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Friday, 30 May 2008

Orange Choc Sponge Cake

Remember the Peace Cake I made for a friend's birthday recently? Well, there was quite a bit of chocolate icing left over. Usually I wouldn't worry too much about leftover icing but since this had a fair bit of Dark Chocolate in it, I couldn't very well let it go to waste now could I? So, I decided to take a leaf out of the book of my friend, Jenn, the Leftover Queen. She's the expert at not wasting anything and so I decided not to let anything go to waste either!

As I said earlier, I would normally just get rid of any extra chocolate icing but this chocolate icing not only had lovely Dark Chocolate in it, but there was also Cointreau! Now throwing chocolate and orange liquer out is a bad, bad thing!

Here's what I did. I whisked up a sponge cake using my tried and tested recipe from the Aust Womens Weekly New Cookbook(1978). It was my mom's recipe book that I appropriated in one of my visits. I think I may have mentioned that before in a previous post but what the heck, it doesn't really matter if I've mentioned it before.

Vanilla Sponge Cake
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.

Then, I sandwiched the layers with the leftover Chocolate Icing. Finally, I made a glaze by melting some Orange Marmalade with icing sugar and then pouring it over the cake.

I intentionally left the cake 'messy' as I wanted a kind of rustic, homemade look to it. The cake was deliciously light yet so tasty with the chocolate icing and marmalade on top.

Not only did I manage to use my leftover chocolate, but I came up with an easy and lovely recipe at the same time!

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Albino L 'Opera and Terrorists....

Its Daring Bakers time again and this month, our hosts are none other than the founders - Lis and Ivonne!   Yaaay to them both!

I must admit that when I first saw this challenge, I was overcome with a variety of emotions. First the name of the challenge excited me greatly. L 'Opera or Opera Cake. I've always wanted to make an Opera Cake and the closest I've come before was in making a pseudo Opera Cake. Pseudo because I made it using a Sponge base - and a ready mix at that - rather than a Joconde.

Then came a little disappointment. Actually a LOT of disappointment. The Opera Cake that we were challenged to make was to be Opéra Cakes that are light in both colour and flavour. - meaning NO dark colours or flavours.

Awwwww. I sooo love chocolate and sooo wanted to make a traditional Opera cake, with all its dark flavorus and lots of chocolate. So do I break the rules, rant and rave and swear at the hosts? Or do I do as I pledged to do when I joined this illustrious group of bakers and just follow the challenge? (Can you hear the violins playing that mournful tune??!!!)

Bring it On I said! If light flavours is what is required of this cake, then light flavours it will be. I'll just call it an Albino Opera Cake!

There'll be another occasion to make a Dark flavoured Opera Cake especially since I managed to get this done with a minimum of fuss!!

Okay, so we know where the Albino Opera comes in, but what about the terrorists?? well, read on to find out...

But first, a little about my experience with this cake. First off, the cake was a little expensive to make as almonds are a little on the pricey side. To be fair though, everything seems to be a little pricey these days.

I used a little white chocolate but not as much as the recipe instructed. I also stayed away from the White Chocolate glaze simply because none of us are great fans of white chocolate. I made one mistake with the mousse though. I paired it with about 100g of cream cheese but reduced the white chocolate. That meant that the mousse didn't set as well as it should have. It was still alright, it just started to melt after a while out of the fridge and seeing that we have been having particularly hot days of late, that didnt help any. Taking pictures didn't help either...

As usual, I got up early on a Saturday morning to make this cake and I took my time, leisurely making the Joconde which turned out really nicely, before making the buttercream and mousse. I chucked everything into the fridge and nearly got a fright when I tried to soften the hardened buttercream. It started to separate on me and I thought I had F***ed the whole thing up! Fortunately, as it warmed up, it started to get silky and smooth again. That was probably the only real problem I had other than the aforementioned error in mousse consistency.

No step by step pictures or commentary this time as I reckon there were really no surprises or special issues to look out for. The recipe looked daunting but as I have read and looked at many, many Opera Cake recipes, I knew what to expect. Once I had the Joconde sorted out, the cocky rooster was strutting around the kitchen and everything was good.

