Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Gingerbread Xmas Trees

These gingerbread Christmas trees are both fun and easy to make, and, what's more, the kids will love them!
Hang them as part of decorations on your Xmas tree or give them away to friends and family as gifts :)

You can use any shaped cookie cutter you like to make these gingerbread cookies.


Makes 20

Ingredients

125g butter, at room temperature
½ cup (firmly packed) brown sugar
½ cup golden syrup
1 egg, separated
2¼ cups plain flour
1 tbs ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Plain flour, to dust
1 cup pure icing sugar, sifted
20 drops red liquid food colouring (adjust as required)
10 drops green liquid food colouring (adjust as required)
Smarties, to decorate

Method
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line 2 large baking trays.
  2. Use an electric beater to beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until pale and creamy. Add the golden syrup and egg yolk and beat until combined. Sift over the flour, ginger, mixed spice and soda then use a large spoon to fold and combine. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Press dough into a disc. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
  3. Meanwhile, place egg white in a clean, dry bowl. Use an electric beater to beat together the icing sugar and egg white until stiff peaks form. Divide icing among 2 bowls (3:1 ratio). Add green colouring to the bowl with more icing and stir until combined. Add red colouring to remaining bowl and stir until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.
  4. After 30 minutes, bring dough to room temperature, then divide in two. Place the dough between 2 sheets of baking paper and roll out until about 4mm thick. Use a Xmas tree cutter to cut out shapes. Place on trays about 3cm apart to allow for spreading. Repeat with any excess dough.
  5. Bake in oven for 7 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven. Transfer to a rack to cool. If you're making these as part of Christmas decorations, use a skewer to quickly make 5mm holes at the top of the warm biscuits to thread ribbon.
  6. When biscuits have cooled completely, place prepared icings in small plastic/snap-lock bags or disposable piping bags, pushing icing into a corner, then cut a small hole in a corner of each bag. Pipe icing over gingerbread trees to decorate. Finish with Smarties. Thread ribbon in holes if using as Xmas decoration.
  7. The biscuits will keep in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
Decorating Tips

Allow biscuits to cool completely prior to decorating.

When you fill the bag with icing, use a spatula and be sure to fill it only halfway. It may help to fold the bag over a few times before filling it. Next, twist the end of the bag, removing any air bubbles and forcing the icing toward the tip. For most techniques, you’ll be holding the bag at a 45 or 90 degree angle. Your dominant hand exerts the pressure while your other hand simply guides the bag’s path on the biscuit.

If you accidentally over-bake your gingerbread cookies, place them in a sealed container layered with some fresh bread for a few hours to overnight (depends how hard your gingerbread are). The cookies will draw moisture from the bread making it nice and soft again. This trick also works if you have hard sugar.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Chicken Caesar Salad


Ingredients

2 chicken breast fillets
2 eggs
8 bacon rashers, rind removed, cut crossways into thin strips
2 baby cos lettuce, leaves separated, washed, dried
300ml Caesar salad dressing
40g Parmesan cheese, shaved
croutons


Method
  1. Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper, add to pan and cook for 4-5 minutes each side or until cooked through. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil. Set aside for 10 minutes to rest. Thinly slice across the grain. 
  2. Meanwhile, place the eggs in a small saucepan of cold water and bring to the boil, stirring often to create a whirlpool (to centre yolks). Reduce heat to low and gently simmer, uncovered, for 6 minutes (for medium boiled eggs). Drain and cool under cold running water. Peel and thinly slice.  
  3. Heat the frying pan over high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until crisp.
  4. Arrange the chicken, egg, croutons and lettuce on a serving platter. Drizzle with the Caesar salad dressing and sprinkle with bacon and shaved Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Chinese Green Beans


Ingredients

450g fresh green beans (washed and ends trimmed)
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon corn flour
½ teaspoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon sesame oil
¼  teaspoon red chilli flakes
1-2 tablespoon vegetable oil

Method

  1. Place beans in a bowl or dish. Put a steamer rack in the wok, add water to cover the rack. Bring the water to boil then place the dish on the rack. Cover wok and steam on high heat for 5 minutes. Then transfer to an ice bath immediately to stop the cooking process and to keep the beans crisp.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the water, corn flour, soy sauce, brown sugar, red chilli flakes and sesame oil in a small jug. Drain the beans into a colander.
  3. Heat the oil in a wok over high heat, then add garlic and ginger and stir fry for 30 seconds. Add beans and stir fry for about 3-5 minutes.
  4. Pour the sauce mixture onto the beans and stir fry for 30 seconds to 1 minute, ensuring beans are thoroughly coated with the sauce. Turn off the heat and serve immediately.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Chilli Fried Rice Noodles

Here's a simple Asian stir-fry recipe, that's on the spicy side! You might want to have a glass of water nearby when eating this dish :P


Ingredients

1kg fresh rice noodles
2 tablespoons oil
1-2 onions, sliced
4 small fresh red chillies, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 cups bean sprouts, firmly packed
2 sticks celery, sliced
4 green shallots, chopped
2 tablespoons oil, extra
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce

Method

  1. Heat oil in wok over medium high heat. Add oinons and stir fry until they are lightly browned.
  2. Add chilli, Chinese rice wine and garlic. Stir-fry for about 30 seconds.
  3. Add bean sprouts, celery and shallots into wok. Stir-fry until vegetables are just tender, then remove them from the wok and onto a plate.
  4. Heat the extra oil in wok, add noodles and stir gently until heated through. Add the vegetable mixture and soy sauces, stir-fry until heated through and all ingredients are mixed together well.
Notes & Tips

Halve the amount of chilli in this dish if you prefer a milder and less spicy dish

    Monday, December 14, 2009

    Pan Fried Salmon Cutlet with Tomatoes

    This is a very home style dish that my mum used to make. It's super easy to cook and pretty healthy also!



    Ingredients

    1-2 salmon cutlets
    4 tomatoes
    3 tbs tomato sauce
    1 ½ tbs sweet chilli sauce
    ½ tsp salt
    ½ tsp sugar
    3-4 shallots, sliced
    1-2 tbs oil

    Method

    1. In a bowl, mix together the tomato sauce, sweet chilli sauce, sugar and salt. Set aside
    2. Heat oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Cook the fish for 3 minutes each side or until cooked to your liking. Transfer to a plate.
    3. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add tomatoes, shallots and sauce to pan. Stir fry for 1-2 minutes, until all ingredients are warmed through and tomatoes are coated with the sauce.
    4. Pour the tomatoes and sauce over the salmon cutlets. Serve hot with jasmine rice. Enjoy!

    Friday, December 11, 2009

    Mango Lassi

    This Indian beverage is made with a delicious combination of mangoes, yogurt and a touch of mint. The perfect accompaniment to an Indian meal.


    Serves 2

    Ingredients

    2 ripe mangoes, peeled and chopped (approx. 2 cups)
    1 cup natural yogurt
    3 tablespoons sugar (adjust to taste)
    Ice cubes (as needed)

    Method

    1. Blend the mangoes, yogurt, and sugar in the blender until smooth and creamy
    2. Add the ice cubes, if desired.
    3. Pour into glasses. Garnish with mint sprigs and serve chilled.

    Notes & Tips

    The sugar can be adjusted to taste and it depends on the taste of the mangoes and yogurt.

