Tuesday, October 31, 2017

31 Oct 17 - Halloween Bento! Sort of...

Well... had some leftover blue water which I didn't make into honey water yesterday and used that to cook rice. My oh my, the result was stunning! Cooked some celery, a capsicum egg and opened a can of chili tuna which I added some mixed peas. What a colourful combination to end the Halloween festival. Yay! Will be looking forward to Christmas next. Woohoo!


Cooking the rice using the blue pea flower water gives a uniform colour to the cooked rice.



Since a couple of my colleagues have no idea what blue pea flowers are so packed some to share with them tomorrow. Hope they will have fun playing with those as I did.

Monday, October 30, 2017

30 Oct 17 (Mon) - Eyeball Blue Pea Flower & Osmanthus Flower Jelly

It has been a crazy year so far and an insane two months. In the blink of an eye, October arrived and one of my favourite festivals is here! Halloween! Been some time since I made osmanthus jelly and to celebrate the festival as well as a treat to my colleagues at work, I decided to make some just in time for 31 October. I have made eyeball osmanthus jelly before back in mid-Oct 2014 and I remember my colleagues were not  in the mood to enjoy because we were still in the midst of a busy period.

So this year, I got smarter and planned my telecommute day very carefully at the beginning of the month just so that I can bring the jelly on the actual (Halloween) day. Wanted to do something slightly different this year so had been brain-storming for ideas. Saw some gardening friends posted their blue pea flower drinks on Facebook and an idea came to me. Why not turn the jelly into blue colour using blue pea flowers? It should add some spooky effect on top of the gory eyeballs.

So I asked for some blue pea flowers from one of my gardening friends and she happily gave me a handful last Tuesday. Tried using a few of the dried flowers to make drink and had a fun time playing with it. Do you know that the blue colour will turn into purple after you have added some lemon juice? Yep, I felt like Harry Potter in front of my colleague. Haha...

Finally came the day to make the jelly. Started off by making the eyeballs using canned longan, lingonberry jam and blueberries. Then went on to make the blue water using about 80 dried flowers to 2 liter of water. The result was an Electric Blue colour which I didn't think will work because the eyeballs won't be visible enough. So had to dilute it to get a lighter blue. And what do I do with the extra blue water? I used it to make honey drink. Yum!


Next was adding the osmanthus flowers and two slices of licorice root to the blue water, then boiled for a few minutes to let the flavour out. Once done, strained the liquid to remove the flowers and root. Then cook the jelly using the usual method. As I stirred the liquid, it slowly turned into greenish colour. Fascinating... Finally, assembled the eyeballs and jelly in the 3¼ oz plastic cups I bought from SKP. It was kind of plain so I added some chia seeds to the jelly at the very last minute. It was really exciting to see the final product take shape. Had to control myself not to tell my colleagues what I have prepared for them. Hopefully they will appreciate the jelly.

What are you looking at?

Oops! I dropped my eyeball!

Saw Ellena Guan of Cuisine Paradise posting her Halloween-theme spooky seafood bee hoon on Facebook and thought "How about blue colour rice?". Hahaha... Being lazy, I didn't prepare the blue water beforehand. I merely threw a few dried flowers into the rice cooker while it cooked the rice. The result wasn't as stunning as the bee hoon that Ellena has. Oh well... Maybe next time.


Happy Halloween!!!

Ingredients (Makes 35 cups):
35 longans
35 blueberries
some lingonberry jam*
5 tsp dried osmanthus flowers
2 slices licorice root
1900ml blue pea flower water^
20g konnyaku jelly power
420g sugar
1 tsp chia seeds, soaked
50 dried blue pea flowers
2 liter water

Method:
1.  Fill longan with some jam before inserting a blueberry into the opening (scrape off excess jam, if any) and set aside
2.  Bring 2 liter of water to a boil in a pot, lower heat, add blue pea flowers, stir and simmer for a few minutes to get the blue colour
3.  Strain the blue liquid, measure 1900ml of the liquid into a pot and bring it to a boil
4.  Add osmanthus flowers and licorice root, then simmer for roughly 5mins before removing from heat
5.  Strain the liquid, bring it to a boil then lower the heat
6.  Add konnyaku jelly powder and sugar. Stir until powder and sugar are fully dissolved then off the flame
7.  Place one "eyeball" into one plastic cup, spoon some chia seeds in then pour enough jelly solution to cover the eyeball
8.  Let the jelly cool down a bit in room temperature and chill in fridge till the jelly is set

