Thursday, 20 March 2014

Salmon, Cauliflower & Potato Bake

What do you do when you have salmon and cauliflower in your fridge that needs using up? Make a quick and easy casserole with minimal effort. The only thing that requires cooking time is the cream and that will take you no more than 5 minutes. Everything else is just slicing and cutting work. Sometimes this is what you need, no-fuss comfort food. 


200ml Cooking Cream
A knob of Butter

A piece of Salmon, sliced thinly
A small head of Cauliflower, cut into small florets
2 small Pink Potatoes, sliced thinly

Red Cheddar Cheese, grated
A handful of Breadcrumbs
Chives, chopped
Parsley, leaves only
Olive oil

To taste
About 1 teaspoon Salt
About 1 teaspoon Brown Sugar
Black Pepper, a few dashes
Nutmeg, a few dashes
Cumin, a few dashes
Paprika, a few dashes
Worcestershire Sauce, a few drops
5 cloves Garlic

Place a saucepan on low fire. Melt the Butter. Pour in Cream. Add Salt, Sugar, Black Pepper, Nutmeg, Cumin, Paprika and Worcestershire Sauce to taste. Add Garlic. Bring to a simmer. While the Cream is simmering, check seasoning and adjust if necessary. Keep checking and tasting until you are happy with it. Remove from the heat, discard Garlic and set it aside. 

In a rounded glass casserole place half the Potatoes in a layer at the bottom, top with half the Salmon and then half the Cauliflower. Sprinkle a little Chives. Make a second layer in a similar manner using up all the Potato, Salmon and Cauliflower. Pour over the prepared Cream. Finish with Chives and Parsley. 

Sprinkle over the grated Cheese, and then the Breadcrumbs. Drizzle on a little Olive Oil. Cover the top of the casserole with foil. 

Bake in the oven at 140 Celsius for about 30 minutes. Then, remove the foil and bake at 170 Celsius using only the top oven heat or grill until golden. Note: If using the Grill function of your oven, watch the casserole closely as it will get hot and burn quickly. 

When the top is golden, remove from oven and serve immediately sprinkled with more Chives.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

The best Chocolate Chip Cookie EVER

These really are the best soft Chocolate Chip Cookies ever and I have tried many, many recipes in search of the One. This is it.

You see, despite the fact that most of those cookies have never seen the light of day on my blog, I've actually made Thomas Keller's Chocolate Chip Cookies, the famous Jacques Torres cookies, the Cook's Illustrated version and many, many more over the years. 

Interestingly, I have had this recipe bookmarked for a long, long time. (Yes, I can sometimes be the world's greatest procrastinator.) Every time I feel like having a really good soft chocolate chip cookie I would click on the bookmark to Alice's site and ogle at her beautiful cookies. 

Anyway, recently I decided to get off my you-know-what and actually make some. I am glad I did. I did tweak the recipe somewhat as sometimes when you make a recipe created in a temperate climate in the tropics it doesn't always turn out well. So I went with my instincts and the result is perfection. Perfection is crispy edges, a lusciously chewy centre paired with melty chocolate and hints of coffee-toffee in every bite.

I cannot wait to try this dough with toasted Macadamias, white chocolate chips or even turn it into a Cranberry-Orange delight for a seasonal delight. Enough said. 

Adapted from Alice Currah

227g Salted Butter, softened
260g Light Brown Sugar
100g Caster Sugar
Pinch of Salt
1 Egg and 1 Egg Yolk
2 teaspoons Vanilla Essence
4 teaspoons brewed Coffee
340 - 360g Plain Flour
1 teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
2 1/4 cups Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Preheat the oven at 170 Celsius. Line 3 - 4 baking trays with baking paper. 

In a large bowl, cream Butter, both Sugars and Salt by hand with a spatula. Add in the Egg and Egg Yolk. Mix well. Add in the Vanilla Essence and Coffee. Mix well. 

Gently fold in the Flour, Bicarbonate of Soda and Baking Powder. If the dough seems sticky, add in Flour a little at a time until you get a dough that doesn't stick to the spatula you are mixing it with. Gently fold in the Chocolate Chips. 

Using a 2-teaspoon cookie scoop, scoop dough onto the prepared baking trays. Bake the cookies at 180 Celsius for about 10 - 15 minutes or until slightly brown at the edges.

Remove from the oven and let it cool on the trays before removing and storing in an airtight container. 

To keep cookies moist, place a slice of fresh bread in the container along with the cookies. Cookies are best eaten within the first two days of baking.  