    If fresh mangoes are not in season, you can use tinned Indian Alphonso mango puree. Replace the 2 ripe mangoes with 2 cups of mango puree in this recipe.

    Thursday, December 10, 2009

    Tandoori Chicken

    Make sure to use spices bought from an Indian grocery store to obtain the true and authentic flavours of India!


    Note: The chicken can be substituted with lamb to make tandoori lamb :)


    Serves 4-6

    Ingredients

    1 kg chicken pieces or fillets
    200g natural yoghurt
    1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated finely
    1 tbsp garlic, grated finely
    1-2 tbsp tandoori paste (Taj Mahal brand)
    2 tsp cumin seeds, ground
    2 tsp ground coriander
    1 tsp garam masala
    ½ tsp chilli powder
    ½ tsp turmeric powder
    Salt to taste
    Yoghurt mint sauce, to serve
    Roti or basmati rice, to serve

    Yoghurt Mint Sauce

    1 cup plain yoghurt
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander
    1 tablespoon chopped mint
    1 teaspoon chilli powder

    Method

    1. Trim away any excess fat from chicken. Prick the flesh of the chicken all over with a fork to allow the marinade to penetrate.
    2. In a bowl mix together the yoghurt, salt, ginger, garlic, chilli, coriander, cumin, ground corinader, garam masala, turmeric and tandoori paste. Rub mixture into chicken, cover and refrigerate. Leave to marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight for a better result.
    3. Pre-heat the oven to 220°C. 
    4. Place chicken on rack over baking dish. Bake for 10 minutes or until chicken is tender. It is not necessary to turn the meat during cooking. 
    5. Cut into bite sized pieces if desired before serving with yoghurt mint sauce.

    For the Mint Sauce: Combine all the ingredients and mix thoroughly.

    Black Pepper Steak

    If you've ever wondered how to achieve that soft, tender meat that you get from your local Chinese restaurant at home, then wonder no more. The Chinese method of tenderising meat is to marinate thinly sliced meat for a couple of hours and to use ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) for each 500g of meat. I've used fillet steak for the following recipe, however you can use a cheaper cut of meat when using this form of marinating since it will tenderise the meat so much, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference! Great tip for home cooks especially when watching the budget :)


    Ingredients

    750g beef eye fillet (in one piece)
    1-2 onions, sliced
    ½ teaspoon sesame oil
    2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine (Shao Hsing wine)
    2 teaspoons sugar
    2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
    1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
    ½ tsp baking soda
    1-2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns, crushed
    1-2 shallots, sliced

    Method

    1. Partly freeze steak, cut into thin slices. 
    2. Combine steak, onions, sesame oil, Chinese rice wine, sugar, ginger, soy sauce and baking soda in bowl. Cover, marinate several hours or refrigerate overnight.
    3. Stir peppercorns through steak mixture.
    4. Barbecue steak and onions over high heat (or stir fry in wok) until steak is cooked as desired.
    5. Sprinkle shallots over beef. Serve with rice

    Chinese Cabbage Stir Fry

    Smell the wonderful aroma of the vegetables cooking in hot garlic oil as you stir fry this quick and easy Asian meal.


    Serves 2

    Ingredients

    4-5 cups Chinese cabbage, sliced into 1 inch lengths
    1 cup carrots, julienned or cut into thin strips
    3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
    2 tbsp oyster sauce
    ½ tsp sugar
    ½ cup water
    Salt and pepper, to taste
    2 tbsp oil

    Method
    1. Pour oil into wok and heat it over high heat until it starts to smoke slightly.
    2. Put in the garlic and stir until slightly golden
    3. Put in the cabbage and carrot and hear the loud sizzle in your wok.
    4. Stir fry quickly for about 2 minutes.
    5. Add water, give the vegetables a good stir and cover the wok for about 2 minutes.
    6. Remove cover and put in the rest of the seasoning. Turn off the heat and serve immediately.
    Notes & Tips

    Vegetarians: Substitute oyster sauce with vegetarian oyster sauce 

    Sunday, December 6, 2009

    Udon Noodles

    December is a very busy time for most of us, so here's a very simple and easy dish to cook during the week. It's even got the colours of Christmas- red and green! Enjoy :)


    Ingredients

    400g udon noodles
    225g minced pork
    ½ cup each of julienned green and red capsicum
    1 tbsp garlic, chopped
    2 tbsp oyster sauce
    1 tbsp light soy sauce
    3 tbsp vegetable oil
    salt and pepper, to taste
    sesame oil

    Method

    1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil over high heat. Cook the noodles for 2 to 4 minutes, stirring to separate the strands, until they are tender. 
    2. Heat the oil in a wok over medium high heat then add the chopped garlic. Stir fry the garlic till fragrant then add the minced pork. Add the julienned peppers when pork is beginning to brown. Stir fry for a few minutes and mix together all ingredients.
    3. Drain the noodles and add in to the pork mince and capsicum mixture. Add in oyster sauce and soy sauce. Stir-fry until noodles are heated through and adjust the taste with salt and pepper.
    4. Sprinkle with sesame oil before serving.

    Thursday, December 3, 2009

    Thai Beef Salad


    Ingredients

    3 cloves garlic, minced
    4 coriander roots, finely chopped
    ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    3 tablespoons oil
    400-500g piece rump or sirloin steak
    125g-200g mixed salad leaves
    125g cherry tomatoes
    ½ small red onion, finely sliced
    fresh coriander and mint leaves, chopped




    Dressing

    2 tablespoons fish sauce
    2 tablespoons lime juice
    1 tablespoon caster sugar or soft brown sugar
    1-2 red chillies, chopped
    1 tablespoon mint, finely chopped
    1 tablespoon red onion, finely chopped



    Method
    1. Combine the chopped garlic and coriander roots, black pepper and 2 tablespoons of the oil. If you have a mortar and pestle, use it to finely grind the mixture. Alternatively, blend the mixture well in a food processor or blender. Spread the mixture evenly over the steak.
    2. Heat the remaining oil in a heavy based frying pan or wok over high heat. Add the steak to the pan and cook for about 4 minutes each side, turning the steak once only during the cooking time. Remove the steak from the pan and allow to cool.
    3. Meanwhile, wash the salad leaves and cut the cherry tomatoes in half. Arrange the prepared leaves on a serving plate and arrange the cherry tomatoes over the top with the sliced onions.
    4. Prepare dressing by combining all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
    5. Cut the cooled steak across the grain into thin strips and arrange over the salad leaves. Drizzle with the dressing and scatter the fresh mint leaves over the top. Serve immediately.

    Minted Pork & Mango Salad

    The weather has been pretty hot lately so I've been making lots of salads. This minted pork and mango salad is one of my favourites :)

    In this recipe I use mangoes but I have substituted them with ripe papaya when it hasn't been mango season and it still works for this recipe.


    Ingredients

    1 tbsp vegetable oil
    500g lean pork mince
    60g canned water chestnuts, chopped
    2 stalks fresh lemongrass, finely chopped
    2 tbsp lime juice
    1 tbsp fish sauce
    60g bean sprouts
    3 green onions (shallots/scallions)
    4 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
    2 tbsp coriander, chopped
    freshly ground black pepper
    200g assorted lettuce leaves
    1-2 mangoes, peeled and sliced
    60g toasted hazelnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)

    Method

    1. Heat oil in a wok over a medium heat. Add pork, water chestnuts, and lemongrass and stir fry until pork is browned. Remove from wok and set aside to cool.
    2. Place pork mixture, lime juice, and fish sauce in a bowl and mix to combine. Add beansprouts, green onions, mint, coriander and black pepper to taste, and toss gently.
    3. Line a serving platter with lettuce leaves, then top with mangoes and pork mixture. Sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts or pecans.
    Note:
    This salad can be prepared to the end of step 2 several hours in advance. Cover and keep at room temperature. If preparing more than 2 hours in advance store in the refrigerator and remove 30 minutes before you are ready to assemble and serve it.

