Friday, August 21, 2009

See ya soon!

As you can tell by now, I am absent for a long time, and then suddenly bombard you with a whole load of posts. I don't like this situation AT ALL. But 'what to do', 'mei ban fa', 'cest la vie', 'macam mana'? For the time being, I will have to live with writing on a separate document and then updating this blog when the situation permits. And you will have to live with marathon reading! Kinda like being on a hunger strike and then finding a seat at the world's longest buffet huh? I feel that way.

I have been in Penang (hence the uploading), but it's time to bid adieu. I enter the blogging void again. Well, maybe the situation might change and I can blog in a timely fashion again. Who knows!

And as I leave the comfort of mom's and brace for the teary plane ride home, I take comfort thinking of the tea-time laughs with the girls, and the welcoming arms of my Kenwood.

Monday, August 10, 2009

German Party Bread - PartyBrot

Delicious, dense and moist bread.

Bread dough before the second proof

Hot and humid weather calls for bread making. I've had this recipe for a while from Flagrantedelicia and have been wanting to try it for a while. We were rained in for the entire day, and with time on my hands, I decided that this was the day to try this out. Besides, the boys could help me roll the dough into balls.

I followed the recipe exactly, with the exception of using bread flour instead of plain flour and using the mixer (as opposed to rolling out by hand). I glazed with milk and water instead of egg. This is by far the best bread that has ever resulted. Soft yet dense and filling, with an appearance that I was very proud of. No wonder it's called a Party Bread. Will definitely be on my 'what to bring for potlucks' list. It uses little yeast, with a long proofing time, which chef/restaurateur once told me, is the 'little secret' behind a bread with good texture.

Bread flour 560g

Salt 2 tsp

Milk 250ml

Dry yeast 2 1/2 tsp

Sugar 2 tbsp

Butter 60g

Eggs 2

Milk for glazing

Poppy seeds

Sprinkle yeast into 100ml of the milk in a small bowl. Set aside for 5 minutes then stir to dissolve.

Warm the remaining milk in a pot along with the sugar and butter. Stir constantly until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Set aside to cool. Stir in the beaten egg a little at a time.

In the bowl of a mixer, mix the flour and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in both the yeast mixture and the milk/egg mixture. Mix on low till combined then continue to mix on medium till the dough is smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Leave in an oiled bowl, covered with a clean tea towel, place in a warm place for 1 – 1 ½ hours till double in bulk. Punch down, and leave for 10 minutes, then roll into 19 equal sized balls. Place in a greased 9” (24cm) loose-bottom pan. Place 12 rolls along the perimeter of the pan, followed by 6 rolls inside, and finally 1 roll in the middle. Cover with a towel and leave to rise for 45 minutes – 1 hour. Glaze with milk and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake in preheated 200C oven for 30 minutes till golden brown. If the rolls are browning too quickly (as mine did – my oven is small), cover with a sheet of aluminium foil.

I would suggest using the loose bottom pan if you have it. It's easier to slide the rolls out this way.

Char Bee Hoon - the secret is in the 'char'

Fried rice vermicelli with a whole load o' ingredients

Char Bee Hoon – fried rice vermicelli, is a popular Malaysian/Singaporean dish. There's even a dish called Singapore Char Bee Hoon, a recipe obviously perfected by the Singaporean. My version of char bee hoon came from a relative, an 'aunty' who had years of char bee hoon experience. While I don't remember asking her the specific steps, I remember her making a gravy of soya sauce and other seasoning, in which the meats and vegetables quickly cooked and she dumped in the soaked bee hoon. This allows the bee hoon to soak up all the lovely gravy. It's worked well so far and the trick lay in the amount of gravy. Too much water and you'd end up with soggy bee hoon.

I was at YP's house today (kids playdate) and she shared with me her method of frying bee hoon. She fried the ingredients separately and then lastly fried the bee hoon with some basic seasoning. Return the ingredients to the bee hoon and fry to your preferred dryness. And being the kind person that she is, I left with a bagful of bee hoon and some vegetables, eager to try this method for dinner tonight.

Here's my take on the char bee hoon recipe. Note that I've not made any measurements as I eyeballed it. No worries, you just add the amount that you like, within reason, of course.

