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Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Daily Tiffin - Helping around the house

It's Daily Tiffin time again and this time I talk a little about Helping around the House. Most women like it when their men help with the cooking. The same applies to men - we like it when our women are self sufficient and can handle household repairs on their own.
So for those of you that have kids, start training them now to be all-rounders in the home department. Little cooks in the kitchen and little handymen/handywomen in fixing things!

Click here to read the full article over at the Daily Tiffin!

Monday, 28 January 2008

Lemon Meringue Pie

The whole blogosphere is going to be crowded with Lemon Meringue Pies! Yeap! That was the challenge for this months edition of The Daring Bakers.
When I first saw the challenge, I must admit that I wasn't too excited. You see, I'm not a big fan of Lemon Meringue Pie. I've had a LMP once and only once before and it's definitely NOT something that is on my radar screen to make. But I guess that is the whole point of the Daring Bakers. As Captain Kirk says - "To boldly go where no man has gone before..." There I go showing my age again. Anyway, I much prefer Jean Luc Picard!

Captains Log, Stardate 43223.5, my orders are to attempt the Daring Bakers challenge of a Lemon Meringue Pie. As usual, I woke up early to tackle this challenge. There are three parts to this pie,
The Crust
The Filling
The Meringue

and I'll share my experience with each part.

The Crust
I used the Food Processor option for my crust and it came together rather well. First mistake though was I don't think I used enough flour. (Either that or this Romulan class flour just doesn't bind together at warp speed). I didn't pack the flour in but just filled the cup loosely. I know there wasn't enough flour because the pastry was very soft even after chilling. Or perhaps there's too much cold water in the recipe. Whatever it is, I added in a few more sprinkles of flour. Then I lined my pastry dish and let some of the dough hang over the edge before chilling it again.

Problem was that when I baked it, the 'overhang' all dripped off. Fortunately though, there was enough pastry that stayed in the dish to form a nice crust. The crust was delicious and my darling daughter loved the parts that had dripped off to form 'drop biscuits'! She even had these with milk for her breakfast and declared the biscuits were yummy!

The Filling
While waiting for the crust to cool, I started on the filling. When I had read the recipe earlier, I noticed that there was a large amount of corn flour needed for the filling, but it didn't seem to bother me. However, once I boiled the water and added in the sugar and corn flour, I couldn't help but think how much it reminded me of glue... Sorry. Fortunately when I added in the eggs, the mixture looked much better and resembled a custard. No real problems here.

The Meringue
This was the least of my worries but don't we all know that when you least expect it, something will go wrong. Before I go into details of my Meringue, this was the opportunity to use my latest toy! Yes! My parents gave me a Kenwood Chef as a combined Birthday/Christmas gift. Here's a picture of it sans bowl and balloon whisk (which were being washed!)

So, with my Kenwood whipping up the egg whites into a frenzy, I started measuring out my sugar. Aaaaarrrggghhh! Not enough Caster Sugar!! The egg whites were already at the soft peak stage so I briefly considered rushing out to the store to get some caster sugar - but that would probably deflate the egg whites. Screw it. Just use some coarse granulated sugar instead.
In retrospect, if I have stayed calm and cool like the man I normally am, I'd have whizzed the coarse sugar in the food processor to make it finer. But I was too darn panicky wasn't I. S T U P I D! Definitely NOT what they taught me at Starfleet Academy.

Anyway, i only had about a quarter cup of Caster sugar so that meant half a cup of coarse sugar. I turned the Kenwood on high in the hopes that it would dissolve the sugar. Man! I've never, EVER seen egg whites whipped to such stiff peaks before. It was awesome!

Unfortunately, all the sugar didn't dissolve and there were still a few grainy bits in the meringue. I piled the meringue on and even piped some around the edges. However, when I tried to shape the meringue into lovely billows, it just ended up getting mussed up - I think it was a tad too stiff. So anyway, I just swirled it on and then popped it into the over to bake.

Too much thinking is not good for the soul and neither is it when it comes to baking. You see, I figured with some sugar still undissolved and also to try and prevent beading and also to get a nice golden top, I should place the pie dish on the top rack. Bad Idea.

The meringue browned a little too much and a little too quickly. I realised the folly of my ways and removed the pie to the lower tray. It came out looking pretty nice although not as nice as I had imagined in my minds eye. No billowy sails or peaks. Just a mound of smooth meringue. Oh Well.

