Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Christmas Dinner 2011


Merry Christmas Everyone!

I haven't had much time to update this blog as the Christmas Season has been rather busy. Christmas Eve Dinner was held at my house and my family together with The Lovely Wife's family came over to celebrate the arrival of Christmas.

This was the menu for the night and more detailed posts on the items soon - I hope!

In the meantime, Have a Blessed New Year!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

My Birthday Hamper




I turned 44 on the 29th November 2011 and this is how I spent the day. Just like we celebrate every birthday in our house, the birthday boy/girl is wished first thing in the morning and given their gifts. The kids each gave me a lovely hand made card and then proferred a bag full of gifts. First up was the 'obligatory' shirt from The Lovely Wife. She always buys me a nice shirt / T-shirt to make me look more hip and happening - usually something a little more expensive than I would otherwise buy! Then came the gifts from the kids that were specially chosen by them. Somehow gifts from the kids seem to revolve around the kitchen but I guess I shouldn't be surprised by that.


First up was this cute flexible cutting board that is shaped like a duck! The tagline says "from board to bowl with one simple fold".....



Next was a pair of kitchen chopsticks or wok chopsticks - very useful indeed! Then came a nifty little gadget. It looks like a small bowl but it has blades in it and it turned out to be a garlic chopper. The reasoning behind this was that "Mummy doesn't need to help Dads chop garlic anymore!"

Finally they gave me a small, sealable glass container that is oven proof. This was explicitly purchased so that I could store the chocolate sauce that I make for them and reheat the sauce in the oven/microwave easily. Rather clever of my kids if you ask me - getting me a present that will benefit them! All the presents were really lovely and will definitely come in handy.

Then it was off to work and the day unfolded rather uneventfully.


We had decided that we would go out for dinner and it was after dinner that The Lovely Wife and kids surprised me yet again.




They had purchased some of my favourite food items and presented it to me in a basket - like a hamper!





The contents of the hamper consisted of "the stuff that Dads likes" - a Jar of Nutella - coz Dads loves his Nutella and bread; A small bar of Dark Chocolate - the best chocolate is dark chocolate; a double packet of Arnotts Chocolate Covered Teddy bears - Dads favourite from his Uni days in Melbourne; a packet of Pepperidge Farm Geneva biscuits - we all love this; a large bottle of Coke - Dads loves his coke and the kids get to drink it too - and finally a bottle of Guinnes - coz Dads enjoys his stout once in a while.

I was very touched by the hamper as it was really made up of a few of my favourite things.

Now to digress a little, but not too much! When I was in Australia, I learnt of a special way to enjoy Arnotts Chocolate Covered Teddy Bear Biscuits. There's a real trick to this so you have to pay attention. First, get a wide mouthed glass or coffee mug and pour in some port. Next, holding the Teddy Bear so that it faces you, bite of a little bit off its LEFT ear and a little bit off its RIGHT foot. Now dip the right foot into the port and suck on the Left ear till you taste some port. What has happened is that the entire teddy bear is now steeped in port. Now you slowly eat the teddy bear infused with port. Delicious!

I did that last night but I used Brandy instead of Port. Why did I use Brandy instead of Port? Simply because I was too lazy to go and fish the port out of the cupboard! It was still delicious although the brandy was probably a tad too strong as opposed to Port.

The Lovely Wife felt a bit sad that she didnt get me a cake but I told her that the hamper was much more special as a lot of thought went into it. The kids also piped up and reminded her that "bought cakes arent as nice as Dads cakes so dont bother!"

I had a very lovely Birthday celebration. Happy Birthday to me!


Saturday, 26 November 2011

Banana Split Birthday Cake




My son turned 10 on the 15th of November and this post is rather late! As has become customary in our household, we woke him up early in the morning after 'hiding' his presents under his bed.


Being a school day, we woke him a little earlier than usual so that he would have enough time to open his presents, but unfortunately not enough time to play with any of them!

A few weeks before his birthday, The Lovely Wife and I had 'negotiated' with him on what to do for his birthday. He wanted to invite a few friends over for a small birthday party and we said that he could do that on the weekend following his birthday. With that settled, we said that we would just do something simple on his actual birthday and maybe go out for dinner or make some of his favourite dishes.

I promised that I would make him a cake as well but also 'negotiated' that instead of a cake with a design/pattern, I'd make him a 'designer' cake - meaning a dessert cake that he would enjoy eating rather than just a cake that looked nice with a fancy pattern.




We thought that was that and that everything was settled. However, a week before his birthday, he 'renegotiated' with us. He asked if he could invite the extended family over - meaning his grandparents, uncles and their families. In his own words - "it's not a party, just a gathering."

And that is how we ended up having a party/gathering on his actual birthday!

