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Weekend Cookbook Challenge #11 - "Cherry me" Cupcakes

>> Thursday, November 30, 2006

Cherry & Chocolate….

This combination for me is deadly seductive. Dream of the taste of a Black Forest Cake – don’t you agree that cherry and chocolate are for each other? :P

I began the search for a party food dessert with that in mind. No, I am too busy and not that skilled to bake the whole Black Forest Cake. What I need is something quick and easy… Flipping through some of the cookbooks, I stopped at Nigella’s Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes. The pic of the cake looked so appealing in the book. Reading the instructions, I know even a baking novice like me can certainly get the job done…

The cake is very easy to make. Just mix everything together for the batter, bake, then add the chocolate ganache on top. The key ingredient is Morello Cherry Jam, which is not available at standard supermarkets. I was lucky to find some in the German deli in my neighbourhood. In fact, the shop sells at least 3 different brands of Cherry Jams… The owner, a big old German man, advised me to buy his home country product which, according to him, is the best ;). True enough, the jam is really very good! It is not overly sweet and has very nice fragrance. After the bake, I did go back to get some more for my toast. *wink*

Back to the cupcakes, they turn out as good as Nigella promised – darkly dense and wickedly delicious. I only make two modifications from the original recipe. Firstly, I reduce the sugar content a little. And secondly, I use fresh cherries to decorate the cupcakes – why not when cherries are abundantly available at the moment in Australia?

So here they are, my Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes. I wish you all Happy Holidays! Enjoy yourself and do take care!


The recipe is available at Nigella’s website so I don’t bother to type it out. Click here for the recipe.

This entry is for Weekend Cookbook Challenge #11, which theme is Party Food. The event is hosted by Sara of I love to cook (what a beautiful blog name!).

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Festival Food Fair – “Vietnamese Spring Rolls”

>> Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Anna of Morsels & Musings is hosting a wonderful event – Festive Food Fair. I know Christmas is coming but the event goes beyond that. As long as the food is for feast, it is fine! My entry is Spring Rolls – an essential dish for any Vietnamese celebrations. Whether is Chinese New Year, family gathering or parties, spring rolls “must” be presented on the table.

Vietnamese Spring Rolls (Nem rán) are somewhat different from the Chinese counterpart. First, it is wrapped using Rice Paper Roll (Bánh Tráng) not the wheat wrapper varieties. The rice paper in Vietnam is elastic, making the roll-up very easy. Second, the fillings vary with inclusion of pork mice, prawn meat, crab meat, spring onions, eggs, grass noodles, wooden ears and different vegetables. I grew up with the Northern style – we use julienne carrot and kohlrabi or bean sprout, which give the spring roll the sweetness and freshness of vegies. These lovely rolls are served with Vietnamese Dipping Sauce (Nước Chấm) and lots of fresh herbs on the side – for example lettuce, mint, bean sprouts etc.

I have included below the recipe for Vietnamese Spring Roll. I admit I never measure the exact quantity when making these rolls and the dipping sauce – everything is done by the eye. :P But it is really not hard to get it right…There is a trick to make the skin crispy longer after frying – add a few drops lemon/lime juice or vinegar to the water used to soften the rice wrapper. For the filling, feel free to try different things–e.g. using shredded Chinese cabbage instead of kohlrabi.

Another thing is I do apologise for the poor quality of the photo. I took it a while ago in a rush, and haven’t had time lately to re-make and arrange the dish in a better manner. Hopefully I can get around making it soon.

Vietnamese Northern-style Spring Rolls (Nem rán)

Ingredients

500g mince (pork or chicken)

100g prawn meat, minced

100g crab meat, minced

1 small carrot, peeled and julienne

½ - 2/3 large kohlrabi, peeled and julienne (can substitute with one or two handful of bean sprouts or shredded Chinese cabbage)

1-2 spring onion, sliced thinly

1 small bundle of glass noodles – soaked in warm water for 1 min, then cut into short length

1-2 big wooden ear funguses – soaked in hot water until soft. Slice into thin strips

1 egg

Fish sauce, salt and some sugar and ground white pepper to taste – (I cannot recall the exact measurement)

Oil for deep-frying

Rice Paper to wrap (I normally choose the smallest size)

Fresh herbs on the side (optional) - lettuce, bean sprouts, mint etc.

Directions

  1. Mix everything (except the wrapper, of course!) together; let the mixture rest for about 10 mins.
  2. To roll: prepare some warm water with a few drops of lemon/lime/vinegar. Dip each wrapper into the warm water until soft but not soggy. Put the filling at the centre of the wrapper, fold two sides. Starting at the bottom, roll up tightly. Be careful not to break the wrapper. Moisten the end edge with a little beaten egg or water if necessary to secure the roll.
  3. Heat oil in a large wok or deep-fryer, fry the rolls until golden and cooked. Take care not to burn or under-cook. When deep-frying, do not overheat the oil otherwise the rolls will be burned outside.
  4. Serve with Dipping Sauce and fresh herbs like lettuce, bean sprouts, mint etc.

