Sunday, 30 January 2011

Catch A Dream

My ideal weekend consists of a good breakfast, sunshine, a long stroll in a park, exploring new places and then finishing with a fabulous dessert and a good glass of caffe latte...





"Catch a falling star
and put it in your pocket,
Never let it fade away...
Catch a falling star
and put it in your pocket,
Save it for a rainy day..."

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Noodles and Trifle







Thai Yellow Curry with Tuna and Fish balls

2 canned tuna in oil. drained
10 pcs fish balls, quartered
2 tbsp Thai Yellow curry paste
2 stalks lemon grass
250ml coconut milk
300ml water
brown sugar or palm sugar
fish sauce
lime juice


Flat Rice noodles, the kind you use to make Phad Thai

Garnishings:
Cucumber, julienned
Large onions, thinly sliced
Fresh pineapple, diced
Crispy fried shallots
Fresh mint, chopped (optional)





In a large pot, add in the coconut milk, water, curry paste and lemon grass and let it simmer for about 10 minutes.
Add in fish balls and tuna into the gravy. Leave to simmer for another 5 minutes
Season to taste.

Meanwhile, place the rice noodles in a bowl and cover with hot water. Set aside.while you prepare the remaining ingredients. Once the noodles are soften, drain the water and set them aside.

To serve, pour the gravy over the noodles in serving bowls.
Garnish with cucumber, sliced onion, pineapple, fried shallots and mint leaves.









And, for a super-easy dessert, I made Raspberry Trifle with creme fraiche....




Using store bought slab of swiss-roll.





Friday, 28 January 2011

Hop(e)s



Lately, thanks to Elsa letting me (mis)use her laptop, I've been doing a lot of blog-hopping.
It's something I've not done a lot of, ever since acquiring a desktop 3 years ago. The desktop, unfortunately, is a necessity ever since my eyesights start to act their age. The small monitor on a lappy just wouldn't do it for me anymore, and the fact that I keep misplacing my glasses doesn't help the matter at all.... my mind's going, too... what else is new... get in the queue.

Oh yes... blog-hopping... it was good fun!
Visited some old friends, made some new ones. Loads of awesome sites that tickled my fancy, let alone my palate.
Luscious, decadent food and photography that are salivate-worthy.

Can't wait to have my own kitchen and stuff back! Till then I just have to make do....






Made some refreshing raspberry jelly for dessert.







Monday, 24 January 2011

Rice Congee with Braised Minced Meat in Oyster Sauce


Nothing like a good haircut to lift one’s spirit.

The weather has been nothing but grey and dull. I decided that a visit to a hair salon would do the trick in lifting my mood.

Moving so often means that I’m forever in pursuit of a good hairstylist. I found this to be one of the most daunting experience. It is such a personal thing, friends are quite reluctant to make any recommendation.
But my latest find is a good one. I’m pretty chuffed with my new haircut. Let’s just hope she will not fall pregnant, move or decide to quit her job… 'cos when it comes to hairstylist, a good one, I’m very possessive!






Rice Congee

1 cup rice
6 cups chicken broth
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 knob fresh ginger
salt and pepper

In a large pot, bring the broth and rice to a boil.
When the rice is boiling, add in ginger and garlic slices and turn the heat down to medium low.
Cook on medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until the rice has the thick, creamy texture of porridge.
Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Serve Rice Congee with Braised Minced Meat in Oyster Sauce and thinly sliced omelet, drizzled with a little sesame oil and crispy fried shallots.







Braised Minced Meat in Oyster Sauce

300g lean minced beef
2 medium-sized carrot, finely diced
200g mushrooms, preferably shiitake, quartered (I’m using fresh button mushrooms)
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
salt, sugar and black pepper; to taste

In a large pan, heat a little oil on high heat.
Add the diced carrot, minced garlic and ginger and saute until slightly soft. Add the mushrooms, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, rice vinegar and a little water and saute for about 1 minute.
Add the ground beef and saute until browned and broken apart. Reduce the heat to medium heat and simmer for 20 minutes until the sauce thickens slightly.
Season to taste with salt, black pepper and sugar.



Rice Congee with Braised Minced Meat in Oyster Sauce

Nothing like a good haircut to lift one’s spirit.