* You can use any jam that is red in color
^ Make using 50 dried blue pea flowers with 2 liter of water

---------------- Edited on 31 Oct 2017 ----------------

Brought 34 cups of jelly to office. Man, they were heavy. Fortunately, feedback was good and a few were spooked by the eyeballs. Had a colleague who asked if the flavour was sour plum. Hrm... wonder if it was due to the blue pea flowers in large quantity that affected the osmanthus flowers taste. All in, glad that they enjoyed the jelly and a good laugh. Mission Spooky accomplished!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

15 Oct 17 (Sun) - Matcha Pound (Birthday) Cake

Tried to bake a matcha sponge cake earlier this month as a birthday cake for a friend. The cake didn't rise enough but I still went ahead to frost and decorate it with fresh strawberries. For the rest of the day, I was contemplating whether I should give the cake because obviously it was a failure, even though it was still edible. However, I got cold feet at the very last minute and didn't give the cake to her, just whatsapp her a photo of that cake.


For the rest of the day/month, she reminded me about the cake whenever she has the chance and I felt bad about it. So decided to make another matcha-flavoured cake for her since, at the same time, I needed some baking therapy as well after a crazy two weeks. Searched the Internet for a good recipe and an idea struck. Since I wasn't confident enough to attempt another sponge cake, I thought why not try a pound cake instead. Shouldn't be too far off from the butter cake that I'm quite good at baking now.

So searched and searched, read a few matcha pound cake recipes and decided to use the one by Japanese Cooking 101. Reduced the recipe amount to that of using one egg. Initially, I was still thinking if I could skip that extra yolk in the recipe but in the end, I still went ahead to follow the recipe. And because I didn't have cake flour, I had to DIY my own using a cake substitute guide I found on The Gracious Wife. And since this was a make or break attempt, I added a pinch of baking soda to make sure the cake would rise.

Put in a lot of effort by making sure that I got every step right, not cutting corners and so on. Underestimated the amount of batter that I would have before I started the process and went to prepare a 4" baking tin instead of the 5" one. So in the end, I used a 4" round cake tin and a small loaf pan for all the batter. The one in the loaf pan was baked through after 20 minutes, but the round cake tin one had to bake for 40 minutes.


The round cake managed to rise to an acceptable height so I went on to modified an old buttercream frosting that I had used before into a matcha-flavoured one while waiting for the cake to cool. It took me another 20-30 minutes to frost the cake and still it wasn't as smooth as those sold commercially. Sigh... Next was to decorate the cake and because I had a few ideas tucked away during the sponge cake attempt, I didn't have to spend a lot of time cracking my brain over it. As I had some frosting left, I half the other cake and sandwich it with the leftover frosting.


All in all, the cake looked nice and I probably give it a 51/100 mark. Taste-wise, I will have to wait for my friend to give me the feedback after she has eaten it. Packed the round cake into a proper box with a proper base and the other cake into a clear plastic box before putting everything into the fridge.

Match Pound Cake (adapted from Japanese Cooking 101)

Ingredients:
1 egg, room temperature
1 yolk, room temperature
75g butter, room temperature
84g caster sugar
                   1 tbsp water
                   1 tbsp matcha powder
                    67g cake flour*
                    pinch of salt
* 58g plain flour + 9g corn flour

Method:
1.  Preheat the oven to 170 degree Celsius.
2.  Grease and line a 4.5" x 2.5" loaf pan and a 4" round cake tin.
3.  Mix egg, yolk and water in a bowl.
4.  Sift cake flour, Matcha powder and salt together in another bowl.
5.  Beat butter for 2 minutes then slowly add sugar in 3 batches while beating, until the mixture become light and fluffy.
6.  Slowly add in the egg mixture in 3 batches while mixing and until well combined.
7.  Fold in the flour mixture in 3 batches until well combined.
8.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and tin, smoothen the surface and bake for 20 minutes and 40 minutes respectively.
9.  Cool slightly and remove the cakes from the pan and tin.
10.  Cool the cakes completely on a cooling rack.


Matcha Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:
30g butter, room temperature
50g icing sugar
                   3/4 tsp water
                   2 tsp matcha powder        

Method:
1.  Whisk all ingredients till smooth and creamy.

