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The Bostini Cream Pie Challenge (Daring Bakers October Challenge)

>> Monday, October 29, 2007

Bostini Cream Pie

It is time for the Daring Bakers to take over the blogging world again. And this month the storm is the luxurious Bostini Cream Pie, a challenge set by the gorgeous Mary of Alpineberry.

This challenge is sweet as all other daring bakers’ previous ones. But this pie has its special origin. I have heard of Boston cream pie, but bostini cream pie is something unusual to me. So what is bostini cream pie exactly? It consists of a light orange chiffon cake, served over creamy custard and topped up with a rich chocolate glaze. The recipe comes from Bistro Don Giovanni restaurant in San Francisco and obviously this is their signature dessert. Having made this, I understand why people go crazy over it. The dessert has all the combination that ones can love. The three components are simple but well put together. The end result is flavors that we all can relate to yet so elegant and classy…

Bostini Cream Pie

Personally this dessert is a winner for me since it tastes good without all the fuss. I would use it for my dinner party since almost everything (except for the chocolate glaze) can be prepared a day in advance.

As you see, I have played with dessert plating in this post. When Mary first posted the challenge, I had no idea how this pie looked like. But a google search revealed several photos of the pie. The plate version is inspired from these photos. I take the idea to my imagination though. I just love the idea of a chocolate covered star floating in the sea of custard sky. The contrast of colors is just truly amazing…

Bostini Cream Pie

The glass version is inspired by an idea from Fanny. This girl is a genius, and you will see a lot of daring bakers eventually choose her format. Why? Since you can see different layers of chocolate, custard and in my case some tiny bit of the cake. This version is so classy if you host a party!

And since someone asked me about preparing these glass dessert... Here is what i did:

Prepare some colored sugar (I used store bought)

Dip the glass rim to some wine or egg white, then dip into the plates full of colored sugar. Set aside.- Prepare the custard, spoon it into the glasses (1/3 full) - chilled.

Cut the cake into small cubes, spread them into layers in glasses

Prepare the chocolate ganache. pour over just before serving.

Last but not least, I have put my candles buying hobby in good use. The candles create such a romantic setting and yes, I love them!

Bostini Cream Pie

All other Daring Bakers will be posting their personal experience today. Please check them out! And for those who love to see the recipe, please head to Mary’s blog for it!

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A Simple Vegetarian Appetizer

>> Thursday, October 25, 2007

Eggplant roll with spiced potato & enoki

My friend Margot from Coffee and Vanilla is hosting an event called Vegetarian Awareness Month throughout October. For this event, you can either post a vegetarian dish or write a detailed post about vegetarian food. More details can be found on Margot’s site.

For this event, I have decided to make a very simple vegetarian appetizer. This is also my idea for my next gathering, too. Basically, I want something tasty without any dairy products or things like onion & garlic etc. It wasn’t easy to do, but I have finally come up with the Eggplant Roll with Spiced Potatoes & Enoki Mushrooms. I learnt how to grill eggplant from a comprehensive post by Kalyn. Grilled eggplant is so much healthier than the deep-fried version. Yet, the taste and texture is still very beautiful – smooth and silky. To match the texture of eggplant is the spiced mashed potatoes. And enoki mushrooms are used to give the dish a refreshing taste. And really, enoki makes great garnish, too!

Eggplant roll with spiced potato & enoki

I don’t have a precise recipe. But here is the estimation:

1. Grill 1 eggplant – cut into 1cm slices lengthwise. Please follow Kalyn’s instruction on grilling.

2. Boil 2 medium potatoes then mashed them (butter and milk are optional. I used soy milk and olive oil here).

3. Fry your favourite spices (I used cumin powder, coriander powder and some mustard seeds) in a little oil to release fragrance. Add the mash potatoes, stir well. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Spread the potato mixture & enoki mushrooms on each eggplant slices and roll up. Serve warm or at room temperature. Garnish with some green herbs (I used wild fennel).

