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Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Goodbye 2008...with some soul searching

Can you believe it's already the last day of 2008? I certainly can't. The years seem to go so much quicker nowadays. I'm not sure if that's such a good thing. I'm getting older quicker and the kids are growing up fast too. I'm not sure it that's a good thing either...

There's a lot to be thankful for, not just this past year but all the years gone by. I contemplated listing down some of the things that I am thankful for and some of the things I Should be thankful for. I decided against it simply because I think I should be thankful for everything that I have, even if I still haven't learnt to be as thankful nor as grateful as I should be for what I have.

Sounds like a riddle or a tongue twister, I know. Really though, all I am trying to say is that even though I may not have everything that I want, (e.g a million dollars in my bank account, a shiny, black sports car, a private jet, a pilot's licence to fly my private jet, etc, etc...), I think I have everything I NEED and in fact much more than I actually need. And so I am grateful and thankful that I am not wanting for anything that I really need.

Most importantly, I am thankful for The Lovely Wife, the wonderful kids, the loving family I have and my friends who have all helped shape who I am. I am thankful for the new friends I have made through blogging who continue to inspire me and help in shaping this blog and enriching my life.

I'm not one for New Years Resolutions but if I had to, I would simply resolve to try and be a better person, a person that realises that happiness is what you make out of life and that material possessions or material goods are not important. Easy to say but when our lives are so focused on what we have and with material comforts, it can get difficult.

So with that in mind, here's wishing You and Yours a Blessed 2009 filled with Peace, Happiness and above all, Love.


Sunday, 28 December 2008

French Yule Log

Firstly, here's wishing everyone a Blessed Christmas Season and a Happy New Year!

Secondly, as per the new rules of the Daring Bakers, this particular sentence is a requirement for some new fangled, high tech web checking programme to 'gain credit' for completing a challenge. I do hope my embedded links are allowed. So here goes...

This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux. They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand

I must say that this is one of the most delicious desserts I have ever, ever made. It's not something that I would normally have attempted simply becuase it looks and sounds so complicated. Then again, after more than a year with this illustriuos group of Daring Bakers, nothing much scares me anymore!

The Hosts for this month explained that in France you can buy two kinds of Yule log, either the Genoise and Buttercream type (DB Challenge December 2007), or what is more commonly purchased which is a frozen Yule Log very reminiscent of an ice cream cake, only often it’s not made of ice cream but rather frozen mousse of some sort. In French this is called an entremets which is sometimes loosely translated in English as simply a cream dessert.

The Challenge Rule this time around was that we were required to MAKE ALL 6 ELEMENTS for the log that are made up of the following:
1) Dacquoise Biscuit
2) Mousse
3) Ganache Insert
4) Feuillete (Crisp) Insert
5) Creme Brulee Insert
6) Icing
The assembly will essentially be a Dacquoise Biscuit at the bottom, and the inserts inter-layered with mousse, with an icing finish. All very complicated if you ask me!

With the Christmas Season being as busy as it is, I was kind of worried I might not be able to fit this in. However, I set aside the weekend of the 20th to do this dessert in between having the contractor over to fix some leaking pipes. Talk about multi-tasking huh!

I'll give you my experience with each element...

Creme Brulee Insert
I reckon the recipe should be rewritten to mention that this element should be made first. I actually started on the dessert on the Friday night and chose to make the brulee first. I whisked up the Creme Brulee and the first sign of potential disaster was that the custard seeped under the parchment paper. Good thing I was watching it though so I quikly just removed the paper. Second sign of potential disaster was actually due to my stupidity. I've used a water bath many times and I know that you are supposed to pour in hot water. For some reason though, I used room temperature water. Yes, I did! Don't ask me why, I guess I'm just Stupid, stupid, stupid!

This was probably one reason why the creme brulee just REFUSED to set up. one hour at 100C and it was still very wobbly. Another half hour at 125C and still no good. Finally another 30 mins at 140C and the Creme Brulee finally set up. I also think another reason the creme brulee took a long time to set was that the pan I baked the brulee in was rather deep. Anyway, I let it cool and then chucked it in the freezer to firm up.

Dacquoise Biscuit
Next morning, I started on the Dacquoise. No problems there although because I didnt spread the batter evenly enough, I wasnt able to fully line my Log and ended up with Dacquoise on the top and bottom of the log but not on the sides. Small issue really.

