Thursday 29 March 2007

Homemade Sushi

Since there are only 3 of us at home this week, decided to make sushi for dinner last night. Despite the fact that I have made these sushi for the 5th time this year, I still couldn't manage to roll the maki neatly :(

I find it very tricky to be able to spread the sushi rice evenly on the sheet of nori (Japanese seaweed). Even if I could get a decent rolled "log" of maki, I always "deformed" them when trying to slice it into pieces. Instead of neat round shapes, they ended up in irregular forms. I wonder how many times I must try before I could get a nice and neat on my maki?!

For the filling, I used crab meat sticks (my kids favorite), cucumber, salmon spread (ayam brand) and some pork floss. The combination of these ingredients was just right, although they were not the ones used in authentic California rolls.

With these basic ingredients, I made 4 types of sushi...Chumaki, Hosomaki, Gunkan-maki and Uramaki.

Maki Zushi
Maki Zushi or rolled sushi is made with a sheet of seaweed spread with vinegar flavored Japanese rice and then rolled up with different fillings. Hosomaki are small sushi rolls about 1 inch in diameter. I simply rolled up crab meat sticks with some mayonnaise to form these thin rolls. The medium ones are called Chumaki, around 1 1/2 inches wide. I have not ventured into making Futomaki which are large rolls, more than 2 inches wide.

Gunkan-Maki (Battleship Sushi)
These are special type of the nigiri zushi(finger sushi). Battleship sushi is make by wrapping a strip of seaweed around a small oval-shaped rice ball, and topped with soft fillings such as fish roe. The collar of nori that's wrapped around the rice ball make the sushi looks like a tiny vessel...hence the name battleship sushi. I made mine with pork floss and salmon spread toppings.

My younger boy enjoyed making the rice balls. Somehow, small kids simply like to play with anything that they could shape with their hands, like playdough and making sandcastles.

Uramaki Zushi (Reverse Maki)
These reverse maki or inside-out rolls are wrapped with the rice on the outside and the nori within. This is supposed to be easier to make than Chumaki as the sushi rice on the outside helps stick everything together when you roll it up. On the contrary, I found it more difficult as the filling couldn't stick on to the nori, as such they were not firmly bounded together. I coated the outer layer of rice with toasted black seasame. The seasame really enhanced the taste of the maki, and they were the most delicious of the lot!

Monday 26 March 2007

Dried Fig Muffins

Dried figs are very healthy snacks. A cup of figs will give as much calcium as a cup of milk. Besides being rich in calcium, they are also high in dietary fiber and contain other minerals such as iron, potassium, omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids. I used to eat quite a fair bit of dried figs when I was pregnant, they are really a good alternative source of calcium since I didn't really like milk.

I didn't know that dried figs could be added to muffins until I came across this recipe from a cookbook, Muffins by Williams-Sonoma. It didn't take me too long to get a pack of dried figs to try it out.

Unlike most muffin recipes where dried fruits are simply added to the batter, this recipe recommended that the dried figs be soaked in a mixture of orange zest, apple juice and melted butter for an hour. This softened the dried figs and turned them into a rich mahogany colour. When the muffins were still baking in the oven, my kitchen was filled with this sweet and enticing "perfume" of dried figs. The pleasant aroma lingered till the muffins were completely cooled. The muffins were a little on the sweet side (although I did cut down on the sugar a little), mainly due to the figs. My little one though I have added in a candy in the muffins ! The texture was a little dense, but overall the taste was really delicious. Definitely a wholesome and healthy bake, good for breakfast or as tea-time snacks.