DIPPING SAUCE

As a general rule of thumb, use one part of fish sauce (Vietnamese style preferred) and three parts of filtered water. Slowly add castor sugar, whisk to dissolve. The sugar needed to sweeten the sauce depends on the fish sauce that you use. Then, slowly add vinegar or lemon/lime juice (teaspoon by teaspoon) until you have a balanced sauce – not too salty nor too sweet not too sour. Adjust with more sugar and water if needed. All the tastes should be in balance. Add some minced garlic and a few slice of red chili to finish up.

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What am I? V for Vietnamese Celery

I used Vietnamese Celery (Rau Cần) for my Prawn Noodle. I guess this plant is somewhat a stranger for a lot of people, and my pic in the previous post was so bad, it didn't help at all. My apology for that.

Anyway, I did take the pics of this plant again to show you guys. Here is how it looks:



You can see that it is kinda longer than the Chinese Celery. And take a closer look, the body of the plant is somewhat bigger:



In general, Vietnamese Celery is the water-type. The flavour is not as strong as the Chinese one. In my opinion, it is is very much like the normal celery we have in Australia.

I do hope this helps any one of you who wonders what Vietnamese Celery is!

Cheerio!

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Weekend Breakfast Blogging #7 – Good Morning Sunshine

>> Monday, November 27, 2006

This is my first ever entry for Weekend Breakfast Blogging hosted by the lovely Nandita of Saffron Trail. The theme that she chose for this month of WBB is Baking for Breakfast. A wonderful theme, isn’t it? I simply love bread, muffins, scones etc. for breakky… So, turning on the oven and getting some flour out, I started to bake this wonderful Tropical Slice.

I simply love this type of cake. It is packed with the goodness of fresh mangoes and passionfruits – something I absolutely adore. The sweetness is also just right and not too heavy, making the slice perfect for breakfast. And what more is that it is extremely to make. All we need to do is to throw all the ingredients to the food pressor, press the button and the batter is ready. No hard work, except for a little cleaning up later! ;-) But the result does worth it! :P

You see, I cannot help renaming the slice to Good Morning Sunshine. ;-) Dunno why but I do dream of the beautiful tropical sunrise when biting into the slice… A flash from the past I guess…. :”>

Here is the recipe…. Read on and enjoy!


TROPICAL SLICE

Adapted from Delicious Magazine (Aus Version)

Ingredients

175g unsalted butter, softened

1 large mango

1 cup (150g) self-rising flour

75g desiccated coconut

175g castor sugar

Zest of 2 limes

3 eggs

1/4c (60ml) milk

Pulp of 2-3 passionfruit

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line the base of a 30x20cm lamington pan
  2. Peel the mango, dice the flesh and set aside. Place the flour, 50g coconut, butter, sugar, lime zests, eggs and milk in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 5 mins.
  3. Stir in the passionfruit pulp and spread mixture in the prepared pan. Top with mango and the remaining coconut. Bake for 40 mins or until cooked when tested.

Serve warm or cold.

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WHB # 60 - The Passion of Fruits

>> Friday, November 24, 2006

WHB is coming to Melbourne, my city, this weekend. It is hosted by the gorgeous Haalo of Cook (almost) Anything at least once. Do check out her blog for mouthwatering pics. They are adorable!

For this week, my main feature is passionfruit. I simply fall in love with passionfruit since my previous try on using it in cupcakes. The natural tartness provides lovely taste to various dessert creations. I cannot recall one dessert with passionfruits that I don’t like. Guess that the tiny fruit has captured my heart.

A bit of information about passionfruit. The fruits are good source of fibre, vitamin C and potassium. The black seeds are perfectly edible. Oh ya, before I forget! Just repeat from my previous post on passionfruit. It is said that after eating the fruit, you will fall in love with the next person you meet… True or not? I will let you discover for yourself. ;-)


This time round, I use passionfruits to make simple Frozen Passionfruit Yoghurt. It is lovely for those extremely hot days that we have in Melbourne recently. And guess what, it is quite healthy compared with ice-cream. Nice summers treat indeed!

Frozen Passionfruit Yoghurt

Recipe from Australian Woman Weekly

Ingredients

Ingredients

110g castor sugar

1/4 cup (60ml) water

1 tsp gelatine

2 cups (560g) yoghurt

1/2 cup (125ml) passionfruit pulp

Directions

  1. Stir sugar and water in small pan over low heat until sugar dissolved. Transfer to medium jug.
  2. Sprinkle galantine over the syrup, stir until gelatine dissolves
  3. Combine yoghurt and pulp in jug with syrup. Pour yoghurt mixture into loaf pan, cover tightly with foil. Freeze for 3 hours or until almost set. Scrape yoghurt from bottom and sides of pan with fork; cover return to freezer until firm.

***

Weekend Herb Blogging is founded by Kalyn. For more information, please check out her website.


HAVE A NICE DAY!





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Worn out!

>> Thursday, November 23, 2006


This is my dish for this week WHB. The fruit featured will be passionfruits which I used to make this Frozen Passion Fruit Yoghurt. I intended to write up the post tonite, but I am now completely exhausted after today Aikido Session. Hopefully I will be recovering tomorrow!

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Sugar High Friday #25... and God created chocolate truffles!


