Thursday, 15 November 2012

Creme Caramel

creme caramel
I thought it was time to make Creme Caramel which is the Western world's version of our very own leche flan. Afterall, I live in the Western world where the ingredients for it are abundant and cheap.

My effort was not particularly stellar as you can see with the various holes. The oven was probably quite hot that's why it's overcooked. Though thankfully this did not affect the overall quality of the custard. It was still smooth and silky with just the right sweetness.

The recipe I adapted is from The New Best Recipe cookbook from Cook's Illustrated.

creme caramel

Creme Caramel

1 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp light corn syrup or golden syrup
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp lemon juice (optional)

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups single cream (light cream)
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

*For the syrup:
  1. In a saucepan, combine the sugar, water, syrup, and lemon juice. Bring to a simmer without stirring on medium heat.
    While doing this, wipe the sides of the saucepan with a wet cloth or a wet brush to remove any sugar crystals that can turn the syrup grainy.
  2. Continue to cook the syrup until it turns golden (about 8 minutes). Occasionally swirl the saucepan gently for even browning.
  3. Cook for a further 4-5 minutes while swirling the saucepan gently and constantly until the syrup turns honey-caramel in colour.
  4. Remove from the heat and immediately pour and divide into ramekins or baking moulds you are using. Careful when doing this because the syrup is very hot at this point. Let the caramel cool and harden completely in the moulds.

*For the custard:
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F.
  2. Heat the milk and cream in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir from time to time and cook until steam appears (about 7 minutes). Remove from heat.
  3. Mix gently the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar in a large bowl. Add the heated milk mixture, salt, and vanilla while stirring gently. Whisk until just combined but not foamy. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve.
  4. Boil about 5 cups of water in a kettle. Put a folded tea towel to fit in the bottom of a large baking pan.
  5. Divide the custard mixture in the ramekins or moulds. Arrange the moulds on the tea towel in the baking pan making sure they do not touch.
  6. Position the pan in the middle of the oven. Pull the oven rack and the pan about less than half-way out.
    Pour the hot water in the baking pan to reach halfway up the side of the ramekins. This is called a bain-marie or water bath.
  7. Cover the entire pan loosely with aluminium foil. Bake until a skewer or small knife inserted between the centre and edge of the ramekin comes out clean. Baking time for small ramekins is about 35-40 minutes while for larger baking dish is about 70-75 minutes.
  8. Remove from the bain-marie and cool completely on a wire rack. [Optional] Cover individually with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 2 days.
  9. To unmould, run a knife all around the edge of the ramekin. Cover it with a plate and turn it upside down. Shake the ramekin gently to release the custard.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Lime & Coconut Drizzle Cake

Lime & Coconut Drizzle Cake
Again, the thought of throwing out a soon-to-be-expiring can of coconut milk brought out the daring in me. This, I believe, is the first time I have combined coconut and lime in a cake. And take my word for it - it's sublime! Gregg Wallace's recipe in the BBC Good Food magazine of January 2007 provided the source that I adapted. Things I changed: I didn't bother with the sugar sprinkle and I poked (stabbed more like it) the cake many times before pouring in the syrup icing just like the lemon drizzle version.

Lime & Coconut Drizzle Cake

100 g  butter - softened
175 g  caster sugar
2 eggs
175 g  self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
400 g  coconut milk - divided
finely grated zest of 2 limes

*For icing
half of coconut milk from the cake
150 g  caster sugar
juice of three limes

