Nasi Lemak with Sambal Bendi

October 31, 2012

It was such a hot day today, we dropped the idea of going out for lunch. I decided to cook up a local dish, accompanied with “sambal” ladies fingers (bendi) and prawns. Nasi lemak which is coconut rice cooked with pandan leaves to give it the delicate sweet aroma and creaminess minus the dairy.  Traditionally nasi lemak is served with fried anchovies, sambal prawns or cuttlefish, maybe a fried fish or chicken and a hardboiled egg and not forgetting a few slices of cucumber to cool you down! The nyonya version, will have the addition of tamarind prawns or fish with their own version of sambal belacan (spicy chilli paste).

I am not a purist but to get the real taste of nasi lemak, you do need the coconut milk and pandan leaves. It is easy to make, cook the rice (jasmin rice) as instructed on the package. For the liquids, instead of water, substitute the liquid portion in parts:  3/4 parts coconut milk and 1/4 part water. Wash the pandan leaves (about 3 leaves if you are making rice for 4 people), tie a knot and place it in with the rice. Add a pinch of salt to taste . Cook rice as per normal.

Now comes the interesting bit – sambal bendi and prawns. This dish usually requires “belacan” – fermented and dried shrimp paste , I omitted that for health reasons – mainly these days preserved foods are getting a lot of bad rep due to the little knowledge how it is prepared and what sort of preservatives being used. Because  prawn paste is such a local produce, there is a lesser control on its quality. I used instead fresh tumeric root, kaffir limes leaves and lemon grass and 1 tbp of fish sauce.

Here is the recipe.

  • 3-4 dried chillies , reconstituted in hot water for 30 mins
  • 3-4 fresh red chillies, deseeded
  • 1 inch long fresh tumeric, peeled
  • 10 shallots
  • 1 pip of garlic
  • 1 tbp of tomato paste
  • 2 tbp of oil
  • 2 tsp of water

Blend the above into a paste

  • 1 stalk of lemon grass, give a good pound at the bulb to release the oils when cooking
  • 3 kaffir leaves
  • 10 -12 ladies fingers or okra , washed and chopped
  • 8-10 large prawns, shelled and deveined
  • salt to taste and 1 tbp of fish sauce

Fry the chilli paste with 1 tbp of oil, together with the lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves until fragrant.. medium heat. Add the prawns and the okra/ladies fingers and stir continuously so the chilli paste does not get burnt. Lower the heat to a simmer for about 5-8 mins. Add salt/fish sauce to taste . If you like, a pinch of sugar too.

Serve the sambal bendi with the coconut rice and a few slices of cold cucumber.

Rocky Road

August 26, 2012

We ended our 2 week vacation in Denmark, with a lunch at Hansens Familiehave (on Pile Alle- Frederiksberg) – my pseudo belated birthday and farewell lunch with the family. We were flying off the very next day back to Singapore. I agreed with my husband, that I preferred a typical Danish lunch in your old fashioned , traditional Danish restaurant. So I got my wish. Nice!

Danish lunch is very much all about open sandwiches, various toppings on rye bread.  I however,  opted for a ‘herresfrokost’ or “a gentleman’s lunch”.  My choice raised a few eyebrows in the family.. but they were quite impressed I could chow down most of it. So what did a ‘gentleman’s lunch’ consists of?

- marinated herrings (spiced)

- biksemad with a fried egg (chopped potatoes, fried with onions, pork cubes, bacon) – see photo above.
Famous as a merchant sailors’ dish after their night duty. It is just what ever was left over all chucked together.

- old cheese with rum and sylte (head cheese or brawn without the meat, just the stock, jelled up)

with slices of rye bread!

I will admit that lunch was definitely fit for a man! I couldn’t eat dinner that night, not after the cakes  we had later on. It was yummy though, the taste of bacon and pork cubes, nicely fried with bits from the pan, as  it was quite salty, fitted excellently with the fried egg. You then have the preserved beetroot slices which were sour/sweet complimented and balanced the saltiness of the dish.

What did the others have? Equally yummy toppings – marinated herrings, smoked salmon, etc.

After lunch it was nice languid walk to ease the tummy ! We  headed back to my parents in laws place for coffee and cake. Little did my niece and nephew know what was in store for them.