The weather has been nothing but grey and dull. I decided that a visit to a hair salon would do the trick in lifting my mood.

Moving so often means that I’m forever in pursuit of a good hairstylist. I found this to be one of the most daunting experience. It is such a personal thing, friends are quite reluctant to make any recommendation.
But my latest find is a good one. I’m pretty chuffed with my new haircut. Let’s just hope she will not fall pregnant, move or decide to quit her job… 'cos when it comes to hairstylist, a good one, I’m very possessive!






Rice Congee

1 cup rice
6 cups chicken broth
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 knob fresh ginger
salt and pepper

In a large pot, bring the broth and rice to a boil.
When the rice is boiling, add in ginger and garlic slices and turn the heat down to medium low.
Cook on medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until the rice has the thick, creamy texture of porridge.
Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Serve Rice Congee with Braised Minced Meat in Oyster Sauce and thinly sliced omelet, drizzled with a little sesame oil and crispy fried shallots.







Braised Minced Meat in Oyster Sauce

300g lean minced beef
2 medium-sized carrot, finely diced
200g mushrooms, preferably shiitake, quartered (I’m using fresh button mushrooms)
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
salt, sugar and black pepper; to taste

In a large pan, heat a little oil on high heat.
Add the diced carrot, minced garlic and ginger and saute until slightly soft. Add the mushrooms, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, rice vinegar and a little water and saute for about 1 minute.
Add the ground beef and saute until browned and broken apart. Reduce the heat to medium heat and simmer for 20 minutes until the sauce thickens slightly.
Season to taste with salt, black pepper and sugar.



Friday, 21 January 2011

Hugs

It's the annual National Hugging Day!! So, get hugging y'all.

During her Elementary school years, Elsa was well known among her teachers and schoolmates to give the best hugs ever.
Well, what can I say... she learnt from the best and she still gets lots of practice from us.





"Never wait until tomorrow to hug someone you could hug today,
because when you give one, you get one right back your way."


Quote:

Hugging etiquette:
the person who initiates the hug is the one who also ends it.
If hugging a total stranger on the street, keep it reasonably brief: you're hugging them, not detaining them.

~ taken from NowPublic.com: National Hug Day 2011




Thursday, 20 January 2011

Kofta Curry







Kofta Curry

For the kofta:
350g minced beef
1 tsp ginger and garlic paste
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
salt and pepper

For the curry:
6 large mushrooms, halved
5 shallots, finely sliced
2 tbsps garlic and ginger paste
2 tsps coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 can chopped tomatoes





In a large bowl mix all the ingredients for the kofta and mix well.
Form the mixture into equal sized balls.
Fry koftas in a little oil until brown on the outside. Set aside

Heat the oil in a pan and add the shallots. Fry till they are light brown then add the ginger and garlic pastes. Fry for a minute.
Add coriander, cumin, chilli powder, turmeric. Continue to cook for about 2-3 minutes.
Add the canned tomatoes along with the juice. Cook until the oil begins to separate from the gravy.
Add 1 cup of water to the gravy and season with salt and a little sugar to taste.
Gently add the meatballs and mushrooms. Leave to gently simmer for about 8-10 minutes. Stir gently so as not to break the meatballs. The gravy can be as thick as you like so add or dry up the water as required.





Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Petite Palmiers


There's a new girl on the block... and her name is Lorraine Pascale.
She's the latest chef to join BBC's assemble of cooking series and I'm liking her already!
I found her no-fuss approach to baking very appealing as it left me with a lot of time to get up to more mischief.






Petite Palmiers with Tomatoes Basil and Parmigiano
adapted from Lorraine Pascale's "Baking Made Easy"


1 roll ready-made puff pastry
1 can chopped tomatoes, drained and mashed
few sprigs fresh basil, roughly shredded
a handful grated parmigiano
black pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten


Put the puff pastry on a well-floured surface.
Roll the pastry out into a rectangle.
Spread the tomatoes over the puff pastry and sprinkle over the parmigiano and basil and a little black pepper.
With the shortest end facing you, take both long edges of the pastry and roll them towards each other to meet in the middle. Brush a little egg down the centre to stick the two halves together.
Carefully lift into a large baking tray and put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to chill and harden.



