Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache

I came across this book at Kinokuniya, the other day. I wasn’t sure if it was going to work, I mean the recipes were about vegetables and rice flour, does not sound that appetising. Photos were cutesy very girly, not quite up my alley  – I mean a lot of odds stacking against it. I was more interested to know if this alternative way of making cakes can actually be TASTY, heck who cares if it is healthy or not?

I do have a confession to make though, the first thing that drew me to this book, was its gluten-free options of making a cake. The idea of combining aubergine in a chocolate cake, does perk my curiosity – that was the Chocolate Heartache.

Mustering enough courage and after a consultation or 2 with The Curious Baker, I got the book. It was a toss up between the Rosewater Fairy Cakes and the Lemon Drops.. Lemon Drops won.

How did the cake turn out? Fine in fact and they tasted very yummy. The only thing that I felt was amiss, was the quantity the recipe purported to make, ie 24 baby cupcakes. It only made 4 regular cupcakes when I tried it out. I tried the second time around and doubled the recipe, and I got approximately 10 regular cupcakes (8 if you fill it up to the brim).

Lemon Drops – (I used lemon buttercream icing instead of the icing glace suggested in the book)

  • 2 eggs
  • 200g finely grated courgette, (peeled – for finer texture or unpeeled – up to you)
  • 100 g castor sugar
  • 50 g rice flour
  • 100 g ground almond
  • 2 tsp of baking powder
  • 2 tsp lemon extract
  • 2 -3 large lemon unwaxed, grated for the peel
  • a pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 160 C. Lined the muffin/cupcake tins with cupcake papers

Whisk the eggs and sugar til pale and double in volume (3 minutes) . Mix in the finely grated courgette, well.

Add the flour, almond, essence, salt, baking powder and peel and continue mixing until well incorporated.

Pour into the paper cups,3/4 full. Bake in the oven for about 25 mins.

Buttercream Icing:

  • 50 g butter soften
  • 250g sifted icing sugar
  • 1 tbp of lemon juice
  • a tiny pinch of yellow colouring if you like it tinted yellow(optional)
  • extra grated lemon peel for decor

Whipped the butter til smooth, add in the lemon juice and continue whisking it for another minute. Slowly add in the sifted icing sugar, beat til incorporated. Spread the icing on top of the cooled cupcakes and sprinkle grated lemon zest on top.

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Slow Food

Some of you may have heard of the Slowfood movement started by Carlo Petrini, in Bra, Italy. It is a brilliant concept especially in the worldly sense of a gourmet foodie. They have several key objectives expounded , for e.g.  Terra Madre, help and educate communities to get back in touch with the agricultural roots in a sustainable way with fair trading practices to support them, encouraging bio-diversity and preserving food heritages around the world. That was the evolution of slow food.

Initially, it started with the aim to fight against the rise in popularity of fast food, the way we eat where most do not appreciate or care where their food comes from. The whole concept of going back to basics and eating simple but good food has lost its way in our fast paced lives.  A sad phenomeneon. This is very much in line with my own personal beliefs of physical well being through wholesome food.

I considered to be a member of Slowfood for a while now, there is even a convivium here in Singapore  http://slowfoodsingapore.com/?page_id=7 , whose theme appears to revolve only on enjoying good and fine food, not that it is all wrong. Quoting and unquoting their website ” dedicated to the enjoyment of fine dining and good company” which I felt fall short of addressing the social issues of eating well ( although rather a good idea to rediscover and encourage slow cooking and the finer art of dining).

Singapore being dependent on imported raw ingredients I truly believe can play a big role in demanding their suppliers to farm ethically, clean and with fair working conditions. Singapore is a wealthy nation , it can afford to be more socially conscious as a foodie society. Everyone here claims they love to eat, and live to eat – imagine the influence they could have in instilling Slowfood’s true principals of clean, organic, preserving tradition and eating sustainably to their neighbouring countries and of their suppliers?

I did not join this convivium as it did not really appeal to my beliefs, but I did finally become a member of Slowfood Italy.  Let’s eat with conscience and know and demand quality food that is sustainable and clean. It is not easy, but if it helps heal the earth and promote better lifes, I think that is worth it. So check this out : http://www.simplesteps.org/food

The latest newsletter had a personal editorial from Carlo Petrini, which I would like to share as it is timely what he is calling for:

The tradition of the “Virtù Teramane”, still celebrated in early May each year in Abruzzo, central Italy, is one of those popular rituals from the past that pushes us to think about our present and our future. The peasant society around Teramo that created this virtù, a kind of stew, no longer exists, but it still offers many lessons for these wasteful and careless times we live in. If back then they had to “make a virtue of necessity,” today it is virtue that has become a necessity.
This dish was skillfully prepared by local women who created a complex soup from the bits and pieces left in the store cupboard from the winter months, like dried beans, different pasta shapes and scraps of pork, which were not always easy to incorporate into regular dishes. The first spring vegetables from the garden were then added, along with fresh legumes, fresh pasta and other meat such as pieces of ham and fried meatballs. There is no single recipe for virtù. The skill lies in turning an endless list of ingredients into something more than just a simple soup, something balanced and delicious.
Virtù is illuminating because it teaches us the value of saving, of reuse and recycling. It is a hymn against waste, but also a symbol of sharing and belonging to a community. In fact, families would traditionally offer their virtù to their neighbors and relatives. Forgetting someone often led to quarrels and even the deterioration of relationships.
When someone tells me that good food is expensive, I like to tell them about Virtù Teramane, because first and foremost it is a dish of rare quality. And if once it was truly a zero-cost dish, even now its ingredients are not going to break the bank. But rather than trying to replicate it perfectly, let’s grasp the meaning behind this tradition. We need to go back to cooking that incorporates leftovers, to being thrifty with the food that we have and being prepared to pay a fair price to farmers. Virtù teaches us that food is precious and that we can create wonderful meals from what’s left over. It also takes us back to the social significance of food, to a reciprocity that in times of global crisis becomes a revolutionary economic force. In our own small way, let’s seek to recreate virtù at home, and let’s start now. Let’s begin the fight against food waste. Do it for yourself, for the planet and for those in great need. Let’s renew tradition and show just how modern it can be.
I would like those great creative chefs out there to think for a moment about cooking with leftovers and come up with some new recipes for us for reusing the ingredients we have at home. But most of all I would like the Terra Madre communities to tell us about their traditional recipes using leftovers so we can share them with the whole network. This is how to move from making a virtue out of necessity to understanding that virtue (and virtù) is a necessity.

Carlo Petrini
Slow Food President

Cookies, more cookies

Okay – food trends like any trends do make a full circle as people’s tastes change and they seek an alternative to the influx of the current trend, face it we, humans (at least most of us) do get bored easily when we 1) have had too much of a good thing or 2)  seek excitement in discovering a new  thing. 

So what is next in the realm of desserts?  We have had modernistic funky ganache cakes, fusion cakes, cupcakes craze and mad about macarons..so what else can truly be next? What is the other that has not been made a craze yet? Well, I am banking on cookies or biscuits depending on your English leanings.

On a personal note though, I sometimes do enjoy a cookie more than a slice of cake, especially when I have had too much to eat already and can’t stuff myself anymore. But I am a creature of habit and after a good meal, I must have a sweet ending. So the cookie satisfies the sweet craving I have minus the guilt (only if I eat one or two with my coffee or tea. It is a whole different matter if I decide to consume the entire jar..)

Cookies besides being tasty, they can be dressed up to look really pretty and on a practical side, easy to store and portable! Quite the perfect gift too during festive seasons. I supposed they have been overlooked because they were not considered as glamourous as a cupcake or a macaron, nevertheless they have been a mainstay in many households whether store bought or home baked. The time has come for them to be showcased as an exciting piece of dessert as her other cousins.

I have stuck to certain cookies, like oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies because of the fool proof recipes I have inherited. So one day I decided to go out and get myself a  copy of The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion – after many hours of careful consideration (value for money too) comparing it with other known cookie book authors like Martha Stewart, Carol Walter  and Maida Heatter.

Although it is a quintessential American cookie book, a few traditional European cookies like mandelbrot and stroopwaffel were also included.

Wanting to venture out of the comfort realm of oatmeal cookies and choc chip – it was toss up between lavender cookies or pistachio. Pistachio won hands down , due to an unfair advantage – my husband’s fondness of all things pistachios (or chocolates) convinced that was a better cookie to make and more likely he will consume them.

I took the ‘essential sugar cookie – crunchy’ recipe from King Arthur, added the ground pistachio and sprinkled rose water and rose petals, thus adding my own creative streak to it. Voila, pistachio cookies.

Pistachio cookies with rose petals

  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 4 tbp butter (1/2 stick)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp cider vinegar
  • 3/4 tsp rose essence OR  1 tsp + 1/2 tsp of rosewater
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 heaping tsp of salt
  • 2 cups of ground pistachios
  • 3-4 dried rosebuds – petals for decoration

Preheat oven to 160 C degrees. Lightly grease or line with parchment paper 2 baking trays

In a large mixing bowl , cream the shortening ,the butter and sugar until smooth. In a cup, mix the milk, vinegar and rose essence (or rose water)  add this to the butter mixture. Beating until well combined. the mixture may look curdle, it is ok.

Add the nutmeg, flour, salt, baking soda and beat until dough is cohesive, pour in the ground pistachio and mix well.

With a teaspoon or tablespoon, depending what size you like your cookies to be, scoop the dough  up and roll it into a ball . Place a rose petal on the top and press it down slightly. Using a bottom of a glass , dipped it in sugar (granulated – coarse grain) and flatten the balls to 1/4 inch thick.

Bake it for 20 minutes or light golden colour. Remove from oven and transfer to a rack to cool. Store it in an airtight container when cool completely.

They are in fact very good with a glass of cold milk.