This month Sugar High Friday theme, hosted by thepassionatecook, is Chocolate Truffle. You can go to her website and read her lovely post on why chocolate truffle is one of the most perfect gifts to mankind!!!

With all my love and devotion for chocolate (who doesn’t love chocolate anyway?), I cannot miss this SHF event. So in the midst of my tests and work commitments, I found myself in the kitchen making some almond truffle biscuits in the 36 degree Celsius heat. Crazy you said? Yes, I know! This round chocolate making/dealing was the hardest one I ever experienced. My truffle just couldn’t set at all because of the heat. Thanks God that the fridge was invented otherwise my beloved chocolate would be destined to the bin!

The recipe for my Almond Truffle Biscuits is from the latest edition of Donna Hay Magazine. I had something else in mind but couldn’t resist making these cuties after seeing them in the magazine. They were extremely easy to make and absolutely yummy to savour! After a bite through the biscuit layer, the truffle filling would just melt in your mouth…. Heavenly! Oh, my heart was singing….

“Wise man says only fools rush in

But I can’t help… falling in LOVE with you….”

“You” = my lovely truffle biscuits! ;-)

Below is the recipe. Make sure you have the best dark chocolate for the filling. Please don’t make them in humid and hot days! If you can’t resist, at least make sure that your fridge works wonderfully!


Almond Truffle Biscuits

Recipe taken from Donna Hay Magazine Dec/Jan 2007 issue

Truffle Filling

200g dark cooking chocolate

¼ cup single or pouring cream

20g unsalted butter

The Biscuits

55g unsalted butter, softened

½ cup brown sugar

½ tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp finely grated orange rind

1 egg yolk

½ cup (75g) plain flour, sifted

¼ cup almond meal

¼ tsp baking powder


Directions:

  1. To make the truffle filling, place the chocolate, cream and butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Set aside and allow to cool for at least 30 mins.
  2. Preheat oven to 160C (320F). Place the butter, sugar, vanilla and orange rind in an electric mixers and beat for 8-10 mins or until creamy. Add eggs and beat well to combine.
  3. Add the flour, almond meal, baking powder and beat for 1 min or until combined.
  4. Spoon 20 x ½ tsp onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Lightly flatten them with your hand. Bake for 8-10 mins or until golden (the biscuits become hard once cooled). Repeat with the remaining batter.
  5. To assemble, place the chocolate filling into a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle and pipe a small amount onto half of the biscuits. (It is ok to taste some truffle if you cannot resist!). Sandwich with the remaining biscuits.

Make 33

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Confession of a Noodle Lunatic

>> Monday, November 20, 2006

I must admit my love for noodle of all kinds has no bound. Beside my obvious bias preference for rice noodle, I willingly try and savor any other types of noodles, which of course include pasta… Thus, seeing Meeta of What’s for lunch honey’s post on Chinese Vegetable Noodle, I couldn’t resist but decided to make some for lunch!

The noodle dish I chose to make is Mee Goreng – an Asian classic. I had the chance to try some in Singapore several years ago, and absolutely love its flavorsome sweetness and spiciness. This dish has many variations created by hawkers across Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. The version I cooked up has tomatoes, potatoes, prawns, chicken and dozens of other goodies. Don’t be scared by the list of ingredients – they all can be easily found at Asian shops. I notice that larger supermarkets here in Melbourne have started to sell more Asian products as well.

Note that I used Chinese thin noodle. For a more authentic version, use the thicker Hokkien Noodle.


MEE GORENG

Recipe adapted from “Savoring Southeast Asia

Ingredients

300g Hokkien Noodle or Chinese Egg Noodle
3 tbsp og vegetable oil, or as required
1/2 tsp salt
3 cloves garlic, chopped
60g bonless, skinless chicken breast or thigh, cut into 6mm pieces
2 eggs
125g large shrimps, peeled and deveined
1 cuo (90g) shredded cabbage
3 pieces of deep-fried tofu, each about 4cm square. Cut into 6mm thick. (Available from Asian shops)
1 tablespoon sambal ulek
2 tablespoons tomato sauce (ketchup)
1 tablespoon sweet soya sauce (kecap manis), or to taste
1 tablespoon lightt soya sauce , or to taste
1 potato, boiled or microwaved, peeled, cooled, and cut into 12-mm cubes
125 g bean sprouts (I omited this)
1 firm tomatoes, cut into 12-mm cubes
2 spring onions, cut into 2.5cm length
1 cumcumber, peeled and thinly sliced
fried shallot (available readily fried at Asian shops)
2 lemons, cut into wedges

Directions

1. Prepare noodle according to package directions, keep warm.
2. Place wok over medium high heat. When the pan is hot, add oil, salt and garlic. Stir-fry for about 1 min, or until fragrant.
3. Add the chicken to the wok, stir-fry until the chicken pieces are firm. about 2 mins.
4. Crack the eggs into the wok. Use the head of the spatula to gently break up the yolk. Do NOT beat! Let the egg fry until set, about 1 min. Then, add the shrimp, stir-fry until the shrimp turned orange-pink, about 2 mins.
5. Raise the heat to high, add cabbage, fried tofu, noodles. Toss gently to mix. Add sambal olek, ketchup & the two soy sauces. Mix to coat evenly. Add tomatoes, potatoes, bean sprouts & spring onions. Stir-fry to mix. Adjust seasoning with sweet and light soy sauce. Transfer the noodle to a platter.
6. Garnish with the cumcuber, fried shallots and lemon wedges. Serve immediately.

