Related Posts with Thumbnails

Happy New Year

>> Sunday, December 31, 2006

This is now the very final day of 2006 (according to Australian time). In less than 24 hours we soon will welcome a new year to come. I hope also that 2006 has been a good year for all of us. Sadness or happiness, laughers or tears, whatever you and me have experienced in 2006 will hopefully help us grow and appreciate life more in the years to come... 2006 has been the year when I accomplished some major projects in my life and started a few more. There were of course moments of darkness, anger and sadness, but through that I have learnt so much…

Whatever it is, 2007 is coming!!! On this occasion, I wish you all, my friends and readers of this blog, a very Happy New Year. Hope all the best will come to you and your family in 2007!

I hope you do like the colourful picture I posted as a Happy New Year wish A bit too colourful for a postcard type I know. But I just love the bright pink colour of camellias in the background of the wide open blue sky - Something for a new beginning, for new hope and for a very new year.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!


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Into Simplicity

>> Saturday, December 30, 2006

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I normally crave for simple and healthy food after too much festive food. At the moment, I just want steamed green veggies, a bit of rice and some clear soup to get by. No greasy food, no bake, no cake or tart, I can snack on raw nuts and fresh fruits. Wonder if everyone is the same like me?

It also seems that the holiday mood have also got into my kitchen. I haven’t been too much active there since I spent hours in shopping centers over the last few days. Then, even when I was at home, I was occupied with a few good novels. I guess that is what we call Holidays!

Nevertheless, I did cook something simple to satisfy my craving. I opted for vegetarian dishes – simple, clean and meatless. For me, it normally means more tofu in my diet. I love tofu, but sometimes run out ideas on how to make it interesting. One of my little new discoveries is this Japanese dish – Grilled Tofu with Miso and Spinach. Not sure about the authenticity but it does taste good. Not to mention it is very healthy, too – no deep-fried – and it helps us to eat more soy products, which I think is good.

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Grilled Tofu with Sesame and Spinach Miso

Source: Australian Women Weekly

Ingredients

600g firm tofu

½ cup (150g) shiro miso (white miso)

2 tsp sugar

2 tablespoons mirin

80ml dashi (Japanese fish broth – I used the instant one. Can substitute with veggie stock for a complete vegetarian option)

2 tablespoons tahini

8 spinach leaves

1 tablespoon finely shredded lemon rinds

What to do

  1. Press tofu with a weight on top – Make sure all the water is drained out
  2. Combine miso, sugar, mirin and dashi in small saucepan. Cook, stiring unti sugar is dissolved. Stir in tahini
  3. Microwave spinach till wilted. Squeeze out excess liquid. Blend or process with half of the miso mixture.
  4. Cut tofu into 2 cm slices, pat dry with absorbent paper. Place on an oiled oven tray, cook under hot grill for about 3 mins or until browned lightly. Spread spinach miso onto half of the tofu piece and the other half with the plain miso mixture. Cook under hot grill for about 2 mins or until browned lightly, Sprinkle with rinds before serving.

Note:

  1. Miso can vary in taste so adjust your sugar accordingly.
  2. Tahini is the sesame paste, which can be found in the health food section of supermarket
I ate my tofu with this simple lentil soup:

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My type of Cherry Tart

>> Thursday, December 28, 2006

The cherry season in Australia this year has been wonderful. Cherries are available abundantly in the market at affordable price, which makes it a crime not to eat as much as possible. I love cherries – their elegant, tempting look and especially the wonderful flavor that cannot be mistaken or replaced with any other fruits. They taste great in dessert as well although the thought of pitting cherries one by one did make me hesitant… But having seen Haalo of Cook (almost) Anything at least Once whipped up so many types of desserts using cherries, I know my laziness is not justified…

