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Friday, 29 April 2011

Hedgehogs and Spiders for Easter...

This post is rather late as Easter was last weekend, however, better late than never as they always say. This Easter, the kids really got involved in the cooking - or at least the selection of what to cook!!

After going vegetarian for Lent, somthing that I was very impressed with the kids for doing as I didn't really observe the Vegetarian bit, they were really keen on a Meat Fest! They 'dictated' to their maternal grandmother what they wanted as well as to The Lovely Wife. Amma - what the kids call maternal Grandma although by right Amma means mother and the correct word should be Ammama (Mothers mother) - made some Mutton Chops for them while The Lovely Wife did her famous BBQ Chicken Wings.

My two children have also been avidly following MasterChef and Junior Master Chef (Aust) and have suddenly started looking at some kids cookbooks that we've bought them. In one particular book, two recipes caught there fancy. One was for a Hedgehog cake while the other was for Spider Meatballs.

"Can we make this for Easter?" They both piped up.
"Sure" Mommy and Daddy replied, "As long as you HELP and not make us do all the work."

And help they did!

Rather than follow the recipe in the book, I made my usual meatballs. I made them a bit larger and flatter though to shape them like the body of a spider. For the legs, we sliced capsicums thinly and stuck them into the meatballs. The eyes were capers stuck on to dollops of mayonnaise.

For the hedgehog cake, I used my usual chocolate cake recipe as well and just shaped it into an ovalish kind of shape. For the 'prickles' I used a fork to shape the icing and then used Chocolate "Rocky Brand" sticks for the spikes. For the eyes and nose, I made a quick fondant with a dash of water mixed into icing sugar and then popped an M&M on to it. The mouth was made with nibbed almonds. There was a little cake batter left over and we made a 'baby' hedgehog using my rabbit pans.

The kids had a blast making the cake and the meatballs and they did more than help. They actively participated in the making of the cake where both sifted the flour, held the mixer to beat the sugar and butter and of course in decorating the cake. Same with the spiders where they helped to shape the meatballs and of course had a lot of fun sticking the 'legs' into the spiders!

I have to admit, I'm still a little afraid of the kids using the kitchen appliances but I'm glad that they have taken a real interest in cooking. They loved the fact that they had bragging rights over the cake and spiders and they enjoyed eating their own creations too!

Happy Belated Easter everyone!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Poached Pears with Coke Reduction

I love pears. My son loves them too and one of his favourite desserts is my Caramel Pears. Both the kids and I also love our Coke - the drinking kind and not the snorting kind. I'd always wondered what a Coke reduction would taste like. I imagined it to be sweetish and with a hint of Coke flavour. That's when I decided I would make Poached Pears with a Coke reduction sauce.

The whole family are great fans of MasterChef(USA) and Junior MasterChef (Australia) as well. There is so much we all learn from watching it and it is great fun. In one episode, the junior Masterchefs had to make poached pears and this is where I was introduced to the cartouche. The term cartouche, in cooking, refers to a circle of parchment or grease-proof paper that covers the surface of a liquid reduce evaporation. It is often used in poaching to keep the liquid over the surface of the items being poached.
Cartouche is also the term used to describe a set of Egyptian hieroglyphs enclosed in a rectangle with a horizontal line at one end, indicating that the text enclosed is a royal name. You can often find a lot of rectangular shaped jewellery with hieroglyphics in them. This is a cartouche. Anyway, I digress.

To poach the pears, I used a combination of spices to add some flavour to the pears. While the pears poached, I boiled the coke to reduce it. My son asked me expectantly whether the sauce would have a 'gassy' taste to it so I took that as a good opportunity to teach him about carbonated drinks and how boiling would get rid of all the CO2 in the drink.

2 pears - pealed and quartered
2 cups water
2 Tbsp sugar
4 cloves
1 stick cinammon
2 cups coke
Place the pears in a deep saucepan and add in the water. Add in the sugar, cinnamon and cloves and cover with a cartouche. Bring to the boil and then allow to simmer until the pears are tender.

Meanwhile, boil the coke until it reduces to a thick syrup

The coke took an inordinate amount of time to reduce but it finally did. There wasn't any milk or cream on hand and I was a tad disappointed as I wanted to add a little milk to the reduced coke to lighten it and make it a little more creamy.

The coke reduction was very interesting but a tad too sweet. It would certainly have been nicer mixed with cream or at the very least served with some whipped cream. I dont think I will make a coke reduction again as it is far cheaper and nicer to make a caramel. My son and princess both enjoyed the coke reduction but they too agreed that it needed some cream and they also both agreed that the usual Caramel sauce was tastier.

It was a good experience trying it out though and I think a coke reduction might go well as a marinade for chicken or pork. Now thats a thought!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Malaysian Zebras love Passion Fruit - a short story with pictures

Deep in the humid Malaysian Townforest, the Zebra found an interesting plant growing. The plant was a kind of creeper and it had some oval shaped fruits on it. The Zebra was most interested as the fruit looked to be one of her favourites.

Nimbly, the Zebra pranced around the Townforest, looking this way and that. She was trying to ascertain that there were no predators around that would try and attack her. She also wanted to make sure that no other animals would hinder her as she snatched the fruits growing from the vine.

The fruit was the Passiflora edulis, commonly known as Passion Fruit of Buah Markisa in Malay. I never knew that Passion Fruit grew in Malaysia and was even more stunned to know that it was growing in our garden, I mean the Townforest.

The clever Zebra broke the fruit open and delighted in the soft, juicy interior. She quickly devoured half of the fruit before her mother asked her if she was going to share some of the fruit.

The Zebra absolutely adored the home grown Passion Fruit and only grudgingly shared some with her brother....

* My daughters favourite animal is the Zebra
* The lovely hairband was a gift from my cousin Lavinia Dhana!
* There are no zebras in Malaysia
* No animals were hurt in the telling of this story


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