Overall these rolls are nice to eat. I think the presentation is lovely, too. Definitely something I will be making for my next party!

Eggplant roll with spiced potato & enoki

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A Moment in Life #10

>> Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Ordinary View
A peaceful view in life. Something ordinary yet can be beautiful in our eyes...
"It’s not that usual when everything is beautiful
It’s just another ordinary miracle today
...
Ordinary miracle
Do you want to see a miracle?"

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Eat me, I am HOT & SPICY!

>> Monday, October 22, 2007

Malaysian Pepper Crab

You may notice that a new wave of Asian inspired dishes have gradually appeared on this humble blog. I have been in a real Asian food craze lately and naturally enough the current Asian theme will keep on going for a while. Hope you too enjoy this exploration with me…

The dish I feature today must be one of my most favorite ways of cooking crab. It’s hot, spicy, peppery, rich and full of flavors to just explode in your mouth. This fiery dish, Black Pepper Crab, comes from Malaysian eclectic and exotic cuisine. It reflects the perfect blend of ingredients from different cuisines in Malaysian food, something which I love deeply. Read this short introduction and you will be amazed by the diversity of this cuisine.

To make this, you first need to get very fresh crabs. I have used Blue Swimmer Crab (the freshest I could find), but I think the original recipe uses mud crab. Also, fresh curry leaves are required. My Asian supermarket normally sells it fresh, and these leaves freeze beautifully. The recipe also calls for fermented soy bean paste (tau cheo – click here to see the photo), which should be available at Asian store. Other ingredients like black peppercorns, black soy sauce & oyster sauce should be easily found in well-stocked supermarket. And yes, butter is used here. Anything with butter tastes so good, and this is no exception!

Since it is rather spicy, you may wish to reduce the amount of chili and pepper to start up with. This is the type of dish where your hands need to get messy. I quite enjoy the experience. You should really try!

Malaysian Pepper Crab

Black Pepper Crab

Recipe from this book

Ingredients

2 tbsp dried prawns

2 kg (4lbs) fresh crabs

¼ cup oil

2 tbsp butter

2 shallots, minced

7 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp fermented soy bean tau cheo, mashed

3 ½ tbsp black pepper corns, lightly toasted in a non-stick pan, then coarsely ground

½ cup curry leaves

10 red bird’s eye chillies, whole

3 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp dark soy sauce

1 tbsp oyster sauce

¼ cup water

Method

  1. Rinse & drain the dried prawns, Dry toast them in a skillet. Allow to cool and grind coarsely in a mortar.
  2. Prepare the crabs: lift the triangular-shaped apron on the underside of the crab. Pull the top shell off the body. Discard the grey gills on either side of the body and any spongy grey matter. Clean the crab thoroughly. Quarter the crab and crack the claws so the spices can penetrate.
  3. Heal the oil in a wok and stir-fry the crab over high heat for 5 mins. Cover the wok and let the crab cook for 3 mins longer. Set the crab aside.
  4. In the same wok, melt the butter in the remaining oil over medium heat. Stir-fry the shallots, garlic, fermented soy bean, dried prawns, black pepper corns, curry leaves and chillies until fragrant – about 3-5 mins. Add the crab and the remaining ingredients. Cook for 5-10 mins until the crabs are pink and cooked through.
  5. Serve immediately.

Malaysian Pepper Crab

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A Sweet Ending

>> Saturday, October 20, 2007

Coconut Milk Rice Pudding with Papaya & Lime


Eating out and socializing can be tricky sometimes. In one situation, you may have perfect company, but the restaurant lets you down. You have to put up with a confused menu, bland and uninspiring dishes and a robot-like waitress (why can’t she smile???). The night becomes less than perfect with undelivered promise. In another situation, you may be in a lovely restaurant where food quality is superb and the surrounding is gorgeous. But well, bad company ruins what supposed to be a great friend union. You sit there, trying to be as polite as possible, thinking “What the heck is wrong with this person? How can he/she treat nothing with proper respect?” I guess the situations like these happen occasionally to all of us… But two nights out in the row like that make me kinda fed up with the whole thing.