Preheat the oven to 200C.
Remove the roll from the fridge and, using a very sharp knife, slice it into 1cm thick pieces.
Lay each piece on the baking tray, cut-side up, and brush well with the beaten egg, then bake in the oven for 10–15 minutes until puffed up, crisp and golden-brown.
Remove the palmiers from the oven and leave to cool on the baking tray before serving.



Monday, 17 January 2011

Baked Figs with Ricotta Walnut and Maple Syrup


MrDudwey commented that the figs looked a lot like the egg pods in "Aliens"..... funny... very funny....




Baked Figs with Ricotta Walnut and Maple Syrup



1 sheet ready-rolled puff pastry
4 tbsp ricotta cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 fresh figs, cut into quarters but not all the way through
4 tbsp maple syrup
handful of walnuts





Preheat the oven to 180C.

In a small bowl, mix together ricotta and vanilla. Set aside.

Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
Cut four 3-inch squares from the sheet of puff pastry and place them onto the baking tray.
Bake in the oven for 4-5 minutes, or until the pastry has risen and is pale golden-brown. Set aside to cool.

Spoon a tablespoon of the ricotta onto the pastry and place a fig on top.
Drizzle maple syrup and sprinkle some crushed walnut over the figs.
Bake in the oven for about 5 minutes.

To serve, drizzle the figs with more maple syrup.



Under the Pale Moonlight


Elsa's submission to a Harry Potter short story competition.

The story is based on Hedwig, Harry Potter's faithful snowy owl.
The character was chosen by the competition organizer, and the writer has to come up with a short story line based on that character.

All rights reserved by JK Rowling.









Under the Pale Moonlight


He was the start of her life.

She was just a small fluffy bundle of feathers when she met him: a small Tawny Owl by the name of Griffin. She always recalled him clearly in her mind as a confident, if slightly arrogant owl. He moved around their barn stealthily and always grabbed the juiciest bite from the others when he could. If he ever got caught for it, he’d just look up at the elders with his dark eyes and ruffle his brown wings streaked with gray. He’d always be forgiven.

Hedwig hated the attention he got. She was an obedient, proper Snowy Owl, uninterested in bullying the others who nested in the same barn. She obeyed every rule she was given, especially one that she learned from a superstitious Little Owl who nested alone in the corner of the barn.

Always stay away from a Tawny Owl. They’re always bad luck.

That’s what she did. Whenever Griffin came close to try and interact with her, she’d blink her large amber eyes, flutter her snowy white wings, and hop away. No amount of him pestering her would make her become his friend. She was adamant that they would remain nothing more than acquaintances.

It all changed when she learned how to fly.

The first time she fluttered her wings, hopping out of her nest, the experience was terrifying, yet thrilling at the same time. The rush of the wind beneath her wings and the feeling of weightlessness made her want to fly forever, to fly to the ends of the earth and back again. She wanted to fly towards the horizon and see what was beyond it. All the owls were surprised by her natural ability to fly as if she’d been practicing it her entire life.

The only other owl that could glide with her, who would willingly be her comrade in flight, was Griffin.

The first thing she noticed under the pale moonlight as they swooped through low branches, the night breeze blowing through their feathers, was the way Griffin flew. He had a lopsided stance, the left wing slightly higher than the right. She’d try to help him correct it, but he refused. He liked it; he thought it was unique.

She soon grew used to it, and flying at night would be a regular affair. They would use the washed out light from the moon to guide them through the dense forests as they quickly bonded with each other, catching food for the other and spending an increasing amount of time away from the barn.

They would communicate with affectionate nips and fond soft murmurs, perching themselves on the highest branch of an oak tree. Griffin would admire how the pale light reflected in Hedwig’s gleaming amber eyes. She would, in turn, think highly of his beautiful rounded wings that helped him move silently through the skies.

Soon, it was Hedwig’s birthday - thick fluffy clouds clouded the moon and obstructed the light, making the forest dark and eerie, with the sparse streams of illumination casting an otherworldly glow over the surroundings.

The two were warned not to go flying that night; that it was dangerous. Not even Griffin’s keen eyesight would be able to spot a predator from even a mile away. They decided not to heed the warnings, sneaking out to fly just for quarter of an hour together.

