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Where is the veg?

>> Friday, August 31, 2007

After some occasional eat out and indulging in chocolate and more chocolate, my body starts to scream out for more fresh veggie and a leaner diet. I have no plan for a strict eating regime, but more fresh fruits and veg will be on the way….

And as always, I think the best vegetable dish is the one with the simplest preparation. I admit I have a taste for raw vegetables. Call me rabbit if you want, but raw carrot, cherry tomatoes and parsnip are my regular snack. I also have a habit of tasting veg before cooking them, too.

The above principle is applied to the beautiful baby leeks that I got from the market. Inspired by a recipe from the beautiful cookbook ‘A year in my kitchen” by Australian-born now UK-based chef Skye Gyngell, the baby leeks are simmered in verjuice and water, and then dressed in light vinaigrette. To make it more substantial, grated hard-boiled eggs is added (hence the name mimosa!). I also sprinkle some coarsely chopped pistachio for some crunchiness, too.

So simple yet flavoursome, I eat this with some grilled bread for a light lunch. But of course, this will also be great as a side dish for grilled meat or fish.

Oh, I do make some changes to the classic vinaigrette out of necessity. After searching high and low in my pantry, I realise that my Dijon mustard has gone! So I have substituted it with some garlic & honey mustard instead. Time for me to re-organise my pantry!

Leek Vinaigrette with Eggs Mimosa and Pistachio

Inspired from this book

Ingredients (for 1-2 as a light meal or side dish)

10 trimmed baby leek, well-washed

150ml verjuice

200ml water or as needed

4 whole black peppercorns

4 thyme sprigs

2 bay leaves

1 hard-boiled egg

Some coarsely chopped toasted pistachio


1½ tsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp cream

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1½ tbsp red wine vinegar

80ml extra virgin olive oil


Place verjuice and water in a pan together with whole black peppercorns, bay leaves and thyme. Bring to the boil. Add the leek and simmer gently until the leeks are tender.

Meanwhile, prepare the vinaigrette. Put mustard and cream in a bowl, add some salt and pepper and whisk together. Add the wine vinegar, stir to combine. Slowly add the olive oil in a thin steady stream, whisking constantly. Set aside for 5 mins or so.

Grate the hard-boiled egg.

As the leeks are cooked, drain them on kitchen paper. Lay them on a warm plate and add the vinaigrette. Scatter the egg and pistachio. Add some parsley if desired then serve.

I am submitting this entry to Weekend Herb Blogging. This week, it comes back to the founder Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen. Please head over to her blog for the roundup next week, and for all info about WHB.

NOTE added after Kalyn's comment: Verjuice is a acidic juice made from unripe grapes. It has a light sour flavour, which is milder than most vinegar. In Australia, Maggie Beer is the most popular brand. You can find it in gourmet store. Even my local Coles also stocks it now!


The Burnt Sugar Experiment (or the Daring Bakers August Challenge)

>> Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The pink blossoms definitely give a wonderful touch for my photos in this post. Aren’t they just so pretty and elegant?

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But the subject of this post is not flowers but another challenge set by The Daring Bakers! This month test is set by two talented members – Veron and Patricia. These girls really know my heart since they have chosen something very rich, buttery and chocolaty for us – Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart.

The recipe for the tart might sound easy, but Veron was so true to tell us to “read between the lines”. With a rather brief instruction, all my past tart-making experience came handy and helped me to avoid certain disasters. Nevertheless, this challenge still provides me with new lessons in baking.

First lesson: experience is important!

The major challenge of this tart is to make the caramel layers. The recipe calls for ‘the dry method’ of making caramel, which means melting and caramelising sugar. The alternative method, which also includes water and corn syrup, reduces the chance of burning the sugar.

The dry method is good for me as I have been making caramel for this famous Vietnamese dish since childhood. This skill became handy as I proceeded through the recipe. Personally, I prefer the dry method better because it is quicker and tends to produce deeper flavours.

How I love the beautiful shiny caramel syrup here?

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And now, the second lesson: your experience is not always right! Read the recipe carefully and pay attention!