*For sugar sprinkle [optional]
50 g  caster sugar
finely grated zest of 1 lime
  1. Heat oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Butter and line a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with baking parchment.
  2. Put all the ingredients in a bowl and beat everything with an electric until batter is smooth and well combined. Add and stir in enough coconut milk (about 1/3 cup) to make the batter into droppable consistency.
  3. Pour mixture in the prepared loaf pan and bake for 40 minutes or until a skewer poked in the middle comes out clean.
  4. While the cake is baking, make the icing syrup: mix the coconut milk with 150 gm of the caster sugar in a saucepan. Boil for about 10-15 minutes, while stirring from time to time, until syrupy and you can see the bottom of the pan when stirred.
  5. Stir in the lime juice, remove from heat and set aside.
  6. If using sugar sprinkle, crush the remaining sugar with the lime zest until it becomes a damp green paste. Set aside.
  7. When the loaf has finished baking, remove from oven; [optional] poke the cake many times with a thin skewer. Pour the icing a little at a time, waiting for the cake to absorb it before adding more. Leave the cake to cool in the pan.
  8. Once completely cool, remove from pan and sprinkle with lime sugar (if using).
Note: The original recipe did not require poking the finished cake. I just did this so that the icing syrup would penetrate the cake down in the middle more. It is up to you if you want to do this.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Spaghetti Bolognese (no herbs nor wine)

My eldest and youngest love their pasta - that's a given. It's but natural that we're looking at the many variations of the sauces that we can pair with it. Their absolute favourite is the Ragu Bolognese, aka spaghetti tomato meat sauce in this side of the Western world. The three differing sauces that we regularly use with spaghetti are: Classic Ragu Bolognese, Pinoy-style sauce, and the Meatballs sauce. This one I'm posting is quite a departure from those three. Well, it's similar to the first one but quite distinct because it does not involve any herbs, garlic nor wine! Plus the stewing technique is different and the sauce is not simmered down a thick consistency. It is kept topped up and moist. I was quite intrigued so I promptly made it a few days later. Lo and behold, the resulting sauce is really really good which even the harshest critics in the family concurring that this is a gem of a sauce.

Cooking competitions for viewers occurs from time to time in the TV magazine program The One Show in the BBC. And it's there that I chanced upon this winning recipe from a guy who in turn got it from his Italian granny-in-law. Actually she didn't give it to him, he just watched her all the time she cooks it! This happened early in 2012 and I couldn't find the permalinks anymore. Good thing I emailed the recipe to myself as soon as it was published. So who ever you are (the winner and his Italian nonna-in-law) thank you very much for sharing. Your sauce is now my kids' new pasta sauce favourite.

Tweaks I made for this recipe are - increased recipe to x1.5, changed proportion of beef to pork, and increased the passata. It's mainly to use up all the ingredients as per supermarket packaging. I really don't know what to do with a left-over 150gm of passata nor with 200gm of minced beef. Well ... I could make some other dish out of it but I couldn't be bothered to be honest, I just chucked them all in the pot which I'm sure all of you harried cooks would relate to.

So if you're the type who doesn't like herbs or the after-taste of wine in their pasta sauce this one's for you.

Spaghetti Bolognese

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
500 g  minced beef
400 g  minced pork
3 good-quality pork sausages (97% pork) [about 200 gm]
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
60 g  onion - finely chopped
60 g  celery - finely chopped
60 g  carrots - finely chopped
500 g  passata (tomato sauce/puree)
2 Tbsp double-concentrated tomato puree (tomato paste)
2 cups stock
salt and pepper to taste
  1. Remove sausage from casing. Mix the beef, pork, and sausage in a bowl (best to do by hand) until well combined. Set aside.
  2. Heat a heavy saucepan or pot. Add the olive oil in low heat and saute the onion, celery, and carrots. Cook for around 5-10 minutes or until softened.
  3. Add the mixed meat and brown evenly in medium-low heat. Do not overcook until dry. It must stay moist. Break up the meat with your cooking spoon as you brown it.
  4. Once browned, pour in the passata and tomato puree. Add the stock and stir. It should be covered by liquid.
  5. Season with salt and pepper. (I usually add 1 tsp sea salt at this point).
  6. Simmer on very low heat with the cover slightly ajar for about 4-5 hours. Taste regularly and add more salt and/or pepper if needed.
  7. Check the sauce regularly and if the sauce is thickening too quickly, add a little more hot water or stock. The sauce should always cover the minced meat and not allowed to dry out.
  8. Serve with spaghetti or any pasta shapes with a topping of freshly grated Parmesan cheese (although this is traditionally eaten with tagliatelle or rigatoni).