So. All in all, a pretty successful challenge. But how did it taste? I was the first to cut and taste it and I am happy to report that there was NO weeping! YAY! The pie was quite tasty and definitely the best Lemon Meringue Pie I have ever tasted but seeing as I've only tasted one before, that's really nothing to shout about. It was nice enough, I have to admit but its really not my cup of tea. And I really doubt I wuold make it again or even try it anywhere else - unless I had too or jus to be polite. As I said, the LMP is just not my kind of pie. Also, I still had visions of the corn flour glue..... but even without that vision, not really my kind of dessert.

But the crust was superb!

Anyway, to be fair, I thought I'd let my official tasters guide me on it.

My son kind of liked the pie. He seemed to like the lemon taste as well as the meringue. Kind of expected as he likes sourish things - especially lemons and limes! But it wasn't a super dessert in his eyes because he didn't rave about it nor did he want seconds. But all in all, I think he quite enjoyed it.

My daughter loved the meringue but wasn't too impressed with the filling. But I expected that as she is a Chocolate girl - like her Daddy!

The lovely wife was not a great fan. She felt the pie was a bit sweet and just didn't quite like it. She also mentioned a bit ruefully that this was the first DB challenge that she didn't like....

Oh Well, it was still a great experience making this pie and if not for this challenge, I would never, ever, not in a million years have thought of making a Lemon Meringue Pie. And isn't that just what the Daring Bakers are about! So my thanks go to Jen the Canadian Baker for choosing this as the challenge.

You can find the rest of the Daring Bakers at the Official Daring Bakers Blogroll to see how they fared with this challenge.

In the meantime, for any of you interested, the recipe is duplicated below. I now need to return to The Bridge as The Enterprise is about to orbit the two major planets of the Beta Renner system. Engage!

Lemon Meringue Pie
from "Wanda's Pie in the Sky" by Wanda Beaver

Makes one 10-inch (25 cm) pie

For the Crust:
¾ cup (180 mL) cold butter; cut into ½-inch (1.2 cm) pieces
2 cups (475 mL) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (60 mL) granulated sugar
¼ tsp (1.2 mL) salt
⅓ cup (80 mL) ice water

For the Filling:
2 cups (475 mL) water
1 cup (240 mL) granulated sugar
½ cup (120 mL) cornstarch
5 egg yolks, beaten

¼ cup (60 mL) butter
¾ cup (180 mL) fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon zest
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract

For the Meringue:

5 egg whites, room temperature
½ tsp (2.5 mL) cream of tartar
¼ tsp (1.2 mL) salt
½ tsp (2.5 mL) vanilla extract
¾ cup (180 mL) granulated sugar

For the Crust: Make sure all ingredients are as cold as possible. Using a food processor or pastry cutter and a large bowl, combine the butter, flour, sugar and salt. Process or cut in until the mixture resembles coarse meal and begins to clump together. Sprinkle with water, let rest 30 seconds and then either process very briefly or cut in with about 15 strokes of the pastry cutter, just until the dough begins to stick together and come away from the sides of the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and press together to form a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes.

Allow the dough to warm slightly to room temperature if it is too hard to roll. On a lightly floured board (or countertop) roll the disk to a thickness of ⅛ inch (.3 cm). Cut a circle about 2 inches (5 cm) larger than the pie plate and transfer the pastry into the plate by folding it in half or by rolling it onto the rolling pin. Turn the pastry under, leaving an edge that hangs over the plate about ½ inch (1.2 cm). Flute decoratively. Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line the crust with foil and fill with metal pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden. Cool completely before filling.

For the Filling: Bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Remove from the heat and let rest 5 minutes. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together. Add the mixture gradually to the hot water, whisking until completely incorporated.

Return to the heat and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. The mixture will be very thick. Add about 1 cup (240 mL) of the hot mixture to the beaten egg yolks, whisking until smooth. Whisking vigorously, add the warmed yolks to the pot and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in butter until incorporated. Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla, stirring until combined. Pour into the prepared crust. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the surface, and cool to room temperature.

For the Meringue: Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, salt and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually, beating until it forms stiff, glossy peaks. Pile onto the cooled pie, bringing the meringue all the way over to the edge of the crust to seal it completely. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a rack. Serve within 6 hours to avoid a soggy crust.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Roasted Lamb Chops

My Mother got a great deal on Lamb Chops over the New Year and she asked if I could whip up something with them for lunch at my Grandmothers house on New Years Day. The Lamb Chops brought back memories of my Uni days when my flatmates and I used to buy lamb chops and then phsically chop them into smaller pieces to make lamb curry. Why in heavens would we do that? Simply because lamb curry is absolutely fabulous and buying lamb chops was a damn sight cheaper since we were all on shoe string budgets as students.