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WHB # 59 – “Something for Kids”

>> Thursday, November 16, 2006


This week WHB is hosted by Nandita of the lovely Saffron Trail. Nandita is a great cook as well as a doctor, who has great knowledge about healthy issues (I have been reading her articles quite often lately!). For these reasons, I decide to dedicate this week WHB entry for an issue close to every mother’s heart – kids in the kitchen!

Of course I am not yet a mother but hopefully in the future I can teach my kids to learn about food and cooking since young age. That’s why I am very impressed when reading about Stephanie Alexander’s kitchen garden project in Delicious Magazine. For quick information, Stephanie is a famous Australian chef, and for this project she teaches primary school kids to cook dishes with produce they have grown. Isn’t that great? What is a better way to teach kids to appreciate vegetables and healthy food? I remember my parents used to tell us about the benefits of vegetables all the time, but I didn’t fully realize that until I started cooking for myself. Furthermore, cooking is a very good skill to have. I have seen many international students who cannot cook so they live on constant takeaways or instant noodles. I guess it is ok to do it once in a while, but definitely not healthy for longer term!...Opps….! I sound like my mother now (*wink*). Better to stop before this entry becomes a lengthy speech! :P

Anyway, I decided to try some carrot muffins with garlic butter, a recipe from the article and also in Stephanie’s Kitchen Garden with Kids cookbook. The results are great. I really love these little savory muffins. The garlic butter and parsley added create good fragrance for every bite. Great for on-the-go breakky! But they are even better after warming up for 30 sec in the microwave. Yummy!

I have uploaded here the scan of Stephanie’s advice for kids to read before they start to cook. It sounds very cute actually :P. Just go to the link and follow their instructions to download the file.

I leave you now with the recipe for the muffins. I re-write Stephanie’s instructions so it appears shorter. The original recipe is longer and more detailed. If you wanna have a PDF scan of the whole article together with the recipes to cook with your kids, please email me. For copyright reasons, I cannot distribute them freely here.

To see the recipe, click on the picture below.


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“Free range” chocolate cookies

>> Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Freedom, O freedom
That's what we fight for
And yes, my dear sisters
We must learn to fight
Freedom, O freedom
That's what we ask for
That's what we live for now
(Sister, O Sister– John Lennon)


This song was in my head when I “freely” dropped spoons of cookies batter onto the baking tray. Enjoying too much “freedom”, my cookies turned out to be HUGE and VARIOUS in sizes! But hey, they were absolutely delicious – soft bite with a crunchy wrap. And most of all, they are chocolaty. And who would want to refuse a dose of chocolate? Well, not me! :P

Anyway, I made these giant cookies right after dinner on Monday. Not having a lot of time on hand, I chose one of the easiest cookies from 500 cookies to bake. The recipe titled “ Cream cheese and Chocolate Double Deckers”. You should wonder by now where all the cream cheese fillings has gone. I didn’t have any since it is not my cup of tea. I am one of a few people who leave out the icing filling in orio cookies :P. Actually why don’t they make Orio Cookies just by itself and without the cream???? I would love to grab some of those!

I have included here the recipe for Cream cheese and Chocolate Double Deckers, including the cream cheese icing for those who are keen to try. I have to say the cookies turned out very well. They are not overly sweet and the texture is just soft enough for a good bite. Perfect with a cup of hot chocolate!

Cream cheese and Chocolate Double Deckers

Recipe from 500 cookies

Ingredients (for 2 dozens – if you do it the proper way! *wink*)

150g plain flour
1/3 tsp baking soda
225 gr cream cheese
50g unsalted butter
150g castor sugar
1 egg
100g dark chocolate, melted
125g icing sugar

Directions
Preheat oven to 175C.
Sift the flour and baking powder, set aside
Beat half of the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add castor sugar and egg and beat until light and fluffy.
Stir in chocolate and the flour mixture. Mix until smooth
Drop spoonfuls of mixture to baking tray. Bake for 10-12 mins or until firm at the edge. Cool on a wire rack.
The filling: Beat the remaining cream cheese and icing sugar till smooth. Use this to sandwich the two cookie bases together.
Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

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Lunch on the run

>> Tuesday, November 14, 2006


I had this beautiful vegetarian bim bap for lunch yesterday at a Japanese shop opposite Flagstaff Garden. The place is called Tokyo Maki although the owner is a Korean (:P). The place also has a lot of delicious sushi and bento boxes tro try out. :)

Good and healthy option for lunch!

Tokyo Maki
339 King St Melbourne
Ph: (03) 9328 5077

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Dish of Comfort: The French Connection

>> Monday, November 13, 2006

Although I have a little time on hand at the moment, I cannot miss the wonderful event hosted by Creampuffs in Venice and Viaggi e Sapori: A dish of comfort from your childhood memory.

I must say it is not easy to choose one favourite childhood dish. Facing with many choices but I gradually come down to choose one special dish that never failed to warm me up on cold winter days in Hanoi: Beef in Red Wine Sauce (Bò sốt vang).