My initial idea of a cherry dessert came from my flatmate who wanted a cherry pie. So I searched high and low for cherry pie recipes and found a few. The one I particularly liked and almost made was by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Rose’s pie looked and sounded good but it somehow did not match my fantasy of a cherry pie/tart. I did not want a mushy cherry filling. I wanted my cherries to show their glorious colour… Continue searching, I came across this Mascarpone Cherry Tart made by Ivone of Creampuff in Venice. For a moment, I knew this was “it”. I loved anything mascarpone. Plus the tart had the “dream” look I craved for…

Although this was the first time I made tart/pie from scratch, I went after my imagination instead of following the recipe exactly. For the crust, I used the almond and butter piecrust recipe. Half of it went through all the blind-bake, then, filled with mascarpone mixture and baked again. For the other half, I used my cookies cutter to make little flower pastries for decoration. These were baked till golden brown, then; some were dipped in melted dark chocolate. The filling was easy. Following Haalo’s advice, I poached them with little sugar and water. The leftover juice was boiled till thickened. The tart was served with the thickened cherry juice and melted dark chocolate (I simply cannot get over the perfect combination of cherry and chocolate!).

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This tart was my fantasy… The “main character”, cherry, was naturally perfect. And the “supporting crew” was also brilliant – the rich crust, the underlying cheese “custard”, the cute little flower pastries and of course the dark chocolate… Wickedly delicious is how I would describe it…!

I owed a big thank to Haalo for answering all my questions on poaching and making the cherry pie. Your advice really helped me with this tart! Thank you!

The recipe for Mascarpone Cherry Tart can be seen here. The piecrust recipe is from Elise of Simply Recipes, view here.

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Happy Holidays and other updates

>> Sunday, December 24, 2006


First of all, I wish you all great holiday season! I am having a very good break and I hope all of you are having good time, too....

The Menu for Hope campaign closed yesterday. The donated amount reached the new record of $58,281.70. A big thank for all of you who have donated and participated in the campaign. I am sure the money we have raised will assist the work of the UN World Food Programme.

Next, Kalyn has posted the final round-up for Holiday Cooking with Herbs. Do check out for great cooking ideas. All of them are so delicious. I have selected some to try out soon...!

The final news is from me personally. One week ago I received the full scholarships to start my PHD in March next year. I love university life and really look forward to be back. :) It means that I have to delay working a bit longer. But don't think I mind that at all...

Again, Happy Holidays to everyone who is reading this blog..! I will be back with more cooking later on after a good rest.





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Banana Blossom “Boat” Salad

>> Friday, December 22, 2006

Who wants to get a pair of chopsticks to “sail” in this banana blossom boat?


The “boat” is the outer layer of a banana blossom. Click here to see how the banana blossom looks like (I forgot to take the pics). Isn’t it beautiful? And it also tastes great, especially in this salad, which is packed with fresh vegetables and herbs – shredded banana blossom, finely sliced purple onions, chili, Thai basil and a tiny bit of Vietnamese Mint. The dressing is the mixture of fish sauce, white rice vinegar and sugar. This type of sweet and sour taste is extremely popular in Vietnamese and Thai cooking.

This post is my final entry for Holiday Cooking with Herbs. I have actually submitted two entries for this event, but seeing fresh banana blossom available in the market; I can’t resist making something out of it and share with you all. This is something you can have after Christmas party to make use of leftover ingredients. You can throw in leftover turkey, chicken or prawns. More importantly, the salad is very refreshing and light so you can have a change from all rich festive food.

I was overjoyed eating this dish. It brought back the memories of my childhood when grandma used fresh blossoms from our home-grown banana trees to make the salad. It was incredible since every single ingredient was from our garden – herbs, veggies and believe it or not, my grandparents even raised their own chickens to get eggs and meat!

Read on for the recipe. You can find canned banana blossom at Asian supermarket to substitute. But of course, nothing can really beat fresh veggies and herbs!

BANABA BLOSSOM SALAD (VIETNAMESE STYLE)

You need to prepare 2 bowls of water with some lemon juice to dip banana blossoms in. It is to prevent discoloring and remove acidic taste. The recipe below is based on the memories of my grandma’s dish.