I briefly considered making curried lamb chops but decided that would be a waste of nice chops. So, I decided to marinate them and then roast them in the oven - much like how I would roast a leg of lamb.

What I did with these chops was fairly simple. I threw them into a large bowl and added in some pepper, garlic, lots of Fresh Rosemary and finally about 1/2 litre of Prune Juice.

I've learnt that prune juice is a wonderful substitute for Red Wine and it gives a great flavour to meat. I let the lamb marinate in this concoction overnight and then rubbed some salt on the chops before slow roasting them in the oven for about an hour.

No doubt, a nice leg would have tasted so, so much better but these lamb chops turned out very nice as well!

Monday, 21 January 2008

Beef Kheema

This is one of my all time favourite dishes and also one that has a long history to it. Mum used to make her own version of this when I was younger and she called it a Minced Meat curry. She used to make it with minced beef and diced potatoes and we would all enjoy eating it with rice. The next day, we'd fill slices of bread with the leftover mince curry and polish it off!

Needless to say, when I went off to Uni, this was one of the dishes that I would often cook. I changed the recipe somewhat and added tomatoes as well as frozen mixed vegetables to it whilst omitting potatoes. I used to love this dish so much that almost everytime it was my turn to cook, I would cook this. As a result, my flatmates used to call me the "Mince Meat Man" although they used to enjoy this dish as much as I did!

I remember when I was in my Final year. It was just before mid term exams which meant that we were smack in the middle of Winter with cold, wet nights. We were all busy studying through the night and at about two in the morning, my flatmate walked into my room and annnounced that he was 'feeling hungry' and asked if I was too. We considered driving down to the local 24hr food outlet but decided that we wanted something hot and spicy; something that would 'comfort' us at this late hour when our minds were numb with too much studying. I suggested making some Kheema and my flatmates eyes lit up. He cooked up a large amount of rice while I quickly whipped up my Kheema. We sat in front of the gas fireplace and delighted in the steaming hot rice and spicy hot Kheema. Truly comfort food indeed!

The beauty of this dish is that it is an all-in-one dish with meat and vegetables in it. It's also extremely versatile in that you can eat it with rice, bread or even noodles. In fact, often times, we would eat the leftovers with instant noodles for a quick snack or even a meal the next day.

Kheema is really the Hindi word for Minced Meat but has also become the generic term for a Minced Meat Curry. This is my recipe:

600g Mince Beef or Mutton
300g frozen Mixed Vegetables (Pees, Carrots, Corn)
2 medium-sized Red Capsicums
4 Large Tomatoes - quartered
1 Large Onion
3-4 cloves garlic
a little ginger, chopped finely
6 Cloves
2 - 3 Tbsp Curry Powder
¾ Tbsp Chilli Powder
1 tsp Ground Black Pepper
cooking oil
Salt to taste

Slice onion into thin slices and chop garlic and ginger. Dice Capsicum and thaw frozen vegetables. Lightly fry onions with garlic, ginger, black pepper and 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.

Coincidentally, the topic of the Monthly Mingle this month, hosted by my friend Meeta over at Whats for Lunch Honey is on Comfort Food. Although Kheema is great with plain white rice, it TRULY becomes Comfort Food when served with Yellow Rice or what I call Fools Saffron Rice.

Saffron Rice or Yellow rice is traditionally served instead of white rice for festivals or special occasions. Somehow, the food seems to take on an expensive and exotic twist when Yellow Rice is served.

I call this Fools Saffron Rice because it is an easy way of making fabulous, tasty, yellow rice in a rice cooker that can easily pass off for Saffron Rice – fooling most people!!

3 Cups Rice
4 ½ Cups Water
1-2 Tbsp Butter
2 handfuls Raisins and/or cashew nuts(optional)
6 cloves
2 tsp Turmeric powder


Wash the rice well and place into the rice cooker.
Add the water, butter, cloves, turmeric powder and raisins/nuts (if using)
Mix lightly then turn on the rice cooker.
When rice is cooked, quickly stir the cooked rice to ensure all ingredients are mixed well.