The Lovely Wife took the day off work and spend it cooking up quite the feast. Michael had specified what he wanted for his birthday dinner but since so many more people were now coming, The Lovely Wife had to make some additional dishes. I had made the cake earlier on Sunday evening with some finishing touches on Monday evening. My mother in law came over later in the afternoon too and made her famous fried prawns that is a firm favourite with all of us.

So, the menu for the evening was Ketupat with Kuah Kacang, Stir Fried Satay, Fried Prawns, Fried Rice with a Pork Trio, Fried Rice with Corned Beef and we also served some Char Siew (BBQ Pork), Siew Yok (Roast Pork that my Mom had bought. Mom in Law also made some Vadai. Quite the feast actually! Missed photos of the Fried Prawns and Vadai though!





Now we come to the cake. Michael had asked that I make his something new, something that I have never done before but something that he would like. Since the cake was going to double up as dessert, I envisaged a cake made up of layers of sponge, covered with chocolate mousse and coffee cream and then serve it with sliced bananas and homemade chocolate fudge.


That was the original plan but once I made the mousse, I realised there was too much and so I used it to cover both layers of sponge. I then piped a layer of Whipped Cream over the top and covered it with Caramel Almonds. As per the original plan, I served it with Bananas and Hot Fudge topping.

This is what I did. The sponge is based on Dory Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake with a few minor alterations where I used some lemon juice in the milk as a substitute for buttermilk.









Banana Split Cake
Components
- 1 Sponge Cake
- Chocolate Mousse
- Whipped Cream
- Hot Fudge
- Almond Pralines (Caramel Almonds)
- Bananas

Sponge Cake

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 ¼ cups buttermilk or whole milk
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice (omit if using buttermilk)
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
125g (4 ounces) butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure lemon extract

To Make the Cake
Mix the lemon juice and milk and let stand for 10 mins to make buttermilk.
Sift together the flour and baking powder.
Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.

Cream butter and sugar - working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.
Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.
Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.
Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.
Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.
Divide the batter between two lined pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean
Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners.
Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up

Chocolate Mousse

450ml cream
3 Tbsps icing sugar
300g dark chocolate
4 egg yolks

Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Add in the egg yolks and stir vigorously for about a minute. Chocolate will thicken. Don’t worry if the mixture seizes or becomes a little lumpy. Take off heat and beat with an electric mixer for about a minute or two. Chocolate will become smooth and thick. If it is still lumpy, dont worry and allow to cool a little. While cooling, whip cream with icing sugar until soft peaks form. Add a little into the chocolate mixture and beat till smooth. Beat in the remainder of the chocolate mixture until nicely incorporated.


Caramel Almonds
Make a caramel and add in whole almonds. Swirl in pan to coat the almonds and then pour out onto waxed paper. Allow to cool and then chop roughly.

Homemade Hot Fudge

Whipped Cream
300ml Whipping Cream
4 Tbsp Icing Sugar
2 Tsp Vanilla

Whip cream with icing sugar and vanilla till stiff peaks.


Assembly
Place one layer of cake in a springform pan or cake ring. Cover with one layer of Mousse. Place the other cake on top and cover with remaining mousse. Allow to set in fridge. Pipe whipped cream over the top. Garnish with caramel almonds. Serve with sliced bananas and hot fudge.




I had a few minor issues with the cake. Firstly, I didn't use Large eggs as I was supposed to so the cake wasnt as spongy as it could have been. Small issue but something to note in the future! Secondly, this was the first time I was using a cake ring and I thought I'd be clever and place some cling wrap around the inner sides to help get the cake out easier. Not too sure if that helped any as it was still difficult getting the cake out! The fact that I had to put the cake in the freezer as the fridge was too full of items for dinner didnt help either.



Anyway, all in all the cake turned out really, really well. Everyone loved it especially the fact that it was more of a dessert rather than a cake. We cut small slices and served it with Banana slices and hot fudge for that Banana Split effect although some people wondered why I couldnt serve the cake on its own. Because then it wouldnt be a Banana Split Cake! It would be a Choc Mousse Cake! Aaahh... some things are just to difficult to appreciate :)




The praline almonds (Caramel almonds) on the top made a great topping and the added crunch gave the cake a bit more sophistication. The cake was enjoyed by all with many asking for second helpings. The thing about this cake is, you can choose to make everything on your own like I did or just buy the components and assemble it yourself.

The next day, we enjoyed the remainder of the cake, this time sans bananas and hot fudge and it was just as delicious. Somehow the cake seemed to develop over the days.




Another birthday, and another cake. The kids 'demands' are getting more and more complicated and my body seems to ache more each time. Age is catching up with all of us I guess. Whatever it is, there is a special kind of satisfaction in baking your own cake for your children. The best part is seeing their smiles when they dig into it.