    Wednesday, November 25, 2009

    Garlic Chives Omelette

    I had a bunch of garlic chives sitting in the fridge today so I thought I'd make a simple home style Chinese stir fry for dinner tonight. This dish is so simple to make and is ready to eat in minutes! Perfect to make on a busy night.


    Serves 2

    Ingredients

    1 bunch garlic chives, chopped
    4-5 large eggs, lightly beaten
    Salt and pepper, to taste
    1-2 tbsp vegetable oil

    Method

    1. Heat wok over medium high heat. Add vegetable oil, then add the chopped garlic chives
    2. Add beaten eggs, salt and pepper, then fry until eggs are set and brown
    3. Serve hot with jasmine rice

    Sunday, November 22, 2009

    Steamed Chicken Wings with Chinese Mushroom and Chinese Sausage

    Another Cantonese home-cooked meal.... steaming food is great on a hot day since you don't need to stand next to a hot stove to cook it :) It was 41 degrees Celsius here in Sydney today!

    Serves 2

    Ingredients

    10 pieces of chicken mid wings
    6 dried or fresh shitake mushrooms
    1 pair of Chinese sausage

    Marinade

    1 tablespoon grated ginger
    1 tablespoon green onions, finely chopped
    1 tablespoon light soy sauce
    1 tablespoon soy sauce
    1 tablespoon oyster sauce
    1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine (Shaoxing rice wine)
    1 teaspoon sugar
    1 teaspoon sesame oil
    ¼-½ teaspoon ground white pepper
    1 tablespoon cornflour
    2 tablespoon chicken stock

    Method

    1. If using dried mushrooms, soak them in a bowl of boiling water overnight or until soft. 
    2. Cut off the hard stem, slice the mushrooms diagonally and set aside
    3. Strain the soaking water into a bowl.
    4. Slice the sausages diagonally.
    5. Marinate the chicken wings with the marinade ingredients except the chicken stock and corn flour.
    6. Put the cornflour in a small bowl and pour a bit of the mushroom soaking water or chicken stock to make a thin paste.
    7. Mix well with the marinated chicken wings.
    8. Put the chicken wings in a glass or ceramic pie plate or similar type of dish.
    9. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. 
    10. Spread the mushrooms and pieces of sausage on top.
    11. Put a steamer rack in the wok, add water to cover the rack and place the dish on the rack.
    12. Cover wok and steam on high heat for about 15 minutes. Check the water hasn't boiled dry. Check that the chicken is cooked. If not, steam another 5 minutes.
    13. Splash a bit of sesame oil on top of the meat.
    14. Place hot dish on a plate and bring to the table.
    15. Enjoy!

    Saturday, November 21, 2009

    Pot Sticker Dumplings

    When I make dumplings, I like to make double batches and freeze some for later use. You can steam, boil or pan fry these dumplings. The choice is yours really! I personally like them pan fried :P


    Makes approx. 60 pieces

    Ingredients

    2 x 4cm pieces ginger, peeled
    250g Chinese cabbage, finely shredded
    350g minced pork
    2 green onions, finely chopped
    2 tbs soy sauce
    1 tbs oyster sauce
    2 tsp sesame oil
    1 tbs Shaoxing rice wine*
    cornflour, for dusting
    2 x 275g pkts gow gee pastries wrappers
     peanut oil
    Chinese red rice vinegar**

    Method
    1. Finely grate 1 piece of ginger, then finely shred second piece. Place cabbage in a bowl. Sprinkle with 1 tsp salt then leave for 30 minutes. Squeeze handfuls of cabbage to remove excess water then place in a bowl. Add 1½ tsp grated ginger, minced pork, onions, sauces, sesame oil and wine and combine well.
    2. Line a large tray with baking paper then dust with cornflour. Using a finger, wet edge of a wrapper with a little water. Place 1 level tsp of filling in centre. Fold wrapper in half and, using your thumb and index finger, pleat one edge, then press edges together to seal. Place, in a single layer, on prepared tray. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling. Dumplings can be made up to 6 hours in advance, store covered in the fridge.
    3. Preheat oven to 150°C. Heat 1-2 tbs peanut oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium high heat. Add 12 dumplings, pleated side up in a single layer, and cook for 1-2 minutes or until brown underneath. Carefully add ¼ ½ cup boiling water, then cover partially with a lid and cook for a further 4-5 minutes or until water has evaporated.
    4. When the water boils off, remove the lid and reduce the heat to medium or medium low. This allows the potstickers to dry out and crisp up.
    5. Transfer to an oven tray, cover with foil and keep warm in oven. Repeat with remaining oil and dumplings. Serve with bowls of red vinegar combined with shredded ginger, for dipping.
    Notes & Tips
     
    To boil: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add dumplings to pot. Boil the dumplings until they float.

    To steam: Place dumplings on a single layer of cabbage leaves or on a well-greased surface and steam for about 6 minutes.

    To pan fry: Place dumplings in a frying pan with 2-3 tbsp of oil. Heat on medium high and fry for a few minutes until bottoms are golden. Add ¼ -½ cup water and cover. Cook until the water has boiled away and then uncover and reduce heat to medium or medium low. Let the dumplings cook for another 2 minutes then remove from heat and serve.

    To freeze: Assemble dumplings on a baking sheet so they are not touching. Freeze for 20-30 minutes until dumplings are no longer soft. Place in ziploc bag and freeze for up to a couple of months. Prepare as per the above instructions, but allow extra time to ensure the filling is thoroughly cooked.

      *Shaoxing rice wine is a rice based cooking wine and can be found in Asian grocery stores.

      **Chinese red rice vinegar is made from glutinous rice and coloured red. It is most commonly used as a dipping sauce.

      Homemade Basic Chicken Stock

      Chicken stock has almost endless uses, from soup bases to gravies and making your own home made stock is considerably cheaper than buying from the shops. But not only is making your own stock cheaper, you also have the peace of mind knowing that nil preservatives or additives have been added.   

      For ease of use, after you've made your batch of stock, freeze them in ice cube trays, especially for those recipes that only require a few tablespoons of stock or freeze them in small containers. This stock freezes well and will keep for up to 3 months. After trying home-made stock you will never want the shop-bought kind again!
      I used my slow cooker for this recipe, mainly because I don't have a large stockpot to fit in all the ingredients and because it's so much easier to let it simmer for hours on its own without the need for constant supervision.


      Makes approx. 3 litres of stock
      Ingredients

      2 chicken carcasses
      1 large onion, quartered
      1 leek (white part only)
      3 carrots, chopped
      3 stalks celery, halved
      2 bay leaves
      2 garlic cloves, bruised with side of a knife
      1 tbs sea salt
      1 tsp whole black peppercorns (optional)

      Method
      1. Place chicken carcasses in a large stockpot and add water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. 
      2. Add the rest of the ingredients into the stock pt. Simmer covered for 3 to 4 hours, skimming the foam/scum as it comes to the surface.   
      3. Strain the stock through a fine sieve and then allow to cool uncovered.  
      4. After skimming the fat from the cooled stock, use or freeze immediately. Freeze in ice cube trays or bags, or for larger amounts in small re-closable freezer bags or in small containers.

