Wednesday 26 September 2012

homemade gift

Homemade gift for a special friend,

someone who shares the same passion for baking...

someone who fares way better than me in keeping....
her household of three active children with a full time job and without a helper...

someone who cares to listen to a housewife's never ending ramblings...

Freshly baked mooncakes for my friend....with my lack of skills, they are nothing close to store bought ones...

but, as the saying goes, best gifts come from the heart, not the wallet...

well, I do feel thick-skinned to give my humble mooncakes away...for my friend would need to pay a high price for them...

that is, for wasting her calories on yucky food, paiseh paiseh (^_^''')

little fishes...

tiny rabbits....

specially for her children...I don't think they will mind the empty calories ;)

Recipe from here and here.

Friday 21 September 2012

weeknight special

A medley of colour...ready to pop into the oven...

25 minutes later...

dinner was ready...

our weeknight special...roasted seabass with potatoes, tomatoes, celery, rosemary, garlics, lemon,  olive oil, salt and pepper...

I can't believe I am actually capable enough to pull together a dish like this!

Well, since there is no real cooking involved...even a lousy cook like me could prepare this meal without feeling intimidated ;)

My kitchen was filled with the lovely aroma of rosemary while the fish was cooking in the oven. I love rosemary! The fish didn't taste dry even though it was cooked uncovered. It tasted just like steamed fish.

It's the first time I have eaten roasted fish with potatoes...somehow I feel that the potatoes are a bit out of place here...maybe because I am so used to roasted chicken and potatoes. I probably need a bit of getting used to such combo. The tomatoes and celery went well with the fish though. I do not know the origin of this dish, but it reminds me of Mediterranean cuisine. It is a very healthy, nutritious meal (to me)...there is fish and lots of roasted vegetables, the dish is light as it is seasoned with only salt and pepper. This is something I will 'cook' again and again...

Roasted Seabass with Potatoes & Tomatoes


2~3 floury potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 fresh sea bass, gutted and cleaned
4 sprigs rosemary, roughly chopped
8 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 lemon, slice 1/2 of the lemon, reserve the other half
2 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
8 ~ 10 cherry tomatoes
sea salt
freshly grounded black pepper
olive oil


- Preheat oven to 220 degC.
- Put potatoes into a pot of water with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and continue to cook for about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Make a few diagonal slashes on the flesh of the fish. Rub the fish with a mild seasoning of salt, pepper and olive oil. Place some rosemary sprigs, some garlic cloves, 1 to 2 lemon slices inside the cavity of the fish.
- Lightly grease a baking dish with olive oil (or use a roasting pan lined with baking paper). Place some celery, rosemary sprigs, garlic cloves in the dish and lay the fish on top of the vegetables. Place the par-boiled potatoes, cherry tomatoes, remaining garlic, celery, rosemary sprigs and lemon slices around the fish. Sprinkle sea salt, freshly grounded black pepper and a good drizzle of olive oil.
- Roast for about 25 ~ 30mins until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Serve with a squeeze of the remaining half lemon along with the roasted vegetables.

Recipe source: adapted from Food and Travel magazine

Wednesday 19 September 2012

weekend breakfast

I know, it is only mid-week, pardon me for blogging about a weekend breakfast (*^_^*)

For me to be able to post this before the end of the week is already quite an achievement. There are so many things I want need to do, but most of the time, I can't accomplish all that I have planned for the week. Well, I'll have to learn to be less ambitious and lower my expectations for myself.

We don't have the luxury of having a lazy breakfast on a weekend morning as we have to leave the house early. But, over the last weekend, I managed to prepare something extraordinary for my children (at least it was not the usual sandwich slices with nutella). This egg gratin or baked eggs in ramekins dish was almost like a light brunch. My elder child loves it hard boiled, soft boiled, sunny side ups, omelette or scrambled, just give him eggs and he will be happy. This meal is prepared specially for him and I know his brother will enjoy it too ;)

I didn't manage to get a picture of the inside...but underneath the 'supposedly soft and runny' egg lies a bed of stir-fried garlic, mushrooms and ham. I over baked the eggs a little, on purpose actually, allowing the yolks to be almost fully cooked through, just to play safe. As a result, it didn't look anywhere close to the photo illustration in the cookbook, which shows a very fluffy, almost pop-out-of-the-page, soft-boiled egg texture. Mine turn out to be as flat as pancake, but the middle of the yolk was still soft albeit not too runny. One special thing to note is, the eggs are cooked over a hot-water bath. I googled and read from here that the purpose is to allow the eggs to set nicely.

This dish is not as time consuming to prepare even though it requires cooking over a stove. As long as you mentally run through the steps involved, this meal can be pulled together in less than 30 minutes, much less if you have extra pairs of hands, but I am too 'kind' to wake up my kids to ask them to help up on a weekend morning.

