrs old) when they don't know how to cough it out. Worst scenario is when they just drank their milk. I shall leave it up to your imagination! This remedy is easy to prepare and works pretty well, All you need is 30 dark red grapes of any kind. The darker the skin the better. 5 slices of 'kam choe'. Sorry I don't know what it's called in english or any other language but refer to my photo for visual. Can purchase from chinese medical halls or herbal shops. Malaysian RM1 can yield approximately 15 slices of 'kam choe'.

1.5 litre of filtered water 30 dark red skin grapes (seed or seedless does not matter) - wash throughly and slice into half. 5 slices of 'kam choe' Bring to boil together and simmer for 1 hour. The liquid will then look like chinese tea with a slight tinge of redness. Pour and drink. Pleasant to the taste buds. This can be repeated for a period of 3-5 days continuosly.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Leftover Lamb

Long live the leftovers!

I always look forward to leftovers especially from tasty roasts with bones. This time was my roast leg of lamb which was my main course to usher in Germany's 3rd placing in the world cup. So thrilled with it, I carved off almost all the juicy succulent meat for this morning's lamb sandwich which left me more than overjoyed and fulfilled! Just assemble the bread, the warmed-up lamb slices and crispy curly vegetable. Drizzle some leftover gravy on the meat and serve with a hot cup of coffee.

Oh yes, please don't forget the bones and the knuckles with some meat still stuck to it. This makes a very robust pot of lamb soup. Put 2 litres of filtered water in a soup pot, bring to boil. The put in all the the lamb bones, 1 large carrot, 2 sticks of celery, 3 potatoes, 1 large onion, 2 small corn (optional), some crushed black peppercorns and a bouquet garni of soup herbs. All vegetables cut into small chunks. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Add sea salt to taste.

* A bouquet garni consists of cloves, cardamon, coriander, aniseed, star anise, cinnamon stick and peppercorns tied up in a small piece of muslin cloth and secured with a thread.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Time to Celebrate!

Finally, all tension is gone, Germany has gotten the 3rd placing in the 2006 World Cup. At least I got to watch Oliver Kahn in action for the last time today in his last world cup play. He is not exactly the greatest looking guy on the field but he is definitely the man for the job. With him on the team was like placing a pillar of confidence to the Germany team since Ballack's injury. Great game! and great goal keeping! Viva Germany! see you in 4 years time. Had a pefect reason to celebrate and has to be a tasty juicy roast, I'm starved of red meat lately. Rosemary Roast Leg of Lamb with potatoes, blanche broccoli and crispy curly greens seems to fit the profile just right.

For the leg of lamb, I usually pick Wammco International, (Australian), vacumn-packed chilled meat. It beats getting a frozen chump anytime. The meat is more tender and tastes better, all 2.4 kg of pure red meat!

Preheat oven at 210 degree celsius.

Just tear open the chiller wrap and rinse the leg of lamb under some filtered water. Pat dry with disposable kitchen towels. Place leg of lamb on a roasting tin. Use a sharp paring knife, make slits on the top part of the leg (where the layer of fat is) and push a slice of silvered garlic into each slit. Grind sea salt and black pepper over the leg and pluck sprigs of fresh rosemary and throw on top. (see photo above) Put it into the oven and time it to 30 minutes uncovered. Check it meat is properly brown on top then cover with an aluminium foil. Continue to roast for 1 hour. Check roast, baske with its drippings and continue to roast for another 20 minutes to get a medium to well done piece. I roasted it longer because most of my takers tonight are children. My roast is close to well done but not dry, all in all 2 hours 15 minutes.

While the leg of lamb is roasting away, wash some potatoes and praboil for 15 minutes. When roast is 30 minutes to ready, toss in the potatoes.

Cut broccoli into large pieces and blanche in hot boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain and plunge them in icy cold water to stop cooking and maintain crunchiness.

As for the crispy curly vegetable, just wash lightly under filtered water and decorate.

Please remember to let the roast sit for 1/2 hour before carving. While that's going on, pour all the dripping from the roasting tin into a small saucepan. Skim off the oil and thicken with 2 Tbsp of flour mixed with 5 Tbsp water. Stirring while heating and pour in a glass of white wine. When sauce begins to thicken, cut off the heat.