Ingredients (serves 4 as appetizer)

1 banana blossom

1 purple onions, peeled and thinly sliced

1 red chili, thinly sliced (remove the seeds for less spicy dish)

One small bunch of Thai Basil

About 1/2-1 tablespoon of Vietnamese Mint (laksa leaves) – add more if you like

Some cooked chicken/pork, shredded

Some cooked prawns

The dressing: mix together

40ml fish sauce

¼ cup castor sugar

1/6 cup white rice vinegar

Preparation

  1. To prepare the banana blossom, remove the outer darker leaves and reserve for decorations. Continue this until you see the “younger” pale leaves. Continue to peel off these leaves, discard the stamens and place the leaves in the lemon juice water. Rinse all the leaves, thinly slice then put them in the second bowl of acidulated water for 5-10 mins to remove the acidity taste.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the dressing.
  3. Place onions, chili, banana blossoms, chicken and prawns in a large bowl. Toss through the dressing and leave for a while. Adjust the flavor of the dressing if desired.
  4. Prior to serving, toss through the herbs then serve in the dark banana “boat” if desired.

Note:

Crunchy crushed peanuts can be added just prior to serving.

For a substantial dish, toss through some cooked and rinsed glass noodles.

The dressing can vary in tastes depending which type of fish sauce is used. I normally use the premium product from Vietnam which is sweeter and less salty than the common Thai fish sauce. Taste your dressing to get the flavor to your liking.

This post forms part of my entry for Holiday Cooking with Herbs, hosted by the gracious Kalyn. You have now until Dec 23 to participate in this wonderful event. Remember also to check Kalyn’s blog for lots of fantastic holiday cooking ideas on December 23rd.

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Journey to the Middle East - Barazek (Pitaschio & Sesame Biscuits)

>> Thursday, December 21, 2006


I have written somewhere in my blog that I love Middle Eastern Food. I totally adore their dishes, from savoury to sweet stuff. Who doesn’t love baklava? Or orange blossom or rose water scented pudding? Or kebab, pita or Turkish bread with all sorts of dips? The list will go on and on as my imagination runs wild and free, so I should stop my listing here…. Anyway, I have gone crazy over the past weeks to add two Middle Eastern cookbooks into my collection. One is Arabesque by Claudia Roden and the other one is Saha by Greg and Lucy Malof. Both of them are excellent with beautiful writing about the background of cuisines, traditions and travel. I love this type of book – something you can enjoy in your living room as well as the kitchen. As for the recipes, Arabesque seems to be easier and straightforward. Saha, on the other hand, is more glamorous. Its recipe is more suitable for special occasions I suppose…

I have tried two recipes from Arabesque and they turned out very good. When it is time to try out recipe from Saha, I pick Barazek - Crunchy Sesame-pistachio Biscuits since I love cookies with lots of nuts in it. The result is something wonderful and hits my tastebud straight on. In the words from the book itself – “…simple, but they are meltingly short and crunchy, and wickedly addictive”. It is said Syrian and Lebanese housewives usually buy kilos of these biscuits home from the souk. After trying these delights, I completely understand why!

Barazek - Crunchy Sesame-pistachio Biscuits

Ingredients (for 25-30 biscuits)

40g soft brown sugar

45g icing sugar

150g unsalted butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg

200g self-rising flour

50g pistachio nuts, cuts into slivers

60g sesame seeds

Direction

Cream sugar and butter together. Mix in vanilla and egg, followed by the flour. The dough softens easily, so transfer it to the fridge for 30 mins before baking.

Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Grease and line 2 baking trays.

Take a little piece of dough and roll them between the palms of your hands into small marble-size balls. Flatten gently to form little discs around 1 cm thick. Line up to dishes, one with pistachio and the other one with sesame seeds. Press one side of the dough into the pistachios, then turn and press the other side into the sesame seeds. Carefully brush off any excess and place on the prepared baking seeds, allowing about 5 cm between them for spreading.

