vendredi, décembre 18, 2009

Prima Taste Nonya Sambal Okra and Shrimps

Nonya Sambal Okra and Shrimps

One of the last items to leave the fridge : Fresh Okra and Frozen Shrimps. It is a bit of a race against time to clear out the cool box, I wish I could eat more than 4 meals a day and not grow fatter than fat. Anyway, thanks to Prima Taste's Nonya Sambal paste, I stirfried the okra with a bit of garlic, added in the shrimps followed by the sambal paste and voilà my lunch of Nonya Sambal Okra and Shrimps.

Now I have a few hours to air the kitchen before Hub returns and starts to freak out. Or cross my fingers that the Curry Puffs, Sausage Rolls and Bacon & Egg Sandwiches that I will be making this afternoon for tomorrow's lunch will camouflage the pungent shrimp paste smell in the air. Mmm...I like this sambal chilli paste. Sweet and spicy like they said. Nothing like a good dose of chilli to kick off 2 coming weeks of mainly ski resort French cuisine.

Kids finish school earlier today and with that we will begin our Christmas Holidays. First to Stuttgart, then to La Vallée d'Automne followed by Paris and Morzine.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of you!!!

PS : Guess who's at the door? The Hub. Came back to discharge his carload of Christmas gifts. Didn't have the time to air anything, as you can jolly well imagine.

jeudi, décembre 17, 2009

Braised Peanuts

Braised Peanuts

Remember the leftover sauce from the Teochew Braised Duck and the Braised Eggs? Well, I didn't want to waste it and going through my WW3 food stock, I came across a big bag of jumbo peanuts and decided to do what I had bought them for in the first place : Braised Peanuts.

Do you remember the braised peanuts that you have eaten at fun fairs and other roadside events in Singapore? The braised peanuts that they serve you when you arrive at some Chinese restaurant to "open" your appetite and shorten the wait? Or the braised peanuts they serve as part of a Teochew Porridge feast? Well, I have been thinking about these soft, salty peanuts and have been wanting to make them. It is like making a trip back to my childhood, to the colourful candyfloss sold in plastic bags, to the tongtong candy, to the braised peanuts. That was such a very long time ago.

Braised Peanuts :

250g Big Peanuts (shells removed)
Enough water to cover them and more
1 Star Anise
1 Cinnamon Stick
1/4 Tsp 5-spice powder
1/2 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Sugar
1 Tbsp Dark Soy Sauce
1 Tp Light Soy Sauce

Soak the peanuts in hot water for at least 2 hours.

Boil water in a pot with the star anise and cinnamon bark. Pour in the seasoning and the peanuts and bring to a boil.

Lower the heat and simmer for 3-4 hours or when they turn soft.

As you can see, the only difficulty is the long time it takes to braise and soften the peanuts.

Mine were very dark in colour because I used the leftover sauce from the duck and eggs, otherwise the braised peanuts would normally be a light brown.

Fried Vegetable Spring Rolls

Fried Vegetable Spring Rolls with Chilli-lime-garlic Dip

Still trying to clear the fridge before leaving. Found half a cabbage, a carrot, some bean sprouts, a zucchini...Threw in frozen spring roll wrappers, an onion, ginger, garlic, Chinese mushrooms, bamboo shoots, sauces et voilà Fried Vegetable Spring Rolls!

2 years ago, I vaguely blogged about my Fried Spring Rolls. But those were the traditional meat, prawn and vegetable-filled spring rolls. This morning, I did the vegetarian version and will dedicate it to my vegetarian friend K.

Fried Vegetable Spring Rolls :

Spring roll wrappers (usually made in Singapore)
Bamboo shoots
Buangkuang/Jicama/Chinese Turnip (if available)
Bean sprouts
1 Tbsp Light soy sauce
1 Tbsp Oyster sauce (optional)
1-2 Tsp Sugar
2 Tbsp Chinese cooking wine
1/2 Tsp Sesame Oil
2 Tsp Cornstarch
Pepper to taste

Basically one can use whatever vegetables one likes for the filling. Just dice/julienne/shred them. Mix the sugar and sauces together in a bowl. Stir in the cornstarch, adding in some water. Set aside.