Last but not least, uncork a bottle of choice red wine to complete the lovely evening. Cheers!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Strawberry Swirl Cheesecake

Summer fruits are deliciously beautiful when obtained in their homegrown countries. Peaches, nectarines, strawberries, gooseberries, raspberries, blueberries never fail to ignite a feast for my eyes. They look beautiful when captured on photos and do wonders to the tastebuds. However, here in Malaysia, some of these fruits are grown in the highlands and is usually expensive to purchase. Not only it is expensive but most of the time they are terribly sour which does not really go with me. In order to satisfy some cravings for the summer fruitty flavour, freshly-made strawberry pie filling is the next best choice. This recipe is light and not too overwhelming to the tastebuds, that is why I use Tatura light cream cheese and cold milk instead of the usual Philadelphia cream cheese and heavy cream. Definately calls for a 2nd helping without stretching the waistline too much. Here's my refreshing home-made Strawberry Swirl Cheesecake that needs no baking. All you need is :- 250 gm Digestive Biscuits (pulsed into tiny bits in a food processor or blender) 90 gm soft butter Mix crushed biscuits and butter evenly and spoon into a prepared 22cm springform cake tin brush slightly with oil. Press firmly into base and refrigerate 30 minutes or until firm.

As for filling:- 500 gm Tatura light cream cheese Juice of 1/2 a large lemon 100 gm castor sugar 125 ml cold milk Blend all ingredients together in a cake mixer until soft, creamy and light. 2 Tbsp gelatine dissolved in 60 ml hot water in a small bowl and stand bowl in boiling water so that gelatine will not set too quickly. Place 250 gm fresh strawberries and 100 gm sugar (to taste) in a food processor and process till smooth. Fold in 1/3 of the gelatine mixture. Fold in the rest of the gelatine mixture into the cream cheese mixture. Swirl both mixture together in the earlier prepared tin with the biscuit base. Refrigerate overnight covered with a cling.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Mama Fries

Something my home cannot do without.

This humble potato wedges nicknamed 'Mama Fries' was born in my sister's kitchen 3 years ago. Not a week goes by that I don't make this. It has become a familiar carbo substitute for rice in my home. Instead of feeding our young ones french fries laden with salt and msg from the fast food joints, we decided to make them the healthier way. Simple as ABC, but pretty tasty I might say. Peel potatoes and cut into 8 wedges. Heat some olive oil in a teflon or non-stick pan, put in the wedges and grind some sea salt onto the wedges. When wedges slightly brown on one side, turn them over. It takes only 15 minutes to make wedges from 2 large potatoes.

Hey, I finally manage to post my orange oatmeal cake here. I guess that will do for the moment until I learn how to manage my photos some other way. My missing photo from my earlier post, Anniversary Cake. (below)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Anniversary Cake

What they say about 'a cake for all occassions' certainly lives up to its reputation. A cake marks a time of joy, a time of memories and a time of indulgence. Here's my humble gift to a wonderful couple who has blessed my family and many people along their way during their 2 years of marriage. Happy 2nd Anniversary to you both and may the Lord continue to multiply all your blessings till they overflow! Anniversary cake for this occassion is a Orange Oatmeal Buttercake topped with Orange Buttercream icing. This is one of my family favourites and perfected by my dear mom. I like the feel of the oatmeal in the cake a day after it's baked. It gives a chewy feeling to the cake and the orange buttercream icing adds a refreshing compliment. It is considered a heavy cake cos one slice definitely fills the tummy. Orange Oatmeal Buttercake 250 gm butter (room temperature) 100 gm castor sugar 4 eggs 1 - 2 oranges 150 self raising flour (sieved) 100 rolled oats 1 tsp baking powder milk Heat oven at 175 degree celcius. Grease the inside of the round baking tin (20 cm diameter) and cut a grease proof paper and line the bottom of the tin. Powder the inside of the tin with flour after greasing. Grate some orange rind, set aside. Juice the 2 oranges, discard seeds if any and add to the eggs.
Cream butter and sugar till fluffly and light, add in the egg and orange juice mixture alternately with the flour and rolled oats mixture. Continue to cream and add a little milk if batter is too thick. Due to the amount of juice from oranges, the liquid in the batter may vary, that's why milk is added. Batter must be creamy but does not drop off the spoon when scooped up with a spatula. Lastly dump in the grated rind and mix throughly. Pour batter into the prepared tin and pop it into the ready oven. Bake for 40 - 50 minutes. Cover with a piece of foil when the top starts to brown. Test by poking a cake skewer into the cake, if it comes out clean, it's done! (suppose to have a photo of my cut cake here but photoblogger refuse to upload it) Sorry! Orange Buttercream Icing 30 gm butter (room temperature) 400 gm icing / powder sugar (sieved) Juice of 1/2 an orange Some grated orange rind Beat butter and add icing sugar, alternate with orange juice until icing looks like soft peaks when beaters are lifted. Add in the rind and mix throughly. Make sure the icing is not too watery of soft cos it will not harden when put on the cake. It needs to slightly harden with room temperature to keep the looks of the soft peaks after coating the cake. Decorate accordingly. Leave to stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour before serving.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Chap Chye T'ng (Clear Mix Vegetable Soup)