--------------- Edited on 16 Oct 2017 ----------------

Gave the cake to my friend and she was very happy. She even took a photo of herself (her hand) cutting the cake. Asked her to take a photo of the inside of the cake because I was curious. Hrm... the cake looked crumbly, wonder if the texture was supposed to be like that or because I substituted the cake flour and added baking soda. Taste-wise, her feedback was that the matcha taste was just nice, not to the extend of being bitter and she liked the brownie-like texture of the cake.
                   
       

Saturday, September 30, 2017

30 Sep 17 (Sat) - Pad Krapow Moo and Stir-fry Potato Pork

Had a pack of frozen minced pork in the freezer for a while and didn't know what to cook with it until I bought a pack of sweet basil last week. Then the idea of cooking the Thai dish "pad krapow moo" struck me. Search the Internet for recipe, read a few and the method was about the same. So chose the one from "Genius Kitchen" and made a couple of modifications such as using dried chili padi instead of Thai chili, replacing fish sauce with light soy sauce, Thai basil with sweet basil and omitting the pork stock.

The result was great! Looked good and tasty too.


Ingredients:
500g minced pork
4 tbsp oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 shallot, minced
small bunch of fresh sweet basil, chopped
                   2.5 tbsp oyster sauce
                   1 tbsp light soy sauce
                   1 tbsp sugar
                   6-8 dried chili padi, deseed, cut into 3-4 pieces each


Method:
1.  Heat up the oil in a frying pan.
2.  Add garlic, shallot and dried chili padi and stir fry till fragrant.
3.  Add minced pork and continue to stir fry* on medium heat until almost ready.
4.  Add oyster sauce, light soy sauce and sugar and continue to stir fry till well mixed.
5.  Increase the heat to high, add fresh sweet basil and continue to stir fry for few seconds.

* Use the spatula to break the chunks into small bits in cutting manner continuously at the same time.


Had some leftover baby potatoes so search the Internet for a recipe to cook them in Chinese-style. Found one by Noobcook and adapted it to my requirements.

The result? Very tasty, guessed it was partly due to the used of pad krapow moo. Heh.


Ingredients:
1 tbsp oil
2 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
                   1-2 tbsp pad krapow moo
                   8-10 baby potatoes, sliced to 1/2cm thick
                   1/2 cup frozen vegetables (carrot, corn, pea & long bean), thaw before use

Sauce:
1 rice bowl of water
1 tbsp oyster sauce
                        1.5 tsp light soy sauce
                        1.5 tsp black sesame oil

Method:
1.  Heat up the oil in a frying pan.
2.  Add garlic and shallot and stir fry till fragrant.
3.  Add potato slices, stir fry for three minutes then add pad krapow moo.
4.  Add sauce, stir to coat everything evenly, then cover with lid and simmer for six minutes.
5.  Add the thawed vegetables, mix them up, cover with lid and simmer for another eight minutes.


Finally, as for lunch of the day, I decided to make something simpler - beef brown rice bee hoon soup.


The government has been urging the consumers to eat healthier by switching to brown rice and whole grains. So producers also became creative and came up with brown rice bee hoon, brown rice pasta and so on.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

10 Sep 17 (Sun) - Crispy Pork Chop

Caught episode 7 of Hey Chef! Season 2 on Channel 8 back in July. The episode was on cooking the crispy pork chop also known as Chinese roast pork. Copied the recipe by watching the dish recap on Toggle for a few times and finally made it today.

The result was not too far off but there is still room for improvement. For example, instead of brushing extra oil to the skin, I could have drained the oil accumulated on the aluminium foil to a small dish and used it to brush the skin. By draining the oil, I could also have prevented the bottom of the pork belly from getting burnt. Given that the size of the pork belly I used was significantly smaller than what was required, I reduced the cooking time from 90 minutes to 80 minutes. I probably should have reduced a bit more to perhaps about 60 minutes instead.

Nevertheless, the roast pork tasted great with really crispy skin. Yataa!


Roast pork after 60 minutes.
Roast pork after 80 minutes.

Close-up shot of the roast pork.

