Thursday, 29 January 2009

A lesson in French Tiles - Daring Bakers



It's Daring Bakers time again! First Daring Baker's challenge for 2009. I actually contemplated sitting this one out because time is just getting harder and harder to come by. Thankfully though, I squeezed it in Just Under The Wire!! Yes, I made these on the 27th morning (Thanks to the Chinese New Year holidays) and with the posting date on the 29th, I really made these at the last minute!

This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.


So what is a Tuile? It comes from the French and means a 'tile'. It's basically a light, dry cookie and the name is the reference to the classic tuile which is shaped around a dowel to look like a curved tile. For those of you keen to know how to pronounce these little things, apparently they are pronounced "Tweel". But I'm not French and I dont speak it either, so don't take my word for it.

These were a lot of fun to make and not terribly difficult. What I really liked about this challenge was that if not for the fact that it was a DB challenge, I would never have attempted to make these. I suppose that sums up a lot of the DB challenges - it makes us attempt things that we would normally never do!

The hardest bit about the Tuiles was spreading them thinly enough. I didn't use stencils and just simply spread the batter as thinly as I could and then rolled them up into cigar shapes.




I did try and make a butterfly by piping out some batter and then spreading it out thinly but I guess the butterfly didn't quite look as it should have. My daughter was pleased with it though and thought it was wonderful!



I paired this with Strawberries and Cream and the kids were very, very excited when I brought the dessert out and asked them to pose with it.



To say it was a hit with the children would be an understatement. They thoroughly enjoyed it and my son wanted to know what those "nice, rolled, up crunchy things" were called. Good thing I had checked on the pronunciation eh! They attacked it like there was no tomorrow...



... and then promptly proceeded to devour the entire dish! This was after lunch and here I was thinking that it could last for dessert after dinner. WRONG!



This was an extremely satisfying challenge as not only did I get to do something new but it was something that the children absolutely adored and to me, that's a winning challenge! So thankyou so very much Karen and Zorra!

Watch out for next months challenge which is being hosted by my lovely friend, Wendy and I am privileged to be Co-Hosting with here! Stay Tuned for February!!






Following is the recipe taken from a book called “The Chocolate Book”, written by female Dutch Master chef Angélique Schmeinck.

Recipe:
Yields: 20 small butterflies/6 large (butterflies are just an example)
Preparation time batter 10 minutes, waiting time 30 minutes, baking time: 5-10 minutes per batch

65 grams / ¼ cup / 2.3 ounces softened butter (not melted but soft)
60 grams / ½ cup / 2.1 ounces sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 sachet vanilla sugar (7 grams or substitute with a dash of vanilla extract)
2 large egg whites (slightly whisked with a fork)
65 grams / 1/2 cup / 2.3 ounces sifted all purpose flour
1 table spoon cocoa powder/or food coloring of choice
Butter/spray to grease baking sheet

Oven: 180C / 350F

Using a hand whisk or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle (low speed) and cream butter, sugar and vanilla to a paste. Keep stirring while you gradually add the egg whites. Continue to add the flour in small batches and stir to achieve a homogeneous and smooth batter/paste. Be careful to not overmix.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. (This batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week, take it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with either butter/spray and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. This will help spread the batter more easily if using a stencil/cardboard template such as the butterfly. Press the stencil on the bakingsheet and use an off sided spatula to spread batter. Leave some room in between your shapes. Mix a small part of the batter with the cocoa and a few drops of warm water until evenly colored. Use this colored batter in a paper piping bag and proceed to pipe decorations on the wings and body of the butterfly.

Bake butterflies in a preheated oven (180C/350F) for about 5-10 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Immediately release from bakingsheet and proceed to shape/bend the cookies in the desired shape. These cookies have to be shaped when still warm, you might want to bake a small amount at a time or maybe put them in the oven to warm them up again. (Haven’t tried that). Or: place a bakingsheet toward the front of the warm oven, leaving the door half open. The warmth will keep the cookies malleable.