Both my kids enjoyed the meal, they find the mushrooms and ham fillings really tasty. Of course, I have learned not to over cook the eggs, I am sure a softer and fluffier texture will wake up every single sleepy cell in their bodies ;)

Baked Eggs in Ramekins

(serves 2)

1/4 yellow onion coarsely chopped (I replaced with 2-3 cloves garlic, minced)
4 button mushrooms, coarsely sliced
2 slices of hams, diced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I replaced with one knob of butter)
2 eggs
some salt and freshly grounded black pepper
some butter for greasing


- Preheat oven to 180degC.
- Grease two ramekins with some butter and set aside.
- Heat the vegetable oil (or butter) in a frying pan, add in chopped onions and cook till the onions softened (or saute garlic till fragrant). Add in sliced mushrooms, diced ham and saute till mushroom is cooked. Season with some salt and pepper.
- Divide the cooked mushroom and ham mixture into the two prepared ramekins*. Crack one egg into each ramekin. Sprinkle some salt and freshly grounded pepper on top of the egg.
- Place the ramekins inside a baking pan or baking dish. Pour hot water into the baking pan until it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekin. Carefully, carry baking pan to the oven, position it in the middle rack (note: the ramekins may slide when you carry it). Bake for 10~14 mins or until the whites are set and the yolks are still runny. Remove from oven immediately as the eggs will continue to set. Since every oven works differently, after 10mins of cooking, check every minute for doneness. Depending on how you want your eggs to be done, extend cooking time for another 1 to 2 mins as desired.   Serve immediately with toast or warm bread.

*size of my heart-shape ramekin: fills /2/3 cup (160ml) of water

Recipe Source: adapted from Cafe Brunch 星期天的料理时光

Friday 14 September 2012

just for the record

I though it would take a while for me to update my blog, but I am glad I am able to do it much sooner. You see, I wasn't in the best mood to blog about anything, and had even harboured thoughts of giving it up altogether.

Thanks to these simple and tasty bacon and olive bread buns, I knew, I just need a good recipe ('good' here refers to simple and fuss free) to keep me get me tuned on to the 'I must certainly share this recipe on my blog' mode.

Just like someone who left a comment on my blog, I didn't make these bread rolls all by myself. Yes, I relied on a bread machine to knead the dough. Other than that, everything was DIY, with my own pair of hands. The person's comment, at least as I have interpreted it, suggested that I got someone else to make the bread buns I posted sometime back. It was too good to be true, as the recipe I posted didn't work for this person at all. The other couple of 'accusations' that came with the comment certainly dampened my spirit. I started wondering whether what I have been doing all these while is really worth the effort? I know I should just ignore the comment, but I just didn't feel good.

Luckily, I bought a new book recently, it was on huge discount, and there are many recipes which I couldn't wait to try. I decided on these simple bread rolls to kick off the list. They are made with a straight dough method, no starter or water roux to complicate matters. I thought it would yield bread rolls with a hard crust, but I was wrong. They are soft dinner rolls instead. The buns are still soft the following day, I warmed them in the oven and slapped some butter over it for breakfast. It tastes equally delicious on its own too. I would add a pinch of mixed herbs the next time I were to make them...and serve them with thick, creamy soup as a light meal :)

最近的天气阴阴沉沉的,心情因为某种因素也灰灰的。莫名其妙被人冠上莫须有的罪名,第一时间就设法澄清。过后又觉得清者自清,况且人家在暗我在明,无需费舌解释, 只会越描越黑。可是自己心里还是放不下,很是纠结。尤其被人质疑我假手于人,真有点哭笑不得。还好买了一本好书,虽是食谱却像coffee table book, 令我爱不释手,翻了又翻。成功试做了这款培根黑橄榄面包,心情也跟着好起来,迫不及待要在这里分享。虽然没有假手于人, 不过还是借用面包机来操刀,帮我揉面团。用直接法做出来的面包还蛮松软的。培根和橄榄有点咸咸的,不过面包本身带点甜味,口感不错。刚出炉的面包配上一点牛油,很香很香。之前阴霾的心情也随着面包香一扫而空。多亏了这款面包,看来我还是会傻傻地继续与读者分享烘焙的喜悦和乐趣。

Bacon Olive Bread

(makes 8 small rolls)

220g bread flour
20g cake flour
15g milk powder
35g caster sugar
4g salt
160g milk
25g olive oil
6g instant yeast
70g bacons (about 3 slices)
30g black olives


* Chop bacons into small chunks. Pan fry in a skillet or frying pan until bacons become crispy. Remove from pan and drain any excess oil on paper towels. Set aside to cool. Coarsely chop black olives, set aside (if necessary absorb any excess moisture from the black olives with paper towels).

to knead dough by bread machine:
* Place milk, olive oil, sugar, salt, bread flour, cake flour, milk powder in the pan of the bread machine (according to the sequence as stated in the instruction manual of your bread machine). Make an indentation on the flour and add in the instant yeast. Select the Dough function of the bread machine and press start. Let the machine knead the dough until the kneading cycle stops after 20mins. Remove dough from the bread pan.

to knead dough by hand:
* Place bread flour, cake flour, milk powder, sugar, salt and instant yeast in a mixing bowl. Whisk the mixture to combine. Make a well in the centre and add in the milk and olive oil. Mix to form a rough dough. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough until it no longer sticks to your hand, becomes smooth and elastic. This should take about 20~30 mins. It helps to have a dough scraper on hand to scape up the dough as you knead since the dough will be quite sticky at first.

