Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Udang Masak Lemak Nenas, a Nyonya Classic


Masak Lemak Nenas is another quintessential nyonya dish, a must-try dish when you attempt to explore nyonya cuisine.  You walk into any nyonya restaurant, this dish is undeniably one of THE dish that the waiter will highly recommend that you order.     

The sweetness from the pineapples and prawns, the saltiness from the salted fish, the creaminess from the coconut milk, the spiciness from the chilli paste coupled with the extra tang from the lemongrass, galangal, tumeric and ginger all of which just blend so perfectly, giving the whole dish a good balance, guarantee to please and satisfy your palate to the max.  This is indeed a dish your taste buds will thank you dearly.


Needless to say, this has always been one of my top favourite nyonya dish and my classic comfort food until today. Masak Lemak Nenas is always served with steamed white rice.  For my personal preference, I always complement it with sambal belacan (another must-try nyonya-style chillie paste) or sambal cili garam (another classic Nyonya sambal).  Like most nyonya dishes especially if they are gravy based, we the Peranakans (the Sraits born) will always eat using our five fingers as we can practically lick each of them if the dish is good.  Oh, I'm drooling now!!

Now, let's get down to the recipe.....

Ingredients
  • 200g prawns
  • 150g pineapples, sliced
  • 2 cups of coconut milk
  • 3 cups of water 
  • 1 salted Ikan Sepat (Gourami fish)
  • sugar
  • salt
  • oil to fry
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves (optional), I omit this
  • 1 teaspoon of tamarind paste
 To blend (A)
  • 10 fresh chillies, I used about 6 as my family can't really take too spicy
  • 15 shallots or a palm full
  •  3 pips of garlic
  • 1/2 inch of galangal
  • 1/2 inch of turmeric
  • 2 stalks of lemon grass, sliced
  • 3 candlenuts
  • 5g of belacan (shrimp paste)

Steps to prepare

  1. Toast belacan over fire or on a dry pan until fragrant.
  2. Blend all ingredients in (A). Add some water to ease blending process.
  3. Add oil to pan and fry (A) until fragrant. When it’s fragrant, the paste will change into a darker shade of red.
  4. Add water.
  5. Add pineapples and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
  6. Then, add coconut milk. Make sure the fire is small and keep stirring or else the gravy will turn lumpy.
  7. Add prawns, ikan sepat, tamarind paste and sugar. Wait until prawns cook.
  8. Finally, switch stove off and add kaffir lime leaves. Stir evenly and serve.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Steamed Pumpkin Cake


This savoury dish is a typical Chinese snack usually taken during breakfast or afternoon tea.  I made this over the weekend as I was ordered by the 'home minister' in my house to clear the two pumpkins that had been lying idle in the kitchen for almost three weeks.  

I was cracking my head hard thinking of what to cook the pumpkins with.  Of course, I was trying to be creative (oh, please!) and thinking of something different and special......like pumpkin juice, pumpkin cakes, pumpkin muffins, pumpkins buns, pumpkin breads or even pumpkin ice-cream.   Well, none of them seemed appealing to me.  Not wanting to take the risk, I finally decided to go back to the usual savoury steamed pumpkin cake, a popular breakfast or party snack among the Chinese community.


Well, preparing the dish is surprisingly easy, nothing very complicated.  The ingredients used are rather standard and easily available.  The 3 most basic ingredients are rice flour, water, and of course pumpkin (mashed, grated, or cubed).......that's it!  To make it savoury and flavourful, minced meat (either chicken or pork), mushrooms, chinese sausages, dried shrimps and fried shallots are added.  Then, comes salt and pepper for taste AND spring onions and sliced chilies for garnish.

Now, the most important part is the texture of the cake.  This is where personal preference comes in. Some like it hard and springy AND some like it slightly softer.  It all depends on the water used.  The standard flour-water ratio is 1:3.  For example, for 100g of rice flour, we may need 300g of water.  From here, you work your way up or down.  If you prefer a slightly softer texture, then add a little bit more water (about 50ml) and vice versa. 

