Thursday, 25 December 2014

Christmas Rocks, dozen it?

It’s Christmas - it’s not about the super presents, grand feasts or how many ‘Likes’ you’re gonna get when you post them online (there were none of these when Christ was born).

It’s Christmas - It’s his Birth Day.

I don’t think there is anyone in the world’s history whose special day is celebrated for over two thousand years by this many people in numerous countries with so much food, decorations and merriment, sometimes for all 12 days in a row. I had a colleague who actually did this – no kidding!

But hmmm... what if I HAD to celebrate a dozen days of Christmas?

Here’s my version:

1.     Christmas Day - open presents, eat the chocolate ones, sigh at yet another recycled photo album gift (toss into ‘album pile’ at back of storeroom), open a few mixed nuts with the nutcracker, carry on munching...

2.    Swap presents with visiting cousins, especially if mine are Ferrero Rochers... again! (but make sure I didn’t eat any from this box yesterday).

3.    Zoom that beeline to Orchard Road, gawk at the winner’s decorations* and walk down the stretch for post-X’mas sales (rub hands while grinning in anticipation).

4.    Try to finish up the 2kg roast leg of lamb, as breakfast wraps, lunch casserole, dinner pasta & soup supper. Wait, that doesn’t count as celebrating... um... I’ll get this one at the end, right after Number 12.

5.    Play games all day on my PC – only the Christmas editions, of course!

6.    Watch movies all day on my PC – only the Christmas features, of course!

7.    New Year’s Eve – keep the spirit & sing carols, interspersed with practicing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ for midnight. Move that leg of lamb down from the freezer to defrost.

8.    New Year’s Day - celebrate with delicious lamb wraps for breakfast, lamb casserole for lunch, pasta... you get the picture. Extras nicely packed in the fridge, please.

9.    1st day back at school - gift my neighbours the goodies from Number 8; their kids get most of the Rochers my cousins didn’t want to swap with me. Smiles all round!

10.     Play cards using the mixed nuts for money – walnuts count as $10, pecans $5, etc and you can snack on them, too... no hard & fast rules here.

11.     Bake cookies to round up the festive season!
Actually, these are for Chinese New Year since it usually happens pretty close to this date. I just make sure not to decorate them like Santa or anything Christmassy.

12.     Take lotsa pics of the tree with decorations intact & post it on ebay with the title ‘Fully decorated 6-ft tree. Free Ferrero Rocher+mixed nuts goodie bag included’.
It’s one heckuva celebration for me if someone buys, doncha think?

13.     (aka Number 4) Have a laugh by reading my past 22 publications in this blog – hey! You should celebrate and do that, too!

Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas that Rocks! Cheers!

*There exists for over a decade here in Singapore, a Christmas contest for the Best Dressed Mall. It started as an expensive contest costing the shopping centres to spend close to a million dollars when it was first launched – yeah, the craving to win was That bad! Expenditure has since calmed down when it was realized that winning doesn’t guarantee a major boost to the businesses there. Plus, contradictory public opinions on ‘how come this expensive, but awful-looking one won?’

Thursday, 18 December 2014

I own a Lamborghini

I was exploring the cold meats section at Cold Storage* (actually I was trying to see what’s on offer), when this 20-something tall, handsome, just-walked-out-of-a-hunk’s-magazine guy came up and stood RIGHT next to me.

I sighed and thought to myself, “Geez, how come I never got to date anyone like this when I was 20?”

Then his eye-popping, hot, hot FHM babe of a girlfriend joined him and I realized, “ Ohhhhh... it’s becuz I didn’t look like That!’

Some things just pair up perfectly, I guess, like Macaroni & Cheese.
It’s not spaghetti & cheese, or kuay teow & cheese... it’s gotta be Mac & Cheese!
And no, today’s dish is not Mac & Cheese, although it is one of my weak-in-da-knees favorites ever!

Just hang in there, keep reading – I’ll get to it.

So back to this gorgeous pair of people, they’ve got looks, they shop & probably cook together. I’ll bet the dishes turn out fabulous, too!

They drive a Ferrari (a red one!), big condominium, luxury furnishings, own two speedboats, attend (and win) the Academy Awards, make their first Billion, buy an island, buy a football team, run for presidency, ditch the Ferrari for a couple of Lamborghini Venenos, buy another football team, and... PLOP!

My daydream bubble was rudely punctured by the deli staff lady who slapped my 200g packet of picnic ham onto the counter, smiled at me and said,”Please pay at cashier. Thank kew.”

I wanted to stay and see what 'Cold Meat Couple' was going to buy, but decided that it’d be more fun to just come home and rant, I mean, write about it in my blog, in my comfort zone where I can be with the Veneno that I Do own.

It’s a 1:64 size diecast (see last pics) and although I probably will never get to sit in a real one, I can dream about it as I slowly enjoy the dish for today – Shepherd’s Pie... (hah! You thought it was going to be something with the picnic ham, didn’tcha?).