(makes 11 muffins)

375g dried figs
90g unsalted butter
250ml apple juice
grated zest of 1 orange
315g plain flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
125g granulated sugar
60g dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract/essence

  1. Remove the stem and cut dried figs into quarters.
  2. Heat apple juice and butter in a saucepan over low heat until the butter is melted.
  3. Remove from heat and add in the figs and orange zest. Leave to cool until the figs are softened, about 1 hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 190 degC. Grease muffin cups with butter or line with muffin liners.
  5. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugars, salt and baking powder.
  6. Make a well in the centre and add the cooled fig mixture, eggs and vanilla. Stir until just combined. Do not overmix, the batter will be slightly lumpy.
  7. Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling to the rim of the cup.
  8. Bake for 20 ~ 25 mins, until golden, and toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Transfer muffin pan to cooling rack and let cool for 5 mins. Unmold the muffins and let cool completely.

Friday 23 March 2007

Chewy Oatmeal Raisins Cookies

Almost two months back, my friend gave me a pack of rolled oats. I have not used it as I have yet to come across any suitable recipes. Lately, I have set some basic requirements when it comes to baking recipes...the amount of sugar and fat to be used should not be too overwhelming so that I could still indulge on the bakes without expanding my waistline further ;)

I finally found this cookie recipe that uses roll oats, with only 1 egg and vegetable oil instead of butter. It's taken from a cookbook, Homemade Cookies by Jacqueline Bellefontaine. The method for making these oatmeal raisins cookies is almost similar to the muffin method, where the wet ingredients(milk, egg & oil) are added to the dry ingredients (flour, rolled oats, sugar, raisins) to form a soft dough. The cookies were lightly browned by around 10mins in the oven, and I gave it a couple more mins to reach golden brown.

This is the very first time I have tasted any cookies that are made of roll oats. I was slightly taken aback by the texture of the cookies. They differ from the familiar crunchy texture I always associate with cookies. Instead, they are rather chewy, probably due to the rolled oats...and the middle is soft and moist, a result of the use of liquid oil, I think. I don't know whether this is the right texture and I seriously think that they are like half-baked cookies!

I personally have yet to acquire the taste of such kind of cookies, but surprisingly, my better half finds it very delicious! Well, like what he commented, "These certainly tasted not like cookies and not like muffins either", but he likes it that way...

(makes about 36 cookies)

150g plain flour
150g rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
150g light brown sugar
50g raisins
1 egg
125ml vegetable oil (I used sunflower oil)
4 tablespoon milk


  1. Preheat oven to 200 deg C. Lightly grease a baking sheet (I lined the baking sheet with parchment paper for ease in cleaning).
  2. Mix together flour, oats, baking soda, sugar and raisins in a bowl. (I 'plump up' the raisins a little by soaking them in water for a couple of mins.)
  3. In another bowl, whisk together the egg, oil and milk.
  4. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg mixture. Mix together to form a soft dough.
  5. Place spoonfuls of dough well apart onto the baking sheet, and flatten slightly with the tines of a fork.
  6. Bake for about 10 mins. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an air-tight container.

Monday 19 March 2007

Banana Blueberry Bread

The one week school holidays is over. It was a good break for all of us. The boys are back to school and I had some quite moments this morning.

I had some left over blueberries and bananas, and decided to bake something with them. After looking through the various recipes I have gathered, a banana quick bread recipe from the Australian Women's Weekly cookbook series, Great Casual Food, caught my eye. I liked the fact that it uses 1 egg and only 20g of butter!

I added in blueberries, reduced the sugar amount, used low-fat milk and turned it to a Banana Blueberry Bread. I don't know whether this could be considered low-fat, but I would certainly feel less guilty if I eat more than 2 slices at a go.

The taste of quickbread is almost similar to muffins...this loaf turned out to be very soft and fluffy, especially when it was fresh out of the oven. The sweetness of the bananas blends very well with the slightly tangy blueberries. This recipe is certainly going to be the "base" for all my future banana quickbreads...besides being low fat, it's so easy to make! I am sure it can live up to other variations such as banana-strawberries; banana-orange, banana-raisins, and of course banana-chocolate chips.