      Notes & Tips

      You can buy chicken carcasses from your local butcher or chicken shop. I paid $1 for a bag and it contained 4 chicken carcasses!      

        Friday, November 13, 2009

        Thai Pineapple Fried Rice

        I was holidaying in the Gold Coast a couple of months ago and whilst there, hubby and I decided to visit a Thai restaurant located not too far from where we were staying. We ordered Thai pineapple fried rice amongst other Thai dishes and were pleasantly surprised and amused that the fried rice came served in a pineapple boat!

        I've always admired fruit and vegetable carvings so it wasn't a surprise to my hubby that I was keen to try and carve out my very own pineapple boat when I got back home to Sydney. But as usual, life got very busy as soon as we got back from our holiday and so I just never got around to playing around with this dish. Until...

        Just the other day I had a whole pineapple left over after making my fruit kebabs. So, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to recreate some Thai pineapple fried rice.

        The ingredients in this fried rice is a little different to how I would normally make my fried since it is Thai style fried rice as opposed to the Chinese-style fried rice. Nonetheless, the method of cooking is very similar. 

        In this recipe I have added lots of extra curry powder and chilli since hubby likes a bit of spiciness in his food ;) However, you can adjust the following recipe to make it as mild or as spicy as you wish just by adding more or less curry powder, omitting the chillies etc.

        This is also a good dish to bring along for a pot luck or to make if you're having a lunch or dinner with friends over. They'll be pretty impressed with the presentation!


        Ingredients

        2-3 tbsp oil
        1 whole pineapple or 225g tinned pineapple pieces, juice drained
        4 cups of cooked rice, cooled
        1 cup frozen carrots, corn, peas mix or whatever vegetables you desire
        3 cloves garlic
        1 shallot, finely chopped
        2 red bird eye chilli
        2 tbsp curry powder
        1 tbs soy sauce
        3 eggs, beaten
        8-10 medium prawns, peeled, deveined and chopped into small pieces
        ⅓ cup cashew nuts (optional)
        cracked pepper (optional)

        Method

        1. Slice off one side of the pineapple to remove the skin (do not cut off the leaves). Carve out the fruit from inside the pineapple. Set carved pineapple aside.
        2. Pound chilli and garlic in a mortar and pestle to make a paste. If you don't own one, just use your knife to flatten it.
        3. Place oil in a work or frying pan and turn heat to medium high. Add the chilli paste and diced shallots. Saute until fragrant.
        4. Add the frozen vegetables, cashew nuts, prawns and stir fry for about 2 minutes.
        5. Add the rice, soy sauce, curry powder and cracked pepper. Stir fry everything together until well combined then add the pineapple pieces.
        6. Push the rice to the edges of wok/fry pan, add the beaten eggs into the centre of the wok/fry pan and scramble them till cooked.
        7. Continue to stir fry the rice and ensure that all ingredients are mixed thoroughly.
        8. Taste the rice, if not salty enough add some soy sauce or salt.
        9. Serve in the carved out pineapple.
        10. Enjoy!

        Wok Seared "Shaking" Beef + Vietnamese Red Rice (Com Bo Luc Lac)

        Com Bo Luc Lac is a widely popular dish in Vietnamese restaurants despite it not being part of many Vietnamese home cook's repertoire.

        A Vietnamese friend of mine tells me that the “luc lac” is merely a description for the “shaking” or tossing of the beef back and forth in the wok after it’s quickly seared. This dish is often paired together with red rice.

        To make the red rice, it's best to use 'one-day-old' rice instead of freshly cooked rice so that the rice doesn't become soggy after cooking. I actually didn't have any left over rice when I made this dish, so I just cooked the rice as usual on the day, spread the rice out on a flat dish leaving it at room temperature for about 15-30 minutes than I popped it into the fridge to dry out for about an hour or two. The results still turned out OK :P


        Serves 2-3

        Ingredients

        750g beef (any cut you like)

        Marinade:

        ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
        1½ teaspoons sugar
        2 cloves garlic, minced
        2 tablespoons oyster sauce
        1 teaspoon fish sauce
        2 teaspoons light soy sauce and 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce

        Garnish:


        Lettuce leaves
        2-4 Tomatoes, sliced
        1 Cucumber, sliced

        2 tablespoon canola or peanut oil
        ½ Spanish onion, thinly sliced

        Method
        1. Trim excess fat from the beef and then cut into cubes. In a shallow dish, combine the pepper, sugar, garlic, oyster sauce, fish sauce and soy sauce. Add the beef and toss well to coat. Cover and place in the fridge to marinate for 2 hours.
        2. Place lettuce leaves onto a platter or serving dish. Heat oil in a wok over high heat then add the onions and beef  (spread it out in one layer. Cook in batches, if necessary). Let the beef sear for about 1 minute, before shaking the wok to sear another side. Cook for another 30 seconds or so and shake. Cook the beef for about 4 minutes total, until nicely browned and medium rare.
        3. Transfer the beef onto lettuce leaves, sprinkle some more cracked black pepper and garnish with sliced tomatoes and cucumbers. Serve immediately with Vietnamese red rice (see recipe below).

        Vietnamese Red Rice

        Ingredients

        1 1/2 cups cooked rice
        3 tablespoons canola oil
        2 large cloves garlic, minced
        2 tablespoons tomato paste
        1/2 teaspoon salt
        1 egg, beaten

        Method

        1. Put the cooked rice on a baking sheet and refrigerate it, uncovered, for 8 to 24 hours, until it is dry enough for you to gently crumble in your hands. Midway through, turn the rice to ensure even drying. Before cooking, return the rice to room temperature.
        2. To make the rice, heat a large nonstick fry pan over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of oil. Then add the garlic, and cook, stirring frequently for about 2 minutes. Add the rice and stir to combine. Add the tomato paste and stir to coat the rice and turn it red. Increase the heat slightly and cook, stirring constantly for about 3 minutes, until the rice is heated through.
        3. Push the rice to sides of wok, add the beaten egg to the centre of the wok and scramble it for about 2 minutes. 
        4. Sprinkle the salt on the rice and eggs and stir fry everything together to combine well. For extra richness, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Continue to gently fry the rice for another 1 to 2 minutes, to sear in the flavors. Remove from the heat, taste and add extra salt, if necessary. Transfer to a bowl and serve immediately. 
        Notes & Tips

        Like all good fried rice, cook your rice on the firm side (use less water than usual) so that the grains retain their individuality. Then let the rice dry out in the refrigerator. If you have leftover rice, here's a great way to use it up! The rice will literally fry without soaking up tons of fat. The less moisture the better for fried rice, otherwise it becomes soggy.  The tomato paste is a great addition to the rice since it gives the rice great colour and a touch of sweet flavour.