Although I prefer Minced Beef, this dish is just as lovely made with Minced Lamb or even Minced Chicken! (I think my US friends would call Minced Meat as Ground Meat!)

I hope you all like this dish as much as I do!

Friday, 18 January 2008

Christmas Tradition - Cake for the Godparents

Another one of the traditions that have sprung up in recent years is the giving of a cake to my son's Godparents and their 3 lovely daughters for Christmas. Each year I try and make something different although there is normally some semblance of chocolate in the cake! Everyone loves chocolate!

In 2006, I made a Rehrucken Cake and that was actually one of the first pictures I posted on this blog. For Christmas just past, (i.e. Christmas 2007) I decided to make a Chocolate Rum Log - taking inspiration from the Daring Bakers Challenge of a Yule Log. I had also made a similar log for my own family in 2006 but as usual, I tried to improve on it.

The Chocolate Rum Log I made was basically my Chocolate Cake recipe but infused with a lot of rum. For the icing, I added some Dark Chocolate to my usual icing recipe together with a substantial amount of rum. I baked the cake in a log pan I have that also has a thinner, smaller pan for the branches. I then cut a diagonal off the larger log and placed it on top as the knot of the large branch.

Again, taking inspiration from the DB Challenge, I made Marzipan Mushrooms and placed them all over the log before dusting the log with snow powder.

I saved a tiny piece of the smaller branch and I thought the rum in the cake combined with the dark chocolate (and more rum) in the icing made this an exceptioanally tasty cake!

Monday, 14 January 2008

Mom's Birthday - Reverse Black Forest Cake

It was my Mom's birthday on the 13th and would you believe that it was my Dad's birthday exactly a week earlier? On the 6th? They were born in the same year too. Quite amazing really.

So to kill two birds with one stone, the family went out for lunch and then we all came home to my place to cut the cake. My Mom loves her cake, more so than Dad. Mom also loves anything with Chocolate in it, as do most of us, so the sensible thing to do was to make a cake with loads of chocolate in it.

But at the same time, I wanted to make her something different and so I decided on a Reverse Black Forest Cake. A What?? Well, its my own concoction so I beleive I can call it whatever I want to. So there!

But first, some history on the Black Forest Cake. This cake is believed to have originated in Germany in surprise, surprise, the Black Forest! The Black Forest Region is located in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg and is known for its sour cherries. Kirsch - a clear Cherry Brandy is made from these sour cherries.

In German, the cake is known as Schwarzwälder kirschtorte or to translate Black Forest Kirsch Cake. This cake is basically a chocolate layer cake infused with Kirsch and layered with cherries and cream.

So a Reverse Black Forest Cake would simply be a Vanilla Layered Sponge, infused with Kirsch and layered with cherries and Chocolate Mousse. Get it?

But we haven't quite finished. We need a German name for no better reason than the fact that I spent some time in Munich and Hanover and thus think that I know a helluva lot of German (which I dont, but humour me anyway.) So, the Reverse Black Forest Cake would now be known as a umgekehrt Schwarzwälder kirschtorte

Rather brilliant if you ask me!! :)

This is my recipe given with some hindsight as I think I used to few cherries. If I were to make this again, I'd double the cherries although it is terribly, terribly expensive to get canned dark cherries over here....:

Vanilla Sponge Cake (from the Aust Womens Weekly New Cookbook - 1978!!)
4 egggs
3/4 cup castor sugar
2/3 cup plain flour
1/3 cup cornflour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Beat eggs with electric beater till thick and creamy. (about 5-8 minutes) Mixture will triple. Gradually beat in sugar till dissolved.
Sift dry ingredients a few times and the gently but quickly fold into the egg mixture. Pour mixture into two greased and lined 20cm (8in) round cake tins. Bake in preheated 180C oven for about 20 - 25 mins.

Chocolate Mousse
4 egg yolks
400g good quality dark chocolate
650 ml whipping cream or thickened cream
Sugar to taste (optional)

Melt chocolate in a double boiler with about 30ml of the cream. Mix in beaten egg yolks while still over heat and stir quickly. Mixture may thicken and coagulate a bit but dont worry. Remove from heat and beat till chocolate smoothens. In separate bowl, whip cream till soft peak stage and then add in cooled chocolate mixture. Continue to beat till mixture thickens and becomes light, airy and mousselike.

1 to 2 cans Black Cherries drained and syrup reserved (depending on how fruity you want the cake)
Brandy - to your taste or you can omit altogether.
Infuse the brandy (if using) into the syrup.