Shepherd’s Pie is that Ultimate match made in Heaven! Silky-smooth mashed potato flirting with that savoury, juicy lamb. If you ask me, I really think it pairs up far, far better than a hot couple looking for cold cuts, well almost...

*Cold Storage – a supermarket chain in Singapore

Shepherd's Pie

5 medium waxy potatoes (or any kind you like)
Salted butter
Fresh milk

Boil potatoes in salted water, peel when still hot*.

Mash with butter, pepper & milk, to taste. Set aside.

*so much easier to mash when hot

Lamb filling
300 g cold minced lamb - some cut into thin strips.
One large onion, chopped or sliced
Carrots & Peas frozen mix, lightly cooked (warmed)
Cornstarch, for thickening
Worcestershire sauce
Water, 2 to 3 tablespoons

(If you like, you can add some dried mixed herbs after sauteing the onions)

On medium heat, saute one large chopped onion, add lamb, fry till lightly cooked.

Add water, salt, pepper, generous splash of Worcestershire sauce. Fry.

Taste and must adjust seasonings here. Add more water, if needed.

Lower the heat a little.

Add carrots & peas. Fry a bit.

Thicken sauce with cornstarch (mix some pan sauce to the cornstarch and pour in while stirring)

Serving Suggestions

a) Half fill a personal bowl with the lamb mixture. Cover with the mashed potato. Start eating!

b) Use an oven-proof dish. Sprinkle grated cheese over the potato & bake (or grill) till cheese melts.

c) Make this in advance (like I did). Freeze, or keep in fridge if eating soon. To serve, cover & reheat in oven till bubbly hot.

Lamborghini Veneno by Hot Wheels 1:64 (First Edition)
Rear View

Saturday, 13 December 2014

The Singing Pierogi!

Are you proud of the National Dish of your country?

The National Dish of Singapore is Chicken Rice. A close second is Chilli Crab. Have you tried them?

Both are lip-smacking Good, just like all the National Dishes of the world. I’ve never tried cooking them simply because both are easily available with reasonable prices all over the island.

In case you didn’t know, Singapore is an island; not a state, not a desert, not atop a mountain & certainly not a chance you will go hungry with all the many, many food places per square foot here.

Curious me decided to start a ‘National Dish Hunt’, so every now & then you’ll see posts like these in future.

We have apple pie from the US, pierogi from Poland, poutines of Canada, Korean bulgogi, sauerbraten in Germany, the list goes deliciously on. I’ve tried all the National Dishes mentioned, except for one – pierogi.

I notice that most national dishes are inexpensive, not gourmet and quite the humble food close to the hearts of the people. It sounds like the dish you grew up with, ate as a family, chatting away at the dinner table. This is the food mom cooked often - whether it turns out tasty or not, really doesn’t matter because it’s all about the sitting down together. Not to forget mom’s rule of ‘If you don’t eat it, ya Don’t Eat!’ Period.

So back to pierogi. I read about this dish on Wikipedia and unlike Chicken Rice, there are many variations on the filling alone - there’s even sweet pierogi filled with fruits & sour cream. My mouth watered at the savoury one with bacon. Yum!

There are savoury, salty and sweet versions of pierogi baked, fried or dunked in clear borscht with fillings galore enjoyed in Russia, Hungary, America, Canada, Germany, Ukraine & Romania.

Enough of just the written word, I decided to hunt for this dumpling and found a little retro place right here in Singapore serving pierogi for lunch and dinner as a starter at 6 bucks each! The best thing is that it comes with (you guessed it!) Bacon!

Off I trooped to the cafe with my dollar notes and after ordering, I sat at a cosy corner, gazing at the charming nostalgic decor. The ambience really warms my heart; reminds me so much of my kampong days when I was a cute little talkative kid (see ‘Something Sweet, Something Sour... ’) with my china doll haircut. The cutlery sat in a container next to a glass cup filled with sugar cubes.

While waiting, I stole a peek behind the counter and saw my little dumpling being checked for doneness (the metal noodle sieve was lightly shaken a few times in the steamy boiling water).

I got the fork & knife ready. My curiousity perked. My tummy growled. It seemed like forever before I was presented with THIS!

First of all, I felt it’s a teeny bit pricey at S$6 for just one pierog. Anyway, I took a few shots with the phone camera, cut it in half and snapped some more.

I proceeded to Go for it! with my fork, and the result... ?

Święty Jacek z pierogami*! How come I didn’t discover this earlier?

It’s one of the most wholesome comfort foods ever! The dough smoothly & playfully slid around in my mouth, dancing with the sour cream. The potato filling oozed with warmth & made me smile. The fragrant pickled onions perked up every bite. Amazing flavors rushed out!

What about the bacon topping? Well, it was the harmonious part of the whole combination. It brought everything together like an orchestra hitting the much-awaited chorus of an opera. It serenaded to me a welcome message that reads ‘With Love from Poland’. I sang along.

I now understand how happy Polish people are of their National Dish and Rightly so! I’ll certainly be chomping on these dumplings again & again.

Will I try making these myself? Maybe someday. For now, the one pierog I had is reminding me of those happy childhood gatherings & sunny days.