Happy Birthday Michael my darling boy!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Back to Childhood Cupcakes



A couple of Saturdays ago, The Lovely Wife and I were supposed to catch up with two friends - Lynn and Ms Kong Piang - over drinks. My son however had developed a fever so the two ladies asked if it was okay if they popped round instead. When I know that friends are popping over, I always feel that I have to serve something.

A good friend, Naomi, had given us some lovely Cheddar cheese when she had come back to Malaysia recently for a holiday. The cheese was tangy and had a lot of bite that made it really delicious with crackers. That would go down well for the after dinner drinks.

I also decided that I would make some muffins. I know Ms Kong Piang likes my cakes and Lynn is also one of my favourite 'consumers'! I was tempted to just redo what I did on my last post - Walnut Choc Chip Muffins - but decided that I would try something new. I browsed through my cupcake/muffin book and found a recipe for Cookies and Cream cupcakes. This was basically throwing in some crushed Oreos into the batter. Another variation called for substituting the Oreos for Nougat bars. A lamp bulb started to flash in my head and the gear wheels in my brain started to churn as well. What if I used Oreos and Snickers? That would have to taste delicious! Woulnd't it??




So thats what I did. Bought a pack of Oreos and two Snickers bars. Crushed and chopped them up respectively and then threw them into the cake batter. I knew that the cupcakes would be a tad sweet due to the Oreos and Snickers so I put in a disc of dark chocolate in the middle of each cupcake. This would give it a slightly bitterish tinge when bitten into.



Ingredients
250g butter
225g Caster Sugar
225g Self Raising Flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 Tbsp Milk
1 packet Oreo Cookies - crushed
2 snickers bars - shopped
Method
Melt the butter until very soft but not completely liquid. Add in the sugar and beat till light. Add beaten eggs a little at a time and continue beating
Fold in Sifted flour and baking powder.
Add in Milk and Vanilla. Mix Well. Fold in Oreos and Snickers.
Fill muffin cups ¾ full and top with a Dark Chocolate disk. bake for about 30 minutes or till done in 180°C oven






I made two sizes of cupcakes. Twelve medium sized cupcakes and twelve large ones. I went a bit overboard with the large ones and overfilled them. They rose beautifully but then started to spill out over the sides of the muffin cases. If they had held, or if I had placed the muffin cases into a muffin pan, I would have gotten lovely muffin caps but alas, the cases were too big to fit into the muffin pans and the batter just spilled over...

No use crying over spilled batter.

Nonetheless, the larger cupcakes turned out really nice and cakey with a light, soft crumb. The taste of the Oreos combined nicely with the taste of the Snickers although neither taste was overpowering. The cupcakes were a tad sweet - sweeter than what we are normally used to and this was due to the Oreos and Snickers. The cupcakes were still very delicious nonetheless.

Since the cupcakes seemed to fit into the mould of a dessert, I served up a batch with Ice Cream and Chocolate Sauce. Yummy! Very, very delicious and my kids absolutely loved it.



Later that night, I served Lynn and Ms Kong Piang the dessert version and they both agreed that although a tad sweet, it was very nice. Both of them took some home too while the rest was eaten throughout the weekend - either on its own or covered with Ice Cream and doused in Chocolate Sauce!




I call these cupcakes, Back to Childhood cupcakes because with Oreos and Snickers in them each bite kind of transports you back to your favourite indulgences when you were a kid. Every kid will definitely like these cupcakes and every adult that still has some kid left in him will love it too!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Self Therapy - Vanilla Walnut Choc Chip Muffins



Last Saturday morning was the weekend before the kids end of year school exams. It's not a very fun time for the kids as they are busy brushing up on their work. I on the other hand, had arranged some appointments for some home repairs. The Lovely Wife figured that the kids would be distracted by the repairs going on and hence wouldn't be able to concentrate on their school work. So, she decided she would take the kids out shopping while the work was being carried out. Not fair! I was going to be left all by my lonesome to stay at home to wait for the repairmen. They were only due to come late in the morning however and the day started off with my son yelling from downstairs:

"Dads! Can you make us some of your Chocolate Sauce? To eat with Mummy's waffles?"

I had to smile as there is something very satisfying about your kids asking you to make them something to eat - even more when it is Chocolate Sauce that in most households simply comes out of a store bought bottle. Anyway, I made up a batch of the chocolate sauce for them and they enjoyed it with their waffles. With breakfast out of the way, they left soon after and as expected, I was home left alone.

Alone, alone, all, all alone!

Truth be told, sometimes it's fun to be alone when you get to do your own things. However, being alone to monitor work being done isn't really a fun thing to do.