This lesson came along when I decided to make some decoration for the finished tarts. I pictured a lovely sugar cage covering my lovely little tart. With that in mind, I searched for the recipe in one of my trusted baking books. You see, making sugar cage requires melting the sugar with syrup and water until candy stage. Having passed through the caramel making stage, I was confident that this would be easy to do.

But no, no, no! I nearly burnt the sugar and my pot because I forgot to read the final steps carefully. Worse, the melted sugar was everywhere on my kitchen bench and it took sooooo long to clean the whole things up. So as a result, I ended up with something not quite as expected. See the messy sugar decoration on my plate? That was all I got after nearly burning the kitchen down.

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What a baking day! However, I am quite pleased with then end results. The crust is very light and nutty. I omitted cinnamon from the original recipe since cinamon for me doesn’t work with chocolate. The caramel layer is really lovely – dark and luxurious. It goes quite well with the milk chocolate mousse on top.

Overall, the tart is on the sweeter and richer side so it is best to enjoy in small portion with a cuppa. And milk chocolate works here since it does not overwhelm the caramel flavours. Nevertheless, I might try to use dark chocolate next time to see how it goes.

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Here is the link to the recipe if you wanna give it a try. Meanwhile, don’t forget to visit other Daring Bakers blogs to see their marvelous showcases of this tart. The list of DB members can be accessed from here.

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I am on sugar high….

>> Monday, August 27, 2007

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This month theme for the ever popular blogging event Sugar High Friday is Going Local. The Passionate Cook, our host for this month, sent us out on a mission to find some local specialties and re-created the dessert at home.

So what should I pick? Something chocolate-related naturally, since chocolate is one of life purest pleasure. And for this special SHF event, I have decided to feature chocolate from Melbourne very own Monsieur Truffle.

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Located in Prahran Market, Monsieur Truffle is a chocolate stall run by Thibault Fregoni, a former pastry cook. There, you can find a lot of good quality chocolate products. But the stuff worth dying for is the varieties of homemade truffles, which are offered in different flavours. You can try from the classic dark chocolate truffles to the more exotic ranges where different flavours are combined. Try raspberry, passionfruit, native pepper, sesame and other interesting flavours, you will be surely seduced. I am in love with the raspberry truffle, which achieves a wonderful balance of fruitiness and rich chocolate. Perfection indeed!

Now, to re-make Monsieur Truffle’ famous house products is an impossible task for an almost chocolate novice like me. So instead of making the chocolate mess at home, I opted for something simpler using Monsieur Truffle’s hot chocolate mix.
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Just a few minutes to the table, the rich dark hot chocolate was totally satisfying.

This hot chocolate is absolutely delightful, helping me to satisfy my chocolate craving even at home. Of course, I still have room for some delicious truffles from Monsieur Truffle, which become a once-in- a-while treat when I come down to Prahran Market.
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The recipe for this Hot Chocolate is printed on the chocolate package. I have added some heavy cream to the end product to enhance the richness.

For 2 serving
2 cups milk
¼ cup water
100g Monsieur Truffle Mix*
Sugar to taste
1-2 tbsp heavy cream

Bring milk & water to the boil, add chocolate. Stir constantly until one bubble pops on the surface.
Remove from the heat, whisk for 1 min or so. Add in the cream and sugar to taste.
Serve immediately.
*: you can also use your fav chocolate, which has been broken into pieces, for this recipe.


Beauty oh beauty…

>> Sunday, August 26, 2007

I simply could not resist buying those lovely tomatoes on the vine in my recent trip to the farmers market. I know, tomatoes do not taste as good now, but these were just so adorable no matter what…

With these tomatoes on hand, I decided to prepare something really simple for weekend brunch. How about a café-style breakfast with roasted tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, grilled bread and some drizzle of herb oil? Sound good and easy enough to handle in a lazy morning…

And the results don’t disappoint although tomatoes are certainly not at their best yet. Nevertheless, the dish is still full of flavors, and I have satisfied my craving for a good breakfast out of the weekday cereal and toast.

This dish is so easy; I don’t think anyone needs a precise recipe. But here are the steps if you are interested:

Roast the tomatoes on the vine, which have been drizzle with oil and season with sea salt, in a moderate oven until just cooked.