Pierogi is Family.

*'Święty Jacek z pierogami!' translates to 'St. Hyacinth and his pierogi!'.
This is an old Polish expression of surprise, roughly equivalent to ‘Holy Smokes!’
(source: Wikipedia)

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Happened to me Twice!

Let’s just chat today.

So how much do you know about Roasting, Toasting food? Ya know, something like a barbeque party by the beach, cool breezy evening with light calypso music and soft lighting, that sorta thing.

You’ve never had anything get charred? Oh lucky you! You are in for a treat when that happens! Especially when your guests start to arrive and first thing they ask is “What’s that smell? Is everything okay?”

Honestly, that only happened to me twice – simply because I held a BBQ just the two times in my life. I fell asleep waiting for the meat to cook and I burned all 25 of the chicken wings I was in charge of grilling. There’s something about how you have to keep it on a low heat to make sure it turns out nice & juicy, that is so yawning. It’s like watching a boring movie to me, I guess.

On the other hand, lots of people love firing up their barbeques with great enthusiasm, especially in America. I salute this passion.

I seriously think meat gets a better deal when grilled in the US. The care involved & special/secret marinades means juicy foods fly hot off the grill with a smile and a friendly ‘Peace’ finger sign. I’m pretty sure the marinated chops & steaks just flip themselves over when they’re ready.

Meanwhile in Singapore, I’ve attended too many East Coast Park birthday picnics and condo-warming pool parties that failed miserably on the barbie (including my own). Is it possible to transform fresh & perfectly marinated chicken wings into dry, tough, salty meat? Yes, in Singapore, you can!

Worst thing is, East Coast Park being by the beach means the sea air, which makes me hungry, which means I am ravenous by the time I reach the barbecue pit & having to smile when you’re starving is just using up too much energy, but I do it because I so wanna EAT! and I end up eating... brined leather?

To counter this, I’ve taken to secretly having pre-BBQ meals (aka a full dinner, folks) at home or on the way there. Success rate is 100% and I happily enjoy the event with my favorite F & N Ice Cream Soda drink and a slice of the birthday cake.

Another foolproof way is to offer an easy dish as the gift. The host is always happy to hear I’m bringing 10 servings of spaghetti bolognaise - of which plate Number One is mine, of course. From experience, I notice that the rest of it tends to disappear really fast.

I make the sauce & pasta in advance, pack them separately in microwaveable containers, zap them on the way out, mix it up on location & plonk a big helping for myself.

It’s also worked wonders! I met a ‘stranger’ at another party who recognized me & knew my name. I couldn’t recall anything about her at all. She then told me that we never spoke at the busy party back then, but she distinctly remembered me for the delicious spaghetti I made and expressed how she loved it so very, very much. Amazing - my sell-out spaghetti was the highlight for this lady... at a barbecue?! 

Well, you can’t really blame her. She’s much older than me and probably suffered more difficult BBQs than I ever did. I’m just happy to have helped her out & to know that someone other than I had a good time that evening.

If you’re going to a similar party soon, I sincerely wish you fun, laughter & lots of spaghetti waiting for you there. Bye for now!

Sneak Peek
: An interesting review will be up next week.
Clue: It’s from Poland.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Come Avo Walk with Me!

STOP RIGHT THERE! Click & Read this first: ‘Avo Maria’. I’ll bring you back here.

Okay, continuing from my ‘Avo Maria’ publication, here are the results of my 3 avocados over 3 days covering the 11 ways I ate them. It took 3 days as the trio I bought ripened at different times.

I am most lucky that a kind Australian lady member of my FB food group taught me how to check for ripeness by applying gentle thumb pressure on the stem end. Works like a charm!

The Challenger
Do you remember how scary it was the very first time you jumped down from a height that you weren’t sure of at all? That’s exactly how the first avocado looked like to me. I decided to have a chat with it first. I named it ‘Hank Hass’.

Me: I’m not sure you’re good & ready...

Hank: Hey, you did the thumb test – you Know I’m ready, Missy!

Me: Have you heard about my aversion to... you?

Hank: C’mon, stop wasting time. I’m ripening more as we speak!

Me: Thing is, it’s been years since I ate one and...

Hank: Yada Yada Yada... Boo Hoo Hoo! So you’re the only one with discomfort? I’ve been sitting in that cold fridge of yours for two days next to a bunch of noisy apples who just won’t stop yakking away! Geez!

Me: Ok, I’m real sorry about that, but I think I’ll have to put you back in there till I’m ready.

Hank: No way, José! Nuh-uh! I ain’t going back to Yakkety-Yak Town. You bought me, now Eat Me or else... so help me God!

Threatened by a ripe avocado, I proceeded to the first step of cutting it open and scooping out a teaspoonful. I closed my eyes, blanked out my mind, bravely opened my mouth and chewed.

I passed out IMMEDIATELY – nah, just kidding!

It was really Super, all that buttery & nutty flavor (the Biggest Surprise of All is revealed in the very last pic!). I eagerly moved on to the recommendations shown below. Come avo walk with me.

