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.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Important Notice

Here's a note to inform all my faithful floggers that my humble site is under some major construction to restore some lost items, for example my layout, design etc.... I will be back by 1st November 2006.
During this duration, I will not be able to post but rest assured, I will be busy cooking! So, be patient and stay tuned for many more wonderful recipes coming your way soon! Thank you for your understanding.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Masak Titik

Ask me how this soup got its name, sorry to dissapoint, my answer is I don't know. For those of you who know, please give me some feedback. Frankly speaking, some use watermelon skin for this delicacy but as for me, I grew up drinking this soup made from wintermelon. 1.5 litres filtered water 500 gm wintermelon (discard skin, cut into chunks) Ingredients to be pounded in a mortar 5 chili padi (discard seeds) 2 large red chili (discard seeds) 3 shallots (discard skin) 1 Tbsp belacan (toasted) 5 white peppercorns (crushed) 120 gm dried shrimps (soaked in water for 5 minutes and drained) - hae bee sea salt to taste
  1. Bring water to boil in a soup pot.
  2. Put in all the pounded ingredients and boil for 15 minutes.
  3. Throw in the wintermelon chunks and boil for another 10 minutes then bring to simmer for 30 minutes on low heat.
  4. Add sea salt to taste.
  5. Soup ready to be served.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Power of Lime

'Lime' classified under the citrus fruit family, is an essential ingredient in a variety of Malaysian dishes from the ever popular kerabu (sweet, spicy and sour salad) to mee siam (Thai-styled vermicelli). It is also widely consumed as a refreshing lime drink equivalent to its lemon counterpart as in lemonade.
What I would like to highlight here is not how widely it is used but its value as a preventive alternative for the common cold or influenza. This little citrus has high doses of vitamin C which helps strengthens our immunity system to enable us to fight off the common cold before it is full blown.
The minute I feel slightly under the weather, (before the nose gets all stuffy and runny) instead of drowning myself in a glass of high dosage of synthetic vitamin C, I just squeeze 2 limes and drink all its juices. Once in the morning and once at night. For those with gastric problems, advisable to take it after food. Bound to feel better the next morning. If not repeat the process for another day. For children, take only the juice of one lime.
This remedy has certainly helped my whole family and thanks to my sister who shared this little accidental wonder with me. It has in fact saved me a lot of unneccesary medical bills.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Sirloin Beef Canapes

This was one hearty breakfast I had this morning, taking into consideration that it was yesterday's leftover dinner. We had some lovely pan-grilled Australian beef sirloin accompanied by freshly mixed salad greens (pic below) and not to forget that wonderfully chilled bottle of icy cold beer. Cheers! Happy Belated Oktober Fest!

Once in a while, cravings for red meat seem to creep up and haunt me day and night until I sink my teeth into a slab. I guess this was a long overdue craving. If you have noticed, lately the price of imported beef has risen to a very unreasonable price. 3 regular pieces of sirloin about the size of the 'palm of your hand' soared up to approximately RM40.00 a tray.

The recipe for this sirloin steak is very simple. If the meat is fresh, all you need is to rub sea salt, freshly crushed black pepper and a dash of lea & perrin sauce. Sear the steak on a grilled pan drizzled lightly with olive oil. Cook it until it reaches the level of doneness of your choice. Serve straight from the grill onto a plate of fresh salad greens. As for gravy, pour some beef stock into the grill pan and stir until the brownings on the grill melts into the stock and thicken with some flour. Season with salt, pepper and a dash of beer. Pop open a bottle of chilled beer and suck it all in!

When morning came, leftovers were assembled into canapes using slices of french toasts spread with pure butter, garnished with some leaves from yesterdays' greens. Top off with thin slices of leftover sirloin beef drizzled with steak gravy.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

My Healthy Diet Day 2 - Steamboat Dinners

Day 2 healthy eating strives for a change of ingredients but still complying to the 3 rules I mentioned yesterday. I guess the first 2 days are tough, having a high metabolic rate body system, I was hungry before I retired for the night. A cereal 'night cap' actually helped me make it through the night. Eventually after the 2nd day, my body adapted slowly to the healthier dinners.