Hedwig was more than happy. The combination of her birthday together with flying next to her best friend, her soul mate, made her chest tremor with euphoria. She let out a joy-filled hoot before soaring higher up the trees, Griffin flying close behind her, not letting her out of his sight.

They finally perched on their usual branch on the old oak tree, both hooting quietly and grooming each other under the safety of leaves. Nothing prepared them for the sound of a seemingly distant call of none other than an eagle owl.

Hedwig turned her head in panic, hopping in place on the branch with uncertainty. Griffin let out a loud cry in a wave of alarm, trying to alert the elders in the barn before leading Hedwig under his wing and urging her to fly.

Without hesitation, she swooped low on the ground, narrowly missing branches and twigs scattered in her path. She couldn’t hear Griffin behind her, and apprehension rose in her small quivering body. Wings shaking in fear, she pulled herself up in flight until she rose above the trees, heading full speed towards the barn.

Risking a glance behind her, she let out a terrified screech as the face of an eagle owl soared towards her, his long wings spread out and his talons glinting when it caught the light. Hedwig let out another petrified cry before prompting herself forwards, her wings screaming for a break.

With a sudden soft thump, she spotted Griffin in attack position, moving fast towards the eagle owl, trying to get him by surprise. She watched as the eagle owl opened his sharp beak and bite deep into his wings. As Griffin cried in agony, his dark eyes wide and filled with suffering, Hedwig joined him with a tortured screech before the eagle owl carried her struggling soul mate away.

From then on, she never flew with another owl again. Whenever she flew out to hunt for food, she would always keep a look out for Griffin. She never stopped searching for her missing soul mate, and she knew she never would.

And when she took her last breath as she spiraled from the air down to the ground, her chest bursting with shooting pain from a stray curse, she thought she could hear a distant call for her.

She knew they would be together again.

He was the end of her life.








Sunday, 16 January 2011

Roast Chicken with Herbes de Provence







Roast Chicken with Herbes de Provence


6 pcs chicken thigh
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp herbes de Provence
juice and zest from 1 lemon
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 courgette, cut into chunks
250g chestnut mushrooms, quartered
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup apple juice







Preheat oven to 200C.

Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper. Drizzle generously with lemon juice and olive oil. Rub the herbs and lemon zest all over the chicken.

Leave to marinade for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.

Arrange mushrooms and courgettes at the base of a roasting pan. Place marinated chicken on top and pour apple juice and chicken broth into the pan.
Bake for about 50 minutes or until the juice runs clear. Remove the chicken to a platter and let it rest for 10 minutes.






Thursday, 13 January 2011

Mother Nature

It's one year today...
The day that Haiti was rocked by the massive earthquake, killing some 200,000 people.
One year on and billions of dollars of donations and international aids; nothing much has changed, people are still living in makeshift accommodations.... abject poverty remain.

Real time...
Images of the flooding in Queensland.

Stories of heroism...
how a 13-year old boy despite being afraid of water and unable to swim, gave-up his life to save his younger brother.


The power of mother nature is indeed humbling ..as is its beauty...







in the meantime ...
I've been moaning 'cos I'm having a cake-baking withdrawal syndrome.
Symptoms include drooling over recipes and glazed eyes when looking at photos of cakes.


Monday, 10 January 2011

ChocBanana Bread Butter Pudding

All by myself...
It's Elsa's first day of school after a long break.
Managed to do a bit of tidying up before the housekeeping team came to do their weekly clean-up.
Yup, I'm one of those who has to clean the house before the cleaner comes.
Having a maid is much too stressful for me...







ChocBanana Bread Butter Pudding


2 eggs
1/4 liter cream
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 loaf day old bread, sliced and spread with butter on both sides
2 bananas, sliced
2 cup semisweet dark chocolate chips
1/4 tsp salt.





Preheat oven to 175 C.
Butter a medium-size oven-proof dish.
In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, water, sugar, salt and vanilla until well combined.
Cut each slice of buttered bread in half – leaving the crusts on. Arrange buttered bread over the base of the baking dish. Arrange banana slices in between the bread. Sprinkle the chocolate chips all over.
Pour the egg mixture over the prepared bread layers and leave to stand for 30 minutes.
Place the dish into the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the custard has set and the top is golden-brown.



Sunday, 9 January 2011

Just another day...