I did my layers as follows:

Lemon infused buttercream
thin layer or buttercream + choc& cheese mousse
white choc &cheese mouse

I didnt put any glaze on top simply because (at the risk of repeating myself) we are not really white choc fans - but I must say the cake was super Delicious!!!!

My official taste testers LOVED this cake. The Lovely Wife liked it and was even quite surprised at how delicious it was without 'real' chocolate. Initially we both found the lemon infused buttercream just a tad too sweet although the cheese/chocolate mousse lent a nice flavour to it. It tasted a lot better once it was really cold though - The Choc & Chesse mousse firmed up a little more and it wasn't as sweet either! The layers had formed very, very nicely and I was pleased as punch!

The next night, after it had chilled really nicely, we took it over to my brother's house where he was having a small BBQ party. He loved it too - and like The Lovely Wife, couldn't believe that something could taste this good without 'real' chocolate! All the guests that were there loved the Opera cake too!!

To say that my son liked this cake would be an understatement. He was pleased as punch with this dessert. My daughter loved it too and they really enjoyed eating the trimmed sides of the cake.

My son enquired if this cake was going to win an apron as a prize and I explained to him that he was thinking of the Royal Foodie Joust hosted by Jenn, the Leftover Queen(also a Daring Baker!). I went on to explain that this was one of the Daring Bakers challenges at which point his eyes lit up and he remarked:

"Oh! You mean the one where all the little men terrorise the town!"


I was for a brief moment until I realised he was talking about the DB logo - sure looks like a town is being terrorised doesnt it?!!

I mentioned in the Perfect Party Cake Post that my daughter thinks we are the Caring Bakers... now I learn my son thinks we are a bunch of Terrorists!

Oh well, at least the Opera Cake turned out well and everyone loved it - Terrorists or not....

To see how the rest of the 'Terrorists' fared, please check out the Daring Bakers Blogroll.

Thanks Lis and Ivonne for this great challenge. Thanks also for founding the Daring Bakers and for spurring so many of us on to new heights!

This is the recipe:

For the joconde

(Note: The joconde can be made up to 1 day in advance and kept wrapped at room temperate)

What you’ll need:

•2 12½ x 15½-inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans (Note: If you do not have jelly-roll pans this size, do not fear! You can use different-sized jelly-roll pans like 10 x 15-inches.)
•a few tablespoons of melted butter (in addition to what’s called for in the ingredients’ list) and a brush (to grease the pans)
•parchment paper
•a whisk and a paddle attachment for a stand mixer or for a handheld mixer
•two mixing bowls (you can make do with one but it’s preferable to have two)


6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar
2 cups (225 grams) ground blanched almonds (Note: If you do not want to use almond meal, you can use another nut meal like hazelnut. You can buy almond meal in bulk food stores or health food stores, or you can make it at home by grinding almonds in the food processor with a tablespoon or two of the flour that you would use in the cake. The reason you need the flour is to prevent the almonds from turning oily or pasty in the processor. You will need about 2 cups of blanched almonds to create enough almond meal for this cake.)
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. (1½ ounces; 45 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1.Divide the oven into thirds by positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven and the lower third of the oven.

2.Preheat the oven to 425◦F. (220◦C).

3.Line two 12½ x 15½- inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.

4.In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a handheld mixer), beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy. If you do not have another mixer bowl, gently scrape the meringue into another bowl and set aside.

5.If you only have one bowl, wash it after removing the egg whites or if you have a second bowl, use that one. Attach the paddle attachment to the stand mixer (or using a handheld mixer again) and beat the almonds, icing sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes.

6.Add the flour and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to overmix here!!!).

7.Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.

8.Bake the cake layers until they are lightly browned and just springy to the touch. This could take anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes depending on your oven. Place one jelly-roll pan in the middle of the oven and the second jelly-roll pan in the bottom third of the oven.

9.Put the pans on a heatproof counter and run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the pans over, and unmold.

10.Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cakes. Let the cakes cool to room temperature.

For the syrup

(Note: The syrup can be made up to 1 week in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator.)