(makes one loaf)

185g self-raising flour
20g butter
80g sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
60ml low fat milk
1/2 cup mashed banana (about 2)
1/2 cup fresh blueberries

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degC. Grease 14cm x 20cm loaf pan; line base with parchment paper.
  2. Working over a bowl, toss the blueberries with about 1 ~ 2 teaspoon of flour in a sieve, and set aside. Coating the blueberries with flour helps to keep them from sinking to the bottom of the muffins as they bake.
  3. Sift flour into a mixing bowl, rub in the butter with fingertips.
  4. Stir in sugar, egg, milk and mashed bananas. Do not over mix, the batter should be lumpy. Gently stir in blueberries and spoon mixture into loaf pan.
  5. Bake for 30 mins or until skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  6. Remove from oven, let cool for a few mins. Unmold and leave to cool completely.

Thursday 15 March 2007

Chocolate Swirl Bread

Ventured into making this challenging Chocolate Swirl Bread this morning.

When I first saw this recipe, posted by Ida of Baking Fiend, I thot I should only give it a try after I am more comfortable with bread-making. With the little success I had earlier with my wolf berries bread, I though I should be able to manage, although this is only my 4th attempt in bread-making. Little did I know, it turned out to be a really challenging task!

After more than 30 mins of continuous kneading, the stubborn dough still remained very sticky! Since I had already gone so far, I refused to give up. I continued to wrestle with the dough for another 10 more mins and it became less sticky and slightly smoother. By then, I was too tired, and had to surrender to the dough...I left it to proof, hoping for the very best.

Fortunately, the 1st proofing turned out fine.

I took out the chocolate filling which I made last night and tried to follow the instructions to wrap the dough with it. It appeared easy before the actual hiccup surfaced. While trying to roll the dough to the required size, the chocolate paste came oozing out. I tried to "patch" out with dough from the other sides, but it didn't really help. I quickly folded the dough as instructed and left it in the fridge for an hour...hoping it would help to freeze up the chocolate paste a little. The final step was real messy...I had the dough all covered with chocolate paste, after trying to twist and plait it...and the dough really looked horrendous!!!

Since I was already at the final step, I give it a shot and sent the dough into the oven after the final proofing. As I was attending to my younger son, I didn't have a chance to remove the bread from the oven on time. The top was almost burnt :'(

Naturally, with so many hiccups along the way, I wasn't able to achieve the numerous beautiful swirl as compared to those made by Ida. Luckily, other than the slightly burnt crust, the texture and taste of the bread was surprisingly good...soft, light, airy, and almost feathery! Half of the loaf was gone by tea time and my elder boy gave me a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars :))

It was only after making the bread that I managed to get to the original recipe in Japanese. The photos posted on the Japanese website will certainly help to give a better idea how to roll and shape the dough correctly in order to get the nice swirls. There is also a tip that says to cover the top with foil when the bread starts to brown to prevent it from getting burnt.

Tuesday 13 March 2007

Blueberry Cream Cheese Tart

When I saw a picture of this very delicious looking blueberry tart from a Chinese cookbook (甜心小妙厨), I thought I should give it a try. I like the way the tart is decorated, and it will be a good chance for me to practice my piping skill. The recipe looks simple, as it is quite similar to the no-bake oreo cheesecake I have done before. I have came across a low-fat cheesecake recipe, where cream cheese is mixed with yogurt. Hence, instead of the fresh cream called for in the recipe, I replaced it with non-fat plain yogurt. I was glad with what I did as the taste is really awesome, and it is a much healthier version.

The recipe in the cookbook didn't give any instructions on how to decorate the tart. I tried to follow by studying the picture. It turned out that my "stars" were too big, as such, after lining the blueberries in 2 circles, there was little room for the blueberry jam! I should have used a smaller piping tip. The tart was really out of proportion, as the "stars" were bigger than the blueberries :(

The cream cheese mixture was a little soft to handle when I tried to do the piping. In the end, some stars were big, some were small. It didn't help when my younger boy came over to have a hand in squeezing the piping bag. He found it rather interesting. We had fun placing the blueberries as we tried to look for those which were of the same size...he happily finished up the remaining "unwanted" blueberries.