* Place dough in a lightly greased mixing bowl, cover with cling wrap or a damp cloth and let proof in room temperature (around 28 to 30 degC) for about one hour, or until double in bulk.

* Remove the dough from the bowl and give a few light kneading to press out the gas in the dough. Knead in the chopped olives and bacons. Dust the dough with some flour if it feels sticky. Divide the dough into 8 equal portions, about 65g each (or as per original recipe, divide into 6 portions, 80g each ). Roll each dough into smooth rounds. Place dough on a greased (or lined with parchment paper) baking tray. Space doughs two inches apart to allow them to expand. Cover with damp cloth or cling wrap and leave doughs to proof for the second time for about 40mins, or until double in size.

* Bake in pre-heated oven at 180 deg C for 15 mins or until golden brown. Remove from oven and transfer to wire track to let cool. Once cool, store immediately in an airtight container.

Recipe source: Happy Baking 星期天的烘焙时光

Wednesday 5 September 2012

slow food so good

I'm normally not an advocate for slow cooking. If you have been following my blog, you would have noticed that I usually go for quick and simple dishes that could be put together under 30 minutes. It came with no surprise that I have been keeping this 'Taiwanese-style braised pork with rice' recipe for more than a year and no actions taken until recently. I can't remember how it surfaced from my piles of recipes, but I am really glad that I attempted something seemingly complicated and beyond my cooking skills. A quick glance at the long list of ingredients almost made me wanted to strike it off the list. After reading the instructions a couple of times and mentally going through the steps, I thought it really isn't as difficult as I have imagined it to be.

This slow dish is really worth the extra effort. The braised pork was very fragrant and delicious. The five spice powder and the fried shallots added so much flavour to the dish. I think these two ingredients are key to achieving the authentic taste. The strange thing was, the fragrant reminded me so much of nyonya bak chang (glutinous rice dumpling)! Everyone enjoyed the meal and all gave thumbs up to this one-bowl dish. My better half nodded with approval and assured me the taste was very close to the one he had in Taipei. Of course, I choose to believe him even if it was a white lie ;)

Braised Pork with Rice (台式卤肉饭)

(serves 4)

10 shallots
4 ~ 6 eggs
10 dried shiitake mushrooms
10g dried shrimps (hay bee, 虾米)
500g pork belly
1 thumb size old ginger (about 5g), minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon oil
2 teaspoons five spice powder (I used only 1~1.5 tsp)
2 star anise (八角)
2 tablespoons Shao Hsing Hua Tiao wine
3 tablespoons fried shallots*
2 tablespoons light soya sauce
1 tablespoon dark soya sauce
30g rock sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
some water


*to make fried shallots, peel about 10 shallots, cut into thin slices. Pan fry with oil until golden (turn off the heat once the shallots turn golden, it gets burnt easily). Drain on paper towel and leave to cool. Reserve the oil. Alternatively, you can use ready made fried shallots.

- Place eggs (use room temperature eggs, cold eggs may crack easily upon boiling) in a pot and fill with enough water to cover the eggs, add a pinch of salt (to prevent eggs from cracking). Boil for about 10mins. Remove from pot and place eggs in cold water(easier to peel the shells). Peel and remove the shells. Set aside.

- Wash dried mushrooms, soak in water for 30mins. Drain and cut into 0.5cm small cubes. Reserve the water. Wash dries shrimps, soak in water for 30mins or until soften. Drain and minced. Wash and cut pork belly into 1 cm cubes. Blanch in boiling water for about 3 mins. Rinsed the blanched pork belly, drain and set aside.

- Heat 1 tablespoon oil (reserved from frying shallots) in a wok. Stir fry minced ginger, garlic and dried shrimps till fragrant. Add in five spice powder and star anise, stir fry till fragrant. Add in blanched pork belly, stir fry till browned. Add mushrooms, toss to combine.  Add shao hsing wine by pouring it over the side of the wok, toss to combine. Add in fried shallots, light soya sauce, dark soya sauce, rock sugar, toss and stir fry to combine. Add the reserved water from soaking the mushrooms. Top with more water until it covers all the ingredients. Bring to a boil.

- Transfer everything to a claypot or casserole (note: the water level should be over the ingredients by at least 2 inches). Add in the hard boiled eggs. Cover with lid and leave to simmer for about 1.5hrs (turn the eggs around in between the cooking time). Add in salt and continue to simmer for another 10mins. Remove from heat. There should still be some sauce remaining when the dish is done, the sauce will appear glossy and thickened (from the fat of the pork belly).

- Serve with rice and blanched xiao bai cai (baby bok choy).

Recipe source: 贝太厨房