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Heart "Imprint" Cookies

>> Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Heart imprint cookies

Oh, hello February! You are coming! Heck, where has January gone? I feel like time is flying by at a rocket speed! I am trying to get a new rhythm going. Part of it involves doing a "spring" cleaning of my pantry.

After a few hours, I found 5 different types of chocolate bars and packets, and 3 different types of cocoa powders. For sure I do not need any extra chocolate for V-day. I need self control not to indulge in the chocolate a bit too quickly though!

‎{Wise words} ‘You work as if you are going to live forever, but pray as if you would die tomorrow’.

I made this recipe for heart imprint cookies for a Valentine day feature. They are fun, and will make great presents for a lot of occasions. I imagine you can colour the "heart" part of the cookies for different themes. I like mine with chocolate, always.

 Chocolate Heart Imprint Cookies

(The cookie dough recipe is from Donna Hay Magazine)

Ingredients (for 40-50 cookies, size of a 50c Australian coin)
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
110g castor sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
225g plain flour
1 teaspoon cocoa powder


Cream the butter and sugar until pale and light. Add the egg and beat to combine. Sift flour, add vanilla and combine well.

Divide the mixture into 3 parts. Mix 1 portion with cocoa powder. Wrap the cookies dough with plastic wrap and chill foe 20 mins.

Divide the chocolate dough into 4 portions. Use two portions first, roll them into two thin logs (like chopsticks). Use your fingers to pinch the top of the two logs together. Try to shape it so that the top part points up (this is the bottom of the heart)


Now, carefully and gently invert the two lines so that the bottom of the line is on top. Pinch some white dough, and roll them into a thin log, which hasthe same length with the chocolate log. 

Gently line the white log into the middle of the chocolate lines, where the two wings of the heart are (see photo). Basically, if you slice the chocolate part across, you will have the heart shape!

Repeat the above process so you will have two heart-shaped logs.


Divide the white dough into two. Work with each at a time. Roll the dough between parchment papers until it is about 5mm thin. Remove the papers.

Place 1 heart-shaped log in the middle of the white dough. Roll up, Swiss-roll style to enclose the heart shape log. Seal. Repeat with the remaining white dough and heart-shaped log. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 160C. Line baking tray with baking paper.

Take the cookies logs out of the fridge, and slice 1cm thick. Place onto the tray, and bake for 12 mins or until golden. Cool on a cookies rack then store properly.



Happy Lunar New Year! - Vietnamese sticky rice, coated in mung bean

>> Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Vietnamese sticky rice, coated in mung bean

Happy Lunar New Year, everyone! I hope this year will be a joyous one for all.

Today is the second day of Tết (Lunar New Year). If I were in Vietnam, we would spend today at my grandmother's house. She would cook this sticky rice dish again, and we would happily enjoy it with fried spring rolls (nem), pickles (đồ chua), poached chicken with lime leaves (gà luộc lá chanh) and many more delicacies.

Xôi vò (Viet sticky rice coated in mung bean) is not an easy dish to make. The final product requires each grain to be separated and coated nicely with mashed dried mung bean. My grandmother often makes it with chicken fat, making it extra tasty! 

(I am trying to get back to work even though my mind is in Vietnam, thinking of Tết! I hope those who celebrate it will have extra fun time with their families, since it is the most important thing, really.)

On another note, I have been featured in an article on Vietnamnet, one of the most popular Viet language news portal :). The post talked about the Hanoi cafe I took, and also my life as an expat in Australia. If you can understand Vietnamese, read it here! Thank you!


Watermelon and rose granita - [summer]

>> Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Happy New Year

After the weird cold days, summer is shining back again in Melbourne. The heat is on, and I find it enjoyable.

 Summer means stoned fruits, cherries, lighter meals, pretty blossoms and sunshine until late. I am so much in love with the light, and my gardens. We have so much basils, tomatoes and strawberries. And the most awesome crop is the 2 kilos of peaches from the miniature tree in a pot. Nothing beats fresh peaches/stoned fruits. They are slightly sour, and incredibly crunchy.