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan


½ cup (125 grams) water
⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
1 to 2 tbsp. of the flavouring of your choice (i.e., vanilla extract, almond extract, cognac, limoncello, coconut cream, honey etc.)

1.Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.

2.Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

For the buttercream

(Note: The buttercream can be made up to 1 month in advance and packed in an airtight container. If made way in advance, you can freeze the buttercream. Alternatively you can refrigerate it for up to 4 days after making it. To use the buttercream simply bring it to room temperature and then beat it briefly to restore its consistency.)

(Update Note: The recipe for the buttercream that is listed below was originally based on the original but we had some typos. It's all very confusing (we're good at confusing ourselves) but here is the short of it: When testing the buttercream, we tested a modified version (we're crazy like that!!!) that had 2 cups sugar, ½ cup water and 1¾ cups butter. Yes. That's right. 1¾ cups of butter. The eggs remained the same. We ended up with a very creamy buttercream. VERY. CREAMY. But we don’t want anyone to be afraid of our modified version so you have the option of using the original version listed below or the quantities we’ve listed here in this note. If you are still confused and want to cry, then please e-mail us and we will comfort you!!! We promise!!!)

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan
•a candy or instant-read thermometer
•a stand mixer or handheld mixer
•a bowl and a whisk attachment
•rubber spatula


1 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
¼ cup (60 grams) water
seeds of one vanilla bean (split a vanilla bean down the middle and scrape out the seeds) or 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract (Note: If you are flavouring your buttercream and do not want to use the vanilla, you do not have to. Vanilla will often enhance other flavours but if you want an intense, one-flavoured buttercream, then by all means leave it out!)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1¾ sticks (7 ounces; 200 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
flavouring of your choice (a tablespoon of an extract, a few tablespoons of melted white chocolate, citrus zest, etc.)

1.Combine the sugar, water and vanilla bean seeds or extract in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.

2.Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 225◦F (107◦C) [*Note: Original recipe indicates a temperature of 255◦F (124◦C), however, when testing the recipe I found that this was too high so we heated to 225◦F and it worked fine] on a candy or instant-read thermometer. Once it reaches that temperature, remove the syrup from the heat.

3.While the syrup is heating, begin whisking the egg and egg yolk at high speed in the bowl of your mixer using the whisk attachment. Whisk them until they are pale and foamy.

4.When the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature and you remove it from the heat, reduce the mixer speed to low speed and begin slowly (very slowly) pouring the syrup down the side of the bowl being very careful not to splatter the syrup into the path of the whisk attachment. Some of the syrup will spin onto the sides of the bowl but don’t worry about this and don’t try to stir it into the mixture as it will harden!

5.Raise the speed to medium-high and continue beating until the eggs are thick and satiny and the mixture is cool to the touch (about 5 minutes or so).

6.While the egg mixture is beating, place the softened butter in a bowl and mash it with a spatula until you have a soft creamy mass.

7.With the mixer on medium speed, begin adding in two-tablespoon chunks. When all the butter has been incorporated, raise the mixer speed to high and beat until the buttercream is thick and shiny.

8.At this point add in your flavouring and beat for an additional minute or so.

9.Refrigerate the buttercream, stirring it often, until it’s set enough (firm enough) to spread when topped with a layer of cake (about 20 minutes).

For the white chocolate ganache/mousse (this step is optional – please see Elements of an Opéra Cake below)

(Note: The mousse can be made ahead and refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.)

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan
•a mixer or handheld mixer


7 ounces white chocolate
1 cup plus 3 tbsp. heavy cream (35% cream)
1 tbsp. liquer of your choice (Bailey’s, Amaretto, etc.)

1.Melt the white chocolate and the 3 tbsp. of heavy cream in a small saucepan.
2.Stir to ensure that it’s smooth and that the chocolate is melted. Add the tablespoon of liqueur to the chocolate and stir. Set aside to cool completely.
3.In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form.
4.Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse.
5.If it’s too thin, refrigerate it for a bit until it’s spreadable.
6.If you’re not going to use it right away, refrigerate until you’re ready to use.

For the glaze
(Note: It’s best to make the glaze right when you’re ready to finish the cake.)