To make quick herb oil, heat 2 tbsp olive oil and put in some herbs of your choice (I used thyme). Turn off the heat, and let it infused while the tomatoes are roasted/

Grill the bread (I used sourdough). Slice some up some buffalo mozzarella.

When the tomatoes are ready, place mozzarella slices and tomatoes on the toast. Drizzle with herb oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper. Serve immediately.

I will have to try this again when summer comes. And with the warmer weather we have experienced, it must be near!

I am submitting this post to Weekend Herb Blogging, which is hosted by Scott of Real Epicurean this week. The roundup should be up on Scott's blog sometime later. And more information about this event can be found on Kalyn’s blog.


A Moment In Life #3

>> Friday, August 24, 2007

White Lights, originally uploaded by anhsphoto.

This photo was taken on a lazy afternoon walk around my neighborhood. The weather has been lovely lately with blue sky and sunshine....

As you see, I have started a new photo series called A Moment In Life. At first, I was thinking of opening a new photo blog. But with my limited time, it isn't a good idea... So I will keep posting my non-food photo here, too. Hope you all enjoy it - some moments in life through my lense.


The everyday noodle soup

>> Wednesday, August 22, 2007

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This noodle soup is one of my ultimate comfort food. Really.

It all started from my childhood when my parents used to make a similar dish in the weekend for us. That was the simplest kind of noodle soup you could think of – an elegant version of instant noodle. In fact, we did use instant noodle at times but threw away the MSG loaded seasoning. For the broth, water or leftover stock was used. But the other ingredients were normally fresh. Thinly slices of beef from a trusted butcher and a bunch of Asian greens from the morning market were the must have. And just with those simple ingredients, my mom cooked up one of the most nourishing dishes I have known.

The key to this noodle dish is simplicity. The Vietnamese tend to like clear and subtle taste. While greasy and spicy food can be enjoyed occasionally, we all turn back to simple dishes for our daily meals. That preference for food can be reflected here. What we have is noodle in clear both, some meat and lots of green vegetables. You can think of the dish as the homemade simple alterative for pho, but in reality, most noodle shops in Hanoi would sell this, too.

I always use a typical Asian vegetable for the dish. If I am not mistaken, it is called Chopsuy Green or Vegetable Chrysanthemum in English. The leaves have a lovely aroma which pairs very well with meat. You should come across them when eating steam boat in Chinese restaurant. However, any other type of Asian greens can do. I sometimes even use broccoli quite happily.

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As for the beef, cooking it lightly in the broth just before serving helps to flavour the soup and also prevent the meat from being overcooked.

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Noodle Soup with Beef and Vegetable Chrysanthemum

I never really estimate the amount of ingredients when cooking this dish. So please use your judgement.

Ingredients (for about 3-4 portions)
Noodles of your choice, choose enough for 3- 4 portions. 100g/person is the standard size
4 cups water or leftover broth
200g beef fillet, thinly sliced across the grain
1 tsp each finely chopped garlic and ginger
1 tbsp good quality fish sauce
1 bunch of Vegetable Chrysanthemum or other vegetables of your choice
Seasoning, to taste

Marinade the beef with garlic, ginger and fish sauce.

Pick leaves from Vegetable Chrysanthemum. You should have about 200g left.

Prepare the noodles according to package directions. Divide among serving bowls. Keep warm.

Bring stock to boil. Blanch the veg until just cooked. Take out and divide among serving bowl.

Return the stock to boiling point again. Add the beef and let the stock simmer until the beef is just cooked (this takes only 1 min). Quickly check seasoning. Ladle the hot broth and beef over the noodle and veg. Add some freshly cracked pepper. Serve immediately with some chilli sauce and lime juice if desired.


I am bringing this dish to Presto Pasta Night, hosted by Ruth of Once Upon A Feast. Ruth is celebrating 6 months of this event this week, so head over to her blog on Friday for fabulous pasta entries!


A moment in life #2 & Memes

>> Monday, August 20, 2007

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The First Sign of Spring

Don’t you admire such beauty?