The Recipe:
(adapted from Fong's Kitchen, with slight modification)

Ingredients
700g of pumpkin
250g of rice flour
1 tbsp of corn flour (to make the texture smooth)
750ml of water

100g of chicken/pork meat
70g of dried prawn
1 tsp chicken stock, powered form
3 dried mushroom (optional)
1 chinese sausage (optional)

2 tsp of oil
2 cloves garlic

1 tsp Salt
1 tsp pepper

10 shallots
1 red chilli
1 stalk of spring onions

Preparation :
  1. Soak the dried prawns, mushrooms and chinese sausage for half an hour or until they are soft. (As there's flavour in the water, I did not throw it, instead I used it to make up to the 750ml of water required)
  2. Skin and cut the chicken meat into cubes.  You may also mince the meat.
  3. Mince the garlic.
  4. Skin the pumpkin and cut it into small cubes.
 Method:
  1. Steam pumpkin until soft and fork tender.  Lightly mashed half of it.  Set aside.
  2. Add water and chicken stock to the sifted rice flour and corn flour.  Stir well until flour is completely dissolved.
  3. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a wok over medium heat. Fry garlic and dried prawns until crisp and fragrant.
  4. Add in chicken meat, mushrooms and chinese sausage and stir-fry until it is cooked.
  5. Add in pumpkin and continue stir-frying, about 2-3 minutes.
  6. Add salt and pepper. 
  7. Pour in the rice flour mixture, and stir it till it turns sticky.
  8. Pour mixture into a 21cm round cake tin and level the surface with a spatula.  (You may drizzle some oil on the spatula to ease leveling the surface)
  9. Steam it over boiling water at medium fire for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  10. Prepare toppings while steaming the cake. Cut shallot into slices and fry it till light brown. Slice the red chillies and spring onions.
  11. Remove the cake from the steamer and sprinkle topping ingredients immediately on the hot cake. 
  12. Wait for the cake to cool down before cutting into slices and serve.
Notes:
  1. If you want your pumpkin cake to look slightly yellowish, mash the pumpkin a little.  
  2. The cake can be kept in the refrigerator up to a week. Before serving, heat it up in the microwave oven or steamer. Alternatively, it can be cut into rectangle and pan-fry until light brown. The pan-fried crisped pumpkin cake is utterly delicious. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Fluffy Pancake


If you are looking for a light, soft and fluffy pancake, then this recipe will win you over.  Though I am not a fan of pancakes, I do crave for it once in a blue moon.   I have tried making it once but wasn't really satisfied with the outcome.  They turned out a little rubbery and compact.  But this recipe gives you a really soft and light texture that it easily absorbs anything that is spread and drizzled on be it butter, honey or syrup.

One thing that I like about this recipe is that it uses the egg separation method.  Egg whites and egg yolks are beaten separately and this eventually makes the pancake light and fluffy.  A drizzle of any kind of syrup (for me I like maple syrup best) or even honey is just what you need to complete everything and to brighten your day.      


Well, just a little bit of sharing....I have learnt the following tips in order to make a good pancake : 

  1. Never over-flip your pancake so that you can get a fluffy pancake.  Over-flipping will just deflate the pancake.
  2. To know when exactly you need to flip the pancake is to wait for the bubbles to form in the centre and then burst.
  3. Always apply oil to the pan with wadded paper towels.  This is necessary to avoid  uneven cooking.  If you pour oil directly into the pan, in may pool in some areas while leaving other parts of the pan dry.  The uneven cooking will cause the flapjacks to burn in some areas and undercook in others.  
  4. Once the pancake is cooking on the pan, give it some space. Do your best not to shake the pan or move the batter -- this will hinder the pancake from rising properly.

If you wanna try making your own pancakes, here's the recipe, adapted from Edith of Rumbling Tummy.  Till then, have a great day ahead!

Ingredients:

280g plain flour
8g baking powder
78g castor sugar
½ tsp salt
3 egg, separated
1.5 cup milk
85g melted unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla



Method:
  1. Sift flour and baking powder. Add sugar and salt together into a large bowl.
  2. Whisk yolks, milk, melted butter and vanilla together.
  3. Whisk wet mixture into the dry mixture. Should be slightly lumpy.
  4. Whip the egg white until medium peak. Not stiff. Do not over whip the egg whites.
  5. Gently fold in half of the egg white into the egg batter with a large spatula. Then gently fold in the remaining egg white.
  6. The batter should be slightly lumpy and have large parts of the egg whites not fully incorporated.
  7. Heat pan and add 1 tsp butter. With a fat ladle, scoop the batter and pour into the hot pan.
  8. Flip over once brown to cook the other side.
Serve warm.