Avo 1

Mashed avocado with lime & salt – a pure beauty, then with lemon, salt & pepper – it pops!
On toasted bread rubbed with raw garlic – I love this; I wanted more!
Pomengranate, grapes & pear – Very Tasty & Refreshing!
(pears got a little brown while I was busy chatting with Hank)
I extracted the pomengranate juice to drizzle over the fruit version above.
Chopped cilantro, onions, chillies, tomato & lemon juice - to mix with the mashed avocado.
On toasted bread – a Feast of Flavors!
My tortilla chips have never been happier!
Piquete (Colombian) on boiled potatoes - Delicious Comfort Food!
Avo 2

Tuna sandwich (aka ‘Tunacado’) with chopped dill pickle, onions & red chillies.
Mashed avocado replaces mayo beautifully!
Savoury Taco/ Wraps - Absolutely Sensational!
 Avo 3

HLAT – Brings it all together Harmoniously!
(I had ham to finish so I substituted the bacon).
Easy to zap the small trial amount with my immersion blender for the smoothie.

Smoothie – the undisputed Best Surprise!
The Avocado Blooms Magnificently in this Cool Dessert!

I confirm that I am absolutely cured from my past experience and so pleasantly surprised that this fruit is super versatile with other foods as you have seen. I mean, who’d thought combining it with tuna or zapping it into a smoothie would bring smiles & cravings to this Singaporean?

I’d like to write more, but hey, I have years of avocado goodness to catch up with, so bye!

Acknowledgements: My sincere thanks to Michele Mai, George Hanus, Meike Hubert, Susan Cohen, Erin Crisman, Barbara Llorente, Linda Nightwood, Maree Reynolds, Shelby Jones, Evangeline Payawal & Christiam Guzmán for your kind support & recommendations. I am for-avo grateful.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Throw it NOW!

I made two sugar mistakes in the kitchen. Here’s the first one.

I accidentally grabbed salt for sugar and ended up putting the wrong amounts of each into my garam asam gravy! Dang! Dinner was to be served in forty minutes to my in-laws. I had two options.

One – call Pizza Hut, McDonald’s & KFC. Two – call my husband to the kitchen. As my traditional in-laws are not keen on fast food, I chose Option Two.

Crisis was averted after we miraculously managed to adjust the dish by discarding half of the gravy & adding fresh blended onions, etc. Phew... ! The moment dinner was over, I immediately labelled the salt & sugar containers (Yeah, Yeah, I didn’t before... so sue me!)

Here’s Sugar Boo-Boo Number 2... or so I thought.

I doubled a chocolate cupcake recipe, but Somehow (God only knows how!) I ended up doubling the doubled sugar amount or something. Oh Lord! What a shocker... !

Each cupcake overflowed the muffin tin and when cooled, every single one came out looking like a crater because the center caved in. They were hard & brittle.

The big one in the pan flopped out thick, sticky & gooey like this. Looks like a Sugar Battlefield, doesn’t it?

99% of me screamed Throw it, Throw it, THROW it NOW! I listened to my 1% and offered them to my young nephews.

Whoa! Wouldcha believe it? They loved it – a LOT! Way to go, Silver Lining!

The different textures & sweetness of my ‘failure’ turned out to be a winning snack, somewhere along the lines of toffee-meets-fudge-in-a-cake kinda thing. I can’t replicate it though, as I’m not too sure what I did right or wrong... but today’s recipe of a *simple potato dish turns out wonderful every time. Makes for a great side dish or just delicious on its own!

I love it for the simplicity and awesome taste, plus the oh! so few ingredients, and it Doesn’t have a grain of sugar, folks, so we’re safe.

*I figure I’d pop in something easy since you had to read my long Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee recipe from my previous post.

Ham & Garlic Potatoes

2 medium waxy potatoes
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Some sliced ham*
Some chicken stock
Salted butter*, for dotting
Cheese of your choice, shredded (optional)
(*If you prefer pancetta or bacon, use unsalted/sweet butter)

Wash & peel the waxy potatoes.

Using a knife, slice them thinly (not too thin, don’t use a mandolin)

Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F)

In an oven-proof dish, pour a bit of the chicken stock to just cover the bottom.

Layer with potato, then garlic, dot with butter, potato again, then ham. Repeat.

Finish with a layer of potato. Pour some chicken stock over it.

Cover with foil and bake for 45 mins to 1 hour (depends on the size of your dish).

Uncover and top with shredded cheese, if using. Grill till cheese melts.

Serve immediately.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Did & Did Not!

Gosh! Doesn’t time zoom by so much faster as an adult? Suddenly it’s November, and you are still in April mood. How did I get to here? What did I do in those months between? Where did all my money go... ?

I do, however, know what i didn’t do! I did NOT:
  • Win the lottery.
  • Receive the Nobel Literature Prize for this blog... yet.
  • Scam people at Sim Lim Square (just google ‘Sim Lim weeps’)
  • Kiss the kerb when it finally rained (dang Haze!).
  • Enjoy watching ‘Godzilla’ take his time to appear clearly on screen.