The repairs finished off sooner than expected and since I had a litle time to myself, I thought I would indulge in some therapy for myself. There's something very therapeutic about whipping up a quick cake and having your house smell wonderfully of freshly baked goodness. The smell of vanilla on your hands seems to linger throughout the day too and not matter how much you scrub it, your hands still smell great!


I had decided I wanted to make a cake but wasn't quite sure what cake to make. I considered making my usual chocolate cake or chocolate brownies - both of which are firm favourites. I decided though that I wanted to try something new. A few weeks earlier, The Lovely Wife had enjoyed a cake that had walnuts in it and so I thought that I'd use some walnuts. A peak into the fridge showed that there were indeed walnuts and also some chocolate chips. How about Vanilla Walnut Chop Chip Muffins? Seemed like a good idea to me!




I modified my usual Choc Chip Muffin recipe just a little and this is what I did:





Ingredients
250g Butter
220g Sugar
4 eggs
250g Flour
3 Tsp Baking Powder
100g Walnuts - chopped
100g Choc Chips
1 Tbsp Milk
1 Tbsp Honey
2 Tsp Vanilla
Method
Melt the butter until very soft but not completely liquid. Add in the sugar and beat well till light. Add beaten eggs a little at a time and continue beating
Fold in Sifted flour and baking powder.
Add in Honey, Milk and Vanilla. Mix Well
Fold in Chocolate Chips and nuts ensuring it is well mixed
Fill muffin cups ¾ full and bake for about 30 minutes or till done in 180°C oven


The muffins were halfway through baking when The Lovely Wife and kids got home and both my son and princess bounded into the kitchen to see what was causing the lovely smell. The muffins baked up and cooled while we were having lunch and then I decided that I would make a little icing with the Chocolate Sauce for some of the muffins.





I mixed the chocolate sauce with some icing sugar and more cocoa powder till it resembled a nice thick icing - almost like a ganache. I piped this over a couple of the muffins while I slathered it over another two.

AS expected, The Lovely Wife preferred the muffins 'naked' while the two kids loved it with the chocolate icing. We enjoyed the muffins later after dinner too and on Sunday as well. There was enough left over on Monday morning for them to take a muffin each to school for the first day of their exams.



The best therapy is not so much baking or even the smell of baked goods. The best therapy is the smiles and satisfied looks on the faces of the kids as they enjoy the food that your hands have created.

What's your best therapy??

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

More on Blogger MasterChef

So these are the pictures of what transpired the other day at the Blogger MasterChef semi-finals hosted by Astro and Nuffnang. This event was held to build up awareness for the MasterChef Malaysia that will be starting REAL Soon on Astro!

The Lovely Wife and the kids came along to support me and they started off with this photo.



After a briefing by the judges, we moved into the Kitchen area at The Cooking House in Desa Sri Hartamas where the contest was held. I was given station number 16 after picking out a number from a bowl. The kitchen was rather cramped and I think it was more suited to 10 people rather than 20 as every table and stove was shared by 2 people. There was a lot of bumping into one another as we cooked!

We were given MasterChef Malaysia aprons to wear and that was rather exciting!





As I mentioned in my previous post, we were given a box full of ingredients that we had to use. The main ingredient was chicken and I did ask if we had to use everything in the box. The answer was no but I assumed that one would need to use as many of the ingredients as possible. This however was not the case - you didnt have to use any of the ingredients from the box with the exception of chicken and were free to use anything that was on the counters.



In retrospect, I should have made something Western rather than the Fusion Chilli Chicken that I opted to make. There were a lot of ingredients that I didn't see that seemed to be spaced out along the cooking stations. But no excuses though. Most critical though was that I couldn't get my brain ticking given that we only had 50 minutes to think up and cook a dish. I usually spend hours and even days thinking up my 'gourmet' dishes! So Kudos to all the winners that had the presence of mind to think of something creative and execute it in the limited time available.

The Lovely Wife and the kids realised that my super duper SLR was too heavy to carry around and they made a quick detour home while I was cooking to drop of the camera. The rest of the shots come from The Lovely Wifes I-phone.

After the cooking challenge came the skills challenge. Chef Ryan demonstrated how to poach an egg using the swirl method and with some vinegar to get the proteins in the egg to bind. I've poached an egg succesfully before and was fairly confident. However, my first egg turned out disastrously but thankfully the second egg was just lovely!






I had another egg ready to go into the water when time was called. So that was a good time for The Lovely Wife to take a shot of me!




I was really thrilled as I presented my egg to the judges as I presented both my 'disaster' egg as well as the good one. Chef Ryan actually said "Well done, lovely!" as he sliced my egg and watched all the gooey goodness spill out. There were a few other cooks that managed to get more than one lovely poached egg. One of them, Yatie was given full marks for getting two perfectly poached eggs - just as Chef Ryan had shown how to do.