My niece and nephew had s’mores at the barbeque at the summerhouse in Enoe… and they really got all worked up about marshmallows – so my attempt to surprise them by making a Rocky Road ‘cake’ for my birthday tea, was a success. I know it is after all my birthday  – but to give it the ‘bragh  bragh’ for the children, was more fun !

They thought it was awesome – I heard only their squeals of delight when they saw their 2 best candies slapped together , marshmallows and chocolate and they even got permission from their parents to goof it down that afternoon!

My mother in law made a strawberry layer cake for the adults so that everyone’s taste was catered for! It was a yummy for the tummy day for all of us . A great lunch and a solid sweet ending !

Rocky Road Recipe

  • 550 g dark chocolate
  • 150 ml double cream
  • about 15 large marshmallows cut into half
  • 100 g unsalted butter
  • chopped  nuts or maraschino cherries (optional)

I used a cling film, lined over a quiche or pie (20-23 cm diameter) greased dish. This makes it easier to loosen the solid rocky road out of the pie dish once it has hardened.

I placed pieces of Marie biscuits as the base in the pie dish. You can choose to add some coarsely chopped hazelnuts or almonds if desired as the next layer , on top of the Marie biscuits. Then followed by the marshmallow pieces. In between the gaps, if you have some maraschino cherries, you can fill those gaps with them.

Bring the cream to boil first, then add the chocolate pieces (break them easier to melt). Do this in a bowl over a pot of simmering hot water. Add the butter. Stir until they become a smooth paste not grainy. If it becomes grainy the chocolate has overheated. Pour the chocolate ganache over the marshmallows/biscuit. Give the pie dish a gentle shake and 3-4 knocks/taps to get the chocolate ganache in between the cracks and down at the bottom under the biscuits. Place the dish into the fridge , let it set in there for at least 5 hours.

Take the Rocky Road out, turn over and peel out the cling wrap bottom.  Turn it right side up and on a chopping board, cut slices of the Rocky Road out. Serve them immediately.

Plaice with Parsley Sauce

August 24, 2012

Continuing on my previous post of my summer vacation in Denmark, I promised to write a bit more of this classic danish dish – “Roedspaette med Persillesovs” = “Plaice with Parsley Sauce”. It is a very plain and simple dish – but absolutely lovely.

It is a dish I identify a lot with the summers in Denmark. Fresh plaice like any seafood, is the key.

This is how my mother in law makes it. ( I always ask her to make it every year – she does it the best!)

  • 4 pieces of plaice (skinned and prepared by the fishmonger)
  • 200g of ryeflour (coarse) on a plate
  • 1-2 eggs , beaten in a open wide bowl
  • salt and pepper
  • unsalted butter for pan frying (150g)
  • 2 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 1 kg of new potatoes

Parsley sauce

  • 1  cup of chopped fresh parsley
  • 4 tbp butter
  • 6 tbp flour
  • 2-3 dl chicken stock from a cube – warmed up
  • 1 dl milk
  • salt and pepper to taste

Wash and peel the potatoes, boil them. Drain and leave a side covered.

Pat dry the fish. Season the coarse ryeflour with salt and pepper. Beat the eggs.  Take out 1 dl milk and put aside.

Take about 50g butter first and 1 tbp of oil onto a frying pan on high heat for the first 1 min, and lower it to medium heat.

Coat the fish first on both sides with the egg, than roll over the fish piece in the flour. Place the fish onto the now hot oil/butter mixture. Fry the fish about 6-7 mins on each side.

Put the fish aside . Finish frying the remaining 3 pieces.

Dissolve the chicken stock (if a cube) in a pot with water (check the instructions on the stock wrapping). Add the now hot stock to the milk. Like bechamel sauce, make the roux with the butter and flour.  Melt the butter over low heat, do not brown it. Stir in the flour , blend continuously until it is a glossy paste. Slowly add the chicken stock mix into the roux mixture..use half first – place a bay leaf into the mixture. Now the sauce should look like melted ice cream. If already too thick you can thin it with the remaining stock mixture. About 5 mins down the road as you cook it, it will get thicker , so you need to check its consistency now and again what you like best. Switch off the heat once it is about the consistency you like, remember it does get a little thicker after, due to the heat. Season with salt and pepper, remember the bouillon is salty – be stingy with the seasoning. Take out the bay leaf and add in the chopped parsley a little a time.

Place the fish on a plate, with the potatoes and pour the parsley sauce over it, or you can serve the sauce on the side.