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Blueberry Cake

It's been awhile and this summer cake is just waiting to be posted. This is a simple and tasty way of serving up your superfood blueberries. Superbly complimented by that cream cheese-sour cream combination topping for the icing. Lovely eaten with hot or cold tea. Sorry I couldn't remember where I got this recipe but I will surely do the attribution once I find my missing notes.

Blueberry Cake

175 g  butter - room temperature
175 g  caster sugar
225 g  self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
375 g  fresh blueberries

* Frosting:
200 g  cream cheese - room temperature
100 g  icing sugar - sifted
3 Tbsp sour cream

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F. Grease and line an 8-inch/20cm round cake pan.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients - flour and baking powder and set aside.
  3. Cream butter and caster sugar in a bowl.
  4. Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition.
  5. Add in the sour cream and beat until combined.
  6. Using a wooden spoon fold the dry ingredients in the batter.
  7. Then fold in the fresh blueberries.
  8. Pour in the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes or until a stick poked in the middle comes out clean.
  9. Cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes. Remove and cool completely on a rack.
  10. Spread frosting on top and sides.
*For the frosting:
  • While the cake is baking, beat the cream cheese, sour cream and icing sugar together until well combined.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Couscous Salad

I thought I have blogged this before and was quite surprised not to see it in the index of this blog. The current warm weather has prompted me to remember this keeper of a recipe as a great accompaniment to barbecued meats. It's very easy to assemble. Once you've done some of the simple preps all you do is toss it together. has the recipe that I adapted this from.

Couscous Salad

200 g  couscous
200 ml  chicken stock
1 cup diced and seeded cucumber
2 tomatoes - seeded and diced
1 yellow bell pepper - seeded and diced
2 Tbsp chopped red onion
2 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp hummus (optional)
sea salt
freshly grated black pepper

  1. Combine the chicken stock and 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a saucepan and bring to just boiling point.
  2. Immediately pour over the couscous in a heatproof bowl. Cover and let steep for 10 minutes.
  3. Fluff couscous and season with salt and pepper. Let cool completely.
  4. Combine the remaining olive oil, lemon juice and hummus in a bowl and set aside.
  5. Toss and mix all the remaining ingredients with the couscous.
  6. Add the olive oil dressing and stir well to combine.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Sweet and Sour Pork

Sweet and sour pork cantonese style would always be one of my all-time favourite Chinese dishes. What does 'cantonese' mean in this context? Well, the pork is covered in batter and then deep fried before combining or pouring over the sweet and sour sauce. Unlike some other SS concoctions where the meat is cooked all together with the sauce.

My former Chinese colleagues (when I was living in Hong Kong) looked in feigned disdain at me whenever I have this. "That's for tourists", they said. Well, I was a foreigner there, though not exactly a tourist, but at any rate I don't really care. LOL. Serve me sweet and sour pork with a soy sauce dip and freshly cooked rice and I'm a happy bunny. I definitely have an affinity with anything fried with sauce. Somehow the contrast of the crispiness versus whatever flavourful sauce mixed with it is quite delightful to me.

Now my main complaint with this dish is if I follow the recipe to a T, the resulting meat is not tender enough. I wonder what the Chinese restaurant chefs do to make theirs super tender? So to solve the problem I pre-cooked the pork until tender and briefly deep fry it only long enough for the outside to be crisp. It didn't seem to detract from the original intention of the recipe so I guess that's all right.

My well-worn Chinese Cooking For Beginners cookbook by Huang Su-Huei is the source of my updated recipe.