Fresh shiitake mushrooms - a great selection for tonight's meal. Shiitake contains high levels of niacin and riboflavin. They also possess an amino acid that helps lower cholesterol and improves blood circulation, and lentinan, which stimulates the production of white blood cells essential to the immune system. According to some research, it is thought to be effective in fighting hepatitis B and some types of cancer. (write up extracted from "A Cook's Guide to Asian Vegetables" by Wendy Hutton)

Fresh Norwegian Salmon - is the only meat for tonight. Approximately 300 gm per person, sliced thinly or in small chunks, to suit your choice. I just rubbed on some sea salt, white pepper and dashes of white wine, marinate cling wrapped in the fridge until ready to eat.

Chinese Baby Spinach (Amaranth) - pictured on top of the 'choy sum' in the above photo. I enjoy this vegetable a lot especially in soups. Wonderfully rich in iron and not lacking in protein, Vitamin A, B and C. Also excellent as baby food!

Choy sum (Flowering cabbage) - is another widely used asian vegetable, popular in stir fries and noodle soups.

Pearl corns, snap peas, sliced carrots and canned baby corns complimented tonight's steamboat besides the usual must have (not pictured here) tong hoe, tofu (2 each), garlic oil and chopped chili in soya sauce.

Stock for tonight is yesterday's fresh fish bones saute in some olive oil with some slices of ginger until fragrant and topped up slowly with 2 litres of filtered water. Bring to boil and simmer for 1 hour. Run cool stock through a strainer and pour into steamboat pot.

Friday, October 13, 2006

My Healthy Diet Day 1 - Steamboat Dinners

A home-styled steamboat setting.

Sometime last month I planned a 2 week steamboat getaway for my family. We practically had steamboat every night for dinner but with a variety of fresh healthy food and stock. I guess, it's my way of getting the whole family to detox happily. Rule number 1 on my list of healthy food is "NO Processed Food", rule number 2 is "NO MSG" and rule number 3 is "NO red meat".

As for Day 1, I had lots of fresh chinese celery, asian lettuce, tong hoe (garland chrysanthemum) and carrots.

Chinese celery - is the one pictured above left, it had a distinctive aroma and it's rich in both vitamins and minerals. In some studies, it helps lower blood pressure, acts as a duretic and urinary antiseptic. Widely used in salads and stir fries and garnishes the ever popular Thai Tom Yum Soup and the Malaysian Sup Kambing (Goat soup). In some instances, it is also used as a replacement garnishing in the absence of coriander leaves.

Asian lettuce - is the vegetable pictured above right, it's high on beta carotene, calcium, phosphorus and vitamin C. The softness of the large tender leaves are useful as wrappers for minced meat dishes, ju hu char (for recipe, check under categories, main meals section) and spring rolls.

Tong hoe (Garland Chrysanthemum) - pictured above the sliced carrots. This is one vegetable I cannot do without when I eat steamboat. I just love the pungent smell, a very popular vegetable among the Chinese and Japanese apparently. The leaves are sold in bunches with roots still attached. The roots harbours a lot of earth, so an important tip is to wash the leaves thoroughly under running water. It is rich in vitamins A and B. This is the only way I eat this vegetable.

Carrots - I am pretty confident all of you know this root vegetable even blind-folded, so I will not elaborate.

The only meat for tonight is sliced (sek pan) fish. Has to be a fairly large fish in order to fillet it and slice it thinly for steamboat. Approximately 300 gms per person. Marinated with light soya sauce, white pepper, plenty of julienne ginger, a few drops of sesame oil, 1 Tbsp of garlic oil, sea salt and don't forget a few strong dashes of Shao Hsing fragrant rice wine (absolute must!). Leave fish cling wrapped in a bowl in the fridge until ready to eat.

