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, December 29, 2006

Gingerbread Men and Women

"Christmas isn't Christmas till it happens in your heart, Somewhere deep inside you is where Christmas really starts, So give your heart to Jesus you'll discover when you do,
That it's Christmas, really Christmas for you." I love this Christmas carol, so heart warming and meaningful for me. Christmas is not about Christmas trees, Santa Claus, merry-making, loads of presents etc... but all about Jesus, it is not X'mas but Christmas. Christmas tradition accummulated through the centuries, some are meaningful, some are not, some are plainly money-making schemes. As for me, Christmas is very special not because I have a good reason to cook but I look forward to spend precious holiday time with family and friends, especially those so dear to my heart. One of those traditions I hold so very dear to my heart is time spent making Christmas cookies and gingerbread men. Don't ask me why ... it's just me.

If you have seen my earlier post, I conducted 2 workshops on this Christmas cookie and Gingerbread men. I have the recipe posted below as a Christmas gift to all of you! Try it next year cos the children in my workshop could make them ... I am certain you can too.

You'll be surprise how long you can keep these little tough men. They can be consumed up to 1 month if kept in an airtight container in the fridge. A wonderful treat with piping hot coffee in the morning after a peaceful night rest.

Home-made Gingerbread Men (20 pcs - 12cm cutter) 125 gm unsalted butter (room temperature) 60 gm brown sugar 90 gm mollasses or golden syrup 1 egg 300 gm all-purpose flour 2 Tbsp ground ginger and 1 tsp soda bicarbonate 1. Preheat oven at 180 degree celsius. 2. Beat butter, sugar and syrup till light and creamy. 3. Add egg. 4. Sieve flour into the butter mixture and knead 2 minutes. 5. Take out and shape into a flat dough. 6. Cling wrap the dough and refrigerate for 15-20 minutes. 7. Take out and put dough in between 2 pieces of greaseproof paper and roll into desired thickness. 8. Cut into gingerbread man shape and transfer onto baking sheets. 9. Bake for 8 minutes or until slightly brown. Icing 1 egg white 280 gm icing sugar (sifted) 1. Wash and dry mixing bowl to remove any oil. 2. Beat egg white with a fork until foamy. 3. Add icing sugar in gradually. 4. Beat till icing stand in soft peaks. 5. Divide into bowls. 6. Pipe using disposable paper piping bags.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Christmas Dinner for Six

I usually don't get to do a comfy cosy sit down dinner during festive seasons but this is a very unusual occassion. Someone did not manage to defrost 14 XXL size prawns for the Christmas day BBQ which actually turned out to be a wonderful blessing for tonite's six!
Such large prawns deserve to be eaten at its fullest of flavour which happens to be grilled and seasoned with sprinkles of sea salt. In this case, I just grilled them on my pan-grill which saved a lot of time. If you want them to look stiff and straight, just soak some fine bamboo sticks (or satay sticks) in some water for 1 hour and poke it through the prawn from the rear and out of the head before leaving it to grill. As I said, I wanted a quick, without hassle type of sit-down dinner, so no fancy stuff. Just leave them on the pan-grill for about 2 minutes each side. When almost done, sprinkle sea salt on them and serve on a platter. That's the main dish!

Appetiser was stuffed portobello mushrooms, grilled in the oven for 10 minutes at 170 degree celsius. Easy to make and delicious to gobble.... Just use a small vegetable brush or a new toothbrush to brush away the dirt on the mushrooms. Cut off the stem slightly and place them with the stem facing up (like a shallow bowl). Fill the mushroom with finely diced yellow capsicum, zucchini, tomatoes, bacon or ham and topped with some shreaded cheddar and mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with a little sea salt, a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and pop them in the oven and before you know it, it's ready! Note : Do not rinse portobello mushrooms, it will spoil the taste.

Brussel Sprouts seems to be great idea for tonite's meal, maybe the fibre will scrap down all the cholesterol in the prawns. Wishful thinking. Trim off the bottom part of the stem. Blanche the sprouts and leave aside. Heat a pan, drizzle some grapeseed oil and saute some bacon chips or in this case some chicken ham. Put all the sprouts into the pan and saute for a good 2 minutes, season with sea salt and a dash of white wine.

As for the carbo, an interesting nutty flavoured bread and butter pudding seem appropriate. First, slice one and half sticks of french loaf and arrange them slightly slanted on a oven proof dish. Butter in between slices and throw in some hazelnuts and baby almond (raisins optional). In a litre jug, crack 4 farm fresh eggs, a can of evaporated milk and 250ml fresh milk. Stir mixture together and pour onto the bread slices gently, making sure liquid is pour over every slice of bread. Pop it into the oven marked 160 degree celsius for 15 minutes then sprinkle some demerara sugar over the pudding and drizzle 2 scoops of brandy over it. Pop it back into the oven for another 5 minutes. Cover with aluminium foil if your pudding starts to brown too much. Take out from the oven and sprinkle another tablespoon of sugar and 1 more scoop of brandy. Pudding ready to be served. Note : this pudding has a crispy top layer unlike some other soft spongy bread pudding.

As for dessert, the wonderful christmas cupcake was served. Will post later!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

It's Christmas Time!

It's that time of the year again! a time of joy, a time of sharing, a time for christmas baking. This year, I have a rather different approach, instead of the usual non-stop baking of christmas fruit cakes, I decided to share my Christmas baking joy in a couple of Christmas Cookie making workshops in my neighbourhood ingredient bakeshop. The joy of being able to share is so much greater than the joy of just making them yourself. I conducted a "Parent - Child " and "Children Bakeshop", where I taught them kitchen discipline, the making of cookie doughs, baking them and frosting. They loved it and most importantly I loved it. I would not have traded it for anything in the world, to see the joy on their little faces and the truimphant outcome when the cookies were iced and frosted to little kids perfection, not to mention, the adults did me just as proud!

Here's a "Parent and Child" busy with the creative side of baking!

An adult participant cookie decoration.

Christmas cookies and Gingerbread men all rolled and cut-out by my wonderful participants!

A 14 year old girl did this and pretty isn't it!

This is the work of an 8 year old.

Creativity oozing out from a 9 year old with her 5 year old sister.

Another batch of cookies baked to perfection waiting to cool for icing. Had to say even the boys, all six of them did their parents proud! Would love to have more posts coming but my notebook is still being fixed in the hospital so I am using someone else terminal. For those of you who left messages and comments, I will get to them in due time. My sincere apologies! When the goin gets tough, the tough gets goin!

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

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