Bake for 10-12 mins or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

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Mushroom Trio

>> Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Mushrooms are so beautiful! Their diverse shapes and colors always amaze me. Long ago in my childhood daydream adventure there was a colorful forest where I could find red, purple, pink and even green mushrooms. Later on I have seen pictures of even more colorful mushrooms like this and this. Pretty as they are, not all mushrooms are edible. In fact, most of them are poisonous and only a small portion is edible. These edible mushrooms are real treasures. They contain good source of proteins, no fat and no carbohydrates. Some mushrooms are known for their health benefits and used in medicine as well.

There are so many ways to enjoy mushrooms - stir-fry, soups, salads etc. But if you are looking for a light, refreshing dish, do try this Rice Noodle with Three Types of Mushrooms. It is meatless yet so flavorsome with fresh Asian mushrooms – shitake, enoki and oyster. Shitake provides the earthy flavor; oyster brings some delicate and velvety touch. And the gracious enoki, my most favourite mushroom of all, brings out the light sweetness… Together, they are just so beautiful….

To cook, you need to find fresh flat rice noodles, which are available at Asian supermarkets. The dried version can be substituted, too, but it won’t be as soft and silky. Remember to work quickly and serve immediately otherwise a lot of flavors will be lost.

Rice Noodle with Three Types of Mushrooms

Recipe is adapted from Tiny Delights by Elizabeth Chong. If you like, add some shredded spring onions to garnish. I would recommend you to omit them, since the onions can be too overpowering.

Ingredients (for 2 serves):

375g flat rice noodles

1 handful bunch of enoki mushrooms

6 fresh oyster mushrooms; slice into half

6 fresh shitake mushrooms, slice into half

150-200g of snow peas, cut into thin strips

Peanut or corn oil to stir-fry

Sauce ingredients – mix together:

1 tsp light soy sauce

1 tbs oyster sauce (I substituted with sweet soy sauce for vegetarian option)

Some salt

Some pepper

½ cup chicken stock

1 tsp sesame oil

Some sugar (if necessary)

Direction:

Heat peanut oil in a preheated wok and stir-fry all the mushrooms and the snow peas for one min.

Stir in the seasoning, and then mix in the noodle. Be careful not to break the noodle.

Toss through shredded onions if using. Dish out and serve.

(I put some fresh and uncooked enoki mushrooms on top to garnish. They are very nice eaten raw)

Tag: asian food



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Holiday Cooking with Herbs #2 – Seared Tuna Steak with Roasted Capsicum Sauce

>> Monday, December 18, 2006

Before I begin, let us face the fact that not all of us are going to have a white Christmas or New Year. And have you ever noticed that traditional Xmas food - roast meat & steamed plum pudding etc – are winter dishes? While they are utterly delicious, preparing and eating them in the high heat of Melbourne summer is a real hard task. I remember the temperature reached 40 deg Celsius last New Years Eve. With such weather, we just have to forget the oven and the roast until our winter in July and prepare something else for the current festive season. And the choice I bet a lot of us make is to have a BBQ outdoor in the vibrant sunshine… I think it is a perfect choice given that the temperature is not too high for a BBQ.

The dish I am blogging about is perfect for a BBQ. The capsicum sauce, which goes well with any BBQ meat, sausages or seafood, can be prepared before hand. The tuna steak does not take long to cook on the griddle. I know fresh tuna steak is expensive but its flavour is superb. Grilled fish is a healthy choice, too, so you really get a lot of benefits. I have written down my experience on choosing and cooking fresh tuna below for your reference.

How should you choose fresh tuna steak?

Trust me; the best way is to have a good relationship with your fishmongers. They can help you choose the best steak. But as a general rule of thumb, choose the steak with pink and firm flesh. Avoid those with strong fishy smell.

How to cook tuna steak?

First rule: buy the steak the day you intend to cook it. You can also leave it in the fridge overnight and cook the next day but do not freeze the steak. I did it once and the tuna became as hard as rock even though I did not overcook it.