If you don’t want to do stencil shapes, you might want to transfer the batter into a piping bag fitted with a small plain tip. Pipe the desired shapes and bake. Shape immediately after baking using for instance a rolling pin, a broom handle, cups, cones….


Monday, 26 January 2009

Fusion Vol-au-Vents - Royal Foodie Joust

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It's been a while since I took part in the Royal Foodie Joust with my last entry being in October 2008. I'm back though for the February Joust where the ingredients are rather simple with
Mushrooms
Cauliflower and
Noodles

My initial thought was to make a noodle dish or pasta dish. Then I thought this would be what most everyone would do so I left that idea on the back burner. We had some friends over for dinner on Chinese New Year Eve and while thinking of the menu, I hit upon the idea of Fusion Vol-au-Vents!

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I used fish, cauliflower, oyster mushrooms, button mushrooms, spinach and cream for the filling and then topped it off with thin rice noodles (or mee suah) tosssed in a little olive oil.

This is what I did.

Ingredients:
1 pack ready rolled Puff Pastry
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp oregano
1 fillet of Dory (about 200g)
1 bunch of spinach
200g button Mushrooms
200g oyster mushrooms
1 small head of cauliflower - cut into small florettes
1/2 cup cream
50 g rice noodles
Soy Sauce
Salt
Black Pepper

Method
Make pastry shells by cutting out two circles of puff pastry and then cut a smaller circle into one of the circles to form a ring. Place the ring over the first circle and press firmly. Use some egg wash if you like. With the circles that are cut out, you then then roll them out again to maximise the use of the pastry sheets. Bake in 200C oven till nicely puffed up and then let them dry out a while in the cooling oven.
Meanwhile make the filling. Fry the chopped garlic until soft. Throw in the oregano and give it a good stir. Then add in the cubed fish and stir fry quickly. Remove the fish and set aside. Sautee the the sliced button mushrooms and oyster mushrooms until tender. Throw in the cauliflower and cook till softened. Add in the fish and season with salt and black pepper. Allow to simmer. Meanhwile, boil the spinach and chop finely. Add the spinach to the fish mixture together with the cream. Mix well and allow to simmer till almost dry but still moist.
Before serving, fill the pastry shells with the filling and reheat in oven for about 10 mins. While reheating, soften the noodles in hot water and toss with a little soy sauce. Add to the top of the vol-au-vents just prior to serving.

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These were a hit at our dinner party and as I normally do with Vol-au-Vents, I made two sizes. I liked the lightly flavoured soy sauce noodles on top as it gave it an interesting texture.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Gong Xi Fa Cai! Kung Hei Fatt Choy! - Cultural Exchange

Today is Chinese New Year Eve(CNY) and as Chinese around the world wait to usher in the Year of the Ox, it is no different here in multi-cultural Malaysia. Custom dictates that on New Years Eve, family from near and far and sometimes even very close friends will gather together for the Reunion Dinner. Before anyone 'tells me off' that friends are never invited to a reunion dinner, let me just say that I myself have attended a Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner - so there!

We are taking advantage of the CNY Holidays and inviting some friends over for dinner. In celebration of the Year of the Ox, I am cooking a Roast Beef among other things. All will be revealed in posts to come...

In the meanwhile, let me wish all my friends in Malaysia and the rest of the world a Blessed Chinese New Year filled with Health, Prosperity and all good things. It doesn't matter if you are Chinese or not, its always fun to celebrate everyone's festival. M

y wish for CNY is that people move beyond the colour of your skin and your ethnic backgrounds and simply embrace you for what you are. You.

Since I can at least pretend to speak Cantonese (which I really cant!) and cant even pretend with Mandarin, let me simply say...

Kung Hei Fatt Choy! Ang Pau Tau Loi! (yes, I know I'm ineligible for Ang Pau since I'm married!)

Thursday, 22 January 2009

A contribution to the BloggerAid Cookbook


Most of you would have heard of BloggerAid - Bloggers Uniting to Aid in the Alleviation of Hunger. If you haven't heard of them, then read this post.