Happy trying!




Saturday, August 2, 2014

Soft Fluffy Orange Cake


I have been making orange cakes several times and this recipe is by far the best and the most satisfying one.

I whipped this cake when we had our sibling get-together session on the first day of Hari Raya Aidilfitri.  We have not been meeting each other for almost three months. Since the meet up was arranged during tea time at mom's house, I was thinking that perhaps a simple homemade cake would just go perfect with a cup of hot coffee.

Coincidentally, I stumbled upon this amazing recipe on Google+ while waiting for my sister's call.  I could not exactly recall what attracted me to this recipe but all I knew, this could be THE  recipe I was looking for and before I could say anything further, I was already in the kitchen whipping my magic.

Thankfully, everything turned out well and I was absolutely pleased with the results.  The cake rose and baked beautifully in the oven.  For the first time ever, in my baking history - No domed shape!  No cracked top!  No over-burned top!  What came out was - a soft, moist and fluffy little sweet treat, all ready to wow me and the entire family.


True enough, the cake was a winner that afternoon.  In fact, it's always a bliss to eat a cake while it's still warm, soft and fluffy.  That could be the reason everyone was going around ooh and ahh and subsequently complementing me and my wife.  Wait a minute, my WIFE?  What has she got to do with the cake?  Actually, what they meant was....."you are damn lucky to have such an amazing husband."  LOL!  Well, to me it was THE RECIPE that made me so-called AMAZING, okay!  I - JUST - FOLLOW! 

So, my dear friends, if you wanna be as AMAZING as I am, then FOLLOW the recipe below....(hehehe!)


The Recipe:
(adapted from Monica of  Lick The Bowl Good)

Note : For this recipe, I have reduced the amount of sugar both in the cake and in the orange glaze.  I find the sugar used in the orange glaze was a little crazy.

Cake:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks/about 230g) unsalted butter, room temp.
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (I reduced to 3/4 cup)
  • 4 eggs, room temp.
  • 1 1/2 tsp. grated orange zest
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 7 Tbsp. fresh squeezed orange juice
Glaze:
  • 2 cups powdered sugar (I reduced to 1 cup)
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tsp orange zest
The Method:
  1. Heat the oven to 350F. Butter a 9-inch cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. 
  2. Then butter the paper and set aside.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar well, until it is very pale and thick - this will take quite a while.
  4. Add the eggs one by one, beating well after each addition, then add the zest. Add the flour, baking powder and salt all at once, and beat well, then slowly add the orange juice until it is incorporated.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin, and bake for 35-40 minutes - or until an inserted skewer comes out clean (slow is best, so don' t be afraid to cook it longer. If it starts to brown too much on the top, cover loosely with a sheet of buttered foil.)
  6. Allow cake to cool in pan for 15-20 minutes on a wire rack. Then invert onto a plate, remove the parchment paper and allow to cool completely before glazing.
  7. To make the icing, stir the orange juice into the icing sugar until you have the right spreading consistency. 
  8. Pour the icing onto the cake and spread with a spatula or butter knife, allowing the icing to drip down the sides of the cake.
  9. Leave the icing to set before cutting the cake into wedges or storing in an airtight container.

NOTE (from Monica) : I thought the glaze was rather sweet and needed more orange flavor so I suggest adding some grated orange zest to the glaze for more intense flavor.



Saturday, July 26, 2014

Banana Turnover


I was at McDonald's (MCD) the other day (well, my usual hang-out area while waiting to pick up my son from school) enjoying their latest promotional craze - Banana Pie.  Well, I have to admit that I really fell for the pie the moment it set in my mouth.  The crust is just perfectly thin and super crisp.  The filling is slushy and yummy.

It hit me so hard that I literally went bananas scouring the net searching high and low for a similar recipe of which I finally called it quit and waved the white flag.  Seriously, I can't seem to find any pie recipe close to that of McDonald's's version.  All I could find was the open-type but not the enclosed one.