The dish undoubtedly comes from France. During the colonization time (late 19th & early 20th century), the French did bring a lot of western influences to Vietnamese cultures, languages and of course cuisine. Talking about food alone, baguettes, pâté, yoghurt and caramel custard have become parts of everyday-life dishes. Of course, these French dishes have been adapted to suit the local tastes and ingredients. The featured dish, Beef in Red Wine Sauce reflects the above facts. The adapted version still has red wine base but the seasoning and spices have changed considerably. The local version contains fish sauce (!) and spices like cinnamon, star anises, black cardamom and sometimes lemongrass. The end result is something strange yet familiar – a western dish with eastern flavours.

I used to eat this dish all the time. When I was little, my lovely mother normally took me for the noodle shop which sold the best Beef in Red Wine Sauce over Rice Noodle Soup (Phở sốt vang). How much I loved eating these tender and fragrant meat pieces with the smooth noodle and hot broth. It was especially delicious in winter morning when everything was cold and grey. The beef dish was also normally served with freshly baked baguettes. My dad and I loved to have this for supper after watching live soccer at the stadium (My family is crazy over soccer!). Eating bread with the rich red sauce certainly helped us to recover from exhaustion which was the result of the over-shouting and crazy jumping done previously ;-).

Enough said for a childhood favourite. I have included here the recipe that I use to make the dish. I learn this from a friend’s mom. Her mother, a Hanoian, is particularly good at cooking Vietnamese traditional dishes. I have made this with stewing lamb, and the result was equally good.


Vietnamese Beef in Red Wine Sauce

Ingredients (for 4 serves)

700 gram beef briskets (or other stewing parts), cut into chunks

2 tablespoons of fish sauce

¼ tsp of ground white pepper

3 cloves garlic, minced

1-2 teaspoons of Chinese five-spice powder

3 tablespoons of oil

2 tablespoons of Annatto seeds

1 black cardamom

1 cinnamon stick

2 pieces of star anise

2 big red tomatoes, quartered and seed removed

2 medium carrots cut into pieces

Around 250 ml of red wine

Water or beef stock (optional)

Extra salt and white pepper to taste

Extra Sugar to taste (optional)

Method

  1. To make the annatto flavoured oil: Heat the oil in a wok, stir-fry the annatto seeds

quickly till the oil turns to red color. Remove from heat, strains and discard seeds.

  1. Marinade the beef with half of the oil, fish sauce, five-spice powder, garlic and white pepper for at least 1 hour.
  2. Heat the remaining oil in a heavy bottom pan, add the beat and stir fry until browned all over and the water in the pan slightly reduced.
  3. Add red wine. Simmer over low heat, uncovered for around 10-15 mins. Add black cardamom, cinnamon, star anise and tomatoes. Braise, uncovered until the beef is tendered, around 45 mins – 1 hours (You can use the pressure cooker for this –cooking time will vary). Add little water if the level of water in the pan is too low. Add carrots in the last 10 mins of cooking, simmer until cooked.
  4. Remove from the heat. Discard all the spices. Serve hot with plain rice or freshly baked bread.
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Retro Recipe Challenge # 4: From Russia with Love

>> Saturday, November 11, 2006


Retro recipe challenge is a blogging event I really enjoy. This is where people cook up old recipes from 1920-1980. You can see old and almost forgotten dishes coming alive again! And for a young gal like me (:P), it is fun to see what the older generations have to offer… Whatever they have, it is definitely better than the fast food culture that we are living in.

This month theme of Retro is Fall Favourite. I must say it is kinda hard to come up with a recipe for autumn when spring is in the air in Melbourne…. But while we still have some cold nights here, I think I can manage to whip up something suitable for an autumn dinner as well ;D. The dish I choose for my first ever entry for RRC is a Russian heritage – Beef Stroganoff.

Russia is definitely where this dish comes from since cooking beef in sour cream is something the Russians have a long history for. But how this dish has its name is of question. Some say it is named after a Russian diplomat called Count Pavel Stroganoff from the 19th century. But some says the name may be derived from the Russian verb “Strogat” which means “cutting into pieces”. The first published recipe for this dish is in an 1861 cookbook (translated by Joyce Toomre), where all the mushrooms and onions are left out. The surviving popular version that we have today, which includes onions and mushrooms, is said to be attributable to the 1912 cookbook Practical Fundamentals of Culinary Art: a Handbook for Culinary Schools and Self-instruction by Aleksandrova-Ignat’eva. In this 1912 version, the beef is served with potato straws while the modern accompaniment is fettuccine.

Enough for the long history of this very simple dish, which was very popular back in the 50s. If you have a chance, do try it. Do not be alert by the amount of butter and sour cream used – they are essential to the classic flavor! And I guess it should be ok to treat us once in a while with a full-flavour and truly creamy dish! I admit I had to resist myself not to over-eat. This dish is simply fabulous!


So what do you need?

BEEF STROGANOFF

The recipe and some of the information above are taken from The Australian Gourmet Traveller August 2006 (in the Classic Dish article). I used 400 gm small button mushrooms instead of the ones recommended.