Oh wait... now I remember what i DID do! I certainly did:
  • Go out for the day without my phone & watch – FREEDOM!
  • Stain my T-shirt with laksa gravy again & again (some things never change!).
  • Re-edit & re-submit countless times to get my photos in foodgawker.
  • Try as hell to watch my diet, but failed with Old Chang Kee curry puffs.
  • Cook delicious Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee today
           ... and HERE’S THE RECIPE! (Surprised ya, didn't i?)

Yes, Yes, I know the recipe seems long & complicated, but it's really easy to do... c'mon, Be Adventurous! Let this be the thing you DID!

p/s: a really nice accompaniment to this slurpy dish is crispy Fried Wontons from my 'Krackle, Krispy, Ka-Runch' post with my wrapping demo videos (yes, it's me!). Have a look-see!

Fried Hokkien Prawn Mee

I never really measure for this dish, so please just estimate the amounts not shown according to how much you’d like. This noodle dish has evolved to become very ‘gravy-heavy’ with stock.

You can add more of the yellow noodles than rice noodles - it's up to you.

Ingredients - 4 servings
Prawn Stock (see below)
500 g Prawns, heads removed to make the prawn stock
Squid, sliced, optional
Pork belly, skin removed, then sliced or cut into thick strips, optional
500 g thick rice noodles (aka ‘chor bee hoon’ – this is not vermicelli*)
500 g yellow noodles
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 eggs
Fresh red chillies, sliced (can also be served on the side, if you prefer)
Spring onions, cut 5 cm lengths
Bean sprouts, washed (roots removed, if you wish)
Light soy sauce
Oyster sauce
Limes, optional
Msg, optional
Deep-fried pork fat croutons, optional (pls check online for info)

* You can sub dried medium vermicelli (which is the original noodle used). Soak 1 hr to soften.

Prawn Stock, Prawns, Squid, Pork Belly
Remove prawn heads. Carefully pry apart & wash out the brown mush for each prawn.
Boil for stock (water 2cm above the heads).
After 40 mins, using a strainer, press the heads to extract any stock. Discard the heads.
Add dashes of fish sauce, pepper, salt (& msg, optional).
Taste & adjust. It should be like a tasty soup.
Simmer (don’t boil) the stock & lightly cook the prawns, squid & pork belly in it.
Keep this stock on a very low simmer, for frying the noodles later.

Noodles  (Do this just before frying: Use a plastic glove; noodles are oily)
In a shallow basin, add some water to only the thick rice noodles & loosen it.
Mix in the yellow noodles.
Using kitchen scissors, cut/divide into 4 portions.
Leave the glove on top of the noodles.

- to stir fry one serving (fry one or two servings at a time; don’t crowd your wok)

Heat some oil in a wok on medium heat. Fry one chopped garlic.
Using the glove, add 1 portion of mixed noodles & a bit of stock. Stir fry 10 secs.
Push noodles to one side. Tilt your wok to the empty side. Increase the heat a bit.
Add some oil & scramble an egg.
Mix with the noodles.
(If you like your bean sprouts soft, add & fry them here)
Push everything to one side. Lower the heat.
**Add 3 tbsp prawn stock, then 2 tsp oyster sauce,  ¼ tsp light soy sauce & dashes of msg.
Increase to medium heat.
Mix with the noodles well. Lower to medium heat.
Add spring onions, bean sprouts & sliced chillies. Mix & Cover 10 secs.
(Add more stock here if you like your noodles slurpy)
Add prawns, squid, pork belly & 3 or 4 croutons. Quickly mix in.
Serve with a cut lime.
Squeeze the lime on a fork, all over the noodles & mix.
Eat Immediately & Enjoy!

** You can prepare this sauce in advance in a small bowl before you start frying. Stir to combine. This is an estimated amount, as oyster sauces vary in saltiness – you can a bit more oyster sauce if you like, but it should not taste too much of it.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Avo Maria

Once upon a time I had one bite of a raw avocado and hated it so much I swore off it for life. It took all I could to keep from spitting it out!

Then I joined a US food group on Facebook (yes, I do have an account) and found that the avocado is a much loved fruit eaten in all sorts of ways! I asked the members for ideas to gently wean me towards consuming this God-awful difficult task of mine. The suggestions came tidal-wave rushing in. People are indeed very kind to help an avocado-deprived lot like me.

Mashed into dressings, tossed in salads, mixed with pilaf, as a herby pasta sauce, smoothies, salsas, in tuna salad or just paired with sliced strawberries! A good friend even provided a link pointing me to the many varieties. I was overwhelmed at the pure kindness of strangers! (ok, most were not really total strangers as I have been yakking with them for a coupla months now).

It’s not often available here in Singapore, but I am just RARING to go the moment I spy that deep green pear-shaped challenge! Think I’ll buy three and try out as many methods as I can. I'm praying for the best.

Life is so wonderful – just when I think there’s a lull in cooking (the same things), I suddenly now have this great obstacle to overcome. I must & will above all else attempt the suggested ideas... cos if not I’ll have to answer to about 15 people who took the time to type those comments!