Before making the mousse, I was tempted to just use my tried and tested method of making a whipped ganache - as this was one of the options allowed. The pate-a-bomb piqued my interest however and I reckoned that this was one of the reasons of being a Daring Baker - stretching your comfort zones and trying things never done before. I heated up the sugar to the desired temperature but somehow while adding it into the egg yolks, the sugar seemed to seize up a little. It didnt hep that I used a large mixing bowl either. Once again a little stupid! Nonetheless, constant beating seemed to break the sugar crystals down again and the egg yolks turned nice and thick. Next time I'm using a small mixing bowl for such a small quantity of yolks...

Feuillete (Crisp) Insert
My son has learnt how to say Feuillete! Although I'm not quite sure if he is pronouncing it right. The Crisp was rather easy to make as well and turned out very crunchy and tasty. Strangely enough, Gavottes ARE Available in Malaysia although they are bloody expensive. So I used Corn Flakes instead and mixed them with melted milk chocolate. To get a smooth and level crisp, I rolled the chocolate covered corn flakes between two sheets of wax paper. I cant help thinking that this would be a lovely base for a cheesecake or similar dessert!

Ganache Insert
I've never had problems with caramel and so using caramel for the Ganache was not an issue at all. The ganache came together very nicely and it was fun pouring it on as the last layer before sealing it with the cake.

Assembling the log was pretty fun too and I only wish I wasn't in such a rush that I wasn't able to take step by step pictures.

Finally it was time to unmould the log and then ice it. This was the first time I made an icing using gelatine but it turned out well. I had read some other DBs saying that their icing turned out rubbery but it turned out fine for me.

All in all, everything was pretty straight forward and not that complicated to do. It was just very time consuming especially when I had to multi-task with supervising the contractor!

I served this dessert for dinner the next day when my cousin Sasha, from Melbourne, came over. It was simply De-Li-Cious! It was a little frozen as we were all impatient to cut into it, but after realising that it needed to thaw out a bit, we enjoyed it immensely.

The next day, we invited a friend over for tea to spread the cheer with her and as The Lovely Wife said, "to spread the pounds around!" She enjoyed the Yule Log immensely and since we had learnt to thaw the log longer, it was simply divine. My son actually had another two pieces.

No pics of the kids enjoying this dessert though simply because time didn't warrant it. I was also too busy enjoying this dessert...

I DO need to mention though that my son and daughter helped to decorate the cake, placing the sugarpaste holly on top!

This is the recipe I chose to follow since the Hosts gave us so many options and variations. Thanks for a great, great challenge!

FRENCH YULE LOG OR ENTREMETS RECIPE by Flore of Florilège Gourmand

Element #1 Dacquoise Biscuit (Almond Cake)

Preparation time: 10 mn + 15 mn for baking

Equipment: 2 mixing bowls, hand or stand mixer with whisk attachment, spatula, baking pan such as a 10”x15” jelly-roll pan, parchment paper

Note: You can use the Dacquoise for the bottom of your Yule Log only, or as bottom and top layers, or if using a Yule log mold (half-pipe) to line your entire mold with the biscuit. Take care to spread the Dacquoise accordingly. Try to bake the Dacquoise the same day you assemble the log to keep it as moist as possible.

2.8 oz (3/4cup + 1Tbsp / 80g) almond meal
1.75 oz (1/2 cup / 50g) confectioner’s sugar
2Tbsp (15g) all-purpose flour
3.5oz (100g / ~100ml) about 3 medium egg whites
1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar

1. Finely mix the almond meal and the confectioner's sugar. (If you have a mixer, you can use it by pulsing the ingredients together for no longer than 30 seconds).
2. Sift the flour into the mix.
3. Beat the eggs whites, gradually adding the granulated sugar until stiff.
4. Pour the almond meal mixture into the egg whites and blend delicately with a spatula.
5. Grease a piece of parchment paper and line your baking pan with it.
6. Spread the batter on a piece of parchment paper to an area slightly larger than your desired shape (circle, long strip etc...) and to a height of 1/3 inches (8mm).
7. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for approximately 15 minutes (depends on your oven), until golden.
8. Let cool and cut to the desired shape.

Element #2 Dark Chocolate Mousse

Preparation time: 20mn

Equipment: stand or hand mixer with whisk attachment, thermometer, double boiler or equivalent, spatula

Note: You will see that a Pate a Bombe is mentioned in this recipe. A Pate a Bombe is a term used for egg yolks beaten with a sugar syrup, then aerated. It is the base used for many mousse and buttercream recipes. It makes mousses and buttercreams more stable, particularly if they are to be frozen, so that they do not melt as quickly or collapse under the weight of heavier items such as the crème brulee insert.

