Saturday, 29 November 2008

James Bond Returns - Quantum of Caramel



Firstly, I'm sorry I had to miss last month's Pizza Toss but October was just to busy for me.

Secondly, This post is extra special because not only am I a November Baby, but TODAY is my actual Birthday. So HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Me!!

Now on to the Bond Story.....but not without the required warning:



PG
The following story is Rated PG - Parental Guidance is Suggested.
Some material may not be suitable for Children, Prudes or Fuddy-Duddies.
[With Apologies to Ian Fleming - once again!]




“This just came in M.” The handsome young man, (playing a bit part that required no name) handed a document over to the head of MI6.

M took a look at the document and frowned. Pressing a button on the red telephone she barked into the phone. “Moneypenny, get me Bond. Yes! Double O Seven - On the double.” She smiled to herself at her little play on words. Its no wonder she was the head of MI6.




Bond quickly grabbed his beeping wrist watch as he glanced quickly at the lovely woman lying naked beside him. Good, she was still asleep. He pressed a few buttons on his watch to decode his secret message.

007 summoned by M - OTD

Bond sighed and started to get dressed. OTD meant On The Double which meant that he couldn’t have his way with the woman again. At least he was thankful that in all his years with MI6, he had never had to leave a naked woman in bed that was still awake. Dead maybe, but never awake. Quietly he snuck out the door, regretting for a brief moment his dedication to the job. Not to mention to Queen and country.

** *** **

“About bloody time Bond!” M said as she gave Bond a cursory glance. “We’ve been issued a challenge. The other agencies seem to want to pit their best against ours. Sad to say that You… seem to be our best.”

“But of course M, however, I’m not quite sure I follow you.”

“It’s quite simple really Bond. The Mossad and KGB have issued a challenge that the CIA have taken up. Matter of fact, the Americans have thrown in their FBI and Secret Service into the fray as well. More chances of them winning you see.” M explained.

“Yes, I see. Everyone wants to win. I saw a movie recently where there was this song, something from Abba – The winner takes it all – I think it was.”

“Mamma Mia, Bond.” M replied

“What’s wrong with your mother M?”

“The name of the movie Bond! Mamma Mia! That’s the name of the movie, but stop digressing. You seem to have an awful habit of doing that off late!” M rolled her eyes upward.

“Ah yes. Sorry. So please. Tell me more about this challenge.”

“It’s all here in this dossier Bond. Read it well. Suffice to say that it involves baking a cake. You just need to make the cake and ice it successfully. It seems to be a rather complicated recipe and one that is prone to failure. Apparently the KGB, the Mossad and all those American agencies have got some very talented, not to mention gorgeous, women to do the baking and you are up against them. The pride of Britain and of HRH the Queen is at stake here.” M said.

“Hmmm.” Bond exhaled deeply while rubbing his chin. “Baking eh? Competing with gorgeous women eh? This just might be fun.”

“Well just make sure you don’t fail. And keep your fingers to yourself Bond, as well as your other appendages. We all know your reputation. Now go and get this done. Dismissed.”

Bond left the office and boarded the subway. With the economy the way it was, his Aston Martin had been taken back. He read and re-read the recipe on his way home. It seemed fairly straightforward although the notes said that this was quite a difficult cake to make. There was something in the notes that said getting this cake to bake is about balancing fat with acid and protein JUST RIGHT.

Well, Bond had a degree in Engineering so he Should know something about incorporating his technical knowledge into baking a cake. Bond decided that he would jump straight into it. Well, tomorrow morning anyway.

** **** **

Since Bond decided he worked best in the early hours of the morning, he woke early and checked his recipe once again. He decided he would start on the caramel first simply because the caramel needed to be cooled and also due to the fact that there were no eggs in the house…

Bond heated the sugar and water carefully, cooking it till it became a lovely dark amber. He smiled to himself as he thought of Amber, the lovely Australian girl. He then poured in the cup of water, quickly stepping back as he gleefully watched it sputter and spatter while making loud gurgling noises. The spluttering and splattering reminded him of the Russian Submarine he had blown up during the days of the Cold War while the gurgling reminded him of that lovely Russian scientist … ah, such fond memories.


James Bond whisked the mixture over medium heat till it thickened slightly. As he left it to cool, the Lovely Woman he had spent the night with came down the stairs. Bond gave her a quick once over. She looked so much better in lingerie but he had to admit she still looked stunning in just a pair of shorts and a t-shirt.