The vegetable filling

In a wok, heat up some peanut oil. Fry ginger, onions and garlic till fragrant. Add in the vegetables for stir-frying in the order of how slow they would take to cook, meaning that the ones that take the longest time to cook go in first.

Do not overcook, it's really just to put them together with the garlic and sauces. I like my vegetables a little crunchy.

Once the bean sprouts (last in) are in the wok, give them a toss and pour in the bowl of sauce. Stir-fry till the sauce thickens and is absorbed by the vegetables. Set aside to cool.

Put some of the filling on a spring roll wrapper, fold in both sides and roll upwards. Seal with a paste made with water and flour/cornstarch.

Fry in medium-hot oil till the rolls are light brown and crispy.

Serve hot with a chilli sauce. As I am not at all fond of chilli sauce, I made a chilli-lime-garlic-fish sauce dip to go with my fried spring rolls.

One more day to pack the gifts and luggages, and one afternoon left to make Saturday's packed lunches for the family. This is to make sure that we do not stop for lunch and reach Germany the earliest possible. Angoisse.

mercredi, décembre 16, 2009

Crevettes au Caramel

Prawns in Caramel with Ginger and Sesame Oil

Wherever possible, I only use sesame oil produced in Singapore. It is more expensive, but it is also more fragrant and dense. A few drops usually will do. And cooked with fresh ginger...what a lovely aroma in the kitchen!

One of the Singapore brands of black sesame oil

For lunch today, I made myself a simple prawn version of the caramel chicken or pork that I usually make. This week, we try to finish whatever we have in the fridge before leaving for our vacations. And as I have bought a box of ice cream, I also have to make some space in the tiny freezer - and so out came the prawns for a Crevettes au Caramel parfumées au Gingembre et à l'Huile de Sésame.

Crevettes au Caramel :

10 big raw Prawns (heads and legs off)
2 Tsp Sesame Oil
Good-sized piece of fresh Ginger (julienned)
1 Thai Chilli (chopped)
2 Tbsp Chinese cooking wine
1 1/2 Tbsp Peanut Oil
2 Tbsp Sugar
Salt and Pepper to taste
Fresh coriander leaves for garnishing
Lime/lemon juice (optional)

In a wok, heat up the sesame oil and fry the ginger till fragrant. Add in the thai chillis and then the prawns. You are almost dry roasting the prawns so keep stir-frying till they turn rosy.

Add in the wine and mix well. Remove everything to a plate.

In the same wok, heat up the peanut oil and stir in the sugar. It will dissolve in the oil and start to caramelise. When the caramel is of a light to medium brown colour, return the prawns to the wok. There will be a sizzle and the caramel with darken and start to stick to the prawns and ginger. Stir well to coat the prawns in the sauce.

Add salt and pepper to taste, remove to a serving plate, garnish with coriander leaves if desired and serve hot.

I had it with some steamed rice and leftover braised eggs. Yummy.

People sometimes ask me why I usually do not provide measurements in my recipes. Well, I think taste is personal so you have to know what you like and adjust your seasonings accordingly. Having said that, we say a blend of spices, for example, and mean just that. It has to be a harmonious mix of different spices. We know that we usually use a pinch of cloves because they are very strong. You wouldn't overdo with the star anise either. In any case, one may need to cook the same dish a few times to get the (personal) taste right. In Chinese cooking, I try to factor in and balance the 5 tastes : sweet, sour, hot, salty and eventually bitter. And work on the cooking time, techniques etc. I have so much more to learn.

mardi, décembre 15, 2009

Mini Baked Oreo Cheesecakes

Mini Baked Oreo Cheesecakes

I was reading stories on the Net about women who lost 20-40Kgs through just diet and exercise and for some reason that made me hungry. Foraged in the fridge and finding Philadelphia cream cheese and eggs, decided to make a batch of Mini Baked Oreo Cheesecakes. I'm very cold, and I love cream.