What you’ll need:

•a small saucepan or double boiler


14 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup heavy cream (35% cream)

1.Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk the mixture gently until smooth.
2.Let cool for 10 minutes and then pour over the chilled cake. Using a long metal cake spatula, smooth out into an even layer.
3.Place the cake into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.

Assembling the Opéra Cake

(Note: The finished cake should be served slightly chilled. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 day).

Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.

Working with one sheet of cake at a time, cut and trim each sheet so that you have two pieces (from each cake so you’ll have four pieces in total): one 10-inch (25-cm) square and one 10 x 5-inch (25 x 12½-cm) rectangle.

Step A (if using buttercream only and not making the ganache/mousse):

Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.

Spread about one-third of the buttercream over this layer.

Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.

Spread another third of the buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde. Spread the remaining buttercream on top of the final layer of joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.

Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.

Step B (if making the ganache/mousse):

Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.

Spread about three-quarters of the buttercream over this layer.

Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.

Spread the remaining buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

Prepare the ganache/mousse (if you haven’t already) and then spread it on the top of the last layer of the joconde. Refrigerate for at least two to three hours to give the ganache/mousse the opportunity to firm up.

Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.

Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

When Mummy is away, Daddy will Play...Choc Orange Cupcakes

This is the final part of the fun I had with the kids - cooking up a storm - while Mummy was away. In the first part of this 'series', I posted about Chocolate Roasted Bananas that we had for dessert. In the second part I shared the main meal which was Scotch Eggs.
This is another dessert that we had after lunch as well as throughout the day. Yes, we certainly did have fun while Mummy was away!

The inspiration from this actually comes from one of the readers of this blog - Angela. She had shared her cupcake recipe with me where the cupcake moulds are half filled with batter, topped with coloured sprinkles and then covered up with more batter. I thought that was rather brilliant and so I decided to make my own version of cupcakes, using my tried and tested Butter Cake recipe but flavoured with some Orange Oil. Then, instead of sprinkles, I put in some delicious Belgioan Dark Chocolate Buttons!
This is what I did.

230g (8oz) Flour
2 ½ tsp Baking Powder
230g (8oz) Castor Sugar
250g Butter
4 Eggs – lightly beaten
2 tsp Orange Oil
1 Tbsp Honey
4 Tbsp Milk

Cream butter and sugar till light and ivory coloured
Add eggs a little at a time
Fold in flour (sifted twice with baking powder)
Add Milk, Honey and Orange Oil
Quarter fill cupcake moulds. Add in Chocolate Buttons (or any other filling you would like)
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 C for 25 mins till golden and done

The chocolate melted and stayed kind of soft and gooey even when the cake was cooled. It was really nice biting into the orange cupcake and finding the dark, luscious chocolate inside. The kids certainly loved it and The Lovely Wife was rather thrilled as well to find cupcakes when she returned home that evening.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

While Mummy is away, Daddy will Play... Scotch Eggs

This is the second of 3 parts of How I played while the Lovely Wife was away. Played in the kitchen that is - cooking up a storm for my kids!

We had decided earlier in the morning that I would make them Scotch Eggs. Both the kids love eggs, especially hard boiled eggs. They also love their meatballs so it seemed like a perfect idea to combine the two!

Traditionally, a Scotch Egg is a hard-boiled egg that is wrapped in sausage meat, coated in breadcrumbs and then deep-fried. They are also usually eaten cold and often with salad and pickles. Contrary to popular belief, Scotch Eggs have nothing to do with the Scottish and was actually created in a London food shop way back in 1738.

The version I made didn't have Sausage meat in it, wasn't coated in breadcrumbs nor was it deep fried. It certainly wasn't eaten cold either!! I had a lot of meat left over after wrapping the hard boiled eggs so I made meatballs.

This is what I did:

4 eggs
500g Mince Beef
2 slices wholemeal bread
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup tomato sauce

Boil the eggs until hard boiled. Let them cool then shell them and set aside.
Cut crust off break and soak in milk until soft. Mash the bread up till it forms a paste and then mix it together with the mince. Season with salt and pepper and add in the tomato sauce. Mix well.
Flatten some of the mince in your hand and then place the egg on top of the flattened piece. Slowly mould the meat around the egg. Use some water to smoothen out the meat over the egg if needed.
Place the meat covered eggs on a baking sheet and bake for about 20 mins in a 190C preheated oven.