But time to move on and stop complaining. After missing out on the expectedly good dessert from here, I decide to make a simple dessert as a remedy at home. This is the combination of a sweet and ‘coconuty’ rice pudding and the lovely flavors of papaya and lime juice. Growing up in Asia, I always think that coconut milk and rice make a perfect match in both savoury and sweet dishes. Adding papaya, my favorite tropical fruit, is a bonus that I am more than happy with!

This dessert for me is quite healthy. I have cut out the milk and cream from the original recipe and only used coconut milk here for creaminess. Coconut milk has strong flavours, so I think it is more than enough to flavour the rice. The fresh fruit topping is just wonderful. If you find papaya too sweet to your liking, lime juice will help to cut back the sweetness and give the dish a refreshing taste.

A good dessert with a loving company can really make our days better. Don’t you guys agree?

Coconut Milk Rice Pudding with Papaya & Lime

Coconut Milk Rice Pudding with Papaya & Lime

Adapted from Bill Granger’s recipe

Ingredients (for two small servings)

¼ cup short-grain rice (I used premium sushi rice)

1 cup coconut milk

2 tbsp sugar

½ cup water

1 small ripe papaya, skinned, seeded and cut into small cubed

Brown sugar, to sprinkle

2 slices of lime

Method

Combine the rice, coconut milk, sugar and water in a small sauce pan. Bring to the boil then simmer over very low heat for 1 hour. Stir from time to time to prevent sticking. After the rice is cooked, cover with a lid and let it sit for 10 mins.

To serve, top with papaya and sprinkle with brown sugar. Add lime juice if preferred.

***

I am sending this Asian-inspired dessert to Weekend Herb Blogging, which is hosted by the lovely Susan from The Well Seasoned Cook. Make sure to check out the round up at the beginning of next week. Also don’t forget to drop by Kalyn’s blog to find out more about WHB.

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A Moment in Life #9

>> Friday, October 19, 2007

Pretty Bird…

Bird on Lemon Tree

This shot was taken from my balcony, which overlooks a lovely backyard of someone else’s house (My flat is on 2nd floor).

It was fun trying to capture this moment before the bird flied away. I think he looked pretty pleased and happy. Don’t you think? ;)

Have a great weekend my dear friends!

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West Lake Rice Noodle Rolls

>> Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Noodle Rolls with Beef & Herb Filling

My hometown, Hanoi, is a city full of lakes. We have several beautiful lakes around the city, which have been turned into small pretty parks. The local residents love to hang around these places, and the price of housing there is super high. One of the most expensive areas is definitely the place surrounding the West Lake (Ho Tay). This area was developed back to the colony time (around 1920-1930) and it remains a lovely place. The West Lake is part of Hanoi history with so many rumours and stories that dated back from more than 100 years ago. But it is also famous for food. The Hanoians always praise the West Lake Prawn Fritters. And if you travel a bit further to the other side of the lake, there are plenty of cheap seafood restaurants to hang around, too.

The dish I feature today, rice noodle rolls, is also from the West Lake area. These rolls are super cheap, and with a casual flair around the place, people can all have a good time. The food itself is simple but oh so tasty. These rolls normally have stir-fry beef and herb filling, accompanied by the sweet-sour nuoc cham. If you want your sauce a bit spicy, fresh chilli slices are provided, too.

To make these at home, I have added more herbs to the original version, which features only coriander (cilantro). I have added to my pleasure some Thai basil & rice paddy herb (click here to see the photo). I love to arrange them in order, so after every bite, I can experience different herby aromas. It is truly amazing and so refreshing.

For this recipe, you need to get a package of rice noodle sheet from Asian market. If unavailable, substitute with rice paper. The texture will be different, but delicious still.