These are lovely round tofu aka (Tofu Bomb). They are soft and very light, just perfect for steamboat. I got them from my neighbourhood grocer and I estimated 2 round tofu per person.

No steamboat is complete without a bowl of chopped chili in light soya sauce and some pre-made garlic oil. There will be a fresh bowl of chopped chili and garlic oil for every steamboat dinner, just in case I fail to mention later.

Garlic oil - heat a saucepan with grapseed oil. When hot, put in chopped garlic, stir continuously. Garlic burns very quickly. The minute the chopped garlic turns slightly golden brown, take the saucepan off the heat and pour into a heatproof glass bowl to cool. Do not cover with lid until garlic oil completely cool. This is used to flavour the stock before putting in the uncooked ingredients. Just 1 to 2 Tbsp will do just fine.

Chicken stock - for today's steamboat stock, I used chicken stock. 1 whole skinless chicken breast chopped into 4 pieces. Bring 2 litres of filtered water to boil. Put in 4 cloves garlic (whole, with skin) and 1 piece of old ginger (smashed with the back of the knife). When water is boiling, put in the chicken breast and quick simmer for 40 minutes to 1 hour. This is my favourite stock, so I used it quite often in my steamboat dinners. When cool, drain stock through a sieve before placing into the steamboat pot, discard chicken breast, garlic and ginger.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Stir Fry Salted Mustard Green with Pork Belly

I can't remember when was the last time I cooked this appetising dish. Lately, with the terrible haze covering Kuala Lumpur, my appetite too, was rudely affected. Was scratching my head as to what to cook to bring back some sort of cravings ... something salty, spicy and fatty might just do the trick.

Got myself a packet of preserved salted mustard green (the type with some leaves) and here goes ... 300 gm pork belly (cut into bite size portions) - marinate with a little dark soya sauce, light soya sauce, white pepper, sea salt, pinch of sugar and a dash of sesame oil. 3 cloves of chopped garlic. 5 thin slices of old ginger. 3 bird eye chili (sliced, seeds removed). 1 packet salted mustard green - soaked in water to rid access saltiness, drained and sliced thinly. (Squeeze dry by hand)

- Heat wok without any oil, drain all access water from salted mustard green and fry till dry and slightly crunchy. - Take it out of the wok and cool. (The process above is to maintain its crunchiness) - Heat work and drizzle a little olive oil, throw in the chopped garlic, ginger and chili. Stir a while and dump in the cut up pork belly, fry until pork turn slightly brown (juices all sealed in). - Add in the salted mustard green and continue to fry for another 10 minutes, adding a little hot water to keep it from drying up. (This dish has a little gravy) - Sea salt, sugar and light soya sauce to taste. - Serve with steaming white fluffy basmathi rice.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Steamed Caramel Cupcakes

150 gm gula melaka (chopped) 80 ml filtered water hot water for topping up 80 gm butter (melted) 100 ml evaporated milk 1 egg (slightly beaten) 200 gm self raising flour (sifted) 1 tsp soda bicarbonate A pinch of salt - Grease heat proof tea cups or coffee cups of your choice with butter. - Caramelise shaved or chopped gula melaka in filtered water. Put water into small saucepan, then place the shaved gula melaka right in the centre. Bring to boil slowly until consistency becomes thick and gluey. Careful not to burn the sugar. In place of gula melaka, one can also use brown sugar, follow the same process. - Pour out into a measuring jug and top up with hot water until 150 mls. Stir well and leave to cool. - Sieve flour, soda bicarbonate and salt together. Make a well in the centre and leave aside. - Add butter, evaporated milk and egg into the cool gula melaka sugar. Stir well. Pour mixture into the centre well of the flour and stir consistently with a fork until mixture becomes a smooth batter. - Spoon mixture into the greased cups and place into a preheated steamer for approx. 30 - 35 minutes or until skewer comes out clean. Cool, and served drizzled with some melted gula melaka.