Peaches, fresh from my garden
My home-grown peaches. So proud :>

 Summers also means icey, cold desserts. While I love ice-cream, I am not a big fan of making custard and cream based desserts often. Granita provides the perfect solution. Light, fresh and cold. We can use up a lot of good summer fruits. Since it is hot again this week, I am thinking of a chocolate granita. But for now, let's settle with my favourite combo this summer – Watermelon and rose! 

Watermelon & rose granita

{Top photo by Mai Nguyen}

Watermelon and rose granita 


1 cup water
1 cup sugar
juice of one lemon
1 kg ripe watermelon (weight after remove rind)
Petals of one chemical-spray- free rose (do not use ones from nursery. Mine is home-grown)
½ teaspoon rose water


First, make the simple syrup by boiling the water with sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Add in the lemon juice, and cool.

Coarsely chop up the watermelon and put it in a food processor. Add the rose petal. Process until fine. Pass the juice through a sieve.

 Mix together the simple syrup with the watermelon mixture, together with the rose water.

Pour the mixture into a metal tray and freeze for 3 hours or until partially set. Using a fork, break frozen mixture up until it is quite slushy. Return mixture to freezer and repeat flaking process after 2 hours (at this stage tiny ice flakes should have formed). Return to freezer for a further 2 hours then repeat flaking process. Just before serving, repeat flaking process for the final time.

Happy Summer!

Summer light


White Chocolate and Lemon Curd Truffles

>> Wednesday, January 11, 2012

{And the art of balance}

Lemon curd and white chocolate truffles

It is only the start of January, but I have already started to feel the weight of work to be done over the next 12 months. I honestly do not know how to balance the work-life-study-blogging dynamic at this point in time. I think I just have to deal with each item, one thing at a time.

Speaking about the art of balance, have you read this post on Bakers Royale about "The cost of blogging"? A very honest read and it makes me reflect on my blogging experience in the past 5 years. Costs like camera gears, hosting, cookbooks can be estimated. But how about time? Somehow, somewhere, there need to be a balance. Kulsum and I were talking about a commitment of spending less time online, focusing more on our "real" life and enjoying other activities. I don't think I will quit blogging. It's part of my life that I want to keep. Hopefully I will be able to.

The recipe I am sharing today is a recent favourite. Lemon curd and white chocolate truffles. They are sweet, smooth with the lighter tangy note of citrus. A delightful after dinner bite.


White chocolate and lemon curd truffles

Making your own lemon curd is easy. I have used this recipe, but reduced the sugar a little bit. :)
I served the truffles "lollipop" style, but they do soften very quickly in warm weather. In such case, simply put them in small pretty paper cases.

Based on this recipe

100g white chocolate
1/4 cup home-made lemon curd
1/4 cup heavy cream
a tiny bit of orange blossom water (optional)

100g biscuit crumbs (I used my home-made biscuits and process it into finely ground in the food processor)


Using a double boiler, melt the white chocolate.

Add in the lemon curd, heavy cream, orange blossom water and mix well to combine.

Place the above mixture in the freezer, and chill for 2-3 hours.

  • Take the mixture out of the freezer and shape into truffle-sized balls. Dust powdered sugar over your hands to stop the truffles melting around the edges.

     Coat the balls with the biscuit crumbs. Put them on a baking tray covered with baking paper. If you want to make lollipops, insert the sticks into the truffle balls. 

    Place the whole thing in the freezer and chill overnight. Serve chill.  

  •

    Simmered Soy Beans with ginger and soy sauce {Japanese inspired}

    >> Thursday, January 05, 2012

    We ended last year on a quiet note. A much needed getaway, far from work and obligations. It wasn't far away but we stayed in a quiet, tranquil Japanese inn called Shizuka Ryokan near Daylesford.

     For a few days, we relaxed ourselves entirely. Bush walking, bathing in mineral water, wandering around in different stores. Most of the time, we were happy to read and reflect quietly in the room overlooking a private Japanese style garden.


     Food, we did indulge ourselves. Trips to the Lake House have not disappointed unlike its cousin the Wombat Hill cafe. But the meal I like the most is the Japanese style breakfast. Although the salmon seemed a bit heavy for morning meal, the meal itself was nourishing and comforting. I love miso soup for the morning with rice. A few salad dishes were healthy and wholesome. Such a great start for the day.