2.5 sheets gelatin or 5g / 1 + 1/4 tsp powdered gelatin
1.5 oz (3 Tbsp / 40g) granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp (10g) glucose or thick corn syrup
0.5 oz (15g) water
50g egg yolks (about 3 medium)
6.2 oz (175g) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1.5 cups (350g) heavy cream (35% fat content)

1. Soften the gelatin in cold water. (If using powdered gelatin, follow the directions on the package.)
2. Make a Pate a Bombe: Beat the egg yolks until very light in colour (approximately 5 minutes until almost white).
2a. Cook the sugar, glucose syrup and water on medium heat for approximately 3 minutes (if you have a candy thermometer, the mixture should reach 244°F (118°C). If you do not have a candy thermometer, test the sugar temperature by dipping the tip of a knife into the syrup then into a bowl of ice water, if it forms a soft ball in the water then you have reached the correct temperature.
2b. Add the sugar syrup to the beaten yolks carefully by pouring it into the mixture in a thin stream while continuing to beat the yolks. You can do this by hand but it’s easier to do this with an electric mixer.
2c. Continue beating until cool (approximately 5 minutes). The batter should become thick and foamy.
3. In a double boiler or equivalent, heat 2 tablespoons (30g) of cream to boiling. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until melted and smooth.
4. Whip the remainder of the cream until stiff.
5. Pour the melted chocolate over the softened gelatin, mixing well. Let the gelatin and chocolate cool slightly and then stir in ½ cup (100g) of WHIPPED cream to temper. Add the Pate a Bombe.
6. Add in the rest of the WHIPPED cream (220g) mixing gently with a spatula.

Element #3 Dark Chocolate Ganache Insert

Preparation time: 10mn

Equipment: pan, whisk. If you have plunging mixer (a vertical hand mixer used to make soups and other liquids), it comes in handy.

Note: Because the ganache hardens as it cools, you should make it right before you intend to use it to facilitate piping it onto the log during assembly. Please be careful when caramelizing the sugar and then adding the cream. It may splatter and boil.

1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar
4.5oz (2/3 cup – 1 Tbsp/ 135g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
5 oz (135g) dark chocolate, finely chopped
3Tbsp + 1/2tsp (45g) unsalted butter softened

1. Make a caramel: Using the dry method, melt the sugar by spreading it in an even layer in a small saucepan with high sides. Heat over medium-high heat, watching it carefully as the sugar begins to melt. Never stir the mixture. As the sugar starts to melt, swirl the pan occasionally to allow the sugar to melt evenly. Cook to dark amber color (for most of you that means darker than last month’s challenge).
2. While the sugar is melting, heat the cream until boiling. Pour cream into the caramel and stir thoroughly. Be very careful as it may splatter and boil.
3. Pour the hot caramel-milk mixture over the dark chocolate. Wait 30 seconds and stir until smooth.
4. Add the softened butter and whip hard and fast (if you have a plunging mixer use it). The chocolate should be smooth and shiny.

Element #4 Praline Feuillete (Crisp) Insert

Preparation time: 10 mn (+ optional 15mn if you make lace crepes)

Equipment: Small saucepan, baking sheet (if you make lace crepes).
Double boiler (or one small saucepan in another), wax paper, rolling pin (or I use an empty bottle of olive oil).

Note: Feuillete means layered (as in with leaves) so a Praline Feuillete is a Praline version of a delicate crisp. There are non-praline variations below. The crunch in this crisp comes from an ingredient which is called gavottes in French. Gavottes are lace-thin crepes. To our knowledge they are not available outside of France, so you have the option of making your own using the recipe below or you can simply substitute rice krispies or corn flakes or Special K for them. Special note: If you use one of the substitutes for the gavottes, you should halve the quantity stated, as in use 1oz of any of these cereals instead of 2.1oz.

Chocolate Crisp Insert
3.5 oz (100g) milk chocolate
1 2/3 Tbsp (25g) unsalted butter
1 oz. (25g) lace crepes or rice krispies or corn flakes or Special K

1. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler.
2. Add the praline and the coarsely crushed lace crepes. Mix quickly to thoroughly coat with the chocolate.
3. Spread between two sheets of wax paper to a size slightly larger than your desired shape. Refrigerate until hard.