My elder boy couldn't wait to eat the tart when he saw the finished product in the fridge. He missed out the fun as he was busy catching up with his holiday homework...poor fellow! He finally got this slice after dinner. He likes it very much and the slice was gone within seconds!

(makes one 18cm tart)

for the base:
125g digestive biscuits, crushed into fine crumbs
60g butter, melted

for filling:
1 tablespoon gelatin powder
40ml boiling water
250g cream cheese
50g icing sugar
1 cup non-fat plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/2 cup blueberries
3 tablespoon blueberry jam

  1. Mix biscuit crumbs & melted butter together and press firmly with the help of a spoon onto the base and side of a 18cm tart pan. Chill for 30 minutes.
  2. Place gelatin powder and boiling water in a bowl. Heat a pot filled with some water until just simmering and place the bowl inside the pot. Dissolve gelatin and boiling water in the bowl. Keep warm.
  3. With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese , icing sugar and vanilla essence until smooth and creamy.
  4. Add in yogurt and continue to beat till smooth. Blend in gelatin solution and mix well.
  5. Pour and spread the cheese mixture evenly on the biscuit base. With the remaining cheese mixture, pipe two rings of stars. Then, place two rings of blueberries and fill the centre with blueberry jam. Chill for 3 to 4 hours before serving.

Saturday 10 March 2007

Chocolate Chips Brownie Muffins

Woke up early this morning to make these brownie muffins for breakfast.

This is the second time I have made these rich muffins...they are brownies actually. I adapted the recipe...Pecan and Chocolate Brownies, from one of the Australia Woman's Weekly Cookbook series. I didn't regret getting up slightly earlier than my usual Saturday mornings. I am quite happy with the result of the above photo. This is one of the better photos I have taken so far. The early morning sun gives enough lighting for this shot, which I took in our study room. Most of my photos are too dark because of the poor lighting condition in my kitchen.

These brownie muffins or muffin brownies, were neither brownie-like or muffin-like!

They were less fudgy that brownies...slightly more cake-like. They didn't taste exactly like muffins either, as they were kind of dense as compared to the fluffy texture of the usual muffins I made. I would say they were a "cross" between the two. In terms of taste, they were really good! "Yummy! Very good but not very sweet." my younger boy was nodding his head off with approval. I have cut down on the sugar this time as they were too sweet when I first made them. If you have a sweet tooth, do feel free to add in extra sugar ;)

(makes 6 muffins, with diameter 2.5" by height 1.5" muffin cups)

80g butter, chopped into chunks
150g dark eating chocolate, chopped
100g sugar (the original recipe calls for 165g brown sugar)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g plain flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
A handful of chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 200 degC. Line muffin pan with paper liners.
  2. Sift together flour and cocoa powder, set aside.
  3. Place butter in a saucepan, melt over low heat. Once the butter starts to melt, add in the sugar. Stir to prevent sugar from getting burnt. Add in the chocolate and stir still smooth.
  4. Transfer chocolate mixture to a mixing bowl. Stir in the eggs gradually, followed by the vanilla extract, then the sifted flour & cocoa powder mixture. Stir till just incorporated.
  5. Divide batter into muffin cups. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and bake for 20 mins or until skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Do not over bake as the muffins may get dry.

Friday 9 March 2007

Japanese Curry Rice

One of the first few simple dishes which I have learnt after I picked up cooking, is the Japanese Curry Rice. My son fell in love with this dish after having tasted it at a foodcourt. I was very glad when I came across this ready mix sauce at the Cold Storage. It is one of the few Japanese products that have instructions printed in English. I followed the recipe and was able to get it right the first time. There are 3 different types of flavours available, Mild, Medium and Hot. I use the mild one as my younger boy still can't take spicy food. This sauce is in a curry block form, there is another type which is in liquid form, which I have not tried.