Ingredients (serves 6)

1 kg tail end of beef fillet, trimmed and thinly sliced (I used rump steak)

35 gm (1/4 cup) plain flour, seasoned

120 gm butter, chopped

2 onions, thinly sliced

200 gm small chestnuts mushrooms, trimmed

150 gm small Portobello mushroom, trimmed

2 tbsp tomato paste

400 gm sour cream

300 gm fettuccine

¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Directions

  1. Place beef in a bowl, sift over flour and toss to coat
  2. Heat 30gm of butter in a large non-stick pan over medium heat, add onion and cook for 5 mins or until tender. Add mushrooms and cooked for 10 mins or until tender. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Remove the onion mushroom mixture from the pan, keep warm.
  3. In the same pan, heat 60gm of butter, then add the beef. Stir occasionally till brown over. Return the onion mushroom mixture to the pan, add tomato paste, sour cream and cook for 5 mins or until heated through.
  4. Cook the fettuccine according to packet direction. Darin, add the remaining butter and chopped parsley. Serve immediately with the beef.

Bon Appétit!

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Quick sugar fix

>> Friday, November 10, 2006


Muffins, a type of quick breads, are easy and quick to make. They can also either be sweet or savory, which in certain ways are convenient. Whenever being super busy, I normally choose to bake muffins for quick and healthy snacks.

My taste for muffins (and cake, too) is very simple – something moist, soft and fruity. The more I can use fruits and veggies in my bakes, the happier I am! Perhaps it makes me feel healthier and less guilty? But really, who would want to resist something packed with all the natural goodness with minimum guilt?

Anyway, these are the latest batches of my muffin bakes – Sweet Potatoes and Date Muffins. I modified the “banana and date bread” recipe from Donna Hay to create this version. Two reasons – to use up my leftover sweet potatoes and to avoid spending too much money on bananas! Can you believe the price of banana here in Australia is still $AUD12/kg? Can’t forget the days when the price is only $4-5/kg (*sigh!*).

I quite like the taste of these muffins. They are moist and have the warm tones of cinnamon and nutmeg… I will definitely make these again, but using different ingredients like pumpkins or bananas (!) And I may reduce the quantity of butter used next time as well!

SWEET POTATOES AND DATE MUFFINS

Recipe adapted from “Banana and Date Bread” from Donna Hay magazine October 2006. I reduced the recommended sugar by half.

Ingredients (enough for 12 good size muffins)

125g unsalted butter, softened

½ cup brown sugar

2 eggs

11/2 cups plain flour, sifted

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

11/2 cups mashed sweet potatoes

¼ cup honey

1 cup chopped date (soak in brewed tea to reduce the sweetness if you wish)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 160C
  2. Cream butter and sugar. Gradually add in eggs and beat well.
  3. Fold through the sifted dry ingredients, stir well to combine
  4. Stir in sweet potatoes, dates and honey.
  5. Spoon into muffin pans/cases
  6. Bake for around 20-25 mins or until cooked when tested.


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WHB #58 – Doing the Vietnamese Way!

>> Thursday, November 09, 2006


This week WHB is hosted by Meeta of What's For Lunch Honey?, a beautiful and yummy blog.

The herb featured in my post this week is dill, one of my favourites. Dill has a simple, fresh and clean tastes which work well with seafood, cheese etc. It is also great to use to add a refreshing touch to simple salad and vegetable dishes…

Dill is perhaps one of the first herbs I knew. It is an essential ingredient for the popular Vietnamese fish soup that my family used to have almost every week. Thus, I became familiar with the fragile look and taste of dill even before knowing its name…

The meaning of the world “dill” in Vietnamese is somewhat interesting. The traditional folklore told us that once the Heaven God decided to give names to all plants on Earth. In the process, however, he accidentally left out one tiny plant. The plant, eager to have its own identity, came to question the Heaven God who at the time ran out of ideas. The unnamed plant could not wait but hurried the God to give it a name! Unable to answer straight away, the God kept on saying… “It is…”, “It is….”…. The plant, thinking that “It is” was its name, overjoyed! It ran off quickly to tell everyone about this news!.... Yeap, you got it right! The name of dill in Vietnamese means “It is” (Thì là). Isn’t it funny? :P

For today’s recipe, I decided to cook one Vietnamese noodle dish – Rice Vermicelli with Prawns in broth (Bún tôm). This dish originates from Haiphong, a northern city which is not far from Hanoi. It is quite simple to make but make sure to use the freshest ingredients. This is the “soul” of Vietnamese cooking since the dishes are normally not heavily spiced but allows the natural tastes to come out.

I love this dish. It is light and refreshing. Like most of Vietnamese dish, the natural flavours of ingredients come together very well. And dill provides a final touch to the noodle which helps to tone down the “fishy” flavour of the prawns.