Summer Vacation 2012 – Copenhagen

August 18, 2012

This year for our summer vacation we decided to be in DK (Denmark) – primarily to spend max time with the family. And again this year we wanted to make a reservation at Noma but they were closed – for their summer vacation . (NOMA is closed by the way between end July to mid Aug). Dang…! I may need to write a private note to Rene Redzepi now as it is getting too frustrating. This is the 3rd year in a row we have tried.

For the first week we rented a summer house in Naestved by a coastal town called Kaerrebaeksminde (what a mouthful – the name!) on a little island called Enoe – off a fjord.  Here is a site on the town. www.visitnaestved.com/international/en-gb/…/karrebaeksminde.htm

There are several popular seaside villages dotted along the coast line of Sjaelland (the island where Copenhagen – the capital is located). Enoe holds a special place for my husband because he has had many fond memories of this quiet town from his childhood. The area has certainly developed since, and can be quite busy during the peak summer months. Down there too, you have the outlet by the local danish design brand Kahler who is famous for ceramic works. For the shophardy fans , there is something to do after all.

Thank god the weather held, and what a relief! Beautiful danish summer weatheris one needs when you are planning a vacation by the danish seaside.  Having lived in Denmark,  I truly understand what’s all the excitement about. It is the unpredictability of the danish weather system that can throw any ideal assumptions of a nice seaside vacation down the drain and when you have to face 6 months or so with rain/grey weather – yeah a good sunny day is very precious.

Each morning started typically Danish, with pastries and fresh breads from the bakery. One of our favourites are romsnegle and tebirkes (photo above) . Tebirkes – is a mix between pastry and bread, topped with poppyseeds and a buttery and slightly sweet coating in the middle. It is so light and delicate (if made right) – something I have yet to see outside Denmark.

The seafood shops were abundant with their catch from the nearby seas daily. I don’t even know how to translate what they have there to English. One of my favourites are “roedspaette” (plaice) ,the “forel” (trout), kulmulle and the smoked fish like herring,salmon and mackerel. And ‘fiskefrikadeller’ on ryebread (photo below) – fresh from the fish shop is ultimate. One of the classic danish dishes is ‘roedspaette med persillesovs’ – plaice with parsley sauce – tastes absolutely sublime by the seaside, when especially home made! A post on that to follow – courtesy of my mother in law! :)

Denmark is famous for their beers too for those of you thinking, why is she going on about food only? Yes but since I dont’ drink I won’t pretend I know more than the little I know of beers and don’t forget ‘snaps’ – quintessential akvavit paired with your smoerreboerd (danish open sandwiches)!

Coincidentally during this trip the Olympics were on throughout. So it was really a hectic time racing to the beach  plus long afternoon walks and timing it to come back in time to catch some sports. While watching tv, we were stuffing our faces with danish jordbaertaerte and droemmekage. Life is good – yeah!

All in all had a wonderful vacation – at Enoe. Thank you to everyone in the family for making it great..muah!

Lemongrass Punch

July 19, 2012

In the tropics, on a hot day or just as a remedial drink served hot, lemongrass is a wonderful herb to use to make this punch.

Lemongrass is abound in South East Asia and is relatively cheap. It has medicinal values too.  It helps especially to relieve indigestion, bloatedness and nasal congestion. To a degree, it has been cited to kill cancer cells through apoptosis. (please see http://www.livestrong.com/article/525481-do-fresh-lemon-grass-drinks-cause-apoptosis-to-cancer-cells/)

For most of us growing up in this region, lemongrass smells and tastes so familiar and is a comfort herb for us. For those not familiar with it, it may take time to get used to it.

To a make a refreshing cold drink, this is my favourite way.

  • 5-6 stalks of lemongrass- pound the bulbous ends.
  • 1.5 -2 litrs of water
  • a pot
  • rock sugar or candied melon pieces ( to sweeten the drink, the amount would be to taste, your personal preference)
  • 1 cup of coco de nata or aloe vera cubes or konyaku jelly cut into tiny cubes

Bring the water to boil, together with the rock sugar/sweetened melon pieces and after 2 mins when the water has been boiling,  place all the lemongrass pieces into the boiling water. Let it simmer for 15 minutes. Switch off the fire. Let the lemongrass concotion cool to room temperature (about 1 hr) before pouring them into glasses and placing ice cubes into them to chill them completely. For each glass, put about 2-3 tbp of coco de nata /koyaku  jelly or aloe vera cubes whichever you are using. Serve it with a sprig of lemongrass if you wish or a few torn fresh mint leaves.