Another refreshing soup for another hot humid day. The title speaks all, vegetable, vegetable and more vegetables! Soup base is pork shoulder and fried cuttlefish boiled in a stock pot with a piece of ginger and some crushed peppercorns. Simmer on slow heat till pork shoulder is tender (approx. 1 hour). Fish it out and set aside to cool. Will be used as soup meat later. 2 litres filtered water 400 pork shoulder (whole piece) 2 small dried cuttlefish (washed and scalded with hot water) 1 inch ginger (smashed) 1/2 tsp peppercorns (crushed)

1 medium size carrot (sliced into a flowers) 300 gm yambean (sengkuang) sliced into squares 6 dried shiitake mushrooms (soaked and quartered) 300 gm cabbage (torn into small pieces)

When soup is ready, add carrots and mushrooms and boil for 5 minutes before adding the yambean and cabbage. Salt to taste. Sliced some soup meat and serve together with the vegetables. Drizzle some garlic oil before serving.

Note : As for the garlic oil, heat olive oil in a pan and pour in some chopped garlic. Saute garlic until aromatic and slightly brown. Set aside to cool and can be used as garnish in soups, congee, blanche vegetables, steam fish, etc.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Fish Porridge (Congee)

Weather today has been simply crazy, been glugging down liquid whole day long and feeling so lethargic. What better food to consume other than a watery meal, congee! Someone told me Calrose rice makes real good congee, that someone is right! I tried it today and it turned out the way I like it, mushy. My father and mother-in-law loves this a lot, since it's easy to eat and effortless to digest.

1 litre fish stock 2 cups Australian calrose rice (japanese rice) filtered water Wash rice till water clears. Boil washed rice in some filtered water. When rice is half-cooked, add in fish stock, stirring the rice from time to time so that it does not stick to the bottom of the pot or rice cooker. (whichever is used) Continue to cook till rice is mushy and soft (add water if congee is too thick) 600 gm sole fish fillet (cubed while still slightly frozen, easier to cut) marinate the sole fish cubes with shredded ginger, a drizzle of fish sauce, sea salt, white pepper, a drizzle of sesame oil, light soya sauce, 1 cup Shao Hsin fragrant rice wine and pop it back into the fridge.

When the congee is pipping hot and ready to be served, put in all the fish fillet, stir and cover for 10 minutes. If fish is sliced, time for it to cook throughly in the congee will be shorter. Garnish congee with coriander leaves, shredded ginger or sliced chili and a drizzle of garlic oil. Needs no guessing which bowl was mine.

Flower Tea

Since my faithful camera Canon Powershot A75 got really ill lately, I couldn't really capture much food photos for my blog. It finally died momentarily last week and had to make a major decision to get a replacement. Finally got a Canon Powershot S3 IS today, a belated birthday present from my darling hubby. Can't wait to play with it but first, gotta cook something! anything! Anyway, here something I thought of posting for a long while but never got around to do so. Tea! Photo was taken with my old faithful camera.
My hubby brought back a pretty unique type of tea from Shanghai last year. It is wrapped like an individual candy and comes in different colors signifying different flavours. All you have to do is to pour boiling water into a tea pot and unwrap the tea from the wrapper and put it into the teapot. Something magical happens, the piece of tea slowly grows into a lovely flower and the smell, spectacular! These shown here is 'jasmine tea'.

Look how delicate the flower petals are, they won't even tear when hot water is pour on it. I for one find it really interesting. Ain't chinese people cool?

About Me  
I'm Audrey from Somewhere in my kitchen, Malaysia.

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