And now, it’s now for some memes. But firstly I have to say a sincere apology to all of the lovely bloggers who have tagged me for several memes. My time for blogging is limited lately, so I hope you all understand for my slow reply…

For this very post, I am replying two memes – ‘8 random facts about you’ and ‘The Fantastic 4’. If I remember correctly, I have been tagged by Myriam, Arfi, Wendy and KJ. And yes, I still have some other memes to complete, but it’ll be for another coming post…

Tracking down my memory lane, here are the things I come up with…

4 jobs I’ve had in my life

I have never had a full-time job. But I do hope the following counts as job somehow…

#1 Nanny: I used to take care of my sister and cousins during summer holiday when I was 14-17. Duties included preparing lunch and playing with all of them. Kids can be really naughty, but I love being around them!

#2 Student: This is the longest ‘job’ that I have had!

#3 Teacher/Assistant lecturer/tutor: Teaching is something I particularly enjoy. However, my idea of teaching and education has changed a lot ever since I start teaching seriously in university. For some reasons, I feel the real lack of teaching value in some places, and that does disturb me.

#4 Waitress: for a very short period but totally enjoying since I learn a lot. And the people I met there were a lovely crazy bunch!

4 places I have lived

I don’t think I can come up with 4 places as yet. I grew up in Hanoi, came to Melbourne for study and have lived in Melbourne mostly ever since.

4 places I have been on holiday

#Beijing: A place with adorable and timeless historic value. I would love to vist Beijing again for a longer time.

#Bangkok: Lovely people, lovely food and traffic jam! Oh, the orchids there were nice!

#Singapore: where I first tasted and fell in love with durian!

#Ho Chi Minh City: my beloved energetic southern city.

4 of my favourite foods

#Noodles & Pasta: I can live on these forever

#Asian Greens: I can't live without these. My meal can't complete without some greens.

#Bread & Pizza: Right, I am a big carb person.
#Chocolate: one of my ultimate weakness.

4 places I would rather be right now

#Back home in Hanoi with my parents and sister!

#In a small café near Hoan Kiem lake and enjoy a small cup of Vietnamese coffee with all my friends.

#In some café along Ormond Rd then a long walk along Elwood Beach with my camera.

#At home, with some light music, a cuppa and a book.


Home-made Goodness

>> Friday, August 17, 2007

If time permits, I’ll make my own pasta more often! Although the process is a bit time-consuming, the reward is just really good. And it might sound crazy but I find that working with flour, dough and pasta machine help me de-stress greatly. It’s so much better to do what you like than dragging along the endless hours of doing something you have grown to hate…

Now, back to pasta making. I am quite happy with the result of this round. My fettuccine has a wonderful texture – firm enough to ‘bite through’ yet still smooth. The secrets lie in two factors. Firstly, I use the pasta flour imported from Italy (photo), which is the mixture of hard durum wheat semolina flour (70%) and normal wheat flour (30%) The durum wheat is the key to provide the firm structure of the end products. And secondly, I think my skills have improved, too! I do learn that resting the dough properly really helps to make better pasta. The recipe and technique I follow are from Neil Perry’s The Food I love, which is a really good cookbook with very detailed descriptions and explanations.

To cook my home-made fettuccine, I have chosen something simple. Neil Perry’s fettuccine with toasted breadcrumbs have appealed to me for some time, so I decided to make it with some of my personal twists by changing the method and a few ingredients here or there. The result is a very comforting dish, which I am sure a lot of us will love. Simple, elegant and pretty enough to eat, you may want another serve just like me!

Home-made fettuccine with toasted breadcrumbs and fresh peas

Inspired from this book


400g fettuccine (or other pasta of your choice)

175g fresh coarse breadcrumbs (made in food processor from day old sourdough)

250ml extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

1 shallot, pealed and finely chopped

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

1 tbsp slated baby capers, well rinsed and drained

Handful (or more) fresh peas

60ml red wine vinegar

A pinch of sugar (optional)

2 handfuls Italian parsley

Freshly grated parmesan cheese, to serve

Freshly ground pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 200C (400F). Put the breadcrumbs on baking tray. Toss in 2 tbp olive oil and some sea salt. Bake in the oven for 10-15 mins or until golden.
  2. Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente.
  3. Add some olive oil in a hot pan, gently sauté s shallot, garlic. Add in baby capers and peas, stir until the peas are soft to your liking.
  4. Add in the vinegar and remaining olive oil. Check seasoning and adjust with salt & sugar if necessary.
  5. Toss the pasta, 3/4 amount of breadcrumbs and herb with the oil mixture. Toss well to mix.
  6. Divide among heated plates. Sprinkle with remaining breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Note: my photos were taken before adding parmesan!