So you’ve already guessed my trials will be explicitly detailed in a future post. Will I pass or fail the whole exam? Can a person win over a despised life experience?

Is avocado such a big deal that I have to be a cry baby about it? Can you bring yourself to overcome the foods You hate? Why the heck is there no recipe in this post? What do you think? Stay Tuned...

Update: The results are in! See 'Come Avo Walk with Me!'

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

... For Nothing!

Didcha sing today?

I always have a tune or two on auto rewind in my head. Yesterday it was 'Money For Nothing' by Dire Straits - love the electric intro... 'That's the way you do it... '

Today I was romatici-sing to Luis Miguel's 'Perfidia'. oh... you've not heard of him? Same here.
I stumbled across his 'Mis Boleros Favoritos' album years ago at a CD shop (yes, these are rare nowadays) that was playing it at full blast. I bought it on the spot!

He's got this stretchy swoony voice that makes me sway & daydream...

What does this have to do with cooking, you ask? Nothing really... it's just that I still can't get 'Money for Nothing' outta my head from yesterday & I need company. Bet you're now stuck with 'We gotta install microwave ovens, Custom kitchen deliveray-ies, We gotta move these refrigerators...'

Plus, you know you're itching to check out Luis on Youtube! Heh Heh Heh

Music makes Life a Party and one of my favorite party foods is Burgers! Lamb Burgers in particular! Love them! You should make burgers at home - SO very much cheaper... it's almost Burgers For Nothing! (You can also substitute the patty with spicy 'otak-otak' for a change)

Here's my recipe - promise me you'll make them this weekend... 'I want my, I want my MTV... '

p/s: Throw in my nice Ham & Garlic Potatoes (see 'Throw it NOW!') & it'll be a Super meal.

Lamb Burgers
Prepare the uncooked lamb patties 2 to 3 days in advance for best taste!

Slurpy Burgers are the BEST!

Lamb patties (recipe below)
Hamburger buns, medium size
Mayonnaise (i use Hellman's)
Chopped dill pickle
Sweet & sour chilli sauce [i use Lingham’s (regular)]
Black pepper, freshly grated
Tomatoes, sliced
Onions, sliced

Heat up a bit of olive oil in a stainless steel or cast iron frying pan on medium to high heat. Do not use a non-stick pan (patties turn out not so tasty).

Fry each patty for 1 to 2 mins on each side (depends on how you like your meat cooked).

When flipping over, make sure the spatula picks up the whole patty (or it may break up as no egg and only a small amount of breadcrumbs is used).

Rest the patty for 3 mins.

Place the cooked patty on the bottom half of a bun.

Serving suggestion: Layer in this order – mayonnaise, dill, chilli sauce, black pepper, tomato, onion, lettuce.

Put on the top ‘hat’ of the bun and Enjoy! :)

Lamb patties - makes 4 thin (or 2 med) patties.
Amounts are approximate; adjust to your taste

300 g minced lamb (with some fat)
1 tbsp panko breadcrumbs
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp Vintage cheddar cheese (or Parmesan), finely grated & kept in fridge till needed
¼ tsp white pepper
⅛ tsp salt
Update: Plonk & mix in about ¼ tsp of English mustard & ½ onion (chopped) – gets tastier!

Using a shallow bowl, spread out the minced lamb.

Layer evenly over the lamb in this order – Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, breadcrumbs, cheese.

Using a metal spoon, mix gently & thoroughly**(see below). Divide into 4.

Update: For a juicier burger, leave it as one big chunk and shape them before frying. Cover tightly with a few layers of plastic wrap.

Take one portion & shape into a round, flat patty (they will shrink when fried, so shape it bigger).

Cling wrap each patty and stack them up in a small, shallow bowl.

Cover the entire bowl with two layers of clingwrap (the idea here is to minimise moisture loss).

Leave to marinate in the fridge (front or middle area) for 2-3 days.

** Pan fry a small bit and adjust Worcestershire sauce, salt & pepper, to taste.

Celebrate with Burgers!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Krackle Krispy Ka-Runch!

Today at the mall, I saw this teenager in a head-on collision with this HUGE stack of cartons! Nobody got seriously hurt though. The delivery guy couldn’t see in front as the cartons blocked his view. The teenager was face down on his smartphone.

BOOM! CRASH!!!! I burst out laughing as the cartons fell all over the teen! He looked totally goofy-stunned!!! WA Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha!!! I quickly wandered off, looking away, when he tried to see who’s that loud, hysterical, mean hyena.

We have to watch what we do, especially in the kitchen. Dangers abound – sharp knives, boiling soups, electrical applicances cutting, slicing & grinding, woks smoking hot, ovens grilling. This is not a place for slackening on supervision (and certainly not smart to be on your smartphone!).

Worse yet if you screw things up, after you have done heavy prep work all day and you are nearing that finish line we call ‘dinner’! and you are deep-frying really, really nice crispy Wontons that go Krackle Krispy Ka-Runch with each bite!

Like these... Enjoy! (pssst... check out my demo videos below for folding the wrappers – yes, it’s me!)