“I need some eggs.” Bond said matter of factly as he eyed her bosom under the tight t-shirt.
“Well, why don’t you come to the market with me?” she said with a slight pout of her lips. “After all, we do need some groceries and I am staying over for a few days.”

Bond followed the lithesome woman out the door, appreciating the swell of her buttocks and the sensual sway of her hips. He winced at how times had changed though. He much preferred the days of old where women would do the marketing and the cleaning and well, just everything. Now there was even a Female head of MI6 and he – James Bond, Agent 007, the finest Britain had to offer – was forced to take part in a challenge. A Baking Challenge at that. To add insult to injury, he had to go to the market as well. How Shocking!

In hindsight though, it was a good thing that Bond went along to the market too. He had forgotten that he was out of Vanilla Extract as well. On their return from the market, James was ready to begin making the cake. He decided that since getting the proper amount of air into the batter seemed to be critical, he would use his trusted Hand Mixer instead of the hi-tech Kenwood mixer. There was somehow so much more control with a hand mixer. The batter whipped up beautifully and Bond used his spatula to give the batter a few folds. He poured it into the prepared tin and left it to bake – noting that he would need to turn the pan after a while. The cake rose very well and Bond felt a surge of pride as he took the cake out of the oven to allow it to cool.



“There’s a reason I’m the best of Britain.” He thought to himself rather smugly as he did his oft repeated trick of posing with his pretend gun formed out of his thumb and forefinger.

While wating for the cake to cool. Bond made the icing or, as he noted, ‘frosting’ as the Americans called it. First thing to do was to ‘brown the butter’. That sounded rather racist to Bond. Even his travels to far and exotic places and his many encounters with women of - how should he put it - various degrees of tan, he had never seen brown butter. He smiled and almost laughed aloud as he suddenly remembered this one lovely woman he had met at an embassy function. She was an operative from Kenya with the Codename ‘Butter’. Now that would give Brown Butter a whole new meaning…

“Concentrate Bond.” He reminded himself as he watched the butter bubbling in the pan. He quickly took it off the fire and strained it into a bowl to stop the cooking process. Indeed, the butter had turned a lovely brown and had a wonderful nutty fragrance. The fragrance surprisingly reminded him of Butter – the lovely operative from Kenya.

While waiting for the butter to cool, Bond sifted out the icing sugar, noting once again that the American’s called it Confectionary Sugar. “Why oh why did Britain ever give up America”, he thought to himself rather sadly. “The whole world would be so much simpler. Everyone would use Icing sugar to make Icing rather than some parts of the world using Confectionary Sugar to make Frosting.”

Bond suddenly realised that M was right. He did have a habit of digressing. Must be his old age. Getting back to the icing, he poured the butter into a mixing bowl and then added the icing sugar a little at a time till the mixture was really chunky. Then he added some caramel, more sugar and then more caramel together with a dash of cream till all the sugar was used up.

He tasted the icing and although it was delicious, is was rather sweet. A tad too sweet for Bond’s liking. “Perhaps it will taste better once it’s combined with the cake,” he thought to himself.

Bond proceeded to ice the cake and for a brief moment he considered decorating it. Actually he had planned to use sliced canned pears to decorate the cake but since he found the icing too sweet, he decided against it. He was tempted to taste the cake but decided it would be prudent to take it back to M and let her have first pickings.




** **** **

“Remarkable cake Bond. You;’ve done well.” Said M. “It would have been better if you had decorated it somewhat but never mind. Lets see how it looks inside. We’ll let our official tasters cut the cake and taste it. We’ll try it too.”



The Officials cut the cake and proceeded to test it. M took a slice too as did Moneypenny and Q.



“Its rather sweet Bond.” M remarked

“I”d have to agree M. In my defence, I followed the recipe, just as I was supposed to.” Bond replied, stuffing his face with cake

“Let me have a look Bond. There, you see? There’s a variable for how much caramel you need to put into the icing. Pay attention Bond, after all, its simply a matter of the Quantum of Caramel…..”




I hope you enjoyed my little Bond story - the second time Bond has appeared in the Daring Bakers. This month, the challenge was hosted by my good friend Dolores from Culinary Curiosity ably assisted by her co-hosts
Alex (Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo ) and
Jenny of Foray into Food
As usual, for alternative baking help, Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go provided support.