Element #5 Vanilla Crème Brulée Insert

Preparation time: 15mn + 1h infusing + 1h baking

Equipment: Small saucepan, mixing bowl, baking mold, wax paper

Note: The vanilla crème brulée can be flavored differently by simply replacing the vanilla with something else e.g. cardamom, lavender, etc...

1/2 cup (115g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
½ cup (115g) whole milk
4 medium-sized (72g) egg yolks
0.75 oz (2 Tbsp / 25g) granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean

1. Heat the milk, cream, and scraped vanilla bean to just boiling. Remove from the stove and let the vanilla infuse for about 1 hour.
2. Whisk together the sugar and egg yolks (but do not beat until white).
3. Pour the vanilla-infused milk over the sugar/yolk mixture. Mix well.
4. Wipe with a very wet cloth and then cover your baking mold (whatever shape is going to fit on the inside of your Yule log/cake) with parchment paper. Pour the cream into the mold and bake at 210°F (100°C) for about 1 hour or until firm on the edges and slightly wobbly in the center.
Tartelette says: You can bake it without a water bath since it is going to go inside the log (the aesthetics of it won't matter as much since it will be covered with other things)....BUT I would recommend a water bath for the following reasons:
- you will get a much nicer mouth feel when it is done
- you will be able to control its baking point and desired consistency much better
- it bakes for such a long time that I fear it will get overdone without a water bath
Now...since it is baked in a pan and it is sometimes difficult to find another large pan to set it in for a water bath, even a small amount of water in your water bath will help the heat be distributed evenly in the baking process. Even as little as 1 inch will help.
5. Let cool and put in the freezer for at least 1 hour to firm up and facilitate the final assembly.

Element #6 Dark Chocolate Icing

Preparation time: 25 minutes (10mn if you don’t count softening the gelatin)

Equipment: Small bowl, small saucepan

Note: Because the icing gelifies quickly, you should make it at the last minute.
For other gelatin equivalencies or gelatin to agar-agar equivalencies, look at the notes for the mousse component.

4g / ½ Tbsp powdered gelatin or 2 sheets gelatin
¼ cup (60g) heavy cream (35 % fat content)
2.1 oz (5 Tbsp / 60g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (50g) water
1/3 cup (30g) unsweetened cocoa powder

1. Soften the gelatin in cold water for 15 minutes.
2. Boil the rest of the ingredients and cook an additional 3 minutes after boiling.
3. Add gelatin to the chocolate mixture. Mix well.
4. Let cool while checking the texture regularly. As soon as the mixture is smooth and coats a spoon well (it is starting to gelify), use immediately.

How To Assemble your French Yule Log

Depending on whether your mold is going to hold the assembly upside down until you unmold it or right side up, this order will be different.
You will want to tap your mold gently on the countertop after each time you pipe mousse in to get rid of any air bubbles.

1) Line your mold or pan, whatever its shape, with rhodoid (clear hard plastic, I usually use transparencies cut to the desired shape, it’s easier to find than cellulose acetate which is what rhodoid translates to in English) OR plastic film. Rhodoid will give you a smoother shape but you may have a hard time using it depending on the kind of mold you’re using.

You have two choices for Step 2, you can either have Dacquoise on the top and bottom of your log as in version or you can have Dacquoise simply on the bottom of your log :

2A) Cut the Dacquoise into a shape fitting your mold and set it in there. If you are using an actual Yule mold which is in the shape of a half-pipe, you want the Dacquoise to cover the entire half-pipe portion of the mold.
3A) Pipe one third of the Mousse component on the Dacquoise.
4A) Take the Creme Brulee Insert out of the freezer at the last minute and set on top of the mousse. Press down gently to slightly ensconce it in the mousse.
5A) Pipe second third of the Mousse component around and on top of the Creme Brulee Insert.
6A) Cut the Praline/Crisp Insert to a size slightly smaller than your mold so that it can be surrounded by mousse. Lay it on top of the mousse you just piped into the mold.
7A) Pipe the last third of the Mousse component on top of the Praline Insert.
8A) Freeze for a few hours to set. Take out of the freezer.
9A) Pipe the Ganache Insert onto the frozen mousse leaving a slight eidge so that ganache doesn’t seep out when you set the Dacquoise on top.
10A) Close with the last strip of Dacquoise.
Freeze until the next day.