I would like to submit this post to Presto Pasta Night, hosted by Ruth of Once Upon A Feast. Please head to her blog for all the wonderful entries later on!


A moment in life #1

>> Thursday, August 16, 2007

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Just another rainy day in winter


Remember the days...

>> Wednesday, August 15, 2007

How do you like to celebrate your birthday? Do you like a big party or just a quiet gathering with loved ones? Or, perhaps you may want to travel somewhere or do something different on the day? It may be strange but birthday gets less important for me as I grow older. In fact I almost forgot about it until my dear little sister reminded me …. But despite that forgetfulness, I did have a wonderful celebration, my way!

Now, tell me, what was more wonderful than seeing your loved one graduating on your birthday? It was double happiness! For me, I was glad to see Mr. Bee completed his degree. The feeling of completing something and starting a new one always excite me… It was also a good time for me to reflect on myself and what I want to accomplish in life…

Apart from the graduation, we spent some time together at the National Gallery of Victoria on the previous weekend. The exhibition called Guggenheim Collection, which showcases some very fine modern art, was on and it is not a disappointment. Truth to be told, I haven’t paid much attention modern art but the exhibition did amaze me with some very challenging concepts and ideas. I personally love the time spent inside the gallery when I can forget about the normal daily activities to admire and go wild with my imagination… Don’t we all need moments like those from time to time?

Pan-Fried Gnocchi

Now, I guess the entry is not completed without something about food. With my camera on hand, I was able to take some shots at EQ Cafe Bar, a restaurant inside the Art Centre, where we had our very late lunch. As you saw in the photo, we ordered pan-fried gnocchi, fish cakes and mushroom in sherry & lemon. The food was reasonable overall, but I especially like the pan-fried gnocchi. The gnocchi was crispy outside and fluffy inside, accompanied by creamy sauce and some braise fennel. The dish was completed with a dash of truffle oil, which was lovely. I am thinking to replicate this at home sometime. Anyone had a recipe to suggest? Thanks!

Fried Fish Cakes

Mushroom in Sherry & Lemon


Another sweet dessert for a sweeter life

>> Saturday, August 11, 2007


My blog is in danger of turning to a dessert only blog! Sorry if I haven’t featured much of my normal savoury dishes, but time has been limited lately and I need to satisfy my hunger before taking any photo of food. So, I can slow down for photo session when it comes to dessert time. It may sound weird to a lot of people, but I think my fellow food bloggers would understand!

Anyway, the dessert I featured today, Osmanthus-scented baked sago pudding, is of Asian theme. Sago pudding is very popular around Southeast Asia and it is often served with coconut milk and/or fresh fruits. Baked sago pudding is also my favourite item in dim sum. But my version is not as rich. It is instead quite light and easy on the palate. The essence of this dish, in my opinion, is the use of osmanthus sugar syrup.


The main ingredient in osmanthus sugar syrup is osmanthus flowers. According to wiki, the flowers are from certain types of plants native to Asia. The flowers are famous for the sweet scent, and are used to add fragrance to desserts, jam and liquor. Some Chinese medicine halls may even sell dried osmanthus flowers, but I haven’t checked them out yet.

The sugar syrup I am using is quite lovely. It has a mild sweetness and a light salty note, which makes the whole flavor quite pleasant. The fragrance is quite elegant, although I did expect something a bit stronger. Perhaps I should try to buy some other brands to do the taste-test.


The pudding featured is really simple. I have sort of combined these recipes. The end result is lovely with the sago layer ‘hiding’ underneath the thin custard. With the sweet scented of osmanthus, this is the type of dessert I truly love.