Second rule: do not cover cook or the tuna will be come tough. The steak is just to be seared outside and the inside should be raw. Depends on your preference, you can cook it a bit longer but take care not to overcook. The best way to test is to cut one piece in the middle to try out.

***

Below is my favourite way of cooking tuna steak – briefly sear it then served on bed of sweet roasted capsicum sauce. This is a Moroccan dish called Hout Bil Felfla, which I got the recipe from Arabesque by Claudia Roden. I love to enjoy this with the grated cucumber and mint salad. Together, they make beautiful and enjoyable main course in the heat of summer!

Seared Tuna Steak with Roasted Capsicum Sauce

Ingredients (for 4 serves)

3 tablespoons of olive oil

4 thick tuna steak

Salt

Small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

For the sauce

4 fresh red capsicum

2 garlic cloves, unskinned

3 tablespoons of red or white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Directions

For the sauce:

1. Roast the capsicum and garlic in the hottest oven for about 30 mins. Take the garlic out when it feels soft. Take the capsicum out when their skins are black. To loosen their skin further, put the roasted capsicum into a freezer bag, twist to shut and leave for 10 mins. When cooled, peel them and remove stem and seeds. Peel the roasted garlic cloves.

2. Blend the roasted capsicum and garlic in a food processor with the rest of the sauce ingredients.

For the tuna:

Heat oil in a large non-stick pan (or rub the oil all over the tuna). Cook or grill over high heat for less than 1 min each side (depends on the thickness of your steak). Sprinkle lightly with salt. To test, cut into steak with a sharp knife. The flesh should be soft and pink in the middle.

Serve the tuna on top of the sauce. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

***

This post forms part of my entry for Holiday Cooking with Herbs, hosted by the gracious Kalyn. The herbs & vegies featured here are: capsicum, garlic & parsley.

You have now until Dec 23 to participate in this wonderful event. Remember also to check Kalyn’s blog for lots of fantastic holiday cooking ideas on December 23rd.

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Holiday Cooking with Herbs #1 – Grated Cucumber & Mint Salad


This salad goes very well with the Seared Tuna with Roasted Capsicum Sauce (posted shortly) or any types of grilled dish. The combination of cucumber and mint produces a light and refreshing salad which is perfect for warm summer days. I have never been a big fan of salad, but this particular dish really captures my taste bud!

The preparation is simply mixing all the ingredients together. Make sure, though, that you use fresh vegetables and good quality olive oil. And if you are lucky enough to have a bottle of orange blossom water (*) at hand, add a tiny bit to the mixture as well. The addition gives this ordinary dish a mysterious fragrance and flavor which I totally adore.

Grated Cucumber & Mint Salad

Recipe from Arabesque by Claudia Roden

What you need:

1 large cucumber

3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons of lemon juice

1 tsp of orange blossom water(*), or to taste

Salt

Leaves of 2 sprigs of mint, chopped

Directions:

Peel & grated the cucumber. Drain off juice then mix with the rest of ingredients.

(*) Orange blossom water can be found at Greek or Middle Eastern Groceries

This post forms part of my entry for Holiday Cooking with Herbs, hosted by the gracious Kalyn. You have now until Dec 23 to participate in this wonderful event. Remember also to check Kalyn’s blog for lots of fantastic holiday cooking ideas on December 23rd.

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Sydney in a flash

>> Saturday, December 16, 2006

I visited Sydney, the beautiful energetic city within 24 hours! I arrived at midnight last Wed and spent the whole Thursday morning at a conference. By lunch time & after my presentation finished, I quietly sneaked out and took a walk along Darling Harbor and the famous Opera House. It was a brilliant sunny day and everything was just perfect! I did manage to take some pictures although it was so hard to walk wearing business skirt and high heel shoes. Not to mention the heavy conference bag that I carried. I wished I had worn a light summer dress and walked around in my sandals -young and free…


I left Sydney around 7 pm Thurs. But before leaving, I caught a taxi to have a light lunch at Bills Café which was owned by famous Australian Chef Bill Granger. Bill is one of my fav chef, and I really wanted to try out his café. I ordered linguine with grilled squid and prawn. True to be told I was a bit disappointed. The pasta was a bit salty and the flavor was nothing special. Perhaps I should have come earlier and tried out the famous breakfast menu instead? (Pics of ice-cream and pastry are from some shops in Darling Harbour)


Anyway, back to my beloved greeny suburban Melbourne, I was delighted to see that the Menu for Hope III has raised $19,438.00! Thanks to everyone who has kindly donated!