The results were announced a short while later and the judges took quite a while deliberating on who the top 5 should be. I have to say that it was a very humbling experience cooking with the other 20 bloggers as there were some really fantastic and creative dishes that came out. Quite a number of the bloggers managed to get pretty perfect Poached Eggs even though it was the first time they were doing it. Plenty of skilled cooks out there!

As you all know, I didnt make the cut to the top 5 but each blogger got a prize anyway. I was given my prize by one of Malaysia's well know food bloggers KY from KYSpeaks.com.




and finally, a group photo with all the other blogger chefs!



A really fun experience that I would not hesitate to do again. I met a lot of fun people and I have to say that I had an AWESOME time. The only regret that I have is that the organisers didn't let us take the aprons home. Would you believe it? We actually had to return the aprons. Oh well!

I really, really have a new found respect for those that take part in MasterChef. I realise it's really easy to be an armchair critic and criticise and make fun of the competitors but when you are actually doing it, well, it's really quite difficult.

Keep a look out for the launch of MasterChef Malaysia. Coming soon on Astro.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Not the first Blogger MasterChef

So I didnt make the cut...

The semifinals were held this morning at the Cooking House in Desa Sri Hartamas. There were three judges - a lady from Astro (Azlina I think her name was - rather cute!) then there was KYspeaks - a reknowned food blogger and finally Chef Ryan - the resident chef at The Cooking House.

First up was a invention test where they gave a box full of stuff you could use. Main ingredient was chicken. I chose to make a Fusion Chilli Chicken and actually used up most of the ingredients in the box. Should have looked around and seen what else there was available before I rushed into deciding what to cook. I thought it tasted great but seeing some of the other dishes, I realised that what the judges were looking for was something unique and out of the box...

Still, in retrospect, with only 50 minutes to make the dish, I really don't know what I would have picked to make. Its really not so easy to decided what to cook when you have limited time.

Next up was a skills test - had to make Poached Eggs. First try was a disaster but the second one came up beautifully. Really, really beautifully.

Taking part in this has given me a whole new appreciation for MasterChef and Chopped and all the other cooking reality shows. It's really easy to be a MasterChef in your own kitchen but its a different story when under pressure and in a strange kitchen.

I think my invention skills let me down... still, lots of fun, met lots of people and as always learnt a few things. Kids were there with me and they liked my Fusion Chilli Chicken - so I'm still Their MasterChef!!

Thanks to all for the support!

First Semi's Today at 10am

So today is the first Semi's of the first ever Blogger MasterChef competition organised by Nuffnang and Astro and I'll be there!

How does it work? It's all a bit of fun and bloggers had to post about why they think they are worthy of being the first ever Blogger MasterChef. 40 selected bloggers will take part in two semifinals (20 on each day) and the top five from each semi final will move to the Final that will be held on October 15th.

So...I'm on my way to the first semi's in a short while. From what I know, two challenges will be handed out and each competitor is supposed to complete it and will be judged on creativity and taste. I have NO Idea what is to be expected but I'm going in to have lots of fun!

So lets see what happens!

Monday, 26 September 2011

My Dream as Malaysia's first ever Blogger MasterChef

Have you heard that MasterChef is coming to Malaysia??

Astro is launching MasterChef Malaysia REAL SOON! I was really excited when I heard about this but the problem is, you need to take time off from work and be away from the family as well for quite some time. So that put paid to taking part in MasterChef.

However... Nuffnang is organising the first ever Blogger MasterChef competition and I thought I would enter that! As part of the contest, I'm supposed to write about why I think I should be crowned as “Malaysia’s First Ever Blogger MasterChef”. I'm also supposed to blog about my signature dish.

Firstly, I'm passionate about cooking and baking. Unlike a lot of Malaysian Food Blogs, my blog details out food that I make myself rather than featuring restaurant food. I share my recipes as well as I believe that good food should be shared.

I have a wide repertoire of dishes that cover include a variety of cuisines including Italian, Western, Indian, Chinese. You could say that I'm a jack of all cuisines! I also love to replicate dishes that we taste at restaurants and so far my 'succes rate' has been pretty good as judged by The Lovely Wife and our two children.

If I can't attempt to be Malaysia's First MasterChef, at least I should be crowned as Malaysia First Blogger MasterChef!!

Now comes the hard part - blogging about my Signature Dish. You see, my favourite stuff to make is desserts - all kinds of desserts especially chocolate based desserts. I also love to make Savoury stuff. So the quandary is what do I pick as my Signature Dish?

Since this is all about fun and also sharing, I decided I'd pick my Signature Savoury dish and ALSO my Signature Dessert. Both of these have been posted before on my blog and you can go to the links to get the recipes if you like.