    Soy beans, simmered in ginger and sweet soy sauce

     Coming back, renewed, I continue that simplicity philosophy in food preparation. I remember a really nice, simple soy bean dish simmered in sweet soy sauce I had a while back. Traditionally, black beans are used, and it is a Japanese New Year dish called Kuromame. The version I made has an additional warm tone of ginger. 

    The beans are sweet, savoury and have that wholesome 'al-dente' bite to each piece. This is a kind of small dish you can offer in everyday Asian style meal. Serve it as you would serve pickles I say. The following recipe makes quite a bit, and we have enjoyed it for a few days.

    I am sending this recipe to a lovely blogging event called My Legume Love Affair. It was started by my friend Susan of the Well-seasoned Cook. This month host is  Claire of Chez Cayenne .

    Soy beans, simmered in ginger and sweet soy sauce

    Simmered Soy Beans with ginger and soy sauce
    based on a recipe here. This dish has a long cooking time, but it's really simple to make. 

    150g dried soy beans (or black beans)
    ½ cup sugar
    2 tablespoons light soy sauce
    A pinch of salt
    A piece of thumb-size ginger, cut into three large pieces

    Wash the beans and soak them in warm water for 3-4 hours.

    Drain and simmer the beans in a pot with a lot of water and the pieces of ginger until cooked through (2-3 hours). The beans should be soft with a bite.

    Now add the seasoning and continue to simmer with the lowest heat possible until most of the liquid evaporates (1-2 hours). Check the beans – you don't want them to be mushy but wholesome and 'al dente'.

    Serve at room temperature. Store in an air-tight container for around 4-5 days.


    Delicious Vietnam #20 Recap & Winners of Giveaways

    >> Tuesday, January 03, 2012

    Happy New Year!!

    We are back with the final edition of Delicious Vietnam. Although this blogging event has come to a conclusion, please join us on Delicious Vietnam Facebook page and share your recipes, stories and chit chat about Vietnamese cuisine. (Just a side note: I will be blogging as per usual, with Vietnamese recipes included :))

    Without further delay, let's enjoy the feast! You will also find the winners of Indochine cookbooks and Red Boat fish sauce at the bottom of this post.

    1 - A recipe for bì cuốn (and accompanying dipping sauce) - Aliette de Bodard

    Bì means “pork skin”, and cuốn, of course, refers to anything that is rolled. And that’s what you get: cooked, shredded pork with pork rinds to give it a nice crunchiness, all wrapped up in a fabulous salad-rich roll, and dipped in nước mắm. Doesn’t it sound awesome?

    2 - Bánh cuốn with prawn and vegetables (Vietnamese rice rolls) - Blue Apocalypse 

    Banh cuon is one of my favourite Vietnamese dishes. It’s a thin crepe like rice roll, filled with a mixture of ground pork and minced wood ear mushrooms. It’s freshly made and should be eaten straight away. I love the lightness of the rice rolls and the delicious pork filling topped with herbs and nuoc cham.

    3 - Bún bò Huế - Angry Asian Creations

    This... "reminds me of my stepmother. her mother is from Hue and this dish made an appearance regularly at the dinner table. it was not my favorite. in fact, i would usually make a sandwich to eat while the rest of the family slurped their way thru their bowls. like all the recipes in the cookbook i will refer to, food is used to show love, to show forgiveness, to bring home a lost child, and for me, it is home."

    4 - Cà ri gà - Vietnamese chicken curry (cà ri gà) - Ginger and Scotch

    These days, I make the curry consistency somewhere between a soup and a stew – not too watery and not too thick. If it’s too watery, I will add a little corn stach dissolved in cold water to thicken it up. Scotch now loves eating this curry and in a blind taste test, even preferred my own blend of spices to the store bought ones!

    5 - Bánh bao (Vietnamese style steamed buns) - The things I eat 

    Banh Bao is a fluffy, steamed bun of rice flour filled with ground pork, veggies, Chinese sausage, hard-boiled egg, Chinese mushrooms and bits of vermicelli. They are basically awesome because they are easy to eat with one hand. Easiest way is to bite into it, add desired soya sauce, and continue to eat!