Noodle Rolls with Beef & Herb Filling


Rice Noodle Rolls with Beef & Herb Filling (Pho Cuon)

This amount serves 3 for lunch and 6 as first course
Ingredients
1 package of rice noodle sheet (or rice paper, as required)
300g beef fillet, thinly sliced across the grain
1 tsp finely minced lemongrass (white part only)
1 garlic clove, finely minced
2 tbsp good quality fish sauce
Oil, about 1-2 tbsp
Herbs, to serve: Choose from coriander (cilantro), Thai Basil, Rice Paddy Herb etc.
Vietnamese dipping sauce (recipe follows)
Method
Marinade the beef with lemongrass, garlic and fish sauce for 20 mins.
To prepare the noodle, cut the noodle sheet to squares of 15cmx15cm. Briefly dip each sheet in hot water. Set aside. (If using rice paper, skip this step)
Prepare dipping sauce. Wash herbs and briefly dry them using paper towel.
Stir-fry the beef mixture in hot oil until just cooked.
To roll, arrange the beef and herbs inside each rice noodle sheet. Roll up and serve with dipping sauce. (or use rice paper as your wraps as package direction).

Dipping Sauce:

Vietnamese Dipping Sauce


Note: the quality of fish sauce will determine the end result. Use this as a guide only. For this roll, the sauce should be slightly sweet. This amount is more than enough for the amount above, so halve the recipe if you wish.

1 cup warm water, ¼ cup fish sauce, 3-4 tbsp castor sugar, ½ lime, 2 garlic cloves – finely minced, 1 chilli paddy – sliced.

Preparation: Put water, fish sauce, sugar and lime juice together. Stir to dissolve. Taste to see if you have the right balance, and adjust ingredients accordingly. Add garlic and chilli just before serving (so your chilli and garlic will ‘float’ to the surface).


**

I am sending this entry to Presto Pasta Night, hosted by Ruth of Once Upton a Feast. She will be posting the round up on Friday. Don’t miss out!

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Celebrating Two Year Anniversary of Weekend Herb Blogging

>> Friday, October 12, 2007

Weekend Herb Blogging is 2 years old! And to celebrate this great event, our lovely founder, Kalyn, has asked us to prepare a doubly delicious post – a combination of vegetables and herbs we like best. For this, I have prepared a dish that presents my favorite combination of herbs and vegetables from Vietnamese cuisine… I won’t tell you the names now (scroll down for the intro), but it is a green and purple combo.

Firstly, let us start with the green part. I guess most of you are unfamiliar with taro stems

Taro Stem

As the name suggested, this long stem is from taro plant. I have blogged about taro tuber here and here. Now it is time for another edible part from the plant, which is my favorite childhood veg. Taro stem has a very special crunchiness which is the result of the ‘bubble’ net as seen in this photo:

Taro Stem

Cooking taro stems is quite tricky since if it is not done properly, you may have an itchy throat in the end. In Vietnam, the taro stems are peeled then given a salt treatment, which eliminates this risk. After being prepared thoroughly, taro stems can be enjoyed in soup, salad and stir-fry.

I have used taro stems in a rather untraditional way for a northern Vietnamese girl. I cook it in a fish noodle soup. The broth here has light sourness from tamarind paste, and with the crunchiness of taro stems, it is a truly refreshing dish.

Fish Noodle Soup with Taro Stems and Herbs

But wait, where is my herb? You see, the Vietnamese believe that fish noodle soup must be accompanied by a plate full of fresh herbs. This can be varied based on what is available, but we can normally see shredded lettuce, mint, thai basil. And for me, it will not be complete with this beautiful purple herb – the purple perilla (also known as beefsteak leaves). This particular herb has such a strong aroma, which makes a perfect accompaniment to any seafood dishes.

Purple Perilla

As for the recipe, I really don’t have any since I forgot to measure the quantity when cooking this. Nevertheless, I am running through a step-by-step preparation so if you want, you can try this at home. (Trust me, once you prepared the taro stems, the rest is super easy).

To prepare taro stems

Wash thoroughly then peel the outer skins.

Cut into pieces of 1 inch each.