First, bake the sponge as per directions. Then make the mousse. Place sponge in center of 9" springform of 9" metal ring. Brush cake with syrup to moisten it. Lay a layer of cherries over the cake and then cover with a layer or mousse, ensuring the the mousse fills in the 1/2 inch space around the cake. Place second sponge over the mousse and soak with syrup as well. Repeat layer of cherries and mouuse and smoothen the top. Allow to chill for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight.

Before serving, garnish with Roasted Almond slivers or almond nibs. Dust with snow powder.

This recipe is not as complicated as it looks and produces a very lush and decadent cake that was enjoyed by everybody.

Happy Birthday Mom!

Thursday, 10 January 2008

100th Post and the history of my cooking

Can you believe this is my 100th post? I certainly can't. When I started this blog on the 19th December 2006, I really didn't know where I was heading with it nor what I wanted to do with this blog.

Now, not only have I written 100 posts, but I've made so many friends from all around the world. Not only that, but I've joined the Daring Bakers and I'm also a contributor to The Daily Tiffin. Who would have thought huh? Certainly not me!

So, in commemoration of my 100th post, I thought I'd give you all an insight into how I started my cooking adventure and how it has turned into a love affair with food and the kitchen.

My first foray into the world of cooking started at a very young age. Coming from a family of three boys, we all had to help out with household chores and also in the kitchen.

I used to particularly enjoy helping Mum make desserts and I would often operate the cake mixer while she supervised and added all the ingredients. My favourite part, of course, was licking the bowl clean! It was definitely Mum that started me off on my love for cooking. I remember getting a Children's cooking book by Betty Crocker from Mom and Dad - a book that I still have!

Mum and Dad used to throw dinner parties ever so often and there was this once when Mum asked if I would like to help make the dessert since she was busy with other things. I jumped at the chance and diligently followed Mum’s recipe for a Chilled Cheese Cake. The recipe was handwritten in this Green Diary that served as a repository for her personal collection of recipes (she still has this green diary!). The cheesecake turned out pretty well and was a hit at the dinner.

This became my signature dessert for many years. During my university days, I would often make this dessert to try and impress the girls!

My years spent overseas as a university student saw me experimenting with different styles of cooking and using different ingredients. As eating out was often expensive, and few and far between, I would often try to replicate something I had tasted at a restaurant – on a trial and error basis. That is how I learnt to perfect my dishes. I seldom used cookbooks and on the oft occasion that I did, it was merely to get an idea of what should go into the dish – I never followed the recipe exactly.

Although Mum was the very first to instil my love for cooking, it has been the Lovely Wife, Angelina, who has challenged me and spurred me on to increase my repertoire of dishes – particularly my desserts!

I first tried to entice her (as with all the other girls!) with my Chilled Cheese Cake and although she liked it, she admitted to liking the Baked variety better and in fact, favoured a cheese cake sold in a particular Coffee franchise (Starbucks? Coffee Bean? San Francisco Coffee? I’m not telling!). I had to admit that the Cheese Cake there was really very good and since I had never made a Baked Cheese Cake before, my experimentation with Baked Cheese Cakes started.

The two of us also enjoy eating out a fair bit and Angelina would often ‘challenge’ me to make a dish that she had enjoyed at some restaurant or cafe somewhere. Thus far I have not disappointed too greatly!!

When my children came along, I insisted that I would bake their birthday cakes. The problem however, was that I really didn’t have any experience in decorating cakes – a must for a child’s birthday cake. I learnt quickly however and I also learnt that all things are possible where love is involved. To this day, my pride and joy is the ‘Elephant Cake’ I baked and decorated for my son’s Third birthday. As my wife often says – “that cake was made with 20% skill and 80% love!” Proof that with a lot of dedication, anything is possible!

I don’t claim to be a master chef. I don’t even think I could call myself a chef! I have had no professional training whatsoever. I am simply a man who enjoys good food and who enjoys cooking. I believe that anyone can cook. All it takes is a little willingness, a little experimentation and a lot of self-belief. A little love helps a lot too!

If there were any advice I could offer, it would simply be this:
Never follow recipes exactly. Each of us has different tastes and you should modify your recipes to suit these tastes. Omit ingredients that you dislike and substitute or add in those that you like. You really can’t go wrong. The only time you should be more strict about following recipes exactly is for cakes and desserts. Slight alterations in cake and dessert recipes can drastically change the way they turn out – and can be the difference between success and failure! However, having said that, it does not mean you can’t experiment. Most of my desserts have been perfected and fine tuned after a lot of experimentation, trial and error – and in some cases of abject failure, straight into the garbage bin!