My Signature Savoury dish is Beef Kheema or Minced Meat Curry. This has been a favourite of mine from childhood and its based on a recipe that Mom used to make. I modified it of course while I was a student in Uni back in Melbourne. I used to love this dish so much that almost every time it was my turn to cook, I would cook this. As a result, my flatmates used to call me the "Minced Meat Man" although they used to enjoy this dish as much as I did!

It's fairly simple to make but the results are truly delicious. The full recipe is on the link above but this is a brief synopsis of how its done.

Slice onion into thin slices. Dice Capsicum and thaw frozen vegetables. Lightly fry onions with cloves until onions are soft.
Add in Curry powder and Chilli powder and fry till fragrant. Be careful not to burn the mix.
Add in tomatoes and mix well. Add in a little water if needed.


Continue cooking till a nice paste is formed.
Add in Mince and cook well.


Add in Capsicum and frozen vegetables
Continue cooking, stirring frequently. Add a cup of water and cover pan. Simmer for a further 10-15 minutes then remove cover, mix well and cook till most of the water is evaporated.





It goes really well with yellow rice or what I call Fools Saffron Rice - the recipe of which is also on the same link.


As far as my Signature Dessert goes, it would HAVE to be Chocolate Mousse. I have always been a sucker for Chocolate Mousse and would always order it at restaurants that served it.




When I was about 8 or 9, my parents took us to the Equatorial Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, which used to serve these great High Teas. The dessert spread was huge and they had Chocolate Mousse served in martini glasses. That was my idea of heaven at that age! I ate so much that the buckle on my pants broke! True Story.



They say the apple doesnt fall far from the tree and in that respect, Chocolate Mousse is also my sons favourite Dessert!




For those of you who haven't heard about MasterChef, read on...

MasterChef is a worldwide phenomenon. A cooking reality show that, although not allow viewers to vote, has still broken viewership records in US and Australia. MasterChef is a success because not only is food something we are all very passionate about but the show only allows amateur cooks to compete. Malaysians who love cooking but never had a chance to really showcase their skills and be appreciated, now get the opportunity! Get ready for the MasterChef phenomenon to take over Malaysia on 22nd October 2011!

Details of MasterChef Malaysia is as follows:


  • Program title – MasterChef Malaysia

  • MasterChef Program Information - MasterChef TX will be starting from 22nd October 2011, every Saturday – Wednesday, 9.00pm. Master Class will be on every Friday, 9.00pm.

  • Program Channel – Astro Ria (Channel 104)

  • Official Site URL - http://www.astro.com.my/MasterChef/

  • Facebook Page - http://www.facebook.com/MasterChefMalaysia

  • Twitter Link – www.twitter.com/MasterChefMY





So here's hoping I get selected by Nuffnang to take part in the cook-off!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Brinjal, Mushroom & Rocket Salad



Most of you will know that I'm not a salad kind of guy. I enjoy eating them but I really don't like making them. I leave that to The Lovely Wife and at the risk of repeating myself, she makes damn good salads. Come to think of it, I'm not even sure if I've EVER made a salad!

Some time ago, we went for dinner at this place where we had this salad with Brinjals, Mushrooms and Rocket. It wasn't a cold salad but neither was it hot. Bottom line was, the taste combination was really, really good.

So, as I am accustomed to doing, I decided I was going to try and replicate it. And replicate it I did!





This is what I did:

Ingredients
3 cloves Garlic - chopped
1 tsp basil
3 baby brinjals - cut into slices
200g Button Mushrooms - quartered
50g Rocket
Splash of Balsamic Vinegar
Salt
Pepper
Method
Degorge the brinjal by sprinkling some salt over it and then patting dry. Sautee the garlic with the basil till soft. Add in the brinjal and lightly fry until the brinjal is tender. Add in the mushrooms and cook till juices are released and mushroom is tender. Season with salt and pepper. Toss together with Rocket and balsamic vinegar.

The salad was really tasty and I liked the slightly sourish taste of the balsamic vinegar. The trick is not to put in too much and you can even leave it out if you don't like the taste of vinegar.

The rocket added a nice crunch and freshness to the salad while the mushrooms and brinjals complemented each other really well. Make sure that the brinjal is cooked through thoroughly but not to the extent that it is mushy.




A great salad to serve as a side dish or make a larger batch as a vegetable accompaniment to a main meal. Whatever you choose to do with this, you can't go wrong.

Now who says I can't make salads!!

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Homemade Honeycomb




Honeycomb is not something that I thought could be homemade. I always thought that it was only something that was commercially available and if at all it could be made at home, you would need some sort of industrial production line or at the very least a huge machine. Wrong!

Honeycomb is known by a variety of names throughout the world. In Australia, South Africa and most of Britain, it is known simply as Honeycomb although some Brits refer to it as Honeycomb toffee. The Kiwis refer to is as Hokey Pokey while I am informed that it is not hugely popular in the USA but is more commonly known as Sponge Toffee.