I served these with garlic mushrooms and while the kids had theirs with rice, toghether with mustard and more tomato sauce. I ate mine with some French Bread.

All in all a very tasty and satisfying meal! Stay tuned for the last installment of While Mummy is away...

Monday, 19 May 2008

While Mummy is away, Daddy will Play... Chocolate Roasted Bananas

While Mummy is away, Daddy will Play! Not quite as exciting as it sounds but still a lot of fun! It's nice having the kids to myself and we do a lot of fun stuff together. I take the opportunity to cook extra special stuff for them as well.

The Lovely Wife was away on Friday and was expected back late Saturday evening so early on Saturday morning, we decided what we were going to have for lunch and then headed off to the Supermarket to get the groceries. I went a little overboard with lunch and dessert that day which is why this 'topic' will be covered in three separate posts!

Starting off with the easiest dish that I made that day - Roasted Banana's with Chocolate. I had eaten this many years ago as a student in Australia. What I remember was banana's being halved and then stuffed with chocolate chips before being wrapped in aluminium foil. The foil was then left to 'bake' on the Barbecue while the meat was devoured. Then the foil would be opened up to reveal lovely gooey banana with melted chocolate. It was sinfully delicious.

I did something similar. I peeled two banana's, split then lengthwise and then sandwhiched the two halves with good quality dark chocolate before wrapping them in foil. I put the foil wrapped bananas in a 190C oven for about 20 mins.

I loved the flavours of the melted chocolate and soft banana. I used an almost ripe banana so it wasn't too sweet and didn't get too gooey. The kids loved it and they had great fun opening the foil package to reveal the bananas covered in chocolate.

The only thing I would do differently is maybe not split the banana completely and then stuff the chocolate inside - rather than sandwiching it between two split halves.

A great dessert and so easy to do. Oh, and probably I'd serve it with ice cream and some nuts next time for a baked Banana Split! Now that's an idea worth trying!!

Look out for the next two 'editions' of While Mummy is Away...

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Oriental Fusion Chicken - or chicken with raspberries, lime, almonds and chilli!

The thing I like about the Royal Foodie Joust is that it stretches your creativity. I mean what in the world was I supposed to make with Raspberries, Lime and Almonds? I threw my hands up in frustration. I quite liked the action, so I threw them up again. Then I hit my fingers on the side of the door - Ouch!

No, no, that didnt really happen but it's something that I'm quite liable to do.

Anyway, I was in a bit of a quandary. Heck, even getting your hands on fresh raspberries in Malaysia is difficult not to mention bleeding Expensive! Then Elle, with the kitchen in New England - the winner of last months joust (and the person responsible for the choice of ingredients this month), suggested that I used canned raspberries or even raspberry jam. Thing's didnt look quite so bleek anymore.

The problem was, what to make? What to Make? WHAT TO MAKE??? I threw my hands up in frustration...(refer third line from top). Yeah, you get the picture. I was so bleeding frustrated that I was considering holding a lime, some almonds, puckering up my face, sticking out my tongue and Blowing a Raspberry at the whole Royal Foodie Joust. You know, Raspberry - Pbbbttttt!!

Then I heard a voice.

"Emotions your judgement they cloud. Yourself calm you must. Think. Focus. Feel the Force...."

No, that wasn't working either. Yoda wasn't a very good cook anyway - at least not in his old age.

I closed my eyes and tried to picture something. Then I saw it. A bat. A bat with madly flapping wings. A bat wearing a suit. No, not Batman silly, this was a real bat dressed in a tux. (humour me)

Suddenly - a cloud of smoke, Lightning, Thunder, evil maniacal laughter - Muuaahahahahahahaha!

I had it!

Muahahahahaha! More lightning, more thunder, more laughter.