    6 - Gỏi gà (Fiery Vietnamese chicken salad) - The Hungry Australian

    Vietnamese salads always taste so amazing, and they’re so healthy and low-fat, too. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if you burn more calories eating this dish than are actually in the dish. This is even more so if you cut the cabbage too big like I did as your jaw will get a real good work out. (Hot tip: grate the cabbage with a vegetable peeler).

    7 - Gỏi hến trộn mít non (baby clams and young jack fruit salad) - rauom 

    This salad is a study of balancing various tastes and textures: sweetness of baby clams & tartness of tamarind, chewiness of baby clams & softness of baby jack fruit & crunchiness of rau om (rice paddy herb) and rau răm (Vietnamese coriander), rice crackling and peanuts.

    8 - Bánh xèo (Vietnamese sizzling crepes) - The culinary chronicles

    Bánh Xèo gets its yellow hue from the turmeric and is flavored with coconut milk. Traditionally, Bánh Xèo is filled with pork, shrimp, onions, mung beans, and bean sprouts. And just like chả giò (egg rolls), you wrap pieces of the Bánh Xèo with herbs and lettuce leave before dunking it into Nước Chấm–a fish sauce based dipping sauce. The freshness of the veggies is the perfect balance to the slightly fried crêpe.

    9 - Thịt kho (Vietnamese braised pork) - Flavor Boulevard 

    " matter which region of Vietnam we are from and where we are living: the fatty chunks of pork so tender that a plastic chopstick can cut through, the amber sauce, with which the hard boiled eggs are imbrued from yolk to white. The fatty, sweet, and salty pork must be freshened up with the crunchy, sour, cold dưa giá (pickled beansprout)..."

    10 - Sườn rang (Vietnamese glazed spare ribs) - Javaholic

    Today's dish is a tasteful recipe for spareribs. It has the characteristically Vietnamese combination of salty (from the fish and soy sauce) and sweet (from sugar). I served them with quick pickled beansprouts and carrots, the pickled vegetables a nice counter balance to the richness of the spareribs. The recipe is from Nicole Routhier's The Foods of Vietnam, the first Vietnamese cookbook I ever bought and still one of my favorites.

    11 - Kem cà phê (Vietnamese coffee ice-cream) - Phuoc'n Delicious

    For this month’s Delicious Vietnam, I thought I’d make something to pay tribute to the last blogging event and also to the highlight of my year; this Vietnam holiday. This ice cream encapulates all that is associated with my beloved cà phê sữa đá; it is creamy, sweet and highly caffeinated.

    12 - Bún bò Huế (with video of the making)- Ravenous Couples

    Spicy, fiery red, and murky, the appearance of bún bò Huế is almost the antithesis of it’s better known Vietnamese soup counterpart, phở bò, which is valued for it’s clarity and pure clean flavors...

    13 - Bánh chuối nướng (Vietnamese banana bread pudding) - A food lover's journey

    This banana bread pudding is completely vegan and a breeze to make. No batter to be whipped up, we use up stale sandwich bread sitting on the counter. The bread is soaked in a mixture of coconut cream and brown palm sugar (or dark brown sugar). Then, alternate layers of bread and banana slices are assembled and baked. The result is a caramelised banana pudding that is soft, sweet with a really beautiful aroma of baked banana and coconut.

    14 - Bò kho (Vietnamese beef stew) - By Jeroxie

    I had Bò Kho a few times in Melbourne and always loved it. I thought I tried to make this for the last edition of Delicious Vietnam. It is very easy and totally a one pot wonder which is great for us. You can simmer it in a pot, cook it in a crock pot or even use the pressure cooker


    Winners of the giveaways! - generated by random number generator

    Two Indochine cookbooks go to: (1) - Alitelle de Bodard and (3)Angry Asian Creations

    Two Red Boat Fish Sauce (US residents only) go to: (10) Javaholic and (8) The culinary chronicles

    Congrats to the winners! And thank EVERYONE for being such a big part of Delicious Vietnam!!

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