Vietnamese Prawn Rice Vermicelli in Broth

For this dish, you need to find either Vietnamese water celery or kangkong (water spinach). Kangkong is easy to find in almost all Asian groceries while the water celery is normally found in Vietnamese shops. If both of these are unavailable, feel free to use green choy sum to substitute.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

5 cups of chicken broth and extra 3-4 cups of water

500 gram of fresh medium prawns

1 long fish cake (I used the Thai frozen fish cake since the Vietnamese fish cakes are not readily available here in Australia), sliced

Oil for stir fry

A - for the meat:

150-200 grams of chicken or pork meat, cut into small bites

1/2 tablespoon of fish sauce

½ teaspoon of ground white pepper

2 Chinese dried mushrooms, soaked in hot water till soft

1 black fungus, soaked in hot water till soft

B (for the prawns):

Extra ½ tbp of fish sauce

Extra ½ tsp of ground white pepper

C (to garnish and finish up):

1 bunch of Vietnamese water celery (or kangkong or choy sum) – clean and cut into 3-4 cm length

200 gram of rice vermicelli, prepared as per packet direction

1 spring onion, the green leaves only, thinly sliced

Dill – around 2 tablespoons of freshly chopped leaves

Salt and sugar to taste

To serve: freshly cut lemon/lime wedges, Asian chilli sauce (sambal olek is good)

Method:

  1. To marinade the chicken/pork: use ½ tbp of fish sauce and ½ tsp of white pepper. Add in sliced chinese mushrooms and thinly shredded black fungus. Set aside.
  2. Clean the prawns. Remove the skin, head and black line. Keep the skin and heads for making stock. Set the prawn meat aside.
  3. Using a mortal and pestle, briefly pound the prawn skin and heads. You can use a food processor for this.
  4. Transfer the processed prawn mixtures to a large mixing bowl; add in 3-4 cups of water. Using your hand, quickly mix everything together then sieve. Discard all prawn skin and heads. Keep the prawn water for using in stocks.
  5. In a frying pan, add little oil then quickly stir fry the chicken/pork mixture till done. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon. Add in the prawn meat and ingredients B (extra fish sauce and white pepper). Gently stir fry till prawns are cooked.
  6. In a separate pot, bring the chicken broth to the boil. Add the celery (or kangkong or choy sum), cook until the vegetables are just soft. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Keep the broth simmer.
  7. To prepare the serving bowl: place some cooked vermicelli in a noodle bowl. Arrange some cooked prawns, vegetables, chicken/pork mixture on top. Scatter some chopped spring onions and dills - Use your judgement here. Some likes a lots of herbs, some wants just a tiny bit!
  8. Back to the broth: put the prawn water prepared earlier to the hot chicken stock. Bring to the boil – the mixture will look something like this when heated since the prawn meat will float up!
  9. Check the broth for seasoning. Keep boiling till the broth is very hot (this is very important!), then, pour to the prepared noodle bowls. The broth should be hot to “warm up” all the ingredients.
  10. Now it is ready to eat! Serve with a few drops of lemon/lime juice and a bit of chilli sauce if you wish!




~~~ Ready to eat!~~~






The dill picture is coutersy of http://kraeuter.aid.de/. This post contains some links to other sources for references.

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Making the…. ~~~ Pizza Pie ~~~

>> Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Alright, alright! The so-called pizza pie is actually called Neapolitan Torte with Cured Meat and Mozzarella. The Italian name is Torta Salata – meaning saled torte. I think the name is too long and troublesome to remember so the simplified name was born :).

I am not quite sure that the recipe here is authentic. It is from Tobie Puttok – head chef of Fiften Melbourne. If you are in Australia, I am sure you have heard of the TV show Jamie’s Kitchen. Basically, after the success of his Fifteen Restaurant in London, Amsterdam and Cornwall, Jamie headed to Melbourne to train 15 unemployed and troubled young people to become professional chefs. Of course Jamie has his own life in England so the Melbourne franchise is run by his Australian mate, Tobie. The restaurant, located in Collin Street, opened in late October this year. With the popularity of the show on Channel 10 network, it has been booked out till January! Apparently the reservation for March 2007 is now open…!

I want to try this restaurant out but the wait is just too long!!! So, seeing some recipes published by Tobie for an article in The Australian Gourmet Traveller, I decided to try one out! These recipes are said to be the “taste of what to expect”! Certainly a novice like me cannot cook up to a restaurant standards but I am still keen on what FIFTEEN has to offer…

Thus came the so-called pizza pie! I admit I had fun making and eating it. The torte was nice and lovely. Perhaps the reason is I love cheese, and the main ingredient is fresh mozzarella :). Of course looking at the pic, you can say that I have a lot to improve on working with dough. My torte looks like a valley surrounded by a range of mountain! Plus since I used a 23-cm springform cake pan instead of the recommended 20-cm pan, it looked kinda short compared with the picture in the magazine! This is one of the reasons why I call it pizza pie (^_^)!

I guess I should save up some money to go to FIFTEEN when I can get the reservation done!

Neapolitan Torte with Cured Meat and Mozzarella (or Pizza Pie :P)

The recipe is taken from The Australian Gourmet Traveller October 2006. Note that you can use ready-made frozen puff pastry to speed it up!

Ingredients

Fillings:

6-8 large vine-ripened tomatoes (around 1 kg), peeled and seeds removed

300 gram buffalo mozzarella, coarsely torn

¾ cup basil leaves, coarsely torn

200 gram cured meat – choose from salami, prosciutto and bresaola

40 gm finely grated parmesan cheese

1 egg, lightly beaten

The dough:

7 gm dry active yeast

Pinch of white sugar

500 gm plain flour

4 eggs

150 gm butter, softened

Method:

  1. For dough: combine yeast, sugar and 1/3 cup of warm water in a bowl and stir until smooth. Stand for 5 mins or until foamy. Sieve flour into a mixing bowl, add a pinch of salt and make a well in the middle. Add the yeast mixture, eggs and butter to flour and use a wooden spoon to combine the ingredients. Turn the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 mins or until smooth and elastic. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and stand in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and press to expel air. Remove a third of the dough and set aside. Roll larger piece out to 5-mm thick and use to line base and side of a greased and floured 20cm springform pan, leaving excess to over hang.
  3. Coarsely crush the tomatoes and blot on absorbent paper. Layer mozzarella, cured meat, tomatoes and basil leaves in pan. Seasoning each layer with freshly ground black pepper. Finish the layer with mozzarella and top up the final layer with parmesan.
  4. Roll remaining dough out on a lightly floured surface to a 23cm circle. Brush edges with egg wash, then place over pan, pressing to seal, trimming excess with sharp knife. Cover and stand in a warm place for 1 hour or until risen. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 200C.
  5. Brush top of the torte with remaining egg wash and bake for 20-30 mins or until golden. Serve immediately.

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Weekend Herb Blogging – Rhubarb Wonder!

>> Friday, November 03, 2006

Q: Name a fruit that are used as veggies!

A: Heaps! Tomatoes, chilies etc.

NEXT

Q: Name a veggie that is used as fruit

A: ehm… ehm… RHUBARB!


Rhubarb is such a strange vegetable. Firstly, it has stalks with dark redness colour as opposed to the familiar green veggies. Secondly, its leaves are poisonous so the only edible parts are the glamorous stalks. And, the strangest part? It is a vegetable that has the tartness of a fruit! There is another reason why rhubarb is a stranger to me. I never had it back in my hometown, which means rhubarb famous tartness is unknown to my taste collection. And what is the motto of someone who loves veggies and fruits? You gotta taste all of the edible plants, or at least as many as possible. So when I saw the fresh rhubarb on sale at Victoria Market, I decided to grab some to taste and turn it into erh… something edible.


Getting home. I first took the leaves away, then cleaned the stalks. Now, using a sharp knife, I sliced a small piece of the red veggie, and had a bite. Man, it was sour. The flavour was strange but at the same time familiar. Just imagine the taste of an unripe sour apple or back to my childhood, the taste of the green start fruit!




Now, the tasting session was over. Time to whip up some rhubarb pies. I had initially decided on the Rhubarb and Apple Pie by Bill Granger and got all the necessary ingredients. But as I was measuring out the portion of butter, my digital scale number went blank. Yeap. Out of battery! How technology could turn us down sometimes, especially when you had kicked the normal scale out of your kitchen. Of course I could go and try to convert it, but I really didn't bother. It was late afternoon and I still had to prepare dinner. Lucky me, I did document some rhubarb recipes earlier. So digging through the mess, one particular recipe caught my eyes - Rhubarb Strudel Crumbles by Kate Mcghie from the Herald Sun in 2003. I got all the necessary ingredients, and most importantly, the recipe was written in the old Cup & Spoon measurements!

To cut it short, I baked the cake, and guess what it was marvelous. The tartness of the rhubarb and the richness of the cake contrasted yet at the same time combined with each other, giving us an abnormal delicious taste. And more, the messy looking crumbles provided a chewy and crunchy bite to the moist, tender cake. What else could you ask? This is exactly the type of cake that I love - fruity, rich and crunchy in a complete package... Guess rhubarb did do its wonders on me. And it is definetely a keeper ingredient!


RHUBARB STRUESEL LOAF


Recipe by Kate McGhie, appeared in the Herald Sun City Style May 13 2003


Ingredients:


2 cups chopped rhubarb
1 & 1/4 cup caster sugar

Juice of 1 orange
1 3/4 cup plain flour

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder
250gr unsalted butter, softened

3 large eggs

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbs brown sugar
1/4 cup oats
1/4 cup crushed Butternut Snap Biscuits (I used chopped walnut)

1 tbs soften unsalted butter



Directions:
1. Place rhubarb, 1/4 cup of sugar and orange juice in a pan. Cover and cook gently till the rhubarb is soft but not mushy. Cool.

2. Preheat oven to 180C. Line a 10x25cm loaf pan. Sift together flour, salt and baking powder.

3. Beat butter and the remaining sugar till light and fluffy. Whisk egg and vanilla together and add to the butter little at time until all is incoporated.

4. Fold in flour mixture then rhubarb. Place in loaf pan.
5. In a bowl, combine brown sugar, oats, biscuit crums (or chopped walnut) and butter. Rub with fingers until all combined. Sprinkle over the cake mixture and bake for 1-1 1/4 hours or till tested.
Cool on tack before turning out.


NOTE from me: I think the same amount of peeled sliced granny smith apple will do the same effects for the cake!

This entry is for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Kalyn.

For more information about Rhubarb, read my post on it.

Tagged with: Weekend Herb Blogging & WHB

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