Cinnamon Rolls (scandinavian version)

July 14, 2012

Horror of all horrors, my last entry to this blog was in Dec. I realised too it has been a long while, when I could not remember how to navigate WordPress’s new dashboard after I had logged in.

2012 has been really busy. I changed jobs in May , had a hectic negotiation period on my previous lease, house hunting and finally moved to a new place took most of my energy to hit the ovens again! Now finally having a little quiet time to experiment – on a quiet Friday evening – I made the scandinavian version of Cinnamon Rolls ! No, I have not yet found the Pina Colada muffin I have been searching for.

Why I have to mention Scandinavian? To differentiate what is more commonly understood as Cinnamon Rolls here in Singapore which is the American version, you know CinnaBon ? That version is for another day, apparently the recipe calls for mashed potatoes.  This specific version is commonly found in bakeries in Scandinavia. The texture is firmer and less fluffy/bready than the CinnaBon types. Just wanted to manage expectations. One piece is enough, it is rather heavy, unless you are a sweet toothy – like my husband who ate four!

Learn to ‘fika’ – swedish (meaning have a break with coffee and cake) og ‘hygge’ – danish (gathering / cosiness)  like the scandinavians do with this cinnamon roll and a cup of coffee.

The recipe is from www.thefreshloaf.com/ 

In the recipe, the temperature originally was set at 200C, which browned the rolls too fast. I changed it to 160-170 degrees C. I have a fan convection oven by the way. The lines in blue are changed from the original recipe.

Please note the filling can ooze out and burn the trays. I recommend using baking paper to line your baking sheet. Instead of tying it into a knot, you can also roll them like swiss rolls and slice them, place each of them (the slices) into a paper casing before baking.

For the filling:

150 g almonds
150 g sugar
100 g unsalted butter
8 TS cinnamon
4 TBS water

For the dough

500 ml milk
150 g butter
12 g instant yeast
120 g golden brown sugar (or sugar)
13 gr. salt
1 TS cardamom
850 gr. bread flour
1 egg
(pearl) sugar for decorating

Warm the milk and melt the butter into it. Add the yeast, sugar, salt, cardamom and bread flour. Make sure the milk has cooled enough before adding the yeast. 35° C is okay. Mix on low speed until the dough is nice and stretchy, around 10 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare the filling. Pulse the almonds together with the sugar and the cinnamon in a processor until fine. Add the water and the butter to it and mix until well incorporated.

Rest your dough in an oiled container until almost doubled in size. The warmer it is the quicker it goes. About one hour or so. Next, roll out the dough to a big rectangle on a lightly floured work surface. Make sure it doesn’t stick, it makes working this dough much easier.

Put the cinnamon paste on half of the dough and fold it onto itself. Roll out again to even it out and cut the dough into strips. Form the rolls by stretching and winding the strip of dough, loosely, around your hand twice, go over the width of the roll and tuck in the end. No matter how you do it, it will always look lovely, so don’t get too over zealous in trying to get them to look all the same!

Let the rolls proof until they are nice and plump, about 45 minutes. In a warm kitchen they might be ready within 30 minutes or so.

Preheat the oven to 170-160° C. Take out all the racks and prepare to bake on the second lowest rack.  Originally it is at 200° C, but I found it browned my rolls too fast. My oven was with fan – possibly did not need the 200° C.

Give the rolls an egg wash with the slightly beaten egg (use only egg yolk for a deeper, richer shine and a more dramatic contrast) and sprinkle with small sugar pearls if you have them. Normal sugar works as well, but won’t look as classy. Bake for about 15-20 minutes with convection until they turn a deep golden brown. Let them cool on a rack and…. SHARE!

happy baking!

Waffle-Time

December 18, 2011

It was just one of those days. You go one full circle and realised sometimes what you have always enjoyed during your childhood, will never be replaced  by anything else new or fancy you may like in the later years!

So tired of pancakes for brunch, made waffles instead. It is easy to make and any leftovers are good to freeze up for another day’s snack.