Wearing a pair of food-grade gloves, add a generous amount of salt to the taro stem pieces. With your hand, squeeze the pieces until the volume of these pieces reduced by 1/3. Rinse through water and drain.

Then, you need to stir-fry these taro stem pieces with oil, tomato wedges (from 1 tomato) and seasoned with fish sauce. First stir-fry the tomato until very soft, add taro stem and fish sauce. Keep stirring until the taro stem is cooked through and well-seasoned.

Preparing Taro Stems

The broth

Make a light chicken stock by boiling chicken bones with some ginger and spring onion. Discard the bones, ginger and onion in the end.

The Noodles

Choose Rice Vermicelli. Prepare according to packet direction, set aside.

The fish

I used flathead since it has lovely flavours, but you can choose your fav white fish fillet.

Marinade fish fillet (500g) with 1 tbsp of good quality fish sauce and 1 tsp of minced shallot. Set aside.

Close to serving, fry the fish fillets in little oil until cooked through. Keep warm.

The herb plates

Finely shred lettuce leaves (the curly varieties are recommended) and Asian herbs (choose from laksa leaves, Thai basil, coriander, and of course purple perilla if you can get it).

Final preparation

Heat up the chicken broth. Add in the taro stem mixture. Season to taste with salt, pepper and tamarind paste. The soup should be lightly sour and well-seasoned.

Arrange the rice vermicelli in a warm bowl. Arrange the fish on top, ladle the hot soup over.

Serve immediately with the herb plate.

How to eat

Put the herb in your hot soup bowl and enjoy the noodles!

Fish Noodle Soup with Taro Stems and Herbs

***

I hope you guys aren’t bored with the lengthy post. You all can see more glorious fruit, vegs, herbs and all at the round up over at Kalyn’s Kitchen next Monday. Kalyn will also announce the favourite herbs and vegetables of this year, as voted by food bloggers around the globe. An event not to be missed!

Also, Ed from Tomatom is organizing a banquet for Melbourne food bloggers in mid November. Check out this post for more details if you are in the area around this time!

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A Moment in Life #8

>> Thursday, October 11, 2007

Old Corner

The Old Corner...

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(Almost) Contemporary Fish & Chips

>> Saturday, October 06, 2007

(Almost) Contemporary Fish & Chips


Weekend Herb Blogging
is approaching its second birthday. The grand event will be next week, so stay tune for any update from Kalyn, WHB founder… This week, our guest host is the lovely Haalo of Cook Almost Anything At Least Once. And for this, I have prepared a dish inspired from Ezard, a restaurant in Melbourne, to participate.

At Ezard, the dish is called Tempura-Fried Fish & Chips with lime, soy and sesame. This reflects the Ezard’s focus on contemporary Australian food with some Asian flair. The idea itself is lovely, presenting a new take on the traditional fish and chips. To prepare the dish at home, I have used Ezard’s recipe with some personal modifications. I know tempura fish will be lovely, but it’s hard to let go the crunchiness that beer batter produced. So I replaced the tempura batter with the traditional beer batter (hence the name almost contemporary!).

(Almost) Contemporary Fish & Chips

I, however, really like the idea of Taro & Lotus Root Chips. These two ingredients, taro and lotus root, are used widely in Asian cuisines. And pairing them with fried fish is such a great idea… One note though, you need to get fresh taro and lotus root. The frozen ones, which are easy to find in Asian groceries, will not do.

To accompany the crunchy fried fish with taro and lotus root chips is the sweet soy dressing, sesame salt and some lime juice. Serve it with a salad; it is a perfect meal indeed.

(Almost) Contemporary Fish & Chips

Fish with Taro and Lotus Root Chips

Recipe from Ezard’s book with some modifications. This recipe serves 6 people.