Fried Wontons
I recommend including Fried Wontons in taco wraps – they totally ROCK!

With 200 g of minced meat, you’ll basically get 12 large or 30 small wontons, depending on how you wrap (use up extra filling to stir fry veg, in omelets etc.)

Basic Filling – Season according to your taste.
200 g coarsely minced pork (or half pork & half prawn)
Salt, to taste
White pepper
Light soy sauce
Sesame oil
Optional: fish sauce, corn starch, chilli paste, msg, extra white pepper (lots!)

  • add ginger juice for a nice zing!               
  • add chopped or small chunks of water chestnut        
  • mix in chopped spring onions (green part only) 
  • add whole or chunks of prawns 
  • add fish paste – smoother taste
  • create your own new twist!
Those are just white flour spots on the Big Wontons. Wrappers are dusted with flour to keep them from sticking together.

Mix all the filling ingredients well.

Take a small amount and pan fry. Taste & adjust seasonings.

Cover tightly with plastic wrap.

Marinate for 4 hours or overnight.

Wrap the wontons, preferably just before cooking them.

For folding ideas, here are my demo videos!

This is for folding the Small wontons.

This is for the Large wontons.

Deep fry the wontons.

Drain on paper towels.

Serve with sweet sauce or mayo (my fave!) or dip of your choice.

When deep frying the wontons:
  • make sure your oil is hot enough
  • don’t crowd your wok or pan (see pic below)
  • don’t fry too long as it will dry out the meat
  • Impt: when golden brown, use long bbq tongs to turn each wonton upside down, and gently shake up & down to drip out excess oil

Nice Krackle sounds from my wok!

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Bite Me!

I very often wake up in the morning with the gusto to cook & bake everything from my many, many (many!) cookbooks. That happens to you, too, doesn’t it? Buying that many cookbooks, I mean.

Pictures of savoury pastries, comfort stews and amazing desserts fill my visually-ready mind non-stop. It’s Food Paradise on paper!

I see myself smilingly hopping from stirring a boiling pot, to scooping up veggies with both hands and plonking the lot into a sizzling hot frying pan, to checking on that browning-along-nicely roast in the oven – all (and I really mean ‘ALL’) coming out PERFECTLY cooked and with a Fantastic Presentation to boot!

Top Class! Magnifique! I am GOOOOOD!! I confidently assure you I am definitely getting closer to that... well, in this decade soon, I hope... but, I am most happy to say that I DID make something that is a top crowd pleaser and so easy to toss together!

Here’s my ‘Angel Croquant Bites’ – savor the crunchy, nutty, smoky & oh! so salty-caramel taste! One bite and you KNOW you woke up to a Great Day!

(You are invited to read about a sweet Asian dessert (Ang Ku Kueh) at my 'Lucky Little Tortoise' post)

p/s: For a Zingy dessert, check out my soft, soft custard Angel Lemon Tart at 'When Life Gives Angel Lemon Tart' post... is your mouth watering already?

Angel Croquant Bites

Bursting with Sweet Nutty Flavors!

375 g   Frozen puff pastry (butter)     
150 g   Almond slivers (roasted)     
  70 g   Granulated sugar       
  80 g   Brown sugar                
Fine Salt, to taste

(Use non-stick muffin tins)

Defrost the puff pastry till you can cut it. Cut into 1 cm squares.

Mix the sugars & salt. Taste & adjust if you like it sweeter/ saltier.

Fill in muffin tins as shown.

Bake at 200°C for about 30 to 40 mins, till the sugars melt & bubble a bit.

Remove from the oven and immediately start scooping out the croquants to a plate (or heatproof container). It's ok for it to look messy.

If it hardens while still in the muffin tins, just pop it back into the oven to melt.

Allow to cool before consuming with your ready fingers!

Best eaten same day.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Cereal Killer

Hands up all of you who can, on your very first try, always produce Asian dishes that look just like those Gorgeous cookbook photos or taste exactly like restaurant-cooked! Well, Congratz! you’re super talented... or just plain Lucky!

Anyway, talent & luck aside, to make our cooking job easier, there are handy helpers such as curry powders, herb preparations and premix packets. My favorite is Cereal Prawns - I always score Big with this! I use more butter to moisten the cereal cos I like it that way.

If you love prawns, this is one dang best seller, gold medal winner, top notch dish that is quite foolproof. You just have to make sure you get the freshest prawns and all the correct ingredients. It guarantees you a first class ticket to ‘Swoon City’.

It’s Big on taste, the Aroma lingers and a sure-fire Finger Licking good time will be had by all. Enough said, I’ll shut up now - here’s the recipe.

p/s: If you like hot & spicy food, check out my 'I Got Curried Away' post on Chicken Curry - Peranakan Style for a tasty curry & a hearty laugh!

Cereal Prawns

1 Cereal Prawns packet (see below for the one I use)
20 large fresh prawns
2 bird’s eye chillies (use one if you can’t take the heat)
10 to 20 curry leaves
1 to 2 tbsp butter (more if you like it moist)

In a wok, add some oil and fry the prawns till they are just cooked. Remove & set aside.