Note : In order to achieve the cracked top effect, use teacups with a smaller bottom then the top opening. When steaming, the heat will push the cake upwards thus causing the crackling effect. I like the texture of these steamed cupcakes cos they are laced with the fragrant gula melaka taste and smell and it doesn't stick to my teeth everytime I take a bite. Absolutely gorgeous and a changed from normal cupcakes!

For those who are thinking "What on earth is this Gula Melaka?" here's a little description. Gula means sugar in the malay language and Melaka is actually a state in Malaysia. "Gula Melaka" is a type of palm sugar made famous in the state of Malacca, Malaysia. It is a rich dark brown harden sugar made from coconut and caramel-flavoured sugar tapped from palm trees. It is boiled until thickens and poured into bamboo tubes to harden hence taking the bamboo segment shape. Sold in many countries and mainly used to flavour desserts.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Semi-Vegetable Dhall Curry

Lately the weather has been really bad for health. Haze, haze everywhere! I just wonder what's gonna happen to the world when we pass it on to our children's generation.
Haze has definitely affected my diet. Vegetable is all I think about lately but then not enough to keep my tummy full, that explains me eating, munching, chomping the whole day through! My mom has this wonderful dhall curry which she loves! Very, very simple to make too!
100 gm ikan bilis (dried anchovies) 150 gm yellow dhall (rinsed, drained) 5 leaves of Peking cabbage (torn to small pieces) 10 baby long beans ( break into 3 equal lengths) 1 huge very ripe red tomato (wedges) 5 inch carrot (thinly sliced) 2 cloves of garlic (chopped) 2 shallots (chopped) 5 Tbsp fish sauce 5 Tbsp fish curry powder (mix with water until becomes a paste) filtered water sea salt to taste
  1. Heat some olive oil in a curry pot.
  2. Throw in the garlic, shallots and stir till lightly brown and not burnt.
  3. In goes the ikan bilis, fry till fragrant.
  4. Scrap in the curry powder paste and stir approx. 2 minutes.
  5. Top up with a little filtered water (not too watery please) and put in the dhall, simmer 5 minutes.
  6. Put in carrots and tomatoes, simmer another 5 minutes.
  7. Add a little more water and fish sauce.
  8. Put in the rest of the vegetables (I like them slightly raw and crunchy, that's why I put them in last), simmer for 2 minutes. (If you prefer the vegetable to be thoroughly cooked, put them in together with the carrots).
  9. Salt to taste.
I can just eat it on its own! which I did.

Just a note ...

For those of you who frequent my blog, will automatically know that it has evolved into another look. This is totally not intentional and will be back to its normal self hopefully soon. As for all my favourite links, categories etc ... which is not there now will hopefully be back soon too. Thank you for all your continuous support and try and bear with me a little longer..... Cheers!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Chocolate Cupcakes with Mint Buttercream Frosting

For the love of Cupcakes!
In my circle of friends and acquaintances, I have yet to meet a person who dislike cupcakes. I have met some who simply find it too troublesome to make them, some who scrap away the frosting instantly before happily tucking into them and some who take them home and keep them in the fridge fearing they might eat them and never see them again. The list goes on ...
I still consider myself an amateur blogger when it comes to "Cupcakes". There is just so much cupcakes out there on the internet and not to mention all the blogs dedicated just for these little darlings! The month of September was pretty exciting for me as I found a good reason to bake a few batches of cupcakes for 3 very macho men as birthday tokens.
As for the recipe, kindly click on 'Chockylit' as found on my inspirational links. This is a wonderful recipe just like the way she described it. I was very satisfied with the results indeed. Utterly delicious!
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I'm Audrey from Somewhere in my kitchen, Malaysia.

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