This is what I did:

300 gm Chicken fillet
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger
5 dried red chillies
50 gm almond slivers
5 small limes
8 young corn
1 green capsicum
2-3 tsp raspberry jam
1 tsp corn flour
Black pepper

Slice chicken into strips and season with a little salt and pepper.
Slice onion and ginger and chop garlic finely. Cut chillies into large pieces. Heat a little oil and fry onion till caramelised. Add in ginger, garlic and chilli and a little black pepper. Fry till fragrant.
Add in chicken and cook well. While chicken is cooking, toast the almonds in a hot pan.

Meanwhile cut corn and capsicum into large pieces. Add to the chicken and continue cooking, adding a little water if necessary.
In a separate saucepan, melt the raspberry jam with a little water until smooth. Pour into the chicken and mix well. Cut the small limes and squeeze juice into the chicken and mix well.
Add corn flour to a little water and add to the chicken. Mix well and allow to simmer for a while until chicken is nicely coated. Add in almonds.

I served this with rice but I reckon it would also make a nice pasta dish or even a chinese noodle dish.

How did it taste? Pretty much as I thought it would. It was akin to a spicy sweet and sour chicken and the raspberry taste was there but not overpowering. The lime lent a nice twang although again it wasn't overpowering. Both flavours complemented each other and they were very subtle.

The Lovely Wife liked the dish a lot especially the spiciness of the chillies contrasting with the sweet sour of the raspberry and lime. The kids wolfed it down with lots of rice but then again, they were really, really hungry!

On my part, I was very pleased with how this dish turned out and I now have another original to add to my collection. So thanks Elle for the wonderful choice of ingredients and for spurring me to create this new dish.

I have to go now and blow a raspberry (pbbbbt) at a certain bat before he flies away ...


Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Just a small Complaint plus two Awards

One of my biggest grievances with respect to the Blogosphere is the lack of time I have to visit all the food blogs that I would like to. Sure, I have a few favourites but even those don't get the time that they deserve. I've met many new foodies and forged many new friendships on the blogosphere and I just want to tell everyone that although I don't visit your blogs as often as I would like to, I DO wish that I could!

Some of you are pretty darned amazing, blogging about food almost everyday - complete with fantastic photos. What's even more amazing are the number of comments that some of your posts receive. 30, 40 sometimes even more - and this happens regularly on some of your blogs! The only time I get into the 30's is when its Daring Bakers time.

So yeah, there's a whole bunch of blogs out there from all over the world. Some of you I know and some of you I dont. It is indeed quite humbling when you see the amount of sheer talent in some of your blogs. More than the talent though is the willingness to share not only your recipes but a little bit of yourselves - your thoughts, your personalities, your stories - with the rest of us.

That is why, I am greatly honoured to be given the following awards by my fellow
bloggers who have also become good friends.

The first award is from Meeta of Whats for Lunch Honey. Her blog is excellent in my mind so if you've never visited her, I think it't time that you did.

The second award is from my friend over in Canada, Valli who blogs at More Than Burnt Toast. Don't be fooled by the title though. You'll find a whole lot of gourmet food here. Certainly more than toast - and its never, ever burnt!

I'm supposed to pass these awards on now but I think ALL of you food bloggers deserve it because quite simple, in one way or another, you are all Excellent and you all have a Great Purpose in your blogging. So feel free to pick up the award! For those of you with multiple awards or for those who may have received these awards before, there's never any harm in getting an award twice. I mean really, would you turn down an Oscar just because you won it the year before??!!!

Monday, 12 May 2008

Making a right Malaysian Mess!

Contrary to what the title says, I didn’t mess anything up. Well, not in the literal sense anyway. I made a mess of things, sure, but it turned out to be a pretty darned good mess. No mess up at all. Okay, okay, I’ll stop messing with you all!

One afternoon, the Lovely Wife and I were flipping through Jamie Oliver’s Cook with Jamie when we came across his recipe for Eton Mess. Now I had never heard of an Eton Mess before but the picture of cream with berries and meringue looked rather lovely. The Lovely Wife remarked that this would be something that our son would love as he really likes his fruit and cream, not to mention pavlova!

The Eton Mess has its roots in (surprise, surprise!) Eton – that famous school in England and reputed to be the most famous school in the world. I wouldn’t know about that although I can vouch that Victoria Institution is not only the most famous but also the best school in Malaysia!