It's really a very simple dish where you just stir fry some onions, meat (be it chicken, seafood or beef) with some carrots and potato chunks. Add water to simmer till the vegetables are done (about 10~15 mins) then add in the curry blocks. Continue to simmer for another few more mins till the sauce is thicken. I cook this with only a saucepan, so cleaning up is especially easy. Serve the curry with Japanese rice...long-grain rice is just fine as well.

One thing to note though...your kitchen will be filled with this thick curry aroma (almost like authentic Indian curry)...and it lingers for a long while before the smell diffuses.

Wednesday 7 March 2007

Heng Hwa Noodles

I cooked this noodles or mee sua for dinner last night. It's my own "lazy" version of our traditional dish.

When he was still a child, my dad sailed from Putian City in Fujian province in the Southern China to Singapore. Our dialect is Putian Hwa, or more commonly known as Heng Hwa here in Singapore. It has been a tradition that we eat this mee sua dish early in the morning on the first day of lunar new year, every year. It's meant for longevity, the noodles are really very long! These noodles are much thicker than the usual mee sua. It's kind of difficult to get this type of noodles here. My dad usually bought them through his Heng Hwa contacts. As such, we would only be able to cook this dish during the lunar new year period. This dish is very well-liked by the adults and children in my extended family, including my husband and brothers/sisters-in-laws who are from different dialect groups. They look forward to it every lunar new year and all of them asked for 2nd servings without fail.

The other type of Heng Hwa noodles, which we call "pah mee" in our dialect, or the Chinese translation (打面) is commonly available at the wet markets here. Some locals here who have tried Heng Hwa cuisines will know that the dish is also called Heng Hwa Lor Mee. I will probably feature that dish in my later post.

Coming back to this mee consists of 3 parts...the soup, the noodles and the toppings. The soup is usually clear chicken soup, but for a change, I made pork rib soup instead. The noodles are boiled and drained and mixed in a bowl with some oil and chicken soup, almost like preparing pasta. The noodles will become very sticky if they are not mixed with some oil. The toppings are usually stir-fried assorted mushrooms with green beans. Besides that, deep-fried seaweeds and peanuts are a must to top off the dish. As I was too lazy to stir-fry the mushrooms, I cooked them in the pork rib soup, and simply blanch the green beans. Mine came out to be a less oily version, but the taste was still as good :))

Tuesday 6 March 2007

Just a loaf of bread

It's been quite a while since I last made a bread. I've wanted to try making one last week, but due to the rainy weather, I didn't attempt. I doubt the dough would rise properly when the weather was so cooling. My friend has told me that I could leave the dough in the oven (turn to a low temperature) to proof, but I was afraid that I might "kill" the yeast. Not that I am afraid of failure, but I didn't want my energy spent on 25mins of continuous kneading gone to waste ;p

I bought a loaf pan last week just so that I could make a loaf of bread. So far this is my 3rd attempt in bread-making. I made buns previously. This is my first try on loaf making. I was very happy with the result. The loaf looks so "traditional", like those bread made by traditional bakery shops.

I saw a toast bread recipe from this site and thought what a wonderful idea to have wolf berries (枸杞子) in the bread as they are supposed to be good for vision. I didn't follow the bread recipe as it didn't state how the texture of the bread will be like. I used the sweet buns dough instead, as my kids prefer breads that are soft and fluffy.

The effort spent on kneading the dough was really worth it. After popping the loaf into the oven, in no time, my kitchen was filled with a familiar aroma of fresh bread baking...just like the alluring aroma coming from a bakery. The bread is soft and fluffy, but somehow, I couldn't achieve the same kind of "swirl" inside the loaf as shown by this photo. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the entire bread-making session this morning. This little success really gives me the boost to try more challenging bread next time.