The recipe is an original from Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater with her signature caramel cake.




Like Bond and M, we all found the cake a tad too sweet. I took some in to work as well and my colleagues also said that although delicious, it was certainly on the sweet side. Nonetheless, it was an amazing cake as the texture was just lovely. I think if I make it again, I will not ice it or maybe try an icing that is less sweet.



Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Explanation for the silence...

It's been a week since my last post and I've been meaning to get some writing done but just haven't had the time. I DO have a good excuse though. We've had an old friend staying with us this past week and that simply meant I had more important things to do!

I'm trying to catch up on my writing and realise I have a whole bunch of stuff that I never got round to posting - so I need to regroup and reorganise my pictures and posts. So please bear with me.

I've also been working on my Daring Baker's post where Bond makes a return once again! So look out for that this Saturday!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

More Birthday pics and Sausage Rolls


As I said in my previous post, my son turned 7 on the 15th. I posted about his cake before the rest of the family came over and before he cut the cake. The Lovely Wife made Sausage Rolls as well as some Fried Noodles but we'll save the noodles for another post. This post will focus on the Sausage Rolls as well as pictures of the 'Cake Cutting Ceremony'.
We normally dont have the time to take a nice family picture with the cake but this time we made sure we did.


Sometimes, you overlook the minor details and this is what happened. I forgot to check for birthday candles but fortunately there was one left so Michael had to make do with one candle rather than the seven that should hve been on the cake!



I had expected him to want to cut right through the 'faces' of the Transformers but he surprised me by cutting his cake on one corner instead. He did make many cuts though...!


Now on to the sausage rolls. To say they were a hit would be a slight understatement. Everyone loved them, most of all my little princess!

The rolls are based on the recipe from Taste.com.au with very minor changes. The Lovely Wife increased the breadcrumbs a little and used pork sausages only. She also precooked the sausages before hand just to make sure the meat would be properly cooked. This is the recipe as stated in Taste.com.au:

Ingredients
1/2 cup fresh white breadcrumbs
80ml (1/3 cup) milk
500g pork and veal or chicken and herb sausages
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 egg, plus 1 egg extra, lightly beaten
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, just thawed
Sesame seeds, to sprinkle
Tomato sauce (ketchup), to serve

Method
Combine breadcrumbs and milk in a bowl and set aside until milk is absorbed. Remove casings from sausages and place in a food processor with crumbs, onion and egg. Process until well combined, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to chill.
Place a sheet of pastry on a lightly floured surface and cut horizontally into two. Spoon a quarter of the mixture along the centre of each piece of pastry. Fold over a long side of pastry, brush with egg, then fold other side over to enclose, slightly overlapping in the centre, and make a long sausage shape. Repeat with remaining pastry and filling to make 4 rolls.
Place rolls, seam side down, on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Cover and refrigerate for 1/2 hour until firm.
Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a large baking sheet with non-stick baking paper. Carefully diagonally cut each roll into seven. Brush with remaining egg and place on baking sheet. Use a sharp knife to make 2 small slits on top of each roll (to prevent rolls from splitting) and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden and puffed. Serve warm with the tomato sauce.



This is definitely something we would make again. Very simple to do and yet somthing that seemed to impress everyone. No one expected these lovely rolls to be homemade - and that made The Lovely wife extremely happy!!

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Seven Years Old Today!




Today is my son Michael's Seventh Birthday. How time flies. This year, we decided to keep thing simple and are not overdoing things like we usually do - we're not even inviting anyone although his grandparents and cousins will probably drop by later this evening. Making cake is a must though and this year he asked for a chocolate cake. He wanted a Transformers theme and initially I thought I'd do a design of one of the Transformers. However, since the icing for the cake would be chocolate as well, I thought that it may ruin the taste by using butter icing on top of the chocolate icing.

I then hit upon the idea of using the Transformer logo's for the design but rather than icing the design on, I would make my own stencil and then use dusting powder over the stencil to create the pattern.

I made the cake yesterday and since I am so used to my chocolate cake, the cake itself was a breeze. Decorating it is always the challenge and this is what I did.


First was to source for the logos from the internet. I then sized them both to the equal sizes and then printed it out. Fastening the paper to a piece of thick cardboard, I used a pen knife to cut out the pattern.