Anyway, back to Eton and the mess attributed to it! The Eton Mess is a dessert consisting of a mixture of strawberries, pieces of meringue and cream. It is traditionally served at Eton College's annual prize-giving celebration picnic on the Fourth of June. Apparently however, these days it is celebrated on the last Wednesday in May. Don’t ask me why that is so but I think it just goes to show how Messed up Eton really is…

You can see I’m having fun with this whole ‘Mess’ thing!

I decided to do a variation of the Eton Mess and use a whole bunch of different fruits. I used Kiwis, Bananas, Watermelon, Papaya and Pears. I also decided to flavour my meringue with cocoa – just for a bit of a change. Granted that Kiwis and Pears are not really Malaysian fruits but Watermelon, Papaya and Bananas certainly are. So that's why I call it a Malaysian Mess!

The meringue whipped up nicely and baked even better to a nice crisp. The cocoa meringue gave it a nice twist as it wasn't as sweet as a regular meringue. It was kind of fun breaking the meringue up into pieces and I wish I had got the kids involved in it. Reason I didnt was because I wanted to surprise them with the dessert.

My Kenwood makes whipping cream really easy now using the whisk attachment although you still have to watch that you don't overbeat the cream and end up with a separated mess (ha! There's that word again!!). I flavoured the cream with lots of vanilla and a little icing sugar and it was really quite delicious.

I took a leaf out of Jamie's book and served the Mess in glasses.

The kids simply Loved this dessert and asked for more, and then for more again! The good thing about this dessert is that their dose of fruit - although in all fairness, its never a problem getting them to eat their fruit.

I guess this is really similar to a Pavlova, but somehow serving it in a glass makes a difference. Also, I think my meringue making skills have improved as the meringue stayed crispy for quite a while, even when sitting with all the cream over it.

Or maybe its not my skills that have improved but rather my Kenwood that makes the difference...

Friday, 9 May 2008

Baked Cod Oriental Style

One weekend, we were too busy lazing and around with the kids that by the time we got ourselves into gear and went to the market, most of the fish had been sold. There was however some Cod available. Now Cod is rather expensive in this part of the world but sometimes its nice to indulge.

The Lovely Wife absolutely adores Cod as do the kids. In fact, when the kids were just starting to eat solid food, we used to feed them a little mashed Cod as it is believed that Cod is good Brain food. And all along I thought it was my Genes…

So with the purchase of Cod, I now had to decide what make. I don’t have a lot of experience in cooking fish but I am slowly learning to enjoy cooking it. My favourite method has to be experimenting with throwing a whole lot of seasoning together with the fish, wrapping it in foil and then baking it. Not only is this relatively easy, it is also very healthy. The best part though is that you get to enjoy the flavour of the fish itself without having it doused in too much spice or seasoning.

The Lovely Wife was just happy to have fresh fish rather than the Frozen Dory Fish that I usually like to make. The fact that it was Cod was an added bonus of course!

In trying to figure out what to do, I remembered, that in recent times, Chinese Restaurants have started to serve Steamed Cod doused in soy sauce and ginger. I decided to follow a similar route but use just a tinge of soy sauce. I also thought I would add some mushrooms to the fish.

This is what I did.

450g Cod Fish, cut into steaks
4 cloves garlic – chopped
½ inch ginger – chopped
200 g swiss brown mushrooms - quartered
2 tbsp Sesame Oil
1 tbsp light soy sauce (or more to taste)
Black Pepper

Heat Sesame Oil and fry garlic and mushrooms. Set aside. Mix together ginger and soy sauce. Rub the fish with the mix. Arrange the fish steaks in a pan lined with foil. Make sure there is enough foil to cover the fish and form a package.
Mix the the remaining ginger and soy sauce with the garlic mushrooms and spread over fish. Sprinkle with Black Pepper. Fold the foil over to make a package, folding over the edges to seal. Bake in a preheated 200C oven for about 20 mins.

Part of the fun in baking in foil is serving it as it is on a platter and then opening up the package to reveal the goodness inside!