Mad About Macarons

macaron

Paulette Macarons

The world it seemed has gone mad about macarons.  I don’t blame her, I am too. Cupcake craze is yesterday  – today they are these dainty sweets. Both are rather similar, pretty to look at and heavenly in taste – although not entirely the same thing, one is a cake while the other is , well a macaron, light as a feather and yet it can satisfy your sweet craving to the fullest.

I have to admit I am more fascinated by the way they look and I love their diverse fillings and somehow they don’t feel as heavy as your regular cupcake. I guess it does depend on what craving you are trying to fulfill. They are made of sugar, egg whtes and finely ground almonds and you can add a variety of flavours and colours to them. As for the filling, any combination you can think of , I supposed goes!

Of course they are french – and they are all over the place today. Thank god for that. Some interesting recommended macaron shops around are:

If you find others worth trying out, do drop me a note, a macaron crawl is in the waiting..

Madeleine’s Madteater

madeleine

In 20 days we are packing for our next posting, this time to Singapore. This weekend though, we will make a quick hop over to one of my favourite cities of the world – Copenhagen to see family and friends before our final departure to the Far East. Which came to mind, a different, interesting dining experience I should share with you. For those of you who love food and are looking for something a little more unusual (no, not like eating scorpions or strange body parts of animals) but a rather nouvelle way of dining where you get to taste and almost play with your food.

When visiting Madeline’s Madteater, I felt like Alice in Wonderland attending one of Madhatter’s tea parties. It is like having all your senses bombarded at the same time, with the core focus still being food. By the way, it is not really a MAD THEATRE but a food theatre (play of words, as ‘mad’ means food in danish).

Madeline’s Madteater is a unique and unusual culinary experience with experimental theatrics thrown in to heighten one’s experience with the subject – food. Depending on the theme, the diners have no choice but to get involved.

This one, run by some danish people – decided to combine food and theatrics to heighten our senses while dining.  ‘The Senses’ was the theme I attended 4 years back with a friend. We had Gotan Project playing in the background, and a white screen surrounding us with dancers sprawling across it while having our appetisers – candy beetroot dipped in salt! Check their website out :  http://www.madeleines.dk/

madeleine

The people behind Madeleine’s are Mette Sia Martinussen and Nikolaj Danielsen as they work together with other well known chefs, scientists and musicians to create this masterful dining experience. 

Madeline’s Madteater has been focusing mainly on all five senses as their main theme. Their latest project, however requires their guests fast on the day of their visit, to encourage physical and spiritual nourishment combining with taste to produce an even more heightened dining experience. Crazy? Yeah but fun and you actually get to eat some good food too.

The Mamak Scene

nasi lemak

Finishing off the first 3 main food heritages dominant in our Malaysian life today , the last was ‘The Mamak Scene’ , check it out on the right hand column at the bottom under Pages, Food Heritage or click here https://yoonsy.wordpress.com/food-heritage/the-mamak-scene/

Food scene and heritages everywhere in the world continue to evolve, making it a truly exciting journey of discovery (most of the time anyways – I am not Anthony Bourdain, so certain creepy crawlies or the likes will not be on my list!)

Happy Reading!

Cupcake craze

cupcakes
Photo from martha stewart

There seems to be a flurry of cupcake shops all over the place from New York to Malaysia. They are hotter than java joints these days.. I am not sure how exactly it started but I supposed the heightened trend was spurred on by Sex and the City at Magnolia Bakery on Bleecker Street, where Carrie and Miranda devoured some delicious looking cupcakes in the series. The magic of television! Anyway who knows!

Cupcake revival – with beautiful frostings I must admit is a sight to behold. It is very feminine , a perfect accompaniment for a girlie gathering! Who would pass an afternoon tea with beautiful scrumptious buttery cupcakes? There are several notable places for cupcakes and I have listed them here.

  1. Magnolia Bakery (of course)
    401 Bleecker Street , New York, USA
  2. Sugar Sweet Sunshine
    http://www.sugarsweetsunshine.com/
    126 Rivington Street, New York, USA
  3. Big Sugar Bakeshop
    http://www.bigsugarbakeshop.com/
    12182 Ventura Boulevard, Studio City, California, USA
  4. Cupcake Chic
    http://www.cupcakechic.com.my/
    The Curve, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  5. Organic Cupcake Company
    http://www.theorganiccupcakecompany.co.uk/
    London, UK
  6. Primrose Bakery
    http://www.primrosebakery.org.uk/
    London, UK
  7. Cupcakes4You
    http://cupcakes4you.blogspot.com/
    Penang, Malaysia
  8. Love a cupcake
    http://www.love-a-cupcake.blogspot.com/
    Penang, Malaysia
  9. Josephine’s Bakery
    http://www.josephinesbakery.com/
    Rome, Italy
  10. Cuppacakes
    http://cuppacakes.blogspot.com/
    Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

cupcake

And I must say Kylie Lambert has got beautiful cupcake designs. Have a look at her flickr collections http://www.flickr.com/photos/lecupcake/sets/72157600936676085/  They are really fine pieces of work and so pleasing to the eye!