BloggerAid has recently launched a huge project and in the words of the founders

Ivy of Kopiaste, Giz of Equal Opportunity Kitchen and Val of More Than Burnt Toast unveiled our ambitious project for our Social Network Bloggeraid to launch our cookbook. Food is our medium and taking a role in alleviating world famine is our mission. Our wish is that you will share our excitement and help make a difference to our world by joining us on this journey.


Yes! BloggerAid is publishing a Cookbook!! Now I've always wanted to publish my own cookbook but the last time I spoke to someone about it, I was told I needed to be famous. And famous I certainly am not. But I digress. For more information on the cookbook and how you can help, please visit this BloggerAid post.

This is my little contribution to the cookbook and it involves Chocolate, Honey, Yoghurt and lots of other stuff. If you are thinking dessert, you're way off target!

My contribution for this cookbook is my own original take on ...


Kofta Curry


If you're hoping to find the recipe here, then I'm sorry I have to disappoint. You either have to wait till the cookbook is out or pay me lots and lots of money. Enough money that we could just forego the cookbook and donate the whole lot to BloggerAid! I think waiting for the cookbook is a better idea. Provided of course that my contribution is good enough...



The Lovely Wife and the kids gave this dish their thumbs up so I can only hope that it will be enjoyed by everyone else as much as my family did. I'm just pleased that I was able to contribute in my own small way to BloggerAid!

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Jam Tarts



I'm still experimenting with photo sizes using Flickr. What I've learnt so far is that it takes a bit more time and effort to load on to Flickr and then link the pictures. However, the results certainly ARE much nicer as you get larger pictures with much better clarity. I haven't decided if I'll stick to the Flickr option yet though...

Back to food! These tarts were made by The Lovely Wife for Christmas. The base is a lovely shortcrust kind of tart and the top/filling is Pineapple Jam. These kind of tarts are very addictive and I'm sorry if that sentence caused you to smile and think of the 'two-legged variety of tarts'. It certainly made me smile. I'm sorry. I'm just a bad boy.

Sorry too that there isn't a recipe for this. Sometimes it's difficult to get certain information from the Lovely Wife...

Monday, 19 January 2009

Stir Fried Satay with flashes of brilliance and strokes of genius...!

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I've just realised that I have a whole heap of stuff that I never got round to posting. In fact, the only reason I remembered this one was because of a comment I received from my good friend Naomi saying something to the effect that she 'needs' some good chicken stir fry recipes!

This post actually harks back to November 2008 when I posted about the homemade Satay for Sarah's BBQ. Okay, so November really isn't such a long time ago. I did find a whole other heap of stuff that needs to be posted though but we'll get to that eventually.

So.. Stir Fried Satay huh? Is that even possible??


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See, when we made the Satay the last time, there was quite a bit of marinated meat left over. Neither the Lovely Wife nor I fancied skewering the meat onto sticks again and neither did we want to set up the BBQ again.

So, in a flash of brilliance, that unfortunately doesn't quite come as often as I think it does, I decided to just stir fry the meat and see how it would turn out. I have to say that it wasn't really a flash of brilliance but more like a Stroke of Genius! It was bloody amazing!

I served it with some cut chillies that gave the meat an added piquancy (or zing if you like!). The bed of lettuce not only made it look pretty, but wrapping the meat up in the lettuce, like a spring roll, was another Stroke of Genius. Or maybe it was a Flash of Brilliance. Whatever.

It was S.U.P.E.R.B!!!

The recipe for the meat marinade is on the Satay Post



I'm also taking this opportunity to play around with uploading photos on Flickr and then linking to them as you get larger photo sizes. Just playing a little...


Wednesday, 14 January 2009

A cake for my Mother - A cake with 3 Cs!


It was my mother's birthday yesterday and we all congregated at my parent's house for dinner. I had decided to make her a cake and originally planned on making Chocolate Brownies. However, I realised that I still had an opened jumbo pack of Sponge Fingers. I also had a lot of cream leftover that needed to be used quickly. So... I decided I would whip up a dessert instead and pass if off as a cake!