Unmold the cake/log/whatever and set on a wire rack over a shallow pan.
Cover the cake with the icing.
Let set. Return to the freezer.
You may decorate your cake however you wish. The decorations can be set in the icing after it sets but before you return the cake to the freezer or you may attach them on top using extra ganache or leftover mousse, etc...
Transfer to the refrigerator no longer than ½ hour before serving as it may start to melt quickly depending on the elements you chose.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

O Holy Night, The stars are brightly shining...

It's just past 5pm and I'm kinda, sorta, finished with the Christmas cooking and baking. Well finished with the baking at least!! Yes, I've finished baking and icing 4 measures of Chocolate Cake and now I'm taking a break before we head out to a good friends house for a quick Christmas drink and then come back home to host my Mom, Dad, Mom-in-law and Father-in-Law for Christmas Eve dinner.
The menu for tonight is something fairly simple since we have been gouging ourselves at Christmas parties the last few days. I'm making Chicken Vol-au Vents and I've already prepared the chicken filling and also prepared and baked the vol-au-vents. Then, we are having spicy meatball pasta and also steamed vegetables tossed in butter. Thats the plan anyway!
So, since it's already Christmas tomorrow, here's wishing all of my dear friends and everyone out there a Very Blessed and Happy Christmas!

Friday, 19 December 2008

Murgh Masala or Fiery Chicken Curry

This is a fiery Chicken Curry fashioned in the North Indian style. Murgh is the Hindi word for Chicken and Massala basically means spices. I first had this dish as a Uni student in Melbourne, Australia. One of my two flatmates used to work part-time in an Indian Restaurant on Tuesday nights. He would often bring home some of the leftover curries from the restaurant. We used to look forward to this and would sometimes stay up past midnight to partake of the food he'd bring home.

One night he brought home this fiery chicken curry and we all enjoyed it immensely. I tried on numerous occasions to get the same flavours and finally got the approval from my flatmates after about a year!

500g Boneless Chicken Breast
250g Plain Yoghurt
2 Gloves Garlic
1 inch Ginger
1 tbsp curry powder
½ tbsp chilli powder

2 Tbsp Curry Powder
1 Tbsp Chilli Powder
3 Dried Red Chillies
1 Large Onion
1 clove Garlic
2-3 pods Cardamom
5 Tomatoes
2 Tbsp Cooking Oil

Chop Garlic and Ginger finely. Slice Chicken into thin strips. Marinate Chicken with Ingredients A and let rest in fridge for at least ½ hour. Meanwhile, cut dried chillies into four pieces each. Slice Tomatoes thinly. Slice Onions and chop garlic. Heat oil in a wok or non stick pan and fry Chillies, Onion and Garlic till soft. Add in Curry Powder, Chilli Powder and Cardamom and fry lightly till fragrant
Add in tomatoes and cook till a nice paste is formed. Add some water if necessary. Add in marinated chicken mixture. Cook well. Add in ½ cup of water into marinade bowl, scrape the sides and pour into the cooking chicken. Simmer for 20 minutes or until curry becomes thick

You may notice some white flecks appearing when the chicken and yoghurt are first cooked. This is perfectly normal and is caused by the acidic tomatoes separating the yoghurt.

This Murgh Masala remains one of my favourite dishes to serve, especially when entertaining. I served this when my friend Naomi came down from Japan for a visit bakc in August. I paired it with Sambar as well as a few other dishes. But we'll leave those dishes for another day!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Taufoo with Minced Meat inspired by Joe Tata

When I was young, my mom's uncle used to stay with us from time to time. We used to call him Joe Tata. See, Tata is the tamil word for Grandfather and for many years, I simply thought his name was Joe. Even my friends used to call him Uncle Joe. Much later, I found out that he actually hailed from Johor. My eldest brother, when he was but a wee lad, couldn't say Johor Tata - which is what he should have been referred to and he ended up calling him Jo Tata. Hence the name!

He was a lovely albeit strange fellow. He would read the newspapers - the front page, page two, then the back page, then the inner back page. He would then promptly peel off the first sheet and pass it to you to read. He'd then repeat this exercise with the remaining sheets. The most amazing thing though was that he would then reassemble the paper and it would be as good as when before he began reading it. I kid you not.
He was also a fabulous cook. He may have been vegetarian, but the dishes he cooked were just delightful. He was meticulous about his cooking too. Each bean would be cut the exact same length. When he diced tomatoes, each would be the same size. Amazing chap really. There are a lot more stories that I fondly remember about Jo Tata but suffice to say that he inspired this dish and also this post.