Monday, 17 March 2014

Homemade Wan Tan Mee

As you know, I was extolling the virtues of a delicious Wan Tan Mee in a previous post about Homemade Char Siew. Once I had the Char Siew and Wan Tan Soup ready, it was only a matter of putting them all together into a delicious lunch of Wan Tan Mee

For 4 servings

4 pieces of fresh Wan Tan Noodles

1 teaspoon Dark Soya Sauce
1 teaspoon Light Soya Sauce
1/2 teaspoon Sesame Oil
2 teaspoons Char Siew sauce
A dash of White Pepper Powder

Kai Lan or Siew Bak Choy, blanched

Cooking the greens
Wash and cut off the ends of the Kai Lan or Bak Choy, whichever you're using. Bring a saucepan of water to boil. Add a teaspoon of Salt. Blanch the greens very quickly, remove and set aside.

Preparing the bowls
Set out 4 bowls on the kitchen counter-top near the stove. Measure out the Soya Sauces, Sesame Oil, Char Siew sauce and White Pepper into each one.

Cooking the noodles
Boil some water in a large, deep saucepan or pot. Put the Noodles in a colander or wire-basket ladle that will fit into the saucepan or pot. Ensure the water is boiling hot before you immerse the Noodles in it. Dip in and out for a few seconds and loosen the Noodles with a fork or chopsticks. Then, dip the Noodles quickly into some cold water to clear off any remaining residue of starch and then plunge into the hot water one last time before draining the water off and placing the Noodles in the prepared bowl. Using a fork or chopsticks, mix the Noodles and sauces together until well combined. Repeat the procedure until you have all the four bowls of Noodles ready.

Presenting the noodles
Divide the greens and Char Siew equally into the four bowls. Drizzle any remaining Char Siew sauce left over the Noodles in each of the bowls. Serve immediately with Wan Tan Soup on the side.

Homemade Wan Tan Soup

Homemade Char Siew (Char Siu)

I love a good Wan Tan Mee (mee means noodles in Malaysia) and usually get my fix from the local hawkers you find all over Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya. It's cheap, quick and delicious... well, most of time.

The highlight of the Wan Tan Mee for me is always, always the Char Siew. It's the star of the show. The Wan Tan, noodles, etc. are all supporting actors and actresses. As far as I'm concerned the quality of Char Siew can make or break the deal. It can turn your meal into a delicious, lip-smacking (from all that porky lusciousness) delight or an unsatisfying, stomach turning affair.

Again (thanks to procrastination), I have spent lots of time over the years looking for Char Siew recipes online, but no time at all actually trying any of the recipes out. A few weeks ago, the desire to make a good Char Siew at home became unbearable, so I did one last search on the Internet for recipes, settled on one and headed out to the supermarket to buy the pork. 

The method I chose to cook the Char Siew in is slightly more complicated than what is described on The Food Canon. If you prefer less hassle, please follow his instructions. My cooking method was chosen simply because I hadn't used the Le Creuset in weeks and wanted to give it some 'airing' time. I have not tried his method myself, however there's no reason whatsoever why I cannot make Char Siew again... and again... and again. So there'll be another time to try it out, of that I'm sure!

How did my Char Siew turn out? Really well! I loved the flavour and choosing a piece of meat marbled with fat made all the difference. They were succulent morsels of honeyed meat that went so well with my Wan Tan Mee

Auntie Ruby's Char Siew (Char Siu)
Adapted from The Food Canon

About 400 - 450g Pork Shoulder, with fat marbling
2 tablespoons Peanut Oil
Pinch of Salt
1 teaspoon Sesame Oil
1 teaspoon Dark Soya Sauce
1 teaspoon White Pepper Powder
2 tablespoons Honey
2 tablespoons Brown Sugar
2 tablespoons Oyster Sauce
1 tablespoon Shiao Hsing Wine
1 bowl Water

Cut the Pork Shoulder into thick strips. Set aside.

In a Tupperware large enough for the Pork and marinade, pour in the Oil, Salt, Sesame Oil, Dark Soya Sauce, White Pepper, Honey, Oyster Sauce and Wine. Mix thoroughly. Add in the Pork Shoulder strips, cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for about 4 hours.

When ready to cook, remove the Tupperware from the fridge and transfer everything into a cast iron pot. Add the bowl of Water, put the cover on and cook for about 45 minutes in a 140 Celsius oven.

Meanwhile, line a square baking tin with foil making sure the four ends of the foil are turned up to form a bowl of sorts.

After 45 minutes, remove the pot from the oven. With thongs, remove the Char Siew strips and place it on the prepared baking tin. Set aside.

Put the cast iron pot (with the marinade juices) on a low fire and let the marinade turn slightly syrupy. into a sauce. If you use a cast iron pot, this should take you only a matter of minutes.

Remove the pot from the stove and let cool slightly. Transfer a little of the sauce into a small bowl. With a basting brush that can withstand heat (or a spoon in my case) baste the Char Siew strips with the sauce and a little extra Honey.