        Saturday, November 7, 2009

        Mango Mochi/Glutinous Rice Balls/Sticky Rice Balls

        I went to a surprise hen's afternoon tea party today. Wondering what I could bring along to this party, I looked into my pantry and saw that I had some glutinous rice flour expiring soon so I thought of using it to make mango mochi. Also known as Glutinous Rice Balls or Law-Mai-Chee in Chinese, these are a Chinese dessert made from glutinous rice flour. There are an assortment of fillings that can be used, with red bean paste and peanut butter being the more common ones. I decided to use mangoes since mangoes are in season now, so they're nice, sweet and juicy.

        This mochi recipe is nice in that the skin is still soft and chewy even if it has been in the refrigerator overnight. A good recipe for make ahead desserts :)

        Makes approx. 30 pieces

        Ingredients

        300g glutinous rice flour
        60g rice flour
        1 tbsp Santan powder (coconut cream powder)
        1.5 tbsp corn oil
        200ml hot water + 60g caster sugar
        160ml evaporated milk
        250ml mango nectar juice
        2 ripe mangoes (diced into small cubes)
        desiccated coconut for coating

        Method

        1. Sieve glutinous rice flour, rice flour and Santan powder into a big mixing bowl. Add in the oil.
        2. Dissolve sugar in 200ml of hot water. Pour this and evaporated milk into the flour mixture and mix till smooth and well blended. Stir in the mango nectar.
        3. Strain batter into a greased tray/bowl and steam on high heat for 30 minutes.
        4. Remove tray/bowl from steamer and stir the cooked dough with a flat plastic knife. Leave dough aside to cool. NB: the dough needs to still be warm in order for it be pliable, so don't cool it for too long, just long enough for it to be handled with your hands.
        5. Wear a pair of plastic gloves and grease it with some oil. Take a 30g piece of dough and flatten it into a round disc (approx the size of your palm), and wrap as much mango cubes as desired. I used approx. 1 tsp worth since I love to bite into lots of mango filling :) Seal the edges tightly and shape it into a round ball. 
        6. Coat/roll the shaped mochi with desiccated coconut.
        7. Serve mochi chilled or at room temperature.

        Fruit Kebabs/Fruit on Skewers

        I had brunch with some women at church on the weekend and thought I'd bring along some fruit. Wanting to deviate from the traditional presentation of fruit as a fruit salad or a fruit platter, I decided to make fruit kebabs. The arrangement of the fruit is simple enough but the presentation makes it look quite elegant. I'm glad that these fruit kebabs were a hit with the ladies :)

        The following is more of an idea than a recipe, and can include anything you want to try. Choose a variety of different coloured fruit or whatever is in season at the time. Other fruits for suggestion that are good to use for fruit kebabs include: kiwifruit, oranges and red grapes.

        Ingredients

        Watermelon
        Strawberries
        Pineapple
        Rockmelon
        Honeydew
        Bamboo skewers
        Melted chocolate, optional

        Method

        1. Chop up fruit into uniform pieces or of similar bite sized pieces and place into bowls.
        2. Thread fruit pieces onto skewers, alternating with different types of fruit.
        3. Serve chilled with melted chocolate for dipping or serve on its own.

        Thursday, November 5, 2009

        Fish Congee

        Hubby wasn't feeling too well the other day so I thought I'd make him some comfort food. Fish congee was what came to mind.

        Congee is basically just a lot of water and a little rice. The amount of water you add determines how thick or thin the congee will be. Hubby and I prefer our congee to be very smooth and thick. Soaking the rice for a couple of hours prior to boiling it ensures this texture is achieved but if you don't have the time, you can purchase 'broken rice' from Asian grocery shops and skip that step entirely.

        I used basa fillets for this congee, but any white fleshed fish should be fine. I sliced the fish really thinly and marinated them in some Chinese rice wine, sesame oil and soy sauce - as the fish slices are only cooked for a short while in the congee, the marinade is important for a sweet and fragrant flavour.


        Serves 4

        Ingredients

        ½ cup rice (soaked for 1-2 hours)
        5 cups of water (add or more less depending on consistency you'd like to achieve)
        2 fish fillets, sliced thinly
        2 inches fresh ginger, sliced thinly (use vegetable peeler for paper-thin slices)
        4 stalks green onions, sliced

        Marinade for the fish:

        2 tsps Chinese Rice Wine (Shao Xing Wine)
        ½ tsp sesame oil
        ½ tsp light soy sauce

        Method

        1. Marinate the fish with the rice wine, sesame oil and light soy sauce in a bowl for at least 30 minutes. Cover and refrigerate.
        2. Boil the soaked rice with water in a pot/saucepan.
        3. Once the mixture is boiling, turn the heat to low, and add 3 ginger slices, let rice simmer for about 30-40 minutes, checking frequently and stirring the mixture occasionally.
        4. Add fish slices to the congee and bring to boil again. Cook approximately 5-10 minutes (depending on thickness of your fish slices). Note that the congee will continue to boil on its own even after removing from heat, so don't boil it with the fish for too long as overcooked fish is not very tasty. 
        5. Serve the congee in bowls and allow your guests to spoon desired amounts of green onion slices, ginger into their individual bowls. I usually add another dash of sesame oil and white pepper to my bowl before eating as well.
           

        Tuesday, November 3, 2009

        Singapore Noodles

        Get your chopsticks into these aromatic noodles packed with prawns, BBQ meat and flavour. Feel free to add more curry powder and pepper than what the recipe states if you like your noodles spicy!


        Serves 4

        Ingredients

        200g rice vermicelli noodles
        Vegetable oil
        ¼ BBQ chicken, shredded
        100g Char Siew (BBQ sweet pork), sliced
        50g cooked, peeled, prawns
        3 garlic cloves, crushed
        2cm piece ginger, grated
        1 onion, cut into thin half moons
        1 red capsicum, sliced
        4 tsp curry powder
        2 tsp turmeric powder
        a handful of fresh or tinned bean sprouts
        2 spring onions, chopped
        4 eggs, beaten
        Salt and pepper, to taste
        2 red chillies, sliced, to garnish

        Method
        1. Soak the noodles following the packet instructions and drain. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoon oil in a wok and fry the garlic and ginger until light brown. Add the onion and capsicum and cook until  just beginning to soften, then add the spices and cook for a minute. Remove vegetables to a plate and set aside.
        2. Add a bit more oil to the wok. Stir in the eggs and scramble them till cooked. Push eggs to sides of wok, add the noodles and the rest of the ingredients (except chillies) together. Make sure that everything is mixed thoroughly so that the flavours are combined and everything is heated and cooked well.
        3. Garnish the meal with the chillies and serve on individual plates.

        Thursday, October 29, 2009

        Vegetable Soup

        I've been out of action in the kitchen for a few days since I've been struck down with the flu. I felt a bit better today so I thought I'd make myself a simple yet nutritious meal to help kick start the immune system, so what better to make than vegetable soup? Packed full of nutrients, vitamins and anti-oxidants, this recipe is also super easy to make if you have a slow cooker. Just set and forget... a couple of hours later... a nice meal awaits :)
         
        I added some chopped bacon to this soup since I had some left over in the fridge, but for a meat free version, just omit it from this recipe. I also added some chilli flakes for a bit of kick.

        You can pretty much add to this soup any kind of vegetable, whatever is in season or whatever happens to be in your fridge.

        This recipe is also freezer friendly. A handy tip I learnt was to put the soup into individual microwavable soup containers. That way you can very easily take it out of the freezer and put straight into the microwave. Yummy soup in a matter of minutes!