I was licking the bowl as I creamed the cheese, but once baked, I still am not crazy about baked cheesecake. It just felt heavy though once chilled, it was much better. I think I'll stick to the no bake ones in the future.

250g Philadelphia cream cheese
40g Sugar
1 Egg
8 Oreo cookies
Mixed berries (optional)

Heat oven to 180°C.

Cream the cheese and sugar. Beat in the egg gently till well mixed.

Line each cupcake mould with one oreo and pour the mixture over it. I used silicon cupcake moulds. One can also use just one oreo disc (with the cream on) for each cup cake and crush the other disc into crumbs to mix it in the cream cheese filling.

Bake in the lower part of the oven for around 20 minutes.

Cool and chill overnight in the fridge. It tasted less heavy chilled.

Teochew Braised Duck

Teochew Braised Duck from "The Asian Grandmother's Cookbook"

Recently I came across a recipe posted on Rasa Malaysia taken from a new cookbook by Pat Tanumihardja titled "The Asian Grandmother’s Cookbook". It was for Teochew Braised Duck and that got me regretting that I hadn't bought the fresh duck I had earlier fingered at Esselunga. First thing this morning I made my way there, grabbed my duck and started braising it.

I should really be packing for the winter break and wrapping up the presents, but I couldn't resist the idea of braising a duck. I've braised eggs and pork before in the usual 5-spices and dark soy - but never with lemongrass and galangal, so I'm curious to see how this would turn out. Unfortunately I do not have the time to go look for some yams or I would have made a Yam rice to go with it. My late paternal aunt used to drive us to this stall near Bendemeer Rd to eat Teochew Braised Duck and Yam Rice. It was such a long time ago.

Teochew Braised Duck :

2 Tbsp Sea salt
Duck (rinsed and patted dry)
2 cups Water
125ml Dark Soy Sauce
2 stalks Lemongrass (bruised and halved)
1-inch fresh Galangal (smashed)
1 Tbsp Sugar
4 whole Cloves
4 Star Anise pods
2 Cinnamon sticks
1 Tsp mixed Peppercorns (white, black, sichuan)

Rub 1 and a half Tablespoons of the salt evenly all over the duck inside and out.

In a large pot, mix together the water, dark soy, lemongrass, galangal, sugar, cloves, star anise, cinnamon, peppercorns and remaining salt. Bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat and lower the duck into the pot. The liquid should reach halfway up the duck.

For the first 20 minutes, baste the duck every 5 minutes or so to colour it evenly. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes, flip the duck to its other side, cover again and continue cooking for another 25 minutes.

Turn off the heat and leave the duck immersed in the sauce for another hour.

Cut the duck into serving pieces and arrange on a plate. Skim the fat from the surface of the sauce and drizzle the sauce over the duck. Serve preferably with steamed yam rice. I am going to make her chilli-lime dip as well to go with it.

The smell and taste is minty, surely from the star anise and lemongrass. It's different and takes a little getting used to. In any case, the whole family loved it.

Not one to waste anything, I am braising eggs in the leftover sauce now. Wish I had large pig's intestines to braise in it too.

lundi, décembre 14, 2009

Steamed Minced Pork and Chinese Mushroom on Silken Tofu

Steamed Minced Pork and Chinese Mushroom on Silken Tofu

We had our first snow of the season last night. Woke up this morning to a field blanketed in white. It was very cold, but lovely. I much prefer having snow than (cold) rain. The children, needless to say, were excited. They couldn't wait to go to school.

I felt the need for something comforting. Had some seasoned minced pork and mushroom filling leftover from my wan ton session over the weekend. And a rare packet of silken tofu from the Chinese store. Well, what better way to marry them than to make a Steamed Minced Pork and Chinese Mushroom on Silken Tofu?

It was lovely. And I was thinking of Brother C as I cooked the dish - since the metal steaming plate was a gift from him. Used the special plate lifter that my mom gave me. Very useful utensils to have in a Chinese kitchen.