The Chips

Oil for frying

1 taro, cut into julienne strips

1 fresh lotus root, peeled, sliced finely at 45 degree angle

½ fine sea salt

The Fish

6 large flathead fillets, skinned and boned

Some plain flour

Beer Batter

250g self-rising flour

Pinch of salt

1/2 tsp oil

300ml beer

Sesame Salt

2 tbsp sesame seeds

2 tbsp sea salt

(Almost) Contemporary Fish & Chips

Sweet Soy Dressing

100ml sweet soy sauce (ketjap manis)

50ml light soy sauce

1-2 tbsp filtered water


Some icing sugar

Limes, to serve

Method

For the beer batter: whisk half of the beer with the flour and oil. Make sure there is no lump. Then, whisk in the rest of the beer. Chilled 20 mins before using.

Heat the oil until hot. Deep fry the taro roots and then lotus roots. Drain on absorbent paper. Sprinkle some salt and icing sugar. Keep warm until ready to serve.

For the sweet soy dressing: whisk everything together. Taste then set aside.

Sesame salt: toast the sesame in hot pans until just brown. Cool. Grind the sesame seeds and salt together using a mortar ad pestle.

Close to serving, prepare the fish. Slice the fillet into long fingers. Dust each finger with some flour, shaking off any excess. Dip into the beer batter then deep-fry until crispy and golden brown. Drain on absorbent paper and sprinkle with some sesame salt

Serve the fish with taro and lotus root chips, accompanied with small dishes of sesame salt and sweet soy dressing. Also don’t forget the lime wedges!

(Almost) Contemporary Fish & Chips


PS: I'll upload some photos of ingredients later when time permits. I know some of you may not be familiar with all the ingredients listed here. But a trip to Asian stores may help!

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A Moment in Life #7

>> Thursday, October 04, 2007

London Bridge - Great Ocean Road


London Bridge - Great Ocean Road - Victoria - Australia

If you ever have a chance to visit Australia, don't miss out on the spectacular Great Ocean Road.... The photo above was taken at a place called London Bridge. Here is a bit of history for those who are interested....

London Bridge - Great Ocean Road

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When I can smell again…

>> Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I have to fill my kitchen with wonderful aroma of food to compensate for those painful days. Don’t you think so?

Fried Zesty Spiced Sweet Puffs

Thanks to all of your lovely comments, I get better now. Sure I still have runny nose but at least my senses of taste and smell are back. With the warmer weather, hopefully my full recovery is just the matter of time…

As you see, I make something to celebrate the return of my senses! The inspiration for these puffs comes from a lovely blog called Arabic Bites, which is run by two sisters Zainab & Hameeda"meedo”. The original recipe is for Khanfarosh, a traditional Arabic sweet. Since I want to get a combination of fragrances for my puffs, I adapt the recipe a little to include orange zest, cardamom and some poppy seeds.

I really love these puffs. With the combination of three types of flours, its texture is very similar to a Vietnamese deep fried pastry called ‘drumstick’ (literal translation). It is a little chewy but not too heavy or overly sweet. Drizzling with some good honey and almond flakes, I just pop the whole thing to my mouth and savour not only the taste but also the fantastic aroma! Isn’t it just so good to be able to taste and smell good food?

Fried Zesty Spiced Sweet Puffs

Fried Zesty Spiced Sweet Puffs

Recipe adapted from here

Ingredients (I didn’t count how many puffs I got, but enough as snack for 3 people)

1/4 cup fine semolina
½ cup cake flour
1/8 cup wholemeal flour

1/2 cup castor sugar
½ tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
Zest of ½ large orange
1 Eggs
3/4 cup milk (I used low fat)
2 tsp poppy seeds
1 tsp instant yeast
Pinch of salt
Pinch of saffron

Honey & almond flakes, to serve
Method
Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Cover let it rise for 1 hour up to 5 hours. (I left mine to rise for about 3 hours)

Using 1 tablespoon as measurement, drop the dough into hot oil and fry until golden brown and cooked through. Drain on paper towel. Serve with honey and almond flakes.

Fried Zesty Spiced Sweet Puffs

PS: I dropped that beautiful leaf plate and broke it yesterday. So sad! Now I have to find a store that still sells such plates to get another one. :(

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