        Ingredients

        1 tablespoon olive oil
        1 brown onion, finely chopped
        125g bacon, chopped (optional)
        2 garlic cloves, crushed
        2 carrots, peeled, chopped
        2 celery sticks, chopped
        2 small zucchini, chopped
        4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
        2-3 cups water
        400g can diced roma tomatoes
        1 tub tomato paste
        ¼ tsp chilli flakes (optional) 
        ⅓ cup dried risoni pasta (optional)
        ⅓ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped

        Method

        1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, bacon and garlic. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until soft. 
        2. Add all ingredients except the risoni and parsley into a slow cooker and stir to combine.
        3. Cover and cook on high for 2- 3 hours or on low for 4 to 6 hours.
        4. Stir in risoni pasta during the last hour of cooking. Alternatively, if making ahead, cook the risoni pasta separately and stir into the soup just before serving.
        5. Stir through parsley. Ladle soup into bowls. Serve with warm crusty bread.
        Notes & Tips

        To freeze: Store soup in an airtight container. Label, date and freeze for up to 3 months.

        Saturday, October 24, 2009

        Sichuan Beef Stir Fry

        A simple stir-fry with typically hot, spicy, peppery Sichuan flavours. You can leave out the chilli oil and adjust the amount of chilli bean sauce in this recipe to suit how hot and spicy you want your dish to be :)

        Serves 4 as part of a multi-course meal

        Ingredients

        400g lean beef
        2 tbsp soy sauce
        1 tbsp Chinese rice wine
        1 tsp cornflour
        3 celery stalks
        1 small cucumber, halved lengthwise
        3 tbsp vegetable or peanut oil
        1 tbsp ginger, cut into fine matchsticks
        1 fresh red chilli, seeded and cut into matchsticks
        2 tbsp chilli bean sauce or chilli sauce
        1 tsp sugar
        1 tsp sesame oil
        1 tsp chilli oil, optional
        ½ tsp ground Sichuan peppercorns

        Method

        Cut the meat against the grain into strips and toss with the soy, rice wine and cornflour. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to marinate.

        Meanwhile, de-string the celery, trim the ends and cut into five-centimetre lengths, then into matchsticks. Cut the cucumber into one-centimetre slices.

        Heat the oil in a wok until hot and stir-fry the ginger, chilli and celery for 10 seconds.

        Add the beef and cook over high heat for two minutes. Add the cucumber, chilli bean sauce and sugar tossing well for one minute. Add the sesame oil and chilli oil (if using). Scatter with ground Sichuan peppercorns and serve with jasmine rice.

        Passionfruit Cupcakes with White Chocolate and Passionfruit Ganache

         I made these cupcakes as part of a birthday surprise for a friend and a nice morning tea snack.

        You'll need approx. 5 passionfruits for this recipe.


        Ingredients

        Passionfruit Cakes (Yields 8)
        30g butter, softened
        ½ cup caster sugar, sifted
        2 eggs
        1 cup self-raising flour, sifted
        ¼ cup passionfruit pulp, strained

        White Chocolate & Passionfruit Ganache
        90mL thickened cream
        180g white chocolate, broken into small pieces
        1 tbs passionfruit pulp, strained
        Sugar flowers, to decorate 

        Method

        Preheat oven to 180°C. Beat butter with electric mixer until soft and fluffy, add eggs and beat until pale. Stir in sifted sugar and flour and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Stir in passionfruit pulp. Spoon mixture into cupcake liners resting in muffin moulds until 2/3 full. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Turn cakes onto wire rack to cool. Top with ganache or other frosting and sugar flower. Allow to set.


        To make ganache:
        Warm cream and pulp in a saucepan over low heat, then stir in chocolate pieces until melted. Leave to cool, then refrigerate for at least 30mins - 1 hour. This allows the ganache to thicken, ready to be piped or spread over cupcakes.

        Friday, October 23, 2009

        Chicken & Mushroom Fettuccine

        Fast and easy pasta that's as kind to your taste buds as it is to your wallet! Try this dish tonight!


        Ingredients

        450g fettucine pasta
        1 tablespoon olive oil
        650g chicken tenderloins/chicken thigh fillets
        125g rindless bacon, diced
        1 brown onion, diced
        300g mushrooms, sliced
        420g can chicken & mushroom soup
        ½ cup light thickened cream (or milk for a lighter version)
        1 tablespoon worchestershire sauce
        ½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

        Method

        1. Cook pasta in a large saucepan of boiling, salted water, following packet directions, until tender. Drain pasta, reserving 2 tablespoons cooking water. Return pasta and water to the saucepan.
        2. Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a large, non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken. Cook for 4 minutes on each side or until golden. Remove to a plate. Cover to keep warm. Repeat with remaining chicken, adding more oil if necessary. Cut chicken tenderloins diagonally into 3 pieces
        3. Add bacon to frying pan. Cook for 2 minutes. Add onions and mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 to 5 minutes or until mushrooms are golden. Add soup, cream and Worcestershire sauce. Stir until well combined. Add mushroom mixture, chicken and parsley to pasta. Toss to combine. Season with cracked black pepper. Serve.

        Sunday, October 18, 2009

        Herb & Mozzarella Wrapped Veal

        Recipe from Donna Hay's No Time to Cook, page 125

        Serves 2

        Ingredients

        2 teaspoons oregano leaves
        4 large slices pancetta
        4x60g thin veal steaks
        2 teaspoons thyme leaves
        4 slices mozzarella

        Method

        1. Place pancetta on a board and top with a piece of veal. Sprinkle with thyme and oregano and place a slice of mozzarella on one end so that you can fold the pancetta and veal over to enclose the cheese.
        2. Place veal on a baking tray and cook under a preheated grill for 5-7 minutes or until veal is cooked and pancetta is crispy. Divide veal between plates. Serve with salad or balsamic carrots.

        Balsamic Glazed Carrots

        For a simply irresistible side, dish up these bright baby carrots that are bathed in a brown sugar-infused balsamic glaze.


        Ingredients

        2 bunches baby (Dutch) carrots
        50g (1/4 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
        15g butter, melted
        1 tbs balsamic vinegar

        Method
        1. Trim stems from the carrots. Scrub to remove any dirt. Peel.
        2. Preheat oven to 180°C. Place the carrots in a glass or ceramic ovenproof baking dish.
        3. Combine the sugar, butter and vinegar in a small bowl. Pour over the carrots. Season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat.
        4. Bake in oven, tossing occasionally, for 25 minutes or until the carrots are tender.
        5. Arrange on a serving platter. Drizzle over the glaze to serve.

        Tuesday, October 13, 2009

        Tabouli


        Ingredients

        ¼ cup burghul (cracked wheat)
        1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
        ¼ cup mint leaves, chopped 
        1 tomato, chopped
        ½ small red onion, finely chopped
        2 teaspoons olive oil
        2 tbs lemon juice

        Method

        Place burghul in a small bowl. Cover with cold water. Stand for 15 minutes. Drain. Use the back of a large metal spoon to press out excess water. Transfer burghul to a large bowl. Add parsley, mint, tomato, onion, olive oil and lemon juice. Mix until well combined. Season with salt and pepper.

        Saturday, October 10, 2009

        Buttermilk Pancakes

        Nothing quite beats a sleep in on the weekend and fresh, fluffy pancakes! These are low in fat too!