Crispy Pork Chop Recipe (Credited to Hey Chef! Season 2)
Ingredients:
1.5 - 2kg pork belly with skin
3 tbsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp five spice powder
1 tbsp cinnamon powder
                   1 tbsp chicken stock powder
                   1 tbsp rhizoma (sand ginger) powder
                   Some white pepper
                   80g white vinegar
                   10g baking soda

Method:
1)  Combine salt, sugar, five spice powder, cinnamon powder, chicken stock powder, rhizoma powder and white pepper in a bowl
2)  Clear small bones and excess fats from the pork belly
3)  Make shallow cuts on the flesh of the pork belly
4)  Marinate* the flesh of the pork belly with the dry mixture in (1)
5)  Combine white vinegar and baking soda in a bowl
6)  Brush the skin of the pork belly with the wet mixture in (5)
7)  Refrigerate the pork belly for 3 hours
8)  Remove the pork belly from the fridge and steam it for 10 - 15 minutes
9)  Air-dry the pork belly with a fan for about 1 hour
10)  Rub the skin of the pork belly with some fine salt, then lightly poke the skin with a meat poker
11)  Line a baking tray with aluminium foil with the edge slightly folded up
12)  Bake the pork belly at 220 degree Celsius for 1.5 hour
13)  Take the pork belly out after 20 minutes to poke the skin, repeat this step for 2 more times**

* Remember to marinate the inside of the shallow cuts
** After poking the skin, brush some oil onto the skin before putting back into the oven

Saturday, August 26, 2017

26 Aug 17 (Sat) - Salmon Wellington

Recently, my little big sis tagged me in a Facebook video post by 'Spring Home' recently. The video showed the various ways to use their frozen pratha. Saved that video and went on to their FB page to see if they posted the recipes on their page or on their website. Found a few of the recipes on their photo section and downloaded them for reference. Since I love eating salmon, decided to try their salmon wellington recipe today.

Went to get their frozen plain pratha, a piece of salmon and a box of cream cheese. The recipe also calls for spinach but I replaced it with dou miao because I didn't want to get one big bunch of spinach. Followed the recipe closely and baked the balance of the beaten egg, in half a red capsicum together with the salmon wellington.


Took it out after the time was up and plated them up on my new blue plate. The final product of the salmon wellington looked very close to the picture on 'Spring Home' recipe except for the top part. It didn't seem to brown as well as that on the picture. Didn't know what sauce was used in the picture so I made do with some sesame sauce and mayonnaise which spoiled the presentation somewhat. Taste-wise, it was quite tasty and I believed would tasted better with the Japanese plum sauce.


Maybe the next time I try, I will apply some oil to the salmon wellington before baking and maybe baked it either at a slightly higher temperature or slightly longer to brown the pratha.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

22 Jul 17 (Sat) - Jalapeno Poppers

Had some leftover cream cheese, want to use it up but didn't want to make desserts with it so searched the Internet for savory recipes that make use of cream cheese. Saw a few but this Jalapeno Poppers recipe on Food Network caught my attention because of its simplicity. Followed the steps in the recipe with a little modification. Instead of the regular streaky bacon, I used back bacon which is wider in size compared to regular streaky bacon and then I halved each slide length-wise. Instead of just wrapping the cream cheese-filled jalapeno in the middle, I wrapped the whole thing for some halves, covering the cream cheese.


Popped them into the oven and set them to bake at 140 degree Celsius for 1 hour and 15 minutes as stated. Fortunately, I checked on them on and off and quickly turned off the oven after 1 hour because the bacon was starting to char on the edges. The recipe actually asked for 135 degree Celsius but my oven doesn't do interval of 5 so guessed that was why the bacon started to char after 1 hour.


These jalapeno poppers tasted great and really easy to make. Ideal as quick bites for parties.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

9 Jul 17 (Sun) - Butter Cookies

Itching to bake something but tired of baking butter cakes so googled for ideas and decided to bake some cookies. Didn't have any experience in baking cookies before so googled for a basic cookie recipes. Found this butter cookies recipe by Nasi Lemak Lover that looked easy enough. Got down to it and as I went along, the process got messy because when I mixed the butter and icing sugar using a hand-held mixer, some of the icing sugar flew out. And when I added the flour to the mixture, it got even messier because some of the flour and bits of the butter mixture flew out. Made some modifications to the basic recipe by adding chopped dried cranberries and ground Brazilian nuts. Mixing the ingredients was not the worse part. Attempted to use cling wrap to create a pipping bag and using the icing nozzle to pipe the soft dough onto the baking tray and the cling wrap gave way because I was squeezing too hard for the dough to come out of the nozzle. In the end, I had to use my hands to roll the dough into small balls and flattened them on the baking tray. The dough was supposed to make about 30 pieces of cookies but I ended up with 50 pieces. Must be due to my poor estimation of the size per cookie. 