Basic Minced Pork and Mushroom Filling :

400g Minced Pork to mix with
5 Chinese Mushrooms (softened in hot water and sliced)
1 Tbsp Sugar
1-2 Tsp grated fresh Ginger
1 Tbsp Light Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp Oyster Sauce
1/2 Tsp Sesame Oil
2 Tbsp Chinese Cooking Wine
1 Egg (beaten and mixed into the pork)

Cook with
1 packet of Silken Tofu
Fresh Coriander
Fresh Thai Chilli
More of the sugar-soy-sesame oil mixture

Place the tofu in a porcelaine or metal steaming plate. Garnish with the minced pork filling and thai chillies. Pour the sugar-soy-sesame oil mixture over it. Steam for 10 minutes. Serve hot with some fresh coriander leaves.

dimanche, décembre 13, 2009

Natale Bimbi 2009

Natale Bimbi 2009 with Massa and Badoer

Two years ago there was the circus. Last year it was the Fun Fair. This year, they have decided to give us a bit of both. The children really looked forward to Ferrari's Natale Bimbi 2009 and it was, according to them, one of the best days in their year - thus far, since we still have a few weeks to go before it comes to an end.

A few of Schumacher's Trophies

The Teenager took this picture of the FXX

This year, we were once again in the afternoon session. We started out by visiting the Galleria Ferrari as a free tour was included in the programme. A magician was at hand to make balloons for the children and those who wished to take part in a quiz could do so. As we have already visited the museum before, we made a really quick tour and left. Were supposed to collect the Babies' gifts from the company there too, but Hub forgot his badge and couldn't do so.

Circus and Fair in the Pista di Fiorano

Then we drove to the Pista di Fiorano and made our way to the party. Started out with the circus. This year, they had mainly acrobatic acts and thankfully kept out the animals except for an old elephant and hippo. The clowns were good too.

The Clowns

High Rope Act

Massa and Badoer as Santa Clauses

Then once again we were caught in the Telethon, keeping the children seated for more than an hour for less than 10 minutes of airtime on Italian TV. Massa and Badoer were present to encourage people to call a certain number and make donations. It was quite horrible for the kids, Baby Girl kept yawning on public TV and Baby Boy, not realising who Massa was, kept trying to tickle the F1 pilot (who was seated behind him). Asking these kids to sit for more than an hour waiting for who-knows-what was tough. The F1 pilots only arrived 15 minutes before air time.

And they were left with only 30 minutes to enjoy the fun fair. I really thought they were going to extend the closing time, but no, at 6pm sharp they closed everything! Honestly, we were not dying to be on Italian TV (nobody knows us), so we did our part by being part of the background of happy children from Ferrari, they could have given the poor kids at least an hour to enjoy the Fair.

The Babies in the "Safari"

On a happy note, I found myself in front of Massa as he was leaving. So I grabbed the cap from Baby Girl's head and shoved it in front of him for a signature. :-)

The pen's ink wasn't strong enough though

And the Teenager parked himself in front of the popcorn and candy floss machines. And ate pop corn and candy floss non-stop for 30 minutes.

The Babies received a Baby Foot and a Lego Pirates toy set this year. The Teenager is as usual too old for one.

Ferrari Club Italia Cena di Natale 2009

Ferrari Club Italia Cena di Natale 2009

We do not own a Ferrari and do not have any friends who do so in Italy. We therefore do not know anybody at the Ferrari Club Italia Christmas Dinner last evening and wondered more than once why we were invited. We didn't see any of Hub's colleagues around either and finally arrived at the conclusion that we must have been invited for some obscure reason by the new President of Ferrari Club Italia who happens to know Hub quite well.

Filettino di vitello

Croccantino al Caramello

The first thing Hub said when he read the menu was that he has had the same thing for the F1 lunch that day. But the wines were better as some of them were sponsored. We sat at a table directly in front of the stage with 4 other couples. One of the guys is a test driver for Ferrari. Another one works for Gardaland. Hub noticed the Chanel diamonds on my neighbour's person, but said that he must be able to afford a Ferrari for himself before he buys me anything. In other words, forget it.