Turn on the grill in your oven to about 130 Celsius and slowly grill the meat on one side with the door open. Once you see char marks and the meat looks like Char Siew, remove the tin from the oven, turn the meat over with thongs, baste with the sauce and Honey and grill till you are happy with the char marks.

Remove from the oven and immediately cover with foil. Let the meat rest and come to room temperature before slicing thinly and eating it with the reserved sauce drizzled over.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Homemade Wan Tan Soup

(makes approximately 20 parcels)
Pork, minced
Prawns, minced
Light Soya Sauce, to taste
White Pepper Powder, to taste
A little Cornflour
Wan Tan wrappers
A little Water

Wan Tan Soup
(serves 4)
1 Chicken stock cube
3 rice bowls of Water

Chives, chopped
More Water

Making the Wan Tan Parcels
Mix the Minced Pork, Minced Prawns, Light Soya Sauce, White Pepper Powder and Cornflour together in a bowl until well combined. Set aside.

Place a square Wan Tan wrapper on a clean, dry chopping board with a point facing upwards. Place a small teaspoonful of mince mixture in the middle. Wet the top edges with a little water and fold into a triangle. Press gently on the seams to ensure it is secure. Set aside. Do the same until all the mince mixture is used up.

Cooking the Wan Tan Parcels
In a saucepan, boil some water. Place Wan Tan parcels one at a time into the boiling water. Cook just until it floats to the top. Remove immediately and drain off the water. Set aside. 

Cooking the Wan Tan Soup
In a another saucepan, boil some water with the Chicken stock cube. Once the stock cube has dissolved, add in the drained Wan Tan parcels. Add some White Pepper Powder and a drizzle of Sesame Oil. Boil for a minute. Turn off the heat and sprinkle in the chopped Chives. Pour into a serving bowl and serve immediately while piping hot on its own or with Wan Tan Mee.

Vanillekipferl: Delicious Days

My interest in German baking was piqued when in Berlin last year. Even outside the Christmas season, the city is packed with bakeries on every street corner selling buttery, sugary morsels of deliciousness alongside freshly baked loaves of fragrant bread.

The Vanillekipferl is a classic German biscuit usually baked at Christmas. While it's definitely out of season now, that's no excuse for not making them! 

These goodies also have a little history behind them. The story goes that a long time ago, the Ottomans - in attempts to expand their empire - worked very hard to invade and conquer lands in Austria/Hungary. To stop them the Polish, Germans and Austro-Hungarian forces got together to drive the Turks out of their lands forever and won. To celebrate, bakers made little crescent-shaped biscuits - which mimics the crescent on the Turkish flag - to commemorate the victory.

Historical or not, these biscuits are some of the best biscuits I've ever made. It's ever-so-slightly crunchy, tender and melts in your mouth. Be warned. They're highly addictive

Adapted from Delicious Days

175g Salted Butter, softened
80g Caster Sugar
Pinch of Salt
100g Ground Almonds
200g Plain Flour
1 teaspoon Vanilla Essence
2 Egg Yolks

Some Icing Sugar mixed with a little Vanilla Powder

In a large bowl, place the Butter, Sugar, Salt, Ground Almonds and Flour. Mix through with a whisk.

Make a well in the centre. Add in the Yolks and Vanilla Essence. With a spatula, gently mix all the ingredients together until it forms a ball of dough that comes away  almost cleanly from the sides of the bowl. Divide dough into two and roll each part into a log in some baking paper. Secure the ends and place both logs in the fridge for an hour.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 120 Celsius and line the baking trays with baking paper.

Remove one log of dough from the fridge. Cut into equal slices and halve each slice. Roll each half into a short rope and use your fingers to taper the edges. Bend into a crescent and place on a baking tray. Do this until all the dough is used up. Chill the biscuits and baking tray for 15 minutes.

Place the baking tray in the oven. Increase the heat to 155 Celsius and bake for about 20 minutes. Bake one tray at a time.

While the biscuits are baking mix the Icing Sugar and Vanilla Powder in a bowl. Then get an empty container ready and line it with baking paper.

As soon as the biscuits turn a light golden in colour, remove them from the oven. Using a spatula transfer a few of them to the Icing Sugar mixture. (Be careful as the biscuits will be very fragile at this point.) Dust the biscuits in the Icing Sugar, then transfer to a container. Do this in batches while the biscuits are still hot.

Repeat with the second tray of biscuits.

Biscuits will keep for a few days in an airtight container... if they last that long!

Saturday, 8 March 2014

A romp in a Singapore garden

I've always wondered how people manage to take spectacular photos with their digital cameras. Perhaps, it's not so much about the camera as it is about what they do after?