For those of you that have no idea what Honeycomb is, think of that golden crunchie stuff that you find inside Crunchie bars or Violet Crumble bars.

So anyway, while vegetating in front of the Tele one evening with the kids, I watched as Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris from MasterChef Australia gave a MasterClass on how to make some dessert that had, you guessed it, Honeycomb in it!

The kids and I watched spell bound as the honeycomb came to life and the kids then turned to look at me and asked me what honeycomb was and how it tasted. I reminded them that they had eaten it in a chocolate bar before - Crunchie and Violet Crumble.

The next question out of their mouths was: "Dads, Can you make it?"






So a few days later, what did I do? I made the honeycomb! The recipe from MasterClass actually uses liquid glucose but I chose to use honey instead. I also followed my own method of making a caramel and just added in the honey and then the sodium bicarb. The Sodium Bicarbonate actually aerates the caramel and that is what produces the honeycomb texture.


Ingredients
7 Tbs Sugar
2 Tbs Water
2 Tbs Honey or Liquid Glucose
1 tsp Sodium Bicarbonate
Method
Line a small baking pan or bowl with non-stick baking paper. In a heavy saucepan, heat sugar and water till it dissolves. Add in the honey and bring to the boil till edges start to turn a little golden/darker at the edges. (This may be difficult to see if using honey) Quickly add in the sodium bicarb and whisk. Mixture will froth up. Pour into the paper lined bowl/pan. Mixture will continue to cook and rise. Let sit for about 40 minutes till honeycomb is cool and hard. Break into pieces and serve with ice cream or dessert or just eat it!

The size of the pan is dependent on how thick you want your honeycomb. If you want it really thick, use a deep bowl. If you want it thin, then use a swiss roll pan or flatter bowl.

Be really careful when you are working with caramel as the temperatures get really hot. And I mean really, really hot! I've been making caramel for years now and I still take extra precaution.

So how did the honeycomb turn out? I was amazed! Really, really amazed! It was really crunchy, really airy, really tasty. But sweet. Then again, that's what honeycomb is supposed to be - sweeeeet. (spelling intended!)

The kids enjoyed it and it went really good with ice cream. I made the mistake of not putting the honeycomb away in an air tight container or in the fridge and found that after a few short hours, it began to weep rather badly. I guess the humidity in Malaysia doesn't help either!





So! I can now add honeycomb to my list of 'achievements' and I can think of a variety of desserts that would go well with honeycomb.

I also took the opportunity to tell my kids that many people claim to be good cooks. However, the 'true test' of a good cook is whether they can make their own Hot Fudge/Chocolate Sauce and their own Honeycomb!

And I'm only half joking about the 'true test'...

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Le Snick Snack - A Homemade Snickers Dessert





Every meal has to end with a dessert and to finish off my dinner for eight series of posts is this dessert.

When deciding what to make for dessert, The Lovely Wife suggested I go down the route of a tried and tested. After all, she advised that I wouldn't want to make something that might not turnout well. In her infinite wisdom (and good looks too!) The Lovely Wife suggested that I should make my version of Le Kit Cat that I had made some time ago for her friends. That is one seriously lovely dessert.

The Lovely Wife made a lot of sense. However, I realised that there is a serious problem with having a food blog. It's really difficult keeping it 'alive' as that means knew recipes and posts have to be added in all the time! The upside to having a food blog though is that I keep challenging myself to come up with new recipes and this means that not only do I keep broadening my horizons, it also means that the kids and The Lovely Wife get to keep trying out new foods.

So with that in mind, I decided that I would HAVE to make something new. Sometimes the best new thing to do is to combine a few elements made from other recipes and come up with a completely knew when. That's what I did and I came up with Le Snick Snack - my own take on a Snickers Bar but made as a dessert!







Snickers is probably one of our favourite chocolate bars. Whenever we are feeling like a chocolate fix and pop in to the nearby petrol station or supermarket, we always end up getting either a Snickers Bar or a Kit Kat. So, since I already know how to make a Kit Kat dessert, it was time to make a Snickers Dessert.




Base:

3 Eggs whites
150 g castor sugar
150 g ground almonds
Make the base. Line a 9" Springform pan with baking paper. Whisk eggs whites till foamy and then add in sugar and whisk till stiff. Fold in ground almonds. Spread meringue mixture into springform and bake in preheated 170C oven for about 40 minutes or till meringue is cooked. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Remove springform and greaseproof paper from meringue. Allow to fully cool then replace into springform.