This dish is a take on something he used to do with beancurd or taufoo as we call it. Granted he used to make this pure vege but I added some chicken to it. He used to squeeze the bean curd in his hands to crumble it up and this is exactly how I made it too! This is what i did:

2 cloves garlic
1 large onion
300g minced chicken
5 tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato sauce
1 tbsp chilli sauce
2 tsp worcesthershire sauce
4 bean curd squares

Chop garlic and slice onions finely. Sautee in a little oil till soft. Add in roughly cut tomatoes and cook till soft. Add in the minced chicken and cook till meat is well done. Add in the sauces and then with your hand, crumble the bean curd in and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

This dish is perfect eaten with rice. I had my parents over for dinner and I asked my Mom if the dish reminded her of anything. At first she said it reminded her of a mince Taufoo dish from a chinese restuarant. When I told her that it was just like
the dish Joe Tata used to make, she smiled and remarked. "He was a strict vegetarian, he never used chicken in his cooking - but I guess if you took the chicken out, it is like his taufoo dish."

There's just no fooling Mom is there...!

Monday, 15 December 2008

Daily Tiffin - Christmas Gift Ideas

With Christmas fast approacing and with no idea what to get your kids or loved ones, why not have a look at my ideas for toys and games for you children in my article over at the Daily Tiffin?.
I'd love to hear some of your gift ideas too!

Friday, 12 December 2008

How to make a Difference - Roast Lamb with an Asian Twist

Before I start on this post, I just want to say that no matter how lucky we are to have access to so much good food, there are a host of people in other parts of the country not to mention the rest of the world that are NOT so lucky. Some dont even have access to a decent meal much less decent water supply. So spare a thought for them and remember that awareness can be one of the greatest weapons to solve any problem.

I am submitting this dish to the BloggerAid: Because We Can Help event hosted by my good friends and two of the creators of BloggerAid - the duo of Psychgrad and Giz. They strongly believe that they can make a difference and I do to! Now on to the post...

Roast Lamb is a favourite with most people no matter how it's made. Everyone in my family enjoys a good Roast Lamb and when I say everyone, I mean my parents, brothers, sis-in-laws, parents-in-law, brothers-in-law - you get the idea. Roast Lamb is a definite favourite.

Problem is, getting a good leg of lamb is expensive over here and so Roast Lamb is hardly made at home. Usually, we enjoy our Roast Lamb at functions where a nice big leg of lamb is roasted over the spit by the caterers. Sometimes, my brother will make a Roast Lamb at home for a special occasion too. I've never made a roast leg of lamb before. I much prefer Roast Beef.

Neverthelss, when The Lovely Wife's aunt came down from Australia for a visit and brought along a leg of lamb, my Mom-in-Law asked if I could cook it. I decided to do something a little different since I reckon just roasting the lamb with garlic and then eating it with mint sauce can be kind of boring. Tasty sure, but still boring...

I decided to throw in an Asian Twist to the Roast Lamb and this is what I did:

12 gloves garlic - sliced
2 1/2 Tbsp Dark Soy Sauce
12 Dry Chillies - cut into large pieces
2 eggplants - diced
1 inch ginger - sliced thinly
1 onion - diced
4 tomatoes - quarterd
3 tbsp oregano
Black Pepper

Pierce holes in the lamb with a knife and stuff the holes with the sliced garlic. Leave to marinate. Meanwhile, sautee the oregano with black pepper. Add in the ginger and onions and cook till fragrant. Add in the chillies and fry well. Add in the egglplant and tomatoes and cook till soft. Add in the dark soy sauce and mix well. Rub this all over the lamb and then bake in a preheated 200C oven for about 45 mins then reduce heat to 160C and roast for another 2-3 hours, covered, till lamb is cooked through and tender.

The lamb was lovely and tender and had a nice spiciness to it. The family enjoyed it immensely and I personally thought that this was a much better way to enjoy a good leg of lamb!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Sometimes Size Does Matter... Baked Prawn with Lemon Butter

I know I've said this before, but I love Prawns. Matter of fact, I love all kinds of shellfish. So when I saw how huge these fellows were, I just HAD to have some!

I got these huge Salt water prawns fresh from the market at Kota Kinabalu when I was there recently. I had planned on making them earlier but one thing let to another and they stayed in the freezer for a little while longer than I planned.