I will be back with more cooking in the coming weeks since my holiday has started!



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Asian-style Buns

>> Wednesday, December 13, 2006


I do not make breads often since there are a number of good bakeries nearby. It is just much more convenient to buy in because making bread can be pretty time-consuming. Nevertheless, there are occasions where I crave for some soft and fluffy sweet buns with or without fillings from Asia. These buns are hard to get here in Melbourne although I notice that Breadtop does sell several varieties. But I admit home made buns are better since I can just put in whatever fillings I desire.

I particularly like these spicy fish buns. For the fillings, I simply mix canned sardines in tomato sauce with 1-2 tablespoons of sambal olek (Southest-Asian style Chili Sauce), some ground white pepper and finely shredded green onions. For the buns, I normally use the Sweet Buns recipe from Asian Pastry Chef Alex Goh. His recipe gives buns with right texture and softness. You can view the recipe here, which was posted by Leelee of Baking Mum. I normally halve the recipe and it still yields good 8-10 medium size buns.

Just a final note on the fillings. Be creative! You can put in whatever you fancy although the more traditional buns normally have sweet red (or green) bean paste. I have tried to use butter cream, taro paste, and tuna with mayonnaise… All of them are flavorful and worth trying.

Tag: asian food

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Menu for HOPE III

>> Monday, December 11, 2006


…..To share and to give…..

I would like to use several lines of Imagine by John Lennon to begin this post:

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world”

The dream of sharing and caring partially comes true with Menu for Hope, a food project which aims to raise funds to help the less unfortunate people in the world. In 2004, the project raised funds to aid Tsunami victims in Asia. Last year, US$17,000 was donated to UNICEF during the campaign.

This year, continuing from the spirits of sharing and giving, the campaign hopes to raise even more funds for the United Nations World Food Programme. But this aim is only achieved if we together open our hearts and donate to the program. The amount may not be large individually, but together we can make a difference…

My donation is the latest cookbook from Australian famous and beloved chef Donna Hay – INSTANT ENTERTAINING. The book is a wonderful collection of easy yet delicious recipes for every occasion – from dinner to luncheon or BBQ. With this, you can impress your guests without spending all of your precious time in the kitchen! I have used one of the recipes in this book to create the wonderful mini Date & Almond Cake with Orange Syrup. And yes, I am prepared to send the prize to anywhere in the world.

My prize code is AP21

Prize detail: Instant Entertaining by Donna Hay


Here's what you should do...

1. Go to the donation page at (http://www.firstgiving.com/menuforhopeIII)

2. Make a donation, each $10 will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. Please specify which prize or prizes you'd like in the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form when confirming your donation. Do tell us how many tickets per prize, and please use the prize code -for example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for AP01 and 3 for AP02.

3. For US donors, if your company has agreed to match your charity donation, please remember to check the box and fill in the information so we may claim the corporate match.

4. Please also check the box to allow us to see your email address so that we could contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.

5. Check back on Chez Pim on January 15 when we announce the results of the raffle. (The drawing will be done electronically. Our friend the code wizard Derrick at Obsession with Food is responsible for the wicked application that will do the job.)