I thought long and hard (not that long really and neither that hard!) and I came up with a plan. I would make a layer of Coffee whipped Cream and another layer of whipped Chocolate Ganache. I'd then layer these creams over sponge fingers which would be soaked in some sort of alcohol - Cointreau maybe? Sounded like a plan indeed. I would also need to be able to unmould the whole thing.

This is what I did for this Original, First-Time, Chocolate-Coffee-Cointreau Cake or the 3Cs Cake.

Ingredients
for the sponge layers
2 packets sponge fingers
1/2 cup Cointreau
1/2 cup water

for the coffee cream
1 tbsp instantcoffee
350 ml cream
2 tbsp liquid glucose
1 tbsp Icing Sugar

for the whipped chocolate ganache
200g good quality dark chocolate
300ml Cream
1 tbsp liquid glucose

Method
Line a square pyrex or other dish with plastic wrap all the way to the top.
Make the coffee cream by dissolving the coffee in a little heated cream. Add this back to the rest of the cream and whip with the liquid glucose and icing sugar till stiff. Set aside in fridge

Make the Whipped Chocolate Ganace by heating the cream to boiling and then pouring over the chocolate. Mix well till smooth and then add in the liquid glucose. Allow to cool before whipping up till stiff. Set aside.

Make a Cointreau syrup by mixing the cointreau with water. Set aside

Assemble the cake by spreading a little Coffee Cream on the bottom of the pyrex dish(which is lined with plastic wrap). Arrange one layer of sponge fingers on top of the cream and using half the Cointreau Syrup, soak the fingers. Cover with the rest of the Coffee Cream. Place another layer of sponge fingers over the coffee cream and soak with the remaining syrup. Cover with the Whipped Chocolate Ganache. Chill overnight or for at least 4 hours.

When ready to unmould, lift the plastic wrap to loosen the dessert and then place a large plate over the pyrex bowl and then overturn it. Remove the plastic wrap carefully. Garnish with strawberries or almonds or whatever you like!




I must admit I was particularly pleased with how this turned out. The best part was that the dessert went down really well with everybody and my Mom in particular enjoyed it immensely.

Mom cutting her cake. Since there are only two candles on the cake, it shows she's still a young 20!!


Happy Birthday Amma!


Monday, 12 January 2009

Spicy Pasta with Meatballs - More Christmas Meals



As I mentioned in my Vol-au-Vent post, my parents and parents-in-law came over for Christmas Eve dinner at our home. The menu for that night was simple yet tasty. In addition to the Vol-au-vents, I made this pasta dish and instead of the obligatory salad, we had buttered steamed vegetables. The pasta was more as a backup plan because I wasn't sure how the Vol-au-vents would turn or how they would be received. I also wanted to make something that I was sure the kids would enjoy. Pasta is always a favourite with them and they so love my meatballs too!



To make it slightly different, I used a combination of mutton mince and beef mince rather than my usual beef meatballs recipe. I also made them smaller so that they would 'mingle' nicely with the pasta. The spicy pasta was my normal Spicy Aglio Olio - the one with lots of Chilli Flakes. I like how two favourite dishes can combine to make yet another favourite!



And then there was dessert... I wont post about the dessert as it wasn't anything extraordinary. I had made stacks and stacks of Chocolate Cake to take to my parents house on Christmas Day for our 'Open House' and I saved a little for dessert that night.

Quite a lovely spread if you ask me!

Sorry you have to troll to my other posts to find the recipes that make up this dish but rather than offering excuses...well, I was in a bit of a rush to get this post out and I'm just kinda lazy!

I've also entered this to Presto Pasta Nights which is being hosted this time by my lovely friend Ivy at Kopiaste

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

A Nob or Knob of butter?



Usually for Christmas Eve Dinner, no matter what we have, there is the obligatory salad. The Lovely Wife is normally tasked with making a salad as her salads are oh so wonderfully good. This year however, I chose to do something different. Something simple yet tasty and satisfying. As the old Kellogs Corn Flakes advert in Australia goes - The simple things in life are often the best.