Osmanthus-scented baked sago pudding

Recipe (for 5 small ramekins)

½ cup pearl sago

½ cup castor sugar

4 eggs

1¾ cups milk

2 tbsp osmanthus syrup

Pinch of salt

Extra osmanthus syrup, to serve


  1. Soak sago for a few hours. Boil in water until translucent. Drain & rinse under cold water. Set aside.
  2. Beat egg and sugar until pale. Add milk and osmanthus syrup. Stir in sago.
  3. Pour the above mixture into individual ramekins. Put in a large tray and pour hot water into the tray (to above ¾ height of ramekin). Bake in the preheated 160C until just set (about 20-25 mins).
  4. Drizzle with extra syrup and serve warm.


I am sending this post to Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Melissa from Cooking Diva. This lovely event was founded by Kalyn. Please check their blog out for the roundup and more info about WHB.

I also want to thank some of you, who have sent me your birthday wishes *hug*. I have had a very nice day today (double happiness!), which I will tell you guys later


Apple & Custard Loaf

>> Wednesday, August 08, 2007

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Last week I said goodbye to two of my very best friends in Melbourne. One of them is a Malaysian lady who has been like a sister to me. And although prepared, I felt a little lost after her departure. Suddenly, L isn’t here to have coffee and listen to my nonsense. Three years have passed so quickly, and I didn’t realise it until last week. When it was time for goodbye, all we could do is wishing each other all the best for the future. I truly believe that somehow the friendship we have here will stay on despite the physical distance. Right, I have to travel to Malaysia to try out L’s favourite hawkers. L of course expects me to achieve my dream, but that’s for the latter…

And I am still cooking and baking quite regularly as all my close friends expect! Just that my blogging time has been quite limited lately. Anyway, this post features the apple and custard loaf I talked about here. I have used that rich and absolutely delicious sweet dough as the base here. The filling, as the title suggested, includes apple and custard. I can’t imagine a better combination than that – the fruitiness of apple, the smoothness of custard and the richness of the dough. This is a combo to dream for, and I will make it as little as possible since it is so hard to exercise self-control over these. I swear I could have finished the whole loaf myself. But being a good friend, I shared it around and saved myself from being a guinea pig!

As for the recipe, I followed Mr. Dan Lepard’s instructions to the t. His recipe and instruction are really good and the results have been excellent. I know I have recommended The Handmade Loaf in my previous posts, but I have to do it again! My blog friend, Eva from Sweet Sins, is also “studying” this book. Do come over her blog to read her take on Lepard's recipe.

And here is the recipe… Remember that the dough recipe yields more to what is needed for this loaf. But you can always turn the leftover dough to the plain (but delicious) sweet loaf like I did previously.

You also need a sourdough starter for this recipe.
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From this book
sweet yeasted butter dough
700g pastry custard (recipe follow)
5 good eating apples (I used Granny Smith), peeled and cut into slices
100g soft brown sugar
Line and butter base and side of a 25cm springform cake tin.

Divide the dough into three equal pieces. Om a floured surface, roll the dough into a disc 25cm in diameter. Place one in the bottom of the tin, then spread 1/3 of the custard over the surface. Cover with 1/3 apple slices and sprinkle with sugar. Repeat with two pieces of dough, custard and apple. Sprinkle the surface of the unbaked loaf with the last of the sugar. Leave in warm place (21-25C), and prove for 1½ hours.

Preheat oven to 200C. Bake on a rack in the centre of the oven for 10 mins. Reduce temperature to 170C and bake for further 35 mins. Cover the top if it gets too brown.

Leave in the tin to cool. Serve warm.

Pastry Custard

400g fresh milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
25g corn flour
125g castor sugar
2 medium eggs
50g unsalted butter, softened

In a saucepan, heat milk and vanilla to nearly boiling. Remove from the heat and let cool down.
In a bowl, mix cornflour with sugar. Beat in the egg, one at a time. Whisk in hot milk and return to the sauce pan, heat and stir constantly until just comes to the boil. Remove from the heat, transfer immediately to a cooler container and beat in butter. Leave a piece of baking paper on the surface (to prevent the custard from skinning) and leave to cool.
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