See how huge they are? I place a ruler next to it just to show you the size and that's more than 6 inches long! Only problem is that the head is really huge too and I'm really not into eating the head. Seems like a waste sometimes, especially when Prawns are sold by weight...

Anyway, part of the reason I kept the prawns for a while was that The Lovely Wife has a tad of an allergy when it comes to shellfish. I had wanted to keep the prawns all to myself (and maybe share it with the kids) but there were just a few too many to eat alone. Also, theres just so much more fun in sharing!

So anyway, when we had a few friends over for dinner recently, I decided to serve these prawns. I considered various ways of cooking them and finally decided to bake them with Lemon Butter.

I cut the prawns in half, made up a little lemon butter and then popped them in the over for about 10 minutes.

How did I make the lemon butter? Just melted about 80g of butter, added in some lemon rind and juice of 1 lemon. Then just to add some colour, I chopped a little coriander and sprinkled it on top.

Very easy and oh so delightful!

Friday, 5 December 2008

A Tale of Two Cakes - my birthday story...

Most of you know that I recently celebrated my 41st Birthday on the 29th November. That date coincided with the posting date for the Daring Bakers Caramel Cake and so a lot of you thought that I had made that cake for my Birthday.

No.... I would never bake my own cake. Oh okay, so Never is a rather strong word. I have YET to ever bake my own cake - unless helping Mum make my 18th birthday cake counts? Don't think it does.

For my Birthday this year, I got TWO Cakes! Yes two cakes for the price of one. Well, actually, two cakes for the price of half. But not really two full cakes since one was returned. I do have a habit of complicating things dont I!
Anyway, this is what happened.

The Lovely Wife and kids surprised me on the morning of the 29th with a little hamper full of my favourite things. There was a jar of Nutella, a loaf of White Bread (to eat the Nutella with, you cant eat it with Wholemeal bread can you!!) a bottle of Ribena, a Bar of 70% Dark Chocolate, a bag of Geneva biscuits and even the CD to Heroes Season 3! The wonderful kids also got me a pair of shorts emblazoned with Homer Simpson messing about with a lot of tools. The kids do know I like the Simpson's a lot!

We had planned on spending the day out with the kids so before heading out, The Lovely Wife surprised me with a cake she had bought the night before and hidden in the depths of the fridge!

Only problem was, after cutting it and eating the cake, we realised that it was a tad rubbery and I reckoned it was probably slightly stale. Now my wife, Lovely as she is, can also be a bit of a fighter. She insisted on taking the cake back and complaining as she had been told that "the cake was freshly made." The shop was gracious enough to exchange the cake and we got a different type of cake. The second cake was much, much, much nicer too!

Now the reason we got two cakes for the price of half is becuase The Lovely Wife bought the first cake after 8pm where the cakes go for half price!

Later that afternoon, The Lovely Wife took me to a camera shop to get me a Diffuser for my flash - a Demb-Flip to be exact.

She had even called up one of my 'camera addict' friends at work to find out more about diffusers and where to get them. Now if that isnt a Lovely Wife, then I dont know what is!

So all in all, a wonderful birthday with many presents and most of all, Lots and Lots of Love!

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

BloggerAid - let's make a difference

One of the things I love about blogging is the people you meet. I have met so many wonderful people through Food Blogging and made some great friends. It doesnt matter that we have never met in person, we have become a part of each other's lives and we look forward to their posts, leaving comments on their blogs and receiving comments too.

You realise after a while that some of these friends are extra special. They go the extra mile and try to make things right in the world. This is what my friends Giz and Psychgrad of Equal Opportunity Kitchen,
Val of More than Burnt Toast
and Ivy of Kopiaste have done. They've created a network of bloggers to try and help alleviate world hunger. This network is called BloggerAid, and has a tagline of Bloggers Uniting to Aid in the Alleviation of Hunger.

In a nutshell, this is what BloggerAid is about:

We are a growing group of international food bloggers determined to make a difference in aid of world famine. The love of food and community that brings us together drives the compassion of its members to reach out to our world to help those less fortunate than we are. Banded by a mission of helping to make a change in a world where starvation affects such a profound number of people, we will raise money and awareness for the hungry in communities both at home and abroad.

Indeed a very noble cause and I am so very honoured that they asked me to join this group. This post is long overdue but today, I start to wear my BloggerAid badge with pride...


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