Please support Menu For Hope III by giving as much as you can. Together, we can make some differences…


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WHB #62 – “Variation on the theme of HOPE”

>> Sunday, December 10, 2006

The theme of my post for this week WHB is HOPE. The inspiration comes from the special blogging event called Menu for Hope III, which is to raise funds for the United Nations World Food Programme. The event is to contribute a little to solve the problem of our modern world – there are people starving somewhere even though global agriculture output is on the rise…

I choose orange as my featured fruit with the idea of hope in mind. Orange is the name of a lovely citrus and also the name of a gorgeous colour. As a fruit, the orange slice represents beautifully the vibrant colour and shape of the rising sun. As a colour, orange carries the “energy of red and happiness of yellow”. It is the symbol for harvest, healthy food, strength, endurance and vitality (See Wikipedia). With such meanings, orange, for me, is the color and also the fruit of hope

Of course the choice of making the little Orange and Date Cake is a variation of the main theme. The recipe comes straight from the latest book by Donna Hay, Instant Entertaining, which is my donation for Menu for Hope III. Details on how you can “buy” the book will be posted shorly. The cake is very “Donna Hay’s style” – easy yet delicious. The light cake is served with warm orange syrup and little whipped cream. A nice final touch for a complete meal…

Finally, if you notice my photo for this post also follows the theme of Hope. It is because:

"Hope is like a bird that senses dawn and carefully starts to sing while it is still dark."

(Unknown author)


DATE & ALMOND CAKE WITH ORANGE SYRUP

Recipe is from Donna Hay’s Instant Entertaining. My modifications are in red and italic.

Ingredients (makes 4 muffin-size cakes):

½ cup plain flour

¾ cup ground almond

½ tsp baking powder

½ cup castor sugar

½ cup roughly chopped dates (I soaked the dates in brewed tea to reduce the sweetness)

75g butter, melted

2 tbsp milk (I used buttermilk)

1 egg

Orange syrup:

½ cup orange juice

½ cup castor sugar

2 tablespoon grated orange rind

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 160C. Place flour, almond meal, baking powder, sugar and dates in a bowl and mix to combine.
  2. Add butter and milk and egg. Mix to combine, Spoon mixture into greased muffin cases (1 cup capacity). Bake for 25 mins or until cooked when tested.
  3. Meanwhile, make the syrup: Place sugar, orange juice and rind in a sauce pan and stir over low heat until sugar has dissolved. Simmer for 5-7 mins or until slightly thickened. Spoon warm syrup over warm cake and serve with double cream.

*

This week WHB is hosted by Pookah of What's Cooking in Carolina. Pls check out her website for the round-up.

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MEME: Three things

>> Friday, December 08, 2006

After reading Brilynn's post on Three things Meme, I decide to make my own list as well. Here they are:

Three things that scare me:
- Snakes
- Cockroach
- Rats

People who make me laugh: Dad, my Beeko and my best friend Trang

Three things I love: food, books and music

Three things I hate: Can’t think of any!

Three things I don't understand: Anything that is not in English or Vietnamese

Three things on my desk:
- Two PCs
- Food magazines or cookbooks
- Academic papers

Three things I want to do before I die:
- Go to the Middle East for traveling and tasting food
- Read all the books I can read
- Eat all the food I can eat without getting fatter!

Three things I can do:
- Studying (not working)
- Get up at 2 am to watch soccer with Dad
- Eat any types of fish, even the ones with lots of bones

Three things you should listen to:
- Chopin and Mozart’s music
- Eva Cassidy and Sarah Mc Lachlan’s songs
- Music again, but this time is my new discovery – Violinist Sarah Chang

Three things you should never listen to:
- Your boy, when he says he will cook
- Your stomach, when it says it wants more desserts
- Yourself, when you say you want to go shopping more

Three things I'd like to learn:
- Food, including food history, culture and of course anything practical like baking or cake decorating.
- Foreign languages: Arabic, Chinese, French etc.
- Cultural and religious backgrounds of different regions in the world


Three favourite foods: anything tasty!

Three beverages I drink regularly:
- Water
- Strong black coffee
- And… water!