Sunday 4 March 2007

Marsha Marsha Monkey

This is meant to be a valentine's day cake. I know, it's way too belated. But both my boys were down with 40degC fever on valentine's I didn't have the energy to bake this. It's no joke having to wake up every other hour in the middle of the night to check both their temperatures, and it was like that for a few nights in a row! Then, my better half was away for overseas work and didn't return until last night. Anyway, since today is the 15th day of the Chinese New Year, it's also the Chinese version of the valentine's day. So I merrily set off to bake this Chocolate Banana Cake with marshmallow toppings.

I really have to brush up on my cake frosting/decorating skills. As you can see, in terms of how it looks, this cake "really cannot make it!" :'(

Since I can't really make any piped decorations, I used heart-shaped marshmallows to dress-up the cake a little. In fact, it was my elder boy who helpped me with the decoration.

The only thing that I was satisfied with was how the sponge cake turned out. This time round, I sifted the cocoa with flour three demonstrated in Alice Medrich's video clip. (The video clip shows her making a Chocolate Genoise Cake with Julia Child.) There were tiny undissolved cocoa lumps in my previous chocolate sponge. This didn't happen this time round. I was also delighted that I could cut the cake into 3 layers. Again, thanks to the video clip by Alice Medrich.

I used a chocolate ganache made with just pouring cream and dark chocolate. As for the filling, I didn't like the idea of buttercream (too much fat), so I used the same chocolate ganache, but added in a 2 teaspoon of instant coffee and 2 teaspoon of sugar as I thought it would be a little bitter for my boys.

Despite its look, the cake is really yummy. It's rich, but not too rich (hope you understand what I mean), and the banana really goes very well with the chocolate filling. As for the recipe, I borrowed ideas here and there, and came up with the following version.

(make one 20cm round cake)

for sponge cake:
4 eggs, bring to room temperature
100g sugar
100g cake flour
20g cocoa powder
60g butter, melted

for chocolate frosting:
4 fl oz pouring cream (I used nestle's)
4 oz dark chocolate

for filling:
4 fl oz pouring cream
4 oz dark chocolate
2 tsp instant coffee
2 tsp sugar
3 ~ 4 bananas, cut into slices


For sponge cake:
1. Triple sift the cocoa powder and cake flour, set aside. Grease and line a 20cm round pan, set aside. Melt butter and set aside. Pre-heat oven to 180degC.

2. With an electric mixer, whisk eggs and sugar on HIGH speed for about 5 to 7mins, until the batter double in volume and is ribbon-like (the beater should leave a ribbon-like texture when the batter is lifted up). Turn to LOW speed and whisk for another 1 to 2 mins. Whisking at low speed helps to stablise the air bubbles in the batter.

3. Sift over the cocoa and cake flour mixture into the batter. With a spatula, gently fold in the flour mixture until well blended.

4. With a spatula, mix about 1/3 of the batter with the melted butter in a bowl. Fold in this mixture into the remaining batter. This method will help to ensure the butter will be fully blended and at the same time will not deflate the batter.

5. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 20 to 25mins, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from pan and cool completely.

For the frosting:
Place pouring cream and chocolate in a saucepan over low heat. Stir until melted and smooth. Set aside for 10mins before frosting the cake.

For the filling:
Slice bananas into pieces and squeeze some lemon juice over them. This helps to prevent the bananas from turning brown.

Place pouring cream, instant coffee, sugar and dark chocolate in a saucepan over low heat. Stir until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool before filling the cake.

Assemble the cake
Cut the cake into 3 layers. Place one of the cake layers cut-side down on a cake plate. Spread the coffee chocolate filling over the layer. Arrange rings of banana slices to cover the whole layer. Top with another cake layer. Repeat the same for the second layer. Top with the 3rd layer, cut-side up. Spread the chocolate ganache over the top and side of the cake. Decorate as desired.