This took a lot longer and was a bit more cumbersome than I expected. I should have prepared the stencil ahead of time but as usual, I always think I am too clever for my own good!

The stencil was then placed on top of the cake and dusted with yellow dusting powder for the Decepticon logo and Blue for the Autobot. Some of the icing stuck on to the stencil and I had to touch it up. I had planned to make the icing thicker than normal but I thought it would firm up enough as it was - another case of thinking I'm too clever... Will I ever learn??!! :)
Nonetheless, I think the cake turned out pretty well.

My little princess, Sarah, had her paedetrician's appointment yesterday morning for her checkup. Michael had started a fever the night before that and so we decided that both of them should go and see the doctor. He said that Sarah was fine and that we should watch Michael. He prescribed some antibiotics for him but said to watch the fever for three days before starting on the antibiotics. Fortunately the fever is not as high as Sarah's was so we will just have to monitor the situation.


Michael slept with The Lovely Wife last night while I was relegated to his room! See, Fathers make sacrifices too!! :)
This morning we all wished him Happy Birthday in Mummy's room rather than in his own room like we usually do. We even hid his present under Mummy's bed! (I've always wondered why its Mummy's room and Mummy's bed and not Daddy's... or even Mummy and Daddy. Oh well.)

Happy Birthday Michael!!


Thursday, 13 November 2008

When a Child is Sick...

In my latest contribution over at The Daily Tiffin, I talk about a very recent experience of my daughter being in hospital. It was certainly not a fun time either especially when she was down with a bacterial infection called Myco Plasma. What's that? I didn't know either...

Read the full article over at the Daily Tiffin

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Sarah's BBQ - Homemade Satay and Kuah Kacang (Peanut Sauce also known as Satay Sauce)



Continuing on with the story of Sarah's BBQ...
She wanted Satay and so The Lovely Wife and I decided that we would try and make our own. We've never made satay before but we thought this would be as good a time as any to try.

The recipe is based on a mixture of various recipes to 'create' our own. This is what we did although in hindsight, we should have halved the ingredients!!

Satay
3 kg chicken breast - diced
2 stalks lemongrass - bruised and pounded
1 inch ginger - ground
4 cloves garlic - ground
3 tbsp honey
3 tbsp oil
3 Tbsp light soy sauce
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp turmeric
Black pepper
Salt
Bamboo skewers


Method
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours. Meanwhile soak bamboo skewers in water for at least an hour. This prevents the sticks from burning once on the fire. Thread the marinated chicken on to the skewers. Grill/cook the meat on the barbecue basting it with a little oil as you do so.

Not so difficult really but a little time consuming. We got the kids involved in threading the meat on the skewers but since I was so busy with everything, I didnt get any pics. I also reckon that we should have barbecued the meat a little bit more as although it was nicely cooked, it didnt have that little bit of charred meat that makes satay all the more delicious.



Satay is also never complete without Ketupat. Fortunately, you can get the 'instant' variety where the rice comes pre-packed in heat resistant plastic bags. You just need to boil it and then let it cool before cutting it up.




As for the Kuah Kacang, my wife based it on a recipe from Amy Beh, one of Malaysia's well known chefs. Again in retrospect, we should reduce the chillies as although it was delicious, it was also very, very spicy!

This is how it goes:

Kuah Kacang

Spices:
15-16 dried chillies
2 fresh red chillies
12 small onions
2 cloves garlic
4 candlenuts (buak keras)
1 stalk lemon grass
1 tsp fennel powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tbsp ground coriander
2 slices galangal
6-7 black peppercorns


200g roasted peanuts, coarsely ground.
1 grated coconut, squeezed for 250ml thick coconut milk
1 tbsp tamarind paste, mixed with 100ml water and squeezed for tamarind juice.
1 ½ - 2 tbsp sugar or to taste
1 tsp salt or to taste
5 - 6 tbsp oil

Method
Grind together all the spices to make a paste. Heat oil in a wok and fry ground spices for 2-3 minutes. Add 1-2 tablespoons coconut milk and simmer until oil rises and is fragrant. Pour in a little water and tamarind juice. Continue to simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Add the ground peanuts and remaining coconut milk. Simmer for 2-3 minutes over low heat. Add sugar and salt to taste. Bring to a boil for 3- 4 minutes.