On low heat, melt the butter in the wok.

Just when it starts foaming, add the chillies & curry leaves.

Increase to medium heat & stir fry for about 30 seconds.

Add the cooked prawns and mix.

On very low heat, pour in all* the cereal and gently stir fry till the cereal is lightly golden brown.

Serve immediately with rice. Ta-Dah!

*You can add less cereal – it’s up to you.

Monday, 6 October 2014

A Spicy Childhood

Gangs, Stares, Screams, Furious kicking, Running off barefoot, Crying, more Crying, Maniacal Laughter – just a typical Sunday afternoon at the indoor playgrounds in the malls.

Aren’t kids the BEST? They jump, giggle, and proud parents get to flaunt them like craZy! Flaunting your kids is a lifetime movie career (grandkids are great sequels). You may get a blockbuster hit, like if little Janelle turns out to be a doctor and oh... even an award (like one of those ‘Best Mom’ mugs, extremely flauntable).

I was a flaunted kid. I didn’t have a clue till I heard it from others, often delivered to me in, well... rather unusual ways.

Some kid would say, “So what if you are your mommy’s fay-vrett, your eyes so small... hahaha... ow ow!!!”
('fay-vrett' – iritating slow way of pronouncing ‘favorite’)
('ow ow' – the sound that mean kid made when I stepped on his foot. Hah!)

A neighbour would pass by, pop her head in the window and smilingly sing,“Tell your ma & pa to order New Year kueh from me, okay? They always listen to you”.

An auntie goes,“Your mother always cook what you like; I think because you are not so smart & need more food for your otak!”.
('otak' means brain)

... which brings me to today’s food recommendation... been loving this since I was a kid.
Introducing a yummy delight called ‘otak-otak’ (aka ‘otah’).

This is the entry level otak-otak that I usually buy, wrapped & unwrapped (just remove the toothpicks & unfold).

It is a fragrant spicy fish paste wrapped in banana leaves (smaller ones in coconut leaves) and grilled to a wonder shot for your tastebuds! Often deliciously eaten as is, you can serve it as a sandwich, dunked in plain instant noodles or just mash it into hot rice... up to you!

Used to be cooked super fragrantly over a charcoal grill, but nowadays it’s electric. Oh well, it’s still very lip-smacking savory good to eat.

I whipped up some fried beehoon, stir-fried half a cabbage and tossed in crunchy pickled green chillies for a nice complete flauntable meal.

Tastes so delicious - my small eyes grow bigger with every bite! Yes!

Monday, 29 September 2014

When Life Gives Angel Lemon Tart!

I mentioned in my very first publication (see ‘The First Laugh’) that my hobby is collecting diecast vehicles... you know, Hot Wheels, Matchbox, Tomica that sort of collectible. It’s mostly cars with the occasional motorbike, helicopter, etc. To many, it seems rare, unusual and odd for a lady who cooks and cleans, to love what is considered a man’s hobby.

Respect took awhile and just as I was getting used to being ignored, I was warmly accepted as a (yay!) fellow collector! I celebrated by baking a Lemon Tart.

Sour lemon, Soft custard & Sweet pastry! Isn’t that just like understanding and accepting new people? You may start on a Sour note, but if you Soften a little, life is Sweet! So just for you, here’s my Lemon Tart recipe. The custard is soft, not a firm jelly.

You can, of course, halve the recipe and make just one tart, but you’ll discover how fast it’s all gobbled up... leaving you craving & wishing you had baked two! Don’t be impatient & move it around the oven in the middle of baking or your tart will end up creased like mine here! Kinda looks like some Gundam sketch, doesn’t it?

I tweaked it to use up the one small pack of 200 ml Emborg whipping cream all at one go! No need to bother with that bit of remainder, which usually hibernates somewhere in the fridge and one fine day gets thrown out... together with all the other forgotten stuff at the back.

I also threw in whatever pulp that went along with squeezing the juice – it’ll be all good in the end, trust me – I’m a collector!

Angel Lemon Tart

Sweet Pastry Crust (may require whisking)

Make 2 lots of Sweet Pastry (c’mon, just Google for this!).

Press the dough into 2 tart tins (with removable bottoms).

Poke the pastry all over with a fork.

Blind bake at 180°C for 15 minutes, or till lightly golden brown.

200 ml whipping cream
100 ml plain water (room temp)
3 lemons, unwaxed & unblemished
6 small eggs
Caster sugar, to taste (record your personal amount for future use)
Icing sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

Zest all the lemons. Squeeze to extract 150 ml of juice & bits of pulp.

Crack all the eggs into a bowl. Stir to mix well. Sieve it.

Add in all the other ingredients, except the icing sugar.

Mix well till caster sugar dissolves. Do not beat.

Taste & adjust.

Fill the blind-baked tart shells.

Bake at 180°C for 15 to 20 mins. or till custard is set.

Allow to cool, then sprinkle some icing sugar on top, if you wish.

Serve with your sweetest smile!