Caramel Layer
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup (250 g) whipping cream
¼ cup (50 g) butter
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
2 ½ tablespoons (15 g) flour

In a saucepan, caramelize 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar using the dry method until it turns a golden caramel color. Incorporate the whipping cream and then add butter. Mix thoroughly. Set aside to cool.
4. In a mixing bowl, beat the whole eggs with the extra egg yolk, then incorporate the flour.
5. Pour this into the cream-caramel mixture and mix thoroughly.
6. Spread it out in the tart shell and bake at 160C for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Top Layer:
400 ml whipping cream
200g good quality dark chocolate
3 egg yolks
2 tbsp Sugar
1 Tbsp Crème de Cacao
100g Peanuts

For the top layer, melt the chocolate over a double boiler on low heat. While chocolate is melting, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and quickly add into the melted chocolate. Remove from heat and continue whisking till smooth. If chocolate becomes clumpy, add in a little warm cream. Add in the Creme de Cacao. Whisk the cream until soft peaks form. Fold a little of the whipped cream into the chocolate, then fold in the remaining cream.

Sprinkle the peanuts over the caramel layer then spoon over the Chocolate mousse and smoothen the top. Chill for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.


It all sounds rather cumbersome and complicated but if you break it down into it's individual elements it really isn't all that bad. There were a few lessons that were learnt along the way that I will attempt to improve when I make this again.



Firstly, the caramel layer leaked a little down the sides of the meringue so the caramel layer wasn't quite thick enough or well defined. I suppose maybe I should keep the pan lined until after the caramel has been baked. Or maybe make a casing of meringue so the caramel cant leak down the sides. Another thing I would do differently is to add the peanuts into the caramel mixture rather than sprinkling it on top. You can see all the layers above. The almond meringue base, the caramel centre with peanuts and the choc mousse on top. Kind of looks like a Snickers Bar doesn't it!!


Having said all that however, the dessert was absolutely delicious and tasted quite like a snickers bar - only more luxurious and fancy schmancy like a great dessert should! All our guests had two servings each and my son was delighted that he got home in time for dessert!

I'll probably make this again some time and when I do, I"ll incorporate the changes and see how that works out.

So...with Kit Kat and now a Snickers Bar converted into desserts, I wonder what other Chocolate Bars I can convert to desserts. Any ideas or suggestions??


Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Karniyarik - Turkish Style Eggplant with Lamb




Still keeping on with the theme of what I served for the dinner for eight the other night, when a few friends came over for dinner, this is the Main Course.

I really wasn't sure what I wanted to serve as the main meal. I wanted something a little different yet something that would be satisfying. Some years ago, we visited Turkey and about 4 years ago, I posted my variation of a dish we had enjoyed in Turkey that I called Turkish Style Lamb Sausages.

I learnt since then that what we actually had in Turkey and really enjoyed was Karniyarik - Turkish Stuffed Eggplant. For my version, I didn't really stuff the eggplant but rather cooked it with loads of minced lamb in a tomato based sauce.





I also used some fresh basil to give it some added flavour and I think if I make this again, I might spice it up a little with some chilli flakes. This is what I did:

Ingredients
900g minced lamb or mutton
3 bay leaves
2 large onions - chopped
8 cloves garlic - chopped
3 tsp oregano
4 tomatoes - quartered
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 Tbsp Tomato paste
50g fresh basil
6 large brinjals / eggplants (the longish kind)
Salt
Black Pepper
Method

Halve the brinjals lenghtwise and then cut into pieces about 4-6 inches length. Sprinkle with salt to degorge. Meanwhile, sautee the onions, garlic and oregano. Then add in the mince and cook well. Add in the fresh tomatoes and canned tomatoes and allow to simmer.
While the meat is simmering, rinse the brinjals and then place in a baking tray. Lightly oil the brinjals and then make a small incision lengthwise followed by three diagonal incisions making sure you dont cut in too deep. Bake in a 170C oven till the eggplants are tender - about 30 mins.
Once the meat sauce is thick but still with enough liquid, season with salt and pepper. Add in the basil and mix well. Spoon a layer of the meat sauce into a baking pan then place the brinjals on the meat. Try to get the brinjals close to each other. Cover the eggplant with the remaining sauce and then cover with aluminium foil. Bake again in a 180C oven for another 30 mins to make sure brinjals are really tender and soak up some of the flavour from the meat sauce.


The brinjals turned out really well although there were some thicker parts that weren't as tender as they should have been. I had also thought of garnishing each brinjal with a slice of tomato and some sliced chilli but when the time came we were all too hungry and just wanted to get down to the business of eating!




I served this with rice and The Lovely Wife made a Greek Salad that went really well with this dish. I liked the mix of taste and textures and the mince tasted really good with the eggplant. My son had some the next day for lunch and he really enjoyed it. So all in all, a rather successful Karniyarik - although maybe not as authentic as it should or could have been!

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