Indeed a most succesful Satay, Kuah Kacang and Ketupat endeavour! My son loves his Ketupat and Kuah Kacang and he was certainly very happy with this! I have to admit the Satay and Kuah Kacaing is not as good as the ones you get at the local food stalls but for a home made effort, I have to say it was pretty darned super!

Monday, 10 November 2008

Snow Peas and Mushrooms



Taking a break from the Sarah's BBQ series, I thought I'd post a quick and tasty dish that I made some time ago. The Lovely Wife loves snow peas and you also know how much we love mushrooms. So I reckoned that it would be a good idea to combine the two and make this dish.



It's really so simple that a recipe isnt really required. This is what I did anyway:

5 cloves garlic
200g snow peas
200g swiss brown mushrooms
2 red chillis
1 tbsp Oyster sauce - or more to taste

Chop garlic and sautee lightly. Add in brown mushrooms and cook till tender. Thrown in the snow peas and add in some oyster sauce to taste. Finally stir in the red chillies and season with a little salt if needed.




How simple can that be? It's a great dish to throw together quickly and with a minimum of fuss. Best thing is, it tastes delicious!

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Sarah's BBQ Part Two - Mashed Potatoes


Mashed Potatoes to me are a MUST at any Barbecue. The Lovely Wife wanted to make a Potato Salad but I insisted on Mash simply because my little princess wanted Mashed Potatoes, so how could I refuse?
This was a little last minute as I had forgotten about the potatoes as I was busy with starting the BBQ and all sorts of other tasks. But I guess that's the beauty of Mashed Potatoes. As long as you have already boiled the potatoes, the rest is dead easy!

I dont think a recipe is required for mashed potatoes, but this is what I did:

8 potatoes - peeled, cut into quarters and boiled till soft
Generous Glob of Mayonnaise
Glob of soft Butter
Dash of Salt and Pepper
Spash of milk
Spring Onions for garnish

See? Nothing easier. Just mash all the ingredients together, tasting every now and again and you have a lovely creamy dish of mashed potatoes. Dress it up a little with some chopped Spring Onions for a 'wow' factor!




My little princess enjoyed the mash and that was all it needed to vindicate me from the Potato Salad that the Lovely Wife kept insisting would be much better. Sometimes, not often, but sometimes, Daddy really Does know best!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Chilli con Carne and more Lavash



You know, I've always thought it strange that Chilli is a meat dish coz over here, when we say chilli, we mean the hot, spicy, burn your mouth off chilli pepper that is actually the fruit of plants from the genus capsicum. I did study Agricultural Science in secondary school so I do know what I'm talking about. (couldn't resist showing off... sorry!).

Anyway, back to Chilli con Carne. Apparently, the name comes from the Spanish Chile con Carne which means Peppers with Meat. If I was naming it, I'd have named it Meat with Peppers coz there's more meat in it than peppers right? Right?? RIGHT????

Anyway, I've always loved this dish. Heck, anything with minced beef in it has got to be good, especially when you add in tomatoes, beans and a little bit of spice! I made two measures of Lavash to go with this Chilli while the Chilli itself was made by The Lovely Wife. After my Bond story, I think she had the urge to play Tiffany Case, to my Bond...


We've both wanted to make Chilli con Carne for the longest time but she beat me to it. Her Chilli is based on the recipe from the Usbourne Little Children's Cookbook - one that we bought the kids to use but it looks like the parents are using it too!! She also had a look at a Chilli Recipe used by Chef Wan as well. This is what she did:

1 Onion
2 gloves garlic
500g minced beef
3 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 can red kidney beans - strained
1 can stewed tomaotes
2 fresh tomatoes - chopped
t Tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp brown sugar
Oregano
Basil
Black Pepper
Salt

Method
Dice onions and garlic and fry gently until tender. Add in the beef and cook until nicely browned. Stir in the chilli powder, curry powder and cumin and then add the strained kidney beans. Add in the tomatoes, sugar and herbs and black pepper and mix well. Allow to simmer until thick, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.



The Chilli was really tasty and it went really, really well with the Lavash as an appetiser. We also served it with some corn chips. But I suppose the burninq question is, How did Bond like it??

Bond wiped the sides of his lips with the napkin. Gazing deeply into Tiffany's eyes, he let his gaze fall to her bosom and then down to her long legs. He let out a deep sigh before he stood up.

"Well, I hate to eat and run Tiffany, but duty calls you know." said Bond...



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