The cod turned out very nice baked like this. The flesh was firm and juicy with just enough sauce created by the fish oils and juices from the mushrooms. Very tasty indeed! The kids couldn't get enough of the Cod while the Lovely Wife gave it full marks. Looks like I'm getting the hang of cooking fish...!

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Daily Tiffin - Outshining Mommy

Being a Dad is never easy. Kids always seem to prefer their Mom. I suppose I can understand that in some ways. After all, I’m the one that is the disciplinarian. I’m the one that does all the nasty things like pointing to the corner and telling them to go stand there. How many of you remember the old cartoon series Wait till your father gets home? Yeah, some things never change. My Lovely Wife, although playing a large role in disciplining the kids, still leaves the bulk of it to me and the phrase “Shall I tell Daddy what you did?” is often the trick in getting the children to behave.

There is one thing however where I will always outshine Mommy. And it's NOT cooking coz the Lovely Wife is a fabulous cook too. Too see what it is that I do best, read my article over at The Daily Tiffin!

Monday, 5 May 2008

Peace Cake

A friend of mine celebrated her 30th Birthday recently and she asked if I could bake the cake for her. She wanted the cake decorated with a Peace Symbol and she also mentioned that her favourite flavours are chocolate and orange.

I contemplated making an orange cake covered in chocolate icing – something along the lines of the Bostini Cream Pie – minus the cream of course. The one issue I had however, was time. The birthday party was being held midweek and that meant I would have to make the cake on a weekday – after work!

With that in mind, I decided to stick to something that I was sure would work. Well, I wasn't really SURE it would work but I reckoned I couldn't go too wrong by modifying my usual chocolate cake.   For the orange flavour, I added in some orange marmalade, a little Cointreau and some orange essence. For the icing, I melted some belgian chocolate and whisked that together with icing sugar, cocoa and butter. A little cointreau was added into the icing as well as a dash of orange essence.

For the peace symbol, I pressed a round bowl to leave an imprint of a circle on the chocolate icing. I then piped stars to form the circle and the two lines. For those that may be interested, the Peace Symbol was actually designed in 1958 and adopted as the badge for the Committee for Nuclear Disarmament. It eventually became the international symbol for the anti war movement in the 1960’s. The meaning of the symbol is Nuclear Disarmament as the symbol represents the semaphoric signals for the letter D (the straight line) and the letter N (the inverted ‘V’ shape at the bottom)

I guess I'll need to explain Semaphoric too now...! Semaphoric is the visual system for sending information by means of two flags that are held - one in each hand. It uses an alphabetic code based on the position of the signaler's arms. So for the D, the signaller would hold one flag up and one down, forming a vertical line. While for the N, the signaller would hold the flags downwards, making roughly a 45 degree angle.

I made an extra bit of cake in a small loaf pan too - just so that we could taste it. I liked the subtle orange flavour that nicely complemented the dark chocolate. The Lovely Wife like the orangey chocolate flavours too.

I had wanted to go a little overboard and further decorate the cake with sugar paste flowers but after piping on the peace sign and the birthday greeting, there wasn't much space left - and I thought it may have looked to crowded and busy. It didnt matter though as I didnt have the time to make my planned sugar paste flowers!

My friend loved the design anyway and it seems the cake went down really well at the party. So it looks like I've 'discovered' a great variation for my chocolate cake!

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Stir Fried Snow Peas

One of the things I like most about Chinese food is the vegetables. They are always still crunchy and just lightly flavoured, allowing you to taste the true flavour of the veges. Granted, some vege dishes are doused in sauce but not this one. The other thing that is really great about making Chinese Vege dishes is how easy they are and how quick they are to whip up!

Snow Peas with Garlic is absolutely simple and quick to make. It doesnt require a recipe coz its simply tossing in a bit of this and a bit of that. Well, actually, a load of garlic and a dash of Oyster Sauce. Thats it!

Cut or chop the garlic and fry it with a little sesame oil or vegetable oil/corn oil/peanut oil. Add in the snow peas and quickly stir fry before tossing in some Oyster sauce. Add some salt and pepper too if you like.
Try not to overcook the snow peas or they could become a little limp.

See? What could be more simple!


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