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Thursday, 20 October 2011

Self Therapy - Vanilla Walnut Choc Chip Muffins

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

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

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

Alone, alone, all, all alone!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What's your best therapy??

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

More on Blogger MasterChef

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Not the first Blogger MasterChef

So I didnt make the cut...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to all for the support!

First Semi's Today at 10am

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

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

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

So lets see what happens!


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