Persistent as I was, I  decided to make it from scratch.  First, I would have to search for the filling recipe, then followed by the pastry recipe.  Looking for the filling recipe was surprisingly easy.  I only found one recipe (that resembled McDonalds's version).  So, I hadn't had any choice to choose from - take it or leave it!  So cruel!  As for the pastry recipe, well I have to admit that I was more fussy and picky on this.  Actually, all that I am looking for in a pastry is that it has to be crispy and flaky.  I was somehow glad that I finally found one.

Well, it took me two days before I got both the filling and pastry recipes that passed my so-called personal requirements.  Once done, I got down to business and made them.  All I could say, the making process was straightforward and pretty easy.

But more importantly, what's my verdict on this recipe?  On a scale of 1-10, I would give an 8.  I am generally satisfied with what came out.  The filling was yummy with a nice buttery banana-ry aroma (except that it's a little on the sweet side).  The pastry was buttery, crisp and what's more important is it was SERIOUSLY FLAKY!!!  So, generally, FILLING + PASTRY = NICE BANANA TURNOVER.


 You may ask me - you gave 8 out of 10, so what happen to the remaining 2?  Well, so long as I don't find the McDonald's-like type, the pie does not deserve a 10 from me.

The Recipe:
A) Ingredients for the filling:
     (adapted from Taiwanese Cooking)
  • 4 ripe bananas, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 4 Tbsp. margarine or butter
  • 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. corn starch, dissolved in 2 Tbsp. water
Instructions:
  1. Heat margarine or butter over medium heat in a wok or frying pan. Stir in sliced bananas and cook for about 2 minutes.
  2. Add sugar and lemon juice, then cook for another 3 to 4 minutes over low heat until the texture becomes slightly creamy. Add the corn starch, dissolved in water, to the mixture. Once the filling is creamy with chunks of banana, turn off the heat.  So, this is how it looks like finally.


B) Ingredients for the pastry:
     (adapted from The Pink Whisk)

  • 300g plain flour
  • 225g butter, cold diced
  • (35g caster sugar for sweet pastry/1 tsp salt for savoury)
  • 6-8 tbsps cold water
Instructions:

  1. Measure out the plain flour into a large bowl.
  2. Dice the cold butter into small pieces.  Easiest way I’ve found to do this is to work on a plate.  Slice the butter and add a good spoonful of the flour for the pastry.  Tossing the butter in the flour as you dice stops them from sticking to each other and keeps the pieces separate.
  3. Add the butter to the flour and start to rub it in with your fingertips.  Now maybe the reason I love flaky pastry so much is it’s the lazy persons pastry, you don’t want to rub it in fully pretend you’re making a shortcrust and do a half hearted job, only rubbing it in half way – so there’s plenty of little pebbles of butter still left.
  4. Stir through the caster sugar for a sweet Flaky pastry or 1 tsp of salt for savoury.
  5. Start to add the water, just a couple of tablespoons at a time and mix it together with the blade of table knife until it just comes together without being crumbly.
  6. Lightly knead the pastry in the bowl to form a dish.
  7. Wrap it in clingfilm or a freezer bag and place it in the fridge to chill for 1 hour.
 That’s it!  Flaky Pastry done!


C) Assembling Everything
  1. Roll the dough (according to your desired size) into a square. 
  2. Put 2 to 3 heaping tablespoons of filling in the center of each square and fold in half into a rectangular shape. 
  3. Use a fork to press the edges firmly closed and to also make a decorative pattern.
  4. Arrange the turnovers 2 inches apart on a cooking sheet or in a baking pan lined with foil.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Brush the turnovers with an egg wash, consisting half of water and half of eggs. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown.

 HAPPY TRYING!!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Chocolate Molten Lava Cake

Frankly, I have never eaten this cake before let alone baking one myself.  Of course, people around me have been lamenting how much they adore this cake and some even got hysterical and rhapsodic by just hearing its name, especially the words MOLTEN...LAVA!!

Certainly, I do concur that the name itself is already enticing enough to itch your taste buds and eventually making your mouth salivate and your heart yearn to try one.  That's what exactly happened to me.  I have been longing to try eating and baking one myself.

So, last weekend, I managed to squeeze some time out to do some readings trying to look out for a decent recipe.  Hey! The recipe is somehow pretty straightforward and not at all complicated.  The ingredients used are very basic and easily available.  The procedure is just a child's play as claimed by others.  Another shocking fact I found out from some of those who have made one - the bake was.........SHOCKINGLY EASY!!!  Any Tom Dick and Harry can whip one!