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk + 1/4 cup of water
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 cups of plain Flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 4 tbp of melted butter

Sift the baking powder and flour, then mix in  the salt and sugar. Give it a stir. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, water,  vanilla extract and melted butter together. Slowly pour in the liquid into the flour mixture , mix well till batter is smooth.

Heat /grease your waffle iron according to the instructions specific to the model you are using . Pour the batter into the iron and cook your waffles accordingly., Do not leave the waffles too long in the waffle iron, otherwise it gets either overcooked-dry or burnt!

Serve them with your favourite toppings, maple syrup, or honey and butter, or apple sauce with cinnamon sugar.. or ice-cream or dip it in melted chocolate and leave it to cool – yum

Makes about 10 waffles

Kiksekage

July 8, 2011

Also known as Chocolate Biscuit Cake in english and made even more famous by Prince William , for choosing it as one of his wedding cakes. This version however is made not with McIvites digestive biscuits but with Leibniz plain butter biscuits, layered with dark chocolate ganache.

The common ‘kiksekage’ from my husband’s childhood memory was made from margarine, cocoa powder and sugar.  You can also find the Italian version , with eggs in them and rolled like a sausage, hence the name ‘salame di cioccolato’. So many wonderful concoctions of the same theme. You can also made your own caramel toffee sauce and layer it with the biscuits and chocolate ganache to make an even more decadent ‘kiskekage’.

125 g unsalted butter
100 ml cream
250g dark chocolate (60% +70%) (all 70% could be too intense)
3 tbp of strong coffee/espresso
1 tbp of brandy or 2 tsp of orange blossom water
1 roll of Leibniz biscuits
1/4 cup brown sugar + 3 tbp water (caramelise it) or 1/4 cup of golden syrup

Caramelise the sugar on a thick pot. Get ready the double boiler , pour the sugar caramel in to the  bowl, place the bowl on top of the boiling water. Lower the heat to medium, then add in the butter (cut into cubes), chopped chocolate , stir constantly until dissolved and resembles a thick smooth paste. Careful not to burn the chocolate..

Add in the cream slowly and the coffee/brandy, stir to mix well until smooth.

Line the loaf tin or tray with cling wrap, over the greased loaftin, pour some chocolate , to cover the bottom, then lay the biscuits on top , each piece side by side to one another.

Then followed by the chocolate again, biscuits again and ending with the chocolate. Sprinkle chopped nuts/ if you wish / refridgerate for 6 hours at least before serving.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

June 5, 2011

What a day! It has been raining the entire morning, flash floods abound in Singapore, so while potting around the house – an old food magazine lying around caught my attention and got me to bake this cake again.

This is a good rendition of the American classic , the brownie  – although not quite the brownie (it does not have the crusty sugary surface) this version though is forgiving, moist , chocolatey but not sickly. The zucchini gives the cake a lot of flavour, not just adding moisture. This cake is also very easy to transport around – so a good picnic cake to bring along.

Recipe is taken from the food magazine, Bon Appetit published in 1995. Here is the link to it http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Chocolate-Zucchini-Cake-907  . If you think adding zucchini to cake is strange , it is not. It is delicious!

Happy baking!

Dried Apricot Coconut Coffee Cake

April 28, 2011

This is fantabulous because simply it is so flavourful. The recipe was discovered on this site http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/914/apricot+cake   I skipped the icing as recommended by the reviewers.  The only few changes I made were the milk (I used rice milk), added 1/4 cup craisins to the 1 cup dried apricots  and orange blossom water instead of vanilla essence and baked it in a loaf tin instead of a square shallow cake tin.

What I like about the cake is the coconut which adds a  nice toasty sweet smell and  texture to the cake.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chopped dried apricots + 1/4 cup craisins
  • 1/2 cup warm milk ( or rice milk/soya milk)
  • 125g butter, chopped
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence or orange blossom essence + 2 tsp grated orange peel
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup plain flour topped, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 3/4 cup desiccated coconut

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 3cm deep, 16cm x 25.5cm (base) slab pan. Combine apricot+craisins if using and milk in a bowl. Stand for 10 minutes.
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla(or orange blossom essence +
     orange peel) and eggs. Mix well.
  3. Stir flour, bicarbonate of soda, 3/4 cup desiccated coconut and apricot mixture into batter.
  4. Spoon batter into pan. Bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into centre comes out clean. Cool in pan.
  5. PS – I used a loaf tin which is deeper, that took longer to bake, approximately 1 hr

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