Sweet and Sour Pork

500 g  pork
1 egg yolk
1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp cornstarch

1/3 cup cornstarch (for dredging)

cooking oil for frying
1 small onion
1 clove garlic - finely chopped
1 cup canned pineapple chunks
1 small red or green bell pepper

1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
3 Tbsp pineapple juice - use the juice from the canned pineapple
3 Tbsp white vinegar
3 Tbsp ketchup
1 tsp sea salt

2 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp cornstarch
  1. Mix all the sauce ingredients in a bowl. Taste and if needed adjust to the right sweet-sour balance that suits you. Set aside.
  2. Dissolve the cornstarch in the water for the thickener in another container; set aside.
  3. Cut the pork meat into about 3/4-inch size pieces.
  4. Lightly tenderise the meat by pounding it with a meat mallet or with the blunt edge of a cleaver.
    Pre-cook the meat (boil or steam) until just tender.
  5. Combine the egg yolk, soy sauce, and the 1 Tbsp cornstarch. Mix well with the meat; set aside.
  6. Heat enough cooking oil in a wok for deep frying. Before frying, dredge the meat in the cornstarch.
  7. Once the oil is hot, deep fry the meat for about 3 minutes. If you pre-cooked the meat, deep fry for about 1-2 minutes only. Remove and drain.
  8. Reheat oil in wok until very hot (not smoking). Re-fry the meat for 30 seconds. Remove and drain again.
  9. Remove oil from wok and re-heat. In high heat, add 1 Tbsp oil and stir-fry the bell pepper. Add 1 Tbsp water and continue to stir-fry until all water has evaporated (about 30 seconds). Remove and drain.
  10. Re-heat wok again; add 2 Tbsp oil. Stir-fry the garlic until fragrant.
  11. Turn up the heat and add the onion and pineapple. Stir-fry for about 30 seconds.
  12. Stir in the sauce mixture and once it begins to boil add the thickener. Stir and bring to boil.
  13. Once thick, add the meat and bell pepper. Toss or stir lightly until sauce covers all of the meat. Dish up and serve.
*Note: Usually, I skip procedure no.9 by combining the stir-frying of the bell pepper with the onion (and omit the 1 Tbsp water). Then I add the pineapple after.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Butter Cut-Out Cookies

My youngest is doing her Confectioner's badge for her Girl Guides. One of the tasks is to do icings on cookies (biscuits). I took this opportunity to blog about this very simple recipe I found on the internet that I've been forgetting to post for the last 3 years!

I was trying to find a butter cookie recipe with the least amount of ingredients to make for my kids at the time. This recipe I adapted from the website was the simplest but probably the most mouth-meltingly delicious butter cookie we've ever baked. It's got a very similar taste to those buttery, crumbly French sable breton that we were able to sample from my food-blogging friend Shalimar.

Anyway, my daughter was very much hands-on in the baking and especially in the decorating. She rolled the dough ...

Did her very first cookie decorations with royal icing ...

And finally the finished products ...

Best of all, her fellow Guides loved them a lot !

Butter Cut-Out Cookies

188 g  [3/4 cup] butter - softened
95 g  [3/4 cup] icing sugar
1 egg yolk
250 g  [2 cups] all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp vanilla (optional)
  1. Beat butter and icing sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy (about 3-5 minutes).
  2. Add in egg yolk and vanilla (if using) and mix until well combined.
  3. Tip in the flour and using a spoon, mix well with the butter mixture until you can form into a ball. If the dough is too soft, wrap in cling film or plastic bag and chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes or until firm enough to be rolled.
  4. Preheat oven to 190°C/fan 170°C/375°F degrees.
  5. Roll on a floured surface (or in between baking paper and cling film) to a even thickness of about 1/8 inch.
  6. Cut out or roll into shapes, arrange in a baking tray and bake for 10 minutes.
  7. Let cool in the baking tray for about 5 minutes then move onto racks to cool completely.
  8. If desired, decorate with icing, coloured sugars, or sprinkles.