The new 458 Italia, we keep seeing them in the streets lately

The invitation card mentioned "wear something in red". I was one of only a handful of women who actually dressed in red. I was red from my hairclip down to my dangling garnet and gold earrings and my raw silk Indian Choli and chiffon scarf. I was of course too tight in the Choli that I bought when I was 8 Kgs lighter, but at least I was in red and could be sure that nobody would be wearing the same thing. Hub asked me why I was looking so Indian. And I answered him by asking him what was wrong with looking Indian. He was lucky I didn't put one of Baby Girl's shiny dots on my forehead. Imagine that.

Fontana and the President of Ferrari Club Italia

Dinner was held in the same place as the kids' medical checkup last week. Amazing how they could transform the place from one thing to another just like that. Entertainment was provided by the Italian comic Fabrizio Fontana who must be quite famous by the enthusiastic reception he received from everybody else except me and Hub. We do not watch Italian TV so we do not know him. We didn't understand his "TANANANANA" jingle which was part of his James Tont personage (parody of James Bond). I also vaguely understood that he was making some parody of the Wheel of Fortune programme.

The F1 drivers and Fontana

Massa, Badoer and the winner of the last 24H Mans (who was at my table the last time) made guest appearances at the dinner but left soon after. Kimi wasn't present this year.

Group photo of the winners

They gave out prizes and trophies to winners of the various rallies and races who were from the look of things all pretty old. There were also women drivers. Also d'un certain âge.

We were the first to leave. At the door, we each received a gift bag (Hub's fuller than mine). Ferrari racing calenders, a cap, drawings of the new 458 Italia, an artisanal Panettone, jars of vegetable puree, Ferrari year book...This gave us time to return home and read a story to the Babies before they went to bed. And we now have a Panettone to bring to the MIL in France.

samedi, décembre 12, 2009

PTA Winter Fair International Buffet 2009

Beautiful Moroccan Couscous at the Winter Fair

Have you tried Feijoada? Or seen a Danish woman teach Thai cooking? Eaten South African Melk Tert? Or a Swedish Salmon Quiche? Welcome to the ISM PTA Winter Fair 2009.

This is the 3rd year that I am organising the International Buffet at the Fair and every year there are new challenges and new targets to achieve, new lessons to be learnt - you know about the importance of continuous improvement.

I aimed to have fewer leftovers this year and to present a wider variety of dishes to the paying public. I think I didn't do too badly in that, but left the buffet wondering if we couldn't generate less waste - I felt quite bad seeing the mountains of plastic plates and cutlery. We have bought just enough of the plastic stuff and I have printed notices reminding people not to waste - hoping that everyone would keep to their own plates, cups and cutlery from the beginning to the end. Myself, I brought my own reusable plastic plates for my family and brought them home to wash. I wonder if I couldn't ask each family to do the same, it's really not too difficult, you just have to walk around with a plastic bag filled with plates at the end of the day.

Claudio and his Brazilian Feijoada and smile

This year we had a Brazilian father who is a passionate cook and he whipped up a Brazilian feast complete with a slide show on Brazil, soothing music from Caetano Veloso and the most amazing Feijoada served with rice and other side dishes. Even his desserts (pudim and brigadino) were fabulous. For those who do not know what Feijoada is, it's made of various parts of the pig cooked with black beans. Very hearty.

Thai Finger Food : part of the spread

And we had a Danish mom who used to run her own cooking school in Thailand and she made us tim sum, meat balls, fish cakes, spring rolls and oyster beef.

The Indian moms cooked us samoussas, pooris with potato masala, chicken curry and chicken biryani (my kids loved it). And a Moroccan mom made us a beautiful couscous and I just had to steal a portion for the Hub. We also had Shepherd's Pie, Stuffed Tomatoes from the English and Hoummous from a Lebanese mom.