        Adapted from Super Food Ideas magazine, November 2003 issue, page 85

        Makes approx. 20 pancakes

        Ingredients

        ½ cup caster sugar
        ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
        1 teaspoon baking powder
        2 cups self-raising flour
        2½ cups buttermilk
        2 eggs
        butter
        maple syrup, strawberries & whipped cream to serve

        Method
        1. Sift caster sugar, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and self-raising flour in a bowl. 
        2. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture
        3. Whisk buttermilk and eggs together in another bowl 
        4. Pour milk & egg mixture into the flour mixture. Whisk until batter is smooth. Stand for 10 minutes.
        5. Add some butter to 2 non-stick frying pans. Heat over medium heat.
        6. Pour approx. ¼ cup of batter into pan. Cook for 2 minutes or until bubbles form on surface. Turn. Cook a further 1 to 2 minutes or until cooked through. 
        7. Transfer pancakes to a plate and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.
        8. Repeat with remaining batter, greasing pan between each batch. If you find the pan is getting too hot, reduce heat slightly.
        9. Serve pancakes with maple syrup, strawberries & whipped cream.
        Notes & Tips

        Buttermilk substitute: Place a tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice into 1 cup regular milk. Let stand for five to ten minutes. Then, use as much as your recipe calls for.

        Using a medium-low heat allows the pancakes to cook slowly so they cook through to the centre and don't burn

        Variations

        To make blueberry pancakes:

        Pour 2 tablespoons of the batter into the pan. Arrange a few blueberries over the surface of each pancake. Cook for 2 minutes or until bubbles appear on the surface. Turn and cook for 2 minutes or until golden. Repeat with remaining mixture

          Friday, October 9, 2009

          Linguine with Garlic Prawns & Chilli

          Quick, easy and tasty! What more could you want in a recipe? Try it and tell me if you like it :)

          Serves 2

          Ingredients

          250g dried linguine pasta
          1 tbsp olive oil
          2 tbsp olive oil, extra
          2 garlic cloves, crushed
          1 fresh small red chilli, finely chopped
          10-12 medium green king prawns, peeled, tails left intact, deveined
          1 tbsp chopped fresh continental parsley

          Method
          1. Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of salted boiling water, following packet directions, until al dente. Drain. Add 1 tbsp olive oil into the pasta and stir, to prevent the pasta from sticking to each other.
          2. Meanwhile, heat the extra olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for 2 minutes or until aromatic. Increase heat to medium, add the prawns and cook for a further 3-5 minutes or until the prawns curl, change colour and are just cooked through.
          3. Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper. Add the drained pasta to the sauce and toss to combine. Serve immediately.
          Notes & Tips

          Deseed the chilli if you prefer less spicyness in your pasta

          Monday, October 5, 2009

          Chinese Chestnut Sponge Cake

          I made this chestnut sponge cake as a birthday cake for my mum since she really likes chestnuts. 
          I wasn't able to source fresh chestnuts for this recipe so I used frozen instead- it was more convenient anyways since the chestnuts had been peeled already. The roasted chestnuts that I'm referring to in the recipe are the ready to eat ones that are packaged and usually found in Asian food shops. They add some sweetness to the chestnut filling but if you don't have any, just use 450g frozen chestnuts and add a bit more sugar when making the filling. Have a good long weekend!


          Ingredients

          1x Chiffon cake base, cut into 2 even layers
          Click here for the Chiffon Cake Base recipe

          Filling

          400g frozen chestnuts, peeled
          50g roasted peeled chestnuts
          ½ cup caster sugar
          ½ cup water (preferably water used in cooking chestnuts)
          ½ tsp vanilla essence
          1½ tbsp butter, melted
          2 tbsp milk

          Decorating

          3 tbsp icing sugar
          300ml thickend cream
          200g strawberries, thinly sliced
          10 roasted peeled chestnuts

          Method

          1. Place frozen chestnuts in a saucepan and add enough water to cover them. Cook until soft. Drain, reserving the water.
          2. In a bowl, combine sugar with chestnut water or plain water and stir until dissolved.
          3. Place chestnuts, sugar water, melted butter, vanilla essence and milk into a bowl of a food processor and mix until a smooth paste consistency forms.
          4. Whip thickened cream in a clean mixing bowl. Add in icing sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time until stiff peaks form.
          5. Spread a thin layer of whipped cream on one half of the cake layer.
          6. Spread a layer of chestnut filling onto cake layer with whipped cream. Place the other half of cake over the chestnut filling, then top again with some more whipped cream.
          7. Cover entire cake with whipped cream, then pile remaining chestnut filling on top of cake. (I forced the chestnut filling through a spoon with round slits to create the pile of strands seen in the photo. You can also use a potato masher too for the same effect).
          8. Place the remaining cream in a piping bag fitted with a 1cm fluted nozzle and pipe rosettes around the edge of cake.
          9. Arrange chestnuts around the cake, either in between the cream rosettes or on top of each second cream rosette. 
          10. Place sliced strawberries around the bottom edge of cake, with the pointy end facing up.
          11. Cut the cake into wedges to serve.

          Sunday, October 4, 2009

          Hainanese Chinese Rice

          Hubby and I ate Hainanese Chicken the other day at a restaurant which inspired me to try and make this dish at home. The effort was worth the time in the kitchen. This recipe will yield a nicely poached chicken infused with ginger and rice cooked in freshly made chicken stock served with fresh ginger & shallot sauce. Hubby wanted to go back for seconds, but since I had only made enough for two, I should double the recipe for next time!


          Serves 2

          Steamed Chicken

          2 Chicken Marylands
          1 spring onion, roughly chopped
          3cm piece ginger, grated
          1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
          1 tbsp shao xing wine
          2 tbsp light soy sauce
          ½ tsp sesame oil

          Chicken Stock (makes approx. 3 cups)

          2 chicken wings
          2 chicken breasts, skin removed, roughly chopped
          1 chicken carcass
          1½ cup chicken stock
          5cm piece ginger, thickly sliced
          4 spring onions, green part only, roughly chopped

          Rice

          2 tbsp peanut oil
          Skin from one chicken breast
          Parson’s nose of chicken
          2 garlic cloves, grated
          2cm piece ginger, grated
          1 cup jasmine rice

          Chilli dipping sauce

          2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
          1 red banana chilli, roughly chopped
          1-2 tbsp caster sugar
          1 tsp white vinegar
          ½ tsp peanut oil

          Ginger and spring onion dipping sauce

          ¼ cup peanut oil
          3cm piece ginger, finely shredded
          2 spring onions, green part only, 3cm pieces, finely shredded

          Method

          1. For steamed chicken, fill a wok half way with water, place a wire rack on top, making sure water does not touch the rack. Place a shallow bowl with the chicken pieces, on top of the rack. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl to make a marinade. Place marinade over and around the chicken. Cover and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Remove meat from the bones or chop up if desired.

          2. For chicken stock, place all ingredients in a medium saucepan with just enough water to cover the chicken bones. Simmer over medium heat for 30-40 minutes. Strain, set aside stock.

          3. For the rice, heat peanut oil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add skin and parsans nose, cook for 3-4 minutes, remove skin and parsans nose from the pan. Add garlic and ginger, cook for 2-3 minutes or until slightly golden. Stir through rice to coat in oil, add 2 cups of chicken stock. Bring to the boil, cook partially covered 5 minutes or until holes start to appear in the surface of the rice. Cover completely with the lid and turn heat down as low as possible. Cook a further 10 minutes. Remove the pan completely from the heat and leave to stand, a further 10 minutes. Season to taste.