I take great joy now in cooking and preparing desserts for my wife and kids. The greatest compliment I can receive nowadays is from my children. There have been times that we have gone out for a meal at some restaurant and my children remark on the way home - "I think Daddy's food is better... Also Mummy's." Yeah, my kids the politicians and diplomats, even at this young age!

There was this once when I gave my Son and Daughter $5 each to spend on anything they wanted. My son bought himself a Hot Wheels car from a pharmacy while my daughter (she was about 2+ at the time) couldn't figure out what she wanted. We walked along the row of shops till we came to a cake shop. She stood at the large glass windows and I knelt down and asked her if she wanted a cake. She nodded her head and so I opened the door to let her in as my wife followed her. My son, who until then had been busy studying his new car, suddenly darted into the shop and yelled out.

"Sarah! Sarah! Don't buy the cakes here. The cakes here are lousy! Daddy's cakes are much, much nicer."

True story and it brings tears to my eyes knowing my children think so highly off me. They are definitely the impetus for me to continue to improve and increase my knowledge in the world of cooking.

It's really been a lot of fun sharing my cooking with all of you out in the blogspere and even more fun making new friends. I hope to someday meet some of you that are frequent visitors to this blog and I'm looking forward to having a lot more fun with this blog!

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

We have a Winner!

I'm rather pleased to announce that after many attempts at the Royal Foodie Joust hosted by Jen, the Leftover Queen, I finally came out a winner!

The Royal Foodie Joust is a monthly event where three ingredients are chosen by the winner of the previous month's joust. All three of the ingredients must be used in your recipe to be considered for the joust.

The ingredients for the January joust were:
Mint and

The winning entry was my very own Chicken Pilaf with Pomegranate, Mint and Pistachios

The ingredients I have chosen for the February Joust are
Lentils (any kind)
Eggplant (also known as Aubergine or Brinjals)

I basically wanted to give an Asian flavour to the joust and I am particularly excited to see what everyone comes up with. This does not limit the entries to Asian cuisine though!!

Thanks to everyone that voted for my entry and thanks again to Jen for starting this great Joust!

Monday, 7 January 2008

Muruku - Christmas Tradition 4

Part of the goodies that we serve, especially during Christmas time, is Muruku. What in tarnation is Muruku? Well, it's a traditional Indian savoury crispy thingamebob. I really don't know how to explain it. So maybe it's best to just tell you how it's made.

Before I explain this, I have to admit that I have never made this and probably never will!   Why?   Firstly, my Mother-in-Law makes the best Muruku around.
Secondly, it's a highly complicated process and I don't have the patience (nor skill) to make it.
If I needed any other reason not to make it is the fact that you can buy Muruku mixture, much like Instant Cake Mix and just whip it up.
As a final reason, Muruku is also often sold ready made in many food stores as well.

So anyway, Muruku is basically a mix of Rice flour, Chick Pea flour (also known as Besan or Gram flour) and spices. These are then mixed together and then piped out into a circular pattern before being deep fried. There is a Murukku Press i.e a contraption made out of wood and brass dies to pipe out Murukku but you still have to move your arms as you squeeze the press to get the round circular shape. It takes a great deal of skill to get it in such a lovely symmetrical shape.

Muruku is full of flavour and it is highly addictive - meaning you can't just eat one. You end up nibbling and crunching them one after the other. It goes really well with Beer too! Also coffee and tea for those that don't imbibe. The kids love to munch on Muruku as well.

I wish I could give you the recipe, but if I did, I'd have to shoot you...

Seriously, my Mother in Law has been making this for such a long time that she just instinctively knows how to throw it all together without following any recipe. And any attempts to ask her just result in "a bit of this, a dash of that, throw in some of those"

Or maybe, just maybe, the Mother-in-Law and the Lovely Wife are conspiring together and keeping secrets from me.....

Friday, 4 January 2008

Chocolate Cake - Christmas Tradition 3

This cake is beyond any doubt one of my most 'famous' cakes and it is certainly looked forward to by friends and family alike at Christmas time.

My Mom would make this cake for all the special occasions, and of course for Christmas but for the last 12 years or so, I have taken over the responsibility of baking the Chocolate Cake for Christmas.