Part of the dessert spread

The desserts, needless to say, were delicious - we have very good bakers in the school. I asked for 3 cheesecakes and there wasn't a crumb left. We also had cupcakes, mousse au chocolat, fudge, Swedish chocolate balls, apple crumble, lemon cake, apple pie, cinnamon rolls, chocolate cake, winter fruits...

This year, I made Singapore Chicken Curry, Lentil and Bean Curry and Fried Rice Vermicelli. Didn't feel the need to cook too much seeing that we have so many good cooks around.

P's Samoussas, 1 Thai Spring Roll & Fish Cake, the Fried Wan Tons are mine

P set aside some of her delicious samoussas for me. To do them justice, I brought them home to eat - after I've fried them in hot oil. Mmm...crispy, soft and savoury, we had to fight each other for more in the family. I did the same to the one spring roll, fish cake and dim sum that I brought back - to try on a professional basis, of course. I cannot do my job properly if I do not know for sure who is good at cooking what.

My helpers checking to see that everything was fine before we opened the buffet

I had kind helpers notably P who stayed with me from the beginning to the end. But the others came in to help without being asked, filling in whenever they saw the need for it. I am lucky that I have no need to work out a roster, the friends knew what they had to do to help out.

The children had great fun, they were really looking forward to the Winter Fair - which is why we make an effort, I supose, to organise it. Baby Boy hung out with his friends (the Three Horrible Musketeers) and so on. I gave them money to do whatever they wanted with it and I never saw them again till it was time to go.

The Fair ended with Christmas carols being sung by the different communities in the school, giving meaning to a lovely tradition in the western hemisphere. Now I will be able to return to packing gifts and luggages for my winter holidays coming up soon.

Today's lunch : Wan Ton Noodles

vendredi, décembre 11, 2009

Fried Tomato Bufala Wan Tons

Fried Tomato Bufala Wan Tons with Aged Balsamic Vinegar

Heady with the recent success of my Tomato Bufala Tartlets, I have decided to recidive and make a batch of Fried Tomato Bufala Wan Tons this morning for a snack. Starting to cook for the Winter Fair tomorrow and I needed a break.

It was a lovely marriage between the crispy wan ton skin, the chewy mozzarella di bufala cheese, the fragrant fresh basil leaf and the fresh juicy cherry tomato. Fried the wan tons in olive oil (very quickly) and served them with an aged balsamic vinegar dip.

East meets west, happy that we have met. I also felt like Bach working on his variations.

jeudi, décembre 10, 2009

Banana Oatmeal Rock Cookies

Banana Oatmeal Rock Cookies

I am taking a break from planning for the Winter Fair buffet and the cooking that I will have to do - by doing a spot of baking. We are now planning to cater for a minimum of 184 207 people on Saturday. And I still have one ripe banana to get rid of.

Yesterday I went to the Hello shop with P. Bought a new tin of Quaker oats and have been thinking of what I could do with it besides drowning the healthy oats in condensed milk like I usually do. Took a look at the lonely banana and decided to marry it to the merry oats. Voilà Banana Oatmeal Rock Cookies.

This evening the Teenager will be off to the school disco to impress the girls with his Moonwalk. Try to imagine the number of socks he has been tearing practising his moves. I should start buying socks for him in bulk.

Banana Oatmeal Rock Cookies :

60g Butter (softened)
125g Sugar
100g Brown or Cane Sugar
1 ripe Banana (mashed)
1 Egg
1 Tsp Vanilla extract
200g Self-raising Flour
1/2 Tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
1/2 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Tsp Salt
200g Quick-cooking Oats

Heat oven to 180°C.

Beat softened butter with the sugar, add in the mashed banana.

Add in the egg and vanilla extract and beat till the mixture is thick and creamy.

Sift the flour with the salt, cinnamon and bicarbonate of soda. Fold into the egg mixture.

Fold in the oats.

Using a tablespoon, drop the mixture onto a baking tray covered with baking paper.

Bake for 10-12 minutes.

I called them rock cookies because they looked like rocks. Inside is quite soft, cake-like. Another one of those basic things we learnt how to bake during Home Economics light years ago. That I do not recall ever liking.