As easy as it has been said, this dunghead somehow failed on his first attempt.   Only on his second attempt then he realized that he was not cut out for this cake.  His third try was just as disastrous as the other two.  However, persistency wins at last.  Exactly, I finally succeeded on my fourth try!  The first three came out cakey and hard in that there was NO molten lava whatsoever sloshing out upon cutting.  Reason?  Easy,......I have overbaked it.  Even extra one minute counts and matters.  So, my advice for those of you who intend to bake one yourself, please make one piece first and see the outcome, only then you bake the remaining pieces.


So, what's my final verdict on the successful piece?  Frankly, I enjoyed better eating the failed cake which is hard and cakey.  So as my son, he loved the first three batches much more than the last successful one.  Though no lava, the cake just goes perfectly well with a dollop of vanilla ice-cream.  I somehow feel a tinge of guilt and uneasiness eating the seemingly 'uncooked' chocolate liquid that oozes out.  Anyway, that is just my personal intuition.  You may not agree with me.  I may be the odd ones! He he...

So, for those of you who want to try making one yourself, here you go babe, the recipe adapted from Foodie By Nature.


INGREDIENTS
(yields about 5-6 pcs)
  • 4.5 ounces of dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 110 grams of butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup castor sugar-approximate 150 gms (I reduced to 100g)
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour(35 grams)
  • Vanilla extract 1 teaspoon
  • 5-6 moulds or ramekins depending on size
  • Chocolate powder

METHOD


  1. Preheat oven at 200 degrees C for half an hour
  2. Butter moulds and dust with chocolate powder so it sticks to the butter..tap away excess
  3. Put chocolate and butter in a double boiler whisking every now and then until melted. Add vanilla extract
  4. In a bowl whisk together eggs,sugar and gradually flour until well blended. Slowly add melted and cooled chocolate-butter mixture
  5. Pour mixture into moulds / ramekins and put in oven ( up and down grill on)
  6. Place in center of oven and bake for approximate 12 mins or until sides leave moulds and top is cracked but wobbly.  The time will vary from oven to oven..start checking after 10 mins (Mine baked at 9 mins)
  7. Remove and serve at once.have straight from the mould until u try it a couple of times..then you can start turning it upside down once you are more confident. Serve with vanilla ice- cream..

Friday, June 27, 2014

Chocolate Banana Cake


This simple cake really wowed me to the max.  It was indeed a real SURPRISE to see a bake that is soo soft and fluffy.  Man, it was really really soft and fluffy, no joke!  IRONICALLY and strangely, my wife was not into soft fluffy cakes.  What a rare weird species she is!

Anyway, the moment the cake landed on my hands when I was unmoulding it, I already knew that it would be one hell of a good cake.  True enough, this babe is just gorgeously soft, light, moist and luscious.  Whatever it is, you just have got to try baking one to believe it.

After my successful and satisfying attempt trying her Chocolate Caramel Banana Upside-down Cake), I must give my credit, again to Joyce of Kitchen Flavours for sharing this amazing secret.  I am linking back her post and recipe here for your further read-up.   

Seriously, if you are free and want to find something to bake, do give this recipe a shot. Till then, have a great day ahead. 

Chocolate Banana Quick Cake
Makes one 9x5-inch loaf cake, serving 8

1-1/4 cups (5.3oz/151gm) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (0.8oz/23gm) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick/4oz/113gm) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (7oz/200gm) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1-1/3 cups (320ml) mashed ripe bananas (about 3 medium bananas)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (4.2oz/121gm) sour cream (I use yoghurt)
4 ounces (113gm) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I use chocolate chips)


Method:

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9x5-inch loaf pan.
  2. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl. Whisk to combine, and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Gradually beat in the sugar and beat at high speed until well blended, about 2 minutes. At medium speed, beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the mashed bananas and vanilla extract and mix at low speed until blended. Add the flour mixture at low speed in three additions, alternating it with the sour cream in two additions. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and stir in the chopped chocolate. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
  4. Bake the cake for 55 to 65 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean (except for any melted chocolate). Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes.
  5. Unmold the cake onto the rack, turn right side up, and cool completely.
Store at room temperature, covered in foil, for up to 5 days.