          4. For chilli dipping sauce, pound garlic and chilli in a mortar and pestle until smooth. Transfer to a bowl, stir through remaining ingredients until well combined. Spoon into dipping dish, to serve.

          5. For ginger and spring onion dipping sauce, heat peanut oil in a small saucepan over high heat, place remaining ingredients in a medium bowl and carefully pour over the oil. Spoon into dipping dish, to serve.

          6. To serve, place chicken pieces/maryland on a plate, top with spring onion. Spoon rice on the side of plate. Serve with the chilli dipping sauce and ginger and spring onion sauce.


          Notes & Tips

          You'll need 1 whole chicken for this recipe.

          Thursday, October 1, 2009

          Coconut Prawns with Mango Mayonnaise

          Seafood fans will enjoy this recipe for freshly-fried prawns coated in a light crisp batter. The crisp batter in this dish is a little out of the ordinary - it includes coconut cream! So try these prawns with a twist!


          Serves 4

          Ingredients

          ½ cup plain flour
          ¼ tsp caster sugar
          1 tbs coconut cream
          1 egg, beaten
          1cup panko breadcrumbs
          1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
          18 green prawns, peeled (tails intact), deveined
          Canola oil, to deep-fry

          Mango Mayonnaise

          1 ripe mango, flesh finely chopped
          Finely grated zest and juice of ½ lime, plus extra wedges to serve
          ½ cup (300g) whole-egg mayonnaise
          1 small red chilli, seeded, finely chopped

          Method
          1. For mango mayonnaise, place mango, lime juice and zest, mayonnaise and half the chilli in a food processor and whiz until smooth. Place in a serving dish and refrigerate until needed.
          2. Mix flour and sugar in a bowl and season. In another bowl, beat coconut cream and egg with a fork. In a third, mix crumbs and coconut. Dip prawns first in the flour, then the egg, then the coconut crumbs. Chill until needed.
          3. Half-fill a deep-fryer or large heavy-based saucepan with oil and heat to 190°C (or test a cube of bread - it will turn golden in 30 seconds when oil is ready). Fry prawns, in batches, for 1-2 minutes until golden, turning if necessary. Drain on paper towel. Serve with mayonnaise, topped with remaining chilli.
          Notes & Tips

          Panko breadcrumbs can be found in Asian specialty stores. Substitute with dry breadcrumbs if none available.

          Teriyaki Salmon

          Presentation is an important part of Japanese cuisine, so adorn your sweet glazed salmon with easy-to-make shallot curls.


          Ingredients

          55g (¼ cup) caster sugar
          60ml (¼ cup) soy sauce
          60ml (¼ cup) mirin seasoning
          4 (about 250g each) skinless salmon fillets, halved lengthways
          2 shallots, green section only, ends trimmed
          Peanut oil, to grease





          Method


          Place the sugar, soy sauce and mirin seasoning in a medium glass or ceramic bowl. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the salmon and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 60 minutes to marinate, turning the salmon occasionally.

          Meanwhile, thinly slice the shallots lengthways. Transfer to a small airtight container of iced water. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes or until the shallot curls.

          Preheat grill on high. Line a baking tray with foil. Brush the lined tray with oil to lightly grease. Drain salmon, reserving the marinade. Place the salmon on the prepared baking tray. Cook under grill, brushing the salmon occasionally with the reserved marinade, for 5 minutes or until the salmon is golden and just cooked through.
          Drain the shallot. Arrange the salmon on a serving platter. Sprinkle with the shallot curls to serve.


          Monday, September 28, 2009

          Aromatic Spiced Lamb Cutlets with Couscous

          This is a very quick and easy meal to prepare. I left out the fresh coriander in the couscous since hubby isn't a big fan of coriander.Bon appetit!

          Serves 3-4

          Ingredients

          8 lamb cutlets, trimmed, about 400g in total
          1 tsp cumin seeds
          1 tsp coriander seeds
          juice of ½ lemon
          2 garlic cloves, crushed
          2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
          salt and pepper, to taste
          sprigs of fresh mint to garnish

          Minted yoghurt sauce

          ¼ ½ cucumber
          150g plain low-fat yoghurt
          1 garlic clove, crushed
          1 tsp bottled mint sauce
          2 tbsp chopped fresh mint


          Apricot & Almond Couscous

          200g couscous
          100g dried apricots, chopped
          500ml boiling vegetable stock
          50g whole blanched almonds, toasted
          2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
          2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
          juice of ½ lemon
          2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

          Method

            1. Preheat grill to high. Place the lamb cutlets in a shallow dish. Grind the cumin and coriander seeds briefly in a pestle and mortar to crack them, then mix with the lemon juice, garlic and oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the mixture over the lamb cutlets, turn them over to coat both sides and set aside to marinate while you make the sauce.
            2. To make the mint sauce: cut the cucumber in half length ways and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon. Grate the cucumber coarsely and drain off any excess water. Mix with the yogurt, garlic, mint sauce and fresh mint. Set aside.
            3. Place the lamb cutlets under the griller and grill for 10–12 minutes, turning once. The cutlets will be medium-rare; if you prefer them medium to well-done cook for 12–14 minutes.
            4. Meanwhile, put the couscous and apricots in a large bowl and pour over the boiling stock. Stir well, then cover with a plate and set aside to soak for 5 minutes.
            5. Stir the almonds, chopped mint and coriander, lemon juice and oil into the couscous. Spoon the couscous onto plates, top each serving with 2 lamb cutlets and put a spoonful of the sauce on the side. Garnish with sprigs of fresh mint and serve immediately.

          Saturday, September 26, 2009

          Kung Po Chicken

          Kung Po chicken is a classic dish in Szechuan cuisine, originating in the Szechuan province of central-western China. This is a westernised version of kung po chicken, consisting of stir fried chicken instead of deep fried chicken, so it's healthier and lighter.


          Ingredients

          600g chicken thigh fillets, diced or sliced
          2 tablespoons corn flour
          2 tablespoons Shao Hsing wine
          2 tablespoons peanut oil
          10 small dried red chillies
          2 tablespoons peanut oil extra
          5 cm piece of ginger cut into thin strips
          1 tablespoon brown sugar
          ½ cup unsalted roasted peanuts
          2 tablespoons light soy sauce
          1 tablespoon Chinese black vinegar
          1 pinch of Szechuan salt and pepper

          Method
          1. Combine chicken with corn flour and Shao Hsing wine in a bowl. Cover, place in refrigerator and leave to marinate for 1 hour.
          2. Place oil and chillies in a cold wok and then turn heat to low. Cook for about 1 1/2 minutes or until chillies begin to darken slightly. Using a slotted spoon, immediately remove chillies and drain on kitchen paper.
          3. Leaving chilli-infused oil in wok, turn heat up to high and stir-fry half the chicken for 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon. Add extra oil to wok with remaining chicken and stir fry for 3 minutes. Return all chicken to wok, along with ginger and reserved chillies and stir fry for 30 seconds.
          4. Add sugar and stir fry for 30 seconds. Add peanuts, soy sauce and vinegar and stir fry for 30 seconds. Serve immediately, sprinkled with Sichuan pepper and salt.
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