The sun has finally decided to make an appearance today.
What better than to spent the day walking in the country side, taking in as much fresh air and sun light as we possibly can.





By the time we got home, it was already quite dark.
The family will just have to be contented with a simple meal of nasi goreng as I was too lazy to cook... plus the new season of "From Larkrise to Candleford" is starting tonight... wonder who's affair will Dorcas find herself embroiled with this time...





Friday, 7 January 2011

Miso Ginger Salmon




Miso Ginger Salmon

4 salmon fillets

the marinade:
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp miso (soybean paste)
1 tbsp ginger paste
1 tsp honey

oil, for frying





Combine ingredients for marinade.
Arrange fish in a shallow baking dish. Spoon the marinade evenly over fish.
Cover and marinate for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.

Heat the oil in a frying pan over a high heat and fry the salmon slices for 1minute on each side, or until just cooked through.
Remove the salmon from the pan to a serving plate.











Thursday, 6 January 2011

Peas and Cheese Sandwich



A request from Elsa.

Just behind our apartment in Florence was this amazing cantina that served the most amazing selections of italian breads, cakes and coffee.
The staff was extremely friendly and we were almost always sure of a place to sit whenever we decided to drop by, which was, by the way, almost every other day.

Their freshly baked foccaccia with peas and robiola was undoubtedly our favourite. I'd be lucky if I'm able to find robiola anywhere outside Italy but I was told that camembert or brie would do the job as well.

Since I'm still without my kitchen paraphernalia, I have to make do with whatever utensils provided in the apartment; thus making it quite difficult to make anything from scratch.... but I do have a cunning plan!

So there you go, Elsa... hope you like it!






Peas and Cheese Sandwich

250g frozen peas (petits pois)
2 ready-roll pizza base
your choice of either brie or camembert
1/2 tsp garlic, finely minced
spring onion, chopped finely
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 250C.
Defrost peas to room temperature.
In a saute pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes until lightly browned.
Add the peas and spring onion, season, and continue to cook for about 2 minutes.
Transfer to a large bowl and combine with cheese.

Grease a baking pan.
Place the dough onto the baking pan.
Spoon the filling onto the dough and brush the outer edge with egg wash to help form a seal.
Place the second dough over to enclose the filling.
Press the edges with your fingers to close tightly and prevent leaking.
Cut a few slashes in the top to allow steam to escape during baking.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown.
Let it rest 10 minutes before cutting to allow the cheese to set.

















Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Simply Chicken Rice






I have a hankering for good old Chicken Rice, the luscious mouth-watering Hainanese kind.
But I wanted it fast. I don't really have the time nor the utensil to prepare everything from scratch, though it would have been ideal.
So, I had to improvise. Improvising is good.... my brain works best when I try to look for ways to cut-corners or cheat.
I guess this will do...



Simply Chicken Rice

For the rice:
2 cups rice (I used Basmathi)
3 cups good quality chicken stock
1 small knob fresh ginger

For the chicken:
2 pcs chicken breast, scored
1tbsp minced ginger
2 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp light soy sauce
2 tsp oyster sauce
1 tsp honey
salt and black pepper
1 tsp sesame oil

Marinade the chicken with rest of the ingredients for at least 30 minutes.
Bake in a 200C oven for about 35 - 40 minutes


Wash and drain rice.
In a pot, add in the chicken stock, rice and ginger. You may add salt, if necessary.
Bring to the boil, and reduce the heat to low.
Cover the pot, and let it cooked for about 30 minutes.






 







Elsa's cute lil' cousins; Tia, Seha and Riha.



Tuesday, 4 January 2011

French Toast








Woke up this morning thinking that it was unusually dark today, not realising that there was a partial solar eclipse at sunrise. The thick cloud covering didn't help lift the mood either and made everything dull and grey.

So, Elsa and I decided that a late breakfast of French toasts with lashings of sickly sweet maple syrup will do the trick to our already grumbling tummies!




French Toast

4 eggs
2/3 cup milk
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
8 thick slices of bread
Butter
salt
Maple syrup

Beat eggs, milk, salt and cinnamon together in a shallow dish.
Dip each slice of bread into the egg mixture, allowing bread to soak up some of the mixture. Melt some butter over a skillet on medium high heat. Add slices of bread and fry until brown on both sides.
Serve hot with maple syrup.