Once I was finished with all the dough, I quickly put the tray into the preheated oven and set it to bake for 13 minutes. Soon the time was up, some of the cookies didn't seem to be brown enough so I added another two minutes. Bad decision because those that were golden brown earlier were now of darker shade. The cookies smelled nice, however, those that were of darker brown tasted a bit bitter because I had over baked them. Should have just stopped at 13 minutes and left them in the oven to brown slowly. So a rather crude attempt at baking butter cookies.


Butter Cookies (adapted from Nasi Lemak Lover)

Ingredients:
100g butter, soften
30g icing sugar
90g plain flour
30g corn flour
1.5 tbsp dried cranberries, roughly chopped
2 heaped tsp ground Brazilian nuts

Method:
1.  Pre-heat the oven to 180 degree celsius
2.  Beat butter and icing sugar till creamy.
3.  Sift plain flour and corn flour together.
4.  Add the flour mixture into the butter mixture and mix well to a soft dough
5.  Add cranberries and ground brazilian nuts to the mixture and mix well
6.  Take some dough, roll into a ball and flatten onto baking tray (size about 50 cents coin)
7.  Repeat step 6 until the dough is finished
8.  Bake for 13 minutes or until golden brown

Sunday, July 2, 2017

2 Jul 17 (Sun) - Castella Cake

Recently my sister was telling me how there is this new bakery shop from Taiwan called "Le Castella" at the basement of Tampines One is making headlines on food blogs and newspapers. She said there is always a snaking queue early in the morning even before the shop opens for business. Googled a little and found out that the shop sells castella cake, which is a type of Japanese sponge cake that is moist and bouncy on the inside.

Last Saturday, we went to the shop at 10:30am to try our luck but there was already about 15 people in the queue. We learnt that even though the people were in the queue, the collection could happen in the late afternoon. So we gave up the idea and sis said she may try again on a weekday after the school reopens.

So last Thursday, she went to queue since 10:30am, second one in the queue and she finally managed to get two original flavour cakes after 30 minutes. Her verdict: "古早味蛋糕 so-so, nice but nothing fantastic. Smell good when hot, not very sweet and as fluffy and soft as steamed sponge cake. Maybe because it's baked. Don't think will go back for second round..." Read some other reviews from famous local bloggers and their verdicts were kind of similar - original a bit bland with eggy aftertaste, recommend to try the cakes only after the hype dies down.

The following day, my sister tagged me in a Facebook post with a video that shows how to make castella cake. Watched the video, copied the recipe and decided to give it a shot today. Didn't want to make big batch so reduced the amount of ingredients to that of one egg portion. Also replaced cake flour with plain flour as I didn't want to have too many types of flour sitting in my pantry. Was kind of worried how the cake might turn out as I have tried making Japanese cheesecake and it shrunk after coming out from the oven.

Followed the steps as closely as I can and had to wait for 50 minutes before I could see the result. The cake looked presentable, didn't shrink but didn't turn out to be as high and as jiggly as I had expected it to be. Texture-wise, it wasn't as smooth but fortunately, was soft. Taste-wise, a bit bland for my liking. Maybe a dash of vanilla essence will be nice for the cake.





Conclusion, can try again but with addition of vanilla essence and maybe slightly more sugar. And maybe, just maybe, can up the portion to two eggs instead.


Hehe... for the record, this is how small the cake was. =p

Sunday, May 28, 2017

28 May 17 (Sun) - Purple Sweet Potato Sherbet

Still on the purple sweet potato craze and had lots of ideas. However, was feeling a bit lazy so instead of using it to make steamed cake or ice cream, I decided to make sherbet instead.

It has strong sweet potato taste and a rough texture because of the mashed sweet potato. It also has a very nice purple hue too.


Ingredients:
128g purple sweet potato, mashed
240ml milk
65g sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
pinch of salt

Method:
1.  Combine milk, sugar and purple sweet potato in sauce pan over med flame.
2.  Bring to full boil while whisking.
3.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 seconds.
4.  Remove from heat, add vanilla extract, cinnamon powder and salt then stir.
5.  Transfer mixture to a bowl and set aside to cool.
6.  After mixture is cooled, transfer to the freezer and churn every 1 hour with a whisk.
7.  Repeat step (6) for 2-3 times before transferring to a container of your choice to freeze overnight.


Since I had leftover mashed purple sweet potato, I used it to cook rice for my lunch. Had durians for the past two days, so cooked some pear dessert to neutralize the "heaty" effect.