Bee Hoon
Chicken, pork or beef, sliced
Carrots or cabbage, sliced thinly
Dried Shitake mushrooms 3-4 pcs soaked and sliced
Egg 1
Garlic 1 clove
Ginger 2cm, sliced thinly

Bring a pot of water to the boil. Turn off heat and soak the bee hoon for 3-5 minutes. Drain and set aside. Cook the egg omelet style, slice or chop and set aside.

Season the meat with soya sauce, salt, pepper and sesame oil. Heat oil in a wok and fry the meat till done. Set aside. Add a little more oil to the wok and fry the vegetables and mushrooms. Season to taste and set aside. Add a little more oil to the wok and give the garlic and ginger a quick fry. Add the soaked bee hoon. Toss till coated with the oil. Season with soya sauce, salt, pepper and sesame oil. (A little oyster sauce would also be nice). Add the chicken, fried vegetables and egg. Toss till all mixed through.

Phantom Car

Can you guess what this is made from?

I had a few ladle-fulls of Konnyaku jelly the other day and just poured it into a Vintage Car mould I had. I lack a good camera and lighting equipment and this was the best I could do. In the hands of a professional, this would, without a doubt, be an awesome picture.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Walnut Pesto

Delicious homemade pesto - easier than you think

The basil plant is overflowing. By the end of the summer, I won't be surprised if I can climb up that stalk into the realm of the Goose that lays the golden eggs. Maria advised me to pick the larger leaves for cooking, and they were so ready to be picked. The bugs love them too, so before one bug clues his other buggy friends in on the Shangri-La that is growing on the balcony, I'd better harvest them gorgeous leaves. I would not insult the leaves by freezing them. Besides, 'fresh' is what I'm looking for. The answer – pesto.

I wanted to try the recipe from Sugar & Everything Nice, but I've not been able to access any blogspot sites. So I searched and came across one by Delia Smith. I used to watch her programmes years and years ago, and is a personality I had not seen for a long time. I replaced the pine nuts with walnuts (which I happen to have). I will have to add more nuts next time as the flavour of the walnuts didn't come through. (The recipe below indicates the amount of nuts I intend to use next time. Try it out and add or reduce the amount as you wish).You really need a lot of leaves for a small amount of ready pesto. But the end result is worth it.

Pesto (adapted from Delia Smith)
Fresh basil leaves 50g
Walnuts 40g
Garlic 1 large pip
Olive oil 8 tbsp
Salt ½ tsp
Grated Parmesan cheese 25g

Blend all ingredients together except cheese. Mix cheese in. Makes about 1 cup.

Banana Walnut Cranberry Bread for Father's Day

Nutty bread with sweet-sour cranberries. Perfect for breakfast or tea.

CS is one for 'adult' type of desserts – breads and pastry. Nothing too chocolatey or sweet. Special combinations that are away from the usual chocolate or vanilla (unless it's done really well). He loves bread and well made pastry, so I decided on this Banana Walnut Cranberry Bread for him this Father's Day. I had most of the ingredients (and half a bag of dried cranberries left over from the Cranberry Bread Pudding), and my fruit vendor was happy to get rid of some very ripe bananas. (The locals like their bananas under-ripe, which to me, has a sour and sappy taste. To each his own).

The original recipe comes from My Kitchen Snippets, and looked absolutely divine. I substituted sour cream with buttermilk. (Sour cream is not a pantry item for me). The result was a very moist bread, which I assume is the result of this substitution. Next time, if using buttermilk, I shall use small eggs instead of regular sized eggs and see if that makes a difference. I also had to bake it for 1 hour 15 minutes instead of the 45 minutes suggested. Taste? Fabulous!

Banana Walnut Cranberry Bread

Butter ¾ cup

Light brown sugar ¾ cup

Eggs 3 small

Buttermilk ½ cup (½ cup milk plus ½ tsp vinegar)

Flour 2 cups

Baking powder 1 tsp

Baking soda ½ tsp

Vanilla 1 tsp

Salt ½ tsp

Mashed bananas 1 cup

Walnuts ¾ cup chopped

Dried cranberries ¾ cup

Preheat oven to 160C. Grease a loaf pan. Set aside. Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl and set aside. Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Add one egg at a time and beat till incorporated. Add buttermilk and mix well. Add bananas and vanilla. Slowly add in the flour and mix well. Fold in the nuts and cranberries and transfer the batter into the loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes till a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Turn the bread out onto a rack to cool completely.

NB : using small eggs instead of large ones did yield a bread that was not as wet.