This recipe actually originated from my Paternal Grand Aunt - Aunty Freda. Her recipe was passed down to all her sisters, nieces, daughters - basically to everyone in the family. My mom however, seems to have perfected making the cake as everyone in the family says that her Chocolate Cake is the best. My mom in turn, passed the recipe on to many a friend and relative but somehow, they have never been able to get it to turn out quite the same way. Some have even accused my dear mother of witholding some secret ingredient in the recipe!

This is one of the very first cakes I baked by myself. In fact, the first time I baked this cake, I was about 15 or so. In my eagerness to do it myself, I got confused with the different types of flour in the house. Instead of using plain wheat flour, I used Atta flour instead – a kind of wholewheat flour (the type used to make chappatis!) The cake still turned out okay except that the Atta flour gave the cake a very wheaty, grainy texture! That episode is now fondly referred to by my friends and family as the Chocolate Chappati incident!

Of course, that experience made me learn that there were different kinds of flours used for different purposes. I also learnt how different cake tins produces different results as well as how different ovens could also produce different results. I obviously learned well from my mother as I have managed to reproduce her famous Chocolate Cake and I believe, my cake is now the benchmark. I guess it also helps that I use the same oven as my mother did (she has changed her oven since and I think it affects the timing of the recipe). I have made a slight adjustment to the original recipe but this is only for the icing where I add a little bit more butter to make the icing a little creamier. The original recipe was always for a large rectangular tin but I have halved the recipe to make a nice 9" round or a smaller rectangle or square.

Chocolate Cake
250 g Butter
300 g Castor Sugar
200 g flour
30 g corn flour
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 eggs
3 tbsp cocoa
1½ tbsp milk
1 tbsp honey
3/8 cup hot water
1 tsp vanilla

Cream butter and sugar till light
Beat the eggs lightly and add in a little at a time
Sift flour, corn flour and bicarbonate of soda together. Fold into cream mixture
Combine water with cocoa and smoothen to a paste
Add in to cake mixture. Mix well
Add in honey, milk and vanilla. Mix well
Spread into a lined and greased cake pan
Bake in a preheated 180oC oven for 50 minutes of till done.
Remove from Oven and cool
Frost with Chocolate Icing

Chocolate Icing
170 g Icing sugar
60 g cocoa
60 g butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 coffee mug hot water

Cream butter till soft
Sift icing sugar and cocoa together
Slowly add to butter and cream. Mixture sill stiffen
Add in hot water a little at a time till desired consistency is achieved. (Like thick butercream)
Spread onto cake and let set

My children love this cake too and I bake it for Birthday's or anytime the kids feel like some of "Daddy's Yummy Chocolate Cake!"

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

New Year Fireworks

I think fireworks are Standard Operating Procedure to welcome in the New Year regardless of where you are in this world. In Kuala Lumpur, there were many, many fireworks displays just as the clock struck Midnight.

As soon as I heard the "wheee, boom, hiss, Boom, boom" of the fireworks, I ran to get my Canon 400D while the Lovely Wife and my son watched the explosion of colours from our window. My daughter was exhausted and had already fallen asleep - so sound asleep in fact that the noise failed to waken her. I'm still not certain which fireworks spectacle we were treated to but suffice to say that it was one of the smaller ones.

These are some of the shots I managed to capture of the fireworks display. It was rather hard timing the shutter to coincide with the explosions but for a first effort at capturing fireworks, I am really, really pleased!

I used a full manual setting for my shots and set the exposure at various times ranging from 0.5" to 2". I only wish I had a larger zoom to get more detail. The pictures here have been cropped of course!

Once again, Happy New Year everyone!

2008 already....

Eeek! It's 2008 already. As a matter of fact, the fireworks just went off and its just past 12am on the 1st of January 2008 as I write this. Happy New Year everyone!

Now just where has the year gone?

New Year's Eve was spent with the Lovely Wife and kids. Both of us cooked up a nice meal and the kids helped too. What better way to welcome in the New Year than with the family!

In the next few posts, I will continue with my Christmas Traditions and then post on what we had for dinner tonight!

In the meantime, many thanks to all of you that have stayed with me the past year. It has truly been a wonderful experience getting to know all of you and I have enjoyed maintaing this food blog tremendously.

So in the spirit of New Year, join me in raising a glass and toasting yourselves and everyone dear and close to you.

Have a Happy and Blessed Year ahead!


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