Before I proceed on to the dish I made, I want to relate a small 'argument' that ensued between The Lovely Wife and me. We were playing a game of Boggle with the kids and The Lovely Wife wrote down nob. I disputed the word and she raised her haughty eyebrows and condescendingly asked me whether I had ever heard of a "Nob of Butter." I snorted at her and said that it was a "Knob of butter and not a Nob." To which she insisted that she was correct. I was quite adamant that I was correct as I pride myself in speaking and spelling according to British English - which as far as I'm concerned it the only English there is...Nonetheless, I let it go for the sake of family unity!

For the record though, it IS knob of butter which is a very British term describing a lump of butter about the size of a walnut maybe or a teaspoon. Quite an arbitary measurement really much like a splash of olive oil or a dash of oregano or a swig of rum. You get the idea.

There is a reason for my ranting as you will soon see.




What I decided to make was simply some steamed vegetables tossed in butter.

All I did was to steam some broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and throw in a can of sweet corn kernels. Then I threw in a couple of KNOBS of butter, a little salt and black pepper and tossed the whole lot together coating it evenly.

So now you know why it was important to hear the story about a Nob versus a Knob of butter.



This dish was very well received and few believed it was nothing more than steamed veges tossed in butter. Simple, yes? Delicious too! It's true that the simple things in life are often the best!

Monday, 5 January 2009

Vol au Vents - A Christmas Meal



One of the culinary experiences that I thoroughly enjoyed as a Student in Melbourne was Vol-au-Vents. I used to love sinking my teeth into the puff pastry shells filled with all sorts of creamy, delightful fillings. There was this delicatessen just down the road from where I lived, on Dandenong Road, that used to serve these delightful seafood Vol-au-Vents. Such lovely memories! Those memories are exactly what prompted me to make and serve these delicious Vol-au-Vents for Christmas dinner.

I made some small vol-au-vents and also bigger versions simply because I was getting lazy cutting out the smaller ones and also because I wanted to see how larger Vol-au-vents would turn out. Suffice to say that size does not matter as far as Vol-au-vents are concerned!!



Vol-au-Vents are a French word which literally translated means 'flight in the wind' and apparently refers to the lightness of the pastry. The vol-au-vent is said to have been created by the famous French chef Carême, whoever he might have been and the vol-au vent is supposedly pronounced 'vawl-oh-VAHN' although I have always known it pronounced as 'vawl-or-VAWN'. Then again, I learnt that in Australia and they are by no means experts in French - and neither am I!



Although I left Melbourne in 1990, I used to visit rather often in what was known as my Annual Pilgrimage. Most of the time, I'd indulge in some vol-au-vents while I was there. It's been 11 years since I last visited Melbourne though, and thus 11 years since I've had a Vol-au-Vent. I'd always wanted to make my own but never had the gumption to try - until now!


I researched how to make vol-au-vents on the web and basically found two methods. One is where for each vol-au-vent, you cut out two circles of puff pastry and then cut a smaller circle into one of the circles to form a ring. Place the ring over the first circle and press firmly. Use some egg wash if you like. With the circles that are cut out, you then then roll them out again to maximise the use of the pastry sheets. Bake in 200C oven till nicely puffed up and then let them dry out a while in the cooling oven.



The second method involves some wastage but is far easier especially if using ready made puff pastry sheets. Place two sheets one on top of the other and then press down firmly. Using round cookie cutters, press out circles (double layered) and then using a smaller diameter cutter, press down in the center to form a concentric circle BUT not too deep as to cut into the second layer. Bake in 200C oven till nicely puffed up and then cut out the inner circle. You can use this 'top' to cover the finished vol-au-vent but I prefer leaving them open. Put the open pastry shells back in the oven to dry out a little.


Once you've made your vol-au-vents, prepare the filling. I used my Chicken Pie filling for these vol-au-vents. Once the shells are filled, bake them in the oven again just to heat it up, dry it a little more and make it oh so flaky.

The results were delicious and my parents, my parents-in-law and most importantly the Lovely Wife and the Kids absolutely loved these.


In hindsight, the placing of a ring of pastry over a circle produced nicer, puffier vol-au-vents. I'm just so happy that I finally know how to make this delicious pastry shells and they no longer need to be just a wonderful memory!

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