Three TV shows I watched as a kid:
- Monkey (Chinese series. I used to watch the series every summer)
- Hongkong Kungfu shows
- Tom & Jerry

Three blogger friends that I am going to tag: Edith of Precious Moments, Burcu of Almost Turkish and Haalo of Cook (almost) anything at least once

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Fever

>> Tuesday, December 05, 2006

I have been down with a very bad fever over the last few days. It has been rather difficult since I had to work & study with runny nose and headache...

Hopefully I will be back at full speed soon....

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Homesick

>> Sunday, December 03, 2006

Every year my supervisor gathers all of research his students and their partners for a small Christmas party. It is a very warmy gathering where his beautiful wife feeds us with delicious vegetarian food... I have attended no less than 3 parties now, and she has yet repeated one single dish! But the meaning of the party goes beyond food. After dinner we normally sit down, eat desserts and discuss about the year that is ending soon. We share the struggles, success, failures and all those emotional moments that we have experienced throughout the year. The party is not simply an occasion to celebrate, but also to share, to give and to get closer with each other.

Yesterday we had an early Christmas party since some of us are leaving for holiday soon. And in those moments of sharing, my friend, a mature and smart Indian man, talked about how much he missed his hometown lately. It was a kind of homesickness that he had never felt before… This is something I can relate. Having living by myself overseas since the age of 17, I have experienced those moments when all I wanted to do was to go home…. The homesickness is actually stronger now with Christmas and New Year coming. After all, these occasions are for family gathering, aren’t they?

Experiencing the waves of homesickness, I cooked up several Vietnamese dishes to “make myself home” in Aus. One of them is this Crispy Fried Anchovies, my family fav. However, we did not eat it often since anchovies were not readily available in Northern Vietnam. That was why whenever we travelled to the central or southern part of the country, the first thing my dad and I ordered was this Recently the frozen anchovies are sold in Hanoi and even in Melbourne.


There is no secret in cooking this. Simply marinade the fish with salt, chilli powder and ground white pepper for a while. Coat the fish evenly with tapioca flour (or corn flour) and shake off any excess. Deep-fry in hot oil till golden and crunchy. That is all for a simple and comfy dish from home....

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WHB#61 – The Unusual

>> Saturday, December 02, 2006

You know sometimes the things you absolutely dislike and the things you madly love actually make perfect combinations? Well, I am generalizing a bit, but it is actually quite true. One perfect example is this unusual soup – Chicken with pineapple and bitter gourd. While pineapple is in my top favorite fruits, bitter gourd has been a real challenge for me since childhood. I just could not bear its bitter taste. For pineapples, it is a completely different story. I can eat them all the time. Thus, reading the recipe for Pineapple and Bitter Gourd Soup, I was not really sure how it would taste.

The result was surprisingly pleasant. The soup has the perfect combination of sweetness, sourness and bitterness. Each flavor is delicate and comes together very well, making a light and soothing dish. This is perfect for hot summer days when you just need something to calm the body down…


It is so simple to cook up the soup. One thing to remember, though, is using everything fresh. Pineapples should be just ripe to get the right balance of sweetness and tangy. Bitter gourd will turn very bitter if it is not fresh. Yeah, tricky business for a simple dish!

Here is how I cook it (based on the instructions by Cavang at WTT, a Vietnamese Forum which is unavailable at the moment):

You will need around 600g of chicken pieces (with bones), ½ - ¾ large pineapples and 1 medium bitter gourd.

- Boil 600g chicken pieces (I removed the skin) for 10 mins. Drain out the water and wash the chicken. This is to remove any impurities.

- Boil the chicken pieces for the 2nd time with 4-5 cups of water to make the stock. Cook at low medium heat for around 30-40 mins.

- Add the pineapple pieces – cook until soften a little but not soggy

- Now, add the thickly sliced bitter gourd (Remove the inner part to reduce the bitterness). Boil until cooked.

- Season with sea salt or chicken stock powder. You may need to add more water and a bit of sugar to get the right balance of taste.

- Serve 3-4 as a part of a rice meal

The current entry is for Weekend Herb Blogging, which is back to its founder, the lovely Kalyn this week.

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